Jul 29, 2009

Top of Zurich!!

Sunday morning started off with a 9:00am nice relaxing boat ride along Lake Zurich. We took the morning cruise which was the least expensive. There was no tour associated with it, just a beautiful view. The trip lasted about 2 hours, which gave us plenty of opportunities to take in the Swiss Alps. One day hopefully we can return and actually snowboard down the mountains.

Our boat dropped us off at the dock and boy were we glad we decided to do the 9am ride and not the 11am. There were tons of people waiting in line to hop on and there possibly might have been 20 people total on our large boat. We walked back to our hotel to enjoy our complementary breakfast (even though you know it's somehow added to the room price!) that consisted of the usual European foods. Their coffee was a lot stronger than we were use to, so I think we were ready to climb the walls. Something different we noticed about ordering coffee from Zurich was every glass also came with a piece of chocolate... and great chocolate it was! We then had to check out of our hotel and trek up to the main train station, which then would take us to Uetliberg, which was where the Top of Zurich was.

We chose to go up to the Top of Zurich because it gave you panoramic views of Zurich, including the crop fields, the numerous houses and cathedrals, Lake Zurich and of course the Swiss Alps. If you look hard enough you could even see the Zurich Airport, which would be our next stop after leaving Uetliberg. It was indeed a little hike to get to the top, but completely worth it. Once at the top, there is a tower that takes you even higher and of course Andrew and I had to do that! Supposedly at the highest point you should be 2,857 ft above sea level (871 meters), which was high enough to see everything you could ever wish to see! The time sadly came when we had to leave and head back down the on the tram, so we had to say our goodbyes to the Alps.

We planned on arriving at the airport a little early to buy some lunch (figured it might be a little cheaper) and do last minute souvenirs, including some yummy chocolate. We also treated ourselves to a little desert by buying an ice cream cone. While waiting for our plane, we also got to catch the ending to the Tour de France, which I know Andrew was happy about that! Our plane ended up being about 15 to 20 minutes late, but it was worth it on the take off considering we could see the large Swiss Alps even closer. The mountains are so huge that you could see them go on forever and ever and they never seemed to get smaller.

We finally arrived back in Bonn... a little later then expected, but enough time for us to have a goodbye beer and prost since it was Debbie and Michelle's last night before going back to the States. We had an awesome time and were so glad they were able to come visit. They arrived safely home and Andrew and I will soon be going on our next mini trip to Vienna, Austria. Stay tuned!!!!



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The Beauty of Zurich, Switzerland

Saturday morning started off with a bang at 4:30am... yes, I know, that is waaaay too early for us! But our airplane left out of the Bonn/Cologne airport, which meant we needed to take a bus a little further north. Even though we aren't morning people, it was good that we arrived in Zurich around 8:00, which gave us all day to explore! We started our day with a 35 minute tram ride from the airport to the Zurich Hbf. We soon realized if we took a train it would have taken about 11 minutes, but oh well, we were there to see the scenery right?

We arrived at our hotel (Otter Hotel) and learned it would take about an hour for our room to be ready, so we left our bags and went out to walk around town. We first came across a very large flea market that seemed to go on forever full of all sorts of little nic nacs. From there we just started walking down random streets to see what we ran into. We were all beginning to get hungry, but began noticing we better be prepared to pay a good penny for the food we ate. After walking around for a while and realizing we weren't going to find anything under the $15 mark, we stopped at the Spaghetti Factory to grab a bite to eat. I guess if it's going to be expensive it better at least be good, and that it was! The weather was a little sketchy when we first arrived, so we had to end up moving indoors to finish our yummy spaghetti.

From the Spaghetti Factory we walked back to our hotel to check into our rooms and take about a 2 hour nap. Then we went back out to walk around the Zurich Lake and have a marvelous view of the Swiss Alps. Since the sky was still somewhat cloudy, you could only see a faint outline of the mountains, but that was good enough for us. Plus we knew Sunday was going to be a really clear day, which would give us a perfect view. Everywhere you went there were always people either sitting along the water or feeding the hundred of hungry swans and ducks. It would have been so easy to just sit on a wall and take in the scenery all day, but of course Andrew and I just can't sit still while in another country! We walked by the lake until we ran out of sidewalks and then headed back towards Altsadt (Old Town).

