Sunday, July 1, 2012

One Month

it's been almost a month since my last post. I don't know what to say anymore. Everyone is leaving, and it's interesting to hear what everyone does first when they arrive home. I have a little bit more than a month left, and I am not sure what I will do when I get home.

Summer has finally arrived only a few months late. The month of June I was wearing a fleece jacket because it was that cold. Unlike home, we have had enough rain... too much rain.

I am learning to take each day and make the most of it. For example, I was in Enschede on Saturday and it was probably my favorite time in Enschede. On saturday they have a market on in the courtyard in front of the casino, but on Saturday there was some kind of festival, and the city was packed. Just being in the sun with the festival atmosphere was enough to make Saturday a good day.

Saturday was also Yeli's going away party. She leaves on July 15th to go back to Ecuador. It's weird to think Yeli is going to not be here, but I will deal with that in 14 days.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Is This Our Last Goodbye?

I realized this week, that with only a little more than two months left in my exchange, I am not sure if this will be the last time I see some people. Why is it getting hard now? My exchange has been great to this point without the big roller coaster of emotions they said I would go through. I am not sure why now is the time where my low point comes. With the first of the exchange students starting to leave, it is really hitting me that I am leaving, and I don't know when I am coming back. My host family has become a family. Blood doesn't determine whose your family, family is whoever was there to take you in with open arms and never regretted it. The same goes for my friends. My best friends have also become a family. Sometimes I wish Muensterland could be like wisconsin, a place I could visit any day of the week if I wanted to. Unfortunately, my two lives will never connect or understand each other. They will always be on the other side of the pond and a world apart. It was different leaving the US because it was a "see ya later" and not a goodbye. How is life going to change while I am gone? How long will I be gone? These are questions I do not know the answer to, and I not ready to face this. They say a year is a long time, but to me, one year is not long enough...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Nürnberg, München, und Pfingsten


"Go to Munich," they said. "You will love it," they said. Nuremberg is a better city. It is about the size of Milwaukee and a lot smaller than Munich, but the Old Town(Historic District) is by far the better one.

To get to Nuremberg, My host brother and I used the "Mitfahrzentrale"because tickets with Deutsche Bahn were 70 euros a piece, and the Mitfahrzentrale was only 30 per person. Mitfahrzentrale is like craigslist for hitchhikers. You call up someone going to the same city of you and meet up somewhere and ride together. Before the experience, I was a little skeptic, but now I would recommend this to everyone.

In Nuremberg, we stayed with my Host Uncle. When we arrived, his girlfriend asked us if we had brought wandering shoes because the next day we were going to walk a beer wandering trail. The beer wander was the favorite thing we did. We woke up at nine, and then took the train a good half-hour to 45 minutes north from the city. The trail took you too five different breweries, and you receive a stamp when you bought a beer. When you collected all four stamps, you could buy a mug from the tour for 2 or 4 euros (I don't remember exactly, but it was cheap.) The trail was 18 km. (~9mi.)

On the second the second day, we went to the Adidas headquarters because the girlfriend from my Host Uncle worked there. I learned that reebok is actually owned by Adidas. After the HQ, we went to see Nuremberg during the daytime. My host uncle lives on the north side, where "the berg" is. The Berg is an old castle or fort on the north side of the city wall. We ended up walking the wall. The top of the wall was actually a park with trees and gardens, not what I expected.

The top of the wall is the the left and "the berg" with the old town are below.


We went to Munich on the same day as the FC Bayern München vs. Chelsea Champions League game. The city was packed with Bayern fans. The vibe of the city was great. My friend from the US surprised me on the platform when the train pulled up, one of the best memories from Munich.

Our first stop was the Olympic Park. On the way to the Olympic Park is across the street from the BMW HQ, so that was our real first stop. After we went to the top of the Olympic Tower. Later that day, the stadium in the back, was filled with people for public viewing of the soccer game. The Olympic Park was nice, but I was more excited for our next stop, Marienplatz. The bear was loose on the Marienplatz. All the Bayern fans had taken over the square, so that you could barely walk through.

After seeing the two city halls, the old city hall is my favorite.

We saw the Frauenkirche, but the church and frauenplatz were under construction, so that is was ugly. The Theatinerkirche was a lot nicer inside and out. It was weird seeing things I learned out in my German class.

