Munich week 3

Week three in München has come to a close and with that my 7th week in Germany is over. Only one more week of classes, then 2 weeks of traveling around with some family members and ill be back in the states. Looking back on the summer, I truly have no idea how it went by so quickly. Anyway, München has had decent weather yet again this week so I have had a chance to do some touristy things this week that I can recommend for the huge groups of travelers reading this…(sarcasm).

1st touristy thing. You must see the Residenz and the theater that is next to it! This was one of the living quarters of the royal family and all their guests. Not only does this building showcase beautiful southern German architecture, but it also portrays the strong influence that french fashion had on the German royalty. The interior is decorated in a strikingly french 19th century fashion, some rooms also adopt the southern German rococo style which has so much detail and gold gilded extras that it often leaves you overwhelmed. I definitely recommend the complete tour, it only takes around an hour and a half and is worth the small charge to see how the royal family got to live.

The secondary recommendation for car lovers is to go to the BMW welt und museum as well as the Mercedes building, in which they have a giant showcase of the newest and famous older Mercedes. Because BMW owns Rolls Royce and Mini Cooper you also get to check out their newest models which was a dream come true for me. BMW is my favorite car brand so I may be biased, but I have to say that the BMW welt (world) and museum really surprised me with how large they were and how many really cool concept models you could see and sit in. For anyone who loves German cars these places are a dream come true and cannot be missed!

Finally, there are many Schlösser (castles/mansion) around and in München that are well worth the visit, but if you only have time to see one in the city, Schloss Nymphenburg is the one to see. Started around 1704 the architecture as well as the park that surround the palace are a wonder to see. Just watch out for the ducks and geese that surround the ponds, they’re bolder than you’d think. So far that the end of my touristy experiences here in München. I have spent most of my afternoons either working on school/scholarship stuff, or playing soccer in the Englischer garten.

As far as school goes, I took a test that determines the level of my German knowledge and officially know German well enough to become a German citizen which is pretty cool. Still need to work on the vocab and sentence structures alittle to be able to study in a German university where classes are taught in German. sadly I only have one more week to work on my German here so that probably wouldn’t happen. Sorry this week I have no “pro-tip of the week” I know this must ruin the week for all of my dedicated readers. Maybe the fact that I have not done anything extremely embarrassing is a sign that I am learning to act slightly normal in this different culture, or I just got lucky all week. Either way sorry all and happy independence day!!



2nd Week in München

Finally there has been acouple days this week with no rain so I was free to explore the city and get a feel for what the summer life in München is really like. Its amazing how alittle sun and warmer weather completely changes the atmosphere of a place. As I walked through the old karlplatz (inner city) I was amazed by just how alive and vibrant the atmosphere is here, not just because of the sheer number of people, but all the festivals, live music, and performances going on make the city center a hub for Bayerisch culture and celebration. If you make it to Marienplatz (nearby square) around 12pm or 5pm you can also see the glockenspiel play. This always draws large amounts of tourists and there are almost always some really cool street performances going on nearby.

When you get tired of the pavement, buildings and crowded downtown, you can walk ten minutes to the Englishergarten the central park of München. It never ceases to amaze me just how large the parks are in Germany, the Englishergarten is so large that you can be inside it and not see any buildings whatsoever (it’s in the middle of the city). Another plus is that the river Isar (eisbock) goes through the park. In this there are places for surfing, swimming, or just lazing down the river in an inter tube. I could not believe the beauty of this park when I went to visit it on a sunny warm day. There are massive fields of sunbathers, people playing volleyball, Fußball, or throwing Frisbee’s. Music is played everywhere, and whenever you get too hot, you’re always welcome to jump into the Isar and let it carry you to a different part of the park. Also, if you work up an appetite, there is a biergarten in the middle of the park that can seat over 7000 people and always has great traditional Bayerisch food and drink.

