Wednesday, May 31

Pictures from Yesterday

Here are some pictures from yesterday, which would be Tuesday, Dienstag, as I promised.

You'd be surprised at how much English there is here
look out for the picket fences!
Now for serious stuff
Das Kriminalmuseum in Rothenburg o.d.T.

The moat around the walled city of Dinkelsbürh
another German village


we paid the 1 euro to climb the 90 meter tower of the Church of St. George, in Nordlingen


On the outskirts of a town, people rent plots to grow gardens

A very famous castle on a hillAh, the gently rolling hills
The 'Beautiful Blue Danube"? It's really quite brown. All the rivers here are either muddy brown or a whitish green. By the way, in Germany, it's known as the 'Donau', which took me a minute to realize that the Donau and Danube are the same thing. It's the second longest river in Europe.

Our Route

Sun: Frankfurt
Mon: Rothenburg o.d.T.
Tues: Getting to Munchen--Munich
Wed: Munich
Thurs: Salzburg
Fri: Getting to Interlaken
Sat: Mountains in Switzerland
Sun: Getting to Toulouse



The outline of Wisconsin is to scale

Tuesday, May 30

Tuesday: Half the fun is getting there on the Romantic Road

I forgot to say this earlier, but happy Memorial Day. Nothing special happened here. It's rather unfortunate that practically every city was bombed over here.

This morning we all got to sleep in. John and I shared a room and the other five guys were in the room next door. They were 6 person rooms. The noise from all the jugen woke me up. In our room, there was a third guy. He stopped in for a minute last night and then was leaving when I awoke so we never really got to talk.

The sun was out--great for a last few hours in Rothenburg. When we were just about to leave, I looked out the window and it was downpouring again on all the little German kids who had just left too. We grabbed our umbrellas and went to the Kriminalmuseum.

We saw all sorts of things the weirdos used in the Middle Ages to go Medieval on people: honor punishment masks, iron maidens, executioner swords, dunking baskets, the rack, screws, and neck violens. They were a bunch of freaks. The 8th amendment is a good thing. They even had books on the theories of torture and whatnot. They would be tourturing you while interogating you and there'd be a scribe writing down the answers. It seems that they thought that they could get the truth (a confession) out of you if they tortured you enough. They also had old documents like various laws cities and kings passed 500 years ago.

The bus left from Rothenburg at 12:45 and ended up in Munich at 9 pm. We toured many old towns and saw many things. In one town, we acended the 90 m church tower to get great views of the walled city.

I'm really getting used to German. I only had 1 year of it in high school my senior year and I feel like it's really coming back. I was a little worried. At first, Germany seems like a very weird place, but today was my 3rd day here and it's pretty awesome. But it might have just been Frankfurt. I'm really glad I had some German in high school. Although I do not know very much, I can usually figure out what is being said or written. I'm kind of popular too because of the 10 of us, I'm one of two German speakers. I can definitely handle going to a store or restaurant or out and about in town and getting places. I've also learned many words like 'eingang' (entrance) und 'ausgang' (exit). Whenever you do any kind of transaction, they say "danke shone". I've always tried to be very polite but at first, in the airport, I forgot to say things in German to the airport people.

It was pretty easy to come in. The customs person just took my passport and stamped it. When foreigners enter the U.S. they get the whole works, eyescans and fingerprints.

Right now, I'm sitting in the lobby of the hostel in Munch listening to South Park in German (it's 00:45 here and raining again).

I think it's safe to say some things about Germany now; it's my third day here. Every town has 1 tall kirche, church, with a steeple that's onion shaped. Also, every town has a Rathaus, city hall, with a fountain out in front in the town square. By the way for us Madison people, the Rathaus sits atop the Rathskeller. All the the buildings are made from stucco and red tile rooves. The Autobaun isn't really that special, at least where we were. I'm sure I'll think of more later. Except for the buildings, Germany does look just like Wisconsin. By the way, once you've seen one Medieval town, you've pretty much seen them all. And there is smoking everywhere; the airport in Frankfurt reeked like it.

