Germany | Reciprocal Exchanges Blog

Arriving to the U.S. was filled with mixed emotions. I was ready and excited to come home and see my family, friends and go eat to my favorite restaurants. On the other hand, leaving the place that changed me for the best is tough. It is ridiculous how much I grew while living in Germany. Can’t even begin to imagine what would have happened if a stayed longer, the type of person I would become. The biggest thing that Germany inflicted on my was to open my mind to the world. Before that, I was set on staying in Texas for the rest of my life. Now, my goals and standards have shifted. I now desire to keep traveling and getting to know cultures on a deeper level. I now understand that every culture has something valuable to offer and I have this newly discovered desire to learn as much as I can about other cultures. If I grew incredibly over a few months, what could happen in more? Which is why now I am shooting for the stars and have no borders when it comes to internationals internships and job positions. For me, that was the biggest change because my entire life plan has changed to a more flexible idea. Before it was specific to company and city I wanted to live, and now it has change to simple work within finance anywhere and any company. Lastly, I can’t begin to describe the amazing and unique people that I met and currently miss. However, I wanted to come back home already because being in an alien environment is exhausting and I missed and valued my own culture more than I ever did. Now back at TAMU, I am more flexible and social than before and I am excited for my new and improved mentality and where it can take me.

Categories: 2019, Germany, Reciprocal Exchange

Two months left of my exchange. I can’t tell if I’m lucky or not as other people seem to be done and are leaving in less than a month while I have a bit longer than them. But, I won’t let that bring me down. With a few trips planned this month and plans to hang out with all my friends, I was making sure that I would make the rest of my time worth it.

Strasbourg/Black Forest:

After coming back from my extensive two-week long trip, I wanted to relax. Plus, my mom told me how much money I’ve been spending so I had to start planning my trips better. I noticed that I had a small gap between the first week of April and Easter break and I wanted to do something that no one else really wanted to do; go to the Black Forest! I’ve heard a lot about the place and my dad even brought up the suggestion to go there when we came during January, which probably would’ve been a bad idea in the middle of German winter. I decided to make a quick trip to Strasbourg and the Black Forest due to how close they are. So, with my backpack and hammock in tow, I went off on my trip.

In hopes to save money, I planned my Strasbourg trip to be a day trip. This meant taking a 6 AM bus from Frankfurt to Strasbourg and spending around 8 hours there. The good thing was that I saved money by not needing a hostel. The bad thing was I had to camp at Frankfurt for the night as there was no way I would’ve made the bus if I left that morning, with finding a place to camp out at to escape the cold wind and night activities being the biggest issue. My time in Strasbourg was focused on going to the main sights and then moving on. Starting off at the Strasbourg Cathedral and then walking away from the city center towards the Orangerie. The Orangerie was the many focus of Strasbourg for me. It was a nice, relaxing park with students and families there enjoying the Saturday sun, and where I could set up my hammock. This ended up being where I started my March blog. After laying and enjoying the sun for a few hours, I left to continue my sight-seeing. I went towards the European Court of Human Rights and European Parliament, which I had a lovely view of the outside. With my sight-seeing done, I went back towards the city center to get on my bus for Freiburg, the capital of the Black Forest region and “The Gateway to the Black Forest”.

Freiburg was a small little university town that had a decent sized city center. But, despite both of those, it was still completely dead and empty on a Sunday. Most of the restaurants were closed, souvenir shops were empty, and finding some beer was almost impossible. I started my day by hiking up the Schlossberg so I could find a place to hang up my hammock. The hike up the mountain was painful and long, and when I finally found a nice secluded spot in the forest, I was excited! The relaxing trees and wind made the whole place mesmerizing and the people who passed by me giving me a wave and a hello just made it all the better. After a few hours, I went back to the city center in search of some beer. I found a famous local pub, the Hausbrauerei Feierling, with weissbeer, wheat beer, which I was hesitant to drink due to weissbeer not being my favorite beer. But, the amount of people there on a Sunday and the want to get a nice, refreshing, cold beer made me want to get one. To my surprise, it was pretty good! It was my first time enjoying a weissbeer! Funny enough, when describing the beer to Paulo, who also hated weissbeer, describing that the beer having a less wheat taste made it a better wheat beer. I ended up stopping by another restaurant with a selection of homemade craft beer to go along with the endless supply of weissbeer at Freiburg. This trip to Freiburg, which was short, was relaxing and the perfect trip for me to enjoy Germany.

   

 

The next two days were spent in Baden-Baden. I wanted to also go to Pforzheim, another town in the Black Forest, but decided not feeling rushed was better. Also, with the various things to do in Baden-Baden it made sense to stay for more than one day. The day I got there I went to see two things, the Trinkhalle and the Fabergé Egg Museum. The Trinkhalle was a building built by the Romans when they were originally there. The columns and the frescos lining the front of the building made the building a beauty. Funny thing is, it’s now the visitor center of Baden-Baden. The Fabergé Egg Museum wasn’t the best like most other museums I visited. For an overpriced entrance fee of 12 euros, I got to see two floors of antiques belonging to various families, but mainly from the Russian monarchy. But, in the whole museum, there were only around 3 Fabergé Eggs, making the supposed largest Fabergé Egg museum outside of Russia, a very disappointing museum. Since I had to wait for my AirBnB landlord to get off work, I spent the rest of my afternoon in the park with my hammock. At night, I went to the Festspielhaus to watch the Opera since Baden-Baden had a special series for Easter. I don’t have many comments about it as Operas aren’t my go-to performance, but the performance was still fascinating.