We began to walk down Zurich's Bahnhofstrasse because it's known as one of the world's most expensive and exclusive shopping avenues. Obviously we had no plans on buying anything, just to experience another part of Zurich. Everywhere you looked were high-end stores and people that seemed to just walk out of a fashion magazine. Ever since being in Europe, Andrew and I always feel under dressed, but we especially felt this while being in Switzerland. After experiencing the lifestyle we will never have, we walked by some churches before heading back towards our hotel for a rest. While on our walk back, we found some fresh fruit for sale, so we had to stop and buy some.

Once at our hotel, Andrew and I decided we wanted more of what Zurich had to offer! We took a stroll back towards Lake Zurich and hopped on one of the many pedal boats and took one out on the water. We rented one for an hour and basically just pedaled around next to the hundreds of sail boats, other pedal boats, and the occasional cruise boat. It was a lot of fun, but it was time to find some food to bring back to the hotel and eat. We found a small place that sold all sorts of pizzas, so we grabbed four different kinds and a soda for each of us and walked back to the hotel to chow down.

After we ate, we all kind of just sat around trying to give our legs a rest and went to bed earlier knowing we had a long day ahead of us! By this time we were loving Zurich!


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Jul 28, 2009

Annual Beer Fest in Bonn

We started out Friday with visiting the Poppelsdorf Botanical Gardens near the Bonn city center. Andrew and I haven't been there yet and thought we would check it out while his mom and aunt were visiting. It was just a small area, but pretty and the best part was it was free! Once we left here, we went to the center of Bonn so Debbie and Michelle could buy some last minute souvenirs.

Later that evening was the first day of the Bonn Bierboerse. This is an annual event that brings many different countries to serve their beers and foods. We chose Friday night because we wanted to see the opening tapping of the keg and the fireworks (since we didn't get to see any on July 4th). Not only did we get to see the keg tapping, but also had a glass of beer from the keg, which we thought was pretty neat!

Since we aren't going to get to visit Munich (Germany) we decided we wanted to try one of their beers. They are famous for having the VERY large mugs of beer (1 liter to be exact). I would have to say this might have been my least favorite out of the bunch, but I did conclude that it helped my arms get a little more muscular in that short period of time. And no I did not drink all that beer!

We stopped by one of the food booths and all bought something by the name of nacken steak. It was a very well seasoned steak that was placed in between a bun. The coolest thing was how it was cooked. The grill was large and circular which rotated to cook all the meats evenly. It was absolutely delicious! While enjoying the world beers and great food, there was a band playing in the background which was actually pretty good (music from the Abba Survival Band).

We also were able to have a few Irish brewskies and I enjoyed a thing of cheese nachos. The weather didn't cooperate towards the end of the evening though. At one point it was pouring down rain, which left us stranded under a table umbrella, but surprisingly no one got too drenched! The rain was making me nervous because I didn't know if this would delay or cancel the fireworks. But luckily around 10:45 they started and it was worth the wait. It was kind of funny how almost every song they played while the fireworks were going off was from Michael Jackson.

This was the Germany event Andrew and I have been waiting for. We all had a great time and got a few souvenirs out of it (we kept a few of the different glasses the beer was served in). I am glad we chose to go Friday because there was not a ton of people there and the combination of the bands and fireworks made it great!



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To the Top of the Spires We Go!

Thursday morning we awoke and drove to Cologne, which is about a 30 minute drive from Bonn. The main reason of this trip was to go to the Koelner Dom (Cologne Cathedral) for Debbie and Michelle to view this massive piece of history. This would be our second time viewing the cathedral up close, and it is still just as impressive as the first time. We walked around the outside for a while and then quickly went inside. As Debbie and Michelle explored the inside of the Dom, Andrew and I decided we wanted to climb the 533 stairs to reach the top of the spires.

