Tuesday, May 3, 2011

“When I was young, I used to have this thing where I wanted to see everything. I used to think, ‘How can I die without seeing every inch of this world?”

Sorry I haven't updated this thing in a while but I have been really busy lately. Hopefully I will go back to updating more often. 

Last week was Easter Vacation here. I had vacation from the Wednesday before Easter up until the Monday after Easter Monday. I like having the two weeks at Easter again. Normally back home, I have one week of break in February and one more at Easter but two weeks at Easter is way better. 

What did I do with my almost two weeks of Ferien? I spent it the best way possible. After 8 months without my family, they came to visit me for the break. My parents, brother, grandma and aunt all came to visit. We rented a big van and basically toured across southern Germany and central Europe. They stayed at my host family's house so needless to say, every couch, air mattress and pillow was taken for the week.

I am so glad that my family came to visit. Eight months is a long time to go without seeing your family, friends or even speaking your own language. Not that I am complaining about any of that though (still glad to be here). Having my family come to visit was kind of like having a reset button on the "days since I have seen my family" countdown. I think normally, family visits make the student more homesick but it did the exact opposite to me. I hope you guys get what I mean here.

They got here on Friday and we just kind of hung out. We just took a walk and then hung out at home. It's kind of hard to plan anything big for the day after a 10 hour plane ride. We picked up my family from the airport and to make the event more memorable, I wore my lederhosen to the airport. I'd say that I got two different reactions from almost everyone in the terminal. The actual Germans just kind of looked at me like I was crazy but the tourists all gave me thumbs up. 

On Saturday, we went to the Ritter Sport chocolate factory. My brother and I did some kind of tour and then made some chocolate. It was us and then about 8 little kids there for some 7 year old's birthday. The only thing worse than being stuck with a group of 7 year olds in a room full of sugar/candy were the dirty looks that the birthday girl was giving us for crashing her birthday party. 

After that my family about 25 pounds of chocolate from the store and then we went into Stuttgart. We went up to the top of the TV tower. My family was amazed by how many people in Germany drive BMW's, Porsche's and Mercedes'. Of course, we had to take pictures with the random Porsche in the parking lot. Then we just went home and hung out.

We got up extra early on Easter Sunday. My family insisted on going to the church service in Altdorf. The service started at 5:30 and we got up at about 4:30. It was a really different kind of service. I don't know if it was an Easter thing but the church was lit by candles and then they prayed and sung hymns. They didn't really do all the regular parts of a normal mass. Then we walked home and had breakfast. 

After breakfast, we piled back into the van and drove to the Black Forest. If you are ever going to be anywhere near Baden-Württemberg, then going to see the Black Forest is something you have to do. We stopped a couple of times but mostly, we just drove through it on our way to France. We went to see Strasbourg, France for Easter. We spent the day walking through the city. Strasbourg has a really nice Cathedral. The inside of the Cathedral was by far the coolest and nicest of all the Cathedrals I have seen. Then we bought some souvenirs and sat at a little cafe for lunch. Most of us ate Flammkuchen. It's kind of like pizza but the dough is like a tortilla and it's topped with sour cream, bacon and onions. After that, we walked around the city more and then went home.

Easter Monday was spent in Ulm, Germany. The world's highest church is there. They let you climb up to the very top of the steeple. There are 768 spiral stone steps to the top. We all climbed up to the top (including my grandma) to see the view of the city. 

On Tuesday, we all went to Lichtenstein Castle. That's the castle I talked about a little while ago (it's the one right on the edge of a cliff on shutterfly). We also all did a ropes/adventure course nearby. It was like an obstacle course but way up in the trees. You had to get from end to the other. That's another thing you should do if you ever visit this region.

Wednesday was the day we drove into Munich. We started the day off with a typical weißwurstfrühstück. Weißwurstfrühstück is a special type of breakfast that consists of the traditional white sausage, pretzel and mustard. After that we walked around the city, saw the major sights, listened to the Glockenspiel and did some shopping. Then we went to the famous Hofbräuhaus in Munich. That might be the biggest restaurant I have ever seen. The cool thing about the Hofbräuhaus is that they serve beer by the litre. They serve big glass litres of beer for each person. There are two things that everyone who wants to see Germany has to do. Drink a litre of beer at the Hofbräuhaus is definitely one of them. I will get to the other in a minute. Even the atmosphere there is great. All the food, music and clothes are traditional and the building itself is even something to see. 

We drove into Esslingen on Thursday. Esslingen is a town about 20 minutes from here. The first thing we did was climb the castle. The castle is located on top of a hill. We toured around the castle and then went to a little Swabian restaurant for dinner. After dinner we went to the Frühlingsfest in Stuttgart. I'm pretty sure that everyone knows what Oktoberfest is. Frühlingsfest is basically a smaller Oktoberfest but held in the spring. There are rides, food and of course; beer halls. We hung out there for a while then went home.

On Friday, we drove to Tübingen and toured the city for the day. The river runs ride through the middle of the city so we took a gondola-type boat ride down the river. After that, we went to go get more ice cream and then went home. 

Saturday was one of my favorite days. We drove down to Lake Constance and Switzerland. We started out at the Rheinfalls in Switzerland. It is the biggest waterfall in Europe. We took some pictures and walked around before driving to Stein am Rhein, Switzerland. Switzerland is really nice. Everything is clean and it has that European feel to it. Unfortunately, it was ridiculously expensive. Everything in Switzerland is expensive so be prepared for that. Then we went to Romanshorn and took the ferry across the lake to Friedrichshafen, Germany. I said that there were two things that everyone who visits Germany must do and taking the ferry across the Bodensee is the other one. Make sure you go on a clear/sunny day so you can see the Swiss Alps. It really is something to see in the summer. 

The last day was spent getting ready and relaxing. We didn't go anywhere special. They just packed up and got ready to leave. That night was a big festival in one of the nearby villages. They all celebrated the beginning of May/Spring. There was a band, food and beer. Then people came over to our house afterward.  

I haven't really been up to much else so I don't really have much more to blog about. 

I will post again next week.  

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