I have told myself for the longest time that I'm a creator, not a consumer. When I see this changing, I try to do something to remedy it. So often I find it's easy to just sit on Reddit or Facebook and endlessly scroll as my eyes grow tired and I grow bored of looking at a screen. While a little bit of this is okay and normal, doing this to the extent that some do is dangerous. It leads to apathy. It leads to unwarranted contentment. And it inhibits creation and self-growth.
With these goals in mind, I set out to keep a travel log. This is more for myself than anyone else, though I wouldn't be mad if someone wanted to read about my travel experience or see how to travel Europe inexpensively (although this isn't really a guide for that).
As I've watched my friends go abroad for the past 3 years, I've noticed they all post pictures on Instagram and endlessly try to "out-do" each other on Snapchat. It becomes a contest of who is having the most fun or who has traveled to the most places. I want to avoid this. I actually deleted my Snapchat and my Instagram for this semester (and probably indefinitely 'cuz I ain't a slave to social media!).
This trip is for me. This log is for me. I want to enjoy my time in Europe and I honestly don't care if people think I had fun or not...I mean, obviously it's me. I can make anything fun. But stories are more important than pictures of you posing a fun situation.
My friend Jo recently sent me an interesting lyric.
If you want to live
Stop staring with your camera
Millennials get a lot of shit. We're the "soft" generation. We're the slaves to technology. We are constantly blamed for the world's problems by Boomers, and "we don't really do anything right"... but this criticism I agree with. We need to stop living behind screens, stop living to impress each other, and we need to just live. The world is more globalized than it has ever been before and we (especially Americans) have been met with incomparable opportunities. This is my attempt at that. I'm enjoying the moment, remembering it, and reporting back for future Bobby.
Of course, a large part of this log was also the creative and technical side. I've had a lot of fun developing it. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the inspiration though. The inspiration for this blog was derived from this. I took a lot from this concept and figured I'd give credit where credit is due. The execution in terms of code is rather different (he used Node.js for everything...I figured I had to host it on GitHub pages...so Node was a no-go), and I personally don't think my design is as great, but I tried and am actually pretty happy with the result.
Prepping For Abroad
I’m prepping for abroad! One of my biggest traveling weaknesses is packing at the last second (which I still haven’t remedied…), but I’m actually planning lots of things ahead of time. For example, today I went out and, along with a few errands my mum wanted me to run, I bought some luggage tags (yeah, it was about time) and got some Euros from the bank because currency conversion is wack and crazy expensive!
Also, I’m just kind of testing out this blogging format. I’m hosting it for free with GitHub pages and using the static site generator, Jekyll. It’s pretty nifty and I can post about it sometime if that’s of interest…if anybody even reads this.
The Day Before Departure
Hello from Canton, Ohio (still…)! As I prepare for my departure tomorrow, I worry about the weight of my luggage and the timeliness of my planes. How much would it suck to have a leg delayed enough that it throws everything off? Anyway, as I have prepped and sat at home doing nothing super exciting, like playing around with the computer and decorating my laptop case with stickers (NOT MY LAPTOP. JUST THE COVER. I might post pictures when I have time…) [EDIT: found time!], I’ve realized that I’m beyond excited for Bremen.
I never thought I’d be nervous about studying abroad, but I’ve now realized how much there is to worry about logistically. The copious amounts of paperwork are rather daunting and the whole “making all new friends” aspect of abroad is equally scary. There’s so much to do in such a small amount of time, and I’ve read online a lot about how difficult Jacobs’ CS classes are. That’s nerve-racking.
Still, I’m sure I’ll have tons of fun! I’m going to miss my friends at home. I’ve met my roommate for abroad and he seems like a good guy, and I’m gearing up for my flight tomorrow. My bags are just about packed… my stuff is about cleaned… I have some work to finish for Tenable (the company I’m interning for) before I go, but that shouldn’t take long… then I’ll say goodbye to my grandparents in the morning, then my mum who is bound to be an emotional mess… AND then off to ATL → CDW → BRE! Can’t wait!
An Hour Before Departure
Yes... I'm still in Canton... for about another hour as I write this! But then I will be off.
I don't really have much of a playlist created for these flights. I honestly don't have anything prepared... that's about how I do for travel. I was so excited when I finally got to CAK. I checked my luggage and it weighed 51lbs (how ridiculous is that... 4 months abroad and I can only take one bag of 50lbs?!) and they still let me go. Apparently it's policy to allow up to 52lbs. Nice.
To satiate my appetite, I made my way to the first food booth in CAK—the Cinnabon—and got a Cinnabon Classic because I'm boring and vanilla like that (and am trying to induce my inevitable diabetes). I ate that and headed for Gate 5. I'm writing this as I wait for boarding to begin.
I'm ready for my trip. I slept very little, so I'm hoping that my early morning arrival won't be too terrible if I can fall asleep on the plane (it'll be 4am EST). If not, day 1 in Bremen will be miserable. I may update this or add posts at other airports depending on how bored I am. I'm headed to Atlanta next and then Paris. Tschüss!
It was a rather…long…process getting here, but I have finally arrived, jet-lagged but still ready to have a good time! I haven’t written anything on this blog since before my first flight, so it might make sense to cover that entire duration.
My flight to Atlanta went off without a hitch. I got on the plane with a bunch of Goodyear employees who were apparently going to a conference in Orlando (I was super excited to tell Trish about this!). I don’t know––many of them were incredibly annoying and loud. However, the plane was loud too. Therefore, not a terrible plane ride. Music came in handy as did the coffee that the wonderful flight attendant handed to me. Atlanta was a bit chillier than expected, but it was still nice to stop in the city that I’ll be staying in this summer. I then grabbed a burrito from some Qdoba and boarded the plane for Paris.
Yeah, that didn’t last that long. Because I’m a moron who can’t watch a movie or listen to music on a plane like a normal human, I stared at the flight tracker screen for a good portion of the beginning of the ATL → CDG flight. Around 2 hours into the flight I noticed something strange. We had flown past NYC and were nearing Boston when the plane made a 180 degree turn…“huh, that’s weird,” I thought to myself. I figured the pilots knew what they were doing so I just let it happen. However, after we were almost halfway to JFK, I asked a flight attendant what was going on and she shrugged like that little UNICODE shrug guy ( this one → ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ). So, she got on her little airplane phone and dialed up the pilot. I only heard one side of the conversation, but I like to imagine that the conversation went something like…
FA: “Erm, sir, we have a passenger wondering about the flight path. It appears we’ve turned around. Is this true?”
Pilot: “Uh, yeah, we have.”
FA: “Well, can you tell me why?”
Pilot: “I sure can!”
FA: “Well, go ahead then…”
Pilot: “Well, it seems that we, uh, have a problem.”
FA: “I figured that much! What’s wrong with the plane?”
At this point, all of the passengers start looking at the flight attendant and get really quiet.
FA: “Why don’t you just make an announcement, sir.”
Pilot: “Okee dokee, artichokey.”
About 10 seconds later everyone on the plane had their earbuds go quiet and the words “Announcement in progress…” appeared on their screens.
Pilot over loudspeaker: “indistinguishable mumbling on the loudspeaker”
All of the passengers looked at each other in confusion and fear. I was practically on the edge of my seat ready to call the pilot on the phone myself.
The flight attendant called him back and urged him to make the announcement again, but in a clearer voice this time. He did. He said,
“Ah hem, excuse me passengers on Delta Flight 82. A hydraulic leak has caused us to divert our path and we will be landing at JFK in about 45 minutes.”
At this point, I'm sitting there thinking about my itinerary. I was already going to have a really short layover in Paris to try to catch my plane to Bremen, so I'm freaking out. I had to arrive before 10am so I could catch the bus to Jacobs. In that short 45 minutes, my brain went into hyper-mode trying to analyze all of my different options. Meanwhile, this pregnant lady sitting next to me––who couldn't have been older than 25 but had already had 2 children and this was her third––started crying! Only. Person. On. The. Flight. To. Cry. About. A. Simple. Hydraulic. Leak. Is. Sitting. Next. To. My. Emotionless. Ass. So, I start to feel bad about not feeling bad for her and try to comfort her with quick low-effort statements, such as "it'll be ok" and "I'm sure we'll be fine". Looking back, my comments probably only made things worse for her.
Anyway, we land in New York safely (see pregnant lady, I wasn't lying!) and all file off of the plane in a rather slow fashion. Typical. We head to our next terminal for our future plane to Paris and they have all sorts of food laid out for us to try to appease us all. As 250 people descend upon this gate, people are trying to leave the jetway and it begins a major cluster of confusion. People (not people from our flight) are taking our free-Delta-food all over the place. Lol.
So, we then wait another 2 hours for them to fuel the plane, clean the plane, get the catering aboard and transfer our luggage. At this point, there's no freaking way that I'm making my plane in Paris to Bremen. So, I have to ask the ladies at the helpdesk to get me new flights because my whole schedule was messed up. The lady that helped me was super nice, but there were some really super crappy people there. Eventually, I finish my new itinerary which had me arriving in Bremen at 5 which wasn't terrible, so I email Yuliya (the international advisor for Jacobs) and tell her I need someone to pick me up at 5 instead of 10, sort of hoping that this would happen without much more correspondence while I was on a plane for 8 hours. It did, which was super nice.
Quite a bit later we all board the plane and we're all grumpy as hell. The Delta people gave us all wraps, though, so that quenched our desire to pout a little bit. I hate sleeping on planes, so the next few hours were pretty miserable for me getting absolutely no sleep, waking up from food carts running over my feet because I have to put my feet in the aisle because my legs are too long to fit in the seats on airplanes, and having random idiots opening their windows when it was light outside but we were all supposed to be sleeping and adjusting to a new time. Gah.
Landing in CDG wasn't terrible. It was too far from Paris that I didn't get to see anything during my 4 hour layover (or whilst flying by), so I just kind of chilled in the airport and browsed Reddit. I woke up late the day I originally boarded the plane, so I didn't get to take a shower before the flight. Therefore, at this point I'm starting to smell myself. That wasn't fun. Even less fun was remembering that I didn't have toiletries... I couldn't brush my teeth. I couldn't just put some deodorant on to mask the smell. Naw, I had to marinate in my stench. In fact, I didn't have toothpaste/brush until about 2 hours ago, so I went that long without brushing my teeth and felt ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTING. Whatever.
At some point I started to get hungry and ate one of the candy bars my Nana gave me for the plane ride (shout out to Nana, you da real MVP!) and then decided to get some really overpriced Caesar wrap thing at the only restaurant in our secluded AirFrance terminal thing. That sucked. I sat down to eat it and hear some old German couple look up at the departure screen and start talking about which flight they were on... eventually I heard "fünfzehn vierundzwanzig"... THAT WAS MY FLIGHT. This was when I was first excited that I knew some German––I'm now pretty upset with how little I actually know!
Not too long later we board the flight. It was fun. It was a little plane and we got to enter from stairs out on the tarmac instead of via jetway. Very few people on the plane spoke English, but the flight attendant knew the words I was spitting out. This was my first re-encounter with the question "sparkling or still" when asking for water. Damn you Europe and your terrible taste in having sparkling water (needless to mention the fact that water costs money in Europe too!).
As we approached Bremen, I noticed that 10 minutes before landing the skies became incredibly overcast––I don't know how Northern Germans stay so upbeat with how crappy the weather is! We landed, I got off of the plane, and grabbed my luggage seamlessly. I'm so glad my luggage didn't get lost in the diversion tragedy the day prior. I then walked towards arrivals to meet my student advisor, ready to take on Bremen...
I Have Arrived At Jacobs!
When I last left off I was at the arrivals in Germany preparing to meet my student advisor, Taha. Well, lo-and-behold, once I left the airport he was standing at arrivals! And he didn’t come alone! Taha also brought my roommate, Julius. First words out of Taha’s mouth were introductions, of course. Second words, however, were “do you smoke?”
Oh Taha, I wish you knew me at that point to know that that couldn’t be further from the truth. Then came, “how old are you?” I replied, “I’m 21,” to which he exclaimed, “why come to Germany?! You can already drink in the States.” True. I can drink in the States. And I’ve tried it. However, I find alcohol pretty disgusting, so I’m definitely wondering what kind of semester this will be with these blokes.
We left the airport and headed across the street to just narrowly miss the tram toward our destination. We stood at the platform while Julius rolled a cigarette and we talked about random things, mostly my flight and where I was from. When we finally got on the train it was my turn to ask questions, and I got the full brief on Jacobs. At this point I started feeling super jet-lagged and was getting kind of loopy, so I noticed Julius and Taha giving me weird looks.
We got to Jacobs, grabbed dinner on campus (where I met several of their friends of whom I don’t remember most of their names, aside from Diego, Benji, Vikram, and Lennart (who looks a lot of my friend Shep from Denison). We made our rounds, picked up my orientation materials for the following day (the day I’m currently writing this), and went to see the porter (bad translation of security guard) for my key.
When I got to my room, I just wanted to crash. At this point I was super jet-lagged and still had to unpack. Julius invited me out with him to party, but I unpacked and passed out on my bed. Welcome to Germany!
This morning, I woke up and went on a run to explore (and hopefully establish a good habit for this semester) at 7:30am and checked my email and tried to find the room I was supposed to be in at 10. After some searching and asking the guy in the library, I discovered the ICC Conference Room was actually in the library. I sat down, said “Hallo!” to Yuliya, and got some tea before the presentation. I was about a half hour early but I figured it was fine. It gave me time to talk to other exchange students and I was pünktlich which almost all Germans are in support of.
We went through the day talking about forms, going on tours, awkwardly introducing ourselves to each other (and then reintroducing when we forgot each other’s names), and grabbing lunch. Eventually we got to register, which was extremely seamless and easy compared to Denison procedure.
After grabbing dinner, I headed back to my room to take a nap and instead wrote this post. How great of me. Bye bye.
The Post-Party Period
Since my last post, I’ve made some pretty good friends that are other exchange students. I really enjoy hanging out with them and we have had a lot of fun the past two days. We all met on our trip to Bremen on Saturday afternoon. Friday night was rather interesting and I met many of my roommates friends (as well as some exchange students that showed up). Julius knows how to throw a really great party and is always pushing me out of my comfort zone, which is nice but also a little unnerving at times.
On Saturday morning, I kept with my new habit of running in the morning (of which I broke on Sunday because I slept through my alarm). I returned, grabbed a roll from the serverie, and left for the front gate where we were meeting to take a trip to Downtown Bremen. Jacobs students are given a pass for unlimited travel anywhere in Bremen and several neighboring cities, so that came in handy when traveling (and will undoubtedly come in handy in the future).
When we reached Bremen, we travelled through the Hauptbahnhof and were slowed by Bremen and Munich football (soccer) fans. There were police all over the place and several fans were getting rather rowdy. We passed on by as this wasn’t a big deal to us, and we continued to Bremen’s Marktplatz. Visible from this central location were historical buildings (one of which was a “World Heritage Site”) that were stunning and ridiculously enormous when age is considered. Here we met a tour guide who showed us all of the presumably touristy things about Bremen. It was lots of fun, he told us many stories, and then he left us to do our own thing in Bremen.
When we separated, several of us were really hungry, but we also didn’t want to pay a lot. So, I stayed with 3 other people––Dariya, Daniel, and Thura––to go get food. We headed for food stands for a good old-fashioned bratwurst. It was delicious and well worth the hype that it receives. We then went to a little cafe for some coffee to warm up. Once we left the cafe, we headed back to the Hauptbahnhof to catch a train back to campus. We then decided to go shopping with what little time was left of the day, so we transferred from tram to bus almost immediately when we got to campus to go shopping in Vegesack (where I didn’t buy anything extremely notable…).
Eventually we returned from Vegesack, caught dinner, and went to TOS (“The Other Side”, Jacob’s on-campus…club?) for some fun!
Since then, I’ve been back to Vegesack for several more errands and have been all around campus. I’m starting to get comfortable and am having lots of fun. It’s going to be a great semester!
Classes Have Begun
My first day of classes was yesterday and I must say it was a rather stressful first day of classes.
The first class I attended was “International Institutions” which wasn’t entirely stressful. Like most first days of class, we didn’t learn a great deal. We went over class expectations and set up groups for class projects. The prof explained a game called Diplomacy that we’ll be playing the first 2 weeks of the class online against each other. This is kind of weird to me… last semester I “played” ancient Roman senate, but that was different because it was at least rooted in history and fact. This game seems to be just that—a game. Not sure how I feel about this class so far. It seems like there are a lot of nitpicky little assignments. I’m thinking that I might drop it since I still have wiggle room in my schedule.
From here, I went to my next class which is called “German Politics & Culture”. This class is actually a lot of fun! While it’s predominantly exchange students (or entirely?) it’s still subject matter that none of us are entirely familiar with. The stressful part of the day occurred here. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to present on the first day. Each class a pair of students has to present the beginning of the lesson and Dariya and I got to be the volunteers. In the profs’ defense, we did volunteer for it…but that was only because no one else did! Prepping for this presentation wasn’t a lot of fun, but it’s 1 of 2 assignments we have for the WHOLE SEMESTER. So yeah, nothing else until the final. I’m cool with that. A little stress at the beginning was worth it.
With that presentation and Dariya in mind, I’ve been spending a lot of time with her and Daniel. We’ve become pretty good friends, although I feel like I’m prematurely secluding myself from the rest of the exchange students at times. We’re planning on going to Hamburg this weekend, so I’m excited about that (and will definitely be writing a post on it!). I really enjoy being around them and we always have deep and meaningful conversations, whereas I feel like my conversations with many of the other American exchange students are kind of “small-talky”. Of course, that’s a really broad generalization that doesn’t apply to everyone.
Still, this doesn’t prevent me from hanging out with the other American exchange students. Sometimes it is nice to just have a stupid night talking about nothing. Last night I went to see some Lafayette students in the Nordmetall (my college) common room because I couldn’t figure out how to copy my passport. Eventually Lillian helped me and then I hung out with the group for about an hour. We drank and talked and it was really nice. Still, I just didn’t feel comfortable or like I fit in with them. I feel like there’s an expectation that they have. That I have to LOVE drinking and partying to hang out with them…and that’s just annoying. Dariya and Dan still enjoy drinking and partying sometimes, but it isn’t all they do…that’s nice.
Since I got to Bremen there have been several tasks that have been looming over me. I have to register with the authorities in Bremen, I have to get a residence permit (kind of like a visa), and I have to get health insurance (which is like 600 Euros wtf Europe). I finally registered with the authorities (woo) which took getting up and waiting in a German DMV at 7:30 in the morning, but I’m still worried and annoyed that I have to do the two other things.
I’m now planning a trip to Hamburg with Dan and Dariya (as I mentioned previously) and will post later how that went…
A Weekend In Hamburg
I'm writing this quite a bit of time after coming back from Hamburg, so I'm hoping I can remember it all. Keep that in mind.
Hamburg was a spur of the moment decision. We had talked about it quite a bit previously, but it wasn't until Thursday night that we decide we would leave on Friday night—I enjoy last minute decisions. We looked through the train schedule and realized we could catch a train Friday night for free with our SemesterPass and then we started to look for an AirBnB. I brought up the handy dandy map view, found a map that was close enough to the heart of Hamburg, and checked out a place that was around €95 a night and booked it. It looked pretty adorable from the pictures, so we thought it seemed pretty nice. We bought the AirBnB and that was the last we thought about it.
Around 6:45pm we hopped on the train at the Schönebeck station and made our way to Bremen Hbf. The train to Hamburg Hbf was about an hour long, but it was a nice ride. We arrived just on time to catch the train...it was sort of uncanny. By the time we were on the train, the outside was really dark—combined with the light on the inside of the train, it was impossible to see anything outside. Regardless, the train ride was cool (and I got a good view outside on the way back).
When we finally got to Hamburg we had to find the key to our AirBnB that was hidden near the train station. The problem was that we had no idea where. We knew it was in a lock box that had a digital code, but all of the lock boxes we could find were accessed by keys. THE BIGGEST PROBLEM was that we only had until 10pm to get the key...and it was 9pm when we finally got there. We searched for about 20 minutes before breaking down and messaging Jenny (the owner of the AirBnB) to see if she could help us find it. She warned me prior that she'd be at a concert from 6-10pm, so I was really worried that she wouldn't see the text. Eventually she sent a PDF with directions. It was wonderful. Still, I had trouble finding the place with the directions, and once I got into the little Turkish shop where the lock box was I had to reach passed some random guy while muttering "bitte" and "entschuldigung".
BUT, I found the key and then I got back to Dariya and Daniel (who were walking slow, so I left them to find the key). We headed west of the Alster and up the side of it. We headed past the US consulate (we were a meter away from US soil!) and straight to Jenny's apartment. We were rather tired and wanted to see the AirBnB. We got there and it was adorable just as expected. Jenny decorated the apartment with tons of books, historical looking photos, and it smelled wonderful. We slept well that night and got up bright and early ready to explore Hamburg. We grabbed breakfast (I don't remember where) and grabbed some coffee.
We walked around Hamburg a lot. We saw the main sights (Rathaus and whatnot), went to the Miniature Wonderland (really freaking awesome), and I even got to eat a hamburg in Hamburg!
After the day's events everyone's feet were pretty tired. We looked for a quaint Irish pub but couldn't find one that was not packed to the brim, so we went to a store, bought some wine and beer, and we went back to Jenny's. On the way there, we stopped near the Alster and sat on a bench for a rather philosophical conversation for about half an hour. When we made it back, we continued the conversation but with some drinks—it was rather interesting. Lots of fun! Really relaxed and continued late into the night.
The next morning we got up early to prep the apartment for departure. We cleaned it so it looked like we were never even there and I even wrote a little note to Jenny. The previous night Dan and I noticed an American diner, so we headed there for breakfast. It was pretty yummy, but it was definitely not American diner quality, lol. We headed from here to the Hauptbahnhof, hopped on a train for Bremen, and went back to Jacobs.
All the while, I planned my trip to Copenhagen in two weeks! I had a little bit of trouble with getting Huntington to accept my card abroad (and then I had trouble confirming it was me because their texting system is dumb) but it all worked out in the end! Woo! So Cope in two weeks.
Also, I found out that I'll be rooming with Oliver in Taylor next year, so that's pretty fun too! It'll take some getting used to and I'll have to establish personal space...but I think it'll work out well.
Another Day In Bremen
Wow, a lot has happened since my last post. I’m writing this significantly after my last post too, so this should be a good test of how much I remember. I’m running a pattern (pretty consistently, actually) of posting what I did a week later. Not only do I hate reflective writing, but I really hate reflective writing a week later when I can’t remember anything. I’ve probably already said this in one of these posts before but…I don’t really care. I still hate it and repetition is simply enforcing my feelings.