The spiral staircase wasn't big enough for two people and there was no air circulation, this only made us walk up quicker. We reached the top in about 6 minutes... that could possibly be superman speed! Once at the top, we could look any direction and have a different view. Church steeples and bridges were the most abundant. After viewing our wonderful surroundings, it was time to head back down the stairs. Going down was not as fun as people come up the same way you have to go down... and it just so happens that the entire population of Cologne was trying to go up the stairs. We finally reached the bottom and went looking for Debbie and Michelle.

As we entered the Dom again we noticed there was a prayer service taking place. Debbie and Michelle were able to attend this so that was pretty neat. Andrew and I were pretty hungry from exerting all of our energy for those stairs so we headed to McDonalds for a quick snack. We soon met back up with Debbie and Michelle, explored the insides a little bit longer and then headed out on the town to grab a bite to eat. We ended up at a Maggiano's to eat some delicious Mexican food.

Once we were refueled, we walked to the Alstadt (Old Town) to show Debbie and Michelle the city that withstood the wars. We walked throughout the narrow streets with colorful buildings for a while and decided it was about time to head towards the car. Next stop, IKEA!!!!

Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE Ikea and I have been wanting to go to a store over here in Europe since Sweden is where the store originated from. We found Godorf, which is a town between Cologne and Bonn had an Ikea, so that's were we headed. Even though the store was like any other Ikea I have been to, it was still cool going. Plus, Andrew, Debbie, and Michelle never have been to one. Once we were done looking around we bought some of the infamous Swedish meatballs to take home to have for dinner. Man, were those good!

After a good hardy meal we all did some relaxing and reminiscing. It was yet another successful day!!



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Jul 27, 2009

Meppen, Germany

We woke up Wednesday morning and had a delightful breakfast from our hotel. It consisted of the same foods we have had thus far for breakfast... meats, cheeses, breads, jelly, hard boiled eggs, coffee and orange juice. Once breakfast was done, we checked out of our hotel and walked to the cemetery near by to look for any long lost relatives. I would never think to do this back home, but cemeteries over in Germany are so different. They aren't scary or creepy... they are pretty and full of all sorts of colorful flowers. We came across a memorial grave full of about 30 cross headstones for German soldiers all with dates within a two weeks period. Dates from WWII... Andrew and I came across it first and we both got chills. It was so surreal and sad at the same time. There was also a WWI memorial grave we found a little later on. I also found another Munsch head stone. This time it only said Munsch family with no names or dates, but it's still another variation to my family name.

After walking throughout the cemetery, we went back to Meppen's center to walk around the different shops lining the streets. Andrew and I ended up going in one clothes store and I found a shirt that was more my style, so decided to buy it. It was probably something I could find back home, but it was just the idea of buying it in Germany. Once we explored the shops, we walked a little more just to see if there was anything we missed (which there really wasn't). By this time we were all pretty hungry so we stopped at a place called Kochlioeffel and enjoyed some more currywurst and great tasting fries with mayo. For desert we each bought a vanilla/chocolate twist ice cream cone and then headed back on the road towards Bonn.

While on the road there were so many sheep, cows, and horses lining the roads. Made for more to see than just green flat land I guess! We made it back to Bonn and had a stab at our second German dinner, just not so German... spaghetti! It was good if I do say so myself! Next stop is Cologne, Germany!



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The Road Trip Begins

As I said before, our plan was to drive to Amsterdam, explore and stay the night and then head to Meppen, Germany Wednesday morning. Well, that was the plan until we actually drove into Amsterdam. We checked a few hotels online before departing and had one in mind, so once we arrived in Amsterdam we were hoping to find the hotel, park the car and then head out on the town. After driving around for over an HOUR in the middle of Amsterdam, going down the same streets maybe 5 or 6 times, we were beginning to think we made a bad decision. There were hundreds upon hundreds of bikes going up and down the sidewalks and down the street. Some streets were only wide enough to fit one car (and I really mean one car) and we managed to find streets that were filled with people and more bikes!

