Jun 29, 2009

Weekends aren't for relaxing in Germany

We had quite the eventful weekend...

Friday night we went back to our favorite place, the beer garden to listen to some jazz. This week was Chicago Jazz. We had one small problem between the time we left the apartment and arrived at the garden... it decided to pour down rain. Of course we were soaked from head to toe (and yes toe, b/c we both had our flip flops on). We have yet to learn our lesson to always have an umbrella with us in case of emergencies (Germany has very unpredictable weather). The band was great though and we would go see them again in a heartbeat!

Next came Saturday... it started off with a nice bike ride along the Rhine River to the city center. As soon as we got close, I knew it was a bad idea that we rode our bikes because we had to dodge the thousands of people on the streets of Bonn on their Saturday morning stroll. It gets frustrating at times being on a bike while everyone else doesn't have a clue in the world... makes me want to go buy an air horn to use instead of my tiny bell on my bike that couldn't make an ant move out of the way. We finally made it to our destination "Tacos", a very good Mexican restaurant. We are starting to get the hang of dining out in Germany.

Now that our bellies are nice and full we decided to go sit down in Starbucks and enjoy a nice thing of coffee. Plus, the sky was starting to get dark and we didn't want to get stuck in the rain again!

While in the center we had plans to meet up with Kim, a co-worker of Andrew's at IPC. She wanted to show us around her town, Poppelsdorf and give us a tour of her flat. Once the weather "somewhat" cleared we headed in her direction. Poppelsdorf was a very cute and quaint town with small shops lining both sides of the main drag. Her flat was also very nice, as it was decorated in Ikea (my favorite). We enjoyed the company and the useful information about Bonn, thanks Kim!

Sunday was the big day, Andrew's first baseball games. The games were in a small town called Verl. It was about a 2 hour drive northeast, so we first had to meet at a McDonalds to carpool with the rest of the team. The drive was an experience in itself. We had our first ride on the Autobahn. There were only the few drivers that pushed the limits, everyone else just seemed to go peacefully on their way.

Andrew did great for his first game... his team, the Bonn Capitals, played a double header and lost the first game, but won the 2nd. Andrew made some great defensive plays and I was super proud of him. He is definitely a little beat up today from pushing himself so hard, but that's the only way you get the most out of things right? Sunday was a super long day, we were out of the house by 7:45a and didn't get home until 9p. Traffic was horrible on the way home, so that didn't make things much better. We made it home safe and sound though and had a great weekend.

I took a few pictures while Andrew was at the game yesterday, so enjoy!!


Jun 24, 2009

Cologne (Part 2)

After tearing ourselves away from the ginormous cathedral we decided to head down the small alleyways to look at all the different shops. There really wasn't many different shops than what we have in Bonn's city center, just bigger. We tried checking out a few stores, but everything was packed and we just weren't in the mood for trying things on. Cologne's city center had a Burger King calling out our name, so that's were we had a bite to eat before heading off to try and find Old Town (Aldstadt).

We did end up walking the wrong direction and basically got lost within the city for about a half hour before finally getting our bearings straight of which direction the Rhine River was. While trying to find our way we came across some very interesting things. There was some sort of religious demonstration going through the streets, it was somewhat scary, so we just picked up our pace and walked the opposite direction. We also saw a buggy full of about 8 guys peddling down the street with the name "Beer Bike". And that's exactly what it was, there was a keg on the front! There was even a Mexican band playing outside one of the shops.

Finally we made it to Old Town and yes it was very old town. Aldstadt is one of the few remaining towns left standing after WWII and it was very neat to see it in person. Everything is bright and cheery, with lots of restaurants and bars. We wanted to fit in with the crowd, so we found a kiosk down by the river and bought two Kolsch beers. It still baffles us that you can randomly walk down the street drinking a beer and its okay. I still felt like I was doing something illegal though, haha.

Our plan was to visit the Chocolate Museum and Olympic Museum, but after walking there and not finding the Olympic Museum very interesting and seeing the Chocolate Museum was 7.50 euro a person, we decided to wait. We will probably be back there another time anyways. So, we decided it was about time to head back to Bonn because we didn't think our feet and bodies could handle walking any further. We had to finish the trip off with a bang and some how managed to find the only "gay street" in Cologne. Everywhere you looked there was a different XXX store (for men only). Last time Andrew decides which direction we go, haha!

