Sunday, June 8, 2014

Catching Up, Pt. 1

Well, well, well.  It has been several (six) months since my last post, and I do deeply apologize to all who may have been wondering what it going on in my life.  Do not fear; I am still alive and well!

I will be unfortunately very concise, in terms of details, for as I have not taken care to post frequently, I would have too much to explain.  So in this(these) post(s), I will be attempting to catch you all up on some of the main events in my life in these last six months.

After the wondrous excursions with not only my own family but also the families of my host brothers and sisters from the past years, I was back in Frankfurt to attend the last of my lectures and write the exams.  My exams took place at the end of February, but since 90% of my friends from the semester would be leaving, I was trading off studying with traveling around the state of Hesse with my HessenTicket (allowing us to travel for FREE with any of the regional trains to any cities within Hesse, including traveling into the first train station of the surrounding states; pretty cool, huh?)

The first of these trips was actually one of the best!  We had planned a Saturday to travel to one of the far northern cities in Hesse, Marburg.  Marburg is one of the most traditional looking cities and also one of the more beautiful cities in Hesse.  What was especially great about this Saturday (and the weekend for that matter) was that my best friend, Mike, and his girlfriend, Christiane, came all the way from Austria to visit!!  They spent the weekend in Frankfurt, and on Saturday, we all took a trip to Marburg.
To the left is, shameful to say, the only picture I have from the day.  But still, it was a wonderful day trip with great friends!!

After this wonderful short and exciting weekend, I finished my exams, and all of the great friends I had made in this first, short semester in Germany had traveled home.  With my future plans, however, I intend to see some of them again one day (That is a topic for another day)!  Since the majority of our friends had left, Debora* and I began doing our own day trips during the week and on weekends, trying to experience as much of this "free travel" as we could.

*As some people know but maybe not everybody, Debora is a wonderful girl, whom I met in the first semester.  She is from Italy, speaks English, German, French, and, of course, Italian, and she studies Foreign Languages for Companies (it is a poor translation from German).  She and I speak only German together, but since we are both not mother tongue in German, we communicate also through English and Italian words we both know.  Since we have been together, I have begun learning more Italian and she more English.  We have been in a relationship since mid-November, and it was during this time after Christmas (January, February, and March) when our relationship became more serious. At the time of my writing this post, June, Debora and I are approaching seven months together!  It is quite exciting!

I will not go into much detail of our excursions in Hesse, because there is something better to come in the next post! OOH, what could it be!  Anyways, here are some pictures of the cities she and I visited during the month of March.



For me, this was the third time I had been to Köln but Debora's first time.  Luckily for her then, I knew where to go and what to see.  Therefore I took her on the Zach Herriges Partially-Remembered Tour of Cologne!  We started with the Dom (Cathedral), of course, including a treacherously exhausting climb to the top of the tower (picture above of the skyline).

Then she and I walked to the famous bridge, which hosts all manners of locks.  The locks represent peoples' love.  When you put an engraved lock on the bridge, you are to throw the key over the bridge into the Rhein river, thus committing themselves to the love.  My parents had put a lock on the bridge, when we were there in December.  Debora and I then visited the spot once more, so I could show her my family's lock. I was excited to see the lock once more.  It is a cool feeling because I am sure some people travel, leave a lock, and then never go back to see it again. But for me, since I was able to visit it again, it was not so superficial.

These two characters here have a funny story. Their names are Tünnes (on the left) and Schäl (right).  The story goes, if I remembered correctly: If you want luck with love, you rub Tünnes' nose three times counter-clockwise.  If you want to receive luck with money, business, et cetera, you are to rub/shake Schäl's right hand.  But!  if you grab/shake/rub his left hand, which he has behind his back, it is something like bad luck, for he is discreetly holding that hand behind is back (kind of like crossing his fingers).

At then end of the day, Debora and I got home super late, for one: the bus came one and a half hours late, and two: Köln is about one and a half to two hours away from Frankfurt with the bus.  But we made it home, eventually, and rested up for the next day trip.

