Pockets of Blue

musings of my mind

Month: October 2005

An unintended consequence

I had originally posted this blog to tell the world of my exploits here in Germany, as well as vent about any old topic. Thus far that’s what I’ve been doing, and have only created a post if I felt I had something to say, or share.

Admittedly, I did have a bit of writer’s block at the beginning (and subsequently didn’t advertise my blog), but has pretty much subsided since. I feel like blog topics come pretty naturally, and this should be good to keep the content interesting. But another unpredicted side effect was its effect on my writing abilities. I always felt I wrote fairly well (well at least back in high school), but recently realized I hadn’t really had to do crap for writing in college and sort of lost my touch. AP credits got me out of all the freshman English classes, which I rejoiced at the time (and don’t regret it). I took a few courses which caused me to have to write essays or whatever, but this was rarely more than once every 10 weeks or so, and not enough to keep the compository skills flowing. This blog has changed all that, as I put quite a bit of effort into the style, content, and choice of words for each and every post.

Yet, it still seems that today’s society is causing communication to become so short and terse that good writing has become sort of a lost art. The pervasiveness of instant messaging clients, quick emails, text messaging, and expensive mobile phones have brought on this tendency, and I think our writing abilities are suffering accordingly.

So one more reason to embrace the self-publishing revolution!

Köln (Cologne)

So it came to me on the way to Köln that the city has the same title as the stuff guys spray on themselves in an attempt to cover up BO, or something (I can’t remember the last time I used the stuff, to be honest).  This left me kind of curious as to the historical aspect of this similarity, or rather, wtf?

This was also the first real outing for the international students of Uni-Osnabrück, on the first weekend after our arrival.  We showed up at a bus stop near Neumarkt (the city center) at around 7:30.  I believe I had gone to a movie the night before and had missed out on my beauty sleep, so I wasted no time catching up on it during the entire 3-hour bus ride there.  So at around 11 three busses worth of international kids in their late teens/early twenties invaded Köln.

The first stop was the Schokoladenmuseum across the street, or as the pamphlet claimed, the MMMuseum (nice work guys).  This was rather enjoyable, they even had a tour in English which I defiantly denied (and later regretted).  We basically toured the automated section of the factory and got soMmmm...gooeyme history of the cocoa bean and the factory and some other nonsense.  The high point was the fountain of chocolate (oooo baby) at the edge of the museum in which a worker dipped wafers in to dispense to tourists.  It was gooey and delicious.  The rest of the tour was kind of dry, well I guess I can’t complain since I couldn’t understand what the hell our guide was saying anyway.  I did make sure to buy a healthy selection of truffles from the gift shop before leaving.

I had been hoping to see a gigantic vat of liquidy chocolate where perhaps I could bribe a worker to let me dive and swim in, thus checking that off my list.  Unfortunately the mysterious vat never appeared.

Later we wandered about for an hour or so before meeting up again near the cathedral.  I had been looking forward to going there since arriving in Köln since it dominates the sky for miles.  That, and it’s probably the most badass-looking structure I’d ever seen.  Very imposing.
So we split up again into a few tour groups.  Having learned my lesson from the last tour, I took the English one.  We went to both the new and old part of town and were treated to a fantastic history of the city.  Along the way we stopped at the world headquarters for this type of cologne (eau de frufru maybe?), which apparently must’ve been good enough to spawn an industry.  There was also a fountain of cologne in the corner of the store which I just had to identify as an actual fountain of cologne (yeah it was, and I smelled kinda fruity the rest of the day).

Eventually we made our way back to the cathedral and entered it.  Having been in a few cathedrals before, the layout and general feel of the inside was unsurprising, albeit still incredibly immense.  I do believe the inside was better decorated from its richer history (a King for each stained-glass window). 

The cathedral culminated the tour.  Somehow we (Katya and I) got separated from the group after that, but ran into one of her friends later and found our way back together.