The next day I went to one of the key features of Baden-Baden, Friedrichsbad, an ancient Roman spa. It was an interesting experience to say the least, being that it was a nude spa and that I was the only person my age there with everyone else being at least twice my age. But, being a first experience was what made the whole spa experience fun! Later that night, I tried to go to Baden-Baden’s other feature, their James Bond-like casino, the Kurhaus. But, to my surprise, it had an age requirement set by the German government. The only casino in Germany that had an age limit. And guess what it was. 21! Seriously!? Out of all the places to have an age requirement, the one casino that I had to borrow a suit jacket for had an age limit! That ended up ruining my whole night and ruined my hopes of seeing an awesome place. The next day I ended up not really having any plans. There was the other spa, Caracalla Therme, in mind, but I thought that after going to Friedrichsbad there really was no need to go to there. So, I took my hammock and headed for the forest. This ended up being over 40 minutes of trekking through the city and going up the mountains. Climbing through trees, up hills, and past fallen trees was a bit of a challenge for someone wearing boat shoes. Heck, I even ended up with a scratch, and now a scar, on my leg from this dangerous trek. But, the seclusion in the forest was amazing and blissful. I stayed again for a few hours and then headed back down the forest and into the city. I wasn’t planning on stopping anywhere until I say the sign that said Pub. I ended up staying there for the rest of the night, because I ended up talking to one of the other patrons, a man originally from Austria working in Baden-Baden, and enjoyed a nice meal and a few beers along with the Bayern Munich v Real Madrid game.

Despite spending a bit too much money there, this ended up being one of the best trips I’ve had. The ability to do everything I wanted to at a pace I wanted to made it relaxing. I would say, that this trip was one of the, if not the best, trip I’ve had. It may not have been fun and filled with night life, but it still was relaxing and breathtaking.

Easter Break! Vienna, Budapest, Bratislava:

Now, I’ve had some friends question why I would go to Vienna and Budapest again. It’s a waste of money, it’s a waste of time, and just overall why? Well, my roommates and I, Paulo and Alexa, were planning on doing a family trip to somewhere. We originally thought of Budapest but then found out it was so expensive to just get there from Frankfurt. The next best thing for us to choose a pre-set program by known trip organizer in the German area, Pm2Am. They preorganized a trip starting at Vienna for the day, leading to Budapest for a night, and then ending up at Bratislava the next morning. Being that Vienna and Budapest were the same things for me except for going there with different people, I didn’t really feel like explaining much about it. Bratislava, on the other hand, was completely new and unexpected. Being the capital of Slovakia, it wasn’t exactly the top of the list of anyone’s place to want to travel to. Yes, it has its castle and blue church, the Church of St. Elisabeth, but other than that it didn’t have much to see. It did have cheap prices on food though which makes it enjoyable for us to enjoy food and beer there! After a few hours of relaxing and just enjoying a local café, we were on the way back to Frankfurt. Let me say this, the best way to travel is by spending your night on a bus; saves you money by not needing a hostel and saves you time, but oh god is it painful and tiring.

Classes Getting More Hectic:

The last week of April ended up being my busiest time in school. I had a full week of classes and even had classes overlap on the same day, causing a lot of trouble and confusion on what class to attend. For a school that’s totally fine with overlapping your class, the teachers don’t really know how to tell you to prioritize which one to go to. It just showed me how happy I was to know I’d be going back to a more understandable school system but also showed how sad it was that I only had one month left of my exchange program.

Categories: 2017, Germany, Reciprocal Exchange

May was a month filled with sadness and happiness. There were a few more trips left, happiness, but then there was the ever-looming aspect of having to go home soon, sadness. But, it does mean that I must do what I can to make my trip worth it.

Ibiza:

Alexis originally brought up the idea of going to Ibiza before we even went on our exchange program. She told me originally it was for her birthday, so I brought it up to her during our trip to Berlin. She changed it up and decided to go to Greece but still told me that Ibiza was still on her mind. So, when she told me she was going to go, I decided why not? Ibiza is known to be THE place to go to for vacationing in Europe. When I got there, it was already in the late afternoon so we just planned on walking along the beach in Ibiza Town. With swimming and relaxing on the beach being done tomorrow, we decided to just find dinner and a place to get cocktails. This was the first time I had paella, which was pretty good. We decided that we should head back to our hostel and just sleep and have enough energy for tomorrow. The next day we were planning on going to San Antonio which was on the west coast of Ibiza. Our plans to rent a scooter fell flat and required us to rent bikes instead. For someone like me, who’s at a weird in between of fit and unfit, biking long distance was going to be a pain for me. It didn’t help that I feel down twice. The first was from changing onto the sidewalk at a bad angle and causing me to fall and scrape my knee. The second, was from me trying to get my phone out of my pocket. On uneven ground. Of rocks. Leading to me getting a few cuts on my other knee and a scrape on my palm. BUT, other than my grave mistakes, the beach we got to was worth it. The nice sun and breeze made it enjoyable, while I didn’t dare jump into the water and face excruciating pain. After our sun tan, we went on our trip back to San Antonio, another painful long bike ride. We went back to look for a sunset restaurant to get food and watch the sunset. With the gorgeous view over, we needed to head back to Ibiza Town to get ready and rest up for our night out at Ibiza’s famous club, which cost a staggering 40 euros to get into! I want to say it was fun, but their choice of music made it only so enjoyable. The amazing weather and views combined with the bad relationship I had with the bike still made this trip worthwhile and nice.