Ok, so, I’ve now completed two legs of the tripod of German bureaucracy. I hate it. But it’s a necessary evil, I suppose. When I first arrived I knew that I had to register with Bremen authorities, get my residence permit (the equivalent of a visa), and get my health insurance. Well, I’ve now completed the first two. I already posted about registering with the authorities in Bremen (I’m not linking the post…go find it yourself ya slug) and I finally made the trip to downtown Bremen to register with the country! Woo!
It was an annoying process. First, I had to get up early which upset me. Second, I had to miss a class, which also upset me (but not nearly as much). We all got to the place to get our residence permits and the German fellas helping us out were rather cranky. I got the crankiest of them all, but I was well prepared so he liked me (hairflip). I got my fingerprint done (fancy) and I paid 100 Euro (not fun). But now I am done and officially allowed in Germany until August, even though I’m only staying until May 31.
After this process, I waited for several other exchange students and we decided to explore the Bremen main square a little bit more (including going to the Town Musicians statue again so I could finally get my picture with it and make a wish). Jack, Brooke, and I made our way to a street thats name would be translated to “Barrel Street”. It used to be a place where barrels were manufactured and then it was bought up by a coffee magnate (the guy who invented decaf!) when all of the barrel manufacturers went out of business. So, now it’s filled with lots of little coffee shops, so we went to sit in one of them and wait for Gabi who would be joining us shortly.
We didn’t stay in Bremen for too long. On our first visit to Bremen we walked through Schnoor, a quaint little neighborhood. Whilst there we noticed a nifty little place called Katzen Cafe (Cat Cafe). We thought it was hilarious because of the name, but we didn’t think much about it again. After we picked up Gabi, we decided to go here. It was pretty cool! First of all, it was much classier than we originally thought it would be. White table clothes were placed and the waiter was wearing a vest and bow tie. We were all dressed like college students so we felt slightly out of place…however, no one was in there so we didn’t mind. I ordered the grünkohl, which was absolutely delicious. By the time we were finished, we were all ready for a nap. We left, however, and went to a department store (which I’m blanking of on the name right now). I bought a chocolate bar that was yummy…but that was it. No clothes from the department store.
Once we were done, we figured we had had enough and it was time to go home. I had some Netflix to catch up on, and I also wanted to get dinner and see other people. All in all, our day in Bremen was very well spent and I had a great time! Now I just have to finish the darn third leg of the tripod and I will be good to go! For now, I sit on my train heading to Copenhagen AND I’M SUPER EXCITED TO REPORT BACK ON THE TRIP TO COPENHAGEN WHEN I’M ON MY RETURNING TRAIN! WOO!
As promised, I'm writing this post on the way back from Copenhagen. Hopefully this means that I'm getting my shit together and will start to write my posts closer to the time of me actually doing them—knowing me, there's no way that's happening. BUT I CAN BE OPTIMISTIC!
I arrived in Copenhagen around 8 o'clock at night on Friday. My train made it into the station, I took the stairs from the platform to the main station, and emerged into the bustling Copenhagen night. It's no secret that Europeans know how to party, but I found it absurd that no one was even partying yet. Of course, like Germans, the Danes don't even leave to party until 11 at the earliest (and a lot of times around 1:30am). I quickly made my way to a McDonald's in the train station for some free WiFi, got directions to Kristina's place, and made my way through the streets of Copenhagen.
The first thing I remember thinking about Copenhagen is how...umm, not diverse it was. EVERYONE I saw was white. I thought to myself, "Eh, it's a Scandinavian country" and went on my way though. Still, this impression never really seemed to subside.
I travelled down the street with my oversized backpack, crossed the bridge, and found my way to Kristina's. When I arrived, I was excitedly introduced to Kristina's DIS (Danish Institute for Study Abroad, or something like that) friends... I'm rather shy when first meeting people, so this was like torture to me. However, they were all really nice, so it was relatively painless. It was really cool getting to meet Brittany and Hannah, Kristina's roommates whom I have seen in all of her pictures. Kristina seems so happy, and they're undoubtedly a large part of that...SO THAT'S FREAKING AWESOME! Was that too aggressive? Eh, maybe.
Anyway, Grace (Heutel) and Sophie (you know who freaking Sophie is if you're reading this...if you don't, she'll be highly upset) came to visit at Kristina's, we played some games and talked a bit, and then we finally set out for town around 10-10:30pm (I don't really remember when exactly). This is when I got my first taste of night life in Copenhagen. It seemed so empty, but there was still lots going on. We first stopped in a place called The Jane which was this little underground bar that was pretty classy and kind of bourgey. Kristina paid 100Dkk for a passionfruit drink...and it was pretty tasty. But still probably not worth 100Dkk (or roughly 14$).
There wasn't a lot of sitting room in The Jane so we moved along to the next bar. We walked around quite a bit before Grace suggested we go to some lesbian bar (that I, unfortunately, do not know the name of). I, uh, wasn't sure if I'd be allowed in or not, but hey, drinks are drinks and dancing is dancing. SOOOO, we made our way to this bar and it was pretty nifty too. It was much smaller than the past bar, there was Foosball (or Table Football for my Europeans out there), and there were random people dancing. However, there still wasn't really a place to sit. So we didn't last long there...which is good because I felt like a fish out of water among the 99% female population in the bar. I definitely felt like a minority in those minutes.
The last bar we went to for the night was called Jolene. Grace lovingly referred to it as the "foggy bar", and she was mostly right. They had a fog machine constantly going, it was packed full with people, and lighting coordinated with dance tunes made for a fun night. I checked my coat in and we made our way to the center of all the action. We just had a good time and danced. There was this weird moment near the end where I thought that something rather inappropriate was going to happen when a girl kept feeling up some guys crotch in plain sight and got a little graphic, but it ended "not badly"...woo!
Sophie was getting tired a little after 1, so we headed home and saw Max and Jordan (maybe his name?) on the way back. Lots was happening in the meatpacking district that night, but we unfortunately left early. For the weekend Sophie was generous enough to let me stay with her (thank goodness) so we made our way to her little suburban apartment and went to bed.
The next morning I got to meet Sophie's host mom, which was super awesome. She was really knowledgeable about Danish culture and world events, and we had a pretty good time talking with her. She made us breakfast and Sophie and I probably stayed to talk a bit too long. We were originally planning on meeting up with Kristina around 10am on Saturday, but we didn't even all get together until almost 1pm. We talked wayyyy longer than expected. Still, it was lots of fun.
From here, Sophie, Kristina, and I all did lots of touristy stuff. We went to Paper Island, we saw the little mermaid statue, we went to the Queen's house (haha), and we got to see the colorful houses (which I heard were all the rage). Kristina and Sophie had to depart early though, so it seemed like just as quick as we started seeing things we ended! However, after seeing those two I hung out with Seymour and Ashmita, so I wasn't entirely alone. I walked around for a little bit alone (I know, feel bad for me), but then Seymour and I met up and went to a cafe (where we didn't buy anything because we expected them to take our order but we were actually supposed to go order at the counter and get a number...who knew? haha) before picking up Ashmita at Nørreport Station.
Ashmita, who is also studying in Copenhagen this semester, knew where all of the cool things to see were, so we tried quite a few places. Most notable, I feel, was the board game cafe, Bastard Café. It was unfortunately filled to the brim, so we couldn't go. So, we settled on an Irish pub called The Dubliner. We spent several hours here with two more Denison students, Will and Ceginna, who added a lot of fun to the afternoon. After 5 or so rounds, we left for some food before going out. But then I got a text from Sophie saying she would be going to bed at 11, so I should be at her house by then, so I had to leave them all to go to a karaoke bar by themselves. I went back to Kristina's for my backpack so I could get a shower and roughed my way through Copenhagen's extremely confusing and unclear (at least in my experience) transit system. It took me quite a bit longer than I was hoping to get to Sophie's apartment, but I made it a mere 20 minutes late! Sophie was tired, so I just got a shower and went to bed.
Sunday morning (this morning) I made up for how late we woke up on Saturday. I got up at 7:30am, got dressed, gave Soph a hug goodbye, missed the bus and had to wait 20 minutes for the next one...but I still got to Kristina's bright and early! Ha-ha! We made our way to a cafe, had some breakfast, and then went sightseeing a tiny bit more. We saw plenty of government buildings, jumped on trampolines, and even got to go to Christiania (a hippie community that is basically the Homestead on steroids). At the end, I grabbed my bag from Kristina's and we headed for the train station. One last coffee was had, some food was bought, and I boarded the train.
Sidenote because I didn't know where to put this: in Germany, I know a little bit of the language so it isn't terrible trying to survive in the city. In Denmark, I would have no freaking clue what people are saying. Thank goodness nearly all Danes speak English. Whilst in Denmark, I also noticed that I have been conditioned to say impulsive things like "thank you" in German all the time. Danes looked at me weird when someone would run into me and I'd say "entschuldigung!"...and by the end of the weekend Kristina and Sophie were sick of me texting them in German. Ich kann nicht anders!
In trying to continue with the trend of writing these posts frequently, I'm going to (hopefully) finish writing and uploading this by tonight (Monday). If not, I'm going to feel super ashamed...although probably not much remorse. [Edit: I totally didn't finish this on Monday night...]
Before I start talking about Amsterdam, I wanted to mention something cool that I got to help with this week. Our cards at Jacobs are RFID cards, so my friend Clement bought an NFC reader/writer to see if he could play around with the system a little bit. Earlier in the week he worked on decrypting the cards and had to go through trillions of combos, but it finally worked and he was able to make a copy. Now we're working on being able to put custom data on it, so wish us luck!
Now, onto 'Dam. Last week was seemingly a really long week and I kept looking forward to the trip to Amsterdam (even though I've already been there). It's a fun city, there's lots to do, and it's relatively cheap (at least compared to freaking Copenhagen). The trip to Amsterdam wasn't very eventful. I ended up leaving on Friday with my friends Dan, Maaike, and Chris...however, most of the big group of people going had left a day earlier. We had classes and decided being responsible would be a good idea, haha. It was nice having Maaike there, though...she is Dutch so she left us in on lots of fun tidbits of information. For example, there's this place in the Netherlands called Flevoland that was actually created from the ocean. It used to be ocean and the Dutch decided they wanted more land so they created it! Absolutely insane but totally cool.
The first night we got there we entered the city and walked through the Friday night antics of Amsterdam. Obviously some interesting things happen in Amsterdam, so it was really interesting checking everything out. We quickly went to a pasta bar that Maaike suggested, got some pizza, and I almost lost 50 Euros by losing my card...oops. From here, we made our way to our hostel (which doubled as a "coffeehouse", which I was not happy about because I hate weed and the smell of weed) and put our stuff away. It ended up being more expensive than I anticipated, which kind of ticked me off...but I went along with it. From here, we were off for a quiet night at a pub. It was a long day of travels and we weren't really in the "clubbing" mood yet. We searched around for a quiet pub, which almost took an hour, BUT WE FOUND ONE. I don't remember the name unfortunately, but it was nice and cozy and not too crowded which was nice and rare at 11:30pm.
We walked in, grabbed our respective drinks (mostly Heineken...ya know, when in Amsterdam), and just enjoyed each other's company. An hour or two passed quickly and we bought not too much because it was ridiculously expensive. Dariya oogled over the Irish bartender and we joined in singing Queen songs with all of the random English, Welsh, Scots, and Irish people in the bar. It was a fun night. After lots of fun, we called it a night and made our way back to our hostel.
On Saturday morning, we left the hostel (slightly later than I was hoping) and we did normal touristy things. We first went to the "i amsterdam" letters and got some silly pictures. We then bought tickets for the Van Gogh museum and got to enjoy that, which was super fun. Van Gogh is one of my favorite painters, so I'm really glad that I got to go through the museum while I was in Amsterdam. After that, the group got lunch and we split up so those who wanted to go to the Rijksmuseum could and those who didn't want to or already had been could do something else. I had already been to Rijks in November, so I decided to forgo seeing it again. Dariya, Jack, and I didn't get up to anything extremely exciting in place of the Rijksmuseum, but we walked around and did some more sightseeing. ALSO, in this time period I got talked into paying 32.50 Euro for a freaking haircut (I'm still really upset about this) and I bought 10 Euro worth of cheese...so I guess you could say that not everything went poorly. We continued with random sightseeing until we finally met up with Maaike again!
Once Maaike joined our ranks, she put forth her incredible Amsterdam knowledge and took us to dinner at this nifty food-cour-esque place. It kind of reminded me of Paper Island in Copenhagen. There was no place to sit the entire time, so I stood. It. Sucked. But it was still pretty good food.
Aside before I begin telling the story of that night: this morning Dan thought it would be a good idea to get an edible to take to the Van Gogh museum because he thought an art museum would be fun while he was high...it DID NOT end well. The people at the coffeeshop apparently told him to eat half of the muffin and wait at least 5 hours before eating the second half. Dan, however, was NOT having this. He ate the first half and got paranoid that the people at the museum would take it from him at the Van Gogh museum and ate the entire second half. At this point, the first half started to set in and he was able to "enjoy" his high during the Van Gogh museum. This included him doing some really strange stuff like sitting on the top floor of the museum and saying, "I feel really good. When I close my eyes I feel like I'm swimming in ketchup. Swimming in ketchup. Swimming in ketchup." It was amusing and frightening all at the same time. He was really high. During lunch he ordered a 16 Euro meal because it sounded good to him (haha, sucker) and once we finally walked out of the building he was basically entirely gray. He did not look good. Still, he went to the Rijksmuseum with Lillian and we went our separate ways. Later we found out that he decided to leave the museum, got sick, and somehow made it home all on his own whilst really high and sick. Later he met us at the food court place for dinner feeling much better.
After dinner we made our way to a store so some people could buy alcohol to pregame the clubbing we were going to do. I, on the other hand, did not buy alcohol because I'm cheap. Haha. We got back to the hostel, sat around and talked while people drank for about 2 hours, and then Lillian, Jack, and I made our way for some club. Nothing extremely stupid or eventful happened to me that night...although some interesting stuff happened for sure. We got to the club Maaike suggested, got through security (which was super funny and nice...woo security at that club!!), and checked our coats before heading for the bar.
The music at this club was really good. Great mixture of well-known older songs and newer songs (that I struggled with but pretended like I knew, in typical fashion). We danced around a bit while Lillian tried to get a random guy to buy her a drink—Jack kept pushing me at random girls, even after I told him I wasn't really looking to hit on anyone that night. THEN he got mad at me when I tried to do the same. Meh. Lillian came back, we drank a few beers, and we started dancing like idiots. By a later point in the night, Lillian took a vodka-Pepsi from the bar paid by some random guy and we started dancing with some random girl who came up and looked really sad (idk). It was fun. It was going well. And then Lillian left. Jack and I continued to dance with the random girl, he left, and I found some other random girl and started dancing with her. Meanwhile, I'm like "where the heck did they go?" After a few minutes and during a song I had never heard, I walked around trying to find the two. Eventually, I found Jack consoling Lillian on the steps near the coat check. Lillian asked for water so I ran to the bar and got her one (WATER COSTS MONEY IN CLUBS LIKE WTF DO THEY NOT WORRY ABOUT SAFETY??!) and then we all got our coats and left. We hopped on the bus headed for our hostel and Lillian wasn't doing too hot. She kept apologizing for "ruining the night" and was rather tipsy...probably from all of the free drinks she got. We rode a little bit and eventually Lillian starts puking...on the bus...right beside me...a little got on me. Blech.
I looked at Jack and we decided it would be best if we got off at the next stop in the case that there was a round two. So, we got off near a Dutch frites place and got some Dutch frites! Woo! Dutch frites are a great post-clubbing food for anyone wondering, and I'd like to think they helped Lillian sober up a little. While eating our frites outside, we met an Irish gentleman (kind of) and his lady friend. We got to talking and realized he was rather drunk. Jack started saying things like "fucking wot mate" to him and instigating (typical Jack) and we eventually got him pretty fired up. Eventually he informed us that he had lied to us previously. He wasn't, in fact, Irish—he was English and afraid to say it! We didn't have any idea how to respond to that, so we continued to ask him questions about Ireland which confused him. But then his lady friend pulled him off into the night and we didn't see him again.
Eventually we made our way back to the hostel. We went up the extremely steep stairs, Lillian dropped tons of frites along the way, and we went to bed. Later on, I could hear her get up in the night to puke again...but I sent her a loving message via Facebook Messenger to "quit puking and go to bed". I have such a great bedside manner.
Sunday, I woke up really early (considering I didn't get back until 3:00am, if not later), went outside for a quick snack, and waited for the slowpokes to get ready for the last day in Amsterdam. Dariya went to the Anne Frank museum, the rest of us went to get breakfast, and the day was pretty slow until Jack left around 1pm. After that, the rest of us made our way to a cute little island via ferry and sat around and went through a gift shop. After this, we went to the town center, watched a bunch of street performers, and eventually went to the train station to play cards and eat Yoghurt.
We caught our train, not much interesting happened...UNTIL we saw a bunch of people coming back from Karneval (or Carnival in English/Rio) and I got tons of pictures with them because they all looked awesome and were causing a ruckus in the train station playing really loud music. There were even beer-drinking Ronald McDonalds...SUPER COOL.
But yeah, got home, went to bed, and a new week started! The end. Hannover next weekend, maybe? We'll see.
I Went To Hannover
Went to Hannover! Didn't do a ton, but I saw a lot. I spent the entire day in Hannover and only spent ~2 Euro, which I'm pretty proud of. I met two girls when I first got there and they were intrigued by my English so they showed me around. It was really nice being invited to walk around the city randomly by two people...kind of strange to be honest.
I got to see a farmers market, the Hannover Rathaus, and I went through the mall. Dariya and Daniel were supposed to join me on the trip but they weren't able to wake up on time––after being held back from going to Hannover once already by them, I decided to go without.
Other than that, look on social media for pictures. I'm starting to get tired of writing blog posts unfortunately...that's why this isn't very detailed. I shall try to persist!
Met My Host Family!
So, as I’m writing this it’s significantly past the point where I actually met my host family…knowing that, this should be interesting. If I allude to things I shouldn’t have known at my first meeting with them….well….I’m sorry?
The notification came via email that I had finally received my host family. It took about 1 month to happen, but I got them. Nadja and Jan were their names and they had 3 (decently young) children. Hmm, I’m not a big fan of children, but I will survive. At this point my mind begins to race—I’ve heard horror stories of other students’ poor interactions with their host families (and just shitty host families in general) so I was worried the same would happen to me. Even more, because I’m abroad I’ve been planning a lot of cheap weekend trips to go on and see Europe. I’m sort of hoping that doesn’t get in the way of scheduling meetups with them (forewarning: it does).
I get the email from my host sister that we will be meeting on Sunday at the Hbf to meet for the first time and have coffee and cake. Fun! Coffee and cake are delicious. Super excitedly, I email her back to let her know that I’d be there and asked where we should meet in the Hbf…Sunday rolls around and I still haven’t heard. Meanwhile, I find out from my host-brother (other student that has the same family as his host family) Jacob that she emailed him back but not me. What the heck! We board the train at Bremen-Schönebeck and make way for the Hbf.
The train pulls up to platform 5, we step out of the train and there we see it…nothing. We have no idea where our host sister is. Jacob and I scour the Hbf looking for a young girl looking for someone…and we can’t find anyone. Eventually, we head back for the platform and as we make our way through the crowd a girl with a dog approaches us and asks if we’re Jacob and Bobby. BINGO! We found here (although, I guess she technically found us…). We shook hands, did introductions, and made our way out of the Hbf. Awkward conversation followed as we all made our way to a bus stop, excited petting of Aimee (the dog) occurred (I HAVEN’T SEEN A DOG IN SO LONG THAT I COULD PET), and our host sister apologized for her broken English (which was probably better than my English! Ha!) a bunch of times. As we discussed things on the bus, people looked at us like we’re crazy for speaking English. Nonetheless, the super efficient German public transit got us where we needed to go.
As we walked into the family’s little apartment, we instantly met mom (Nadja) and our younger host brother. We were warned that mom is an English teacher so her English is pretty good, so I believe that we hit the jackpot of host families. We were immediately introduced to the apartment. The youngest plays with Legos (freaking awesome). That’s enough for me to like him. He’s kind of shy but he came up and hugged Jacob and I randomly. It was sweet. His English is pretty much nonexistent, but he can say his numbers and “hello” in English. The older brother really likes videos game, is a really great rower (he has tons of medals all over his walls…it’s pretty cool), and he is currently building a computer. So he seemed pretty cool. And the oldest (the girl we met at the train station) is really sweet, is awesome at martial arts, is an amazing cook, and enjoys making fun of my German pronunciation.
The entire afternoon we ate cake, talked politics and cultural differences and such, and we went on a walk with Aimee which was fun. Later my host dad came home and he was pretty fun. He’s 2.12m tall, so that was interesting…but we all had dinner, lots of awkward moments when they all said something in German too quickly for me to comprehend, and then Jan drove us home (which we were floored by…we were so ready to take the train!).
So yeah, that’s pretty much our first meeting with the host fam. Nothing too exciting. Just some Germans and Americans chilling. The end.
Lost On A Run!
Since I arrived in Germany, I’ve been trying to live a more healthy life. It’s really difficult with the snacks and bread they have everywhere, but I’M TRYING. Not only have I been looking to better my diet, but I’ve also been trying to get a little more physically engaged lately. Namely, I’ve been trying to run daily. Interestingly enough, I feel most comfortable when running really late at night when no one is around, so I often leave for runs around 10 or 11pm.
Last night, I left for a run at 11:30pm expecting it to be a normal run. I took a little bit of a different path than normal in an effort to get to know Bremen-Vegesack a little bit better, but…I took a turn for the worst I guess. I started off running about 2.5mi (yes, I’m logging in miles because someone on my running log complained about me using kilometers…cough cough Jo cough cough). I was feeling pretty good—the land in Germany is flat, so it wasn’t too much of a challenge to just kind of mindlessly cruise. Things wen’t wrong at about 3mi. I died. I just couldn’t run anymore. And in my confusion/exhaustion, I obviously took a wrong turn at some point. I started walking, went the wrong way, and at some point realized I had been walking for a long while and was lost.
At this point, I continue to walk forward hoping that I’d find my way, I get passed by some suspicious looking police officers, and I realize that I’m doing all of this at 12:30 at night…awkward.
