Mittwoch, 16. November 2011

Fall Break

A week off from school!  I decided to travel around other parts of Europe during my break.

I went to London with a few fellow FU-Besters and met up with my friend Andrew From Semester at Sea and his friend Nick in London.  On the first day I decided to take an organized tour of London.  This tour was done with a bus and tour guide that would drive us around, drop us off and tell us about each of the sites.  The first sight was the London towers I went to take a picture at this first sight but realized I had left my memory card back in Berlin.  But fortunately there was a small souvenir store nearby that had the one I needed.  Once in the London Towers a beefeater showed us around.  They then brought us to Buckingham Palace.  At this palace our guide gave us a history and where the best place to take pictures.  After this out tour took us on a boat ride down the river in which we go to see a different view of London.  The tour then took us to St. Paul Cathedral.  This church was massive and had been slightly hit during the bombing of WWII.  Then afterward I meet up with my semester at sea friend at the hostel.  We decided to go to the only Chipotle in Europe that night.
The next day we did a tour of Stonehenge.  It was bigger than I had imagined.  Its shocking to see that there is nothing around for hundreds of miles in any directions and makes you really wonder where these rocks came from.  That night we did a jack the Ripper tour.  Our guide had been doing the tours for almost 29 years and had even wrote a book on the matters.  It was one of the most fascination tours I have been on.  The next day we decided to go on the London eye which is the tallest Ferris wheel in Europe.  It was built in 1999 and opened in 2000.  Once on tope you could see in every direction twenty five miles.  When on top you had a great view of Parliament, the rivers, and most of central London.  Afterwards we went to Camden town.  It is a huge outside flee market area with plenty of great cheap international food to.
The next morning was the last morning in London.  I decided to go to the British Museum which had an impressive collection some of the highlights for me was the full medieval samurai uniform, the Rosetta Stone, mummies, and the Parthenon sculptures.  I then made it just in time for the changing of the guards ceremony at Buckingham palace.

In Madrid I saw a bull fight.  I have never experienced anything like this and it was a great experience.  During this bull fight I got to see one matador get hit by a bull fortunately the matador was ok and continued to fight.
I went to the Reina Sofia Museum which has many of Picasso’s paintings.  What is considered Picasso’s greatest work the Guernica had quite a humorous security system.  It is stored in its own room where you have to stand fifteen feet away, and if you come any closer an alarm will go off, and there are also two security guards by the painting to ensure that no one attempts any crime.

I went to the naval museum in Madrid too.  which had model of the old Spanish navel boats.  It also had weapons they used and from other parts of the world such thing as the tribes which had shark tooth spears.  It also had any part of a boat that you could think of.  The next morning we took a guided tour around the city.  They showed us the palace, a few of the important churches of Madrid, a highlight of the great museums in Madrid and the main streets of Madrid.

Freie Universität Excursion

To start off the Munich trip, we embarked on a tour of the city to sight see. One of the first locales that was explored was the Newarshtein Castle.  We arrived at the castle through a two hour train ride in which we were able to see the country side of Bavaria.  Upon arrival, we were in a small town at the bottom of the mountain.  We trekked up the mountain for about 40 minutes, which allowed us to see the view from the mountain and the forest that inhibited the location.  We arrived at the castle soon after and took a guided tour in which they exhibited the bedroom of King Ludwig.  The tour concluded with walking to a bridge where were able to see a majestic view of the castle and the surrounding country side.

We took a guided tour of the city.  I was very impressed by the architecture of the buildings and of the long years of establishment may of these buildings had.  During my stay in Vienna I went to Wurstelprater, an amusement park that opened in the late 1700s.  Because of the cooler weather we did not have to deal with incredible amounts of people; my friends and I waited in line for about 2 minutes. During the trip we also took a day excursion to the city of Melk, a small town in Austria about an hour and a half from Vienna. We saw this massive palace that had been turned into a monastery named Melk Abbey.  It was built in 1736 on a hill overlooking the town.


Me and my friends had a few free days on the excursion and decided to go to Budapest.  We took a walk up to the Statue Liberty Hill in which we were able to see a view of all of Budapest.  Afterwards we went to a Hungarian Bath House which was a traditional Bath House in the park.  It had thermal pools both indoors and outdoors, and they were very relaxing.  Afterwards the hostel we booked had a homemade dinner of chicken soup with paprika, vegetables and other herbs.  The following day, we went to the Terror Museum.  This museum displays the Communist oppression Hungary felt during the communist reign.  It was a modern museum that presented this material impressively.