After my time at Ibiza, I ended up having a layover at Valencia. Alexis told me that paella is from Valencia, so I just knew I had to spend my 3 hours looking for some! And let me tell you, I can never eat paella again. At the same price and having the same amount (but probably due to Ibiza being expensive in general) as the paella at Ibiza, it was better! The rice was softer, the flavors in the rice were fantastic, the seafood on the paella were better suited and in great quantity. I’ve never had something as fascinating and gorgeous as this for a meal.

London/Manchester:

I originally never had plans to go back to London. Being that its expensive and that I’ve already been there before. But, I had a recent liking towards Manchester United, due to one of their players, Marcus Rashford, a young player with a lot of potential and my starting player in my soccer game. So, wanting to see Manchester United and a Premier League game pushed me to take a cheap airplane ticket to go see Manchester.

Manchester wasn’t that big a city. I originally thought it would’ve been close to the size of London, but it ended up being more calm and smaller. It was nice for me since it meant that getting around to the things I wanted to see wouldn’t be that hard. Starting from Heaton Park, I walked around a bit to see the famous park/golf course. I then went back to the city center and went on my pub crawl. Despite the high prices in England, I found that you could actually find a lot of cheap, craft beer if you go at happy hour, around 4-7. The rest of my afternoon was spent going to these pubs and my path even lead me to one of Manchester’s oldest pubs, City Arms.

 

 

After enjoying their vast selection of beers, I went on my way to Old Trafford. The game was full of fans rooting for Man U against Celta de Vigo, a team from Spain’s La Liga. This was the second game in the Semifinal round of the Europa League, a competition where teams compete to get into the Champions League, where the best teams in Europe compete, if they weren’t previously qualified or were dropped from the Champions League group stage. This meant a lot as this season Man U was only 6th, where you had to be 3rd minimum to get into the Champions League. Winning the tournament meant that they get into the Champions League and have a chance to at the title. The game ended up being very two sided and a goal for both sides. But, the game was the epitome of why Americans usually don’t like soccer, with Man U playing overly defensive that even the fans were booing and hissing the players decision. The reason being is that their manager, Mourinho, is known to have a defensive playstyle, ending with Man U having an 18-15-5 record, the most ties in the league. Nevertheless, Man U ended up winning 2-1 aggregate (as they won 1-0 in the first game) and moved on to the finals to win their first Europa League title. Despite this boring playstyle, I still can say that I finally have a Premier League team to support. My only hopes now are that they don’t ever face Bayern Munich in the Champions League, otherwise I’m just going to be straight rooting for Bayern.

Dublin:

My final trip of my exchange would be a trip with my roommates from Uruguay, Juan and Jorge. Funny thing is, along with London, Dublin also had cheap tickets, which meant they also wanted to come too. Our plans for Dublin were really simple. Drink as much beer as we can and go to the Cliffs of Moher. The first night we got there we went straight to the Temple Bars. Being a Sunday evening, we assumed there wouldn’t be that many people at the bars. Yea right. There were a bunch open, but their oldest bar, The Temple Bar Pub, was packed to the brim. Even when a pint cost 6 to 7 euros and the music was mediocre, people still enjoyed the atmosphere. The interesting part about the night was that at the three bars we went to, they all had some sort of aspect that counters the other. The first bar, The Temple Bar Pub, had a lot of people, high costs, and the worst music of the three. The second place we went to had great music, a great selection of beers, and very little people. The third had a lot of people, good prices, and good music. It ended up just being what you wanted.

The next day we went on a walking tour around the city. It was great as we saw a lot of the city and in a way that didn’t require us to just slowly find the places. Afterwards, we went straight to Phoenix Park, known for deer roaming the plains and forest of the park. With over 40 minutes of walking, we finally found the deer and started to try to pet them. I’d like to say it was an easy job to coerce them, but it wasn’t. We found out the best way was to bribe them with leaves off the trees. Being that they can’t usually get those leaves meant that they usually would stand still and even walk to you to get the leaves. This part ended up being our favorite for the deer that we saw and for having a lot of flat land for us to toss a football and just enjoy the weather. With all the walking we did and needing to wake up at 6 AM tomorrow, we decided to call it a night and just head to bed. 

The next day we went on a whole day trip to Galway and the Cliffs of Moher. We were really worried if we would’ve been able to see the Cliffs or not that day. The forecast for the week was cloudy and chance of rain. Even the day before on our walking tour and the moment we got to Galway was raining. We got lucky though when just five minutes later at Galway the clouds cleared for the rest of the day. The Cliffs were just breathtaking. We were both in awe in what we saw there and scared of falling off the cliffs. With how big the Cliffs were, we had to do a lot of walking and trekking just to find all the best views we could. Afterwards, we went to get our first taste of authentic Irish food and went on our way back to Dublin.

My last trip of my exchange will go down as one of the best trips for me. I got to do things I wanted to do with friends I wanted to do them with all while seeing the amazing sights. This trip was the trip I’ve always wanted this semester.

Home:

Getting back home was going to be a pain. I had two check-ins (that were 23 and 53 kg, meaning that one was over 20 kg over) and a carry on to bring with me. Unluckily for me, the train station was a 20 minute walk away and there’s a hill to the train station. Luckily for me, my roommates were nice enough to come with me to help take my luggage and see me off. It took me a solid 30 minute to walk through the airport due to how heavy my luggage was, making it stressful and frustrating. The flight overall wasn’t that bad since it was an hour shorter than was planned. Until I came back and felt the humidity.

