Saturday, May 15, 2010

Americana Anticipation Volume II

Things I missed about America

  1. People being more friendly
  2. My family and friends (obvious)
  3. People making room for you on the streets and not cutting
  4. My house with clean floors
  5. More recently on our trip in northern Europe, the warm weather!
  6. Flip-flops!
  7. People being on time or close to it
  8. Being able to read everything!!
  9. Newspapers
  10. Having a constant Internet connection
  11. Even streets! I fall a lot.
  12. Sidewalks instead of a curb pretending to be a sidewalk
  13. Not being yelled at in public by strange men
  14. Having my own room!
  15. Having showers that actually drained
  16. Not taking taxis
  17. Not paying for things every single day
  18. Yogoluv in Columbia/Swirl in Houston
  20. Kind of weird but I like the handles on the toilets in America better. I’m abnormal.
  21. Real Mexican food (but I miss that in Missouri too…)
  22. Showers with water pressure! And hot ones. Thanks Vick.

Things I am going to miss about Europe/Spain

  1. The river
  2. All of our Wisconsin friends
  3. A new, life altering adventure every weekend
  4. Traveling the world
  5. The beautiful historical buildings
  6. Seeing the sunset from our 6th story apartment
  7. Meeting new people
  8. Never knowing what might happen
  9. The different and timeless architecture
  10. How quaint everything looks
  11. Dancing every night
  12. My favorite discotec, Buddha
  13. I will secretly miss being called out for being blonde
  14. The nice way Spanish people dress
  15. The steady, sweeping movement of the trains
  16. Art deco architecture
  17. The fun hostels
  18. My favorite store Sfera
  19. Carlos, my teacher!


Where; Vienna
Listening to: Stereolove

We got in to Munich on the 13th of May. We went out that night on the Beer Tour, which we felt was appropriate since Munich is the beer capital of the world. Before we began the tour, we learned the traditional song with only four repetitive lines.We started out at Hofbrauhaus, the world famous brewing house. It was huge!! They have two stories and several different floors. The main hall, the Schwemme is where we ate the following day and where they used to brew the Hofbrauhaus beer. There are tons of tables and 120 of them are reserved for regular guests. They usually have an umpapa band playing traditional German music—some men were actually wearing leiderhosen! After Hofbrauhaus, we went to a swank beer lounge called Park Café. Our Australian friend let us try some of his currywurst, which according to Rick Steves travel is a popular German dish and it was absolutely delicious. A guy named Brian took to liking us and stayed with us the whole night much to our displeasure. He was creepy and way too personal for someone we had just met. He asked if we were single and was amazed to find out that I was since everyone he’s met “either has a boyfriend or fiancé even!!” For some reason, I don’t think that was a coincidence. Park Café had fabulous décor and was a complete change from the Hofbrauhaus with its chandeliers and taupe walls. There we tried a wheat beer, Muncher Wiesse, which had a sparkling, slightly spicy taste with a hint of fruit too. Then we went to another open and airy beergartern which was by the Oktoberfest grounds. Ironically there was a church festival going on there. We learned the next day that Oktoberfest began as a birthday celebration for Teresa who was married to King Ludwig. We didn’t sample any at this one. Lastly we went to a bar at a hostel where we had Austiner which a guy at Hofbrauhaus said was the best beer in the world. We didn’t stay there long, since, go figure, we were tired. We grabbed a slice of pizza and walked home in the rain. We ate it in bed, warm and snuggly and couldn’t have been happier.

