Giddy Up Europe

Germany, Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Italy, Vatican, Monaco, Spain...

Monday, June 27, 2005

Last Weekend in Stuttgart

This Friday we went to Wilhelma Zoo in Stuttgart and then on Saturday we went to Bodensee (Lake Constance), which borders Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Since it was our last Saturday night, we all decided to stay out pretty late at a club called Move. It was eight Euros to get in and the cheapest beer was Beck's, which was 3,50, but there was dancing and everyone pretty much left by 3:30. It's too hot to type - it's been about 30°C (86°F) for a week - in a country where it's so humid and there do not exist air conditioners or fans. Onto the show.

First I should say that on Wednesday my class went to the Staatsgalerie (the state gallery) to check out an exhibit on Picasso. It was okay, but not in my opinion all that interesting, since it was a collection of his sketches of nude bathers. It is supposed to be, though, the first collection of his grouped by theme like that. The new Kunst Museum and the Haus der Geschichte were more interesting. Anyway, the point of this picture of outside the Staatsgalerie is that there is a sign at the lower left side of the fountain. It says, "kein trinkwasser," which means not drinking water. People have told me that it's a law in Germany that all fountains must indicate if they are not safe to drink from. Therefore, if you don't see a sign, then you can fill up your nalgene with some fresh, cool, and free water. You have to purchase water at restaurants, so these fountains are great. If you wander around any town for several minutes, you should be able to find water to dip your face into or what have you. I'm not completely sure that it's a law, so you might want to look that up.

Wednesday's at Biddy Early's Irish Pub on Marienstr. 28, so naturally all the Americans went there. It's an American haunt and American soldiers from the nearby barracks head there often. I met a soldier from Wisconsin who was actually from Marshfield and said that anyone who could play on the high school team must have been a sweet football player. Mikula! Here's Katie, Kasey, Erika, Christine, Claire, Matt, Wendy, and Paige singing 'Girls Just Want to Have Fun.' Yep, Matt too. For moral support.

Here's the Wilhelma Zoo map with Matthias pointing the way. Well, not really, we kind of wandered around.

I went around with Hanna, Steph, Allison, and Brittany and we saw monkeys, hippos, zebras, elephants, fish, water pigs, giraffes, and polar bears. Oh my! Hanna and Steph took lots of pictures imitating animals. I don't know what was up with this polar bear, I think he's coughing up a hairball. Grrr!

Wet t-shirt contest! Well, perhaps not, but there was a technician who sprayed the kids who were loving it and screaming 'wasser!' The girl in the white shirt is being a little risque, eh?

In the aquarium there was an electric eel tank with a voltmeter, so above the tank you can see some white bars, indicating electric charge. Don't get them angry!

We bussed it to Lake Constance and this is right by the lake. This is actually at Überlingen, which I believe is one of the major towns within Germany on the lake. Naturally the girls decided to take a group picture. Top to bottom are Erica, Erika, Paige, Hanna, Allison, Kim, and Steph.

In reprisal, the guys took a picture at the same location. We have me, Josh, Matt, Dave, Matthias, Jeff, Nick, Martin, and Jon. Boys rule! Yeah.

Here's Jon in front of one of the Rathaus (City Hall) doors at Überlingen. I don't know if I mentioned it before, but the chalking on the side of the door is done for a donation on Epiphany by children that sing for everyone in town. The chalking is for protection throughout the year as you can see by the year, 2005, and the letters of the names of the three wise men: Gaspar, Balthasar, and Melchior.

The area around the lake has great fruits for good prices as I believe these slices of watermelon were 1,50 Euro each. Kathleen and Brad like it; just look at Brad's intensity.

The Zeppelin Museum is there as well, which was nice. No pictures allowed. They had a section of a zeppelin that was constructed in 1997 to original specifications, so we got to walk around that. Zeppelins apparantly were very large and the Hindenburg was as big as the entire town. Back in the day, a trip from Überlingen to New York would set you back 1000 Euros, which was equivalent to eight months salary of the average worker. Nowadays, you can ride on a modern zeppelin (using helium) with a capacity of 12 passengers, a crew, and a flight attendant for around 600 Euros per hour. Just for reference, you cannot have a Le(a)d Zeppelin.

Here's a view from the lake from the grass beach that we hung out at. There were lots of people there and it was pretty cool. We all laid out and there was a lot of moss or plantlife at the bottom when you walked out into the water. There were lots of naked toddlers running around. Kids these days.

We took a ferry back to the bus, and here's the dock with flags of the surrounding countries.

We passed a Swiss boat on the way, which was pretty sweet. Check out the tiny German flag on one of the masts.