Eventually I found a sign that was directing me for Haven Höövt and followed it. While this lead me to a place I was familiar with, I still had a long way to walk. Suspicious stares from Turkish men in spielhalles were frequent and I walked down the poorly lit German road (probably at 1am now) in the cold. It was unfortunate, haha. Still, I tried to be optimistic. I enjoyed the night air and stretched my legs on the way back to Jacobs.
When I got back, I realized I had probably gone about 9mi in all and my legs hurt like a bitch. But yeah, that’s my story about how I got lost in my own German neighborhood.
While it's certainly not the most exciting destination, I made the decision to go to Osnabrück...and it honestly wasn't too bad! We found lots to do in Osnabrück, things to see, and weird art museums to go to. Thank God for free travel via our SemesterPass.
When we first boarded the train, things were looking up. Soon after, these young parents and their 3 kids entered the train. Oh no. The entire duration of the trip to Osnabrück the kids screamed and yelled and it was miserable. Even more unfortunate was the fact that I didn't have my earbuds, so I had to rawdawg the entire train ride with the children yelling. Ugh.
However, I did make it to Osnabrück alive and without killing anyone...thankfully. When we got there, we didn't really have a plan...we never really do. So, we decided to just kind of walk around until we came up with a plan. We knew for sure that we were hungry so we stopped to get some Asian food. Problem was, nobody there spoke English. Naturally, this wasn't too big of a problem for Daniel and me. We both ordered in German and tried to answer any questions they had in German. Pretty decent. Thura, however, doesn't speak any German...so that was a struggle. It was hard enough understanding what he wanted in English so we could translate it to German for us. In the end, we managed to get everything correct (even after the Asian guys got mad at Daniel for taking the wrong meal at first).
When we left a river appeared soon after so we walked along that until we started seeing cathedrals all over the place and decided to get a little bit more adventurous with our exploring. Knowing how important our knowledge of German is, Daniel and I decided to institute mandatory 15 minute German speaking periods every hour which really made Thura mad... oh well. We decided at some random point to head for the botanical gardens and made our way along a path. We took several detours; on one of them we saw a cool question door and got pictures with it. German backroads are really cool and historic looking. After walking through lots of muddy paths to get to the botanical gardens, we get to the gate to see it is closed. Some really old guy running by saw us at the gate and yelled in German that it was close. Daniel said we didn't speak German so he (surprisingly) told us it was closed in English and ran off. I never would have expected some old guy to be able to speak English!
Because we were rejected from the botanical gardens, we decided that we would head back in the way we came. When we found "civilization" again, a large chapel-like building appeared and made itself readily-available in our sight. Walking closer, it became evident that we had happened upon an art museum (Kunsthalle)...and a modern art museum at that. At the point that we arrived we were still in "German" speaking time, so we couldn't tell Thura we wanted to go into the museum. Therefore, we waited outside like fools until the time came that we could speak English to Thura. Thura agreed to join us in the Kunsthalle and so we discussed with the lady at the front and discovered it would be 3 Euros entrance. "Not terrible," we though. Dan and Thura hung their coats up and we entered the exhibit. It was...strange. There were overhead projectors projecting dust onto orange circles on the wall and a sculpture with a fan and a cassette player and a sculpture with a bunch of record players. We read the (mostly German) plaques beside the art and made our way through. There wasn't a lot of material, so it made sense that it was only 3 Euros for the entire exhibit. However, the crowning jewel was the last section we made our way through. The door opened and we grabbed burlap sacks to sit on. The reason the Kunsthalle looked like a chapel was because IT USED TO BE A CHAPEL. We walked into an old chapel that was entirely dark with weird mystical music playing and only light from the boarded windows shining through. We were told to sit down and enjoy ourselves for a short period of time...we weren't quite sure what to do. We sat for about 15 minutes, quasi-meditated, stared at the light on the wall...and then left.
The Kunsthalle was a strange experience (much akin to the modern art exhibit I saw with my friends Jo and Tristan two years prior), but it was definitely an interesting and fun one. Once we left we were instantly out of good ideas for things to do again. We walked around until our legs were sore and found a playground. With few kids around we did what any mature college-aged kids would do—we played! It was lots of fun, we got a little bit of a workout, and I discovered just how poor my balance is! Coffee was next, then a college campus visit, and finally we walked back to the train station and called it a day (did you like how a summed those events up in a single sentence since I'm sick of writing?).
Unfortunately, the fun wasn't over. We grabbed a RB (regional bahn) train instead of a RE (regional express) train which tooks us almost 3 hours (it took about an hour on the way there). We missed dinner and it sucked. The train was dumb and I was super mad. Furthermore, Dan kept singing in the Bremen Hbf when waiting for the Bremen-Farge connection and I wanted to kick him. The end.
Skating With My Host Family!
Not much to say here. I just wanted to keep this updated. Jacob and I went ice skating with our host family which wasn’t 100% painful…I did remember how not great I am at skating though, haha. When we left, we took the tram back to the Bremen Hbf, Jacob left early for some reason and then we made our way for my host family’s house. On the way, some random guy must have heard us speaking English and gave us a 2 Euro piece and told us (in German, mind you) to enjoy Bremen. It was weird. But hey, we were 2 Euro richer!
At home, we played German scrabble (I died) and ate dinner. After a quick walk, it was late and I had to go home. Not a lot happened. So yeah, the end.
To The Bürgerschaft!
German Politics and Culture went to Berlin a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, because it was prohibitively expensive, I didn’t go. I’ll be going at a later point in time. Because I didn’t get to go, I didn’t get to visit the Reichstag with the rest of the class which SUCKS. BUT THIS WEEK, we got to go to the Bremen Bürgerschaft (like a state house?). Equally as good? Not really. Still fun? Sure!
Our class got a nifty tour of the place, we got to sit in the cocktail room and we sat in the chamber where all of the MPs sit! It was pretty fun, I got a little nametag that said “Gast” on it, and we got to listen to Lillian give a speech about Bremen’s history and political climate.
Afterward, I went with Dariya and a Scottish friend named Hannah to get a drink (specifically iced tea)…although Hannah got a beer with lemonade mixed in it and now I really want to try it [Edit: it’s called a radler and I’ve beed advised against it]! We sat there for quite a while, got ice cream, and then headed back to campus (where we saw Dr. Deutsch on the train)! It was a good afternoon, and I thought it was worthy of a post here.
Nothing Exciting Happened This Weekend...
Yeah, nothing exciting happened this weekend unfortunately. I was planning on going to Bremerhaven but that fell through. Waking up late and not having people on board with you kind of sucks. Next weekend is Dublin though!
Thursday Night In Vegesack
Thursday night was pretty chill. We’ve been to bars in Bremen—it’s a common occurrence—but we haven’t been to many bars in Vegesack. So, we decided midday that we would venture into Vegesack, and what a great idea that was (this isn’t sarcasm…it really was a great idea). We finished up our school work for the day (German Politics and Culture is my only class on Thursdays) and we met up outside of Krupp A-block. Daniel and I arrived first, Dariya arrived shortly after, and we waited quite a while for Renata to finally show up. All the while, Dariya received a call from home, so Daniel and I harassed her by yelling “zdrasti” a bunch! She was super annoyed, but I found it hilarious, and I suppose that’s all that matters.
The bus arrived as soon as we exited the gate from Jacobs. If Renata took a second longer, we would have been walking to Vegesack. But alas, things worked out well. As always, the bus ride was pretty normal. I’m feeling extremely comfortable with the bus system now, and getting around Germany (Bremen, in particular) is super easy. Applause for their public transit. Woo! We dropped off at the Vegesack Bf stop and walked to the main street area of Vegesack where pubs are present and available. You can tell where pubs are in Bremen by the Becks signs outside. Odds are, if the restaurant doesn’t serve Becks in Bremen, it probably doesn’t serve beer at all. Which is a shame…because Becks beer is terrible. I have not drank for very long. I don’t even really have a refined palate. BUT I KNOW THAT BECKS IS TERRIBLE. Still, it’s based in Bremen and they funded a college at Jacobs, so that’s cool.
There aren’t a ton of pubs in Bremen, but there also isn’t a dearth. It’s a good amount considering it’s an adorable, small town. We walked past a few pubs and couldn’t tell if they were open or not. The first one we walked into had bartenders that gave us a weird look. Everyone there was old, so we left. Awkward. We next went into one called Gaststätte Nautilus. We sat down in a corner booth and the lady came to take our order. It smelled really badly of smoke—half the people there were smoking. So surprised it’s not illegal in Germany to smoke inside. But yeah, the waitress. No English. Yippee, this will be fun. We attempt to order the best we could, the lady is super rude when we ask for five more minutes, and we attempt to figure out what to get while she waits and looms over us. We got our drink, Renata told us about her love life, we drank as quickly as possible, paid and got out! Nothing to write home about.
We moved on to another smaller bar that was dimly lit and had few people in it. It looked nice though. We stepped in, the bartender had red hair, and she spoke a little English. Still, to be respectful we ordered in German (she was like, “AHHH, Deutsch!?”) and got our drinks. While we waited, we noticed the music was poppin’ in this pub and there were locals just having a nice conversation. They overheard our conversation, made fun of us for speaking English, and we all had a good laugh. The drinks were much better (no more Haake Beck, thank God) and we enjoyed just sitting in a dimly lit pub in Germany. I peed like 3 times while there (small bladder?) and was super embarrassed about that. Looking back, I doubt any of the people knew. They were having a grand old time by themselves. There was still smoke in this pub though, so we left.
The last pub was much more full and had many more young people. Louder and more drink variety. I think the name of it was Fährhaus, but I’m not entirely sure. We walked in, Renata ordered for us at the bar, and we sat down. The most interesting of conversations occurred here. Something reminded me of my Ancient Rome days in Dr. Kennedy’s class and I was triggered––I hate Cicero. I told everyone about how much of a douchebag Cicero was and they looked at me like I was crazy. I then recalled Catullus’ poetry and Dan and I had a good ole laugh about it. The line “Pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo” came up and we started to discuss how crazy Catullus was…it quite literally translates to “I will sodomize you and face-fuck you”…he later talks about how he wants to fuck the person in the manner that you would fuck a child…yeah, guy was nuts. Also, not sure how this came up but it was an interesting conversation to be yelling in a bar, that’s for sure.
This was the last pub for the night. We left, took some pictures with a statue of a donkey (WHICH DARIYA RUINED WITH HER INFERIOR PHOTO TAKING ABILITIES), and headed for the Vegesack Bf again. The train wasn’t coming for a while, so we made our way to a döner place right around midnight. The shop was closing but the nice guy working made an exception for us and made Dariya and Dan some nice Turkish pizzas. It was really awesome.
That was the end of that, we got home, I got a candy bar, and went to bed. The next morning I had to go to class and prep for Dublin, so I needed my sleep!
Top Of The Mornin' To Ya, Dublin!
After our time in Vegesack, I unfortunately had to wake up at a reasonable hour to get to class. I'm going to miss class next Friday due to traveling, so I figured I should be responsible and go. It wasn't exciting in any way, but I went and felt good about it. The professor means well (as opposed to some on this campus) but is super boring. The professor before him was so awesome! He offered students a ride on his boat in the North Sea and stuff—pretty nify. Anyway, I left, went to lunch with the gang (Dariya, Renata, and Daniel), and packed my bags for Dublin. I caught the 2:37 train to Bremen Hbf, took the tram to the Flughafen (which was perfectly timed! Wonderful!), and tried to figure out the confusing airport that is Bremen. I'm so glad I don't use it very often. It's not the best.
I got past security much more quickly than I was expecting and went to sit in the terminal. UNLIKE PREVIOUS TRAVELS, I was prepared for this lull. I brought my iPad and played Risk on it...it was a great use of time. I totally could have studied for a test or practiced my German...psht, nah. I actually ended up sitting there for about 2 hours, only to take a 30 minute connecting flight to AMS. I had enough time to make my next plane, bought some food (EXPENSIVE AIRPORT FOOD *SHAKES FIST ANGRILY*), avoid these Chinese tourists that were YELLING near the gate, and board my flight as it started to get dark. The flight into Dublin was beautiful, and the experience wasn't terrible 10/10 would fly KLM again at this point.
Dublin Airport was, again, confusing. It had tons of terminals/zones and I wasn't sure where to go when I got there. I was instantly surprised by the Gaelic everywhere...totally wasn't expecting as much Gaelic in Ireland as there was. I texted Kristina (who I was here to visit) and she found travel plans to our AirBnB for me to follow. It was only 10 Euro to get from the airport to our AirBnB...not sure how to feel about that since they have 10 Euro buses that go from Dublin to Limerick. Anyway, they said to find Zone 19 at the station and I COULDN'T FIND IT FOR THE LIFE OF ME. It was 10:20 and I was searching but couldn't find it. The bus left at 10:39, so I was freaking out (in typical Bobby fashion). Eventually, I found a guy selling tickets and asked him where Zone 19 was. He looked at me like I was crazy and said the bus would stop at Zone 21 (where I was). I don't think there was a Zone 19 after all. Still, I waited at Zone 21 and as 10:45 rolled around I started to freak out. "WAS THE BUS GOING TO COME OR DID I MISS IT," I thought to myself. Luckily (ha, Irish and luck), It came around 10:50 and I hopped aboard. I guess punctuality isn't exactly a thing in Ireland like it is in Germany.
I pulled up to the Blackrock Shopping Center where I was supposed to get off, stumbled out half asleep, and started walking the 2200m distance to our AirBnB. It was a nice walk. The area was pretty, it was quiet, and the weather wasn't too cold. Once I finally got there, I looked in the window, saw Kristina and Cody, and they came to my rescue! I got in, we talked about all sorts of non-sense (mostly Denison gossip because Kristina and Cody are like the Gretchen Weiners of Denison) and made it to bed. It was nice to see familiar faces and be able to catch up.
We woke up early the next day at my bidding (I don’t wanna waste a day in Ireland!) and hustled to catch the bus into downtown Dublin. We were hungry, so we decided to grab a breakfast (a full Irish breakfast, ooo!). We stopped at a little place inside a shopping center (I know, I know…super authentic) and ordered. It was so weird not having to worry about ordering in German. We got a free coffee with the meal which was nice and we enjoyed the food. There was a metric shitton of meat that came with the breakfast (ham, pudding, sausage) and it was really greasy. I’m still baffled that Americans are given the reputation of having terrible diets. Like really? The Dutch eat nothing but cheese and bread and the Irish load their plates with friggin’ greasy meat and we’re the unhealthy ones? Okay. Sure.
We didn’t waste much time eating though. We caught the first bus we saw headed for downtown and paid our 2 Euros for the ride there. Our ride ended up in a good place, and we weren’t too far of a walk from really touristy stuff…I was prepared to take on the world. The first place we went to see was Trinity College. It was one of the most beautiful campus I have ever seen…especially considering it was in the middle of a city. The buildings just oozed history and there were tourists everywhere. If Denison had tourists everywhere all the time, I would hate it—the people of Trinity seemed to embrace it though.
One of the things that Cody really wanted to do while he was in Dublin was go inside the Long Room in the old library at Trinity College. It was 10 Euro, but Kristina and I thought it would be worth it so we did the tour. There were 1200 year old books and the library was absolutely incredible. Pictures honestly cannot do it justice. The ceilings were high and mighty, and the book shelves were stacked with the foundation of modern knowledge. It is dumbfounding realizing that the Long Room used to be such a centralized place of education and scholarship. Absolutely beautiful.
While in the Long Room, I saw a book that had a map of old Ireland, so I looked through the older parts of town and noticed some…interesting…things. First, I saw a street called Drury Lane which, if you’re not an uneducated swine, you know is where the muffin man is. So, I made it my mission to travel to this wondrous location. But I also saw the old image for the St. Patricks’ Cathedral and several other older buildings (like a castle). The next step was visiting these places, so Cody, Kristina, and I set out to do it! We headed for Drury Lane, but we were unable to find it…on the way we saw a castle, so we stopped by. It was pretty uneventful, but it was cool to get to see a castle since I haven’t seen one in Germany yet (soon…). BUT THEN WE FOUND IT. Unfortunately, Drury Lane had been renamed Drury Street…so that was very depressing. Furthermore, there weren’t any muffin men…or even bakeries. I was rather angry.
Storming away, we went to the next destination: St. Patrick’s Cathedral. There were many nifty different things here. Along a wall, there were engravings of many important Irish people (Yeats was one of them!) and there were doggos everywhere. We sat there for a while, people watched, and soaked up the history. While Irish is the official language, it was nice hearing the “real” language of English everywhere again. Felt like home.
Once we exhausted St. Patrick’s Cathedral, we made our way for the next most important thing in Dublin—the Guinness factory. This is where Cody really began to shine. Cody knew so much about Guinness and had already done the tour three times before joining us. Before we even entered the factory, he told us so much about the process, history, and beer tasting that was to ensue. I’m not a very big drinker and am not a seasoned veteran of beer drinking, but he made me excited about the experience. We walked in and saw the 9000 year lease, which was pretty cool.
The tour started off and smelled wonderful. We walked through exhibits showing how Guinness (and beer in general) is brewed. They had a barreling process exhibit, a part on mixing hops and barley and water ‘n stuff, and they had a part on how to drink a Guinness properly. It was all good and fun—the factory was enormous and the beer was omnipresent. Guinness is almost more like a religion than a drink, and you could definitely tell this in their factory. As we finished the tour and made our way to the top floor of the Guinness Storehouse, we finally got up to the Gravity Bar. The Gravity Bar is a wonderful experience where you go to one of the highest points in Dublin and look down on the city whilst drinking a Guinness. It’s pretty wonderful. Incredible pictures were taken and views were taken in…it was hard holding a conversation with such astounding views around. To say it plainly, it was difficult deciding to leave. I wanted to stay forever.
Eventually we had to leave. A sad truth, but a…truthful one? From here, we made our way back downtown and went to see the post office that was shot up during the revolution around the time of WWI. It was a beautiful building, and there were still bullet holes in the pillars and front of the building. It was like living history! I loved that a lot.
Unfortunately, this marked the end of the day for us. At this point (idk, maybe around 5 or 6) Cody and Kristina wanted to go back to freshen up before we went out for the night. Of course, once we got back to the AirBnB they didn’t want to venture out too far, but Kristina and I still decided we would take a small walk around and not waste our time in Ireland laying around. Cody, on the other hand, decided he would take a nice nap. It was a long one, haha. We called him several times and couldn’t get him up. Kristina and my walk was really nice. Ireland is beautiful and parts of it reminded me of home. WE EVEN SAW AN OLD MAN SAY BYE TO HIS FRIEND SEAMUS! True Irish experience right there. We weren’t too far from the coast, so we walked to the beach and through the small town we were in. We got incredible photos and played around on rock formations in the area—as the sun set, we watched an old man go for a swim in the ocean in just his undies and proceed to strip naked. There were no fucks given. #Goals for the future. Kristina and I got to have a nice little talk about life and Europe and where we see ourselves in the future…it was really nice, and I honestly really needed it. I miss talks with deeper meaning.
Once we returned to get Cody, we made our way for the small town nearby, grabbed dinner in a small restaurant our AirBnB host recommended, and grabbed some drinks afterward to just talk about random stuff and see guys play billiards.
Kristina had to leave early the next morning, so we didn’t really get to talk too much (I was sleeping when she left). Therefore, it was Cody and I for the rest of the day (I believe I had to leave by around 2 to catch a flight). We left a little later than the previous day, packed up our belongings, and made our way to the bus stop to make our way into town again. Once we got off we stopped in a little pub to grab some eggs next to Trinity College’s rugby team. Eggs were good. Toast was okay. It was pretty meh altogether. BUT, that wasn’t the point. We left to complete some missions.
First, it was one of my main goals to get Lucky Charms in Dublin. Ultimately, the goal never became a reality, but we tried. In the pursuit, I instead found Cookie Crisps that I carried with me all over Dublin for the day. People looked and pointed but I was a happy camper. Still, it was a sad day with no Lucky Charms. Ya know, they’re magically delicious…
As a side note: the Irish call off-brand sugary corn-flakes “Frosted Flakes” and the Kelloggs brand is called “Frosties” with the tiger and all. Like, wtf! I was not expecting this.
Continuing on, we next decided to visit Tenable’s Dublin office (the EMEA HQ) because it was on my bucket list. I know, I’m a nerd (but a lovable one, that’s for sure…heh). So, we head toward Dublin’s ports and get to see all sorts of fun commercial buildings. It definitely led us into a new part of town. The office was in prime location, looked really pretty, and…well, was closed. We couldn’t see any logos. We couldn’t get in. We couldn’t even look in any windows because they were all covered by big wooden doors. It was rather sad, but I still got pictures with the big wooden doors! And a notice about construction permits or something on the side of the building that said Tenable.
This day was turning out to be a big day of disappointments…trust me, it gets worse later on. However, for the moment it got better because Cody got in contact with Bennett, another Denisonian studying in Northern Ireland, who was visiting Dublin for the weekend! So, we went to a nearby Starbucks (basic) to go potty and wait for Bennett. After some time of charging phones and sipping lattes, in walks Bennett and his entourage of ladies. Bennett—pimp. Lol, well, we all get to talking and exploding our American-ness everywhere for the Irish to scoff at. It’s getting pretty close to the time I need to leave at this point, but we decide to go get lunch and I’m not going to argue. However, I had my Cookie Crisps, so I just ordered a Guinness and ate my cereal. Yum. Didn’t stay for too long before I had to say my goodbyes and take off.
This is where the journey back to Bremen begins. I make my way to Dublin's airport by means of bus and go through the process pretty seamlessly. Sit at Dublin for a while with my Cookie Crisps and play Risk on my iPad until it's time to board. I start getting nervous as our boarding process goes rather slowly and I remember I have a 45 minute layover in AMS, an already extremely short time. I shrug and figure they'll figure it out. Besides, I was distracted by seeing a cute girl I saw from AMS → DUB on the same flight back from DUB → AMS as me.
Well, we're late back. Surprise surprise. The pilot, however, assures the entire flight that they'd be able to make their layovers. So, I rush off the plane (in a slow motion fashion that you have to get off a plane in because of old people) and run through the terminals trying to make it to my gate in time. When we actually were allowed off the plane was when my gate was supposed to stop boarding, so I had little hope. I get to my gate and the lady is like, "Yeah, that was done 25 minutes ago. You're gonna have to go talk to the people at the help desk thingy." She didn't actually say help desk thing...I just forget what it's called.