Fulda: This city is not exactly super famous or anything, but we had heard from several people living in Frankfurt that it is one of the most beautiful cities in Hesse.  For me, this turned out to be true.
We began our excursion from the main train station, and followed the map to this absolutely gorgeous park.  It was here, after walking for a few hours, we took a rest on a bench an took in the serenity of the part.  Many people in Germany truly enjoy taking walks during the day, especially on a day as beautiful as this one was, but there were almost no people in this park!  It was actually quite nice to have practically an entire park to ourselves.

Whilst in the park, we noticed our next destination.  But what was to come, was not something I had expected in such a quaint city. As we turned the corner from the park, we came upon this site, and we could not help but take about 30 pictures after each step.  I have, however, shortened that number of pictures a great deal, to only some of the best looking pictures of this cathedral.

There was also in the distance a smaller church, (below), which turned out to be some sort of a place of resting.  It was very small, cold, and dark.  We were not allowed to take photos inside of this smaller church, but it was worth a visit for us.  If any of you happen to travel to Fulda and into this small church, you will notice Debora and I signed the guest book!!  Just in case, like I said.

Moving into the city, these are some pictures of the buildings in Fulda. And although it is considered a city, it had a very small-town feel to it. The city center was no longer than about a two-mile stretch, and everything was so packed together.  But it was quiet and undisturbed by busy-ness and such.  The people also seemed quite friendly.  Debora and I ate a late lunch in a café, walked around a bit longer, doing some window shopping, and then we left for the day.

Of all of the cities in Germany I had visited this year, this was one of my favorites.  It had all of the essential "now-a-days" things like shopping malls, restaurants, et cetera, but it also had this very romantic-era, quaint feel to it.  Perhaps I would live here during my retirement!  Who knows!!

Well, these are all of the cities, which Debora and I visited in March.  In my next post, I will tell you about my favorite trip of my entire stay in Germany: Italy!  Until the next post!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

"The Magic Flute": my first ever opera

I completely forgot to add a post regarding my first ever opera experience!!  WOW how stupid of me.  I am completely addicted to classical/operatic music, and I did not even think to write about attending one.

So, during the third week of November (yes this post should precede my most recent post, if you're reading this chronologically, which you should) I went with a small group of friends to Frankfurt's new opera house to enjoy the well-known German opera "Die Zauberflöte/The Magic Flute", composed way back when by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Considering the fact that I have only watched this piece of theater/music performance in a filmed version or have only listened to excerpts on my computer, I was absolutely blown away.  Having the performance acted out in front of you for three and a half hours brings about an ENTIRELY new feature to the music.  Also it was nice to see it acted out by different people, on a different stage, with different props, and with different themes.

I don't want to give too much of a review, but everything was great.  Even the Queen of the Night's famous aria (which you could watch here if you don't have any clue what I'm talking about:, which has been claimed to be one of the most difficult pieces of music to sing, was so much more exhilarating to hear in person.  I had goosebumps throughout almost the entire opera.

But that's enough about that.  I would suggest to ANYONE to go see this opera if they have the chance.  It's really quite interesting, and it is considered a comedy, so you don't have to worry about being bored to sleep, as operas stereotypically do to some people.

My up-coming musical attendances will be coming up in the next couple of months, and then toward the end of Spring.  I will be attending, accordingly, "Das Phantom der Oper/The Phantom of the Opera," which I do not yet know if it will be in English or German; and then I will be attending "Don Giovanni" in May, which is another one of Mozart's operas.

Until next time, thank you for reading!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A taste of home and some Christmas Spirit!

I realize it has been several weeks since my last post; Amsterdam happened at the beginning of November, and it is now December.  In saying that, I really have not done much those last two-three weeks worthy of posting on my blog.  The studies have been going well, I did get sick and have been for about a week and a half now, and I have been spending my evenings and weekends doing the same old eating, visiting with friends, and going to a few parties here and there.

