An alphabetic Ode to Jena

Well, with our 1st year in Germany completed, I thought it would be about time to follow-up on my A-Z of things I miss about Vancouver with a list of great things I enjoy at the other side of the world.

A – Apartment: I love our place here. The building is just over 100 years old, which btw is not very old by German standards, and we have high ceilings (over 11ft.!!). With my husbands paintings everywhere, it feels like a beautiful, slightly weird art gallery.

B – Berlin: Our first choice, the destination where we were heading when we left Vancouver. Well, after two months in yet another big city (almost twice as big as Vancouver), we decided to head for small town life instead. We haven’t looked back.

C – Cheese/Chocolate/Cake/Cookies: Many very yummy things start with C, I noticed. We are definitely enjoying the European varieties of cheese, chocolate, cakes and more. There are so many bakeries here, I think I reach about ten within minutes (on foot that is!).

D – Daycare: Our son settled in very quickly and already has a bunch of friends. Daycare costs are a fraction of what we were paying in Vancouver. The fees are income-dependent and there is a law guaranteeing a daycare spot.

E – Extra few years: Jena was founded in 1286, which makes it a ‚few‘ years older than Vancouver with the history to go with it. Famous people that made Jena their home include Goethe, Schiller and Luther.

F – Family: We actually ran into my mum yesterday on the Farmer’s Market. That was slightly weird. Having been away for so long I am still getting used to running into family members on the street (e.g. during lunch on Friday I ran into my Dad). We also enjoy having a babysitter on a regular basis.

G – Green Market: Three times a week we have a farmer’s market in the old part of town. Fresh veggies, yummy cakes, plants, cheese, and other goodies abound.

I – Ice cream: I know I already dedicated C to sweeties, however, ice cream needs a honorable mention, because I could never understand why grabbing a scoop or two has to be so pricey in Vancouver. We enjoy our 80 cent ice cream cones quite a bit.

J – Jena: Yep, that is the name of the place, where we live now. In case you forgot already…

K – Kulturarena: It’s summer time, the Kulturarena is in full swing. This means seven weeks of great music for adults and kids alike plus movies right behind our house.

L – Less than 5 minutes to work: That is right. I have a very short commute. Also, in less than 15 minutes I can reach most places that we need to go to regularly, like daycare, shopping, library, playground, park, etc.

M – Mountains: Well, little ones. They are called Kernberge and offer many options for hiking enthusiasts.

N – No bears. And I write that with regret as well. They are beautiful animals, however, living in their backyard has always had me hiking „on the edge“.

O – Opa and Oma: I am dedicating this letter to my son’s grand parents. They mean the world to him and vice versa.

P – Paradise: Jena’s city park is called Paradise. And it is a great place to hang out.

Q – Quite far: Jena is quite far away from Vancouver. Apparently, it is 5040 Miles or 8111.9 Kilometers or 4377.2 Nautical Miles.  And the approximate flight time would be 10 hours and 28 minutes. Except that Jena does not have an airport.

R –  River: The river banks create a green belt meandering through parts of the city. The locals use it for BBQs, bike rides, running or grabbing a cold drink in of the three beach bars.

S – Strandbar 22: The beach bars I mentioned? Well, this one is my favourite. The main reason: there is outdoor yoga during the summer months on the lawn. The river bank is sloping gently, making it easy to get down to the water. My son and I are down here often.

T – Totally different: Jena is totally different from Vancouver. There is nothing here, I think, that remotely resembles where we lived for the last decade. Freaky!

U – Utterly different: I am still overwhelmed by how much this city has changed from when I was a kid and grew up here. It is vibrant, changing and in many ways ground breaking, when I think about the research being done here.

V – Vegetarian/Vegan might not be the typical German’s choice of cuisine. However, being in a university town has its advantages, i.e. more vegetarian choices. I love that little vegan cafe just around the corner.

W – Water: I mentioned before that we miss the Ocean a lot. The local river banks are one of my favorite hang-outs.

eXtra – Kinder: And lots of them. Jena’s birth rate is above the German average. Another fun fact: about half of the population is under 40 years.

Y – Yoga obviously, I am enjoying the teacher training and yoga’s popularity is growing here too.

Z – Zentrum (Centre): Jena is in the heart of Germany, which makes other cities easily accessible. We could be in Berlin in two hours, Munich about 3.5, Frankfurt the same, but for now, we will just stay put…