Valpo Voyager

Student Stories from Around the World

Author: maryanncraft (page 1 of 2)

Relaxation is a must!

Over the past weekend I have done a lot of lounging around, but it was well worth it. On Friday a friend of mine and I went to the town of Bad Urach. Bad Urach is known for its hot springs so we were gonna head up there to relax. We left around noon and upon arrival decided to head toward the waterfall. Looking back on it now, it was a good idea but for the wrong day. It took us a while to get there because the ground was kind of soggy from the snow melting. What should have taken a total of about 45 minutes ended up taking us almost two hours to go to the waterfall and back. This was because we did something we had decided at the beginning we were not going to do: climb up the side of the waterfall.

We had reached the waterfall and done the touristy thing, you know, taken pictures. We saw the steps leading up the side up the waterfall and saw they were covered with snow and ice and decided that it was probably not a good idea to go up them. This older man had come up and politely offered to take our picture. After taking the picture, he said to us that we need to climb up. I thought he was joking so I smiled and said that we were fine on the ground. I realized that he was not joking. The way that he was talking to us, he was telling us that we needed to go up these stairs. My friend and I didn’t know how to get out of the situation, so we did the only thing that we could: we started climbing the stairs. Needless to say, that old man left us in the dust.

About half-way up we decided to stop and take some more pictures. We were standing beside the waterfall, so all we could hear was the running water. We looked up and saw that the man was yelling something down at us, but I had no idea what he was saying. We assumed that he had told us to keep going, so up we went. Once we started passing the bigger obstacles, like the icy steps or the steep inclines, I started realizing that we would need to go back down the way we came. We didn’t see the old man anymore and so we decided to start the climb back down.

Part way down, my friend slipped but since I was ahead all I heard was the thump of her hitting the stairs. I turned around and wondered why she was sitting in the snow. After getting her cleaned off, we started the walk back down the waterfall. Needless to say, it took us a while because we were very cautious. Once we got back to solid ground, my friend looked back and noticed that the man was heading back down the stairs and was close to us, so she told me to get walking. We did NOT want to talk to that man again. I know it wasn’t his fault that my friend fell, but we felt better blaming him for having made us go up the treacherous steps that would lead her to her fall.

Once we headed back into town, we found the way to the hot spring quite easily. The water was so warm. We first went into the outside pool. We spent some time out there, but decided to go inside after realizing that though our bodies were warm, our faces were freezing. Once inside, the other pool was just as warm, but the inside kept our faces warm as well. This place was almost like a giant hot tub. We found a spot inside the pool that you could lay on these metal bars and there were bubbles coming out that massaged your back and actually moved up and down. Yup, I fell asleep. It was soooo comfortable. I would highly recommend going.

So basically, not including the hike to and up the side of the waterfall, my day was pretty relaxing and I’m not complaining. I got to sleep in a little and take a day trip where I basically fell asleep in a giant hot tub that massaged me the entire time. I would say that it was the life. For a moment, I had no worries, until we got home that night and I remembered all of my homework and tests that I needed to study for this past weekend :/ Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

Ulm: That’s one high church tower

This past Saturday a couple of my friends and I took one of the ‘suggested’ day trips to Ulm. Ulm is known for its high church tower. If you can picture this, high church tower = a lot of stairs = tired at the top. I agreed to doing this. I don’t know why. I was all set for relaxing my first actual weekend in Reutlingen where I wasn’t expected to do anything. Instead, I signed up for this trip. Which this surprised me, because I had already said that after I climbed the tower in Cologne, I would not be climbing anymore towers. Apparently, I lied to myself.

To get there, we have a pass called the Naldo pass that works for the buses and trains in the Naldo system. Since we found the directions on how to get to Ulm on the Naldo website, we assumed that it was in the Naldo network. Apparently, not. One stop before we actually had to get off, the conductor informed us that we needed to get off and buy the correct ticket. We did this and then had to wait ONE HOUR before the next train that would take us 15 minutes to the next stop.

When we arrived in Ulm, the first stop was obviously the tower. It didn’t take that long to climb because part of the tower was closed off, though it was still tiring. We did get pretty close to the top, though. The view from the top was a little blocked off because there was construction happening on that tower.

