Monday, April 19, 2010

European Trip 2010: Germany, April 15th to April 19th

Last Wednesday Andrew and I took off from Edmonton International Airport en route to Frankfurt, Germany. We have been talking about taking such a trip for some time (I can't remember how long for sure) and finally booked our airplane tickets last Christmas and started planning in earnest. So now, here I am, blogging from Germany. We've had a great time so far, with equally great weather. Today was a beautiful 21C and sunny.

April 15th, 2010: Darmstadt
We spent a few hours on our first day in Germany wandering about Damstadt. Andrew spent 3 weeks in this town a few years ago in preparation for a parabolic flight, so he had a few acquaintances who go to the University there. We briefly met up with our host, a PhD student at the University, then busied ourselves for the next couple of hours exploring the city (our arrival actually interrupted a meeting our host was involved in, and then he had to mark exams). We visited the city's botanical gardens, which Andrew enjoyed very much when he stayed in Darmstadt, then ambled on along the streets . We saw some old castle ruins, and also happened by the library.
Ruins in Darmstadt
Me, in front of the library in Darmstadt
We returned to the University around 5:30 p.m. and from there headed to Mainz where our host lives with his girlfriend. To get to Mainz we first had to take a bus, which was packed, then the train, which was less packed. We arrived at our accommodations around 8:00 p.m. I'm not sure how Andrew and I managed it, but we stayed up until almost 11:00 p.m. on only a couple of hours of sleep on the airplane. We were both exhausted by the time we went to bed.

April 16th, 2010: Heidelberg
This day didn't start until 11:15 a.m. I'm not sure sure how I managed to sleep in that long, but I was relieved to have done so, as I think it helped minimize the jet leg. This late sleep-in actually worked out well as our host had to work that morning, and wasn't free until early that afternoon anyway. Once we had eaten breakfast and showered, we headed out to pick up our host at his office, then continued on to Heidelberg. Lunch was at a local diner called, Mandy's. It was delicious and extremely filling, even though I just had a burger and a drink (plus a few fries off of Andrew's plate).
Mandy's diner
After lunch we visited Heidelberg castle. It was very beautiful, although in a somewhat ruinous state. The admission to the castle included a pass to ride the inclined rail train down to the market area. We spent a couple of hours wandering the shops in very pleasant weather. I particularly enjoyed a lovely jewelry store, a very cool "stuff" store (kitchen implements, cups, plates, umbrellas, bags, etc), a chocolate store and a wonderfully fragrant spice store. We didn't buy anything, but very much enjoyed the day. Eventually we made our way home and had a late dinner.
Andrew and I at one of the bridges in Heidelberg, the castle can be seen in the background

April 17th, 2010: Eich
After an enjoyable breakfast of bread and spreads (I love Nutella), we headed out for Eich, the home town of our host. The drive to Eich took approximately 30 minutes. When we arrived we picked up bicycles from our host's parent's place then pedaled off into the German countryside. The sky was blue, with little to no clouds, and although a little cool, the weather made a lovely day for bike riding. Our route took us along the Rhine, on paths made specifically for bikers and walkers. We biked for some time, continuing on to one of the nearby (and rival) towns before returning to Eich. I wish Canada had paths like this in the countryside--I could spent hours biking without interruption. It would be wonderful.
The Rhine
After biking we ventured into downtown Eich, which was over run with motorbikes--there was a festival going on that day. I have no idea how many were there, but definitely several hundred, maybe even a thousand. We wove our way through the streets checking out the various bikes. Andrew liked the Chopper, Harley-style of bike, whereas I would prefer something built for speed, like some of the Yamaha bikes. We also grabbed delicious ham sandwiches from a local deli for lunch and ate them outside in the sunshine. At 1:30 p.m. the bikes began a slow parade out of the town and onto a ride in the country. We watched for awhile until the excess exhaust got to us then left.
Motorcycles in Eich
After what was supposed to be a short pit-stop at our host's parent's house (we all wound up falling asleep in the backyard in the sun) we drove off to some of the local vineyards. Being early in the season the grapevines weren't fully grown, but it was still nice to wander over the hills and enjoy the countryside. Again we sat out in the sun for a while, before heading back to the car. At this point it was late in the afternoon. We picked up some of the best local wine then headed back for Mainz.
Vineyards near Eich

April 19th, 2010: Worms
Sunday actually started out with a run in the country side around Eich, then a football game (i.e. North American soccer), which our host was playing in. Unfortunately the Eich team lost 4-3 after a hard fought battle in the blazing sun. After the game we drove to Worms, one of the oldest cities in Germany, dating back to Roman times. It seemed like there was a lot of Jewish history in Worms, as it included a synagogue built in the 11th century, and oldest Jewish cemetery in Germany. The cemetery was particularly enchanting and I wish I could have spent more time there. We also briefly visited a huge Catholic cathedral, which began construction in the 12th century.
The Jewish cemetery in Worms
To cap off our day we planned to get the best ice cream in Worms, unfortunately the line up was huge. We estimated the wait time to be 30 minutes easily, if not more like 45 minutes. Rather than wait, we settled for the second best ice cream shop, which was also very good. I got a coffee flavoured treat, and Andrew choose strawberry. I couldn't eat all of mine and had to give it to Andrew to finish. Before returning to Mainz we swung by the statue of Hagen, a figure in the Nibelungenlied story.
Ice cream in Worms