Dienstag, 18. Oktober 2011

East Side / Football Game

East Side Gallery
East Side Gallery - Pink Floyd the Wall Painting
For CIEE the study abroad program in the United states we are given the opportunity to do additional trips around Berlin.   I had the opportunity to walk the length of the East Side Gallery with Günther Schaefer and some fellow students.  The longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall, the East Side Gallery is covered in paintings by artists from around the world, painted in 1990 following the fall of the wall.  One of these artists was Günther, whose controversial “Vaterland” painting depicts Israel’s flag on top of Germany’s flag.  Günther explained to us that many of the paintings, his especially, have been the victims of vandalism and require refurbishing every six months.  Most of the paintings involved some sort of peaceful message, usually including a denouncement of war and oppression.
East Side Gallery - Gunther Painting 

Football Game
That afternoon, I met up with some friends Berlin’s Olympiastadion for the Hertha Berlin vs. Augsburg soccer match.  The program FU-Best which is through Freie Universität the Berlin school gave us tickets for this or one of the other football games for free. Originally built for the 1936 Olympics, the Olympiastadion has played host to several historic sporting events, including Jesse Owens’s four gold medal performances at the Olympics, three matches of the 1974 World Cup, and six matches, including the final, of the 2006 World Cup.  The massive stadium still retains an aura of the Nazi landscape, despite several renovations throughout the years.  Being able to attend my first European soccer match was an awesome experience, one that I will never forget. Although the game ended in a 2-2 tie, the atmosphere was still rocking from start to finish.  

Dienstag, 27. September 2011

Freie Universität, Berlin classes

     The classes i am in for the semester are Experimental German Language, European Business Culture,  Modern German History in European Context, and Contemporary Germany in European Perspectives.  The average work load for a class would be a Midterm Exam, Final Exam, 2 field projects in which you go to a museum and write a three page report on it,  and a term paper which is 10 pages long on a certain topic from the class.
Entrance to Sachsenhausen
    With these classes I feel I have a great schedule.  On Monday i have class from 9 am to 7 pm almost straight through with an hour lunch break and a half hour break at 4 pm.  Then on Wednesday and Thursday only one class on each day from 9 am to 12pm.  And on Friday the study abroad program FU Best takes us on field trips. The first field trip was to Cecilienhof palace where the Potsdam conference occurred in which Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, and Harry S. Truman meet up after World War 2.  The second field trip was to Sachsenhausen a Nazi concentration camp right outside of Berlin which was one of the first concentration camps and later used for a model for what would happen in other concentration camps later on.  It was quite a somber experience to see such a place.  Then on every other Tuesday i have no class but a field trip for German Language in which we got to a different part of Berlin.  Our class so far has brought us to mitte which is the down town part of Berlin which is known for its museums and to a part of town which is known for there street art.
Sachsenhausen Russian Memorial

Cecilienhof Palace


Sonntag, 18. September 2011

Arrival Week

I flew out of LAX to Texas then To London Then to Berlin Germany.  The Whole process took about 22 hours.  I took a taxi  to the Lindner Hotel in Kurfürstendamm, known locally as Ku’damm.  Ku’damm is a beautiful part of the city known for its high-end shopping, hotels, and restaurants.  In about a stretch of 4 blocks I saw Rolex, Gucci, Prada, and Louis Vuitton stores, among several others. During the Golden Twenties period in Berlin under the Weimar Republic, Ku’damm was a hub of activity day and night.  In between initial orientation sessions I strolled down the avenue while getting my first taste of German culture.  That evening my program’s director invited us all for dinner at a biergarten in Tiergarten, which is basically Berlin’s central park.  The food was delicious and the dinner served as a good opportunity to get to know a few of the people that I will be sharing my time in Berlin with. 

The next morning the small group at the Lindner Hotel transferred to the center where the program’s classes will be held, which is basically a large converted home in Steglitz, an expensive residential area of the city.  After a basic information session, My host family dad came to pick me up his name is also Michael.  I meet my family in which there is a wife, Christina, and  Felix (17).  They also have two other kids Jasmin (22) and Dennis (26) who live in other parts of the city.   Only Felix lives at home.  My family prepared a dinner of spaghetti that night which was simple but great tasting.  I went into the Mitte (center of Berlin) to check out the city.

The rest of the first week mostly consisted of doing touristy stuff during the day and exploring different parts of the city at night.  On Friday the program went on a boat tour on the Spree River, which runs right past such famous sites as the Reichstag building, the e TV tower, and a stretch of the Berlin Wall.  Fun fact about the Fernsehturm: on clear days, the reflection of the sun makes a distinct cross on the TV tower's steel dome.  This effect was called the "Pope's Revenge" because the secular East German government and the tower's designers never desired such a phenomenon.  Immediately after the tour we went to the largest Soviet War Memorial in Berlin, located in Treptower Park.  Created in 1949 to commemorate the 80,000 Soviet soldiers killed in the Battle of Berlin at the end of World War II, the memorial contains the remains of 5,000 soldiers.  I was shocked on how enormous this monument is.