March 23, 2014: Saying Good-bye to Some Amazing Friends Already…

My stay in Germany is not yet done and gone (thankfully!)  I still have until the end of July, but sadly some of my international friends aren’t as lucky as me.  I’m talking about all the people who could only come here for a semester.  And while several have already left in February, the next and final wave of homeward bound friends this semester has either left last week or are going to leave this week.  Well one technically leaves at the end of March, but he has sort of been back in Slovenia for about a month already and just came back to finish some exams.  It’s sad to say good-bye to some wonderful people.  And not only because of the fact that they are leaving, but also the ever looming feeling that our paths may have only crossed for these brief 6-7 months.  I really will try to see them all again, but it’s just something that is too soon to really plan out at the moment.  Anyway, to those of you who have already left, I miss you already and I sincerely hope that we will meet again someday.  I also wish you luck in your endeavors even if we don’t manage to see each other again.  Leb Wohl!

 

All of the sad good-byes aside this week has been a fairly uneventful one.  I somehow manages to play a lot of pool and juggle a bit.  The weather was absolutely wonderful for a couple of days last week (think German summer weather or Alabama early spring with a lot of sun!)  This meant I got to juggle for a bit outside.  I am slowly improving and since I don’t really have anyone to pass with (or enough clubs to do so) I’ve been working on throwing some double spins while I’m juggling.  It’s a bit trickier than it may sound, but I’m getting used to it.  I sadly haven’t been doing too much on the hula hoop front lately.  I guess I’ve just been taking a break because I feel like I’m at a bit of a plateau at the moment, which is really frustrating for me.  I suppose the solution is to probably just push through it, but I wanted to give it a week or so before I picked it back up again.  I’ve also been working on my belly dancing as I continue to go to my class.  It’s pretty fun to dance with a veil, I must say, but it also makes my arms pretty tired.  Anyway, I might make a video when all is said and done, but then again even if I do, I’m not very likely to post it publicly.

 

I think the highlight of this week would have to be the barbecue I had with some friends on Thursday evening.  We bought one of those cheap, disposable grills and some meat to throw on it and then went to the park along with a couple of beers and some snacks to munch on while our food cooked.  On the menu was some sort of chicken burger, lamb sausage, and some chicken Tom prepared for us.  There was nothing too exciting to write about, just a bunch of friends together around a fire cooking, eating, and enjoying each other’s company.  I also think it was a fine way to see off Arielle, who left for home the next morning.  I would like to do something like that again, only next time I might also suggest grilling some veggies or maybe even making my own black bean burgers to grill.

 

Another event from last week was the 65th anniversary of my exchange program’s club (Verband der Deutschen Amerikanischen Clubs), which if my math serves me correctly, means that it was founded in 1949.  Its original purpose was to connect Germans and Americans together even though it was prohibited after WWII.  Today there are several chapters throughout Germany (although mostly the former West), so you can imagine, there was a celebration for the club’s 65th birthday.  This translates to free food essentially.  Not that it wasn’t nice, it was just a really awesome buffet.  I’m not entirely sure what all I ate, but some things included sausage, salmon, blue saurkraut (blaukraut for those who speak German), carrots, duck, and many different kinds of salad.  For dessert we had chocolate mousse with vanilla ice cream and fruit.  It tasted wonderful.  And I got to talk to all of the nice old ladies in our club, all of whom seem to be really interested in my stay here so far.  We also got to hear a speaker talk about German and American relations.  The most interesting part of his talk was probably when he introduced the topic by talking about his experience as a 17 year old fleeing the war in 1945.  He remembers the kindness of the American soldiers the most as they helped get him to safety.  ‘Murica.

 

Well, I suppose that is all I have to say about this past week.  Nothing much happened, but it was nice all the same.  I may not be up to much this next weekend either seeing as I have an exciting trip coming up in the beginning of April!  But more on that later I suppose!

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Snapshot 8

The woman she once was was carefully hidden behind girlish giggles and rosy cheeks.  As hands clasped hands and rogue kisses ventured further beyond their bounds, she slowly lost herself in the sweet perfumes of pink and rose.  Suddenly everything was lost in one glance.  One laugh.  One smile.  And time slowly slipped through her fingers, but instead of clinging to every moment, she found a melancholy beauty in the impermanence of it all.  For who was Father Time really, to stand in the way of their beautiful memories?

