I would like to publicly apologize for how long it has been since my last post… These past few weeks have been incredibly busy with schoolwork, travel, and sightseeing! I simply have not had enough time to sit down and write a post!
Anyway, where do I begin? How about where I left off…
The weekend of May 23 – 25, Anneka and I traveled to Innsbruck, Austria and Neuschwanstein! That’s right folks, we went to another country!! AUSTRIA! We left after our Friday class, around 13:30, and arrived in Innsbruck around 20:00. We had to change trains a few times, but we got there!
First impression of Innsbruck: smelly. Smell was not what I was expecting, arriving in a city that I had heard so many good things about! Anneka and I first had to find the hostel before we did anything else. After about a 45 minute walk and 2.3 miles, we finally found it. At this point, it’s almost 22:00, and we’re both starving. We found a cute little Italian restaurant and decided to eat there – a glass of wine and half of a pizza.. you can’t go wrong with that, can you?
We woke up early, so we would have all day to explore the city. The sight of the surrounding mountains was breathtaking!! I kept taking pictures of the same mountains because it was just so majestic! Once we left the hostel, we headed toward the city center, and we first encountered the Zeughaus museum, but we decided not to tour it, and we said we would rather spend our time seeing the sights of the city, than inside a museum. So we ventured onward. Next we had a look inside of the Jesuit church, and then out to look around town!
We wandered into the Bundesgarten/ Hofgarten behind the Landestheater, and discovered a knarly tree, great for pictures, and a jumbo chess set! The chess pieces were in a covered shelter-type area. Since the floor was wood, there were no markings for a board, so we set up the pieces and just imagined the squares. Although our board was a little larger than it should have been — our was 8×11, instead of 8×8, woops! We actually almost played a full game! I was about one move away from checkmate when two men asked if they could use the pieces to play a game. Since there were two sets of pieces, we said yes, but then they started taking the pieces we were playing with! It was only then that we realized that the boards were just outside of the shelter, around a group of benches… It was time to move on anyway, so we just called it a checkmate and went on our merry way.
It was a gorgeous day! The clouds just seemed to float through the sky and the light breeze was quite refreshing! We decided to take a break from exploring and sat down in a cafe and had a cappuccino and cake! I ordered an Apfelkuchen and Anneka got a Sachertorte. We split both of them, and the Sachertorte was delicious! It was my first time eating one, so I was surprised at how much I liked it. For those of you that know me, you know that I don’t really like chocolate cake, or chocolate flavored things. (I’d much rather just have a bar of chocolate than a chocolate cupcake or chocolate ice cream.)
After visiting the Grassmayr Bell Company, we wanted to visit the Ambras castle, but on our walk there, we realized that it was too far away and we were too ambitious to try to make it all that way and back to town before our train left. However, along the way we did run into the Olympic Ice Stadium and Tivoli Stadium! The Olympic Ice Stadium was home to the 1964 and ’76 Winter Olympics, and although we didn’t go inside, it was cool to snap a picture of the Olympic rings!
After a day of walking all over Innsbruck, it was time to head back to the train station to catch our train to our next destination: Füssen! Füssen is the village that is closest to Schloss Neuschwanstein. We arrived in the village around 23:30, so we didn’t really have any time to see the town before heading to the hostel. The next morning, we were up and out pretty early. Since it was a Sunday, not much was open. On top of that, it was about 07:30, so it was still too early for the places that would be open. Anneka and I eventually found a little cafe that was open, and grabbed a pastry and coffee for breakfast. After that, it was off the the castle! It was about 09:30 when we arrived, and we still had to buy tickets, then make the hike up the mountain to actually get to the castle.
Our tour was at 10:25, but only about 30 minutes long. Since King Ludwig II died before completion, construction ended abruptly, and the castle remains only 1/3 completed. I would’ve loved to have seen the unfinished parts of the castle and it also would have been interesting to see what the castle would have looked like if it was 100% completed. Neuschwanstein is already huge, but if it was three times that size, it would be gigantic! Sadly, you can’t take pictures inside the castle, but the view from up there was incredible! Although it was a little hazy, you could see for miles! (Or should I say kilometers?) After our tour, we made another hike, up even further, to the Marienbrücke, or Mary’s Bridge, which is from where most pictures of the castle are taken. Once we hiked back down to the bus pick-up point, we rode back to Füssen just in time to catch our train and start our long journey home. I would like to go back to Füssen and explore the village itself, because there is also a castle there (Hohes Schloss), along with a few other sites that I wish we had time to see. We also did not have enough time to visit Hohenschwangau, the home of King Ludwig I, A.K.A. the parent’s castle.
For more information on Innsbruck, click here.
For more information on Füssen, click here.
For more information on Neuschwanstein, click here.