Angrily, I trudge over to the help desk and wait in a long line of people. At one point they tell us to get out of line and try the touch screen computer things...I do, but it doesn't work...and I lose my place in line. Thanks a lot KLM! Eventually, after like 45 minutes I get through and they tell me they have rebooked a flight for the morning for me and that they'd put me up in a hotel for the night. I had an exam in the morning, so I wasn't super happy...but heck, I'll totally take a free hotel in Amsterdam for the night.
So, I find the shuttle to the hotel, get off and head in. I get my key card and a voucher allowing me dinner at the hotel. I got a 30 Euro dinner for free and chilled like a king. I went up to my room, took a long shower, slept in a comfy bed, and prepared for waking up early the next day. Ugh.
My flight left at 8am so I had to be at the airport around 6:30ish. I caught the shuttle, went through security (AMS security and traffic, ugh, kill me now). Eventually, I make it through, head to my gate, catch my flight back to Bremen, catch the tram, take the train from the Hbf to Shönebeck, and make it back to Jacobs. What an adventure. I'm exhausted at this point, obviously. But I had a midterm that was...underwhelming.
So yeah, that's Dublin!
Little Me, Back From Paris!
This past weekend I left early, skipped my Friday class, and went to France! Not only did I go to France, but I went to beautiful Paris (as you could probably tell from the title). Several weeks ago I asked Evan if he wanted to do something this weekend. We explored locations, I found cheap bus tickets to Paris, and pronto...we met in Paris! But let's take a step back...
I prepared all week and got all of my work finished in order to leave for Paris on Thursday. I had to miss class on Friday in order to go, but I figured it was well worth it to do so. Most of my Thursday went entirely normally...I packed late per usual, but I unfortunately had to miss meeting with my host family.
My bus left at 10:30, so I had to arrive by 10:15 in order to be on time for boarding. I'm always unusually punctual/early, so I, of course, got to the bus stop much earlier...thus, I was one of the first people to board the bus. As the bus started in Berlin, there were already people all around. The first empty seat I found was right in front of the on-board restroom (ugh!), but it was empty so I took it. Little did I know that I was sitting behind Satan himself.
My first interaction with Satan was after the bus started running. Before we had made it to our first stop (I believe it was Münster), he had dropped his coat that he was resting his head on behind his seat. He kept looking around frantically and I saw that it was under his seat, so I picked it up and handed it to him. He was NOT happy about it. He must have thought I stole his coat or something (I definitely didn't, psht) and he snatched it out of my hand and gave me the nastiest look I've ever seen. It was really strange. Of course, everyone around me is asleep so they don't see the craziness of Satan. Next, he proceeded to lean back his seat as far as possible and when it rammed into my knees he turned around and gave me another really nasty look. He proceeded to jam it back over and over until he finally gave up, gave out a big audible sigh in apparent annoyance, and switched to his other seat to do the same (effectively trapping me in the innermost seat). To make matters worst, when he slept he snored really loud and I just wanted to kick him in the face.
Well, when we finally got to Münster, some ladies in a seat over got off and I quickly snatched their seat away from Satan for the rest of the ride. Satan then noticed, gave me a nasty look, but then looked very satisfied and jammed BOTH of his seats backward. That'll show me!? However, sweet sweet redemption soon came. These old people got on the bus, sat behind Satan, and asked him to put his seat up and one of them sat beside him. HA! Sucker. That'll show you to be a jerk. And Satan wouldn't dare be mean to old people. Sweet sweet revenge (kind of...more karma than anything).
Eventually, I fall asleep and wake up around 5am. Not much happens in the next period of time, but I stay awake and just watch out the window until I arrive in Paris at our bus stop. Now the fun begins.
I text Evan and he seems to still be a far ways out. His plane had arrived around the same time my bus arrived, but he still had to get from the airport on a bus which would take a considerable amount of time. So, I was on my own. I was in the Southwestern portion of Paris, right by the Eiffel Tower, so I decided to head to the Eiffel Tower, then to the Arch of Triumph, and then walk to my hostel to waste time. Both monuments were fine...I didn't stay long as I figured I'd see them again later. However, I suppose I didn't realize how enormous Paris is. My walk from Southwest to Northeast Paris took me almost two hours, and I believe I had nearly 16km of walking in that first day I was there. What a workout! All the while, people think I'm French all over the place? I guess that's kind of a compliment? Yeah, people are always asking me questions in French and then laughing when I tell them I don't speak French. Oops. Jerks.
I get to the hostel (eventually!), check-in (my room was ready, yay!), and go to buy a lock from a nearby store. It was surprisingly difficult to find a lock. Kind of annoying. The hostel is super nice and I really enjoy it. Once I finally arrive, I see Evan checking in and say hi (in a very bro-ey way) and we chill while he checks into his room. We hang out for a short period of time, and eventually we go to Notre Dame as I noticed it was close on my walk to the hostel. We didn't want to wait in line or pay to go up in the bell tower, so we just went into the church proper. When we went in it looked like a mass was going on, so we had to be quiet and take in the beauty relatively quickly. There was so much care put into building the cathedral and the gothic ceilings seemed to reach to the heavens. Notre Dame was probably my favorite part of the entire trip—it's that beautiful.
At this point, we're a bit parched so we decide to stop by a bar and get a drink. We head all over Paris until we eventually find a place that has beer listed as 5 Euros. Not entirely unreasonable. We get to the counter, order a beer...and are asked if we wanted a small or large. Well, apparently the large was double the cost (or maybe that's the tourist tax) because we ended up paying 10 Euro for some crappy French beer. Never again.
From this point, we head to the Pantheon, see the Eiffel Tower, and notice the vast amount of history in France. It's just absolutely ridiculous. All of the walking and the traveling from earlier, however, has us very tired...so we walk back to the hostel and take naps (for about an hour) until we're ready to meet Maddie (a friend from Denison...she lives in Paris for the semester) at a restaurant that she highly recommends for dinner. The restaurant is wonderful, the carbonara that I have is delicious, and I don't even mind the wine that she orders (usually I hate wine). It was surprising to eat Italian food our first night in France, but I wasn't complaining. Maddie had things to attend to that night, but she recommended this really cool whiskey bar that we should head to. It's a bit difficult to describe and still do it justice, but I'll try.
The premise was simple: they tried to mock the US's prohibition era speakeasies. When you walk into the bar, it looks like a normal Italian restaurant. Plenty of light, pizzas all over the place, and people slurping pasta like an homage to Lady and the Tramp (no meatball nudging though...). This was just the tip of the iceberg. When you look around, you notice a door on the back wall that looks like it goes to a storage room...and you'd be right at that assumption. As you walk through the door, you're met with storage of food supplies, freezers, and cleaning supplies in random places. However, the magic happens when you open the door on the back of the "storage room". You open up the door and you enter The Moonshiner. As you step into the next room, you feel like you're entering the 1920s and alcohol suddenly becomes a taboo topic on the outside and this dimly lit speakeasy is the only place you can truly sit back, relax, and have a drink. The decor is fine, the atmosphere is great, the separation of smoking and non-smoking is unusual in Paris (but surely welcomed), and the alcohol is...well, not really worth the price...but I suppose you're paying for the atmosphere. We spend an hour or so at this bar before heading back and going to our hostel to prepare for our first full day in Paris.
The next day I have breakfast with people from the hostel that we had met the day before. They were Americans also studying abroad and seemed nice enough. Evan took a while to wake up, so they were gone by the time he had gotten there...we then decided upon our plan for the day. Our first stop was at the Louvre. We were a little skeptical about going to the Louvre because everyone we had talked to had shit on it, but we decided it was kind of something we had to do while in Paris...so we went! Technically only residents of the EU should get into the Louvre for free (if they're between 18 and 26)...but Evan and I were able to convince the people working there (who didn't really care in the first place) that we were from the EU. All it takes is a fake accent and a residence permit that looks like an ID!
The Louvre is just incomprehensibly enormous. It's just...well, huge. Evan and I were in the Louvre for nearly 4 hours and during that time we didn't even see a fraction of the section that we were in. In fact, it took us nearly twenty minutes to find our way out of the section we were in without even looking at any more art because we wanted to see the Mona Lisa before having to leave. Whilst there, we saw some pretty cool art. Many of the art was just "meh" but we did see that cool meme guy that points and some Monet, which was nifty. Eventually we had to leave to meet with Maddie again.
This time, Maddie took us to this cool old-fashioned France hill "butte" thing. She was very excited about it (as she seemed to be about most of Paris) and told us all about it. We ate at this nifty restaurant, got a ham and cheese sandwich (which wasn't too bad considering I hate ham) and talked more about France. It's kind of overwhelming how much Maddie loves Paris. While in the butte neighborhood thingy (I'm sure it has a name and Maddie would kill me for not calling it by that name) we went to the oldest vineyard (and last, if I remember correctly) in Paris, we went to a church on the top of the hill, and we got some gelato which was definitely needed. Like, vitally. It was an adorable little neighborhood, exactly what you think of when you think of France, but it was also incredibly touristy. Still, it was neat finally seeing people playing accordions in Paris like you'd expect if you'd never been there.
Maddie didn't leave us here, however. She next showed us the Champs Elysees (where she repeatedly said she wished she lived) and a few museums around the area. Of course, we're all poor college students so we didn't buy anything, but it was still cool to see all of the life in the city. I still prefer New York and Chicago though *shrugs*. We continued to walk toward the river, got a picture, and eventually Maddie left us alone to do our own thing. We, at this point, didn't know what to do with ourselves now that Maddie was gone...so we went back to our hostel to figure out our lives. From here, we decided to walk along the street our hostel was on to find a place to eat dinner because it tended to be cheaper. We found a reasonable place to eat and walked in—the waiter spoke English, thankfully, and he wasn't super rude about it like most Parisians seemed to be. I had a hard time eating a portion of my food...I wasn't very hungry apparently, because it was delicious. Evan also had trouble finishing his entire meal, but for a different reason—namely because he ordered a dish that was basically raw meat. He claimed to have enjoyed it (or at least not dislike it) but I think he found it disgusting... YOU CANNOT FOOL ME EVAN. Also, there was a very adorable child running around, which was fun to watch. But I digress...
Finally, to end the night we went to go grab some drinks. Keeping with the trend, Paris was very expensive and so were drinks. The bar wasn't that great and was extremely full. Evan told me all sorts of interesting stories about times he was high and how he reacted though...so that was fun. I love high people stories...they're usually pretty funny. We got back to the hostel around 1am and prepped for our last day in Paris by getting a good night's sleep.
The last day we're in Paris we wake up (relatively late) and eat breakfast. From there, we take a 15 stop metro ride to the Eiffel Tower (I can't believe I walked that entire distance the first day) and basically chilled there most of the morning. Got some incredible photos and Evan got the Snapchat video that he was foaming at the mouth the entire trip to get. It involved Kanye's "Ni**as in Paris" and some rapid zooming action. High quality, for sure.
Soon enough, we realize that we're being lazy bums and probably should actually do something while we're in Paris and we get up and head to the Musée de l'Armée that Maddie had talked about the day prior and that we passed several times. It was free for students (huge plus) and we got to see a lot of really cool things. From medieval armor to artifacts from the French Revolution, there was a lot to be seen here. If you went outside, you could see modern military equipment alongside some really old cannons that looked totally badass. It was a good time. Perhaps the coolest part of the museum, however, was seeing the burial place of Napoleon. The building where he was buried was unbelievably enormous, his entire family was with him, and you could tell that Napoleon is vastly important to the history and the people of France.
Even after spending plenty of time in this museum, we couldn't seem to burn away time fast enough. We went to the American Embassy. Didn't burn much time. We went to the Pantheon again. Didn't burn much time. We walked through the Louvre gardens and went to a Starbucks to use the restroom. Still didn't burn much time. But eventually it became time to meet Maddie for the last time before I left. Maddie wanted to take us to a crepe restaurant, which was pretty good, but she kept talking about sharing food and stuff (and I don't share food...idk, I'm weird) so I lost my appetite. The crepes were very good, but also very expensive (like most things in Paris).
When we were done with crepes, we said bye to Maddie for the final time and continued to randomly walk around. Before my departure time drew too close, I made sure to tell Evan that we needed to go back to the hostel so I could grab my stuff. We went back, talked a little bit, but eventually we hugged it out (a bro hug, don't worry) and went our separate ways. I'm not entirely sure what Evan did that night, but he has a knack for getting himself into trouble when he's alone...I'm sure things went well for him.
I, on the other hand, hopped on the metro, pretended to be a French person with unlimited confidence in navigating the city, and stopped by a grocery to get myself some water for the long trip ahead of me. That interaction was pretty flawless, too, and by the end of my trip to Paris I think I did a pretty good job of blending in. As I traveled back to the FlixBus stop, it seemed like I was doing my original journey in reverse. I saw the Eiffel Tower and Arch of Triumph again...and eventually arrived at the bus station. I was there a bit early, but I didn't mind because that meant I was going to get a good seat on the bus (and I did!).
I hop on the bus, prepare for my 10 hour journey, and an old moustach'd man sat beside me after asking "Ist das plätz frei?" in a really terrible accent. I responded "Ja." and he sat right on down. We didn't really talk, but over the duration of the bus ride I came to realize that this guy spoke like 5 languages. He knew English, obviously at least some German (he also made a phone call in German later on), he knew French and was visiting his children in France, he knew Spanish (he called what I guess is his wife and talked to her in Spanish) and his phone was in Spanish, and he also knew some Italian (I could tell from the accent he used on YET ANOTHER phone call). That was pretty cool to notice. He might have known even more that I didn't get to experience during our time together. In fact, he was rather fluent in the language of snoring. *rolls eyes* During the bus ride I ate too much sugar and didn't get nearly enough sleep. Typical.
But yeah, Paris was fun and I highly recommend. It is expensive, but it's fun for a short few days. If possible, have a native speaker with you. Things will go much better!
Another (Cheaper) Haircut!
Another quick little post. Went for my second haircut in Europe. The first one, if you'll remember from the 'Dam post, was in Amsterdam and cost an arm and a leg. This second haircut was in Germany (Vegesack to be exact), was just as wonderful, but it was significantly cheaper and I had to tell them what I wanted in German. I was super nervous the entire time. I hate speaking German to people who don't speak a lick of English, so I warned the barber-person that my German was bad and he was super nice through the entire process. I would really recommend the place to any students in the area—great service and great haircut!
A Night Out In Bremen
It seemed like a long week and a few of us just wanted to hang out. First, Jack had a friend from Hamburg visit...it was fun. Jessi is a lovely person, has a great sense of humor, and made fun of my German pronunciations of words (the word "röhre" I believe). She brought a car with her, so we got to experience Clement trying to drive a car with a stick (and subsequently Jack, who was pretty damn good for his first time driving a manual!). After these trials, we decided to go to Primark/the mall for good measures and some interesting time. I needed to buy a lock (never found one) and a short sleeve button up shirt (found some but didn't buy any because I'm super indecisive).
In the end, the only people that actually bought stuff were Clement and Jack...they got some shoes. Everything in the mall was camo—to the point where Americans were making fun of them for it. I guess camo is in? It was a good time.
The last part of this short post was that night when we went out. Dariya, Daniel, and I decided we would go out for a few drinks before being separated for Spring Break, so we went to Paddies and got a round, then went to the Schnoor and got a round at a place called Little Mary's or something before finally getting a text from Clement and Jack saying they wanted to meet us at Paddies. SO, we went back to Paddies (this time in the upstairs area which is smoking...which smelled terrible) and had a few drinks. It was a good time, our waiter looked like he was about 15, and we played horse races and just shot the shit.
It was on the train back that Jessi made fun of my German pronunciations and it was when we finally got back that we all admitted we were a little hungry and wanted some food. So, we went to Pulse in Jacobs' student center and got some food and just hung out on the steps like hooligans. 10/10 would do again.
So, before I leave for Israel I want it to be known and understood that I'm going to have a week's worth of writing ahead of me and it's highly possible that it could take me a while to get it into writing. I'm going to try my best to not just list out things that happened or speed though the posts because it's going to be an awesome trip. But just a forewarning.
The Trip To Israel
Before I headed out on that last day I was in Bremen, I grabbed lunch with the Vienna crew who were apparently also planning on leaving that day. I don't remember anything about the little luncheon other than talking about our destinations and them offering for me to ride the same train as them to the Hbf. They were headed to Frankfurt and I was headed to Hamburg, but it would be a nice 15 minutes together? Originally I wasn't going to, but then I realized I'm bored and have nothing better to do...so I went with them!
Once we separated, I went to my platform to wait for about 45 minutes by myself which was as boring as death, but I managed and got some fruit ring things to hold me over. They were rather delicious and have kind of become a staple of traveling for me. Eventually some gargled message gets yelled over the loudspeaker in the Hbf and I notice that the screen on the platform changes. From the announcement I could tell that the platform for the train had changed, but I couldn't tell which platform it had changed to. A guy who didn't speak German came over and asked me what had just happened and I shrugged and then, with 2 minutes or something left until departure, I start frantically running around checking signs. I had no idea what to do. Eventually, I run back to that same platform and realize that the train was boarding on the track just opposite of where it was supposed to be. Ugh, easy enough. I hop on the train and wait for what seems like 30 minutes before it leaves. It's a good thing that I don't really have anywhere to be except sleeping in the airport that night...
As the train starts moving, I realize very quickly that I had made a grave mistake in my seat choice. There was a crazy lady yelling about something (for the entire ride) and some kids jumping all over the seats even nearer to me. I still have one working earbud on my headphones, so I plug those in and proceed to play lots of Risk (which is incidentally what this trip and traveling was kind of defined by). I played all the way to Hamburg and think that at this point I have learned how the AI is programmed just via playing the game. I have the ultimate strategy that never fails. BOOM!
Anyway, I eventually get to the Hamburg Hbf, look around for a bit, and hop the S-Bahn on the way to the airport. My plane leaves at roughly 7am, so it's gonna be a rough night. I get to the airport, walk up to the main terminal, find a bench, lock up all the important things in my backpack in one pouch, and instantly pass out. I actually got decent sleep for about a half hour until a security guard approached and informed me and the gents atound me that sleeping in that section of the airport wasn't allowed and that I'd have to move to the arrivals area (where benches all had arm rests and the ground was cold and hard). Needless to say, after that move I didn't get very good sleep. I roll around on the ground for about an hour before deciding maybe a bench with armrests would be more interesting to finagle. Eventually I just give up and when 4am rolls around I board the plane. I'm beyond exhausted at this point and just want to sleep... I grab a chocolate croissant for breakfast and notice a German fellow having his first beer of the day rather early. What a strange country.
EVENTUALLY my departure time rolls around, I board the plane, and the 20 minute (or so it seemed) flight to Frankfurt was over before I knew it. As I exited the airplane I saw a lineup of Lufthansa A380s and big glass windows. I was excited to finally be in Frankfurt airport. Frankfurt was a large airport, but I slowly realized it wasn't the best airport. It wasn't extremely clean, it was kind of confusing, and the food in German airports kind of tends to suck. It's just a shitton of pretzels and beer (sorry if this comment offended you...if it did, you're probably a German or a college student...or both). Even though my layover was 8 hours long (yes, 8 hours...that is correct), I had no idea what to do with my life. I sped through the airport to find where I was going but I was so early that they wouldn't even let me in the gate. My first action of the morning was to feed my face. I went to a Starbucks and got a foofy drink and a muffin. It was expensive...typical Starbucks. Furthermore, the girl wrote Barbie on the cup instead of Bobby...I hate Starbucks employees and their social media ploy. I'm going to start giving them names that are actually difficult to spell.
"Uh, hi, can I get a vanilla latte please. Oh, my name? It's Hrothgar."
FIGURE THAT ONE OUT STARBUCKS EMPLOYEE! I ate my muffin and drank my strawberry creme garbage pretty quickly and then set out to charge my phone. I found a charging station and, quite literally, sat there for two hours just staring into space while my phone charged. It was exhilarating. I was so tired I didn't think anything of it at the time—now that I'm looking back, that was really weird. A bunch of really weird people walked by though, so I enjoyed people watching and trying to eavesdrop on German conversations (pretty unsuccessfully). I ate one more time before finally walking to the gate thinking I might get some sleep there. I get in and have to wait another 4 or 5 hours until the plane leaves. So, I go through the first bit of security and THEN the second bit of security just for people leaving for Tel Aviv since the security is so high. I get into the gate area, watch the people before me leave for Tel Aviv and sleep in an empty gate. This is until I am awoken by another security guard who told me they were clearing the gate area for the next flight to Tel Aviv. I told him I was on the next flight to Tel Aviv and he told me I'd have to leave and go through the security again. A-NNOY-ING.
I do as they please while some other lady yells at them for the same thing because it's inconsiderate and BLAH BLAH BLAH. Learn to pick your fights lady. I get some gummy bears in the meantime, eat enough to make myself sick, and sit around waiting for my flight to leave.
EVENTUALLY, the plane boards and we are off to Tel Aviv. I'm in a 3 seat row but with only me and some other guy. He seems pretty chill and kind of looks like a tan Vin Diesel. I never caught his name, so I'll just call him Vin from this point on. Remember that. This is my first time flying Lufthansa, so that was a fun experience. I ordered all of my food and stuff in German like a boss and tried to blend in as much as possible. The only thing annoying about the flight was some like 12 year old kid in front of me that kept standing up on his seat and looking at me...I didn't quite know what to do about that.
Eventually Vin and I got to talking. He asked if it was my first time in Israel and we talked about what it was like. He seemed to really be passionate about Tel Aviv and the community of Israel. We then talked about other things. I mentioned the Silicon Wadi, Tel Aviv's version of the Silicon Valley, and Vin had actually founded some tech company around the dotcom bubble and it was a good time? He was now some big-wig that was in charge of like 40 countries for something, and I was impressed and jealous of all the places he got to travel. He was telling me about how he lived and worked in New York, Dusseldorf, and Dublin. But when I got to talking to him about the US and New York, he didn't seem to know much despite living there for 5 years. I suppose that is proof enough that you shouldn't let work take over your life. You should enjoy work and let it be part of your life—enhance your life even—but don't let your work consume your family time, your free time, and your time to actually explore the places you're going.
You should enjoy work and let it be part of your life—enhance your life even—but don't let your work consume your family time, your free time, and your time to actually explore the places you're going.
Eventually my conversation with Vin waned and we continued to do our own separate thing. I had been listening to podcasts and he was reading some book about stocks or something. Psht, noob.
The views from the plane were absolutely stunning. We flew over the Alps and we flew over the Mediterranean. There were points when we were over land and you still couldn't see a light for miles. It was stunning and humbling. It really makes me want to travel through Greece and Turkey and Bulgaria to experience the beauty. Eventually, lights became more common. Their frequency grew and grew and eventually it was difficult to ignore. The captain made an announcement that we were about to land in Tel Aviv...