It has come to our attention that its not as easy to find a public restroom and most of the ones you do find here, there are those people that supposedly are keeping the bathrooms "clean" for you (which requires a tip at the end)! We thought that was bad until, we were searching for a bathroom in the train station before heading back home. It costs 1 euro to use the restroom and you have to walk through a turning gate, like you are going on some roller coaster. The men's and women's bathrooms were basically together only separated with an imaginary wall... very strange!

So finally back on the train we went and it was definitely a more peaceful trip home than the one heading to Cologne. We hope to go to Cologne again before leaving Germany because we had a really great time. We could see the Dom Cathedral a hundred more times and it would never get old!!

Enjoy the pictures!


Jun 23, 2009

Traveling North to Cologne...

So we decided to give the public transportation a shot outside of the Bonn region and head up to Cologne, which is about a 30 to 35 minute train ride. We nearly missed our scheduled train, but with a little running and a really quick ticket purchase we made it just in time! To our surprise, once on the train, we realized we sat right behind a group of guys that were finding every way to have fun. Between the very loud yells "YEAH", the German bar songs (which you can somewhat hear on the video that is on the Shutterfly website), and the explosion of confetti every 5 seconds we knew we were in for a treat. It was pretty annoying in the beginning, but then we figured we might as well find some amusement out of it or else it would be a very long train ride!

We made it to Cologne in one piece only with our ears ringing a little and were off to find our first stop, the Dom Cathedral. Little did we know when exiting the train station the cathedral slaps you right in the face! Starbucks also slapped us in the face, so we had to make a quick detour to purchase our all time favorite coffee. Apparently everyone and their mom had the same idea and we began to think we made a bad decision, but finally got our coffees and headed straight for the Dom. We thought we have seen large churches, but nothing compared. It was baffling knowing we were staring at something that began being built in the 1200's (and took over 600 years to be complete). The detail was incredible. We made one full circle around the cathedral and ended up in the front looking at the 2nd tallest spires in the world! While standing there taking in the view, we cracked up because there were at least 5 street mimes trying to make a few extra euros. I made the joke that maybe we should do that in Bonn... who knows could make us rich! :-)

After taking in the many views of the cathedral from the outside, it was now time to see the inside. Just as we thought, breathtaking! The ceilings were sky high and the stained glass windows were so bright and colorful. We paid 1 euro to receive a brochure that went into detail about the many different statues/paintings throughout the church. There were 9 chapels that were funeral monuments of many Archbishops. Some dating back to 1270. We could have paid an extra 2 euro and walked 500 steps to the top of the spires to have a few of the city, but for some crazy reason we both decided against that idea. Even though this was the first landmark we viewed since getting to Cologne, we already knew the trip was worth it.

I will post another blog about the rest of the trip to split up the pictures a bit! Enjoy!


Jun 21, 2009

1st Baseball Practice in 9 Years!

Well, Andrew started baseball on Thursday evening. He hasn't played in over 9 years (since he left Hawaii), so he was a little nervous. I thought he did pretty darn good for being away from it for so long and he was happy with his performance as well. I guess tradition has it once you are done with practice you have a beer with the team. It seems they just like to find an excuse to be able to put one back! We had fun though because we were able to have conversations in English, which is always a nice thing!

With Andrew working 40 hours a week, it gives me plenty of time to explore the local areas around our flat. It doesn't help any that our apartment building is being renovated so I here construction ALL day... which also makes me want to get out and search for new and interesting things. I most recently went down (Friday) to the Rhine River and snapped some pictures of different structures I thought were cool.

Friday night, we ventured over to the Rheineau (large park here in Bonn) to check out the Biergarten (beer garden) which has jazz bands play each week until the end of August. The band we saw were the Semmel's Hot Shot (type of jazz was hot jazz). Freshly made soft pretzels were the hot item... the poor guy couldn't keep enough in the oven to keep everyone happy. Andrew and I came to the conclusion that we needed to introduce Germans to an American way to eat pretzels... with nacho cheese. We could make a killing! :-) We also enjoyed a few cold Kolsch beers which is from the region of Cologne. They were good, but the most expensive we have had so far.

