Nürnberg: auf wiedersehen, Deustchland!

Day 23, 07.17.2009

off to frankfurt int'l

A solemn car ride to Frankfurt Int’l Airport

I wrote this journal entry at 4:40pm–a mere 7 hours and 20 minutes before my last day in Germany ends. It was indescribable how devastating the reality was that I was heading home. I woke up and went to school, like I had done for the past month. I met up with Abby, Kelvin, Jon, and Cory by the Schwarze Box, and all of us went up to the music room to rehearse for our performances. Not really having learned much from my choir days, I just sang a few practice songs to get warmed up. Sounded horrible.

Cory, Jon, and I decided to translate “I Feel Pretty” from West Side Story into German, since that had been our group’s theme song (of sorts). I felt like I was coughing up legos or something, with all the long, German words to cram into the same rhythm. Cory and I kept messing up the same parts over and over. But probably an hour or so in, we actually sounded pretty decent. Jon was on piano, Cory sang alto and I soprano. Jon wanted the three of us to harmonize, which was hard to adjust to in such short notice. If there was anything I learned about myself from choir, was that I had no reason being in choir. Haha! No understanding of music theory/unable to follow harmonies.

Tschüß Nürnberg Hauptbahnhof! Goodbye, Nuremberg train station!

We went snooping around the music room and found a bass, violas, and a bunch of other cool instruments. Abby and Kelvin left to go swimming with the others sometime around noon. The acoustics in the room are amazing; granted, it is a music room, but we sounded so perfect in there. I really doubt the Schwarze Box, where we would be having our Abschiedsfest [“der Abschied” = a farewell, “das Fest” = celebration, “Abschiedsfest” = goodbye party], would have the same sound. We rehearsed for 4 hours, nonstop.

Amateur mistake. My throat was sore, strained, and scratchy. This did not bode well. Jon played a couple of Coldplay pieces, which was pretty on point, and A Whole New World, to which all three of us failed miserably to sing. None of us knew all the words. It went something like, “I can show you the wooooooorld~ nananana lalalala splendid!”.

Sometime in the middle of rehearsal the fire alarm went off. Everyone had to evacuate. It took about 20-30 minutes before we allowed to go back to the school. The music room was locked. So the three of us just sat on this huge pile of gym mats sitting outside the music room. We got bored, so we decided to go out and get some stuff from the supermarket. Cory got some goldfish (crackers) and Jon stole some gummy bears that were lying around on a chair at the school. They looked stale, but hey, free gummy bears [der Gummibären].

After returning to our gym mats, Jon got bored and started taking Cory’s goldfish and acting out scripts with them. Then, this woman with a ginormous growth on her body walked past. It was undeniably fascinating–all of us tried to avert our gaze from her to avoid awkward eye contact. Once she left Cory and Jon started cracking jokes about it. Really terrible jokes…(but also kind of funny). Hey, don’t judge us: you know you’d be staring too. Seriously, that growth was like the size of another, tiny human being. Cory called it a “twin”.

I think I climbed maybe 40 flights of stairs that day.


Ohmygod do I miss my host mother’s cooking. Best couscous salad ever.

I went home around 1:30pm and apparently Clara was looking for me. I had no idea they got off early today! She was home sometime around 12:00. I felt so bad about letting them worry. I had lugged several pounds of boba and milk tea from LA to Germany, specifically for the Abschiedsfest. Before we had left the US, our assignment was to bring something that represented “us”. This was mine. What I didn’t know was that you really didn’t have to bring anything to the Abschiedsfest because we were already expected to present. Well then–I guess I’ll just chug 7 pounds’ worth of boba and milk tea all by myself…no shame.

No way I was dragging all those goods through the airport again; I made about half of what I had and my host family promised to bring them when they went. I had no idea one small package of boba could make so much. It was almost enough to fill a 120 quart pot!

Clara and I had to leave early to the Schwarze Box to help set up. We had to carry out these giant folding tables and chairs from the basement of the school. Great arm work out. There wasn’t any tape at first, so we really had to improvise when we were trying to get the table covers to not fly off the table (it was windy). When the rest of the people in my group came, they were all neatly dressed in dress shirts and ties and sundresses with heels. I felt so under-dressed because all I had was a white shirt with a bit of collar, and jeans. Mir’s egal [“it’s all the same to me”]. I don’t own any dresses. Then Jon came in what looked like golf clothes and Cory just dressed as she usually did. Whew.

the best of the USAThe presentations started. Dan, Lorenzo, and Leo went first with a powerpoint called “The Best from the US”. There was a map of the US with stereotypes for each state; e.g., California was “Gays and Indian Casinos”; Wisconsin was “Cheese”; and Nevada was “Casinos, Booze, and Hookers”. It was awesome. Everyone was insulted equally–from the recently-deceased Michael Jackson (too soon) to Sarah Palin.

We were the second group to go. And it all went downhill from here. Cory came late and the rest of us were so busy helping to set up that we had no time to warm up or practice one last time. And my throat was still sore from morning rehearsals. But we were like “hell, let’s just get it over with”…so we did. It was horrifying how awful we sounded, but also damn freakin’ hilarious.

Our opening was to have Jon start out with a totally random piece, to which we would go along with until we’d “realize” that it was the wrong song, and then we’d go “JON?! WAS MACHST DU DENN?!” [what are you doing?]. Then he’d snap his fingers and shake his head and go “Ach Sheisse!” [ah, shoot!]. So over-the-top cheesy, but it worked like a charm. People were already laughing. Little did they know what they were in for…

We started singing “I Feel Pretty” and I gotta tell you, I was so off-key that I may as well just have let an elk bugle in my place. My voice had given out. Cory and I missed several notes, were out of sync, and our voices cracked. Like pre-pubescent boys, except we are not. Hell, I had no Idea why we bothered rehearsing at all. The “LALALALALALALALALALA”‘s and the “WER, WELCHE WO?” [which, what, where, who?] bits left all of us gasping for air because Jon angrily screamed them like we were a death metal band on Broadway, and it was pretty hysterical.

the stars of the show

The next platinum-record cover band right here.

Finally, Cory and I sang the last note of “I Feel Pretty” and we were expecting Jon to transition into the last few measures of “Defying Gravity”–as we had planned–but he didn’t. He just kept playing and Cory and I just stood there, nearly breathless from holding this super high note for what felt like a century. We tried to give him signals by waving our hands frantically; instead, he thought we wanted him to sing along too so he screeched like some owl-banshee-nails-on-chalk-board-thing. And that concluded our performance. The room collapsed into a paroxysm of laughter and everyone’s enjoyment was palpable. We got the loudest applause. 😛

Greylin, Meghan, Ellie and Joyce were next and they sang this German song called “Kuessen ist verboten” [kissing is forbidden] and they had small dance moves to go with it. It was really cute. Mariet and Meghan then played pieces on their flutes. They were both really good! Mariet later did a performance all by herself; she sang “For Good” to a powerpoint that she had made for her host family. It was really very sweet and nostalgic, despite the fact that all of this was happening in the “present” still.