The plane touched down, a bunch of little kids in the plane (including the one in front of me) started clapping (weird). I texted Molly to ensure her that I wasn't dead, and I made my way into the crisp, warm air of Israel. Goodness it felt nice to be in warm weather. I made my way through Ben Gurion to the passport check and it took forever. What made things worse is that it seemed like all of the lines around me were moving super quickly. I made my way through the line until the people in front of me went for their check. There were all sorts of questions and their check took just as long as the rest of them combined. Ugh. The lady at the passport check actually thought the two people (mother and son) were boyfriend and girlfriend and was super confused about the whole thing. Dumb. Dumb dumb dumb. Guh.
My turn came and I stepped up to the desk. I gave the lady a smile and received nothing but a grimace. Ok. She asked me all sorts of questions, made me feel bad about traveling alone, and then proceeded to let me go through. Jesus (ha, a religion joke). I got to an ATM, withdrew 400 NIS (I finally got to use a currency called Shekels wooooooo) and looked for a cab. Because it was the first night of Passover, public transit wasn't running so I had to hop a cab to the city.
I asked the taxi driver guy.
"About 160 NIS,"
he said. I was so tired that I didn't even care that I was paying 40$ to get to Tel Aviv, so off we went into the Israeli night!
We got stuck in traffic, but I remember noticing just how smooth and clear the highways were. It must be great not having snow and ice screw up your infrastructure. We eventually arrived to the address, I thanked the driver, and I looked for my hostel. I had trouble getting in but once I did I talked with the person at the desk, got my keys, and passed out. I was so tired, and I needed to prepare to experience Israel.
My Day In Tel Aviv
My first day in Tel Aviv I wake up at a reasonable hour and get ready. I shower and change clothes and all that good stuff. I head down the stairs and out the door because I'm so excited to explore the city—I don't realize until later that I completely forgot to eat breakfast...oops! When I walk out the air is warm and crisp and I'm super excited to be there. I can smell the Sea in the air, so I head directly for the seaside and take no detours. I'm on a mission for some suuuun. Soon I remember that in my haste I also never put sunscreen on, so I can feel the sun beating down on me, but I brush it aside because I'm dumb (yes, this is foreshadowing).
As I walk through Tel Aviv I realize several things. First of all, it's kind of dirty. There's trash on the streets, a metric shitton of cigarette butts everywhere (I mean everywhere), and there is graffiti all over the place (which I'm slowly realizing is kind of the norm everywhere in the world except for America...). But I also realize other things. The air smells incredible—it doesn't seem polluted in any way and the smell of food kind of overtakes the city. At this point I'm not sure how to take Israelis or Israel. I continue walking and eventually make it to the beach.
The beach is beautiful and clean. The people there all seem so happy and just... very open-minded. I look to the left and see the old city of Jaffa. I look to the right and see big cities in the distance as well as an old port/shopping center looking place. I'm conflicted on which way to walk, so I turn towards Jaffa. It's not a short walk, but I don't mind. I've got plenty of time, the beach is soothing, and I'm just enjoying the sun which is such a rare commodity in Northern Germany.
When I finally get to Jaffa, I get a very distinct and strong stench of fish everywhere I go and when I walk into the empty-looking warehouses I see books and trinkets galor...all over the place. Only problem is that everything is in Hebrew. I don't understand a lick of what anything says...I can't even glean because the Latin alphabet isn't used. No cognates...no cognates anywhere. At the same time, as I look around I realize that everyone looks like Vin from the plane. I'm confused and weirded out.
I CONTINUE ON THOUGH like the trooper that I am. From the port I walk to Old Jaffa to see old buildings and other old artifacts (I'm not sure what else to call them). Everything seems so historical—this old city is exactly what you think of when you think of "Jesus' times". It just seems so Middle Eastern and is incredibly beautiful. I'm so jealous that America was founded by Europeans so late and we don't have the kind of history that much of the rest of the world (especially around the Med) has.
At some point while I'm walking around (and this is only noon or so) I realize that I'm starting to get pretty sunburnt. This is bad, especially since it's my first day in Israel and I've got to endure the sun for another week or so. As a result, I find a tree in the Old City and sit in its shade. It's a beautiful, relaxing moment...one that I don't really experience much since I'm rather up-tight and think way too much about all sorts of random things. Furthermore, to elevate the wonderfulness of the experience, there were two dogs there and the owners were kind of neglecting them (that's not the wonderful part) and so they came over and played with me and it was wonderful (that's the wonderful part). ALSO, some little kids are being bad and playing in a fountain and I want to yell at them but, 1) I don't know Hebrew, 2) I don't know them, and 3) some old people yelled at them for me, so I didn't have to.
I sit in that same spot for about 45 minutes while I wait for Nicole (Renata's friend) to get there so we can chill and hangout and she can show me around Tel Aviv. She finally arrives (from the direction I wasn't expecting, might I add!) and we hug and are cordial and all that jazz. It was nice to see a familiar face and to hear English from someone! We're both starving so we go to some Arab place at the bottom of the hill and grab some delicious food. It was well prepared and pretty reasonable in price. I'm loving Israel at that point. Then we walk Jaffa, explore a bit, but then head out toward the beach.
Because I'm no longer in America, I need to adapt to new things—Americans text a lot but everywhere else WhatsApp is king. So, Nicole introduces me to voice chatting (obviously inferior to texting). I honestly don't get the point in voice chatting...just call the freaking person if you want to talk to them! Ugh.
Anyway, Nicole is like the biggest celebrity in all of Tel Aviv. Everyone seems to know her as we walk on the beach to the other side. AND THE LOVE SPREADS! One random girl (obviously not random to Nicole...only me) came up to Nicole, started talking to her in Spanish, and then hugged me...I was confused. But it was nice. I felt like I was part of the coolest entourage ever. We finally arrive to the port on the other side of the beach and stop to get something to drink because we're a bit parched (and I'm getting pretty burnt). We stop at this nifty little restaurant, Nicole orders us mint lemonades (apparently it's a thing?), and we gossip about Renata and she tells me all sorts of stories about Quito. The culture is so different there, so I found it incredibly fascinating.
Once we leave the restaurant, we go to buy sunscreen/aloe (that is highly overpriced and the most expensive sunblock I've ever bought AND the guy working made fun of me saying I was "red"), and then we headed into the city. Nicole was a wonderful tour guide and explained Israel's history to me so I understood what the heck was going on. I was pretty clueless prior. We visited a monument commemorating a PM of Israel that was assassinated in 1995 and then we visited a square where Nicole had to catch her bus. Quick thing I learned with Nicole: there are no vowels in Hebrew. You have to freaking guess what vowel sound would go in there. Like, what the heck Hebrew!?! Get your act together.
After she left, I went back to my hostel, had a nice conversation with two (wait for it..) Germans! One was from Bremen and one was from Lübeck and my bunk mate was from Hamburg. It was weird. Almost all of the people in my hostel were German...which I found ironic in Israel...
Anyway, we talked about travel, philosophy, mathematics, American football (I felt I was the least knowledgeable on the subject...awkward), and told stories from the past. We all shared a bottle of Arak and got super wasted by the end of the night. One of their names was Till (or some spelling derivative of that) and one was Edward. Weird name for a German. We talked for probably 5 hours...it was good. Till gave me a Bremen ritual that I need to carry out. It's called the Bremen Baptism and includes a Haake Beck and three shots all in one quick take. I forget the bar in the Viertel he said it was at, but I will have to find it. It's how boys become men in Bremen.
Lastly, before this post ends, if you're reading this and are interested, ask me about Till's story about a wedding in the desert in Israel. It's a riot to listen to...probably one of my favorite traveling stories I've heard.
But yeah, that's it for Tel Aviv. Off to Jerusalem and Ramallah the next day!
One Way To Ramallah
I was sad to leave Little Tel Aviv Hostel (it was very nice and felt like home), but I was ready to get out of the bubble of Tel Aviv and experience something a little more raw and real. I checked out, skipped breakfast again, walked all around freaking Tel Aviv trying to figure out the dumb Israeli bus system, bought some chocolate and water (the essentials for life), and eventually found the freaking bus station since buses apparently don't stop at bus stops!?!?! The signage was terrible, I looked forever for the 405 to Jerusalem, but eventually I found it. I wait in line for about 10 minutes...the bus gets there, I board, and we're off to Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is beautiful—it's no wonder they call it The Golden City. All of the old buildings are a beautiful, rich yellow color and you can sort of soak up all of their history while walking past. It's crazy to think about all of the things many of these buildings have probably seen. However, I'm not supposed to be staying in Jerusalem for too long. So, I look around for where to board the 218 to Ramallah but I can't find it for the life of me. I eventually end up in a place called Demascus Gate, and there is a big bus stop, but it doesn't seem the 218 is anywhere to be found. I look... and look... and look... nothing. I can't find this freaking bus. Eventually, I give up and ask someone.
"Excuse me, sir. Where can I find a bus to Ramallah?"
"Ramallah?! You? Heh, well, there's another station behind that building."
Well, that was weird. Anyway, I walk behind the building and see my bus! I walk aboard, pay my fee (like 7 Euros or something), all of the people aboard look at me like I'm a nut case, and we are off to Ramallah. There's a USB plug on the bus so I charge my phone and I text Yusuf to inform him that I'm not too far out.
Once I finally arrive in Ramallah, it takes me a while to find the entrance to my hostel. I see a big sign on top of a building but I can't find the darned entrance. I walk around for a while and worry that I'm making Yusuf wait, but eventually I realize I have to climb a bunch of stairs and I'm met by a really nice young lady. She checks me in and shows me around...only then does Yusuf walk in. I see him, run toward him, and launch into a hug. It was great to see a friendly face. We talk briefly, I put my stuff away, and then Yusuf suggests we get something to eat. I'm starving at this point, so I willingly agree. We head down to some falafel place (what I'll end up eating most of the week) and order some falafel pita and some other weird things that I still don't know what they are. Then Yusuf walks over to the buses and says,
Okay, let's go to Jericho!
And so it begins...
Quick Trip To Jericho
I'm so glad I had Yusuf with me... he's fluent in Arabic, so that was vastly helpful. First thing we did was found a sherut to Jericho and hopped in. There was only 1 place left, so Yusuf sat on the ground by the driver. The trip wasn't long but the landscape was incredible. Yusuf asked the driver to let us out early, and we went to the Mountain of Temptation. When we got there, there was a man with a camel and a bunch of little stores. We didn't stop in any of them. We simply headed for the mountain and made our way up. We made a few wrong turns but we always backtracked and got back on the correct path.
We got to the top of the mountain after about 15 minutes of hiking and right as we were about to enter they tell us it was closed. Really unfortunate timing. So, we get a drink of water at he concession and start walking down where a bunch of Palestinian kids start yelling at us that we're foreigners and look like we are from Israel. Oops. That was bad. So we avoid those kids at all cost.
Once we get back down from the hill, we hitchhike into town. This nifty guy driving an old beat up BMW picks us up and we jam to rap music all the way into town...it's only like a 10 minute ride, but it's a good time. Driver guy was a total bro.
There isn't much in town. We bought some swim trunks for the Dead Sea (but never went), we visited some sights like the big tree from the Bible and a church or two, we got a chicken thing (I'm not sure what else to call it), and then we just kind of explored. It was getting late, so we made our way back to the city center and asked some guy if there were any more shared taxis running to Ramallah. There were! So, we sat and waited until it finally arrived!
The ride back was just as breathtaking as on the way there...maybe even moreso because the sun was setting as we left. The mountains were beautiful and the landscape was largely untouched.
When we got back, we both decided to chill for a bit and then went for a drink. Before the drink, I met some fun people at my hostel (Dutch girls are so attractive). Some of Yusuf's friends from his hostel met us there, and...it was interesting. There was a lot of discussion of economic alleviation and political issues (makes sense given the region) and I got bored. Everyone at the table other than Yusuf and I were also smoking, so I got kind of sick of that and my throat was sore.
After the night, I went back to Area D and passed out. Long day. Excited for the next day. The only other thing I remember from that night was that our hostel was right beside a mosque so the goddamned Imam woke me up at 4:30am for the call to worship or whatever...and it sucked and I just wanted to throw something out the window. Damn, such a long announcement. Ugh.
Jerusalem & Bethlehem
Through Jerusalem & Bethlehem
I woke up and eagerly got ready for my first full day in Palestine. I take a shower (the water pressure sucked because freaking Israel takes all of the water from Palestine) first. But then I got dressed and super excited. Here we are in such a beautiful place. Jericho was breathtaking the day before and I'm so ready for more. I meet up with Yusuf and we hop in a sherut to Jerusalem. Before we could do anything Yusuf had a meeting with the US consulate in order to get his passport renewed because it was entirely full. He had to go there to order a new one in order to be able to get home in May. While he played at the consulate I decided I would explore the Old City a bit and see what it has to offer.
First of all, I wasn't expecting the Old City to be so enormous. I though, "well, it's old so it can't be too big". That was wrong. Jerusalem must have been a bustling town back in the day. Jesus must have been chilling in the modern day equivalent of anew York. But it was also neat how much history was there. I remember walking by a tour guide who said something like, "and this is where Jesus put his hand on the wall and did *something important here*". Like, first of all, how do they freaking know that?! Like, what the heck. I don't know what I had for breakfast a week ago and they know where Jesus put his hands?
Jerusalem, to me, seemed like the real life equivalent of Mos Eisley. There were salespeople everywhere. Some were interesting as hell and you could tell others were the scum of the ear trying to scam you to make a quick shekel or two. You really do have to watch your back there.
Something strange and notable that happened whilst in the Old City was when I decided to explore an old seemingly German church. I was intrigued by the German writing there (as opposed to Latin or Hebrew) so I went in. Well, I didn't really even get to explore the freaking church before some old lady attacked me when I walked in. In English she asked, "are you Romanian?" Ummm, not sure how to respond to that lady. "No, ma'am," I said. She seemed very excited, however, that I knew English. She then launched into her shpeel that I'm sure she gave plenty of times before.
"Do you go to church every Sunday?"
"No, ma'am. I don't."
I think this excited her because she could continue her shpeel.
"Well, you should."
She then handed me a Bible.
"See this book? It'll save you. It saved me when I was your age!"
I still had no idea how to respond to this little old woman who looked like a Disney villain.
"I, uhh, okay. Thanks."
Unannounced and un-asked-for, she then launched into the story of how it saved her. She was very animated. She paced back and forth and hobbled showing how sad she used to be and then opened her arms to the sky when she said that she let God into her life. Meanwhile, I'm just like, "leave me alone crazy lady," but she was all about the story. Eventually she told me to leave with the Bible (it was a gift) so I could let God into my life. She asked if there was anything else I needed and I said that she had helped me enough and got the heck out of there.
The hours I spent in Jerusalem's Old City seemed to last no time at all. Before I knew it, I had to meet Yusuf at the Demarcus Gate. Once we met up, we got some pictures of the entrance and went back in because there was something Yusuf wanted to show me. It ended up not even being open for the day, but it was cool to go back through with Yusuf.
When we left, we went back to Damascus Gate and made our way to none other than Bethlehem! When we first got there we were super hungry so we went to a little market and bought a watermelon. We had the people there cut it for us so we could eat it raw (without silverware like the animals we are) on the streets. While we waited we looked around and checked things out. We noticed there was a lot of alcohol in the market compared to other places in Palestine. Yusuf proceeded to thank the Christians for their alcohol contributions to the world. Before leaving, Yusuf made some self-deprecating racist joke about how he need his daily watermelon, he paid, and out we went.
There's plenty of alcohol in Bethlehem because it's a Christian town. God bless the Christians for that contribution!
Locals looked at us like we were nuts while we ate our watermelon on the streets. I mean, we kind of are nuts. It was delicious and rather messy. As we walked toward the center of town, two random kids come out of the woodwork and ask us if we speak English. I thought they were just looking for a tourist to scam so I continued walking without saying anything, but Yusuf turned around and started speaking to them. After some talking with them, we learned that they were actually Americans from Missouri studying abroad in Bethlehem whilst taking online classes. Weird. They showed us around, which was pretty cool actually. I don't remember their names unfortunately...but I assure you they were cool guys.
We walked past (and briefly in) the Church of Virgin Mary, up to the refugee camps, bought some delicious wafers and a drink, took us to see the wall separating Palestine and Israeli occupied area, and then went into a museum (Walled Off Hotel) to see an exhibit about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was extremely interesting, even more sad, but really great to see it alongside other Americans. It sucks that a lot of Palestines problems are a result of American aid.
At this point, Yusuf and I thought we were going to head back to Ramallah, so we headed to where we thought the bus station was. It was, in fact, not where we thought it was. Know what was there? The Church of the Nativity...the place Jesus was allegedly born. So we visited that with the aid of some random Palestinian guy giving us a ride (He was interesting. Spoke no English whatsoever. Hated Trump but loved Putin and Assad. Ok.). We got curbside service. It was pretty great. Yusuf also asked him where to get dinner, and he gave us a place, but it was ridiculously overpriced. Furthermore, the shop owner beside the "best falafel in town" place looked sad and neglected so we bought from him instead. It was still pretty good in the end. Yusuf had bought pita and hummus earlier, we found a place that sold beer, and we had a (illegal) outside picnic. It was a good time and we were street scum again.
After this, it was getting late so we tried to find a ride. We first tried the bus station but it was only tourist buses. We then tried a shared taxi but no one else was going back to Ramallah. So we decided to try a different bus station but go into Jerusalem and transfer into Ramallah. We just barely caught the bus and got on. When we finally arrived in Jerusalem, we ran to Demarcus Gate station and caught our bus to Ramallah! I was so relieved to be able to catch a train back. This is the closest we came to getting stranded in a city (well...kinda).
That night I realized that Palestinian night life is weird. You see strange things there like dealerships for those tiny electric powered cars for toddlers and people making kebab at speeds so quick you can't see what's going on.
I was staying at Yusuf's hostel this night, so we went back and passed out. It was a long day, and we were still uncertain of what was to happen the next day.
Dead Sea For Free!
Yusuf had to work in the middle of the day, so I'm kind of stuck doing something on my own during the day. He is free to go after 3 or 6 or something. Idk, it wasn't important to me. So around 10 (yes, it was a late start to the day...bite me) I hopped a 218 bus to Jerusalem so I could connect to Kalia Beach. On the bus, I'm always infuriated when I have to pass the border and all of the Palestinians get off and must go through the border by foot. It's so sad that they have to do that in their own country. Plus, I see Israeli soldiers abusing their power and littering all over the place. It's like the Stanford prison experiment brought to life. Give a bunch of 19-20 year olds guns and they abuse their power.
Anyways, I get to Jerusalem and run all over the city trying to find the gosh darn bus stop. I hop down to some Arab sub-town and there isn't anything there. I go to the top of the bridge where there is a bus stop but no buses seem to be coming. Dumb. So eventually I just bite the bullet and go to the central bus station. Here I catch a bus (although the bus driver confuses the crap out of me) and off we go. Something was wrong with his payment thing so everyone paid while we were on the road...I didn't. So when we got to the stop, I asked the guy beside me what I should do and he just said get off without paying. Huh, okay. I saved 10$ that way! Felt bad, but still, I'll take it.
I get off at the stop and some Palestinian guys start asking me to come to their car (in Arabic). So they basically tell me they're going to take me to the resort at the Dead Sea, apparently with the caveat that I help them get into it...but I didn't realize that. Oops. So when we got there they said a bunch of stuff in Arabic (obviously waiting for me to get them in...which I don't have the power to do) and I'm like "da fuq". I then hand them my phone to use Google Translate (I have to download the Arabic keyboard, of course) and they type something that translates to "We are going to die with you for something new". Even more "da fuqs" ooze from my body. As they're arguing amongst themselves, I meet some Russian people looking to get in and they speak poor English. We talk very briefly and the people start yelling at them in Arabic then (probably asking if THEY can get them in). During this time, I sneak up to the gate and speak to the Israeli guy who lets me in. That's the last I saw of those Palestinian guys. I felt bad, but oh well.
I got into the resort (it was the equivalent of 10$ US I think) and walked around. I got a locker for my stuff, put on the swim trunks I had bought prior in the trip, and headed down to the beach. Nicole informed me earlier that I might need sandals as the ground was very glass-like...well, I didn't. However, everything went well. The water was nothing like I expected. First of all, everyone told me it would burn a crapton to go into if I had any cuts...apparently I didn't. I didn't feel anything when I got in. The next thing hey usually say is that the feeling would be weird because you float. Originally I didn't think this was the case as I walked away from the beach, but when I lifted my feet and tried to float it was so easy! I think the most astounding part was just how difficult it was for me to get my feet back down! I actually struggled. It was a cool experience. After that I tried to get a little bit of sun but it didn't work all too well. The views were beautiful though!
As I began to think about leaving, I realized no bus came by the resort. Furthermore, because of Shabbat most buses stopped running by 5 meaning they wouldn't be making too many runs after 3...which was the time. So, I meet three other Americans (all older than me) and we all try to figure out travel. We get out to the highway and wait for a bus at the stop (with one possibly coming in an hour) but then a lady starts hitchhiking and eventually gets a car. We had talked a little earlier so she asked if I needed a ride to Jerusalem too and I said yes and we hopped in and headed to the Holy City!
The car ride was nice. The beginning was just them talking in Hebrew so I zoned out, but then we all began talking about random things. They asked where I was and were envious of my age and traveling the world (it's not super easy to travel with an Israeli passport) and we all have a jolly good time. It was during this time that I realized I had gotten to and from Kalia Beach...for free! That's so cool. Completely unintended, but a nice perk.
As we get nearer to Jerusalem, they ask me where I'm traveling to next. I tell them I'm going to Ramallah and they have no idea what to say because they aren't allowed to go to Ramallah. They warn me that apparently two hours earlier (or about an hour after I got off) on the light rail that there was a stabbing and that I should be careful in Palestine. I thank them for their concern and head for the light rail with the lady. We ride to our destinations and go our separate ways. I'll miss them.
When I got back, Yusuf told me his hostel was full so I had to book with Area D again. I wasn't too sad. I think I liked Area D more. I got back and did some planning and catch-up on my phone before heading to hang out with Yusuf some.
In Hostel in Ramallah (Yusuf's hostel), I got dinner and watched the beginning of inception. Yusuf then decided he wanted to go out, so I obliged. He brought along one of his friends (from France) named Elise and we had a dang good time. We bought some beer from a liquor store and sat in a dark back corner and talked (so we didn't get caught public drinking again).
