Monday, June 28

Lost in Ampsterdam

Hello again. Its time to recount the past week for my loyal readers... it was a fun and exciting one, as usual. First, Shannon came! yay! We met her at the station Wednesday night kinda late. Thursday I had classes most of the day and I actually had a little test in my Kafka class which I was scared about, but then the question I had to answer was really open to literary BSing, which luckily I am good at, even in German :) Shannon and Eric walked around the city a bit I think. We all went shopping after I got home and Shannon go to go to a real German H&M, which are apparently better than German ones. Then we went to the Send, which is a carnival basically that was in Munster for the weekend. They do it three times a year I guess. It was much bigger than I though with a huge farris wheal and other rides, games, food and what not. We met Heike and got a great veiw of a huge rainbow from the top of the ferris wheel. We also went on a couple rides, one in particular was hillarious because there was this maybe 11 year old german kid sitting next to Eric who started cracking up on it, absolutely laughing his head off, then Eric looked at him and started laughing and he saw eric laugh and laughed harder and Shannon and I saw them laughing at each other and started laughing, it was so fun but I can'T even say why, that kid was just so happy it was contagious! Afterwords we just hung out at Cafe Gasoline for a while, which is a cute coffe place and bar. Friday we sat around my room for a while because it was raining. Made, lunch, played card games, nothing thrilling. We went back to the carnival that night and got some carnival food, bratwurst, roasted almonds, cotton candy, all that good stuff and a few german specialties. Then we met Elena and went to Chris's apartment who was having a going away party. It was fun, not too big, just a good size to sit around and laugh and talk and meet people.

Saturday we got up fairly early and took the train to Ampsterdam, finally getting there around 2:30. I hadn't booked a room or anything so we were looking at a map when we got out of the station to find somewhere to go and the nicest old lady came up to help us. She was out handing out cards to warm people about pick pocketers and generally be helpful I guess. She pointed us in the direction of a hostel she thought might have spots. As it turned out the Neatherlands were in football game that night so things were crowded. We ended up at a little hotel, the first one that had space. We dropped our stuff and went out to walk around the city a bit. Its a really nice city with calals running all through it and cute houses squshed together everwhere. We went to the Anne Frank House exhibit which was interesting. Houses in Ampsterdam are crazy, they are tall and skinny so the stair cases are so steep the're closer to ladders than staires. Anyway, it was a good exhibit of her and her families life in that house. Then we walked a bit more around the canals and found dinner at a steak house before going into a bar to watch the soccer game. Its always fun being in a home city to watch the game, people are SO into it. Everyone was wearing crazy orange outfits and had horns and stuff. The game was exciting because there were lots of close shots but no one scored, they had two overtimes and two rounds of shoot out before Holland finally won against Sweden. Naturally the Dutch were a bit excited about this and the streets where crammed with people yelling and cheering and hugging and congratulating each other as though it was a personal accomplishment. We walked around the city taking in the hubub. It was like a city wide party, though I think Ampersterdam is kind of always like that at night. We walked though the redlight district and saw the prostitues in their window rooms. Shannon was completely facinated by this. Its weird because you are walking by lots of prostitutes in underwear and yet it still doesn't feel dirty because its ok for them to do that. And there are "coffe shops" everwhere but its not sketchy at all.

Sunday we went to the Shipping museum and saw lots and lots of model ships and really interesting old maps and paintings of battles. Its easy to dismis the Neatherlands as never having really done much, but they really have. They fought off the Spanish and the English and they traveled and colonized all over. We went on the replica of the ship 'the Ampersterdam' as well. Then we walked accross the city to the Rijkmuseeum which has all the old important Dutch art. There were old dollhouses and and Delft ware which is the blue on white porcelin stuff. And there are some Rembrandt and Vermeer paintings. After that we had lunch and went to the Van Gogh museum which was also good but we had to rush a bit before it closed. They had an interesting exhibit of nautical themes in Manet's paintings and other artists at the time. After that we headed back to catch a train which took us to the last stop in the neatherlands wehre we could get a train to Munster. Only, we found out afer getting on the the second train that it wasn't going all the way to Munster. Luckily there were a couple guys woking for DeutscheBahn on the train who were driving to Munster and gave us a ride. Whew. It was squished in their car but we made it back and had a drink with Shannon at a nearby bar before she caught here train back to the airport.

