Well, I see that its been quite some time since I last updated. And yes it is entirely my fault, too much traveling, too much work, and well, when I go away, I leave my computer behind me. Its just me, my camera, and my walking shoes. So, lets see, since the last post I've been to Paris (ughhh not anything to amazing, let me sum it up in one statement: dirty, mean people, the French language, the Eiffel tower and that painting of that lady which is very, very anti-climactic). Then, it was a glorious 3 days in Koln/Cologne. It was wonderful. All decked out in its Christmas attire, full of Roman ruins, Wursts, and gluhwein. Let's just say I spent a lot of time Xmas marketing, eating, drinking, and living the December German lifestyle (Caution: Kolsche Kavier, aka Black Pudding is not what you think it is in any sense). My favorites about Koln are on the main display page, the Brothers Grimm themed Altermarkt, the ancient and massively ornate Kolner Dom (which I attended mass at, though not as nice as the Notre Dame the week before in Paris, still very breathtaking, or course WWII can kind of take the original historical stuff from it a little). The locks are all locked on the Steenbrucke and is typically in remembrance of dead people, or marriages. Overall a very touching experience, and felt like if I had the money to latch one on, I would of done it, but gluhwein doesn't pay for itself.
However, I'd like spend this post talking about my last trip. It was a total of 6 days, probably around 18 hours on trains, entailing the taking of 7 different trains encompassing 3 cities. Advantageous, yes, tiring, most definitely, but completely worth. Let's start with the first first, and that would be....
My goals here were plain and simple. And I must cite my good German friend Christen as a source of some of these great things. First: More Xmas markets, Second: Museums, Third: to get a good Wurst and verify that Leeman's Doner in A'dam beats Berlin's doner bests. So, let me just begin by saying that every Spaniard and Italian were taking vacation this weekend. The ratio of German to Spanish had to be close to 1:5. So, I saw the sights, the Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, East Side Gallery, Berliner Dom, and Victory Pillar. For the Reichstag, I reserved tickets to climb to the large glass container on top and get a great view of Berlin. It is their seat of legislative body, the Bundestag, where Merkel yells at people and decide how next to move Europe. It was really sunny and bright that day, so I could see the entire surrounding area.
(Left is the glass casing that you climb up, very trendy, and also helps to heat the building and project light into the debating chamber). The most interesting aspect of the entire trip to Berlin was the brick line that lay in the pavement. It was laid down after the Wall fell, and is a constant reminder that what I did frequently during the trip was NOT possible 25 years ago. And standing behind the Brandenburg Gate I got this real hard sense that 2 presidents gave monumentous speeches here, and that it was the symbol of one of the most dangerous, harrowing, and important periods of human history. Right next to those Asian tourists and that guy pretending he's a toy soldier, yea, if you blank all that out it can get pretty powerful.
Now Berlin is by far a Musea Stadt. There is an ample amount of intellectually stimulating things. In fact, there is an entire island in the East of the city that is called "Museum Island," which is a UNESCO Heritage site and has some really neat natural/human/art museums that are both intriguing and hold some of the rarest pieces of human history. But, eh I can hold off on that. Instead, I saw the Kennedy Museum, which, to a Kennedyophile, was supremely exciting. I spent a good 2.5 hours there, looking at never before pics, standing within inches of his PT 109 pin, his black leather crocodile briefcase, and a notecard that he wrote in Berlin. Geeky, for sure, but my oh my was it fulfilling. Then, I went to the DDR Museum, an entire museum dedicated to life in the East German Republic. Everything was hands on, and was the most fun museum, you could be interrogated, dress like an Eastern German, and as I found out, make a great Trabi plant manager who "has a future place in building world Socialism," I really just call it having good employee relationships and an eye for how hard to push them. Then I went to the Jewish Museum, learned about the first Jewish populations in Worms, the intricacies into their religion, and ended up spending 3.5 hours in a very well done exhibit. Lastly, I went to the Communication Museum, but lets just say seeing old mailboxes, TV sets, ancient postcards, and war-communication devices only really appeals to us Comm majors (though Berlin is home to the first postal system, and the first pneumatic-air mail delivery system).
And of course, it wouldn't be complete without bumming around Germany's famous Xmas markets. They ranged from the extremely small (Gendarmenmarkt) to the remarkably huge (Alexanderplatz). They were all full of Wursts und Gluhwein, but more importantly, random musicians and artists. It was a very magical experience, and I will say that Koln only barely beats Berlin. Koln had themes, which are very important in today's branded world. But Gendarmenmarkt was beautifully placed between some government Roman-facaded building and two Domen (one a French-Protestant church, the other a Berlin-political museum). It was 1Euro to get in, but kept all those pesky underagers from enjoying the finer points of heated and cinnamon flavored Christmas alcohol. But really, it was rated as one of the best in Europe, and truly rivaled Koln. The location, music, and smell of sugary nuts and fried dough is just the perfect place to get into the holiday spirit (officially put on the ChRiStMaS 2o11 playlist on the Zune). So, Berlin was great, full of random walkings, historically important structures, and the verification that Leeman's Doner Shop in De Pijp is the best in at least 2 countries. Below the favorites out of the 800 pics I took over 6 days.
