Aug 232012

We called it the “Schicksal Trip” but that’s because we all spoke a decent amount of German and knew that Schicksal meant Destiny. I intend for you to learn a few German vocab words while reading this post.  Maybe this is me being artsy fartsy or maybe it is the graduate instructor inside of me trying to claw her way out in preparation for next week. I don’t know. Enjoy.

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It all started because the Deutsche Bahn is NOT as punctual (pünktlich) as they would have the world believe.  I had far better luck with trains in Italy.  I don’t know where either country got their rep.  Anyways, I digress.  We packed our bags full of clothes, beverages, and acne cream.  Or at least I did.  We left from Heidelberg Main Station (Hauptbahnhof… even for non-German speakers… “main station” don’t sound raaaht) and made our way to our first and only connection (Umstieg!) in Frankfurt.  The train in Frankfurt was 15 minutes late.  All the trains everywhere were 15 minutes late.

We got on our train and arrived 15 minutes late to all subsequent stops the train had to make.  That meant that we ended up at a train station in BumFuckGermany right when THIS WAS HAPPENING:

A fireworks show.  The grand finale, to be exact.  A fireworks show grand finale that we got to watch from the train!

Absorb that.

We arrived in Leipzig around 10 PM and made our way to Moritzbastei & Cafe Barbakane, a very quick and easy walk from the train station.  The place is mostly a cellar, which I am really into, and a portion of it was actually once part of the old city wall which students dug out in the 1970s.  The music that night left something to be desired, which was sad considering there were two different rooms to dance in.  Still don’t regret going.  Still recommend it to anyone who goes to Leipzig.

After checking in to our hostel, we attempted to sleep. We woke at 10 AM and didn’t come home until 5 AM the following day.  I present to you: “How to have practically my exact fun and informative trip in Leipzig!”. Shorter title coming soon.

1. Have a coffee at “Coffe Baum”.  This means Coffee tree in German except, actually, in German coffee is “kaffee” but they got the Baum part right.  So it’s… yea it’s coffee tree.  If you stay at the Say Cheese hostel in Leipzig, which you should, all you have to do is walk out and take a left and it’s right there.  You can have a cappuccino, or you can have the Mexican coffee which you should because MEXICAN!

2. Go to the Zeitgeschichtliches Museum.  It is a TOTALLY FREE (frei, gratis, you name it) museum about the rise, fall, and shitty life in the GDR.  The museum is so huge, you really would need to revisit it at least 3 times to give everything the time it deserves.  It is packed with information and things to see and the tour guides, most of whom lived in the GDR, are more than happy to follow you around (ahem) and make sure you get the full experience.  I started having a panic attack towards the end because I realized I just couldn’t see everything, and I wanted to.  They even had a former Stasi creeper mobile and television spying station set up and it was playing real videos they had recorded. Amazing.

3. Have a quick drink at Auerbach’s Keller to forget the mind-bogglingly interesting but also mildly depressing things you just witnessed in the Zeitgeschichtliches Museum.  Auerbach’s Keller was frequented by Goethe and is the background for several scenes in “Faust”.

4.  Cross the street and you will arrive at the Goethe statue!

5.  Go to Thomaskirche and see the Bach statue… then go inside where his sarcophagus is kept. Bach was a cantor in the Thomaskirche from 1723-1750.  There is also a Bach museum if you are still not overwhelmed from the Zeitgeschichtliches Museum.

6. You really must have a drink at the Biergarten unter der Löffelfamilie.  This means beer garden under the spoon family.  There is a building that now appears to be unused with a gigantic neon sign with a family eating with spoons, and the beer garden is in the (former parking lot?) next to it.  Hilarious and fun.

7. Go to Flower Power for drinks and amazing music!  Classics all night!  Amusing 60s and 70s style decorations–there was even a cow going around the ceiling on some sort of cleverly designed contraption.  When you leave in the early morning, there is a guy outside selling yummy bratwurst and the cabs are lined up and ready. You can’t lose.

Before you leave Leipzig the next day, if your trip was a 2-nighter like mine, you have to go visit the Monument to the Battle of the Nations (Völkerschlachtdenkmal) where Napoleon was defeated in the Battle of Leipzig. Très intéressant!

Finally, catch your train home or away, and if you are lucky and take the German fast train, the ICE, you might be leaving from none other than….


Ich wünsche Ihnen der Heidenspaß!

Aug 202012

Summer is over (adieu Italy, Germany, Virginia…) and, in an attempt to set fire to my ass on lesson planning and mentally preparing for the upcoming Fall semester, I packed my bags on Friday to head back to my Soviet-block style apartment 3-blocks south of the “student ghetto” in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Since I drove this summer, not intentionally to commemorate the 1-year anniversary of me doing it last year, I got artsy-fartsy and made a little 8mm-style film of the trip:

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Ignore the wind-blowing in the first two shots– it gets super-mad-intense-funky with the beats the car stereo drops in the later ones when I realized the window didn’t have to be down.

Some parts of the trek are beautiful: the Shenandoah valley, West Virginia mountains…

And some are a bit boring: no offense, Ohio.