I'd really like to show some pictures, but I didn't charge the battery last night and it died at noon. It's charging now so, tomorrow. Our tour of the Romantic Strasse terminated in the south at Neuschwanstein Castle, built by Crazy King Ludwig. He basically had the same kind of life as Michael Jackson, except he was found dead in the neighboring lake. By the time we were leaving the town, which is at the begining of the German Alps, it was starting to snow really hard. That's right, snow, the day after Memorial Day.

The fun part:
Our bus driver, Gunter, was very strict and kept the bus on time with clockwork precision and a thick accent. Our second to last stop after 6 hours on the bus at dinner time was at some famous church in the mountains and we ran to a Gasthaus, casual restaraunt instead for the 10 minutes. Claire told the lady in German that we needed something really quick. She whipped up some delicious [I can't remember the word but I'll put it in later]. The bus driver was chaffing really badly so her husband and fellow restauranteur put it on some paper plates and wrapped it in tin foil and gave us plastic forks for the road. We were worried because earlier in the day he had made RJ and Jack put their spaghetti in a box in the cargo area under the bus. We held it behind us and ran in the rear entrance of the bus without him seeing, luckily. We then shared it amongst ourselves. I then realized that it was in fact a Romantic bus when John and I shared a plate of German noodles in the back of the bus in the mountains. [Just kidding]

Monday: Don't O.D. on Rothenburg o.d.T.

Hi Everyone, it's Tuesday night and I find myself in Munich, Germany, but so I don't forget, this is going to be about Monday. I would have written yesterday, but there was no internet to be easily found. We got up early and walked two blocks to the Romantic Road bus stop. Despite your probable impression, no, the bus wasn't apolstered in red and the seats didn't go all the way back. The Romantic Road is basically Germany as how you imagine it.



We got on the bus at 8. We then were wisked at a brisk 120 kmh down the autobahn in the slow lane in a half full tour bus. We then picked up the Strasse where ever it started and were in Rothenburg ob der Tauber by noon. It was a very important city a very long time ago. When we disembarked from the bus, the station unbeknowst to us, was on the other side of the city and it started to rain like crazy. We then found the hostel.

When we entered, my first impression was that of an orphinage. Sorry, for my spelling, it's kind of hard to spell correctly when changing 7 time zones and seening words that look like gibberish all day long. Yes, there were little kids. Supposedly, the minimum age of IH hostels is 14, but they seemed more like 12; the same as our hyper little kids except they were screaming in German. Later in the day, I think they called me "sweiney" which translates literaly as "piggie". At least they were calling each other that. I actually wanted to speak German to them but they kept on running away.

We then split up and explored. John and I, let Rick Steves guild us about the sights. We did many things and saw many sights, like climbing the cityhall tower. Rothenburg is a walled city and all the buildings are the originals. They only bad thing is that the city is all touristy. Probably the most tourism based in the whole country.







We then walked the 1.5 miles of walkable wall there was in the city.

The weather was beautiful on Sunday, but today and yesterday, it's been downpouring on and off and in the low 60's/upper 50's.

In the evening, after dinner, we partook in various activities. Some of the other people went out, and I went to check my email on the computer in the lobby, one of 9 internet computers in two different places in the city. I went to the my.wisc site and tried to log in. It didn't take me. I then looked down and realized that the y and z are switched and all the symbols are mixed up. Since my password is a pattern, I spend 6 of the 8 minutes half a euro got me trying to figure out my password by searching for 'American keyboard' on google.

Wrapping it up, the mattress was about 2 inches thick and so was the pillow, but I slept well.

Sunday, May 28

Heute (Today)

It's early right now, 6:15 in Germany, 11:15 pm in Wisconsin. We're going to take the Romantic Road bus to Rothenburg ob der Tauber today. It's a Medievel town.

On Saturday, I had plenty of thinking time in the airport. Some advise for when you fly, don't try to take an Ionic Breeze as carry on. When we were sitting in the airport, I watched them test one for chemical remnants, and they found some, so it, and the guy, and his luggage had to go through special security. He should have just had it shipped. Also, don't wear a belt.