And with this, my exchange program is over. All the friends and people I made, all the places and cultures I saw and experienced, and all the things I learned about myself will forever be with me in my memories and pictures. If I could ever do this again I would, because I know that the memories I make are worth it. Heck, my friends and I have even talked about meeting up sometime for them to experience American culture and for me to experience Uruguay and Portugal, which along with Spain, Greece, and Croatia were regrets of mine for not visiting. Even though all this may never be available to me again soon, the ease of traveling and having fun, not much pressure bearing down on me while doing so, I know that I’ll eventually have the time to do this all over again. And with this, all good things must come to an end.

Categories: 2017, Germany, Reciprocal Exchange

The last month abroad (May, 2017) I finished classes pretty early on and got to travel to Spain and Portugal for the remainder of my trip. I flew out of Frankfurt to Barcelona and loved the city. Spain is amazing for several reasons. People understand how to live a very relaxed life yet work hard and stay focused. I saw groups of people in their mid forties and fifties on the beach having a good time everywhere during the middle of the week. They are allowed much more time off than some countries. People smile, are very family oriented, speak amazing Spanish, live their live and let others live the way they want to. Obviously, I fell in love with the country and highly consider living their for quite some time after graduating!

After experiencing Spain for a week in a couple different cities and the South, I was headed to meet some friends I met at my school in Germany in Faro, Portugal. We spent our last week abroad in Lagos, I small beach town. It was an amazing experience and glad I got to end it with the people I started with in Germany.

Overall, studying abroad was one of the best decisions I ever made. Meeting people from across the world, experiencing the european lifestyle for five to six months, traveling to many different countries and making memories of a lifetime.. When can I study abroad next??

Categories: 2017, Germany, Reciprocal Exchange

This is one of my favorite places in all of Germany and it is also a couple miles away from my school in Oestrich-Winkel, Germany. Here you have the Rhein River, rolling hills and mountains, vineyards that stretch for miles, beautiful little traditional German towns and amazing sunsets. In the month of April I stayed around this area for a couple different reasons. I had some major exams and I also ended up joining a German Club Soccer team called SSV Hattenheim. When I wasn’t studying, I was training with a team that only spoke German. This made for one interesting experience as I didn’t speak a lick of German. Practices consisted of me going to the end of the line or sitting out for a couple of minutes to figure out what exactly was going on.

April was the month of experiencing the German culture. In prior months I had traveled quite a bit and also hung out with friends from all over excluding any Germans. I loved getting the opportunity to interact with German people my age.

Categories: 2017, Germany, Reciprocal Exchange

March ended up being my busiest month. Not because of classes, but because of traveling! There were many ups and downs during the trip, but I would say the best one was going to Iceland. Nothing beats the chance to explore the icy unknown.

Iceland:          

The first place we went to was Iceland. Funny thing was, my friends and I came back from Luxembourg the day before this trip, so it was safe to say that we were all rushed and worried about all the packing and preparation we had to do in less than 12 hours. I ended up deciding that I HAD to wash and dry my clothes at my friend’s place (since she had a drier) and ended up getting back home at 3 AM, 5 hours before my flight. OK! I can just stay up like I usually do. Or take a quick hour nap. Or, you know, just take my nap and sleep through my alarm while I’m at it. Lucky for me, my roommate ended up waking up when my friend started spam calling both of us (for him to wake me up). As you could already tell, this trip was starting off well.

Day 1: Our first day consisted of us driving around the Golden Circle. Here, frozen waterfalls, icy paths, unfrozen water falls, and even a geyser made up the wonders of the Golden Circle. Unfortunately, walking slowly down icy slopes is never a great idea. Especially when you fall on your butt twice, once going up and going down. Note to self; buy hiking boots or ice spikes. Due to some unexpected issues that occurred that day, the two groups ended up being separated (there were ten of us in two cars). Our car, when we were done with everything, decided to change our plans up and walk to the Abandoned Plane that afternoon, seeing as everyone else in the other car didn’t want to do it the next day. That was horrible. Let me explain it in the easiest way possible; walking through winds speeding past at seemingly 60 mph (might be an exaggeration) while being pushed and pulled by the wind, a large amount of sand flying into our eyes constantly, and the temperature drop due to the wind chill. I didn’t need a meteorologist to tell me that that wasn’t the best time to have gone on an hour-long hike, both ways. At the end of the Black Sand Beach, we ended up at the Abandoned Plane. With its white body contrasting the black sand, many photographers are attracted to the site (as seen with three photographers at the site). I saw how it was unique and looked like a piece of art, but at the same time, I never really understood why the Icelandic government decided to just leave an abandoned plane in the middle of nowhere Iceland for tourist to go look at. Why not clean up the mess (as to prevent any environmental issues) or just, you know, move it closer to the entrance so there’s not an hour-long walk. The real bummer was that there wasn’t even any souvenirs shops there at the site. That night, we tried to go looking for northern lights. Unbeknownst to us, we didn’t even expect for it to be snowing heavily. The road to get out of the cabins we stayed at ended up having way too much snow that we couldn’t get out to go look. We ended up staying in the car for an hour (since it had a better view than our cabin) to try to catch a glimpse of anything, which we couldn’t.

