Best city visit yet… Berlin! From Friday to Tuesday morning me and Sam explored the city. Friday morning we ate breakfast and then checked in to our hostel. Even though it was a 15 minute tram ride away, it was great because the hostel was right by the metro stop. That night we took it pretty easy since I took an overnight train. But the guy at the hostel pointed us in the right direction for an awesome doner!
Saturday we took a free tour of the city. I learned more about the history of Berlin than I picked up in any class. I still can’t get over the fact that we saw not only the Berlin wall, but also stood over the ground where Hitler took his life. My favorite memorial was for the site where the Nazi party burned books in 1933. See a picture of the memorial here. Only a small window allows viewers to see empty white book shelves beneath the ground. This photo comes no where close to doing this memorial justice. Later that night we checked out the East Side Gallery.
Sunday was another educational day. We spent all afternoon on Museum Island. Basically its 5 museums for the price of 1. The highlights were the Gates of Babylon, in full scale, the Bust of Nefertiti, and a version of Rodin’s The Thinker. Later we got a bite to eat, and explored the nightlife a bit. It was here that we found our favorite part of Berlin… in the Kunsthaus Tacheles. I really thought it was just an old run down building with graffiti, but turns out it’s much more. Check out the link for more info, and there are lots of pictures on my Facebook. We found real, dirty, authentic, crazy art here. Sure all handcrafted art is authentic, but I mean there was no bs in the work here. It was all so straight forward here is Berlin, we’re not going to bother putting our best face forward, we’re putting our only face forward. Like it, or leave it. We don’t mind either way. Oh I’m so happy we stumbled in to it!!! Across the street we found some cheep beer in a great atmosphere. You had to walk down a few steps to get in to the bar, and then you were greeted by candlelight. Oh Berlin… I miss you so much already!
Monday all museums are closed, so we visited the Kaiser Wilhem Memorial Church. When you walk up to a church with a damaged spire, and without a rose window, you can’t help but be effected. This church was bombed during WWII, and they decided against refurbishing the church and instead left it as a memorial to so people wouldn’t forget the effects of war. After the church, we went to the Tiergarten. Earlier in the day we decided our last dinner in Berlin would be curryworst. When we finally found a reasonably priced restaurant we sat down and ordered a beer. Then we listened to everyone around… they were all speaking French! And then our waitress handed us menu in French! Very strange. But we did get some great curryworst. And that’s all for now!
One of the best decisions I ever made take a trip to Budapest. It is a city unlike one I have ever visited before. As many have said- there is both old and new history, so much more dynamic than any city in the states. I went with the best group of girls possible- Jenn, Beth, and Morgan. It was great to get to know each of them better, especially because we all live in Colorado. The adventure began on Thursday night. Our flight left early Friday morning from Geneva – before any buses from Annecy could get us to the airport. We walked around in the city for a bit, and found some random party on the street. Since we stuck out like sore thumbs with our huge backpacks on our backs, we decided to hang out by the lake. And the highlight of the night- a boy with a whoopee cushion. He would walk up to couples sharing a moment on the street, and just let one rip. It was hilarious! Eventually, we made our way to the airport. We fashioned beds out of chairs, and said our goodnights. God did not give me the gift of being a heavy sleeper, so the combination of people typing, whispering, and some people even playing Yahtzee, made it hard to fall asleep. But then I remembered! Mom gave me earplugs and an eye mask! Thanks Mom! Friday morning we woke up around 5am, before security was even open. It’s crazy how relaxed security is compared to America. I think we showed our passports once throughout the whole trip- and we even left the EU when we went through Geneva. Anyways, the flight there was just fine. We took a shuttle right to the door of Friends Hostel. Since hostel is fairly new, there was no marking on the door. It would have been impossible to find! It was a little to early to check it, but we left our bags there and had our first taste of Budapest. A coffee shop was close by, so we got a bagel and made a plan for the day. Step one- check in. Step two- visit Terror House Museum. Step three- take a nap.
Marine and her mom left on Friday, it was sad to see them go! The house is lacking without the two of them! One afternoon before they left, I walked up stairs and found Marine setting up a game of ‘Connect 4’- I forget the name in French. “MEEEE-GAN, MEEEE-GAN, joue avec moi!!!!!!!!” We played for quite a while, and somehow she managed to win every game. You see, any 4 pieces touching means you win with Marine. When she was really excited, she would rub her hands together and blow on a piece in hopes she would get lucky and win! It was really cute. And even though I didn’t understand everything she said, she did understand everything I said. We had a lot of fun together!