It was fun to see shannon again, we had a fun weekend seeing new places. What am I going to do when I'm back in the US and can't go to a different country every weekend? Oh well, maybe I can visit Alexis in Venezuela! This week should be a little more relaxing. Eric leaves thursday so then I'll be all on my own in my little room again. This weekend some of my friends are doing an all american 4th of July cookout at Frau Hensel's garden. Other than that... yeah, we'll see.


Tuesday, June 22

Ich bin ein Berliner

Germans never tire of chuckling as JFK's gramatical error in that speech, he should have said 'Ich bin Berliner' I think, but what he said actually means that he is a 'Berliner' which is the name of type of jelly dohnut pastry. Har har. Anyways....
Berlin was really great. I wish I could be studying there for a semester instead of little bitty Münster, but at least I get to visit :) Its such a fun city, its so much more modern than most European citys but it has so much history still. It is constanly changing, it already was different from when I was there in high school. Its amazing all that they've done since the reunification. We got there on friday morning and checked into our Hotel in Charlottenburg which is in the west. It was the funniest hotel! We buzzed at the door and as we were walking up the red carpeted stair case we could hear a german woman calling 'Halloooooooooooo....' it is run by these two rather roundish women who spoke english with a funny german accent and were always smiling and jokeing. They were like cartoon charactors or something. The one sho showed us to our rooms chanted 'follow me follow me follow me' in a sing song voice as she took us down the hallway. Even the room itself was kinda funny, the bed was a futon type matress really low to the ground but the cieling was really really high so that I felt like I was lying at the bottom of the grand canyon. It even echoed a bit. We just got lunch and took a nap before heading out. We went toward the city center and ended up at the Sony Center which is a big funky looking glas structure with stores and movie theaters and resturants. Theres a couryard type area food court in the middle where they were about to show a soccer game on the big screen so we sat down there for dinner. It was really fun, there were tons of people including some Bulgarians and some Danish (the two teams playing) who were going crazy cheering for the game and chanting fight songs and what not. Think 'Daneamark Danemark Danemark' to the tune of 'be kind to your web footed friends...' Good times. the area was under heavy security, luckily there were no soccer hooligans about. After the game we headed to the Reichtag, the german capital building. We went in and walked up the glas dome that was built on the top in I think 1997. The origional dome was destroyed in a fire after WWI presumably by the budding Nazi party, but Hitler attributed it to the Jews I think. We read so much german history its hard to keep strait. Anyway, it has a nifty glas dome now that you can walk up and get a nice panorama of the city and read about the history of the building. I did it in high school and the most memorable thing about the view was the amount of construction cranes on the horizon especially in the east. there were still a lot this time, though eaqually on both sides. They are working on a fancy new glas train station to be completed 2007. After that we walked and walked pretty far to Alexanderplatz and the base of the big Fehrnsehturm, television tower, but it wasn't open to go up anymore. We soon the S bahn back to our hotel area and went to a nice little Jazz club where we sat and had a drink and listened to a really good Jazz quartet. Then Saturday we got up early to go wait in line outside the New Galery which is currently housing the MOMA from New York while it undergoes construction in the US. I realize that I could probably have just waited to see in in NY sometime... but I figured as long as we were there... but we ended up waitingin line for a LONG time before we saw it. After that we got a very late lunch and then went to see the remaining part of the Berlin wall which now has an exhibit called 'Topography of Terror' They excavated the basements of some of the Nazi headquarter buildings near the wall and now its filled with pictures and information about atrocities commited by the Nazi regime. It was really interesting. Then we went to the Check point Charlie Museum which is a privatily owned museum focused on the time while the wall was up and houses all sorts of memorabilia such as the make shift hot air balloon one family used to try to get accross and cars specially desigened so that a person could be smuggled accross hidden within somewhere. We went back and had a nice dinner at a spanish resturant near the hotel and watched a bit of another soccer game. Sunday we went first to the Pergamon Museum which is one of my favorite sites in Europe. It has a big reconstructed section of the gates of Babylon and also part of a Greek altar and a Roman marketplace along will a lot of other ancient artifacts. Plus its nice to have a boyfriend who majored in Ancient Civilazions and Greek :) We also went to the Old national galery and saw lots of paintings from the 19th century. Then we took a break in the Lusgarten before heading to the Tempodrom to see NORA JONES!!!!! the concert was really good, she was great to see live. It seems like just sitting at a piano it would get dull, but she was up a lot and the rest of the band is great too. It was fun :) Monday we set out to find the Soviet War Memorial that Eric was interested in seeing. First we walked through the Teirgarten and found a Soviet memeorial, though not the one we were looking for. Then is started POURING. Luckily we were right near a little museum that happened to be showing and exhibit of Charlse Chegal which was really really good. it liked it a lot! After luch we took the train to the big Soviet Memorial which is way way out in East Berlin. It is a huge park area with a giant Stalinesque statue of a Russian soldier rescuring a child in one arm and smashing a swastica with a sword in the other. There are also a set of large freezes along the sides of the park depicting Soviet involvement in the war and how the came in and rescued the germans. It was interesting to see that side of the war. There are something like 50,000 Russian Soldiers burried there. After that we just walked through the shopping area on Kurfursentdam Staße and got some dinner at a nice place by our hotel, picked up our bags and headed to the train station. It was a fun and educational trip. I love Berlin, you should go!