We finally came across our hotel, but found no parking so we had to do more circling around which then made us get lost again! It was now over an hour we had been driving and Andrew was at his wits end so we hopped right back on the interstate and headed to Meppen, Germany. We were all a little disappointed we didn't get to walk around the city, but figured we probably saw about all there is to see in Amsterdam by car! We managed to snap some pictures through the car windows, so we have proof we were there.

Meppen, Germany was on the list of places to see because there is a small town near where Andrew's family grew up (Brussels, Illinois) called Meppen, Illinois. Meppen, Germany is a small town with a population of around 35,000 people. It definitely was a change of pace from where we just came from, which is a good thing! We arrived in Meppen about 2 hours after we finally decided to leave Amsterdam and checked into the Alstadt Hotel. It was a small German-like hotel and was a perfect place for us to just sit and unwind! We walked the streets for a little bit before heading back into our room for the night.

In the morning we had plans of waking up and just walking through out the town!



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Pretty Views Everywhere!

The day started out with picking up the rental car. It was a Citroen c4, which is a French made car. It somewhat resembled a minivan, but a little more compact and way cooler! It was futuristic looking... the mirrors closed automatically when the car shut down and the windshield was the size of a bus I think. It definitely treated us well though!

First stop with the car was across the Rhine River in the area of Koenigswinter. The Grandhotel was first since we actually had directions there. It is atop one of the bigger hills and gives a great view of the river and the surrounding countryside. You could even see the Bad Godesburg Castle, as well as the Drachenburg Castle, and Ruins Castle (which would be our next stops). We walked around for a bit and took as many pictures as we could and decided it was time to find the Drachenburg Castle.

This was going to be a bit of a challenge since we didn't have directions, just a general area. We came across a parking lot with some cars that would park and start walking up a hill so we decided to give it a shot. We were sadly disappointed to see that all these people were just going to a pool. But, fortunately a guy overheard us talking and told us we just needed to keep walking up the hill. So that we did and about 15 minutes later arrived at this huge castle. Even though this isn't a very old castle, it was still beautiful and gave us more great views of the city of Bonn. We explored the grounds for a little over an hour. We even went to the castles turret, which is the top of the castle that was used to keep a look out for enemies. It was about 138 stairs to the top, which is nothing compared to what were gonna do in a few days! There were once again great views, we could even see Cologne in the distance which is a 30 minute drive away.

It was now time to make the hike to the top of the hill to see the Ruins Castle. Debbie and Michelle decided they would walk back to the car and wait for us while we walked to the top. It wasn't a very long distance to the top, but it went straight up! It was definitely hard, especially considering I did not have good shoes on. It was completely worth it though because even though this castle was mostly destroyed, it was built in 1147. How many people can say they have touched something that old? Once we saw all we could see, we decided to make the walk back down. But it really wasn't much of a walk... since the hills were so steep, we basically had to run down. This just meant the pain wouldn't last as long, haha!

From here we began our planned trip to Amsterdam. The estimated drive time was around 3 hours. We had planned to drive to Amsterdam, explore and stay the night and head towards Meppen, Germany Wednesday morning. Oh how plans change so quickly... stay tuned!



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Bonn Zentrum

I would like to think of Monday as a recovery day from our travels and the travels we had ahead of us! We started out by taking a bus to the center of Bonn. We walked throughout the many streets lined with shops and stopped if something interests us. There was a fruit market at Marketplatz and man did the strawberries smell good!

One of Andrew and I's favorite places to eat is Bagel Brothers and it helps that it's inexpensive. We ordered the Lucky Bagel which consists of an egg, bacon and cream cheese on a bagel... man is it good! Once we all had full stomachs we headed towards the Munster Basilica, which is an very old church within the center of Bonn. We walked around inside for a bit and our next stop was to the Beethoven Haus. Not much to see here unless you pay for a tour so we walked across the street to the souvenir shop.