BUT!  Last Tuesday, two days before Thanksgiving, the four other Americans in Frankfurt and I had decided to plan a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner to share with our international friends, seeing as we are one of if not the only country in the world which celebrates Turkey Day.  On Wednesday the shopping took place, and it was starting to look like a great dinner.  I was unable to stay for long, for I had made plans earlier in the week to attend the opening night of the Frankfurt Christmas Market.

**Digression to discuss the Christmas market**
Wow, I'm used to visiting Chicago's Christmas Market every year for the last six years.  And now I go to Germany, and the Christmas market here (I've only seen Frankfurt's) is almost four times as large!!  I also was able to enjoy my first legal Glühwein (a traditional, spiced and warmed red wine, served at all Christmas markets around Europe), and I didn't even have to worried about being carded (that has been a plus ever since I've been in Germany).  I had gone to the market with one of my friends, Debora, and we ended up meeting up with a huge group of our international friends (with a group as large as we, we see each other all over the place).  I also have, to date, visited the Frankfurt Christmas Market four times.  I'll be visiting it about five more times before it closes after Christmas.

Back to the Thanksgiving Dinner.
On Thursday, some of the Americans went without lectures, so they spent the whole day preparing all three of our turkeys, the green beans, the mashed potatoes, the sweet potatoes, the stuffing, the cranberry sauce, and various other Turkey Day delights.  Unfortunately, I had a lot of courses, so I was unable to join in the prep work.  I showed up right around the beginning of the party, and there were already about 20 internationals there, all ready to eat up a hearty American tradition.

When the dinner was ready, as expected, everyone dug in.  I'm quite surprised that with the about 50 people crammed into the tiny kitchen, none of the food ended up on the ground.  For that we were all thankful!! :D

After dinner, I was able to walk heavily and stuffed up to my room to skype my family, who was at that time also just beginning to gather for Thanksgiving in the USA.  After skyping with them, I returned to the kitchen to help clean up; dishes took almost 45 minutes, for there were so many of them, and it was so greasy!!!  But I didn't help with the preparation, so I felt obligated to clean the dishes.

After the dinner, I returned to my room, and I stayed up a bit too late, for when I woke up about 4 hours later, I had to quickly clean my room, eat breakfast, and head off to the airport to pick up my other taste of home, Deven, who was visiting me for the weekend from Spain!!

Okay, I have to say, I was worried I wouldn't find her, for the airport in Frankfurt is absolutely enormous!!  But I found Deven, and it almost seemed unreal, seeing a face, which I hadn't seen in more than three months!!!  Since she packed super lightly, we were able to right away ride into the city, and I made a city tour for her, hitting up all of the major "must-sees" in Frankfurt.  After that, since it was only about noon, we headed back to my building, so we could meet up with my friends to eat something.  After lunch, we spent some time in my room; Deven napped, for she had hardly any sleep, and I was making some plans for the evening, to visit the Christmas market.  We headed off to the Christmas market in a group of our internationals, and Deven got a real taste of what Christmas feels like in Germany.

After the market, our group decided we wanted to do something else.  It was a quick decision, for it had begun to rain, hard.  We met up near the movie theater, and we unfortunately arrived too late to get tickets to a movie, without having to wait another two hours.  So we continued walking aimlessly around a part of Frankfurt, near Echescheimer Tor, before meeting up with the other half of the scattered group.  At the end of the night, we decided to go back to our building, and just sit around, eat some snacks, drink some tea, and talk.  Then it was off to bed!

The next morning, Saturday, Deven and I went to a nearby café for breakfast and coffee (of course we got coffee; we're both coffee fanatics!!)  After that, we did some small grocery shopping, dropped that stuff off in my room, and made our way through the Grüneburgpark towards my Campus Westend.  After spending a little over an hour there, we made our way to Campus Bockenheim (the not so beautifully modern campus), then we had enough time to make it back to my building for dinner with my some of the other friends in my building.