March 17, 2014: Haben Sie gehört das Deutsche Bahn

For those of you unfamiliar with the Producers, here is the song I was referencing there.  Yes, I know it’s supposed to be Band, but for those of you also unaware, the Deutsche Bahn is the train company over here.  Yeah, I need to stop making jokes I have to explain.  Anyway, the Deutsche Bahn will come into play a bit later on, but first what I did leading up to last weekend!

I suppose the most interesting occurrence would have to be me getting run over by a bike last Tuesday.  It’s not entirely my fault, but I was admittedly mostly to blame.  You see, what happened was I was riding my bike to juggling, which was around 8 o’clock at night.  It was already dark and I had decided to go alone and in my usual way I was probably not paying attention like I should have been.  Sometimes I just get so focused on what I’m doing I get a sort of tunnel vision.  Well I needed to make a left turn into E-werk and there were about three or four cars coming from the other direction.  I started to slow down to wait for them to pass and eventually came to almost a complete stop waiting.  Once they had passed, I decided to go for it, failing to notice the other cyclist who was trying to pass me.  So I turned right into him, falling off my bike and hitting the street.  He was fine and didn’t fall or anything, but I just sort of laid there in a daze for a second wondering what just happened before I got up.  Luckily he was just on a bike (and not a car) and also not going very fast, so I just had a couple of scratches.  But I really need to pay attention to the world around me.  I can’t tell you how many friends I have inadvertently ignored because I didn’t see or hear them trying to get my attention.  I usually only find out a couple days later when they bring it up in conversation some how.  I’m not sure why I am so spaced out most of the time… oh well.

That was probably the most interesting story of last week though.  I did meet with some of my friends, most notably on Tuesday when I had lunch with Arielle at a nearby Turkish restaurant.  It was positively amazing!  I wish I could remember the name, but I wasn’t paying that much attention at the time.  However, the chicken that we got was so juicy and tender it practically melted in your mouth.  It made me realize that I really need to go out of my way to eat Turkish food more often.  I haven’t really had any outside of Dönner since my trip to Vienna, where we had some at a Turkish mosque which was to die for.  So the moral of that story is that I will definitely have to go back to this restaurant before I leave.

I also met with some friends on Friday because sadly, some of them are about to leave.  In fact, one just left today.  So the original plan was for everyone to go visit Neuschwanstein, but unfortunately due to some complications in our traveling plans, we had to cancel that last minute.  We did, however, manage to meet for some ice cream that afternoon.  It was a really nice place and I’m sure the food was delicious, but sadly I was still really full from a giant breakfast to really eat anything.  But I did look at the ice cream menu, which was several pages long and included things like ice cream spaghetti.  It looked pretty interesting, but the trade off is that it was pretty expensive.

Afterwards I headed to the train station with one of my friends to go to Munich together.  Well, really just split a train ticket seeing as we both had different plans for once we arrived in the city.  But it was really nice to have company on the train ride, which is a bit over 2 hours.  And while I am still American enough to think that isn’t a very long ride, it is nice to spend that time in good company.  Once there we went our separate ways and I met up with Eva, who studied at my university back home with me last year.  We ended up not doing too much that evening since I was tired from the journey and she had worked all day.  She did cook me a rather nice dinner followed by some wine.  Then she told me about all of her travels in America after she graduated.  Some of the places she went looked/sounded amazing!  It really made me want to see more of my own country.  It’s a bit sad how little I have actually seen of the states.

That next morning we got up somewhat early (9ish for those really concerned) and had a nice breakfast together.  We headed out around 11 or so and first went to the Olympic Park in which Munich hosted the 1972 Oympics.  Now the entire two weeks prior to my visit the weather had been absolutely lovely.  However on the day I decided to travel and do some sight seeing the weather decided to be somewhat uncooperative.  It wasn’t terrible, but it was cloudy and kind of cool and the wind was a beast.  There was always an ever looming threat of rain as well, but luckily we never got more than a few sprinkles here and there.  So we decided to see what we could of the park without really getting wind swept.  This included the soccer/track stadium, which actually looks pretty awesome.  There are some pretty awesome tours where you can walk around the roof and even repel down inside the stadium, but considering how windy it was, we decided we had better wait until next time.  We also took a look at the Walk of “Fame” (Eva’s emphasis, not mine).  Essentially anyone relatively famous who comes to Munich is asked to make a hand print in the side walk and sign their names.  There were some pretty cool people there though, mainly being Sir Elton John and Roger Waters.  Unfortunately the city doesn’t really seem to tend to them so some were a bit rough around the edges.