After exploring a few more shops we headed back to the apartment to do a little grocery shopping and to relax. Tonight was our first stab at cooking Debbie and Michelle a "German dinner" and we decided on currywurst. We had never even tried this before, but heard it was good, so we thought what the heck! It's not the traditional curry that most people think of. It has a very good flavor and isn't spicy. Any place that sells bratwurst here, sells currywurst also. It ended up coming out really good and we will definitely make it again!

I know I have mentioned about this before, but before drinking an alcoholic drink, you are suppose to prost (cheers) and look in each persons eyes while saying it. We told this to Debbie and Michelle which possibly could have been a mistake... haha. Michelle wanted to take a picture every time we prosted and we got a chuckle out of looking at each other because it seemed Michelle would make a different goofy face each time. It was indeed one of the highlights of their trip! :-)

So as you can see Monday was not as eventful, but it was somewhat nice to do stuff at a slower pace. From Tuesday on we were basically booked full of things to do!



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Brussels, Belgium (Day 2)

Sunday was our last day in Brussels and we had a few more stops to check out before heading back to Bonn. Kristen and Evan met up with us again at our hotel and we headed out to enjoy some yummy Belgium waffles. Kristen, Even, Andrew and I all had waffles with some sort of fresh fruit on top, while Debbie and Michelle had eggs and bacon. Everything was delicious!

Once breakfast was over Debbie and Michelle wanted to catch the 11:30a mass at the Cathedral of St. Michael. While they were in church, "the kids" did some more exploring around town and also went to the grocery store and bought some Belgian chocolate. We walked around until around 12:15 and then headed back to meet up with Debbie and Michelle. From there we took the metro to see the Triumphal Arch, which was located in the Cinquantenaire Park. Even though this arch isn't up to our "old" standards, it was still 100 years old and a great site to see. We walked around and took many pictures (even an Eberlin's reunion pic) and then headed back on the metro toward the Atomium.

The Atomium is from the 1958 World Fair that was held in Brussels. The structure is absolutely huge! To our surprise, while looking up we saw a few people on the top of the very highest Atom. Well apparently you can ride a zip line all the way down and is called the "death ride"... comforting I think. By this time we were all starved so we headed to the area with the many different restaurants. We ended up in a place that cooked fresh paninis and frites (or as we call them, fries). Once again, another great meal and then it was time to head back towards the Brussels Center.

Evan and Kristen had to catch a train that was heading back towards Amsterdam because they were on the home stretch of their trip. It was great meeting up with them while in Brussels and was nice just having familiar faces to hang around with and chat with! I know we had a blast!

We also had to head to the train station to catch out train back to Bonn. We stopped and got one last Belgium beer before hopping on the train that would soon be our worst nightmare! The Bahn rail system is somewhat weird as they give tickets with assigned seats and not assigned seats. Andrew and I of course had to leave our 2 seats to allow ONE lady to sit comfortably... even though there were random one seaters throughout the train. It gets better... the next train we had to get on was so packed that we were standing like sardines in the 2 foot wide aisle way for about 45 minutes. Public transportation wasn't our friend on the Brussels trip, but we did have a blast while in Brussels!

We finally made it home and looked at Monday as our recovery day and a day to explore Bonn. Stay tuned!



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Jul 24, 2009

Brussels, Belgium

We started off the day with a late train to Brussels, Belgium. This wouldn't be so bad if we hadn't made plans to meet up with Kristen, Andrew's cousin and Evan, Kristen's boyfriend. They have been traveling throughout Europe since the middle of June. Andrew thought it would be quite ironic to meet up with them while having his mom and aunt visiting in Brussels because they are all from a small town in Illinois called Brussels. Well, since our train was late we missed Kristen and Even at the train station, but Andrew was determined to meet up with them on our journeys so we exchanged emails and had decided on meeting at our hotel at 7pm.