Sunset at the Golden Circle!                                                                                                                              Abandoned Plane

Day 2: Day 2 was a lot easier for our car. Seeing as everyone in the other car decided that they now had to go see the plane, we decided to sleep in. Yet, funny enough, even with sleeping in, we were still ahead of them, schedule wise. We arrived at the actual Black Beach and even climbed up the side of the cliff there! We then went on a two hour drive and ended up at Skaftafell, to see the Svínafellsjökull Glacier. And lucky us! The wind yet again felt like it was 60 mph! Trudging through the snow with winds this strong made it almost impossible to even get close to the glacier safely. It was disappointing since seeing a glacier up close was on my bucket list.

            On the cliffs!                                                                                                                             Welcome to the Black Sand Beach!

Svínafellsjökull Glacier

Day 3: Today, we went back towards the Svínafellsjökull Glacier to go visit the Ice Caves. With a hefty price of $180, I decided that my money was better spent elsewhere, so three of us waited for everyone else. The views we got at the nearby beach and even the glaciers there made the wait not bad. After this was over, we were ready for the longest drive we had to do, a six hour drive all the way to Mývatn, a beautiful lake with a nearby volcano. The winding roads on the mount side, icy roads, and detours due to closed roads helped make this ride even worse. That night after getting to the hostel, we tried to do another aurora chase, which ended up being a failure. The radar was picking up a lot of clouds in our area and our best bet was to go over an hour away to get even a chance of the lights. We didn’t want to risk it with a non-full tank and camped out at the side of the road. We had to give up and headed back to our hostel.

Day 4: We spent the better part of the day exploring Mývatn and driving around to the various sights. The two places to see were Hverfjall and Dimmuborgir. Hverfjall, the nearby volcano, ended up not being a place we saw due to the roads being icy and dangerous for a Texan to drive. Our friends in the other car apparently went all the way up through, but I have no regrets due to many unaccounted-for dangers. Dimmuborgir is a national park with various lava and rock formations that shape the area. The funny thing about the park is that the Yule Lads, essentially Icelandic Santas, lived and roamed around the area. There happened to be one there who ran up and down the side of the rock formations with ease. It was kind of funny seeing him trying to ask someone to marry him by proposing with a toilet brush! With that done, our next stop was Akuryei, the second largest urban city after Reykjavik. The biggest thing to see there was the church of Akuryei, Akureyrarkirkja. It’s shape and design was unique, which is probably due to some cross influence of Lutheran and Icelandic culture. With nothing else in the town, we continued on our drive to get to our next place.

Hverfjall

                                                                                                                                                                                                     Akureyrarkirkja

Day 5: Our second to last day in Iceland was spent going to the west peninsula of Iceland, Snæfellsnes. The first city we got to was Helgafell and we mapped out our plan for the day there. The first thing we saw was the second church on our trip, the Stykkishólmskirkja. Just like the Akuryei, this one also was designed in a very interesting way. I’m usually not that interested in the outside of churches/cathedrals since they’re usually the same design (gothic), but these churches just really interested me due to how different they were. Afterwards, we did a small backtrack to get to the Bjarnarhöfn Shark Museum. One thing I found out about Iceland before getting there is that they have something called Hákarl, rotten shark. It has been a cultural and historical food in Iceland, so I just had to try it. Words can’t really describe the taste. It wasn’t as bad as I thought people said it was. It was just tasted and smelled of a lot of ammonia. In fact, even the way they ferment the sharks is interesting. Due to the sharks that are caught having high amounts of urea and trimethylamine oxide, they have to be processed and fermented (underground) before being able to be consumed. They use only the body of the shark though, which made me question what the fins were used for. Funny enough, on our trip to the museum, two people from China were there to inquire about purchasing the unused shark fins for consumption in China. Our trip around Snæfellsnes ended right after our trip to Þjóðgarðurinn Snæfellsjökull, the national park located there. The views of the ocean and the surrounding volcanoes made the view surreal. We went down to the beach and saw two seals in the ocean near the coast. Everyone tried their hardest to get them to come to shore, which I doubt would’ve ever happened. We ended the day driving back to Reykjavik to get ready for the early morning.

Stykkishólmskirkja                                                                                                                                                            Rotten Shark

Day 6: The morning started out with us getting up early to get to the Blue Lagoon, a popular geothermal spa resort. This place was amazing! Minus the chilly winds that plagued us the moment we stepped outside of the water. The water was amazing, the view was amazing, just getting the opportunity to do this blew my mind. We stayed for a few hours, enjoying the nice water, until we decided it was time to get lunch in Reykjavik. We went to see the last and final church during our visit to Iceland, Hallgrimskirkja. This one was on an even more grander scale compared to the other two with its size rivaling many other cathedrals in mainland Europe. This grand church was a great way to end our tour of Iceland. Due to a mistake, my friends got our last hostel at Reykjavik instead of where the international airport was, 40 minutes away. This influenced many things; the first was that we could’ve had a better parking place when we went to explore the city. Second, was that it affected how we would return the car, as it required me to drive pretty fast to get our car back to the rental place in time. But, we made it in time, even if just barely! That night, I decided that I was going to go to the bars nearby and would be dragging my friend along. The reason being was that compared to the last two Reykjavik hostels, this one was closer to the bars than the other two. No trip is complete without experiencing the night life of the city. Trying the local beers and the specialty liquors weren’t remotely cheap at all (one beer I got was $14 and two shots I got were $10 each, totaling $34 just for three things) but allowed me to try some new things, the shots. The first was Brennivin, Iceland’s national schnapps, and the second was Bjork, liquor produced from birch sap. These two shots were unique and, to me, seemed to really show the culture of Iceland and how they live off the land (being how the shots were fruit and birch tree based).