 

Eva and I in the Olympic Stadium

Eva and I in the Olympic Stadium

 

Roger Waters

Roger Waters

 

So since the weather wasn’t super nice we decided to bypass the more nature/park oriented scene of Munich and look at the downtown area.  So we saw a number of things which I will try to remember, but sadly if I don’t write names and such down I won’t be able to remember them so well.  It doesn’t help that I’m writing this about a week later.  We saw the “Walking Man” which is a huge statue of a white man walking, which is supposed to symbolize moving forward.  No the color of the statue is not lost on me, but I really don’t want to get into that debate.  Then we walked further into the bowels of the city and saw the Ludwig Maximilian University where most notably, there was a student opposition to Hitler in 1943.  The group the White Rose made and distributed fliers against the Reich, which ultimately led to their arrest and their subsequent execution.  If you don’t know anything about it, there is apparently a movie about it, which I haven’t watched but I am definitely planning on it, called Sophie Scholl–The Final Days.

 

Ludwig Maximilian University

Ludwig Maximilian University

 

After looking around the small museum for a bit we decided to pop into some nearby churches.  Of course they weren’t all packed in together, but I might as well talk about them all at once.  The first was the rather large Ludwigskirche which was a neo-romanesque style church built in the early 1800s.  It was nice but nothing really stood out once we were inside the church.  The second was Theatine Church which was a baroque church built in the 1600s.  This one would have to be my favorite of the day.  Upon walking inside you are surrounded by beautiful white carvings which led to a dome close to the altar.  The third was one of the tackiest churches I think I have ever seen: Asamkirche (late baroque).  Apparently it was originally built as a private church but was later forced to be open for the public.  I think that is sort of how it got most of its… character is not the right word but it’s the first word to come to mind.  It sort of looks like a bunch of old hoarders got together and decided to cram their entire collection of cats into one of their small basements.  Only replace cats with religious art with only the gaudiest amount of gold allowed.  It was just way too much to pack into such a small space with only a limited amount of windows to boot.  My pictures sadly can’t do it justice.

 

Theatine Church

Theatine Church

 

Asamkirche

Asamkirche

 

Somewhere in between the churches I also saw the “Wunden der Erinnerung” (the wounds of the memories) which is a preserved patch of walls where you could see the damage left by gunshots as the Nazi’s executed people on the streets.  It was rather chilling reminder of Germany’s not so brilliant past.  It was also amazing to see just what kind of damage these gunshots did to the wall.  The craters were much larger than I would have thought.  On a much brighter note, we also visited Milka World.  For those of you unfamiliar with Milka, it is a brand of Swiss chocolate, which is also available in the U.S., so go try some because it’s much better than a Hershey’s bar anyway.  There you could find everything from chocolate, the Milka dirndls, to Milka skis along with any necessary skiing equipment.  It was pretty fun, but I’m still kicking myself a little for not getting any chocolate while there considering it was much cheaper than it usually is in stores.  I also saw the city hall, the opera house, and several different gates.  Like most old German cities, Munich, too, was surrounded by a city wall, which is no longer there but there are still several gates around for everyone to see.  Oh, and we also saw two very right leaning protests, one of which was being protected by the police as they shouted Neo-Nazi garbage to passersby.

 

Die "Wunden der Erinnerung"

Die “Wunden der Erinnerung”

 

Milka Welt

Milka Welt

 

At some point we finally stopped at a small cafe and got a light lunch, since neither of us were terribly hungry after such a large breakfast and I wasn’t particularly keen on breaking the bank for lunch.  We had some pumpkin soup, which was quite good, but not really the same as other pumpkin soups I’ve had in the past.  It was a bit less pumpkin flavored than I would have liked.  I guess what I really mean is they didn’t quite take advantage at the whole host of spices out there which really serve to enhance the flavor of pumpkin.  Oh well, it was nice to get to have lunch with a good friend.  After walking around for the entire afternoon we were both feeling a bit tired.  So we went to the store and I got some provisions for the train and then caught the next one heading back to ol’ Erlangen.  It was a pretty nice, although short, trip to Munich.  I am definitely planning on going again when the weather is nicer so I can see all of the wonderful outdoor things Munich has to offer.

