Thursday, March 28, 2013

Oh, Freiburg how much fun we had!

Tom and I

So I am currently sitting in a bus station on my way to Norway, Michigan to visit my sister since Emily and I are back in the United States, but that isn’t what I’m going to write about. I am going to write about Emily and my trip to Freiburg, Germany.
It was here that Em and I reunited from our time apart. I went to Amsterdam, packed, and said some final good-byes to friends. Em traveled around the south of Germany. She got to explore Heidelberg, have misadventures in Stuttgart, and buy a dirndl in München. It was a joyful reunion! However, on the way down I got to do some thinking. And we all know that that cannot be good. I swear there was smoke coming out of my ears and everything!
Now, before I met up with Emily I was really close to just canceling the trip. I had no motivation to go and I wanted to stay in Oldenburg for a little bit longer. We can thank the fact that I had already bought all the train and plane tickets, because that was the main reason I went. I had already spent the money on the mode of transportation and I was going to force myself to go! And Em would have killed me, but on the train down I saw the beginning of the Black Forest and the mountains. I remember seeing mountains when I was younger, but this time it was different. I watched in awe as it all came into view. I couldn’t believe it! I just watched as we just traveled through them and my passion had returned. I was feeling rejuvenated and happy again. I didn’t feel melancholy anymore and it was a breath of fresh air. I couldn’t stop thinking that it was this that I lived for. I lived to see and experience new things and to tell others and invigorate them.  I couldn’t do any more homework once I felt this. I just couldn’t make myself.
Pastry anyone?
However, back to reuniting with Emily, it was a joyous occasion filled with trumpets going off, us running to each other in slow motion with arms wide open, a great big hug, and laughs while we walk out of the train station. Okay, that didn’t happen. I was sitting in Starbucks drinking some tea and doing some homework, I had to make some headway. It was a nice reunion. She just sat down and we picked up right where we left off two weeks before. I heard about Stuttgart, way before you guys ;).  We just sat there waiting on our host to show up to take us home, we sound like lost puppies or kittens.
Eventually our gracious host, Tom, showed up. You could tell that at first he was a little bit hesitant at first. It was easy to see by his posture, but I can say with a guarantee that it didn’t take long for him to take a liking to us. I think it helped that we made him dinner and dessert. It was also funny and shocking that he knew one of my friends that I went to Taiwan with. Tom was even nice enough to take us to where he studied and let me catch up with Cornelius. It was great. We talked a little bit and caught up while Tom and Emily went to go buy stuff for dinner. Cornelius was the first non-American Taiwan friend I have seen, until Paris.
Emily sized hole.
Once my little visit was done we headed back to Tom’s apartment to make dinner and just relax a little bit. It took a little bit to finish dinner, because we just kept goofing off. Tom got Breakfast at Tiffany’s stuck in our head and that wasn’t very nice of him, because that song stuck with us through the rest of our trip. Thank you Tom thank you. It took even longer to eat dinner and dessert, because we kept getting distracted by YouTube and just chatting in general. After dinner Tom took us to his friend’s apartment, because it was her birthday! That was fun. I got to see how much Emily’s German had improved and Tom tried to help me with my rs. The r is something I have always had trouble with, but I am still practicing. When we left the party we all pretty much went to bed. Tom had to make a train the next morning because he was called in to sing. Oh, did I mention that he is training to be an opera singer? Well he is and he sang Breakfast at Tiffany’s opera style to us that morning. It was a sad morning, because we couldn’t stay another night, but so much fun.
After we said good-bye to Tom we spent the day just catching up on writing and homework. I just love love love doing homework while on holidays. We had a semi-creepy moment, but Rebecca was able to help save the day with her ‘emergency’. I still owe her some snicker doodle cookies, maybe when she comes to the States I will have some for her.  However, this creepy moment happened around the time that our second host got home from work, so we were able to go to his house at that time. Or second host was Ralph. He was very nice. Our first night he made some yummy homemade meat balls. I got to help a little bit, by help I mean I was peeling potatoes. He also helped me pick out a nice beer to go with dinner. We didn’t do too much that night besides talk and just get to know each other.
It was the next day that surprised Emily and I. Ralph and is girlfriend took us to France! It was a surprise to us since we only thought they were going to go. It wasn’t until they were getting ready to leave that they asked if we were coming. We jumped on that. We went to Neuf-Brisach and a town named Colmar. Neuf-Brisach had been around since the 1500s I believe and the town wall was still up. It was so much fun to talk around. Emily was even able to crawl into one of the holes on the side of it. It was very small and cute. I just loved how it looked. The houses were nice pastel colors with shutters and all roads lead to the center of the town and church. It was here that I had my first French pastry. It was so good and pretty, raspberries and cheese on a pastry.
After this quaint little town we went to Colmar. It was about 30 minutes west of where we were and a bit bigger. We walked around the town center and saw some old buildings. I was wondering how they were still standing. Some were leaning too far forward and others to the side. They all had that skeleton look to them, the one where the wood is on the outside of the building making those nice shapes. It was also some sort of Carnival for the children. So much confetti was thrown; Emily even picked some up off the ground and threw it at me. I wasn’t too happy, but what can you do it was all for fun. We didn’t do much in this town, but walk around and explore a bit. Our hosts were nice to take us and show us what France looks like outside of Paris, since we were heading there in a few days.
On our way back from the adventures in France we stopped to pick up some baguettes, coffee, and dessert. I got to have a mini baguette fight with our host, or was it Emily? I can’t remember it was getting late and I was getting tired, I sound like such an old lady. We ended up having fondue that night. It was my first time ever having fondue and it was so delicious. I will definitely be eating it when I can. That night was filled with laughs, riddles (which I am terrible at), great company, and learning more about our hosts and the area.
Slippin' and slidin' is what I do.
That Sunday Emily and I were left up to our own devices. Both of our hosts had plans, but they did tell us about some places to see in Freiburg. One of them was to walk up Schlossberg and see the city from there. I was a bit hesitant, because I knew both of our shoes were not meant for walking up hill in snow and ice, but we did it. I didn’t care for it when I would slip, but I never fell on my butt and the view was worth it. I will always remember watching the snow falling gently. It made Freiburg seem like a sleepy little town, but it added something to it. It once again reminded me that there was more to see in the world. Emily and I even took this time to just talk about what we wanted to do once we got back. Halfway up the mountain it just turned into a leisurely stroll, mostly because it wasn’t as steep anymore. It was a bonding moment for us that is for sure. There were points where we just sat on the railing looking out on the town and the mountains surrounding it just talking. The way down wasn’t so serene. I would say it was a death trap of snow and ice, but so much fun.  We got a few funny pictures of us goofing around. Emily was even able to slide down the mountain, once we found railings, because her shoes had no grips on them. I was stuck taking super baby steps. I saw people laughing at us and mimicking us since Em’s idea was so good.
A street in Colmar.
The rest of the day we just walked about the city center. We found this place with amazing chocolate and bought a cake for our host, since I didn’t want to bake. It was just relaxing, something we needed since the next few weeks would be a whirlwind. There is something about Freiburg that is going to stick with me for a long time. I think I might have to plan a return visit sometime.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Good times Munich!

