Germany So Far

It was a crazy busy two days in Freiburg (at this point we spent two more days in Ottobeuren as well). I was supposed to have plenty of time, however it has become evident that we will typically leave half an hour to an hour and a half late, wherever we go. A little more on that in a bit. Since it was so busy I didn’t have much time to sit down and document everything that I was doing so I’ll make two additional posts, one for each day and try to include pictures in them. I intend on posting the text for at least one of the days in Freiburg tonight, the second tomorrow, and I’ll probably go through the pictures on our trip to Leipzig.
There’s several things I’ve noticed about Germany so far. Firstly, almost everyone I have encountered speaks English and many things are written in both English and German. All of the stores and clerks that I have encountered always are very helpful in English and switch pretty easily. Usually the conversation starts with them saying “Allo”, I responding with “Hello”, then the realize that I speak English and proceed with the conversation in English. I have only encountered one person that I talked with that it was a little bit of a struggle to understand what we were talking about. Secondly, I was astonished by the amount of graffiti. While I’m writing this I realize that I haven’t actually taken any pictures of the graffiti, but I’m sure I’ll have to opportunity to within the next few days. It was one of the first things that we saw leaving Frankfurt, the first tunnel we went into was just covered in graffiti. It is just everywhere, if there is any public facilities installment (like a power factor correction box or breakers) it is usually just covered in graffiti. Same goes for anything along an Autobahn, the privacy walls, little telephone box things?, almost every underpass or bridge, etc. However traffic/street signs seem to be an exception and are graffiti free. In the student portion of Freiburg there were several houses that had a significant amount of graffiti on them. However like the traffic/street signs all of the historic places, even though many of them were in public places were graffiti free. There seems to be a lot of renewable energy sources in Germany. quite frequently we will come across voltaic solar panel farms. I find this odd, because usually reflective solar farms are more common and tend to be more energy efficient. There are also plenty of windmills across the countryside and along the hills. In addition to the numerous solar farms, we have also come across a lot of rapeseed farms, the plant that we use to produce canola oil. There are beautiful fields of these yellow flowers that stretch across the landscape.

Wisconsinites in Freiburg

I’ll have a pretty long (maybe separate posts) about Freiburg tomorrow, but I wanted to make a little post. We were climbing up to a welcome reception at the top of a hill and I heard a “Hey, what’s up my Madison dude”. I was pretty confused at first but I realized my bag was a UW Madison bag and had the UW crest. Apparently he went to the UW for a few years then came out here. As we were talking about guy came up

Freiburg 5/19

We arrived in Frankfurt slightly earlier than expected and we had about an hour to wait around for the bus to show up. I explored the airport a bit, and found out most vendors speak English very well. I was disappointed to find out that there was only one store that I could buy a SIM card from, and that it was €49.99 for 5GB, something that I didn’t think that I needed. We finally met our tour guide and we found out that we would have to walk about 10 minutes away from the terminal because of new security protocols, not allowing busses to be near the arrivals area. The bus ride to Freiburg was a couple hours, and I a fair amount of it. It was really the first exposure to the amount of graffiti here, almost everything around the airport was tagged, with the most frequent being “YF” – I have no idea what it stands for. We arrived at the hotel at around 1:30 and had an hour to check in and get everything settled and to get back on the bus. However when it was time to leave there were several people who weren’t on the bus, and it took another half an hour until we left. There was some drama about someone missing shoes and thinking it was in someone else’s room, and they ended up being in her own room. We arrived for our tours about half an hour late. Our tour was a bit rushed, but we covered some interesting stuff. Firstly, Freiburg has a system of little canals that run throughout the city. They were used in the medieval times to deliver fresh water for use for cleaning, bathing and laundry, not really for consumption. Secondly there was a cathedral in the center of town. Throughout the tour it became apparent that the majority of the city was destroyed during WWII and it was almost all reconstructed after the war, including the canal systems. However the cathedral was spared during the war, and prior to the war all of the stained glass windows were removed and preserved, so the majority of the windows that were in the cathedral were the original windows. At the end of the tour we met at a multi-floor restaurant that was all reserved for us. We had a three course dinner that consisted of a salad with a sour dressing, schnitzel with spätzle, and a black forest chair cake thing (I forgot what it is called). We had a brief introduction to spätzle, that it was a regional specialty and lo and behold, when it was served, I exclaimed “Oh! I have this all the time at home!”. Apparently my mother makes schnitzel with spätzle quite regularly and it caught me off guard because it was supposed to be some regional specialty. I also had a Dunkel beer, which was really good. I believe its a darker wheat beer, but it was fairly sweet and not bitter at all. The hotel we stayed in was pretty small, the beds were tiny, and the bathroom seemed to be about the size of a plane bathroom plus a tiny shower.