After dinner, which was fantastic, we went together out to one of the student sponsored parties.  It was an interesting excursion, since we left our building quite late, with the usual, large group of internationals, and we had to take a tram 20 minutes, then walk another 30 minutes just to get to this place (Thanks, Google Maps!!).  It was quite a cramped yet fun dance/party/thing inside of a building which on the outside resembled a restaurant but on the inside resembled a large house without any furniture; that made more room for us!  We arrived around 12:00am, and we left at about 3:20am.  However, we did not want to walk 45 minutes to the Hauptbahnhof just to take the first tram home, so we hailed a taxi.  Then it was right to bed.

The next morning, Sunday, started out quite lazily.  I think, if I remember correctly, we slept until maybe 13:00, and then we at and bummed around a bit.  Then, we were again meeting to cook with my friends, so we got together in the kitchen and cooked from 14:00 ish until about 16:30, at which time Deven and I packed her things up, went one last time to the Christmas market to grab some sweets and gifts for Deven to bring home with her.  We power walked, as fast as the surrounding mob of people would allow us, to the main train stop, then I noticed that one of the two trains which was to take us to the airport was not going to arrive for 20 minutes, and it is about a 20 minute ride.  AH!!

That is when Deven and I began thinking we may not get her to her plane in time!!  But, while waiting, we found out all of the important information regarding her terminal, where she needed to pick up her tickets, and so on.  Then when we arrived at the airport, we rushed to her terminal to get her ticket, and then thankfully there was not a long line for security (she ended up getting through security and to her gate just a few minutes before boarding began; what perfect, yet mildly stressful timing we have!!)!  I said my good-byes to Deven, for I will not be seeing her for about 7 more months!

I have to say that having a close friend from home actually being here with me in person in Germany has made me realize how excited I am to have my family come visit me for the holidays!!!!!!!!!!!!  I only wish that I could bring all of my friends and family with me to Germany to spend no less than a week here!!  I may just have to move here permanently after university to make that a reality.

Thank you all for reading!!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Project: Amsterdam; a.k.a. Two Greeks, a Finn, and an American

And now to discuss my weekend in Amsterdam, Holland.

Friday, November 8: I forced myself to wake up at 6:30, though I had gone to bed at 2:00, in order to grab coffee and breakfast in my room while I dressed and organized my luggage one last time for the weekend trip to Amsterdam.  WOOO!  At around 7:40, I met my two Greek buddies, Nikos and Kostas, outside of the building, to head to the Hauptbahnhof (main train station), at which we would meet the rest of the group of travelers before boarding the bus and embarking on our journey.  The bus left around 9:00-9:30, and we knew that the bus ride was to be about six hours.  Most of us slept, I, of course, having drunk a large amount of coffee, could not sleep in the bus (also due to the fact that I cannot typically sleep in vehicles).  But around 14:30-15:30, we arrived in Amsterdam!  We had chosen our roommates for the Jugendherberge (youth hostel) in the bus, so once we arrived at the hostel, we only had to wait about 30 minutes to get checked in, and then we were able to move into the room and relax a bit!

The room in our hostel was AMAZING!!!  So clean; four beds (two on the floor, two bunked), which are way more comfortable than the bed in my room in Frankfurt; a large, warm shower; a toilet and sink (naturally; and a lot of room to move around.  My roommates for the weekend included my Greeks, Nikos, Kostas, and Oskar, my friend from Finland.

After freshening up from the long bus ride, the whole group of internationals got together to head into the inner city of Amsterdam to visit the monuments, take a tour, and, of course, visit the Red Light District (I am going to abbreviate this: RLD).  The bus ride to the city was about 30-40 minutes, and after we arrived, it had been dark for a while, we noticed that the entire city was lit-up!  Continuing on into the RLD, it was a very interesting, new, and entirely different experience than anything I have known before.  I do not mean that just because there were women standing in almost all of the windows, which are street level, but I also mean the neon lights which lit-up not only the streets, but which also lit-up the canals which ran down the middle of most of the RLD.

We had finished touring the RLD and other parts of the inner city, when we broke for some late dinner, and returned to walk to another part of the city to go to a party/bar.  The bar we ended up at was an Australian bar, and since Amsterdam is full of tourists and other international people, almost everybody in the bar spoke either English or Australian English.  My three roommates and I stayed from about 21:00 until 23:30, and then we grabbed some food and water on the way home before catching the last tram to the central station, from which we would take a night bus about 45 minutes to get back to our hostel.  After a bit of discussing, we decided we would wake up the following morning at 9:00 in order to get to breakfast before everyone else and have time to relax in the morning.

