Friday, May 30, 2008

Rostock and the Baltic Sea

Last Saturday I headed up to Rostock, a large city nearby the Baltic Sea to visit two friends of mine, both participants in my program. The architecure in the north is completely different from the rest of Germany. A lot of brick is used in the buildings, reminding me more of New England than Germany, materialwise. I got the tour of Rostock from the city, to the party life of the students. We ended up at a funky party where a belly dancer entertained everyone in the backyard. As if that wasn't amazing enough, there were fire dancers afterwards.

The next few days involved more of the sea itself. Sunday was spent at a local beach resort, eating the traditional fish sandwiches and walking around barefoot in the sand. I also made it farther East to Stalsund to visit an Unesco World Heritage site and get drenched in the rain. Dumping on the city. I then went to Rugen Island, the largest in all of Germany, where it was just as windy and rainy and I almost got blown off a large cliff. The cliffs are famous for being chalk white and very steep. I walked down to the rocky beach, a 15 minute trek, and checked to see if the water was as cold as in Rostock, and it was.

Then I had two options, to either head back to Rostock, or to go to a new city. Of course I went to the new city, taking the bus along the coast to Binz, known for it's long pier. Unfortunately when I arrived in Binz, I saw that the next and last train directly to Rostock was in 15 minute. So I hustled down to the beach, snapped a couple photos, got rained on and then headed back. A long day, full of rain, wind and an amazing island.

It was a blast being on a beach again, seeing choppy water with waves, eating fresh fish, hanging out with friends and seeing a new part of Germany. So far I've been all over the country except the north. I hope to get to Hamburg in the next month to cap off this amazing country. From the medival fortresses along the Rhein, to the walled cities with bier gardens in Bavaria, Germany has offered a lot to do, and I'm loving it.

The Baltic Sea!
Eating the traditional fish sandwich from a cafe boat

Stralsund Town Hall, a huge brick facade

On Rugen, amongst the cliffs

The lookout point, windy as hell

Beach on Rugen, with cliffs and choppy waters

Rostock harbour

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The 3 Castles

New story about the 3 Gleichen, meaning 3 of the same. These are 3 castles nearby Erfurt, just a short train and bike ride away. Today, I had until 6:30 free, so it was time to do some exploring. Riding by my too short, rickity bike from the town of Wandersleben (hikers life) I forged new paths, exhausted my legs and visited 2 of the 3 castles.

The first caslte was amazing. Up on a hill above a small town, fairly easy to get to, with me hiding my bike in some bushes while I went to the top. Great ruins and views, really cool, and well worth the trip alone. But there were still two other castles to explore, one close by and one farther away. I went for the farther away, more intact looking castle.

Little did I know that it would be a royal pain in the ass to get there, through rocky paths, up a forest hill, down a forest hill, through animal trails, in the middle of nowhere and finally up the huge hill it was one, circling the castle at least twice on the way up. The bike got heavier (already super heavy and clunky) and the legs got more tired. Had to take several breaks, but made it up finally to see a sign which said it was a private hotel and for guests only. Didn't stop me. I'd worked hard to get there, sweating away through the hills. I was disappointed with the castle. Not too much to see, hard to get to, nothing special and a bland inner courtyard with a empty restaurant.

But other than the castle being a letdown, it was an amazing trip. On the way into town I looked for something to eat, to energize the body. Nothing. The town had no shops. No grocery store, no kebab place, no drink store. I luckily found a magazine and post place, where I could buy a warm Fanta and a fake ice cream. Tasted amazing.

And that was the story of Justus meets the 3 castles, two personally.

A tired Justus at the first castle

Looking across to the third castle

Thuringen fields and the first castle I conquered

The cool looking castle which sucked

The third castle in the distance

Monday, May 5, 2008

Cinco de Mayo, German style

Prepared burritos for the roomates, Stefan and Julia, another new meal for them. Not quite the same products as in the States, but still damn good. Gotta represent the Mexicans over in Germany.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

May 1st, 2008

The Germans loved and hated May 1st this year. The reason being it was two public holidays on one day, meaning they lost a day off. The first of May is always a holiday and the other one was Men's Day.

Men's Day comes 6 weeks after Easter, having something to do with the church, giving everyone the day off, and the men a big reason to celebrate and party. I went with my roomate and a group of friends to the town where he came from. We then traveled out to a hill a couple kilometers away with two wagons, one with a large stereo system and the other with a grill, sausages and beer. We met up with a bunch of other guys, and chilled on a hill next to sheep with great views of the area, and no one else around. It was awesome to get out into Thuringen, the state I live in. Known as the green heart of Germany, we went through lots of fields, creeks and hills to get to the Men's Day hill. Lot's of people out and about on bikes and hiking on the holiday.

On the way to the hill with our wagons

Myself with Gerrit and Stefan on the hill

Sheep on our hill, enjoying the good weather

Stefan and a friend's dog

On the walk back, through the fields, jumping as always

A sunset in Thuringen, the green heart of Germany