Monday, January 24, 2011

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German class begins, Hilarity does not ensue

Bayreuth Tuesday Jan 11, 2011
We had to wake up at 6:30 and it was still pitch black. Having to wake up that early is never going to be easy. We ate breakfast, prepared for us by the ever gracious Olga. We had to hurry up to catch our 7:30 bus, Olga came with us to make sure we knew where we were going. We arrived at the Central bus stop at around 8am and took a bus from there to the Uni. That’s right same routine every day, I may never get used to this. We arrived at the Uni at 8:10 and had to wait until our 8:30 class. We have class with Brian, Leanne, Simon, and Ling Yao. All of us find our class room ready to learn more German. The class is long as hell, the teacher is awesome, and the material is boring. This does not make for a very good course to be taking. We will have to deal with this class for only 15 class periods; I think we can handle it. We got a ton of homework and it didn’t get any easier after our quick break and then more German. I thought maybe my brain would just stop functioning with so many harsh German words invading my quite little English thoughts. It was starting to feel so much like my least favorite year in high school, 10th grade, up before the sun to catch a bus, boring and long classes, tons of homework or rather busy work, and no way to change it all. After saying all of this, I know I am in Germany and there is only a little bit of actual work. I couldn’t ask for more than to be living in Germany for a month no matter what I am doing.
After our killer class we had the tour of the city and of course I forgot my camera. The city is nice and our tour guide Torsten made it interesting, but it was really cold and a little long. We ended the tour asking Torsten where a good café was and he took us to Café Rossi, a nice little place on the main square. We had this amazing coffee with Amaretto and other alcohols. We chilled for a while and then we returned to the house for dinner. Everything was great, and I couldn’t help but feeling this was the way life was supposed to be “German”. We decided to give our gifts to parents and they were happy. My gift was a bottle of Maple syrup from my Uncle Tim’s sugar shack. It was little funny because right before giving the presents to our parents another border came we talked for a while, but it was all good. At that point it was late and we needed sleep. 

Over the river and through the woods to Bayreuth we go

Bayreuth Monday Jan 10, 2011
We wake up, pack, and get everything ready to go as we are leaving soon for the long awaited Bayreuth. Breakfast is the same as always and at this point it doesn’t matter we have assimilated into the German breakfast culture. We got on the bus which was soo much bigger than the one we took the Berlin city tour on. Pretty much all of us got our own seat if we wanted it and the trip was fairly comfortable. We stopped at a rest stop close to Leipzig, and again it proved that German transportation systems were amazing. It was basically a high class restaurant and it had everything else you needed too. We bought some stuff including what we thought was a children’s book and we couldn’t understand any of it because it was all slang. We continued on to Bayreuth and passed about a million wind turbines, more props for Germany, pun intended. We finally reached our destination and then we waited because we were earlier than expected. Pete and I decided we should bet Jim we would be the last ones to leave with our family, we didn’t buuuut we should have. We were the last ones, it wasn’t our family’s fault they took another group home first and it wasn’t bad because we got to meet all the other parents first. We met Herbert and Olga and they whisked us away to their house. Their house is located on the upper east side of Bayreuth, in an area called St. Johannis. The area is out of the city and REAALLLY nice. The house looks really nice on the outside and even nicer on the inside. Olga is from Honduras and they have all of this furniture and things from there that they shipped here from Honduras in container. The house is really beautiful and everyone at home would be jealous. The area is really nice but everyone is so far away so it’s kind of a pain.
                We got sort of settled in it was kind of awkward, it wouldn’t be a meeting if it wasn’t awkward, and then we had to keep on rolling. We headed to the Begrüssungsabend, or Greetings Dinner, at a traditional Bayreuth restaurant. I got the Schnitzel with fries and it was super good. We all got Bayreuth beer and it also was very good. All of the host families came to the dinner so it was fun to meet everyone else’s parents. We went home and ended up drinking more with Herbert. I hope this doesn’t become a pattern because I’ll be an alcoholic by the time we come back.  After more beer sleep came easy, the bed was comfy and I was beat.

