I can't seem to organize my brain enough to write about any one thing, so instead of essay, you are getting random tidbits in the form of bulletin points.
1. It's really dark here in the winter. We are at the same latitude as Newfoundland, if that helps all my American friends gain some perspective. The sun has set by 4:30 pm, and in the morning it rises at....well, it doesn't rise most days, or doesn't appear to. We have very few sunny days here, and they are always a cause for great rejoicing; we emerge from the cocoon of our apartments and stomp around in our boots triumphantly when they occur. I was more excited about Winter Solstice arriving than Christmas. I'm from Mississippi and my favorite vacations involve loads of sunshine and a beach; I think you can guess how I feel about the darkness.
All this darkness can be the impetus for a very deep depression. Everyone here claims to have S.A.D. and we all self-medicate to some degree or another. This usually involves some combination of caffeine, vitamins and happy pills. I've said "yes, please" to all three. I even started taking a vitamin B complex sublingually, which means I drop the yucky-fake-cherry-tasting liquid in my mouth under my tongue and hold it there for 30 seconds and then swallow. Very gross, very weird, but if somebody told me that sucking on a cow's udder twice a day would give me energy and peace of mind, I'd probably do that too.
2. It has snowed fairly frequently, beginning in December, and I love this. It never snowed in the southern U.S. states I've always lived in. Okay, fine, it snowed in Mississippi and Oklahoma before it snowed here this winter, dammit. I don't what the hell is going on, but it finally started here and nothing makes me happier than walking to the high school in the morning darkness to substitute teach and feeling the snowflakes drop lightly on my face. The flakes seem to have more delicacy and frilly tendrils than the ones I saw on rare occasions in the U.S. Maybe I'm over-romanticizing things again, but I've seen some amazingly beautiful snowflakes here. Or maybe I'm just now old enough to take the time to stop and examine them.
3. My sister, brother-in-law and two nephews flew from Vienna to spend a week with us for Christmas. We had a great time and showing them around Heidelberg reminded me how much I LOVE this city. I found out from Facebook that "love" is the second-most used word in my status updates, which made me realize I use that word way too freely. But I can say quite honestly, I love Heidelberg. It is the perfect size, not too big, but big enough to feel urban. Even in winter, it is stunningly picturesque. Joel and I went out to eat to celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary, and as we walked to our destination, we paused on one of the brückes that span the Neckar river (which flows through Hberg) and took time to enjoy the view. The beautiful schloss is lit up at night and is perched up on a hill where it gracefully watches the town's inhabitants. The river flows off out of view, obscured by Heidelberg's lantern-dotted hills, and that spot where it disappears beckons to me. Some day I will find out where the Neckar goes from here, because life is just too short to miss out on the lovely mysteries of the unknown. Some day...