Monday, September 27, 2010


You know, it just wouldn't be right if I was in Germany during the fall and didn't go to Oktoberfest! I mean, not only is it a lot of fun, but it's also, more importantly, a huge cultural event. From wearing the tradition dress to meeting Germans my own age - Oktoberfest was definitely a learning experience! And on top of all of that I had the chance to hang out with my friend Carola, who's actually from Munich! She studied in the US while I was still in high school and we managed to keep in touch! It really was a lot of fun and something that I'm definitely glad I had the chance to experience.

Carola and I, in our Dirndls - traditional Bavarian dresses.

The way you tie these aprons, as I quickly found out, says a lot according to Bavarian tradition. I was trying on different Dirndls at the store and at one point came out of the dressing room, with my apron tied behind my back, like one would normally do with something like that. And as soon as Carola saw this she was like - "You don't want to tie it like that! That means you're a widow!" Apparently you only tie the apron behind your back if you're a widow, and if you single you tie it to your left side, but if you're in a relationship you tie to the right side. It's amazing how something so small could have so much meaning behind it!

In the "Tent" - not the little white tent I had pictured in my mind! lol!

Carola's friends in their Lederhosen!

Carola and the guys :-)

With Paul, one of Carola's friends

Oh and how could I forget?! This year was the 200th anniversary of Oktoberfest!! :-)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Exploring Berlin

Today during class we had the chance to just walk around Berlin a little bit and learn more about it's history and architecture. We saw things like buildings with bullet holes in them from back when the wall was still up and people were still fighting in the streets. We got to go into this old ballroom that has been preserved and now serves as a restaurant - which was really cool. And we even got to see a Jewish High School, with a memorial to those who at died at Auschwitz. Overall, it was just a really interesting day and I was able to learn a little bit more about the history of Berlin and it's culture.

Here are some pics from the day:

What are the teachers like? Do you get to know them well?

The professors at St. Mike's are absolutely great!! Any time I've needed help with anything - even for classes outside of my majors, they've always found the time to meet with me. (Side note - all professors are required to keep office hours - but they are always willing to meet other times if need be.) And my advisors (who have also been my professors) for both of my majors are extremely helpful! Over the past 2 years, I've been able to get to know them really well, and have made what I hope are life-long connections. I just look up to both of them so much, because they've both done a lot of really great things during their lifetime - and now they want to help me achieve my goals.

But all of the professors at SMC are like that, they all come with so much knowledge and experience in their specific fields - they really are a great resource and they want to help students. You just have to be willing to reach out and let them know that you need/want help.

Another side note - because classes are so small at SMC you really get to know all of your professor on some kind of a personal level, obviously some you get to know better than others. But I've never had a professor who hasn't known my name - you're not just a number, like at some of the bigger schools out there - you're a person, with a name, a personality, a life history, and a dream. Cheesy, I know, but so true.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Der Ostee und Polen

So I finally made it up to the ocean and even into another European country ... all in one day! :-)

What happened was, we had originally only planned on going to the Baltic Sea for the afternoon, but then Hannah, our student advisor of sorts, discovered that there is this one small city in Poland that we could go to without our passports - a little sketchy I know, but we made it there and back okay!

So we ended up going to the Baltic Sea via this cute little town in Germany (Zinnowitz) for a few hours - enjoyed the view, had lunch there, looked for sea shells, that kinda thing - it was way to cold to actually go swimming, but we did put our feet and hands in the water! :-)

The Baltic Sea

With some of the girls at the beach :-)

And then we got back on the train and headed to Poland for a few hours. It was very interesting to see the difference between Berlin and Swinoujscie, the city we went to in Poland. The thing is Poland is a lot poorer than Germany is and the city we were in sort of had this depressing feeling about it. I'm sure that's not how it is in the entire country of Poland, but where we were there wasn't too much going on. I mean part of that probably had to do with the fact that it was Sunday and in Europe most shops and restaurants are closed on Sundays. But still, it just had a very different feeling than Berlin, and it made me appreciate the city I live in a lot more.

An older Polish man feeding the ducks - he was one of the few people we actually saw walking around the city - another difference from Berlin - there are a lot more cars and a lot less people riding bikes and walking in Swinoujscie.