Blue Lagoon Entrance                                                                                                                                               Hallgrimskirkja

Going to Iceland was amazing. I got to see so many things that I wouldn’t usually see (mainly a glacier) and got to experience Iceland as it is. Unfortunately for me, the trip was expensive (a single bowl of soup was upwards of $15…) and majority of the driving was done by me, meaning 3 to 6 hours of constant driving sometimes. But, it was a great learning experience, on the driving side. I did learn how to deal and cope with ice/snow and discovered that 90 km/h is slow. I wouldn’t have given this trip up for anything.

 

The next trip is divided into two parts; the first is with my friend, Alexis, who’s at Madrid for her exchange program, and her three friends, followed by me with a group of friends from EBS. The different groups really change the whole aspect of the trip and was what made and broke the trip for me.

Berlin:

I’ve always wanted to go to Berlin for as long as I could remember. It’s a city full of history; the capital of Prussia, the capital that split in two, the Berlin Wall, and much more. No matter what it was, I had to go experience Berlin. Luckily for me, Alexis was planning on going there! We ended up only staying in Berlin for one day/night, which was fine for me because I could always try to revisit Berlin if I ever felt the need to. We decided the best way to see all the sights was with a walking tour. It just so happened that our hostel was a meeting place for a free walking tour that took us to see the most essential parts of Berlin. Of the places we saw, the most memorable one to me was the Brandenburg Gate. From starting as the gateway to Berlin when the city first started to the Quadriga being taken away by Napoleon after defeating Prussia to the now historical importance of it and the plaza it’s at, you learn so much just from that one area! At the end of the night, I’m glad that we also got a chance to have a pint of Guinness to celebrate St. Patty’s Day!

Berlin Wall protected from vandalism                                                                                                                    Brandenburg Gate

Prague:

Prague amazed me to no ends. From the minute we got there, we were already seeing wonders. The city hall was close to our hostel, so we quickly booked it over there and went up to the top of the tower in time before it got too dark. The view we got was unbelievable. We saw everything; the castle, the various churches, the far away tower on a hill, and much more! We knew from those sights that it would’ve been a day tomorrow. One thing that every has to at least experience when in Prague is the five story club. While clubbing may not really be my thing, getting to experience something like this that isn’t exactly found in the states blew my mind. The ability to change to different songs whenever, the sheer amount of people crammed in there, and the over atmosphere of happiness really made the place shine. The main things we wanted to see during our trip was the John Lennon wall and the castle. The castle was not what I was expecting. Unlike other castles in other cities, the one at Prague felt like a small town by itself, with its multitude of buildings and various sights to see within the palace.

Trekking through the rain to get to the John Lennon Wall

View of Prague from the top of the City Hall

Vienna:

Vienna, for all of us, was more of a time to relax. We had already done so much climbing beforehand at Prague that all we wanted to do this time was explore the city. We visited the Schönbrunn Palace and then the main castle in the city the next day. Sadly, we came an hour before closing so there was only so much we could see within the palace. But outside behind the palace, the gardens were spacious. We spent the better part of our free time climbing up the hill to the top where the Gloriette and a small pond were situated. Alexis and I went all the way to the top of the Gloriette which gave us an amazing view on the sunset and over the city. As amazing as the place was, I still found it second to Versailles.

Schönbrunn light at night

Alexis and I from the top of the Gloriette

The next day was spent exploring the rest of the city. Since everyone else had to leave that night to get back to Spain, we quickly went through all the places we could. We started at the main palace and went to the Austrian National Library. Afterwards, Alexis and I yet again split from the rest and went to see the Beethoven Museum. As great a tour as it was, it ended up being a skeleton of his house in Vienna. Beethoven moved out before he passed away, meaning that all his belongings weren’t even there to begin with. That the layout of the room was left for your imagination and what researchers believed.

Finally, the thing that I was looking forward to the most, the Vienna Philharmonic. My friends wanted to go to an opera performance, which really didn’t appeal to me. So, I looked up the Vienna Philharmonic and saw that they had 5 euro standing tickets! Even if I had to stand, paying so little to experience one of the best orchestras in the world was a steal! Vienna might’ve just became my most interesting trip thus far!

Budapest:

Going to a cheap country makes everything much more fun and interesting. Eastern Europe, for those who don’t really know, is a lot cheaper than Western Europe. Food, alcohol, even living is a lot more affordable. The first thing we did was to go to the Széchenyi Thermal Bath. Compared to Iceland, it was a lot more older in how it felt. The indoor baths and two giant outdoor baths were more of a meeting place for the residents of Budapest rather than a tourist attraction. Being more like a pool made the whole experience different than what we felt at the Blue Lagoon.

Day two consisted of going to the Budapest castle. The amount of people there was outrageous, with both castle grounds and the nearby Fisherman’s Bastion being filled with tourists taking all the pictures they could. As my friends were busily getting all the pictures they could of all the different poses they could’ve gotten with all the different lightings/effects they could’ve found, I choose to just explore the palace ground (Yes. I finished walking around most of the castle ground before they even finished taking pictures). The sight of the castle and the view from the Fisherman’s Cove gave a much older look at Budapest that contrasts with the rest of the city.

Fisherman’s Bastion

After lunch, I decided to ditch my group. By being the seventh person (and only guy) in the group, I was often pushed out of the group. They would all be speaking their own languages to each other, be avoiding me, and wanted to only do things that they wanted. One thing that they didn’t even want to experience was the night life in any of the cities. Especially with Budapest having its Ruin Bars, I felt that it would’ve been a waste to not go experience it. The Ruin Bars are hipster looking bars that have taken over the old Jewish Ghettos. Everything was flashy and reused, the beer they had was different and like that of a microbrewery, and the place was filled with people of different ages, showing that no matter how a bar looked, it was for everyone. I couldn’t say I experienced the whole thing (since it wasn’t during the night), but I am glad that I choose to do what I wanted and experienced Budapest in a different light before I left.