Saturday: As I said above, we woke at 9:00 and were down to breakfast shortly after.  And WOW! the breakfast was really something.  We had so much food, juice, and, of course the most important part of a Zach Herriges breakfast, coffee!!!  After breakfast, we were to meet at 11:00 to head back into the inner city to take a led tour.  While waiting, Nikos and I took part in a game of giant chess (the pieces were about as tall as my knees), which I unfortunately lost, but not without attempting to take every last piece!!  But I still lost.

We took the bus into the city and met up with our tour guide around the same place we were walking the day before.  Which looked something like this!  This is Dam Square on a Saturday morning in November.
 We were then lead on a tour of the RLD, which was actually a lot different during the day.  There were still women working, not as many, of course, and there were many, many people walking around.  After the tour of the RLD and Dam Square, we took a break for lunch around 1:00, and then continued on into the part of the city called Jordaan, in which the Anne Frank Museum and a few other monuments are located.  At around 14:30, we parted ways with our guide, and a group of friends and I headed south to try to visit the Rijksmuseum, one of the largest art museums, if not the largest, in Amsterdam.  Our back up plan was to visit the Van Gogh Museum, which would have also been cool to see.  Unfortunately, by the time we got down there, which was later than expected due to a tram being disabled entirely and having had to walk for about 45 minutes, we did not have enough time to visit either museum, before they closed, with enough time to get our 15€-worth out of the trip.  We did, however, get some experience out of it, for we were able to take pictures in front of the "I AMSTERDAM" monument/sign/thing which stands in front of the Rijksmuseum!

(Photo credit goes to my friend Adelaide, from whom I borrowed these pictures, since I did not take any of my own)

Since we were tired, hungry, cold, and were not able to go into any of the museums, we chose to head back into the city a bit, grab some warm, traditional.......New York-Style pizza (the second time in two days for me)!!  It was after dinner that we scampered through the rain, cold, and confusion of finding/asking for directions in a foreign city in order to find our way to the tram that would take us all the way back to our hostel.  We made it back, still wet and cold, but we then split up, once again to freshen up in our respective rooms, and to take some time to rest before the entire group met up at 22:00 to go out to another, much better party in the city.

Since I am hungry all the time, as most of you know, I spent the entire free-time time convincing my roommates to come down to the bar area to get some food.  Eventually we all went down at around 21:00.  At this time we ordered some Döner, and during our wait time, we played a game of Texas Hold'em Poker, using Jenga pieces as chips!  Our food was running late, and when we finally got it, we were disappointed.  Well, at least I was.  A Döner in Germany is practically an art-style, for which the Turkish-Germans pride themselves.  In Amsterdam, we were handed two slices of a pita bread-like roll which had been filled messily with practically tasteless chunks (yes, chunks, not thinly sliced deliciousness) of meat, which I assumed to be lamb; who knows.  We also were given some ridiculously sharp chili sauce, to add "flavor"/burning to said practically tasteless meat, along with some mild sauce, also adding flavor and eliminating the burning of the chili sauce.  I scarfed mine down, since they had come late, and then rushed up to my room (I took the stairs six floors up after eating a LOT of very greasy meat) to brush my teeth.  I thankfully did not vomit.  Moral of the story for anyone traveling to Amsterdam: a Döner in Amsterdam is not really a Döner.

We left the building around 22:30 to get to the party around 23:00.  After arriving, we had to wait outside, for the was some sort of mess up with the number of people we were bringing or something like that, but we were let in after about 20 minutes.  The party was on the second floor (or first floor if you are talking about European buildings), and we received glow stick glasses and/or ears!  It was a cool party; there was another floor above the floor in which we were dancing, and our group ended up there by the end of the night.  It was not until 2:00 that I realized what time it was, for we were having such a great time!!  But at that time, we decided to head outside to decide what to do next.  A few of the group went home by night bus, and a small group of friends and I went to a very delicious muffin shop (which was serving NORMAL muffins only, just to clarify).  From there we took a night bus to the central station, then another bus to our hostel.  It was roughly 4:00 when we arrived home.

