FC: A Year in Munich | Study Abroad Sept. 2008-Aug. 2009
1: So I'm leaving tomorrow at 2:30 from St. Louis to Chicago, and from there it's a direct flight to Munich, Germany. The hope is that someone from TUMI (the international student organization at the Technical University of Munich (TUM)) will be waiting to pick me up from the airport and take me to my dorm... and from there I get to navigate my way to the main campus to register as a student, go to my first German language course from 1-5 pm and then meet Erika, the US exchange student who's been helping me via email the last couple of weeks, at her apartment for dinner with the other US exchange students. Tomorrow will be a busy day, since tomorrow for me technically lasts forty hours. I know I have internet connection in my room. I'm not sure exactly how or what, so I'm hoping it's relatively easy to set up. I guess we'll see! Next post, hopefully from Germany! | Monday, September 29th, 2009 | Tomorrow... | DEUTSCHLAND!
2: I HAVE INTERNET! | I have internet! I'm so happy! Got in early on Wednesday. The flight wasn't horrible as I actually managed to sleep. My baggage was already there by the time I got through Passport Control, which was also easy, as was Customs. I love German customs. Nothing to declare, just walk right through. TUMI (I'm attending TUM and TUMI is the international group within for exchange) met me at the airport eventually... I had to wait a bit before she showed up because she was also picking up another student at a different terminal. This was Nicole, from Rhode Island, who speaks no German but is in the architecture program so this apparently doesn't matter, and who interned in St. Louis two summers ago. So the three of us took the train to my dorm and then dropped me off and Nicole was taken to her dorm. I haven't unpacked yet so I'll send pictures later. My room is on the 4th floor in the Olympium Zentrum, which is the section of the city that was built for the Olympics in 72? (somewhere around there). It's now student housing and the main building (with pool, | etc.) is for students. It's one of many student housing sections which are spread out all over the city. All the other exchange students are conveniently in another section of housing, where I would have been if my application hadn't been messed up... long story there... but anyway. So TUMI has orientation for the first two weeks. 1-5 pm is a daily German course. I'm in the upper level. I'm the only USA student in my class. Most are from France actually. All are from Europe. I'm also in the advanced class. We read texts and discuss in groups. It's not bad, actually, beside being a little long, but it keeps me busy. So that's what I did today and yesterday afternoon. Yesterday evening I tried to fix internet but it is an insanely difficult concept here (ethernet) which requires like 6 different numbers/codes, a few of which you must go to the student office to obtain which is conveniently open only from 9-12:30 daily. So fail on that one. For dinner I went to Erika's. She was an exchange student from Texas last year who liked it so much she transferred. There are also five Americans here from Georgia Tech, which apparently has quite the exchange with TUM. I met one of them, Alex, at Erika's. Came home, crashed. This morning I met Erika to run some errands. We set up a German bank account for me and approved my health insurance. These were some long lines. Went to lunch with Erika, Alex (male) and two other US student, Alex (female), and Rob (who's in Chemistry). Headed to German class, then met Eli, the lady who picked us up from the airport, and Nicole, who was picked up with me. Eli took us to get a phone, so I now have a German SIM card but have not managed to unlock the phone yet. Haven't tried, actually. Went to dinner with Nicole and went shopping. Amusing pictures from shopping, but will post those later. Had to go shopping for the weekend because tomorrow is the German Independence Day which, as a national | Thursday, October 2nd, 2008 | holiday, means absolutely everything is closed... except for Oktoberfest. So I'm going to Oktoberfest tomorrow early with Erika, Nicole and a friend of Erika's from Switzerland coming to visit. Unfortunately we're going very early (I'm meeting her at 7:15) because it gets crowded FAST! So, with that being said, I'm off to bed. Wanted to leave an update. I'm safely here!
3: Saturday, October 4th, 2008 | Okay, so plans got changed around a little. But now I've been to Oktoberfest and it was everything it had promised and more. Yesterday, Erika's friend wasn't feeling well so they decided to push it back till today..So we met at the train station closest to the fest at a quarter to eight and walked the rest of the way. Nicole and I were dressed like Americans. Erika and Charlotte had drindls on. Oktoberfest is a huge section of land with several large "tents" set up. By tent, I mean, essentially a building they put up just for the three weekends/two weeks of Oktoberfest that seats a couple thousand. We found a tent that didn't have quite as many people crowded outside it and crowded outside it. At 8:30 the doors open. Think halls of a high school between passing period with the realization that the first one out gets a free trip to Europe or something. I'm surprised no one got trampled. We managed to get in but not everyone did. They monitor who they let in, I guess. We got a table and were later joined by five guys from near Frankfort. Within an hour the entire place was packed. They start serving beer at 9. One liter of beer for 8.25 Euro. Unfortunately you actually have to buy one or they do their best to kick you out since the waiters work off tip and they expect you to buy as quickly as you can down it. So I bought one. Took a sip. Confirmed that I do not like beer, even Oktoberfest beer, and handed it off to the Drindle girls in exchange for the Pretzel-as-big-as-my-head. Pretzels in Germany are served cold, not warm. Anyway. Music started at 12. Hence forth it became more crowded as people started dancing on the tables to traditional Bavarian tunes and crowding in the previously clear aisles. We were actually kicked out at 3. Kicked out being a harsher term for "it was implied that we should leave by our waiter who brought four other guys over to our already full table which is the Oktoberfest way of saying, it's been several hours since you've ordered. I want money. Order more beer or leave." We left. Getting out was possibly the most difficult part since pushing and shoving through a room where movement is all but impossible is not entirely easy. Outside we saw the second half of Oktoberfest- the fest for families and children. There was a huge carnival with pretty intense rides for a carnival (even a roller coaster), ferris wheel, more food than you can possibly imagine, souvenirs, etc. We circled it a couple of times and decided after seven hours in the tent, we'd had enough. | Oktoberfest!
4: I saw it twice today. Which means I've now taken a Munich city tour four times in my life. TUMI held a city tour at 10 this morning for the exchange students. It was a three-hour walking tour... something they neglected to mention. We started in the Inner Stadt (Read: city center and heart of the original city), saw the Old and New Courthouses (Alt Rathaus and Neu Rathaus) as well as the Mariensauele (the large column with the gold-painted statue on top). The New Courthouse was built to show off Munich's wealth. It's famous because at 11, 12 and 5, it's like a cuckoo clock and life sized people come out of the tower and dance. The entire square gets crowded with tourists to see this. We then headed around the city to see the Hofbrauhaus, Munich's very own local brewery... located directly across from a Hard Rock Café. We saw the square of multi-architectural history. Ludwig I liked to travel and show off. So he went to Rome and saw something he liked and built it. Then he went to Florence... then France. This resulted in a square with a building stemming from each of these styles on each corner. One of the above is a large yellow church (visible in a picture), another is the place where Hitler took control of Germany. Then headed to the English Garden, which is absolutely great. It's one of the largest urban parks ever, even bigger than Central Park. It's easy to get lost in but really pretty. One of the pictures is a view of the tower tops of Munich from an overlook. People flock out in the grass to lay and sunbathe. There's a nude section, but it was so cold that there was only one person taking advantage of the sun. Don't worry, that's across the river. The Chinese Dome is also there, which is a large tower in which bands play Bavarian music in the middle of a beer garden. Then there's the surfing... yes, surfing. A stream runs through the garden with ice cold water. In spite of this, surfers in wet suits take advantage of the really rough wave/rapids created at the start (and ignore the CAUTION: NO SURFING signs) while dozens of people look on. This happens every day. The tour then took us around the other side of Munich to the Frauenkirchen, the famous church of Munich. We saw two of the three gates to the city (from the olden times). Following this tour, Nicole and I broke away to go eat lunch and then met up with Erika and her friend, Charlotte. | Sunday, October 5th, 2008 | Then we did it again... Actually, only half of it. We only went as far as the English Garden. Once we got there we kinda chilled in the grass for a while since it was a beautiful day and it was warm enough TO TAKE OUR COATS OFF! It was GREAT! By the end, I think Nicole and I were extremely tired of walking. We stopped for "supper" at an Eis (ice cream) Café. Because it was a "warm" day today, everyone was eating ice cream. Ice cream is actually one of the things that is CHEAP in Munich. A cone for 1 Euro. The ice cream is really good, too... a little closer to gelato. Anyway, we decided to take advantage of the fact that it was in the mid 60's, so Nicole and I split an Eis Pizza (ice cream pizza). The thing about these cafés is that they love to be elaborate. They have these great creations of fruit, nuts and ice. Ours was a vanilla ice cream crust covered with all kinds of fruit. Kiwi, apple, pineapple, honeydew, etc. The first fruit since I've been here... oops! Anyway, home again and trying to upload the pictures. Ready to not walk as much tomorrow!
5: So I finally have finished most of the paperwork/initial to-do list here. I have heat in my room! (now that the temperature is back up to the 60's) I have a working German SIM card for my phone. I have a German bank account that I now have the bank card to so I can officially put money into it (though apparently the dollar just dropped again???) I have a student card (and am thus officially a TU student!) I have approved health insurance for Germany (easier said then done... they have some pretty tough requirements) I have registered with the city as living in Munich I have a visa (!!!) I know how to use the subways I know where the Post Office is as well as several bakeries and several grocery stores I know exactly when I can leave my room and still make it to the subway before the train leaves I have officially re-addicted myself to German cookies (think semi-sweet biscuit like cracker with nutella-like spread in between) Still working on classes... hopefully getting there... Coming up: my visit to the Munich Zoo and BMW plant | The City of Munich! | Getting There... | Wednesday, October 8th, 2008
6: 6. The other large difference is just that to be honest the cities in Austria I find to be a lot prettier... part of the reason is that a lot of Munich was destroyed after the war so they had to rebuild so it's nowhere near as old as most of the rest of Europe. Some of it is, still, obviously, and the architecture is still impressive, but it's a different feeling. | Kelsey Salisbury Helene-Mayer-Ring 7B/0457 80809 Munich, Germany By the way... I have an address. Perhaps people have interest to send mail to Germany? Anyway, we've had GORGEOUS weather the last few days. After the first five or six days of no heat and nights in the 30's and days in the 40's, I finally have heat and it's been in the 70's! Yesterday and today I left my room WITHOUT A COAT! (and didn't regret it)... it was great. Anyway, zoo and BMW are gonna be pushed back. I've taken to carrying a notepad around with me and jotting down things I notice. I thought I'd share... | Hint, Hint... | Tuesday, October 14th, 2008 | 1. The escalators here are the coolest things ever. First off, I like how they go up like 2 or 3 floors on one escalator. They are long. Second off, they aren't continuously running. If no one is riding on them for 30-60 seconds or so (there's a sensor at the beginning), they stop running. There are also certain "Wechselrolltreppe" (switchable escalators) which means they run in either direction. After they stop, they start up again in the direction someone wants to go. I think they're really neat. | 2. There are no coins in fountains over here. Or at least the fountains I've seen. I noticed this about the time I noticed you never seen coins lying on the ground either. As some of you know pretty well, you can make like 30 cents a day picking up coins in the US, but I haven't seen a single one yet, and I've been looking... | 3. Stores! I followed another exchange student to the Olympia-Einkaufszentrum (Read: Olympic Shopping Center, or Mall two stops away on the subway from the Olympic Center, where I live). It's a pretty big mall in Munich apparently. For those of you from St. Louis, it's smaller than West County. For those at UIUC, it's about the same size as the mall on Prospect. Impressive, Munich. But that aside... as we're walking through all these clothes stores I was amazed at how messy everything was. All the clothes were thrown about everywhere - on the floor, on the wrong table, inside out, just tossed down. It was a huge mess. The employees, by the end of the night, started to walk around and refold shirts and bring them across the store to where they belonged. It was interesting... | 4. Dogs... so this is one of my favorite. This was also the case in Austria but never ceases to fascinate me. Dogs are much more a part of society here. First off, they're allowed in bars, in malls, on subways, in cafés, etc. Secondly, they usually don't wear leashes. Which means when you do see a dog outside a store, it's usually just lying there patiently waiting. Walking the street you'll see a dog just trotting along, then he'll pause to wait for his owner to catch up. They're extremely well behaved as well. Someone explained to me that it's because as soon as Germans get their puppies they start taking them out with them everywhere they go. At this stage you actually put more of a harness on the dog, not just a leash The more people the puppy meets (which it obviously meets a lot if it's going out every day with owners), the more accustomed to people it becomes so pretty soon new people are familiar and it's just really well behaved and doesn't require a leash. I find this fascinating. | 5. The other thing I've noticed is how different Munich and Austria actually are. Munich is a big city (third largest in Germany) and also quite cultured... thus all the American things I couldn't find in Austria (bagels, donuts, muffins, cookies, cheddar cheese, pancakes, etc.) already exist here. Starbucks, Subway, Burger King and McDonalds are the main chains here. I know where two or three subways are and I can find more McDonalds here than I know in St. Louis. The first café I went to here was the "San Francisco Coffee Café", which is a large chain here that has a menu in English for coffee and serves large chocolate chip cookies, carrot cake and extra large Starbucks muffins. Actually, apparently muffins have been around in Munich as a craze only recently. I've also seen several bagel shops. Then I saw one restaurant serving "pancakes with syrup" on their menu. It was, however, located under both the breakfast menu and the dessert menu. But basically, the typical American things pretty much exist here, though they may be a little harder to find. | Anyway, I've also found out that if I take the elevator to the 15th floor (Read: 16th floor since Germany starts counting on our 2nd floor) and go out to the rough, you have an awesome view of the Bavarian/Austrian Alps on a clear day. I haven't been around when it's light out still on a clear enough day yet, but I've checked up twice. It's an impressive view regardless. Bis bald!
7: So, the first weekend we spent touring the city center with TUMi. The second weekend, Nicole, Nick and I decided to explore a couple of the other highlights of the city, those not connected with old buildings. On Saturday, Nicole and I went to the Munich Zoo. It’s huge. One of the first things we noted was the lack of fences. Instead there was a knee-high fence and then you watched the animals either through a grove of trees or beyond a pond/stream. It was kind of cool. We were pleased to see that the lions and tigers were caged in though. The other thing we noticed was that the animals are really, really friendly and interactive. Some of them (monkeys in the inside part of the exhibit) were literally trying to play with people through the glass. The polar bear put on a show diving into the water and splashing. It was cool. It wasn’t till we were leaving that the sun came out and it turned into a beautiful day. We walked around the city for a bit and went to the famous market. It was a little expensive (tourism) but fun to look through. The next day, Nicole, Nick and I met to tour BMW. BMW is located across the street from where I live. There are four buildings, the office building (tall and constructed like “four cylinders”), the factory (which offers tours Mon-Fri), the museum (bowl shaped), and the BMW Welt (BMW world) which is the largest BMW showroom of all their latest technology. And also a very, very interestingly designed building. I know this because Nick and Nicole are both architectural majors. It apparently defies the rules. BMW Welt is free to walk around. We did, and then went over to the museum and walked through that as well. It was pretty interesting (coming from someone who doesn't care about cars). They do have a sample of their first hydrogen-fueled car there. I could get a job here! They also have a pretty awesome synthetic car that literally molds itself as necessary (the fabric retracts into itself to open up the headlights when they are on, and the car splits down the middle to get in and out).After we were BMW-ed out, we walked over to Olympia Park. It’s really pretty. Also home to Munich’s hill. Munich is about as flat as Illinois. This hill is man-made. After the city was bombed, they collected the rubble, piled it up, and made a hill out of it. Looking south you call also see the outline of the South Bavaria Alps. | Friday, October 17th, 2008 | BMW and the Zoo
8: Tuesday, October 28th, 2008 | So a lot has happened in the past week and a few days. Sorry for the lack of post. The one night I set aside time to post was the night that Blogger decided to be down for maintenance. Anyway. In the third week of classes and have finally narrowed it down to the classes I'm hopefully taking. I have 18 credit hours if I want to compare to UIUC, of which I hope I'll only end up taking 16 credit hours worth of finals. Basically here you go to class and then sign up for the final exam and then take that and get credit. It's quite different than the US but works in my favor because it gives me time to decide what I do and do not want to take a final for. Which at the moment is quite helpful since U of IL is being quite unhelpful in approving my classes abroad. | Anyway! So two weekends ago, I went to Austria! Austria was gorgeous. It was great to see my host family again, especially Lisa since I hadn't seen her since I left! It was also good to have a home cooked meal! I also got to meet up with a friend from school there and explore a little more of Austria. And see the MOUNTAINS!!! | Wow...
9: This last weekend was also quite insane. On Saturday, TUMI took a train to Regensburg. Regensburg, like every other city in Germany, has a church. It's a large church and it's a pretty church, but it is just a church. It also has a really, really old bridge. They started building it in the 1100's and it took 800 years to build. At that time it was the only bridge over the Danube in that area, so it was really important. It's a pedestrian bridge now. Then Saturday night was the "Long Night of the Museums" which is a yearly event in Munich where all the museums in the city (and there appear to be over 100) are open from 7pm-2am. You buy a 15 euro ticket and you can get into any or all of them all night. A group of 7 of us started at 8:30 and went till 2. We hit 9 museums. We started out with 20 minutes each... so it was more of "glance at the museum". It was quite fun though. The downside is that they are pretty crowded because of all the people, but I thought it was a pretty cool idea. Then Sunday TUMI went to Lindau, on the Bodensee. Bodensee is the largest lake in Germany, and it's on the corner of Germany, Switzerland and Austria. We took a train down to Bregenz in Austria, 15 minutes away and toured the city, then took an hour long boat ride around the Bodensee and then toured Lindau. It's quite the pretty city once the fog goes away! The mountains and the lake are really nice. That was almost 3 hours away.
10: Okay, so many of you know my dad was here last weekend to visit. He was working in Germany and came down for the weekend. Friday we hit all the main Munich spots again. BMW World, a large circle of all the main buildings/churches/towers in the Alt Stadt of Munich, the English Garden, the three city gates, and then Olympia Park. We went up in the tower. Wow! I wish I'd gone up sooner. You really can see the Alps. Quite impressive, too! And obviously a lot more besides that! Saturday we took the train to Salzburg. There's a Bavarian Ticket here that's good for up to 5 people to travel. It takes you anywhere in Bavaria for a day. Salzburg isn't actually in Bavaria, as it's in Austria, but it's on the border, so it works. Salzburg was SUNNY! That never happens from what I hear. We were expecting cold and rainy and thus took coats and umbrellas... then got there to find it was 70 degrees and sunny. We started up in the Fortress on the hill, which we did not see the last time we were in Salzburg. It was pretty neat. Awesome view, and it's pretty big. There's a lot to see. Came down, ate sausages and then did a quick tour of the city. Went out to dinner that night at a nice little Bavarian restaurant in downtown Munich. Sunday we went to the Deutsche Musuem, which is HUGE. Seven floors. We were there from 10-2:30 or so and didn't see everything. We skipped a couple of floors and a couple exhibits on floors we did look at. Later that evening we went to visit the Munich stadium, Alianz Arena, where Bayern (soccer) plays. It's a huge stadium and made up of individual pieces that light up individually. (Wikipedia it, it's kinda neat) Would have been nicer if the fog hadn't decided to settle in right before we left. I'm pretty sure dad didn't believe me when I said we were actually walking towards it... you couldn't see anything! Then we realized the sky in front of us was red (the stadium lights up red/blue/white depending on the colors of the home team). Once we got within 50 feet or so we could actually see it. Right as we were walking away, it turned blue. That was cool. Anyway, since then, my dad has left. It's lonely without someone to go out to dinner with every night! The elections are tonight, as you all know. A Canadian, some of the Brits and I are going to a cafe/bar | Tuesday, November 4th, 2008 | Dad came to visit! | with live coverage for a couple of hours once the poles start closing. I guess that means I'll be up kinda late tonight. Tomorrow I got invited by my Religion Sociology classmates to a party for the Sociology students at the University at 9. Since my Wednesday goes from 8:30 (class in Garching... I get up at 7) through 7 (Biology ends) and then I have my Standard/Latin dance course from 7:30-8:30, I'm going to have a long day tomorrow! Thursday Erika, Nicole and I are getting together for dinner. Saturday Nicole, Hans (Fulbright student from Texas) and a couple of his friends are going to Nuremberg for the day.
11: Monday: Wake up at 7, run out the door at 7:40 to catch the 7:45 subway to Garching. My stop is near the start of the line so there's always empty seats. Have to switch lines though. Second subway holds all the students going to Garching. Usually don't get a seat. Hover over a group of seats in the hope that someone gets off at a stop. Grab seat. Get to Garching. On Monday lecture is in the Mechanical Engineering building. On Wednesday it's in the Computer Science building. Go to lecture. 8:30-10:00 Get out of lecture. Trek over to Computer Science building to turn in homework in a mail box. Chill/work/internet in a library/at a table until lunch. Eat lunch. Return to Computer Science building and chill/work/internet until "Central Discussion section" where another professor works problems for us. 2:15-3:45 Run to catch subway. Take subway across Munich to my main campus stop and walk 12 minutes north to random group of buildings with all the psych/sociology classes. Go to Developmental Psych lecture. 5-6:30. Head home. Every other Monday a nearby church opens its doors as a meeting place for all the exchange students from 8 pm until late. A different country of students takes turns cooking for 200 or so. Every other Monday I attend. | Wednesday November 12th, 2008 | My Week... | Wednesday: Morning same as Monday except Linear Algebra is in a different building. Hang out after class with laptop. Run to eat early lunch at 11:30 to get back for the TA Discussion section from 12:15-1:45. Homework in library. Head to chemistry building (the only class I'm there for...) for 4-7 pm Bio lecture. If lucky, the assistant is teaching the class in which case I pay attention. If not, the mono-tone professor who does not like speaking loudly or clearly is teaching in which case I read the slides on my own and multitask on computer. Hope he lets us out in time to catch the 6:50 subway. If not, leave early. Take subway back to Olympiazentrum. Get in at 7:20. Grab a sandwich at the bakery on way to dance class (held in sports center). Go to dance class. Learn how to: (as of now), dance the blues, disco fox (apparently a European thing?), fox trot, cha-cha-cha, international waltz and Viennese waltz. Class 7:30-8:30. Walk back with Oana, an international student from Romania who's studying here all four years and lives in my building. | Tuesday: Wake up at 7:45 to catch the 8:35 subway to get to main campus stop at 8:45 to walk 12 minutes north to Religion Sociology class which is 9-10:30. Attend. Have probably read the 10 pages or so of sociologists' writings in Germany but not understood a word. Trek 17 minutes back to main campus and chill in library till lunch. Next class not till 3. Intensive German as a Foreign Language. Study German grammar till 6. Class should go till 6:30 but teacher continuously lets us out at 6. Dinner. Studying. | Thursday: Every other Thursday wake up as Tuesday to get to Basic Sociology class that meets every other week in same building as all other soc/psych classes. There are five of us in the class including a girl who was born in the US but has lived in Germany since she was like 5 or 6. We discuss the 23 page article in German over sociology we read over coffee and cookies. Actually, quite a fun class. Head back to main campus for lunch. Head to LMU (Ludwig-Maximilian University, the "liberal arts college" that the TUM (Technical University of Munich) kids look down on but is actually also an extremely good university) for my Economic History of the New Worlds, a class taught... in English!... by a professor from New Zealand. That one is fun. Class 2-4. Done for the day (4 is my early day...) and for the week. No class on Friday. | Friday, Saturday, Sunday: Explore Munich and the surrounding area, hopefully hang out with friends at night, and at some point fit in reading the combined 30 pages of sociology in German and doing the linear algebra homework. Eventually I'll also get around to learning the material for psych and economics. | In case you were wondering... | Coming up- We went to Nuremberg last weekend!
12: Saturday, November 15th, 2008 | Nuremberg | So I kept pretty busy this week. Monday was the biweekly TUMi gathering. The French cooked for us. It was tasty. Tuesday I stayed late at school to go to the TU Film (they show a weekly movie) in the most uncomfortable lecture hall in that school as the seats were straight up and very hard wood, such that after about 30 minutes of sitting you were starting to wish you could not be sitting anymore. I watched Juno. I figured since I'd seen it, it would be good. Not the case. If you haven't seen it, Juno is very much spoken in slang. This is hard to translate into German. I caught about 30% of the movie, and that only because I knew what was coming. But still, it was fun. Wednesday was my dance class again. We learned the Wiener Waltz (Viennese). Thursday, Nicole and I went to dinner with Eli, the TUMI person who picked us both up from the airport. We went to an Asian place. Quite good. Nice change of diet, too! Haven't had Asian food in 6 weeks... And then Friday was our dinner party! Nicole organized and hosted. I went over early and she made a salad, we cooked spaghetti. Later some guys brought garlic bread. We had nine internationals and two of Nicole's roommates (well, there are 7 of them that share a kitchen/living area and have separate bedrooms) joined us for supper and dessert. It was quite fun! Today I've just been hanging around, actually "studying". Hoping to keep busy tonight though. Tomorrow the plan is to check out another church, go to the Toy Museum (100 Years of Teddy Bears exhibit!) and then go to the James Bond movie (we found an English theater). But back to Nuremberg. We were about two weeks early for catching Christkindlmarkt (a Christmas open market throughout advent),and Nuremberg is home to the largest in Germany. But there were still a fair amount of Christmas decorations up. I met Tao's penpal. | Story behind that one:. Tao has a German pen pal (they write in English) who lives right by Nuremberg. Tao gave me a gift he brought back from China this summer for said pen pal, Felicia. I had written Felicia once in German at Tao's request, so let her know I was coming. We met up, I handed off the gift, and she took us around Nuremberg. We went to the city center, the two big churches, the golden well (there's a ring that was supposedly inserted in the gate around the well without cutting the ring- as in, keeping it in one piece... now it's good luck to turn the ring), the farmer's market (where Christkindlmarkt will be), up to the castle, past the Rathaus (town halls...), etc. It was quite fun. It's a gorgeous city. It's also home to Lebkuchen, which is Christmasy and similar to gingerbread.
