Munich 3 – The Historical

On our last day in Munich before we caught our train back to Vienna, I really wanted to go to Dachau, which was the first concentration camp. I do not even know how to begin describing what it was like to be there. It was sad, eerie, thought provoking…I couldn’t help but feel what had happened there. While there, I took out about twenty minutes and literally just sat in the main square and tried to imagine what it was like. The fact that such awful things had happened right where I was standing was scary, to say the least. Despite all the tourists around me, it was not hard to feel the suffering that had gone on – the ground was simply gravel, the grass was overgrown with weeds, the buildings were cheap, and the paint was peeling. It was still the exact same camp that it was during WWII. I did not feel distanced at all from what had happened, despite the fact that it is about seventy years earlier. For one thing, it definitely made me feel less sorry for myself for being cold the day before during the David Guetta concert! The amount of unbearable torment that occurred there is overwhelming just from looking at the stats, but actually stepping on the grounds had another, deeper impact on me that will be hard to forget.

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Munich 2 – The Social

For Saturday afternoon in Munich, Melissa and I bought tickets to go to a David Guetta concert. For those who don’t know, David Guetta is a really popular DJ right now, both in the U.S. and in Europe. The tickets said the concert started at 4:00, but as we unfortunately discovered, David Guetta would not be appearing until 8:30. Originally we had planned to go to a firework show at the Olympic stadium that night, but obviously our plans changed – it was worth it! The concert, although cold and rainy throughout the day (made worse by the fact that we were the only people there in shorts!), was really fun. Not only was it fun because of the concert itself, but also because it appeared to be almost exclusively a German audience, meaning the people watching was great! I was able to experience German youth culture in its element – which was crazy, to say the least! The video above shows some highlights of the day.

Munich 1 – The Culture

This past weekend Melissa and I went to Munich, which I loved. I found it to be extraordinarily rich in culture, even more so than Vienna and Prague. For example, it was fairly normal to see people walking around in traditional German clothes. Also, the personalities of the people overall just felt so different from what I am used to. Anyway, I liked Munich so much also because I had three very contrasting types of experiences there – the cultural, the historical, and the social. So, I am going to do three different posts so that I can do them justice! This post is the cultural one. Besides the traditional dress and the stern personalities of the Germans, one thing that really struck me was the number and quality of the street performers. There were violinists and other musical groups, mimes, and people dressed as statues (one of them looked so real it scared me when he reached out toward me!). It was really impressive and fun to observe. Although Munich did have its fair number of tourists, in my view the tourists did not overshadow the German culture. The video above summarizes my favorite aspects of culture in Munich – it was also the first time I ever used iMovie, which was really fun. Hopefully I’ll get better at it!

Vienna

Vienna

This past weekend, Melissa and I did some tourist activities in Vienna. It was awesome to look at Vienna from that perspective, as I have been more or less taking Vienna in from the perspective of someone who lives here. Just going about my daily life in Vienna has really given me an interesting view of the culture. In some ways, the culture is much more relaxed. For example, it is pretty common to see a policeman driving around and holding a cigarette outside the window (and as a side point, a LOT more people smoke!). On the other hand, the culture is much stricter, especially in terms of rules. J walking is taken much more seriously, even though people still do it. I guess if I had to summarize based on my brief observations, it seems as though there aren’t as many rules here, but you are more strictly expected to abide by the rules that do exist. Also, just through walking around, reading signs, listening to conversations, and basic interactions, I have been picking up a little German. Hopefully I’ll get even better as the trip goes on!

Anyway, as for this past weekend, we went back to Schönbrunn palace, as Melissa had not yet been there. As it turns out, though, the area does not only consist of a palace, but also of a zoo (which is the oldest in Europe!), several gardens and just an overall beautiful landscape. The zoo had mostly the same animals as I would see in Cincinnati, but two main animals that stuck out in my mind were the Kuala Bear and the Panda Bear, both of which I had never seen (I don’t think!). I’ll probably get to see more Pandas in China, but it was still exciting for now!

On Sunday, we walked through downtown Vienna. I got to see the famous Opera House, and Karlskirche, which is a famous baroque-style church. My highlight of the day, though, was the Sacher Torta that is a very famous Austrian dessert. Apparently about 360,000 of these cakes are exported per year! It is chocolate cake with apricot fillings and whipped cream – really, really good! Other good food I tried this weekend was a Döner, a typical Austrian sandwich served out of a cart – also delicious! In the picture the above, I’m taking one of my first bites on the subway!