After we were finished, we went to a Palestinian bar called "Radio" and had another drink. Apparently Yusuf was super hung over the next morning...I didn't think it was too bad. We met a really nice girl there who talked about her experience in Palestine and we just talked about random stuff.
We left, went back to our separate hostels, and called it a night around 2am. I'm always surprised (probably shouldn't be...) at how safe I feel in Ramallah at night. Palestine is incredibly safe (or at least there's the illusion that it is).
Alone In Ramallah
The last day I'm in Ramallah Yusuf has to work all day again. Therefore, I'm tasked with finding something to do until 3 when Yusuf can take me to Jerusalem to see me off to Tel Aviv. While it was boring being alone, I found lots of things to do for the day and am glad I was in Ramallah for the Easter celebrations.
I went to some museum about about art and history in Palestine owned by a private citizen and it was free. I met some British couple there, but they were leaving as I was getting there. The owner gave us tea and talked with us about the state of Palestine and corruption in Ramallah. He was really fired up about it and seemed to think all of the Palestinians hated him (they might have...I don't know!). I walked around and looked at art afterward, which was just all right, and then when I heard the bands outside for the Easter celebration I decided it was time to leave.
When I left the streets were littered with people and a parade had formed in the streets. It was mostly young kids playing in a band (well, several bands) but it was fun to see the patriotism, happiness, and pride of Palestinians. I walked around for a while and took pictures but you can only look at the same thing for so long. Therefore, I walked around in shops around Ramallah, bought two delicious cinnamon buns for a shekel each (or about 50¢), and finally it was time for me to go see Yusuf to head to Jerusalem.
Back To Tel Aviv!
I had to wait a while because his hostel boss kept him over working longer than he was supposed to but eventually I said goodbye to Ramallah, took a touristy photo with the "WeRamallah" sign, Yusuf said something really stupid...like,
There's a famous restaurant in Spongebob. I think it was a lobster restaurant.
(it's the freaking Krusty Krab Yusuf!), and we hopped the 218 back to Jerusalem.
This ride to Jerusalem was also really annoying...and it's even worse to think about the fact that it was only annoying because I had to experience what Palestinians normally have to experience. When we got to the checkpoint between Israel and Palestine, the soldiers (for the first time ever) told Yusuf that because he had a Jordanian visa in his US passport that he'd have to go through security. This sucked because it meant I had to go with him if we didn't want to get separated. So, we went through the whole demeaning process of being checked for...idk, bombs? It didn't seem very effective at doing anything other than annoying people, and we had to deal with dumb Israeli soldiers that were power tripping real hard. Annoying. Furthermore, I lost my first freaking ticket in the first bus so I had to pay for the second leg twice.
When we arrived, we ended up in east Jerusalem but walked to the west thinking we might find something to eat or see. We. Were. So. Wrong. Shabbat was in full force, so absolutely nothing was open in Jerusalem. We walked around, cursed Shabbat, asked a guy in a hotel where some gentiles might eat and he told us to eat in the Old City (where we had just come from). Ugh, more walking.
Eventually, we decided to go to a restaurant where Yusuf knew the owner in east Jerusalem. It was pretty good and felt very Americanized. As you could probably guess, I loved it. It was actually pretty reasonably priced too. Here I was able to recharge my phone and refuel before sitting on a bus to Tel Aviv and then having to find my hostel.
After our meal, Yusuf and I walked a bit further, looked for an ATM, but when we finally got to Demarcus Gate we had to part ways. It was sad to have to see goodbye to Yusuf, but I'll see him again when I'm back in the states and at school in August. He lives in Columbus so he isn't too far away. Well go get Ethiopian food or something!
Bus ride: normal. Finding hostel: easy. However, I wasn't expecting my hostel to be as lit as it was. There was a freaking party raging, which was annoying because I just wanted to go to bed. Yusuf and Elise (the French girl) had recommended this hostel, but I thought it was really lousy compared to Little Tel Aviv.
So, yeah, that was pretty much it for the night. I went to bed (and distinctly remember dropping my phone from the top bunk of a bunk bed without it breaking). Decent night's sleep.
Last Day In Israel
The next day seems to move so quickly. I get up, shower quickly, realize that the girl in the bunk beside mine was reallllyyyy attractive, and go grab some breakfast. Breakfast consists of some weird cracker things with Nutella (not complaining--not good or bad...just meh)...but seriously though, she was really attractive. At breakfast I notice there are lots of Aussies at this hostel. They are kind of obnoxious, smelly, and rather loud. I prefer the Germans in Little Tel Aviv, haha. Anyway, yeah, out into the world of Tel Aviv hoping those crackers hold me over until Munich (spoiler alert: they do!).
I told myself that before I left that I wanted to go back to the beach one last time. So, I walk to the beach, trying to stay in the shade and avoid a sunburn any further than I already had during the week, and just kind of sit around for an hour. It doesn't sound super productive after the fact, but I assure you that it was. It was wonderful and relaxing and just what I needed before traveling for a long time again.
After that time was up, I headed for the train station and wait a while for the train.
I'm pretty ahead of the game. I knew Ben Gurion security was supposed to take super long, so I try to arrive extra early...it just so happened that I was about 5 hours early. Haha, oops. The train comes (I distinctly remember how they were not electric powered like the trains here in Europe) and I board it. I'm not quite sure how long it is supposed to go or where to get off—again, Israel signage is atrocious. Despite this, I find my stop and step out onto the platform ready to take on Ben Gurion.
Apparently it's also ready to take me on. Lo and behold, I'm selected for a random in-depth security screening. This is probably in large part due to the fact that I arrived so early, but still...blech. They ask me all sorts of questions and want to check my hostel reservations and whatnot. Really annoying, but I suppose it was part of a training procedure so it was okay. I wouldn't be doing anything important.
After the security screening, the security guy let me cut all of the people in the line for carry-on baggage. It was pretty cool. I felt like a celebrity cutting all of the peasants that were waiting in line. But then I had to deal with Ben Gurion's actual security. They made me take my shoes off, they removed everything from my bag, and they did tons of full body scans. It was annoying. But I suppose that's how you are awarded the rank of safest airport in the world.
I sat around in Ben Gurion waiting for my flight for what seemed like forever. I ate a whole can of Pringles and a Reese's while waiting and then tried to walk around the airport (like that small amount of exercise would fix my binge). Eventually, my plane started boarding and we were off to Munich.
The entire flight from Tel Aviv to Munich these two Russian ladies talked extremely loudly and wouldn't stop talking right beside me. It was a long flight, my head hurt, and I was thirsty. That was aggravating.
Got off the flight, Munich was clean and easy to navigate, and their seats in their terminals didn't have armrests so sleeping wasn't terrible. I only got around 4 hours for the night, but it's better than what I got on the way there. Munich has gained a place in my heart as one of my favorite airports...maybe even my favorite. However, when I got up in the morning the food options were't great.
Last flight was late to leave but early to arrive so I was able to catch an earlier train! Woo! I got back to Bremen an hour earlier and was able to catch up on some random things before my class. It was a good trip and I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing a part of the Middle East. Here's to more trips in the area (assuming the US doesn't keep screwing things up diplomatically!).
If you're looking at this now, it's not been updated yet. I'm still reflecting, okay!?!?!? Get off my case!
[Edit: yeah, I'm not going to update this. I feel like the "reflection" would become rather political and I don't want to really hop into that on this log...that ain't the point.]
Katowice, Kraków, & Oswięcim
A few months ago Daniel and I decided on a slight whim to buy tickets to Poland. The tickets were cheap (around 29 Euro) and was to an exotic place that we hadn't heard of. Later on we told Dariya of our plans and she was angry that we were so impulsive but eventually ended up playing along. Renata skipped this trip, unfortunately. So, off we went to Katowice for a fun little weekend. Little was planned, but it ended up being pretty fun.
We hopped a train to Hamburg Hbf so we could catch our plane from Hamburg Airport. The ride from Bremen Hbf to Hamburg Hbf was pretty seamless. We played hangman and a fun game called "Contact" until the ride was over. Once we got off, however, I got separated from Dariya and Daniel. I don't know where they went, but it wasn't with me. I looked around, went to the platform for S-Bahn to look for them, but they were nowhere to be seen. So, I bit the bullet and assumed that they caught the train without me. There was a lot of uncertainty and I was really nervous I was going to miss the plane if I didn't leave soon.
In all of the haste, I forgot to buy a ticket for the S-Bahn, so I was super nervous I'd get caught sans-ticket and have to pay a fine...but all went well and I was good to go. I got to the airport with plenty of time to spare. I went through security (which is ridiculously quick and streamlined at Hamburg Airport) and directly to my gate in hopes of meeting up with my lost friends. Well, they weren't there so I logged into the Hamburg Airport wifi and checked Messenger. There it was. The message. Daniel notified me that they were on their way. I was so relieved.
I waited for them to show up and we all waited for the departure time. In the meantime, I got my card working and prepped for international withdrawals so I didn't run into any more international fees.
The time came for the flights. They were what you'd expect...flights with RyanAir. It was nothing to write home about but nothing to complain about either. When we got to the airport in Katowice, I withdrew some Złoty (Polish currency...they don't use the Euro because their economy isn't strong enough) and we caught the bus into the city.
Once our bus arrived, we went directly to our hostel, met the person working (who was kind of creepy and had a strange voice and was wearing crocs so I didn't trust him fully), got our room (which was really nice for the 10€ a night that it was), and went out to get some food because we were starving after our travel.
We looked around for a bit but eventually ended up going to some random pub that looked like it had some English outside. Low and behold, nobody in freaking Katowice speaks English. So, we struggled through ordering our food and drinks but then enjoyed the ridiculously cheap prices of food. All in all, I think that meal (fries, enormous burger, and beer) was like 6€. I love it. These prices will continue through the entire trip, which is good because I'm getting super poor after traveling in Europe so much. And Poland is definitely uncensored. One of my first experiences was walking past a club (Energy 2000 was the name, I believe) and hearing an old Polish chap yell, "fuck your whore of a mom," to another patron (in Polish of course). Oh Poland, you never failed to surprised me...we went back to our hostel and prepped for a day of travel the next day.
The next morning, we woke up, bought tickets to Oswięcim, and because the train didn't leave until a little after noon we hung around Katowice for the morning and explored the city. There wasn't a ton in Katowice. There were lots of cool old buildings, but there wasn't a lot that beckoned tourists to come. The best thing about Katowice is that it is a gateway to Oswięcim and Kraków.
After a little bit of exploration, we went back to the train station and waited for our train and talked over some Subway (which deals in 15cm and 30cm sizes here in Europe!). During this time, Dariya also insulted black leather jackets while sitting next to someone wearing a black leather jacket. He promptly left, which we were worried meant he understood us and was offended. Anyway, we waited a bit and our train eventually came, so we made our way to Oswięcim. In case it wasn't clear up to this point (it probably wasn't), Oswięcim is the Polish name for Auschwitz.
When we finally arrived in the city we had no idea what to do. The train station made it seem like a ghost town, and it was kind of sad. There wasn't much around. A cab driver was waiting there at the station though, and the word "Auschwitz" landed us a 5$ cab ride to the museum.
When we got to the museum, we got tickets into the main museum but they weren't for 2 hours...so we caught a shuttle to Auschwitz-Berkenau. It's hard to explain the feeling of being there. I don't really want to write too much on Auschwitz just because I don't feel that I'll do it justice. It's an incredible, humbling experience to be there. It's so sad and it's unspeakably angering. After Berkenau, we went back to the main site and went through the main museum. Unfortunately, we didn't get to spend a long time here because we had to catch a train to Kraków to be able to get into our AirBnB in time.
We caught a 4$ cab back to the station this time, and we caught our long, boring train to Kraków. Poland isn't very visually interesting. It's kind of like taking a train through Iowa. Lots of farms. Lots of racist graffiti. Lots of flat land. Kraków, however, was absolutely beautiful.
When we got to Kraków we ran into some trouble. Our AirBnB coordinators/hosts did not contact us. So, in the train station worried texts flew around and Google searches for hostels in Kraków became much more frequent. Eventually, Michał, our host, responded! Woo! He gave us a time and a place to meet and we were off. We navigated the streets of Kraków at night. The location was really close to the station, so it didn't take us long. Not after arriving, our host also arrived. We successfully have housing! Woo!
After getting put up in Kraków, we decided we would feed our malnourished bellies and get something yummy. Daniel found some place to go on TripAdvisor but we didn't end up going there because it was too full. We walked around a bit more and found a cool place to eat. I got carbonara and a beer, and it was absolutely delicious. The people there were very nice, but we noticed that much of the meal people were looking at us strange. Not only servers. Not only customers. Not only people that came in after we were seated. Everyone. It was the strangest feeling...I felt watched the entire time we were there.
After the restaurant, we went to some Irish pub because that's Dariya favorite thing to do, even though she only ever orders ginger ale while we're there. It was ok...nothing too special. We got some drinks, Daniel got pretty tipsy, and we went back. It was all okay.
The next day we seemed to be just trying to waste time in Kraków. We went to the city center, lots of little shops, we saw an absolutely beautiful castle, and that was the majority of the day. We ended up going to some Polish-esque restaurant and had some greasy food. We walked around a little bit more, visited some churches (affirming Polands Catholicism complex), ate some delicious American ice cream (I miss it so dang much). By the end of the day we were pretty wiped out, so we went back around 7 and fell asleep. I slept for an hour but waited another hour to wake up the other two. We wasted a lot of time sleeping.
After we woke up, we ate at Bobby Burger (and I got freaking stickers) and then we went to another random Irish pub (I'm telling you...it's all Dariya ever wants to do) and proceeded to make fun of Dariya for that very fact. We continually talked about "nice pubs" that have "cozy atmospheres" to bug Dariya. It was really a good time.
The last day, we woke up late and tried to burn some more time before left for Katowice airport. We went to see a memorial to Copernicus and we decided to see a museum exhibit about some Symborska lady? It was all right. We walked around more, ate more burgers (I guess the Polish like their burgers), and eventually the time came to leave.
We made our way to the bus station by passing through the mall it's attached to. We eventually found our bus stop near the top floor and were about a half hour too early so we sat around and didn't do much. Luckily, our bus got there early so we got dibs on seats and didn't die of the cold just standing around. I started up the Podcast machine (my phone) and listen to some more of The Thomas Jefferson Hour, my current podcast binge. I absolutely love it because it reminds me of home, is about TJ, and is about history. The speakers on it are really engaging and it's just generally very easy to listen to.
We drove to Katowice, Dariya at some point asked to trade seats and I said no because I didn't want to disrupt the people around us, and I enjoyed the 2 hour ride. During the ride, I thought we'd be pushing it on time, but we ended up getting to Katowice really, really early and had to wait around in the airport for a while. I continued to pass the time by listening to my podcasts and by browsing Reddit looking for random things. Eventually our departure rolled around and we boarded our plane. Nothing notable...typical RyanAir flight. Meh.
However, when we got to Hamburg we started to notice problems. It was 11:30 and we had trouble with finding a train to Bremen. Eventually we found a train that would work, but it was a regional bahn so it took for freaking ever. 2 hours later we arrived in Bremen with no working local trains, so we had to wait 30 minutes for the N7 night bus and took an hour to get to our stop. From there, we had to walk even further and by the time we got home...we were rather exhausted. It was a long trip, it was 3:30 in the morning, and we had to get up for 8:15 classes
All in all, the trip was worth it. Kraków was beautiful, Auschwitz is one of those things where you can't fully appreciate or understand its magnitude unless you visit it, and the trip wasn't unreasonably expensive. I'd definitely go back.
On Tuesday my friend Maaike who is from Amsterdam mentioned that she was going home on Wednesday for King's Day (think...umm, maybe Independence Day in the States?). She was going to be traveling with another one of our exchange friends and invited me along. At first I said no...I didn't want to go. She said okay and I thought that was the end of it. However, on Wednesday morning I was super jealous of her and Brooke and figured I probably wouldn't get a lot of opportunities to go to a King's Day celebration again. So, around 2pm I booked my tickets to leave for Amsterdam at 4pm after clearing everything with Maaike. I'm going to King's Day 2017! Woo!
I board the train for Bremen Hbf and everything is normal. I have a coffee and Danish pastry from Jacobs to make the trip go smoother and all is well. When I get to Bremen, I transfer to my main train and sit back to listen to some more podcasts and catch up on writing these posts. Not much was of any interest on the train other than the crazy lady in front of me. She had this adorable dog with her that was so obedient and well behaved, but she was rather nuts. I first noticed this when she started a conversation with the conductor when he came by to check our tickets and wouldn't stop talking. She kept saying weird things about her grandma and things that didn't make much sense. Her poor dog was chilling all the while, but she was still kind of socially awkward. I noticed this again when some announcement came on over the loud speaker on the train and the conductor made a mistake and she hysterically laughed for, like, 3 minutes. Weird.
Once I finally got off at Amsterdam Centraal, I bought a tram ticket (which I bought for 12€ and only used once the entire trip!) and took the one tram to the stop Maaike wanted to meet me at. Originally Maaike and Brooke were supposed to arrive before me, but their bus got delayed so I actually arrived about 10 or 15 minutes before them. Once they finally got to the stop, they yelled my name and we met up. It was a wonderful reunion.
Maaike walked Brooke and I to her abode and we set up shop. We pulled out her pull out couch so I had a bed and put all of our things down. We met Maaike's parents (quite possibly the most wonderful people on the planet) and sat down for some dinner. Maaike's mum made all of us Polish beet soup and we had crackers and cheese. Felt very Dutch while eating and cutting the cheese. Soon Maaike's friends all came over and we prepped for a night out. I felt kind of weird at first because they were all girls and I was the only guy there, but everything grew on me. It was lots of fun (even when they sang songs from Dutch boy bands...kind of, haha).
When it was time to go out, Maaike looked at me and said, "can you bike?" Of course I can! Well, that meant that I got to bike through Amsterdam on one of the Van der Rohe bikes! Before we left, we took a few shots of Jaeger and made our way down the ridiculously steep Dutch stairs. Maaike unlocked her bike, her friends all did the same, and before knew it we were out into the night in Amsterdam. We weaved in between cars and around other bikes. I talked with Maaike's friends while we biked and they were so nice. Dutch people really are the greatest. We all got separated from each other several times but somehow always ended up back together.
Eventually, we stopped riding and chained our bikes up to one of the many bike racks in town. I had no idea where we were or where we were headed, so i just followed Maaike's friends. Eventually we found Maaike and were at a concert thing in the middle of some street corner. It was fun, we talked about random things (like I discovered that Dutch people call their king Willy! So I did that the whole rest of the trip), and eventually we even met up with some of Jack's friends (Jack from Jacobs). Not too long after, we went to some bar and met up with even more of Maaike's friends (most of them guys this time) and sat down for a few drinks. Brooke and I each bought each other a round of Delirium (some Belgian beer that all the other exchange students ranted and raved about) and we spent the rest of the night there. I think we were there until almost 3:30am when we decided it would be a good idea to leave.
At this point, Brooke is freaking wasted. She's talking nonsense. She's tripping over stuff. She's flirting with all of Maaike's friends. It was actually pretty funny. I don't know what it is about Amsterdam and people getting way too drunk. Anyway, to sober up Brooke we decide to go get some fries and Maaike has to hand feed the, to Brooke. We tell her she is drunk and she counteracts by telling us she can do a cart wheel...which she runs into the street and does rather dangerously. At this point, Maaike's friends are looking at us thinking that Americans don't have limits and are kind of nuts. Eh, it was fine. We parted ways for the night and headed back to Maaike's house. Only problem: Brooke was too drunk to stay on the back of Maaike's bike. So, we had to walk the whole way home while trying to guide drunk Brooke all the way through Amsterdam. There were several times where I thought she might fall and bust her head open, but she did good. We made it back safe and sound and went up to Maaike's room to pass out.
Knowing the night before, we didn't actually wake up until around 11...which is pretty bad. I felt really guilty for having wasted so much time in Amsterdam sleeping, but oh well. We all got ready (showers and whatnot) and ate breakfast. Maaike's house is absolutely beautiful. She shows us around and we even go to the rooftop to get a great view of Amsterdam from high up. The day is progressing though, so we head out into Amsterdam dressed in our orange for King's Day.
The park right next to Maaike's house is a big deal on King's Day. It's where, by tradition, little kids sell their stuff and people come by and pay for their goods and services. It was really cool seeing all of the little kids outside enjoying King's Day, eating their food and playing games. There's lots of great tradition...it's a wonderful holiday.
Most of the day is spent walking around doing random things. We walk around, talk, ask Maaike lots of questions, and meet with some of her high school friends. People are cruising around the canals in boats packed to the brim with people that are all unbelievably hammered. Streets are littered super badly and there's a concert on every street corner. Amsterdamers (is that what they're called?) know how to party!
By 6pm we are all super tired. Before heading back, Brooke goes back to the park to get some homemade stroopwaffels and we make our way to south Amsterdam. We go back with the intention of taking a nap, but we mostly just sit around and talk about different things. Maaike's dad makes us dinner (which is delicious) and we sit around talking over dinner (and after) until Brooke has to leave to catch a bus to Paris around midnight. We talked about politics and geography and sports and economics. Really fun stuff, and Maaike's dad is super knowledgeable about European history and culture.
We pile into the family car and head to Sloterdijk to drop off Brooke and head back to get some sleep for the night.
We don't wake up until 10ish again and by the time I'm showered and eat breakfast, it's getting kind of late in the day. I leave Maaike to her family and say my thank you'd and goodbyes and then set out with the intention of meeting Ashmita and Seymour who were also around for a few hours. Well, Ash later informs me that they slept in really late in Delft and wouldn't be able to make it to Amsterdam to see me in time. They stood me up. :0
So, I walked around and did things in Amsterdam all by my lonesome. I tried my best to blend in (despite not having my hair gelled) and think I did pretty well. I enjoy Amsterdam. If I learned Dutch, I wouldn't mind living there. Or anywhere in the Netherlands really. Eventually the time comes for me to leave, I go to the train station, grab a smoothies, and head out to the platform to wait. As always, I'm a bit early but my train does eventually come (thank goodness!).