Sunday: I know it has been a lot to read, but I am almost finished with the weekend!!  So my roommates and I woke again around 9:00-9:30 to head down to breakfast.  After breakfast, at around 11:00, we were to be all checked out of our rooms, store our luggage, and meet outside to go one last time into the city.  In the city, a group of friends and I went in the direction of Jordaan to attempt to gain entrance to the Anne Frank museum, which turned out to be an impossibility, due to the 300 people waiting in line.  We then decided to make an excursion of the area of Jordaan, known for some of its vintage shops and cafés.  It was during this time that we finally found a museum to visit: the Cheese museum!! haha Oh, well they had delicious cheese there anyways.  After that some of us went into a café to grab some coffee while the rest of the group went to purchase some souvenirs an see more of the city.  We met back up, took a group picture, seen below (one which I also borrowed from my friend Adelaide) in front of one of the many canals in Amsterdam, before taking the bus back to the hostel one last time to grab our luggage and head home.

The bus ride back took another six hours, which was spent reminiscing the weekend in a new city and talking as quietly as I could, so as not to wake the other 50 people on the bus, trying to sleep; I apparently have a voice which is deep and resonating; sleepy people do not like it.

When we finally arrived at the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof, I had a strange feeling, as if I had just come home from being away from it for an extended period of time.  Huh, I guess I have become so accustomed to Frankfurt that it is becoming my new home, at least temporarily!   Do not worry, Mom and Dad, I will spend a few years in the US before contemplating my return trip!  :)

Well, if you are reading this hear, then you are really great for having read this entire post, considering its monstrosity!  Thank you once again, and I will make sure to keep up to date with any more interesting experiences I have!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cologne, Germany with the DAAD Stipend Recipiants

Hello Everybody!

To start, I would like to say that unfortunately my weeks tend to be pretty typical, so if there is a week when I do not post, it is because I have not done anything more out of the ordinary than going to lectures, cooking, eating, exercising, and learning.  I figure that stuff is not all that interesting, so I can leave it out for now.  In saying that, however, my studies are becoming a little bit easier!!  After the first two weeks, I am starting to develop a routine and getting used to the speed at which the lectures are being taught.  For every lecture I have, the professor has his/her notes posted online that I can print out, bring with me to lecture, and make my own notes!  It's a perfect situation!  Anyways, let us talk about Cologne!

Well last week Friday, I was to wake up at about 6:00am for I had to pack, eat breakfast, and prepare to head off to Köln/Cologne, Germany for that Friday and Saturday.  I got to the train without any troubles, for I had woken up early enough to recompense for any delays.  The train ride was only about one hour, and it left and arrived just as punctually as the reputation (which is more of a stereotype) of the German train system upholds!  After arriving in Köln, I had to walk but five minutes from the train station to the hostel, in which I was to be staying over night.  Once there, I met up with a small group of other DAAD students, and we waited together until our check-in time at 11:30am, so about one hour.

Once we received our keys, we went up to a conference room to meet the faces of our contacts at DAAD, with whom we had up until that weekend only been communicating through email, and to receive some general information about the itinerary for the weekend and the DAAD organization.  The it was off to see some sights!

Our hostel was on the east side of the Rhein River, and we were walking over to the west side to see the Dom.  A side note that we learned from a Köln resident on our tour: the West side of the river in Köln is considered the 'right' side, and the East side of the river is considered the 'wrong' side by the Köln people!
But anyways, here was the first sight we could see as we began crossing the bridge to the 'Right' side of Köln.

And as we crept up upon the Dom from the south side, this is what we saw.

And then again the Dom from the west side of it.  You can see that while standing under it, it is very difficult to capture all of its monstrosity.

