Munchen and Oktoberfest

Man, last weekend was so much fun. My friends and I headed out to Oktoberfest! It was tough because we had to leave so early. The train ride was three hours and we wanted to be there before the tents closed. So most of us got up around 5 to meet at 6 and take the subway to the main train station before 7. There is a great deal on the weekends. Up to 5 people can buy a “weekend ticket’ for 30E and ride all day.

One thing that made this trip so special was it was my first time to leave Stuttgart since arriving. I have started to feel pretty comfortable getting around here and leaving town reminded me I’m in a foreign country. The other part of it being so special was visiting the largest festival in the world, Oktoberfest. The train ride there was pretty nice, and many people brought beer to get started early. Those of us that could stayed awake to celebrate, some were too tired.

Upon arrival we tried to stay together, but there were many of us. A couple groups split off immediately. The rest hung out for a few hours.

It wasn’t hard to find where we were going. Throngs of people headed down to the subway. The cars were packed. It wasn’t a long ride; actually it took longer to leave the station than anything.

This was my first view of Oktoberfest

Someone in our group knew of a tent we might be able to enter. It was hart moving over 20 people through the crowd, and Spaniards are famous for taking their time. So we walked slowly. We found the tent, which is a semi-permanent structure. Unfortunately there was already a line.
It sure was crowded. I heard estimates of over 1/2 million people that day. They must have had our seats in the tent because we didn’t get in. Oktoberfest turns out to be like a carnival or state fair we’re used to in the States. Only difference? Many more people. There were food and candy vendors, game booths, roller coasters, people in costumes, and a whole lot more to see.

There was so much to see and do, it would take many days there to take it all in. We only had a few hours and were determined to make the most of our time there. So we walked and looked – of course stopping for the occasional picture, or in my case not even stopping.

Here is our line outside the tent where we took the most photos.

The sun was starting to come out and we weren’t going to wait any more. Walking it was. Here are some of the views we had

The Lion actually moved and drank the beer. The big sign says “Good, better, Paulaner” Of course that was my favorite beer there.

We decided to hit some coasters and walked that direction

This was the best, your feet hang down without a floor so the ground comes at you pretty quick sometime. Plus the loops were fantastic. Everyone kept their beer I think.

Anyone that knows me well enough understands my love for carnival food: cotton candy, turkey legs (or bratwurst here), sno cones, funnel cakes, caramel apples and so on. This was heaven for me.

Here is Gonzalo holding two while I take the picture. Notice that the cotton candy is white. Germans don’t have much use for artificial coloring. Many things are like that – cereals for instance.

Anyway, our group had divided many more times by then. We had a preset meeting place, and Kuba knew a girl in Munich, so we all headed there. It was by some offical building with a statue. Pretty cool actually, until you got up close and saw all the drunk – passed out people. 😀

The last one Kuba jumped in for fun. See all Oktoberfest pictures here
After all the rides and cotton candy, a bratwurst or two we headed to the city. Kuba’s friend turned out to be a pretty good guide and showed us some amazing things. An old church was the first. It was just too cool.

Those pictures can be seen here.

In Munich there are lions everywhere. I guess that’s the state symbol. I only photographed a handful, but one could spend an entire day doing just that.

There might be 1000 lions in the city.

Next we saw the Rathaus or Town Hall of Munich. It’s just an amazing building.

and here are pictures from the town square

We were all hungry but it was nearly closing time for the Deutch Museum so we postponed the food and went in. Our guide, says it takes 3 days just to walk through the museum more if you want to read the exhibits; it’s by far the largest in Europe.

My friends understand my love for Astronomy and offered that we go there first. I was pleased. There wasn’t much there I hadn’t seen before, but it was still fun. Plus they asked me a lot of questions about telescopes.

Here are a couple of all of our group.

Finally we ate and made our way back towards the train station. It was a long walk; I figured all in all we walked about 15 kilometers that day – each with a backpack and beer in our bellies.