This weekend we made use of the good weather and made a trip out to Chiemsee one of the lakes around München. From this lake you get a clear view of the alps and have ample opportunity for enjoying good food, boat rides on the lake, and gorgeous scenery. It is only an hour outside the city via train so I would recommend this to anyone as a day trip with friends, its well worth the 7 euro train ticket for the day.

Class things, so I am still the only American that I know of here in the München CDC which has been awesome for getting to know people from other cultures and practicing my German. The classes also have gotten very difficult, we have covered (in theory) all of the grammatical structures of German and have a good base vocabulary so now we are learning how to same things in a more academic or educated manner. This has caused endless amounts of frustration, because I am able to say most of what I would ever want to, but now I have to relearn how to say something in a different way so that I can sound more formal. Naturally the formal way of saying something is much more complicated than the casual way. It also requires verb noun combinations that make almost no sense if literally translated to English, so this has proved difficult. I am continually asking “why is this verb needed here” or “why is this noun here”. The difference between what is said is minute also, for example, it could be the difference between saying “can I ask you a question” and “may I pose a question to you”.

Pro-Tip of the week! This will save you endless amounts of embarrassment!

-When jumping in the Isar make sure that your swim suit is tied very tightly, the river is actually very quick and will take your shorts if you are fighting the current, and although it is perfectly legal to be naked in the Englischer  garten (there is always a section of naked people) I am guessing that most prefer not to join them. Until next time!


1st week in München (5th week overall)

I arrived in München after a 8 hour train ride from 1am to 9am after five train changes throughout the night. I would not recommend just picking the cheapest train ticket to anyone after this, most of the trains were not LCE, (the kind that have comfortable chairs, are quicker, and are just overall better). However the 39 euro price instead of 70 won me over, but I repeat, it is definitely worth the extra money! Anyway I arrived to my host family just in time for breakfast. Immediately they set to making one of the most amazing breakfasts I have ever seen. Caprese salad, scrambled eggs with tomato, onion, and schwarzwald speck (bacon) with a plate of 5 different types of both meat and cheese along with strawberries, apricots, and cherries and orange juice and a cappuccino. Needless to say, we spent about two hours at breakfast talking/eating, and I felt welcomed at once.

The classes here have been much better organized that the classes in Berlin. In Berlin it was really a “find your own way” type of atmosphere, but here they make sure that the extra curricular options are known to everyone. As I said before they put me in a B2.1 class which is where you start to meet other students who are trying to study in Germany. Most of my classmates are actually DAAD scholars from all over the world, who are given 5 months to learn German before their classes begin. Needless to say their German is excellent and often puts mine to shame, but it is nice to finally have some non-German friends who can speak about complicated subjects freely. I am the only american in the group, and so far I haven’t met a single other american in the whole school. So far the group I have been hanging out with after school consists mostly of Italians and Swiss students, along with a few students from South Africa.

The Fußball spirit here is amazing, with the EUFA 2016 tournament going on. Every day huge groups gather at Biergartens and Olympia park to take part in public viewings. Its great to watch the games with people from all different countries because someone is always really invested in at-least one of the games of the day. sadly I haven’t explored the city too much yet. The weather has been continually overcast, cold, or raining, so I am hoping that next week will turn out better for outdoor exploring.

At-least the bad weather has given me an excuse to work on my Fulbright application and a few others that I haven’t as of yet dedicated near enough time to. I know it’s really disappointing for the crowd of dedicated readers… but I do not have a pro-tip of the week this entry, because I have not made any noticeable social mistakes. This only means, I haven’t been out in public enough. The only tip I can give you all is never take a non-LCE overnight train just because its cheaper! I am sure to make a mistake by the end of next week, so tune in again to learn from my mistakes so you don’t have to have the same awkward experiences as me. Until then!