13: Wednesday, November 19th, 2008 | A Continued List of Differences | Anyway, other new news is that I have a "job". It was suggested to me by another international student I know in my dorm. It's not really a "job" per se, but it's work. I'm working in the cafe in the building next to me. It's student-operated and open for students. It basically sells drinks- coffee, tea, apple/orange/ banana/cherry juice, beer, hot chocolate, coke... anyway, it's volunteer basis on time and I only have to work 3-4 times a semester and I get all my drinks half-price (and then free when I'm working). My first night was Tuesday. It's a good opportunity to meet people, and it was actually a lot of fun even thought the night was slow. I met three other people in my dorm Anyway, the purpose of the post: I've been continuing my list of differences I've noticed by means of writing myself a text and saving it as a draft on my phone whenever I note one. Since my drafts are now getting relatively full, I thought I'd post them.Though this is actually a list of things I find annoying in Germany... | So, we made it to the Toy Museum on Sunday. A lot smaller than expected, but still neat. It had a lot of old teddy bears, train sets, soldiers, cars, barbies... all from a long time ago. We then went to go see James Bond. There was a showing in English, which was surprisingly more crowded than I would have expected. We learned something new about German theaters which is the actual cause | of this post... See below. We then went to dinner... MEXICAN! Nicole had actually eaten at a Mexican restaurant. One of the members of our foursome is half-Mexican and the rest of us were craving. I hadn't had Mexican in 6.5 weeks. It was good! But, like all other food in Germany, even the "spicy" was not spicy. Germany, by the way, has two tastes that they use. Sweet and Salty. Sour does not exist. Spicy definitely does not exist. Their spicy is my mild and we all know my mild...
14: 1. Movie Theaters: you get assigned seats on your ticket. We discover this when Hans buys his ticket. Then I ask for the exact same thing as him and the lady at the counter actually starts close to yelling at me for not telling her ahead of time (Meanwhile, Ashley had bought her ticket earlier). If you don't buy them together, you don't sit together. Now we know. We got around this by sitting in the empty rows in the front where none of us were assigned. 2. Water fountains: they don't exist. Anywhere. At least in Austria you could find them in the school. Not here. You don't have water and you're thirsty you either buy it (and individual drinks here are so overpriced it's ridiculous- think 2 Euro for a small bottle of coke) or you wait. 3. Faucets: Cold water. That's it. No hot water knob, just one for cold water. This is going to get very annoying in winter, because it's really, really cold. 4. Text books: At first I liked the fact that there wasn't a required text book to buy for each class. Certainly cheaper anyway. In the meantime it's become annoying. There are suggested books... usually a list of like 2-5. You can buy them or check them out of the well-stocked libraries. The problem is, without one required book, the teacher does not in fact teach out of a single book. So if you're trying to catch up or read ahead on your own, good luck trying to figure out where and when the information is. 5. Lines: Germans need to learn what a line is, that's all I can say. They clutter. The lines they do make are 3 or 4 people wide. 5. Exception to above: The exception is when you're in a line to get information or go into an office of something. In this case, you are all lined up outside the (closed) office door. The doors here are all closed, even during office hours, just so they can make a point of how much they don't want to talk to you even though they are required to have open office hours. So there are 4 people in line outside the door. Then someone comes out. One person goes in. There are one or two people standing in line inside the very small office while the first person is being helped. It's kinda weird. 6. Pause: Germans love their "Pause". Pause basically means "break" in context. Germans need breaks. Quite often. There is a pause in everything. There is a Pause in the middle of the day for all the shops for lunch. This is conveniently on everyone's lunch hour so you can't do anything on break. It covers some range of the hours of 12-2. Pause also occur in the middle of any class 2 hours or longer. Now, you'd think you'd take like a 5 minute break maybe to stretch, right? My German class is supposed to go from 3-6. At 4:30 we routinely take a Pause (the teacher likes her Pause. We aren't allowed to ask her questions during the Pause). The Pause generally lasts 30 minutes. Aaaaand... I went to go see Juno at the school movie showing, if you remember. Juno is like a 90 minute movie. In the middle of said 90 minute movie we take a Pause (okay... otherwise known as intermission, but the movie was 90 minutes!!!) for a good 20 minutes. 7. I've mentioned before that the store hours in general are mildly annoying? All stores are closed on Sundays except for bakeries which are generally open till 2 or so. Otherwise stores open at 9 or 10, take their 1-2 hour break in the middle of the day, and typically close at 6. We are in Munich, though, which is an advantage since it's so internationalized. Most of our stores actually stay open till... 8! Which is fun on certain days when I don't get home till after 8, such as Wednesdays. This also means stocking up on food for Sunday beforehand or you'll be eating a lot of bread. Oh, and on another note, I saw a shop that amused me. It's called "American Apparel" and it's a store of clothing made in the USA. I found this amusing because I was pretty sure all of our clothing actually wasn't? No? Anyway, today was dance class and I learned to tango. Tomorrow both of my classes got canceled (well, the morning one meets every other week and this is the off week), and I have no class Friday so I'll be doing a lot of catch up learning both days and running some errands. Saturday, my mom and grandmother come to visit! And Monday I stop being a teenager... scary, no?
15: Sorry about the lag. As most of you probably know, it was a busy week. I had visitors! So I'm not really sure where I left off. The week before last involved a lot of errands and trying to stay motivated to sit down and learn stuff. that's the biggest issue right now. then the trying to figure out classes part, but I'll get to that. On Saturday... my mom and grandmother came to visit! And it snowed! They weren't too pleased about the second part. Saturday we toured Olympia Park and they suffered from jet lag. Sunday we hit museums (some of the art museums are 1 Euro on Sunday), so we went to the Alte and Neue Pinakotheken (Old and New art museums... so like 1300-1600 and then 1600-1900? something like that). Monday was my birthday! After my class, we toured the Alt Stadt (old city... main cites), I went to class again, and then got a birthday dinner complete with cake, a candle and presents! Tuesday we did the other half of the city tour. Wednesday was my long day and they kept themselves \]usy. Thursday my morning class was canceled (teacher was sick... subs don't exist in Germany) so we went to Schloss Nymphenburg (the Nymphenburg palace)and then I went to my other class. Friday we went to Oberammergau. It's famous for hosting the Passion Play once every ten years (next showing: 2010...) and for it's painted houses. See pictures. They are pretty neat. Friday was also the day Kristkindlmarkt opened in Munich! Kristkindlmarkt is the open Christmas market. It's really, really pretty. The square has a lit Christmas tree. Little wooden booths are everywhere | Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008 | The Weeks Go By... | selling ornaments, candy, chocolates, glühwein (heated, spiced wine... mulled wine in English, if that means anything to you), toys, carvings, lots of food... etc. Saturday we went to Nuremberg. Nuremberg is home to the biggest Kristkindlmarkt (and most famous) in Germany. The train was packed. We toured the city, stopping back to the market everytime we needed something warm to eat. Fresh lebkuchen (like gingerbread), glühwein, chocolate covered fruit on a stick, roasted nuts, are the big sellers. Then one more walk around Munich's Kristkindlmarkt when we got back. And Sunday I sent them off to the airport... and started working on my German presentation! The presentation on a topic of my choice (which the teacher chose for me because it interested her) was on the relationship between Germany and America... she wants me to focus on
16: Obama. For my "three main points" I chose Bush, Angela Merkel (Germany's leader if you don't know) and Obama. And put together a powerpoint on it. The interesting this is that this is my grade for the class. This one presentation in the middle of the semester. After this I just have to keep doing homework and showing up to class. Well, after a week of speaking straight English I was a little worried about my ability to conduct a 20 minute presentation while being graded on my speaking ability in German... but apparently I did great, because she was really impressed and gave me a 1,6! (the German grading scale ranges in decimals from 1-6 with 6 being failing... 1,6 is really good. It's a solid A). This is great news! One less thing to worry about! After the presentation, I went to the student run movie again... they were showing Arsenic and Old Lace! In German! It was great! I managed to catch about 75% of this one. They talk pretty fast at times! Especially Mortimer. The jokes all got translated really well though. I was impressed. The Germans were rolling on the floor laughing which was also really funny. Tomorrow night I'm working at the cafe again. They have stand-up comedians coming in so it should be a really busy night! And entertaining too, which is cool. Friday I'm meeting with the study abroad adviser here to work on classes again... | think I'm getting somewhere... ever so slowly. Hopefully I'll have it all figured out by the end of the semester. Just in time to start over again! Either Saturday or Sunday I'm hoping to go to Salzburg to see the Kristkindlmarkt there. We'll see though... that might get pushed to next weekend because Monday is going to be a big day. We're cooking dinner for 120 people... Thanksgiving dinner nonetheless.Every other week on Monday there's a "stammtisch", a get together for the international students. Each week a different nationality gets a budge of 120 Euro it's one euro per person basically) to cook for the 120 people. We got assigned around Thanksgiving so figured we'd go for that since that's about as typical American as you can get... since you can't find the ingredients anywhere in Germany. Luckily in the meantime we've made some progress. And recruited some help. Nicole and I were originally recruited. We've pulled in another one (possibly two) Americans, a Canadian, a New Zealander and a couple of English guys. Canadians have Thanksgiving too, and well, we were English once. The New Zealand girl just happens to know how to cook... So my Friday and Saturday are possibly going to be spent buying frozen turkey, pumpkin, cranberries, and stuffing (the mashed potatoes will be the only easy one...) a nd my Sunday will probably be spent cooking. I'll let you know how it turns out! More next week... after the cooking experience!
17: So, we did it! Friday, Nicole and I met at 12 and spent the next 3 and a half hours shopping. We visited a total of around 10 stores and ended up spending 119 Euros of our 120 Euro budget. My mother taught me well. Of course, we ended up carrying everything we bought all around Munich too. Thus I had 3 turkeys in my backpack for most of the afternoon. Here's the full list: Then we dropped it all off at Nicole's place and I went up to school to meet with Erika, Dr. Conrad and Jack. Jack was a student here last year from U of IL, and has been working on my behalf at Dr. Conrad's request to try to smooth things out for me. Well, he was in Munich for a conference, we we had a "group meeting" where I got some good news about classes and credits. They're willing to "bend the rules" for me on this side if it will give me credit on the other side. The question will be how naive UIUC is about it... The other fun part is, I get to decide which grades I want to send back... that means, after the final, I have to go pick up my "Schein" (certificate?) that has the class and my grade on it, basically, the proof that I took the class. Well, there's no official transcript until Dr. Conrad puts it together. That means, I can give Dr. Conrad only the "Schein"s that I want to get credit for. So if I end up with a pretty bad grade in, well, Linear Algebra, I just don't pass that one along. :) Saturday was St. Nicholas' Day. There was a little festival in the "village" I live in. They had music and free gifts for kids and were giving away cups of Glühwein (at 10 am...) and forms of lebkuchen. I spent most of Saturday studying. Sunday I met Nicole at 10 am and the day began. | 4 turkeys 4 pumpkins 4 cans of evaporated milk 1 bag of sugar 2 bags of flour 4 liters of milk | 10 "cubes" of butter (the equivalent of 20 sticks we found out later... don't ever mistakenly think Thanksgiving is healthy...) 6 boxes of potatoes 5 baguettes 4 jars of cranberries | 2 cans of whipped cream 1 can of raisins 2 bags of walnuts 1 bag of onions 2 clusters of celery | 1 bag of green apples 1 packet of chicken bouillon 6 packets of gravy powder 120 paper plates 120 plastic forks | Tuesday, December 9th, 2008 | 120 Euros later... 120 plates of Thanksgiving Dinner | Pumpkin pie completely from scratch means washing, slicing, baking, scooping and mashing pumpkin into puree before making the filling. We started with that and the pie crust. Pie crust was especially fun because we were a little short on kitchen materials... as in, no whisk or masher for mashing the butter into the flour for the crust. Fingers, luckily, work just as well. The recipe had called for one pumpkin per pie. We'd been planning on 4 pies, and thus had 4 pumpkins. By the time the 4th pie was finished, however, we were only halfway through the pie mixture... but luckily had plenty of butter and flour so we ended up making 8 pies and enjoyed one for ourselves at the end. Turkey... so we had four semi-frozen turkeys sitting in the sink and I was in charge of removing
18: the "bags" from inside. Right... how the heck do you get inside a turkey? After a good 20 minutes of fumbling around with the poor bird, Amelia finally came over to help me. She was equally confused. Eventually we figured out... we were reaching around in the wrong end. Ah... we found and removed the bags and wondered why the heck people would bother to put that stuff back in after they took it out in the first place. How about attaching it on the outside? We prepared the oven to bake. Luckily we were able to borrow an oven in the building next door, so we could have all four turkeys going at once. Nicole and I stuffed them with "fake stuffing" (just onions, celery and carrots), the idea being that they still soaked up the flavor of stuffing, but didn't take as long. Problem number 2 with limited materials. We had no string. The whole "where the heck are the bags?" had resulted in a little bit of abuse to the poor turkeys so if we wanted the turkeys legs to stay together such that the stuffing did not spill out everywhere, it was indeed necessary to tie the legs together. Well, turns out cutting a string of fat from the turkey works very well as string. It holds and it ties. We had stuffing going on the stove. We started cranberries as well. The turkeys finished. Nicole, who'd watched a 15 minute YouTube video on carving turkeys became the expert and carved with Ashley's help. The stuffing finished. The last pies were in the oven. The cranberries finished. The kitchen was a mess. It was 8 pm... so then we cleaned. And by 9 pm, 11 long hours after we'd started, we were finished. Nicole and I split up the food. I took half of it home in my backpack, side bag and a big plastic bag. On the subway I was informed by a middle-aged man that he thought I was running away from home. I explained that I was not. | Monday, both of us dragged all the food to the church kitchen... and we were very glad when we finally got there. Hans was there to help. We started mashed potatoes and gravy on the stove (just add milk/ water), cut the pies, warmed the meat and stuffing, thinned the cranberries to use as a glaze for the turkey. The British guys showed up as did Amelia and Ben (New Zealand), and then we loaded up 120 plates of food. We had the perfect amount. And we got a plate too! And it was good!!! It tasted like it was supposed to! All of it! We were extremely impressed (and a little hocked...) Cleanup of that kitchen afterwards was just as fun, but worth it based on the comments we got. One person mentioned that they had been expecting hotdogs from the Americans. Another aid they'd always heard about "Thanksgiving dinner" and now knew what it was. Another informed us hat the "pumpkin cake" had been very good. Another asked if we could please explain what the heck was in this (pointing to stuffing). And finally, the comment that it'd been the best meal yet. Which, for Nicole and I, made the combined 3.5 hours Friday, 11 hours Sunday and 2 hours Monday worth it. :) No, I'm not doing that again, btw...
19: Friday, December 12th, 2008 | It snowed in Munich... and it's gorgeous! | It started snowing last night. Well, afternoon, really... I went to Marienplatz to go Christmas shopping at the Christkindlmarkt and it was 4:50 when I got there but of course it was already completely dark. But it was snowing! And it was soooo pretty! And then I woke up this morning and it was still snowing and everything was pretty white! I'd say we got 3 inches or so and it's still flurrying so maybe more will accumulate. Anyway, if there are any specific requests for gifts from Germany, you should make them now. It's only the 12th of December, and I realize this, but I've pretty much got a plan laid out for the rest of the year and it's gonna start speeding up starting... tomorrow. | canceled on me, so an entire day to do last minute shopping and to paaaaack Wednesday (24th): Waking up at 3:30 (thanks for booking this one, mom... we really didn't think this out too well), to catch the first subway of the morning (they stop running at 2) at 4:17 to make it to the airport at 5:17 for a 7 am flight through Frankfort and Chicago and eventually getting to St. Louis (hopefully) some time that evening. And then obviously, two weeks at home! :) | Here's a little idea for you. Saturday (13th): Salzburg Christkindlmarkt with Nick and Nicole! Sunday (14th): Day to learn! And possibly visit a museum if I get enough learning done. Monday (15th): Normal classes followed by Christmas Party for the Cafe workers Tuesday (16th): Presentation in my Religion Sociology class, followed by German class followed by either meeting with a student from the TU who wants to go to the US next year or going to a "typical Christmas movie" (apparently it's the equivalent of "It's a Wonderful Life"... as in everyone's already seen it 100 times and watches it every year anyway) Wednesday (17th): Normal long Wednesday followed by two hours (8:30-10:30) of free dancing "practice" instead of a lesson Thursday (18th): Catching the 9:30 train to Innsbruck to be there at 11:30 Friday (19th): Hall! Hopefully meeting up with friends from school Saturday (20th): Hall! Sunday (21st): Hall! And back Monday (22nd): Normal full day of classes Tuesday (23rd): Both classes have sense been
20: So I'm waiting for 4 am so I can get on my subway to get to my train to get to the airport to fly back to St. Louis for Christmas. (well, hopefully this is all happening... the snow storms in Chicago are a little worrying since I'm flying through Chicago...) Anyway... the last two weeks. Salzburg was a lot of fun. We were a group of four. We got there around noon and wandered around the city and the Christkindlmarkt. Definitely smaller than Nuremberg and Munich, but it was nice. Also a lot less food at this one. But did they make up for it with their glühwein choices! Munich and Nuremberg basically just had glühwein or (Kinder)punsch (non-alcoholic). Nuremberg had blueberry glühwein as well. Salzburg had peach, wildberry, apple, orange, chocolate, etc. We kept stopping for a different flavor every time we got cold. Also went up to the castle. Then took the 5:00 train back to Munich and decided to go see "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (in English). This time we bought the tickets together so we could officially sit together. Monday's Christmas party was also a lot of fun. Typical Christmas party. Every brings food. Everyone eats and talks. I enjoyed it a lot though. They all were extremely schocked when I started explaining that no, we didn't have Christkindlmarkt. And no, we didn't have glühwein. And no, we didn't have Lebkuchen (I explained gingerbread...). Someone suggested that it wasn't really Christmas without glühwein. Tuesday, Rob (Georgia Tech) and I met up with a guy trying to get into Georgia Tech next year. I'm not sure why I was there. I'm a chemE at U of IL. Rob is a chem major at Georgia Tech. This guy was a chem major at | As I wait for my plane... | Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008 | Georgia Tech. Rob had it covered. Then I met up with Erika to go watch the Christmas film. Feuerzangenbowle is actually a drink they make by soaking a cone of sugar in rum and setting in on fire over a pot of glühwein so that it carmalizes into the wine. Interesting concept. Tasty. (sweet!) The movie has nothing to do with that (except they are drinking it in the first and last scenes). It also has nothing to do with Christmas. A bunch of men are talking about childhood memories and find out one of them never went to school. He was homeschooled. So they fix him up to look like a student and send him to school to get the experience. It was good... but hard to understand since the sound quality is not so great. The movie is from 1943 or so. Thursday I went to Hall. That was a lot of fun. The Christkindlmarkt there is gorgeous. The city is an Advent calendar with numbers lit up on the buildings (colored for those that have passed, and white for those yet to come). I got to meet up with a friend in Innsbruck and see that market too, as well as Andrea's in Hall. And I got to taste her homemade glühwein and orange punsch. Yummy! Met up with two friends from school one night and we went to a cafe that night where 5 other people from the class came! So I got to see 7 of the 11! That was really neat. Several of them didn't recognizes me. (didn't you used to have glasses?) Obviously that was my key identification factor two years ago. The irony is that one of my classmates, Michael, didn't have a clue who I was, even though I was sitting next to Vera and Manu, my two best friends from the class. They had to tell him. He spent 5 hours a day with me the entire semester. When I was on the bus coming back from Innsbruck, I got approached by a girl who asked if my name was Kelsey. Turns out she was from the parallel class I was in. (same grade, different class... if you remember, each "class" is a group of 15-20 students who are together in their lessons for all 8 years.) I was in 6B, she had been in 6A. She recognized me even though she saw me completely out of place (why would she expect me to be sitting on a bus coming from Innsbruck. She had no idea I would be anywhere but the US right now) and we'd probably seen each other once a week for an hour in gym class, since that was mixed. I was really impressed with her though.
21: Back in Munich now. Monday was my last day of class. Today was my last day of Christmas shopping. My bag is packed. My plane leaves in 7 hours. I leave in 4. Hoping the journey is no longer than it's already scheduled to be and that I'm safe at home in St. Louis 24 hours from now. I'll be back in Munich the morning of January 6th. Write more then! | Wednesday, January 7th, 2009 | "Home" Again | So I'm back in Munich. For those of you who didn't hear, the flight back to St. Louis was an adventure to say the least. I got into Chicago with no problems. The weather was clear despite the previous day's threats of a flight-delaying wintry mix... and then my flight was delayed for five hours anyway due to plane servicing. Turns out the plane was actually there at the gate... the problem was that it had another to-and-from flight to make before it could take me to St. Louis. Thus I took off at 8:30 instead of 2:55. In the meantime, I switched on my computer to take advantage of O'Hare's wireless only to discover that my hard drive had crashed somewhere in the previous 16 hours of travel and my computer would no longer boot. On top of that, my US SIM card had decided not to transfer all my US contacts back when I switched out my German SIM... much thanks to Amy for texting me numbers so at least my phone kept me busy for that long afternoon since I'd finished my book on the previous plane. But anyway, being home was wonderful, and I did get home eventually. The flight back was uneventful in terms of my planes were on time and the flights were more or less pleasant. I flew through Atlanta. This might be related... ironically, I ran into one of the exchange students from Georgia Tech (who I know in Germany and actually met on my first day) at the airport. What are the chances we'd be flying back on the same flight? I hadn't even known he was going home. Even more ironically, we had seats right next to each other. Go figure. We came to the depressing conclusion together that it was January 6th, the "Day of the Three Kings" (read: Epiphany), and thus a national holiday and thus everything was closed... so much for grocery shopping. Jet lag obviously sucked. I sat in my room for the next 8 hours and tried to stay awake since it was freezing outside and there was no where else to go... But today's a lot better. I slept from 8:30-7:00 and feel just fine. Today was the first day of classes. I have no idea what my plans are for the next month other than a lot of studying as it's starting to slip in just how quickly finals are coming up and just how potentially bad this could be... Oh, obviously I have a new hard drive for my computer now. And luckily the old one was recoverable (thanks Dad!) so nothing was lost for good.
22: 4. "Clapping". You don't clap to show appreciation. You bang your knuckles against the desk (this is in more of an informal setting). If that didn't make sense, you basically make a fist and "clap" the desk. The weirdest part of this to me, is that they "applaud" like this at the end of every lecture. Without fail... like you're applauding the professor. Which is a nice concept. They'll also do it in the middle of lecture if the professor says something they like "this won't be on the test" or makes a joke they appreciate. | I know everywhere is so don't bother telling me... It's depressingly cold though because there's no desire to leave the (relative) warmth of your room to go do something in Munich. Even going out on weekends becomes a debate of "is it worth it???" I can't wait till spring... Anyway, life is back to normal in Munich. I've been here a full week. Classes started again. Semester is wrapping to a close... we have three full weeks left until the lectures end and the finals start. Here's the final overview for me: My Economic History of the New World's final is on Feb 12th and requires me to write two essays on course themes in an hour. My Biology final is on Feb 13th. It's 90 minutes. Linear Algebra is on Feb 16th. No idea how long it is yet... My Religion Sociology class requires me to write a "Hausarbeit" which is a maximum 15 page essay (with outline, sources and appendix) over the topic of our presentation. We have all break to do it... it's due in April. Basic Sociology... I'm actually not sure about this one. At the beginning she said we'd write a 5 page paper and present an article one day. We're presenting the articles in the next two weeks but she hasn't mentioned the paper since... so maybe it doesn't exist? German has no final. The grade was my presentation, which I did back in November, so as long as I show up for the next three weeks, I'll be just fine. | Anyway, other than that... not much planned for the next few weeks. People are freaking out about finals and the weather is is cold, which limits planning. I am trying to put together a trip to Amsterdam the weekend after next... will update if that works out. Also hoping to get down to Hall, Austria one more time before I go home again. We're planning on a ski weekend! Then come finals... and then in the week after finals and before I go back, I'm hoping to get a little more traveling. There's a potential trip to Cologne, which may become a trip to Prag or Venice/Milan. We'll see! Short post, so I'll tag on the most recent "differences" I've come across. I mentioned these first three when I was in Austria... but it's the same in Germany it turns out. | Anyway, that's all for now. Back to studying for bio... more later! | So... Munich is cold. | Wednesday, January 14th, 2009 | 2. Chalkboard erasing. They don't erase. They wash. Once the board is full, they take a sponge-like on a stick and wet the entire board with it (like the things for your windshield at the gas station). At this point the board is dripping wet. Then they take a squeegee (proper title? the back of the thing you use at the gas station to dry your windshield?) Then then go across the board with the squeegee and dry the board (catching the water with the sponge thing) so that the chalk shows up. (chalk will not show up on wet board...) I was helping my partner wash the board before our religion sociology presentation and I commented that we didn't do it like this. She asked how we did it. I explained we simply wiped it. That seemed inefficient, she said, as that left the board white so you couldn't see what had been written over it... this is very true. Why haven't we come up with the German concept? Granted all their rooms have sinks in them so you can wet the sponge... so there is a bit of a design problem there, but it makes a lot more sense. | 3. Frische Luft. For those of you who didn't feel like translating that, "fresh air". Germans are in love with it. They feel that if the windows of a room are closed too long it gets really stuffy and is really bad for your health. Thus, they air their rooms out. Yes, even when it is 3 degrees outside, our German teacher insists we open the windows for 15 minutes when we enter the class room so we can get some "frische Luft". This concept follows me everywhere. It's somewhere between amusing and annoying. They swear by it though. | 1. Looseleaf doesn't really exist here. Well... it does, but not quite like we have it. And students don't take notes on looseleaf. They take them on graph paper. No matter what the class is. I always feel semi-self conscious pulling out my 70 page college-ruled notebooks from the US. I bought some proper graph paper notebooks for linear algebra and bio so I'd fit in.
