Pockets of Blue

musings of my mind

Month: November 2005

Weather, part II

It appears that I recently witnessed a very rare event here in Osnabruck: a snowstorm of more than a couple inches. I was actually in Wolfsburg for most of the day and missed some of the fun, but apparently the power went out several times for up to an hour at a time. Dr. HP Bischof (Our RIT study abroad coordinator) was in his hotel when it happened and he claimed that in eight years of living in Osnabrück he had never experienced a power outage of more than a couple minutes (kind of amusing for someone who has endured several-day power outages back home). Guess that explains why nobody did a damn thing about the snow, either. It’s still everywhere five days afterwards. I can’t say it was bad for everyone, though. Snowmen were everywhere the day after the storm and I had the urge to play in the snow, too. So Kevin and I headed to Heger Tor (where there’s a 15-foot high stone balcony with a 30-foot ramp leading up to it) where I had the brilliant idea of rolling a gigantic snowball down the ramp to collect into a ridiculously huge one at the bottom. Unfortunately one side of the ramp had been shovelled, and when I pushed the behemoth down it rolled to the right, jumped off one of the small stairs and smashed into four pieces on the stone. Bummer.

Thus we have unfinished business. Bring on another snowstorm!

Wolfsburg, weather

It’s sunday afternoon and the snow has diminished to 3-4 inches. I have been told countless times how Osnabrück (and most of Europe for that matter) hardly ever gets snow, and when it does, it melts quickly. Well I am currently witnessing the latter, but the former doesn’t seem so credible. On friday I took a bus east to Wolfsburg to tour VW’s Autostadt there. It had snowed most of thursday night so there were a couple inches already by the time we left. By the time we returned (a 3 hour bus ride turned into 4.5 on the way home) there were 6-8 inches of the stuff. Lord knows I’m no stranger to the white stuff, but apparently the Germans are. Three days later our road still hasn’t been plowed. Apparently their only defense is salt, and lots of it.

About the Autostadt…what I got out of this was a grandiose attempt by VW to sell more of their cars, and their subdivisions’ cars. I did thoroughly enjoy everything, though, and will post pics soon. The Autostadt is this large complex with dozens of different “pavilions” (some built half-underground and covered by a mound of earth), towers, museums, and restaraunts. Each of VW’s subdivisions (Seat, Lamborghini, Audi, Skoda, Bentley, Bugatti) had their own pavilion to show off their cars. Think a lot of snazzy architecture, dim lights, lasers, fog machines, and shiny spinning prototype cars. Some were more interesting (Bentley) while others were just downright weird (Audi). I am partial to Audis but was a little disappointed by their presentation. All glitz, little substance.

The most interesting building of the complex was the auto museum. It’s this skinny, 4-5 story glass building showing off both VW and other autos throughout the 20th century. I could have spent all day in there reading about the history, and there were probably 100+ models to guide you through the museum. Naturally, this is where I took most of my photos 🙂

All in all a fairly interesting weekend…stay posted

New Photos

Finally got around to posting my photos from Bremen and Hannover….enjoy!

Well I suppose I should make this a real post…I have seen three different films over the past week due to AEGEE’s European Day of Languages…Friday’s film was L´auberge Espagnol, and by far the greatest of the three films I have seen this week. It revolves around a French student’s time spent in Barcelona as an exhange student, and really hit home for me. The film is mostly comedic yet with fantastic cinematography. I’m not sure if a version exists with English subtitles, but if so I highly recommend it.

Three cities, one week

I’ve done quite a bit of travelling in the past week, going to three cities in the span of seven days. It all started last weekend when I suggested going back to Bremen to see a bit of the city. The Akademische Auslandsamt had organized another trip to go to Bad Iburg, a tiny hamlet fairly close to Osnabrück. I never signed up because I had zero desire to see a place smaller than Osnabrück. So instead, Kevin and I returned to Bremen. After barely missing the train (it left literally 5 seconds after we boarded) we arrived to a nice sunny day in Bremen, one of the three city-states left in Germany.

The day was mostly uneventful, we wandered around and eventually made our way to the Beck’s brewery (it’s freakin huge), but unfortunately all the tours were booked for the day. So, since I had donned by newly purchased Werder Bremen hat, we decided to see if we could catch the game in a pub nearby. After some random wandering we stumbled upon a completely packed Irish pub with several TV projectors. Werder was playing Bayern München for the top spot in the Bundesliga. Unfortunately Werder’s lack of defense killed them again and they ended up losing 3-1. The crowd was noticeably subdued for most of the match.