April 19th, 2010: Mainz
Our last full day in Germany was a lazy one. Andrew and I got up a little after 8:00 a.m. then went for a run along the Rhine. We grabbed some fresh pastries for breakfast on our way back to our host's apartment--they were delicious. We took our time having breakfast and getting ourselves ready for the day, not heading out again until almost noon. Today was the warmest day we've had so far, so I was able to go out without a jacket and had to apply sun screen. We spent most of our day ambling through the stores in the city centre of Mainz. Andrew purchased a pair of white shoes to go with his white suit, and I purchased a couple of scarves.

We enjoyed lunch on the patio of a lovely restaurant, purposefully taking our time and enjoying the sunshine. We each ordered a pint of dark beer, and after muddling over the menu (printed in German, naturally) we ordered two delicious meals. I had pasta in a cream sauce made from truffles, while Andrew had spargle soup (we think it's just white asparagus...although we're not too sure) and a chicken sandwich with delicious potato wedges. Once we had spent enough time resting and enjoying ourselves we ventured into the Mainz cathedral, not quite as big as the one in Worms, but definitely a sizable building. Afterward we continued to tour through the shops for the rest of the afternoon until we both acknowledged we were tired and needed to rest our feet.

Tomorrow we head for Switzerland.



Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Lightening round: Take 2

I'm not to sure what I should blog about this week. Easter has come and gone (faster than I would have liked), my birthday is just a few short days away (April 8th) and this coming Monday (April 12th) will mark the end of my life as a grad student. Andrew and I are also leaving for our first really big trip where we had to do all the planning, arranging, and booking next Wednesday (April 14th), which if I am unable to blog about on route, will definitely recap after we get home.

I wish I could say: "Bwa ha, ha! I will write about none of the above things. Instead I will devote this week's blog to this random, obscure topic!" Although my head is filled with random, obscure facts that no one really cares about, I will not take the time to write about them just now*. Instead, I will write another lightening round post, as I did a few months ago when I had no standout topics to discuss, but wanted to let my surely limited readership know I was still alive and kicking.

Easter Weekend
Andrew being Catholic meant that Easter weekend was full of church. I grew up in a small protestant church and we only had a service on Easter Sunday with the occasional Good Friday event depending on whether it got organized. In addition, my high school friend Michelle visited, so we had company throughout the weekend. We did a big lunch (lamb was on the menu) with a few more friends on Sunday afternoon.

How to Train Your Dragon
Sunday night we ended up going out to see How to Train Your Dragon. It was super cute and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a light-hearted movie with cheeky dialogue. Also, anyone who has ever owned a cat will see much of their beloved pet in the featured dragon, Toothless--so very adorable.

My Birthday
I'm turning 29 years old on Thursday. I considered calling this my 1st annual 29th birthday (as a friend once had dubbed hers) but I'm not overly concerned about growing older. As pointed out to me recently, this is likely because I'm married, have a reasonable nice apartment, a car, and a cat for a proxy-baby (at present I have no desire for a real one). Andrew and I are going to go out for a fancy dinner the night of, and I will be hosting some friends at our place on Friday. Lemon flavoured cake will be served.

Last Day of School
My last day of grad school will be next Monday. The time has passed relatively quickly, and I can't honestly say I'm too sad about it. If you asked me on the spot what I've learned, I'm not to sure that I could put my thoughts into words. That's not to say that I think I've learned nothing--that's not true (although some classes were vastly more useful than others). I feel like I've got various concepts and ideas fluttering around in my head about librarianship and what it means to be a librarian, I'm just not sure I could verbalize them in any sensible manner.

European Travels
Andrew and I will embark on a 2 1/2 week trip around Europe next Wednesday. We'll be flying into Frankfurt, Germany, then move on to Interlaken, Switzerland, Bergamo Italy, and several different places in France (Caen, Arras, and Paris). We have friends in Germany and Italy, who have been kind enough to offer to host us, and we'll be doing all our inter-country travel by train. The main purpose for visiting France is to see some of the major battle sites from WWI and WWI: Juno Beach (the Canadian landing beach for D-Day) and Vimy Ridge (one of the CEF's major victories). I suspect I will be extremely exhausted when we get back, but I'm looking forward to it immensely.



*note the phrase "just now" meaning, those random, obscure topics make yet make an appearance on this small space of the Web.