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Sep 30, 2014

DAY TWENTY NINE - BIRDDAY - 30 SEPTEMBER 2014

Hyvää iltapäivää! Been a while since I updated - this week has been a bit wonky, so sadly I haven’t done much. All the same. 

To start things off (and to state the obvious) I am now 21! Fun. Not a lot happened on that much anticipated day, but it was great nonetheless. Went to a schwanky breakfast with a friend from my program (her birthday is the 26th) and had the most delicious yogurt-muesli concoction. (I have since tried to replicate it, and while not quite right, I have created some pretty decent muesli-type breakfasts.) We had classes all day, but in the evening several people in my program opted to go and enjoy the weather in a park for a while before getting some very tasty phở. Following dinner, I dutifully did what any newly minted 21-year-old would do — I went directly home and passed out by 10:30pm. 

I had started feeling a little ill about Wednesday of last week (perfectly timed for my birthday), and the icky was in full force by the end of my birthday dinner evening. Despite falling directly on my birthday, the timing for getting ill couldn’t have been better, as I’m traveling for the next several weekends and obviously would not have wanted to be sick for that. 

By the time Sunday evening rolled around I was feeling much better, and managed to get myself out of bed and to the beautiful and world-renowned Berliner Philharmonie concert hall. I was able to see the Deutsche Symphonie Orchester (DSO) with several people from my program, and it was a truly incredible experience. We had amazing seats and a brief backstage tour, and were all so impressed with the performance and the conductor (a young English man). Overall a truly excellent way to spend a Sunday evening.

This weekend is Germany’s 25th Unification Day (Friday, October 3rd). Sadly I will not be here to enjoy the festivities. As I’ve mentioned too many times now, I’m off to Helsinki for three days on Friday and (clearly) could not be more excited. 

Glad to have had a bit of a quiet week, but ready to get going again. 

Bis bald. 

Sep 23, 2014 / 1 note

A segment of the north frieze of the Pergamon Altar, the Pergamon Altar in large, and the brilliantly blue Ishtar Gate, all seen today at the Pergamon Museum and all off-limits for the next five years starting Sunday. Feeling so lucky to live in such a cultural city.

Sep 23, 2014 / 1 note

The four dear friends with whom I spent Oktoberfest. The top image (left to right: me, Shannon, Becky, Jess, Sofy) is one of us at our table at Oktoberfest, and the other two are us all at Marienplatz the following day when we did a bit of sight-seeing around Munich. 

Sep 23, 2014

DAY 22 - OKTOBERFEST, MUNICH AND MUSEUMS - 23 SEPTEMBER 2014

Hei hei haloo! Been a long weekend! A tiring weekend. Exhaustive! Incredible. Marvelous. I went to Munich once before, in 2007 (shoutout to a Mr. Steve Dutton), and absolutely loved it, and going back did nothing if not raise my high opinion of the city. 

I arrived in Munich around lunchtime on Friday, and was eager to explore. I knew my friends from F&M that I was sharing a room with (four Alpha Phi girls; two studying in Florence, one in Brussels and the other in Copenhagen) weren’t going to arrive until after dinner, so I had basically the whole day to myself to explore the beautiful city. I went and checked us in to our hotel, took a brief nap (I had been too excited to sleep much the night before), and was headed out into the city to explore by 2:00pm. I mostly did a lot of wandering. Intentionally getting lost and then unintentionally being unable to find myself seems to be a strength of mine. Luckily, I’ve downloaded a city map of everywhere I’ve visited so far (and plan to do the same for future travels), so being lost is not so scary. More fun!

Saturday morning came and we rose bright and early, in order to arrive at the park and wait in line for the tents by 8:00am. Two of us (including myself) sporting dirndls, we headed off in good time and were even able to stop and pick up a pastry from a local bakery. We waited in line for about an hour and a half, playing charades and spotting friends from F&M from afar, until the doors to the tent opened at 10:00. All of a sudden we found ourselves surrounded by a stampede of beer-crazed people, pushing as hard as they could to get into the tent. My feet were not even touching the ground for a solid five minutes as the herd trampled into the Hofbräuhaus tent! An irreplaceable and delightfully horrifying experience. Hopefully one I will never repeat. Going back to Oktoberfest I certainly do hope to repeat, undoubtedly, but I think next time I will opt not to go to the largest tent. 

We then waited another two hours, until at 12:00 the celebratory first keg was tapped by Munich’s mayor, and then came ours very shortly after. It was an amazing day, filled with various forms of gluten and cheese, old F&M friends, and some new German (and some American) friends.

I am so glad I was able to spend it with some of my closest friends, and that we were also able to see so many others from F&M. Berlin is amazing, and I enjoy the people in my program, but there’s nothing quite like seeing old friends. 