Olympic Stadium, Eagles Fail, and Vegetables Game Hilarity Ensues

Berlin Sunday Jan 9, 2011
I’m not going to lie these journals are getting increasingly more difficult to keep track of. I should probably catch up (yeah right). Sunday started off like all the other days, still not really used to getting up early but you get up on time or fear the wrath of Frau Riehl. We headed to Charlottenburg Schloß which is just a Palace of some sort, really artsy and pretty boring. It had really similar inside deco to Neuschwanstein but the place was basically boring and small. We got the short tour so it only took a little while and then we were set free on the world. We were already kind of close to the Olympic stadium so Brian, Ethan, and I jumped on the U-Bahn going the opposite way as everyone else and headed to the 1936 Berlin Olympic Stadium. The weather was crap but the stadium was really epic. It is one of the few remaining testaments to the Party’s architectural accomplishments. The outside of the stadium is pretty much all original but the inside is state of the art and modern. I’m glad we got to into the stadium to how huge it really was.
After the stadium we headed back to the hostel to chill for a bit, before having to go out again to the Filmhaus. Brian and I rushed there after having a quick lunch and of course we were the first ones there and everyone else was late or almost late including Frau Riehl. Everyone eventually got there and we went into the Film Museum. It had some fun stuff about how Germans were pretty much front stage on starting films and the technology involved. I will have to see Metropolis, a huge German hit that cost way more than they had budgeted and was too futuristic for its time. But yet again even if a museum is interesting you can really make sound interesting on paper. So after the Film museum some of the group stayed in the Sony Center to watch the Red Carpet Premier of Morning Glory with Harrison Ford and Rachel McAdams. They ended up seeing them and getting pictures and autographs. The rest of us headed back to the hostel to get ready to go to dinner. We picked a Greek restaurant again by recommendation from Frau Riehl and Jim. It was another big success we got this giant platter of meat and just dug in. We ate too much but we decided we still needed to drink, so we went to this corner convenience store and picked up some really cheap beers and headed to the hostel bar lounge thingy. We set up the Eagles game on live streaming and by the middle it was a disappointment so we started playing this game called the vegetable game and hilarity ensued. It’s hard to explain and even harder to play but I assure it was the most I have laughed in a very looong time. We all crashed after that and had our last night in Berlin.

A day to Remember

Berlin Saturday Jan 8, 2011
After only 2.5 hours of sleep, my brain felt like oatmeal. We had to wake up at a normal time but we went to sleep at 5am. The game was a disappointment and that made it worse.  We ate breakfast and got on a bus to the Jüdische Museem. The Jewish Museum was very impressive. The Architecture was superb and really unique. None of the floors on the ground level were level and nor were the walls. This was designed to create an uncomfortable situation and disorient you. The holocaust tower was chilling and amazing. We moved on to the rest of the building and got progressively more boring but our guide was fun to listen to.
After we were finished in the Jewish Museum we headed over to the Check Point Charlie Museum. This museum was all about the wall and how people tried to escape East Germany. It was really interesting but it was repetitive and there was too much information. The Museum had some cool examples of how people tried to escape like digging tunnels, rigging cars, flying, and diving underwater. After Check Point Charlie we had to figure out what to do. We decided to go the Berlin TV Tower. We headed over there and found out that the wait would have been over an hour. We met up with Bri and her knight in shining armor Lucas. We all headed to KaDeWeh the biggest and most expensive department store in Europe. On the way Lucas remembered that there was a hotel where you could go up in an elevator that was surrounded by a gigantic aquarium. We found the hotel only to be disappointed by the fact that you had to pay the admission of Sea World to go in it now. We got to take pictures anyway, it was so freaking cool. After that we headed to KaDeWeh. We got there and it was ridiculous. Everything was so expensive and huge and diamond encrusted. We went to the sixth floor to check out the food floor. You could buy everything from caviar to a 12” cigar. At the cigar shop we found lighters that were over $10K and a room with climate control and humidifiers for the Cuban cigars. KaDeWeh was too ridiculous to stay so we decided to finally head back to the hostel for long needed rest. I had been standing since from 9:30am until 7pm. At the hostel we just chilled for a while trying to figure out what to do.
We knew we needed food so went to a place that was close and, according to Frau Riehl and Jim was very good. It was an Ethiopian Restaurant and we had no idea what do there. At this restaurant we got Ethiopian beer, and very different Ethiopian food. You eat everything with this thin pancake like bread (not sweet) and there are no forks or knives. The food was really good according to about half the group including me; the other half weren’t so pleased. They are obviously lame. After the Ethiopian place, a few of us headed off to another restaurant/bar where you can get 1L of beer. It was over priced and not the best beer but the fact that it came in a Liter was awesome. We had a fun time and one kid got really funny. We all returned home and passed out.

