October 29, 2009
My guest father works with a large tea distributing company. He is responsible for presenting all the new teas to all his customers, which are usually hotels and hospitals.
He often says, “Meine Arbeit ist wie Urlaub!” followed by a contagious laugh… (my work is like a vacation)
Everyday, with the company car, he drives to a different city in Germany, no matter how far. Its the perfect job for him because in the army he drove large munitions and oil trucks. Then he got a job as a Munich taxi driver, so hes been working with autos his whole life.
This is also great for me and my roomates because:
We get to try all the finest varieties of teas from around the world and as much as we want too!
Lastly, we get to hitch a ride with him whenever we want and since the company pays for gas and he leaves from our house it makes things a lot easier.
And this is where my story begins… Thursday night, my guest fathers offers to take my roomate and me to Garmisch, a small Bavarian dorf in the Alps that is well known because it is home to Germany’s tallest peak, die Zugspitze. Naturally we agreed to skip school and go skiing. We left at 8:30 am the next day and drove a little over 100 km on the Autobahn at 200 kph. Its always a pleasure to speed in a car, especially when it is absolutely legal. When we arrived, me and my roomate took the Zahnradbahn, an old fashioned cog wheel train, to accend the mountain.
At just under 3000 meters, you can see far into Austria and Southern Germany. We also lucked out because there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the sun was shining bright. Once we got to the peak, we rented our skiing gear and suited up. The problem was already clear: the powerful sun was melting the top layer, creating a hard ice shield. We hit the beautiful slopes, but after 20 minutes, I was being towed on the anquor lift, marveling the perfect weather, when suddenly I placed my stick at an angle with my left ski and fell to the icy ground. I had to get up and put my ski back in position on a steep incline; never an easy task.
So I came down from the halfway mark and when I got to the line to reascend, I noticed that my thumb was numb and I wasn’t able to grasp anything with my hand. I ripped off my glove and immediatly saw that it was broken. So much for a relaxing day… It was alright because I was taken by the ski clinic to there base and given a temporary splint. In Germany, medications are fiercely controlled, so when I asked for a tylonel to dampen the pain, naturally they denied. Instead, they had beer… Typical Bavaria!
Though I suffered some pain, it was worth it because the view and surrounding city was so spectacular. I found out later that in the Alps they have large St. Brenard dogs who carry a bottle of schnapps around their necks and find injured snow tourists. When they do, the injured person can take a swig from the bottle to keep them warm and use it as a disinfectant if they have open wounds.
October 28, 2009
Event of the week: US dollar becomes nearly worthless…
1€ = $1.50
Duvel is a Belgian beer famous for always creating a straight line of bubbles originating from the center of the glass upwards. How do they do it!?
October 26, 2009
General John Pershing was US general officer during WWI and was instrumental to US success abroad. He was promoted to General of the Armies, the second highest ranking, second only to George Washington. After the Spanish-American war, Theodore Roosevelt wanted to promote him to a colonel but at the time, promotions were based on seniority. It posed a problem for the president, since he can only promote generals and 1905 he gave Pershing the ranking of brigadier general.
French and Belgian WWI medals
WWI medals from Serbia, Montenegro, and Romania
An Imperial Russian soldier
Aerial view of an Imperial German fighter plane
The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in 1918 was a cease fire between the Central Powers and Russia and marked the newly created Soviet state’s exit from the war. The Central Powers allowed for a cease fire to concentrate their efforts on the Western front.
October 25, 2009
Around 80 km Northwest of the town of Poperinge and only 14 km from the North Sea lies the 12th century city, Brugge. It was one of the most remarkable places I have ever visited. Its name comes from old Norse and simply means port, hence why it has always had such historical significance. Quickly, it grew in prominence with its large lace fabric, wool, and chocolate trade. The whole city is covered in cobblestone and the architecture is distinctly Flemish Low Land.
We were so lucky to have great weather on the Sunday afternoon because the best way to explore the city is through its canals on a small motorboat. For only 6 Euros, a guide took my roommate, his girl friend, and I on a tour and it was remarkable to learn how ancient some of the city’s groundwork is.
My roomate holding his grandfather’s WWI rifle. It is particularly short because he was a calvary man and it had to be light so that he could shoot while on the move. During the war he was shot, and the Germans robbed him of all his valuables.
Saint Salvator’s Cathedral
Typical Low Lands architecture – stepped roofs and ornate facades.
Simon Stevin – famous Flemish mathematician and engineer.
The Market Square
The back of the Market Square with the flags displayed
The Belfry is the cities prominent bell tower and used to serve as a watchtower to spot incoming attacks.
Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck. Two important Flemish freedom fighters who defended Flanders from the French in the 14th century.
The Burg Square
The oldest bridge in Brugges from the 13th century.
View of the homes and store fronts from the water.
The canal way with the Church of Our Lady in the background.
Church of Our Lady tower
A very picturesque canal scene
Brugge has 100 beautiful, large, white geese.
If you look carefully to the top right of the second window, you will see the smallest Gothic window in Brugge.
The Belfry from the canal
Trappist Westvleterrn – rated the best beer in Belgium. Brewed by real monks and only available at their Abby in the middle of nowhere. The beer is deliciously refreshing and is surprisingly 12%. In Belgium, monks either brew beer or make cheese.
October 24, 2009
Boarding the small Lufthansa jet the old fashioned way
British recruitment wall piece with the allied flags.
Typical early WWI French uniform
A Pickelhaube, the traditional Prussian helmut designed by King Frederick William IV.