On Sunday we (shockingly) were up relatively early, and packed up our hotel room and found our way to a beautiful brunch café by 10:00am. Café Glockenspiel overlooks Marienplatz from five floors up and served us a magnificent variety of cheeses, fruits, breads, meats, eggs and yogurts. It was delicious. Following our brunch we made our way around Munich for a while, wandering up the 306 steps of St. Peter’s Church to get an amazing view of Munich (and the Alps in the distance), meandering through the cobblestone streets, snacking on curry wursts and pommes and ice creams (separately, of course), visiting the Munich residence museum, until we opted to run back to Oktoberfest to collect some final souvenirs. We bought matching Oktoberfest t-shirts - and they aren’t even too horribly tacky! Very successful, if you ask me. 

We made it to the Munich airport in good time, and luckily too - apparently, I had missed my flight. First time I think I’ve every even been late to a flight, and I missed it not by a few minutes, but rather by TWELVE HOURS. I had thought I booked a seat for 9:05pm, and of course it turned out to be 9:05am. Luckily, having an international student ID card and flying within Germany, I was able to get a drastically reduced rate on a flight to Berlin that night. Made it home safe and sound, with only slightly higher risk of heart attack. 

This coming Sunday (September 28) marks the closing of the Pergamon Museum for the next five years due to renovation work needed. Because of this, a classmate and I decided to visit it this morning and see the Pergamon Altar and (my personal favorite) the Ishtar Gate. I visited the Pergamon (and the rest of the museums on Museum Island) in 2009 when Ze Fam and I traveled Germany together, but it was wonderful getting to go back. Definitely going to go back to the other museums once it’s too cold to do anything outside. 

Have some really cool plans forming for the upcoming several weeks that I’m really looking forward to.

This Sunday (Sept. 28) I have tickets (thank you grandparents!) to see the Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester Berlin at the Philharmic concert house, one of the grandest concert halls ever built (according to my architecture professor). Sadly it is not the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, and so it will of course not be the notorious Simon Rattle conducting, however we do have some of the best seats in the house.

Next weekend (October 3 - can you believe it’s almost October?!) I’m traveling to Helsinki. I am particularly eager for this trip, as I have wanted to visit Finland for at least four years (I don’t know why, but for some reason Scandinavia - and especially Finland - really call to me). Desperately hoping to see the northern lights, although I’m not sure if it’s the right time of year yet. Or if I would need to be in Lapland to see them? Still need to do some research on that trip. Any advice would be much appreciated!

The following weekend I believe I’m traveling to Prague to visit one of my closest friends from high school who is studying there for the semester. And the weekend after that my program is in St. Petersburg for a full week! A very busy and exciting upcoming month, as I’m sure the following few will be as well. 

Sorry for the lengthy post - so much is happening! 

Bis bald. 

Photo from the art gallery on Tuesday night. Outside in a little garden, where the lighting was mostly purple and green. There were mirrors set up around the little garden, and I wanted to get a photo in the reflection of one, but it (obviously) did not turn out so well. Still, I kind of like this image. I think it kind of captures the crazy, confusing, exciting and busy city of Berlin. I am so exhausted at the end of every day. Hope it stays that way. 
Sep 18, 2014 / 1 note

Photo from the art gallery on Tuesday night. Outside in a little garden, where the lighting was mostly purple and green. There were mirrors set up around the little garden, and I wanted to get a photo in the reflection of one, but it (obviously) did not turn out so well. Still, I kind of like this image. I think it kind of captures the crazy, confusing, exciting and busy city of Berlin. I am so exhausted at the end of every day. Hope it stays that way. 

Sep 18, 2014 / 2 notes

DAY SEVENTEEN - ARTSY FUN - 18 SEPTEMBER 2014 

God eftermiddag alla! So the last several days have been surprisingly busy and full of new and fun things! Berlin is having an unseasonably warm week (mid to high 70s, shockingly), so everyone has been making a point of doing outdoorsy things that we won’t comfortably be able to do for much longer. Very fun. 

On Tuesday evening I went to the opening day of the Berlin Art Week. It was so cool. I went with one of my friends, and unfortunately we weren’t able to actually see the gallery (lots of very aggressive hipsters), but being at the art show was wonderful. We wandered around and were able to see some musical performances, as well as just observe many young, interested and artistic Europeans. It was so interesting. I wish we’d been able to see the gallery, as I heard it was really cool, but I acquired bruises in my sides just from standing in the queue alongside the hipsters, so we decided it was better just to go outside on the green and watch everyone. 

Wednesday my small German class meets in the morning with our TA, and together the four of us went for coffee at the local university library. It was really interesting. We spent nearly two hours out there, just chatting in German and learning more about the culture and comparing it to America. It was also cool just people watching the university students. 

Wednesday evening the weather was still great, so we decided to run and see an outdoor film/light show of the last one hundred years of German history in thirty minutes projected onto the side of a government building (directly beside the Reichstag). Not only was the history interesting, but I was very surprised as to how many locals there were in attendance. I felt as though something like that put on in America would be mostly popular amongst tourists, whereas this was very clearly meant for Germans. 

Following the show we went to a local bar and watched the end of a Champions League soccer game between a German team and a much-hated English team. While we only caught the last twenty or so minutes of the game, watching it with Germans in a clearly local pub was a very new and highly enjoyable experience. 