The next morning we woke up early and grabbed the continental breakfast, which was at a Thai restaurant underneath the hostel. Then we went to catch the free walking tour of Munich at the Glockenspiel at Marienplatz. Munich was 87% destroyed after World War II. The people of Munich knew their city would inevitably face ruin since it was the headquarters of the Third Reich. So they methodically took pictures documenting all of the old buildings so that they could be precisely recreated. Because of this, Munich’s atmosphere was completely different from Berlin. Munich felt much more “German” in style—the Bavarian culture helped too! We saw Alter Peter with its eight clocks on its tower and the Royal Residence (picture). We also saw a few of the 122 memorials to WWII that are placed around Munich. The people of Munich chose to do this so people would notice these little things placed throughout the city and looked into what they were. By researching these memorials, they in turn would learn about the war, hopefully learning more and more as much as they can. We saw the National Theater and the Maypole in the Viktuallenmarkt, an outdoor market that takes place every day. Maypoles are not for dancing. They are for climbing in Germany anyways. The towns try to steal the maypoles and if they do it successfully, the rival town must throw a party for the theives in order to get back their maypole. Once again, Germany is weird. The tour showed us where Krystallnacht was planned. We walked down the same road that Hitler walked down the same road when he first tried to overthrow the government during the Beer Hall Push in 1923. Munich was a happy place so it was hard to imagine this city being Hitler’s adopted home. Our tour guide did a good job of telling us about ways the people resisted and how they have worked to overcome WWII with education now in order to prevent it from ever happening again. You could tell she was really passionate about Germany and wanted us to love it just as much as we did.

Rachel and I went back to Hofbrauhaus for lunch. We saw Brian come in and we tried to hide from him so he wouldn’t come sit with us and possibly follow us to Vienna. Which would probably very typical of him. Once we finally finished with our lunch of Bavarian beef accompanied by the band, we headed out to our next and final trip, Vienna.

Prost (cheers) to you Munich for a great time! Rachel and I at lunch at Hofbrauhaus.

Good Morning Berlin!

Where: Train to Munich
Listening to: Miranda Lambert
Phrase of the day: "Germany is weird."

We arrived in Berlin, the capital of Germany on Sunday afternoon. Rachel and I were going to go see the Berlin Wall and the memorial sites dealing with that after stopping by a flea market that our hostel had recommended. After entering in the wrong side of the market, we stumbled upon a giant amphitheater build into the side of the hill with people doing karaoke (picture)!!! This was our first piece of evidence that Germany is a bizarre place. The theater was packed. This looked highly entertaining, as most people doing karaoke are, so we decided to stay and watch for a bit. Hands down, this was one of the best things I saw while studying abroad. We watched a hippie sing some song about loving everyone and the whole crowd sang with him, swaying back and forth. A 13-year-old Asian boy sang “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson. If that in itself is not hilarious, I don’t know what is. A few guys came out and breakdanced during it. By far the best performance was by a guy who looked like Zach Galifinakis from The Hangover singing “Bohemian Rhapsody.” It. Was. Amazing. The whole crowd was singing along and banging their heads at the appropriate time. The best were the crazies that sat on the stage. One lady was probably around 40 and kept doing the splits. I was extremely sad when it was over. By that time, it was getting late so we just went back to the hostel and went to bed.
On Monday we got down to business. We took the train out to Sachenhausen, a former concentration camp. The cold, gloomy day reflected the mood permeating the camp. Sachenhausen is in Orianenburg, a suburb of Berlin. The weirdest thing was that people actually lived right next to the camp. As we walked through the surrounding stone wall, we could see children playing soccer. I can’t imagine that at all. The camp itself felt haunting and eerie. Seeing children have fun or a warm house with a garden seemed like a cruel reminder of what the Jews were missing while they were in Orianenburg. Children playing in sight of the infamous “Arbeit macht frei!” We walked around the camp and went into one of the museums they had set up. For me the most haunting part of it was seeing the showers in the barracks and the kitchen cellar. In the showers, they would pack people in as much as possible and often would hold people’s heads under water and sometimes even drown them. At the toilets, the frail and exhausted workers would often be trampled and consequentially be covered in excrement. Learning about this was horrifying now seeing these places in front of us and then trying to imagine people experiencing these things.
We stayed there until the afternoon and then went back into the city. We went into the Guggenheim and looked at the modern art. We saw the Brandenburg Gate. We went to the German History Museum and looked around in there for over two hours. We then went to see the Berlin Wall Memorial. The stop for the Memorial is a ghost station. This means that during the separation of Berlin, these stations that were in East Berlin were forbidden from being used. They remained the same from 1961 when the wall went up until 1989 when the wall came down. The station has the original tile walls in the lovely putrid yellow color that the 1960’s loved with signs written in the stereotypical German font. I had listened to the Rick Steves Berlin City Guide and they had talked about the ghost stations so I was really excited to see one. We then went to the Wall Memorial and read about the history of the wall. It’s so strange to picture just a wall causing such a huge divide in a city and the way the people lived. Something like that seems archaic, but in reality, the wall fell in the year I was born. So I must be getting old. It didn’t even look like a big, powerful wall. So strange to think about it running through a city with so many differences on either side. We took a picture trying to escape to the other side.
After we saw the wall, it was getting fairly late—and even more cold!!! We were freezing the whole trip. So we went back to our hostel, got a pizza, ate it in bed and went to sleep to save up for the rest of the trip. The next morning when we woke up to leave, we headed to the train station. In the train station there was a giant slide going down all the stairs! Germany was getting weirder and weirder. Turns out they were filming a promotional video for Volkswagen to put on youtube. So naturally we participated in it.