Ich bin ein Frankenfurter!

Today, after we landed and collected everyone at the airport and then navigated onto a train that took us into the city, we walked around Frankfurt, Germany. Germany is pretty cool and a little strange--it's pretty much just like Wisconsin, but the buildings are different. There are lots of trees and it's neat to be valking down ze strasse und people are spreking deutsch. I've been saying "Guten Tag" and I feel like my German from senior year is coming back. Unfortuately, it seems like the Germans aren't quite as friendly as the British. Right now I'm hoping that it's just because we're in the big city, but we'll see. And it'll be interesting to see how the Austrians and Swiss are different.

I'm really surprised at how much English there is here. In stores and ads it's seems like it's used as a marketing tool. But I try to speak German to them. Also, my pure Madison lungs aren't used to all the smoke here. Everybody smokes. Even in the train stations and in the airport.

We walked around a lot today. It was nearly two miles to where we ate dinner and then we probably 'wanderen'ed around for another 4 miles on our way back. Since I can't think of a better way to do this, here are some of the best pictures I took today. (I'm a freak, I took more than 400)

This one is 6 pictures pieced together of downtown Frankfurt. This happens to be the biggest euro I've ever seen. This building is actually the "Euro Center". It's the headquarters of the evil of all evils.

Oh, here's me giddy over my new found monopoly money in the airport


Heading into the city

Frankfurt is pretty much the only city in Europe with modern skyscrapers

Our hostel is really nice; it's almost like a hotel and it's got wireless. It's double rooms and each room has its own bathroom. Unfortunately, we're about a block away from the 'red light district'. As a matter of fact, across the street there's a chain porn store that was in the airport, among other 'establishments'. Here's up the strasse:

The tallest building in Europe until last year, the Commerzbank Tower at 850 feet and 56 floors.
This is a panarama of the River Main I made, the skyscrapers are behind me
A German alley
Looking up the river
Heading toward the old part of town

We saw plenty of the tiny cars parked around
From the top of the mall
The Opera House
I made this panarama of Frankfurt's skyline

Saturday: Air India

Hi everybody, I would have posted yesterday, except it was $7 at O'Hare for wireless. We flew over on Air India, leaving Saturday evening. I, actually, would fly them again (they're how we're getting home) and the plane had a nice and friendly atmosphere.

Act 1: The beginning.

I sit down in my seat which is on the aisle, half way back, the first row facing the door. The window seat guy is already seated and the middle guy comes not much later.

Window Seat: "Are you flying to Mumbai?"

Middle: "No, I'm flying on to the next city after that"
"So am I. What did you pay?"
I got Iowa to India for 1700.
I got round trip for 1700...

Several minutes of silence pass. Frankfurt is the first stop of the plane today--it's flying on to two cities in India. It's the biggest plane I've ever been on and at least 95% of the passengers are Indian.

Nearly an hour passes after a turbulent take-off. And I reflect upon the fact that the last time I've seen moulded plastic that color yellow was the old apple computer in my 4th grade classroom.

Act II: Dinner

The stewardess come around and pass out some kind of a menu card. It reads "Economy Class" on the front.

Me: So that's what this is called!

I open the card and the left side is written in which ever language it is they speak and then I glance at the other side and it's the same letters.

Oh God!

I look down at the lower half and it's in English. Relief. Left is vegetarian, and the right presents two options: chicken something and something else.

What, no beef option?

When the stewardess returns to distribute meals, I seal my fate with chicken. A rectangular tray is placed before me. I look over, window seat got the chicken and middle got something else.

I examine the fare. A big rectange covered in tin foil--very hot. Two smaller rectangles covered in shrink wrap, one has a piece of lettuce, two slices of cucumber, and some carrot chunks; the other has something that looks like partially mashed orange hashbrowns. Then there is a cup of something creamy looking and white, a roll, and a water.

