Friday, August 26, 2005

BARCELONA, SPAIN

Unfortunately, internet access in Spain has been pretty difficult to find, and Paul and I have been very busy, so I am afraid this will be my only update from Barcelona.

Yesterday (our first full day in Barcelona) Paul and I went to the Picasso Museum. It was a good collection but a little disappointing. The specialty of the permanent collection is Picasso´s Barcelona period. While historically interesting, the Barcelona works are not signature Picasso. There are hints of Picasso´s later cubism and monochromism, but they are just hints. The museum has a small collection of lesser known later works. The most interesting thing in the museum, in my view, were the sketches (really doodles) that Picasso made of his long-time friend and associate. I think that these were never intended as artworks at all but rather as private doodles for Picasso´s amusement.

Today we went to the Parc Guell, a huge urban park designed by Gaudi with an incredible view of Barcelona and the sea. There´s no sense in trying to explain the wonder of that park in words when the pictures will do much better. I will upload the pictures as soon as possible.

Barcelona is a very interesting town with a living arts scene. The streets are crawling with performance artists (most of them are human statues) with a variety of acts. The rumors you´ve heard about the Spanish siesta are true: Barcelona shuts down from 1pm to 7pm everyday. Most of the bars and nightclubs are not active until 2am or later! This is our last night, so Paul and I are going out for an evening of tapas, sangria, and perhaps a moonlight walk along the Mediterranean.

Even though I am leaving Europe tomorrow, I will continue posting pictures of my adventures to this website once I get back to America. Since I´ve been away, we´ve moved and we are uncertain when our internet connection will be reestablished. But please keep checking for the next few weeks because pictures of Paris, Barcelona, Berlin, and elsewhere will be available.

Adios!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

PARIS, FR

This post will be as long as I can bear to type on this French keyboard.

We have been in Paris for 2 full days. It is really a marvelous city! The rumors about Parisians are utterly false. We hardly know any French at all and we are getting along without any trouble. Every Parisian we have met so far has been unbelievably polite and patient. Far from being the rudest people in Europe, Parisians have been the NICEST people in Europe by a long-shot (with only one exception, which is forthcoming).

Of course, the sights are the real attraction, anyway, and they leave little to be desired. Yesterday we spent the entire day on the Champs Elysees. We saw the Arc de Trioumphe (warning: spelling errors are likley ahead) and the Eiffel Tower at night.

Today we saw Sainte Chappelle (inside and outside); Notre Dame (outside only); the Latin Quarter; the Seine River; and probably a thousand other things that I can't think to remember right now. Everything was lovely. Unfortunately, somewhere between Sainte Chappelle and Notre Dame I was pickpocketed. This in spite of the fact that I have buttons on my pants pockets! But the pickpocket didn't get anything with a decent street value: he got my hotel keycard and my metro card. I haven't kept anything of real value in my pockets on this trip because of the danger of pickpockets, but I guess now I will keep nothing at all in my pockets so that I don't risk another inconvenience.

I've had enough of this keyboard. Naturally, I have many other things to say about Paris but this will have to suffice for the moment.

Bon soir!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

BERLIN, DE

We made it to Berlin without incident last night (and thankfully, without the use of a Czech train). As promised, we are staying on a hostel/houseboat. It is definitely the most peaceful place that we've slept since we've been in Europe. Today we will explore Berlin; tomorrow, we leave for Paris.

It is so good to be back in Germany, a place where I understand the language and most of the local customs! And Berlin seems to be a great city; it is 8 times the size of Paris, so it is just my size!

Tschuess!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

PRAGUE, CZ

Paul made it into Prague tonight. These Eurail passes encourage all kinds of spontaneous nonsense. We are not leaving for Vienna tomorrow after all. Rather, we are going to Berlin for three days, and then directly to Paris (and Barcelona). So we are skipping Switzerland and Austria altogether.

It's probably better this way because I think that left to our own devices in the Swiss countryside (with plenty of "natural" dangers and no witnesses) Paul and I might kill each other.

But I'm sure we'll be perfectly happy in Berlin.

Ciao!

Monday, August 15, 2005

PRAGUE, CZ

I tried to update yesterday but the internet connection went out just as I hit "post" and I lost everything. So here's a recap of the last few days, plus today:

13 AUGUST

Rachel and I left Eichstaett. The German train system, though notoriously punctual, was having a few problems on Saturday. Our first train was over 20 minutes late. Of course, all of the connecting trains were right on time. This means that we missed all of our connections and we had to frantically rebook trains to Prague. I don't think I have ever run as fast as I ran through the Nuremburg train station with 50000 lbs of luggage strapped to my back.

But I really shouldn't be complaining about the German train system in light of our experiences on the Czech trains. All it takes is one look at the Czech trains to realize that this country was part of Communist Eastern Europe not so long ago. Unfortunately, none of the people who ride Czech trains have bathed since the fall of Communism, either, so the trains are old, rickety, and stinky. Did I mention that the trains are OLD? If you have ever seen the black and white footage of two men using some kind of seesaw apparatus to propel a train down the tracks then you are familiar with trains of the Czech era.

Lesson #1: Come to Prague, but don't EVER take the Czech trains.

14 AUGUST

In spite of our difficulties getting to Prague, we have been having a wonderful time here. Grandma, your PBS tour guide was right: Prague is beautiful. It looks like something out of a fairy tale. There is a castle (Prague Castle) in the middle of the city! The castle is still the center of the Czech government. Just walking around in the city was worth the train ride.