A Pint at the Hofbrauhaus, Munich!
     So next stop is Munich! Yay! As we were not able to make it to Munich for Oktoberfest I still wanted to go to Munich and see what kind of a city it was (and of course I knew that they would have some of the beers still available for tasting).
First up Munich is beautiful. Albeit it was largely destroyed in WWII there still retained some beautiful architecture and land marks. (Some of the main landmarks were not destroyed during the bombings because they were used as navigational tools for the pilots). When I arrived by train I was left to wander around the city for about 4 hours by myself before I could go to the house of my next host, Stephan. So during this time I just chose a direction and went for it. I ended up finding myself on the main shopping street full of name brand stores and many, MANY gift shops. I wandered around these parts for a few hours before grabbing a quick lunch at a beer house called “Weisses Brauhaus”- home of the Schneider Weiss Beer. Although it is a local brewery it is not native to Munich, thus not being allowed to participate in Oktoberfest (which is probably why they have a restaurant there so they can still profit from the tourists). This was one of the only restaurants where you can eat the odd parts of an animal- cows head, hoof, tounge, etc. – awkward. However, the food AND beer was fantastic. I chose to try the Bavarian version of Grunkohl (a native Northern German dish) and the brewerys original brew. The Grunkohl was fantastic and true to the flavor and the Original brew was actually a damn good tasting Hefeweisen (if you are not sure what is a hefeweisen this is the point where I URGE you to just google it). During my meal I overheard a tour that came in and sat at a table near me. The guide was hilarious and had me laughing from two tables away while being informative about what he was joking about. I decided then to find his tour services and take the tour.

Bavarian version of Grunkohl and the house brew!
   When I was done with my meal I still had about 2 hours left to roam so I went next door to a Dirndl and Lederhosen shoppe, gritted my teeth, and bought myself a (rather expensive) dirndl. It is a beautiful piece that I plan on making a NMU coloured apron when I return to the States and wearing it beneath my graduation gown during the ceremonies. ;) And yes, there WILL be photos of this.:) By the time I had purchased my dirndl, found a wifi hotspot, called my mum and dad it was FINALLY time for me to be able to drop my stuff off and relax for the night. Stephan had given me directions to his place using the metro but not from the metro station to his house. So I got myself lost for about half an hour before a nice fellow noticed me trying to figure out where I was on a map while standing in the middle of a mini-blizzard. I think he felt bad for me because he told me just to tell him where I was going and he would look it up on his mobile which would be more accurate and quick than me figuring out that the part of the city I was located in is not located on any of the Munich city maps. Go me. By the time I finally found Stephans I was an hour late and he and his brother were so hungry that I walked in, dropped my stuff, and they ushered me into the kitchen to help them cook. :p That night I was too tired to actually do anything so we all stayed in and watched cheesy youtube videos on his large projection screen.

