Friday, August 31, 2012

Göttingen - Memories from years past

It's like I just got back from London and again I was gallivanting off on another adventure. Oh wait, that's because that was what happened! A whole two days after I returned from my trip to London, I packed my bags again and headed to Göttingen to spend the weekend with Marilena, the girl who I did my exchanges with in high school. It's crazy how much and how little people can change in just five years, but it was great to reconnect with her and -- not to spoil the surprise -- her family too!

With this trip, since I knew it would take me a while to write about it (with the daunting task of writing about London still over my head) and I didn't want to forget the details, I took notes on my iPod as to what I did on which day. Since it wasn't a lot of detail or such a long stay, I won't bore you with the "quick and dirty" of the trip and instead, I'll just tell you about it in full detail. So... Here goes nothing!


 I took the bus to the train station and while I was on the bus I noticed a woman carrying a cage with her cat in it. Maybe it's because I'm not used to truly public transportation, but it felt weird. So, of course, I took a photo.

I left Paderborn at 6:00 PM and got a ride with a German guy that I found through Mitfahrgelegenheit. He spoke, I'm not kidding you, a whole of ten words of English. Not too bad for me because it gave me a chance to really use my German instead of only speaking in English. Something I haven't been doing too much over here. It's as if everyone only wants to practice their English and, well, I guess I'm also afraid since I don't know all the right words.

The ride was supposed to take two hours but the guy was as my father would call him, a "Michigan Rabbit." He flew through traffic and weaved in and out. I think it was maybe an hour and 20 minutes until I was there. Of course, I told Marilena I would be there at 8:00 PM so she was surprised to find that I had arrived so early. She told me she'd be there in 20 minutes and so I waited for her to arrive.

She arrived and we did our hugging thing and she told me she remembered me being taller and was expecting the red hair (oh yeah, I totally forgot, I dyed my hair again! It's brown now instead of the faded pink color that had become of the red.) We chatted easily about family and our lives and she drove us to real,- (not pronounced "real" but "ray-all", we're in Germany here people, keep up), a grocery store and more. Stores  like this are very uncommon for Germany, very common in the US, but you never see them here. Walmart actually failed to reach the European market almost entirely. We bought some things for dinner and were on our way to her apartment.

Marilena cooked us dinner and I kept her company in the kitchen telling her all about my parents, my brother, Heather, the kids, my life, etc. When dinner was finished, we grabbed a beer each and went to the living room to eat. We were joined my Marilena's roommate Roos (pronounced rose) and we talked until it was bed time.

I got to share a room with the cats and their litter box. Good thing I'm a hard sleeper, they're rambunctious at night apparently.


In the morning on Saturday we got up and I baked the croissants that we bought the night before at the store and Marilena made us each a coffee. We ate at the table in the living room and just relaxed for a while.

We decided to see a small fortress near her apartment and it was only about a five minute drive. We were exploring and taking pictures out over the city below and wanted to go into the tower but there was a wedding so we decided to come back later.

We went into the city to do some shopping and I even bought two new tops! Well, they were on clearance, so it wasn't that much money... Right? We didn't spend too much time in the shops though and just wound up wandering the city a bit. We stopped in a shop for coffee and sat outside to drink it. We saw a few more shops after that, but we were both hungry so we went back to her apartment to enjoy some food.

We made "flat bread sandwiches" which is basically a quesadilla on steroids. Fully packed with veggies and beef. Delicious! We put in Dr. Who season two DVDs and just relaxed while watching it. Marilena and I both wanted something sweet, so we had ice cream with a banana and watched more Dr. Who. Soon enough, it was bed time and I went off to my room. Here's some pictures of the cats. Prince is the older one in the image to the left. The two white ones don't have names yet because they're new. They are from Greece though.


 We had breakfast in the morning, just some brötchen with different toppings like sausage, peanut butter, honey, etc. When we were done and had our coffee, we decided, as planned the day before, that we would go see the Berg again and go to the top of the tower.

