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C.C., my dogs are tired!

Written on: Tuesday October 23rd, 2007

A journal entry from: Fall for Germany

or, My First Trip Alone in Germany

The title comes compliments of The Diviners. Theatre (particularly sophomore year), I miss you. Dogs = feet by the way.

All of my friends booked tickets to Madrid for this long weekend a couple of weeks ago. I've never had that strong of a desire to go to Madrid or learn Spanish, nor do I have any friends on the Spain trip. So why waste the money? Instead I asked Whisnant what a good weekend trip would be. He suggested Stuttgart and Heidelberg. Since I kinda wanted to take it easy after the busy busy busyness of the pre-planned trips, I decided to go for a quick overnighter (by train Stuttgart's only about 3 hrs away and Heidelberg about 2.5). I decided to take my larger rucksack because, well, how can you say you've traveled around Europe without going through public transit with a large bag on your back so everyone knows, yeah, your going somewhere. Also i wanted my pillow.

Soo, start off early Friday morning, sit in the compartment across the way from this really cute old lady who was curled up in her seat trying to get some sleep (she'd been on the train for at least one stop before me, but considering how early I had to get up, she probably didn't get much sleep) and enjoyed my first long distance train trip. It's so relaxing. Just listen to the stops. Read. Knit. Listen to music. There were hardly any people on the train so it was pretty quiet (well, Germans tend to be quiet on public transit anyway) and I thought about falling asleep too.

Before I left, I bought a travel guide for Germany. I thought it'd be useful. So far, all my long weekends have been spent in a different country and the Furman planned trips decide where I stay, where I eat, and what I do. It's been sitting on my shelf looking lonely and dusty. I finally got to use it this weekend and I must say it's amazing. It's a couple years old (Rough Guides doesn't publish every year), so things like the admission prices for some of the museums were a bit off and I couldn't find one of the restaurants, but overall gave great advice about where to go (with address and transportation advice!) and descriptions of what things are so you know what you're getting into. I had looked it over and picked out several things I wanted to see: 1 Schloss, 2 museums, 1 church, and if I had time, the Mercedes-Benz Museum and a park. I thought it'd be relaxing and since we had moved through things so quickly in Vienna it's be a snap to get it all done.

It wasn't.

First off, Stuttgart has such efficient transportation that it's almost inefficient. It goes so many places on so many lines that it took me forever to get oriented to where I was, what line I needed on the plethora of trams, U-Bahn and bus lines, what direction I should be headed in, and, once I had that figured out, where in the heck that particular line was located in the maze of a station. Frustrating. I decided to get the farthest thing out of the way first because I wasn't sure how long it took to get there. Schloss Solitude wasn't that far away (once I figured where in the freaking world bus 93 stopped at and how I could possibly get there) and I headed out, thinking I'd spend about 30 minutes there, enjoy the solitude, and get on with the day. Unfortunately, the tour didn't start for about 20-30 minutes after I got arrived. I figured what the heck, I'll look around first and my timing will just be a bit off. I didn't realize that the buses don't come back very often. So I ended up spending about 2 hours there and maybe a bit more with transportation and while it was a pretty view of Stuttgart, it was really the remains of something that was great. (even Schiller stayed there! I was surpised there wasn't a monument) The gardens used to be about the size of 12 football fields. Now it's just overgrown forest. It was definitelz Schloss Solitude though, because it was in the middle of nowhere. I was just hoping for a really nice relaxing atmosphere I could relax in for a bit. oh yeah, it was cold and windy. Not fun for sitting at bus stops.

So I tried the first museum. Admission had gone up a LOT since the book was published (I think they added more exhibits and advertised it more) and I did not want to pay over twice as much as I was expecting. There wasn't THAT much I wanted to see there (mostly some medieval playing cards), but it was worth it if it was cheap. Moving on. I go to the next museum. Or, more accurately, I tried to find the next museum. Oh, I found where it was according to the travel guide and the door said it was the right museum- but also that they had moved into a new building, head right. For the life of me, I could not find the door to it. I walked up and down the street and was so relieved when I found a door that I paid the admission really quickly without paying attention. Wish I had. It ended up being the Haus der Geschichte (house of history) instead of the Staatsgalerie. Bleh. It was cheap admission, but it wasn't what I wanted to see. Head on out and finally find the entrance (which was on weird angle of the building and not advertised very well) and get ready to see some artistic masterpieces.

Then things got bad.