After everyone had finished performing, we all went to get dinner! It was basically a pot luck full of amazing homemade food. Cory, Jon, and I, however, decided to grab a place to sit first so we went to the ping pong table. When we came back, almost everything was gone already. Astounding. I got some Kartoffelsalat, which I forever dream about, and some salad. For dessert I got some tiramisu, but there was a little bit too much alcohol in it for me, so I dumped it on Jon. He really enjoyed it and his eyes lit up when I told him there was alcohol in it. We’ve got a budding alcoholic here.


Our fearless and fabulous leaders with their Geschenke [presents]

All of us got together after most people were finished eating, and presented H. Birkelbach with this poster that we had bought: an enlarged photo of all of us on a jungle gym in Berlin. It was pretty cool. Then Lorenzo walked out with a towel over his waist…and dropped it. Underneath was this hideous pair of lime green pants that we had all signed earlier in the day. It was for H. Reynolds. Long story short, in the first week we were in Germany, we all passed this store called “Mister Lady” and H. Reynolds saw the pants and said “Now that just screams  I like men!” So we all decided to get him the pants because he knew he’d hate it/secretly love it. And he did. 🙂

Everyone packed up and cleaned everything; our host families went home. The rest of us, however, wanted to go to das DISKOTHEK. An absolute must in Germany. Jon, Cory, and Joyce forgot to bring their IDs with them, so Fabien’s (Cory’s host sister) mother had to “chaperone” them to get them into the disko. She did it on the condition that none of them could drink alcohol. Unsurprisingly, no one followed the rules, as was a silent rule in itself within our group. Fabien tried to stop them, but not really. Greylin was sneaking Jon her bottles that she couldn’t finish.

the diskothekThe disko itself was out of this world amazing. The theme of the month was classic rock. There was a huge electric guitar just hanging on the back wall. The music selection was fun–didn’t stick to just classic rock–and there was a good variety of genres. I sweated so much! The disko was empty at first, but by 10:30 it was packed with people, inside and out. We all shuffled out into the cool air for drinks by the bar. All 9 of us huddled together on a single sofa and just chatted. It was a great way to end the night. They played YMCA and Cory and I, like all cool kids do, did the dance.

Clara and I got home at 2am. Holy pardon-my-callousness-not-really-shit was I tired. The best kind of tired: nothing’s better than good company, good conversation, and epic proportions of fun.

my host fam and group

The amazing people of this month-long chronicle.

Bis später, Germany! Ich will dich vermissen, aber zweifellos, wird ich zurückkommen! So long, Germany! I will miss you, but without a doubt, I’ll be back! Thanks for the memories. ❤

Würzburg: a palace visit with wine

Day 22, 07.16.2015

Second to last full day in Germany. Was not looking forward to going back to the US at all. There was so much left to learn, to do, to see, and to eat.

view from the river cruise

View from our river cruise.

I woke up half an hour earlier than I needed to because I got the meeting time wrong. So unfortunate. I arrived at the Hauptbahnhof pretty early and wandered up and down the halls, soaking up all the last bits of German I could. Side: it really bothers me how seat covers are rarely used in Germany…do people just sit down with their bare bottoms? Do they not worry what may have splashed on or who may have thrown up/bled/stepped on it?!


The sun broke through!

We rode the train to Würzburg, which is a little over an hour of a ride. We played President and I absolutely demolished everyone. Everyone told me that they didn’t “get” my strategy and wondered if I even had any, but that’s the beauty of it: I don’t. I run with my gut and win. When we finally arrived in Würzburg, the first thing we did was go on a river cruise. It was a mostly cloudy day, but the lush waves of vineyards ripe with bounty could not be tempered.

potato pancakes with cream sauce

Genuinely salivating just looking at this photo.

After walking around a bit (and holding my pee for literally the longest time), we finally went to eat lunch. And I was finally able to relieve myself. There is hardly a better feeling in this world. I ordered a dish called Kartoffelkuchen [“potato pancakes”]. Like Jewish latkes. Shallow-fried, thin, crispy grated potatoes smashed into pancake form. Mine came with a gravy boat of Champignonsoße [“mushroom sauce”]. It was cream of mushroom soup, but more condensed and thick. I drowned my Kartoffelkuchen in it. Absolutely phenomenal: I’ve never forgotten this dish and reminisce every so often about it.

We played more cards as we ate. And for some reason, we all started speaking in random accents: from Russian to Australian to British. My friends approved of my (terrible) English accent, and one tried to take a video of me. Except I hate being photographed in any form. So. Awkward. None of the other three were able to finish their lunches, so they shared–more like dumped onto–food with Herr Reynolds and the Gastgeschwistern [“host siblings”]. Clara and Laura were like locusts and ravaged the leftovers. It was astounding.

white wine

Wurzburger white wine [der weiß Wein].

All aboard! We continued to sail down the river [der Fluß] to reach our next destination. Before we began boarding, there was a small window of 5 minutes’ time. So Jon bolted back to this ice cream shop we had walked past earlier, with a special of 6 scoops for €5. A fool’s errand. It was 15-20 minutes from the dock to that shop. We weren’t expecting him to make it back.

Just as we started boarding, the lunatic returned with 6 scoops of straight chocolate. No other flavors. The games of cards continued–this time accompanied with the classiness of white wine. I was not accustomed to the taste of any alcohol at this point, so I sort of gagged on it. It was cheap wine too; yet Würzburg is supposed to have some of the best wine in Europe. I ended up giving it to Clara. Jon and Cory finished their glasses. Jon looked like that red balloon on Airheads candy wrappers. Apparently he’s allergic to white wine, but not red wine.

residenz gardens

The gardens of the Residenz.

The Residenz was our last stop of the day and it was amazing. We all stopped to buy Spaghettieis on the way. I’m going to miss that stuff so much. Jon got an additional 5 scoops of straight up chocolate ice cream. A total of 11 scoops of chocolate ice cream in a single day. Gross.

walking through wurzburg

A relaxed stroll through the town before we realized we were late for the train.

Pictures weren’t allowed at the Residenz, which was a total bummer. There was a stunning fresco on the ceiling by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, called Apollo and the Continents. Pictures don’t do it justice–so much more expansive and vibrant in person. Every room in that museum is breahtaking. Nearly every inch of the palace is adorned with marble and gold; it sounds gaudy, but it was in fact very tasteful.

Each room had its own color theme. Even the details in the wooden floorboards were astounding: mosaics, except with wood, of complex geometrical shapes. One room contained the bed that Napoleon slept in. The signs clearly stated no touching was allowed, but my spiteful high school self wanted vengeance for not being able to take photos, so I touched Napoleon’s bed. Hah! Jon snuck in his camera by putting it in his pants pocket. We all had to check in our bags and jackets before entering the museum, and girl pants have the most impractical pockets. I had no chance. The guards would’ve seen me.