As far as the rest of the weekend, I was mostly pretty lazy.  I was originally going to a birthday celebration of a friend that night (which is why I didn’t stay in Munich until Sunday) but a bit of bad luck got in the way of that.  I wish I could have dropped by and said hello at least, but oh well.  As far as this weekend I don’t really know what I am going to do.  I am feeling a bit restless, but I also need to save my money for another trip.  We will see, but the next post may not be an extremely exciting one.  Until then!

March 11, 2014: A Day in the Life of a Potato

So for the week following my return from the tropical islands I did almost nothing.  It was like I never really came back from vacation.  Yes my body was physically back in Erlangen, but my brain was still frying in the iridescent sun underneath a painted blue sky mural.  Not that it wasn’t a completely awesome week mind you, just terribly unproductive, even by my standards since I’ve been in Germany.  That should give you a clue right there.

 

Tuesday as you may or may not know is Fasching here, which I guess is kind of similar to Mardi Gras, but not really.  It’s more of Halloween though in the sense that everyone dresses up in costumes (many of the female ones being a bit scant) and has an excuse to drink.  I didn’t really have anything to dress up in, but I did get my face painted and then left it on the entire day because it was pretty epic.  I did not really partake in most of the festivities outside of helping with the Kinderfasching (children’s Fasching) with my juggling group.  I think they do this every year, but we set out all of the juggling and acrobatic stuff and sort of let the kids have a go at everything.  While I think the point was for us to try and teach them how to juggle and do some other simple things, in reality we just tried to make sure the kids didn’t end up killing themselves.  And some of the kids were pretty great, actually the majority of them were.  But there were also some demon children to be had.  I had to take my hoop away from one little boy who had made it is goal to bounce on it until it ultimately broke.  There was also a little girl who decided to find every single balloon and proceed to pop them.  And after about five hours of this, I was pretty done.  It’s sort of like this

 

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Later that evening we decided to make pancakes, which was really exciting at first because I thought Donald meant real pancakes like these.  Nope, pancakes in Europe means crepes.  Every time.  Not that I don’t like crepes, they are amazing.  I have nothing against crepes and to be honest, I am more of a waffle fan back home anyway.  But something about being in Germany makes me fairly sentimental about every American food.  I honestly did not eat all that much grits back home but since arriving here I started to crave them so badly that I had my parents send me a package with them.  But all that aside, the crepes were pretty awesome.  I think the winning combination for the night, and also the combination that screams ‘Murica, Fuck Yeah! would have to be strawberry jam, ice cream, and cookies crumbled on top.  One of the guys there even commented on the amount of ice cream on my plate as a sort of side dish to my already sweet crepes.  Yeah, it was a night of fun and diabetes.

 

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The weather here (for those of you back home enjoying slightly better weather at the moment) was absolutely gorgeous.  The highs hovered around 60F and most days there was not a single cloud to be seen in the sky.  One of the highlights of last week actually was getting to go for a little hike near Erlangen one afternoon.  Essentially you go north on Gebbertstrasse until you find the trails that go up the large hill, which eventually plateaus as you are met with some sort of agricultural field and several trails with benches scattered throughout.  Donald and I just walked about for awhile finding random trails which didn’t venture too far from the hill.  Then we found a nice bench, but only after the best bench was swiped right from under our noses by a pair of smug bike riders who got to not only enjoy the marvelous view afforded to them by the bench, but also got to gloatingly stare down at us from their perch as we were harassed by the swarm of flies attracted to the trashcan nearby.  Okay, so it wasn’t that bad, but it still felt planned considering they left at the same time we did and rode past us on their way down, almost as if to rub in their victory.

 

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Outside of that I have done a bit of walking and a bit of juggling and hooping.  I have also managed to watch a decent amount of movies/tv shows.  I think one of my favorite shows so far would have to be Still Game, which is a Scottish show about a group of retirees and their antics.  I would recommend it, but it does take a bit of getting used to the dialect.

