My European (mis)Adventures

One Flash Light, A Passport, and Two Credit Cards, How much trouble can I get into?

Oktoberfest September 25, 2007

Filed under: Germany — Josh Green @ 10:18 am

This past weekend marked the begining of that mystical time of year called Oktoberfest. I say mystical becasue everyone who has never been but has heard stories conjures up all sorts of images of tables upon tables filled with people drinking, laughing, and eating pretzles the size of your head. Basically that is true but it is so much more.

Our trip started out on Friday night from Reutlingen packing myself and two other friends into my friend’s little red Ford Escort that he is borrowing from his grandmother who happens to live in Munich, while he is at the University. He said this thing was a 4 banger but when it is struggling to do 60 on the autobahn and a slew of Porches and Benzes go flying by at 150 it seems like the world is at a stand still. We make it to Munich without many problems except a 2.5 hour trip turned into 4 becasue of all the road construction, at time it reminded me of sitting on I-5 during rush hour. His grandmother fixed us breakfast the next morning, the traditional cold cuts, pretzel, and cheese with coffee. Halfway through my first cup of coffee I realize that I can only understand about every two words she is saying. No it’s not becasue my German is that bad but she is speaking Bayrish, or the dialiact of Bavaria if you will. I liken it to someone from New York trying to understand someone that speaks Creole. No worries right? Wrong! The people we are going to Oktoberfest with all speak Bayrish and little or no English, no worries after a few maß of Oktoberfest’s best I am sure to be speaking perfect German.

As I eluded to earlier, Oktoberfest is more than a two week long party of gigantic nature, it is rooted deeply in Bavarian history. The original Oktoberfest was pretty much one huge wedding reception to celebrate the Crown Prince of Bavaria’s wedding, and it was a way for the people to come together and celebrate being Bavarian. This display of regionalism is still very much evident today. As we rode the train towards the fairground more an people started to get on wearing the traditional LeiderHösen and Drindel’s. Entire families, the very young and the very old. Let me just pause to say that I can totally not wait to by my own pair of liederhose, oh yes, its going to happen. Anyway, we get off the train and walk towards the main gate, it’s before noon so the beer hasn’t begun to flow yet. On the first day, it is tradition for no beer to be served before the mayor taps the first keg at 12. So this place is in a frenzy just waiting for the first beer to be poured. Finally it comes and a huge cheer erupts and the music begins.

Everywhere you turn there are amusmement rides, vendors selling würst, pretzels, chicken, and bread. The giant beerhalls which can hold thousands of people at a time take up whole city blocks. We finally make it in to the Pauliner tent or I think convention center is more like it but were unable to find a seat but fortunately for us we were able to bribe some people sitting at a table to order is our first beers. The beers that most of us think of when we think of Oktoberfest is called a maß and it equates to 1 liter of godly goodness. Tired of standing and 2 maßes deep we decide to go explore, somewhere down the line we run into some friends who have a table, once again I am the only american there so we come up with the bright idea that those at the table will speak english to me and I will only answer in German, great idea except for two of the girls at the table kept telling me that I looked like George Clooneywhile feeding me pretzels. Good times, good times.

So the total number for this Year’s Oktoberfest opening weekend were 1 million people on Saturday and Sunday with over 500,000 maßes consumed. Not too bad for a wedding reception right?

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Heidelberg and Senin September 16, 2007

Filed under: Germany — Josh Green @ 12:08 pm

It has been two weeks since I have been here but it seems like it has been longer. It has been an interesting two weeks for sure, between breaking my laptop and using a combination of english and german to get it fixed (note to self: come up with a term that is the german equivilent of Spanglish) sitting for 5 hours a day in language classes, and meeting new and interesting people, I have been pretty busy. As part of this course we have had the opportunity to go out on a few excursions to get a cutlural tatse of the what is around us. The first one that we went on was to a museum in Senin and then on to the town of Heidelberg. I have to admit that I was a little skeptical about this museum when we rolled up to the parking lot. Looming over head was a static display of the Concorde and the Russian version, the name eludes me right now. So I am thinking great, 2 hours of looking at airplanes big deal. Oh how wrong I was. As we enter the museum, I was met by row upon row of mint condition “classic” German Automobiles. I put an emphasis on mit condition becasue all of the airplanes in the static display seemed not to be in that great of condition on the outside. Speaking of the aircraft, I was actually able to walk in the Concorde, it was pretty much unimpressive since most of it had been gutted, but it was easy to imagine how it might have looked. The seats that were left didn’t look comfortable at all and I began to understand why the concept of the Concorde was not profitable, you paid for speed and not for comfort and in my opinion no matter how fast you go, people want to be comfortable. The automobiles in the display were AMAZING! There were Maybauchs from the 1920’s, Ferrari’s from the begining of their production, Early model year Mercedes, Volkswagons, and Audi’s. You name it, it was probably there looking like it just came off of the production floor. They also had one fo the first motorcycles everbuild, along with full size displays of steam engines. When people think of Germany it’s always about beer and brats, but believe you me, they love thier cars. On to Heildelberg.