On the trains, some more weird things happen (there are always train stories, aren't there?). First, a freaking cat on board meows the entire first leg. That is 3 hours to put it into perspective. Meowing. The entire time. Why does your cat need to be on a train!?! Next, the last half of the train ride some Spanish speaking lady and her poorly 'stached son talked loudly, yawned as loudly as humanly possible, and lounged in their seats with their feet up and their heads on seats. I'm sure this made Germans nuts...it's considered really rude to put your feet on seats here. She then proceeded to whine really loudly while rubbing her feet. I really hated that woman. To assist her in annoyance, some guy behind me had an unlimited supply of apples that he continually ate. Loudly. Ugh.
TO MAKE MATTERS WORSE, my train from Osnabrück to Bremen gets stopped short of Bremen and DB (the terrible company that it is) herds the passengers along on two separate buses to another station THAT ISN'T BREMEN. There a bunch of passengers wait in uncertainty and misinformation as DB screws around. Eventually, a train comes and all of the people scream and run after it while yelling. We all board and hope that it is, in fact, going to Bremen. It was! I exited the train, switched tracks on the platform, and waited for the train to Schönebeck. I'm gonna get home for the night!
I missed a lot of stuff in classes and have some work to do on a paper due on Tuesday. I should really pay attention to priorities...oops.
I Have A Paper Due
Spring is here! It's May 1st, the sun is shining, and I...have to write a paper. This isn't extremely important...however, it's interesting to put things into perspective.
Geneva & The Jura Mountains
Hiking in Switzerland
Before leaving for Switzerland I was woefully unprepared. Brooke had booked the flights and planned the trip, so I wasn't even entirely sure where we'd be in Switzerland...you could say I "went with the flow". As I started to look up all of the supplies I would need, I realized that it was time to go shopping. Luckily, I was able to borrow Maaike's rucksack to carry along...and Chris lent us his 3-person tent, so none of us would go without shelter for the night. Still, we needed food and I needed a sleeping bag...so we went into town on Wednesday to buy some supplies.
There are actually quite a few nifty outdoors stores in Bremen. We stopped in several and bought some meals that can be cooked with boiled water and some high protein and calorie dense bars for the trip. I also decided to buy a sleeping bag there, which was ridiculously expensive but I figured I didn't have time to wait for shipping and the investment would likely be worth it in the long run. We grabbed several other things from the market in Vegesack and decided we were prepared to go. We loaded peanut butter and alcohol (the kind you use to fuel a camp stove) into Listerine bottles to fit the 100mL limit and got a good night's sleep. This weekend would be long. On Thursday morning, we woke up early and got some breakfast to ensure everyone was on the same page logistically. We grabbed some coffee around 11am and stocked up on sandwiches from the coffeeshop. We caught the 11:07am train into Bremen and we were off!
All of the travel on the way to the airport seemed rather seamless. We caught the trains all right, the S-Bahn wasn't too bad on the way to the airport, and our flight boarded on time at Hamburg. I'm not sure I've had a trip where things have gone so well so early on, but I'm skeptical at this point that something is destined to go really wrong. Because I forgot my earbuds, the flight to Geneva was painfully boring, but I had a window seat so I managed by reading Eurowings' magazines and looking out the window. This also meant that I was the first of Jack, Brooke, and I to experience the majesty of Geneva's mountains. As we flew into Geneva, they became the backdrop and were indescribably beautiful.
Disregarding the mountains that we'll soon be entering, we have plans to keep to. We quickly figure out the currency situation and buy our tickets for the train to Nyon. We hopped aboard the train to Nyon (which was surprisingly reminiscent of the trains in Poland...Switzerland needs to get their shit together) and discussed the last details we would need. I ate some of my saved egg sandwich from the coffeeshop at Jacobs and we all watched as the Swiss countryside and beautiful mountains flew by.
Before too long we arrive in Nyon and enter into French-speaking Switzerland. None of us speak French, so communicating is always an adventure...but we manage through. Before boarding the bus that will take us to the head of our trail we stop in a convenience store and buy some last minute water to ensure we don't die of dehydration. We buy our tickets, notice some schmuck who sounds extremely American, and board the bus. It seems that we're the last stop to be made (all the way out of town) but we don't really mind...there's lots to look at and take in along the way.
When we finally get to our stop, we hop off and acknowledge that we wouldn't be reentering modern civilization for several days. We walk along and tell stories until we finally reach the trail head. It's go time.
The beginning of the trail was on a golf course. We walked along and admired the mountains in the background behind the well manicured lawns all around. There were streams running everywhere and it was rather relaxing. We couldn't, however, find the correct path to continue on the trail.
Eventually, after spotting some horses on the trail, we head to where they exited an make our way up the hill. We make a few wrong turns along the way and Brooke has to yell at me for hiking a bit too fast (I have long legs, what can I say?) but we're on our way up! We run into some guys trail running who warn us of "lynxes", and we all have a good chuckle at their silliness. At this point, it's getting kind of late. Sun sets around 8:30 and we decide to stop and set up camp around 7:45ish to ensure that we don't get caught in the dark. What we forget to take into account is the fact that just because the sun sets doesn't mean it gets dark immediately. It doesn't actually get dark until around 9:45 and we're just kind of chilling and talking until then. We set up our tent and try out some of the energy bars that we brought along. They honestly weren't terrible, which I found kind of surprising. We take off our shoes, stick them in a plastic bag to avoid dew making them super wet over night, and we all slip into our sleeping bags.
Brooke falls asleep pretty early—she seems extremely exhausted and kind of passes out almost immediately after getting in her sleeping bag. Jack and I, however, decide we're going to look at the moon and talk about random stuff. For a while I swear we only talk in movie (especially prequel) quotes––it's hauntingly beautiful. At one point we're getting a bit rowdy and actually wake up Brooke which causes her to call us stupid for watching too much Spongebob. Eventually it gets darker and darker and Jack and I decide it's a good idea to save some energy for the following day, so we crawl into our sleeping bags and try to catch some sleep.
Though I'm disturbed all night by a rock under the tent digging into my back, I manage to get decent sleep and wake up with energy in the morning. I think the energy might just be coming from excitement, but it's surely there. In the morning I'm hopping around and am packed up before Jack and Brooke are seemingly even out of the tent. I wait for them to get prepped and walk around to keep warm...there's fog everywhere around us and it's difficult to see even just 100 meters out. Eventually the tent is empty and I fold it up, so we're on our way. Not too long after, Brooke realizes that she's missing her glasses and THEY'RE STILL IN THE TENT. Well, thankfully I didn't do a very good job of folding the tent up, so the glasses aren't broken. Despite this mishap, we continue on.
We trek up the mountain quite a bit more, and I let Brooke take the lead so I'm not pushing the pace up the mountain. Probably half an hour later we end up on a road with a beautiful view of the peak of the mountain. The cap is covered with snow and there's a hut on our level that travelers could stay in if they are too soft to wild camp. We take lots of really cool photos and are super excited to be so close to our first summit after not too long. As we trek a bit further, we try to enter the hut to fill up on water but we realize that the huts aren't open this early in the season. Great. There goes an easy way to get water on our hike! However, not too far from the hut there's a source of water created by the melting snow on the mountain, so we use Brooke's handy dandy filter and get some water from there. Presto! Clean water!
It's here that we begin the true workout. It's also here that we realize how difficult hiking will be for Jack in the future...his shoes had absolutely no tread. On the first bit up the mountain he continually slipped, foreshadowing future incidents of slipping all over the trail when snow or mud are around. Well, hiking up the peak (about 200m of elevation) took us about a half hour. Of course, this was with breaks to take in the ridiculous view from the top. We could actually see over into France from the top of the mountain and there were pretty cool rock walls lining the mountain...still not sure what the purpose of them was, but they were all over the trail we would later find out.
The top of the mountain was absolutely beautiful. You could see miles and miles of beautiful farm land and mountains and there were people just sitting at the top with their dogs enjoying the view. We had climbed 1670m (La Dôle) to get here and it was so worth it. However, we had ground to cover and couldn't waste time standing around. So, we moved along.
The next part of the hike is absolutely infuriating. We climbed part of the way down the mountain and then did a cross back and went down a rather steep part of the path...it was much steeper going down than the trail going up was. As we were approaching the base of the peak, we realized that we had gone the wrong way. Oh, I was mad. So mad. But there was nothing we could do, so we made our way BACK UP the freaking steep side of the hill in order to turn around and go the correct way. We make it back to the top, turn about 30 degrees from the direction we first took, and headed down THAT path. Luckily, this path was correct. This was our first time going the wrong way and having to retrace our path.
We continued on for a while with little interesting happening until we finally reached a little town called Saint-Cergue. In Saint-Cergue we decided to stop by a little café and grab some warm beverages before heading back off into the wilderness. The lady in the café was super nice and it was a fun change of pace. While there, we researched several other things about the path and re-examined our schedule for the next few days. Everything looked pretty good at the time. We finished up, used the restroom, unloaded some garbage that we had collected, and we were back on our way!...kind of. First, Jack had to stop in a souvenir shop to get some stickers for his water bottle (it's a thing, I guess?). He later discovered that they were St. Cergue temporary tattoos, NOT stickers. Awkward. Also, we walked up a big long street for quite a while to realize that we had made our second directional mistake—we were getting pretty good at going the wrong way.
We stood around and tried to figure out which direction we were supposed to be going and were getting pretty agitated with each other. We kept turning the map and pointing to roads on the map and then pointing to the corresponding roads we thought they were. It was frustrating. Eventually someone pulled out a compass and we discovered which way we were going, so we were then on track. We headed up (another) big hill and walked through (another) meadow...before realizing that we had (again) made a wrong turn. Oops. We walked back to our originating point and looked at the map again to realize WE WERE, IN FACT, GOING THE CORRECT DIRECTION IN THE FIRST PLACE.
So, we head back in the direction we originally went and continue on the path. We see some really adorable cows with wonderful jingling cowbells and then we see their farmer who smiles and waves at us. It was extremely heartwarming. I don't really remember much about the day after this point. I remember finding water coming from a downspout that we filtered to get drinking water and I remember setting up camp by some snow after realizing we wouldn't likely find more water and would be better off melting snow.
From the snow, we make some hot meals with Brooke's alcohol-powered camping stove and we try to build a fire but the wood is a bit too wet. We sit around and talk and pitch our tent in the (seemingly) flattest place possible. Before too long, it's dark out and we're ready for bed. We hop into our tent, remove any wet clothing, and pass out. It was a long day.
The next morning Brooke wakes Jack and I and informs us that it's time to go. It's 8:15 and we hop out of the tent to get on the road. Everything outside is super wet and even greener. Switzerland, while exorbitantly expensive, is really beautiful and green. We walk out into the morning and decide it's a good job to just keep moving. We're not very close to anything, but we must walk and see beautiful things. We walk...and walk...and walk... yeah, that's most of the morning. Eventually we do come upon an opening with a Swiss flag, a cross, and a beautiful view of the mountains...but it doesn't last long and we continue to walk...and walk...and then it starts raining, but we just keep on walking...
Eventually we come upon a bucolic little restaurant in the middle of the woods and decide to stop there to dry off and get some more tea...still expensive, but it's dry and warm. Before too long, Jack and I crack and both order some food. Jack gets a full on entree, whereas I just get a salad. But both of them were VERY MUCH needed. While here we all filled up our waters, used the restroom, and dried up a little bit...but before too long, as before, it was time to go back out into the rain and hike some more.
We didn't last very long. Jack and my feet were wet again—even Brooke was getting wet through her rain coat—so we decided to call the trip early at a forking point. Instead of heading for our next big summit, we headed for a town called Le Orient in order to find some dry. We trekked through snow and mud and toppled over lots of rocks before finally getting to our opening. It took what seemed like hours (I suppose it was actually about 2 hours...) but we finally arrived at an opening. We walked down to the town through farms and fields and walked past lots of livestock.
Eventually we were walking along a river and found a few places that might be able to help but none of them were actually able to help. We stopped at the train station to get a train to Geneva. No luck. We walked to a gas station, but then before reaching it decided to go back to the train station and buy indirect tickets. Well, the plan worked and after a 40 minute wait in the freezing rain we were on a nice warm train.
It took us around 2 hours to arrive back at the airport, but once we did we walked around and found a place to set up camp to sleep for the night. Eventually we found a little cove in the airport with seats with no one around and decided we would stay the night there. Yes, we slept in the airport. We sat there for a little bit of time connecting to the internet and talking until a woman joined us. This woman "only spoke German", so Jack communicated with her a lot, but she was homeless and I think we were in "her spot". Oops.
We didn't want to give up the spot, so we chilled with the lady that I refer to as "The Baked Potato" for reasons I'll mention in a bit. Before too long she was telling Jack that the seat he was in was her seat and basically yelling at him to move. So he did. He joined Brooke further over. She went over to the spot and set up camp...it looked rehearsed and she had very obviously done her process before. She took off her shoes, gave them a good spray with some shoe cleaner, lotioned her feet, and then she set up her luggage in a way that resembled a night stand and bedroom furniture. What a pro. However, what came next ticked her off.
After the lady was getting to the end of setting up she told me (in German), "You're gonna have to move. That's where I put my head." I'm probably the worst person ever, but I replied with "Nein, das ist mein Platz." This did not make her happy. She got angry, but she eventually accepted it. I mean, you can't go into a public place and tell people what to do just because you're homeless. I was there first and I shouldn't have to move just because you say so. So I didn't. Hmph. Jack thought I was nuts.
The reason I refer to her as "the baked potato" is because she had a metallic blanket thing (presumably to keep heat in) that marathon runners use, and the sound of the dang blanket was crumply and loud and kept me up all night. But she looked like a baked potato all wrapped up in it. It was a long night.
In the morning we packed our stuff up and get ready alongside "the baked potato". We hurried so as to get into Geneva as soon as possible, and we eventually caught a train for around $3. When we arrived we were at a loss for what to do. We first viewed the marathon going on in Geneva at the time. There was a guy at the front cruising and it looked like everyone was having a good time. We then went to a few museums. Nothing too spectacular. One thing I'll never forget about Switzerland was the meal I had in Geneva. Brooke and Jack were craving fondue, so we went to a fondue place and ordered. I didn't want to pay a lot so I ordered a $16 salad (that was considered cheap). By the end of the meal we got our bill...the water was $11 for the table and the salad was ACTUALLY $28 because I bought it during lunch time. Fuck that.
At this point, I'm getting cranky and I'm tired from dealing with "the baked potato" the night before. We walked around a bit more, Jack bought a shirt from the marathon, we went to see the Jet d'Eau on the lake, and then we made our way back to the airport for our flight back.
Nothing too notable occurred during out travel back. It was long, but went without a hitch. We had our plane from Geneva to Hamburg, a train from Hamburg Airport to the Hbf, another train from the Hamburg Hbf to Bremen's Hbf, and lastly our wonderful night bus that took an hour from the Bremen Hbf to Bremen-Schönebeck...where we finally walked to Jacobs. Getting to sleep was so wonderful after this, and I actually slept through my class the next day (not a big deal at Jacobs).
This trip was really great. I learned a lot, got out into nature, got closer to Jack and Brooke, learned a lot about myself, and I think it solidified my desire to climb Mt. Denison in the near future. Of course, Mt. Denison is far more technical than anything in the Jura mountains, but I wouldn't mind making a habit out of mountain climbing. Cheers to this trip! And a big "screw you" to Switzerland for your mix of unreasonable prices and inviting atmosphere!
I did, in fact, visit Bergen-Belsen. However, I'm not going to write a post about it (similar to my feelings on Auschwitz) out of respect for the trip and the impossibility to permanently place words on the experience. However, feel free to talk to me about it...it was very transformative.
Weimar, Dessau, & Berlin
A Very Bauhaus Trip
Our trip for the Bauhaus seemed simultaneously extremely long and rather short. It's hard to explain. Perhaps it's because I slept a lot on the trip, but perhaps not. We were traveling to the Bauhaus for an art history class. If you don't know what the Bauhaus is, I highly recommend you look it up...it's actually decently interesting and was really influential.
Anyway, our travel was all covered for us...Izzy (our professor...actual name Isabel, we called her Izzy behind her back because she is swag personified) planned it all. We left around 7am and were all groggy, especially since dining halls aren't open that early and we couldn't eat until later when we had a longer layover. We hopped the train to Bremen Hbf and then we left for our first leg: Hannover. The trip went quickly and we arrived with a half hour layover. Hannover was very lively—there were concerts going on and the sun was out...it was beautiful. We went to a coffee place because Gabi wanted coffee and then Lillian and I decided to also get drinks (at Balzac Coffee!). They were nice for the trip...from here, we were on to our next leg. To Göttingen!
Finally, after a two hour train ride we arrived in Weimar. I wasn't expecting to like Weimar as much as I did, but I think it was actually one of my favorite, if not my favorite, Germany city. It had charm, was quaint, and it had so much preserved culture and history. We stopped by the hostel that we'd be staying at and dropped off our belongings before heading out to do the important things we were set out to do. Led by Izzy, we made our way to the Bauhaus museum in Weimar and it was absolutely majestic.
When we first walked in there was a work of art by Johannes Itten (my favorite Bauhaus artist) and I nearly cried (not really, but kinda). It was wonderful. After the Bauhaus museum, we got ice cream from a delicious place and looked at weird bug things because Gabriele has a weird obsession. Thankfully, she didn't buy anything from the store...many of the products were rather creepy. After this, we walked a little ways to the historic Bauhaus school and got a walking tour from a bearded Canadian (basically, just a Canadian). He told us about architecture and was super excited about Bauhaus history. He told us Itten was Austrian, which was wrong. He is from Switzerland. We walked around for several hours and even went into a disgusting experimental house. I mean, it really wasn't suitable for living. I suppose they realized that soon enough.
From the house, we walked to a pizza place that our TA person thing, Veronica, recommended. We ordered pizza, chilled with Izzy, and eventually it started raining heavily on us. Still, we ate outside and enjoyed each other's company (even with Izzy's pizza coming late) until it rained really hard and we had to move inside. Here, we talked about all sorts of nonsense and polished off our meals. It was an enjoyable and very relaxing night. After dinner, we walked back to our hostel and, because nothing too notable was going on, I just kind of passed out at 10:30pm. I think that's the earliest I've fallen asleep in a LONG time.
I woke up early (or at least earlier than everyone else) the next morning and got some breakfast. It was nice just chilling by myself for a little while...detoxing from being around people all the time. While eating, we learned that because of the cyber attack in Europe that there were all sorts of delays. This led to many adventures, in the words of Dr. Wünsche (Izzy). It took us 4 train changes and a bus in order to actually reach our next stop. We spent most of the morning traveling. Eventually, however, we ended up in Dessau, the next stop on our great Bauhaus trip.
In Dessau, we got right to work after eating at the Bauhaus. I got very good tomato soup and had to chug my coke. It was sad. Then we went to the master houses and explored them with Izzy. It was informational and the houses were actually surprisingly nifty. From the master houses, we went to the actual Bauhaus for a school tour. We met up with our awesome tour guide who was wearing an awesome Bauhaus shirt and he showed us around. We saw the theatre space, the cafeteria (B9 chairs $600), and even Gropius office space. The building was very hot and smelly in Gropius office (probably because Gabriele was there).
We went through the park and people weren't wearing shoes. I intercepted a frisbee that wasn't meant for me. We continued walking toward the cafe that we had previously decided upon and ordered some delicious cake and coffee. The lady spilled a bunch of shit everywhere and glass shattered and Gabriele was mortally wounded.
When the time came, we had to leave to catch our train to Berlin. I bought more gummies because they're delicious and I have a problem.
The train to Berlin was a fun ride. We were all loopy at that point so we were just laughing at stupid jokes and doing absolutely nothing productive. Eventually we rolled into Berlin like straight up thugs with Izzy and we caught the S-Bahn to the area around our hostel in North Korean. We checked in, they only gave keys to half of us because they're cheap bastards, but then a Lillian, Gabriele, and I decided to head out for some drinks. We walked to a plaza and Lillian called her friend from Berlin (John) and we all went out and bought some beers from a grocery and drank on the streets of Berlin (I know this seems like a pattern...it is). It was very pleasant and while Lillian and John caught up, Gabriele and I had a nice little conversation.
Eventually it was decided that we should head back, so of course Gabriele and I instigate and finagle our way into more beer. We go back, buy more, and walk back to the hostel. However, I convince everyone to do another detour. We go to Checkpoint Charlie around 1 in the morning and get lots of pictures but then have to hurry back because everyone has to pee.
We return to our North Korean hostel and use the restroom. Lillian decided to go to bed and her friend returns home. Gabrielle and I head down to the bar and outside to grab one last drink for the night. We enjoy the night air and our cheap Berlin beer and have some more conversation akin to earlier.
Eventually we get to talking about people and the name "Alan" comes up. Well, a man sitting next to us says that Alan was from Argentina. He surely isn't, but the guy was so curious that our Alan's were the same person. So we struck up a conversation. The guy was from Israel and I shared some travel stories and he told me his thoughts on traveling, Israel, and how he is pro-Palestine. It was a good time and he was very nice.
Before too late, Gabrielle and I decide it's a good time to get some sleep because we have to be up early the next day. We say our good nights and hit the hay.
The next morning, I wake up to the sounds of one of my roommates (transition lenses guy) and a rather unusually hot room. I get a shower, get dressed, brush my teeth, and wait in the lobby for Gabi and Lillian for breakfast. We go to a bakery and I get a chocolate chip thing and some delicious chocolate milk. Good choices, me.
We head back to the North Korean hostel for the last time and leave for the Bauhaus museum with Izzy. It isn't very exciting, but it's the last time we get to see Izzy so it is rather emotional. After this, we separate and it's just me and Lillian alone in Berlin.
I still want to see tourist attractions so we go to the Column of Victory (awkward) and then walk through to the Brandenburger Tor. It's really nifty and we even get to see the US embassy (to add to my collection). We then got some touristy lunch and talked for a bit before deciding to go to the Reichstag to meet Lillian's friend John again.
We sat in front of the Reichstag for a while. I fell asleep once and think I might have gotten sunburnt from that period of time. Oops. It was nice to just kind of relax. We then moved to the park and sat there for a while before going to the Berlin Hbf to catch out train back home. Here, Lillian and I had a feast with döner, ice cream (delicious!), and some peach rings (again) to finish things off. By the end of this time, our train arrives and we are off to Hamburg to catch our train back to Bremen.
On the train there are plugs and the seats recline...we are in the pinnacle of luxury. The train is an ICE so it's moving super quickly and we're having fun. We both have exams to study for but can't help but overhear the lady in front of us speaking on the phone. She is mixing English and French and it's a strange phenomenon. Eventually she accidentally leans into Lillian and we all have a good laugh.