Bus Ride to Freiburg

We have left the Frankfurt airport and are on our way to Freiburg. It’s a 3 hour bus drive on the Autobahn. While cars don’t have a speed limit bigger vehicles like our bus and semitrucks do, at 80 kph ≈ 60 mph. Our bus is actually capped 100 kph and can’t travel faster. Another odd thing about our bus is that they sell beer and wine on it. So not only can you drink in a vehicle you can also straight up purchase alcohol in a vehicle.

So far Germany is much greener than I thought, however we are in the Rhine valley so it’s unusually fertile here. We also saw a little deer, I’m not sure if it was a fawn or just a small deer. Apparently most of the crops that we have passed are asparagus and tobacco because this area is more temperate then the rest of Germany. There also seems to be more forest than I would have thought, seeing as Germany has been around for a long time. Especially flying into Frankfurt it seemed like there was tons of forest in the surrounding area.

We stopped for a bathroom and food break at a little rest stop/motel/truck stop. I used an ATM to withdraw €50 and I was pleasantly surprised by the exchange rate. Google lists €50 as $55.74 and I checked my checking account and I was charged $55.86 with a 56¢ international withrawl fee. I have noticed that the prices for electronics here are significantly more than the us counterparts. For example a micro USB cord was €15 and for a complete eu charging set the price was €29.99. I’m curious if this is because the EU has stricter rules and regulations on electronics or if prices are just jacked up. On a side note I found a Jack Daniels “Whiskey Cola”, eww.

As far as the weather goes, it was pretty dreary and gray this morning with a light drizzle and as we’re leaving the rest stop now it started raining pretty heavily.

Takeoff!

We have liftoff! I’ll make little updates along the way, but it will all only get posted once we land.

Dinner was a roll, microwaved Chinese food and a roll 

4:30 CDT We just got little gelato cups!

4:50 CDT We’ve reached the East Coast. I think I’ll try to sleep the rest of the flight. We’ll see how that goes…

4:53 CDT Nevermind, we just hit some turbulence, the plane is shaking left and right.

6:26 CDT I did end up sleeping for a bit! Goodnight!

6:43 CDT I gotta pee, but everyone in my row is asleep…

7:20 CDT Still really need to pee. I also don’t feel very tired anymore.

7:50 CDT That felt really good to walk around a bit. It’s the first time I’ve stood up in about 5 and a half hours. Only about 3 to go.

9:12 CDT We’re over land again, I’m not entirely sure where? It might be Ireland because I can see multiple coasts.

9:24 CDT We’re over England now, it’s pretty neat looking out at all the different cities and communities all lit up at night. It also smells (and sounds) like they’re about to serve breakfast.

9:37 CDT We should be passing over London currently, however it seems to be pretty overcasty so I can’t see anything. We should be arriving in 55 min which is about 20 min ahead of schedule.

10:14 CDT We’re over Germany! I’m not sure what happened to our lead we’re back to arriving on schedule. Hopefully I can find a place to buy a sim card, it’ll be so much easier at an airport then at store

O’Hare

Made it to O’Hare with 3 hours to spare! Security took ~ 10 minutes, so from bus drop off to me sitting in the gate it only took about half an hour! There were a couple other MSC people sitting in the gate, they probably took the chartered Van Galder bus that left at 7 this morning. They’ve probably been hanging out here since 9. I took a couple pictures and a video, but due to the way I am hosting this blog (on the UW servers) I can’t easily upload them, so ill play around for a bit and see if I can get it uploaded. Boarding starts in about an hour, at 1:45 and take off is at 2:30.

I also hope to get a map of where I’m going in Germany set up before I leave, however I’m not sure that will happen. Looking at the itinerary it seems we’ll have most of the day to our selves once we land, so I may work on it then instead.

So far, there are only two issues that I have encountered.

  1. I forgot to charge my MacBook, but I found an outlet in the gate
  2. I brought the wrong charging cord for most of my electronics, I grabbed a Mini USB instead of a Micro whoops.

As I was typing this post my free wifi apparently ran out. I guess you only get half an hour of free wifi, then you have to pay. Ugh, I ended up getting it so I can post this and because I have a several hour layover in Newark on the way back. It’s a monthly subscription, so hopefully I remember to cancel it.

Once my MacBook finishes charging I think I’m going to walk around a bit and look for a place to buy a cheap Micro USB cord.