Sunday, September 30, 2007

Lille, France

As I only had a few days left in the western part of Germany, I traveled to France because it is close and I hadn't been there yet on this trip. I went with my friend Paige to Lille, France where we stayed with some friends we know through couch surfing. It was an amazing time with some great people who quickly became good friends. Speaking English, German and me butchering French, we got along great. My French, in which I have no experience, got a little better, since with nothing to start with other than wee, as I now know several words.

It was raining most of the time we were there, but we got a good tour by Antoine and Fred, from Paris came along as well. Pretty cool place with awesome buildings, lots of people shopping and a hilarious fitness demonstation put on by one man on a stage in the rain. Just working out and doing aerobics by himself with everyone laughing at him. Quite entertaining.

Back at the apartment after a stop at a great microbrewery, Fred, the master chef, chef number one as he called himself, cooked up a tasty omlette and pasta. It took quite a while, but was well worth it as we watched the Simpsons in French before going out to the student area where the bars were. The French in this area love their French and Belgish beers. A nice change from the great German beer which can only have wheat, water, hops and barley due to a purity law.
It was a late, fun night, ending with Beatles songs back at the aparment.

The next mornign after a great French breakfast with lots of pastries, we got a ride back to the train station to go back after just a short trip. The GPS navigator in Fred's car used Yoda's voice: Bear right, you must after 300 meters. Hilarious and the best way to travel.
I have just another day left in Cologne, leaving Tuesday morning. Time's almost up. But I'll be going to Aachen tomorrow to see even more of the local area.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Deutsche Polizei Cars

Yesterday, outside the Cathedral, there was a car show for old German police cars. While many of them were amazing, the highlight was definitely a remote control kid car that a real dog was riding. I've attached a video in which you can see the dog in uniform move at the end. He was just going around through the crowd beeping his siren and cruising. You have to love the Germans.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Language School

So as I come to the end of my time in Cologne, I'd like to say that my language school was awesome. Highly recommended. Carl Duisberg Centre. We've been hanging out with the staff all the time and yesterday played soccer and threw the frisbee around for several hours in the park at a grill party (that is actual German : Grill party, as grillen is a word).

My class has been sweet. From the start where I went to the wrong class to now, I've had a great class. Fredrick from Kenya, Misbaudeen from Nigeria, Anisa from Albania, Dagnachew from Ethiopia, Professor Yutaka from Japan and even Nathan in a different program from the US are some of the people from class who are quite memorable.

The whole class jokes around, loves to argue and has several inside sayings. Whenever someone comes late, we all tell the person to come punctually (Kommen Sie bitte Punktlich!). I'll miss the class.

Veran from India, Fredrick from Kenya and Anisa from Albania

And now I have just one week left in Cologne. Kinda of sad to leave as it's been a fun place to live and has become another home for me. But I'm off to Erfurt early next week to start cooking school. Still haven't chosen the exact date of departure as I hope to do some traveling in between.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Rhein in Flames

On Saturday in the small town of St. Goar there was a wine festival and fireworks over the Rhein. Nothing like tasting some amazing wines from the region and then watching an hour long firework spectacle over the largest river in Germany. The best part about the fireworks is that they had three locations, a castle in St. Goar, a barge and then in the town across the river, St. Goarhausen, there was another castle that set off fireworks.

One of my favorite wines so far has been the Federweisser, which in english means White Feather. This is a wine that is not fully done fermenting. The wineries use grapes that can't be used for their top quality wines, and then make this wine, selling it while it is still fermenting with yeast floating around, hence the white feather. It's really tasty, tasting like lemonade on the first day you drink it and getting stronger every day after it has been opened.

In this video you can see the outline of the castle in St. Goarhausen on the hill above the Rhein.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Germany vs. Romania : Fussball!

So on the 12th, I got to see my first international soccer game. The German national team played Romania in Cologne in front of 44,500 people. It was amazing. So much energy in the air as German won 3-1.

It didn't start off too good, with Romania scoring in the 3rd minute and looking better, but as the fans were saying, the game is a full 90 minutes.

Everyone was chanting and singing throughout the game as well as waving flags. Lots of German pride all around. More than expected from what we had been told.

Lukas Podalski, the 22 year old superstar used to play for Cologe a few years ago, so the crowd loved him and keep shouting his name whenever he touched the ball and especially when he scored the 3rd goal.

I'm now all set with a German scarf, a little German soccer vocab and some awesome German soccer songs.

Mosel Valley

Last Saturday, the 8th, I went with 4 people from my group in Cologne to meet up with 5 people from our program who are studying in Saarbrucken, the capital of the German state Saarland.

We met up in the town of Cochem, a centrally located city on the Mosel River, an amazing, slow paced river filled with wineries and small towns. The way people describe the Mosel is as everything the Rhine wants to be, but cannot. Smaller, slower paced, and the ablity to relax and enjoy yourself. Another difference is a lot more bridges compared to the ferries on the Rhine.

Our group of now 10, after realizing we didn't have time to rent bikes to ride along the river, set out on an amazing hike up to Burg Eltz, a 700 year old castle that has never been destroyed. Hiking through the woods, past the stream, it felt like being in Portland, with lots of green everywhere.

The castle, Burg Eltz, is amazing. Very picturesque and sits on a natural bend in the river which acts as a moat. Inside, on the tour, we saw everything from the bedrooms, the bathrooms, the kitchen, the armory, the meeting room with the symbol of a joker allowing anything to be spoken in the room, and the symbol of a rose to keep what was said in the room in the room.

Lots of pictures, and then on back to the city for some wine tasting and some Doner Kebaps, one of the best and most common meals in Germany.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Luxembourg (small and empty)

So far, I have been to 25 countries and like all of them and would travel back to all of them. Luxembourg, my 26th country, was the first that I actually would not go back to. Perhaps it was that we were there too long ( 26 hours to be precise) or that there was hardly anyone there on the weekend. But I have had my fill of the little land known as Luxembourg, where there is a beautiful valley with nothing too spectacular on top of them. Some cool bridges, but no church, castle or other building that has come to define so many towns. Not to be mean, but nothing stood out.

Two good things about Luxembourg to compliment the negative: 1. a huge, steep, grassy hill that I ran to the top of, and rolled down. Got rolling pretty quick and out of control so I tried to stop, but couldn't, ended up doing a sommersault and landing on my feet, running crookedly and dizzily falling down and rolling even more. Grass stains all over my pants, shoes and jacket, along with a scrapped up elbow, but well worth it. 2. a huge playground. Gigantic pirate ship to play in with full netting, huge slide (30 feet tall) and water pumps and water sluces to play with. The kids in Luxembourg are spoiled.

If you are in the area of Luxembourg in the future, I highly recommend a day trip of only a few hours, the Natural History/Modern Art Museum is free for students and touring the Casements (20km of tunnels throughout the hills) are interesting. But a night is not necessary there.