To be honest, I’ve never really given much thought to soccer. It’s a slow paced sport with players constantly looking for an opportunity over making plays. Compared to football or basketball, it was always a bore to me. But, to the Europeans, it’s their major sport; with Real Madrid and Barcelona dominating La Liga, the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United in the Premier League, and Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga. But I made the decision to go watch a game live and find a team to support, so why not go see Bayern Munich live? So the first week of February, my friends and I did so. With region of Bavaria (which is Bayern in German) having the coldest winters in all of Germany, it meant that we were going to have a trip full of icy winds and near freezing temperatures.

Neuschwanstein Castle, now that was a sight. It actually went above and beyond my expectations. The grandness of the interior of the castle shined brightly along with the outside of the castle being surrounded by forest and snow. Not to mention the 40 minute mountain climb fulfilled my workout requirement for the rest of the semester (ice prevented any sort of public transportation to go up the mountain roads). Within the castle, the Byzantine, Gothic and Medieval influences really defined the castle. With it’s intricate murals and even a throne and chandelier made of pure gold with an assortment of jews, I was blown away. Even just walking into the kings room I was awed. Despite being the size of a college dorm room, the hand carved bed canopy, sink, desk, and even walls showed it’s Gothic history and the time and craftsmanship needed to make them. Everything displayed the grandeur of the whole palace as a whole (even if we couldn’t take any pictures).

View of Neuschwanstein Castle while walking up the path!

The Dachau Concentration Camp really taught me a lot about concentration camps. I originally thought that all the camps were used for the same reason, with Auschwitz being the most well know (as that was really the only one I remembered off the top of my head). Turns out that Dachau was the first (and the model) camp and was (and essentially was maintained as) a political concentration camp. Meaning that despite them having gas chambers, they were used only as disinfections rather than mass murder. Two interesting facts that I gained from the trip was that punishments were given out by other prisoners, with punishments being essential to camps as that was how they controlled the prisoners. It showed me the past of BMW, Mercedes and Volkswagen, Germany’s biggest car companies. Another way for the Nazi party to have control and take advantage of the prisoners was to offer them as cheap labor for said companies. For only a few cents, they could ‘own’ the prisoners for a few weeks till they were to be ‘replaced’. They eventually had to pay after the end of World War II, but the price they paid seems so small for a company who profited off the expense of their ‘employees’. This tour ended up being a great eye opener for me in regards to how concentration camps were ran.

Plaque commemorating the liberation of Dachau.

The BMW Museum was, in simple terms, shiny. To me, past c     ar models and such aren’t of much interest to me. It’s really the recent, and concept, models that do. How shiny they look, how sleek they are, how fast they go; these things are what makes me interested in cars (and BMWs). While at the museum, We got the opportunity to actually sit in a BMW M6 and see a Rolls-Royce Phantom up close (but couldn’t go in it sadly), which were the highlights of the museum. What can I say, car history just goes in one ear and then flies out the other as a shiny new BMW.

A beautiful Rolls-Royce Ghost sitting out of reach.

Finally, we get to the game. Before this trip,I had no clue of which team to go watch. Luckily, my roommate being Portuguese, knew a bit about football in Germany and told me to watch a Bayern Munich game over a Frankfurt or Mainz game. Other than my knowledge of HOW to play soccer from playing it all of elementary school, I knew nothing about the professional league. So going into the game, I was pretty excited about getting the chance to actually experience the atmosphere of a live game, especially one of the best teams in the world. There’s not much to say about the game but that home section, which is located behind one of the goals, was the whole reason the stadium was loud. The whole 90+ minutes of the game was filled with their cheering and songs. Compared to Kyle Field, it’s not as loud or as fearsome, but it still instills fear within the opposing team. My only suggestion, other than to experience a game live if you haven’t, is if you choose to go watch a football match, or ANY other sports match for the matter, don’t complain about people talking in a normal voice behind you. Yes; I’m talking to you, elderly couple who decided to shush us every time we wanted to talk about the game in the most normal, indoor voices.

Everyone getting ready for a Bayern Munich game!

Test 1:
Fortunately for me, EBS is a bit of a weird school. With classes once a week and only one exam and project, it ends up being non stressful for me compared to having 4 exams and weekly days of classes back home. Unfortunately for me, that means those two things weigh into my grades a lot. Reflecting on my first ever test from EBS (if you exclude the German A1 test). Despite it being a written test, the school, and teachers, failed to mention what kind of written test. It’s not really fun when you end up having to write short responses to 9 questions compared to multiple choice questions and some fill in the blank (as was the German test). Not to mention the fact that you have to write in pen, prompting me to have to rewrite my whole test in 20 minutes. It certainly was an experience.

