The alarm rings. It’s 8 a.m. on Monday. As I hop out of my bed, the sun rays lure me to look through the window and breathe in fresh, cool air. While the water is boiling for my Bosnian coffee, I shower and get ready for a school day. Bus 60 arrives and I put a German song on my phone to get the day rolling – “Nur noch kurz die Welt retten” by Tim Bendzko.
This is how a typical morning begins for me here in Mannheim. It took me only a couple of days to realize that German lifestyle is exactly what I was hoping for. To get a sense of how student life looks like in a European city, my “chapter two” describes 24 hours of a school day.
Buses, bicycles, and walking are a part of every-day life in Mannheim. My bus goes from Ulmenweg, a street where mostly international students live in so-called “Wohngemeinschafts” (shared apartments), to the city center, or “Schloss” (palace). The chances of meeting someone familiar on the bus from Ulmenweg are equal to those of September rain in London. The dorms with shared apartments are decent and suitable for students. Each apartment consists of four to eight individual rooms, a shared kitchen, and bathrooms. The organization is similar to that found in the States.
The “Schloss,” or the Mannheim Palace, is the bus stop where I exit, and my University is inside of it. That means that my classes take place in a former Baroque palace that was built in 1720, with high ceilings, columns, breath-taking façade, and windows.
Fun fact #1: The Mannheim Palace, today a university, is the second largest Baroque palace complex after Versailles. Yet, it has total of 1,000 windows — one more window than the Palace of Versailles, which has a mere 999.
Fun fact #2: The total floor area of the Mannheim Palace fits approximately 18 New York Central Parks.
My first lecture starts at 10:15 a.m. and lasts for 90 minutes. The classes occur in different university wings and campus buildings. It is always joyful to walk towards the palace on a wide courtyard and see a bunch of students dressed with a style – typically some interesting haircuts, big glasses, leather bags, colorful thick scarfs and caps, as well as all kinds of shoes. After my lecture on European Skepticism in Times of Crisis, along with an interactive class discussion, it is time for lunch in the “Menza,” or the dinning hall. The food in the “Menza” is diverse, tasty, and cheap. In this respect, it is opposite from our dinning hall at the University of Florida. A full meal, which includes a soup, the main dish, and a salad, costs only 3 Euros. Deserts, drinks, coffee, and snacks are also available to buy separately.
Every day there are two main menus, as well as the vegetarian menu and the grill and self-made plates with salads. Lunch time is from 11:30 a.m. until 2 o’clock. It is also a good time to take a break and see my Italian friends, a fellow Gator student who also came for a semester, and whoever else’s friend joins us. The conversation proceeds in English, Italian, and German, depending on who speaks which language(s). Switching the languages back and forth can get pretty hilarious.
It’s 1 o’clock, and my curious American friend and I decide to go for a little city tour before my next class at 3:30 p.m. We sat on a tram to take us around the city. The people of all ethnicities, colors, and ages can be seen on a tram or bus, because Mannheim is known as a multi-cultural city. Also, the transportation is a big part of Mannheim’s history and culture. Bicycles are available for rent all over the city.
Fun fact #3: Mannheim is the city in which Bertha Benz, the wife and business partner of automobile inventor Karl Benz, made the world’s first long-distance journey by automobile in 1888. Her route was from Mannheim via Heidelberg to Pforzheim (the Black Forest) and back.
Fun fact #4: The archetype of today’s bicycle, a Draisine, also called “Laufmaschine (running machine), was invented in Mannheim by a German Baron, Karl von Drais, in 1817. It was the first means of transport to make the use of the two-wheeler principle.
We get off at the “Paradenplatz,” the so-called center of Mannheim’s Quadrat. Due to its structure, Mannheim’s nickname is the Quadrat city, where 144 quadrats or blocks were planned to create a geometrical structure of the city, rather than having the streets. Exploring from block to block, it is quite easy to navigate and enjoy the day. The “Wasserturm,” or the water tower, can always be easily spotted as it stands for the highest point in Mannheim.
Fun fact #5: A Romanesque water tower, “der Wasserturm,” is the civic symbol of Mannheim, completed in 1886. It rises to approximately 200 feet above the highest point of the art nouveau area Friedrichsplatz.
The next point of our little tour is the National Theater Mannheim. We didn’t have time to go inside, but we did decide on performances we’re planning to attend.
Fun fact #6: The National Theater Mannheim is one of the biggest and oldest theaters in Germany. It has the prefix ‘national’ because at the time of its building (1777), the performances were played in German, which was considered innovative for that time.
It’s 2:30 p.m. After a long walk and lots of excitement, it was the perfect time for, as the Germans would say – “Café und Kuchen.” Coffee always goes well with baked deserts. A cup of Cappuccino and a piece of “Omas Appfelkuchen” (grandmma’s apple pie), some good laughs with my fellow Gator, and a little chat with German saleswoman set the stage for my next class at 3:30 p.m. At 5, I’m getting on the bus 60 from the Main station, ready to take a nap in my cozy room. Re-energized from a power-nap, I do my readings and finish my writing homework. Since it’s Monday evening, the Visum student organization at the university organizes international gatherings. It is time to relax and enjoy the atmosphere with Italian, German and, other international folks. Tired and satisfied from a fulfilled day, I set my alarm for 8 a.m. and quickly fall asleep.