People watching is definitely rather fun to do in Germany, as you see many different types. We kept asking ourselves why do we go to all the events that attract an older crowd. We soon figured out the answer when we traveled to Cologne (which will be in the next post). A good time was had by all and the only reason we really left was so we weren't walking home in the dark. This upcoming Friday will have a Chicago Jazz band, so we are going to try and check that out as well.

Stay tuned for our fun and interesting day in Cologne, Germany! Oh, and feel free to make comments! We'd love to hear from those viewing our journeys!


Jun 15, 2009

Germany Randomness (pictures added)

Here you will find random things we have learned about Germany since living here. Most likely you will find facts and opinions here!

  • Every glass, even a McDonalds cup has a line at the top for the exact measurement of pouring... either in .5 liters or .3 liters

  • There is no ice in most places, so hopefully you don't mind almost warm coke. Look on the bright side, makes more room for whichever beverage you ordered!

  • Pizza Hut in Germany is an actual sit down restaurant. The menu says "The American Way of Pizza". This was the first and only place we did get ice in our cokes.

  • Most Germans don't have an appreciation of personal space. If you are looking at something in a store, be prepared to have someone right on top of you (if they don't move you out of the way first). While walking down the street, be prepared to be cut off.

  • We stayed in three different hotels while we searched for an apartment. The first one was more American style, the last two were definitely not (which we liked). Lights do not stay on constantly, they have those motion sensors so when it detects you in the hall way, lights turn on.

  • Windows are different here. The first time I tried opening a window, I thought it was falling on my head. Windows open 2 ways here, either out like a door, or the top hinges release and the window falls towards your head (hence why I thought I was almost dead). Oh, and there are no screens, so bugs are welcome.

  • The process of eating out is very different than the US. Servers will only come and take your order for drinks, it's up to you to get someone to take your dinner order and then get their attention to give you your bill (a little difficult if you don't speak German!). When you receive your bill, the server will just stand there and wait for your payment. Tip is almost always included in the bill.

  • Most flats here have balconies and almost EVERYONE has flowers on the railings. It smells so good while walking up and down the streets.

  • All stores close by 6 on Saturdays (a lot close at 4). Everything is closed on Sundays.

  • It is just as easy to take the wrong U-Bahn as it is in New York City!

  • It stays light until 10pm at night. This messes you up bad! haha

  • Yes, Germany does have bums too and already have had people begging for money. Telling them you don't speak German doesn't work, because then they instantly begin to speak English... funny how that works.

That is is for now... stay tuned!!


Bike Rides in Bonn... Kinda Scary!

Don't let anyone tell you different, bike riding in Germany can be quite dangerous! Apparently Germans like to play chicken on bike trails... it really isn't a hard concept to grasp, you ride on the trail like you drive your car on the road. Our leisure bike ride turned into us dodging bike drifters, slow rollers, and random walkers that can't differentiate between walking/biking trails. We survived, but it was a bit stressful biking up to Bonn and back again.

Since our first attempt at a local festival didn't turn out so hot, we decided to go to the International Festival in Bonn (which was in Marketplatz). Well..... it was somewhat of a disappointment again. I guess we are just ready to be introduced to the German culture and with this festival being International (not sure we even saw a Germany tent), that didn't happen. Many countries had different food/drinks to purchase, but nothing really appealed to us so we decided to head over to Munsterplatz.

Munster Basilica has been in previous pictures and yesterday we decided to venture to the inside. It was just as breathtaking, if not more. I think the one of the most baffling parts of Germany so far is how old everything is. The church was done being built in the 13th century and at first glance you can tell it's old, but yet it's so clean and sturdy looking. Once done in the Munster Basilica we walked around the ceramic market which had some pretty interesting things. There is somewhat of a fascination of creepy faces in the art of ceramic we determined. The different styles of vases and pots were very cool though.

There was nothing left to check out at the city center so we grabbed an ice cream cone and headed back down the Rhine River, stopping occasionally to snap some photos. We concluded we will probably do more exploring the nights Andrew gets off work, in hopes the "weekend bikers" aren't out on the weeknights.

Well that's it for now, there will be a post coming soon of random things we have learned about Germany so far!


