Wow! All I can say is WOW! My stay in Germany has been everything and more! I was nervous, really nervous to travel alone, and all the way down to Southern Germany with such little time. But it became SOOOO worth it!
The first day, I went to a concentration camp, Nuengamme, with a couple friends and faculty (just found out one of the professors we traveled with was an astronaut!! No kidding.) It was very sobering; there was an eerie feeling about being there and know the evil that happened on the same ground I was walking on, 70 years ago.
That night I rode a train to Gunzenhausen. When I asked a nice business man for help, he was VERY friendly (opposite of Russia’s people.) He talked to me about his life and boy, and he made me feel a bit insignificant. He has 6 masters degrees, knows 7 languages, traveled to over 30 countries, and he is a professor. I don’t know if I believe everything he said. But I have his business card. I’ll check him out when I get home. I had a layover, which was scary, because it was in the middle of the night. But I am alive to talk about it! :]
I was met by Stefan and Carolin. Stefan was in leiderhosen, so I knew I was in Germany right away!! They had a WONDERFUL breakfast for me, with over 7 choices of meats, cheeses, breads, pastries, and boiled eggs. We had a lunch with the JCs to begin the festival. They allowed me to open the first keg!!! I guess that is a HUGE honor! I had a traditional German lunch and met a real life Bergermeister (mayor to them.)
We toured Gunzenhausen and they explained all of their history to me. We saw a castle, 2 churches, and one of their beautiful lakes with a natural bird-watching area. I learned they don’t really hunt in Germany. Then we went to a political talk and I got to shake the hand of Bavaria’s president! I was literally treated like a celebrity. We went to a party to start the festival (I was featured in a news article!) and had SO MUCH FUN!! There were boots of beer as big as women wear up to their knees, no lie. They also had a live band, all the sausage you could imagine, and a contest to see who was the heaviest man. Winner: 156 kg! You do the math.
After sleeping very little (not going to say how little,) we went to Nurnberg and saw WWII memorabilia. Along the way, we stopped at another lake, learned about how hops are grown and manufactured by the farmers, and RODE ON THE AUTOBAHN! They drive amazing cars; Stefan had a black convertible BMW and Carolin had a cute red bug-like BMW. Riding in style, baby!! I learned a LOT about Hitler’s reign in Germany, saw some cool historical places and how scary close he was to taking over the world (he really was brilliant.)
I came back late at night and slept for a couple hours (not enough) and went to the world-famous fish market. It was excellent!!! I didn’t buy anything, but took it all in. This man asked me for a picture again (it must be a thing market men do) so I asked him if my “buddy” could be in it too. He loved it and gave me a free peach! It was yummy! We started a tour of the city and got bored, so we walked around on our own. We climbed St Paul’s chapel steeple for a city view. It was 544 steps!!! Hopefully that will help with all of the carbs, and ice cream I ate every day!!! (I guess I’ll stick to salads on the ship )
It was beautiful weather–it’s almost like we are chasing summer. I am digging it!! Also! The first day in port, I learned we might possibly be going to the Bahamas. It’s a rumor (and they travel fast on the ship) but on the map upstairs, it’s penciled in. We also haven’t gotten our field programs for Cuba yet, which means we might be going there earlier and have more time to go to the Bahamas. We have asked a couple faculty members and it feels like they are trying to cover it up. They change the subject right away or come up with an excuse.
Things I learned in Germany:
- Prost, das de mika de derosht (drink, so your throat doesn’t become burning dry)
- Traveling independently is how you grow! It’s really not so bad if you are in a safe area and do your research.
- Shaving my head for Neptune Day is in the back of my mind… I bought a headband that can turn into a bandana in case I need to wear it hiking in the glaciers…
- I WILL come back to Germany!