Apartment building in Swinoujscie

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Kühlen mit den Eisbären

So I have a confession to make .... I went to the Zoo today. I know, I know, it's not very cultural or anything, and there are a lot of different zoos in a lot of different cities all over the world. But the thing is, this zoo, they had polar bears! And anyone who knows me, knows what that means (I'm basically obsessed with polar bears - to put it simply). And considering the fact that I'd never seen a polar bear in real life before, who could blame me! But anyways, here are some of my favorite pics from the day.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Wochenende Abenteuer in Deutschland

This past weekend was the first time we've really had the chance to explore the city on our own - like without already pre-planned excursions and events. And it was nice - nice to have the time to go where we wanted to go, without worrying about being on a schedule. We were able to explore at our pace and stay as long or as short as we wanted to ... it was actually really fun.

So where did we go, you may be asking yourself - well we decided to go to one of the most well-known landmarks in Berlin - The Brandenburg Gate! Even though it was really touristy and there were lots of people, it was still a lot of fun! We got to play tourists for the day - instead of students - and take our pictures in front of the gate, go to all the gift shops and everything.

It was actually really interesting there, because there were so many different things going on in the square. There were horse carriage rides, street performers - lots of them, and people just trying to make a political statement. It was actually pretty cool, there were a couple Native Americans there and the one guy was playing the most beautiful music I've ever heard!

And then there was the guy who was completely covered in sand and just sitting as still as a statue - at first I didn't even realize he was a real person!

While we were in the area we also had a chance to go to the Tiergarten - this huge park in the middle of Berlin with all these paths that lead to different statues and bodies of water. It was actually really nice there, it was a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the city - and there were soooo many dogs running around - I miss my puppy!!! (More about dogs and the city to come in a later blog).

While we were in the Tiergarten we came across these guys who were like camped out by a bunch of shiny rocks, painting on them. We had no idea what was going on, but eventually found out that this man had sailed around the world and collected 10 stones, 2 from each continent. He then proceed to sculpt, paint, and inscribe them - as part of a representation of peace and united manhood, 5 of these stones will remain in Berlin, while the other 5 will go back to their continents. They will be positioned in just a way so that on the 21st of June their surfaces will reflect the light of the sun - these rays of light will travel around the world to meet their sister stones in Berlin at high noon - creating 5 invisible straight lines. It's all a representation of the 5 steps towards peace - Europe is Awakening, Africa is Hope, Asia is Forgiveness, America is Love, and Australia is Peace. It's a pretty cool concept - I think.

We also had the opportunity to see the Holocaust Memorial, which was really intriguing. It was all these boxes of different heights creating all these different paths. It wasn't what I was expecting at all, but still really interesting!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Deutschland's Government - The Bundestag

Recently we learned a little something about German politics and how the government works. On Friday the whole group had the opportunity to go to the Reichstag building, where the Bundestag (Germany's democratic government) holds important meetings and such - it's very similar to the Capitol Building in DC. Basically, the Bundestag is meant to represent the people of Germany - they are the ones who elect the Chancellor, pass the laws, and oversee the work of the government.

The way democracy works in Germany is a little different than it is in the US - instead of voting for each individual position, like we do in the US, they vote for a party (similar to the political parties in the US). So when you vote for a party in Germany, you are not only voting for the parliament, but you are also voting for the Chancellor - who is chosen by each party. Basically instead of voting for each individual position, they vote once for a specific party and then members of that party fill the open positions.

The party currently elected to the Bundestag is the Christian Democratic Union, which is led by the woman Chancellor, Angela Merkel - which I think is pretty cool. But anyways here are some pics of the Bundestag:

This is where important meetings are held and decisions are made.

An art instillation representing all the members of the Bundestag throughout the years.

This tunnel, which connected the Reichstag and the President's house, was just recently discovered.

During the Battle of Berlin in WWII, the Soviets targeted the Reichstag building and left graffiti, which can still be seen to this day - the building was also bombed during this time, hence the damaged wall.

The Cupola at the top of the Reichstag from which one can see the entire city of Berlin.

View of the Spree River from the Cupola

Casey and I at the top of the Cupola

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Last Saturday we went on our first real adventure outside of the city, to Potsdam - which was absolutely beautiful and amazing! Anyone who comes to visit me will most likely end up there at some point :-)

But anyways, Potsdam used to be the residence of the Prussian Kings - so you know it just has to be extraordinary - which it was! We not only got to the see the village - which was super cute with cobblestone roads and everything, but we also got to go to Sanssouci - the summer palace of Frederick the Great! It's this big, beautiful palace with amazing gardens and water fountains everywhere!!! There's also a separate building where he stored all the artwork he bought, which we were also able to see - the building alone was pretty impressive!!

Located near the palace is also The Chinese House and The Dragon House - apparently the royals had a thing for Asian culture. As well as the Orangery Palace, The Charlottenhof Palace (which I didn't get any pics of), The New Palace - under which we hid from the sudden heavy rainfall and - get this - hail, and the Roman Baths.