It was a beautiful view from up there, but boy was it windy! Once we had our fill, we went back down and took our time on the stairs. Then we were off to Kassel. where we would attend a birthday party for her "Opa" (grandfather.)
The drive from Göttingen to Kassel was faster than planned but Marilena and I didn't know where we were going and so we parked in the city and walked to the restaurant.

Everyone was very surprised to see me. He parents knew I was coming but I don't think they told the whole family and everyone was happy to see me. Most of the family doesn't speak English, but some do so they were speaking either broken English or slow German to me. It worked too! We had a great lunch and the owner of the place came out with shots for everyone to celebrate. Since I wasn't driving, I was stuck with three shots. Not that I'm complaining or anything. Just a fact.

We were only in Kassel for about two hours and Marilena didn't want to go back quite yet so instead, we went to her parents' house, a place I haven't been in five years. Surprisingly, nothing too much has changed in Großalmerode since my last visit and I recognized many of the things we drove past.

The house was the same and they even had one of the cats that they had when I visited. The only new thing was the kitchen and it looked great. I think the coloring -- a lilac colored kitchen with the rest of the house done in oranges and browns -- was a bit weird but it looked so much bigger and everything was new inside.

We had coffee and cakes while everyone talked and soon it was time for Marilena and I to leave to go back to Göttingen so that I could get on my train back to Paderborn.

It's weird saying goodbye again. Though, I'm sure I'll see them again! I was invited to visit anytime I wanted (with some warning of course) and we made some lose plans for Christmas when my parents and Andrew come to visit.

Marilena and I looked in some of the shops at the train station to pass time since we were so early, then it was time to go. Of course, this won't be the last time I visit, but it's still hard saying goodbye.

Anyways, tomorrow I go to Düsseldorf with Padraic, so expect more pictures and stories!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

London, the End of a Journey


Tuesday was our last full day in London so we decided to see some of the things we wanted to see the whole trip but put off for whatever reason. The first item on the agenda was the Changing of the Guard. When we got to Buckingham Palace, nearly 45 minutes before the Changing of the Guard was supposed to begin, we realized how much of a tourist trap it was. There were people EVERYWHERE trying to catch a glimpse. Because of that, we didn't get to see too much in way of the actual event and decided instead, since we had both seen it before, to wander over to Hyde park. I did, however, catch a few photos.

As we walked toward Hyde Park the horse guard passed us on the street. We had a clear view of the majestic horses and their riders and I was glad we walked slowly to our destination so we didn't miss it.

Once we arrived in Hyde Park, Katharina wanted to see Speaker's Corner so we followed the signs that lead there. Of course, we got lost, but after asking for help, we found our way. Since it was Monday, and these days there isn't any speakers there except on Sundays, we just walked around a bit and saw the cement monument to events that happened there in the past. We were both a bit hungry so we bought bananas from a street vendor and hopped on the Tube to go to Earls Court where I could find Landlord Ale the one that I was asked to write a review on.

When we arrived at Earl's Court, I had no idea where to go from there so I asked in a few shops and finally a woman told me I could buy it at Sainsbury's. Sainsbury's is a large chain grocery store found all over London. Who-da-thunk-it, I could have bought it nearly anywhere. I bought four bottles, one for me, one for Keegan, one for Ray (Keegan's dad) and one for my Uncle Chris (it can't hurt to get another writer's opinion on it... right?) Now I just need to figure out how to mail it state-side. I also haven't had a chance to try the one I bought for me because I want to drink it as I write about it. I think that way it will be fresh in my memory, so look for the post coming soon!

After finally buying the beer, Katharina and I stopped to buy sandwiches and hopped on the Tube back to Chris and Anne's house so we could pack up our things a bit before heading out to see Wicked! I love that musical and even though I had already seen it, I was really excited to see it again!

We packed our bags up so that we could leave at 3 AM and I edited a paper for a friend of Katharina's. She apparently wants to be an English teacher in Germany and she just wanted me to look over it for grammatical errors and such. When I was finished, I changed into my lime green pants and a black top and Katharina and I headed into the city to get dinner before the show.

