Thursday, May 12, 2011

Watching America's Next Top Model

As I'm writing this, I am indeed watching America's Next Top Model. That's because I AM HOME IN AMERICA. (I don't even really like ANTM, I'm just too lazy to get up and get the remote, another reason I know I'm in America).

I truly can't believe it. I can't believe four months can go so quickly. Or that I can have so many great memories from such a short amount of time. I'm not adept enough at writing to try to put those four months into any kind of good sentence or paragraph or anything.

But everyone should study abroad. Everyone. It's been the best experience of my life so far. I keep trying to explain it to everyone here at home, but I end up fumbling for the right words to say.

It was incredible. Absolutely incredible. I am going to miss my roommates, my housemates, and seeing the Rhône River out my window. I am going to miss shopping at Migros, Coop, and Manor. I am going to miss eating frozen pizzas and turkey sandwiches for every meal. I am even going to miss the snobby French/Swiss/Genevois. I am going to miss the Swiss Franc (although I do appreciate American prices), and I am going to miss the walls of chocolate everywhere. I am going to miss the incredible weather of Europe.

It seems weird now to recap my travels from my couch in Ohio, but I still need to share photos and thoughts from Ireland, the Canaries, Mallorca, and Paris.

Now, all I have are pictures, memories, and a bit of confetti from Carnevale in Rome. But this trip and the people in it will be with me for the rest of my life.

Europe, je t'aime.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


I'm not entirely sure if Blogger will cooperate tonight. It doesn't seem to want to post my pictures as much as I do. But I'll give it a try because two 3,000-word papers are not exactly what I want to be doing with my late-night hours.

Before I recap my journey to Munich, Germany, I'd like to point out that it's APRIL 23. Which means less than three weeks left here in Genève. That thought is a bit too much to handle right now. Because as much as I miss everyone (family, friends, 513-ers), I think I might miss this continent so much more. School right now is a bit rough, what with all these term papers and impending finals, but the feeling that we're winding down is pretty terrifying. Where did the past 3.5 months go? I feel like I was just getting off the plane, jet-lagged as all hell, trying to take in all the European-ness surrounding me. Weird weird weird.

But. München.

SO LONG AGO. More than a month actually.

On Thursday morning, March 10, I took the train(s) by myself for the first time, and it was honestly one of my favorite parts of the trip. It was so great to travel alone. Not that I don't love the people from my program, but we don't exactly get a lot of time away from each other. So I just read and wrote and looked out the window a whole lot.

I met Riley at the train station, and we found our hostel with minimal getting-lost. We stayed at the Wombat's City Hostel, which insists on putting the prefix WOM before every word (i.e. the womMap, the womBar, the womCrew, etc.).


After a so so so so so good dinner of Schnitzel and beer at a traditional German restaurant (where the waitress taught us some helpful German phrases and Riley pretended to know German), we enjoyed our complimentary drink at the womBar and went up to our room.

And that was when disaster struck.

Just kidding. But I did walk into the bathroom, turn on the light, and see a bedbug. After a pretty catastrophic experience at the UC Honors Retreat last fall, I was not trying to deal with that particular insect. After convincing Riley that bedbugs are much more harmful/blood-sucking/life-ruining than they appear, we went to the desk and had our room changed to one far, far away from the nasty little critter. Which meant that we had to sleep in the same room as some random-ass guy who was already passed out when we got there, but hostel life obviously isn't the most glamorous.

Since Riley is a lazy bum, we got a reasonably late start the next day. But the weather was gorgeous, and we spend the early afternoon exploring the city (after starting our day with a beer of course). I'm going to take this opportunity (and I'll probably take several more) to point out how much I love Germany. Love it, love it, love it. Everything about it is wonderful.

Karlstor (Carl's Gate)

Deutschland at its best


We went back to the hostel after a few hours to meet up with Terence, Taylor, Dan, and Carli who had taken a train at 6 a.m. that morning. Spent the rest of the day walking around possibly every part of München and the evening having a wonderful German time.

We went to another fantastic German restaurant, and we experienced the less-than-hospitable personalities of what can only be described as very stereotypical, middle-aged German women. There was no small talk, and there was certainly no free tap water. You order, you eat, you pay. But it was so delicious. I had some form of pork/dumpling mess, and there were PRETZELS EVERYWHERE. And of course, we had some beer. I feel like every German has beer with every meal. It can't possibly be done any other way.

Frauenkirche (Cathedral of our Dear Lady)

Nues Rathaus (New Town Hall)

Feldherrnhalle (Field Marshals' Hall)

Theatinerkirche (Theatine Church)

That night, I met some English/Irish/Australian bros in the womBar who thought they could school me in geography; turns out they couldn't. I've found that although Americans get such a bad rap for being ignorant of anything outside America, it's pretty much the same everywhere else.  Although the fact that Europeans tend to know more than one language does give them some street cred. Point is, thank you Dr. Kevin Raleigh for teaching me European geography.

On Saturday morning, we took a tour of Dachau, the first concentration camp in Germany. It was an absolutely incredible experience. Definitely in the top five of all the things I have done/seen/experienced in Europe. We had a truly wonderful tour guide who gave us far more than the standard, paid-for tour of Dachau. He spends his spare time studying Dachau specifically, so his knowledge on the subject was pretty insurmountable. I highly, highly suggest taking the time to go to Dachau if you're ever in Munich. It was weird to take pictures of a place where such unbelievably cruel things happened. It's also strange to try to find things to say about an experience that is so deeply rooted in the darker side of world history. Go there, see it, think about it.


Border of Prisoner's Compound

"Work will make you free."
That afternoon, we went to the Englischer Garten, a giant public park in the middle of Munich. It was the first day the park's biergarten's were open, so we enjoyed quite a bit of time sitting with roughly thousands of people, eating yet more delicious food, listening to the traditional brass band playing from the Chinese Tower (Chinesischer Turm), and obviously drinking beer. Obviously.

Chinesischer Turm
We walked around some more and stumbled upon the Viktualienmarkt, where I saw some of the most beautiful spreads of produce and flowers ever to grace this earth.

Om noms
As the evening rolled around, we decided it was only appropriate to dine at the famous (and infamous) Hofbrauhaus. Although the food was less than spectacular and horribly overpriced, the Hofbrauhaus might also be in my top five Europe experiences. Top ten, easily. We scored a table right next to the stage, where there was traditional German dancing and whipcracking all evening long. It's an absolutely unreal experience to be in a gigantic hall filled with people singing, eating, and consuming beer from barrel-sized mugs at alarming rates. (Cincinnati Hofbrauhaus, nice try.) We even witnessed a few throwdowns between customers and customers as well as customers and staff. Quite eventful, quite entertaining, quite expensive. I think we spent the remainder of the night stumbling around Munich, bar hopping and making generally questionable decisions. In other words, we were living the charmed life of young Germans in Bavaria. (I would also like to take this opportunity to apologize to the city of Munich for taking unpaid advantage of your excellent public transportation system. We are very sorry.)

Possibly the Greatest Place on Earth

Blurry dancers


Sunday was spent on the trains again, something like eight hours of travel time. Missing Munich more and more as I got further and further away, thinking about how unprepared I was to go back to Genf.

I think one day I might move to Germany. There is a very good chance. There's too much good there to be anywhere else, I think. Too much history, too much culture, too much to see and do and love.

And then I spent the next two days writing an economics paper. Gross. But the following Thursday was St. Patrick's Day, and there's only one place in the world where that particular holiday can be properly celebrated. So to continue the far-from-real life I had been living, I spent Wednesday night packing my bags for the Emerald Isle...

Right. Unreal.