23: Finals are creeping up on Munich and you can tell. You basically have to wait in line to wait for a locker to put your bag/coat in before going into the library (or just drop it in front of the sign in the library that says "please to not store your bags/coats in this area, but use the lockers located outside the door"... this sign is occasionally covered by a coat so one can not actually read it), and once you get inside, you usually end up walking around all three floors several times before you find a free seat. German finals are a lot more memorization oriented than US ones, and apparently the month before finals here means Germans study, study, study. But moving past that, not much has happened, but I figured I should update anyway, as it's been awhile. I've been doing a lot of studying. I have my Sociology presentation next Thursday over Gender Roles in Society. Two weeks left of all my other classes. I worked at the café last Tuesday. That means I've worked my 4 times this semester, so I'm good till April. I did go hang out there last night though. It was "Quebec Night". They were showing a French Canadian movie (title: Seducing Dr. Lewis? in English... but they also told me the title in French and German). We watched in French with German subtitles and they served Canadian beer, which tastes extremely different from German beer... | which I am indeed finally getting accustomed to. I wouldn't say I quite like it, but I can drink it without a problem, and I don't cringe when I'm offered a second one. But the Canadian stuff was a lot thinner. One of the Germans took a sip and commented that it tasted like they had taken German beer and added a lot of mineral water (carbonated water that they drink here). Though I don't think I'll find a German who will admit that another beer is better than their own no matter how hard I look... A couple more interesting things. I worked Tuesday with a guy from Russia. He moved here to do his university because TUM had a really good program. We were talking about Germans and I was saying that they were a lot more closed than Americans (as in, it's a lot easier to meet Americans than Germans). His response was that he found the Germans much more open than Russians! I guess I don't want to go to Russia... | Also something that amused me. I was talking to my Sociology class (the four of us...) about why I was in Munich and what I had seen so far. I was saying that I'd been around Munich a lot, or, well, throughout Bavaria, but I hadn't really been to much more of Germany. Well, this brought up a quote from a very Bavarian movie that pretty much sums up just how different Bavaria and Germany are. "Hi, I'm from Bavaria! That's right under Germany" ... But... I'm gonna hit a new country this weekend! Ashley and I are going to Amsterdam for the weekend! We decided to just go ahead and do it because we're both interested in traveling and didn't want to end up trying to fit everything in in July. So we leave tomorrow morning, will get there by noon and are flying out Sunday night. It will be a short trip but we're both ready to fit as much in as possible. Current plans are a free city tour, a canal tour, the Anne Frank House, the Van Gogh museum and the Rijksmuseum (most famous one there... mostly Rembrandt). We'll see what happens, but I'm pretty excited. It will be a nice break from studying 8 hours straight (or trying to...) on the weekends. Be ready for pictures! | Friday, January 23rd, 2009 | Prüfung Stress
24: Amsterdam! | Friday, January 30th, 2009 | Okay. So Amsterdam was awesome. And a whirlwind of a trip. Wow. Ashley and I woke up at 6 so we could catch the 7:00 subway to the 7:20 train to the 9:30 flight. Turns out there's no need to get the airport that far in advance because travel within the EU is actually easier than travel within say... the same state in the US. We got to the airport 90 minutes early and it took a total 20 minutes to check in, go through security, and walk across the airport to our gate (at least 10 minutes were walking). It's an hour and a half or so to Amsterdam. We were flying KLM Dutch Airlines... and in the hour and a half they still gave us drink service and two snacks (crackers and cookies!). Quite impressive. We landed in Amsterdam at 11:20 and caught the 20 minute train into the city. We had planned on taking a walking tour that started at 1:00. The train dropped us off at Central Station (which there's a picture of here because it was huge and gorgeous). Wow. Amsterdam is probably one of my favorite European cities so far. It's amazingly pretty. We walked around the outside area of the station for a bit because we had time to kill, then grabbed sandwiches and walked down 10 minutes to Dam Square (I'm translating) which is the main city square and where our tour was leaving from. The tour is part of Sandeman's Walking tours. They are actually offered in a variety of European cities and if you're in a city where they are offered, I highly recommend it. It was a three hour tour (actually, a little longer, but we had a half hour break in the middle to grab a bite to eat and sit down) and it took us through all the main points of the city. By the end we had a pretty good idea how to get around the city, and knew a lot of cool facts and history. Did I mention it was free? The tour started in the city center, as said, by the Royal Palace and the Dam Square Monument. We headed into the Red Light District (1 pm, remember, so not much going on there), then passed such things as the highest point in Amsterdam (1.3 m above sea level... the majority of the city is beneath sea level. they spend a lot of time fighting the sea), a hidden Catholic church with the biggest organ in Amsterdam hidden in a normal looking house (Amsterdam was a Protestant nation for a while), many, many gorgeous canals and crooked houses (it's a very water based city, so when you build your house on ground that sinks you end up with very crooked houses), the Old and New Church, a magnificent post office (you would have thought city hall...), China Town (complete with Buddhist temple), the Jewish District (redone in 60's style architecture after it was emptied by the Nazi's and then pillaged by the freezing townspeople during the war (to burn for warmth)... thus making it the ugliest part of the city according to our guide), this included the Rembrandt house. We saw a guild with a tower full of windows. To get in the guild (picture) you had to make a window, and if you failed your window got bricked over. In front of this guild is now an open market but used to be the site of the guillotine that the Dutch apparently fell in love with. We found the many coffee shops and learned that Marijuana is actually quite illegal in Amsterdam, but they were so focused on killing the hard drug problem that they ignore the soft drug one. Ironically it's illegal to smoke tobacco inside a building, but if a cop catches you smoking pot inside the same building, he won't care... we also saw the famous coffee shop from a scene in Ocean's 12.
25: Granted it was also supposed to rain and at least we had sun, but we were freezing on our 20 minute walk. The line to the Anne Frank House can be a several hour's wait later in the day, but we got there right as it opened at 9 and so were the first in line. It only took about an hour to walk through but was definitely worth it. Sad though. I realized I had never read the Anne Frank Diary and that I really need to. After that we decided to take a tram to the Rijksmuseum (pronounced "Reeks-museum") because Dutch like to throw a "j" in where other people might use a "c". (we actually spent a lot of time analyzing the language, but I'll come back to that). This was a good idea as the Rijksmuseum was very far south of the city. The museum is absolutely huge and gorgeous on the outside. 2/3 of it was closed for restoration but we were actually okay with that... the top 33% was still there and that's all we cared about since we didn't want to spend 6 hours there as apparently many people do. It's the biggest museum in the Netherlands and has a lot of Rembrandt paints, like his most famous, "the Night Watch". We had learned our our free tour how the Night Watch had actually sat in a basement for a very long time and been quite damaged before they decided to hang it on a doorway in the Amsterdam Town Hall. But it didn't fit... so they actually cut slices off all four sides to make it fit! We spent about 2 hours there and then took the tram back up to the main city and walked around in the sunshine. With another four hours to kill, we headed to tourist information to see where we could find the nearest windmill... We'd been directed to a specific one at the hostel which neither Ashley or I could remember the name of. The tourist guide rolled her eyes at this and informed us all windmills were the same. Granted, she is Dutch and apparently found windmills rather boring. She directed us to the only one in the city, which was a "15 minute walk at most" east of the city along the harbor coast. We figured this was doable. The other choice was a 30 minute train ride north. Well, we started walking and 15 minutes later we had seen a ship yard, | Our tour ended around 5. We decided to head to our hostel (which took a while to find anyway) and drop our stuff off and check in. We were staying in a Christian Hostel in the middle of the Red Light District, which was quite interesting. It was about 10 minutes from the city center. I had my first chocolate covered waffle for dinner. Basically, a square of a Belgium waffle that's covered in chocolate... which they then warm up. Absolutely amaaaaaazing! Then we headed back to the central station to catch a canal cruise since we'd been told to make sure we took one. Turns out there are over 1200 canals that divide the city into 90 islands. We were exhausted by that point, but it was beautiful to see the city at night and especially all the lit up canals. After the tour we wandered around the city for another hour or so and then headed back to our hostel and figured we'd sleep early and get started early the next morning. We got breakfast at the hostel at 8, when they started serving it. I opted for the hot breakfast option, which was french toast with 'syrup'. Or so they claimed anyway. I'm not really sure what it was, but it was possibly more solid than liquid and tasted very unlike any syrup I've ever had. We think it was closer to a very weird molasses. Either way, I ate my french toast with jam... then we headed over to the Anne Frank House, which was on the opposite end of town. It was COLD! So much for our weather report of 40 degrees! | NEMO (the science and research center, which is on a boat off of a boardwalk) and a couple of cool sculptures... but still no windmill. Another 15 minutes and we had reached it. Apparently the Dutch walk extremely fast. It was pretty cool though. Not spinning as it's actually a residence... which was also kinda neat. We figured once again that it was worth it to take the tram back since neither of us were up for another "15 minute" walk.
26: airport. Once again we were at our gate within 20 minutes of getting to the airport. The flight back was even shorter, just over an hour. 9:00-10:30 from gate to gate. Was home before midnight... and exhausted! But... it was definitely worth it. The city is absolutely gorgeous but obviously has it's own sense of personality. I also fell in love with the Dutch language. Basically, it looks like a really messed up German dialect. The words you can't recognize as obviously being very similar to German, you just have to say out loud and you hear either a German or English word. "Ingang" for example, is entrance in Dutch. This would be "Eingang" in German, but they use the English "in" prefix instead of the German "ein" prefix. My favorite word was "uitgang" (exit). This looks nothing like "ausgang" in German, but if you say it out loud... "ooit", you can definitely hear an accented "out". One more example since I'm quite obsessed with the language. Here's a sign we saw. "Wij werken nu ann de energie van morgen". This is very easily readable by a german speaker "Wir arbeiten nun an der energie von morgen". The only word that doesn't really translate is "werken", which is, obviously "work" conjugated like a german verb (german verbs end in "en"). Anyway. I'm sure no one else is quite as thrilled as I am and probably just skipped that last paragraph, but I love it. | Once back in the city we took a walk to the south to explore an area the tour had just discussed but we'd seen from our canal tour as well. We saw the Music theater and walked around inside. We also found the "X-tra Cold Ice Bar", where the bar, stools and glasses are actually made of ice. You get thermal suits before you go in. Entrance was 8 Euro though, so we just took a picture of the outside. It was cold enough outside that we didn't need to go in to the colder... by then it was starting to get dark. We found a souvenir shop and then headed back north to explore one more time. We each got another waffle (Munich really needs to jump on the band wagon with those... they are amazing), took a last walk through the Red Light District and headed back to the train to the | The semester officially ended on Friday the 6th. Granted I have three exams and a 15 page paper still coming up, but the semester is in school terms over. And now I'm going to take a study break to give a quick update of what I've been up to for the last two weeks or so (since Amsterdam). Okay, so the Monday after I got back was the last Stammtisch of the semester (that's the TUMi biweekly gathering that we cooked for). The rest of the week was a lot of preparing... for my Referat on Thursday for Sociology! Basically we (the class of 4) had been given four texts and told to divide them up and then present the topics to the class. I ended up with "Gender Roles in Society". I put together a 30 page powerpoint and had 90 minutes to present (two people presented each day, and this is the 3 hour block class every other week). Well, I was a little nervous about this obviously because I wanted those slides to have grammatically correct German on them and I wanted to know what I was talking about enough to fill 90 minutes... and of course it went just fine. | One "Semester" Down... | Saturday, February 7th, 2009
27: There was a lot of discussion about the topic within the group and I had ample material to cover the time and even go slightly over. At the end she told us she was going to give everyone a "1-scale", so either a 1,0, 1,3, or 1,6 (i guess it's kinda like A+/A/A-?) not because she didn't want to give us all 1,0's but because that looks suspicious. After class she told me I was getting a 1,3 and she would have loved to have given me a 1,0, but I (of course) don't participate quite as much as the other three and she knows that that's because of the language barrier. Sadly, this is the grade that's getting combined with another class- my Religion Sociology class... the one I have a 15 page paper due for. So hoping I can pull off a 1 something on that paper too!Anyway, that made my day. That night was the finale of the Comedy going on in the café. I hadn't been planning on working but they were in need of people since most people were pulling out because of finals. So I decided to go. Turned out to be a lot of fun. The comedy was great. I understood most of it. That's always a plus since a lot of them had been speaking a pretty strong dialect. Friday was a study day. Saturday morning I took a train down to Hall. Hung out with them on Saturday and then Sunday Lisa and I went skiing. Well, she went snowboarding. I, of course, have not been on skis since I last was in Austria... about three years ago. So I put skis on and Lisa says, "Let's just go straight up to the top. You don't need the practice hill"... well, once would have been nice.... but then we were on the lift. Of course the steepest part of the hill was the top drop. But I survived. The first time down took about 45 minutes... the last time down I made it in 10. That was an accomplishment. Of course I got my share of homecooked meals... and two of my favorites! Spaetzle and Knoedel. As for this week... Monday was uneventful. Recovery from sore muscles from skiing. Tuesday was Strike Day! The Subways/Buses/Trams decided to strike from 4 am to 3:30 pm. They told everyone a week in advance. Of course this was great for all the students (a fair amount apparently) who had exams on Tuesday and couldn't just skip class. I would have except two professors had told us to make sure we made it because it was the last week and was important. Thus I woke up an hour early, layered up, and walked the 45 minutes to class. On the bright side it was a very pretty area. I found out I face the opposite direction I thought I did... I was apparently very directionally confused up until now. | The other bright side of Tuesday is that I decided to go to the LMU class I've been randomly attending since a couple of weeks into the semester. I had originally been interested after it was recommended to me by Erika, my "mentor" here, I guess. The title translates to "What is good German? What is correct German?" and basically is a German grammar class that leads to him informing us at least half a dozen times per class that this example is yet another reason German is so hard for non-native speakers... because even though this is technically incorrect, it's very commonly used. And even though this doesn't follow any of the rules, it's right. It's sometimes very interesting and sometimes very depressing. But anyway, it only meets an hour per week so I figured there was no point trying to get credit for it... and then the last day he asked if anyone needed a grade for the class. I wandered up with the large mass of people to see what was going on... and the class is 2 SWS (so 1 credit in the US system) and he was giving everyone a 1,0 for the class and signing the sheets. I figured I might as well grab one... of course it doesn't do anything for my graduation requirements, but it is a full 1 credit hour of A that will indeed factor into my GPA. :) I'm gonna need those, I think! Anyway, so Tuesday night, Nicole and Amelia from New Zealand and I went out to dinner at a place Nicole and I had gone to our first week here. Wednesday was my last real day of class, followed by my last real day of dance (hence forth for semester break it's a "free training" two hour period you are invited to if you so choose), followed by a celebration of Ben's, the other one from New Zealand, birthday. Thursday I only had a review session for Econ. That was a big relief. He told us the topics of the questions (14 topics... there will be 14 questions). We have to choose two and write an essay on them. We have an hour. AP style essay writing... but the bright side is you only have to actually know 2 topics, which is good since I haven't been paying all that much attention in class since I started out thinking I only had to write a term paper on a topic of my choice and found out later I had to take the exam. I figure I'll study three areas to be safe. :) Thursday night was a karaoke night at the café. It was the last night it was opened this semester so it was kinda just a big party. It was a lot of fun. Most of the people I've met working there were there and I met some new people as well. Friday was more studying, followed by meeting a group of the architects for dinner and hanging out in a café for a bit. Afterwards I went to the End of the Semester Exchange Student Party at the disco across from me. Very conveniently located. That was also a lot of fun as I saw a lot of people I knew. Tonight is actually Nicole's going away dinner as she leaves Monday. I'm actually heading out to that in about 10 minutes so I guess I'll stop here. First exam is Thursday from 2-3 (Econ) Second is Friday from 11-12:30 (Bio) Third is Monday from 9:15-10:45 (Linear) Wish me luck!
28: ....Aaaaaaand Finished! | Monday, February 16th, 2009 | Actually I need to stop thinking that. Because that depends first on my having passed Linear Algebra and second, I still have that 15 page research paper to write for Religion Sociology. But that's not due till April and the repeat test for Linear is also in April, so I'm done for now either way. Anyway. As said, Saturday was the going away dinner for Nicole. We had a group of ten and went to a Mexican restaurant that, though quite tasty, is still not the Mexican I miss due to the fact that they don't have spice... Hans (who's half Mexican) finally asked if they had hot sauce. They had Tabasco sauce... which they brought him. It was a lot of fun, though, of course sad. I'll miss Nicole a lot. Sunday was a stay home and study day for me. Monday was officially Nicole's last day. We all got lunch at the Cafeteria at 1:00. Amelia and I agreed to help her take all her stuff to the airport. Well, I had originally agreed but Nicole remembered I had exams and asked Amelia to help instead and then we both ended up helping. Reminding me I'm going to have fun dragging all my stuff to the airport in August... hmm... So that was afternoon. Her flight was at 7, so after lunch we headed back to her place, did some last minute chocolate shopping for her, got her stuff, said her goodbyes and then headed up to the airport. I got home around 7 and went right back to studying. Tuesday was actually an all day review session in Garching for Linear Algebra. It was actually considered a one-day course over semester break. Two were being offered. Tuesday and Thursday (same material). I went at the start, 9:30, but then had to leave at 3 to get to my German class. It was the last day and she was passing out our certificats/grades, but luckily it was starting at 4 instead of 3. The result was that I missed the last 90 minutes of the review session. Figured I'd go catch the last bit on Thursday after my Econ exam. After German went home and studied... Wednesday I studied. All day. Took an hour break to go to dance. The course is over but every Wednesday the room is open and they turn music on and you can practice for two hours. I told my partner I could only stay for one, but it was fun (and a nice break) nonetheless. Then I went home and studied. | Thursday I woke up, studied, and went to Econ. In the review session he'd given us 14 topics and told us there would be 14 questions, one corresponding to each topic. We had to choose two and then had an hour to write an essay on each. I'd gone ahead and just studied all the material I could find on the two topics I felt most comfortable with. (Shock city development in the 19th/20th century... specifically New York, San Fransisco and Los Angeles, and Imperial Economies of the early New Worlds: fur trade, cod fishing, sugar plantations and merchantilism). I figured this was slightly risky, since I had no fall back topic, but I got lucky and was adequately prepared to answer both questions. I actually didn't even get a chance to read through the other 12. I just found those two and answered. An hour for two essays is not much once you subtract the time it takes to write all your information on the exam and read the questions and organize your thoughts. Still, I felt pretty good about that walking out. No idea when the grades will be up, but apparently it won't be too long because the professor is going back to New Zealand... so then I headed out, grabbed a slice of pizza for lunch and headed up to Garching... or tried to. First of all, I had just missed the train I needed by two minutes (couldn't have made it b/c of the exam), but they were only running ever 20 minutes. Then it came 10 minutes late because of the work on the station I was traveling through. The result was that I ended up in Garching at 4:00. I plopped down next to a guy in one of the few free seats and started furiously copying everything on the blackboard. He commented that I was a little late. I replied that the U-Bahn had been late, to which he responded, "since 9 am? Hey, are you American?" ... Well, then I had to look up from my copying to explain that I'd been there Tuesday and had had to leave early and had just had an exam and yes, was American. And then we chatted for a bit while I continued to copy notes. Luckily for me the review ended up going till 4:50 instead of 4:30, so I still felt like it was somewhat worth it. Afterwards headed home... and studied... Friday's exam was Bio at 11:00. This was my first real experience with German Uni exams. First I made the mistake of sitting somewhere I wasn't allowed to. Apparently they're a little anal about cheating on the final... I guess because it's the only grade? Well, first I was in the wrong row. You are only allowed to sit in every other row. Then I was in the wrong seat. Because unlike U of IL, where you have to keep one empty seat between each student, Germans apparently have extremely good eyesight, because the professor insisted on two empty seats between students. Thus the majority of the seats in the lecture hall were very empty and two lecture halls were needed to test a class that normally takes up 2/3 of a lecture hall half that size... But anyway. The exam was 90 minutes. And 18 questions. Yes. 17 powerpoints of about 40 slides each. So many cycles and enzymes and processes and molecules covered and memorized and studied for so many hours of my life... and I got asked an entire 18 questions. I was mildly irritated actually. I had the very strong desire to regurgitate everything I had learned to prove I had learned it. But I didn't get to. To top it off, the first question, which was 10 out of 100 points, was on the second slide of the first powerpoint... and one of the perhaps 3 out of 17 x 40 slides I had not bothered to copy into my notes and thus hadn't learned... figures, no? But despite all of that, I felt really good about the rest of it (I did learn that stuff!). So then I grabbed lunch, went home, and took a break for a couple of hours. And then started studying. Saturday I studied. Saturday evening a group from the Café I work in were going ice skating and I had been invited when I randomly met one of them on the U-Bahn. So I took a study break. We went to the Ice Arena in Olympia Park. It was a lot of fun and needed... and then I went back to studying. Sunday morning was another brunch in the Café. I once again ran into a lot of people from the Café and had to turn down their offer to play a board game after they ate... to go back and study... Monday... Linear Algebra exam was at 9:15. It was 7 questions, but that's typical for math finals at UIUC so it was relatively expected. Apparently you need 25/60 points to pass. This explains why the grading conversion scale for TUM -> UIUC is a little warped and me passing at TUM does not guarantee that I will pass at UIUC.
29: Tuesday, February 24th, 2009 | Intermediate Post... | Well, I'm home safe and sound from a week of travel. Berlin and Cologne were both awesome and I have large amounts of pictures and stories from each. That being said, I got home at 8:30 tonight and it's now almost 2 am and I finally have all my stuff together and ready for the 10:00 am flight tomorrow back to the US... soooo... I'll make my actual posts with stories and pictures later. Possibly in the airport if I'm so blessed with a working computer and wireless internet. Regardless, they'll be up eventually. But for now, I'm back safely. I had a great time, and I'll be in the States again tomorrow evening (6 pm hopefully). | This explains why the grading conversion scale for TUM -> UIUC is a little warped and me passing at TUM does not guarantee that I will pass at UIUC. Unfortunately this may have been the case. I wasn't clueless. I worked my way through 2 of the problems relatively completely, and another two at least partway. The last two I just didn't understand... they were written in my professor's lovely version of math which I have yet to grip since I can't find it anywhere online or in any of my 16 textbooks... And the last problem was a set of 11 true/false. Except that when you guess wrong it's -1, not 0, which means it cancels the one you guessed right. As in, don't guess. Aaaanyway, unlike other courses here where I was warned results would come out in 4-6 weeks because professors go on vacation, Linear promised to have scores by tomorrow morning... I was going to check before I left until I recently realized that I'm not sure where they will be posted. So I might not actually know... But moving on. So! I'm finished with the semester! And now on to travel! Tomorrow morning I'm catching an 8:20 am train to Berlin. I'll get in at 2:00 and hopefully meet up with Amelia, who will be flying in from London around 11:00. We're staying at the same hostel, anyway, so we should meet up eventually. We're in Berlin until Saturday morning when I'm taking a train down to Cologne to meet up with Hans who will be taking a train up from Munich. Thursday through Tuesday is the huge Faschings/Carnival Celebration (read huge German Marti Gras). It's called Faschings in Munich (as it was in Austria), but is known as Carnival in the North. Cologne has the biggest celebration in Munich. Because of this, booking lodging was a bit difficult. Saturday night we're sleeping on the floor of the kitchen of another student Hans knows in Cologne. Sunday night we're staying in Düsseldorf, which is only 25 minutes away by train. Monday we'll stay in Cologne for the big Rose Monday parade, and then we'll take (separate, unfortunately) trains back to Munich that afternoon to get in that evening. Then I'll move my stuff around to finish packing because Tuesday I have a 10:00 am flight home. I'm probably going to be pretty out of reach for the next week, except for a few possible email/facebook checks if the hostel has internet access as promised... but expect lots of pictures when I get back!
30: Caught the 8:20 train which ended up 15 minutes late along the way causing me to miss my connection in Nuremberg by 5 minutes and thus I had to wait another hour for the next one. Not so thrilled with Deutsche Bahn. But I eventually got on the train and headed north! Nice scenery on the ride actually. Very sunny outside (figures since that was the day I was on the train it snowed the other 4 days). Lots of windmills and we even passed through a very hilly/low mountainous area (which I knew where that was). Got to Berlin at 3:05 and hopped a subway to the hostel where I dropped my stuff off and met up with Amelia who'd gotten in a few hours earlier. It was around four by that point. We decided to walk down to Potsdamer Platz, which is the commercialized (modern?) square of Berlin (the Times Square, I guess). She's an architect so it was a hot spot. It's got some cool buildings including the Sony Center which is a bit movie theater but has a really cool roof and open air center before you reach the buildings. It was freezing as the sun went down so we stopped for hot chocolate before circling around to the Opera House and walking along the Tiergarten (City Park) and over to the Reichstag. This is the German parliament building. It has a glass dome at the top and it's free to go to the top to look out over the city or, from the top you can look down and see where parliament meets. Of course it was 8 by this point so the city was dark and parliament was not in session, but it was still pretty cool. Going late we missed the usual hour plus queue to get in. From there we headed back to the hostel. Went to bed early that night but woke up at 7 on Wednesday. Plan was to take the free walking tour (what I did in Amsterdam). We decided to walk through the Tiergarten to get there since the pickup was on the other side at 10:30. It was gorgeous in the snow but absolutely freezing. The Tiergarten has, along with lakes/streams/statues/momuments/fountains, the Siegesule (victory column) in the center and the home/office of the Bundespresident. Made it to the tour pick-up, which was a Dunkin’ Donuts. Not even kidding. They have taken over Berlin. Almost as many as in Chicago. We defrosted with hot chocolate and a donut, then set out again, with the tour. The tour took us to all the main places. | Okay! So this is going to be two posts (one per city) because they'll be long, especially with pictures. | The Brandenburg Gate, of course, the famous Aldon Hotel that Michael Jackson dangled his baby from, the Jewish memorial (which is a really cool memorial, by the way) we got to see fragments of the wall all around the city, Checkpoint Charlie (the most famous cross-over between East/West Berlin), the parking lot that stands above the bunker Hitler hid out in, the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedchtniskirche (Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church- it was bombed during the war and they decided not to restore it and instead rebuilt the church in a very modern style directly next to it). The French and German cathedrals are identical and face each other. The Berlin Cathedral is the massive one and very impressive. We saw the location of the book burnings and the memorial to them (you can look down into an underground room at that point. The room is completely empty except for empty bookshelves that would have fit the 25,000 books that were burned). We also met Ampelmann (Stoplight man), who is the apparently quite famous East German version of the stop/go at crosswalks. He’s so well known that West Berlin adopted him after reunification and there are entire shops dedicated to him (selling t-shirts and the like). The tour ended on Museum Island which is home to about 5 museums and isn’t really an island the river just runs around it. | Wednesday, February 25th, 2009 | Berlin!