After the Theatinerkirche, we walked north to the Englischer Garten. We watched the surfers at the south end for a good 20 minutes. Then we walked a little bit north through the naked people between surfing and the botanic garden. I didn't take too many pictures of the Englischer Garten because I wasn't sure if there would be a naked person in them. I saw the Chinesischer tower, but I was not able to get to the second floor, like a German teacher I know. Afterwards, we found a bar and just relaxed in the beautiful sun.

when we got back to the train station, People had already taken over there too. There was a wall of police to make sure no one started rioting around the moving trains. Our train pulled in with standing room only for the people getting out. We boarded and all you could smell was piss, B.O., and beer. the place was trashed and about 100 degrees fahrenheit.

The garden below is not actually the Englischer Garten but the Hofgarten.


Pfingsten is a church holiday that no one knows why it is celebrated anymore, but no one complains. All I know, is that when I think of Pfingsten, I think of the street in Northbrook. For Pfingsten weekend, we get Monday and Tuesday off from school. My friends and I went on a bike trip for Pfingsten my friend's grandma. My friends grandma lives on a farm somewhere northeast of where I live in "Arsch der Welt." We spent the weekend camping in the back of the farm. That was great weekend. I am the brownest out of my friends, but Petra is still tanner. I believe I need to go New Jersey mom to beat her this summer.

Friday, May 25, 2012

We Will Always Have Paris


We left Avignon early on Easter Monday, for Geneva. Arriving in Geneva, we first visited the UN. It was a little bit shocking to think that I would be going to the UN. I have never been to the White House, and to be walking on a the property of a place more powerful than the White House was interesting. Unfortunately, I didn't realize we were going to the UN, and I wore my sandals... with socks... because it was a bus day. They were comfy though.

Because it was Easter Monday, nothing in Geneva was open. This turned out to be for the better because Geneva is expensive. We searched the city for a cheap bar that would be open. After about a half hour of trying to ask locals, we discover Pablo, a inbound from Mexico in our Group, can speak french. We ended getting led to McDonalds by a couple locals.


The welcome party in Paris was anything but welcoming, but somehow I knew I was going to like this city. We arrived in Paris to find traffic unbelievable worse than Chicago. Our Hostel was in one of the outer districts of Paris. Rotex kept calling it a ghetto. As we pulled off the highway, the rotex already picked the four biggest people to guard the doors of the bus as we got out. Turns out that our neighborhood wasn't anymore dangerous than Irving Park. We walked in the rain a couple blocks to the hostel. Which was just as inviting as the neighborhood around it.

On the first day, we went to the city center for a boat tour. I would definitely recommend the boat tour, but the tour guides accent was so thick, I was not able to understand what she was saying. After the boat tour we went to the Norte Dame. The line for the cathedral was too long, so that I sat outside a coffee shop and stared at the cathedral while I drank my expresso.

We walked downtown for a bit, and then saw the world's ugliest modern art museum, Centre Pompidou. From there, we got free time for lunch. The Canadians and I went to a chinese buffet. You had to cook your food in microwaves, that was different.

The Louvre was are next stop. Most museums in Paris are free, if you under 18 and living in the EU. I am glad the Lou was free because it really wasn't that interesting. There were so many people crowded around the Mona Lisa, that I was only able to see the top of the frame.

We ate our "final" dinner together, which was italian food, on the second to last night. We ended up taking too long, and had to run 2 kilometers to the Arc de Triumph. After a plate of pasta, I would not recommend that, but the people staring at you as you run down the sidewalk is interesting. From the Arc de Triumph I took my favorite picture of Paris.

On the second, The Palace of Versailles was our first stop. It was weird going to the Palace of Versailles because it was one of those things you read about in the history books but not something you actually think you will actually see in your lifetime. The city of versailles was actually a lot nicer than the palace.

Coming back into Paris I noticed that we were only passing sex shops. Sure enough our next stop was the red light district to see the Moulin Rouge. We ended up receiving free time in the red light district and decided to climb a mountain and turn around. After free time, we ended up climbing the mountain again with Rotex. We ended up climbing down the other side, to an ethnic community that was really cool.

Are final dinner was actually burgers across the street from the Moulin Rouge. After dinner we went to the Eiffel tower. The Eiffel Tower was our last stop. There was an hour and a half long wait for the Elevator, so that a group of us walked up to the tower instead. On the way up there was a poster of the worlds tallest buildings compared to the Eiffel tower. The Chicago Spire was included with the "to be built" buildings. Someone needs to do a little updating. The Tower at night is a lot better than during the day.