A triaditional German and Prussian calvary helmet.
This section of the museum explained the importance of reconnaissance and how new methods were needed to create an efficient battle plan.
Assortment of items dug up in the region. This spade shovel was commonly used by soldiers to dig the trenches.
Old artillery and helmuts, also found in the region.
These items were found in meters of mud.
Along with this old sawed slug shot.
A bunch of medic equipment. It was amazing to see that prosthetics were already invented and that the patient was able to control the hand also.
German victory cigars
Kriegstabakmischung – German mixed war tobacco
An Australian soldier’s ranger hat
The outside of the Flanders Field Museum
The Menin Gate – a tribute to all the British who died in WWI. It also includes it’s commonwealths at the time such as New Zealand, India, and Australia. Every single day at 8 o’clock since its completion in 1927, buglers come and sound the Last Post.
The walls of the Menin Gate are completely covered with the names of the deceased.
The poppy is the symbol of WWI remembrance because it is the only flower that can grow on a battlefield.
The Full House Concept party
October 23, 2009
Tomorrow I board an early flight to Brussels to stay with my roomate’s family. Belgian fries, waffles, chocolate, duck liver, and fueding French vs Flemish… here I come!
The Germans never stop celebrating. Celebrating the same friends birthday two days in a row, except this time with a cocktail, cream filled donuts, and ice cream.
My entire class with my teacher
October 22, 2009
The S-Bahn system in Munich is my transport, bed, and television. I have to ride it everyday for atleast 1 hour and in that time I get to meet a lot of people, see all the crazys, and enjoy the industrialized sector of the city.
Today I met an old man, probably in his mid 60s, and he was studying the Hebrew Bible. He was so fascinated that an American would want to come to Germany to learn his language and sponge up his culture. He explained that because WWII was so recent, Germany as a whole still has many negetive stereotypes against it and that wherever he has traveled, he’s been asked if he was a Nazi member.
In many ways, its sad that after generations of progress and technological ingenuity, that a land’s history can’t be shed, even in my age group. I find it comical that even someone from the USA has the nerve to ask such a question after Jackson conquered the indians, the entire nation tortured colored people, and just as recent as WWII, we rounded up the Japanese like cattle and put them in internment camps.
I am not anti-American but I am anti-hate.
One way to criticize Europeans as a whole is their hate towards the Turkish and North Africans. These groups are completely segregated into small sections of the city. I find that we treat minorities similair, but not with such aggression. The proximity to these countries probably adds to the problem.
Going back to the old man on the train: I found the bible to be significant because when I asked him about it, he said he is a non-believer Lutheran, but loves the culture of the Jews. I hesitated but went ahead and asked what his connection to WWII was. He said to me, his father was an SS officer; he himself was in the Nazi Youth. Near the end of the war, his father was imprisoned by the Soviets and when he was released, the war was already over.
He said, that in the 50s, when he was already a teenager, he studyed in a religious university located in the newly created state of Israel. Here, he continued, was where he learned to love Middle Eastern culture, and openly embraced all its values.
Unfortunately, this is where our journey ended, because he had to exit, but I feel that that 25 minute conversation can easily open ones eyes to the kind of attitude I have encountered in Germany. Empathetic and advanced thinking, capable of forgiving, and learning from there mistakes.
One small step for man, one giant leap for Bavaria
Celebrating a friends birthday in class
October 20, 2009
Day 54 away from beautiful Florida. I miss the beach and I miss the spanish food!
October 19, 2009
Prague was charming and foreign as always. We all stayed in an A&O Hostel about 10 minutes away from the city center. For 10€ a night, it was clean and did the job. Naturally, there was a bar downstairs and we were all given one free Pivo (Czech for beer).
Eastern Europe is still 10+ years behind the rest of the continent in technology and basic social behaviors. The fall of the USSR really had little effect on improving the way of life. There is still a lot of poverty, poor health, prostitution, hard drugs, and a tobacco addiction epidemic.
Unlike the rest of Europe, the Czech Republic has not outlawed smoking inside buildings. I am not used to constant tobacco smoke, let alone tobacco smoke while I am eating a meal.
The lag in constructive progress also has its positives… The middle ages are alive in the heart of the city with daily knight processions, guard changings, and the old market atmosphere.
The Czech drink more beer per person per year then any other country in the world. It isn’t suprising because:
1. The beer is outstanding and available everywhere.
2. It’s dirt cheap; somewhere in the range of 20-30 Kč per half liter. (26 Kč = 1€ at the time of this post.) This price also reflects beer in restaurants and clubs. In Germany, it is normally 3-4€ per half liter.
Upon arriving back at the Munich Hauptbahnhof, I was so relieved to be back in a place where I can understand what is being said to me and how to get around.
Czechisch ist gut, Deutsch ist besser…!
October 17, 2009
The Old Jewish Cemetary
The Old Synagoge
Concert in the old city square
The view of Prague’s old city square at night. It looks like a castle but its actually a church. You can find architecture like this all over the city, hence why prague is called the city of a Hundred Spires.
The National Museum
Staropramen, a Czech Pilsner
The almost vertical escalator in the U-bahn
Charles Bridge statue
Explains the story of knighthood. Notice the gold stains, that is because it is considered good luck to rub the knights.
Charles IV in front of his bridge.
Prague from the north bridge. You can see the castle on the right and in the far left, the mock Eifel tower
Look directly right of the Angel spire. There is a huge functioning metronome. Music is a very important part of Czech life.