The Residenz

A shot of the Residenz, my delightful Spaghetti Eis, and cards on the train afterwards.

After maybe about 1-2 hours, we left the Residenz and collectively realized that we were really late for our train. There was so much adrenaline pumping through all of us as we booked it to the bus stop; ran to the next bus stop; jumped off the bus; sprinted through the city and across S-Bahn tracks; hurtled through the entirety of the Würzburg Hauptbahnhof; high-jumped two flights of stairs; and stumbled onto the platform, where they were just blowing the whistles for departure. I felt like I was some high-speed chase suspect. Totally deadbeat. But there was still energy to play more card games on the way home.

Finally made it home to Roßtal. It was such an exhausting day and the ratatouille that my host mother made was everything that I needed. Comfort food. Zucchini, tomato, and onions left to simmer for an hour or so in vegetable broth, cooked until tender. Served over rice. Mmmmm.


This was so good. My last homemade dinner [das Abendessen] in Germany.

As I rolled into bed, I was forcefully hit with the realization that my dreams lately had become so…boring. Sort of an odd thing to introspect on, but I’m used to incredibly wild, nonsensical dreams, every night–everything from being chased by the CIA to fighting dragons to running over alligators on the bayou with a car. Not even exaggerating–the mind is a mysterious jungle.

Point is, for the month that I was in Germany, most nights I had nary a dream, let alone a fantastical one. And what I realized was that my life in Germany was my fantastical dream. Sure, it wasn’t filled with fantasy or mythology and blockbuster-worthy adventure; but it was so much more exciting because it was so physically tangible how much my world had expanded and how much I had grown up.

Not even the conjures of my mind could compete with the wonder and technicolor that my life was. So to say that I was “not looking forward” to returning to the US is a severe understatement–I don’t even know if I can still properly express the emptiness that thought filled me with. It meant a return to the daily grind, the norm, the expected. I lulled myself to sleep with the bittersweet content of having known adventure, and then having to leave it behind.

Nürnberg: Nazi Party Rally Grounds

Day 21, 07.14.2009

lunch of beans and rice

A hearty lunch of bell peppers, onion, and sting beans in a cream sauce, coupled with rice.

Our only class for the day: die Geschichte [History]. The students gave presentations on the history and background of the Dokuzentrum, a museum about the rise and fall of the Nazi Regime and pieces of the Holocaust. The full name of the museum is Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände, or the Documentation Center Nazi Party Rallying Grounds. We went to the Dokuzentrum after the erste Pause [first break]. I recommend a visit if you’re in Nürnberg. The building looks like a giant metal ship split diagonally, from the tip of the bow to the bottom of the ship.


It was appalling and disturbing how resonant George Orwell’s 1984 was as I read about the founding and structure of the Nazi Regime. You know how you have one of those ironic moments where you’re somewhere really beautiful and think to yourself, “oh wow it looks just like a painting!”–only to realize that the paintings themselves are based on the landscape you’re admiring? This was like that. Spending time in the Dokuzentrum and learning about the Nazi Party was like, “wow this is so Orwellian”, except Orwell wrote 1984 based partly on Nazi Germany. Kind of meta when you think about it, actually.

the dokuzentrumDokuzentrum’s architecture is merged with the old Congress Hall that Hitler never finished. Apparently there are 100 searchlights on the outermost ring of the Hall for the wow effect at night. It’s also big enough so that the Coliseum can fit inside! We climbed some 200 steps to reach the rooftop, but it felt more like 1000. I was exhausted.

IMG_2946My friend and I were panting, looking at each other with sweat blurring our visions, wondering why we did this. Clearly we both needed more exercise. We could see the Nürnberg skyline, and it’s a much larger city than it feels when you’re walking through it. I think we were about 40m high (which is about 131 feet). The climb down was even worse because I have the most irrational fear of stairs and slipped multiple times.

H. Reynolds took us to see the Zeppelinfeld [Zeppelin Field]. We walked around the Congress Hall and my friends and I sang “I feel Pretty” the entire way. It was amusing to hear one of them scream “I feel pretty and witty and GAAAAAAAAAAY!” because he was so ridiculously, genuinely homophobic. H. Reynolds snorted and told Jon he must be if he kept yelling “gay” like that. Some 15 minutes later, one of the girls in our group suddenly decides that she wants to go back home. So she does. Such a sweet girl, and yet, never seems to want to stick around with our group. The rest of us played rock soccer, which is literally what it sounds.

zeppelin field gymnastics

One of the girls in our group being cool.

We finally got to the Zepplinfeld and everyone climbed up the steps to where Hitler supposedly stood to address all the Nazi soldiers. We took our last group photo there. In preparation for our Abschiedsfest, Abby and Kelvin wanted to learn how to waltz, so I taught them.

the train ride home

View from the train.

After leaving the Zepplinfeld, we all got lost on finding our way back to the Hauptbahnhof. I thought it was hilarious, given that H. Reynolds has been to Germany more times than you can count on his fingers and toes (but maybe he has fewer than the rest of us 😉 ). All of us nearly boarded the train at the wrong station, which would’ve taken us completely in the wrong direction. The station we were supposed to be at was another 20-minute walk away.

You could say that we, collectively, were kind of a hot mess at times. But I loved my group. Finally, we made it back to the Hauptbahnhof. Because I lost my host family’s umbrella (I forgot it in the coatroom at the Dokuzentrum), I bought them a new one at the convenience store in the Hauptbahnhof. The guy at the cash register told me that “You look Asian, but you speak Danglish!”. That kind of hurt. I was hoping my German was better. Whatever, cash register guy.

spinach potatoes dinner

For dinner: creamed spinach, scrambled eggs, potatoes, and a giant slab of ice cream cake.

I got home and Clara and I decided to watch Sailor Moon in German. It honestly may have been the funniest thing on the trip. Absolutely amazing. We watched the series finale and Sailor Moon was naked for like, 2/3 of the show. Is this really a kid’s show? I don’t remember so much nudity watching it in the States. Then in the evening, we watched this old kid’s classic called “Wir Kinder aus Bullerbü” without subtitles (go me!). It was an adorable movie set in Sweden about this little girl’s life and adventures in the tiny town of Bullerbü. Relaxing and idyllic; the cinematography was also stunning.

Nürnberg: Art and Falafel

Day 20, 07.13.2009

Today my group and I had to take a “Sports” class. I was expecting a game of soccer or something physically active, but instead we sat in a classroom for 2 hours, learning about German sports classes instead. We learned and sang this German soccer-chant-song, which turned out to be kind of fun. Otherwise, I didn’t feel like it was productive use of our time.

