Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Germany: The Bavarian Region & More...

Well it was the end of the semester in Finland and it was truly sad, however, there was one thing that cheered me up at that time. I had planned a trip to visit my so-called Erasmus-separated French girlfriend, Maïté, in Germany - a country that I’ve always wanted to visit but have never done so. With tickets booked, mind adventurous, and heart anxious, I set out for this adventure alone, on a 24 hour journey. Here was my route:

Turku > Tampere > Frankfurt > Nürnberg > Erlangen > Nürnberg > Munich > Nürnberg > Bamberg > Nürnberg > Salzburg > Nürnberg > Berlin > Frankfurt > Tampere > Turku [home at last]

[The words in bold are the main places I visited of course]

Ah, Germany: Maïté had gone there [in Nürnberg] to do her internship, and so I decided to visit the country during these last days, since I had nothing to do in Europe [all exams were over] and I had free accommodation at her place! Just kidding, I went there to see my beloved Maïté after 4 months of misery without her. Just kidding again, I simply went to spend some quality time with her and see this wonderful country that I’ve never seen before [and of course the free accommodation was a bonus!]. Of course the time we spent was indeed “quality” since it brought us closer together than ever. Who said distance separates? Only time will tell...Traveling with a loved one is truly a different and amazing experience.

Anyways, about my trip, I’ll leave out the unnecessary [and personal ;)] details, and get on with the actual places themselves and how I ended up there. First of all when one thinks of Germany, one automatically paints a picture of the war and Hitler, etc. I will not get into the details of this with you, since there are large and boring history books on the topic. I will, however, state that my time spent here in Germany was the most informative experience I had in Europe thus far. Since I had so much time when Maïté went to work, I learned a lot about the history of the war and Germany and France and their relationships and the history of Europe on the whole [via tours, museums, architectures, and displays]. It truly was amazing to discover all these things and it made me realise how ignorant I am and how the entire western world is toward European history and the war, etc. [we usually go with "if it doesn't affect you, then it doesn't concern you"].

So, Germany turned out surprisingly to be more beautiful than I imagined it. It certainly has the some of the best architecture in Europe [especially Bamberg and Nürnberg]; it's even comparable to the architectures of my highly revered and favourite cities Prague, Tallinn, and Riga. There's a lot of nature, parks, fields of yellow flowers, and castles [fairytale-like]. I even started to think it was more "naturistic" than Finland! Speaking about parks, they have a very unique concept there: the beer garden [biergarten in German]. That's right it's a park/garden, with trees and a bar, and you can drink beer! Be careful the beer comes in only half litre and 1 litre mugs, and is quite potent and robust as any good German beer would be. Drinking culture in Germany impressed me even more, the average German drinks 138 litres of beer per year, and in the Middle Ages, beer was considered to be the liquid bread of society! [Note that: German beer production exceeds 115 million hectolitres per year!]

Aside from drinking, architecture, and history, there's always this mystery and uncertainty about going to a country where the language is different from your native one. I found German to be quite similar to English, and it had little traces of French and Dutch too; I think if I stayed there long enough, id' be able to pick up the language easily. I did learn the two most important words that one needs to learn when going to a country of a foreign language:
"Prost!" [That’s "cheers" in German!] and "Danke" [that's "thank you", of course].

Moving on: I should start with Nürnberg, since I only stopped off in Frankfurt for a short time, long enough to have a "Frankfurter" [hot dog] in Frankfurt ;).
Nürnberg or Nuremberg [in English], is a small city surrounded by a wall, it's famous for its wood on concrete architecture, wooden and traditional toys, sausages [the Nürnberger], and well the Nazi party rally grounds, and the Nürnberg trials. In any case, this is where I spent most of my time during my trip, and fell in love with German culture and country. The trip was less hectic than the super-trip for Christmas, since it was more spaced out.

One weekend, on Friday the 9th, there was a large country fair in Erlangen, a student city nearby. This was so German, with traditional foods, entertainment, and beer drinking! So it gave me a good opportunity to see the true German nature and their carnival-like celebrations. The following day was a bit less exciting but important never-the-less, we visited the Nazi rally grounds - The Nürnberg Dokumentations-zentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände, where I discovered a lot of the history of the war that I didn't know about - how romantic!

On the Sunday of that weekend, we both visited Munich, which was nice, but not as impressive as Nürnberg. There was, however, a chance to taste curry bratwurst or curried sausages [which to my demise was just normal sausages sprinkled with raw curry - how absurd how can you eat raw curry? silly people!]. Also significant in München [the German name for Munich] was the English Garden where of course at the center exists a huge beer garden.

The week following, I just bummed around Nuremberg during the days, going to the toy museums, the train museum, the telecommunications museum, the underground tunnels [The Nuremberg Underworld], etc, just familiarising myself with the vast history of the city and the country and the continent. Waiting for night when I could see my darling at home after work. The next Friday after recommendation by some guy in the fair at Erlangen, we toured Bamberg, a small UNESCO protected city neighbouring Nürnberg. By far, the prettiest, cutest, most beautiful city in Germany [that I have seen]. Bamberg is one of the few cities in Germany that was not destroyed by World War II bombing. There we tasted Rauchbier (or smoked beer in English), which is famous to Bamberg, at a tavern called Schlenkerla! It's like smoked herring with out the herring taste!

The next stop on the weekend was Salzburg in AUSTRIA! I’ll talk more about this in the Salzburg post.

After all this Germanizing, I had to eventually leave, happy to finally go back to my home sweet home in Turku, but devastated to leave my Maïté behind for the third time! As the train doors closed and I watched her scroll by into the distance, I prepared myself for my biggest stop ever, one of the global playboys [of trance]: Berlin! [Note: I was stopped by police twice on my way there, for passport checks, I felt somewhat prejudiced, but it could just be me being paranoid]

Berlin: I set aside one day to tour this immense city, [I underestimated the size], but I did just that, I covered all [or most] of Berlin in one day! This was largely thanks to the free tour groups available in Berlin: the New Berlin tours. They are A-M-A-Zing! It’s free, fast, and efficient, the tour guides are full of energy, and explain history in such a fun and exciting way that you become engrossed in it.

Seriously, I came home to Trinidad and borrowed books in the library on world history, it was so impressive. Anyways: Berlin: so this city is ugly, because of the war and the constant bombing and rebuilding and separation and re-joining, etc. It's very multi-cultural [every structure having history with the French, English, Americans, Russians, etc] and the buildings: there are old ones, new ones, refurbished ones, etc. It's like a huge jigsaw puzzle. As for the Berlin wall, I really expected something like the Great Wall of China; however, I found a silly broken down thin piece of concrete wall, no thicker than my palm...there's lots of history and fame about it though. Among the sights seen were: Oberbaumbrücke, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Checkpoint Charlie, Reichstag building, and The Brandenburg Gate.

It was a tiring day but I did get to stand on the area where Hitler’s bunker was and supposedly where he committed suicide, how exciting! On the train to Frankfurt, I met a cool semi-drunk girl [stepping out of the train each time it stopped to take 3 pulls of a cigarette], Connie, who changed my negative perspective of Berlin; she explained the multiculturalism of the people and the excitement and diversity of the city.

The End.

For more pictures see:

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