Yummy bratwurst.

Even Old New York was Once New Amsterdam

Where: Train to Prague
Listening to: Miranda Lambert
Word of the day: "Dam"

I went to the capital of the Netherlands the first weekend of March. Part of my trip strategy for the semester was to visit places that I wouldn’t necessarily ever plan a trip to again such as some of the smaller cities in Europe. This was my reasoning behind not going to Paris. I went into Madrid the night before and slept at Rachel’s. The next day we left for Amsterdam to meet up with my friends Aneil and Jen. Unfortunately we were all coming from different countries so meeting up with each other at the airport was a little bit more difficult than we anticipated. It was just another misadventure.

Rachel and I found Aneil at the baggage claim. He had been waiting there for about two hours. Jen was nowhere to be found. We waited at baggage claim for about 30 minutes. Finally we figured she must have left or missed her plane so we would meet her at the hostel. It was raining and freezing cold as we wandered out of the main station to try to find the hostel. We finally found it and inside was none other than Jen!!! Somehow we had missed each other. It was good to know that none of us were running around Amsterdam alone. Since we had all reunited, we headed out to the streets. We went to the Anne Frank House and did an interesting tour of that. Afterwards it was late and we were absolutely exhausted from the rain and cold so we got dinner and went to bed.

Saturday morning we woke up really early to grab a coffee and go on a tour of the city. The rain had cleared over the night and it was beautiful!! The sun was shining and the sky was perfectly clear. It was still mind-numbingly cold. Jen had been on a free walking tour in Berlin so she recommended we do the one in Amsterdam. The tour lasted three hours and walked us through the whole city. I really enjoyed it because I was able to familiarize myself with the city and learn a lot about it. Amsterdam has a huge history and was a center of Europe for many years because of the East India Company. It got its name from the river Amstel, which runs through the city connecting the dozens of canals that run along next to almost every street. Our tour guide told us about the many odd laws in Amsterdam. For example, if it’s done quietly, good for business and doesn’t hurt anyone, the cops in Amsterdam are okay with it. Also, if there is no physical proof, they can’t prove you did anything so they have to let you go. Like if you stole a bike and the cops were chasing you, you could just throw it into the river and be innocent because it would be their word against yours. If you park your car too close to a canal and it falls in, you have to pay to get it out. However, if you are in the car when it falls in, the city has to pay for getting you and your car out. Very odd rules. The symbol of Amsterdam is a red shield with three white “x’s” on a black background. There are a bunch of different stories of why there are three “x’s” like for the three destructions of the city way back in the day—fire, water, and the plague. For a while in Amsterdam, you had to pay taxes on your house according to how wide it was, so one house we saw was literally just the length of the one window!

