Exploring Hamburg’s various Christmas markets

One of the biggest draws of Germany in the wintertime are the different Christmas markets that spring up in almost every town, and Hamburg is no exception. Germany’s second-largest city has dozens of different Christmas markets, all with unique themes and styles, and there is scarcely time to see them all in the six weeks leading up to Christmas.

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The entrance to Hamburg’s largest Christmas market located at the Rathaus (City Hall). The market opens and turns on its lights well before dusk. Photo: Alison Haywood

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Stadtrallye – a different kind of new-student orientation

One of the most memorable university orientation events was the Stadtrallye. It turns out “rally” has a completely different meaning in German than in English, and rather than a pep assembly or political demonstration, this was more of a scavenger hunt/team challenge.

The challenges mostly involved a lot of alcohol.
The challenges mostly involved a lot of alcohol.

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Eurovision 2015: Some more weird European culture

On the other side of the globe, while my friends from uni were preparing for their undergrad graduation ceremony, I was taking part in a European “tradition” that up until that week I’d never heard of: Eurovision.

Georgia's star Nina Sublatti performing in Eurovision 2015. Photo: Telegraph
Georgia’s star Nina Sublatti performing in Eurovision 2015. Photo: Telegraph

Eurovision Song Contest is a euro-centric singing competition in which each participating country sends their best contender(s) to perform a piece of pop music for a huge international audience. It’s a bit like the Olympics, except instead of totally ripped athletes you have an assortment of sexy pop stars, performers in crazy costumes, and even a drag queen, and instead of competing in intense sporting events to win gold medals, they sing a song of their choice, from the serious to the silly, the completely bizarre to the downright tacky, for the honor of having their country host the competition next year. And instead of a panel of judges deciding who’s the best, the audience gets to vote, American Idol-style. The catch? You’re not allowed to vote for your own country.
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Kapsejlads: The craziest Danish tradition I’ve seen yet

Move over, Friday bars and freshman initiation rituals. You can have your Christmas dinners (julefrokost) and licorice-flavored ice cream. Without a doubt, the most insane Danish tradition I’ve come across yet is Kapsejlads, the annual Aarhus university boat race at the university park.

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I’ve never seen the university park this crowded in my entire life. (Sorry for the poor quality – until I buy a new camera, you’ll have to deal with my crappy phone pics.)

In its most basic definition, Kapsejlads is a regatta, a boat race in which the different academic faculties compete against each other. In reality, it’s an excuse to drink. All. Day. Long.

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