Berlin week 4

I dropped my phone today on the way to school, so now in addition to having a broken laptop by phone screen is almost unreadable. I am taking this as a sign that I should try to disconnect and use my phone less. Other than that it has been another great week in Berlin. I am only sad that it will be my last one here for alittle while. Anyway, it has not been a wasted week by any measure and I have made a point to explore all the Berlin districts that I had not yet visited. Also, I got to witness some of the Turkish protests and take part in some public graffiti art that is all over the public wall in Mauerpark. Before I talk more about these things though I think it is more pertinent to mention (for this blogs purpose) to talk about the actual language progress I have made.

So as my last week came to an end I  tested out of the B1.2 level of German in the Carl Duisberg Centrum, and am on my way to B2.1 in Munich. I can finally maintain conversation with German people without pausing too much or asking them to repeat what they said. I still have some trouble with speaking about complicated subjects, such as moral issues or societal differences between countries, but other than that I have now reached a level where German people will respond to what I say in German and not English (German people love to practice their English with native English speakers). Finally, I can relate most of the things that I am thinking in German and have meaningful conversations with other students who only speak German. This has opened up so many doors and allowed me to really become more at home here. I am glad I have reached this level before I start my four weeks with a host family in Munich.

Almost forgot about the touristy things I have done this week. Since it is my last week here I went to the Berliner Dom and the TV tower. The Berliner Dom, although it is not that old, it is one of the most amazing churches that I have ever seen. From the beautiful marble and granite that line that walls to the view of the city at the top of the dome, the Berliner Dom is not something that you want to miss out on. The TV tower I found to be alittle more touristy and they have very expensive restaurant near the top. However, the top of the TV tower does offer probably the best view of Berlin that you can possibly get without a helicopter.

It seems that every time I go to a cafe, there is someone who will come up and talk to me. This last time I was reading “The Karamazov Brothers” for a class and I was approached by an older man who immediately asked where I was from, what I studied, and how I liked the book. It turned out that he is a theology professor at the from Denmark who was in Berlin for a conference. We ended up talking about Russian literature and religion for almost an hour. Its one of the things I like most about Berlin, the diversity of the city and its international status makes it possible to meet people form all over. I am definitely going to miss living in Berlin. At the same time Munich is considered to have a more traditional German culture by many and I am excited to see what it’s like living there.

Pro tip of the week: Not a hard and fast rule in Germany, but it is generally considered very forward to start a conversation with a compliment at a party, this seems rather normal in the U.S., but many people seem to think that its a risky move socially.

Until Munich!



Berlin Week 3 (really late)

My laptop of 4 years finally decided to die for good this time, so I have sadly not been keeping up with the blog as much. I must say though, I think Berlin might be one of my favorite cities I have ever had the privilege to live in. Every day there is some festival or event going on, and the are so many parks and green areas where you can go run, rockclimb, play soccer (Fußball), swim, or picnic. So far I have only broken one pair of cleats and lost alot of pride on the Fußball fields here. Being decent in the U.S. translates to being the last pick for teams here most the time. Anyway, back to the important things, reports on touristy things, facets of school in Germany, and some random encounters with German and other foreign peoples, nightlife in Berlin, plus of course the pro tip of the week.
There are so many touristy things that you should do in Berlin if you are ever lucky enough to visit this crazy but amazing city, however; after this week I think a visit to the national gallery and museum island should be at the top of the list (if you enjoy art). Not only does the national gallery organize all the works by time period, but they have entire rooms devoted to some of the well known 19th century German artists such Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Caspar David Friedrich. It was amazing to see works such as “abbey among oak tree” and “medieval city on a river” I remember learning about a few of these in the AP European history class I had senior year, so to see them in person was really cool.
Also I was lucky enough to meet up with the Notre Dame group in Berlin and get a ticket to the Berliner Philharmoniker which turned out to be one of my favorite musical experiences to date. Going to this, everyone dresses their best, they’re drinks and some mixing time beforehand, but as soon as everyone gets to their seats and finishes applauding the entrance of the conductor, there is nothing but dead silence. You could have heard heard a pin drop as the audience awaited for the story (told by and orchestra and chorus) to unfold. Finally it began, the story of Oedipus, and it did not disappoint in any way whatsoever. You could tell everyone was on the edge of their seat awaiting the next line from the chorus. It seemed as if the very air had an electric current that froze you in your seat. If anyone reading this has a chance to catch a performance here, please do yourself a favor and go! The next day I went to the Zoologischer Garten (One of Berlin’s zoos in the Tiergarten), and could not believe both the beauty of the park and the diversity of animals they have. Also, I don’t know how they haven’t had many accidents in the park yet, because there is literally nothing separating you from the animals in some enclosures. For example, the first animal we stumbled across was a rhino in its enclosure, however this “enclosure” was literally the area in which the rhino lived, separated from you be a fence that was only a foot and a half or two tall. Also you could get extremely close to all the animals. Personally, I thought this was amazing, but there were some people in the group who were alittle freaked out. All in all I would definitely recommend the garten to anyone who plans on staying in the city for awhile.

