Sunday, September 28, 2008

Fußball Brötchen mit Nutella!

Sometimes it really is the small things that excite me about being in a different country.  I went to the grocery store yesterday, a store called Real that is really great, because it is huge, and they have everything that you could imagine.  I was there with my roommate Melli, and we were getting our usual shopping done, when I went to the bakery section, because baked goods in Germany are absolutely the best, and I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw bread called Fußball Brötchen!  Now, I know that most people are aware that outside of the US, the rest of the world is soccer crazy, but this was bread that was shaped like a soccer ball, which pretty much amazed me, and of course I bought a pack of 3 freshly baked "soccer breads".  
My favorite bread here in Germany is of course Pretzels . . . the big soft kind.  The fußball brötchen was great because it is the same kind of bread that a pretzel is made out of but just a big fluffy piece of it.  What makes it even better is a bit of Nutella.  If you don't know what Nutella is, it is a nutty chocolate spread.  It is pretty expensive in the US, but here in Germany it is the staple for any snack.  Nutella on waffles, on apples, and of course on my fußball brötchen.  As you can tell, I am having an exciting week, and I just wanted to share my good find!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Warszawa, Part 3: Day Two and the Departure

Saturday was a much more relaxing day in Poland. After the late night out in downtown Warsaw, I slept comfortably on my huge air mattress so wonderfully provided by Anna and her sister. I had slept in until almost 11:00, and was greatly needed. Between an uncomfortable night on the train, walking around Warsaw the day before, and dancing in the cellar of who knows where, I needed the extra hours of sleep. Anna again played the role of the good host, and made a delicious breakfast of breads, cheeses, meats, and jellies. We then got ready to go out to do some more sightseeing.

Our main event for the day was a visit to the Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego, or the Warsaw Uprising Museum. The museum is a tribute to the uprising that took place in 1944 of the civilians and military in Warsaw defending their town against the Nazi invasion. At the heart of the museum was a large wall that emanated a loud heartbeat and sounds of the uprising as a tribute to those involved. The museum also contained several moving exhibits that gave lots of information on all aspects of the Uprising. It was a really good experience, as in the US, Polish history is not generally taught in normal studies. It was a good opportunity for me to learn more about the place that I was visiting.

After the museum, Anna and I went off to a restaurant, one of her favorites, called the Greenway. It was actually a vegetarian restaurant, and even though she is not a vegetarian, she is quite the health nut. The food was a lot to eat, not too expensive, and my vegetarian enchilada was actually quite tasty. I didn’t know what to order, but that is what the cook said that most people from “England” order. Anna did me the favor of correcting him, but I ordered the enchilada anyways! 

Our next stop for our sightseeing was the Łazienki Park, which is said to be Warsaw’s most beautiful, and I am definitely not one to argue. Although Łazienki actually means “bathroom” making it the “Bathroom Park”, it was one of the most odd, yet pleasing parks I have ever been in. It was established in the 17th century and lies in the middle of the city. The park is absolutely huge with winding trails, old trees, and several old fashioned, beautiful buildings nestled into green corners. We walked through the park, and actually got a little bit lost because it is so ginormous (not a real word, I know), and then went home because it was raining, and a bit chilly.

Speaking of the weather- I suppose it is a stereotype of Poland to imagine it as a constantly cold place. Summers are apparently quite nice there, but I brought the cold weather with me, or actually Hanna did. That’s right, what was left from Hurricane Hanna in the US, had floated it’s way across the ocean, and brought with it cold weather and rain. The weather in Germany and Poland was surprisingly abnormal, and not so pleasant. Although the weather was not perfect during my trip, it didn’t keep us from having fun.

After taking a rest back again at Anna’s apartment, we went out with some of her friends again to a restaurant called Tam Tam in the Old Town for a drink and talking. After that, we went early back home once more, to wake up for my departure home.
Although the night train seemed quick because I could sleep the whole way, the train back was twelve hours of absolutely nothing special. It was just a long trip home, and took up the entire day. 

It was definitely a great trip to Poland, and I am really glad that I got to see Anna again, which was the most important part of my trip. Even though I hadn’t seen her in over two years, it was just like our friendship had never parted. I am really looking forward to the next time that I can visit again.