 

So outside of that there really isn’t all that much to talk about for this week.  Next weekend should be entertaining though.  I am going to Neu Schwanstein (think real life Disney castle) on Friday with a group of friends and I am potentially staying with a friend in Munich after that.  Hopefully everything will pan out nicely, but it will be an early and long start on Friday.

March 5, 2014: Paradise Comes in a Dome Shaped Package

So not this past week, but the week before that was insanely busy.  I’ll try and sum up everything I remember, but to be honest everything has run together during what I would like to call this past week of potato, I might miss a couple of details.  We will see I suppose.

Tuesday evening I went to celebrate the end of exams with two of my girl friends (i.e. an excuse for us to go out drinking and dancing).  We ended up going to the student night at a local bar and we ordered a meter long special of gin and tonics, which despite being 10 drinks and what we thought would be a huge mistake was pretty manageable between 3 people and not too hard on the wallet.  I think I got out of there spending around €6 and I had 3 1/3 drinks.  We then made our way to Zirkel, which is a club and talked and did what girls do best, dance.  It was nice to get to hang out and do a whole mess of girl talk for an evening.  I was pretty glad I decided not to drink anything else after the meter long gin and tonics though.

The next day I decided to get up and go for a walk/hike with one of the girls from the night before (the other wasn’t really feeling it at that point I suppose).  So we walked north essentially and then found some awesome trails to explore for awhile.  I had been craving a bit of nature for a bit, especially with the trip to Kaiserslautern and seeing all of the pretty wooded mountains from the train.  After thoroughly exhausting ourselves we decided to have some dinner together.  I really feel like I am learning a lot of new and interesting ways to combine food over here, which is awesome.  Something to try if you love cheese: get some Camembert cheese and throw it on a grill or on the stove top (coated with a bit of oil and wrapped in aluminum foil).  Then once it has cooked on both sides (and hopefully melted in the middle) put it on a plate with some cranberry sauce (yes, you eat them at the same time) and enjoy.  Absolutely delicious!

Thursday was pretty awesome as well because instead of celebrating Fat Tuesday (or Mardi Gras) we celebrated Fat Thursday, which essentially means you go eat a bunch of dough nuts.  From what I heard the more dough nuts you eat, the luckier you will be.  If that’s the case, well I will be one lucky girl this year.  We started out by going to a bakery and getting 6 dough nuts to split between 3 people (our 4th still wasn’t feeling well from Tuesday’s night of drinking and fun).  These were probably some of the best dough nuts I have ever had.  I am not even sure what all the different kinds were that we got, but there was quite a variety in our mix.  Later Donald got several more dough nuts to share, which I think I had two of.  Okay, so it felt like more dough nuts than it actually was, but that is probably because we cut each one into fourths so everyone could try a bit.  Then at the end we picked through the last of the pieces in order to finish them off.

After all of that dough nut eating I went to belly dancing.  Nothing much to report there other than I got my veil for dancing! It’s pretty nice but was a bit expensive sadly.  I still love it though and now I get to practice our dance at home, so that’s awesome!  Then I met up with everyone again and we made our way to Fürth to go to a swimming pool.  Actually, swimming pool is not quite the right word for what that was.  There was about a dozen different pools there, some indoor and some outdoor (but almost all were heated).  Some were for sport, some were for fun, and some were purely for relaxing.  There were even some water slides, and no I don’t mean dinky little ones which look like they have been taken from a children’s playground, these were pretty legit.  We must have gone in every pool at least once.  And at the end we went into an extremely salty pool which you essentially can’t not float in to just lie there and relax.  When you put your head underwater you heard music playing and there was a projector which played a soothing animation while you relaxed.  Ela said it looked like a Sex Ed. video where it shows sperm fertilizing an egg.  My only complaint was that it was a bit itchy because of the massive amount of salt in the water.  We stayed for about 5 minutes and then decided to get out.  It was about that time we decided to try the sauna, which was my first time.  I decided I didn’t really like it.  It just felt like Alabama on a summer day.  Maybe a bit hotter, but definitely still not something I want to sit around in.  So that was pretty amazing and I recommend that to anyone staying in Erlangen.