Now, Daniele’s other daughter, Camille, is staying with us. She had her first baby only 6 weeks ago. I feel like I am getting a little preview of life as a new mom. And it looks like a ton of work! Her baby, Louie, is truly one of a kind. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure he will be cute one day, but right now… not so much. Even his mother agrees! But he is still so fascinating to me. On Saturday I went to the beach with Louie and his parents. It was the first cloudy day in a long time, and even though we couldn’t swim, we could sit outside and have a nice lunch together. After the beach, we went to one of my favorite places, Cafe des Arts, and had a beer together. Marco told me of his favorite movie, The Commitments. There little baby was concieved in Japan- they lived there not to long ago. Camille even tried to learn a little Japanese. She said it was very difficult to write each character, and it was difficult to learn because you must speak precicely in order to be understood correctly. We could all agree that the movie Lost In Translation was great, and furthermore Camille said it accurately portrayed what it was like to live in Japan. They are really interesting and kind people, and I think they will make great parents!
Last night Daniele took us up in to the mountains to watch the sunset over the lake. We arrived after a 15 or 20 minute drive- and I was sure I could hear church bells. But it didn’t stop… finally I realized- it was really cow bells! A challet was close by, and each of their cows wear a bell. The cool thing is each family / challet has a different bell. So each heard ‘sounds’ different. It was a really beautiful night. And, we spoke in French the entire time! I am making progress! Here is prof- I got a 16/20 on my latest exam. More than twice as good as my first test! Thank goodness!
I am in love with Daniele’s grand daughter, Marine. She is five years old, and has curly blond hair to her shoulders, and bright blue eyes. At first, she was very timid around me, and would only stare at me. But last night, we were able to talk a bit. I would ask here what something was in French, and then she would ask me what something was in English. She was delighted to know the English word for the center of a cherry – PIT. After dinner I heard her talking to her father on the telephone, and she explained to him all the things she learned over dinner. Quite possibly the most adorable thing I have ever seen. Later that night, we watched the World Cup match together. If I was just a little more fluent in French, I would have understood the joke she made up. She asked if I like breaded / fried fish- panne poission. When I told her yes, I do, she giggled so much, and said “But Megan, it isn’t possible, because it is pas ne.” translation it isn’t possible because the fish is not born! Ha. I introduced her to my mom via skype, but the conversation was short since the only word she knows in English is pit, and the only French my mom knows is bonjour, and how to count to 5. But it was still fun! It has been so hot here, with around 40% humidity. I am not used to it at all! Luckily there is a rain storm this evening to cool things down. School has been going great. I talked to one of my teachers from last month -Jocelyn- today, and she told me I am improving a lot! Since last month it is certainly easier to pick up new vocab. I can understand a lot easier written words I don’t know. So, hopefully by the time mom and Don get here I will be a good translator! In the mean time, I am going to not only Budapest, but also Berlin! Can’t wait. I know it sounds a little crazy, but Paris will have to wait until my next trip to Europe. Even though it is closer than both, it is about twice as expensive. I decided to take two trips instead.
What a trip. I’ll work in reverse. On Monday the 5th of July, I tried to leave, and it made me so sad to know that if I ever do return to Bamberg, the same people will not be there. I grew really attached to the group of friends Sam made from all over the world. Luckily, they all plan to stay in touch, so maybe one day we can take a road trip to see them. And of course, everyone is welcome in Colorado. I booked the trip back to Annecy so long ago, and I wasn’t aware of the 2 or 3 different train stations called Frankfurt Main. So, I managed to get myself to Frankfurt, but not the airport. On top of that, I have been so used to traveling by train I forgot the mess of airports checking in, security lines, and the waiting that comes in between. One hour was certainly not enough to check in and then travel; through one of the largest airports in the world. For the first time in my life I missed a flight, and consequently missed any chance of making my connecting flight to Geneva. How much would it have been to catch the next flight to Geneva? Two thousand Euros…. More money than I have! Flying out the next day was still expensive, but much more reasonable one hundred euros. The woman helping me agreed to help find me a cheep hotel, one night for around seventy euros. But I had one other option… staying the night back in Bamberg! This cost less than getting a hotel, and I could spend one more night sharing a twin sized bed with Sam. Trust me, it is more comfortable and manageable than I thought. Thank God I charged my phone, I was able to call him and make arrangements for him to pick me up at 8pm. Bonus night in Bamberg. We went to Fassla to meet up with some friends, they were all surprised to see me. It was funny to run in to Dimitri on the bus before he knew I was coming back. At Fassla we saw Sean, Adam, Sabinia, Chad, Traci, Jeff, Kyle, Kristina, Dimetri, and a few others I’m sure. I had one last dooner for dinner, a cheap alternative to sandwiches that I will surely miss in France. The next morning we met Jason for brunch downtown, and then went for some ice cream. Then Sam took me to the train station and we said our goodbyes it was harder than I thought it would be. Since it is so expensive to get from Annecy to Bamberg, or Bamberg to Annecy, we probably won’t see each other for a few months.