Yesterday, we spent a lot of time in the Old Town. We shopped and ate a lot. We saw the Astronomical Clock (if you don't know what that is, look it up online!). We saw the Communist Museum (a museum created by an American to illustrate the hardships of life under communism in Prague). And we found a great vegetarian resturant that serves VEGETABLES (and not just pickled vegetables)! We ate there late last night and tried a glass of absinthe with dinner. Absinthe is pretty nasty stuff (70% alcohol) and one little shot was definitely enough. Somebody described it like this: it looks like mouthwash and tastes like paint thinner. Even though you drink it with a spoonful of caramelized sugar, that is a very apt description. The sugar really doesn't help.

15 AUGUST

Today we slept in late and had breakfast at this amazing resturant called Bohemia Bagel. They have American-style coffee, American-style eggs and bacon, fresh squeezed orange juice, and they serve maple syrup with their pancakes (perhaps the only place in Europe!). Plus, they serve breakfast until 2pm. Such a tourist trap for homesick American tourists who want Mom's big breakfast. A very successful tourist trap, I should add, because we are going back there tomorrow for breakfast.

After Bohemia Bagel, we went to the Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments. I was surprised to learn that German Catholics were behind the invention of nearly every cruel torture device of that period. They were mercilessly creative people (but I guess we already knew that).

Finally, this afternoon we went to "Mozart's Gift to The Prague: Don Giovanni, A Marionette Opera". The marionette opera was elaborately staged in the attic of some ancient building in Prague. Just to be clear, I'll rephrase: we saw PUPPETS perform OPERA in an ATTIC today.

Lesson #2: Prague is a strange (but fun) place.

Okay, I think that is enough for now. We have been staying at Hostel Elf but we are moving to Sir Toby's Hostel tomorrow. The part of the city where we are staying is very close to the city center but VERY polluted. It is so polluted that it is difficult for me to breathe when we walk down the streets (due in no small part to my lung infection). So we are moving a little farther out of the city center into a residential area for our last night.

Paul arrives from Amsterdam tonight (hopefully).

On Wednesday, Rachel is returning to Germany and Paul and I are going to Vienna. On Thursday, Paul and I are going to Switzerland (location TBA).

I have a lot of great pictures of Prague but I need access to Paul's computer to upload them. I'll try to post some pictures in the next day or so.

I miss all of you a lot and I can't wait until I get back to the States!

Ciao!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

EICHSTÄTT, GERMANY

Sorry I have not posted recently but the last few days have been pretty busy. On Saturday we went to the Hofmühl festival. Hofmühl is the local brewery and they have a huge festival with fireworks and...well, beer, every summer. All of the waiters are in leiderhosen and all of the waitresses wear dirndls. Additionally, they hire a really terrible German band (all German bands are terrible, in my view). Everybody gets drunk and does bad German dances on the tables in the Biergarten. We didn't stay very long, but we had a good time, anyway.


Hofmühl festival


Sunday and Monday were work days for me. I am wrapping up classes in Eichstätt and online. Unfortunately, on Sunday my nearly-cured sinus problems reasserted their control over my body and invaded my lungs. I am very, VERY sick today...much worse than before. I went to the doctor this morning during the first half of class. I am not sure what the exact diagnosis is, but I know that I have some kind of lung infection (possibly bronchitis) and she said something about a throat infection (?), too. Although I am suffering, going to the doctor was actually a good idea, because now I have access to the REAL German medicine (and not just the homeopathic drops). I have a prescription for penicillin and one for some kind of codeiene cough medicine. I am going to leave the computer lab, stop by Cafe Fuchs for warm tea and chicken soup, and then I am going to bed for the next 24 hours. Fortunately, I just took the final in my language class and I already wrote the final paper for my creative writing class, so my studies in Eichstätt are virtually over. There are a few activities for tomorrow and Friday: watching a movie, hearing a lecturer, etc, but none are required.

Rachel (another student from Memphis) and I are leaving Eichstätt on Saturday morning for Prague. Paul is going back to Holland for a few days with some other people from the course. He will meet up with Rachel & me in Prague. I think that Rachel is going to travel with us for the first week or so (Prague, Vienna, Switzerland). We have become pretty good friends so I am happy to have her along for the ride.

Tschüß!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

EICHSTAETT, GERMANY

I've finally had time to upload some pictures!

This is a pretty typical scene from Eichstaett:




This is the administration building at the university:




Yesterday we participated in the canoe race. Paul and Carolynn were my teammates. We only had two canoes for the whole group, so two teams raced at a time. Our opponents were randomly selected. Unfortunately, this was our opposition:



That's Peter, the Nordic god; Jay, the American football player; and Kristina, the completely superflous team member.

We raced twice against them: once upstream, then again downstream. Surprisingly, the race upstream (our first match) went better than the race downstream. We only lost the first race by about half a kilometer. The second race started out badly. As soon as we got into the boat, Kristina (from the other team) shouted: "Amy, there's a huge spider on your leg!" Indeed, there was a HUGE spider on my leg--it was about three inches long and defintely a spider. Carolynn, my teammate, started screaming louder than I was. We nearly tipped the canoe over trying to kill the spider. Our "camp counselor", Daniel, hardly waited for us to kill the spider and stabilize the canoe before sounding the starting whistle. So we were still recovering from spider trauma when our competition was already out of sight.

We thought we could make up a little bit of the distance because we were paddling with the current of the river. Unfortunately, that theory proved to be very half-baked: yes, the current pulled us in the general direction of the end of the race, but it also pulled us into every tree and rock along the way. We had very little control of the boat. By the time we finished the alleged race, our competition was already out of their canoe and standing on dry land. But in spite of our losses, we had a great time.

A good time made even better by a post-race night of Jaegermeister and Red Bull in the Clubzimmer of Kolpinghaus.



I have over 200 more pictures that I will be adding (slowly) to my Photobucket album (in a subfolder called Eichstaett). So check there over the next few days for more of Eichstatt, the international students, and the university.

Tschuess!