Last Wednesday I went to Strausberg, a small town about an hour north of Berlin, for one of the seminars for the German-American clubs. All of the trains leaving Frankfurt were delayed about an hour because George Bush arriving in Frankfurt and going to speak in Mainz. When I finally got to Berlin I met up with a couple other American students and we ate Mexican food at a restaurant near Checkpoint Charlie. I can’t say it was the best I’ve ever had, or anywhere near that, but I’ve been wanting Mexican food for so long that it was well worth being two hours late showing up in Strausberg. The topic of the seminar was Transatlantic relations in the 21st century and though it had high and low points, overall it was a pretty awful 3 days. I don’t mind listening to or reading about politics, provided it’s in a language I can understand, but I really hate talking about politics. Several weeks ago I told the conference coordinator I had to leave Friday night because I was flying home on Saturday. A lie I know, but there were a number of reasons for doing it, and I think had I stayed there two more days I would have gone insane. Yesterday was spent taking care of things that needed to be done before I leave, and spending time with Dave before he leaves. Today I finally did some much needed research on a paper topic for one of my classes so that I’ll sound somewhat knowledgeable when I have a meeting with the professor tomorrow. Tomorrow’s going to be a long day of more errands and saying goodbye. I’m guessing I won’t be sleeping much until I get back home, but that’s not too unusual. I think a group of us are going to the Irish pub tomorrow night for Jesse’s last night so that should be a good distraction. I’m still trying to get used to the idea of going home.
Sorry for the long absence. Technical difficulties and my own distraction are to blame. Cologne was wonderful, as usual. I really didn’t feel like two days was enough, but I rarely feel like I’ve been there long enough. I love that it’s a modern, vibrant city, but there’s history everywhere. And the cathedral… But anyhow, here are a few pictures: the cathedral, a Roman gate, and a duck mosaic from the Roman museum.
The following weekend was Karnival. Wow. It’s like Halloween and Mardi Gras in one. Lots of parades, people in costumes, and on Rose Monday the climax of drunken insanity in the streets is unbelievable. Now I can say I’ve seen Karnival in Germany, and be satisfied with the experience for a long long time. I’m glad I don’t have to deal with that every year, at least not in a city I have to live in. My favorite float of all the parades was this LEGO themed one. And then a small taste of what the streets were like.
Classes have finally ended for the semester. I have to write a few papers, which probably won’t be done until I get home, but are still hanging over my head. But basically I have two months off before the next semester starts up. Make that about a month and a half now, time is ticking. Last week was pretty stressful. I won’t go into details, because I really don’t feel like it right now. But I had yet another frustrating experience with the bureauracy of the German government. They seem unable to get their act together, so six months after arriving I still don’t have a student visa or residency permit. But they were able to extend whatever temporary permission I have to be here so leaving and reentering the country will no longer be a problem. And I had another dose of the German health care system last week also. I wasn’t the patient this time, but it’s almost more stressful spending hours in doctor and hospital waiting rooms, waiting for answers about someone you care about than it is when it’s you. The worst of it seems to have blown over for now, but the next week will tell.
I leave a week from tomorrow to head back to Houston for a month and the anticipation is bittersweet. I am looking forward to seeing friends and being home, but I imagine that family life will be a bit tense, as things have been for quite a while with my sister back at home. And my dad, the most reasonable one in much of the mess, will be traveling in the Middle East for the first couple weeks I’m home. As I experienced last time I was away for this long, things change with time. When you are a part of that change you don’t really notice, but being removed from it and then jumping back into life having also changed yourself isn’t an easy thing. And what’s more, it’s not permanent. In a month I’ll be heading back here. That’s my real fear. Getting on a plane next week means leaving so much behind. Things that I’ll never get back. The hardest part about going home will be coming back to Frankfurt knowing that the second half of the year will be completely different from the first half, and I’m not ready to give this up. There are some things that I wanted to accomplish this year that I haven’t yet and next semester will be a good opportunity for that.