Playing it safe, I pick up the silverware bag.
What do you know, it's really metal.

I pull out the fork. Then the knife and the packet of sugar falls on the floor.

Holy crap! That could blow my cover. Think fast. I kick it under my seat. No one sees.

Where to start?

Well, in Candadian Airspace, do as the...
Indians eat Italian salad dressing?

I pour it out and eat the salad. Looking out the corner of my eye, I'm ahead of the middle seat guy. The plane bounces a little. I pull the shrink wrap off the second rectangle. The mashied potatoes. I take a little on my fork. It's cold and sweet.

Major mistake #2: accidentally started the desert.

The Indian guys sitting next to me are going to think I don't know how to eat.

Quick, pull the top off the main course. Good Lord! Lima beans!
I've heard the horror stories about Lima beans but I've never actually had one.


I try one. The flavor of the gravy/sauce covers it up. I commence eating the chicken, beans, and potatoes. Looking over the middle seat guy has taken the lid off the white stuff and widow has completely eaten it all already. I head for that next. Not knowing what Indian delights await, I get some and it's plain yogurt.

OK.

I eat all of it. I follow it up with the roll. Some more bumps. Having made it through the meal, I feel better. The stewardess is back.
"Coffee or tea?"

"Tea!"
I've pretty much only had tea once before and it was last summer when I flew to England. How can you fly to England and not have tea? There's something about Europe and tea, besides England took over India and spread tea there, too.

The other two guys pull the yougurt container out of the cup and what do you know, it's a mug! Brilliant!

After the plane was smooth for a minute, I lifted the cup up and then I had the sensation that I had just boiled tree leaves in my mouth.

Damn, the sugar's under my seat.

Act III: The third part.

So my seat is the aisle seat in the row next to the emergency door. I've got the word for exit in Indian memorized. It's a level strait line with a curley 'G' hanging from the line then a vertical line and then a backwards 'S' hanging down. People are lining up and crowding my space to use the bathrooms in the center next to my seat like they're closing in 10 minutes. It's kind of cool though, there's an Indian man standing in line wearing a t-shirt that says some patriotic words on top of the stars and strips. You go guy.

People are starting to congregate in my 8 feet of leg space. Akward.

I try to go to sleep. Damn tea. Why'd I drink it.

Why do you have to force yourself to stay awake during a lecture, but when you've got time to spare you're wide awake?

I saw window seat guy's watch. Both hands were on 11. We left at 7 and we land at 10:30 in Germany. Germany is 7 hours ahead, 3:30 am. Nearly half way. The captain said we'd be over the ocean for 3 hours. 550 mph x 3 hrs = 1700 miles. The tv is broken. At least it's not like last time where the screen counted down every kilometer from Chicago to Heathrow. Who would have guessed that it's 4001 miles from where we sat on the tarmac for two hours? That's slightly more than a radian of the earth. I watched it count down.

5 to 11 pm. The flight is over 7 time zones and it's 8 hours long. 15 hours over 8 hours, time's going nearly twice as fast compared to the surface. 11 - 7 = 4 hours x 2 = 8. Where ever we are, it's about 3 am local time. We land in Germany at 10:30 - 3 = 7:30 / 2 = 3.5. Half way there. No wonder I can't sleep.


...

Despite the unrelentless eagle eyes of the stewardesses, some people manage to lift the shades on the windows for a few minutes. It's daylight outside. Blindingly bright reflecting off the tops of the sheet of clouds. It was cloudy in Chicago, the sun set and it's cloudy over Britain and Europe, too.

Coffee or tea?
The tea didn't go so well last time, "Coffee please."

I've never had coffee before. It usually smells good though. A little sip of it directly black. Now I have the sensation of boilding coffee beans in my mouth. I pour half the creamer in. It still tastes like crap. The rest. More like crap, but tan colored crap. You adults and your coffee are completely overrated. I sip it down to wake me up. It's 3:30 am in Wisconsin and it 10:30 Sunday morning in Germany; I didn't sleep a wink and we're doing Frankfurt today. At least it's good for something.