Today is Eric's Birthday!! He's 23! An old man! JK :) The concert was his real present, but I think I'll get him a cake or something today. We're getting together later with a woman who wanted to meet me and practice her English. She spent a year or so in MN and wants to go back to the US.

Tomorrow Shannon is coming!!! Yay! German is also playing the Chez republic so maybe we'll hit up a Fußball party somewhere. Shannon, Eric and I are all going to Ampsterdam this weekend! yikes, so much traveling! Then Eric is leaving next week :( to go home before he goes to England for his program at Oxford (I love my smarty pants boyfriend!) Just two weeks after that I'll be off to London with my parents! After that I'm going to have to finally settle down and get some work done.... right.

Monday, June 14

hello hello. I feel all kinds of mixed up. I'm sad because I feel like I'm missing my summer at home. And now Chelsea is home and everything, and I could have had my cushy nannying job... and I missed my brothers graduation and grad party... and I miss my Scotty... and I didn't do anything all winter but now I have to go to classes and eventually I actually have to write papers and pass them... but I'm in Europe and should not be feeling any regrets because I'm having an amazing experience and seeing so many things and I dont really have to do much work. I feel like I don't deserve it, I should be working and making money instead of spending it all- and I mean all, I need to start budgeting somehow but its hard to travel and not spend a lot. But this is my chance to travel, this is why I picked a scholarship at UR over ND. Its still an educational experience, kind of, and feeling guilty isn't going to do anyone any good so I'm just going to try to relax and enjoy life. This week in Münster is nice, we hang out with Elena and her friend Clarise visiting from Paris and went to Enchide in Hollad yesturday. Everything was closed so it wasn't terribly exciting, but we ate at a really really good Tai resturant. When we got back we got ice cream and went and played on a plyground :)

Oh, and I finally went to the city swimming pool (Stadtbad)! Its kinda crazy. the first time I went on Saturday. First off, you have to pay to get in but its all automated and then theres just one big locker room for men and women with lots of little changing rooms that you have to go through to get in or out, so if none are availible then you're trapped. Then, there is a separate lap pool with a sign that says 'Nur fur Schwimmer' (Only for swimmers) but theres no lifeguard or anyone to enforce this so on saturday it was swarming with little kids playing marco polo and what not. Then today I went back and it was a little better, but there is only one lane marked off where people who actually can swim do laps, the rest of the pool is taken up by all sorts, young, old, male, femal, slowly swimming back and forth doing breaststockes with their heads up, not even get thier hair wet. They look rediculous, like lots of tirtles bobbing their heads around! and they don't stay in lanes they just kind of meander back and forth crossing paths. Once again, i will never understand Germans. At least I managed to get in a decent work out in the one lap lane sharing it with five other frustrated swimmer. oiy.

