Snap Judgments for the Undeserving

Monday, June 26, 2006

Munich, Bavaria, Germany

This weekend, the Germany game for the World Cup was in Munich, so a bunch of us from the program decided to go and see the town and to watch the game there!
Here's a view of the Marienplatz, over the mobs of people.
(The spiky builiding is the New Town Hall)
Here we are, ready to start the day!!
Munich is fabulous ... almost the first thing we saw was a troup of "folkloric dancers" complete with guys in Leirderhosen and girls with fake braids on their heads dancing to traditional music in the street. The guys actually jumped around and slapped themselves in time to the music ... it was so good I teared up.
This is right before these guys preformed a spoon-slapping-song,
Could I be making this stuff up?
Then we went for lunch at the Hofbrauhaus, an enormous Beer Hall infamous for its Nazi Rallies and now home to many happy singing Germans.
Here's me with my liter of Beer, before noon.
Believe me, we tried to get smaller glasses, and were informed by the waiter that:
"The Beer only comes in Liters"
Here's the main hall of the Hofbrauhaus,
The band was awesome, they played traditional songs and then World Cup songs, and everyone danced on the tables and sang.

In the afternoon we wisely decided to watch the game on a big screen from a shady spot in the Hofgarten instead of trying to get out to the stadium (the U-bahn was so packed with people they had police officers guarding the escalators ... doesn't really inspire one to use public transport).
Ah Deutschland fans ... so delightfully rowdy,
and this is before we won!
(unfortunately you can't see the small contingencey of Sweden fans in their Viking helmets and fake blonde pigtails ... they were hot)

Meersburg, Lake Konstanz, Germany

Last weekend, our program had yet another little trip planned for us, this time to several towns on the shores of Lake Konstanz in southern Germany. I could tell you all about the neolithic stilt village that I visited in Friedrichshafen (not making this up)*, but I'm figuring you all will want to be spared that...

Instead I shall show you beautiful Meersburg, a town with lots of pretty old buildings and also the oldest castle in Germany (or so they claim)!
Here is the Schloss ...
it was started by Merovingians, which must make it cool
Here are the girls by a cute, and very typical fountain, on the way up to the Schloss
(nb: in Germany, every castle is on a big trecherous hill (I assume for tactical purposes). Keep this in mind when planning shoe choices)
Here I am, on the actual drawbridge over a big chasm ...
even I was impressed.
And finally, here's a view out over the town and Lake Konstanz from the Schloss.
*No, seriously, not making this up:

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Berchtesgaden, Germany

Meaghan and I had a day to spare around Salzburg (because everything in that town, including the cheesy kitsch stores, is closed on Sunday) so we decided to take the train up into the Alps to the town of Berchtesgaden. We decided to visit Berchtesgaden because:
1. The train goes there
2. It is one of the only towns around here actually mentioned in my book, and
3. It was free (the train station guy gave us both free day passes, I can only assume due to our obviously astounding intellect)
This town is very cute, nestled right up in the mountains, and in winter is a ski resort. Also, it's famed for being the location of Hitler's vacation lodge, Eagle's Next, which we didn't have time to visit.*

Here's the main square of this little old town:

I swear, this bridge is too cute to actually exist.
(we had to climb the hill behind it to actually get to the town -
this had not been part of our plans - I was not pleased)

And finally, a glimpse of the gorgeous views that constantly surround you while you wander through the village!

*I believe I remember a story, told to me by a friend of mine who shall only be known as "Dave", involving a long and fruitless hike up a not-very-interesting mountainside, which cautioned me against ever EVER trying to hike up to the "Eagle's Nest" on my own. I hope that I've got this story right, and if I do, Dave, I hope you're proud.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Salzburg, Austria

After a lovely stay in Vienna, Meaghan and I headed west to Salzburg. This small city is filled with beautiful buildings, early baroque churchs, and lots and lots of tourists. Despite the clogged streets, it still managed to be charming...
Here we are on the bridge to the old town ...
you can vaguely see the fortress on the hill in the background

Being intrepid explorers, we climbed all the way up to the fortress on the huge rocky escarpment surrounding Salzburg ...
It was very steep, and the day was really hot, but the view was amazing!