The arquitechture in Munich is outstanding, and two of the Polish are studying architechture, which made it more interesting. They stopped quite a bit for photos. Me too.

My friends understand my love for Astronomy and offered that we go there first. I was pleased. There wasn’t much there I hadn’t seen before, but it was still fun. Plus they asked me a lot of questions about telescopes.

This is one of my favorites. There are several of them here. Too bad the first one has a person’s head in it. Otherwise it would have been the best.

It was time to head back. Luckily we were first on the train because it filled quickly. We saved seats for most of our group, but even then some had to stand. It was packed. Those 2.5 hours must have been hell for all the drunk Germans standing.

Here are all the photos from Munich

One would think that day was enough, with all the things we did. It wasn’t however. Kuba noticed some people speaking Russian so we offered them some beer and chatted for most of the trip. Turned out they were living in Ausburg and invited us to a Russian Diskotek. It sounded like fun so three of us went. The Russians turned out to be pretty cool even though I was leary at first. And their vodka is the best I’ve ever had – and cheap too. The Russian girls didn’t want to dance with us however sweaty and tired from walking all day. Most guys were dressed to kill and we were in t-shirts. The three of us were still able to make some fun however.

The guy in the middle there had the whole dancefloor to himself at one point and began doing gymnastics and break dancing. The crowd made room, and we watched as he did back flips and spun himself around on only his hands. That was impresive enough, but add the strobe lights and it’s a sight to see!

Here we are in the Diskotek, Kuba in the blue and white and Tomek in the white shirt.

Our adventure wasn’t over still. We were about 1.5 hours from home. Rather than wait like these guys

We paid a little more and got tickets for 2AM… Funny thing was that Kuba didn’t make the train. He was hungry and at the last minute ran to Burger King for some fries. The train came and left without him. I found out later he fell asleep eating the fries.

Tomek and I still weren’t home. We slept a little on the train. Once I woke up and we were stopped. I asked the guy in front of us where we were, but he brushed me off. I continued until he finally told me we were in Stuttgart – we barely got off in time! It was still too early to catch the subway so we waited for about an hour. Finally it came and we were almost home. One last thing happened before I finally got to sleep: Going up the escalator to the University I remarked that it had been 24 hours straight for the two of us. We were both out of sorts by then and he argued it had been only 22 hours then 23. During this argument the alarm on his watch went off proving to him that he’d been awake for 24 hours – me even longer.

It was quite an adventure let me tell you. It will be a long time before I can have that much fun in only a day.

What a week!

This week has been a blast. I’ve celebrated the Independence of Chile, birthdays, and participated in an Intercultural Training Course. It’s been a lot of fun, but I’m paying for it by being so tired. Finally I take a break to type this – I could be running right now with some of the Spanish guys, but then I’d never get to this.
Let’s start with what I’ve done since the Mercedes Museum 2 weeks ago. Mostly what I did last week was study German and hang out with friends. I started eating at the Menza, or cafeteria, after class. It’s mostly to hang out with the large Spanish group and practice speaking. Funny things happen because we are all learning a 3rd of 4th language and often the word we want to say comes out but in the wrong language. The wrong word at the right time can be very funny. It has been good practicing Spanish at the same time as German; I think it really works that part of my and other’s brains. Either that or it is really confusing me into thinking so.

On Sunday several guys from South America, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil, and I went to a Flohmarkt. This one wasn’t on campus and was quite a bit larger than the previous. Turns out Germans really like second hand things. They don’t do Garage sales like we do so they save their things for big weekends like this one. It was a blast and I picked up a tripod for my camera and a ceramic bier Stein with a metal lid. It’s pretty cool. Here are a couple photos from that day. Gonzalo wears the mustache, Julian is the Brazilian girl, Carlos perdido is the other guy, and me. I got to use the tripod a couple times that day.

I always take photos of pink elephants.