After the tower, we got ice cream to help soothe the nerves of some of the people in our group who were afraid of heights. I was not going to complain. The ice cream here in Europe is better, in my opinion, than in America. It is just creamier, probably because it’s gelato, but it’s good.

Afterward, we went to the bread museum. We thought that the museum would be more like a factory, in that they would give us free samples of different breads. No. It was the history of bread. You can understand how exciting this museum was for us :/ The coolest part of this museum was grinding grain. Yippee.

The day went well, all in all. We got home safely, though we were all exhausted.

The many sides of London

Our first official day in London we started the day off by going to the Tower of London. It was spectacular. We took one of the free tours offered and learned some of the history of the Tower. Most of the history had to do with illegally killing people, but besides that it was great! 😉 At the Tower, we got to see the crown jewels. Sadly, we could not take any pictures but the crowns were amazing.

After the Tower we went to Westminster Abbey. It was huge! And a lot of dead bodies are buried there, such as Elizabeth I’s and her half-sister Mary. There is an audio tour that is part of your admission, which really helps to tell about the history of the Abbey. Most have heard of the Abbey, but not many know why it is important to people. Most recently, it was the venue for the wedding between Kate Middleton and William. It was also where Elizabeth II was crowned queen. In fact, on the audio tour I learned that most royals are baptized, crowned, and buried in the Abbey.

After the Abbey we decided to go check out Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. This doesn’t seem to be the place most would think of going when they visit London, but I’m really glad that I went. Taking the tour, I learned about the amount of detail that went into the making of the Globe to ensure that it was made exactly the way it was built in Shakespeare’s time. They covered everything, to even the same type of tree being used and the animal hair used in the clay that was used to make the walls. Something that was not planned to be a part of the tour was the wedding party that came in. I guess they just really like the Globe that much that they wanted to take their wedding pictures inside of it.

The next day in London we did mainly quick little things that wouldn’t take up as much time, since we were flying back to Reutlingen that day. First, we went to Baker Street because of Sherlock Holmes. There was even a statue of him. Afterward, we went to King’s Cross to check out Platform 93/4. It was really cool there. There was even a Harry Potter store next to the ‘platform’ that was set up somewhat like one of the stores in the movies. They even had wands and chocolate frogs!

We also got to see the Wellington Arch, which was actually by accident because our goal was to go and see Buckingham Palace, which we did get to do. After Buckingham we went to go get lunch. The place we ate at was so cool! It was called Yo!Sushi and it had a conveyor belt that brought the food around. The best part would have had to have been the faucets that were at the table. One was for still water and the other for sparkling. And they had FREE refills!!!! That is almost unheard of in Europe so it was a hot commodity while we were there. We probably each had at least five glasses of water, if not more. It was a good day all around.


Upon arrival in London, it took us a total of three hours to find our hostel. Afterward I was soooo exhausted that I fell asleep. I woke up about an hour later and we decided that we wanted to go see a musical that night. The musical we decided on going to see was “Spamalot.” Now this was not my first choice for a musical, but I’m so glad that we went. We got amazing seats, so amazing that I believe when the man told us where we would be sitting if we bought the tickets, I immediately said “We’ll take them,” without even thinking about it. I am glad I decided to go, seeing as this was my first musical and all, it was a fantastic one to choose! I know, I know. It’s surprising I haven’t gone to other musicals yet, but at least I started with one that I deem A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!

During the musical I was laughing so hard because of the jokes that were being made and the way they portrayed the movie onto the stage. It was so cool, because the cast only had like twelve people in it, and so some people played multiple parts. I personally like smaller casts so this was enjoyable for me. It also didn’t hurt that the actors had accents which made the musical seem a little more authentic to the whole Monty Python theme. Some of the parts were different from the “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” movie, but I think it made it that much funnier because we didn’t exactly know what to expect.

There were times when events or people from the present would be put into the musical. I believe Susan Boyle was mentioned. There were some parts that I didn’t understand just because it had to do with words that the English use that we don’t. After the musical it was pretty late, so we didn’t really do anything else afterward. I did feel accomplished, though, because I was not expecting on really doing anything, and instead we went to go see a musical that I really thoroughly enjoyed. If you’re ever in London, check out “Spamalot!”