There's actually a funny story surrounding the Roman Baths: so part of the building was roped off, but our professor really wanted to show us the bathtub that was brought up from Italy, so he basically said - we're going here, even though we're not supposed to and if anyone from the park comes along then we're just going to act like we don't speak German - which was just great because he was born and raised in Germany - it was pretty funny!

Our professor for our excursions is actually pretty awesome! lol! He's very easy-going, laid-back, and funny, but he also has this wealth of knowledge that he just loves to share! And because he's so personable, we actually listen to him - it works out well! lol! He's also going to be our tour guide when we go to Dresden!

But anyways, here are some pics from my time in Potsdam - I tried to cut it down ..... I originally took over 100 pics! lol!

For more information on Potsdam and the Sanssouci Palace and Parks you can visit German Palaces.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Treptower Park

Last Thursday the students in my class, Visual Culture (a class that studies the culture of Germany through art, architecture, monuments, photos, ect.) went to the Soviet War Memorial at Treptower Park, formally located in East Berlin when The Wall still existed.

The monument is this huge commemoration to the Soviet men who lost their lives during the Battle of Berlin. This battle, between Germany and the Soviet Union, resulted in the suicide of Adolf Hitler, and ultimately the surrender of Germany 5 days after the battle ended. However, approximately 20,000 Soviet soldiers lost their lives during this battle, 7,000 of which are actually buried at the monument.

This particular monument is designed in a very specific way that is meant to draw the visitor into the area and ultimately lead them to the graves of those who died in battle.

It begins with 2 victory arches (which I failed to get a picture of) along with wide pathways leading to Mother Russia, who is represented as a peasant in mourning.

She is facing her son at the other end of the monument.

However, before you get to her son, you come upon 2 soldiers, kneeling in honor, with flags at half-mast behind them.

The visitor then comes upon a plaque that states in German as well as Russian: The Homeland will never forget its heroes.

Behind this plaque lies five huge plots, containing the graves of 1,000 soldiers each.

Along the sides of the graves are 16 blocks telling the story of the Battle of Berlin through pictures as well as words (8 are in German, while the other 8 are in Russian).

Then finally at the end of the monument is the son of Mother Russia, under who lies another 2,000 soldiers (in one hand he holds a sword, in the other a child, as he stands on top of a crushed swastika).

Many have wondered why Germany/Berlin would choose to keep this monument in place, it is after all honoring Soviet soldiers, the very same who ended up controlling East Berlin. The thing with this is, when Germany was reunited, an agreement was made that none of the preexisting monuments would be removed or torn down. Which makes sense in a way, it is after all honoring people who died fighting the Nazis and were instrumental in Hitler's demise. They specifically weren't around to see what happened afterwards, they weren't involved in the whole East vs West Berlin, so why shouldn't they be honored and remembered?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Wilkommen in Deutschland

Welcome to Berlin!!!!
After almost 12 hours of flying and airports I finally made it to Berlin!!! I've actually been here for almost a week now, and it's just flown by! We have done so much during our week of Orientation, it's been crazy!!! And walking!! We have done soooo much walking!!!! I'll have to tell you all about it!!! But where to start first ....

I guess I will start with my living arrangements: I'm living with a single mom, Anke and her 11 year old daughter, Paula. They are so nice and very helpful!!! My first morning here, I woke up to find breakfast laid out on the table and a little note that said, "Have a good day!" I just thought it was super sweet and a great way to start the day!! :-)

So I live with both them in one of Berlin's many districts, in Kreuzberg - the thing with Berlin is, while it a may be a city, it's not very cluttered or dense, instead it sprawls ... a lot. I think there are like 10 different districts ... it's crazy just how large the city is. I've done a lot of walking around and exploring, on my own and with the group, and I don't think I've even seen a quarter of the city!

I have however, seen some pretty interesting stuff!

Like the Berlin Dome:

The Royal Stables (back when Deutschland was ruled by Kings and Queens):

Alexander Platz (a popular shopping center):

Remnants of the Berlin Wall (not much of it remains, but there is still a path like this marking where it once stood):

The random bears in the middle of the city (I know, I was surprised as well):

The Town Hall:

The underground memorial of the Burning of the Books that took place on May 10, 1933. Socialist students burnt hundreds of books right in front of Humbolt Universitat (if you look closely you can see empty book selves through the glass - they represent all the missing books):

And Schloss Charlottenburg (where King Friedrich I of Prussia lived):

So far it has just been one adventure after another!!! Everyone in Berlin and in my program is wicked nice and so much fun! I can't wait to see where the rest of the my time here takes me!!!!!