After arriving in Brussels and determining a time to meet up with Andrew's fam, we decided it was time to find something to eat. We decided to take a stroll to an area called Grand Place. It's an area full of small streets with intricate buildings. We came across a place called Belgium Frit'n Toast and we all had a delicious lunch. As you will see in the pictures, most of our meals in Europe consist of french fries and some sort of meet, usually bratwurst! Once lunch was finished we continued to walk through the Grand Place. We arrived in an open area where we were completely surrounded by big, detailed buildings with gold accents. We stood in awe for a while and took many pictures before heading on our way to see what else we could see.

Manneken-Pis was our next stop. This is a statue-like fountain of a small boy peeing. Oddly enough, this is one of the biggest attractions in Brussels, so we had to go see it! After walking through the Grand Place for quite some time, we decided to start exploring new areas. While walking, we came across a large court yard area and while standing higher up on stairs, we had an awesome view of the city.

Online I had seen pictures of the Grand Palace and how ginormous it was and really wanted to see it in person. Sadly there was some event that was going to take place there, so tents and chairs were obstructing our view, but we still were able view it. While walking around we all had our eye on these waffles (Liege waffles) that were covered with strawberries and chocolate so we had to try one! Of course they were absolutely delicious!

It was soon time to meet up at the hotel with Kristen and Evan, so we made a quick stop at a shop to buy some Belgium beer for all of us to try out while talking. We bought five different beers and headed back to our hotel. No sooner did we get back into the reception area of the hotel and here comes Kristen and Evan through the doors. We all went up to the room and chatted for a good two and half to three hours! It was so nice to be able to have a nice conversation and talk about all of our journeys so far. Some of our stories were so similar!

After a nice chat, Kristen, Evan, Andrew and I decided to go grab a bite to eat around the Grand Place. While walking there we came across a pretty neat light show that was taking place at the Town Hall building. We then walked to the "Little Greece" area of Brussels (because Evan was craving Greek food, haha) and had some simple Greek food and a beer. We later decided to head to a small bar to buy a home brewed beer, which was very tasty as well. It was about midnight and decided to call it a night, but made plans to meet back up with them the next day to do some more sightseeing! Good times were had by all!!!



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The Eberlin's Arrive!

Sorry it has taken me a while to start writing about our experiences... we have been on the go since last Friday! Last Friday was the big day when we had some American visitors coming to visit! Debbie, Andrew's mom, and Michelle, Andrew's aunt both arrived at the Bonn Hbf as scheduled and we headed back to the apartment to drop off bags. We sat around the house a little to let them wind down, as they had to switch trains twice while coming from the Frankfurt Airport to Bonn. We know this can be a bit stressful!!!

After everyone had a little rest, we headed to Bad Godesburg to walk around town. This town is about a 15 minute walk from our place. We stopped by the train tracks in hopes to show them one of the speeding trains that fly by at around 200 mph, but didn't have any luck! We walked throughout the streets and even came across some areas Andrew and I haven't seen yet. We stopped to look up at the Bad Godesburg Castle on the top of one of the hills surrounding the Bonn area.

By this time all of our stomachs were growling so we were deciding what type of restaurant would be their first German experience. We ended up at a little Italian place, I think mainly because we can decipher between pastas and pizzas. Three of us ordered the same pizza thinking we knew what we were getting, but once it arrived it wasn't what we had thought. We got 2 types of hot peppers on our pizza as well as salami. None of us like hot peppers! But, we fixed that by picking them all off. Michelle ordered a pasta that ended up being very good as well.

Once having a full belly we headed down to the Rhine River which is about a 5 minute walk from our apartment. They were able to view the Grandhotel and the few castles we hoped to take them to once getting the rental car. We then went into a small cemetery nearby and walked around to see if we could find any familiar names since we all have some sort of German heritage. To my surprise I found a head stone with the name M√ľnch on it, which is my mother's maiden name. I found this pretty cool so we snapped a picture! Once we walked throughout the cemetery we headed back home to get the rest we would need for our trip to Brussels, Belgium in the morning.

Our train left around 8 in the morning and we arrived in Brussels a little after 10. Stay tuned for our Brussels journeys!