Last week I had almost zilch homework to do so we ended up going to a bar and/or club every night of the week. On thursday I went with a group of AEGEE’ers (this Europe-wide club promoting European integration) from our Osnabrück chapter to a party across the border in the Netherlands, Enschede to be precise. Unfortunately it was raining so we only hit about 90 mph on the autobahn, but made it there in 1.5 hours or so. I was amazed at the complete lack of border control, you literally just drive across as if entering a different state in the US. At that point I realized Germany would never have a shortage of marijuana or other soft drugs.

The party was initially pretty tame, yet it was interesting being with a bunch of Germans who didn’t speak the native language. AEGEE’s official language is English, though, which made things easier. However the entire party was conducted in Dutch. The facilities were fantastic, at one end a band played and at the other was the bar, dishing out 80 cent beers. Midway through the night the Enschedens decided the crowd wasn’t lively enough and started handing out free beer. The tactic was quite effective, after an hour just about everyone was dancing. It ended up being a fantastic night filled with all sorts of boogeying. However we didn’t get back to Osnabrück until 4 AM, which made friday’s 8 AM class pretty awful.

Since most everyone had devoted the weekend to preparing for/attending the Uni-ball on Saturday (think prom, but a lot cooler) there wasn’t all that much going on in terms of nightlife. I declined to go to the ball since I didn’t have proper attire (I regret not going, it sounded pretty great). So instead Brittany and I headed to Hannover. The day involved wandering around the city and checking out what it had to offer. There were a few art museums I wanted to check out but we never ended up finding them. The city was laden with modern art sculptures which I enjoyed. Overall the day was fairly uneventful. Once again (two Saturdays in a row now) I found myself on a train filled with drunk football hooligans, carrying on and smoking the whole way. I didn’t understand how this had happened, since there weren’t even any games on Saturday, nevertheless there they were. Maybe they forgot there wasn’t a game and just went through the normal Sat. routine, who knows. I have had about enough of their carrying-on, incessant smoking, and general idiocy.

I think further travel will have to involve surveying the night life as well.

The Footy Match

I took a train up to Bremen Wed. night with Kevin to catch a UEFA Champion’s League football (I try to avoid the term ‘soccer’) match.  Werder Bremen, the current top team in the German Bundesliga, was playing Udinese Calcio, the weakest of the Italian teams in the Champion’s League.  Werder is notorious for the high rate of goals they both score and allow, so I had anticipated a high-scoring match. 

When emerging from the Hauptbanhof in Bremen the city was quite slick and was drizzling a little bit.  We followed the crowd of hooligans, *ahem* supporters, to the S-bahn (Straßenbahn) which we took the stadium.  A good number of fans were hitting the Beck’s pretty hard the whole way there, and some were donning the empty boxes as headwear.  I would have joined in but I had a rather large presentation the next morning so I declined.  Oh, and as a clarification there’s no public drinking or intoxication laws anywhere in Germany, so you can just roam around and drink your beer as you please.  Quite convenient. 

We reached the stadium right on time with an enormous crowd of hooligans, *ahem* fans.  I decided to buy a beer at the stadium, but realized all they were selling were non-alcoholic varieties, which kinda ticked me off.  However I did understand the motivations behind it, especially in wake of all the incidents plaguing recent Champion’s League matches (players getting injured by flung coins, flares, fire hydrants, etc.)  So Kevin picked up the requisite bratwurst and we took our seats, fairly good ones in the lower tier at one corner of the stadium.  The Italian fans happened to be sitting right across from us, separated by huge barriers, where they chanted and exchanged obscene gestures with us hooligans, err fans, on the other side.

And the whistle blew.  Immediately I was ecstatic to be watching my first world-class football match here in Europe, and was quickly rewarded by a header goal within the first 10 minutes by Werder.  The crowd went wild and sang, errr chanted the Werder theme song.  A few minutes after that we scored on a loose ball in the box and we went into another frenzy.  Pretty much the entire game was like this, and it was awesome.

Somehow in the second half we were up 3-nil until, a flurry of "Sheiße!"s later, Udinese tied the game within about 5 minutes.  I couldn’t believe my eyes as the unmarked Calcio forwards pranced around the box and scored easily, again and again.  Luckily Bremen scored the go-ahead goal at around the 70th minute to eventually seal the victory.  It was really an up-and-down game emotionally for the fans, and was really interesting how our temperaments varied through out the match.  One thing was quite evident, though, and that is the passion the Europeans share for their beautiful game.  I had never experienced it before (however I’ve never been to a playoff MLB game either) and it was truly amazing.

Match highlights/recap/Champion’s League info can be found here.

Münster

This trip was intended to be a short, half-day tour of Münster, about an hour (by train) SW of Osnabrück.  Wellll, it turned out to be much more than that.