31: It’s got an elevator in it that is surrounded by an aquarium. It’s supposed to be really cool, but unfortunately was the way to get to Berlin’s SeaWorld, and the elevator world was not worth the 13 Euro entrance fee. From there I met up with Amelia and we went up north to an area of shops/cafes/restaurants Alex had recommended. We got dinner at one and then went to Museum Island. See Berlin keeps its museums open till 10 pm on Thursday evening and for the last 4 hours they’re all free!!! Turns out this isn’t completely true the Pergamon museum (the one I really wanted to go to) had a special exhibit so it wasn’t free, but we went anyway and it was definitely worth it. First we went to the Altes Musuem which has the famous bust of Queen Nefertiti and a lot of hieroglyphics. Very cool. The Pergamon has the reconstructed Pergamon Alter, Ishtar Gate, Market Gate of Miletus and the Mshatta Facadeetu, all of which were collected from their native homes in the Middle East many years ago. Very cool. One of my favorite things in Berlin actually. It’s a very different museum just because the “artifacts” are all huge. By the time we got out it was after 9 and we were exhausted so we headed back. Friday morning we woke up early again to subway down to the East Side Gallery, which is the longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall. It’s a little less than a mile, I think. Berlin hired artists to come in and paint it with their own idea of freedom (the opposite of the wall). Now it’s so covered with graffiti as well that it’s hard to tell what’s original and what’s not, but the graffiti isn’t bad, it’s more just the public’s idea of freedom, which is kinda neat. I had been told by at least 3 people to try to make it to Potsdam, which is about 30 minutes away by train, just outside of Berlin. It’s the “City of Emperors” and has over 70 palaces apparently. We decided to take the tour offered through the same group that does the free tours just because the free tours were so good. It was 12 Euro but since we had no idea what to see in Potsdam we figured it was worth it. Well, unfortunately it was raining in Potsdam and really, really cold and our tourguide was doing the Potsdam tour for the first time. And there were just two of us. Amelia and I. | From there we walked down to the Jewish museum, which is both a very impressive building in general (just looks really cool) and definitely worth the 2,50 Euro it was to get in! (Berlin has great student discounts just about everywhere). It covers the history of the Jewish people but there are a couple areas dedicated to the holocaust. See facebook photos if you can for some pictures/explanations. After that we ended up going to a dinner party. Amelia had randomly met someone she knew from New Zealand in the London airport (she’d been to London the week before flying to meet me in Berlin). This guy, Alex, is currently living in Berlin, two blocks from our hostel actually, and invited us over to his dinner party. The food was quite good and it was a lot of fun to talk to his friends, a lot of who were from England actually. That was a bit of a late night. Thursday, we split for the morning. Amelia wanted to go to Dessau, 90 minutes away by train to see some architecturally famous buildings. I headed to Schloss Charlottenburg, which is Berlin’s palace. I have to say that I wasn’t that impressed, but at this point, I’ve seen a lot of palaces and it was very pretty but no more impressive than Nymphenburg in Munich. From there I headed up to Alexander Platz, which is just north of the museums and the Berlin Cathedral. That’s where the TV tower is (which you can go up, but I’ve also been up a lot of tall things in Germany and the TV tower isn’t that tall/special considering), the Red City Hall (yes, actual name), another church, the Neptune Fountain (big fountain of the god, Neptune) and the Radisson Hotel. I read about this online.
32: The result was that the tour was probably not that good of an idea. (it also ended up taking 6 hours instead of 4). Potsdam, however, is a cool place and definitely worth it. We saw about 7 of the palaces, and in his favor, we did learn a lot about the history of the place. I think if he’d had a little more practice, we’d moved a little faster and the weather had been a little nicer (I’m sure spring there is gorgeous), it would have been worth it. Anyway, we got back close to 6, which killed my afternoon plan of the Checkpoint Charlie museum. Instead, I decided I wanted to go check out the Berlin Cathedral. Normally there’s a 3 Euro entrance fee. I don’t pay 3 Euro to go inside European churches. We did, however, read, that there’s free entrance for the prayer time from 6-6:20. Perfect. Our tour guide tagged along as he hadn’t known this and hadn’t yet been inside. Turns out “prayer time” means service oops. Still worth it. Amelia and I headed home and picked up some food in the supermarket. We’d met a couple of Australian girls at the hostel and had decided to cook | So I got into Cologne at 3:10, which was 5 minutes after Hans had gotten there so we met up at the train station and headed out into the chaos. I had been lucky it turns out. Apparently he was on a “party train” filled with men dressed up as pink fairies and several cases of beer. Mine had been pretty quiet. Anyway, neither of us had realized we’d be on the train over lunch and thus had not eaten so we figured food was the first stop. We stepped out of the train station and Wow. The cathedral is right there. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, the Cologne Cathedral | Cologne! | us went to check out Berlin’s night life and when they say Berlin has quite the night life, they mean it. We stepped into a cool looking bar/club only to find it almost completely empty. We asked the bouncer when it started to get busy. This was around 11:30pm. His answer? “5 am” riiiight. Well, we won’t be around for that We eventually found a place that was actually busy. Very busy in fact. We didn’t stay late because we were all tired, but were glad for the experience. Amelia was taking a very early train to Cologne so she could meet a family friend in Düsseldorf (30 minutes away) for lunch. My train was at 11, so I slept in till 8, checked out and then walked around the city for a bit. And the next section of my journey, Cologne, will continue in the next post. | dinner together. Afterwards the four of
33: is one of the most massive churches in Europe. It’s huge. And it’s right there. We attempted to walk back far enough on thsquare in order to fit the whole thing in our cameras. We were almost successful. Then Hans called his friend, Becka, who we were staying with. She’s on the same program as he is (Fulbright) and had been nice enough to offer her kitchen floor to us for the night even though they’d only met once (and we’d never met) at the beginning of the year. She was nearby with the three other people staying with her. One was a friend from college who is studying in Hamburg, and who had brought two friends with her. The group of us went in search of sausages (I have eaten way too many sausages in the least three days. Wow. Then we were handed a beer (Koelsch is the Cologne beer (also, actually, the name of their dialect)). I’m versed enough in beer to know that it was not Munich beer and that people from Munich probably consider it a step down. It’s a little closer to American stuff. We walked over to the riverfront so Hans and I could see the Rhein and then we joined the rest of the city and went searching for a bar. Let me stop for a minute and explain Carnival. It’s really Marti Gras, but Germany | eggnog so I got one. Turns out there’s about a shot of liquor in there, which comes spilling out when you bite into it. Anyway, so this is what we’re walking through. One big Halloween drinking party. That’s on the streets. When you walk into a bar, you add dancing. This is the typical German music that, as my host sister, Lisa, put it once: “you only hear at festivals because you have to be drunk to actually think it’s good”. If I can figure out how to post music, I’ll post a couple of examples. So all these drunk costumed people are merrily dancing to the music and taking shots of beer well, not really on the last one. That’s just what Hans and I determined. The Koelsch beer is sold in 0.2 liters in the bars. That’s a very tiny glass. Less than half of a bottle. They’re usually only 1 Euro though. Anyway, we hung out there until Amelia caught up with us and then went with Becka back to her apartment to drop off our stuff. We were going to a parade! Or so we thought. It was too far to walk and should have been about 15 minutes on the subway. (Cologne subways are actually subways/trams combined since they’re above ground more often than not and run like trams). However, this was not the case. You will think I am making the following story up but I promise I am not. There were approximately a million people waiting for the subway. | takes it to a different level (Well, parts of Germany. Turns out there was almost nothing going on in Berlin). They add the Halloween aspect. The streets are basically filled with people dressed up as anything and everything in the world (criminals, pirates, bumblebees and brightly colored wigs were very popular). Each of these people is holding a beer. Some of them have string tied around their necks with a little pouch to hold their beer. Some of them are wearing belts that have little pouches attached with individual bottled shots. A large portion of them are holding sausages, eating currywurst or Berliners (as they’re ironically called here they’re Krapfen in Bavaria/Austria this is the famous Jelly Donut JFK referred to himself as. In Munich they are powdered with marmalade inside. Cologne has a second flavor with a raspberry/strawberry type jam much tastier!) There are also (because this is Germany and Germany doesn’t miss a chance to add alcohol when it can), Berliners filled with liquor. Now Munich, the drinking capitol of Germany, has these donuts filled with Eierliquor (eggnog liquor), Sekt, Amaretto, etc. Cologne just had Eierliquor. I’m fond of
34: Obviously that’s an exaggeration, but you get the idea. Which is why it was great when the subway showed up already packed full.We all crowded on anyway. Doors close. Subway jolts forward. We are smashed closer to the pirates and bumblebees than we ever thought we’d be. Subway stops. We stand smashed in subway for a good 5 minutes. Doors open. People get off. More people get on. Doors close. We sit. Doors open. People start yelling to get off. People get off. Eventually we are finally told the train is broken and we need to exit.We exit. Next train is coming in 15 minutes. We figure this is probably because the same thing is happening one stop down. Train finally comes. Also extremely crowded. We crowd on. This time it goes. Unfortunately we have to transfer three stops later. We exit. Our connection is coming in 2 minutes. Not bad. 5 minutes later it’s still coming in 2 minutes. And then it changes. It’s coming in 7 minutes. Approximately 20 minutes after we get there, it finally comes. Of course it’s full. A lot of people get off though. We get on. Everyone else gets on. Doors close and we stand there for about 3 minutes before it jolts forward and stops. Doors open. People get out. We decide we’re sticking put until someone tells us to get off. More people get on. Doors close. Doors open. People get off. People get on. Announcement tells us tram is broken and we need to get off. Again??? We can’t believe it. We get off. Next one’s coming in 3 minutes. | Yeah, right. Sure enough. 10 minutes later we’re finally on a tram that’s moving. And packed full. We finally get to our stop and pile off and look at the time. It’s been two hours. Becka calls her other three friends who had gone straight to the parade and asks where they’re standing. Turns out the parade just ended. Yeah and of course there’s no way we’re getting a tram back because not only is everyone that was on the tram we just got off of climbing back on, so is everyone from the parade. So we decide to walk. It’s several miles but it’s along the river, which is pretty at least. Unfortunately by the time we’ve beenime we've been walking 30 minutes or so we’re still only a third of the way to where her friends ended up. We decide to chance a different line. It’s coming in 8 minutes and it starts at this stop so it should be empty. Well, 8 minutes was fairly optimistic on their parts. It takes 35 minutes. Luckily, it is indeed empty when it gets to us. We get off at an entertainment center. Food is everywhere. As are bars that are jammed full. There are lines outside of all of them to get in but of course no one is leaving so the lines aren’t moving. We hungrily devour Chinese food which is surprisingly really good, and then wander for 15 minutes or so away from the party to find a bar we can get into. The one we find is pretty smoky. With the plan to see the city early in the morning, Hans, Amelia and I decided we’d had enough of the party for the night and we headed back to Becka’s and went to sleep. Three of us on an air mattress in the kitchen. It was fun. We woke up at 7 because we wanted to see the Cathedral, which, due to Carnival, was only open 6 am-9 am. And by open they mean you can walk through it. The tours were all cancelled, as was the possibility to go up in the towers (each over the length of a football field in height to give you an idea). We wandered around inside anyway. Again. Massive. From there we started to hit the other sight seeing things. Where Potsdam was filled with palaces, Cologne has churches. Over 30 of them listed on the map. We hit 5. Or at least we tried to. The first two we went to we got in fine because it was Sunday morning and they were having services oops. When we tried to hit more that afternoon, they were closed. As was everything else we tried to see the Ludwig Museum is their known art museum with a large Picasso and Rembrandt collection. Closed for Carnival. There was a Roman/German Museum with Roman artifacts from the area closed for carnival. AND the best reason to go to Cologne other than the Cathedral is the LINDT CHOCOLATE | FACTORY! Turns out Cologne is the leading producer of chocolate in Germany and the factory/museum gives FREE SAMPLES. The website had not said it’d be closed (I had double checked). We walked all the way down there. CLOSED FOR CARNIVAL!!! AHH!!! So basically we determined you either go to Cologne to see the city or you go to Cologne for Carnival. You can’t do both. The entire city shuts down. I guess they can afford to do that due to the amount of beer and sausage they sell. Amelia took a train home at that point as she’s ending her semester in Munich on Tuesday (same as me, but going home for good). Hans and I wandered around a little more, taking advantage of things they couldn’t close (such as the original city wall and a couple of city gates). Then we took an
35: evening train to Düsseldorf to check into our hotel. Cologne was, obviously, completely booked for the weekend. We crashed at 9:30 and woke up nice and early at 6:00 to catch breakfast at 7:00 and take a subway to the center of Düsseldorf. It was just barely dawn and the streets were empty. We walked around the Altstadt (old city center) and then to the river and circled. Went back to the hotel, checked out and took a 9:30 train to Cologne. Rosenmontag (Rose Monday) Iis the day of the huge parade in Cologne. I mean huge, too. t’s a 6 hour parade. Well, we were on the party train to get there. There were no seats left so people were crowded in the aisle. The train was blasting Carnival music and the middle aged prisoners beside us were taking shots of vodka. Yes, I did say 9:30 am. We met Becka and a friend of hers (the other three had gone home the day before) for the parade. Let me just say, wow It makes me wish I’d been to the New Orleans parade just to compare, but I have a pretty good feeling this one would have been really hard to miss. I mean, come on, 6 hours! And let me tell you about the candy. I’m used to getting thrown smarties and tootsie rolls. They throw chocolate bars. I’m not talking about snickers fun size (though they throw those too in the form of Bounty and Tolberone). I’m talking about 100 gram full sized Hershey bar type chocolate bars. They were throwing large boxes of truffles. I’d love to know the candy budget. It was awesome. They also throw individual flowers (probably roses due to Rose Monday), which was really cool. Basically candy and flowers everywhere. And everyone is yelling “Koelle Alaaf!” (Cologne first! or something in their dialect) to get the floats to throw the candy. Meanwhile the guy with the loudspeaker is telling us all to greet each individual float as it comes by (by screaming this) and telling the floats to “let the candy scatter like you’re scattering seeds!” (something like that it’s a German phrase and that’s my best explanation). There were some really intelligent guys who were actually profiting off the parade. Most people were just leaving their empty beer bottles/shot bottles on the ground. We saw quite a few people walking around with huge bags and collecting these bottles. When you buy glass or plastic bottles in Germany, they add a “Pfand” (deposit) onto the price for the bottle. If you return these to the supermarket, you get the Pfand back. It’s often 15-20 cents. Considering the number of bottles on the streets, these guys were going to make a fair amount of profit. Anyway, we left the parade around 2:30, which was good because we had to get back to the train station which meant we actually had to cross the parade three times. This is easier said than done since we had a lot of police officers trying to prevent us from doing just that. We did eventually make it with 20 minutes or so to spare and then I caught up 3:30 train and Hans caught his 3:50 train back to Munich. It was good to sit down, and I was, by that point, looking forward to a 10 hour plane ride of not-walking. Anyway, got back to Munich at 8:30. Funny how Munich Hauptbahnhof (main station) now feels like “home”. Travels at an end for now. Back to the US. | Friday, March 20th, 2009 | Hey guys, So I got back to Germany yesterday. The first half of the flight was fairly uneventful. The transfer in Frankfort was a little stressful as I almost missed it... I only had an hour layover there and the flight from Charlotte to Frankfort sat at the gate for like half an hour. I finally got off the plane at 11:20 and my next flight was leaving at 11:55... and I had no boarding pass and no idea which gate the flight was leaving from. Thus I did a lot of running. Everyone I kept running into and furiously asking for help kept telling me to calm down, I had plenty of time. Well, they were wrong. I didn't. When I finally got to the counter to print out a boarding pass I was informed that I was already too late, the plan had started boarding at 11:20 and they couldn't print a pass out for me anymore. After I replied that they needed to do something, the ticket counter lady escorted me to the first class security line and pushed me through to the very front without a boarding pass. Of course I beeped with no metal on me and got searched. And then had to run past 16 gates with 15 minutes before the plane took off because I was gate A17, as it turns out, and then I had to beg for a boarding pass at the gate... which she did give me, and told me to relax and then to please board immediately. I got on the plane and asked the nearest flight attendant for a glass of water. Quite the wake up call there. No sleeping on that flight! Anyway, after that it was uneventful again. I'm back in my dorm, and as I write, actually packing up to leave for Austria, where I'm headed for the weekend. I've been promised another skiing trip. Crossing fingers I stay alive on this one as well. I was back in Germany for a full day before I left the country again. I haven't even finished unpacking. Oh well. There'll be time for that later. Also got another grade back- I got a 1,0 on my Econ exam! 1,0 is the highest possible grade. Yay! (Okay, not overly surprisingly since those are the essays I wrote in English... but still). Also also, the religion sociology paper is coming along... I'm over halfway done, which is good because I was planning on having Lisa read it this weekend. I'll be doing a lot of writing on the train ride there... I have till April 1st to turn that in. I'll give an update sometime after I get back on my plans for the next couple of weeks. Now, I'm off to the train station! | Back in Germany... for a day...
36: Promised an update and here it is! So as said, I went down to Austria last weekend and we spent all day Sunday on the slopes. I survived and managed not to break any bones, which is also a plus. The weather was nice (well, sunny and not too cold) and the area was absolutely beautiful. Then I came home Sunday night. Monday I started my first day of researching! I really like Ana, who I'm doing the work for. Their project (to give a hopefully-not-chemical-background-needed-to-understand-what-I'm-saying explanation) works with removing nitrogen and sulfur from gasoline (processes called hydrodenitrogenation and hydrodesulfurization) respectively. This results in less H2S (very toxic gas) being released when the fuel is burned. These elements also corrode the metals put in gas to raise the octane rating, so obviously that's not helpful either. Specifically, she is (and now I am) looking at different catalysts for the reaction and (specifically) the effect of nickel being used in the catalyst. I have my own catalyst that I'm doing all sorts of tests with to fully analyze. It's actually really interesting (or I find it to be, anyway). Technically I need to work 30 hours for 4-6 weeks to get respective 3-4 credit hours. I've got one week in now and should be able to work the next two weeks "full time" as well, so I actually should be almost done by the time classes actually start! Which will be really nice. At the end I get to write a report of my work and present it to the professor. Speaking of which, turns out classes start on April 20th... a week later than I had thought. Not sure how I missed that one. As far as classes go, I'm much more organized than last semester which is a huge relief. And my schedule might end up being very pretty too, especially if I end up finishing the research up early on. Of course, classes are also going to depend on if I manage to pass linear algebra (by U of IL's standards) the second time around. For those of you who don't know, the passing grade at the TUM is anything above a 5 (as in 4.7, 4.3, 4.0, 3.7, ... 1.3, 1.0). Unfortunately the passing grade on my TUM/UIUC grade conversion is anything above a 4.0. Well, I got a 4.7 on linear. So technically... but yeah. Second try will hopefully go better, though I have my doubts. It appears that they're not so big on the partial credit bit... or so I assume after I compare the answers to the final with what I remember putting. Oh well. We'll see what happens. Other than that... I've actually been keeping pretty busy. I finished my paper and just emailed it in. Final project is a 17 page (Title, Contents page and Works Cited page inclusive) paper written in German about Muslims in Germany. Quite the accomplishment, I would say. We'll see what he says though. That's the last grade (other than linear) that I'm waiting for. I still have one more to go pick up (professor currently not responding... must keep contacting). Ahh.... Thursday and Friday I went out to dinner with Americans. Thursday Ashley had 5 friends from the States who had come to Munich for spring break, so she invited Hans and I along for dinner. Friday another Fulbrighter (Hans and Ashley's program) from Heidelburg was in Munich for the weekend and had met up with two people she knew from her university (Fulbrighters in Spain and Italy), so Hans invited me to come along too and we went and got dinner again... Then Saturday night I went to Starkbierfest. | Break Continues | Sunday, March 29th, 2009 | Starkbier (yes, "strong beer"...) is a mini-Oktoberfest. Same length, different location, and much smaller. It takes place during Lent because starkbier is what the Monks used to brew to get through the fasting time. It's basically a meal in itself. It's really, really dark. And apparently has an alcohol content of around 8%? Or so one source told me. Anyway, it was basically Oktoberfest all over again. People dressed in Lederhosen with their Liter ("Mass") of beer in hand, dancing on the tables. Basically, a German festival (or Munich, more precisely). And... coincidence of coincidences (I'm running into a lot of these!), I met Jack there! Jack is the student from U of IL who was here last year. He helped me out at the beginning of the year when U of IL was being obnoxious and I finally met him when he came back to Munich for a conference back in December or so. Well, apparently he has a job in Southern Germany now and came up to Munich to to go Starkbierfest! And... he just happened to have sat at the same table as the people we were meeting there. I went with some friends at around 8:30 that night. The other guy had been there since 3, so we were going to join him... and guess who's at the table! Jack! Who I hadn't even known was in Munich! Go figure! But anyway, back to studying for Linear!
37: Friday I decided to take a day trip to Zurich. Zurich is not technically a day trip. It’s a 4.5 hour train ride in each direction. But quite honestly there’s not all that much to do in Zurich and it’s also quite the expensive city to overnight in, so I figured a day was okay. The train left at a very early 7:12 from Munich and got in to Zurich at 11:45. I changed over enough money to last me a day, picked up a map from the tourist info (after I found it that took about 30 minutes) and headed out for a self-guided walking tour of the city. It’s a very pretty city. Pretty and clean and obviously rich. And the weather was absolutely gorgeous. Blue sky, sunny, and a perfect 70 degrees! Bahnhofstrasse (Train station street) is the main shopping street with expensive stores selling watches and jewelry. This leads into Paradeplatz (which used to be a pig market and is now the financial center of the city) is the square where most of the main banks are situated. This further leads (and then dead ends) into Lake Zurich, which has an Alpine skyline on the opposite horizon. | So the last two weeks of my life, I guess. First off, the weather has been GORGEOUS! Munich finally decided to accept SPRING! So we've been having weather in the 60's and 70's with gorgeous sunny blue skies. It's been absolutely perfect since April 1st! Meanwhile, I’ve been mostly keeping pretty busy with the research. I’m working 9-4 or so daily, with hours varying on the day and the experiment. It’s still pretty interesting stuff but science is starting to kick and not do what it’s supposed to do the best part of lab work, so the results are taking longer than expected. I’ve now worked 2.5 full weeks. (Good Friday here is a national holiday so On no one worked). Classes still don’t start for another full week, so I’ll work most of next week too, and then start working part time around classes until I’m done with the research. I’m going to have to write a 15 or so page report of my work. Considering I wrote 15-20 page lab reports weekly freshman year, this doesn’t sound so bad and hopefully I’ll have these 3 credits under my belt and be completely finished by early-mid May. In other news, all the new semester students are now here. I met Tim and Kristina, both sophomore civil engineers from U of IL, on the 1st and 3rd of April respectively. They both live in my building (yay!) so my life has been a little more social in terms of grabbing dinner and running errands, etc. Meanwhile, I’ve been using the leftover free time to study for linear algebra. Exam is Tuesday. Tuesday is also the day I get to go pick up my grade for my Sociology paper. That means that by Thursday (granted the linear exams are graded as quickly as last time), I should have all my first semester grades! As classes for this semester are dependent on my passing of linear, while I’ve got a very good idea what I will be taking, I’m not 100% sure yet. | Monday, April 13th, 2009 | Spring! (And Zurich)
38: Along the way you pass some of the more famous churches in the city, including Augistanerkirche, Münsterkirche (two twin towers to represent lightning and fire), and St. Peterskirche (which has the largest clock face in mainland Europe). One church was closed till evening because of Good Friday. Those I did get in were setting up for evening concerts/services so no pictures, but they were surprisingly plain on the inside. Liebesfrauenkirche, which I stopped by only at the end because I had a little extra time, was actually the magnificent one and it’s a bit out of the main inner city. Anyway, on the way back up from Lake Zurich, I walked through the Schipfe, which is a very pretty little street on the river that used to be the artist sector of the city. I also walked up to Lindenhof, which is the highest point in the city and has a gorgeous view. I dipped into the Swiss National Museum, which is actually in an old castle. It’s the largest culturally historical collection of Switzerland and was partway under construction I got to see exhibits starting from way back about things they’ve found in Switzerland so starting with Ice Age fossils and moving up through old weaponry to Middle Aged coins and jewelry to a section on the stuff that had originally been in the castle. I still had an hour to kill when I finished with the museum, so I crossed over the river again and wandered up to ETH, Zurich’s University. It’s quite a climb to the top but also has a great city view. The train back was 6:16. That was a very long 4.5 hours until 10:45 when we pulled back into Munich. Worse still was the realization that I was going down to Austria the next morning to visit the Planks for Easter which meant another train ride. Luckily it’s only two hours to Innsbruck. Anyway, posted are pictures of Zurich. I’ll update sometime midweek about how Easter in Austria was, how linear went, and the results of my sociology paper as well as plans for the next couple of weeks from the plans already being determined for the next 6 weeks, it looks like this semester is going to move pretty fast! | German Lit- for my minor requirement. Not sure which class I'm going to take yet, so I'm going to visit a couple of them first. Organic Chem Lab- this apparently starts halfway through the semester. Unfortunately it meets Monday 9-5 and Tuesday 1-5 which is a lot of time. It also conflicts with Stat, so I'll have to see if Stat's worth it by that point. Technical Elective?- Kristina and Tim, the two CivE's here, found a CivE class in English about transportation/traffic. I'm really hoping it will be approved as a 400 level class, in which case I could get 400 level technical elective for it. Meanwhile, I got my Religion Sociology paper back. I got a 1,3 which is also what my Basic Sociology professor gave me, meaning the combined 4 hour class will transfer back as an A. Unfortunately linear did not go so well...The exam was actually more difficult than the first exam, coupled by the fact that none of the questions on it were even remotely similar to the first exam, and most I had not seen before, homework or otherwise. | So classes start tomorrow. Finally. I have my preliminary schedule for the semester worked out and it currently includes the following classes: Statistics (STAT 400)- I'm gonna see if this is actually going to be doable though, because the UIUC guy who approved it said it looked like there was a prereq I hadn't taken, so we'll see. Orgo (CHEM 236)- also hoping this one is passable. I do have the benefits of having the script to the lecture because the professor sent it to me so I could get the course approved. Lucky me! | Sunday, April 19th, 2009 | The semester begins again
39: Anyway, running far away from that class this semester. It conflicts with other classes anyway. As said, I spent Easter weekend in Austria. I went down Saturday morning and hung out. Sunday we took a day trip down to South Tirol (northern Alps of Italy), which is a really gorgeous location. We specifically went to the Kaltener See (Cold Lake) and spent a couple of hours hiking in the area amid blossoming apple orchards before settling down for a picnic lunch on the lake. Then Monday we went over to my previous host aunt's house for the yearly Easter brunch. The rest of the week (following the linear exam) was spent finishing up research. I've started analyzing the data and writing up my report. That will take a while. As classes start, I'll be working in the lab only a couple of days a week, probably for the next three weeks. Then I'll be down with research and just have to finish writing. This previous Saturday, I did a day trip with the TUMi organization to Augsburg Augsburg is a pretty cool city, it turns out. We went to see the cathedral, which is huge and dates from 900 something. It's got a mix of styles because of this. It looks pretty Gothic on the inside but has a random attached room with a baroque style alter. It also apparently has the oldest stain glass windows in the world! | Glad I thought to take a picture. The crypt is also pretty neat. Augsburg also has a neat Town Hall with the "golden hall" which is a very gold decorated room. The other big stop was the Fuggerei, which is the oldest social housing project in the world and a "city within a city". A rich trading family opened it up to house the poor. Each family gets a (tiny) 4 room(bath/kitchen/living/bed) 600 sq ft apartment. Rent has remained the same since it opened in the early 1500's- 88 euro cent per year. Yes, year. They do have to pay heating now though. Gates are also locked nightly at 10 pm. It's still managed by the same family and was rebuilt after the war as all but one of the houses were pretty much completely destroyed. It turns out Augsburg was a pretty important city pre-war time, and thus got very heavily bombed. Anyway, the city was cool. I liked it. I didn't like the trip back. It was supposed to be a 45 minute train ride. We left at 5:06. I got home at 8:50. Why? Something happened on the tracks between Augsburg and Munich. I still do not know what as even though it closed the track down for several hours it didn't make it into the paper. So we had to stop and wait for a bus. Except the bus didn't come for 2 hours. We got off the train at 5:30 and got on the bus at 7:30. We finally got dropped off at the working section of the tracks again after 8, in time to catch the subway and be back home by 8:50. That made for a long day. But anyway, classes tomorrow. This coming weekend I'm hoping to head out to Cologne and Heidelberg. A friend of a friend back at U of IL is studying in the Netherlands and has Spring Break and a EuroRail pass and wants to see a bit of Germany, so I'm meeting him in Cologne on Friday night and we're heading to Heidelberg on Saturday and then back to Munich. So that'll be the next update!
