Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Univer-city

As our time in Marburg begins to reach its end, I look back and realize that I have not really talk much about the city of Marburg much at all. That just won't do, as it has been our home for just over a month. Now everything I'm writing is my opinion and what I've seen, as I'm sure other Fulbrighters have different opinions and that is just fine.

To start, I'll talk about the history of the town itself, how it came to be. Now since I know most of my friends and family are not much on history, I'll keep it fairly basic.... plus I don't know many of the details. Way back in the day, I'm talking the invention of baked bread time frame (ok maybe not quite that far) a woman came to the very, very small selection of buildings that was Marburg and started a hospital. She cared for the sick and poor, and was later deemed a Saint. The Deutsche Orden built the first gothic hall church in Germany, in honor of her.... Saint Elisabeth. The town grew more as people would come to work and visit the hospital. But her family doesn't stop there for the town. After St. Elisabeth's death, her grandson was made Landgrave (its kinda like ruler/king/super mayor), he was Philipp the Magnanimous! He founded the University and ensured that the town would be open to students form around the globe. The entire city of Marburg is approximately 25% students that attend the University. And Marburg's slogan is pretty darn close to the truth: While some cities claim to have a University, Marburg IS a University.

Moving on from here lets jump to the People of Marburg! Much more interesting for a non-history person such as myself. In Marburg there are 4 major groups of people, and they are generally easy to spot by their differences:
  1. The Germans! Obviously these are the people that are from Germany, but from what I've heard most of them tend to go to University near their home areas. Nearly every German I've met has been very tolerant and helpful.... even if they don't speak English (which most of them do)
  2. International Students (Non-Americans)! The amount of non-Germans in Marburg is surprisingly high, and I was not expecting nearly as many foreigners as I've seen. The vast majority of them are Asian, though there are small groups from other countries. The personalities of these students tend to vary by culture. The Asians are generally quite and aloof, while the Spaniards are usually loud and "visible".
  3. International Students (Americans)! Well what can one say about the Americans that most of you reading don't already know. They are loud, vibrant and at times a little unruly. The typical American young college student. (And obviously when I'm speaking of Americans, I'm not including the Fulbrighters.... as they are in a different league)
  4. Blind Students! I'm sure that most of you are probably thinking that this is a rather strange group. What is surprising is that Marburg has a VERY large population of blind residents, and the reason for that is their schools. The city has a school for the blind that specializes in preparing blind students for University life, and then they tend to go to Philips-University. The town itself has numerous ridges and bumps in the middle of the sidewalks, making it easier to find the center. All the crosswalk buttons vibrate (along with the sounds) to give them one more method of safe crossing.
As you can see most of the inhabitants of Marburg are quite pleasant, and I don't believe that anyone in our group has had any major problems (not including your average creepy stalker guy).  Interestingly enough, at least for me, is the style of clothing in the city. What is interesting about it is the variety, I've seen just about everything from 70's attire to modern day American fashion. What's more is that its not just one or two people wearing a style, most styles are fairly well represented..... though I haven't seen any cowboys.

And on to the next topic! Let's spin the Wheel O' Topics...... and next up is: The City itself! Marburg as a city is very pleasant and peaceful, perhaps due to the fact that its a little out of the way and not a major German city. Like nearly all European cities, Marburg has new and old buildings around town. Though the old wood beam homes are all (from what I've seen) located in the Oberstadt.... the big hill that lies beneath the Schloss. It is really interesting to talk to some people that live in houses that are older than the oldest person I know..... which is pretty old. The shops in the old town are very cute as well, and more varied than I would have thought. For example I was expecting to see a store that sells old style brooms and brushes, but I was not expecting to see a Gamestop just around the corner (not that I was complaining mind you).

Ane thing about the city that is certain, is that it is hilly. Part of its charm, being in the woods and along small mountains, also mean that when you are walking places you generally have to walk up- or down-hill. And as a non-walker it get very tiring, my legs are still killing me when we do the big hills (but not as much as when we first arrived). Speaking of getting around, the public transportation in Marburg is usually handy (unless you are planning on being out on the weekend or late at nights). The buses by our dorm and classes run at a regular rate, which makes getting to school and home very nice. Outings for fun can be problematic, generally leaving one either waiting for up to an hour for a bus... or hoofing it up what we refer to as the "big hill" (its the second biggest hill, the first being "up the to castle").

Food around Marburg has been pleasantly good for Mariko and I. Her peanut allergy doesn't really diminish too many restaurant choices for us, usually only Asian cuisine (damn you Thai food). We have a variety of places that we eat at, though there are mostly similar styles: Turkish, Italian, German (which is best to get at beer gardens) and Bakeries! Though we do enjoy having Auflauf with most of our friends, and I'm not sure what category that fits into. Auflauf is essentially little casseroles that are made in single serving dishes. My German teacher referred to it as Student food, as it is cheap, abundant and filling.... but tasty! My favorite is the Rice Auflauf with Pineapple and Chicken!!

As a whole I find Marburg very enjoyable, and even with all the hills I wouldn't have minded if Mariko had picked this town to stay at. I'm curious to see how Braunschweig will compare with Marburg, but I'm sure they'll both have their pluses and their minuses, as most places do.

And now I will leave you with a cute picture of Mariko:

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