From past to present: Edinburgh

Our first full day in Edinburgh was awesome! The hostel that we were staying at gives free walking tours everyday at eleven, so we decided to go on it. After traveling a while, you realize you should do all of the things that are free because a) they are fun and b) they’re FREE! This tour was not a normal tour, at least for us anyways. This tour was very laid back. We weren’t struggling to keep up with the tour guide and we had all the time in the world to do things (kinda). On this tour we went to the same cemetery that my friends and I had gone to the night before when we went on that grave tour. We learned some of the same stuff, but we also learned a little bit about J.K. Rowling.

J.K. Rowling is known for having sat at a cafe near the cemetery while writing her first Harry Potter book. From some gravestones in the cemetery, she got the names McGonagall and Tom Riddle (he who must not be named!). Also, there’s a school named Harriet’s next to the cemetery where she got the idea of Hogwart’s from. It even looks castle like!

There were also so many pubs in Edinburgh, all named after people that had done something in the town. I don’t remember the name of one, but I do remember the story behind it. Apparently, this woman’s husband died and she started having a thing for another guy in the town. After she got pregnant, she was hung for adultery. On the way to the cemetery, the people traveling with the casket heard a knocking come from inside. The woman didn’t die! Because you could not be tried for the same thing she was allowed to walk. She got her own pub and gave the other prisoners who were to be hung their last whiskey (it’s a big deal in Edinburgh).

We went to the castle after the tour. This castle was HUGE! I’ve been to many castles—you, know studying in Germany and all—but this one was different. It was like one of the castles that we had learned about in social studies (yeah, like sixth grade). The castle was actually a building in the middle of this massive structure. The rest of it was like a church and land. When the castle was built, they were self sufficient because of the land they had. They grew their own crops and had farm animals, so starving them out would have been a no-go. It was basically a tiny community inside of the castle.

At the castle I got to see the crown jewels! Sadly, I could not take any pictures of them. I also got to see the sandstone. This may not sound exciting, but apparently this is the sandstone that the English kings and queens get coronated on. In the past the stone was taken from Scotland by the English. As an affront to the Scottish, the stone was put in the coronation chair in England so that the kings would be sitting on it. Queen Elizabeth II gave it back to Scotland, but if there’s a coronation the stone needs to travel back to England for the coronation.

“Bloody” Mackenzie and the history of Edinburgh

So, again, sorry for posting soooo many blogs this week. Our Reutlingen group went to Berlin (as I’m sure most of you have read about!) and afterward we had five days to travel around on our own. The group that I went with flew to Edinburgh, Scotland and London, England.

After landing in Edinburgh we needed to find our hostel, which didn’t take long at all. The cool thing about our hostel was that it was really close to everything. We were only like two blocks from the castle. When we got settled into the hostel we started trying to plan when we were going to do the things we wanted to do. We noticed that there were a lot of tour companies that gave graveyard tours at night. We went out to go and find one of the meeting places so that we could buy tickets for the next day.

As we arrived at the meeting place we realized that we had arrived just in time to go on the tour. So we joined the graveyard tour! Our guide told us some stories about witchcraft and hangings that had taken place in the town. We slowly made our way toward the graveyard. At the graveyard we learned about Greyfriar’s Bobby, a dog that most believed had sat on his master’s grave for fourteen years. It turns out that he had sat on the wrong grave the entire time (sorry to ruin the story for you). We also learned that there are only a couple of hundred gravestones in the cemetery, but there are over 1200 bodies because during the time of the black plague the bodies were being dumped into the cemetery. There were so many bodies that where we stood was a hill but in earlier times it had been a valley!

The next part of the tour was probably the scariest bit. The company that we chose to go on the tour with is the only company in  Edinburgh that has a key to the blocked off part of the cemetery. The part that was blocked off was known as Covenanters’ prison and had been the sight of brutality. Here’s a little bit of the history—the Scottish had written a paper agains the King and the ones who signed it were known as covenanters. The Scotts and Brits had a war and when the Scotts lost, the covenanters were put into an outdoor prison during the winter months. The tops of the prisons were off and so they could get snowed and rained on. The prisoners had to lie down the entire time and if they moved they would be shot. The man that ran the prison was named “Bloody” Mackenzie.