The next class was Art. I wish the art classes at my high school were more like this! They tend to spend the first week or two just teaching you how to shade properly… Here, though, we got our hands dirty right away. Our Lehrerin [“teacher”, female] was awesome! First exercise was staring at Starry Night for about a minute and then drawing it from memory. After about 10-15 minutes of sketching, we got to see the original again, compare it to our own, and discuss details that slipped from our memory and a bit about how our brain remembers things. I found this reflective portion of the class quite interessant [interesting].

Then, we partnered up. We needed to describe a picture, ganz auf deutsch [completely in German], to our partners, who could only base their drawing off the things we told them. It was fun, but I was l unfathomably awful. So terrible that I wondered how I even managed to win this scholarship in the first place. One of the girls in the group was spectacular; she was so descriptive, almost like she could’ve written a scientific paper on the picture. On the plus side,  the art teacher told me that I had a lot of potential in art and encouraged me to continue taking classes. Definitely helped alleviate some of the embarrassment from speaking German.

The fun died when we had Herr Besmens. Film analysis could have been fascinating. Could. It was worse than watching paint dry. We were forced to sit through over an hour of powerpoints. Needless to say, i caught up on some beauty sleep.

During the erste Pause [first break], I went with two of the girls on a walk through the Gymnasium’s neighborhood. We didn’t get far. We passed by a hospital and a cafe, in which we stopped to buy drinks and some snacks. After school, a bunch of us went into the city to look for a present for H. Reynolds and H. Birkelbach. No luck. I did, however, discover a Döner Falafel place for lunch and damn. The pita was piping hot and soft; the falafel ingredients so fresh that when you broke through the crunchy shell, it was like opening the door to the Narnia of herb gardens; then you have homemade tahini sauce and pickled vegetables slathered all over.

All of us split up eventually–my friend and I wanted to walk around a bit more instead of going to the Lochgefängnisse [prison] with the others. Spent a dozen Euros on some gingerbread. In a failed attempt to return to the Hauptbahnhof [main train station], we took the wrong U-Bahn and we were several stops into arriving at a completely different city before we were like, oh crap. Eventually (thankfully) we did get back to the Hauptbahnhof and I saw that my train was leaving in 2 minutes so (regrettably) I had to ditch my friend. Otherwise I’d have to wait another 90 minutes for the next train. I channeled my inner Usain Bolt and bolted down the underpass and up to the platform.

The rest of my day was pretty relaxed. I made some boba for my host family to give them a taste of Asia. Lotte and my host mum liked it, but Clara thought it was the most bizarre thing she had ever eaten. In other words, “ew”. I also finished Grapes of Wrath from my summer reading list. Whew. My Gastfamilie [host family] and I then spent the rest of the evening watching a really cheesy, 50’s German film that apparently was like Germany’s Titanic when it came out. Lots of cute guys in that film–too bad I can’t remember the name of it ;).


Day 19, 07.12.2009

a hearty breakfast of potato salad with parsley and buttered string beans after a late night

It had been a long night. I woke up at 11:15 and was still exhausted. Sleeping late and waking up late just doesn’t work for me. I showered at 12:00pm, which felt so bizarre. My Gastmutter [host mum], Clara, and I went to Ansbach to kill some time while my Gastvater [host dad] visited his mum. We walked around the city, went to a Kirchweih, which is basically a carnival hosted by a church, and ate “gebrannte Mandeln”. Caramelized almonds–crunchy and sweet. After a giant Tüte [bag or cone] full of almonds, my jaws began to lock up from all the chewing.

kirchweihMy host father picked us up and we went to Colmburg. I fell asleep on the way there, still exhausted from the night before. And woke up to the most stunning landscape–a breadth of dense woods, a serene lake in the center, a small island of baby firs floating on the surface. A sheer veil of fog cradled the face of the lake. Then came a lonely white swan, drifting across, downcast and leaving dimples on the water. We zipped past this breathtaking scene, as i fumbled to get my camera to no avail. Beauty is only in passing.

Colmburg is an ancient fortress that sits atop a huge hill and from where you get a fantastic view of the German countryside. There was also a medieval toilet jutting out from the side of the wall of the fortress. You can look up the hole where the people of ye olden days discharged…stuff. What if someone crapped on you while you were walking? I shudder to think.

My Gastvater gave me a break down of the different names for puddle, pond, lake…well, there was an endless number of classifications for bodies of water! My mom finds the English language silly with all the classifications used for big cats (leopards, panthers, cougars, cheetahs, jaguars…etc.). In Chinese they just say 豹 [bao]. She’d have a hoot with German. I also got to see deer everywhere! So exciting! I’d never seen deer in the wild before. They peacefully nibbled on the grassy tufts sprouting along the fortress.colmburgcolmburg fortress

Our next stop was the quaintest town–you could get through all of it in 15 minutes. It’s called Dinkelsbühl. Dinkel + bühl = “spelt hills”. Hills of spelt, roughly? Dinkelsbühl is one of the only remaining walled medieval towns in Germany and one of the many stops along the Romantische Straße [Romantic Road].

dinkelsbuhlRed-tiled roofs bob up and down along the hills, cobblestones pave the way to pointed Gasthäuser [inns] with potted flowers hung over window sills. Because my host father is a huge history buff, he told me about how Dinkelsbühl was saved from destruction during the 30 Year’s War.

There was a woman who gathered all the children of the town and ordered them to stand guard at the front of the fortress, for when the enemy came. And when the enemy reached the city walls, they were met with singing children at the city walls. The commander’s heart softened, and so Dinkelsbühl was spared. Talk about a really gutsy move.


Kinderzeche is an annual children’s and folklore festival that takes place in July in Dinkelsbühl. The festival celebrates the children of Dinkelsbühl and how they rescued the city during the Thirty Years’ War. Townspeople reenact the story and all participating children are given Schultüte, paper cones filled with goodies.

Rothenburg has an equally fascinating 30 Year’s War story that stays true to the seriousness with which Germans approach their beer. The Bürgermeister [mayor] challenged the leader of the opposing army to a drinking contest. The Burgermeister won, and Rothenburg was spared. Hooray!

Dinkelsbühl has the most delicious strawberry ice cream I have EVER had. It was creamy and thick like gelato, but didn’t have the “milkiness” to it: I could have sworn I was sucking on the juices of the plumpest, perfectly-ripe strawberry.