I buy my ticket and try to go into the first room. Unfortunately, I was so relieved to finally be there that as soon as I got my receipt, I headed off before she handed me my ticket. The doorman wouldn't let me in. I go back and try to explain what happened and she basically says too bad. Then I notice that she overcharged me anyways even though I clearly told her that I was a student (and therefore eligible for the student price). I tell her that and she says I'll have to buy a new ticket after proving that I was actually eligible. I was fed up, tired, and frustrated at myself for not being able to communicate what I needed to in German. I got my bag out of coat check so i could grab more money and my id and tears started streaming down my face. The coat check ladies were really nice and gave me some Kleenex until I composed myself. I headed back to the not-so-nice ticket lady and I guess she could see how upset I was after I proved my age and she ended up giving me the ticket for free (and even though she did that, I still was overcharged 1euro in this whole thing?).

And then I realized that I had somehow lost part of my nice mechanical pencil between leaving the history museum and going to the art one. And I didn't have another one. So I had to buy an overpriced museum pencil that wasn't mechanical and didn't even have an eraser. It didn't help my mood or emotional state of mind.

Apparently I wasn't really paying attention again when getting the ticket because I didn't realize the difference between the exhibitions. When I was asked which one I wanted a ticket for, I just said the first one that I saw, entitled The New World. Thinking back, I should have realized that?s not at all what I wanted to see. It was all American art, as if I don't see enough of that already. I mean, I did get to seem some Thomas Coles and Frederic Edwin Churchs, but I don't even like that type of art that much. I wanted to see Picassos! So back to the ticket lady, because I thought I'd have to buy a ticket to the other exhibitions (sometimes the special exhibits are extra from the main ones). Luckily, before I could get all the way up to her, one of the coat check ladies came out from behind the counter and asked if she could help me. She let me know that my ticket was good for everything. Hooray for the coat check ladies! (oh yeah, and between me buying my pencil, putting my wallet/id back in my rucksack, and heading to the New World exhibition, I lost my new overpriced pencil. I left it at coat check. They smiled when they gave it to me.)

Finally, on to Picasso, only 4 hours after I had arrived in the city and done little to nothing! It was the museum I was most looking forward to seeing because it was said that it had the second best collection of Picasso in all of Germany. The museum wasn't that impressive (though i guess I was comparing it to the AMAZING one I saw in Vienna, so of course it wouldn't measure up). I did get to see about 8 of Picassos work, which was very exciting, and a couple of Braques as well! I wasn't expecting that (Braque was the other guy who started Cubism. He and Picasso worked together: Braque came up with the philosophy and ideas and then Picasso executed it a bit better). I saw a couple Cezannes and Gauguins, a Kandinsky, a Kirchner, and couple Marcs which was cool, but that's about it.

And by then it was about 5:30, all the other places I wanted to see where closed and I was hungry. Off to find a couple restaurants recommended in the book. Navigated myself there pretty well and the first place didn't really appeal to me, so off to the second. Couldn't find it. Then it started to rain. My rain jacket was tucked away somewhere in my pack. I walked around and around the block thinking I might have missed it, then settled for a good old Doener restaurant (it's always cheap). Just before I went in, it started hailing.

I had an amazing meal. I decided to try something different but didn't really know what it was, and was delighted to get what amounted to a Turkish pizza. Deeeeelicious. And a lot of food for a good price. Satisfied, I went off to find my hostel. After I got off the bus, I wasn't really sure where it was located. I had noticed a couple girls speaking English on the bus and thought it might be funny if they were staying at the hostel too. Surprise! They saw me looking around and we banded together. Diedre came from Canada (Nova Scotia) and Siobhan came from Ireland (no, I did not misspell her name. i did forgot how to pronounce it). They were teaching English in Germany (basically being paid to speak their native langue and rendering their years of studying German irrelevant) and had headed down South for a bit of traveling. After checking in (which took a long time for all of us, but we got to know each other more), we decided to hang out that night. The hostel was kind of in the middle of nowhere, so we didn't really feel like getting back on a bus to find somewhere. We explored the hostel and found a nice tv room with comfy couches and proceded to talk for about 1.5 ? 2 hours. Delightful time. They were headed to Heidelberg the next day and we exchanged phone numbers in case I got bored (unfortunately, I didn't spend enough time there and so didn't have a chance to get bored).