So Brittany, Kevin and I took the 11:18 train to Münster (for free due to our semester ticket) and arrived sometime after noon.  We got off the train and realized we had no idea what do in town or where to go.  This was fine by me but the others wanted to check out a map so we could head to the city center.  Fair enough, so we walked down a few streets into downtown Münster.

Münster is a bit larger than Osnabrück, and something like 40% of it’s population are college students.  It has a nice shaded park that pretty much circles the city, for biking and walking, or in our case, wandering.   Luckily the weather was beautiful so walking around was quite nice.  Brittany suggested we go to one of the churches in the center of town, so we did.  It was mostly pretty unremarkable.

Afterwards we got lunch and headed to the Dom, or main cathedral.  It was pretty interesting, the church had gotten severely damaged during the war but had since been fully rebuilt.  The stained glass was really interesting, quite modern and abstract.  I took quite a few pictures.

There happened to be a market surrounding the Dom which Brittany was interested in.  I think shopping sucks so Kevin and I walked to the zoo.

100_0368Well, the zoo was an hour away, and technically not even in Münster.  We thought it was pretty amusing that we had walked from one end of the city, to the center, then all the way out of it in about 3 hours, so I snapped a shot.  Soon afterwards we got to the zoo and realized it was going to be 12€ to get in.  Not cheap.  But I decided that 50 minutes of walking wasn’t going to be wasted, and we bit the bullet and went in.  Before paying we called Brittany, who claimed she was bored and was going to catch a train home.

I couldn’t remember my last trip to the zoo so it was pretty interesting.  It still seems superficial observing wild animals lounging around fabricated habitats, though.  We caught a dolphin show which was pretty fun.  If you’ve ever been to a dolphin/seal show I’m sure this one wasn’t much different.

Well the real adventure began on the bus ride home.  It was nearing 6 or so and we just happened to sit next to a few kids near the back who were speaking English.  This of course was a treat to us so we inquired.  Turns out two of them went to the University of Münster, while the other girl was visiting from Moscow.  English was their common language and they all spoke it quite well, especially Nina (sp?), the Russian.  They were planning to get some real German food, and we mentioned that we too had been looking for some traditional German cuisine.  So we decided to meet up again at 8 for dinner at this place across the street from Kai’s apartment.  In the meantime Kevin and I wandered around a bit, got some ice cream (’twas a good idea in the long run) and an espresso.

The restaurant was pretty homely, and extremely busy.  We sat at the bar and had a few glasses of one of the local brewery’s beers while waiting for the table.  The beer was quite delicious, I’m sorry I never got the name of it but apparently the stuff doesn’t really leave the city anyway.  By the time a table was ready, we had downed about 3 apiece and it was nearing 9:30.

Ah, but it was worth the wait.  Kai was kind enough to translate some of the dishes for us non-native German speakers and we ordered relatively quickly.  And my oh my our dishes were interesting.

I ordered a traditional Münsterisch soup on Beata’s recommendation, and it was quite good.  Like french onion soup except with meat and a much rounder taste.  Afterwards I ordered a plate of sausages with sauerkraut and fried potatoes.  Oh man, was it good.  I had been looking forward to trying a variety of unique sausages for a while, and there were about four varieties.  One was a "blood sausage", and looked like a charred peace of toast.  However, it was quite tasty though a bit salty.  I can’t even remember what the others were but they were all delicious.  The sauerkraut was leaps and bounds better than any I had ever had in the States, and the potatoes also excellent.  The other very unique dish was called Tötchen.  It basically was a hearty stew consisting of meat from a cow’s head mixed with meat from it’s guts.  I was not brave enough to order it but Kai did (probably due to our reaction after hearing it’s description).  He of course offered us some to try, and I obliged.  The consistency of the meat was very strange (almost like squid) but the concoction tasted very good overall.

It was a fantastic meal, and leisurely, and by the time we left it was a few minutes past 11 (I thought this was a Spanish thing).  So we went to Kai’s apartment and checked out when the next train was going to leave.  7 AM.  We had just missed the 11 PM. 

This news really had no negative effect on me as Kai had been a kind soul all night, and offered his room for us to bunk for the night.  So we had a few beers, I tried some homemade Lithuanian honey shnapps (kind of like a thicker mead), and eventually we headed out to the bars.  The rest of the night was spent drinking Weizens and having vibrant conversations with our new friends.  By the time we got back it was almost 3:30, and we were reminded of the time switch.  Woohoo!  An extra hour of sleep is always good news for this guy.

I slept in my contacts and woke up feeling kind of shitty.  But Kai again amazed me with his generosity and offered us a modest breakfast (tea and toast), and we chatted about his travels all over the world for a few hours.  At one we caught the train back to Osnabrück.

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