Tomorrow (very, very early) I head for Munich for a weekend of Bavarian fun! I am staying in an ideally-located hotel (not hostel!) with several lovely ladies from F&M, and really cannot wait to see them. Just people I know. I love my program, no doubt, but very much looking forward to seeing some of my favorite people - in Munich, no less! 

Will return to Berlin on Sunday. 

Bis bald. 

Sep 16, 2014 / 1 note

DAY FIFTEEN - WEEK END REVIEW - 16 SEPTEMBER 2014

Aloha! This weekend was a busy one. A few stories!

On Saturday, after our day at Sanssouci, every was in favor of enjoying a lazy day. I didn’t do much until dinner time, when I met friends at a place called Maultaschen Manufaktur. It’s a place often recommended in guidebooks for authentic German food, and understandably so. However, it doesn’t seem to be visited by tourists too regularly — there were none there when we visited, and the owner spoke absolutely no English. The food was excellent - maultaschen are like ravioli almost, except (in my mind) larger. We all got some, and we all cleared our plates. It was delicious — definitely a recommendation for anyone spending some time in Berlin. 

Sunday morning we wanted to go back to the Mauerpark flea market. We arrived around 10:00, just as it was opening. It had been raining all night, and there were little rivers that needed to be navigated around to see the stands. We got crêpes, and stayed long enough to warrant some delicious mayo-coated fries for lunch. 

Following our trip to Mauerpark, a handful of us went wandering around the city and explored a few old buildings and old East Berlin. Pretty eerie stuff, some of it. Not living near anyone I was exploring with, I decided to leave a little early to try and find my way home before too late. Of course, I got horribly, horribly lost. I ended up wandering the streets of East Berlin for nearly two hours. It was so interesting, though! I got to see all of these old, barren apartments and other buildings. Many of them had clearly had work done, to try and appear less depressing, but the work hadn’t done a great job.

On my long and lost walk home, I found myself walking past one of the Berliner Kindl (a very popular local beer) brewing and bottling locations! Thousands and thousands of packs of beer, in many different flavors, lining the little street I was walking aimlessly on. 

Not much else to report…this week is our first week of classes. So far, so good! On Friday morning I head to Munich to meet up with several friends from F&M, to enjoy a weekend at Oktoberfest and have some little early birthday celebrations. Very much looking forward to that!

Bis bald. 

Sep 16, 2014

Some images from our trip to Sanssouci on Friday. Really spectacular! We weren’t able to see one of the palaces, and the weather was rather icky, so several of us are already planning another day trip to see it again. 

Sep 13, 2014

DAY TWELVE - SANSSOUCI - 13 SEPTEMBER 2014

Sveiki svieki! Yesterday, for our first group trip, we traveled to the palace Sanssouci in Potsdam (about an hour southwest of Berlin).

Before realizing what Sanssouci was, I was not particularly eager to get to Potsdam. However, upon discovering it was a beautiful (and very well-maintained) palace with luscious green gardens, my interest was instantly piqued. 

The palace of Sanssouci was built as a summer home for King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia (Frederick the Great) in the mid 18th century. Frederick the Great was an artist, a composer and musician, and also fancied himself a philosopher. He was close with many artists and composers of his time, although his relationship with Voltaire in particularly stands out. Together they lived in Sanssouci for many months discussing the arts and creating a beautiful palace.

While I have yet to get to Versailles (a trip I hope to take while abroad this semester), I would think Sanssouci a close second to the fine palace of the 17th century French nobility. Sanssouci (“Without Worry”) is in a more Rococo style than its French counterpart, but still shows French Baroque traits throughout the palace grounds. It has a terraced vineyard, not to mention a beautiful sprawling park with many interesting sculptures, bubbling fountains, and brightly colored flowers.

Part of Sanssouci (the main castle) was actually closed when we went yesterday, so many of us are talking about going back in a few weeks. We hope to go before it gets too cold, and spend a whole day out there, further exploring the gardens and the parts of the palace we didn’t see. Hopefully we can make that happen. 

Bis bald. 

Sep 10, 2014 / 1 note

Some pictures from the excursion to Gendarmenmarkt that my three-person German class took today. We went there to see an exhibit in the Neue Kirche Berlin (New Church of Berlin) on the recent history of Germany, for individual presentations we will be giving tomorrow. In the middle of Gendarmenmarkt is the Konzerthaus Berlin (Concert House of Berlin), built in the early 19th century and recently renovated. On the south side of the square is the Neue Kirche Berlin, and on the north side is the Franzosische Reformierte Friedrichstadtkirche. 

The top photo is a selfie of our three-man German class (left: Mattias, center: Jake) in front of the beautiful Konzerhaus Berlin. The next is a photo of me looking mightily uncomfortable, again in front of the Konzerhaus Berlin. The last image is a panorama of Gendarmenmarkt, with the Neue Kirche Berlin on the left, the Konzerthaus Berlin in the center, and the Franzosische Reformierte Friedrichstadtkirche on the right.