Strange huh? haha

some German Knomes

And the link to the rest of the photos
The Flohmarkt was Sunday afterward we hung out, and on Monday the Chilean guys threw a party to celebrate their Independence or actually the start of their Independence. Here are a couple photos

This is my good buddy Gonzalo from Chile. Funny how the Chilean flag looks so much like the Texas flag!

and the rest of the pictures

After that It’s been a good week. Wednesday was a lot of fun. There are two campuses here one in Vaihingen where I am and the other downtown. So we went to the downtown campus and a residence hall there has 15 floors with a bar on the roof. They have a party every Wed., so the Polish, Spanish, South Americans and I went. It was a great place to have a party. Here is the view of town at night.

It was quite a blast. We had to run to the train station at about 12:30 because the last train left 7 minutes later. It was perfect because when we arrived so did the train. If not that then we would have had to take a taxi. They aren’t so expensive here, but it’s still a long ride.

Here are all the pictures.

Yesterday was the best of all. My class took an “Exkursion” to walk around town. The parks here are amazing, maybe the best I’ve ever seen. They go on for miles and over every hill is something different. These are just some of the great things we saw.

This is a view from the top of a tower in the park. The houses are so neat to look at.

And one of the tower itself.  I’ll talk more about it soon.  I’m leaving for Munich and Octoberfest in a few hours and have to get some sleep.  I’ll take lots of pictures.

Oh Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz

My friends all drive Porches, I must make amends.

On Sunday I toured the Mercedes Museum here in town. Man is it fantastic. There is so much to see there; you could spend an entire day and still miss so much. I got to see a replica of not only the first gasoline powered vehicle, but also the first ever motorcycle.

They also have the first ever automobile and well, many firsts. It was definitely worth the 4 Euro that I paid and nearly 4 hours. Like I said, I could have stayed all day. They give you an audio device so you can hear recorded clips in every room and around most cars. Some of the most interesting parts where when they talked about who owned each car: Princess Diana, a Japanese Emperor, and so on.

This was Lady Diana’s car for a short time. Turns out that there is a law in Britain, or was anyway, that all government officials and the like are required to own only British cars. She gave it back after 2 years. This was her actual car.

And here is a truck that actually ran on wood.

The owner had to stop every 20 miles or so to clean the combustion chamber from the ash and waste.

It was quite remarkable how well the museum was designed, and I was as interested in the architecture as much as the cars. One thing I didn’t take pictures of was the time-line.

They had it set up so that every level was a different decade – or so. Between level we walked down a long ramp with photographs and such on the outside wall that told of current times. The one for Auschwitz was no larger than the rest, but I spent longer there just feeling something. At the end was the WTC rubble photograph. Another one of those sit and think moments.
Oh yea, I went to the Porsche Museum today. It’s not near as nice or large as the Mercedes, but they are building another. I’ll post those pictures soon.

The Mercedes Museum was so great because its cars have been around longer than any other. There is a lot of history there and it shows how the cars paralleled current events and how pressures of society and politics changed the car industry.

It was really neat – everyone would really enjoy it.

As always here is a link to all the photos.

And if you’re interested Here is a link to the Museum’s website   It’s really a great site.

Emu’s Place

Yea, so Emu and I had been riding all day. We got up early on Sunday morning to do a couple things like have my chaps repaired and see some sights. He took me to the CN tower in downtown Toronto, and then we were off. Southern Ontario is an interesting place. It is mainly farmland and quite flat. Emu had planned for us to ride up about 100km north to a curvy road, but it wasn’t easy to get there. Lots of turns.

Another thing was that it was very cold. I had been in southern Florida only 2 weeks before riding in a tshirt and quite comfortable. This day, in early August, I had everything on that I owned and even a vest that Emu lent me. That taught me a good lesson. You can wear anything you want, but you’ll never be warm without air around your body. The vest was just enough that I could make it through the day. Only 2 days before I had nearly not made it to Skoop’s house due to it being about 40F and after sundown. That’s not a good combination.

