This time last year I didn’t know what to expect from Mannheim, the unfamiliar city in which I was set to spend my year abroad. According to what I’d grasped from Google, it was ugly and industrial and not particularly exciting.
Fast-forward ten months and I couldn’t weigh the love I have for that weird and wonderful German city. With a palace for a university, a grid for city centre, and an eclectic gang of exchange students for a friendship group, my life in Mannheim was a strange fairy-tale that I never wanted to end.
Out of the places I was lucky enough to visit throughout my year abroad, Mannheim will forever be my favourite (who needs the Eiffel Tower when you have the Wasserturm, amirite?) and it would be impossible to list all the things I’ll miss about it.
Fun fairs popping up sporadically around the city, the sound and sight of trams (and looking inside each one that passed to see if Paisley was inside), random good-looking skaterboys (especially bearded French ones), amazingly intense sunsets, train station breakfasts (i.e. adventure breakfasts) of a hot Bretzel and cold iced tea from Ditsch, and countless Le Coffee brunch dates, Erasmus life in Mannheim was a bubble of quirks and traditions which made every day different and brilliant.
And that’s without mentioning the city beach, or the city bitch as it affectionately became known amongst my friends. A beach in Mannheim sounds bizarre and it was, it was the most bizarre things ever and the best thing ever. Sat sipping a mojito under a palm tree whilst overlooking three gigantic apartment blocks was an odd and hilarious Mannheim-y experience, and I don’t think any other beach I ever visit will ever compare.
Mannheim was also a vegan dreamland. Firstly, there was Heller’s. Move over Breakfast at Tiffany’s, because in Mannheim we do Cake at Heller’s. The oddest vegan restaurant I’ve ever encountered (and trust me, I’ve been to a few), Heller’s Vegetarisches Restaurant & Café became a haven, a safe bubble where we could pile up our plates with hearty vegan food alongside its OAP customers (I told you it was odd) before inevitably ending up at that glorious cake counter. And there was never a day when that cake wasn’t appropriate. Happy? Heller’s vegan cake. Upset? Heller’s vegan cake. Hungover? Heller’s vegan cake.
But Heller’s was just the tip of the bean burger. With my friends Aimee and Eeva I did a veggie tour of Mannheim which spanned a whole semester, spending our Erasmus grants wisely on falafel döners and tofu poke bowls and dairy-free desserts. From vegan buffet breakfasts at Klokke in Neckarstadt to Kombüse dinners in Jungbusch, we visited the various veggie hotspots that peppered the Mannheim map and enjoyed every bite (but I enjoyed the sweet company even more).
But the thing I’ll miss most about Mannheim? The people, because Mannheim wouldn’t have been the same without my crazy friends and the patchwork of exchange students from every corner of the world. I’m so lucky to have met such amazing people in Mannheim, I never expected to make such strong friendships on my year abroad. From homemade birthday cakes to joint Spotify playlists, from semi-disastrous pub crawls to picnics by the river on sunny days, they really did make Mannheim the best Heim.
And I think maybe Mannheim attracted these people, because just like the smell of chocolate from the local factory, there’s always a little magic in the air in Mannheim and I’d like to think that it pushed us together.
So, thank you a million times, Mannheim. You really have been Das Beste and you’ll have a special place in my heart forever.