When moving to a new city or country first thing we do is doing some research about the place. That’s exactly what I was doing before moving to Germany, Chemnitz, the place, where I will be a volunteer at solaris Jugend- und Umweltwerkstätten and will live for the next year.
I have been here for 19 days already and on the day of Nikolaustag, Saint Nicholas Day, I would like to share with you my first impression and my life here in Chemnitz.
It took me a while to explain my family in Armenia where I will live for the next year and later I found a perfect solution. Chemnitz is named after the river Chemnitz. The word is composed of the Slavic word “kamen” meaning "stone". As Armenia is a post-Soviet state and almost everybody from the older generation knows Russian, my family recognized the familiar word “kamen” and remembered the name of the city, which is already a very beloved place for me.
Chemnitz is the third largest city in the German federal state of Saxony and is the 28th largest city of Germany (I used to work as a tour guide back in Armenia and yeah, I like telling numbers, statistics and lots of history ha ha).
Chemnitz was part of GDR and the city was renamed by decision of the East German government to Karl-Marx-Stadt (it was until 1990). Karl Marx monument, the second-largest bust in the world, was the first place I visited when here, maybe because both Chemnitz and my hometown Yerevan share some “soviet” history and I wanted to witness it.
Chemnitz truly holds years of history and has a lot to tell to its visitors. Most of the old city was destroyed during the World War II and most of it has been restored after unification.
It has numerous museums for people of different tastes, but unfortunately due to global pandemic everything is currently closed in the city and I can’t wait when they reopen to visit each of them.
The city has many wonderful parks, which haven’t shown their full beauty yet, as it’s now winter in Chemnitz and the temperature drops below zero at nights. This is the weather I am used to, as we get really cold winters in Yerevan too.
I was kind of familiar with the German language, when I arrived in Germany. But being familiar with German doesn’t mean you can communicate especially here in Saxony, which has its own distinct dialect. And while I am currently learning German here, some funny stories have already happened to me. One of them was like going to the cashier at the supermarket trying to buy a SIM card and saying “Hast du Handynummer?” by frightening her that I am asking for her phone number ha ha. My goal is that after the year of volunteering and learning the language here I can write such articles in German (es ist mir Ernst damit :D)
Oh, can we drink tap water in Chemnitz? Oh, yes and this was the best news I learnt on my first day in the new city. And the water here tastes absolutely wonderful.
Most of the food here is familiar to me, though there are some new stuff I have never seen in Armenia and some Armenian foods, I definitely can’t find here in supermarkets.
The most extraordinary food I have encountered and tasted so far was Hackepeter, which is minced raw pork normally served with salt, black pepper and chopped onion, and eaten raw, usually on a bread roll.
There is a tradition at solaris Jugend- und Umweltwerkstätten, when someone quits the job, he or she brings something tasty for the goodbye table. And one time it was Hackepeter, which was really something new for me and my stomach ha ha.
solaris Jugend- und Umweltwerkstätten
In general, at Solaris there are lots of established traditions I like. The team has breakfast together every day at 9:00 and lunch at 12:00 o’clock. On the first breakfast at Solaris I took some Armenian chocolate for the team and I was just astonished how fast the papers from candies were recycled into pretty Christmas cards. In general, recycling is one of the things, which we, unfortunately, don’t do in Armenia. And on the first days it was kind of unusual to see several trash bins at the house.
And today marks Saint Nicholas Day (Nikolaustag) in Germany, which is celebrated as a Christian festival with regard to Saint Nicholas' reputation as a bringer of gifts. Today at Solaris we have had our “Nikolaus”, who made my day with the amazing gift (see photo below).
I am sure I have missed a lot to tell you about this interesting city and my experience during these days, but this is just the beginning and I promise to tell you more about my life in Chemnitz and Germany.
To be continued!