Tomorrow I’m going to Köln for the weekend. Which is a very good thing. It’s one of my top two favorite cities in Germany, along with Berlin; and after a stressful, frustrating week I need to get away and do something enjoyable.
After many more hours in doctor’s offices this week they’ve decided that fixing my hand is going to require surgery. Without going into all the details, I’m fed up with the German health care system and after almost 2 months since the injury, there doesn’t appear to be much urgency in having the surgery done. So it’s scheduled for sometime in March while I’m at home. It will make many things much easier, but I’m really bummed that some of the plans I was really looking forward to while I was home (such as backpacking in Big Bend) will probably not be looked very favorably upon by my parents or the doctors right after having had surgery. And I’ll probably have a cast for a month or more. But none of this can be helped now. On the up side, this does give me a good excuse for missing a week of seminars here that I don’t particularly want to attend.
Alright, stories and pictures from Köln coming next week. I’m supposed to meet up with Kevin and go to Hard Rock Cafe tomorrow night, so that should be fun, and interesting. Never a dull moment with him around.
Motrin is an addiction. Probably not the best thing for me, but there are ceratinly worse things.
One of the bones in my hand is broken. The fracture didn’t show up on the x-rays they took last week, but a very annoying MRI today did show it. The doctors keep giving me weird looks as to why I waited 6 weeks to figure this out. I don’t know. Monday I’ll have the answer to the next big question: what are they going to do about it?
I spent the last weekend in Regensburg, a town in Bavaria sometimes called Germany’s best-preserved medieval city. I was accompanied by the regular crew, and we had a great time, as we usually manage to do. I really wish I had been able to stay a bit longer yesterday just to see more of the town, but Justin and Kyle were tired. Wimps.
The town is charming, but the middle of January is definately not the height of the tourist season. Don’t get me wrong, that’s nice, and that’s usually my goal when travelling if I have the choice. But our first impression of the town was walking quite a ways to a really cool looking youth hostel in a 300 year old building only to find out that the hostel was closed until the 30th of January. But we ended up in a bed and breakfast type hotel that was a big step up from youth hostel life, so that worked out well after all.
Regensburg sits at the intersection of the Regen River (hence the name) and the Danube, which makes for nice scenery. When we woke up Sunday morning there was frost on everything and the trees along the river were beautiful. The town’s cathedral and Reichstag Museum are definately worth a visit, but I’ll spare you the travel book entry and just say go see it for yourself. For someone interesting in history it’s a paradise.
And for a town without much nightlife we managed to have a pretty good time on Saturday night 😉
Geez, that was harder than I thought. I don’t think I’ve done any creative writing since maybe sophomore year of high school and I really don’t like it very much any more. I just had to write a (very) short story for my Irish Short Stories class and it took forever. Maybe that’s saying something about my writing skills in general at the moment…
I know it’s been a while, but here is the lastest installment in the Kyle saga. He is a self-proclaimed drug user, and abuser, and pot head, and we’ve seen plently of evidence in the last few months to believe that’s completely true. His experience with drugs, however, does not seem to extend to buying them, only using them. In a city like Frankfurt- the drug capitol of Germany we’ve been told – pot and hash are for sale on practically every corner and all of us have been offered drugs at some point. All of us except Kyle, apparently. Which is funny, because I don’t think I come across as much of a drug user, and I’m certainly not. But anyhow, there was another comical night when Kyle was trying to buy hash from some Turkish guys at a Döner Kebap stand who definately had it, just wouldn’t sell it to him. And he was so pissed off after that night that he must have gone out a couple days later determined to buy some. He found some guy on the street somewhere who said he had hash and led him into a dark alley. The whole time the guy was acting really shady and nervous and he said there were police around so they had to be quick. He showed Kyle some stuff, which he said he couldn’t see very well. So Kyle paid the guy 30 euros and brought it home. Back in his room he took a look at it and thought it looked a little funny. He smoked a little and said it didn’t get him very high. So he called Dave and Justin over to check it out. The minute they walked into his room it was obvious that Kyle had bought a pile of granite rocks and pebbles. He bought 6 grams of rock. And paid 30 euros for it. And smoked it.