I’m excited to keep learning about Viennese and Austrian culture, both through observing and talking to people, and by looking at historic landmarks. This coming weekend we’re going to Munich, which should be very fun! Until next time, aufwiedersehen!

Prague

Prague

Sorry it’s taken me so long to write the actual post about Prague. I wish I could say I’ve been really busy in Vienna so I haven’t had time, but the truth is I’ve been relaxing, going to the gym, and hanging out at the pool – which has been absolutely amazing!

Anyway, Prague was really fun! We got there by bus, which wasn’t so bad and arrived last Thursday evening. We then walked from the bus station to our hotel. Our hotel was nice considering we paid 60 euro for three nights. We had a decently sized bed, a table with some chairs, a bathroom in the hallway, and we got to shower between 10:00 and 12:00 in other people’s rooms who weren’t there – what a deal! The hotel was in an amazing location, just a few blocks from the Charles Bridge.

Both Friday and Saturday, we explored the city after doing workouts in different parks. When we went on our cool down jog after our workout on Saturday morning, we left our water bottle and Melissa’s soccer ball under a tree within view – it seemed like a pretty safe park, and we didn’t really leave anything too valuable. But on our second lap I noticed a homeless lady sitting by our stuff, and then I noticed her putting it into her bag. So I informed Melissa, and she ran over and said, “Excuse me, I’m sorry, but that’s ours!” And we ran away and decided we were done with our workout. The lady was not too thrilled to give back our stuff, but thankfully she did with just a few angry words that, probably lucky for us, we didn’t understand.

We covered what felt like the entire city of Prague by foot over those two days. We didn’t use any public transportation – our original reason was to save money on the tickets, but it turned out to be a great way to see the city. One thing that struck me about Prague was the number of tourists – it was difficult to tell who was Czech and who was from simply a different country because there were so many different languages being spoken.

My favorite location was probably the St. Vitus Cathedral. This cathedral was huge, and provided an incredible view of the city (whose architecture from that height is really cool). We walked about 280 stairs to reach the top, but the view was completely worth it. The picture above is from the top of the cathedral.

Sunday morning, Melissa and I left for the bus station early so we could get tickets. When we got there, they informed us that there was only one ticket left for the entire day. After a brief moment of panic, we tried another bus service which fortunately had two tickets left. Needless to say we felt very relieved to get on the bus home that day.

So, I had a really good time in Prague – we got to see a lot of the city, try its authentic ham (as seen in the video!), and observe people from all over the world!

Dürnstein and Schönbrunn

Two days ago, Melissa woke me up bright and early, which was at first very unenjoyable but then I realized I was in Vienna and decided getting up wasn’t such a bad thing.  We then went to the gym and ran some errands. Melissa showed me how to use the public transportation system, which I’m going to need some practice to learn how to use it before I can do it on my own (I’m a slow study with these kind of things and run the risk of looking like a tourist, which is of course not a good thing!). For example, on the buses here you have to press a button to open the doors, which of course I will probably forget to do and just stand there staring at the bus while the passengers look at me wondering what I’m doing.  But I’m sure I’ll figure it out, eventually!

After we worked out, Melissa had a really busy day, so her family took me to Dürnstein, which was a town about an hour Northwest (I think) of Vienna. There, we first had a picnic, then went on a hike to the ruins of a castle with amazing views of the area, which was filled with vineyards.  The area truly was incredible, and very high up – so I, naturally, didn’t get close to any of the edges, but the family did, which I got some pretty great pictures of from my very safe, solid seat on a rock.

Yesterday, Melissa was also really busy so I explored the city with her cousin and his friend. We went to Schönbrunn, which is a beautiful castle about an hour by bus and subway from the house. We then went paddle boating and swimming in the Donau which was really nice, especially since the whether has been so hot (not quite as steamy as Cincinnati, but still up there!).  I have tons of pictures of all these events but I’m having trouble uploading them, but I’ll figure it out and hopefully get them uploaded soon!

We’re leaving on a bus for Prague in about three hours, which I’m really looking forward to but don’t know exactly what to expect – we’ll see!