A bunch of people bought some wine for 3.20 Euros and drank it on the 15 minute ferry ride before getting back on the bus. Here's Brad keeping an eye on Jeff and Dieter.

Jeff was mostly awake on the busride home, but not here.

Here's a shot of an escalator in an U-bahn station. If you can make out the lettering, the left side says 'gehen' and the right 'stehen.' Pretty much all Germans will stand on the right and let people on the left walk up. A lot of people don't stand still on the escalators, which is nice. There is some serious bottle-necking on the escalators back home.

I don't have pictures from Saturday night, but I think others do. Sometime I'll look through everyone's and post about ones I don't have. Gotta run. Wiedersehen.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Neuschwanstein, the Disney Castle

First of all, if you're reading, hi Mrs. Collins!

On June 17, we hit up Burg Guttenberg and Bad Wimpfen to check out a knights' castle and got a tour from one of the owners who lives there now. It was pretty cool, considering she was like a baroness and all. It was much smaller than many of the other kings' castles that we have seen, but they had some cool knights' armor and the book with the smallest print in the world. Among a library of several thousand rare books, ownership of some of the surrounding springs and forest, and the castle itself, I'd say the baroness is doing fine. At Bad Wimpfen - a very small town - we basically walked around and were temporarily 'lost in Europe' for a couple hours.

Here's some life-size authentic mounted knight armor. Knights were trained to ride horses since they were about seven years old so they would be able to stay on a horse during battle. At 40 kg (about 88 lbs.), a knight's armor would make it difficult for him to get up if he was knocked off his horse and he would probably be killed by an enemy.

Here's a close up view of actual armor.

But here's what we almost missed. This book has the smallest print in the world. The picture is fuzzy because I was zooming in so much. The book is that blue speck inside the lensed casing and next to my fingernail. It contains the Lord's Prayer written in seven languages. Who knew history was so cute! But I mean that in a really masculine way. Belch.

We were so bored in Bad Wimpfen that we started taking pictures of döner ads. A döner generally can have either lamb or beef and is a Turkish invention. The shops are as many as Starbucks in America due to the massive Turkish immigrant population. The meat is on a spit and is proportional to the person as shown. They basically shave the mean off and put it into a falafel pita and add some veggies. It's so bad and looks gross to start, but tastes really good. Besides McDonald's and the occasional local wurst stand (which are turning into döner shops more and more), döners are Germany's fast food.

Another ad. If franchised properly, a 'Döner Menu' could totally take over in the United States. Or they should just have a Dönerstag Spezial (Donnerstag ist 'Thursday' auf Deutsch).

Sunday Jon, Allison, Brad, Jesus, and I took a regional-bahn about five hours each way to Füssen right along the Austrian border to see the famous Neuschwanstein castle. The castle was started by King Ludwig II of Bavaria in 1869. At 40, the king died and after 17 years of construction, work on the castle was stopped, though only one-third of it was completed. It is amazing, sits on a mountain, and was constructed in the Romanesque style with a Byzantine throne room. The Disney castles are supposed to be modeled after this one. When there are low-lying clouds or fog, it looks like a castle above the clouds. It's gorgeous inside, though we could only visit a couple rooms. No cameras or photos allowed.

Here's the view from when you walk in through the castle gates.

Naturally we needed to take a jump picture with me, Jesus, Allison, and Brad. This is our levitation picture. Freaky deaky.

We turned around and took one facing the other side. Jesus apparantly likes the levitation thing.

And this is an example of what always happens. Jon is the resident photographer of jump pictures and is a little trigger happy. "One, two, oh crap, it just went off."

From the castle, you can see the Marienbrücke, or the St. Mary's Bridge. It overlooks the whole area and is right over the waterfall, so we decided to hike up there after the brief tour of the castle.

This is what you see. There was such a nice cool breeze flowing through the mountains across the bridge on a really hot day. In the background you can make out two awesome lakes and down below, the water is crystal clear. There were dozens of hang gliders and parasailers jumping off the nearby mountains and catching drafts. Definitely a badass castle. Sweet rooms inside and running water in the king's bedroom.

To cool off, we hiked down to the bottom of the waterfall and I had some water. Well, not really, but a random dude took either a photo or video of me trying to get this picture right. But we did step around in the brook, which was cold like ice water, clear, and fast.

Well back to reality and Stuttgart. Brad had his first ever shot at a bar called Oblomow. It was tequila. The first of eight. No stops on the tequila train.

In other news, here's a picture of Jon being artzy at Killesberg Park at Stuttgart. I mean, really, when is he ever going to have another chance to have a flower behind his ear? Is he rimming that bottle?

Here's one of Steph about ten days before at the castle gardens at Ludwigsburg. Black and white photos are hot.