The Game that turned our brains into Oatmeal

Berlin Friday Jan 7, 2011
                The night before was no big thing so waking up was easy. Today we were off to Eberswalde a small town an hour out of Berlin. In Eberswalde we talked to a panel of English speaking residents of Eberswalde. We discussed before and after the wall events and how their lives were affected.
                The train ride was easy enough; it went by more quickly than I thought it would. We got there and had to boogie on over to the town Museum. The Museum is one of the oldest buildings in Eberswalde and it was converted from the Adler Apotheke or Eagle Apothecary. Inside was a history lesson about the town and its people. We met our panel and began the discussion. It was very interesting as we were reading After the Wall and this tied in well. We discussed how their lives were before and after the wall, how things were better after the wall, and how it wasn’t all bad on East Germany.
                After the panel discussion we went to the Mensa or Cafeteria at the Uni. This was our first Mensa experience and we were surprised at how good the food was for soo cheap. I had some traditional German food with a big drink for something like 3.30. After that we went on a city tour. The town was pretty cool. It had a ton of history and a ton of modern stuff. With the University there, parts were getting more built up whereas some parts were still rundown. The tour lasted awhile and we were all tired and hungry so we headed on over to a famous Eberswalde Café where we got coffee and their specialty cookies. It was really good and we had recharged our batteries to continue our adventure with Jim as our guide. Some people just took the bus to the train station but about half of the group walked there through the town and through some neighborhoods to see what it was like. Everything was pretty cool but it was still so cold.
                Eventually we got to the train station and we got on our return train to Berlin. I think everyone fell asleep or close to it and soon we were in Berlin again. We returned to our Hostel and chilled there for awhile. We needed food and Jennah had found a Greek restaurant in Kreuzburg. We headed there and finding it was an adventure. Once we got there we realized how crowded it was and decided to look for something else. We found a place across the street called the Rote Heffe. Going there was the best decision ever. Simon, Ethan, Jennah, Brian, and I had made a discovery that would make our night awesome. The restaurant was great with the weirdest selection of foods but everything was good. We got cheap beer but it was good too. Everything about this place was awesome and since it was in Kreuzburg everything was open late so after leaving there we stopped at a convenience store and bought some “non” alcoholic beverages. We returned to the Hostel to wait until 1am when the UDEL Football Championship game was to start. We made all sorts of shenanigans waiting for the game and once it started we had drank most of our beverages. The game was a blur of us having it in the bag to losing a 19 point lead and losing it all in the end. I don’t want to talk about it anymore, its sore subject. We ended up going to sleep at 5am and that’s why our brains turned to mush.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The clever name that didn’t exist

          Berlin Thursday Jan 6, 2011
It was a cold Thursday when we awoke in Berlin. In Berlin it is always overcast during the winter and today wasn’t an exception. It was raining with later snow. We had to wake up at 7:30 and believe me that wasn’t easy. We had the same breakfast we always have, meat and bread. Then we got on the tour bus. I don’t remember much from the tour here is what I do remember: It was hot on the bus so the windows were fogged up, you could barely see anything, the bus was tiny, I fell asleep for a bit, I forgot my camera in the room, and the only good thing is we got to see the big remaining section of the wall, that is all thank you come again. After that wonderful tour we went to Potsdamer Platz where we went to the Arkadien and ate Asian food. We then visited the Holocaust memorial on our way to the Reichtstag. The Reichtstag was really cool and modern on the inside. It was recently fully remodeled on the interior. It is now state of the art and very environmentally conscience. It was actually closed but since we were special we got to see most of the building including the glass dome at the top. After the Reichstag, we headed back to the hostel and everyone crashed for a while.
                After everyone recharged the batteries for a bit we headed out, without our fearless leader and on our own. 11 of us went to the same place, an Italian/Mexican restaurant, I know weird mixture. I got a fajita; it happened to be the most expensive thing but it was still good. After our first successful excursion we returned and all passed out.