Going home after the Schwimmbad.

Going home after the Schwimmbad.

This brings us to the weekend, which I must say was pretty amazing as well.  Donald, Lucia, and I got up pretty early Friday for the 8 1/2 hour train ride to the Tropical Islands Resort near Berlin for what can only be described as a juggling invasion.  There were still plenty of normal vacationers there, we just sort of decided to juggle there as well.  The train ride was long and a bit tedious considering how many times we had to change trains, especially since we could only take a certain kind of train (Regional trains for those who car) but it only cost €20 per person (which is why it took over 8 hours instead of 5).  It was worth it though, especially since I got to spend it traveling with two pretty awesome people.  Highlight of the trip there would have to be the massive pile of sandwiches we made on the train to eat while we were at the convention (maybe 25 total).  We had a bit of an assembly line going with someone cutting the cling wrap, someone laying down the bread, someone buttering the bread, someone laying down salami, ham, cheese, someone putting on the mayo, and finally someone wrapping the sandwich.  It got pretty efficient.  Then we had to pack them in Donald’s guitar bag very carefully with the other food he brought so as not to be caught entering with our weekend’s worth of food.  It turns out that didn’t matter at the gate.  They were rather busy and did not take care to check our bags.  It was pretty awesome though.  Considering how expensive food was inside, we saved a bunch of money and didn’t even have to switch our car insurance!

Donald with the massive pile of sandwiches.

Donald with the massive pile of sandwiches.

 

Once we got there with two more members to our traveling group, who we met up with in Leipzig, we claimed some beach chairs and started juggling and hooping.  It was pretty cool, but a lot more difficult to hoop in the sand than I would have thought.  I constantly had to wash the sand off of my hoop so as not to feel like I was dancing with a hoop made of broken glass.  I also got to do some juggling, mostly with clubs.  I even got to do some passing with Lucia who gave me some tips to work on.  I managed to do passing 5 with her pretty decently and then started working on 6, which for those of you who don’t know passing 5 isn’t continuous while 6 is.  Essentially with 5 you have 2 clubs in your hand and start juggling when the club is passed to you.  Then after you finish juggling one time through you pass a club off to your partner and wait for it to come back to you.  With six you throw and catch essentially at the same time, so you are juggling 3 clubs constantly and throwing every fourth time to your partner.  I have a video but I don’t actually have it on my computer to post for you.  If I manage to acquire it I will definitely share though.  I also got to attend a hooping workshop, which I think was actually done by the resort itself.  They have a show every night with acrobatics and hooping which we deemed a bit too pricey to justify seeing, but it was cool to learn some more hooping tricks.  Well I say learn, but more like get some theoretical knowledge which I’ll have to work a bit harder to actually be able to apply with any sort of skill.

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Juggling at night.

There was also a decent amount of swimming involved, especially considering the air and water temperature was around a constant 80 degrees F (26-30C).  They had two very awesome pools which were huge!  While there were a lot of people around it never really got too crowded, even while swimming.  And when not hooping, juggling, or swimming we were walking around the dome.  In the middle there was a part deemed the “rain forest”, which had all sorts of plants and birds which sort of wandered around on their own.  There were all sorts of winding trails to explore and things to see.  And when it came time to sleep we just grabbed a beach chair and our sleeping gear and crashed right there on the “beach”.  I felt a bit like a vagrant the entire weekend, although a clean one.  I did take a shower every day in the big open shower room, despite how uncomfortable random naked strangers in a big room make me.  The only complaint about the stay was the fact that the roof was a bit leaky at times.  So at night there were all these random drops of water splashing you.  Oh, I guess that and this as well.  There was also a group of American tourists there who were very loudly.  I use loudly as an adverb here only because everything they did was done in a loud and somewhat obnoxious manner.  Now I understand that they were in a group together and had probably had a bit to drink, but it sort of made me a little embarrassed by association.  Another weird step in this culture shock I suppose.  It may just be a precursor to how I will feel once I get back to the states.