As many of you may know, Salzburg is Mozart's home town ... and this year is his 250th birthday ... this combines into a Mozart-palooza of almost epic proportions. I feared for my life.
Here I am, in front of a very typical tasteful display window
This store mainly sells, I kid you not, Mozart Balls.
The less mature among us (me) find this very funny

Here's Meaghan in front of a much more restrained homage to the composer,
on the aptly, albeit somewhat mundanely, named "Mozartplatz"

And finally, here I am on the Fortress Ramparts,
being vastly overshadowed by the beautiful Alps

Monday, June 19, 2006

Vienna, Austria

This weekend was a holiday weekend in Baden-Wüttenburg (my home province) and so I had time to go on a long weekend trip!! This meant lots of early trains and not a lot of sleep, but I got to see a lot of Austria!

On thursday, my friend Meaghan and I took the train to Vienna! Having been there before (with the fabulous Katie) I was the Viennese expert, and I dragged her to all sorts of fun and interesting places ...

Here's the Hoffburgh, in which are the Kaiserappartments (very opulent 19th century Hapsburgh residence) and the Empress Sisi Museum (It was even weirder a second time)
Here I am at one of Maria Theresa's prudy fountains ...
All the bronzes had to keep their clothes on, what a shame.
After being good tourists, and dragging ourselves around the whole city, we rewarded ourselves with desserts at Demel, a Vieneese Konditori since 1786 (Their website calls themselves "The Demel", I love it).
Meaghan seems thrilled with her extremely pretty ice cream ...
even my coffee is fancy:
We even made it out to Schloss Schönbrunn, the Emperial summer residence of the Hapsburghs.
Here are Meaghan, and then me, looking triumphant after climbing up the Palace's Gardens:

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Tübingen, Baden-Wüttenburg, Germany

This weekend, my friend Meaghan and I took a day trip to Tübingen! This town boasts one of the oldest Universities in Germany, and, as Meaghan and I discovered, is also really cute. The town isn't really known for its amazing sites, but rather its medieval collegiate atmosphere and great medieval architecture. Thus, we wandered around the old town and looked at 500 year old student dorms, checked out Goethe's publisher's old house, and ate really yummy strawberries.

This is a view of the Old Town, over the Neckar river
Apperantly all postcards from Tübingen consist of this view.

Here is Meaghan, with the StiftsKirche behind her
(the strange clock tower was a later edition to this 15th century church)

Here I am, at Neptune's fountain, in the main square.
Very Renaissance-y

These were seriously yummy:

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Fussball-Weltmeisterschaft Deutschland 2006!!!!

That's "the inexplicably over-hyped championships of a strange sport played by damaged people" to my American friends. To Germans, apparently it is life itself.

Oh yes, the World Cup of Soccer opened in Germany yesterday, and the country has exploded into mass hyteria. I quickly realized that I needed to blend in, and I needed to do this FAST ... so I went to the opening of the first game, Germany vs Costa Rica, at the Münsterplatz, and watched the game on the enormous screen they set up, with my friends and seemingly the rest of the population of Ulm.
Here are Katie and I, blending in ...

This is the enormous screen upon which we watched the game:
(I have no idea why that fire engine was there, it left when the game started)

And here's what it looks like when Germany scores a goal ... except you can't really see the jumping and screaming very well.

It was great!!! I got my own free flag to frantically wave and noise maker to annoy everyone else with before I entered the square. The game was actually a lot of fun to watch, and Germany won!! I've decided that this World Cup thing is okay with me, as long as Germany keeps winning, because I really really don't want to be around any Germans if they don't ;)

Friday, June 09, 2006

First week of school!! First week of school!!