A quiet, calm Ruin Bars

 

I mentioned earlier that the different groups changed my view on my trips. The reason being is that other than not having any sort of common ground with some of the girls on the trip, they just didn’t really care about what I wanted to do. This made traveling with them a pain. I obviously didn’t find out about it till it was too late. I joined them mainly to get the opportunity to go to Poland. Visiting the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp has always been something that I’ve always wanted to do.

Krakow:

Krakow, the old capital of Warsaw, contained many historical locations. Our group had a big debate before we got to Krakow about when we should do the Auschwitz-Birkenau/Wieliczka Salt Mines tour. For me, it was the best idea to just get picked up two hours after getting to Krakow and do the tour then, since we would have a guide driving us. After a long debate and everyone finally understanding that they could go to sleep on the ride, we decided to do the tours on the first day.

Auschwitz-Birkenau felt and looked as how I was taught. It was a memorial full of history and sadness in the atmosphere. Going from seeing pictures of the area to being at the areas where the cruelty happened is a big change. Being that it’s most likely the last concentration camp I’d be visiting during my exchange program, I was glad that I at least got to see Auschwitz-Birkenau and got to learn more about the horrors that happened there. It’s great that Germany, and other countries affected, have gone through many lengths to keep these memories alive as so that no same atrocities would happen again.

Entrance to Auschwitz

Afterwards, we went to the salt mines. I really didn’t understand how these were famous, until we got in. The mines, expanding many miles under and across the city, were mined as early as the 13th century. All that history, how important it was in the past (with that one salt mine itself being a gift to a queen), and all the engineering and architecture to keep it as breathtaking as it was amazing. For example, you don’t expect there to be a chapel in a salt mine right? But jokes on you. There were in fact two! With one of them being a famous place for even marriages. Plus, this mine told me that Chopin was Polish, something that I never knew, and something everywhere in Poland likes to bring up.

Main cathedral within the Wieliczka Salt Mines (Pictures weren’t allowed unfortunately without paying)

We wanted to explore the rest of the city and learn as much as we could during our last day. We found a golf cart tour and decided that would be the easiest way! The most notable things for me about the trip were visiting the Jewish Ghetto, old Jewish Town, and Schlinder’s Factory. The Ghetto and the old town weren’t fancy by any means, but they were full of history and culture; an assortment of monuments in remembrance of WWII to large marketplaces happening in the middle of the square. The city was alive no matter where you went. Schlinder’s Factory, sadly, was sort of a disappointment to all of us. Being within the old factory, and with such an importance of what happened there, we assumed the whole museum would’ve been about the situation. Well, they touched upon him and what he did in Krakow, but after and before that, everything else was about Krakow in WWII. So Schlinder and his Factory only played a small part in the museum of Schlinder’s Factory. But on the bright side, I got a history lesson on Poland/Krakow in WWII. That night, I wanted to go see the bars at the Jewish Ghetto. Funny thing is that the bars happen to be located in old Jewish ghettos, as seen here and Budapest. I found a microbrewery pub and got to try some nice different beers. Afterwards, I head out to another bar in hopes of burning some more time before I went back home. I ended up meeting a group of guys from England and hanged out with them for the night, making my trip a lot more enjoyable than I thought it would’ve been.

Warsaw:

Warsaw was interesting. Despite it being a city of history, there really was only the old town for us to see and experience things. Everything was crowded with tourists with tourist prices or was closed due to it being Sunday. Overall, the trip was just a time for me to relax. The girls in my group decided that they wanted to watch movies and just go shopping. Being things that I didn’t want to do, I spent minimal time with them. On the first night, I stopped outside of a sports bar since Poland happened to be playing against Montenegro in the World Cup qualifiers. The moment Lewandowski made a penalty kick, the whole place exploded in cheers, reminding me how big a deal Lewandowski was in Poland. The next night, I decided to go try out the bars in Warsaw. There wasn’t much to see or do in the area being a Monday night. I happened to meet some new people at the bars to hang out with, who happened to be more guys from England. Overall, both of my nights in Poland with a cool group of guys that I just meet ended up being great nights for me.

Warsaw old town square

Categories: 2017, Germany, Reciprocal Exchange

 FC BAYERN, FC BAYERN, FC BAYERN MUNICH MUNICH:
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!

Categories: 2017, Germany, Reciprocal Exchange

This month was full of good times with the new friends that I have made and also old friends. I was lucky to go to Berlin one more time to see my family and also meet up with some friends that I had made in poland. This weekend was filled with sightseeing and kabab eating. I was also able to see for the first time the east side gallery where they have the Berlin wall with paintings and also a new museum in Potsdam which is a little out of Berlin but also one of my favorite places in the region. The next weekend was carnival which is a celebration before the start of lent mostly celebrated in the southern and western parts of Germany because of the Catholic influence. The biggest cities with carnival are Cologne as number one and then Bonn, Dusseldorf, and Mainze as second. I was fortunate to go to carnival in Cologne and we spent three days there with the parades and partying in the streets that was crazy because everyone is dressed up and having a good time. Another great thing that I was able to go to was a Champions league game!!! I went to see the second leg of the Borussia Dortmund vs Benfica round of 16. It was one of the best experiences that I have had this year and I will never forget it! I have always dreamed about going to a Champions league game and now my dream was realized and with a great show with one of my favorite teams, Dortmund, beating Benfica 4-0! I have had a great month and next month I plan to travel to Italy and Spain to visit some good friends. Until next time.