Thanks for reading! That is the end of my Warsaw posts, and I hope that it wasn’t too long. As always, comments are appreciated, and welcome! More posts coming soon!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Warszawa, Part 2: Day One

Like all train stations in Europe, the Warsaw train station is no exception. After walking out of the train station you find yourself thrust into the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city. Even here in Cologne, the main train station is situated directly next to the famous Dom Cathedral, and is in the middle of everything. It is also more than just a train station as there is shopping and restaurants inside where non-travelers might have an interest as well. So, this is also how the Warsaw train station was.

My first impression of Warsaw was amazement at how big the city was. After chugging along hours of endless fields and crops through Poland, one may not expect to find such a big development out so far from everything else. The next thing that hit me was the language. Very seldom is it that I have found myself in a situation where I do not know a single word of the local language, and hearing Polish all around me was very strange. Polish sounds very much like Russian, and does not stem from Latin, so every word sounds extremely unfamiliar to me.

Before I talk about what I did, I would like to give a little bit of history of Warsaw and Poland. The city’s history dates back all the way to the 9th century, but what is most important when visiting Warsaw today is in some of it’s most recent history. Poland became an independent country in 1918, and later in 1920 defeated the Russian Red Army defending Warsaw. During World War II, Poland suffered the most casualties of any country involved at over six million Poles, half of whom were Jewish. After World War II, Poland fell off of the map and was then controlled by the Soviets. Poland remained Communist, and still not independent from Russia until 1990, when Communism fell and Poland elected it’s first parliamentary president. Much of what I saw in Warsaw greatly reflected it’s rich and dark history.

I am extremely lucky that I was there visiting with Anna, because for one thing, she is the best tour guide one could ask for. Before my arrival she had prepared herself with several books, and pamphlets all about Warsaw, and the different sites to see. After visiting her very nice apartment, she took me out into the city by way of the underground metro to take some pictures, and see some of the important sites of the city. We walked throughout the old town that had been carefully reconstructed since WWII. We saw the President’s Palace, saw ate a real Polish lunch, and she showed me some of her favorite places to visit. We ended our sightseeing with a climb up to the top of the Palace of Culture and Science, which is a huge skyscraper, constructed as a government building from the Russians, and now has been turned into a museum. At the top, one can look out and get a beautiful view of the city.

After all of our sightseeing, we made it back to Anna’s apartment, and at dinner with her sister, and a friend of theirs. After that was one hectic night on the town. First we went to a friend of Anna’s apartment, and had a few drinks. I think I should have known that the Polish drink of choice is plain old vodka. After that, we went back out into the city where we found ourselves in a club for a short time before heading back, getting some rest, and getting ready for another day of full activities. All of that will be in part three of my trip to Warsaw.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Warszawa, Part 1: The Night Train

Because I have a lot to say about my trip to Poland, I have decided to split it up into three different parts. This is just the first part describing my peculiar Journey this past weekend:

During my stay here in Germany, I have been given a wonderful opportunity to visit a good friend of mine, Anna, in her home country of Poland. There is a lot that I want to write about it, so because of that, I will write it in three parts, and this first part is about my exciting adventure to Warsaw from Cologne, by means of the night train.

Because it takes so long to get to Poland, especially Warsaw, which lies on the far East side of the country, I decided that I would take the night train there so that I would be able to get the most time out of my trip. I had asked my boss off of work for Friday, September 12, and I booked my train to depart on that same Thursday night.

I arrived at the train station rather early, and my train left the Cologne Hauptbahnhoff at a punctual 10:28pm. I found my way to my cabin, where four beds were made ready complete with pillows and blankets. There was a khaki jacket that had been left sitting on one of the beds, but other than that, nobody else came and I moved the jacket to the upper storage area and made myself comfortable.

After about twenty minutes from leaving the station, a Deutsche Bahn employee arrived to collect tickets. What was really strange, and had me a bit scared was that he took both my ticket for Poland, and my Eurail pass that would permit me to travel within Germany. He claimed that he would keep them, and give them back to me at a later time. After telling me that I should lock my cabin door to prevent from being robbed in the night, he wished me goodnight.