Before we went home, my Gastfamilie [host family] and I hiked up a rather steep hill, some 600m up. Panoramic view of Bavaria; I could see for kilometers. The plush, verdant landscape of Germany is something that I’ll never tire of.

strawberry ice cream

some afternoon tea and people watching

We passed the American military base on the way home, which made me think of the drunk Americans we ran into my first week in Germany. We got home around 19:30. For dinner we ate German burritos. Germans call them “tacos”. We used tortillas. Whatever you call it, it was delicious! We stuffed them with mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes…and essentially everything you could find in the produce section of a Whole Foods. I awkwardly asked for seconds, even though everyone was full after the first…not that i was actually ashamed at all ;).more german countryside

Nürnberg: A Wild Housewarming

Day 18, 07.11.2009

Die Einweihungsparty (house-warming party)

We left Berlin today, which was devastating given how much of a blast it was. I was really looking 19forward to playing some more President or Palace, but my friends just wouldn’t shut up about politics. It snowballed from gay marriage to the 2008 election, and eventually spoiled children. I stayed silent for the most part because I felt pretty insecure about my grasp on current events…(shamefully so). The train ride went by pretty quickly otherwise.berlin train home

Once we were back in Nürnberg, Abby said her sister was planning on taking her to the Disko, which I super duper über excited about! Yet when I called Abby about it, she couldn’t give me any details because, well, not even her host sister knew which Disko she wanted to go to! My Gastschwester [host sister], told me that Abby’s host sister can be rather indecisive. So we ended up not going. 😦


cute house, right?

Everything turned out alright though, because Conrad, my Gastbrüder [host brother], and his friends picked me and Clara up to go to his house-warming party. They lived in Würzburg. Such a beautiful city! His house was situated on the side of this huge hill, where a fortress sat on the tippity top! Too cool. The hills were decked in miles of vineyards.

It was surprisingly and ridiculously cold that night: around 48F. I was totally unprepared and spent the first hour or so shivering. I was puffing out clouds of condensation. Even after Conrad had given me his jacket and this huge wool blanket, it still felt chilly. Everyone else at the party just sort of smirked at me the way everyone in the world smirks at a Californian who says it’s cold.

I spent time talking to a girlfriend of Conrad’s friend (who drove us to the party). She is a ballroom dancer and is also vegetarian! It was so fun talking to her because we were basically the same person. She and her boyfriend are dance partners, apparently. So cute!

house indoors

I hid in here for about an hour because I was so cold…I think the house was actually colder than outside.

The selection of music at the party was on point. Germans have such great taste in American music–which is kind of a funny sentence now that I read it. They had classics like The Clash and The Who, and newer bands like We Are Scientists (which I adore) and Kings of Leon. There were so many artists to choose from. I’m sure people living at the edge of the hills could hear us with how loudly the music was blasted. Everyone just rocked out around the bonfire. The flames licked the cool air at a height of 7 feet.

And boy do Germans know their bread [das Brot]. Conrad and his friends made phenomenal garlic bread. Oh my god. Crispy baguette, fresh out of the oven, with butter and garlic sauce dripping off the sides. Crunching on a steamy slab of garlic bread in the freezing cold was just perfection.

At one point, Goldfrapp’s “Strict Machine” came on–which is…full of sexual innuendo. One of the guys at the party, who was completely and utterly drunk, started grinding…with a wall. Totally uninhibited and probably unaware his dance partner was made of drywall. Nearly everyone at the party was drunk. The guys were hyperactive monkeys: happily rocking out to music one second, and faux-fighting the next. They kicked poor Miri in the face. There was also some pot-smokin’ going on. People were just rolling up joints like the pretzel dogs getting rolled up at Auntie Anne’s. I never thought of myself as conservative, but the dancing, drinking, and smoking with such wild abandon came as culture shock to me.bonfire

We got home at 3:15am. I dropped dead on the bed. Back at home, I would never go to bed without showering. My mom would flip out and have my entire bedroom quarantined for disinfection. But boy was it liberating to…just…fall…….asleep.

Berlin: Jewish Museum, Reichstag, and KaDeWe

Day 17, 07.10.2009

holocaust towerWe went to the Jüdisches [Jewish] Museum (if you care to read in detail in German), where for the first time my entire trip thus far I could understand the tour guide. She spoke in simple and slow German, whereas the other tour guides we had spoke in frustratingly brisk German.

The museum was architecturally intriguing.There was a room where the ceiling converges into a single corner, leaving you in complete darkness, save for this one shaft of light coming through the tip of the ceiling. The Holocaust-Turm [Tower]. Every decibel resonates through. An incredibly eerie experience of utter loneliness, helplessness, and desperation symbolic of the plight of the Jewish during WWII.

IMG_2791We were given time to walk around the museum on our own and there was a byzantine maze of 49 pillars called the Garden of Exile, or Garten des Exils, that is a must-see exhibit. Steel columns rise 6 metres above you, and the sloping ground makes it seem as if the world is slipping underneath you. Olive trees–a symbol of Peace and Hope in the Jewish tradition–line the corridors. The 48 pillars represent the year the state of Israel was founded in 1948; the 49th pillar in the middle represents Berlin.

There was a special exhibit of literally 10,000 faces made from sheet steel, that looked like the sad masks from Greek theatre. This was called Shalechet – Gefallenes Laub, which translates roughly to “Fallen Leaves”. Each face remembers not only those murdered during the Holocaust, but also all those sacrificed in the war. As you trek through the field of faces, each responds with a resounding clang–thereby giving back these faces their “voices”. A deeply profound and poetic message for many of us. For others, aka one of the guys in our group, a message worth stealing (he took a face!!).

IMG_2799It was pouring–again–when we left, like it had for most of the week in Berlin. We ate lunch at this Turkish restaurant where I had falafel for the first time. I had been missing out on a lot; this stuff was delicious. My friends and I played Mao during the meal, and one of them made us sing a song every time we put a card down. It was terrible. By the 10th card I put down, I had run out of songs and was singing “Mary had a Little Lamb”.

Completely out of context now that it’s been 6 years—but my travel diary noted that one of the guys called one of the girls a “fat f*k” and that we females served him a solid verbal beating. I would hope all men know this by now, but never call a girl fat, especially to her face.

IMG_2802We then went to the Reichstag and were forced to sit through this 2-hour long speech about how German politics work. It could have been interesting if I could understand the speaker and if she didn’t speak in a monotone. I fell asleep multiple times, jerking myself awake, as did those who weren’t even in our group. There were a lot of sleeping old people.

After the speech we got to go up Die Kuppel, a glass dome that overlooks Berlin’s cityscape. The dome symbolizes that the people are above the government, in contrast to National Socialism. We actually had to go through security check before we were let into the Reichstag; my friend with the metal contraband from the Jüdisches [Jewish] Museum set the metal detector off. When we were leaving, he got the face back from the security people, who had a good laugh about it.reichstag

H. Birkelbach gave us our last 10 Euros of the trip for dinner because we had free time to explore Berlin in groups. All 20-or so of us stuck together for the first 1~2 hour(s). We visited the Frauenkirche, shopped at stands (I bought a piece of the Berlin Wall!), and went to KADEWE [Kaufhaus des Westen, or “Department Store of the West”]. It’s 8 stories tall and so huge that it’s split into two different buildings across the street from each other. Mostly window-shopping and luxury brands.