I AMsterdam:
I’m going to say this off the bat, Amsterdam is my favorite city I’ve visited thus far. The closest way to describe it is that it’s similar to New York. It’s a city that constantly has something going on but without all the congestion that New York has. Add on the canals and the mixed atmosphere of all the tourists and residents here and you get a city that seems like an amusement park.

There’s a lot to see in Amsterdam, including the small village of Zaanse Schans. For landmarks, the one that really stood out the most was I Amsterdam. Yea there was the King’s palace, but seeing the sheer amount of people just mobbing the sign really showed how important it was to the city. As for museums, The Van Gogh museum and Dali museum were both amazing and eye opening. In the Van Gogh museum, I actually learned a lot about Van Gogh’s drawing style; how he was heavily influenced by peasant lifestyle and other artists. While in the Dali museum, I learned that street art is now a thing and that they really didn’t have many Dali artworks. I guess you win some you lose some. But, the last museum was my favorite, and my personal choice. The House of Bols; Netherland’s oldest producer of Jenever, which is essentially the father of gin. Alcohol, especially cocktails, have always been of interest to me. My personal goal, that goes along with traveling, is to try out the local/national liquor of each nation and learn a little about it if possible. Smelling and seeing how each of their different liquors are made and seeing the history of Jenever really showed the history of the Netherlands. The windmills were interesting but didn’t really click with me. If it was less windy and happened to be during the spring, the view might’ve been way more preferable to me. But the high winds injunction with a very bleak sky made the trip interesting but not extremely special to me. The final, and probably my most favorite thing, was the canal tour. Getting a boat ride on a canal is always fun and a unique way to view the city. Along with the city lights, the soothing ride really gave us a different view point of Amsterdam. Not to mention, learning little small trivia facts about this city is always fun.

The town of Zaanse Schans and their windmills!                                                 The famous I Amsterdam sign! There was too many people to get                                                                                                                                          a picture in front of it.

Brussels Part 2:
Going back to Brussels wasn’t on the top of my list. I planned on wanting to go back (since it was literally dead around New Years) so at least I got it done early on. With my friends wanting to try and buy some Belgium chocolates, and with me being the pro of Brussels city center, I ended up being the tour guide for us on our search for chocolates. To be honest, the main reason I was fine with going to Brussels was because it essentially was a compromise with my friends. We go to Brussels and then we can go see the Binche Carnival, which is renowned and even proclaimed as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. Though, unlike Germany’s Carnival, Binche’s was a lot more calm. They both have a lot of drinking and celebration, but while Mainz was more focused on their parade and everyone being drunk out of their minds, Binche is more about tradition. It’s a tradition and great honor to be involved in the parade as a Gille, a clown-like performer who wears a giant ostrich plumed hats, to have the opportunity to throw oranges at the crowd. These oranges symbolize good luck and many people even devise ways to catch them; from a wooden target with a net and hanging off of street lamps to be a better target, it essentially becomes a fight for whoever gets the most oranges. It certainly was a sight to see and caught me off guard, but I enjoyed trying to get more and more oranges.

A police and his horse at the Binche carnival having fun!

So, remember the time that you wanted to go to Luxembourg?:
Funny story about Luxembourg. It all started when I brought up the idea of going to Mainz, or Cologne, for Carnival with my friends. They both shot it down, saying that they wanted to visit Amsterdam, Brussels, and Luxembourg. I was fine with Amsterdam, despite them not having a Carnival due to their Protestant background, Brussels was ok since I got to see the Binche Carnival, but Luxembourg was just a big question mark. I wasn’t completely against it, but I also wasn’t for it. With it being the most expensive EU state (thus making everything expensive) and the 20th smallest sovereign state in population, I was not appealed by the idea of going there. Despite its constant downpour, we managed to see the most important landmarks. The Casemates du Bock, which was just a giant maze where I could hide around a corner to scare my friends; the palace, which I thought was a hotel; and Norte Dame Cathedral. All within 30 minutes. But that’s not where the fun part starts! We end up getting to a bus stop to get to our hostel, which was 20 minutes walking and OVER a highway. It’s interesting to hear that one of the few hostels in Luxembourg doesn’t even put into consideration how people would get to the hostel in the first place, with our makeshift path being the only way to get there. And to put the cherry on top, our shower ended up being in the same room as the beds (which I was sharing with two girls) making it just inconvenient for all of us. And to put the cherry on top of the cherry, I also happened to cut myself on my razor going through my bag. This trip shall forever be the trump card I pull on my friend who wanted to go to Luxembourg, “So, remember the that time you wanted to go to Luxembourg?”

St. Jean du Grund at Luxembourgh!