The following Thursday, 29 May, was a holiday and we didn’t have classes, so Anneka and I spent the afternoon in Saalfeld, visiting Feengrotten, which literally translates to “Fairy Grottoes.” Feengrotten is a cave attraction in southeastern Thüringen, so we were able to get there for free with our student IDs. It was a dreary day and it had rained all morning and continued to rain the entire time we were there. Even though we were underground in the caves, it was still cold and damp, so it wasn’t the best experience that i could’ve had, but I’m still glad that I went! There were great photos though! However, I do have to say that it was not my favorite cave system.. That would still be Mammoth Cave in Kentucky!
29 May was a holiday in Germany, so it was like another Sunday – almost all stores were closed and the only places open were bars, pubs, and some cafes. What holiday could this possibly be, you ask? It would be Männertag, or in English, Men’s Day. It’s the German version of Father’s Day, but it is celebrated VERY differently. Here, it’s a day where men venture out and the women and children tend to stay inside. The men enjoy a day full of drinking and bar hopping. Some even pull wagons full of beer with them! Originally, the men would actually go hiking and camping on Männertag, but I think nowadays, most men just go out drinking. On our way home, Anneka and I did see some men with camping gear on the train, and we applauded them for actually camping on such a cold and dreary Thursday!
For more information on Feengrotten, click here.
On 31 May, I decided to explore a part of Erfurt that I hadn’t seen yet. Jill and I rode the tram to the old town, got off, and got lost in the streets, findings new places and discovering new things. It was such a lovely afternoon and the weather was just perfect! After exploring a part of the city, Jill and I met a few other friends in Nordpark to grill and we had a picnic!
9 June was also a holiday, and since it was a long weekend, a group of exchange students decided to take a road trip to Croatia! I really wanted to go, but sadly, I had a 10 page take-home translation that was due in a few days, so I opted to stay behind. Another group of exchange students decided to dress up and go out to eat, and so we have dubbed this as “Fancy Friday.” On 6 June those of us that stayed in Erfurt dressed up in fancy clothes, took lots of nice pictures, and then went out for burgers. That was probably a sight to see: fancy people chowing down on a big ol’ burger… The next day, Anneka, Katie and I spent the afternoon at a spa. It was such a relaxing day! Sunday and Monday, however, I spent all day working on my translation. I had to translate into German, so it required a lot of effort and time. Sunday and Monday were incredibly hot! It was at least 32 degrees here! (That’s roughly 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and I have no AC… yuck!) When I went to class the following Tuesday, a handful of the class wanted to turn it in late, and the instructor was completely fine with that! If I had known this before the others left for Croatia, I definitely would have joined them. Not going to Croatia is the one thing that I regret thus far..
The weekend of 13 – 15 June was Krämerbrückenfest in Erfurt. The closest comparison that I could think of was a Medieval version of a Renaissance Fair. It was all there: the dress, the festival food, the vendors, the masses of people, everything! I have never seen that many people in Erfurt before. I actually did not enjoy the masses either. After Krämerbrückenfest, it just reinforced the idea that I made the right choice in choosing to study in Erfurt!
For more information on Krämerbrückenfest, click here.
Saturday, 14 June, I visited the Thüringer Zoopark right here in Erfurt! It was raining on and off throughout the day, but it was quite an experience for Erik, Anni, Alena, and me! Within the first five minutes of being inside the park, Erik was pooped on by a bird! Being from Finland, Anni had never seen a giraffe, elephant, or rhino before, so when we approached their exhibits, Anni became really excited and couldn’t hold back the smiles! There was also a nature trail in the park, and Ali and Erik ran ahead further down the trail, while Anni and I studied the map, since we didn’t have a lot of time until the park closed. When we started to catch up to them, Erik and Ali jumped out from behind a bush and scared Anni so much that she actually threw her phone a good 3 feet in front of her! (Or should I say 1 meter in front of her…) I was right behind Anni, opening a bottle of water, and if it had been a few seconds later, Anni would have had water all over the back of her hair… The major difference between zoos in the USA and Zoopark is that you could actually walk through some of the enclosures where the animals were! There was no glass or fence between you and the animals! We walked through the enclosures of White-tailed deer (in the North American section of the zoo…), Kangaroos, Monkeys, and Lemurs. There was also a ‘petting zoo’ section with Billy Goats, some of which were very photogenic. The elephants’ enclosure was very small for such large creatures, but the zoo is in the midst of building a new, much larger exhibit for them! We stayed at the zoo until it closed, but we did manage to see everything there! Later that night, we met a larger group of exchange students to watch the fireworks that were happening over St. Petersberg. What a display! Since July 4th is not celebrated in Europe, I’ve had my fill of fireworks to make up for the ones I will miss in the States.
Sunday, 15 June, David and I used our student IDs to travel to another Thüringen town: Gera. We only spent about 2-3 hours there. It was a very small town, and it definitely needs some TLC. The architecture around the city was quite interesting – one building would be renovated and taken care of, and the neighboring building would be falling apart, with paint peeling, fading colors, and other signs of decay. It is very apparent that the city has not fully recovered from WWII. Nevertheless, it was still a decent way to spend a Sunday, avoiding doing homework..
Following this post, there will be photos from all of these places posted! Go take a look!