Upon looking at the directory, the three of us immediately knew which floor we were going to first: the chocolate [Schokolade] floor. It was heaven. I had never seen so much chocolate in my life. I bought 4 boxes of Lindt and a bag of Haribo gummy bears for friends (I swear!) and a bag of stracciatella Lindt that my friend introduced me to on our trip. Literally the best flavor of Lindt.

kadeweIt was still raining when we stepped out of KaDeWe. My pants got wet–ugh. We made our way back to the Brandenburg Tor, where our group split up. Clara, Laura, Abby, Jon, Cory, and I wanted to go to this bar with spiffy graffiti and a beach-like setting we’d visited the day before and the rest went off to do their own thing (I don’t remember what). Then began another downpour, so we took shelter at a nearby store. When the rain eased up a bit, we ran to the Hauptbahnhof and ate at Burger King for dinner. Ain’t nothing wrong with french fries for dinner.

I was pretty disappointed when we got to the sand place because I was expecting to see a band playing, like last time, but alas, no. There was also not that many people. Nevertheless, we settled down and everyone else but I got drinks. Clara, Laura, Abby, Cory, and Jon started arguing about gay marriage again. The debate continues!

There was no dancing either: I was bummed because I was hoping the place would be like a Disko [club]. Phooey. Cory and Jon got vodka because the lady who ran the bar didn’t care if they were 18 or not. After Clara and Laura got tired of arguing with Jon, Cory started arguing with him about Obama being voted into office, because Jon is a total Palin/McCain fan. Their argument got really heated and after a while, Cory just got up and heaved a frustrated sigh and went, “UGH, MEN.” And the Americans/Germans who were sitting in our vicinity laughed about it. As for me, I quietly sipped my water.


Whaaat? Impromptu fire show!

Eventually, the rest of the group that initially objected to going to a bar, showed up at the sand place. They sat on the other side of the bar though. It was hilarious because when they saw my friend with a drink in his hands they all glared at him or watched him anxiously. They’d also check up on him everyone 20 minutes or so, going “Drunk yet” or “Please tell me you’re not drunk“. He and my other friend drank so much hard liquor that night that even my friend with steely tolerance said she was feeling a little tipsy. My friend was red, but not wasted like he was at the Zitadelle. He did break a bottle on the way back to the hotel though, and it almost hit one of the girls. Eek!

We played concentration on the U-Bahn. It was fun and I fared surprisingly well! I remember playing Big Booty with Glorystar–my middle school choir–and losing in like, the first second. Clara also taught us this hand game similar to slide called “Schokolade” [chocolate]. I rocked that.

My last night in Berlin: nostalgia setting in before I had even left. A truly epic week.

Berlin: Checkpoint Charlie, Pergamom, and SOAP

Day 16, 07.09.2009

you are leaving

Checkpoint Charlie–the infamous crossing point between East and West Berlin, a symbol of the Cold War. It was almost surreal walking back and forth past the giant sign that says, “You are now entering the American sector”–translated into Russian, German, and French–, without a second thought. Simply unreal to think that there was a time where American and Soviet tanks had standoffs on either side of this sign. And here I am, being a tourist: taking pictures of “officers” dressed in Russian, German, and American uniforms and buying “original” pieces of the Berlin Wall.

checkpointcharlieThere was one “American” officer who had the strangest accent–like 1940’s English/New Yorker accent–and who was selling “passports” with the original stamps for each country/sector like the DDR and stuff. I coughed up 7 Euros for my passport to freedom.

Escape stories in the Checkpoint Charlie Museum are riveting. One man was shot 10 times trying to escape–can’t remember if he was successful or not. There was also a woman who hid in conjoined suitcases and another man who hid in surfboards. Highly recommend paying the €12.50 to walk through the exhibits.

chaperones in hatsMy friends each bought a fuzzy Russian hat and a North Korean hat, respectively. They were late in meeting up with the rest of the group, so H. Birkelbach and H. Reynolds’ punishment for them was that they had to hand over their hats for the rest of the night. They were 20 minutes late, and H. Reynolds flipped out on them: “When we say viertel vor zwölf [15 minutes before 12], we f*ing mean viertel vor zwölf.” Hadn’t seen him that angry the entire trip thus far.

We then wandered to Museuminsel [“Museum Island”]; our goal was the Pergamom museum. If there is anything you must go to, this is it. I am by no means a museum or history buff, but for the several hours you could spend in the Pergamom museum, you will become one. Even if you don’t bother reading a single plaque, it is such a spectacular collection of ancient history. ishtar gate

The Ishtar Gate and Processional Way were reconstructed here with their original bricks. The Processional Way lines an entire corridor of the museum, towering over us at somewhere around 14 feet high. Colored with most royal of blues, majestically laced with golden lions.

pergamom altarAnother highlight of the museum is the Pergamom Altar. It was originally situated at the top of a hill that overlooked the Aegean Sea. To walk up the stairway, past the frieze depicting battles between Olympian gods and the Giants, and look down once you’ve reached the top, with the vision of a sparkling, deep blue Aegean Sea has such grandeur to it. This was all, of course, done with sweaty palms, shaky hands, and wobbly legs because people were sitting by the railing and I had nothing to hold onto. I can’t imagine what ancient life would have been like for an acrophobic.

market gate of miletusThe Market Gate of Miletus is another magnificent marble monument to explore. Most of it was destroyed in an earthquake, so its reconstruction involved new material. Fantastic to walk through nonetheless.

islamic art

isn’t stunning?!

The Islamic Art Exhibit was also really cool–tons of intricately-painted domes and prayer rooms. I was on my own for most of the time we spent in the museum. I have a habit of going through museum exhibits rather quickly… I had seen most of the museum 20-30 minutes before our designated meeting time. So I sat on the steps and waited; my feet were tired anyway.

Afterwards, I really wanted to go to the Berliner Dom, so we did. Just…gorgeous. In a really outlandish, gold-everywhere, decked-out-in-more-shiny-things-than-a-chandelier kind of gorgeous.

We went to a Turkish restaurant for dinner. So much ethnic food I had never had! It was really good. I was hooked on this pita-bread-thing. There was also some great dinner conversation. One of the guys kept staring at the lights because he thought they looked like boobs and at these two girls sitting across the room because he thought they were lesbians..?!

berlin domeAnd in a slip of the tongue, he called my friend and I “him”s and told my friend that he couldn’t believe she was a woman. Wait–what? Whoa. She was about to rip him apart when he quickly followed with “…I can’t believe you have the burden of bearing children”. Okay then. After the meal, we somehow decided to call my friend (who’s female) Geoff Nikolsky because apparently Geoff’s a pretty gay name and she’s the “gayest” “man” alive. I’m quite positive our group collectively shattered and violated any fragment of political correctness in the month we spent together.

hip hangout place

this hip, young-people hang out place we passed through

H. Birkelbach arranged for us to go to an acrobatic show by the name of SOAP at the Chamaeleon Theatre and it was awesome. It’s kinda like Cirque du Soleil, except it’s on a smaller stage and everything is soap/bathtub/washing related. All the girls enjoyed it immensely because, well, there were hot, athletic guys running around doing crazy ballet moves. One of the acrobats grabbed onto a pole and raised his body so that it was perfectly parallel to the ground and hold it for minutes.Insane.