Hopefully this was the first of many weekend trips…

Nutella kicks ass

…so much that it deserves it’s own post

Osnabrück

Lately I’ve found myself with quite a bit of free time, mostly due to a lack of classes this week. It appears that each class runs about 2 hours a week, in stark contrast to the strict 4 hours/week I’m used to at RIT. Well I’m certainly not complaining, especially since these classes seem like they’ll be pretty damn easy anyway.

However, this post was originally going to be devoted to my entrance in Osnabrück and what has happened since. Well, in short, a lot…

So Tuesday I moved in. My flatmates were very nice and I soon realized that there may be a bit of a language barrier (duh). One of them did speak quite good English so we chatted for awhile, and he pointed out I needed bedsheets. Ah yes, sheets would be nice. So he walked me down to Plus, a small chain grocery store down the street where I proceeded to buy some sheets and a ton of other food. Excellent. And as I’m rounding the freezer section a familiar face appears. Brittany?!! (A friend from RIT who had spent some time in Germany as well beforehand) So we discuss the eccentricities of the Germans and finish up shopping.

Around then I realized I probably wouldn’t have enough cash, since apparently debit/credit doesn’t really exist in most marketplaces. Brittany was kind enough to lend me some cash and we went through the checkout line. Surprise! The cashier yells at me to start bagging groceries so I start throwing them back in the shopping cart. Surprise! They don’t provide the good ol’ shopping bags we’ve gotten so accustomed to. By this time I had a shitload of food and other stuff so I just wheeled the damn thing back to my apartment (there’s a euro deposit to try and prevent this, haha; the next day somebody returned it for me). What fun.

The rest of the week consisted of group leaders taking us around Osnabrück, getting us set up: bank account, health insurance, etc. This was all well and good, I must admit I didn’t know what the hell was going on for most of it. Just about all fo the other foreign students have over a year of German experience, while I have six months with some major gaps in between. That is, their German is good, mine sucks. This has become frustrating, but it’s slowly coming back…

They did organize a few social events as well, a party, pub crawl (which I regret missing to go to a movie), and some other things in the evenings. Somehow they managed to pack things in every day of the week from about 9 am til 12 midnight. By the weekend I was exhausted.

On Saturday we went to Köln (Cologne to you westerners). This was quite fun, and deserves it’s own post (along with my photos).

Munich/Oktoberfest

A whole lot has happened in the last week-plus, so I’m going to break this post up.  Let’s start from the beginning…

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Arrival in Munich

On Sat, Oct 1 I departed from Heathrow airport in London bound for Munich.  I was in very high spirits, with great confidence on my navigation abilities, and maybe not so much with my german language abilities.  The flight to Munich went without a hiccup, and having run into 4 or 5 different groups of Californians bound for Oktoberfest, I delayed switching to German mode.  Upon arrival it hit me: "shit, I’m gonna need to use German to get around." 

Well, for the most part anyway.  Passport control was a joke, they didn’t even ask me how long I was to be in Munich.  I managed to buy my train ticket using English and took the hour or so train to the Hauptbanhof, or central train station.  Upon arrival I realized I had forgotten how to get to the hostel from the train station and hadn’t printed directions.  Awesome. 

So I wandered outside and walked a couple blocks, not recognizing any of the streets (I did remember the name of the street connecting the hostel’s street).  I decided to ask this old dude where the street was (in surely horrid, scrambled German) and he didn’t know.  So I wandered around some more and eventually found the street and hostel.  Chris greeted me warmly upon arrival.  He was a welcome, familiar sight in a strange, foreign land.