So, the weather was good and very brisk when we headed out. After stopping in a small town with only 1 stop sign we made it to the road what was affectionately nicknamed “Ontario’s Dragon”. I hadn’t ridden it yet, but was excited with anticipation.

It seemed that every bike in that part of the Province was there. This road must be famous. We had ridden 100km already, to the middle of nowhere it seemed. All the roads up to that point had been strait and flat.

Well, we suited up and headed off, but not without me forgetting a pair of sunglasses on the saddlebags. That wasn’t the first nor by far the last pair I lost while travelling. I prefer to say I donated them to that state/province.

As promissed the road was windy, no not windy like heavy wind, it wound around for about 30km. It was no dragon however. There were even cars on it, and I can recall having to pass a couple. No road is fun at the posted limit.

We rode many more miles that day in search of waterfalls and the likes. Later while returning to Toronto, we encountered a lot of traffic. I recall challenging him to a race back home. This is the picture I took when he arrived.

And this link takes you to all the photos I took while there

If you are wondering what the first photo is, well, After the long day riding and his daughter cooking us a nice meal we went over to Emu’s parents place. They had a good view of downtown, you can see the photos, and directly below their window about 15 stories were raccoons chasing something. So, now you know the rest of the story.

Funny things just happened to me.

I came back from the neighbor’s place, Thomas from Michigan. Pascal, one of my roommates was eating lunch and I went to make a sandwich. German people don’t eat many sandwiches so we talked about that. I made my plate and put some chips down beside the sandwich after pouring some Orange Juice.

Pascal looked at me like I was crazy. He asked, “you eat a sandwich with chips?

“Of course,” I said, “don’t you?” Oh no. Soon after Kuba rolls up on skates. I invite him in, but he gives me a look like I’m crazy. He askes me then, “you eat a sandwich with chips?”

Yea, don’t you? The answer was no.

Then when do you eat chips with?

With beer.

Turns out people from Germany and Poland don’t each chips with anything but beer. I explained that in the US we get chips at almost ever restaurant that serves sandwiches. They agreed that it’s crazy to do that. How funny huh? It never occurred to me before; really, we get chips almost anywhere we go for lunch. Either that or french fries. Which by the way is what we’ve taken to calling the French people that are studying here. It’s impossible to do anything with them because they walk at their own pace and go where they want.

Today we are going to the Mercedes museum. I hope to take lots of pictures to show when I get back. I also need to study German today.

Good day

Today was a good one. I slept till late, well not for people in the US, it was only 5AM there. I’m still trying to get my wireless router working properly. For some reason it only works an external antennae. There was also a flohmarkt today, flea market for English speakers. I found good deals on another wireless router, 2 German kid’s books, and a chess board. Some of the guys here play. Afterward a group of us, yes mostly Polish, went downtown for some shopping. It’s so nice there. Many people just hang out on the lawn in front of the castle. It’s quite popular. There are also many things to do, plus it gets us off campus.

This is a panorama of the lawn.

We stopped for a pizza and Donors which are the Kebap things like gorditas before buying headsets to use a computer phone. Hopefully that will work out.

Something interesting, I don’t read Polish, not yet anyway, but I learned that on Polish cigarette packages it is required that 1/3 of the front cover be a label saying “Smoking Kills”. How strange huh? Our Surgeon General warning is nothing compared to that. On the back side is says “Smokers die younger”

Last night we went to a party down town. It was so crowded, you could barely move. We also bought a bottle of Absinthe and tried that out. It has more alcohol than a normal bottle, but there were no other effects like we expected. The ride back on the Night Bus was interesting. They come at regular times: 1:11, 2:22, 3:33 after the trains stop running. They trains start again at 5 something. Anyway, the bus was quite crowded, so crowded in fact that I could lift my feet off the ground and not fall. Somehow we packed us all in there and the doors sealed the deal.