40: A bit of Germany | Tuesday, April 29th, 2009 | Okay, so to start I had my first week of classes. Here's a brief schedule. Monday: Stat discussion 10:15-11:45 (every other week) in Garching Stat lecture 12:15-1:45 in Garching Wednesday: Construction of Traffic Infrastructure 8:30-11:00 (it's an English taught Graduate level class that Kristina and Tim might be taking... and I'm hoping to get 400 level Technical Elective credit for... pending approval) at the Main Campus) Novellas of German Literature 12:00-2:00 at the LMU Genocide in Eastern Europe 2:00-4:00 at LMU (hoping to get Non-western credit for this but kinda doubtful... Kristina and Tim are taking it too)) Thursday: Organic Chem Lecture 8:00-9:00 in Garching Organic Chem Discussion 9:00-10:00 in Garching And that's it! Granted two of those classes are still waiting for approval in the US so I might end up dropping them... so we'll see what happens. But I have Fridays free again! Yay! | Anyway, so that was my school week... then Friday I hopped on a train to Cologne to meet James who I'd never met before. We've got a group of mutual friends and he's in the Netherlands on Spring Break this week with a EuroRail pass. I got in around 8 pm and we introduced ourselves and wandered around looking for dinner and then just around the city. Headed back to get a club recommendation... James was looking for the Industrial German music scene... well, apparently that doesn't exist in Cologne. Just everywhere else in Germany. We took a 20 minute tram to the recommended spot and walked in... it was after midnight on a Friday night. The place was completely empty. The bartender looked surprised to see us. We left. The next morning we headed over to the Cathedral and wandered around inside. I said it last time I was there and I'll say it again. Massive. We opted to be brave and hike up the 509 steps to the top. We regretted it pretty quickly. You're literally hiking straight up a spiral with no landings. 509 steps. On the way there was a stop off so you could see the bell- this is the largest swinging church bell in the world. Then we went up farther. We thought we were at the top! The spiral ended! We entered a large room! With another staircase! Ah! But we finally made it to the top. Awesome view. The entire thing is caged in on top and all sides though. After we made it back down we headed over to the chocolate factory. That was pretty cool. There was a bit of background on chocolate as well as a climate-room with cocoa plants, and then there was a working factory where you could taste the end product. They were also making the Lindt truffles that they were selling there too. Then came the awesome gift shop. Chocolate pretty much anything and everything you can imagine. Chocolate Cathedrals, beer bottles, noodles... | Tuesday: Organic Chem Lecture 10:00-12:00 in Garching Organic Chem Discussion 12:00-1:00 in Garching
41: Lots of really good overlooks to the river (Neckar) with the bridge and the castle and the city. We got to the Philosopher's Garden which is where it looked like it branched off on the map and decided to take the downward route. This turned out to not actually be the route which maybe we should have noticed... but we ignored. So we jumped down a 6 foot tall stone wall onto a grassy path, and walked through two wooden gates (in our defense they were unlocked) and jumped down another wall until we realized that we were in a private garden area and could gono farther... Oops... So then we had to turn around and go all the way back up the hill and back up the walls and go the actual marked way down... and then we trekked back across the city to the train station, bought ourselves cold liquid from the supermarket inside and got on the 7:00 direct to Munich. And that was my weekend. James hung out till this afternoon. Yesterday I had my two Stat classes and then research which went till 6 so he went on a city tour and wandered around the English Garden. Tim and Kristina joined us for dinner. Meanwhile I've got quite the to-do list for this week with homework and research and planning because... Thursday night we fly out to London! Update on that next week... | castle. Pretty cool. It's half ruins and half standing and it was pretty awesome on both halves. There was enough to walk around on the outside that we opted against touring inside. We did head to the "grosse Fass" though as I didn't remember exactly what a Fass was... wine barrel. We saw one that was about 12 feet in diameter and started snapping pictures. "Yeah, this is a big barrel..." Then we walked into the next room and found the real one. It's 9 meters in diameter... that's like 30 feet. Wow. Apparently the kings here liked wine... Anyway, we wandered around the castle a bit more and then figured we were castled out. I stopped for crepes at the base for lunch... which proved to be a bad idea as I will shortly explain. Then we crossed the famous "Old Bridge" (not really all that old but looks cool and is pedestrian bridge) and headed to the other side of the river to hike the "Philosopher's Path" which was apparently frequented by philosopher's back in the day. Well... Heidelberg is in the mountains. The path is on the hill... which means we had to get up to the path first. We of course had hiked 509 stairs the day before and had just hiked up the hill on the other side to get to the castle. I think James was regretting letting me plan the day out... needless to say having eaten salty crepes (ham/cheese/tomato) was not helping the lack of water we had... It was quite steep to get up but we finally made it and then had a lovely time hiking along the gardens/vineyards/trees on the hillside. | So then we stopped for some food and to rest our feet for a bit. Afterward I headed over to this old Gestapo prison museum. It's one of the best preserved in Germany. The basement has a bunch of cells. You can see the scratchings in the walls from the prisoners. Upstairs is a war museum. Then I stopped by the Ludwig Museum, which is a later art museum. It's got the second largest (after Paris) Picasso collection (mostly later works), Surrealism, and as part of the more recent collection, Andy Warhol. Following that came dinner and then a walk outside the Roman-German museum... no point in paying 6 Euro since the walls are glass and a good portion of exhibits are outside. Cologne used to be part of the old Roman Empire... from the year 300. There's a lot of stuff from Rome still there and it's all over the city. Also, as a side note, I found my numbers on the Cologne parade that I was wondering about last time: "more than forty tons of sweets, 100,000 chocolates, 100,000 packets of popcorn, flowers, and cologne are hurled into the crowd!" That's a lot of chocolate/sweets. Anyway, Sunday morning I took an early train to Heidelberg. James was going to meet me later for the castle tour since he wasn't interested in the Altstadt. I wandered around on my own and found all the churches, the University (the oldest in Germany), The City Hall, and Hotel Ritter, which is apparently the only building from the 17th century still standing due to invasion/war etc. (now, obviously, a hotel). At 2 I met up with James and we hiked up to the
42: London! | Thursday, May 7th, 2o09 | So... Thursday afternoon, Tim, Kristina and I started our adventure in London. We headed to the airport over an hour and a half early even though it was an inter-EU flight... and still got to the gate only 30 minutes before the flight left because apparently the airport is really crowded at 9:30 pm... anyway, the flight was an hour and a half and with the time difference, we landed in London at 10:30. And immediately recognized the things Germany does not have. Like English. And vitamin water. Pretty exciting. Anyway, we caught a 45 minute train to a station in central London and then had to take the night bus to our hostel. It's around 2 pm when we finally get off the bus. The hostel is street number 639. We follow the directions and turn right... | and find numbers in the 700's.So we turn around and go left... and find numbers in the 500's... After wandering around for a good twenty minutes in what we're hoping is a safe part of town, a taxi driver finally stops and asks us if we need help, then informs us we need to walk past the 700's and we'll get to 600's again. Of course. How silly of us. So we start walking. It's a good 10 minute walk. Past a graveyard. A graveyard that is falling down. As in, there was a very tall wall around it. The wall has fallen into the graveyard. The gravestones are a mess. At 2:30 in the morning... We finally got to the hostel, checked in, and crashed. We woke up at 8 the next morning to go on an 11:00 am city tour. First we got to experience the hostel's free breakfast. Which basically was really soggy cereal and white toast. No, sir. We're not in Germany anymore. We got to the tour an hour early (but we'd had no idea how long it would take to get to the meeting point) so we took a nap by Wellington Arch. The weather loved us. It had just started raining in Munich when we left. London was blue skies and sunny. All three days. We were really lucky. This is London! We started our tour- the same free walking tour I've done in Amsterdam and Berlin. It was the "Royal London tour" so she took us by Buckingham Palace in time for the changing of the guard, then to the Palace Prince Charles and company occupy (he drove in right as we got there!), then past Hyde Park, around to Trafalgar Square, to Churchill's WWII bunker, St. James Park (where the pelicans eat pigeons), past the guards with funny hats, and finally over to and ending at Westminster Abbey, the house of Parliament and, of course, Big Ben. Following the tour, we grabbed lunch and waled back to Trafalgar Square, which has "climbable" sculpted lions that look semi like dogs as the artist modeled them after his cocker spaniel(?). Granted the two times we tried to climb them, we were shooed away. Oh well. We then walked back down to Big Ben after stopping to pose with the guards, and then crossed the Thames and walked over to the London Eye. The Thames is a very brown river, fyi... though apparently that's the water the city drinks. Eek. After a quick dinner we posed in the red telephone booths, and then walked over to where we were meeting the pub crawl. The pub crawl is offered by free tour group (it's not free, but saves you a lot of money on entrance to the bars/clubs). It took us to 5 different bars/clubs in London and showed off the different areas of night life. There is quite a nightlife in London. It was a lot of fun. Specifically because WE SAW A CUBS GAME at the first bar. Could not believe it. Definitely not in Germany anymore. That was pretty cool. After we got to the last club (12:30), we left pretty quickly since we had to get up the next morning. Still took a while to get home with the night bus though. Even on Fri/Sat, the subways stop running at midnight... even Munich is better than that! Seriously!
43: The next morning, however, we did not end up going on the second tour like we thought. Tim thought he lost his passport and by the time we searched everywhere and finally went down to ask the front desk if he'd left it there (it turns out he had... but our front desk was not the brightest. "Why would you leave your passport here?" she asked,. She told us that she did not have the passport. Then looked down and asked what country he was from. When he said, "USA", she said, "Timothy?".... "Yes...." Turns out she did have it....) we were too late to make the tour. Instead we loaded up on about 8 pieces of white toast and jam (yummy) and decided to reverse our plans. So we started off in search of Abbey Road. Yes, from the Beatles cover. We found it, and got eyerolls from the residents of the neighborhood as we excitedly snapped pictures of the street sign and walked across the crosswalk. Then we got lost finding our way back to the subway. Eventually we found it again (People in London are very friendly we found out... speaking English probably helps) and then took the subway up to King's Cross and found... yes!... Platform 9 3/4. King's Cross is right by an "alternate" market that had been recommended to us so we walked through it a bit (touristy stuff mostly... but they were also passing out free boxes of a Cinnamon Toast Crunch style cereal.... which we grabbed several of for breakfast since the toast was getting a bit old...) and then decided to try the typical "Fish and Chips" for lunch. Um. Eww. Not for me... though I preferred the chips to the fried fish. We did our tourist shopping after lunch, then headed back to the hostel for a bit to drop stuff off before heading down to Hyde Park. We detoured to see the Kensington Palace (where Diana lived), as well as her memorial fountain. Then we took a nap in the park. Rather than going out, we headed to the supermarket for dinner (the front desk couldn't figure out what a supermarket was initially... and then informed me it would be closed on Saturday. Said supermarket was 3 blocks away. We went at 8:30 pm. It was very much open... so we bought two frozen pizzas and some fruit tarts and heated up dinner in the hostel oven. By that point we were pretty exhausted from walking around the city and opted to stay in for the night. Sunday morning we woke up late... turns out that happens when you don't set an alarm. Specifically we woke up at 9. The tour started at 10. It was at least a 50 minute subway ride away. So we grabbed our cereal boxes and raced to the subway. We got to the meeting place 13 minutes late to find the Spanish tour still there... and a very angry American college kid arguing with the Spanish tour leader. Turns out he'd bought a ticket for the English tour which had been canceled for the day because there weren't enough people (they needed 5 to run...). He didn't want a refund, he wanted a tour. After about 30 minutes of arguing with the Spanish tour guide and realizing that three more English speakers had shown up, they finally decided to call the tour guide back to have her run the tour anyway. She was going to show up at 11. The angry guy went off to get coffee. The tour guide showed up. 11 came and went. We paid for our tour (offered by | the same company, but there's only one free tour per city and since London is so big they had to break it up into the "Royal Tour" and the "Old City" tour). We wanted to leave without him (after that big fuss, he was late?) but the guide apparently had strict orders to give him his tour. He showed up at 11:15 and we finally got to start. This tour took us by the Tower Bridge (which is the famous one... often misreferred to as the London Bridge. The actual London Bridge is actually quite disappointing), the Tower of London, Shakespeare's Globe theater, the Church of the Knight's Templar (from the DaVinci Code), the courts of law (with the hanging clock featured in all the Harry Potter movies), a bank from which Gringott's (Harry Potter again) was based on, St. Paul's Cathedral, and the Millennium Bridge (wobbly pedestrian bridge across the Thames).
44: We landed at 9:10 and I went straight from the airport to my 12:15 Stat lecture. Slept very well Monday night... when I finally got to sleep. That's pretty much it for the week. Classes are continuing. Research is dragging out as I expected it to... I went in Monday and Tuesday and am supposed to go in next Tuesday and Thursday... and then supposedly I'll be finished (minus that paper). Still working on credit approval for the new classes I mentioned... the Transportation class and Genocide in Eastern Europe (which Tim and Kristina, who are in the engineering college, got approved for non-western... now it's just up to me to get it approved through the LAS college...). And other then that... I leave for Prague early tomorrow morning. I'm going with Hans, who I went to Cologne with the first time, and Matt, who's the new kid from U of VA. We're taking an 8:30 train Friday morning and will be back late Sunday night. So for now I'll leave you with some pictures from London and catch up again after Prague. | The most exciting tidbit of info was the story of why England drives on the left side of the road. That was actually the norm back then... if you were right-handed (like most people) and you were a knight with a sword and were walking down the street, if you were to meet the enemy, you needed to grab your sword from your left side and spar. Well, if you're walking on the right side of the road, this gets awkward (she acted it out for us). If you're on the left side, it works out quite nicely. You can quickly start sparring. However, Napoleon was left handed. So he insisted everyone walk on the right hand side. Thus the rest of Europe (which he invaded), drives on the right hand side, while England still sticks with the left hand side. Anyway, our tour ended at 2:30 or so. We crossed the Millennium (wobbly) bridge and walked up the other side of the river, past the Shakespeare's Globe Theater and then across the Tower Bridge. Then we caught the subway to the British Museum and wandered around until closing. We really only went to see the Rosetta Stone, which was pretty cool, but the museum in itself had a lot of really awesome stuff. After the museum closed we found "the Ultimate Burger" (definitely not in Germany... HAMBURGERS!) which also sold Budweiser. Not kidding on that one. We wandered around for a bit on our own since it was a new area, and then headed back to the hostel to pack. Our flight was at 6:40 am. So we went to bed around 9:30pm and woke up at 1:30 am. That makes for the start of a wonderful day... see, we didn't know what time the night bus came (Hostel didn't either... after all, why would they? it's only the only way outside of taxi to get to the airport at night... they guessed it came once an hour. I knew it came twice an hour... just not when). Well, we got to the stop at 2:10 and it turns out it came at 2:30 so that wasn't horrible. We got to the train station at 3:10 but the train to the airport comes once an hour on the hour so we caught the 4:00 and got to the airport at 4:50, checked in, bought breakfast, changed our pounds back, boarded the plane, and crashed.
45: Praghe! | Wednesday, May 13th, 2o09 | For the record, this weekend the plan is simply to sleep in for the first time in three weeks and then WORK!!! Anyway, so the week after London was pretty short... considering we got back Monday and I was out of the country again on Friday. Hans, Matt and I met at 8:00 Friday morning at the train station for our 6 hour train to Prague. It's actually surprisingly cheap to travel to Prague... if you know what you're doing. It was a 33 Euro Bavaria day ticket for three people (11 euro each) to Pilzen (in the Czech Republic). Then we took a 95 Koruna (4 Euro) ride to Prague. Food cost between 80 and 120 CZK, and since the exchange rate was 26.5 CZK to the Euro (we rounded down to 25 for simplicity's sake), that's 3-5 Euro. Anyway, we got to Prague, dropped our stuff at the hostel and headed out to explore. The New Europe (free walking tour that I've been doing in every other city)tour just recently started in Prague... as in 3 weeks ago, so we got really lucky. That was the plan for Saturday morning, so instead of walking around the city we grabbed some food (A Czech Gyro... I gotta say, the German Turks do them so much better. I was not impressed) and headed down to the Vysehrad. This is pretty far south in the otherwise very walkable city. It was the original "city" and is now considered the "ruins". It's basically a walled complex with a cathedral and buildings from the the 10th century. The current city of Prague was built up around the Prague Castle (in the city center), however. Now there's a very big graveyard in the Vysehrad which includes such people as Dvorak. Hans basically came to Prague to see Dvorak's grave and thus was very disappointed when we found out that the graveyard had closed 40 minutes before we arrived. He vowed to go back the next morning. We walked up the coast of the river to the famous Charles' Bridge and then around the city to check out the nightlife. We ended up finding a nice little pub that was playing live music... live Czech music! It was a bass/violin/accordion trio and they kept us very entertained while we | sipped our Budweiser (Budvar... originally from the Czech Republic... A&B stole the name) and ate our Czech honey cake. Then we headed off to bed. Saturday we woke up and headed to our 11 am free walking tour! Like all the others, it was well worth it. Three hours around the city took us from the old square with the famous Church of our lady Tyn and the world renowned Astronomical Clock, to the new town square, to the Jewish quarters with all the Jewish synagogues, to the Powder Tower and Henry Tower from the original city wall. We saw statues concerning Kafka, the "Cubism Building" (an actual example of cubism in architecture), the Lennon Wall (a monument to John Lennon) and the Prague Castle. Prague is actually a beautifully intact city. Turns out the Nazis loved it as much as the Romans had (it was the capital of the Roman Empire for a time), so they spared it almost completely during the war... it only got bombed once a few days before the end of the war when the otherwise low-laying people of Prague decided to rebel a few days before they were liberated by the Russians. And thus their city hall was destroyed. But yeah, unlike Munich, most of the buildings are old and original! Following the tour we went up to the castle. It's actually the largest medieval castle in the world. And it's really more of a walled city within a city on a hill. It doesn't look like a castle... it looks like a wall around a cathedral. Because there is a huge cathedral inside it. Apparently they wanted an archbishop in Prague so they had to build a cathedral worthy of one. Haha. Unfortunately we couldn't go up the towers of the cathedral due to maintenance so we just wondered around inside and around the castle grounds.