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So that was about it for the actual stay there.  Words can’t actually describe how awesome of a trip it was.  Let me pause here to talk a bit about the derelict train station we arrived and subsequently departed from.  I kind of felt like I was in a horror movie at this point and that we would soon be shoved into a windowless van and shipped to the nearest warehouse where they would harvest our organs and never be heard from again.  There were just a lot of half demolished houses with the windows broken out of it.  The train station was boarded up with graffiti all over it and this wouldn’t have been an issue for a normal person who wasn’t on the cusp of her monthly cycle, but I was not that sane person that Sunday morning when we were catching our first train to leave.  We did not buy our return ticket in advance and I had just assumed that every little train station in Germany had a place to buy tickets, namely a ticket machine.  Behold my surprise when we got there and there was no ticket machine to be found.  Cue my overreaction, which Donald could only describe later as this.  Only later when we were successfully able to purchase our ticket on the train did he feel safe enough to chide me about my slight overreaction.

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Outside of that the journey home was long and uneventful.  It was again nice to travel in good company, but there was a bit more sleeping this time around considering the excitement from the beginning of the weekend had passed.  And I think that is about enough for this post.  I am slowly starting to catch up on them.  Maybe sometime this week I will succeed in that mission.  We shall see.

February 24, 2014: Kaiserslautern Photos

Better late than never…

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Weird fish mascot statue thing that was painted outside the Atlantische Akademie (which deals with German American relations, hence the coloring).

 

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The city is somewhat well known for soccer and had all of these statues near our hotel.  Alcohol was consumed and the fun began there…

 

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Special thanks to Eva Schmeidl for the pics!

February 24, 2013: Kaiserslautern

So you know how I said that things were going to start picking up soon?  Well, they have, and I’m not complaining either.  It just doesn’t leave as much time for writing, but worry not, I haven’t forgotten!  As you guys may or may not know, I went with my program (VDAC) to Kaiserslautern this past weekend.  This means I got to meet up with several people from UA and many that I met since I’ve been here.  They are from all over both the U.S. and Germany and every couple of months we go to some new city in Germany.  It’s not all fun and games, but I really enjoy all the seminars anyway.

But before I tell you about what I did there, let me start by talking a bit about my journey to Kaiserslautern.  Now I know that normally you aren’t supposed to talk about how you got to a place, most people don’t care.  But I’ll make this as brief and interesting as possible.  I almost died.  Okay, so that deserves a bit of an explanation and now that I have your attention let me say that I probably wouldn’t have actually died, but I did almost get hit by a car.  Essentially I had planned to leave Erlangen at 9 for the 5 hour train ride and so I got to the train station to buy my ticket early only to find that none of the trains before 10:30 were running.  This really put a kink in my plans seeing as I would now be several hours late to the seminar.  So I bought the ticket anyway and decided to walk around for a bit and find a print shop as opposed to going home only to return about an hour later.  So I was walking around and not having much luck when I decided to make my way back to the train station, and my bike where I would begrudgingly cycle to the print shop near my dorm.  On the way there was a small intersection with no stop signs, traffic lights, or cross walks.  For those of you who don’t know, this is fairly common among small intersections in Germany.  I saw a car coming and decided to wait for him to either stop or keep going considering the rows of cars parked on the street probably made it a bit difficult for him to see me.  So he turns on his blinker to turn and then proceeds to stop, which I take as my cue to cross.  Now I have this kind of weird habit of looking up and down streets as I cross them just in case some car magically appears after I have checked numerous times to begin with.  Well I was doing my usual routine of looking like a twitching freak when I heard a quick acceleration and a sharp brake, only to turn my head in just enough time to see the car stop about a foot from me (that’s about a third of a meter for those of you on metric).  Now I thought that my reflexes might be a bit better than they were.  It’s easy to imagine flinging yourself to safety in just the nick of time, or even trying to run or move out of impending death’s way.  Not if you are me.  What did I do?  I froze and just stared at the car until I realized I should probably walk away tall.

I did eventually get to Kaiserslautern though, and safely at that.  I got there a little late though and had to bypass greeting some of my friends and go straight to our first lecture.  Yeah, because a large part of our trip was paid for by the Atlantic Academy we needed to sit through some lectures.  Some of them were interesting and thought provoking (nuclear disarmament, speeches in the U.S. vs. Germany, and U.S. and German relations after the NSA scandal), and some of them were boring (the U.S. government system vs. the German government system).  All of the presenters, however; could have used a good course in public speaking.  It didn’t matter how interesting the topics were, I always had trouble paying attention because the delivery was about as captivating as a rock (with the exception of the last talk).  But on the plus side we got to eat some American food since there is an American military base nearby.  The highlight of it all was probably either the Dorritos or the Reese’s cup.  Holy mother of god who am I kidding, it was the Reese’s.  I don’t understand why the rest of the world hasn’t seemed to figure out how well peanut butter goes with chocolate.  Oh how I miss my peanut better M&M’s.