-Diego

Categories: 2017, Germany, Reciprocal Exchange

Categories: 2017, Germany, Reciprocal Exchange

Pre-Arrival:

Before getting to Frankfurt and starting school, my family and I actually took a few days of Winter Break in London, Brussels, then Frankfurt. The funny thing was that we originally planned on going to Taiwan/China/Japan for our winter break till we found out I had to go to school early for German Intensive Courses, which made me sad because I missed out on so much food. I mean, I’m not saying that I regret going to Europe early, I’m just saying that I wish I could’ve gotten Taiwanese street food easily here as I could in Taiwan. Other than exploring around the three cities, there wasn’t much else for us to do during that time. Unlike the states, Europe is dead during the holidays. And I mean, completely dead. Boxing day lasted essentially from the 26th of December all the way till New Years, meaning a majority of the restaurants and shops were closed. A few shopping and attractions in London were opened, the restaurants on the main street of Brussels were light up but otherwise were quiet as a mouse, and Frankfurt was completely empty. Going to Frankfurt on New Year’s Day felt like we were walking though a post-apocalyptic scene. There were remnants of the New Year’s laying around (empty champagne bottles and fireworks) surrounded by piles of snow and empty shops. The one awesome thing about this, other than the obvious snow, was meeting another Aggie! Meeting other Aggies is common, but doing so at Europe outside of exchange programs isn’t exactly common. I vividly remember the day; my mom was talking to other hotel employees who mentioned that there was someone else from Texas working there. My family and I were interested and thought that was unique but we were in a rush so we didn’t have much time to meet her. Fortunately enough for me, I had some problem with my contacts so I had to run back in and get my glasses from upstairs. After coming back down, I noticed someone new there. I glanced and noticed that she had a sweater that said Aggies on there but I just let it go and kept going to the car outside. Then it hit me; I think that was the worker they were mentioning and who apparently is an Aggie! I told my family and ran down and started talking to her. After that I was sure that my exchange was going to be going off to a great start!

Meeting my first Aggie abroad!

It’s not European Business School, its EBS:

German Intensive course was really a blast I gotta say. I meet some great friends there, but I didn’t really learn any German. It’s like learning any other language. You gotta take things slowly and get it into your head. You have to memorize the words, the terms, the conjugations, even the tenses. But, not if classes were squeezed into five days with you learning for 8 hours a day and with each lesson thrown at you with the expectations that you’ve already learned the topic and must now know how to use it to understand it all while not reinforcing the material. Yea, that was a mouthful. Unfortunately, the teaching style wasn’t something I could’ve worked with and I ended up leaving the class with an understanding of numbers (albeit slowly), basic works (thank you and goodbye, Danke and tschuss), and an understanding of comparing German words to English words to find some similarities. The other interesting thing about EBS is their weird class schedule. I have classes I’m taking where I have the first day of said class in one week and then don’t go back to class till a whole month later. This long gap time is a blessing and a curse. It gives you time to travel but at the same time doesn’t give you enough time to travel. You CAN go on a trip to Milan, but then you really can’t with only 4 days off. So unfortunately, for the first month, I didn’t travel at all. I did decide to explore the nearby cities of Wiesbaden, Mainz, and Frankfurt.

Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof (Main train station) is always busy!                                              Mainz Ice Sculpture Festival.

Welcome to (South-West) Germany!:

Going the three major cities in the Frankfurt area, I can say, unfortunately, for us poor college students, there’s not all that much to really see. Mainz contains a lot of clubs, which aren’t my cup of tea, Wiesbaden is pretty big and has a nice shopping area which I’ve gone back to a lot of times, while Frankfurt is Frankfurt. It’s too big for us to see everything and too spread out for us to have the time to in a day. My roommates and I actually spent a total of three days in both Wiesbaden and Frankfurt, mind you we took the train back home every night, to get some shopping that they needed and some touring. In Frankfurt, once the shopping was done, we went straight to the Romer. Unfortunately, with it not being Christmas, the famous Romer Christmas Market wasn’t up and running. It was still a very interesting plaza and still had the grand building of the Romer standing tall. Afterwards, we went straight to the side of the Rhein River and saw the assorted bridges and took to walking parallel to the river and towards the European Central Bank. Unfortunately, with no way to go up, we decided that that was the end of our stop and we ended up crossing to the otherside of the Rhein in hopes to find anything interested before night time arrived. Unfortunately, we weren’t luck enough and had to head home. The annoying thing about living in Oestrich-Winkel, are the bus/train schedules. With only one train an hour that leaves and comes back to Oestrich, time-constraints become an issue. If you do miss the train, you can take a bus, but then have fun waiting for 40 minutes before getting back home (compared to 20). My worst story was when my friends and I went out one Friday night. We got separated and had to wait for the train at Mainz. Unfortunately, at 2 PM, the next train wasn’t till 4 PM. So I decided to take a nap in near freezing temperatures. When the train finally came, I would still have to wait for the 6:30 AM train from Wiesbaden back to Oestrich. Overall, the transportation system, even though we are fortunately enough to have it and have it included in our student fees, has been a big system of frustration for my friends and I.

Enjoying Chinese New Year Hotpot with many friends!

Categories: 2017, Germany, Reciprocal Exchange