Friday, October 31, 2008

A Great Visit from Slovenia!

One of the best parts of being over here in Europe is knowing that I always have someone that I can count on somewhere close by me. I have had the pleasure, of course, of making new friends here, but in addition I have friends here from before I arrived this summer. I have my friend Michael in Baden-Wuerttemberg that I have visited a couple of times (and still will more), I have Anna a few hours away in Poland, my German roommates from the US are now back here, and many other wonderful people, like my friend Brigita who lives in Ljubliana, Slovenia.
A couple of weekends ago (sorry for the late post), Brigita drove about eleven hours to get from Ljubliana to Cologne, to come visit for a weekend. It was not her first time in Germany, as we had studied together in Bremen in 2006, but it was her first time in Cologne. I was thrilled to see her again, and had the opportunity to show her around the city.
We saw pretty much all of the major sites in the city, including the world famous Dom Cathedral, the bank of the Rhine River, the Altstadt (old city), and some good shopping. We ate Turkish food, ice cream, and sampled a couple of German beers. Most importantly though, we spent a lot of time just hanging out all weekend and catching up.
It is a wonderful feeling to know that even when so far away from home, there are still plenty of people that care about you, just like great friends like Brigita. Just thought I could give a small post to share in my excitement, even though it was a couple of weeks ago!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"Sorry, Officer. I Don't Speak German!"

Every day I ride my bike to and from work. I am usually in a rush, and in general pretty careless of things such as pedestrians, stop signs, other vehicles, etc. Well, today it finally caught up to me, and I was stopped by the German police, or "Polizei". I was crossing the street at a green cross walk on my bicycle, and on the other side of the street there is a bicycle path next to the road. I usually go over it and onto the sidewalk to pass the other bikers who are always incredibly slow. Well, I saw some police there, but didn't think anything of it, and I was planning to just ride right around them. A policewoman stepped right in front of me and held her hand up to stop, and I stopped my bike right in front of her. She started to tell me (in German) that I am not supposed to be on the sidewalk, and that there is a reason for the bike path. I replied with a very convincing "Uhhh, I am sorry, mein Deutsch ist nicht so gut." She asked what I speak, and I replied "English". Then, very politely, she explained that it is illegal for me to ride my bike on the sidewalk, and that I should proceed to the bike path. I knew it was illegal, but I had no idea that they actually enforce a rule like that, especially since the bike path was out of my way for the direction that I was going. Anyways, I spoke to my colleagues at work, and apparantly those police were there for the sole purpose of enforcing bike laws. They were also supposed to give me a 20 euro fine, which I managed to get out of. Sometimes it pays (or saves in this case) to be a foreigner!

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Trip With Two of My Roommates to Bonn

Well, there is a lot of catching up to do in this post! I have been working so hard on getting the new blog up and running that I have neglected to actually write anything new in it! If this is your first time on the new blog, and you are familiar with my Cologne blog, I think you will find this one to be much cleaner, and functional. I am much happier with the design, and I am not going to have it specific to Cologne, so I can keep this one when I finally arrive back home in the US . . . hopefully with Obama as the new President. Otherwise I might be trying to find a ticket back!
First things first, a couple of weekends ago, two of my roommates and I took a trip to Bonn. Bonn is only about 20 minutes south of Cologne by train, and is a wonderful place to visit. It is a big city, but it feels more like a small town then Cologne does. We got there at about noon, and did a little bit of walking around. Our first stop was at the Museum of the History of the Federal Republic of Germany, located in an area of Bonn that has a road that consists of a mile long stretch of varying museums. It was an enormous museum that detailed the history from the end of World War II, until modern times. It was a good educational experience for me, especially since most of the history lessons we have in the United States on Germany involves war-time history.
Next, we found our way to a farmer's market, where we bought some fresh veggies, and the girls then found a couple of shops to browse through. We grabbed a quick bite to eat of some bratwurst (typical, I know), and then saw some other sites including the Beethoven house. Beethoven was actually born in Bonn, and his house still exists that he was born in. It is now a museum, and located in the city center. We didn't go in, but you can see the picture of the house.
Before dinner time we headed back on the train home. It was a good deal that day, as we only had to pay about seven euros each for the train tickets. My bratwurst cost two euro as well, and the museum was absolutely free. So nine euros to see a new German city wasn't too bad of a deal!