We were at the tower until exactly midnight. Then we boarded the bus and headed back to Germany. Arriving in Germany was one of the greatest feelings. It felt like coming home.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Southern France

Leaving Pisa was the best moment from Eurotour. After leaving Pisa, everyone on the bus passed out. After driving for a few hours, I woke up to see this view welcoming me into France. Driving into France was beautiful. You literally drive through mountains. If you are not in a tunnel, then you are driving over a bridge, 100 or more feet above the ground over canyons and small seaside towns. To put it simply, France is beautiful, and I understand now why so many people love it.


Monaco was our first stop in France, but we

actually stayed in Nice(Monaco is really a microstate like the Vatican, so that techniclly we weren't in France.) Monaco was nice. We got there a week before the formula one races, and we were able to see/walk through, the construction of the stands in the harbor and the yachts starting to enter the marina. One of our stops in Monaco was the Monte Carlo, a famous casino, for those who didn't know. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to go in.

 Monaco, like I have heard, was filled with luxury cars. If you drove an entry level BMW, Mercedes, or Audi, then you looked poor. On the contrary, The law of Monaco is that you must net at least a million US Dollars to be able to live there. To be honest, Monaco is only a marina with condo buildings. I liked Nice a lot better.


I am not sure if anyone else had ever played Driver 3, but I was excited for Nice because it was a map in the game, and I felt like I knew the city already.

After our half day in Monaco, we went to the beach. Unfortunately, by time in the day, the weather had become colder and rained for the last five minutes of our beach break. Unlike the sandy beaches I had become accustom to, the beaches in Nice are made out of stones, which are Surprisingly comfortable. I did try the water, but because it was early April, it was freezing. The airport for nice is located at the end of the beach, so that the planes would fly over on their way to land. (see picture below)

One the next morning, we started out by going to the marina in Nice, and looking at the yachts. I never thought to take pictures of the yachts while I was there, but they were some nice boats. After reaching the other side of the marina, we walked up the highest point in Nice for a nice view of the city. That day would have been a better beach day.

After climbing down the other side on the hill, we visited the old part of the city. The brightly colored buildings made think we were somewhere tropical. The old city in Nice really help me realize that Nice was one of my favorite cities from Eurotour. I would definitely be back in Nice during some point of my life.


After Nice, we drove a couple hours north to Avignon. In Avignon, we stayed across the river from the city, in a campsite hostel. On the first night in Avignon, I had the best dinner from Eurotour. It was a Cuttlefish served over a bed of pesto green beans with a mushroom rice.

On the first day, It was Easter, and everything was closed except for Mcdonalds and a coffee shop. The dog was my friend from that coffee shop. I wish I wasn't in Avignon during Easter because there was not much to do, and I am sure Avignon could have been more interesting.

After seeing a little of the city, we went to an aqueduct a few miles out of the city. They gave us a chance to go swimming in the river underneath the aqueduct, but instead I took a two hour nap on the second cliff in the picture to the left. I would to visit the napping spot again some day.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Back to Germany for a Quick Update

This week was a party week. Last friday, everyone was out doing something. Petra went to a cool german version of a baby shower. This is after the baby is born. The hostess will make a long bread, like a party sub sized bread, and then decorate the top of the bread with the babies name in frosting. After the bread is made and on a stand, they hang milk and coffee and all sorts of things down the sides. Then after you eat a little bread, you go around the town and knock on peoples doors that you know and you have champagne and other alcoholic drinks. I didn't completely understand the concept, but like every celebration in Germany, you just drink, and you will be fine.

On Tuesday, we had labor day. May 1st. is the German day for labor day. You build a wagon and walk around for a day and drink. This was our wagon. My friend on the right, made the stereo in the middle out of old beer crates and it was one of the coolest stereos that day.

That day, we walked around our town and partied. Then for lunch, we found a cool place in the woods with tables and chairs made from tree stumps and grilled. After that, we walked to the only hill in our town. The hill is actually an old, dismantled hospital that was covered in dirt, and made into a park with a wooden tower built on top. It was a meeting place for most of the kids in our area, because it's centered between Wessum, Ahaus, and Wuellen. Labor was pretty chill, and completely different that the beach days we would have in the U.S.

Italy in a Week in a Post!