Heidelberg, what can I say about Heidelberg? for starters, it is a city of contradictions. It is located on the river Nekar and walking the banks you can see a massive lock structure that allows the barges and ships to pass easily and makes it a hub for commerace in the surrounding villages and cities. Heidelberg’s claim to fame is that it is the home to Germany’s oldest university which was founded in 1348 in addition to that in 1907 a 600,000 year old humanoid jaw bone was discoverd here, and Mark Twain wrote his novel ‘A Tramp Abroad’ while staying here. In the city center stands an enormous Protestant church and 265 steps and a series of small heart attacks later, I found myself overlooking the city. What a glorious site it was, down below me was a sprawling city built in the classic stone and timber style carved out of the surrounding thick forrest. From this vantage point I could look across the city to the old castle and could only imagine how imposing that sight once must have been before it fell to ruins. The Alt Schloss as it is called is also home to the world biggests wine barrel, this thing is 9 yards long and can hold 55,000 gallons of wine. Why so much you may ask? Well apparently the Nekar river valley has a long tradition of wine production. With that being said, the vinters had to pay tribute to the king and I guess the king needed a place to store all of the wine that was given as tribute. Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to tour the inside of the castle becasue we didn’t have time, however I can see myself going back to because to me, the city has lost it’s identity amid the neon lights, high end shopping, and crowds of tourists and I would like to discover the “real” Heidelberg.

 

Sorry for the long delay September 11, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — Josh Green @ 6:44 pm

Hey Guys, sorry for the long delay for new posts, i fried my pc last week and I am getting it back together slowly, however sometime next week ill be able to post about my adventures to Heidelberg and Lake Constance.  I’m enjoying myself and it seems like I have been here longer than 2 weeks……

 

A Week in Stuttgart September 2, 2007

Filed under: Germany — Josh Green @ 9:50 am

Stuttgarts the capital of the German state of Baden-Württemberg which is located in the south west corner of the country which is the are of the “famed” black forrest.Baden-Württemberg used to be comprised of several principalities until they united under one king as a result of the Nepoleanonic wars. Roughly from 1850-1917 it was ruled by King Wilhem I.Sothern Germany is traditionally predominately Catholic however Stuttgart is almost entirely protestant while the rest of the state is catholic.There are several museums in the city devoted to the history of Baden Württemberg some dealing with it’s modern history and others with its prehistoric history where there are artifacts from the ancient celts that used to inhabit this area at about 3000 BC or I think, there aren’t a lot of signs in English at these museums so I have to leave it up to my substandard german although I must say that as I stumble and bumble about with my German I keep getting compliments on how my german is better than their English. Anyhow, back to the museums, Germans hold a special place in their “German-es” and this is evident from an actual war torn American flag that was carried into battle by a battalion of soldiers that had emigrated from Baden Württemberg prior to the Civil War and subsequently fought in it.

 

The city of Stuttgart itself is actually a newer city because of all of the damages that it received during the second world war so there are buildings from the 1300’s but they have all been rebuilt. In addition, a lot of the older buildings have been renovated and are used as bars, stores, and government building. One thing that I noticed was that there was graffiti on some of the places that being historical shouldn’t have graffiti on them.The city also seems to me to be abit dirtier than what I would expect from a german city. This is in contrast to Munich which to me seems a lot cleaner and there seems to be a greater pride in keeping there city’s atmosphere of a small town. Here, you are in the city and you know it. Also unlike Munich or Berlin there are no large open spaces planned into the city. Anyways, I met an Australlian girl in my hostel who moved here to work for a year,and two crazy Estonians, they were hilarious imagineBevis and Butthead only they speak Estonian.We ended up going to climb Germany’s first television tower to get good views of the city.In These photos you can see how the city of Stuttgart is carved out of the surrounding dense Black Forest.

 

Afterwards we went to the Mercedes museum.Although I didn’t pay the 8 Euro’s to see the whole museum, I was able to see the new Mclaren and Maibach which are sitting on the show room floor, Yes, the museum has an actual show room you can go buy a car if you want to.We were able to take a free factory tour (in English) of where they produce all of the V-6 and V-8 motors and transmissions for all of their cars which then are shipped to various plants world wide to be assembled. This plant is capable of producing nearly 3000 motors a day. Incidently their new 7 speed automatic transmission has over 500 parts. The automation of the plant was simply amazing along with the supply chain that was being used. The average German factory worker at a Mercedes plant earns about 2000 euros a month which is a pretty decent wage as wages in Germany and the rest of Europe get. I also went out to the Porche museum which was pretty small but I did see a Porche 911 outfited like a cop car. We were unable to get a tour of the factory there because you are supposed to call ahead but I think that is crap, but you can get a tour of the factory is you are a Porche owner for free.The footprint that both of these manufacturing plants have is enormous, I would say that each one probably encompasses atleast 10 or 15 city blocks or in some cases an entire small village,

 

Sara (the Aussie) and I had a great time sitting in the pedestrian zone laughing at all the people who walked by because of the things they were wearing.I could write a whole lot on the fashion of the people here but it’s obivious I am a “dirty American” and have no fashion sence, although for some reason skulls are in, and big sunglasses. I thought I got away form those when I left San Diego.You would be amazed at the graphic t-shirts that people wear with outlandish sayings and wonder if they know what it means. For instance we saw a younger girl wearing a t-shirt that said “you got what I want?” and the most horrifying I think was the one that said “Cocaine Business 100%” Anyhow, I am Reutlingen now hanging out with my new roomates and trying to get the lay of the city ( ie where the closest beer garden to my dorm room is) before classes start on Monday.