On the morning of the 1st I took a train with my parents to meet my sister in Berlin for some sort of family vacation type thing. In the last several years I’ve found it increasingly frustrating to travel with my family, but it went better than I had expected. This was my first time in Berlin, and it’s an amazing city. It’s fascinating to me to see how exposed their history is; you can see it everywhere. Unfortunately I was only able to stay until Monday evening because I had to come back for classes, but I definately intend to go back sometime when I have more of an opportunity to see the city.
Here’s a funny tidbit that I doubt anyone will find as funny as I did. But anyhow, in Berlin my dad was looking for an ATM, which in German is called a Geldautomat. My sister, trying to be helpful, said she had seen a sign for a gelato-mat in the train station. Apparently she didn’t see the letter D in the word, and thought it was pronounced like the Italian word for ice cream.
Liz came back to Frankfurt Thursday night because her flight back home was on Friday morning. Some of my friends and I took her out, in an area completely across the city. The last tram that would take us back an area near here that we could walk home from left at 1:30. Only that was wrong and the last one only went as far as the main train station, which is still way across town. So at 2 am we started the hour long walk home and none of us were very happy about it. But we made it home, and she caught her flight the next morning so it’s all good.
After class Friday afternoon I hopped on a train again and went to meet my parents in Zürich and see my cousins and such. I still think it was kind of a pointless trip. I arrived at 10 on Friday night, ate dinner, and then pretty much went to sleep not long after. Saturday my cousin showed us around some, but really all I saw was the Swiss national museum, which was extremely boring, and the Grossmünster church. I love traveling by train, but I’ve been on so many of them recently that it feels like it’s becoming an almost weekely occurance. Which I guess isn’t a bad thing. So now my parents are gone too and I can relax and quit entertaining people. And get alot more sleep than I did when they were here. Boo for people who get up super early.
Yesterday I went for a really long walk, pretty much all over the city. But that was the first time I’ve been through the downtown business area of town during daylight hours, and it’s a much more interesting place than I had thought. There are all sorts of interesting office buildings, wacky sculptures, random parks, and a few much older buildings that look like they could be pre-war. We also ended up at the main train station, which is in the middle of Frankfurt’s red light district. That was the first time I’ve walked throught the real heart of the district, and it was pretty entertaining. A little reminiscent of Amsterdam. The contrast between that neighborhood, and the business district that it borders is rather striking.
As predicted, Christmas was fun, but not at all like Christmas really. On the 26th, Aaron Heckleman came through for part of the day. It was fun to see him and hang out for a bit, even though there wasn’t much to do around here because the entire city was still closed down for Christmas. But he did get to order a beer from McDonalds, which made his day. He was supposed to spend New Year’s Eve with us, but unfortunately for him, that didn’t work out and he was in the middle of nowhere.
My parents flew into Frankfurt on the morning of the 31st. I spent the day walking around with them and again everything in Frankfurt was closed after about 2 pm. We went out to dinner and then they headed to their hotel and left me free to celebrate New Year’s. Dave and I bought some fireworks (which they sell in department stores here) and went down to the river around midnight because we’ve heard that’s the best thing that happens in Frankfurt all year. And that just might be true. There are thousands of people along the banks of the Main, and though there’s no official firework display everybody has their own and there are fireworks everywhere for 45 minutes straight. It’s pure insanity: drunk people everywhere with explosives that they can’t or don’t care to aim away from the other people. There were big party boats on the river and people were shooting fireworks at the boats. I don’t know how people don’t die during this every year, or at the very least get seriously injured. That was all pretty crazy, but the most entertaining part of the night, by far, was mischief with fireworks in Dave’s kitchen after we got back. I have some really good short videos of that, and some day if you’re lucky maybe you’ll get to see them.