If you have read my first entry you already know that my luggage got lost somewhere on my way from Vienna to Manchester. In this rather unpleasant situation I was forced to go shopping for toiletries and clothes mainly, but also for other stuff. That is what I basically did most of the time during my first week here, and of course discovering other parts of Bangor. I also attended a very interesting introductory lecture about Wales, I will share all insights I gained from this lecture in this blog entry as well. 🙂
Shopping is usually a fun thing to do, but if you HAVE to do it, it becomes kind of…ok, no, to be honest it was still fun to buy everything I (thought I) needed. 😀 Thus, I got to know all the different shops in Bangor very soon, and there are a lot of them for such a small town: There are Topshop, H&M, Peacocks – sells very cool stuff, for instance Civil War pyjama pants, which I bought of course because I totally needed them…no really, I needed pyjama pants 😉 – and many more shops selling clothes. For food I went to Asda (which is very much like Interspar), Morrisons and Aldi (most of you know it as ‘Hofer’) and Lidl – It was very funny to see shops we have in Austria too, they look exactly the same but sell different products sometimes. The food is rather cheap here if you compare it to Austria, you can get a lot of stuff for just one pound (which is a bit more than one Euro) or even less.
I won’t bore you with photos or stories of buying toothpaste or detergent, no worries. 😉 I bought a lot of stuff, but maybe the most important things to me – which also made me feel more comfortable here – are my Bangor dragon plushy and some Wales Football merch, have a look at the pictures below to see it. The dragon is probably the cutest plushie I have ever seen and bought, they sell it at the International Office, so I guess it’s a must for Bangor exchange students. I feel honored to be allowed to live in one of the four best soccer nations in Europe, you know that I am a big Wales (the soccer team) and Gareth Bale fan so that stuff was also a must for me. I might also have the opportunity to play soccer here, at the moment I want to rest because of my ankle but I really want to play and will make all efforts I can to do that – you will learn about university sports clubs and societies and their importance here in future posts.
After discovering the central part of the city and the area around the university building (see photos below) I can say that there are as many seagulls in Bangor as there are doves in Vienna. I prefer the seagulls however, simply because they are laughing all the time.
I also found my way to the pier together with a friend. Have a look at the photos below to get an impression of the pier, maybe one of the most beautiful places here. It was a very sunny day, usually it’s rather cloudy, but my umbrella has been staying at the bottom of my backpack since I have arrived here – no (heavy) rain so far 😉
A lecture on Welsh history and culture
During the first week, which is called “Welcome Week”, we had the opportunity to listen to a lecture by a historian about Wales’ history and culture. The professor introduced us to the region by outlining the importance of slate in Wales and telling us a little bit about Wales past. He said that the castles in the Gwynedd region – the region Bangor is part of – were built by Edward I to impress people, and they certainly do. I hope I will see as many of them as possible soon. He briefly discussed the Celtic countries/regions/ languages and I was very surprised that Welsh, which is one of them, has the most native speakers of all Celtic languages, 20% of the three million inhabitants of Wales are native speakers of Welsh. Welsh is very important here in Bangor and Gwynedd, especially in the university context – I will provide more details on that in a future entry focusing on the academic part of my adventure – and you will certainly be surprised about the omnipresence of Welsh. 🙂
The professor – unfortunately I don’t know his name, but he is a local and very nice – also talked about the relationship between England and Wales and reminded us to never say that we are in England here. Wales is not England. Short but very important geographical note: Both Wales and England are part of the United Kingdom together with Scotland and Northern Ireland. Wales is also part of Great Britain, which consists of Wales, England and Scotland (GB refers to the island, Northern Ireland is therefore not part of GB). “To insult a Welshman, call him an Englishman”, he said. He also remarked that there aren’t many Union Jacks here in Wales and as far as I can remember I have only seen one on a car but that was it. The red dragon is, of course, much more present.
As you might know, the Union Jack consists of St. Andrew’s Cross (Scotland), St. George’s Cross (England) and St. Patrick’s Cross (Northern Ireland) – Wales is not part of it. He provided us with a flag on which Wales is represented by the red dragon – have a look at the picture below – which, according to him, is meant as a joke, but I actually like it a lot. I certainly understand now why the Union Jack is not very popular in Wales. In the end I asked him about the Welsh Brexit vote and his reaction told me a lot: He was shaking his head and said he did not know what happened, especially since Wales (this region in particular) heavily relies on money coming from the EU. All in all, the lecture was very interesting and insightful to me, it answered many questions I had about Wales, but there are so much more yet to be answered.
I hope I could give you a good impression of my first week in Wales. It was probably not an exciting adventure this time but at the very beginning of such a long period far away from home – I will be here until June – it takes some time to get used to everything and shopping and walking around certainly helps a lot. Read my next blog entry to learn about my fantastic trip to Liverpool at the end of my first week here. 🙂