Apparently, there is now the Mackenzie poltergeist and he is in the part of the cemetery that is blocked to the public. This area was only blocked off recently when people started coming out of there with bruises and scratches that were unexplainable. There have also been people who on tours have fainted in the area. The guide told us that she had a person in one of her groups who had kind of walked away from the group and when the guide turned and looked at her, the lady looked like she had been pushed. When they checked on the woman, she had a bruise on her stomache and a slap mark on her face. The lady described it as having been attacked! You can bet that I was a little frightened before walking into the closed off area. In the end, nothing really happened to me, but the tour was really fun and educational at the same time. Who doesn’t like that?

Museums Galore!!!!

Last Monday we went to check out Checkpoint Charlie 😉 For those of you who don’t know what Checkpoint Charlie was, during the war it was the crossing point between East and West Germany for the allies. This was the only way they could move between the two sides. The name Charlie comes from the NATO phonetic alphabet (Alpha for A, Bravo for B…). Anyways, there’s not much to Checkpoint Charlie now. There is, though, a pretty awesome museum there.

I really enjoyed this museum because it taught me things that I had not already learned from our history classes here and all the other tours of Germany that we had received as a class. For example (and this shocked me) if families tried escaping to the West and they were caught, the parents were forced to put their children up for adoption. How horrendous would it be to get taken away from your parents for trying to get a better life for yourselves? The sad part was that the people that were adopting them didn’t even know where the children had come from. They were only given to them so that they would learn the communist ideals and grow up with them so they could be outstanding citizens.

There was a section of the museum that had nothing to do with World War II. It was a section that focused more on political activism from around the world. This part of the museum was very interesting because it told stories of people who had stood up for what they believed in, no matter the consequences.

There was another museum that I went to that day that I really enjoyed as well. It was the Jewish Museum of Berlin. Ok, so I know that museums can get pretty boring. Believe me, just in the past couple of weeks I have seen my fair share of museums. Our group has started using the term ‘museumed out’ to refer to the fact that we can’t go to anymore museums because we’ve already been to so many. But let me tell you. This museum was fun because it was interactive. Call me a kid, but sometimes I like a museum to have a little more than just facts on a wall to read. Another cool thing about the museum was that it didn’t just talk about the Jewish community during WWII. It talked about their entire history, as well as their religion, which was also really neat to learn about.

The next day we went to multiple museums again (there really is more to do in Berlin, but you can find a museum for everything in Berlin). We went to the Eastside Wall Gallery. This is the part of the Berlin Wall that was not torn down after the war. Instead, they invited artists and other people to come and paint on the side that faced the east, because they had not been allowed to draw on the wall, unlike the west. The artwork on the wall was amazing! It ranged from really serious pieces to very abstract ones. Afterward, we went to a nature museum that is basically like the Field Museum in Chicago, but it was still really neat to go to.

We then went to an area in Berlin called Museum Island. This is where most museums are. There we saw the Pergamon museum, which is one of those museums where you go in take pictures and leave. It’s not really one where I would spend too much time in. The place is really  big in order to fit larger sculptures such as a large set of stairs.

That night we were all really tired (as you would assume after all of the time we spent in museums over the past two days!) so we had group movie night. It was actually really fun. Somehow, and I wouldn’t be able to explain how anymore, all eleven of us fit on two small couches, a small bed, and two chairs. It sounds like a lot but all together it was not a whole lot of space. I guess you could say the movie really brought us closer together 😉

Being entertained in Berlin

Now, we went on a tour of the city but that only lasted until around lunch time so afterward some of us went to the DDR Museum. The DDR, known as the GDR in English, was the east side when Germany was divided. This museum was awesome! It was probably one of the top museums that I went to in Berlin. The entire museum was very interactive. There were drawers that you could pull out and play with whatever was inside of them. Sometimes they also had just information in them.

They even had the cars that were only produced in the East, the Trabant. The cool part was that you could pretend to drive in one and see what the inside looked like. These cars took so long to manufacture that as soon as you had a child you would have to put your name on the list in order to make sure that it was done by the time your child of 16 needed it. That is a really long time to spend building one car!

There was also an interrogation room that I actually sat in and it felt as though I was really being interrogated by someone. The neat thing about the room was that on the table there were two black spots. In order to hear the real answers to some of the questions from the interrogator, you had to put your elbows on the black spots and put your hands over your ears.

