Thursday, September 25, 2008
The excursion began with an amazingly long bus trip on the Autobahn. Because of regulation in Germany for bus drivers, we could only travel a certain speed and were required to take several pitstops in order for the driver to rest. Though this bus ride was somewhat painful, it was again an opportunity to learn more about the German culture. One interesting observation is that Germans really know how to run their bathrooms efficiently. So in order to use the public bathrooms, one must pay 50 Euro cents for entrance. After using these futuristic, self-cleaning toilettes, one receives a voucher for 50 Euro cents to spend at the station. Of course no one wants to loose their 50 cents, so they spend it on a 5-12 Euro meal from the station. Brilliant business!
When we arrived in Berlin, we checked into a massive youth hostile located in East Berlin. I stayed in a room with 7 students, all with different nationalities. These nationalities were Canadian, Czech, Lebanese, Australian, Canadian, German, Spanish, and American(me). Quite cosmopolitan. The first evening we decided to keep things low key and enjoyed a few beverages in the courtyard of the hostile. After an hour or so of socializing, we ran into some Swedish guys, Bobo and Max, also staying in the hostile. They had a few other Swedish friends staying in Berlin and I ended up hanging out with them for the rest of the weekend. These guys are some of the coolest and most happy-go-lucky people I have ever met. They always wanted to go out at night and really knew how to have a good time. I even learned how to speak some Swedish!
During the days, we went on tours and explored all of the history of Berlin. We went to the Dome, museums, art galleries, Checkpoint Charlie, the Berlin Wall, The Brandenburg Gate, and climbed the Berlin TV Tower. Though it was amazing seeing the many historical places in Berlin, I have to say my favorite part of Berlin was a specific art gallery and of course, the night life. The art gallery, Babylon Gate, is located in a 4 story, once abandoned building that was bombed during WWII. Artists from all around the city squatted on the property, filled it with amazing art, and eventually won ownership of the place. All of the walls are covered in grafitti and other various pictures. There are several rooms on every floor, each occupied with a different artist with their unique collection. I cannot even begin to describe the volume of creative output coming from this place.
Of course as in all of Germany, there are several discotechs that one can enjoy. On Saturday night, in an effort so visit as many of them as possible, we went on a pub crawl. Now when I think of a pub crawl, I imagine something like 15-50 people. On this pub crawl, there were over 200 people! We would come to a club, take over the place, do our business, and walk to the next club. Just walking in this massive group of people was an amazing experience. Cars and buses would stop for us, people from different countries would sing their typical drinking songs, pictures were being taken, and one had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. This was the place to be. Many of the clubs were former warehouses or bunkers gone discotech. Half of the time it felt like I was in a movie from the 80's. Graffiti everywhere, people sitting around in tents smoking joints, drug dealers on the corners, punks, hooligans, and all types of people filling the street all hours of the night. Berlin does not sleep!
All in all, I really loved Berlin. The city has so much character and personality. Because of the recent reunification of the East and the West, the city has a unique opportunity to rebuild itself and I was right in the middle of it. Though in the 4 days I was there I got only about 15 hours of sleep and was running on adrenaline half of the time, I had an amazing experience. Ich bin Berliner! (The correct way to say it JFK!)
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
First of all, I am sorry for taking so long to post an update. I’ve been too busy! So a couple of weeks ago I started taking a German class to help improve my German speaking skills. In order to register I had to take a placement exam. I figured after having taken 3 years of German in high school and cramming the Rosetta Stone most of the summer, I would make it into the Intermediate class. The exam consisted of a written and an oral section. The next day I went to check my placement and right at the bottom under “Absolute Beginner” I found my name. This was the beginning I thought to myself.
So far the class has gone very well. We’ve been going over the basics like colors, numbers, how to order food, how to have basic conversation, etc… The class is all in German so if you don’t understand something, tough luck. Fortunately there are a few other English speakers in the class and together we sift through this puzzle of a language. I have the class Montag-Freitag from 9-1230 uhr. I am learning more and more and slowly but surely everything is starting to make sense. I have even begun to dream in German, basic though it may be!