The welcoming views made me know that Italy was a place I would like. Look at the Alps. (these are still Austrian, but that is where we drove.)

Driving into Italy with the Alps literally coming to the shoulder of the highway (or the highway being carved into the side of the Alps) was really cool. It looked like we were on a tropical island with the palm trees climbing the mountains, and the rocky cliffs are something you would not find on the Rockies.


Our first city in Italy was Padua, a small city about a half hour inland from Venice. Padua was a nice, and not really touristy, which is hard to find in Italy. We were only there for one night, and on the first night I got my first italian pizza and most likely the best pizza on Eurotour. When we asked for a good pizza place from a local, she said, "Oktoberfest." I thought she was joking around with us because we are german exchange students, but down the street there was Oktoberfest. We went to the restaurant across the street. The weather in Italy was perfect. On the first night, after getting pizza, we walked around the city in shorts and t-shirts. I only know Padua at night, and Padua at night is a quiet, sleepy little town. We found a dive bar, where the owner was so cool, that he gave us a free can of Pringles. Below is a picture of the main square buildings in Padua.


Venice is one of the biggest tourist traps I have ever been too, and I have been to Disney World a few times. Things are also overpriced on Venice because everything must be imported from the mainland. I liked all the boats in Venice. It made miss mine a little bit. One thing I liked about Venice, is that it smelled like the sea. Later in the day we went to the island 

of Lido because Rotex gave us day passes on the boats in venice, that they use as public transport. Lido is an outer island with streets and cars. It was also cheaper. Lido would be my destination, if I ever went back. Venice is nice, but I  I am glad I saw it now, so that I don't have to go back. Oh, people in Venice are always conveniently doing Laundry.


We arrived in Rome on the Saturday before Palm Sunday. Our Hostel in Rome, were cabins in a campsite in the middle of the city. I would definitely stay in those again because they were really nice cabins.     
The next day was Palm Sunday, and Rotex decided it would be a great idea to make us get up early and go to Palm Sunday Mass at the Vatican. Tickets are free. A block from the Vatican, between the train station and the Vatican, we saw a couple blown up cars. By the way, Italians can not drive. It was cool to say I saw the Pope, but a three hour mass in the sun and in Italian (even though the Pope is from Germany. Couldn't he speak German.), while the city of rome goes on behind you, it was a little long, and a few people (half our group, including Rotex, were passed out in the crowd.)

After the Vatican, we walked around the city. Rome is beautiful, but there are too many tourist (Americans.) No offense but we have to loudest and sometimes embarrassing tourists in the world. On that day, we pretty much walked through the whole city. The Vatican to the Colosseum. The Colosseum was interesting but way too expensive. I would not recommend going inside, save your money for wine or something. By the way, wine is cheaper than beer in both Italy and France.

On the second day, we went to the Vatican museum and saw the Sistine Chapel. The Sistine Chapel is really the only thing worth seeing. The museum itself was crowded, hot, and smelly. Free time was the best time during Eurotour because we could leave rotex and go out on our own into "real" parts of the city to see none tourist attractions and not have to pay for overpriced things. After getting out of the museum, we walked a little ways out of the tourist area, around the outer walls of the Vatican, to a cafe and drank an expresso in a sidewalk cafe, while watching the normal, everyday life of the native people go by. One of the nicer times in rome. 

After that, we got even more free time. This time, we walked up to one of the highest points in italy, about 45 minutes from the Vatican to get an amazing view of the city and have a relaxing time away from the giant group. For dinner that evening, we went to a restaurant by the spanish stairs, and I had a great lasagna. 


Florence was nice, but I think I liked Rome better. On the first night, I tried to do laundry. The whole time, the girls would laugh at the guys because none of us had a clue. I had a general idea, but apparently that wasn't good enough.

There wasn't much to do in Florence, and we just walked around and saw different important places. That night we went to a bar, and that was my favorite part of Florence. There was this DJ, at least 50, and he played cool 60's-70's music.


After our day in Florence, we went to Pisa on our way to Nice, France. Pisa is probably my least favorite city in the world. All over Italy, there are African immigrants, most likely illegal, trying to cell you counterfeit or stolen merchandise. As we arrived in Pisa, our bus was surrounded by the "Gypsies." They followed us the entire way to the tower. The tower is also the only thing to see in Pisa, other than that, the town isn't that nice. And to climb the tower, it will cost you 15 euros. I thought that wasn't worth it.