The first part of the next day was spent in two lectures as well.  Then after that we took a tour of the city, which despite the weather was pretty nice.  Even though both Friday and Sunday decided to be brilliantly sunny and warm, Saturday was housed in a thick cover of clouds and a blustery rain which lasted the entire day.  The city in and of itself was quite nice though.  Apparently Barbarosa (or Friedrich I) built a castle there around the 1100s, which was later destroyed by the French (hopefully I’m not confusing this…)  The point is that there is mostly just ruins left of the castle.  Interestingly enough when the castle and subsequently the town was first built, there was a really nice river that ran in front of it, thus giving it its name.  There are also these really cool tunnels below the ruins that we got to walk around in.  They were apparently used to get troops behind the attacking armies in order to attack themselves.  Pretty smart I would say.  I will hopefully get some pictures from someone else, because there were really cool tunnels.  We also saw the main church there, which oddly enough is only open for special tour groups.  It was nice, like most churches over here.  I think the red colored stone they built it out of probably made it stand out from most other churches though.  We also learned a bit about the town’s history since we went to the city museum.  Interestingly enough Kaiserslautern had a pretty big red light district after the second World War when the American soldiers came to occupy Germany.  Of course they ended up cleaning that part of the city up, but I thought it was interesting anyway.

Then we got a bit of free time which I used to catch up with some of my good UA friends at a cafe.  We sat there for hours just chatting and laughing.  Then after that we had an awesome dinner followed by a lesson in wine tasting.  Now for those of you who know about wines, you probably want to skip the next paragraph so you don’t walk away thinking I am a complete idiot.  You see, even after this class I don’t really appreciate wine tasting like some people do.  I mean, step 1: you look at the wine and its color.  Hmmm, seems to be white/red.  I hardly need to hold it up to a light and stare intently at it to figure this one out, but okay.  Step 2: swirl it around in the glass.  This is probably my favorite part aside from the drinking of the wine because I like to make it a game of how fast/high can I swirl the wine before it almost spills out of the glass.  Step 3: smell the wine.  This one makes me feel like the most pretentious of twats.  Are you getting that hint of mahogany in there?  How about apple?  Nope, all I smell is wine, and wine that needs drinking at that.  I have never been able to smell well so I sort of make it more of a game by seeing what “subtle smells” I can get away with.  Do I smell a bit of frog’s breath?  Nothing quite so suspicious as frog’s breath!  Step 4: sip the wine and swirl it around in your mouth.  It’s more like slurping the wine to be honest.  As for being able to pick up subtle flavors within the wine, well, see step 3.  It was fun though.  And our table got a bit extra since the leftovers came back to our table first.  And we always took seconds.  Always.

After that we were planning on finding a bit more wine to drink back at the hotel, but we weren’t able to find a place that was open so that we could buy an inexpensive bottle.  Oh well.  It was fun getting to walk around.  And bonus: we took some pretty epic pictures with some soccer player statues (apparently after the war Kaiserslautern had an awesome soccer team).  I will be sure to post them when I get them from my friend.

The next day we had our final lecture and then some of us went to lunch afterwards since we left a bit later.  It was nice, especially since it wasn’t a terribly big group of people.  Then I rode back about 5 hours to Erlangen by train.  It was nice though since I got to ride ICE trains (the nice high speed trains) most of the way and I also had someone to travel with most of the journey.  It made time go by a lot quicker.  Once home I did a lot of sleeping, which was pretty awesome if I do say so myself.  I will have to write the next post soon about last week and more importantly, the juggling convention!  It was pretty epic.  Hopefully I will have that done sometime this week, but I have just been crazy busy with everything and making sure that I see a lot of the one semester Erasmus students before they head home.  So maybe I can catch up this week.  Mal sehen!