Once we were in the city, we decided against dinner and just went for drinks. We both had cider (apparently all the UK is known for in Germany) and I had a pint while Katharina had a half a pint. We went across the street and were let into the theater for the show. We were literally in the last possible row of seats, which I expected for having bought such cheap tickets, but Katharina was a bit upset I think.

The show was fabulous, though I think the first time I saw it was a bit better, but then again, each group puts their own spin on things. When the show was over, we headed back to Chris and Anne's and I mad grilled cheese for Katharina and me. Man is it good having a full kitchen again, even if only for a short while.

Since we were leaving a 3 AM and we didn't finish eating until about midnight, I stayed up and read my book and drank a VERY large cup of coffee while Katharina went upstairs to sleep a bit. 

I woke Katharina up at around 2:45 AM and we gathered our things and went downstairs. I wrote a quick note to Chris and Anne thanking them for letting us stay there, and we were off to the airport. Of course, we were early since there was no traffic but we checked in our bags and were off to grab some coffee then find the gate.


Once we made it through security, we couldn't find the gate we were departing from and I was told we had to wait for them to announce it because they didn't know yet. Great organization here, as you can see.

Since we had time I looked into a shop and wound up buying the deodorant that Aunt Sarah suggested and mom wanted. Then I changed my left over GBP back into Euros. Finally, after what felt like an eternity as I was running on no sleep, we found out our gate number, rushed there and boarded. Luckily, I didn't have a creepy guy sit next to me on this flight! Woo! 

I creeped right back!
Once we were back in Dortmund, we waited for the bus back to the train station. Since we had to pay on the way there, the ticket was also good for the trip back and we hopped on with no issues. Our train back was long but uneventful, save for the albino Asian boy who kept staring at us.

Back in Paderborn finally, we waited for a bus back toward Schloss Neuhaus (Katharina left her car at work and the BIB uses the same bus.) I hopped off at the BIB, went to my room and collapsed into bed. Of course, I didn't sleep then, it was only 11 AM or something like that.

I spent a lot of time online then decided to go shopping for food and such since I had nothing to eat here then I came back, ate, and crashed for the night. I had to work on Thursday after all.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

London, the Middle: Part 2 - Sunday & Monday


Katharina and I decided to sleep in a bit since we still hat a bunch of time for adventures and I got up at 7:30 AM but we didn't leave the house until about 10 AM. While I waited for her to get up, I read some and had breakfast and made plans to meet with Uncle Chris later in the afternoon. 
This is just a plastic cup
not the mug that I got
with my drink

Katharina and I began our day by visiting Covent Garden (not an actual garden, or park mind you) and there was a market there. I bought a scarf for 3 GBP and it's the perfect colors for me, a green and teal mixture. In case you haven't noticed by now, scarfs are "all the rage" in Europe and they are an accessory that goes with nearly every outfit. As we wandered the market, we found a Food Network UK set up and we got to watch a recording of a show all about making hangover busting foods. Amazing! After the show, we both bought some food from the vendors around the recording area and I bought a Jeremiah Weed and Katharina bought something from Starbucks. With my drink, I also got a Food Network UK bag and a Jeremiah Weed mason jar mug. Once I finished my drink, Katharina and I decided to walk to Helborn Tube station, about nine minutes by foot, so that we could go to Harrods.

On our way out of Covent Garden, we stopped to watch "the most dangerous magic show in Europe" at which I was made fun of for being American and visiting London to "learn the language." Once the show was over, we quickly walked away as to not get accosted by the magician any more.