46: Then we stopped back at the hostel, grabbed dinner, and headed to an Opera! Yes, an opera! We got tickets to The Marriage of Figaro for only 10 Euro each! The Marriage of Figaro is a Mozart opera that actually premiered in the Estates Theater in Prague in 1768 (or somewhere around then...). We were seeing it over 200 years later! Actually, the importance of the Estates Theater is that Mozart's first opera, Don Giovanni, premiered there. So that was kinda cool. It was really good... mostly because they had English translations of the songs so we knew what was going on. After the opera we decided to do the one other bit of tourism/nightlight we had to experience in Prague... Absinthe. As background, Absinthe is illegal in the States. It's a very strong green spirit and "apparently" makes one hallucinate. This has been declared a myth and while a version of Absinthe is available in the US, the original form still isn't. On the other hand, it's everywhere in Prague. I mean, everywhere. All the tourist shops have bottles of overpriced green alcohol next to the shot glasses and magnets and postcards. We found an Irish pub that looked promising (a surprising number of those in Prague...) and ordered a shot each. The other cool thing about Absinthe. They set the shot on fire. Basically, the shot is poured in a whiskey glass. You fill a spoon with sugar, slightly dip it in the alcohol so it's just soaked, set the spoon on fire, and then rapidly stir it into the shot such that the Absinthe is on fire. Then you're supposed to blow it out and take the shot immediately. Well... all for the experience, right? Wow. It burned. Possibly partly because it had been on fire 30 seconds ago and possibly partly because it was 72% alcohol. The sugar didn't seem to do much for the taste... needless to say, one was more than enough and we determined that we had crossed that off our list and head back to the hostel for the night. Sunday... we found an all-you-can-eat-buffet for about 5 Euro nearby the hostel. There was fruit and crepes and croissants and eggs and cereal and pretty | much everything. Well, worth it. Then we headed over to the "Mini-Eiffel Tower" for a view of Prague. Built 2 years after the original (1891), the Petrin Tower is 1/3 the height of it's big brother. We took a tram to the top of the hill it was perched on and then climbed 299 steps to the top for a great view of the city. From there we headed back to the main city to peak in the churches we had been walking past but not stopping in. We also wandered around trying to get through the city the easiest way possible because there was a marathon going on. Thus it was pretty crowded and a lot of streets were blocked off. We did not take part in the marathon, btw. Finally, at 3pm we headed back to the train station and got on our 4 pm train back towards Munich. It was a Czech train. Let's return to my previous statement about Eastern Europe. The train scared me. A lot. I
47: felt like I needed a seat belt. It was without doubt the bumpiest, loudest train ride I have every experienced. The writing on the seat signed August 1988 (before I was born) did not help. The ride back was not as easy. We bought a 3 Euro ticket from Prague back to Pilzen. Then we had to get off the train in Pilzen to buy another ticket to the Czech/Germany border for another 4 Euro. Luckily we were back on a Germany train after that. Then we had to hop off at the border and buy the day pass for Germany and hop back on before the train left (we had 10 minutes. We made it). We finally made it back around midnight. In all though, we calculated that it was around 30 Euro round trip by train to Prague. Considering our hostel was 30 Euro for two nights, that was a very cheap weekend trip! The other thing we noticed about Prague... a surprising number of people did not speak English. Like didn't speak any English. A surprising number did, however, speak German... was pretty interesting. On a side note, in London we noticed that German was also extremely common. It was easily the second most often heard language outside of British English... hmm.... Anyway! As I said, this weekend I'm taking it easy. I have a paper for research that I'm hopefully going to successfully manage to write up before next Wednesday (busy weekend, I know...), because next Wednesday (countdown 7 days!) Steve arrives! And after that chances are I'm not getting much done because we have a lot planned for those two weeks. The first weekend we'll be heading down to Hall to visit Austria. The second weekend we'll be heading off to Paris and then Brussels! He flies home on June 2nd (I think?). June 8th (the following Monday), the Americans are cooking (remember Thanksgiving dinner?) again. This time we're going a little easier... the current plan is mac&cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches and apple pie... still need to find an oven for the pie though. And then, today I bought tickets for Barcelona the weekend of June 19th-22nd. So life isn't slowing down anytime soon it seems! | Tuesday, June 2nd, 2o09 | In and Around Bavaria | So... sorry for the delay, but the last two weeks have been chock full of excursions and activities! The weekend I left off, I was at least mostly productive in writing that research paper. I did take a break on Sunday to join Hans at the Residenz. This is the original palace of Munich where the Bavarian royal line watched over the city. It's a gorgeous building and has some impressive rooms. It also has one of the apparently more impressive treasury collections in Europe with crowns and jewels from the 1000's up. Monday and Tuesday involved a lot of getting ready and finishing up. Wednesday morning I met Matt at the subway station. His girlfriend was coming in the same day as Steve, so we went together to pick them up from the airport since their flights were only an hour apart. I dropped Steve off in my room and ran to my German Lit class, then picked him up again at 4 for the 2 hour Munich walking tour that I'm getting so much better at now. :)
48: We ended this with a trip to the English Gardens so he could have his first liter of beer and as-large-as-your-head pretzel. Our weather was happily gorgeous. Thursday, a group of nine of us (Matt, his girlfriend, Hans, Kristina, Tim, and two girls from Hungary) took a day trip to Chiemsee. Chiemsee is the largest lake in Bavaria and has two islands on it, Herreninsel and Frauen insel (Men Island and Women Island). They have a monastery and abbey on them respectively. Most notable is one of Ludwig II's three castles that is on Herreninsel, which he named Herrenchiemsee. It was built to be a model of Versailles because apparently Ludwig II was mildly obsessed with the French and specifically Louis XIV. Like Neuschwanstein, the palace was never finished (it was about a third of the way through) and is considerably smaller than Versaillse, but the famous "Hall of Mirrors" was actually more extravagantly completed as its model in Versailles. After touring the palace and the old monastery (which is actually the Old Palace), we took the ship to Fraueninsel and wandered around before taking the train back to Munich. Then Friday, Steve and I hopped on the train to Innsbruck where we were warmly greeted by Andrea, Hannes and Lisa. I "toured" Steve around Innsbruck in the afternoon... touring being the extent to which I remember the city from three years ago. We hit the main sites though. That night we crashed early because he wasn't quite over jet lag yet. Saturday morning we walked around Hall. After lunch, Andrea and Lisa accompanied us to Wolfsklamm. If any of you remember from my Austria blog, I went there once with Lisa and a handful of exchange students. It's this hike up a mountain to a church/monastery on top. The best part, though, is that you're climbing up through waterfalls. It's absolutely gorgeous. Steve managed to set a pace up that had Andrea panting and apparently we made record time... 35 minutes instead of the expected hour. The trip was well worth it. It was as beautiful as I had remembered and I'm pretty sure Steve appreciated the waterfalls. After dinner that evening, we followed Lisa out to Innsbruck. I'd been promising her that I would go out with her in Innsbruck since my first trip in October but for some reason or another (I was tired/she was tired/she was gone) we hadn't yet managed. So we met up with some of her friends (and one of my old classmates!) at an Irish Pub in Innsbruck. Sunday morning, we went with Lisa up the new cable car to the top of Innsbruck's mountain. I say Innsbruck's mountain because it's the closest mountain to the city... in fact you can travel between the city and the top of the mountain in less than a half hour, most of that being the transportation up the mountain. You can't find that just anywhere in the world. It's actually the same mountain I learned to ski and snowboard on... because it's the mountain that the Planks have their cabin on. We saw the cabin on the way up, actually. From where the cable car let us off we hiked the remaining 50 meters of so up to reach the peak, marked with the typical cross and then we pretended we had hiked the entire thing. The view from the top was breathtaking. Afterwards the three of us met the group from last night at a lake about 15 minutes outside of Hall and experienced the "summer day" favorite past time for Austrians. Any day it's above 70 degrees it's warm enough to lay out in the sun, preferably by the lake. More the relaxing side to counter the mountain hiking we'd been doing. That evening we headed back to Munich and the following morning, bright and early, we were on a train to Neuschwanstein. By the time our train reached the desired stop, the remaining 10 people in our car were all eurotripping American college kids. One was from St. Louis and one was from Chicago. We were lucky on weather. Once again it was absolutely gorgeous which was a plus since the last time I'd been it had been quite cloudy. I did realize it had been exactly three years since I went with the Planks though. It was the weekend before Penecost then, too! We decided to see both castles (well,
49: that was actually probably me... I hadn't seen Hohenschwangau yet and wanted to) so we started with a tour of Ludwig II's parents castle and then did Neuschwanstein. The first castle was actually relatively small and not very intricate in terms of gold, but it was gorgeously painted. There were murals along all the ceilings and walls telling the story of the history of the castle. We decided to hike up to Neuschwanstein, and, specifically, to go via way of the Marienbrücke (Mary's bridge), which gives the most famous view of the castle. This required us to hike up a relatively steep grade for about 40 minutes. It was bordering on hot, we were out of water and I was exhausted and then we finally reached the bridge (turns out the castle is downhill from the bridge) and prepared for our amazing view! And guess which side of the castle is completely covered in scaffolding! Yup! The famous one! It was still gorgeous though and we determined (since we had made it) worth the strenuous hike up. It also gave us a view of the waterfall, which was neat. So then we toured Neuschwanstein. Surprisingly I got a lot more out of the tour in English this time than I did in German three years ago... I learned a lot this time! Then we rushed back to our train to Munich and went straight from the station to dinner. Erika had organized an "American" dinner which turned out to be pretty big since everyone had guests in town. It also luckily had German food so Steve got a real | German meal. Schweinbraten and Kndel. Tuesday I actually managed to make it to some more of my classes (never fear, there was no class the previous Thursday (Christ's ascension to heaven?), and I have no classes on Friday so I had just missed two on Wednesday (Tim and Kristina took notes) and Stat on Monday). I dropped Steve off in the library and then after Orgo, swiped him in to the cafeteria with Kristina, Matt and I. After a quick tour of my campus in Garching, we took the train out to Erding, a suburb of Munich which happens to have a pretty famous spa. It's called Therma Erding. We went, however, for Galaxy, which is a big indoor water slide park. Exclusively water slides. It's got about 14 of them. Three are rated "extreme" and have a minimum age limit of 14 to ride. One (Steve tried this one) takes you up to 40 miles per hour in an enclosed slide. I finally worked up the guts to try the short red one that spits you out into the air so you go flying before you hit. Ow. That's all I can say. I felt that in my neck for the next two days. We both avoided the one that pretty much takes you almost straight down for the equivalent of two stories. We did appreciate the other ones though. It was pretty cool. You pay by the hour so we put two hours in. By that point it had started to rain and was, in fact, thunderstorming by the time we made it home. This was actually quite possibly on the second thunderstorm I have ever experienced in Munich so that was pretty cool. Wednesday morning I left Steve with my keys and instructions of how to get to BMW world, how to get to Marienplatz to see the Glockenspiel, and how to do laundry. I went to all three of my classes! I met him back at 4 and we both packed our stuff for Paris/Brussels. We managed to pack in my big green travel side pack and one backpack which I thought was pretty good. Then, because he hadn't seen it yet and we had some time to kill still, we circled Olympic Park and climbed "Olympic Mountain". The day was once again gorgeous | so we got a very nice view. After a quick stop to grab our stuff from my room, we headed to Marienplatz and went to the famous Hofbrauhaus for dinner. If you aren't familiar with it, it's a world famous beer hall, or, as they translate it "Beer Palace". Steve's mom was very insistent that he have Wiener Schnitzel so we ordered that and Apfel Strudel and of course, beer. (well, I stick with Radler's, but...). We hung out there, surrounded by waitresses in drindls and a Bavarian band in Lederhosen until 10 and then walked to the train station to catch our 10:45 night train go Paris. And with that I will end this post as it is already pretty long. Paris will be up shortly.
50: they make sure the French language stays "pure", the Jardin du Tuileries (gardens), the obelisk that Napoleon decided Egypt wanted to give him,l'Hotel des Invalides, where Napoleon is buried, Arc de Triomphe (from a distance), and, of course, the Eiffel Tower. The tour let out within walking distance of the tower, so we made that our next stop. The line for the elevator stretched from the ticket counter at one of the legs to pretty much the middle of the base. We made it to the front of the line for the stairs in about 10 minutes. And then we climbed. It wasn't really that bad. Mostly because you can only walk up to the second level and then you have to take an elevator to the top anyway (but no line for that ticket!). The view from the top was amazing. We got down around 5 and subwayed up to Montmartre where we got to climb stairs again to get to the Basilica of the Sacré Cur at the top. Another great view, but interestingly enough you can't see the Eiffel Tower from the Basilica. We walked through the church then grabbed our first Paris crepes (yummy!!!) for dinner and wandered through the Montmarte district. Unfortunately we couldn't find Picasso's studio... the street wasn't on our map. We did see the Le Chat Noir cafe and Moulin Rouge, though! We grabbed a meter long Baguette for dessert and since it was 9:00 pm but still quite light outside, took the metro to the Arc de Triomphe. We'd had enough climbing for the day by that point and opted not to go up it. Instead we observed the completely insane roundabout surrounding it ("it would be suicide, not attempted suicide, but suicide, to try to cross that road" our tour guy told us). I'm surprised their aren't accidents every minute. There are no painted lines, no directions, just a really huge circle with 12 streets feeding into it. We were impressed. We opted on the pedestrian tunnel to the monument tried to get the entire arc in the picture from the middle of the roundabout. It didn't get dark till after 10, (Yay for traveling in summer! Your day gets extended by like 5 hours!) There was supposedly a light show at the Eiffel Tower for 5 minutes on the hour after nightfall, so we made our way back and sat down in the grass with a perfect view to wait. Indeed, at 11:00 the lit up tower started sparkling. So cool! Actually, I was hoping for colors, but it was still pretty neat. After the show we went back to the hostel and crashed. | So when I last left off, we were boarding a night train to Paris. The train definitely wasn't the best night's sleep I've gotten... we opted for seats in the normal train car (sitting instead of laying) to save money. As the guy in our compartment pointed out, "cheap tickets mean cheap seats". But we survived and arrived in Paris bright and early at 9:30 the next morning. This was definitely the farthest out of my element I have yet been language wise. I mean, it was a fight just to figure out how to find the English option on the metro ticket machines. Thank goodness Steve still remembers enough French that we were able to get by. Prague had been a completely different language too, but something about throwing the huge bustling city in the mix makes it all the more complicated. Anyway, we managed to make our way to the hostel and drop our bags off before heading down to the departure point of our free tour. It was leaving at 11 and we managed to get there with plenty of time. Unfortunately the weather wasn't gorgeous... it was warm enough, but very overcast, though luckily it never did rain. The tour started at St. Michel's Fountain right across the river from the Notre Dame and Sainte Chappelle. We then headed across the river, saw the Louvre, the old royal palace, some statues of famous people (kings and Joan of Arc), the French Academy, where | Thursday, June 4th, 2o09
51: The next morning there was free breakfast at the hostel (croissants!!!) and then we headed straight to the Louvre to get in right when it opened. I had read that there were multiple entrances, such that one didn't have to wait several hours in the famous glass pyramid entrance.Unfortunately, we had quite the time trying to find these other entrances. One "entrance" we walked into led us to two French security guys who very quickly responded to Steve's "Parlez-vous anglais?" with "Non". So then poor Steve had to try to explain to the guy that I wanted another entrance (he directed us to the pyramid) and wasn't leaving till I found it. Finally we got directions. They took us down to where the pyramid also leads... but without the line! Perfect! And, it turns out, I get into the Louvre for free because I study at an EU University! Also pretty nice! So then we did a lightning tour of the Louvre. First stops were the Nike and Venus statues, and then of course, the Mona Lisa. Turns out it's actually not that crowded right when the museum opens! We waltzed right up to the front as the group in front left. We also checked out the Egypt area and then stopped by Hammurabi's Code. I think Steve and I were both equally impressed by the museum itself as much as the artwork. It used to be a castle and is just gorgeous. The foundations are another "exhibit" in themselves in the basement. Anyway, having seen the Louvre in an hour and a half, we crossed the river to Sainte Chappelle, the famous stained glass church of Paris. That one we had to wait for. It was only a 15 minute wait though, and mostly because you have to go through airport security (yup, X-Ray machine, metal dector and guy ready to search you) to get in. Not really sure why... it apparently used to hold "a piece of the cross Jesus was crucified on" and "a thorn from the crown" but when we got inside we found out that those were actually moved... the stained glass is pretty amazing though. It's actually a double church. There's a very impressive chapel on the bottom for the | king's servants, etc. And then on top is the famous huge stained glass windows for the king himself. The windows are pretty much the entire walls of the church and tell the story from Genesis to Jesus. Very pretty. | Paris!
52: We walked straight from that church across the street to Notre Dame. Another very impressive church. Granted, big churches are slowly getting lost on me as I've seen my share, but still quite impressive. Especially the flying buttresses in the back. Those were neat. Following Notre Dame we headed off to Versailles for the afternoon. It's a 40 minute train ride and then a 5 minute walk. The palace is huge. Well, obviously, but still. And very extensively decorated. The funny part was that we had just been to Herrencheimsee a week before, which is the copy of Versailles. So we kept seeing things we recognized (fountains/rooms, etc.). That was cool. After walking through the palace, we explored the gardens for a bit. Unbelievably large. I can't even imagine how much the upkeep takes! Eventually we caught the train back to Paris and made some quick stops to the things we hadn't yet seen. Specifically the Pantheon (which has the bodies of Voltaire, Curie, Braille, Pasteur among others), which had closed minutes before we arrived. Oops. Then we grabbed dinner and I left Steve in the subway while I ran up at the Bastille stop... turns out the Bastille is an opera house now. That's fun, too! From there we stopped by the hostel to grab our bags and headed up to the train station for our 10:00 pm train to Brussels. And with that, I'll end this post with a few pictures and pick up from Brussels in the next few days.
53: So we took a Thalys train from Paris to Brussels and got in a little after eleven. Steve had three Belgium friends who had spent the fall semester at U of IL and they all picked us up from the train station. One of them actually lived in the city of Brussels, the other two a little bit outside, so we dropped our stuff off at Boris’ house and were driven into the city. We started out with a night tour of Brussels. It is an absolutely gorgeous city. The main cathedral in the city center, St. Michaels’ looks remarkably like Notre Dame especially when you’re coming directly from Paris! We also saw the city square, the Grand Place which was absolutely gorgeous, especially at night. There’s a City Hall that very much resembles the New City Hall in Munich and gold rimmed guild houses. The tour also took us to the ever so famous Brussels statue of Mannekin Pis, which is a little boy peeing. The story goes that the city was under siege and the enemy had placed explosives all around the city walls and lit the fuse. A little boy found these and saved the city by urinating on the fuse to put it out. He also has a female counterpart (who was added much more recently) by the name of Jeannekin Pis. She happens to be situated across from our next destination, Delerium Café. It turns out Belgium is very much known for its beer. Granted the reason you don’t hear about this in Germany is that Germans would not consider Belgium Beer to be beer Germany has the “Reinheitsverbot” or Purity Law. Only the four ingredients in beer are allowed to be put in beer. Belgium doesn’t and that’s what its beer is famous for. Most notable is Kriek Biere, or cherry flavored beer (which does not taste very much like beer at all and is actually quite tasty! However, also famous | are raspberry beers, strawberry beers, blueberry beers, peach beers, honey beers and even such things as coconut, chocolate, banana or mango beer. Granted those are just the fruit beers. There are also dozens of not directly flavored beers that taste very different. The book of beers offered at Delerium Café is approximately 3 inches thick and that’s not an exaggeration. Also cool, each different beer has its own glass. The Belgians claim that the beers taste better in their own glass. We quickly decided that Kwak was the coolest kind- not only because of its name, and its taste (also not overly beery!), but also because of its glass. It looks like it belongs in a chemistry lab! But moving on from beer, Saturday morning was our native led tour of Brussels. After a breakfast of nutella bread we met the other two Belgians and headed around the city. We started at the Cinquantenaire triumphal arch, which was built by King Leopold for the 50th year jubilee of independence. It’s free to get to the top to look out and there’s an elevator. Two points for Brussels right there. There’s also a really cool aviation museum attached/inside the gate. We were amused by the fact that most of the planes had targets in the pattern of the Belgium flag painted on the wing and body of the plane that seems anti-purposeful. Then we headed over to the EU Parliament building. If you didn’t know, the EU has its headquarters in Brussels. The building is really, really cool. It was also really neat to see all the flags of the different countries flying and “European Parliament” written in all the different languages. Unfortunately it’s only open to the public on weekdays so we couldn’t go inside. Both of these buildings are a little outside the main city square so on our way back there we stopped for lunch at the “best Pommes Frites” in Belgium. Those, of course, are French Fries which are really Belgium Fries. Well, if I were a bigger fan of French fries I might have enjoyed them more for what they were, but it was the experience that counted. We also had a very awkward kind of Belgium sausage thing. Not really sure what it was. We found out, however, that the majority of Belgium food is extremely fried. Not what I was expecting. Also ended up trying Belgium Fanta. I have to say, it is amazing. It tastes remarkably different from both the American and the German version, proving, I guess, that it’s manufactured separately for every country. Anyway, after our lunch break we walked past the king’s gardens and then the Royal Palace. Belgium still has a | Monday, June 8th, 2009 | Brussels and Bruges, Belgium
54: king if you didn’t know it. We then saw the upper town square, a couple of churches (one of which was hosting a wedding in an hour) and some cool older buildings. Then we took the metro out to the Atomium, which is Brussels “Eiffel Tower”. It was built for an exposition and is basically a giant representation of iron. Yes. A bunch of metal balls connected by “bonds” which are really escalators connecting the spheres. You can go up in to the top for a great view as well as check out exhibits in the other spheres. It was a really long wait. Turns out Belgium efficiency actually fails more than the Germany version. The only way to the top is single elevator that is also bringing people down. The elevator supposedly fits 20 people. This explains why the guides were ushering in between 11 | and 15 people each time even though there was plenty of room. The line, meanwhile, was circling in on itself around the inside of the building. But we finally made it to the top and were impressed by the view. You could see Mini-Europe park from the top, since it’s actually right under the Atomium. That’s a park with to-scale models of all the big European monuments- the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, leaning tour of Pisa, Coliseum, etc. The other spheres showed exhibits about the making of, etc. One was a café. Another is open for group children sleepovers. That’s kinda cool. The best part was the super long, thin escalators leading between the spheres. You’re traveling on bonds! By the time we got down, it was getting late in the afternoon and we were hungry. We took the metro back to the city center and walked through the sites we’d seen at night in the day. The city square was just as gorgeous as it had been at night. Then we experienced another aspect of Belgium custom while trying to find dinner. We happened to walk through a "tourist strip" of restaurants, mostly | serving mussels and fries (apparently Belgium specialties?). The waiters seemed desperate for guests. They approached you on the street and practically begged you to come in, telling you all their specials and that all the food further down the strip was the same and more expensive and that they would give you a free drink. Unfortunately we got wheeled in. One of the waiters had got the attention of the three Belgians and then proceeded to turn on me and telling me how I would make his night bybeing in his restaurant and he’d try to make my night with the food and calling me princess. I figured that was reason enough not to go but the guys liked the food and were amused so we went. Luckily they had choices other than mussels and we did get a free drink which was nice since beverages are expensive in Europe. Despite the filling meal Steve and I got chocolate covered Belgium waffles for dessert because we’d been pining for them all day. That pretty much marked the end of the day. We were tired for three days of intense city seeing and the other two needed to go back to their homes. Turns out all three of them had their bachelor theses due Tuesday. Sunday, Steve and I made a day trip to Bruges. We had been told by his parents to see either Bruges or Antwerp while we were there and the Belgians recommended the former. It was only an hour away and a 13 Euro round trip train ticket so we slept in and took an 11:00 train. I’ll be honest, I knew nothing about Bruges. Apparently it’s a pretty famous city? It’s a gorgeous one anyway, as we soon found out. Extremely walkable and extremely touristy as well but that wasn’t bad. We followed the other tourists off the train and across the street to the tourist office where we got our city maps and then followed the same group of tourists the 15 minute walk to the city center. The first thing to note is that every other shop is a chocolate shop. These are split up by lace shops, candy shops, waffle stands, souvenir shops and beer shops (selling all the sorts of Belgium beer and/or the glasses). We stopped in just
55: Amsterdam) Whereas Brussels is mostly French speaking, Bruge, being in the northern Flemish district, was almost primarily Dutch speaking. I was so happy to see the language again! Steve no longer had to translate everything! Anyway, we took the train back to Brussels and met Boris at his friend’s bar. They’re actually similar to boy scouts leaders and this is the meeting place, but after the meetings the leaders hang out there. They run it themselves and sell cheap pizza so we got dinner there and got to mingle with Belgians for the evening. Monday morning we said goodbye to our host and Steve and I set off to explore the city on our own until our flight. We went in the St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral. Of course it was Pentecost Monday so we walked into a service. Oops. Then we wandered around the city, happening upon part of the Comic Strip Route by accident. Throughout the city, walls and subways are painted with comic strip motifs. I’d forgotten I’d wanted to see that! We also got insanely lucky. We wandered into a chocolate shop giving away free samples!!! There we fell in love with the creme truffle which they were selling for 11 Euro a box. We declined that one but later walked considerably farther away from the tourist center and found the same box for 3 Euro. So good!!! We ended our trip with a final Belgium waffle and a trip to “Quick”, which is a Belgium fast food joint. Yes! Fast food that did not originate in the US! We’d actually seen a couple in Paris, too and figured we had to try it. Pretty good. Pretty typical anyway. Given the French fries and fried meat we’d had on Saturday, the fact that Belgium creates fast food didn’t surprise me all that much. Hamburgers in hand, we got on our train to the airport and then boarded the flight with no issues. We landed in | about every chocolate shop trying to find the right prices. And even though it was Sunday, 90% of the city was still open and running. Bruges had a lot of little canals running through the city (Boris referred to it as the “Little Venice” but having been to Amsterdam I would say that Bruges has nothing on Amsterdam in terms of canals. Gorgeous all the same though, with the houses and tours and churches. We stopped by the church housing Michelangelo’s Madonna with Child- one of the very few Michelangelo pieces not in Italy. We also saw the city castle as well as the Church of the Sacred Blood. They claim to have Christ’s blood in a vial. You can even go up and touch it! We semi-followed the map through the city, making sure to see the “top ten sites” listed on the map, which basically were churches, views and historical areas. There is a monastery there and apparently they brew beer. On our way back through the city we finally decided to get our shopping out of the way and stopped by the cheapest store we’d found to buy Belgium chocolate. The truffles are simply amazing. We also stopped for more waffles and at one point Belgium chocolate ice cream (that one was good!!!) Not the healthiest travel day. Also notable: for those of you who don’t know, Belgium has two national languages, Flemish and French. What I didn’t know, however, is that Flemish is actually a dialect of Dutch! (Dutch being the half English/half German mixture I fell in love with in | Munich at 5:40 and were home by 7. And that pretty much ends the trip. Steve flew out Tuesday morning to go home so Monday night was about unpacking and repacking. Tuesday I took him to the airport and then took a bus to Garching. Back to the norm of classes and work. As far as the following week, Saturday was a day trip to Dachau, the concentration camp, and Sunday was cooking for the American Stammtisch, which was today. Will update you on how that goes later, but might wait to add one of this weekend’s day trips, so it might be a week or so.
56: So following two insane weeks of travel life settled down a little... I spent the first week after Steve left trying to catch up. On Saturday, Tim, Kristina and I went to Dachau. It was the first concentration camp opened up and is in a little town about 20-30 minutes outside of Munich. It's actually still in the public transportation system- that's how close it is. Unfortunately it was a really overcast day and started raining as soon as we reached the meeting point for our tour group. Turns out a lot of the tour was outside. It was an organized tour for students in English and TUMi had sent us an email about it. It was obviously very depressing. Dachau was actually a concentration camp and not used extensively for mass murder. It was still a pretty sober place and there was still a lot of death. Everything was really gray, no color anywhere. By the time the three hour tour was over we were cold, hungry and kind of humbled. | 8 Months Down, 2 to Go | June 19th, 2009 | Friday | We weren't done yet though... we had Stammtisch shopping to do. And so we headed off to the store and loaded a cart with 15 loaves of bread, 15 packets of cheese (we cleaned the store out of that kind...) as well as noodles and margarine and chocolate and marshmallows and jello and graham cracker substitutes. We got some weird looks at the cash registers. All the stuff ended up the floor of my room. The cooking party was Sunday. It took considerably less time than last semester. Amy, Tim, Hans and Matt formed a grilled cheese team in my room using both burners. (pretty sure Tim, Hans and Matt were in charge of buttering bread and unwrapping cheese... we left the boys with the easy jobs) while Amy flipped. Kristina and I went down to her room to make the jello. The entire process only took like 3 hours including cleanup. Then we packed all 150 sandwiches back in the loaf bags and carted them up to Tim's fridge. Kristina and I had fridges full of jello cups. We sent Amy and Matt with huge bags full of the dry ingredients (mac & cheese and s'mores). Monday at 6:30 Hans showed up and helped us pull 150 loaves of grilled cheese out of Tim's fridge and load them into backpacks. Then we awkwardly layered 150 not-quite completely solid jello cups into boxes with cardboard in between for layering... and headed out to the subway. I know how weird we looked because everyone kept running to open the subway doors for us. We got to the church and started trying to boil insanely large amounts of water in three pots. The water ended up taking almost an hour to boil. Wow. Turns out that was okay because 15 minutes into our cooking we were told we couldn't serve the food for an extra hour... because there was a concert goign on for the first half and they wanted people to go to it. We were mildly annoyed. The people waiting for food would soon be even more annoyed (not that I blamed them). We started warming up grilled cheeses on one oven shelf and warming up marshmallows on the other. We laid out 150 plates, forks and s'more halves and then slowly started putting it together.... and finished a good 30 minutes before we were still allowed to serve. We got to eat at that point though. Yummy. The result for everyone else sadly was slightly cold grilled cheese and mac & cheese but we still found it tasty... I actually didn't hear any reviews from the outside... except for one of the Tutors who pointed at the mac & cheese and asked what kind of "cheese" was on it. I explained it was fake and it was powder. He repeated, "what kind of 'cheese'?" We eventually explained the concept of fake cheese, which, we pointed out, was also in the grilled cheese... But, all else aside it was a success simply because we successfully managed the meal. Definitely not as grand as the Thanksgiving Feast, but still fun!