I'm going to Berlin this weekend! I do actually have to do a resonable amount of homework before then, but I'm going to see Nora Jones! I keep listening to her CD and I can't wait to see her in person!

If you are reading this, I miss you! (unless you are Eric and are here with me :P)


Friday, June 11

Viva Italia!

It's kinda hard to get back into blogging after a long time off... I've done and seen to much to write about everything, and I know you wont read it all anyway, but I'm going to do my best....

Italy was really really wonderful. We left Münster on saturday two weeks again early in the AM- which was rough having been out at a party the night before, but we made it to Köln and had a couple hours there to make a stop and climb up to the top of the cathedral which is still I think the coolest building in Europe. So then we hopped our plane to Rome. FYI, when flying in Europe always get there early because seats are not assigned, at least not on Germanwings. They have assigned movie theater seats but not plane seats, go figure. We took a cab to our hotel -- FYI- do not take a cab in Rome!!! it cost almost as much as the flight there! The hotel was fine, a bit far out of the city, but the bus ran often. We went into the city a little that night and just walked around, saw St. Peters sqare at night and found a resturant.

The next day we decided would be Catholic day, it seemed appropriate for a sunday. We went first to the Vatican museum which closes early on Sunday so we did the typical tourist thing and pushed and crowded our way past all kinds of important artwork to get to the Sistene Chapel... which was well worth it because it is really amazing. We stood in there for a good long time looking at our little guide book and figuring out all the stories. It was PACKED in there and kinda smaller than I expected but its not at all overrated and certainly should be seen. I find it amazing how many people from all over the world were there crowded into that little chapel to see this one amazing painting done some 300 years ago. America was nothing but a bunch of pilgrims living in swamps and Michealangelo was lying there in Italy on his back maticulously painting this glorious cealing. So, after Vatican stuff we hit lots of the other big sights, the major Piazza's, the Trevi fountain, the Parthanon, all cool stuff but packed with tourists. Eventually we made our way all the way to the Roman Forum but kind of by accident and it was a really beutiful sight. It was after it was closed to visitors so it was all empty and it had just stoped raining and the sun came our and hit the ruins and lit them up against the greanery in the background, there were even a couple rainbows, it really looked magical. Eric wanted to jump the fence and go in, but I made him wait until the next day!

And so monday was Roman day and we went to the Forum and Palentine hill and the Colloseum. It was really neat, although not quite as magical with all the tourists during the day. We found a free guided tour going on and taged along to hear the stories behind some of the rubble because nothing is at all marked and they dont give out maps or anything, its just all there, everywhere, all these remains of buildings over 2000 years old, and they still have a beauty all their own. I didn't realize how big of an area they covered or that it was all right in the middle of the city, theres a freeway going right around the Colloseum. We spent the afternoon wandering around everything while Eric told me lots of stuff about the ancient Romans, it was nice :) Then after some pizza and gelato we went on another tour with the same girl from earlier (not free this time) it was neat, we turned out to be the only people who showed up for it, it was a tour of some of the hidden neat stuff in Rome. There were some cool little churches with interesting stories behind them and some Boroque buildings that were built when it was something of a trend to have a collection of roman artifacts so the ruins were stuck into the architecture of the newer building. The guid was really nice and we ended oup in the part of town over the river and she showed us her favorite resutant where we had dinner and the pasta was indeed amazing.

The next day we were off to our next stop in Barga, but first we stopped for a few hours in Pisa, just long enough to see the leaning tower and force Eric to take a picure of me pretending to lean on it... and then preten he didn't know me :P All the other tourists were doing it.... Then we had some Pizza in Pisa and got back on the train to Barga, a small town in Tuscany between Pisa and Florence. We got there after buses had stoped running and ended up having to hike our way up the mountain at night with our bags on this dark windy road, it was a little scary, but we made it eventually. We stayed in little bed and breakfast run by a sweet Brittish couple, it was really nice.