We were then met by a group of tour guides, who took us on a tour around some of the historical areas in Köln, including a museum with a very wonderful mosaic, unfortunately I did not take many pictures during my stay in Köln.  We also got to learn a lot about the Dom and some of the other surrounding monuments.
The Dom wasn't finished until the 19th century, if I remember what our guide said correctly, but it also is the home of the bones of the Three Wise Men, for those of you who know the story.  At the peak of the Dom, there is a gold star, the Star of Bethlehem, under which the bones of the Wise Men were to be held, but they are instead held underneath a different part of the Dom, and there is a golden cross for the Wise Men to rest under.  (In the first picture, you can sort of see the cross and the Star of Bethlehem.)
On the south side of the Dom there is also a door with a blue crest on it.  Our guide told us that that door is only opened for one person: the Pope.

The rest of our tour took us through some other historic sites, like I had said, including a Roman structure, which was completely destroyed during WWII and rebuilt, and the world's first cologne production facility.  No, cologne was not invented in France, it was in fact invented in Köln (Cologne), Germany.  Go figure.

After our tour, we went to a tower to see a 360 degree view of Köln.  The weather was not very nice, so I only managed to get two good pictures from this tower.

Then we ate a fabulous dinner at this restaurant called L'Orange.  After that we went back to the hostel for a short while before heading back across the river to have a few drinks and experience the beer famously known as 'Kölsch.'  Since we had to wake up early for breakfast the next day, we all were back in the hostel around 11:30 for bed.

The next day was a bit less exciting.  We had breakfast, and then we were given a lot of information about the higher education system in Germany, and it gave me some ideas for if I wanted to pursue further education after my Bachelor degree.  We had a coffee break during the information session to catch up and talk with many others about our experiences in Germany so far and what not.  After the information session, we had lunch and were then released from our DAAD responsibilities for the weekend.  A friend of mine, who I had just met on Friday, and I went on another short tour of Köln before I needed to head to the Hauptbahnhof to catch my train back to Frankfurt.

That was it for the DAAD weekend in Köln!  I met a lot of really awesome people from Canada and the USA, and I hope that I can visit some of them if I am ever in the cities in Germany in which they are currently studying!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Strasbourg, France

So at around 5:30 on Saturday morning, I awoke to the bright, shining moon!!  "Ah, it is going to be a good day, for I woke up before the sun," I thought to myself.  I ate breakfast, met a friend outside of the building, and we were off to the Hauptbahnhof, at which we met up with the group of fellow travelers all going in the direction: Strasbourg!

We got on the bus at around 8:00, and we were off on a three hour trip to France.

Once we arrived in France, we were immediately bombarded by three or four men trying to sell us those little umbrella hat things, sunglasses, beads, and other things which would scream, "TOURIST!!"  After we all got off of the bus, we began walking, in a group of about 50, towards the Place de la Cathédrale, to see one of the largest cathedrals in the Europe, which had been the largest building in the world until sometime in the 19th Century.  That is pretty cool!

Place de la Cathédrale


After taking a few pictures, we began on a tour towards what is known as little France.  We saw several older buildings and houses, which had the traditional German cross beam designs.  The reasoning for that is that Strasbourg had switched between German and French ownership at least five times throughout history.

The views were nice, and because so many people wanted to take pictures, we actually lost a good half of the group during our walk through this city.

We had met up again at 13:45 to get on a boat tour, which would take us along a small river known as L'Ill.  The tour lasted almost an hour, and we got to listen to some of the history of the city Strasbourg.  After our tour, the small group of friends, with whom I was, and I went to a traditional French restaurant to have Tarte flambée/Flammenkuchen (really thin pizza without sauce; only butter, cheese, and bacon bits).  It was so delicious!!!

By the time we finished, it was time to meet back up at the cathedral, for we were then to head home for the day.  We got home around 21:30, and I just had some late dinner and wine with a group of friends, most of whom were not on the trip to Strasbourg, so we got to discuss some of the things we did.  As per usual, our discussions were fun and went a long time, and I turned in late to bed, to wake up even later on Sunday.  But that was okay, because it was a good weekend nonetheless!!