We walked to the Tube station and then went to Harrods. Dear lord is that a big store, and of course, everything was expensive. Even the teddy bears cost 25 GBP and it's only because it had the name of the store on the foot. We went through all the floors and I found out, how I never knew is beyond me, that all the major brands... You know... D&G, Burberry, Guess, the expensive ones... All have a children's line. I mean, who doesn't want to spend 200 GBP on a jacket for their 6 month old child only for them to outgrow it in a few weeks. The best part is that there were people buying it! I should have asked for a donation to the "I'm broke and would like to fund my travels" fund. When we had had enough, Katharina and I left the store, empty handed, mind you and went to a Starbucks to find some food. I used to be addicted to Facebook, and don't get me wrong, if I have Internet, I'll check it, but after my traveling and not knowing if I will have Internet access or not, I seem to have gotten over it. Katharina, however, has not. Every opportunity she had to get her iPhone hooked to the Internet was taken. It's not a bad thing, since most of those stops were at Starbucks though. While there, I checked my email and my cell. We were still trying to finalize plans with Uncle Chris for the afternoon but after an hour or so of waiting at Starbucks, Katharina and I decided to go our separate ways and find our own adventures for the day. But we agreed to meet back at 6 PM at Oxford Circus station again.

I decided to go to the British Museum but it took me a while to find it. I got on the Tube and got off at the station where it was located but it took me another 10 minute walk to get there. Once I walked in though, I remembered everything from my last trip to visit this particular museum.

I only had an hour to see a museum that you could spend a week in. What was I going to do?! Luckily, I bought a map of the museum for 1 GBP, not bad considering the admission is free, and while looking over the map I noticed.. Wait, it couldn't be so. Was this map speaking to me? I felt like I was on Dora the Explorer with how well the map read my mind!

Okay, so not really, but the map did have a section that said, "If you're short on time, visit the objects marked on the map section on the other side of this leaflet to experience some of the highlights of the magnificent permanent collection. Start upstairs with the Lewis Chessmen..." How perfect! The items on the list included:
The Lewis Chessmen
Oxus Treasure
The royal Game of Ur
The Portland Vase
Samurai Armour
Cloisonne jar with dragons
Ife head
Easter Island statue Hoa Hakananai'a
The Rosetta Stone
Assyrian Lion Hunt reliefs
Parthenon sculptures
Images of many of these items are shown here along each side of the blog post. I did get to see all of them even!
If I had to choose a favorite, it would be between the Easter Island statue Hoa Hakananai'a and The Rosetta Stone. So I'll give you some history on each of those.

Easter Island statue Hoa Hakananai'a

Easter Island is famous for its stone statues of human figures, known as moai. Hoa Hakanania'a means ‘Stolen or Hidden Friend'. The moai were probably carved to commemorate important ancestors and were made from around AD 1000 until the second half of the seventeenth century, when the birdman cult became more central to the Easter Islanders.

When Captain Cook's crew visited Easter Island in 1774, William Hodges, Cook's artist, produced an oil painting of the island showing a number of moai, some of them with hat-shaped stone 'topknots'. Hodges depicted most of the moai standing upright on stone platforms, known as ahu. With the adoption of Christianity in the 1860s, the remaining standing moai were toppled.

This example was probably first displayed outside on a stone platform, before being moved into a stone house at the ritual centre of Orongo. It was collected by the crew of the English ship HMS Topaze, under the command of Richard Ashmore Powell, on their visit to Easter Island in 1868 to carry out surveying work.

Islanders helped the crew to move the statue, which has been estimated to weigh around four tons. It was moved to the beach and then taken to the Topaze by raft.

The Rosetta Stone

A valuable key to the decipherment of hieroglyphs, the inscription on the Rosetta Stone is a decree passed by a council of priests. It is one of a series that affirm the royal cult of the 13-year-old Ptolemy V on the first anniversary of his coronation.

In previous years the family of the Ptolemies had lost control of certain parts of the country. It had taken their armies some time to put down opposition in the Delta, and parts of southern Upper Egypt, particularly Thebes, were not yet back under the government's control.

Before the Ptolemaic era (that is before about 332 BC), decrees in hieroglyphs such as this were usually set up by the king. It shows how much things had changed from Pharaonic times that the priests, the only people who had kept the knowledge of writing hieroglyphs, were now issuing such decrees. The list of good deeds done by the king for the temples hints at the way in which the support of the priests was ensured.