Jun 13, 2009

Beginning to feel German, but obvioulsy not look it!

Well a lot has gone on since we have been here, but just now are beginning to have the time to sit down and write about it.

First things first! We have found an apartment and are all moved in! It is great... very modern, equipped with everything we need, and pretty central to everything. Today we went to a bike flea market near the Rhine River and the center of Bonn. We both walked away with bikes. They are pretty darn nice bikes for the price we paid. Mine is blue with a cute little basket on the back that has already come in handy and Andrew's looks more like a mountain bike. Somehow he has managed to almost wipe out like 3 times... and this was in a 10 minute span. Apparently he likes watching me ride a bike because every time he looks at me he just starts laughing! The bikes were a great purchase though because now we can get everywhere a heck of a lot faster and not have to wait on a bus or subway.

We are beginning to wonder if the word stare at me is written on both of our foreheads or if its just common to stare in Germany. Apparently they are not use to girls wearing shorts that do not go all the way to your knees. Last night we wanted to check out a small festival here in Plittersdorf where our apartment is. It was a very small gathering with a few games for kids, a stand selling brats, and another stand selling beer. Everyone, old and young, just stared as we walked up and even took the time to turn around as we walked by. It was frustrating as we just wanted to experience some of the local flavor, but instead just kept walking. Today we are heading to a bigger festival in the center of Bonn. Hopefully since there will be a bigger crowd (we hope) it will be a better experience.

Last night we booked a couple more trips for the month of August. These will bring our grand total of countries visited to five. For my birthday we are taking a train to Paris, France. Then a couple of weeks later we will fly to Venice, Italy for the weekend. We found some great deals (or at least it seems) and did not want to pass up the chance to see some other places. It is odd, but we were not able to find any cheap travel to either Berlin or Munich to spend a weekend checking them out. So our German adventures will remain in this region.

Stay tuned for the next post as I will share some things we have learned thus far!


Jun 9, 2009

First Impressions of Germany...


Well we are on day 6 of our Germany trip and I think our heads are still spinning. We have yet to find a permanent place to live for the next 3 months, but have our fingers crossed that something works out in the next couple of days.

Our trip started off with a bang by taking Air India from Chicago to Frankfurt, Germany. And it's just what you think of when you think of Air India (the next stop after Frankfurt was India). It was an experience in itself and only began to prepare us for what we were in store for. We were unable to fall asleep on the flight and once we arrived in Germany, were only running on adrenaline. (FYI: we were up more thank 24 hours and have yet to get the right amount of sleep). Jet lag is no fun, but our bodies seem to be adjusting slowly.

The train ride from Frankfurt to Bonn was breathtaking. Nothing like we are use to seeing back in the "States". We counted 14 castles on the ride there, but are sure we missed a few. There are vineyards everywhere you look and the crazy thing is, they are on the sides of mountains... we would really like to see how they are actually picked. Looks like a very tedious process.

Once in Bonn, that's when things began to get interesting. We each had two large suitcases, plus a carry on and our laptop bags. This wouldn't be such a big deal if we were moving straight into a place of residence, but we have had to move hotels 4 times so far (our living quarters right now are actually at Andrew's work... they have two rooms available). Dragging luggage around town is no fun, especially when you have chicken arms like me. haha.

We have yet been brave enough to venture into an authentic German restaurant. Communication probably has been our number one obstacle we have been faced with since being here (well besides finding a place to live). Not that we expected everyone to speak English, I guess we just thought and hoped for an easier way of communication. So far our German vocabulary consists of like 7 phrases:

Hallo (hello)
Guten Tag (good day)
Ich verstehe nicht (I don't understand)
Sprechen Sie Englisch? (Do you speak English?)
Bitte (please, you're welcome)
Auf Wiedersehen (goodbye)
Danke (thank you)
#'s 1-10

We did try going to an Irish pub, even though the food wasn't so much German, the way of serving was. The only time the server came to our table was to ask for drinks, otherwise we had to get someones attention to order food and to receive our bill. It took around 2 hours to eat, which is very different than back in the US, but now that we know the ins and outs, I think we should have a better experience next time.

Well, even though this post only takes us into day 3, I will stop here and start a new post soon to talk more about our experiences! Hope you enjoy reading!



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