After the tour was over, we walked around in a few of the markets in the city. Then we went to the Heinieken Brewery tour. Some of my friends that studied abroad last year went to it. It was a self-guided tour that taught you how they brewed the beer and the history of the company. I anticipated it to be a little bit more in depth than it was. They no longer brew at the factory, but it was the original brewery. Afterwards we went out to dinner, to the Van Gogh museum and then did a pub crawl. The many tour companies across Europe put on pub crawls each night for all the students that are touring. It’s a good way to meet people around our age and go to the cool places that we otherwise wouldn’t know about. We stayed on the pub crawl for a while, but ultimately went home early because once again we were exhausted from walking around the whole day and we had to leave early the next morning—Jen and Aneil left at 5 a.m.!

Ultimately I liked Amsterdam. I thought the city itself was very pretty with very interesting architecture. It was very clean and crisp city, much more than I had anticipated. Amsterdam has a bad reputation, but it is a lot more than the crazy city that it is known for.

Semana Santa

Where: Train to Prague
Listening to: Revolution by Miranda Lambert
Word of the day: "nazareno"

Semana Santa is Holy Week in Spain. Sevilla has a special week-long festival in honor of it that dates back to the medieval times. Each church has an hermandad or fraternidad (sorority or fraternity directly translated) that makes a series of floats called pasos (above, me with the Virgin de la Macarena) that parade through the city on a certain day. The pasos are the same every year and depict a stage in Christ’s life or Mary, formed from wood or metals. Men called costaleros carry the paso by holding slabs of wood up with their shoulders underneath the heavy floats. To proect themselves, they wear costals, a special head and neck covering of fabric. The pasos are so heavy that they can weigh up to five metric tons. The costaleros have to walk in a uniform manner with their legs locked together, slowly processing through the uneven streets of Sevilla. In the weeks leading up to Semana Santa, we would often see them around the Cathedral practicing the walk. Some churches even have a band that accompanies them.
I went down to the Cathedral by myself on Palm Sunday to grab some lunch and ended up staying to watch. This is the most crowded time in Sevilla. It is so crowded that the locals often go out of town to avoid all the tourists. The beautiful procession enchanted everyone watching it. However, it was more fascinating to me to know that there were men carrying these immense structures and to see the nazarenos.
Nazarenos are the people that lead the procession. They were originally always men, but now they have some women. They often carry candles called velas or a cross. Their outfits are perhaps the most intriguing for a tourist because of what it looks like to us Americans—a Ku Klux Klan outfit. The KKK in fact stole their uniforms from the Sevillanos. However, they have absolutely no relation. Each floor-length robe is in the color of the corresponding church with an emblem on either the front or the side. The hats look exactly like the KKK’s. For Spaniards, it is a symbol of not knowing who the nazarenos are and that we are all identical sinners.
It was a little creepy since I was so used to their uniforms meaning fear and hatred, not as symbols of the Church. At times there would be lines of hundreds of them. Even the advertising depicted them—there’s a symbol with different meanings that my professors would enjoy!! Overall it was an interesting thing to watch, but I could understand why everyone we talked to didn’t enjoy Semana Santa as much as Feria.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Where: Train to Prague

Sunday May 2nd was the final day in our final weekend of living in Spain. WE had the option of either going to a soccer game or to a bullfight. Based upon the mainly reviews we had heard about the bullfight, we decided to go to the soccer game. Tricia, Savio and I went to the Sevilla Futbol Club game against Athletico Madrid. Being at one of these games felt like being at a Fightin’ Texas Aggie football game—filled with crazy people yelling things that don’t make sense and cheering for a team that isn’t that good. The game began with everyone singing the team song of Sevilla. Every single chair in the whole stadium had a piece of poster paper in it. One side of the paper was red, the other white, the colors of the SFC. Men stood out on the field and held up signals for when the audience was supposed to flip their papers. The colors changed in a wave that ran several times around the whole stadium with each person participating. Within minutes of the game beginning, SFC had scored. The poster papers slowly morphed into paper airplanes sailing through the crowd or into confetti, flung into the air after a successful play or goal. A group of men standing at one of the end zones were constantly chanting, cheering and clapping. It was such an energetic and exciting event. The game ended with Sevilla winning, 3 to 1. I really enjoyed the game. I loved how everyone was so passionate about it. I wish we had gone to more games.