Berlin is considered by many Europeans that I’ve met to be one of the biggest centers for good nightlife and music in all of Europe. From what I have heard they have every kind of club one could think of here, from the fancy wear a blazer to the club, club, to the punk bars, to techno houses that go until 10 am in the morning, they have it all. Also, compared to other big cities, Berlin is relatively cheap for going out, which is always a plus. I have also been told that if you are into EDM Berlin is the place to be, there is a club called Berghain which is considered the world capital of techno at the moment. This club is in an old power plant and sports 60 foot ceilings in the dance floor multiple bars and regularly holds 1500 people every night, However; do not show up before 2 am on most nights because they don’t open until 3 or 4 and go until 10 or 11am. If you are into EDM and don’t mind the usual scene that encompasses a techno club, this is a must see. Berlin claims to be the birthplace of real techno and many EDM genres so this music is a large part of the nightlife culture of the city.

Now to school. I am now 100% sure that the only way to become truly good at a language is to live in the country in which it is spoken. Not only do people from Germany not follow their own grammar rules in daily conversation, but they have so much slang which I have never learned in my classes. I find the classes extremely useful for helping me navigate the never ending rubix cube that is German grammar, however; to truly understand everyday speak, common slang phrases, dialect differences, and cultural references one really needs to be immersed into the culture. I think this is the fastest I have ever increased my own language skill. I found myself talking to one of my German friends the other day about a book I was reading, describing relatively complex ideas in German and I hardly had to think about what I was saying. There were no long pauses to think about how I should conjugate a verb or what word to use and he understood all that i said, needless to say I was pretty excited. Although I learn alot in class, I think it is out of class that most of my vocab comes from. I play Fußball with German people, go out with German people, and hang out with other foreign students learning German. When I hang out with these people I feel more free to speak and am usually doing something fun, so I remember what I learned more because I am usually pretty into what I am doing. Also, Im not worried about losing points on a test, homework assignment, or paper so I feel more comfortable making mistakes and learning from them. I think this is how a language is best learned “ohne ängst”

Finally the pro-tip of the week!!! This is going to seem negative, but when in Germany do not smile at random people as you walk by on the street or wherever, even if you are just trying to be friendly. Usually the person will give you a look that clearly communicates the question “why are you smiling at me, who are you?”. I have no explanation as to why smiling at people is not really a thing here if you don’t know them, but from what I have gathered it is considered strange if not creepy.