The highlights of my Back in Bamberg trip included going to the public viewings of the Germany World Cup matches. They won both times and it was so cool to be surrounded by a crowd of patriotic Germans it was obvious which team each person supported, with beer in one hand, and German flags in the other. When Germany scored the crowd went wild screaming and hollering, confetti in the air, beer in the air, and ecstatic viewers all around. I can’t really think of a similar thing in the US. I mean, we paid 2 euros to get in, but it wasn’t like going to a stadium or anything. A big screen displayed the match, and we were just fenced in the center square with a few beer and pretzel stands. After one of the matches, we went for a celebratory spaghetti ice. They make vanilla ice cream look like noodles, pour some strawberry sauce on top, and then sprinkle white chocolate shavings on top. This time around I got to visit the most beautiful beer garden in town- Spezial Keller. It is quite a walk to get up the hill, but well worth the view. One night afterwords, we went to the highest point in Bamberg. It was a half hour walk up hill, and it would have been dreadful during the day, but at twilight it was perfect. The city lights were just starting to come out, and each church was lit up in all its glory. Bye Bye Bamberg… you will be missed!
The last few days in Annecy before heading out were bittersweet. Said goodbye to some new friends, and am looking forward to see who comes to IFALPES next month. One such friend, Guillaume, my French roommate, was really hard to say goodbye to. We got along really well. He was helpful to answer any questions I had about French, and I was there to help him with his English too. I will be the only student in the house until September I think, when a new French student will move in. When I get back to Annecy on Monday the 5th of July, Daniele’s family will be in town with the new baby boy! Highlights from the last couple meals include a strawberry tirimisu, and fresh cantaloupe with olive oil, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. I would have never thought to put those things together, but it was simple and delicious.
Well, my first term in Annecy is through. Hard to believe a month has already come and gone. I am no an expert yet, but I know for a fact my French has improved since I arrived. This week has been an exciting one – two major events took place only a day apart. First, on Monday, it was the Fete de la musique. I expected to hear a variety of French music, but I was so impressed with the variety of music presented from all over the world. There was no way to see all of it! The streets were packed, the music was loud, and the party lasted well on in to the night. A few of us from IFALPES joined forces and painted the town red. What a night. It was wonderful to have Julia come along too! (In case you haven’t heard the story, Julia and I were in a small seminar class at CU Boulder this spring. She was an exchange student, and once I knew I was studying in France, I had to ask her about this little town nobody had ever heard of called Annecy. What do you know – she grew up in Annecy, and had planned to spend the summer in Annecy. Even more impressive is the fact that we now live 3 blocks away from one another. What a small world!)
Wednesday Annecy celebrated because it is a candidate city for the Winter Olympics in 2018. All day there were festivities, surprisingly a “Big Jump” for skiers to practice their skills. I will have a picture up soon, because it was so cool to see a guy in shorts and a tank top with a pair of ski boots and skis conquer this jump. At the bottom there was a giant air mattress to land on. Plenty of food venders were recruited for the day too. Some tents had waffles or chocolate, while others had noodles or sandwiches, and there was certainly plenty of cheese! During the night there was a huge outdoor concert. The weather was perfect, not a cloud in the sky, and for the first time in a few days we didn’t need to bring an umbrella! 3 major acts took the stage last night, but I only caught the name of 1- Raphael. After he played a girl came out to sing with her guitar. The last band, I will find the name of it soon, was really fun to watch. They must have been around for a long long time, because the lead singer was at least 65 years old. But they knew how to put on a show! To top the night off, there were fireworks over the lake. Makes me so excited for the big Fete De Lac in August!
And one quick note about the food this week: my favorite has been what was probably the easiest to make. Daniele sliced up a tomato for each of us, and put goat cheese between each slice, covered them in olive oil and a little honey, with some pine nuts on top. Then she just baked it in the oven until the cheese melted. Yum!