The girls were giddy and the guys slightly disappointed because there were no hot girls. I thought the lady acrobats were amazing too though! One of the guys and H. Reynolds kept arguing that all of the guys were probably gay because straight men can’t do ballet. You just gotta roll your eyes when you hear that kind of stuff.

soap oper


There was also one hilariously inappropriate intimate scene between…feet. Oh the sounds. First it was cute because the foot that was supposed to be the guy gave flowers to woo the “girl” foot but then it moved onto…feet banging. All of us were gasping for air because we couldn’t believe we were allowed to watch a show so raunchy as 11th graders. Continue reading

Berlin: Sanssouci Palace and a peek into East Germany

Day 15, 07.08.2009

sansoucciWe left the hotel quite early to catch the train to Sanssouci. Everyone else filed into the same car, but we three musketeers decided it’d be a great idea to steal all the space in the back and be separated from the rest of our group. Unfortunately, the train ride to Sanssouci is about an hour–and 6 stops in, the train was already packed. I struggled to catch glimpses of our group in the front. Fortunately, one of the guys is 6’6″, which made it easier to keep track. My paranoia set in after a while, so I joined the rest of the group in the front. The other two are lucky that I remembered they were in the back and shouted to them that we had arrived, otherwise they would’ve been lost in Berlin forever.

marble statuePalace Sanssouci was stunningly lavish. A conglomerate of courtyards, pavilions, marble and gold. The inside of the palace looked like it had been touched by Midas. There was a different color scheme to each room. The extravagance straddled gaudy and classy–including a beautiful “Chinese” dome that was anything but Chinese. I figured out how they managed to maintain these grounds when I had to use the restroom and paid a whopping €1.50.

After a couple hours of running amok on royal grounds, we took the train back to Potsdam. A lunch cruise down Wahnsee had been planned for us. While most of our group decided to hang around in the cafe waiting, the three musketeers made intelligent decision #2 of the day by spending the 20 minutes before the cruise exploring Potsdam. There sadly wasn’t much to explore. And then began a downpour so aggressive it could rival Niagara Falls. The wind lashed watery whips at our faces.

Scrambling to find shelter somewhere, we finally came across a child-sized picnic bench with a baby umbrella. Unfortunately not enough to cover 3 high schoolers. So we counted to 10 and sprinted back to the meeting place, where there was a restaurant. I was running blind: there was so much water hanging from my lashes.

sansoucci train stop

you can see the clouds moving in…

H. Birkelbach and H. Reynolds greeted us with smug looks on their faces, joking about how warm and dry and comfortable they had been at the restaurant. But they made it up to us by sharing some french fries.

Ironically, it stopped raining about a minute after we reached the restaurant. I was drenched–a wet rag. There is nothing worse than wet undergarments and soggy, squishy socks. And I had to board the cruise 10 minutes later with sopping shoes.

Instead of sight-seeing, we played cards the entire cruise. So I have no idea what there was to be seen from the lake. I ordered some noodles with veggies for lunch, which were…okay. I won several games of president, and lost a lot of games of palace.

After the cruise, we all stopped at this fruit stand and bought fruit. The three of us split a basket of strawberries. I’ve seriously contemplated moving to Germany just for their amazingly sweet, juicy, and fragrant strawberries. They’re so tiny, but good things come in small packages!

berlin murals

some great art in East Berlin!

East Berlin was kind of a sketchy place. Gritty, adorned with graffiti, and home to all varieties of people. Our group split up from our chaperones and our German host siblings. After about 5 minutes of walking together, four of us decided we were interested in different things and split up further.

Three of us went one way and the other girl went off on her own. Our friend entertained us by claiming he could make up a song for any word we chose. One of us chose “rollerskates”, so he started singing something about an old man at a tree and if you skated to him you could see him fart–the actual song was a lot stranger if you could believe it. I chose banana hammock and the song went something like “oh please let me sprinkle cheese! some cheese!” and swinging in the banana hammock. I don’t think he knows what a banana hammock really is…

My friend wanted to buy a gas mask, so we stepped into this store that sold gas masks and Communist memorabilia. While fascinating, the other two of us wanted to keep exploring. So we moved on. East Berlin would be a scary place to get lost in if you were a young girl traveling without parents for the first time (me). Thankfully we didn’t get lost.

We went into the German dollar store to get some water. It was kind of frustrating that even though we’d speak to the cashiers in German, they’d only respond back in English. Just give us a chance!eastberlin

We also saw this giant condom ad–a phallic cardboard cutout–that was advertising vibrators and other unmentionables…And right across from it was a store for gay men with posters of naked men plastered over the display windows. Europeans are so open about sexuality. My friend took a bunch of photos of all this to show to H. Reynolds, because he hates anything that screams “I like men”.

After walking around East Berlin, we all met up and settled on this African restaurant for dinner. I ordered some fried rice dish with some salad and this strange flour-roll thing. It was so, so delicious. I really wish I had taken down the name of the place. There was zebra, crocodile, and impala steaks, just to name a few of the strange items on the menu.


amazing first experience with African food…anyone know where this is?!

We all split up after dinner because the host siblings wanted to go get a drink, one of the girls wanted to go back to the hotel, and the rest of us wanted to explore Berlin a bit more. H. Reynolds took us to the Holocaust memorial, which is something like 1000 blocks of cement rising out of the ground to symbolize the many who died.

holocaust memorial and berlin wall

so much awkward posing…

While a sobering concept, it was a total maze and kind of fun to just walk through. My friend was trying to take a picture, but another was standing in the middle, so he politely asked, “Could you please move?”.  She flipped her head around and yelled, “F*k off and DIE.” It was hilariously unwarranted and we all ended up cracking up–likely coming off as disrespectful, obnoxious teenagers to anyone else visiting the memorial.

Postdamer Platz  was the next stop, where we took turns getting shots of pieces of the Berlin Wall. Then it was time to visit the Brandeburg Tor! My chance to finally get my own postcard-worthy shot of the famous landmark. I also wanted a shot of the Siegsäule [victory column], which sits in middle of the street with a golden figure on top, but that was a bit of a walk away.hitler's bunker

We then made our way to Hitler’s bunker, which is pretty much this small patch of grass with a sign that says “Führers Bunker” or something like that. We also walked down some of Unter den Linden: the upscale, upper class street of Berlin. Some of the guys needed to pinkeln, so they went down some small street and chose some bush. I wonder if public urination is a violation in Germany…

brandenburg gate

simply majestic

As we skipped under the streetlights and past the glimmering lights of Louis Vuitton, Zara, and various other brand names, we all sang “I Feel Pretty”. Very loudly.