The next day we just explored Barga a bit, its so so cute! There's a really old cathedral at the very top fo the hill and then all the little houses with the tiny narrow roads that make no sense, its exactly like all those paintings and postcards you've seen with the pastel buildings with flower boxes and laundry hanging accross the street. We spend much of the afternoon just relaxing in the room, Rome is really exahsting. The next day we went to nearby Lucca, another mideaval town with a city wall and lots of towers and churches. It was also nice, we went in the art museum too.

Friday we took a day trip to Florence. It wasn't really my favorite city, its really big and crowded and didn't have as much charactor I though. The Duomo is cool and we saw Michealangelo's David which for some reason is in a Museum far away from the center and there's nothing else in it really and it cost 9.50!! So, I don't know that I'd say its a must see, it is big and impressive but nothing astoneshing. The Ufuzzi Galery was better, they have The Birth of Venus by Botecceli and some Leonardo Di Vincci and other impressivie stuff. We didn't see too much else because the last train to Barga was fairly early. So we had to head back there for dinner. Italians dont eat dinner until like 9pm. Resturants don't even open until 8. Crazy Italians.

The next day we were off once again to Verona. We stopped shortly in Bologna which we didn't see much of, but did catch a bit of a peach parade of some sort. Then we got to our Bed and breakfast in Verona. It was a bit out in the suburbs run by an italian guy who was nice but a little weird. It was nice enough, we didn't end up seeing any of Verona really, the next day we were kinda tired and it was rainy so we mostly stayed in and just walked to the nearby town for dinner.

Then on Monday we went to Venice which I LOVED. Its so pretty! I spent the first our walking around saying Look! its water! right there! Its a really nice place to just wander all the little narrown streets with pretty canals and bridges. The main areas like San Marco are packed with tourists and also cool to see but when you go back into the neihborhoods it feels empty and quiet. We went to the Peggy Guganhime house to see some modern art, it was fun to walk around together commenting on what we thought of all the pieces. We walked around and I got us a bit lost and we finally ended up way down at the end of the island where there are some parks. On the other side we walked over the brigde to another little mostly fishing island where we saw a lesser known leaning tower in front of the chuch there. Eric was looking for the church in Venice that appears in one of the Indiana Jones movies, but it turns out there are A LOT of churches with white marble facades so we may or may not have seen it. We stayed pretty late and got dinner before going back to Verona for the night.

Then the next day it was back to the train station and off to Milan where we didn't have any kind of hotel reserved. We asked at tourist information for a cheap place and ended up in the ickyest seedyest little hotel ever. eww. We went into the city in the evening to find an I cafe and bookstore and see the Duomo. We walked a long long way looking for a resturant but eventually ended up at a really good Pizzaria run by three Chinese men, it was great! Eric had decided that eating our in italy was a long and drawn out process much like dying of thirst, it often took up to half an hour to get our check at the end of a meal, but these Chinese guys were super quick! We got very little sleep in the seedy hotel room before waking up at 5 to get to the airport. We made it back to Münster in time for me to go strait to my class, which turned out to be cancelled anyway, oh well. Germans are so different from italians. It was nice to get back to the always reliable german train sytem!

Wow, that was really long, and yet I feel like a shortened as much as possible, so you'll have to deal with it. It was a really great trip and it was so fun to do it with Eric. Now we have a week or so to hang our in Munster which is also fun. Its nice to be back and relax a bit. Yesturday we went over to Heike and Silke's place and made Taco's, mmm. Germans don't do mexican food very well so it was fun to make our own good stuff! Tonight we're hopefully grilling out at Frau hensel's garden if it doesn't rain. There's also some kind of festival going on the seekend with bands and stuff we might go to tonight. Yay for Europe :) allright, I gotta go get some Bratwurst for tonight. Ciao!