Friday, October 24, 2008

New Blog, New Blogger Template, and a Li'l Dust

I have finally moved to my new blog! I am currently living in Cologne, and have a blog for my time here, but since I will be moving back the the US very soon, then I will need a blog that is more broad than just my time in Cologne. So I have been getting this blog ready to launch for when I return back to the US.
One advantage to having this new blog is I have done a little bit of extra work to create a better template, and also to remove the 'nofollow' tag on the comments. For info on the dofollow movement read my last post. It will explain what 'nofollow' is. I have removed the tag in hopes of getting more visitors to the site, and also more comments here.  
Since the new blog is still pretty new, please expect to see a little bit of dust on here.  I am still working on features, and coding, however I think it is coming along nice, and a lot more how I would like it to look.  
People that are familiar with my Cologne Blog might notice that I also imported all of my posts from that blog into here including any comments.  I did this because I will soon be abandoning that blog, and the posts are still relevant to this one.  
Let me know what you think!  Comments are always appreciated, and for those looking for a link, enjoy some link love with your quality message!

Widget for Blogger Brings in More Visitors and Comments

Working in the field of internet marketing has brought me all sorts of insights into the business than I had ever known before.  There are so many tips and tricks that can be used, and so many variables that effect the number and quality of the visitors on your site.  Content is absolutely crucial to bringing in visitors to a blog.  If you don't have the proper content, get out, because you do not have anything to offer your visitors!  Content drives the search engines, and it is also what keeps visitors to coming back to your site.  

Now there is not widget installed here that brings visitors to this blog, however, as has been experimented on several other sites, having the keywords in the title of this post will be the right keywords in to bring in more visitors.  Perhaps you are one of them?  Again, content is key to any high ranking, high traffic site.

A recommendation that I have for blogs as well is to join in on the dofollow movement.  Dofollow refers to removing the 'nofollow' tag in the code of the comments section of a blog.  The 'nofollow' tag makes it impossible for search engines to pull out link information that a commenter has left on a blog, and therefore taking away the reward of the commenter.  On this blog, you will see that the 'nofollow' tag has been removed, and yon the top of the page you can see the badge that reads "U comment I follow" letting readers know that the tag has been removed.  This should help reward visitors with a link for visiting and commenting on the site.  

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Short Trip Back to Baden-Württemberg

A few months ago, while on the phone with a friend of mine's mother, she and the family had invited me down for a visit to celebrate Michael's father's 50th birthday. A large party was planned, and of course I said I would definitely be there. As time got closer, and the birthday nearing, I started to look for a way to get back down to Berlichingen again. The last time that I went, I found a ride on a ride sharing website called mitfahrgelegenheit. The guy driving me, Dennis, was very friendly, and the cost of gas was quite cheap, however, this time I had no luck finding a ride that way. My next option was to look at trains. Most train tickets were pretty expensive going that way, but the Deutsche Bahn does offer a “Schönes Wochenende” ticket, or “Have a Nice Weekend” ticket. Honestly, they should be more careful with what they call this ticket, because even though it is relatively cheap, it is only good for one day, and only good on the slowest possible trains that stop at every known train station along the way to your destination, and even some stops not so along the way. Anyways, I bought two schönes wochenende tickets, one for Saturday, and one for the return journey on Sunday. Michael had arranged for me to meet up with his cousin, and her boyfriend in Frankfurt, and after I took a train there, got on a city tram, I met up with them, and they drove me the rest of the way to Berlichingen.

As soon as we arrived in Berlichingen, we went directly to find the party. After some directions from some villages folks, and after a humorous parking spot search we finally walked down the steps into the cellar of what is the village community hall. The cellar was actually what appeared to be a converted wine cellar, well over a hundred years old. I spent time with Michael, his family, and all of their friends (about 50 people were there). They had a great dinner of schnitzel, spätzle (soft, thick noodles popular in Baden Wuerttemberg), and a plethora of cakes made for dessert. I ate a piece of Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (black forest cherry torte) cake made by Michael’s grandmother, and was rather delicious.

The night went on until about five the next morning. It was a night full of old German singing, eating, drinking, and happy people- an experience that I am sure is not typical for a foreigner.

The following day, Sunday, I woke up a little bit late since we were awake for so long. We ate breakfast, and before I knew it, after spending some time with the Haak family, it was already time for me to leave back to Cologne. This time I would take a train from the nearby town of Möckmühl all the way back to Cologne. The car ride from Michael’s place to Cologne is generally only about three to four hours long depending on traffic, however, it took me about seven hours to get there by train, and I had to switch to different trains four times! Oh well, the important thing is that I was able to be there for the party, and have some relaxation time outside of the big city with Michael and his family.