My roomies and I had some girl when we were back in our room. We all picked out Breakfast Club-like stereotypes for the guys in our group: the nice one, the quiet one, the know-it-all, the diva, and the rebel.

Berlin: The Ultimate Gypsy Brass Rock Concert

Day 14, 07.07.2009

Disclaimer: This post is best read through the lens of a naive, goody-two-shoes junior in high school who liked [and still does!] to take notes of daily events in excruciating detail. 😉

freie universitatThere was too much excitement bubbling within me that first night in Berlin. I finally gave up on trying to fall asleep at 7am. My roomies and I went down to breakfast and were surprised by the scale of the breakfast buffet for such a tiny hotel. There was fresh bread, cookies, danishes, fresh fruits, a cold-cut and cheese platter, cereals, and Nutella everywhere. I snagged a flaky butter croissant and a cookie. One of my roommates was on a Nutella binge and if she had the time, she probably would have cleaned out the buffet’s supply of Nutella.

a gripping powerpoint on college in germanyAfter breakfast we rode the U-Bahn, then the S-Bahn with the rest of the group to Freie Universität, which I think is the largest university in Berlin (?). Or perhaps the most famous? We didn’t have a chance to tour the college at all; instead, we were all herded into this room where we sat and listened to the admissions people market the university to us for an impossibly long 3 hours. Powerpoints and all. I was bored to death and fell asleep a number of times, jerking myself awake every 15 seconds. My friend and I resorted to playing hangman in German and once we exhausted that option, we began drawing people from our group.

old vs new buildings

I thought the contrast between old and modern was interesting.

It really was a shame that they didn’t give us time to walk around Freie because it has a really pretty campus. By the time the presentation ended, it was time for lunch and all of us were forced to get into groups with at least 1 German host sibling because they had our lunch money. I stuck with Clara, of course. The cafeteria was huge and had a pretty good selection…if you weren’t vegetarian.

I chose a poor man’s minestrone soup and some antipasti veggies, neither of which was very good. The soup was like drinking needles in watered-down ketchup and the veggies were sour enough to be used as bug repellent. The mousse had too much cream and the cake was a bit too dry. The strawberry soda, however, was amazing. Strawberries in Germany are inexplicably delicious–each with the sweetness and juice of a hundred of the sweetest and juiciest. I ended up eating my friend’s french fries and they basically saved me from starvation.

KaDeWe: the premier department store

KaDeWe – the Harrods and LaFayette of Germany

There was a book sale outside the cafeteria, so all of us went to check it out. Lots of classics in German–I think I tried reading The Divine Comedy in German…which is about impossible. And then one of our comrades stole a giant, 1000-page book in Russian. I share the shame for being a silent witness–watching him stuff it into his backpack–but I was genuinely curious if he was serious about leaving the campus with a stolen book. But at 2 Euros, it wasn’t much of a steal anyway.

The reason our unscrupulous friend stole the book was so Herr Reynolds, who worked as a translator in the Army during WWII, could translate. We watched, eyes sparkling with admiration, as H. Reynolds translated the first page and taught us how to say “fight” [pronounced “boi”?] in Russian. He then somehow segued into a story of how he drank so much beer once that he scrambled to the restroom in desperation for bowel relief–only, the cleaning lady had just cleaned the toilets. And I quote, “the porcelain was sparkling…you could still smell the cleaner…and I painted that sucker brown“.

outside parliament


A tour bus picked us up for a drive around the city. The tour guide was kind of a dud. She droned on and on and I felt like I was in a Charlie Brown short. So I turned my attention to snapping photos of the sights. We stopped at Parliament, which is totally gorgeous inside–doric columns, red carpets flowing down a grand set of stairs–only to be shown to a room where we were again subjected to powerpoints and grown-up talking.

Paintings of the fall of the Berlin wall stretched around the walls. I would have much rather walked over to the real Berlin Wall (which was more like 2 panels of it), that was right across the street. Most of the graffiti has been chipped off and sold by street vendors for 5 Euros per small piece. I’m a sucker for tchotchkes and caved into buying one.


As boring as our guide was, I must thank her for informing us of a 150-year old chocolate shop in Gendarmenmarkt: Fassbender. Our bus stopped at a random souvernir store for some odd reason; the only attraction there was this model of the entire city of Berlin. I bought a pretty pack of chocolates with the different castles around Berlin. We, including H. Birkelbach and H. Reynolds, all ditched the boring lady after the store. I have no idea what she ended up doing. But we all took the U-Bahn to the last stop of the day: the Zitadelle.


The Zitadelle used to be a fortress but is now used mainly for big events like concerts. My first non-classical concert! I was pumped. There was an hour or two to kill before they started letting people in, so my friend and I walked around the Zitadelle, while others went to sit by the river and just chill. It was on our walk that I learned that “pinkeln” is slang for “to pee”. Because my friend really needed to and there was no restroom in sight. That was probably TMI; a good word to know, nonetheless.


The Zitadelle, must have been an awfully secure fortress because it floats in the middle of a ginormous lake, with only one entrance. Our walk around the right side of the Zitadelle took only 20 minutes. So I went off by myself to explore the other side of the Zitadelle. I was bored, so I figured, why not? Let me pretend to be a ballerina and do grande jetés. Many stares and odd looks where shot my way from people walking on the bridge some 500ft away.

By the time I got back, H. Birkelbach was handing out the tickets and money for dinner, which was about 20 Euros! We had to go through security check and my Klean Kanteen gifted to me by a dear friend was temporarily confiscated :(. Thankfully, I could pick it up after the concert. As expected, there wasn’t anything I could eat. I wasn’t hungry though (or maybe I just convinced myself I wasn’t). I did, however, need to [pinkeln] and was forced to use a port-a-potty. As a germaphobe, I was sweating at the thought of not being able to rinse my scummy hands, in spite of the fact that I had hand sanitizer. So I spent an unfortunate 3 Euros on a cup of water to do so.

IMG_2466Not going to lie, the music was definitely an acquired taste. But incredibly energetic. I’d ballpark it as the strange lovechild of hard rock, polka, and dance/techno beats. No headline is long enough to fit the names of our fantastic headliners: Goran Bregovic and his Wedding & Funeral Band, and Shantel & Bucovina Club Orkestar. A couple of us stood in the back at first and even sat at a table for a bit, but finally decided to mingle with the raucous crowd. After pushing, burrowing, and squeezing our way through a sea of bodies, we made it to the rest of our group. And then everyone else besides 3 of us decided to go get drinks, leaving us to babysit our spot. Our group never came back.

[ At this point in the narrative, the focus shifts to detailed documentation of a first and close-up encounter of what drunk people are like. Feel free to read on, but I ran out of pictures to break up the text :P. ]

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