Where: Train from Berlin to Prague
Listening to: Revolution by Miranda Lambert

On Friday May 7th, I awoke to find everything had changed. I was alone at Senora Vicki’s. Tricia and Laura had left at 5 a.m. I remembered faintly Haley leaving at 8 a.m. Just me, three suitcases and a cranky Spanish woman. I spent the morning trying to fall back asleep. That obviously wasn’t going to work thanks to Vicki already cleaning the house. I kind of got the message I needed to leave ASAP.

And so begins the Eurotrip. Rachel and I are traveling through Europe for 10 days together.

I took the 12:45 train to Madrid. Once I arrived in Madrid, I needed to take a total of three separate Metros to get from the train station to the airport. This wouldn’t have been a problem, except I had a purse, backpack and three suitcases. At this point, I would like to thank the people of Madrid for their help and lack of frustration in dealing with me and my bags. It was pretty amusing for them to watch.

Once I met my best friend, Rachel, at the airport, we boarded the plane to fly to my homeland—Denmark!! We stayed with my aunt, Faster Anne. We arrived Friday night at midnight so we just went straight to bed.

On Saturday morning, we woke up, had breakfast with Faster Anne and her boyfriend Johnny. I surprised my cousins, Claus and Karin, with a call from Faster Anne’s phone. They did not expect to hear my voice on the phone! It was pretty entertaining. Rachel and I went in to Copenhagen to meet with my cousin Birgitte to see the Crown Prince Frederick and his family’s newly remodeled palace at Amalienborg.

The Danish Royal Family recently remodeled one of the four palaces at Amalienborg, the home of the Royal Danes. The renovations are to the palace where the current Queen grew up. They used modern art from Danish painters to decorate the palace to give it a contemporary flair. It was quite interesting to see the mix of classical palace décor with abstract art. In their dining room, for example, a huge abstract piece was painted directly onto the wall, right next to the white crown molding with gold accent. None of the modern pieces were framed or anything that looked like it was placed later. Everything looked as if it had just appeared there. I couldn’t decide if I liked it or not. I love the classic molding and decorative ceilings, but at the end I decided it was a good idea. I think it is very reflective of what a contemporary palace should be like. It was get so boring to constantly see the same type of decoration for your whole life. It incorporates the 21st century with an endless legacy that all rulers today have.

My favorite was the new staircase they added. I didn’t like the staircase itself—it was brushed wood and reminded me of Ikea—but I loved the idea of it. The stair way was supposed to look like you were in the ocean surrounded by bubbles floating up to the surface. Each bubble was actually a circular light fixture with half of it on the wall, facing a round mirror. They went all the way up four floors. At the very top on the ceiling, there was a wavy mirror that looked like you were looking up at the ocean’s surface. It was so interesting and really did feel like what the designer had wanted!!

Afterwards Birgitte walked us around Stoya and downtown Copenhagen. We went into The Royal Danish Playhouse which was absolutely beautiful inside. We grabbed a small lunch in Nyhaven. Birgitte was very excited to get some cake! We passed Tivoli and the Town Hall, where my grandparents got married. There was a legalize marijuana protest in front of it. How picturesque. We went back to Taastrup then to my cousins’ house in Sengelose for dinner. They got us traditional Danish open faced sandwiches!! My favorite!!! Luckily Rachel was able to have some and she actually liked it! We stayed there for the night, talking and catching up. Rachel and I went back to Faster Anne’s and went to bed.

That was by far the shortest trip I have ever had to Denmark. However, it still was a good trip. I got to see my family and catch up with them, which is always nice. It is so lovely to know that I have family across the world that can help me and look out for me if I need them. All of their help meant so much to us. It was a lovely trip.