The Munich Rathaus. 
    The next day I woke up, fund the tour from the previous day (it was a free walking tour with Ozzytours) and headed out to the meeting point at the Wombats hostel. The tour was supposed to be exclusive for the residents of the Wombats but because I was couch surfing he let me join along. The guide (and owner of the tours, Osbourne) was a very lively and cheery individual. He took us around for about 4 hours describing monuments and crucial Munich history to us. He even took the time to describe the Birth of the NAZIS and explained where they came for, why they did what they did, and their demise in terms that were very easy to understand and grasp (he used a lot of modern-day references). Overall it was a fantastic tour full of information that soaked in like a very dried out sponge. To anyone that is going to Munich in the future I would recommend his tours to those who actually want to learn more than what the average tour book would teach you.

The Munich Victory Gate. 

     After the tour I was cold, hungry, and in search of a good place for lunch. I found a local Paul Anders restaurant and sat down to try some of their Oktoberfest beer and some of the local grub (a cheese dip that I forget the name to). The beer was good, cheese decent, and the service was far from great (I got stuck with an older lady with a serious attitude problem). I spent a good 2 hours here relaxing, drinking, and generally warming up before heading back to Stephan’s for the night. When I did end back up at Stephans I was not feeling so good so I went to bed quite early and feeling guilty because Stephan had invited me to go Ice Skating with his friends. As much as I wanted to go I felt it necessary to stay home and make sure I would not get ill before I met up with Ashley in Freiburg the following morning.
     Well that is all for Munich! I hope you enjoyed my brief but lengthy tales of my travels around Munich. To any who are going to Munich a few tips: Take the Ozzytours (you will not be disappointed), Try the pretzels, beer, sweet mustard, weisswurst, and cheese dip thingy; keep a map on you at all time and try to keep a watchful eye on your possessions (it is a heavily tourist area and full of pickpockets).

XOXO Emily

Look what I found outside a restaurant!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Breathtaking Füssen

Neuschwanstein Castle!!!

     Finally! I made it out of Stuttgart! And I was on my way on a slow regional train to beautiful Füssen. Füssen is a little town nestled in the Alps and is most famous for its skiing and many castles. The regional train was perfect to take because I was able to travel through the country side at a slow and steady pace (of course I took a ton of photos of the snow covered hills and towns).

One of the churches around the town.
      When I arrived to Füssen it was about 2 in the afternoon and I had one mission stuck in my head and heart: too see the Neuschwanstein Castle (the castle that Disney based many of its castles on). I had texted my host, Michael, to let him know I was in town and to see if I could drop my stuff off to his place. But he was at work and would not be able to get me until 6pm. He also informed me that I would not be able to go into the castle because it was too late in the day. But I decided that as long as I was able to see the castle, even from a distance, I would be just as happy. So from the minute I stepped off the train into the platform I begun my search for the magnificent castle!

I really had no idea where to go and there were not many maps around for me to analyze so I pretty much just chose a general direction and headed off. All of the buildings, shops, and scenery was all designed so beautifully. I did not end up finding the castle upon my first embarkment, instead I found a modern castle next to a big cathedral and a park that led me to a high view of a part of the city and the Alps. I could have stayed in this spot all day long. But I made my way back to the inner city to find a tourist info centre to grab some maps and figure out how to get to the castle.

The more modern castle available to tour around. 

     Well it turns out that to get to the castle I had to take a bus 5km away to a smaller town where I would be dropped off at the base of the hill of which the castle rested upon. The bus was cheap and lovely but once I stepped off the bus and looked up my heart stopped. There it was, the castle I have dreamed of seeing in person, the castle which influenced the movies or my childhood. I almost cried because it was such a breathtaking sight to see the castle nestled among the snow covered alps with the sun setting right in front of it. I wanted to walk up to it but it was beginning to get dark and I did not want to lose my way. So I just took a million and half photos and hopped on the next bus back to Füssen.

By the time I was back in Füssen the shoppes were closing and I snuck into a few to grab some souvenirs and postcards. Then I found my way to a quaint cafe near the main station to warm up with a hot cup of tea and write out some postcards. Michael soon called me and let me know he was at the station so I rushed out to meet him and go grocery shopping with him for our dinner that night.

A view of SOME of the surrounding hills and the Alps.

Michaels flat was super nice and he told me of all his recent renovations and decorating. We had great conversation over dinner and afterwards his friend came up to watch some television with us. His friend did not speak English so I switched to German and we talked for hours about living in Füssen.

The next morning I woke up early and headed on my way to Munich. But for now, Füssen would always have a place in my heart as a spot so lovely and so beautiful that I would definitely find myself returning soon to create new memories.

XOXO Emily