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Jul 16, 2009

Ashley and Sumi at IPD

Here are a few pictures of me in "action"! Haha, somehow I knew following around the mascot, there would be pictures of me in the background looking like a doofus! Oh well!!



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Jul 15, 2009

Berlin, Germany

So we started off Sunday morning with a hearty breakfast from the hotel we stayed at, Holiday Inn Express. It consisted of toast, rolls, ham & turkey, cheese, hard boiled eggs, cereals, coffee, and juice. Even though completely different than the breakfasts we are used to, it was pretty good and kept up full for quite a while.

Our first stop of the day was going to be Checkpoint Charlie, which was the most well known Berlin Wall crossing point between East and West Germany. By surprise, before getting to Checkpoint Charlie, we came across some remains of the Berlin Wall. Andrew and I both reached over to touch this great piece of history. After a while of staring and picture taking, we decided to move on and made it to the Checkpoint.

The Franzoesischer Dom (French Cathedral), Duestcher Dom (German Cathedral), and the Konzert Haus (Concert House) were our next stop. To our surprise the French and German Cathedral were an exact replica of each other. They were separated by the massive Concert House, which has intricate detailed statues in the front. We are still so amazed by these old historic buildings that have so many stories behind them.

We then put on our walking shoes to view the Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral) and the TV Tower. Of course along the way there were many museums we wished we could stop in, but knew we didn't have time. The cathedral was finally in our sight, and boy, was it worth the walk. Once again, it was so large with so much detail to it. Each of these massive cathedrals has a courtyard in the front where hundreds of people will lay on a blanket whether it's to take in the beauty, read a book, or just to rest. By this point we would have loved the opportunity to hangout for a while, but with the short time we had to sight see, we knew we had to keep going to see as much as possible.

Andrew and I both wanted to make it back to the Brandenburg Gate a second time, even though we were 20 feet from it ALL day Saturday. Through sign language, we managed to have someone take our picture with the gate as the backdrop. One block away was the Reichstag building (Parliament). If there was more time, the building has a large glass dome in the center, which allows you to go up to the top to have a view of the surrounding city. The line for this was out the door, so we weren't too disappointed!

Our last and final destination was the Holocaust Memorial. The memorial consisted of 2,711 concrete slabs of numerous sizes to remember the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Caution signs should have been throughout this maze-like memorial though, as children ran down the rows 100 mph!

By this time our stomachs were calling out to us, so we made our way back towards our hotel and stopped at an Italian restaurant at Potzdamer Platz. We had someone help translate the menu enough to know I was getting chicken pasta and Andrew was going to get an asparagus pasta. They were both quite delicious! After lunch, this gave us enough time to grab a cup of coffee, stop at a souvenir shop to buy a few Berlin shirts, and then head back to the hotel to pick up our bags.

We were sad to leave because we knew there was so much more to see, but we knew the airplanes wouldn't wait for us, so we jumped on a bus and made our way to Tegel International Airport! I'd recommend Berlin to anyone that is even somewhat interested in history. It was a great learning experience and very surreal!

Enjoy the pictures!! (There should be quite a few since we saw so many things!)



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Jul 14, 2009

International Paralympic Day in Berlin

We arrive at the International Paralympic Committee in Bonn at 6:35a Saturday morning to head to Berlin. The funny thing is, this was our first time riding in a Mercedes and it just so happens to be the taxi's taking us to the airport. Almost all the taxi's here are Mercedes, which is pretty funny to us. Even the garbage trucks are Mercedes!!

The main reason for the Berlin Trip was to attend the International Paralympic Day 2009. Andrew was to work at the multifunctional court, which had demonstrations of numerous sports such as wheelchair rugby, wheelchair dance sport, sit volleyball, and blind football (soccer). I didn't have an assigned task so I somewhat hung around Andrew and watched. I did, however, help Sumi, the Vancouver 2010 mascot, while on the stage with the German President, which was kind of neat. The highlight of the event was watching the long jump... it was so impressive watching these guys who were amputees, some missing one leg and some missing both legs, sprint down the lane and jump 6.5 meters (~23ft).