57: This week (Mon-Thurs) in Garching there was the Garnix (Gar for Garching... but Garnix is slang for "gar nichts" which means "absolutely nothing") summer festival. All week they had music playing during the day with a beer garden and fresh grilled food, as well as sports events in the evening and open air movies at night. Kinda interesting... it's just out open in the field in front of the chem building. School sponsored. The sister festival takes place next week on the main campus (creatively titled Tunix (Tu being short for TUM and "tunix" being slang for "tu nichts" or "do nothing"). Anyway, that brings the week to a close. Tomorrow at noon we're taking a train to the airport in Memmingen to fly out to Barcelona until Monday afternoon so expect an update sometime after that. Until then, I'll be home 7 weeks from today. The countdown is less than 49. I've got exams and papers due in 4-5 weeks. It looks like the next couple of weekends will be studying and writing and seeing the things I've missed in Munich. | Anyway, the rest of the week went on as normal except for another random holiday on Thursday. Something about Communion or the Last Supper? Except according to the previous days off, Jesus had ascended last week so I'm not sure exactly why the supper was happening now... but it was a day off! As a result, on Wednesday night we headed to a big International Grill Festival happening at StudentenStadt, the other big student housing. It was quite the festival. Lots of people bringing their own meat to throw on a grill. The most exciting part, however, was meeting Alex. I had heard about this mysterious girl named Alex from St. Louis as of November or so. I just hadn't managed to meet her yet, despite my best efforts. I saw some of the people who knew her at the festival, asked, and one of them accompanied me up to her room because she lived in the complex! Well! It turns out she went to Parkway West and lives about five minutes from me by Manchester and Weidman Rd! And we have a large handful of mutual friends since she was in debate and knows all the debate kids from South. It was so weird to talk to her! Anyway, the rest of the weekend was surprisingly mellow. Thursday-Monday all turned into mostly work days. Thursday night we had a group dinner. Friday, Kristina and I had an extensive orgo study session. Saturday Kristina, Amy and I hung out in the English Gardens and laid out in the sun while I read my lit novel. Sunday we went to Munich's 851'st birthday party! It was a big event that stretched across several city blocks (Odeonsplatz to Karlsplatz over Marienplatz if you've been here). It was a combination of a city fair, Christkindlmarkt and Oktoberfest. Stands are set up selling all kinds of food and goods. Marienplatz was turned into one giant Beer Garden with tables and tents all over the main square. Music was playing, events were going on. It was pretty cool to see. Happy Birthday, Munich!
58: Barcelona! | Saturday, June 27th, 2009 | So I actually didn't really care about visiting Barcelona... meaning it wasn't on the list of cities I really wanted to see. But there were really cheap tickets there and I was invited so I figured, why not. And Barcelona is my new favorite city in Europe. It's so pretty! But I'm getting ahead of myself. So Friday at noon we jumped on a subway and met up at the train station. From there we got on a 1.5 hour train to Memmingen. The trick with our tickets (which were 40 euro round trip) is that we were flying RyanAir, a discount (very discount) airline that as a result flies out of the neighboring German city. Luckily we could use a Bavaria ticket for the five of us so it was only $5 more to get to Memmingen. From there we took a 20 minute bus to the airport and from there we boarded our flight. Only two airlines fly out of that airport, Ryan Air and another discount German airline. Baggage is an extra hefty fee so we were all packed in a backpack for carry-on. We walked out to our airplane and bordered. The flight was a little less than two hours and only the landing (I'm pretty sure planes aren't supposed to bounce... we're pretty certain it rocked up on one wheel...) was a little concerning. We flew over the Catalian mountains (if that's indeed what they are called? Mountains without snow!!! Such a concept for us since we're only used to the Alps!) Step two of course was that we landed in Reus and we had to get to Barcelona. This meant another 20 minute bus ride from the airport to the city of Reus and from there | another 1.5 hour train to the city of Barcelona. So we finally got in around 10:00 at night havingstarted traveling at 12. Of course taking into account that we paid an entire 60 Euro round trip for all forms of transportation to and from the cities and we were a group of 5 and had the time... it was probably worth it. Anyway, we spent the next 20 minutes wandering around Barcelona trying to find our hostel. See, they don't really believe in street signs there it turns out... at least not around the main train station. We finally did find it. It was an amazing place. The lady at the front desk took us to our room, brought us a lamp because people were sleeping, gave us a map and circled all the nearby bus/subway stops and all the main attractions and how to get there and pointed us towards a grocery store down the street. IT WAS OPEN AND IT WAS 11:00 BY THEN! Points for Barcelona right there! We bought frozen pizzas and warmed them up in the oven and ate a very much awaited dinner before going to bed. | Saturday we woke up to rain with the promise of sun in the afternoon so after the hostel supplied breakfast we grabbed our towels and suits and hopped onto a subway to Sagrada Familia, the "temple of the holy family". Wow... that's all I can say. The most impressive church I've seen in Europe. It's a work by Gaudi, if you don't know, and started back in 1882. Gaudi is long since dead but they're still working on the church. Expected completion date is currently 2030. We'll see. Still, really cool. Completely unlike anything else I've ever seen. We paid the 9 Euro to go in because it was raining still and even though the inside is largely unfinished, the part that was was absolutely amazing. There was also a museum inside and the workshop where they were building the plaster models. We also saw the guys working on the church. By the time we left it was starting to clear up. We took the subway to the Arc de Triomphe (but the Spanish one...). We weren't sure the actual significance
59: hostel in search for dinner. We found a nice looking place that enticed us with tasty fruit milkshakes advertisements. The guy looked surprised when we said we were there for food. Apparently most people just use it as a bar. He informed us that it was Columbian food and asked if we were looking for Spanish food. We said sure and sat down. He looked confused. We realized that they are not the same. (Okay, we actually knew that but the question was awkwardly phrased) Anyway, the food was really good as was the service... and the fruit shakes. It was like a milk based smoothie with fresh fruit. So tasty! After dinner we were pretty tired so went back to the hostel to rest for a bit and shower off the sunscreen/sand/salt water. That's when I noticed my sunburn. Actually 4 of the 5 of us were sunburned. I wasn't happy. So much for the use of sunscreen. The hostel nicely provided aloe though... apparently it happens a lot. Later that night we ended up talking to a Canadian who was in our room and he suggested we head to the beach if we wanted to do something that night. We did... and took him with us. What a good idea! There were a fair amount of people there for it being midnight but it wasn't overly crowded and it was a lot of fun. Very different but very cool. Being out late meant we slept in the next morning but then came the sight seeing. We started out at Guell Park, which is the park Gaudi designed. It's amazing. There's so much to see. Mosaic benches wrapping around the center square, columns made of tiny rocks holding up a walkway, a mosaic dragon fountain... mosaic is the key theme. From there we | (the downside of not having a free tour...) but it was really pretty. In fact everything is really pretty. The architecture is breathtaking. You could literally take a picture of every building there because they were all so unique. There are also some pretty impressive fountains scattered everywhere and palm trees! We walked through a gorgeous park to get from Arc de Triomphe to the beach. It's where the zoo is among other things. We got to the beach just as the sun came out. Surprisingly, however, there is absolutely no fast food on the beach! Just really expensive restaurants. But you'd think there'd be a place to grab snacks or something within 5 minutes of the sand... there isn't. We wandered for quite aways before we found Spanish Doners. Very different than the German ones but also really good. After lunch we lounged on the beach for the next 6 hours or so. The water was perfect- cold at first but by the fifth wave at your feet (I counted) comfortable enough to wade farther. I put sunscreen on every two hours. It started to get chilly around 7 so we headed back up to our | hit the other two Gaudi sights, the two houses Casa Batllo and Casa Mila. The first is famous for looking like it's made out of bones and the second has some famous chimneys on the room. We also photographed several dozen buildings along the way. These houses led us straight to La Rambla, the main street of Barcelona. That was also an experience. It was the tourist strip obviously. There were all sorts of street performers and street vendors. One was selling chipmunks! (along with birds and gerbils/hamsters/mice) The street was pretty cool. We walked all the way down until we hit the harbor and then walked along the ship yard and back to the beach. It was around 4:30 by that point but the sun had come out and it was gorgeous again so we hung out there for a bit (with more sunscreen!) We ended up leaving around 8 and heading back up to a place we had passed along the way that was selling paella an apparently very Spanish food. It's usually rice with seafood but Ashley and I opted for the veggie one instead. We supplemented with sangria, which is another Spanish special. It pretty much tastes like cold Christkindlmarkt wine I decided but it's basically red wine spiced (usually with oranges and other such fruits it turns out) and something like sprite which takes the edge off the wine. It's basically fruity wine punch, I guess. Anyway, the food was very tasty. When we left it was 10.
60: home.The week since Barcelona has continued to be in the 50's and raining... I want to take my sweatshirt off, I mean it is almost July... But anyway, the weekly life is picking up as the countdown ticks... I'm home 6 weeks from last Thursday... which means less than 6 weeks from today!!! My exams start in 3 weeks, my papers are due then... basically I'm starting to remember that I'm actually in school here... riiiight... So the Friday/Mondays off are turning into intensive work/study days. I did take advantage of a student housing sponsored excursion to a brewery tour in Munich today. The brewery is mostly local (as in not known world wide but it was Hacker-Pschorr in case you do know it). It's been around in Munich since 1500 something so it's pretty long standing. It was interesting to see. We got a tour by the brewer owner and it was neat to hear the German beer brewing bit since I'd toured A&B last summer. But yeah, I think the traveling is probably at a rest for a while. Next weekend is the 4th. Turns out there will be a lot of guests in town since a lot of family members are coming to visit and I might have two girls I know from U of IL (who are on the Darmstadt summer program) coming to stay with me for the weekend. We're trying to organize an American barbecue to celebrate. | We wandered past a Deutsche Bank (the main German bank which literally means "German bank"... in Spain... we were amused) and then took a subway to the Magic Fountain. I'd read about this online and I have to say it pretty much ties with the Sagrada Familie for my favorite event there. It plays every half hour from 9 to 11 and basically it's this huge fountain that has a "magical" show. Music plays and the fountain starts spurting water in all different forms (like a water show) and changes colors. It was so mesmerizing. We got there at 10:40 so we caught the last half of the 10:30 show and then stayed till 11:30 when it finally shut off. It was amazing. I have a video in the case that I can manage how to post it... Anyway, we wandered back to our hostel after that and headed to bed. Monday was another travel day. After breakfast we checked out of the hostel and headed back to the train station. It was pretty much the same. We left at 11. Train from Barcelona to Reus, bus from Reus to airport, plane from Reus to Memmingen (with a little safer landing this time... and we flew over the French Alps instead!), bus from Memmingen airport to city, train from Memmingen to Munich. We got back to Germany and stepped off the plane... First off, did I mention that it was 80 degrees and gorgeous the entire weekend? (minus the first 3.5 hours of 70 and rain that morning...) Well, we stepped off the plane in Memmingen and instantly grabbed for our jackets. It was 50 degrees and raining quite heavily. We considered turning around and getting back on the plane... Anyway, by the time we got to Munich it was a downpour but Stammtisch was starting in 30 minutes so we figured we might as well go get free food... so we did. Which was a good choice because it was Japanese and it was basically a curry rice. The second best Stammtisch ever (Hans said after the American Thanksgiving) and it had more spice in it than I've eaten in the last 10 months in Germany. I'm pretty sure any Germans who had been there were dying. Anyway, we grabbed seconds and then went home.
61: So exactly four weeks from today I will be on a plane flying home for the last time. That means time is about to speed up. Today, is Thursday, and a pretty intense work day. Next Thursday I will be taking my organic chemistry final. The Thursday following, I will be taking my Transportation exam, which also happens to be my last final. The Thursday after, I will be in Rome. The Thursday after I will be in the US. I haven't updated in a while, I know. There hasn't been that much overly exciting going on. It's been a lot of studying and a lot of writing. Here's a quick look at my classes/finals and an update on each. Research: We'll start with my favorite... over the last few weeks this has become more and more obnoxious. First, because of all the reassurance I had gotten back in March that I would be done with this by early May and then just need to present it. Granted, I didn't get my paper to her until mid/late May, but that doesn't quite explain the last month and a half. The last few weeks, specifically, have been going downhill as everything I do seems to be "not up to par" with her expectations. After being told my research draft sucked (in more words than that but that was the general idea she was trying to get at) and receiving several frustrated emails and meetings, I am finally almost finished. I have a 27 page report (which she has written a good deal of) and a 20 minute powerpoint presentation. I present the powerpoint to a room of professors on Tuesday at 2:30 and then I can pick up that Schein and be DONE! | Genocide in Eastern Europe: This class is based on a paper and an oral exam. I turned my rough draft in on the 1st and she wrote back a week later saying she loved it (which was reassuring to hear after the research rough draft bit...) and offering up a few changes. I made those and resent it in. The "oral exam" is a 15 minute conversation in her office with her this Wednesday (at 3:00 for me) where I talk about what I learned (or talk about my paper if I want...). Then I get that Schein! She's also very graciously agreed to let us change the title of the class to "Genocide and Global Perspectives" to help out with getting Non-Western credit since my dean wasn't being to friendly about giving me non-western credit for a class with "eastern Europe" in the title. German Lit: This class required a presentation and a paper. The presentation was over the novelle each of us chose... basically, you "teach" the class for the day using your novelle. My presentation was last Wednesday and it went pretty well. I read "Die Entdeckung der Currywurst" (English title: The Invention of the Curried Sausage, I believe). Now I just need to sit down and write the paper... It's supposed to be 15 pages and it's supposed to be due October 1st (same deal as the Religion Sociology one last semester) but he's cutting us a break for not being native speakers and says to "just write until we run out of things to say"... yeah... not going to be so easy. My goal is to turn it in on the last day of class (22nd) so I can pick up a Schein from him before I leave the country, but that will require me to start it, so we'll see. | Organic Chem: As mentioned, the exam, worth 100% of the grade, is on Thursday (6:30 pm). We've been practicing though by working through a lot of old exams. It'll be interesting though. Up until this year they had two exams, one earlier in the semester and one at the end, each worth 50% of the grade. For some reason they dropped this this time so we have one exam instead of two. We also will probably not get these results/Scheins back before we leave. Transportation: This is a fun one. This is the master's level civil engineering program class that's taught in English. Construction of Traffic Infrastructure is the actual name. We have absolutely no idea what's going to be on the exam. No practice exams, no old exams to look at, no book for the class... just the packets he prints out each week and the notes we take. Which is great for the weeks I've missed because he moved the class to a Tuesday and I had chem... but anyway, I'm just crossing my fingers that it will allow us to write paragraphs about concepts instead of asking specifics and details. The exam was originally in mid-August but three of us had a conflict of leaving the country so he's offering us an exam on July 23rd (Thursday) at 10:00 if we meet him out in Passing (just outside Munich) to take it... weird... I'm also not sure I'll get that Schein back in time since I think he's leaving the country at so me point following that, but we'll see. | Thursday, July 8th, 2009 | 4 more weeks!
62: be filled with studying, but after Thursday the majority of my stress (Research and Chem) is out of the way so hopefully I'll be able to actually get out and do something next weekend. We're going to see Harry Potter on Friday (it actually comes out on Thursday here, a day before you guys, but unfortunately we'll be sitting in an orgo exam...). Sunday will be a going away dinner because Hans and Ashley leave early the next week (Tuesday and Monday respectively). The 25th is a huge firework display in Olympiazentrum to celebrate summer... we're not actually sure why it happens but it looks like it will be pretty awesome. It's a 45 minute show and will make up for missing the real 4th of July ones. That Sunday morning I'll head to Austria early in the morning to see my host family for the last time. Monday late night I'll come back. Tuesday TRACI IS COMING! She gets to help me pack and clean my room then... because... WEDNESDAY WE LEAVE FOR ROME! There are three of us going now, Traci, Kristina and I. We fly into Pisa early Wednesday morning. We'll hang out there for a few hours and then train into Rome where we'll be until Saturday morning when we take a train to Florence. We'll spend the rest of Saturday and then Sunday in Florence and then take a 4:00 am train to the Pisa airport and fly back to Munich. Total cost of transportation for flight to and from Pisa plus all the trains between the cities and 5 nights at hostels: 170 Euro. Anyway, we get back at noon on Monday, August 3rd. That leaves a day and a half to collect any Scheins I can still collect and finish up anything I need to do in Munich (while staying in a hostel because I only get this apartment through July...) and then Thursday at 12:30 I board a plane for the US. And that will be the end of the story. But for now, back to studying for orgo and writing that lit paper and running through my presentation... | Anyway, so those are the exams. Now a little bit about what I've been up to and then what I will be up to (other than studying and writing). After we got back from Barcelona, the next weekend was full of studying. On the 4th of July, a friend of mine from UIUC who's studying in Darmstadt at the summer program, came down to visit. We did the New Europe city tour (yes, I figured I should do it in my own city...) and I was surprised about how much I learned. (Sorry to everyone who came over here and I gave you a tour... I'll fill you in on the details I left out later!) Anyway, when that ended we walked through the English garden and then went to the self-organized 4th of July BBQ. We were barbecuing out by the other main student housing complex and we had marshmallows and hot dogs. Then we noticed a group barbecuing across the grassy area from us... with red, white and blue balloons. Turns out they were the LMU Americans and we were the TUM Americans. Later that night we actually ended up seeing some fireworks set off! There must have been yet another group of Americans elsewhere in the complex because we saw like 6 go up over the course of the night. In all, it was a lot of fun. And we were lucky that the rain held off because it was supposed to rain all day and it didn't! Speaking of the weather. If you remember, we got off the train in Munich from Barcelona and it was cold and raining. Well, that's pretty much been the weather since we got back. It has, more or less, rained every day for the last several weeks. The thing is, it's also been relatively sunny... we have days of partly cloudy/partly blue sky. And then a half hour later it turns to mostly cloudy. And then a half hour later it's thunderstorming and downpouring. And then a half hour later it's partly cloudy/partly blue sky... and then repeat. Throw in the fact that ever since July rolled around I've had to pull out my long sleeves and jackets again and you get a pretty good idea... summer in Munich is actually colder than spring and more resembles fall... and summer in Munich is also monsoon season. Anyway, so this weekend will also
63: So now, the days inbetween... Up until Tues/Wed/Thurs of my first three presentations/exams, I pretty much studied nonstop. Friday we went to see Hans present his Thesis. Afterwards, Matt, Kristina and I headed to Marienplatz to find the crypts of the Munich kings. Some 30+ famous Bavarian royalty (including Maximilian I and Ludwig II) are buried under one of the Munich churches. We even got lucky and the watchkeeper let us into the normally closed off section where they have the hearts in jugs... kinda cool/weird. Anyway, from there we went to see Harry Potter (in English)! Saturday was back to studying as well as a bit of souvenir shopping. Sunday was more studying and then Knocherlball! Well, the festival anyway. It's a famous Munich ball in the English garden from 6-10 am. We weren't up that early. All the streets were filled with music and booths and food. It was a lot of fun. We even got free smoothie popsicles that they were handing out! Afterwards we all met up for Hans' and Ashley's going away dinner at a typical German restaurant. Very yummy spaetzel. Monday, I met up with Lisa again. She is done with her Darmstadt summer and her dad and brother were visiting. We went to the Bavarian Film Studio and toured. They filmed Das Boot and The Neverending Story there! We got to see the sets as well as the Neverending story actual dragon. Believe it or not there was no actual U-Boot... there were three models (small models) and a set of the inside of an U-Boot that they used for filming. That was slightly disappointing. Afterwards I went with her family to the Hofbrauhaus. Tuesday/Wedneday was mostly studying. Thursday was the exam followed by the end of the tourist shopping. Friday was the start of packing followed by the Goodbye party for the International students. Saturday was hard core packing and then in the evening the Sommernachtstraum (Summer Night Dream) in Olympic Park. It was a huge event. We got there at 6. There were live bands (including the apparently famous Münchener Freiheit), and tons of food. At 10:15 the pyro-show/laser-show/fireworks started. 45 minutes of it all synced to music. We had a lot of fun and the fireworks were amazing.. And now I'm in Austria. I took the train down Sunday morning to say goodbye. I ended up going to Harry Potter (in German this time) with Lisa Sunday night. I head back to Munich tonight and am super excited for Italy! | Yay! I'm done! Class update to start: Research: Well, the presentation apparently didn't go so well. I was nervous, I'll admit but I thought I did okay... apparently they couldn't understand my accent though (yes, I know I have a thick American accent (for Europeans anyway) when I speak English. If they really had a problem understanding though, someone should have interrupted my presentation to say something. But regardless, it apparently went well enough that I got an A. So glad to be done though. Genocide: This was the 15 minute discussions we had one-on-one with the professor. I was supposed to go at 3:15. Imagine my surprise when I showed up at her office to see Kristina, Tim and another girl sitting outside her door waiting. Turns out she was backed up by an hour because the 15 minute discussions had actually become 30 minute discussions. So I finally got to go at 4:30. We had a nice talk about my paper and she gave me an "A+", that is a 1,0 and I walked out of there feeling pretty good. Orgo: The exam went fine, though it started 25 minutes late much to our unhappiness. Nothing unpredictable and I walked out of it feeling pretty confident that I had gotten my A. Sure enough, we got an email saying we could come pick up our Scheins after class on Tuesday (yes, we had a week of class after the exam. Approximately 15% of the class showed up but he still held class... and sure enough, I got a 1,7 which is indeed an A! Lit: I finished up my paper over the weekend and finalized it on Tuesday in time to turn it in on Wednesday for the last day of class. He promised to read it over the weekend and get back to me. I'll note that it's Monday and I have no response... so we'll see. Transportation: The exam was Thursday morning. Wednesday he gave me his phone number so the three of us (Tim, me and Lukas from Prag) could call when we got to the Bahnhof because we were taking the exam in Pasing, (about 15 minutes east of the main station) where his office is. So the three of us meet at 9:42 for the 10:00 exam... and call the number... and we can't get through because the number doesn't work. Brilliant. We were, however, extremely lucky and Lukas happened to know where the office was so we walked 20 minutes to get there to take the exam. On the bright side the exam wasn't horrible. On the even brighter side, it was my last one! | And the semester | is over! | Monday, July 27th, 2009
64: Saturday night was Sommernachtstraum (Summer Night’s Dream) in Olympia Park. After packing and cleaning all day, Matt, Kristina, Amy and I met in Olympia Park with blankets and settled down to wait. It was basically a huge festival with tons of food (German food) and live music and some carnival games for the kids. When it got dark around 10 it was time for the fireworks. The show was amazing. It was synced to music with an additional fire show and laser light show. The fireworks were set off both behind us on Olympia Hill and directly in front of us over the lake. There were 4 tons of fireworks and a 45 minute show. It was awesome. The next morning was my trip to Austria. I went to the lake with Lisa that afternoon. I spent Monday morning with Andrea in the shop and in the afternoon I walked around Hall. Monday night I went back to Munich. Tuesday morning Traci arrived. I picked her up at the airport in the morning and she got to help me clean after that. Kristina had borrowed a vacuum from her aunt who lives in Munich so after we both vacuumed we took it back to her aunt’s along with her stuff since she was leaving it with her for the week of Italy. Then we met up with Matt on Marienplatz and walked around for a while before all heading to Hofbrauhaus to meet Erika and Tim for our going away dinner in tourist central. The food was good though and very German of course. Erika and Tim had to go back to study for more exams, so Kristina, Matt and I headed to an outdoor café to get dessert. The night ended with saying goodbye to Matt and me dropping my stuff off in Jaakko, my Finnish friend’s room. He lives in Olympizentrum but was going to be gone the same time we were so he had given me a key to leave my stuff in his room. We set our alarms for 3 am and went to bed at 11 pm. | Friday, August 7th, 2009 | Pisa... | The Italy Adventure Begins! | The next “morning” if you can call it that, Kristina, Traci and I grabbed the backpacks we would be living out of for the next week and left our rooms in Olympiazentrum for the last time. We dropped off our keys in a mailbox and noted the people who were hanging out outside who hadn’t gone to bed yet. We boarded the first subway of the morning at 4:17 to the main station and then our 4:40 am train to Memmingen. That’s when I opened my bag to grab our boarding passes since I had printed them all out and they weren’t there. They had been there last night because we had had to call the hostel in Rome to reconfirm our booking 24 hours in advance. I was well aware they were not in the room as I had double checked every cabinet and drawer before leaving. I had no idea where they were but they were not there. The thing about RyanAir is, that though it’s an insanely cheap airline (20 Euro round trip to Pisa from Munich), they can afford to do this because they charge you for absolutely everything. If you forget your boarding pass, for example, it’s 40 Euro to reprint. It was 5 am and we were in the middle of Bavaria where nothing opens before 9 am. It didn’t look good. We had to switch trains in Buchloe. As we’d only had 3 minutes to switch and we were running 5 minutes late we were already worried about that.