Yesterday, my cross-cultural class was held at one of our professor's house in Vaihingen. We had coffee, juice, cake, fruit, and pretzyls while we sat outside for a little garden party. Afterwards, his daughter (on the right) held a violin recital for us and they turned on the sprinklers to cool off. Carin and Joy were all about it.

Meanwhile, others broke out some German Scrabble and all hell broke loose. Watch the umlauts!

The frontyard and backyard were awesome. There was a wild strawberry tree, a cherry tree, and tons of other blooming bushes and plants. Very nice even compared to other German gardens. Our professor also taut us some German songs. The first was the "Schwäbische Anthem" which started out like this:

1. Auf de schwäbsche Eisebahne gibt's gar viele Haltstatione, Schtuegert, Ulm und Biberach, Mekkebeure, Durlesback.

Ref.: Rulla, rulla, rullala, rulla, rulla, rullala, Schuegert, Ulm und Biberach, Mekkebeure, Durlesbach.

The second is called "Mein kleiner grüner Kaktus" from the Comedian Harmonists back in the 20's. Holla if ya hear me.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Party Stuttgart 2005

Last Sunday our host family took us out to Sonnenbühl, Germany to go caving, which was cool. We hit up two caves and saw stalactites and stalagmites.

Hard to see because it's dark, but check out our host sister, Viola, and Jon.

Here's Jon trying to get out of part of the cave that was unlit and where we probably weren't supposed to be running around. We used our camera LED's as flashlights; not a bright idea.

On Wednesday we went to the Haus der Geschichte (the Museum of History) that specializes in the history of southwest Germany, where Stuttgart is located. It wasn't that big, but it was designed very stylistically and was really interesting. When you walked in there was an electronic floor map about 20' x 20' of Baden-Württemberg before the unification of Germany (German became a nation in only 1871). Before then, the region was broken up into hundreds of autonomous kingdoms, and when you put your feet a particular kingdom on the map, that section lit up and information about it was projection on the walls. The rest of the museum was really well done, I think, as there were white curtains with projections of video of the similarities between WWI and WWII because they were reflecting how some historians believe that the entirety of WWI through WWII, including the Weimar Republic, was really Germany's second 30 Years War. Then there was a room with trees hanging down, where wood slabs could be pulled out with information about the resources and famous aspects of the Black Forest are. At the end, there was a room where you could sit in hanging clear bubble chairs and watch video projected onto white curtains in 360 degrees. It was pretty tight, but unfortunately no cameras were permitted.

So we went drinking at an outdoor bar on Wednesday called Palast der Republik, which is where a lot of university students and local oddballs congregate everyday for some brew. You sit outside at tables, but since there is such an overflow, many people sit on the concrete floor in the middle of the sidewalk. Thursday night we went out to a club called Kactus, which played some American hip-hop music, to celebrate a birthday. There were about 20 of us and we pregamed at Aneta's flat with wine, bootleg Jager, and beer. Arizona Jon and Aneta also helped make hors d'oeuvres that were awesome. We had tuna sandwiches, ham and mozzarella sandwiches, cheese, olives, and a great spinach and artichoke dip for some bread. Happy birthday Erika!

I don't have pictures from the club, though others do, so I'll link them soon. But here are some from Palast. Check out some of the picture sites from the other students; I've linked them on the right.

But do you notice anything interesting about this statue above the bank next to Palast der Republik?

How about this one?

Eins, zwei, drei! Jesus only drinks Cuervo, doesn't drink alone, and doesn't drink just one shot of Cuervo, so Jon was coerced into doing three shots of tequila with him because Heidi paid if they would dance with the "gypsie whore." So this is three shots of tequila in about eight seconds. Brad is having a good time looking on.

So the "gypsie whore" was this balding dude that started out with a leather jacket , stripped, and danced rather poorly around Palast. Brad has video of him dancing which I'll try to get you. Heidi bought the tequila shots with the condition that Jesus and Jon would dance with him. After a couple beers, Allison decided to join in as well. Apparantly he's very congenial.

More to come soon. About half of the students decided to travel to other European cities this weekend, different groups going to different places. Travel sites include London, Belgium, Amsterdam, Rome, and Munich. On Sunday some of us are going to Neuschwanstein castle in Bavaria. It's supposed to be amazing and the inspiration for the Disney castle. Bis morgen.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


Sorry about the downtime for the site, I accidentally completely deleted my blog, but I was able to save it all, I believe. Though if you made any comments, they're gone. A word to the wise, löschen means delete in Deutsch.