Because actual university classes don’t start until the beginning of October, everyone without a job, including myself, has a lot of free time. I spend a lot of time hanging out with my flat mates, the international students, and the random Germans that I meet. Just the other day another American (named Tom) and I joined in a pickup game of beach volleyball with a couple of Germans. After the game they took us into the city and showed us how to take flaming shots of Sambucca. So now I will tell you how to do it. Take a shot of Sambucca and hold it in your mouth. While it’s in your mouth, light it on fire (your mouth is on fire at this point), have a friend sprinkle cinnamon in your mouth, and then swallow the shot. It was wild. After the Sambucca, we enjoyed the most popular German bier, Erdinger, which is a Weissbier. It is very similar to Blue Moon in body, and has the classic amazing German taste.
Another popular event in the city is an outing to the discotechs. Discotechs are essentially clubs with a bunch of techno, older American songs (including the Backstreet Boys), good drinks, and a ton of dancing. I’ve already developed the reputation among the international students as the crazy American dancer. I do the lawnmower like its my job! Of course if you are looking for a more mellow atmosphere, there are plenty of pubs to lounge in.
I’ve done a little bit of traveling since I’ve been here. Just today I visited what is Drei Lande Punkt, roughly translated as 3 land points. This is where
To come to a conclusion, I really like the city I’m living in.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Wow it has been an amazing weekend! On Friday I spent the day getting set up in my apartment, making a visit to the International Office in the Fochhochschule (FH), and drinking beer with the new buddies. Now one thing worth mentioning: You know all those times people tell you that the German beer is so much better than American? It is absolutely true. I’ve been drinking the “cheap” stuff and it tastes amazing even when warm. It’s nourishing like water, but takes like Heaven. I have to watch out because I might have taken too much a liking to it!
On Saturday, the weather in
It’s now Sunday afternoon, and I have just finished playing a game of pick up street Fussball, and I have some time to reflect back. One thing that I’ve learned is the importance of learning German. There are many people that can speak varying levels of English, but for the most part everything functions in German. One could survive in
Right now I’m sitting in my new room, jet-lagged as all get out, thinking about the events of yesterday. Apart from long plane ride and the lack of sleep, things worked out perfectly yesterday. So when I got off the plane in
On the train ride, it turned out that the 3 of us needed to go to essentially the same place and were under the same time crunch. Comin, who had a GPS system, was able to show me the city of
After we got off the train, I followed them to the bus. Once we got off the bus, Comin showed me on his GPS system how to get to my destiniation and the 3 of us parted ways. I got to the office at 12:30 as the doors were closing! I was the last person to get my contract that day. Once I got my contract, I set off to find my dorm, the Schillerstrasse 88. I stumbled out the doors with my all my bags and started walking. The dorm at this point was almost 2 miles away, so I looked for the closest bus stop to get there. It turned out that I got on the wrong bus, so I when I got off, I was closer but had a long walk ahead of me. I found the beginning of Schillerstrasse (
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Some Thoughts Before the Plunge...
Its crazy to think that in less than a week I will be leaving the country for my first time to spend a year in Germany. Being a last second sort of guy, I find myself frantically running around, finding new things that I would like or need to do before I leave. Currently I'm attempting to cram in 3 levels of the Rosetta Stone Deutsch, set up this blog thing here, figure out what I need to pack, pack, plan one last beach trip, go on the trip, say goodbye to everyone (not good at goodbyes),...... then GO!
So I'm the only person from George Mason that is going on this program, I haven't heard from anyone in the States that are going, and I don't know anyone over in Aachen. Doesn't get any more exciting than that! Who am I going to be hanging with? What is the town going to be like? I hear going abroad is an eye opening experience; what does that mean for me? These are just some of the questions that run through my mind as the day gets closer. Not worth losing sleep over, I guess. Anyways, speaking of sleep, I have a long 3 days of work at Silverado ahead of me and its time to hit to ol' dusty trail. Guten Nacht!