Archive for August, 2010

My first plane ride, chocolate, and Germany…

August 29th, 2010

Hallo!  This is how they say it in Germany.  I was happy about that because I know probably no more than 10 words in German.  At least I could understand a friendly greeting!  Also, I’ve found that German and English are very similar, so you can generally get the gist of road signs and train maps.  So yeah, the flight from New York’s JFK airport to Frankfurt International in Germany was my very first plane ride ever.  Fortunately, I liked it.  I think it might have also helped that I flew with  Singapore air, and they are quite a nice airline.  I was handed a hot towel by one of the flight attendants before the plane even took off.  I was also impressed with the vast selection of American and other international movies I could watch on my personal 6×8 screen.

So when I landed in Frankfurt, I was obviously extremely jet lagged (it was 10:30 local time, but 4:30am back home) but I was also super energized.  It kept going through my head over and over “I’m in a foreign country, I’m in a foreign country!”  I wasn’t quite sure what I was expecting, but I definitely was surprised to find that the Germany was full of white people, just like Vermont, and that the landscape was very green and mountainous…just like Vermont.  I guess I had expected to feel more out of place, if that makes sense.  I think I would have if I hadn’t been picked up at the airport by my aunt.  When we got on the Autobahn to drive to Stuttgart, where my cousins live, I was fighting to stay awake, but I was also like, “Oh my gosh I’m on the autobahn!”  Actually, my perception of the autobahn was that it was this vast highway with lots of cars driving at ungodly speeds, but what I found when I was actually riding on it was that yes, there is a speed limit (usually between 100km and 120km per hour, or 65-75mi/hr).  There are some stretches of highway where there isn’t a speed limit, but most people don’t seem to speed up too much.

I’ve actually seen a lot of sights in the short time I’ve been here.  I’ve been to the oldest concrete television tower, which is located in Stuttgart.  That was pretty cool.  The tower itself pales in stature compared to the tower in Toronto, but it is still very impressive.  You can see absolutely everywhere from the top of the tower.  Another day my cousin took me to the Ritter Sport Chocolate museum, but there was a mix-up and we ended up in a modern art exhibit.  We walked into this big room with a painting with a white background and a single word printed in the middle that translated from the German as “painting.”  Needless to say we were kind of confused, but decided to make the most of it and take a look at the exhibit.  There was a piece that looked like a giant version of the game Pick Up Sticks, and an exhibit of five painting that were all the same sized square shape, and were all painted the same color blue, but had different titles underneath.  That’s interesting….I guess.  Actually it was kind of cool, and the important thing is that we did get to the Chocolate Museum eventually, and we each bought WAY too much chocolate.

I also visited Strasbourg, France yesterday as part of a day trip I took with my aunt, uncle, and cousin.  It was only a two hour car ride, which I thought was really awesome, and entirely new country in only 2 hours!  Then I realized that Montreal is only a two hour car ride from my house, and that’s in a foreign country as well 🙂  I did not realize that the Parliament building of the European Union was in Strasbourg, and I really wanted to go and see it, but the tourism offices said that the tours were by reservation only.  Too bad.  Still, I got to see a good part of the center of Strasbourg, which is absolutely adorable.  The central part of the city is situated on an island with a small canal running around its entirely.  The streets are winding and many are cobblestone.  It feels like one of those stereotypical European towns.  The Cathedral in Strasbourg is one of the most impressive buildings I’ve ever seen.  I really love going into old churches because the whole thing is just one grand piece of art.  The details are so ornate, and the entire church is extremely detailed, not just one section or one window, but the entire cathedral.

Today, I went into a little university town called Tübingen with my uncle.  This was an extremely picturesque village.  It was built on a hill below a fairly sizable Schloß (the German word for castle).  The old part of the city has lots of winding streets and you are either going up hill or downhill on these cobblestone roads.  We walked up to the Schloß, which was still being used for academic lectures.  How cool would it be to attend class in a castle?!  The cool thing about Europe is the age of your environment.  You walk past these buildings that were built in 1488, and are STILL being used as restaurants or shops or whatever.  If a building in the US reaches its 200th birthday its basically closed down and reopened as a tourist attraction.  The buildings were actually a lot taller that I had imagined.  In some places I had a really weird feeling of being shrunk down a couple sizes because the buildings were so tall.  I guess I’m used to skyscrapers being that tall, but tall houses with peaked roofs was quite unfamiliar to me.  Another thing that Tübingen has that I think is really cool is they give gondola rides down the river.  Now, I’ve always assumed that all gondolas “live” in Venice, Italy (another city I would love to see), and never expected to encounter the boats in Germany.  Apparently it’s a pretty popular tourist attraction.  I think it would be fun to ride in a gondola some day, but we didn’t because we were to busy strolling around town.  My uncle pointed out to me that Germans like to take walks, and he’s right, I saw a lot of people out strolling through the park and along the streets.  I guess when everything is so close by walking is the only logical form of transportation.  I wasn’t complaining.  I wish I could walk more places back home.  It would be healthier, and would make not having my own car not as bad.

That’s really it for now.  I’ve been in Stuttgart six days so far, but it seems like a lot longer!  In the next couple days I hope to explore some of the museums that are in down town Stuttgart before I leave for Morocco.  It won’t be such a big deal if I don’t get to them because I will be coming back and spending the Christmas season here before heading back to the States in mid January.