So there's good reason that Ann Arbor has a bar named Heidelberg, since it's one of Germany's most beautiful cities. Heidelberg is built along the Neckar River and mountains rise up on both sides. There are still a handful dueling fraternities that still exist, though many stopped dueling after World War II. Heidelberg itself was spared during the war as the Allies wanted to keep it intact for troops moving into Germany. Pamphlets were even dropped from planes announcing their plans to preserve it from bombings. Consequently, some Germans were able to flee to Heidelberg as for protection. The castle there is amazing, though it was severely damaged by Louis XIV. Because the city was spared in WWII, Heidelberg has 17th century charm, unlike other cities such as Stuttgart, that were obliterated.

We also hit Ludwigsburg for a day as well, which was pretty sweet, and you can get there by the S-bahn. The castle is huge and the tour was like an MTV Castle Cribs episode. There was even a sweet personal theater built in 43 days using 50 laborers from each of Baden-Württemberg's districts when it was a kingdom. It's also known for its Fairy Tale Garden, which was nice, but not extremely impressive, and was kind of like a run-down Euro Disney. Yeah, my thoughts exactly.

But first, pictures from Biddy Early's Irish Pub in Stuttgart! It's seriously become the local American hang out. Yeah, we don't know why we're going to an Irish Pub in Germany either.

Here's Christine, Jake, and Brett enjoying some brew at the pub.

The "Core" in its infancy taking it down. That was when it was only Jon, Allison, and myself.

Canadian Car Bombs! That's Jeff and Dieter, with Jake joining in and Christine looking on.

That led to this. I don't know why.

But I also ran into a Michigan fan. So I called him over and told him. His words were, "Michigan Nummer eins!" I've seen about five people wearing Michigan gear in Europe, more than any other American university I've seen. I did see an OSU kid at the airport. Hail to the Victors!

Since Jon and I live together, we took the S-bahn home. I don't think he knows what PFO means yet, though.

Sometime last week, there were Stuttgarter Hofbräu girls promoting their beer company by having miniature rally car races. Beer is kind of considered a food group in Germany if you're a dork and didn't know. So much so that there are pages devoted to it in my introductory German language class. There are also nudie cartoons, but that's a different story.

Another night, there was a party at the Universität Stuttgart on its Vaihingen campus, near where Jon and I live. There were bands, tons of people selling beer, food, and drinks, and people all over the place. Europeans all smoke everywhere, but in the middle of this mess were people playing Tischtennis.

Here's a picture from on top of the Kunst Museum overlooking the Schlossplatz.

So on Friday, we hit Ludwigsburg. Of course we need a Ludwigsburg jump picture.

Here's us trying to navigate the gardens at Ludwigsburg.

That's Erica, Claire, Paige, and Allison hanging out with the flora.

They had some monster flowers. That rose was the size of my fist.

As a preview, here's a comparison of baby shots in Heidelberg. Baby Jack and Jäger, how cute!

So I decided to take some animated shots at Ludwigsburg.

Check out the sweet master bedroom. Not bad for back in the day.

There was a pretty sweet auto show in the castle drive way. I mean, who does that?

Here's like a '36 Jag.

So we decided to toss the disc around in the castle garden. That's pretty tight, I don't care where you're from.

We all had dinner at a Mexican restaurant called El Chico. Christine got a free cappacino, but still had to pay for her meal after the attractive waitresses spilled a 0,5 L beer, a pina colada, and a margarita on her new Stuttgart sweatshirt. Raw deal?

Heidelberg! 315 steps to the entrance of the castle from just about sea level.

Check out this sweet hotel in the middle of town. It's an all star hotel, but you can get lunch there for really reasonable prices.

Yes, they even have a Starbucks. I haven't seen one in Stuttgart yet. Weird.

Across the river is Philosopher's Way, where many a thinker has walked and thought about the cosmos. It's considered one of the world's ten most beautiful walks.

The city is so awesome and still retains its original city layout as no major damage has been inflicted on it for some centuries.

In the cathedral in town, there is modern stain glass, as some of the original stained glass was shattered. The cathedral decided not to create replicas, but rather make new original pieces. This is a one about the atomic bomb when is struck Japan. There's also another that even includes images of a laptop computer.

How about this awesome artist doing a National Geographic cover.

Here's one of the towers after the French had come to Heidelberg. In sepia, no less.

On the inside of the castle, Allison and I decided to tree hug some conic pillars. She's a vegetarian. I don't know if that correlates to tree hugging. She says she's a hugger, though, so it's a possibility.

Heidelberg is also famous for Schloßkugeln, which are desserts filled with nuggette, cream, and some other stuff I don't know. It's at the bottom and they're the size of your fist.

People are going nuts these days and Germans are starting to ask me questions in German, like for directions and stuff. Maybe I'm starting to look German? Ich weiß nicht!