October 10, 2007

Travels 2007 Part III: Germany

Germany 2007 1Getting to Izzy's village took about 7hrs. She's another country bumpkin - after spending the summer in the middle of nowhere in Surrey I was quite used to it! My ticket to get from Liege to Koeln cost €17. My Intercity train ticket from Koeln to Bielefeld strangely cost  more at €37! Still cheaper than UK prices I guess. 

So far on my trip I everything had been quite easy. Phone calls, text and multimedia messages work everywhere and I'd paid for everything in Finland/Denmark/Belgium with the universal Mastercard (only suffering a 3% exchange spread). But in Germany, they don't take cards in half they places you normally use it. (And I'm not talking about using in the I'm-going-to-take-the-piss-and-buy-a-newspaper in cost-cutters use). This I found quite strange, as I had managed to get everywhere without pulling any cash out.  Oh and say for instance you have a internal bank account, you can't pull cash out of any ATM, you have to find your own bank's ATM!

That aside Germany was quite clean and smart. I wasn't too tired after my Thalys and intercity trains, so Izzy took me out to meet her friends in Bielefeld. Sitting in a typical modern Café Bar, there were 3 plasmas showing sports on one, news on the other and on the third one... a WWII documentary! Not a good impression to give me on my first visit there! Sebastien apologised and said "this is not what we watch everyday!"

Izzy tried to dig out some embarrassing stories about herself that her friends could tell me, but unfortunately, it turns out she's a bit of a goody-two-shoes. So I naturally had to tell them about the time we embarassed her by bawled out the German National Anthem on the Warwick Piazza! Eventually I went straight to the source: Izzy's mum, and asked for all the baby photos!

Despite being on holiday, I was still programmed to get very early 7AM BST and monday was no different. Izzy and I met up with Nina (her best friend since primary school) and we went off to see some touristy things in the local areas such as the Hermannsdenkmal and the Externsteine which are both near to Detmold. That day was finished off with more continental: sit-in-the-sun-eating-ice-cream-in-a-trendy-cafe fashion. 

Germany 2007 2Germany 2007 Externsteine

Tuesday was the day trip to Cologne. Corinna (my old erasmus flatmate from from first year) met up with Izzy and I there. First port of call was the Chocolate Museum. That was great. Then we went to the Cathederal. Lotte had warned me about the "ugly with black stones" Cathederal, but when I first saw it, it was beastly, but I strangely found its vulgarity appealing. Much like those Stuttgart vulgarmobiles with "63 AMG" written on the back. Ugly as hell, but strangely you offer it some respect. We walked around most of Cologne's shopping places when my tour guides Izzy and Corinna revealed they didn't know what else we could do. So we spontaneously hopped on the next train to Bonn.

Germany 2007 13Bonn was the old capital and is very small. The university seems to be quite an important part of it. One of the highlights was Beethoven's house. This museum contains some excellent letters that he wrote to the King of England and a large digital archive of his music.

Getting our way back to the Guetersloh from Bonn took a long time. You forget how BIG Germany really is. So long day trips are not always as easy to do.

Wednesday was a good day. Firstly Izzy received her acceptance letter from Hannover Uni to read medicine! It was nice that I could be around for that. We then went off to an Enginerd's Mecca. The Heinz Nixdorf Museum - the world's largest computer museum. Documenting the past 2000+ years of computers. From a etchings in a stone to the enigma machine, to mechanical calculators to Cray machines, it had pretty much all of it. Unfortunately for me, most of the descriptions and wall plaques were in German. And deciphering German geek language into English isn't easy!

Germany 2007 17Thursday was my last day. Izzy, Jonas, Nina and I drove for about 2hrs to Bremen. I read the folk story about the "Bremen Town Musicians" where a donkey, dog, cat and cockerel team up to become some muscians, but to our amusement, the online translator decided to refer them as the ass, hound, cat and cock. (Cue sniggering). Yeah, we're still 17 years old!

Fortunately the motorways around the quiet northern countryside area were generally derestricted. It turns out they like to cruise at 150km/h (just so that they don't use up too much fuel) which I think isn't that much faster that what you see people doing in the UK. Still on 2-lane motorways with lorries doing 90-100km/h pulling out, I still wonder if destriction should be allowed at all. But when the country is so big they do need it, and they are sensible enough.

Bremen should have been my first oppourtunity to see a "Rathaus" (that word you had to use in soooo many sentences during year 7 and 8 German classes), but unfortunately it closed when I wanted to go there. Bremen is a medium sized city and it has a nice character in the old places. Jonas and I marched up to the top of the Cathederal but that turned out to be a bit of a dissapointment. Unfortunately every shopping district in every city in europe is the same. You have a H&M, Carphone Warehouse, Subway etc etc. So in some ways if you've seen Watford, you'll have seen 25% of all other cities in the world. I was fortunately able to locate "Bohnanza" the card game, which has become a special past time amongst some old Warwick friends (its definitely better than poker night). At about 6pm, they drove me to Bremen airport (really small - 8 gates?) to fly back home to England.

I was fairly sad about leaving Germany. Not only that I wouldn't see Izzy for a while as she's permenantly back in Germany now, but the fact I had to return to working! (I complain too much).  Many thanks to Izzy, her family, her friends, and of course Jonas.

Anyway I had a great time during my 10 day trip on the continent. It wasn't that relaxing but at least I got to do a lot within the small timeframe I had before going back to Uni. Lotte's and Izzy's mums are excellent cooks, and I was very well taken care of all the time. Must do it again sometime! Roadtrip summer 2008 anyone?

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