First week of classes!!!

Though I realize it has been a while since I posted, maybe a week or two, I cannot remember, I have a good reason.  My charging cord for my computer and cell phone both broke, and because of that, when I had time to post this weekend, I had no energy on any of these devices.  But that has been taken care of.

Talk about that extremely frightening, overwhelming first day of school feeling.  I am not talking about coming back for your senior year of high school; I am talking about full-fledged HOLY COW College is scary, or even first day of middle school type stuff.  Except that needs to be multiplied by German^2 (That is "German*German," the speed at which the German in my lectures was spoken is provided in the multiplication of German by German.)  My first lecture of the week was the most difficult thing I think I have yet to have experienced.  90 minutes of Linear Algebra is hard in English, but multiply that by the German^2, which I explained earlier, and it becomes anybody's worst nightmare.  I suppose I should probably just explain my whole week shortly.

10:00-11:45 Linear Algebra.  I frantically took notes to keep up with what the professor was writing on the smart board.  It was not until later in the day, that I found out that all of her written notes from lecture, a voice recording of each lecture, and her past lecture sheets were all online!!!  That makes learning the material that much easier; PLUS! one of the recommended literatures is written in English!

11:46-12:23 I was on the bus from Campus Bockenheim to go to Campus Westend for my Mikroökonomie 2 course.  Yes, unfortunately I have to switch campuses one to three times a day... But it is a good thing I have a bicycle, so the commute is only about 8 minutes, as opposed to waiting for the bus, then being crammed into it like a sardine for 10 minutes.  After I arrived at Campus Westend, found my room, sat down, and waited until the travel period between courses (about 30 minutes) was over, someone in the room announced that our course would not be held until the following week.  Woo!  No class on the first day.  I then went to grab a bite to eat at the student cafeteria in Campus Westend.

12:30-16:00 After lunch, I walked back toward Campus Bockenheim, which only took about 20 minutes, so that I could relax and figure out my schedule for the coming semester before I had a German writing course (which I have since then decided is not what I thought it would be, and I dropped it.)  Then I sat through that course, and afterwords went back home, ate dinner, and copied some of my Lin. Algebra notes into a cleaner notebook.  I used the online resources to have many an epiphany about some of the things in lecture, which made no sense due to the language barrier.

I woke up not so early, but I was able to get to meet up with friends and go to my first lecture/course, which was supposed to be a German course for which I had already registered.  Upon arriving at the lecture and talking with the professor, I was informed that there was no room, though I had been assured of the opposite, and was told to come again on Thursday.  So I had then time to exercise, which is always great!

I then had no lectures until 14:00, which was Marketing 1.  The professor spoke very articulately and at a good pace, so I had not any problems understanding what he was explaining.  After that course ended at 15:45, I had to rush from Campus Westend, where I was, to Campus Bockenheim on my bike.

Back in Bockenheim, I was to attend the Übung (practice/tutoring/exercise) session for my Linear Algebra course.  This session lasted until 18:00, after which I went home, ate, studied, and went to bed.

Wednesday was fantastic this week, for I had NO lectures!!!  But I bought some warmer bed sheets, trained at the gym, ate, and studied a lot of Linear Algebra!

Thursday was the fun day.  I had lecture from 8:00-16:30 in the following order:
Management (which will eventually be taught in English, but on the first day was all in German)
Linear Algebra (once again, ridiculously difficult to understand)
Another German writing course (which turned out to be again not what I was expecting the course to be, plus there were too many people in the small lecture room.)
AkadeMi (which was the course I attended Tuesday, but was told to come back on Thursday, which I did, and I was allowed to take part in the course.)

FRIDAY!  I had off!!  I went to the Ausländerbehörde in order to turn in my paper work to get my residence permit, which will be coming shortly.  In the meantime, I have to carry around a form saying that I have received my permit, it is just in processing at the moment.  After that, which took two and a half hours, though I had an appointment, I was able to train, study, eat a good few meals, spend time with friends, and then turn in not too late, for I had a new adventure the next day!! Which I will write about in the next post.