I had no problem falling asleep-- it had been a long week, and I was exhausted. I slept virtually the whole night, waking up about every hour, or hour and a half, only because of normal train noises, and trying to make myself comfortable. I woke up at about 8:00am, and started to put myself together in my empty cabin. I then proceeded to the doorway, and pulled the curtains open to find a very strange man staring back at me through the window. He had very short brown hair, and was not so tall himself. He was skinny, with a pointy nose, and looked about 30 years old. I opened up the door for him, and he just walked right into my cabin, grabbed the jacket that I had stored above in the storage space, and sat down on one of the beds mumbling in what I assume was Polish. Assuming that the jacket was his, I can only guess that I had locked him out of the cabin the entire night, but luckily so.

He sat on the bed with his head in his hands continuously shaking. After a while of sitting, he tried several times to jump to the top bunk before finding the ladder. When he finally made it up to the top bunk, which I was sure he would fall out of, he didn’t lay down in the bed, but instead laid down in the storage area that hangs over the aisle outside of the cabin. After he laid there for a while, he then moved over to one of the beds where he reached for a big red knob on the wall, and proceeded to pull the emergency brake. The train came to a complete stop in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of Poland. I immediately left the cabin and pointed out who had pulled the brake to the train employees running down the aisle. The man was arrested outside, and was not allowed back on the train. Luckily, I had my cabin back to myself, but unluckily, I arrived in Warsaw about an hour later because of this man.

I later found out that the train had actually started in Amsterdam, and this man had been causing trouble all night since the train was in Amsterdam. I am glad that there are locks on the doors, otherwise I would have had one long night on the night train. With all of that said, I arrived in Warsaw in one piece, and I was greeted by my good friend Anna on the train platform. We haven’t seen each other since we met two years ago in Bremen, so it was a fantastic reunion in Eastern Europe, with a peculiar start to my journey.

I will have more about my trip posted shortly in two other installments, and hopefully with some more pictures. Comments are always welcome!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Neue WG und der Kölner Zoo

So I suppose I have a habit of not updating sometimes, but really I have been waiting for something really exciting to happen, and the past couple of weeks have been pretty mundane for the most part, or at least not worth writing about on here.  So now, I wanted to put up a post on my new apartment, and about my trip to the zoo today!

About three weeks ago, I moved into my new apartment.  I had to move because both of my other roommates were leaving, and it was easier for us to find three people to take the apartment than it was for us to find two people and have me stay.  My reason for leaving wasn't because it wasn't working out, because everything in the old apartment was great.  In the long run I am glad that I moved, because I am in a really great place!  My rent is cheaper, the building is nicer, and I have great roommates again.  The apartment is student housing right by the university, and it is very roomy inside.  I have posted a link at the bottom of this post with the pictures I just took of my bedroom and some of the rest of the apartment.  There are five of us living here, and we all get along very well.  Most days after work, we are all cooking food together, and chatting for a few hours.  It is very much like a family atmosphere, and enjoy spending time together.  

Another thing about my apartment that I am thrilled about is having my flags on the walls of my bedroom!  Whenever I go to a new country or city, I always like to buy a flag from there.  Anyone that has ever walked into my bedroom in the past few years will know what I am talking about, because my bedroom walls used to be covered in giant flags from the world.  Now, I have about eight flags from my time here so far this trip, and have put them up on the walls.  They are great reminders of my travels, and they also remind a bit of home, because it feels like my old bedroom.  Check out the pics to see them on the walls!

Today was a fun Sunday, as two of my roommates, a friend from Scotland, and I all took a trip to the Cologne Zoo.  It was great fun, and was pretty much like any zoo, even though maybe not as great as the NC Zoo (for all of y'all back home!).  I got to take lots of pictures, since I haven't really gotten a chance to use my camera in a while, and got some good shots of some of the animals who were actually quite active.  Another benefit of going to the zoo, was that it really helped my vocabulary with learning how to say some of the animals' names in German.  We had a lot of fun, and came back to the apartment to cook dinner this evening.

That's about all that I have for this post.  I am looking forward to writing my next one, because this coming weekend I will be visiting my friend Anna who lives in Warsaw, Poland.  She says she is going to show me around Warsaw, and Krakow, and possibly her hometown.  It's a lot to fit in in a weekend, but I am taking the night train on Thursday evening, and will arrive Friday morning.  I guess I will have more on that later!

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