Thursday, May 25

Come Back!


Come back! I'm blogging now! It'll be better, I promise!

Wednesday, May 24

A Brilliant Idea

When I went home, I decided that since I had just completed a year at one of the best universities in the country, I ought to start acting like it. So I went to the bookstore and got myself hooked on phonics. I started off with the classic "The Great Gatsby" and then followed it up with "1984". Some how I had managed to graduate high school without having to read about Gatsby. Now I'm on "the Scarlet Letter" and "the Old Man and the Sea" is on deck.

I really enjoyed reading "1984" and I couldn't put it down. It takes place in London in 1984, which was the future in the 40's. The entire world has 3 giant countries which are oligopositic dictatorships. What had been the UK and USA, among other places, has become a country called 'Oceania' rulled by Big Brother and the Party. What makes this totalitarianism different is that the goverment controls what the people think by rewriting history and changing all the documents whenever some fact changes. Also in addition to broadcasting their 'video screens' film you. If a person doesn't believe in the party, then the Thought Police come and take you to the Ministry of Love (everything is named opposite of what it really is) to be tortured.

Winston is the main character. In the story he does some revolting even though he's employed to change newspaper articles to agree with the government. Some stuff transpires and it's got an awesome ending, I thought. But I don't want to ruin it, so read it. It's actually got a lot of implications for today.

So this is my idea: since the Humanities Building is being torn down in a couple of years, why not rename it to the "Ministry of Love"? It would be hilarious. We all love humanity and that building tortures us just by its sight. And then its hideous partner, Vilas Hall, can be the "Ministry of Truth", because they're into broadcasting and 'publishing'.

Tuesday, May 23

Surprise

I just found out that if I stand up in my basement, I can get someone's wireless internet really weakly if I hold up the computer. So, here's the first installment of the pictures, as promised. (it'll save you 2,000 words of reading)


Me going for a ride














A view of the southern of our two lakes.

ALMOST!!!

Hey Everybody, I'm not dead, I just fell off the face of the earth. My house is probably the only house in the U.S. where the internet doesn't go. Anyway, I just picked up the laptop I'm borrowing for the summer and it has wireless internet. Whoopie!

I'm counting down the time until I leave. At 3pm today it's 100 hours untill 7 pm Saturday. I'm really getting excited. The only thing I really have left to do is to pack.

For this summer, here are my plans for this blog
I promise...
to blog very frequently
there will, hopefully, be audio
to only drink "bottled water"
tons of awesome pictures
some links
more pictures
to use my strange sense of humor

Well that's all I can think of now. In case your wondering I'm sitting in my car next to Engineering Hall. I don't know if there's wireless in my town, but I guess I'll find out.

Wednesday, May 10

What's to Come

Well, about an hour ago I finished my last final, calculus, so it's time to take care of business. As you may have noticed, the picture at the top looks a little different. 'Tis true, I'm studying abroad with the College of Engineering in France at Ensica for two months, from the end of May to the end of July. My collegues and I will be traveling around from our base in Toulouse, France.

In case you're wondering, I don't speak French; I do Spanish and a little German. But I have started to learn some phrases. Luckily, the classes are in English by UW profs.

I'm looking forward to seeing Europe, French bread, and having interesting debates with Europeans. I wonder if the French have a word for "laissez-faire".

I can't wait to leave; 17 days until May 27th. We're flying into Germany, going to do the Alps in Austria and Switzerland and then heading to Toulouse, which is in the southern middle part of France.

I'll be blogging the whole trip with lots of pictures, and, hopefully, some sounds, and plenty, of commas. In the mean time, I'll be at home, which is probably the only place in the U.S. where the internet doesn't go. So be sure to check back starting May 23rd; by May 27th, for sure, I will be bloging again.