The Unification

       Berlin Wednesday Jan 5, 2011
Today we got up early to make our 10am check out. We had to cross the bridge to the other Meininger as we were across the river in the extension to the main hostel. We made it just in time to miss breakfast so we set out to find something to eat. We asked the receptionist and she said we should go to a street that wasn’t far.
                We headed in that direction, didn’t find anything so we stopped at an interesting looking place called Curry 36. Best decision of our lives. Curry 36 was the beginning to a long standing relationship with the infamous Berlin Currywurst, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for less than 4every time. We returned to the hostel to find the free lobby internet conveniently broken, so we had to pay, owell it was only 1.5€ for 2 hours, compared to Switzerland that was DIRT cheap. The group was on their way and would be arriving soon and then we met Dr. Jim Jones, another “Most Interesting Man” contestant selected for the finals along with Dickster. Jim is Frau Riehl’s husband and he is awesome. He came and went though and we would see more of him later.
                The group arrived and everyone was uber tired so we were given 2 hours to recuperate before we headed off to Brandenburger Tor (gate). It was really cool but it was cold so we kept moving, checking other places out and waiting for our dinner reservation at 5:30. We passed a place that had both a Buggati Veyron and several Bentlys. We were finally on our way to eat, but we were tired, cold and hungry. We got to the restaurant and it was amazing. I got a beef roulade und a beer. The beer was great and Jim ended up treating everyone since the University couldn’t pay for it. The food and atmosphere were amazing. We finished there and had a long walk to the train station. We finally arrived back at the Hostel where most people instantly passed out. I had the wonderful idea of doing laundry. It ended up taking close to 3 hours or something crazy and the clothes weren’t even all the way dry. I finally got to sleep around 1am.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Oh wait just… MOOOORREEE trains

Travel from Zermatt to Berlin January 4, 2011
                A 6am wake up normally isn’t fun, a 6am wake up after going to bed at 3:30 am: is hell. To make it worse we had to pack all of our stuff up, but it took us soo much less time than expected and we were done by 6:40. This didn’t really help because we couldn’t check it out until 7:30. So we went back to sleep with an alarm set for 7:30, I apparently passed out so hard that Pete couldn’t wake me up until he slapped me at which point I almost slapped him back. We got up, got breakfast (still more bread), and checked out. We just walked down to the train station, with all of our luggage, more bread, Fanta, chips, and our new found friend honey. We embarked on our 10.5 hour train trip to Berlin. We couldn’t really do much from Zermatt to Visp and Visp to Bern, so I just slept and Pete watched me or something apparently he isn’t a good train sleeper. Once we got on the train to Berlin it kind of cool we had our own little room with door and outlets, key was there were outlets. Now we could use our computers freely so I played some Starcraft and Pete watched some movies. I did some more sleeping and some more sleeping and some more sleeping and Pete didn’t. Apparently he really is no good at sleeping on trains. We had 2 different people share our room with us. The first guy was some old German who didn’t talk much and didn’t stay long, the second guy was way cooler. He had this little dog that was super cool but he didn’t talk much either (the guy not the dog). Eventually we made it to Berlin again having nooo idea where we were going this time not being so lucky it took us forever to just give up and take a taxi that didn’t end up costing that much. We left Zermatt at 8:39am we finally arrived at the new Hostel around 9pm. We checked in and decided we needed food since we hadn’t eaten anything but bread, honey and chips. We went to this little Pizzeria Café place, and guess what it WASN’T expensive finally we had arrived in Germany where you didn’t have to pay an arm, a leg, and your first born to get anything. We actually read in some travel guide that Switzerland is the second most expensive country in Europe under Norway. So the pasta we got at this place was really good and we were totally full so that pretty much lead to us passing out in the Hostel, and on to our next day “The Unification”. Stay tuned….