So Heidelberg was very pretty. I only had about 3 hours there, so I only planned a couple things I wanted to see. I went to the Schloss, which is one of the most famous views of Heidelberg, and spent a while taking pictures. Lots of history dating back to the 13th century and included counts, dukes, Protestantism vs. Catholicism, Lutherism vs. Calvinism, and the Thirty Years War. The French destroyed Heidelberg in 1638, the new Catholic government wasn't liked by the locals and moved the government to another town. With the ruling (rich) power gone, the Schloss was never rebuilt. But people almost like it more in it's ruined condition. It has a romantic/tragic look about it. If you don't take the tram (and if you're low on money, you probably wouldn't either), you have to climb a huge hill. It felt like it was 45degrees. I think I saw a sign that said 25-30 percent grade, but I don't know what that actually equals out to other than very steep. Great view and fun to wander around. I didn't go on a tour because I didn't know how long it would take. Oh well.

I had heard there is a Grosses Fass (Great Vat) which is said to be the largest wine barrel in the world. To get an idea of how big it is, there is a platform on top that used to be a dance floor. I kinda forgot it was near the Schlosshof instead of near the Marktplatz, so I didn't go to it. But the Marktplatz was pretty cool. I really wish I had spent more time in Heidelberg.

Even getting back to Bonn was an adventure. My train was 20 minutes late for the journey back, and since I had 2 layovers (instead of my nice direct trip going to Stuttgart), I missed all of them. The ticket-checker person on the train told me what trains to take instead and it all worked out, but instead of 2.5 hours, it took me over 4 to get home. But then home sweet room and ready to write a paper for Whisnant in the morning (which was due Monday).

I'm not used to writing papers anymore. Art majors don't do them. Art history majors do, but (on my expertise based on the one I have written) they are nothing like the essays I used to write for Mrs. Dowd's English classes (i.e. much easier). And everyone in the class is pretty sure this paper is bull crap anyways, but it's our final grade. Therefore, it must be done.

Yesterday, I finished reading Emilia Galotti and am about to start on Der Kontrabass. I'm seeing both this week. After I finished Emilia Galotti though, I played with Anna for a bit. I really like hanging out with her. A lot of our communication is wordless, uses hand motions, or half finished sentences on my part with her gently prompting me with the vocabulary. I understand her pretty well though. And she teaches me vocabulary. For example, yesterday, I learned what a pumpkin was auf Deutsch. We giggled, put on funny hats, dressed up in with scarves, pretended she was der Weihnachtsmann - I mean frauen (Santa Claus) and she played some lovely tunes on her recorder while I charmed the stuffed snake to come out of the shoebox.

Weekend after next I go to Berlin. I found out last Thursday that there was an option for us to go to Prague on the two days we have free after Berlin. Yesterday we learned that Furman would pay for our transportation to and from there and we would only have to pay for lodging. Problem with that? My three cohorts and I have already bought nonrefundable tickets to go there during our free travel. Information like this, or knowing the possibility of it, would really have been nice a loooong time ago. I think I'll go to Brussels with my friends (and Frau Chew might come with us!)

p.s. pictures later.


From Scott on Oct 24th, 2007

Fun! Julie, I'm so excited for you! Taking a trip by yourself can be great! Is this art history paper easier or harder than Dowd's papers? I wasn't sure with how you worded it. Have fun!

From Scott on Oct 24th, 2007

Also, I recommend Amsterdam instead of Brusels. Brussels is basically a government city that shuts down at night. Also, Amsterdam has a large collectin of van gogh and I hear nothign but good things about the city--its beautiful.

From Jacqui on Oct 24th, 2007

Hooray for traveling (mis)adventures! I never made it to Stuttgart or Heidelberg, although I did plan on going to both (I ended up going to Munich instead, thanks to a suicide. Long story). The only place I traveled to alone was Lueneburg, and once I got there I met up with a friend to explore Hamburg. Isn't train travel fun? Brussels and Amsterdam are both dreadful cities. Although Amsterdam does have the Van Gogh Museum, it doesn't actually contain that many works by Van Gogh. And the whole city smells like pee. I don't know what Scott heard, but Amsterdam is the armpit of Europe; it is hideous and, with rare exceptions, historyless. If you do end up going, watch out for the S-bahns: the stops are confusing and the doors close violently without warning! As for Brussels, it is a step up from Amsterdam, but not by much. Everythwere you go, there are scores of poor beggars and gypsies who make you really uncomfortable. Downtown Brussels has some cool buildings, so that's a plus, and it's neat to people-watch and listen to all the different languages spoken. Otherwise Brussels is nothing special. If you want to go to Belgium or the Netherlands, I'd suggest spending a day in the big cities just to say that you've been there and then spending the bulk of your trip in other towns.

From Grandma on Oct 26th, 2007

Julie, I'll bet your Guardian Angel is relieved when you are safe in your bed sleeping!!