Well, I've started my classes at the good old Universität Ulm this week, and it's been pretty interesting. The campus is huge, and out in the countryside, which took a lot of getting used to. I still get lost pretty frequently, because all of the buildings here are interconnected in weird ways, and then suddenly sepperated by enormous clumps of trees you can't see around. The architecture is also, er, lovely.
This is what happens when you build a University in the 70's.
This is the Universität West, with nifty new buildings.
Here are Meaghan and Rosa in our classroom, looking studious.
Note the blinds behind them: they came down automatically all of a sudden in our first class and totally freaked us out.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Beuron, Swabian Alb, Germany

On Monday I went on the second of my language program's two planned excursions, this time to Beuron. Beuron is also situated in the beautiful Swabian Alb region (ie, lots of cool hills) but is much further away. This meant a long train ride, but it was worth it.

First we went on a hike ...
It doesn't look like it, but it was insanely steep climb up a huge hill.

And at the top we found, drumroll please, a Woodpile!!! Woooooo!
We were so excited, the girls insisted that I take this picture.

Then we hiked some more, and got a real view out over the Swabian countryside. After descending out of the hills we visited the abbey at Beuron. It was done in the "regency" style in the early 19th century somewhere between Baroque and Roccoco, and was INSANE on the inside.
Apperantly, all churches in southern Germany look like this:

In the afternoon, we continued with a 10k kayack trip down the Danube. This was actually a lot of fun, and didn't involve too much stuff like "paddeling" and "work" which was good.
We did have to do some portages though, to avoid dams like this:

Ollie was my partner ... here we are looking triumphant!!

And, as should probably be the way in Germany, we rounded out the afternoon with a rest at the, I'm not kidding, Kayack-rental/Archery-range/Beirgarten in the middle of the countryside.
After our day, we really needed this:

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Blaubeuren, Swabian Alb, Germany

Yesterday was the first of my program's two planned excursions. For our first trip, the whole group took the train to Blaubeuren, a tiny town about 15 minutes outside of Ulm in the beginnings of the Swabian Alb (yes, Alb) an area of very jagged hills (very old mountains really) and pretty valleys created by the Danube river.
Here's a view of the town from one of the surrounding hills:

And this is one of the cute fountains we passed as we walked through the town:

Blaubeuren is famous for its beautiful spring, it's medieval abbey, and its caves. Our trip was dedicated to seeing the caves, which are located on the tops of the hills surrounding the town. They've found evidence of Neanderthal and Early Human dwellings in these areas!

Here's Katie (from Milwaukee!) and I, about to enter the cave
(they made us wear the hardhats)

This is the Cave we got to see...

And here our guide made a fire using only tinder, a stone, a mushroom and grass ...

Clearly they've got us Americans pegged for cheap entertainment :)

Saturday, June 03, 2006

My "interesting" dorm room

As promised, here's a peak into my new life here in Ulm:

This is the building I live in, just outside of the Old City
(it's a ten minute walk to the Münster from my place)

And here's my extrememly ugly (and currently messy) dorm room.
It's just fine for me, except that I can't put any of my clothes in the closet because it smells like a Hockey Player. Febreeze (yes, they have that in Deutschland) is not helping. Alas.

Sooooo ... anyone want to visit me (I'll even give you the wierd bed)???

Friday, June 02, 2006

Ulm, Germany

Well, after a very long (although not as long as it could have been, given that I had 3 connections to make and each coud have lead to badness) journey, I have made it safely to the University town of Ulm!

I've only been here long enough to see the Old Town (I got here yesterday and classes start on Tuesday), and the main attraction here is certainly the huge Münster Cathedral!

This is the Münster steeple ... the largest steeple in the world (instert joke here).
It is very, uh, impressive...

So impressive that you can see it everywhere ... this was taken outside my dorm room

And finally, here's what my neighborhood looks like:
(Well, except my building which is an ulgy monstrosity, but I digress)

More on my hideous dorm room and weekend "planned program excursions" to follow ...