No, this isn't an exciting "travel post," but rather it's just me procrastinating and taking a break from studying for finals. All in all, I have 4 final exams (and a final paper for the Bauhaus class which I already turned in...see this post). I've already taken my first exam, the one for German Politics and Culture, and I think it went really well. The exam was exactly as expected and I think I studied thoroughly for it. Drs. Gohr and Deutsch were really great professors and really made me care about the material.
However, now I'm studying for an ethics exam for a course that isn't very comprehensive, thought-provoking, or challenging. The professor will probably test the class on a bunch of senseless definitions tomorrow instead of challenging us to come up with arguments or an analysis of different quandaries. The professor is basically just using the course as a means of lecturing us about his viewpoints and it's pretty silly...
Then, after another reading day I'll have my Software Engineering exams which will likely be silly too (the midterm was). The professor is kind of clueless and isn't teaching relevant material—he took his slides from some random source and they are from 2002. That is like an eternity in the world of tech. I don't understand him. Oftentimes only me and 2 other people showed up to class despite the fact that 45 people are registered for it. Again, another joke.
Last I'll have my geo exam. The course was split into three sections and it's been another generally enjoyable course. I feel like I have learned a great deal about lots of different subjects (space, oceanography, and geology) and the professors seemed really invested in what they were teaching. The material that will seemingly be on the exam seems straight forward—you either know it or you don't. Good.
Overall, I haven't been extremely impressed with Jacobs' academics. I miss Denison in that regard a great deal.
This is in memory of Peter Baumann. What an interesting chap.
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A Drink With Dr. White
Last night Gabriele and I were paid a visit by the incomparable David Andrew Victor White—what a man. Before meeting up with him we thought that it might be kind of awkward meeting up with a professor to just “grab a beer,” but it turned out to be kind of the opposite. I’m super jealous of the life he leads now and want to do stuff very similar to him. He’s super cool. Slight man crush on this dude.
Gabriele and I waited outside the train station in the area of great degeneracy until we found David Andrew Victor White walking out the front door of the Hauptbahnhof. He has a pack on his back…and his front…and his hair has become quite the mane. He notices us and starts walking toward us. We do our introductions and decide we’d head toward the river to grab some drinks.
Of course, on the way we stop at all of the important touristy destinations. Dr. White wants to see the Rathaus, the Bürgerschaft, the Roland statue, and even the old Chamber of Commerce building. We get pictures in all sorts of different places and have to ask German pictures to fumble around with Dr. White’s big DSLR, but we manage! We’re all impressed by how light it is despite the fact that it’s 9:00pm, and the sky is absolutely beautiful. We take Dr. White down the Böttcherstraße and tell him the story of Bremen’s decaf coffee magnate, and before we know it we’re at the river. We grab a beer at the Biergarten and sit down for a nice little talk. In the distance are some old sail boats and the Beck’s brewery…it’s a really great night (again, I know).
We talk about Jacobs and studying abroad. We go through an array of different topics and even vary from the “business” talk, thank god. Dr. White tells us of all his travels and how wonderful being an academic is for traveling, meeting new people, and learning new things. I’m jealous of his profession and all the traveling he does. He’s been to South East Asia, tons of places in Europe, South America, Northern Africa, and all over America. He even plans on going to Antarctica during his sabbatical…which is a dream of mine. Furthermore, he didn’t just “go to these places” just to say he went to them. He has stories from all of these places and has done lots of things in them. He told us about his “flirting” with girls in Poland and the time he went to Taiwan, wasn’t allowed to sleep in the airport, and then had to sleep outside on a bench with rats running around his bench.
Don't worry what others think about you. Do your piece and get on with your travels.
We finish our drinks, walk toward the Schnoorviertel, and show Dr. White around a little more. It’s really empty at night time but its charm remains. He mentioned that he planned on visiting again when the daylight was present, and we then went to one more bar to grab a drink. We sat outside until the bar was closing and talked a little bit more about Jacobs and our experience before deciding it was time to leave since we had to catch our train. The last one left at 12:04, but we thought we might be able to catch the 11:34 if we ran. So we did. We ran and got about 5 minutes out from the Hbf with about 3 minutes to go when we decided it wasn’t worth it.
SO! Instead we (actually pretty much just me) decided it was a good idea to check out Bremen’s red light district at night. I remembered seeing it during the day and thought interesting things might be happening there during the night time…they weren’t. I. Made. One. Of. My. Department’s. Professors. Go. To. The. Red. Light. District. Yeah, nothing sketch, unfortunately, was happening. I was hoping we’d see something noteworthy. Alas, we decided that NOW we’d head for the train station to catch our train back to Bremen.
We waited around in the Hbf for the train. While on the platform a pigeon shit on me…that sucked. I took off my over-shirt and made Gabi clean it out of my hair. Blech. The train eventually arrived and we made our way to Bremen-Schönebeck. The train ride was pretty silent. We were all pretty tired.
Eventually, we got back and helped Dr. White get his keys from the porter and walked him to the Guest House. We said our goodnights (and goodbyes) and made our way back to Nord. I hopped in the shower to get the bird crap out of my hair and fell asleep almost immediately. Long day. Fun day. Made me realize that I will, in fact, miss Bremen.
Chocolate In Hamburg!
No, this isn't a delicious treat (although I'd probably try some chocolate on a hamburger...). I took a trip to a chocolate factory in Hamburg with a few people! Several days prior a few people mentioned that they were going to Hamburg to shop and go to a beach bar. I was in for the experience. Later on, those plans got altered to include a trip to the chocolate factory too, so at that point I was ecstatic. However, I forgot about it until the day before and when I was reminded wasn't sure if I wanted to go...nevertheless, I decided to go.
We met up with one of Brooke's friends on the train on the way there and they all spoke while I half fell asleep the entire train ride. I do, however, remember talking about data with Brooke at some point. She loves data. It seemed that I woke up just in time for arriving at the Hamburg Hbf and we headed out into Hamburg. I love the city; it's clean, historic, and it's got a nice big city feel without being too enormous.
We walked around for what seemed like a while (and the walking seemed kind of nonsensical...felt like we were lost quite a few times). Eventually, we "found" the chocolate factory and walked in. It didn't smell as incredible as I expected (I'm so used to Harry London's, which is wonderful...or Hershey which made the entire city smell like chocolate), but there were some interesting photos of people with chocolate smeared all over their faces...it had my spine a-tinglin'. Yuck.
When we went to buy our tickets for the guided tour, we were kind of hit with a bombshell...they only had two tickets left for the English tour and there were 7 (I think?) of us...awkward. We all discussed amongst ourselves and decided it was probably best for Brooke and Lillian to do the English tour. That meant the rest of us did the German tour...which was interesting. So, for 90 minutes we listened to our tour guide speak in very fast German. Surprisingly enough, I think I actually understood most of what he had to say. He was very good at miming what he was doing and occasionally translating tough German words into English for those of us that didn't speak German. The tour, altogether, wasn't terrible despite the whole German thing. I got a lot of free chocolate out of it, and I even got to make a chocolate bar (which I still need to get back from Maaike because she has it somewhere!).
As we left the chocolate museum, I had a really bad headache and everyone was talking about food. I wasn't very hungry, but I went along for the ride. Everybody got ridiculously large burgers in Hamburg and was going to town on them. I just kind of chilled and suffered as my head throbbed. No big deal. After everyone finished eating, we (well, a few people and then everyone else seemed to go along with it...) decided it would be best to head back. Gabriele really wanted to go to the beach bar, so I think she was rather upset, but oh well. It seemed like everyone else was pretty laissez-faire about the whole thing.
We walked through Hamburg to the train station to catch the next train from Hamburg to Bremen and made it with about 10 minutes to spare until the next train. I decided, in my infinite knowledge, to use this time to get some fries in the train station. In hindsight, probably not the best decision. It made me feel worse and almost made me miss the train. Still, in the moment it seemed like a great idea.
I hopped on the train, looked for the rest of the group, and we made our way back! Gabriele and I sat together and she was kind of moody (yep, I said it) because she didn't get to stay in Hamburg for longer, but I think she was fine after I started spitting nonsense and making her laugh. Gabriele seems like she's really going to miss being abroad and being at Jacobs—I don't think she's the happiest at Denison, unfortunately. Meanwhile, I'm missing the heck out of Denidoo!
When we arrived back to Bremen, the girls stopped in the city for a drink...I, on the other hand, took the next train back to Jacobs and passed the heck out when I got there. All I remember from the rest of that day is waking up at midnight and not being able to fall asleep again until 4am because of my roommate's party. Awk.
The semester is coming to an end. The weather is beautiful. Everyone's outside. Life is good. I spent a good amount of my time inside doing genealogy research today because I have a slight obsession...but I'm making a great deal of leeway. I have traced back my family to at least 4 generations on all stems, but I'm still having a little bit of trouble tracing what happened to my family before they came to the US. Ireland doesn't seem to have very good records, and there seem to be A LOT of John Craigs in Ireland in the 1700s. I guess time will tell? I might end up going to County Down in Ireland one day to figure it out.
Around dinner time I get a text from Jack that says, "Hey are you coming to the exchange student BBQ?" Well, I didn't really realize that there was an exchange student BBQ, but once I found out that there was free food I was all about it. So yeah, I went to the area in front of Pulse (an on-campus store place...it's hard to describe) and found Jack, Brooke, a few other exchange students, and Karl (the kid running the student part of the exchange program).
We sit down, talk a bit about random stuff, and soon after one of the Appetito (Jacobs' food service) staff members announces that dinner is ready! We all charge the table to look for something delicious. The food was leaps and bounds better than everything in the servery...and it was free. What a treat. I had like three pieces of chicken and felt sick afterward. We all sat around and talked and we even got pictures taken by one of Jacobs' student photographers (I think his name was Liam? Karl constantly just called him "this guy" a bunch). People made fun of my style abilities (although they may call them disabilities). I think everyone was just jealous of my Croc sandals...with socks.
Near the end of the meal we were looking for something else to top off our desires. We remembered that the serveries had some froyo (actually, it might have just been Nordmetall...not sure), so we decided to stop in and grab a cup o' froyo! Jack went first when filling up his cup of froyo. It was a pathetic attempt (sorry Jack). I went next and displayed my ice cream spinning prowess as I fit the froyo beautifully into the cup with tons of elegance and practice. Everyone wanted me to do their cup afterward...I refused. Idk...guess I'm an ice cream boss (yeah, I brag about that).
We happily ate our froyo and Jack mentioned frisbee. I thought that sounded fun and I wanted to practice my forehand toss, so I went out with several people to the campus green and we all threw a disc around. It was good fun and I actually met a few new people. We were there for quite a while until the sky started to get very violet...then I had to make it home.
Oh yeah, I also have a final tomorrow morning at 9am...oops.
Back To The States
Warning: this post is really scatter-brained and I'm too lazy to fix it.
I officially started getting ready to go home the day before my checkout appointment was. Unlike Denison, Jacobs has a formal checkout with a staff member where students show them around their spotless (hopefully) apartment. If it isn't spotless, you could be charged. In fact, I heard someone got charged for having a dusty phone, so it's important to really scrub. I was told that I needed to be out of my room by 11am on Wednesday, so, like I said, I started on Tuesday. I didn't have to much stuff and my room wasn't too messy. Lo-and-behold, however...Julius left earlier than me and left the common area and bathroom an absolute mess. Yippee. I get to clean the common room's beer-stained floor from his parties. Blech.
Tuesday was sad. I had to see Daniel and Renata off (Renata was actually a bit earlier, and she gave me a postcard!). House of Cards also came out and several days later I still haven't finished it! I thought I'd find a reliable way to watch it on the plane but that was a bust. I have to stream it it seems. Tuesday was the last day I'd be able to go to the coffee shop, so I went there and got my usual order. Also on Tuesday, I went into town with Maaike, Sumaiya, and Gabriele. We got some souvenirs and visited some of our favorite Bremen sites before leaving. The girls had several things, including luggage and lots of gifts, that they had to pick up. I just kind of chilled with them.
The most interesting part of my being out of the room on Wednesday morning is that...well, I didn't leave until Thursday morning. So, I left my bags with other people all day (actually, just Jack) and we went and did stupid stuff.Mostly, we sat around and browsed Reddit together, but we also got döner (the last döner), he introduced me to Rick & Morty, and we went and got dinner with people. I finished some of my last bits of work for Tenable (my contract ended on the 31st), and eventually it was time to leave.
I said goodbye to everyone (cue the sentiment) and Jack and Clement even decided they would send me off. So, we headed into Bremen and picked the most German place to get a drink we could find: Paddy's Irish Pub (heh). We grabbed our seats, talked, and the waitress came and got our order. We talked to her a bit, explained that I was leaving, and she said she'd bring us "something special". Aww! She was the best. Not too much later, she came out bearing all of our beers (and ciders in Clement's case) and two shots for us. Unfortunately, I don't remember the type of shots they were...but they were actually pretty good. We were expecting them to burn when they went down, but they just tasted fruity and wonderful.
Shoutout to the waitress for being super dope.
We stayed at Paddy's for a while and reminisced, but 10pm rolled around and I had to get to the airport because the doors closed soon so only passengers for the morning could be in there. I took the 6 (tram) and waited until "Flughafen" was called out on the loudspeaker. I walk into the airport, check-in for my flight, and I head for a bench to set up camp. 6 hours. That's what stands between me and getting through security. I can do it.
I pull out my laptop, hook up the charger, and I begin working on this log (idk, adding random things...I don't remember what I added) and playing Civ5 because time always seems to fly when I'm playing that. I finish working on the log and I finish my game of Civ pretty quickly (I was playing on Easy...don't be too impressed)...so I decide that I should probably get some sleep. Unlike many airports, the benches didn't have armrests, so I could lay down! I placed my jacket under my head and passed out for a solid two hours. Great job, Bob.
Without an alarm, it seems I wake up right on time and I hurry over to get in line to check my bag. I'm in line with a bunch of old, impatient German vacationers...and they keep screwing up the line. Eventually workers from KLM start checking people in, and the line gets more manageable. I get to the front, weigh my bag...and it's only 21kg!? I could have stuffed more into it! Wtf. Ugg. Oh well. I hop upstairs to the departures area and make my way through security. What fun it is going through security with a heavy backpack, tons of clothes on, two laptops (personal and work), and watches and belts alike. They probably hated me.
At the gate, I grab a croissant and a coffee and patiently wait for my plane's departure time to creep up. I listen to some more of The Jefferson Hour podcast until my earbuds die on me...then I just chill until the announcement comes over the PA for our flight. We all slowly move onto the flight (which kind of frustrates me because I have a 20 minute layover in Schiphol) and place our bags in the overhead compartment. I notice this little old lady waiting for me as she gestures me into my seat as if she knew I was sitting beside her. We sit down, I look out the window, and she pulls out a book. Wonderful.
Part of the way through the quick flight, the flight attendants bring around food and water for the passengers and I quickly drink my water. My German friend noticed beside me and offered me some of her water because I "looked thirsty". I just wanted to cuddle up to this woman...so adorable. If you ever read this old German lady, ich liebe dich.
Luckily, the lack of haste didn't hinder my itinerary! We arrived to Amsterdam on time, but I was still worried I was going to miss my connection. I quickly walk through the airport, go through border control (or whatever it's called), guy tells me I'm from the "Buckeye State" (hecks yee I is), and I get to the "E" gates. Lady asks me all sorts of dumb questions regarding my luggage and if someone asked me to take something for them...like, even if they did, why would anyone admit to that?
I run to the gate as they're calling the last call for boarding and show them my boarding pass and passport. Woo! I made it! I take the hike to the back of the plane where my seat was and notice that despite me being the last one on the plane, nobody is around me. I HAVE TWO SEATS TO MYSELF FOR A TRANSATLANTIC FLIGHT! That was so great to learn. After takeoff I spawled out, kicked back, and enjoyed my in-flight breakfast (eggs and some really overpoweringly sweet strawberry yogurt).
Because I had two seats, the flight was pretty great for the most part. There was this lady smacking her lips chewing gum or eating or something behind me...but I put earphones in and tuned her out. I watched some movie called "Dave" about a guy pretending to be president and the 8 hours seemed to fly by.
We land, I hop off the plane and head to the correct gate for my next flight. My first meal in America: a Wendys in Detroit. I was so hungry and wish they had Chick-fil-a around me, but alas...they didn't.:( The lady messed up my order (I wanted that dang Frosty!) but I didn't mind too much. I felt slightly sick after eating Wendys, but I suppose that's just American fast food!
The flight home was quick, which was nice because I was starting to be able to smell myself. There was a slight delay at the beginning because of weight-balance problems...but it quickly got remedied and we were on our way. I got home and everything seemed to move so quickly around me. People are so intense, man. But nevertheless, nothing seemed to have changed at home. Canton, Ohio just kept ticking right along...welcome home?
I figured that it probably wouldn't be a terrible idea to reflect on the semester. I've seen a lot in just four months, and I'm so glad that I had the opportunity to do so. I've traveled from the lowest point on Earth, the Dead Sea, to the peaks of mountains in Switzerland. I've visited the oldest city in the world, Jericho, and I've seen cities that are practically entirely new since they were entirely destroyed in WWII. I've seen poverty and I've seen wealth. I've seen countries of no racial diversity (looking at you Poland) and I've seen countries that are melting pots of diversity where people are brought together by the smallest things they have in common. I've met strangers, made friends, and have (at least) tried to keep in-touch with friends from home.
I've lived in the United States for the entirety of my life (aside from the past 4 months now). Traveling abroad was not a luxury that my family could afford while growing up, and even today I'm the first (and only) person in my family to hold a passport. Even then, I suppose seeing the world has never been a priority in my family's eyes. At one point before leaving my mother jokingly considered the idea of visiting me in Europe during the semester and bringing along my sisters, and while my older sister was gung-ho, my younger sister told her that she didn't even want to leave the States. What. The. Heck.
It's hard to realize without leaving just how much history, life, culture, and interests differ from our own, and it's easy to believe while you're in the States that it's the only place you ever need to visit your entire life. Not traveling is comfortable...it's cheap...it's easy...but it's rejecting so many experiences and outside perspectives that could enrich your own. To anyone looking to study abroad, I highly recommend. It doesn't matter where, honestly...just go somewhere else, live life, talk to people, see new things, and come back ready to share new ideas and try new things that you wouldn't have thought to have done previously.
Too old to study abroad? Eh, whatever. Still go abroad. You don't have to spend a ton of money—heck, you don't have to go far...Canada and Mexico can offer new experiences—but it's important to see how others live and perceive the world.
I've been refreshed this semester. School wasn't too tough and I spent the semester making friends, learning new things, and, as cliche and cheesy as it sounds, rediscovering myself. I have a newfound zest for adventure and a heightened sense of independence that I'm confident will take me all over the globe and keep me traveling until I'm physically incapable of traveling anymore.
Now, I'm off to my next big adventure in Atlanta, Georgia for the summer before finally finishing up my last year of college. Damn. Time flies.
Keep in contact.
Some Bulleted Thoughts...
My writing's not too great and I'm not sure how to weave all of these things into my log, but they're interesting differences I noticed and nifty little thoughts I had during the semester. Many of them play on stereotypes and generalizations...so I'm sorry if you get offended. However, it's through these generalizations that I was able to make comparisons of different societies and viewpoints...so it's okay. If you're still not chill, don't read it. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I'm probably going to remember or think of new ones as time goes on, so I'll try to keep this updated.
- European doors open in weird ways. There doesn't seem to be a consistent pattern as to which way they open...they don't adhere to American fire code. In hindsight, this might just be German doors.
- No free refills is still something that ticks me off. Furthermore, water is not free...which makes me even more angry.
- Restrooms are also not free in public places. Like, da fuq.
- Europeans hold very different hours. Americans party from 9p-1am typically. Europeans sleep from 9p-11:30p and then go out to party from midnight until the wee hours of the morning (6am-ish).
- Europeans are much more interested in their appearance. They are far more stylish, and are far more vain about their appearance. Americans might be materialistic about possessions (TVs and whatnot) but Europeans spend a metric shitton on clothing and haircuts.
- Traveling within Europe is super cheap. Like, unreasonably cheap. Like, I can't handle how cheap it is. Why can't the US do this?!
- Being in Europe reminds me of being on the East Coast. People aren't super friendly like in the Midwest.
- Most Europeans will ask you where you're from but unless you say Texas, New York, or California they won't have any idea where it is. I don't blame them...I just find it funny. I figure a good percentage of Americans probably couldn't even point out Germany on a map of Europe. Sad.
- Fast food in Europe is much more expensive, but it's also much higher quality.
- There isn't really a thing like American national pride in Europe...especially Germany. The UK, France, and Russia are probably the closest things.
- European cars are small. There are no pickup trucks here and people typically drive standard-shift cars.
- German high schools are kind of screwed up and classist. In high school they basically determine whether you'll be blue collar, white collar, or an academic for you. So much for "social mobility".
- Most Europeans know several languages. It's really tough to practice language here because if you try to speak their language to you and you screw it up, they automatically revert to English.
- Bathroom stalls actually make sense in Europe. There aren't enormous gaps between the doors that random people can see through.
- Europeans don't care much for political correctness. They're very forthright with their stereotypes and many are surprisingly racist (although racism is more focused towards Arabs instead of the black communities). Even then, there are hardly any minorities in Europe (or at least Northern Europe) for there to even be much discrimination.
- Liberal Arts doesn't really seem like a thing here. People learn their specialty and don't really branch out much. School is much cheaper though!
- Northern Europe is what I imagine Washington state is like—cloudy, cold, and kind of depressing. Denmark tries to rationalize this by saying "hygge" is a thing and many other countries seem to deal with it by partying inside and drinking lots.
- Europeans are very progressive with renewable energy. It's tough to travel aronud by train and not see a wind turbine or solar farm somewhere in the distance.
- Europeans travel A LOT. About an estimated third of Americans hold a valid passport while three-fourths of Europeans do.
- SO MANY Europeans smoke. It's a bad cultural habit to have that Americans, thank God, have overcome. We may be obese, but at least food is delicious and tastes good (well, good food anyway).
- Germans don't have air conditioning...like, what?! How do they survive? I lived without air conditioning the first half of my life and it was terrible...
- Germans blow their noses like horns. Loudly. In all of the places. Restaurant? Sure. Bus? Sure. Middle of a wedding when they're saying their vows? Probably.
- European drinking culture is much more reasonable and responsible than that of the US.
- I'm hopelessly American. I've tried Europe. I've explored. I enjoy Europe. It's nice to visit and read about. But I don't think I'll ever be able to move long-term to any place other than America.
So yeah, that's my list of stark differences or things I could remember.