Alpen Skiing For The Win

Zermatt Skiing January 3, 2011

Link to Zermatt skiing map

The day started bright and early at 7:30am. We donned our ski gear which took a while because of our extensive suits. We headed down to eat breakfast more bread with coffee this time though. Then it was off to the main gondolas. We floated up the mountain side in the shadow of the Matterhorn, oh yeah almost forgot about that. The Matterhorn is sooo cool, way cooler than pictures make it look. Well then we made to the top of the first peak Gornergrat, 10,132ft tall. We made our first run and I knew it was going to be an amazing day. The Alps offer amazing views, skiing, and pretty much awesome everything. We continued on Gornergrat, Pete was showing signs of improvement but still using modified pizza and going REALLY slow. So I left him in the dust for a run (it was planned, I didn’t just piece out). I skied some red trails (Europe colors differ from ours: blue-easy, red-medium, and black is still hard). I skied all the way from Gornergrat to Riffelberg and down to Furi where the main gondola was. It was a really fun route a little hairy at times but I was fine, good thing Pete didn’t come though. Then we decided to get lunch at the Riffelberg Restaurant. We found out the hard way not to that. We paid $25 for a meal; it was good but not that good. We did a little more skiing on Gornergrat and then we headed to the other side of the mountain, where we skied Trokener Steg and the Plateau above Trokener. This was higher than Gornergrat and a little more difficult we also encountered the strangest lift ever called a T-bar. You sit on this little bar and you get pulled up the mountain. You are still skiing though, just uphill and that’s what makes it weird. This was Pete’s last run and he headed down on the gondola. I’d say he did pretty well for skiing in the Alps the second day he’d ever skied. This is when my coolest run of the whole day started I skied from 11,420ft to 5,315ft. That’s right over a mile in vertical drop alone. It took me almost 1 and half hours and it was soooo awesome!! I returned to the Hostel at 4pm got my boots and skied down to return my skis and boots. We just chilled for awhile because we were so beat, but our day was far from over. We had some more bread and some >1 beer (only 2 things in Switzerland that are worth the money). We eventually decided to go out. The receptionist told us of a popular bar and night club called the Poppola club. We headed in that direction and on the way we decided we needed food. We stopped at a little pizzeria, again a ton of money for not enough stuff. We finally headed over to the bar, got some $7 beers and chilled for awhile. The bar and night club excursion lasted way to long and again we spent way too much money, Zermatt sucks for that. 

Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Oh wait just… trains

Travel from Zurich to Zermatt January 2, 2011
                It was only the 4th day of our epic adventure and it felt like we had been gone forever. Our day started out with another bad wake up and us almost not making check out, but we made it out fine and got to the train station on time. Out train left at 11am to Bern, where we switched trains to Visp, where we again switched trains to Zermatt. This train ride seemed long but in two days this would seem like nothing. We arrived in Zermatt at around 2ish and we again had no idea where were going (this is becoming a trend). So we tried to find out from something where we going luckily there were some maps and what not. We eventually got onto a bus that took us up the hill so we could walk to the hostel. The hostel reception was closed so we left are bags in the basement, which to get to is a tiny wooden spiral stairway. We finally got to venture into town, my camera again running out of batteries at the perfect time. We decided we didn’t want to eat any more bread or cold cut meats, so we went looking for something else; low and behold there is a McDonalds everywhere. Pete and both got Big Macs just because there is a McDonalds everywhere doesn’t mean they have a dollar menu. We paid $12.50 for that frickin burger meal, but as we didn’t want any bread or cold cuts this was our best bet. We headed back to the Hostel to check in and carried our bags up another tiny wooden spiral stairway. The Hostel was cozy, which really means small but it had character. We headed out again to rent our skis and get or lift ticket which combined cost $150, but what the hell we got to ski in the Alps. We returned to the hostel with more bread and this time honey, which greatly improved said bread. We ate our food and ended up going to bed at like 9PM because it was early wake up for SKIIIIIIINNNNNGGGG!!!

PHOTO DUUUMMP!!! (con....)

Zermatt & Train
Jan 2, 2011


Jan 1, 2011