TEIL TWEE: MAASTRICHT (MESTREECH)
So it was off to the southern most big city of Holland. The place where you'll hear Dutch, German, French, Vlaams, and a touch off Mestreech, the local dialect that sounds like Dutch, spelled in French, and has the nasely sound of German. To say the least I didn't even attempt my Dutch. It worked in Belgium, but not here, nope, not once. I spent about 2 days here, and it was very walkable. It was easy to get around, easily manageable, with ancient, 300AD buildings and ancient Romanesque leftovers. You know, people just live in these old things, no big deal, I would imaginge their conversations go like this:
Maastricher 1: "Hey, you want to come over for dinner and a coffee tonight?"
Maastricher 2: "Yea sure, where do you live?"
M 1: "You know that 13the Century wall that is next to that even older Roman bath house?"
M 2: "Oh yea that place, okay can I bring chips?"
Yea I think that's reasonable to say the least. I went into Maastricht with no ideas of what to expect. Funny linguistics, old city, yea, but was blown away. It was clean, the people were loud, and the entire city shut down after 5pm. Only a few snack bars and bars stayed opened (which, were filled with middle-aged people singing and dancing, a thing that would be NOT ACCEPTABLE in any A'dam bar, but that's why their called the 'City of Joyful Singers').
The coolest aspect of Maastricht is this: it has existed since when Alexander expanded the Empire into the northern reaches of the Franks. Yes, Roman bath houses, sports houses, and aquaducts galore. In fact, the most intriguing part of the whole trip is the city-wide devotion to St. Servatius. The guy is literally everywhere, on bridges, in churches, on restaurant menus. He was an important guy in the 300s-400s, attended some councils, figured out how modern Christianity should be portrayed, and negotiated peace with the Huns in the Northeast, then he did something miraculous (I think he had some vision, got bestowed the power to forgive sins, and to foresee the future, all that stuff you can easily purchase on Amazon.com nowadays). And I saw his tomb, chilling in a remarkable church that Popes dating from Charlemagne have visited. Pretty neat, though I didn't have any visions though, maybe next time I' standing next to a dead saint's body from the 300s.
The most peculiar thing in the entire city, besides all the dead saint parts, miraculous statues, ancient fountains, and 1800s bastions, was the fact that they converted a 1000AD church into a bookstore. You can sip coffee, read Harry Potter, on an old alter underneath 13th Century frescoes. You know, no big deal. You can look in the biography section on the 3rd floor and be mere feet from a roof that hasn't been touched in almost 800 years. Eh no big deal. Only in The Netherlands could this happen, and it was too cool to just sit there, sip my coffee, read my travel book, indulge in a glorious Limburg Waffle, and look up at ancient, genuine gothic architecture.
Maastricht was low-key, and a very easy city to relax for a few days. After the sheer enormity of Berlin, it was very nice to wake up and be able to walk across town in about 30 mins. By and large the best waffles I've had to date (they somehow keep the middle soft, slightly burn the edges, but get it caramelly inside), and I had a very Limburgian dinner at Slinkerij 't Bobbel where the waiter played along with my funky Dutch. I had a Maastrich winter specialty, a Brand Imperator beer (tripel) with a slow roasted chicken smothered in black prune sauce. Sounds disgusting, but do you put cranberries on your Thanksgivign Turkey? Yea it was great, totally different, and accompanied by some Limburgsche Vlaai (essentially a cherry or cheese filled pie with a brown volkloren crust) made it my totally Limburgse for a night. So worth a quick trip, unfortunately they haven't acquisced to the a-religiousity of Amsterdam, and close up shop early, so going on a Sunday and Monday (a traditional Dutch day to have off) wasn't the best idea. But, I did it, saw some real old stuff, and can mark that one off the list. Pics below.
Well, let's say, old, vol van grachten and a great univeristy town. About 20 mins via train, and is a fun city. If you want to see pics, please see me sometime, cause this blogpost is weighed down with too much text and pics. But I guess that is what happens when you have an enliving weekend. Well, traveling is done, now to finish some papers, take a test, and wrap this up. Happy, no, ready to be done with school, yes, time to load up on European beer, eat my kroketten, and eat as many stroopwafels that my stomach can fit. Het is tijd deze ding om te ronden!