All candidate cities (Chicago, Rio, Madrid, Tokyo) for the 2016 games were also present handing out free gifts to anyone that wanted one. We both got collector pins, as well as pens, notepads and a cool paper fan from Tokyo. We also were served really good food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. My favorite was dinner which was a potato soup and then they added chopped up hot dogs. A weird concoction, but very yummy!

One annoying thing that happened while at the IPD were these ladies and children who would go up to people and ask for money. My first experience of this was a little boy that came up to me and asked if I spoke English. Thinking maybe he was lost, I said yes, and then he holds this piece of paper in my face in English asking for money. I told the boy sorry but no and he went on his way. The mothers on the other hand weren't so easy to get rid of. They would follow you around for at least two minutes begging! One came up to me and asked if I spoke English and I said no, then asked if I spoke Deustch and I said no and then she looked really confused and just walked away. I somewhat felt guilty at the beginning, but then realized how rude they really were and just went on with my business.

Once the end of the IPD came everyone was very exhausted, but we all went out for a little celebration later that night at the Sony Center with the really cool colorful roof. There were about 25 of us all together and found the Alex Bar to have a drink and a friendly chat. Finally around 11:30 figured it was time for bed so we could wake up rested to walk around Berlin and sight see the next morning.

The IPD was fun and were both glad to be a part of it!



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Jul 7, 2009

Comments are fixed...

It was brought to my attention that the comment button was not working for those who wanted to comment on our blog posts. Well, it is now fixed so comment away!!! :-)

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Jul 5, 2009

One word... CRAZY!!

So we woke up Saturday morning sad that it was the 4th of July and we weren't in the United States to celebrate with fireworks, but it just so happens that Germany has a yearly concert bash and it was also on July 4th. It was called the Rheinkultur. The link takes you to a page of pictures from last years event if the pictures I post don't do the LARGE crowds justice. Rheinkultur is the largest free-of-charge concert within Germany and each year brings in close to 200,000 spectators.

Andrew and I definitely are not ones for a crazy scene, but we knew it was a must to check out the festival. Walking to get there was an event in itself. We are still baffled how everyone just walks down the street drinking a beer and to top it off they are mostly 16 years old. We did learn, however, that it's legal for 16 year olds to order beer, which is crazy to us. Buses were working overtime as every bus we saw was crammed full of people. Sidewalks on each side of the street were lined of people walking to the "big" event!

Once entering the gates we decided to walk around the park to check out what was going on. There were five different stages throughout the park, each with a different genre of music. There were many different types of food stands and a Beck's beer tent every 50 feet or should I say 15.24 meters. If anyone needed to use the restroom, which I made it clear I wouldn't, had to either pay 50 cents to use a "clean" restroom or use the porta potties that just looked nasty from the outside! Andrew and I were amused by the male urinal porta potties that were just out in the open. We snapped a quick picture of it, even though its gross, it's just very different! We also came across a fountain, which apparently is the place to be when it's hot. People of all ages where either in the water or grabbing water and throwing it on each other. All i could think of was how dirty the water was, but I guess everyone just wanted a way to cool off and have some fun.

As each minute passed I think 200 new people entered the park. We tried hanging out in the more empty areas, but that lasted about 2 seconds because we would immediately be surrounded by 10 people. There was quite the crowd... everyone seemed to have their own style and I'm not quite sure if I would call it style. For girls the "in" thing is to have some sort of black leggings on and ballet slippers and guys should be wearing capris with a European mullet (FYI I think the American mullet is cooler, haha).

We met up with Kim, who also works at the International Paralympic Committee, and hung out with her and some of her friends for about an hour then decided to call it a day after 4 hours of fighting the crowds and the heat. So even though we didn't get to see our traditional fireworks, we did spot a hot dog stand with an American flag on it and took a picture. Hope everyone enjoyed their Independence Day!!! The Rheinkultur was interesting, but was also fun at the same time. Glad we had to opportunity to experience it!



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