The decree is inscribed on the stone three times, in hieroglyphic (suitable for a priestly decree), demotic (the native script used for daily purposes), and Greek (the language of the administration). The importance of this to Egyptology is immense.

Soon after the end of the fourth century AD, when hieroglyphs had gone out of use, the knowledge of how to read and write them disappeared. In the early years of the nineteenth century, some 1400 years later, scholars were able to use the Greek inscription on this stone as the key to decipher them.
 Of course I didn't see the whole museum, but it was still great to see some of it! I had to head out after seeing those 11, highlighted items though and Katharina and I met to grab some dinner. Apparently I was much closer than I thought I was because after a two or three minute bus ride, I was there. I did some shopping this time and I bought a few things from Forever 21 and Katharina and I met up to grab dinner.

We walked a bit and found a place where we wanted to eat but neither Katharina or I were that hungry so we were just going to order  something small but we were told that someone had to order a full meal or we weren't allowed to sit there. How rude?! We left and went to another bar for food and I had fish and chips and a beer and Katharina had a salad and a cider.

When we were done with our food, we walked back to the Piccadilly Circus station and took the Tube back to Chris & Anne's. I read some then went to bed.
Katharina and I had an argument over if we should leave the window in the loft open during the day and she said there was no wind so it would get too hot but I said that the heat from the rest of the house collected during the day up there and it needed to escape. I don't think she realized that even if there was no wind at ground level, there was still wind higher up, like, say at the top of the house. Of course, she neglected the fact that every night when we got home the window was open (maybe Anne's doing...)


With the ISE card, International Student ID, that I have I get discounts on certain items while in Europe and traveling. The tickets for the London Eye are nearly 20 GBP each but with this card, I go them for 12 GBP each so Katharina and I decided to pick up our tickets. Unfortunately, we couldn't pick a time to visit though so we bought the tickets and went in to see the 4D presentation that comes free with the ticket. Yes, I did say 4D, there was wind and water involved even! Super cool! You can find more information on the 4D experience here.

When we were done we decided that the line was short and it was probably a good idea to just go then. It never disappoints. Though I've been there before it was still amazing to see the city from above! The ride takes 30 minutes and when we got off we decided to do some more walking.
We walked south bank of the Thames river and went toward St. Paul's Cathedral. It's really a beautiful building. I was surprised that Katharina was the one who wanted to go but when she found out she had to pay we didn't go in. It's still a sight to see from the outside though.
We then stopped at Starbucks for lunch, I had a New York style pastrami sandwich and a coffee. We just sat there a while Katharina used the internet then we went back to Oxford Circus to see some more of the Oxford Street shops, part of the West End shopping district. Again, Katharina surprised me by suggesting that we go to the Photographer's Gallery located there. It was small and wasn't much to see though it was free so I guess I can't complain. 
Look at that squirrel!
Since Katharina was being agreeable, I thought I would do the same and we both went to Green Park to relax and layout in the sun / shade. I read my book and Katharina listened to her iPod. After a few hours, maybe two..? We got up and went over to St. James' Park. We saw squirrels and birds ( this was the same park with squirrel feeding and pigeon incident all those years ago.) 

Then we took the bus to took the bus to Leicester Square and stopped for Pizza Hut pizza hut and some more people watching. There was another movie premier there and we tried to catch a glimpse but couldn't see anything. The film was Keith Lemon, must be British, since I don't know of it.

We didn't have anything else to do, so we decided to catch a movie and bought tickets to see Step Up 4. All in all, it was a decent film, but I would have rather seen Ted honestly. Katharina assured me that it was a film for men though.

After the film, we took the Tube back to Chris and Anne's house. When we arrived, Chris and I made plans for the trip back to Germany since our flight left at 6 AM and the airport is about 40 minutes by car away. We would get a taxi to pick us up at 3 AM and it would cost 42 GBP, not bad split between two of us.

Since Tuesday was our last full day in London, Katharina and I made plans for the day then I read my book and went to bed. Seeing a pattern in my nightly activity yet?