Berlin week 2

This week has been extremely busy with classes picking up. I spent the weekend in Prague which was only a 4 hour trip via train from Berlin. Prague is amazing!!! Walking through the old city, I felt like I was transported back in time. Many of the buildings, castles, and churches that I explored were over 500 years old. I was amazed by the St. Vitus Cathedral, built in 1344 (atleast started) this building towers over the old city, as it is on top of the largest hill. Walking through it, I was struck by the Gothic style and the intricacies of the masonry and art work. Generation upon generation committed their lives to building this cathedral, they built it both as an expression of their faith, and a display of craftsmanship and art. In doing so, they created a monument that astounds people to this day. City planners in Prague make a point in that part of the city to maintain the traditional look of the buildings. They do this so well that, while I was there, I felt as if the defenestration of Prague could have happened last week. The only thing that broke the illusion was a large Starbucks store conveniently placed next to the castle.
as far as classes go, they have definitely gotten more difficult. We are asked to talk with a partner with specific prompts in mind such as, “an interesting time in your childhood”, or “what are your future goals”, then we must explain to the whole class what we found interesting while talking to your partner. For exercises such as these you must past, present, and future tense sentences so naturally these type of exercises, although difficult, really help my grammar and confidence in speaking German. There are also grammar writing exercises and vocabulary quizzes.
Berlin city living is definitely something I can get used to. It amazes me everyday how diverse the city is. Walking to class every morning I hear atleast three or four different languages. Also different neighborhoods or parts of the city have completely different vibes, for example stadtmitte district is definitely the classier, more expensive part of town which caters to the well-off, but take the S-Bahn for 6 stops (10 minutes) and you’ ll be in Kreuzberg, the hipster capital of Berlin. Pro tip, try to go to all the coffee bars in Kreuzberg if you are a coffee fan, noone makes a better cup of coffee than a hipster barista, and Berliners take pride in their coffee, to them it is a science. Also, there are so many coffee shops that you’ll never run out of options.
I have also met many people exploring the nightlife of Berlin and have picked up some slang that is commonly used by natives. My favorite phrase is “Auf dicke Hose machen”, literally translated this means “To act as if you have fat pants”, needless to say when I heard someone say this, I was completely confused. I found out that it really means to act like a braggart. “fat pants” refers to someone who has alot of cash in their wallet so their pants are “fat”. to make as if you have “fat pants” is to act as if you have alot of money and are showing it off. I will be writing again soon to talk alittle bit more about the Berlin nightlife, and also the amazing museums that are here.

My first week in Berlin

After an eight hour flight to Charles de Gaulle, where I promptly got lost and barely made my connection, I finally arrived in the German capital, home of the Reichstag, Brandenburger Tor, Berlin wall, and so many other famous landmarks and historical events! Needless to say, I had trouble containing my excitement, but the brisk 48 degree Berlin weather and slight drizzle that greeted me were helpful in that regard.
I soon found my way to the apartment, which I share with two others who are in the same program. One is from Tunisia and the other Israel, both speak very little English which is really helpful for practicing my German, but not so much when they are trying to explain the rules of the apartment to you. So far I have only encroached on two of their rules.
I am amazed at the progress I have made in only a week of constantly speaking German. I have gotten much more used to the grammar and have even picked up on a few colloquial phrases. So far I have only made a handful of embarrassing language mistakes, which I count as a success. There are only two other native English speakers in my class of fifteen and I think that has helped.
Also, everyday after class I set off to explore different parts of Berlin. So far I have done touristy things and taken photos at the Brandenburger Tor and Reichstag, which will probably be uploaded to this blog later, and explored the Tiergarten. Berlin’s Tiergarten is similar to New York’s central park, except it is much much bigger. It is amazing, and impossible to describe in the few words I am given here, so I am going to leave it your imagination.
Overall the transition to life in Germany has been much smoother than expected. Its always interesting to see the small differences in the ways other societies operate. I quickly learned that everything is closed on Sundays and people do not say thank you for things as much in Germany. Pro tip, if you ask someone for directions and they cannot help you, do not thank them, this is seen as sarcastic and taken as an insult. I am sure there will be many other little things to come in the next nine weeks, so stay tuned in for the pro tips.
This weekend I am going to Prague with a group of friends and will continue exploring so I will have more to write about next week. Also, I will be visiting the museum island in Berlin. This island consists of five museums full of sculptures, paintings, and many other awesome things. The way by which much of this art came into German keeping is questionable at best, however: this is still a place renowned for its collection, so I cant wait to go!