This next part may sound strange but the museum had a section on nudists. Apparently, it was the only freedom that people actually thought they had in the East so they decided to use their lack of clothing to make a statement. I mean, clothing was optional but most chose the option of none.

That night, a couple of us went to a club. I mean, it is Europe so we thought we should at least try to go out once. The place we went to was called Qdorf. It was awesome! There were two floors and each floor had multiple rooms, with each room being a different genre of music. They had rooms that included a karaoke room and a salsa room. They even had country, as well as hip hop and R&B room. I had never been to  a club like that before and I can assure you that we had fun. The cool thing about it was that if you got bored in one room, you could just walk to another and start dancing. I strongly advise that if anyone ever goes to Berlin, Qdorf is the club to go to.

First taste of Berlin

This past week has been full of excitement. Our class traveled to Berlin to not only learn about the capital of Germany but to also experience a different side to Germany; the more modern side. The first day in Berlin we arrived in the evening, so a couple of us went to the opera house to see The Wizard of Oz ballet. This was the first ballet I have ever been to and it was just so amazing. My favorite part would have had to have been the scarecrow dance. The scarecrow is a limp character (for lack of a better term) and so his dance was kind of all over the place and very funny.

The lion had a very funny walk that brought the crowd to laughter everytime he walked somewhere. The best part would have had to have been when the clan has to get ready to meet the wizard and must therefore wash up. The production used clear balloons to represent the bubbles in a bath and the dancers on stage used them as props to dance with.
At one point a white screen was on stage in order to give them time to change the set behind it, and during this time leaf blowers were brought out and they blew the balloons forward to make it look like the characters were actually taking a bath with soap bubbles floating everywhere. The cool thing happened at the end when after the curtain call, the cast kicked the balloons into the audience. You can bet the kids in the audience had a blast with that.

The neat thing about the ballet was that it had its own original music. There may have been parts where the orchestra would play certain parts from the songs in the movie, but all in all everything was an original, which was really amazing.

The next day my class had a tour of Berlin, mainly the east side. There were some things that I had already known about from taking some of my German classes at Valpo, but there were some things that I learned that were very interesting. Apparently in order to escape east Berlin, a man took his son and wife to an office building and then placed a sign on the bathroom door indicating it was out of order and they hid in there until nightfall. At nightfall they climbed out onto the roof and threw a rope to the other side where the man’s brother was waiting for it. This family slid across to the other side without anyone noticing until the next morning when everyone saw the rope leading from the east to the west. Or so they thought no one had noticed anything the night before. It turns out that the guards on duty that night had seen them but had thought they were spies being sent to the west. That just goes to show how professional the family looked and just how difficult it must have been to have made it look like they were spies.

This all is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. There will be more to come this week, including Checkpoint Charlie and the concentration camp Sachsenhausen, as well as multiple museums that are definitely worth going to if you ever visit Berlin (which, by the way, is well worth it!).

Fasching Parade

It’s a crazy time of year here in Germany: the time of Fasching. Fasching is known by other names such as Fastnacht and Karneval. A name that we would understand it as is Mardi Gras. On Sunday I had the opportunity to go to the town square and watch the parade. I would like to say that the parade was advertised to begin at the odd time of 1:01 in order to keep with the whole craziness of Fasching. There were soooo many people there. Vendors were also there trying to sell food to those that were standing out in the cold. I would have to say that this was the best parade I have ever been to in my life. Normally, a person in a parade walks by you, throws out some candy, and waves. At a Fasching parade, the people in the parade were walking through the crowds and scaring people from behind. They would come up and draw on people’s faces with washable face paint. I myself got my face marked on as well. The characters would even play with your hair and mess it up. I even saw some people being picked up and thrown over a character’s shoulder and taken away. There was one girl that had a fishnet thrown over her and they took her away. There were so many people in the parade that really went all out for it. There were people in witch costumes and some dressed up as wolves. There were many bands that played a variety of music, all with their own group colors that were painted on their faces. This parade was also enjoyable in the fact that each group had their own chant. Sometimes the chants were just random noises that you would yell back at the group. The chants were written on the cards that were given to us when we got to the town center. Not only was this parade very interactive, the thing lasted almost three hours!!! It was well worth it, though. The parade was a nice getaway from the dorms, even for a couple hours.

Older posts

© 2024 Valpo Voyager

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