Oh, and I’m really enjoying taking pictures of the trains. I’ve got another great idea coming soon.

and of course a link to all the pictures

And of course a link to all the pictures

First day of German class

I started my first class today – it was mostly in German. It is a ground level beginner German course, but so much of the language sounds like English that the teacher can get away with speaking to us in it. He’ll switch to English for definitions or description, but it was good. I really like his style.
Class is 5 hours with 2 breaks. Boy, let me tell you how tough it is to pay attention for that long, but I am very interested and want to learn this stuff. Plus, since this is so basic, we started with abc’s, I’ve actually learned some of it before and it’s kinda easy (for the first day) Some students had never read nor spoke a word of German before (I only started this summer).

Actually I should say that I started on Wednesday, but it wasn’t actually a lecture. We took a walking and train tour of town. I must have walked 12 kilometers before the day was out. One of the Canadian guys had a birthday so we went back into town for that, just added more walking to the already tiring day. Here are some pictures of the tour and birthday party.

Click here
I had a lot typed here, but my coding is evidently bad and I lost it a lot (everything after a picture) So, I leave you with a panoramic of Stuttgart from above.

First Days in Stuttgart, Germany

Wow, this has been an amazing last few days. I am exhausted from all the walking and staying up late. Plus jet lag hasn’t worn off yet. I hope to wake up for my first German class tomorrow.

There are so many things that I want to say, but for now I’ll try and then share some photos. My mind races to figure out this new culture and learn the language as fast as possible. There is no way to convey the feelings I have other than to say excitement and tiredness at the same time. I have met so many people from so many places. On Friday I got in with a group of students from Poland. Most of them knew each other from their own University and already have great comraderie. Also there are people from Italy, France, Spain, Ireland, Canada, India, China, Japan, Chile, Venezuela, Africa (I don’t know which countries), one guy from Iran, pronounced eeeraan, of course Germany, and so many more I cannot remember. All of them are friendly people and it’s amazing how fast we become friends.

One of the neatest experiences I have had so far happened last night. There were about 12 of us sitting around a small , round table. We had stopped at the beer machine, yep like a coke machine, and bought as much as we had which was about 20 beers. After introducing ourselves we talked to each for the next several hours. The conversations were so cool though because not all of us speak the same language. Most people speak a little English, but not all. So, at the same table we had conversations in Spanish, English, French, Polish, and German. One guy was pretty good at German and spoke Spanish natively; so we talked in Spanish as best I could – turns out better than I thought after some beer. Every once in a while he’d bust out some German for the people across the table. The Polish people speak good English and some of several other languages so they were in many conversations. I have the least advantage because I can only speak 2. Turns out many of these people know 3 or more. Maybe I will before the end of this year.

I want to talk about all the differences between here and the US. There are many, but underlying those things the people are nearly the same. Once, while hanging out with the Polish, the leader said something about Chinese people and rice. It wasn’t very funny, but at that point we all realized that we had similar stereotypes and even jokes. None of us laughed at his joke, but it was one of those moments that brought us all together. We laughed for a good while at that realization.
First off, I have to thank my “buddy” Johannes. Without him I would still be at the airport looking for a way to the school. He was assigned to me, a Canadian, and two of the Polish to help us with paperwork (of which there is so much, after 3 days of walking around the city I’m still not done) and getting around. Our campus is outlying the city and we have to take trains to get downtown. Here is a picture of him.

He’s native to Germany but speaks English very well.

He picked me up at the Air Port and showed me how to get to campus by train. It would have been very difficult as the signs aren’t in English anywhere besides there. After dropping my things off in my new room we met up with Justin, from Calgary, and went into town for bureaucracies. This means you have to go all over the place looking for offices to fill out forms that you don’t know why in an language you don’t understand, after being awake for nearly 24 hours. But that was ok – better then than now. I can rest a little and type this.

Here are photos from my first day
They go until the Tower at night.