Either way, there is something interesting or quirky about each state you pass through, even if it is just the hairstyle rocked by the woman working behind the counter at Biscuit World.

Jul 152012

Italy, Week Six. Blog posts: Three (oops*).

I still anticipate each meal with more fervor than I anticipated Christmas as a child after the age of 3 (Christmas 1990 was far too cold to open presents).  I’m also never hungry. The opportunity never exists.

Gusta Pizza... yea, me gusta.

I can now pronounce “bruschetta” correctly (thanks for the tender reminding last night of my butchered English articulation from a month earlier, Italian mom). I also now know what it’s meant to taste like.

I’m… a tiny bit tan.

I have Stendhal syndrome. It’s all over Italy, not just in Florence.

Did Michelangelo draw this behind his back?!? Without looking?

Anything less than 1500 years old just doesn’t seem so old anymore. God that’s pretentious. Maybe it’ll wear off.

The nicest Italians do not live in Florence.

The best gelato is in Florence.

Roman noses are beautiful.

Romans are beautiful.

I don’t care that there’s no air conditioner. I don’t miss being cold.

Italians are the most generous people in the world.

I’ve eaten more apricots in these six weeks than I’d eaten in my entire life before I knew Italy.

Homemade wine, homemade olive oil, homemade jam.

I found a really cool Italian band.

Besides my favorite Italian band…

Sweaty and happy.

Chinotto (or Chino…) is friggin’ yum.

I get goosebumps daily.

I’ve realize I packed all wrong.

I’ve realized baggy pants from Thailand are comfy.

I’ll be sad to leave, but I look forward to reflecting when I have. I will share those reflections here. I promise. Vabbè.

*I’ve been working full-time and enjoying the company of very, very lovely people. I’ve also had limited internet access.

 Posted by at 3:21 pm
Jul 052012

I don’t know how to begin– I don’t know how to describe my feelings clearly– I also don’t know how to end.  I will treat this dedication to the Castelli Romani like a toast at a wedding: awkward, but hopefully the meaning is understood in the end.

The communes surrounding Rome are home to the most generous people in the entire world.  I have spent the past 4 weeks eating food so good I have no words to articulate the taste, having my haircut for free because I was told cutting a visitor’s hair was a pleasure, learning new Italian words from children, eating Cheetos with a fork and knife to make monolingual Italian speakers laugh, being taken to countless breathtaking and awe-inspiring panoramas, and feeling guilty for offending others by NOT staying in their homes.

I have cried like an asshole when separated from people that I only met two weeks before.  Yes, I know this often happens to people who are thrown together for a short amount of time, but I am also convinced that many of them will remain in my heart forever, and I know that I will do everything I can to see them again and again.

Grottaferrata: you have the most adorable children in the world.  They are rambunctious, but it’s because they have personality.  There are some artists in there, there are some future free-loving hippies.  There are some accountants as well, I am sure.  You also have some damn good Gelato.  I think it’s a bit of a hidden gem.  The jasmine flowers lining your streets made me dizzy with happiness every time I caught their aroma.

Frascati: ooooh Frascati.  The views, the wine, the parks with toys that would certainly be outlawed in the United States (and that really shouldn’t be played on under the influence of alcohol).  The old men playing classic Italian songs outside of Fraschetta’s without a desire for tips.  Every moment was unforgettable.  The 3 Euro water-bottles-filled-with-wine weren’t very tasty, but the 5 Euro glass bottles were better than good.

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Rocca di Papa: I didn’t spend much time visiting properly, but I did stare at you every night as I ate dinner and again from my balcony right before bed.  My ears pop like crazy when I reach high altitudes, but I don’t mind it, and even if I did, I would ignore it just for you.

Rocca di Papa

Marino: I hereby promise that I will come back next October for the wine festival.  Am I really talking about wine again? I want to drink wine out of a public fountain, thank you very much.  I hope you understand why I can’t come this year.  Thanks for the football game, it was great.

Ariccia:  I’m sorry I didn’t fall in love at first, but I wasn’t over the Grottaferrata thing yet.  The views are great, but the stupid nets on the bridge kept getting in the way of my photos.  I don’t know why anyone ever wanted to commit suicide while in such a beautiful place. Thank you for Porchetta, and for just existing in general.


Genzano di Roma: you have some really well-behaved kids who speak phenomenal English.  I hate to tell you that this means they will probably all leave when they are old enough to do so.  Nevertheless, I had fun watching the final game of the Euro Cup in your streets, and I will always treasure the orphaned Italian flag I found (someone must have been really mad that their country lost).

Lanuvio: There are some really embarrassing videos of me singing on stage during your music festival floating around. Thanks for putting up with that, and for cheering “brava!” and “encore!” despite how terrible myself and my friends sounded.  Over 93% of you were breathtakingly gorgeous. I want to rename you “Hottie Town Italia”, but I probably don’t have that authority.

I have been beaten into submission. I have learned to kiss both cheeks as a greeting rather than go in for a hug.  I know now that visiting Rome is not enough; you have truly missed out if you skip the Castelli.

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