65: Then we jumped off the train and realized that our connection was running 30 minutes late. There went any hope of finding an internet café in Memmingen before we got to the airport. We wouldn’t have time. Buchloe looked pretty empty. At Kristina’s insistence though, we dashed over to the main office. There was no one there. I spotted a German smoking outside the entrance and decided to ask him. Sure enough he was from Buchloe. He directed us to a casino a block away. A casino with internet access and a printer. Wow. We rushed over, nearly tripped over the cleaning lady and launched at the computers. I reprinted out our boarding passes and hostel information and we raced back to the train station with ten minutes to spare. Crisis averted. We boarded the train to Memmingen feeling much more relieved and much more awake. Once at the airport things went smoothly. We made it through security, boarded the plane and instantly fell asleep. We woke up as we were circling Pisa. The plane landed 30 minutes early somehow (it was a 1:40 minute flight). We bought a bus ticket to the city center and quickly realized we were more out of our element than we had ever been in any other country in Europe. No one spoke English. Everyone, on the other hand, spoke Italian and they all expected us too as well. Kristina found this out when a man on the bus started loudly talking to her in Italian and when she responded with a blank stare and “I don’t know what you’re saying”, he continued to speak loudly in Italian at her. Helpful. We | We somehow managed to find the right stop and wandered in the right direction until we finally came upon the Field of Miracles, the location of the Leaning Tower. If you aren’t aware, the Leaning Tower is not the only tourist attraction of Pisa. The Field of Miracles is a set of four buildings, all equally white. There’s the baptistery, the church and the mausoleum and then the bell tower, which leans. The first three represent the three stages of life: birth, God and death. As it is 15 Euro to walk up to the top of the tower we settled with photos and then wandered up the strip of souvenir stands set up along the field before stopping at one of the food stands for a Panini. Yummy. Italian food is tasty. Pisa took us about 2 hours so we found our way back to the train station and bought our 17 Euro tickets to Rome. The train ride that followed was not the most pleasant experience of the trip. I forgot to mention the thing we noted when we stepped off the plane in Pisa. It was hot. Like really hot. Especially compared to the Munich summer Kristina and I had been experiencing. There 85 is pretty hot. Pisa was well in the nineties and very sunny. This wasn’t a huge problem walking around as compared to St. Louis it was very not humid which makes all the difference and the shade was quite bearable but then we realized that the train was not air-conditioned. The train was very crowded. The train was a 4 hour’s ride. The train was fairly miserable. We were dying and we were out of water. When the train finally got to Rome, we scrambled off and then spent the next hour lost and wandering around the main train station because we were lost and couldn’t find our hostel. And because nobody could speak English and help us even though we were in Rome, which we had assumed would be tourist central. After two people shook their heads and spoke Italian at us and one newspaper stand man sent us in what we later found out was the exact opposite direction, we finally found a woman who, though she spoke no English either, directed us the right way through use of sign language. | Straight ahead. There will be an arch. Go under it. Straight ahead. And then we found the hostel. Almost anyway. We got to the proper street number and realized there was no hostel. Luckily we got there right when other people staying there did and they led us up. It was really awkward. We went up to the 2nd floor to check in and were led to the 1st floor to get to our room. Exhausted, we dropped our stuff on our beds and came to the very disappointing realization that our hostel had no air-conditioning as well. See, when Kristina and I booked the hostels back in June we had seen certain hostels advertising their AC.But, living in Munich’s autumn like summer we had laughed and thought that was a stupid thing to advertise. Now we realized that we were the stupid ones.
66: The hostel was offering a free dinner that night, completely randomly, so we stuck around for the pasta and wine, a true Italian meal. Afterwards we wandered outside around our hostel for a bit and happened across gelato (as it is very hard not to). The ice cream is pretty much the same as in Munich, but where Munich gives you one tiny scoop for 80 cents (which I thought was cheap), Rome gave us three huge slabs for 2 euro. Very happy we headed back to the hostel and collapsed in our beds. And with that I’ll end the Pisa post. | Exhausted as we’d been, we’d gone to bed at 10 pm. We woke up at 6:30, packed our bags for a day of travel, and headed towards the subway to start exploring Rome. We happened upon a bakery across the street from the hostel and decided to buy breakfast. That was an experience. At least she spoke a little English. She also was apparently very amused by us. She picked up a croissant and started repeating “Energy! Energy! Energy!” which we took to mean, “you should eat this, it will give you energy for the day”. Traci agreed to take it so she would stop forcing it at us. The lady then decided to teach us Italian and started repeating every English word we said with the Italian word. We nodded in confusion and hurried out. We took a subway from our hostel to the Vatican, our first stop of the morning. It was 8:10 when we got there. It was supposed to open at 9 according to the website and 8:30 according to the guide. We got in line and sat down to eat our breakfast and wait. And then the line started moving. We were | Rome!!! | going inside. Kristina and I frantically started “dressing” ourselves. Prepared for the heat we were wearing tank tops and shorts but shoulders and knees must be covered in all churches in Italy. So as I pulled a jacket on and lengthened my adjustable shorts to Capri length, Kristina pulled jeans and a shirt over her outfit and we all shoved our pastries into our mouths just in time to be herded through security. We were inside, had bought out tickets, and had entered the museum by 8:20, way before the museum was supposed to be open. As a result though, we wandered through the museums with almost no one else there. Instead of the rumors we had heard of being packed like sardines and shoved through the hallways, we were wandering at our own pace. This worked to our disadvantage when we got to the Sistine Chapel, though; it’s hard to sneak pictures where there are five security guards and only 15 other people. We continued through the museum from there and the Italian men stereotype was proved true when Traci stopped a security guard to ask a question about the artwork on the ceiling. Our Italian friend had warned us to watch out for the guys because one of his highschool past times was hanging out in tourist spots with his friends and trying to pick up tourists. Standing in the Vatican museums after the guard explained to us that the paintings on the ceiling were really just paintings and meant to look 3-D but weren’t, the security guard tried to ask her out. We figured it was time to leave. In order get to the Basilica of St. Peter we had been told to take the exit out of the Sistine Chapel so we headed back that way. By this time it was 10 am and it actually was getting crowded. Sure enough, the Sistine Chapel was overflowing with people. This made pictures of the ceiling slightly easier. We headed out the exit and found ourselves herded into the crypts/tombs of the popes instead of the Basilica. When we made it out of there it was as if we had exited the Basilica. That meant we had to get in line to get in. There was quite a line. Luckily, though, it moved
67: water fountain is (something I have also seen in every other country I have visited), Rome was unique and amazing. There are little fountains mounted on walls of just along the streets every few blocks in Rome and they have drinkable water pouring out. We all filled our water bottles up every time we passed one. We must have each had at least 6 liters of water a day and yet we still didn’t make bathroom breaks. It was hot. But back to our day. We walked around the castle (which looks very different from all the German castles we keep seeing) and then wandered around some Piazza’s and happened upon the Spanish steps without realizing it. We were at the top of something circled on the map. These look like steps, we thought. I wonder if these are the Spanish steps. We walked down them. They didn’t seem that impressive so I was guessing not. They also were not very crowded. When we got to the bottom and looked up, though, we realized they had to be. From the steps we headed to the Pantheon, which was awesome to see just because it was the first old thing we had actually seen in Rome the Colosseum was on the list for Friday. That’s where we decided to do a pub crawl that night. Thursday was lady’s night apparently and the prospect of a 5 Euro discount, free pizza and a t-shirt seemed like fun. We headed over to a couple more Piazzas and something that looked like ruins on the map to end our afternoon. The ruins turned out to be the outdoor cat sanctuary. It’s in a random square of ruins and there are stray cats everywhere. Basking on chunks of old columns, curled up on chunks of old rock... it was awesome. They are taken care of by a group of volunteers (they have all their shots) and are adoptable and seem to absolutely love it there. But that makes sense. It’s a | very fast. It was quite amazing, and obviously huge. We managed to get in and out within a half hour and were finished with Vatican City by noon. We stopped for pizza and gelato for lunch and headed towards Rome’s castle. There were two big but pleasant surprises in Rome. The first was how walkable it was. Originally looking at the map we were a little concerned, but (though we probably walked a good 6+ miles both days) we made it between main destinations within 15 minutes and only took the subway three times in the entire trip. Secondly, the water fountains were amazing. Coming from Germany which does not know what a | giant playground with a million places to sleep and a lot of sun. Our last stop of the night was the Trevi fountain, which, as promised, was packed full of people. We rested our feet sitting there for a bit and then took the metro two stops back to the hostel because we were so tired. We rested for a couple of hours and showered off all the sunscreen and sweat (I didn’t get sunburned the entire trip!!! Even though I spent 12 hours a day in the hot sun! I’m so proud of myself! I even have a little tan!) before heading to the pub crawl. I think the highlight was that it met right
68: outside of the Colosseum. That meant we got to see it all lit up at night. We met some pretty fun people, including the workers. They had apparently had a girl from St. Louis working from them and greeted us with “Rams, Cardinals, Blues, Arch” We got to see a lot of Rome by night just walking around. Also cool was that the next day we randomly walked by one of the guides from the night before and he recognized us and said, “hey St. Louis!” But anyway, we took a bus (for free!) back to the train station and headed to our hostel to sleep. We slept in a little later the next morning and got the free breakfast at the hostel before starting day two in Rome. The day started with the Colosseum and the Forum. We had been warned to skip the queue by buying a joint ticket at the Formul because EU citizens get in half price and I | had an EU student ID he wanted a passport but apparently didn’t want to argue because he agreed to give it to me. We tried searching for free tours but no one was advertising so we just followed a couple of different tour groups for a while trying to hear what they were saying and then finished up on our own. The Forum was really cool. It’s pretty much a huge area of ruins including the palace and a lot of the original city. There’s a lot of history there. After two hours in the Forum we got to skip the line at the Colosseum thanks to our tickets. That was also very cool. We bought pizza for lunch and decided we needed a break so we headed out of the hustle and bustle a bit to a quiet street, bought gelato and chilled for about an hour, resting our feet. Then we headed over to find Michelangelo’s Moses in the St. Peter in Chains church. This proved to be the biggest adventure of the day. We couldn’t find it. I swore the map was messed up. First we wandered into the University accidentally. The classrooms we walked by and the University sign on the door later gave that away. Directly across from the University there was a cross on the church along with a plaque for "St. | Peter in Chain’s Square”. We figured that was the church. We couldn’t figure out how to get in. It was walled in. We walked around the entire building, leading us down a hill and around a parking lot. There was no entrance. After thirty minutes we gave up and decided to find the metro station so we could head south and see the Pyramid and the baths. Easier said than done. We wandered for another 30 minutes because the street directions didn’t make sense. Finally we sat down on the steps of a building next to the church we couldn’t get into to read the map. Then I turned around. Where were we? Sitting on the steps of the Church of St. Peter in Chains. Which was also on the Church of St. Peter in Chains square. It was next to the University, not across from it. Feeling very stupid we went in to look at Moses. Knowing where the church really was made it easier to read the map and we found the metro shortly after. The metro came up right by the pyramid. Obviously it doesn’t look quite like the ones in Egypt but it was still pretty cool. From there we wandered in the direction of the Baths (according to the map). Unfortunately this was too far south to be on our hostel provided maps (which had otherwise been extremeley helpful).
69: So we wandered and hoped we would find it. After 15 minutes of walking in the same direction, I was getting worried- everything else in Rome was 15 minutes apart. We stopped a man with a dog and tried to ask if he knew where it was. He shook his head and spoke Italian. We tried to act out “baths”. Didn’t work. We walked on. We saw an Italian military guy with a loaded machine gun hanging out on a street corner. There was a tank behind him. We decided to ask him. He also spoke practically no English. He tried to direct us towards a bathroom. Luckily at that moment a college aged guy walked across the street towards us and asked if we needed help. He spoke very good English and directed us. We were going the right way, it was just another ten minutes down the road.The baths were also pretty cool. They were massive anyway. Apparently there were three floors to them. Obviously it’s all ruins now but you can see the outlines of the rooms, some of the mosaics from the walls and some of the mosaic floors still intact. By the time we finished in there we were pretty hungry and decided we wanted to try the Italian doners. We walked back to the main city to find one. Sorely disappointed. The German ones (and the French and even the very different Spanish ones) are much better. Something was off about the meat and the sauce and the bread. We had a couple more sites to see and it was still light out so we started towards the giant palace type thing on the map. It turns out this was actually where the president lives. We found this out when we tried to walk into it and the security guard looked at us like we were nuts and shooed us away. Oops! We also happened upon the cat sanctuary again, so we got distracted watching the cats for a bit. The final stop, though, was the Trajan forum. That was also pretty cool. I think we were used to seeing random old columns and gates and pieces of building around the city by that point, but it was still pretty neat. The Marc Auerlous column was very impressive and we used some of the knowledge we’d picked up from the Forum tour guides to notice the columns you could see the original brick beneath the layer of marble that they had later been covered with. We hung out in the area for a bit enjoying the last night in Rome and then headed back to the hostel for bed. The next morning we checked out and started towards the train station. We had 2 hours before our train which was perfect to check out the Mary Maggiore church, the second to last thing I had wanted to see. It was extremely different than any other church I have seen anywhere else in Europe. This is the Byzantine style, apparently, but it’s very colorful and painted in comparison to the bronze and gold of the baroque style or the huge vaulted ceilings and massive columns of the gothic style. We spent the extra time hanging out at Republique Square and then bought paninis and hopped on the train. We were prepared for a 3.5 hour hot and sweaty train ride and then we got lucky and happened upon the one air-conditioned train car as we looked for seats. Yay! That made the ride much more enjoyable. And with that, because this post is long enough, I’ll end the Rome post and continue with Florence on the next one. | So we got into Florence a bit late as it was. Then came the rush to find our bus tickets to the airport Monday morning. We were leaving at 3:30 and wanted to make sure we bought those in advance. We ran to tourist information but there was a very explicit sign on the door stating that if you needed bus or train info you should go to the window at platform 5. So we did. Along with everyone else. And got in line to wait. And wait. And wait. See there were 15 people in line and one person at the desk. And like an Italian, he was taking his time because there was no rush for him. So we waited. And waited. And waited. And finally an hour later (I should note that we were like the 6th or 7th in line when we got there), it was finally our turn. I asked if he spoke English. He said a little. I explained we needed a bus at 3:30 am to the Pisa airport (I had done my research I knew this existed). He gave me a 5 am train that got there 30 minutes before we took off. I shook my head. I said “bus”. I said “3 am”. He shook his head. He gave me a 12 am train that got to the airport at 2 am. Our flight left at 7 am. I shook my head. I repeated the bit about the bus and wrote the word down. He explained in half-Italian that we were in the wrong place and needed to somewhere else for bus tickets. Then he grabbed my paper and attempted to draw a map of where we needed to go. It was a very confusing map. But we took it and left and randomly happened upon the bar he had told us to go to several blocks before we were supposed to get there. We entered. Florence. It’s a copy of where all these famous statues are at the main square. The main square also | Florence... | the last leg!
70: has a Neptune fountain and a copy (smaller) of Michelangelo’s David , that we were pretty sure most everyone thought was the real thing by the way they were snapping pictures. We knew better. Anyway, from there we stopped by Dante’s house and then ended our night with gelato (if you haven’t caught on yet, we had decided to eat it every day and Florence is even easier for that then Rome. There is seriously a gelato bar every other store. It is insane.) We walked around the river a bit, ending up by the Boboli gardens (which were closed and cost 10 Euro to get in anyway) and the Pitti Palace which had a nice square in front to sit and hang out until it got dark. Then we went back to the hostel to look up the sites we needed to see in the museums the next day. We had bought our tickets to the museums in advance to skip the lines and as a result got to choose the time we wanted to go. We opted for Uffizi (romantic art gallery) at 9:15 (earliest we could get) and the Academy (where the actual David is) at 2 in the afternoon. Then we headed off to sleep in the still hot and stuffy rooms. (By the way, Florence is considerably more humid than Rome or Pisa. This felt like St. Louis). The next morning we headed off to see art. The museum was pretty impressive, though not air-conditioned like I had assumed it would be. The famous works include Spring and The Birth of Venus by Botticelli (You’d recognize them if you saw them). We were out by 11 and used the time to go into the city hall (which had closed before we could the day before and was pretty cool) and grab gelato for lunch. I wanted to go in the massive Duomo (main city church, which also has a bapistery and a bell tower- must be an Italian thing) but there was no sight-seeing on Sundayjust mass. I had assumed we would try to go in right before the mass started to look around and then walk out. Unfortunately I thought mass was at 12:30. It was at 12:00. So when we | showed up at 12:25 this was not an option. I still wanted to see the church though, so while Traci and Kristina went souvenir shopping, I decided to attend the second half of Italian mass. Ironically the inside of the church itself was not all that impressive though it did have a pretty cool dome and mosaic floors, and of course, was huge. Anyway, afterwards we walked over to the Medici house and chapel. The Medici family was the “ruling” family in Florence (or at least the ones with the power) and largely responsible for the start of the Renaissance, which was born in Florence. Then we headed up to the Academy to see David and were ushered in even though we were 20 minutes early. Wow. That’s all I can say. We had been told David was bigger than you expect. He was. He’s like 20 feet tall. They have a photograph in the atrium when you walk in that they took candidly of the hall where David is. Everyone is just gaping at him. It was pretty impressive. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much all there is in the museum. There is a hall of other Michelangelo works but they are all his unfinished projects. The only other highlight was the room of statues being restored. There were probably over a hundred in there. They mostly just needed touch ups but it was cool to see. In all, we spent about 45 minutes in the museum. I would say it’s not worth it in general, but we had gone to Florence to see David and David probably was worth it. After David we headed south to the Sante Croce church which I’d also heard was worth seeing. Like all the churches in Florence it’s in the Byzantine style just like the Marie Maggiore in Rome. It was 5 Euro to get in though and half of it was under construction so we opted to just look at the outside. Then we headed to the Ponte Vecchio (Vecchio Bridge) which is the famous bridge with the jewelry stores up and down. Traci had brought money specifically to buy a piece there so Kristina and I hung out while she picked out a piece she liked. There are at least a dozen shops all next to each other and we figured they were all competing, making haggling worth it. As Traci found out when they took her inside, however, they all actually work together and share pieces. Who would have guessed? Afterwards we went up to the Orsanmichele church and went in that for free, and then up to the Santa Maria Novelle church which we had passed coming from the train station the first day. That one was 2.50 but very worth it. It was gorgeous. It
71: headed out to dinner at a German place before turning in very early. We were exhausted. And I was also sick. I woke up at 2 am that morning with no voice by the end of the night I had a cough, runny nose and sore throat. Ew. Thursday we woke up after a full 9 hours of sleep. I was feeling slightly better so we headed to the train station for an excursion to Schloss Linderhof. This is the last of the 3 palaces that Ludwig II built and the only one he completed. It was kinda rainy but the tour was inside, luckily. It is indeed a very small palace. There are less than a dozen rooms, but they are all pretty amazing covered in gold with 3-D embroidery and chandeliers out of porcelain and ivory and crystal. After the palace we walked around the gardens and headed up to his man-made cave. The man made cave that he put a painting in and hung porcelain roses in. Apparently he watched privately preformed operas inside. It could be heated to room temperature for him. He was a little bit off also notable is that the palace was dedicated to the French kings (just like one of his other two palaces, Herrencheimsee which is a copy of Versailles he was a little obsessed with the French) and the cave was based on a scene in one of Richard Wagner’s opera (Neuschwanstein, the third of his palaces was dedicated to Wagner who was also apparently also a bit obsessed with). Anyway, now we’re back in Munich at the hotel and it is Tuesday night as I am writing this. Shortly we will go to dinner (I’ve been stocking up on as much German food as I can so I won’t miss it as much when I get back). Tomorrow is my last day in Munich. I’ve been here over 300 days and now I have one left. It’s supposed to be nice so we will head to the Botanical gardens in the morning. They are in the gardens of Schloss Nymphenburg but it was winter when I got here so I have not yet seen them. Then I’ll show Traci around Munich and see everything for one last time myself. After that it’s time for the airport. Do stay tuned though, as I have one more post planned to end this blog. This is, however, probably the last post from Germany. | had black and white stripes on the ceiling (the zebra church, I called it) and frescos on the walls from the 1200's. Some of them were pretty faded but you could still make out the pictures and the stories. There was pretty impressive ceiling work as well and of course, I love the mosaic floors of the churches. We left that church just as it was closing and walked north to get a glimpse of the old fortress before deciding we wanted dinner. We decided to do a sit down pasta meal for the first time in Italy and weaved through the streets until we found a deal with liked. Traci went with spinach ricotta cannelloni, I went with spaghetti carbonara and Kristina ordered the special of a half salad and a half pizza. We left very satisfied, grabbed a final scoop of gelato on our way back to the hostel and then prepared for bed early. This meant we went to bed at 11. This was fun because we woke up at 2:30, pretty much mirroring our Day One. After checking out of the hostel, we walked through the quiet streets back to the train station to catch our bus to the Pisa airport. Pisa and Florence are an hour apart by bus, we figured out. We checked in at the airport, bought breakfast, cleared security, boarded the plane and instantly fell asleep. I woke up just as we were about to land. It was a Ryan Air flight so I nudged Traci and told her we were going to bounce. She gripped the seat tightly as we landed. And bounced up again before actually landing. We’re wondering now if this has to do with how light the plane is due to the baggage restrictions... must ask a pilot. Anyway, it was actually kinda fun to bounce if you are expecting it. And of course we landed safely. From this point it was a repeat of returning from Barcelona. We stepped off the plane and instead of the 90 degrees and sun of Italy it was 60 degrees and raining. Thanks, Munich. Glad to see you again, too. From the airport we took a bus to a train and then headed back to Munich. Kristina left us halfway to go straight to Augsburg where she is staying with her grandmother for the next few days. Traci and I headed straight to our hotel (which had the room ready early! Yay!) and took a nap. At 1:00 we went back to Olympiazentrum and I picked up my stuff from Jaakko and thanked him. | Thim. hen I left Traci at the hotel and went to finish my business in Munich. This meant picking up my last two Scheins and figuring out bank account stuff. Everything was figured out. I got straight A’s this semester by the way the grades transfer. Yay! Transportation ended up as a 2.3 and German Lit was a 1.3! I turned my papers into Dr. Conrad who will mail the transcript back to U of IL, and then I met Traci and we
72: The Last Post | Wednesday, August 19th, 2009 | So first, the three biggest changes or things that have been hard to adjust to since coming back. 1. Tax: Germany includes tax in everything already. I keep trying to buy things here with the exact change ready. That doesn't work. 2. I hear English everywhere and it strikes me as really weird. I guess I was used to speaking English still since I hung out with other Americans, but around me everything was still in German and now it isn't. 3. The little words... common words like excuse me "Entschuldigung" and thank you "Danke" still slip out because you say them all the time. | Top six things I will greatly miss about Germany and appreciated there: 1. The food. Specifically, kndel, sptzel, sausages in baguettes, German breads, fresh mozzarella sandwiches, Currywurst, pretzels, Butter pretzels... 2. The Euro- I much prefer the fun and colorful sizes of the Euro compared to the long and skinny green dollar. Also, US coins are so thin! It's unbelievable. They're so light they don't seem like they could be worth anything! 3. Getting textbooks out of the library. So much cheaper and such a better idea. $100+ for a book I'm going to use for 4 months? Really? And this on top of our tuition? 4. Traveling all around Europe on the weekend. Cheap plane rides to Pisa and Barcelona, and hostels to stay in... It's a much more travel friendly environment when you don't have to rent a car and a hotel room. And when everything's so close together. 5. The German school system. I admit at first I was wary of Germany's final exam counts for the entire grade. I actually missed the weekly homework and monthly midterms to make sure I was ontrack and knew what I was supposed to be learned. But after two semesters of it, I really appreciate it. It allows you to learn at your own pace. Struggling with homework doesn't cause you to lose points early on. I appreciated the extra time I had on my evenings and the weekends so I could travel and take part in things around Munich that I would never have had the time to do in the US. I'm not excited to going back to 5 hours of class followed by 8 hours of homework and studying every day. 6. Public Transportation. Not that parts of the US don't have it, but Munich has it down. I loved taking the subway everywhere. It was so easy. There was no need for a car. Between the subway, trams and buses coming every 10 minutes, there was always a connection to where I needed to go. | I'm home. I've been home for awhile. We had gorgeous weather for the last day in Germany and even the flight was nice enough to be fairly uneventful.
73: Anyway, tomorrow I head off to Urbana-Champaign to start my junior year. The Germany chapter is over. I'll leave you with a few last pictures. But yeah, that's all for now. I hope you enjoyed following this blog. I appreciated the comments and support. In the end, I have to say, it was quite the year but it was worth it. So much about Munich/Germany/Europe is so different than my life in the US. There's a lot of these German/European ideas that I've adopted and appreciate much more than the American. Then again, there are a lot of things about Europe that just aren't home. | The top six things I've really missed about the US and was glad to come home to. 1. Free tap water. Never underestimate free tap water in restaurants. Having to pay for water is extremely annoying and really expensive over there as well. On top of that, it's often carbonated. 2. Drink choices. Germany has a million juice choices, but other than that, the choices are slim. Coke, Diet Coke, Fanta, Sprite. I very much missed mountain dew and root beer and I really missed lemonade (Germany's version is carbonated) for the days when I didn't want bubbles in my drink! 3. Free bathrooms. I'm not sure if paying for water or bathrooms is more annoying. Even going into many restaurants, there's still a required tip to get to the toilets. 4. 24/7. Not that I need to go to Walmart at 3 am on a Sunday, but it's really annoying to run out of milk Saturday night at 9 pm and realize you're out of luck until Monday morning at 9 am, meaning no cereal for the next two days. Sunday is a great day to run errands, and after 8 pm there are still several hours where it's appreciated to be able to do some shopping... 5. Food. I love German food (this features on the next list) but I missed pancakes with syrup, soft chocolate chip cookies, actual spicy food (German's have two taste buds, sweet and salty... spicy is a foreign concept to them), Mexican food... 6. German Efficiency (this being a thing I won't miss). The country thinks it's so incredibly efficient but it kills me to watch. Everything they do (especially anything involving lines and people-to-people services) takes 3 times as long as it would in the US. I don't understand it but it's the most incredibly annoying thing ever.