You can see views of the city and StadtMitte or city center. At one point we went into the Mercedes tower and I took these

They had caged in the top of the building because of the Soccer World Cup matches held in town. Too many drunk Irishmen or something. 😛 This is what you see when you look up from the tower

We hung out on the lawn in front of a castle and fountain that night drinking beer. In Germany people are allowed to drink beer in public and even on the public transportation. It’s quite nice and you never have to drive home. Actually, on campus here there is a beer machine where you can buy .5 liters of several beers. The bottles are huge and heavy compared to ours. They amount to almost 17 ounces and my body somehow knows when 12 ounces has passed. I always have to remember to finish the last 5. It was really a pleasure hanging out with Johannes and Justin. That made me feel at home even though so far away.

On the second Day we had more work to do, but there was a little more time for playing around.

Turns out they have something called “Smart Cars” over here and in Canada. They are tiny 2 door commuters. There is hardly any room for luggage, but they are very good on gas. Believe it or not, this was not the smallest car I’ve seen here. They make a sport version that is about 1/2 as tall. Pictures to come.

Oh, and I want to mention a few things here: In Germany many offices are open only a few hours a day. This makes it very hard to get paperwork done. Say from 9:30 to 11:30AM they are open and maybe the afternoons. On opposite days they are open from 1:30 to 4:30. Many offices are open less than 15 hours per week. Another thing is that I have only seen one fast food restaurant. It was a McDonald’s and I saw it for the first time today, 4 days after arriving. Instead of the kind of food we have they sell Kebaps which are Turkish style gorditas but using vegetables and mashed meat. Think of the meat in a Gyro and you’ll understand. It is shaved off and put in the large gordita to eat. 3 Euro will buy plenty of food for one person. The Polish girls share theirs and still get full.

Something you’ll notice in all the photos is that there are no obese people. Today I saw a couple that were pretty heavy, but they ended up being from Connecticut. Most everybody here is normal sized. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect the shops don’t even sell larger than XL clothing. Maybe that’s because everyone walks so much here, maybe because they eat less. I still get looks for how much and often I eat.

You cannot tell in this picture, but the train is longer than a football field. Many are not, but quite a few are – especially during business hours. There are 2 types of trains here. The U-Bahn which is like a commuter train and the S-Bahn which is more like a tram. Funny enough – U Bahn is the short word for Subway and S-Bahn is short for street train. The funny part is that, in Stuttgart at least, the UBahn is above more often and the SBahn is almost all below. Oh, and the trains are very clean and safe. In fact I see almost no litter at all and have never felt safer in my life. This is quite a huge difference from St. Louis

If you want to flip through here you can see photos of people I’ve been hanging out with and some of campus.
the link

In the lecture hall was our welcome gathering. Afterward we went down town to watch the German National Soccer team beat the Ireland team. You might also see some photos of town. They are from a scavenger hunt we competed in, the Polish group and I. Those are some fun people let me tell you. I haven’t had so much fun or laughed so hard in a long time. I have to be careful though around them, they drink a lot.

This is our team. We got second overall, but bent the rules a little and asked an information booth for some answers. From left to right is Tomasch, Paulina, Gosha behind Berta, Kuba, myself, and Philip a.k.a. Cashew.

Finally I promised you a picture of the sporty smart car. This one was so small that it barely came up to my waist. I was on the curb mind you, but it is tiny. Kuba, short for Jakoba, also the leader of that crew, put his foot on next to the car and joked about having something in his shoe.

This is the after party of the scavenger hunt

Something funny about that party was that it took place at a “Buddha Bar” It was designed like a buddhist temple. What made it funny was that I was in Germany, at a Buddhist Bar, speaking English, while dancing the Salsa with a Polish girl, and drinking a beer from Holland – how’s that for irony?

so, please flip through those links to see all the photos. I get teased for taking so many, but it will be worth it when I get home. Oh, and if you are interested in hearing more on a topic you can leave a comment. I’ll try to get back to them soon.