Thursday, May 4

A year in Review

I have five finals in three days next week and a report due in two days, so I'm dragging my feet as much as possible. Although I'm nearly at the end of it—I'm so bored I've turned to studying my calculus book for a few hours each night the past couple of nights. Although I'm Green, when it comes to vector calculus, I'm Stoked to be learning Gauss's theorem. (Even if you had read the chapter in the book, that'd probably not be funny [Green, Stoke, and Gauss each have theories relating to vector calculus]) I've decided to start writing the report due on Saturday soon, but I can't start now, my roommate is watching tv, so I'll blog a little.

I didn't write anything for the paper about the end of the year so now seems like a good time to do so. This is my first year at college so I went through that whole Madison experience. It has been a quite a learning experience.

Things I've learned at college:

  • The Brewers' old logo is an 'm' and a 'b' combined into baseball glove. That's really cool and it made my day when I realized it. As a matter of fact, I think it looks better than their current logo.
  • I will never again get A's without working hard
    • Follow up: no matter what I do, the group of foreign kids, sitting in the front corner of the lecture hall, who can barely speak English, will always score higher than me on exams
  • There is no such thing as a free lunch unless the University is trying to get people to show up to something
  • Most professors are very 'unique'
  • I don't like roommates
  • Since we're in the city, the only kind of wildlife we get is squirrels and hippies
  • For many people, personal hygiene takes a backseat to acquiring an education
    • Follow up: hippies aren't some kind of urban myth
  • My high school's food wasn't so gross after all
  • Fill the bubble in completely as partially fillings, x's, and other marks are unacceptable
  • It's all about how each person interprets/feels/identifies as something, unless I'm being graded
  • Get enough sleep every night or else my Spanish class will seem like a foreign language

Indeed, I have learned many a thing this year. One of the biggest things to happen to me is that my beliefs were tested, confirmed, and reinforced this year and in the future. No surprises are the political beliefs. Walking into the giant sandbox and seeing exactly what kind of people say the things they do and the stuff they do is interesting and at sometimes angering. The hypocrisy, ignorance, and blind anger are hilarious at some times and at other times so confused that I feel embarrassed for the person. But that's another post.

I have had the pleasure of meeting probably more than two thousand people this year. I sure don’t remember some of their faces and most of their names but I do look forward to working and studying with them in the future. From the Civil Engineers, to the College Republicans, to the all Letters & Sciences people and Letters & Bottlers, to the Mendota Beaconites, to the Oggonians, Sellerites, and Wittés, from the mathematicians to the chemists, to the linguists and statisticians and journalists, from the politicians and professors and bloggers. Also to the seniors graduating that I know, have a great summer and an even better future! Congratulations and good luck!

Madison is a city surrounded by several lakes and reality, but it is fun. Although there are plenty of liberals and hippies here, I am not ever worried about them. In fact I kind of like it, because as I said earlier, they challenge what I know. Also, there is no shortage of free entertainment. All the time they hold rallies and protests and try to rearrange proven economic principles and theories.

As a matter of fact, just this Monday, someone ran into my calculus lecture with a megaphone trying in vain to rally the masses to boycott businesses and classes but we just laughed him away. Besides, is there really anything to fear when their most enlightened thinkers are Al Franken, Michael Moron, and Jimmy Carter?

I suspect that this post is starting to get long, and I need to start on that report and I've played through "Rubber Soul" and "Sgt. Pepper" already, so I'll try to wrap it up. (If only I could write articles this easily!) My first year of college has been great but there are some things about high school I didn’t realize until I left.

My high school class had about 230 people in it and I miss how most of us 'mainstream people' knew each other. It's kind of weird going to discussions and lectures and only knowing a person or two, if you're lucky. I guess, all in all, it's a 'knowing people' thing because I also miss how most of us knew all our teachers. I think it's a little strange to go to lectures 3 or 4 times a week and the only thing you know about the person is their name. I also miss all the people who identify as "less smart". Where did they go? If they were here the curves would always work out. It's weird here because everyone is smart and you can't take anything for granted. Oh well, that's just college and I feel like I'm actually being challenged for the first time.

So that was my year in review. I plan on this summer and next year being even better. I'm also going to try to run a better blog, so stop by again soon and leave some comments!