That night we met up with Kevin and Ivan, his friend from Munich, and promptly made our way to a club.  The club was below ground and was fitted with a room consisting of nothing but large couchlike cushions lining the walls in a seductive red color.  Unfortunately the room was reserved so we grabbed a table in the adjoining room, near the bar.  Upon receiving the menu I opened it up and immediately (as in less than a second) lay my eyes on an interesting cocktail: an Absinthe martini.  "Hell yeah," I thought to myself and ordered one soon afterward.  I had wanted to try Absinthe for awhile.  So we sat and talked for a little while and sipped on our cocktails.  The martini had a very strong licoriche flavor, but wasn’t too unpleasant.  After finishing it I felt definitely intoxicated, but not really drunk.  Later Kevin/Chris and I went to a Bierhaus for a few beers.  I had a bit of a buzz but that was it, the absinthe was a bit disappointing.  No worries, for I will dabble in it again since it must be legal here.

Day 1: Where’s the party?

Oktoberfest is like a gigantic fair with several beer "tents" run by
a few of the local breweries, who develop a special Oktoberfest brew.
It is quite immense, the tents themselves are huge and probably sit 5
to 10 thousand people.  It has the special distinction of being the
largest public festival in the world (making it quite touristy). 

So on sunday we slept in a bit and didn’t meet up with Kevin/Ivan til mid-afternoon.  We were told that if we got to Oktoberfest too late all the tents would be full and we wouldn’t be able to get in.  Well, that was exactly the case, as 3 PM was too late for every tent we tried to enter.  The rest of the day was mostly a bummer, we ended up riding the bumper cars for a while and then (on the third try) getting into a pub for dinner and a drink.  I ordered a random beer and it was pretty gross (real sweet).  Later we went to a Russian movie (dubbed in German of course) of which I understood just about nothing.

Day 2: Success!

So upon our return I decided Monday was to be dedicated to getting into a beer tent so we could really experience Oktoberfest.  We (Chris and I) got up at around 9 or so and were on the festival grounds by 10:30.  After wandering around a couple tents and not finding any seats I spotted a table that was just being surrendered, and quickly pounced on it.  (The tent was #14, Löwenbräu)  Not two minutes afterwards we were joined by a couple from Texas and a Bavarian family, filling up the table.   Then the fun began!

We were happy to find the couple was American and chatted for awhile, putting down a Liter of beer apiece (check out the Munich photo album, these mugs are just huge!)  After awhile they left and I started chatting with the rather attractive young German lady next to me about all kinds of stuff.  Luckily her English was still pretty good, and my German good enough to initiate converstional topics.  This continued until 5 PM or so when they took off.  All this time the beer had been flowing freely (4L!!) and we decided it was time to leave before I got in over my head.  So we wandered back to the hostel in the rain, well after buying a sweet hat at the festival that is!  After 15 minutes or so of sitting in our room watching the tube I got bored and wandered downstairs to the bar, conveniently located near the check-in desk (I highly recommend this hostel, the Euro-Youth Hotel in Munich).

I was still wearing my ridiculous hat from the festival and drew all sorts of attention at the bar.  An Irish lad flagged me down and I took a seat.  So the next few hours were spent chatting with him and a few Australian girls about all kinds of stuff.  Then a Spanish girl the Irishman knew took a seat next to me and the Irish kid tried to get us to go with him to a local pub, where he was to perform or something.  I decided that’d be a horrid idea based on my current level of inebriation and declined.   By midnight or so I headed back up to my room to literally pass out.

Day 3: Hangover!

4 AM came real real fast.  This was the time Chris and I had set to get up and head to the airport for our 620 flight (I knew this was a horrible time when booking it but did it anyway).  Needless to say I was still quite drunk and felt awful, but managed to get up, pack up my shit and head back to the Hauptbanhof.  The train came pretty quickly and we were at the airport by 5:30 or so.  However the walk from the train station to our departure terminal took forever and we arrived at the checkin line at quarter of 6 or so.  By the time we checked in it was 615, and too late for the flight.

So we bought tickets for the next flight and paid the 40EUR rebooking fee.  Then we sat around the airport waiting for our new flight at 14:10.  I managed to sleep for a good deal of it, feeling horrible, and eventually we checked in and made the flight.  I contacted my Hausmeister when we arrived in Münster and the rest of the day went fairly well.

Welcome week fun will be my next post…

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