• Posterity

    Not all digital platforms stand the test of time, but I can always hope that those I create will.

    Uploaded below is my summary video of our Heidelberg 2014 adventure. You may download it (254 MB) to your own device, in case someday I too fail the test of time.

    And if you’d be so kind, leave your response in the poll so I know if anyone still visits this page.

    Why did you visit this website today?
  • Heidelberg – Week Four (the Adventure is over)

    On July 27th, I landed for the first time in Germany. One week in Berlin and four weeks in Heidelberg flew by, and on the evening of August 30th, I was back home. It has been an incredible adventure, and one I was fortunate to share with plenty of great people from around the world.


    This blog has been tremendously helpful in keeping track of all the things I did over these 5 weeks, and I hope it can be a good reference in the future for others who participated in it all. After this final journal entry, my remaining work is to sort through 60 GB of video, in order to produce a short film about the trip. Now that classes have resumed, finding time for this may be a challenge…

    Let us proceed with this final week’s installment.


    On Sunday, the very last excursion offered by the University took place. It was a trip to the Schwarzwald (Black Forest), and you can read up on my experience there.


    The main feature of every Monday this trip was the Ballroom Dancing workshop. This week we had our final class, which reinforced last week’s new dance (Weiner Waltz), and introduced one more: the Tango.

    Sadly, my coordination was suffering and I was not able to truly get the feel of it. More practice is called for!

    As usual, after the regular class there was 1 hour of rehearsal for the final performance. We continued to improve our stage entrance and exit routines, and also learned the dance moves for the finale.


    With an exam rapidly approaching, Tuesday afternoon was spent reviewing and studying what we covered throughout the Ferienkurs. Although the first two tests went relatively well, we had no idea what to expect on the final.


    And just like that, the final exam was there. Our class had 1 hour to complete it, and many of us left it feeling really uncertain about how well we did. Regardless, no one in our class failed, and we all received our certificate of success!

    Right after the exam, I had to rush to the Hauptbahnhof (main train station), in order to catch a bus with several other Memorial Students. We were going to visit our previous German exchange professor, Marc, in Frankfurt! The bus we took there was amazing. It had WiFi with movies and Internet access, comfortable seats, power outlets, and it only cost 5 Euros.

    Frankfurt was the biggest city we’d seen since Berlin, with plenty of tall buildings and cranes. We visited a few touristy places, including the statue of Goethe, and the Opera house.




    While we were there, we climbed the tower of the Imperial Cathedral, and enjoyed a great view of the city.


    For a few moments we were able to rest on the public bean bags, though the jack hammers in the background didn’t help us relax.


    After plenty of walking and sightseeing, we sat alongside the river and enjoyed some refreshments.



    After a relaxed final class, excitement was building for the Abschlussfest, our “graduation” ceremony. It was a big party hosted at the University, complete with performances by the students, either with their classes or the various workshops. After these performances, the dance floor inside opened up with a live band.

    It was at this ceremony that the Ballroom Dancing performance was finally unveiled. Before the rehearsal, we posed for a group shot while all dressed up.

    Group Normal Pose

    Although the last minute rehearsal gave our instructor terror instead of comfort, we all put on a great show that left her completely ecstatic.


    The above still was snagged from video footage that will eventually be released – bear with me!


    On our final full day in Heidelberg, our class got together for breakfast at a French café. Excessive numbers of photographs were taken here, and some even had me in them!


    Photo credit: Gloria

    Afterwards, many of us went home to begin packing and cleaning up our apartments.

    Later that evening, much of our class also met up for Sushi. I had hot saké for the first time, and rather enjoyed it!


    As the evening closed on us, we bid our final farewells. For good measure, here is a shot with my class’ instructor for these 4 weeks, Thorsten.



    Bright and early, the trek home began. After countless security checkpoints and long hours in flight, I made it home. The adventure was over.


    This was my first time outside of North America, and it was an experience like no other. 5 weeks still isn’t long enough to truly experience a culture, especially when so much the experience is schedule and organized. Much of a culture is defined by the regular, organic interactions one has with service providers, neighbours, cashiers, clients, the government, and so forth. I believe the best way to experience culture is to be completely immersed and dependent on it. That is the type of adventure I hope to go on next time.

  • Excursion – Schwarzwald

    The Black Forest is the location of many fairy tales and legends. Although we never saw witches or mermaids, we did get to explore some of the history of this area in person. Huge, rolling hills covered in evergreens span the horizon, with charming clusters of houses randomly scattered about.


    We visited three distinct locations on this excursion:

    Schwarzwälder Freilichtmuseum

    The Black Forest Free Light Museum (literally) is an open air museum showcasing a number of homes which once existed deep in the Black Forest. These homes or farm houses were disassembled, trucked out of the forest, and reassembled in this museum yard so that they could be preserved.


    There were a number of houses, each with variations on the type of roofing used and the general layout inside. These differences had to do with the original location of each house. Those further north would use straw roofing to improve insulation, for example.


    Also on display were some of the societal characteristics of these past villages, including traditional clothing. These two ladies walked along the trails wearing red hats. These hats would have indicated the eligibility of a woman, and the effect of this was in enforcing modest interaction between boys and girls. A boy found alone with a girl in a red hat would have been a problem.


    Naturally, while we were there we enjoyed a piece of Black Forest Cake. Soaked in Kirschwasser (cherry liqueur), it was a delicious complement to our Bratwurst Spezial lunches.



    The museum also had the stereotypical German timepiece for sale: the cuckoo-clock. As our tour guide was quick to point out, most Germans indeed hate these things.



    Once we left the museum, we made our way to the Mummel Sea, which is in fact only a small lake. What is particularly interesting about this lake is the altitude: 1,036 meters. It was a serious climb, and the pressure difference was noticeable as our ears popped.


    The myth of this lake is that there are mermaids who live beneath the surface, who are only active after the sun sets. There is also a water king, and it is impossible to not think of King Trident and Ariel here.


    The view from this high in the mountains was quite astonishing.


    Mummelsee Panorama at 1km (warning: 7MB)


    After hiding from the rain and getting more Black Forest cake, we piled back into the bus to reach our final destination: Baden-Baden, Baden-Württemberg.


    Baden-Baden is, as our tour guide put it, a city whose culture is built on deception. The architecture and art that defines this city is all borrowed or copied verbatim, often creating interesting anachronisms. Some buildings have combinations of styles, hand picked as desired by whoever commissioned the building.


    It is also a city of wealth and status, where the social elite could gather and socialize. A casino, natural spring spas, theaters and an opera house attract the well-dressed from around the world.


    This is sadly the last official excursion of the Heidelberg Summer School. Ranging from 22 – 25 Euros, these excursions were an excellent way to see more of the country, and the tours provided by the guides (Jonas in particular) were very insightful into German history and geography. Very much worth the time, and the early mornings!

  • Heidelberg – Week Three

    There is only one week remaining in the Heidelberg Ferienkurs, and every passing day makes this fact feel even more real. It will be difficult to leave Heidelberg, a city that I made home for a month. This week I enjoyed as many activities as possible with the people I met here. Here’s the recap for week three.



    Last Sunday, we visited Strasbourg, France. After missing the Rhinefahrt on Saturday, I made sure to rest up the night before.

    This Sunday, we are going to visit the Schwarzwald (Black Forest). It is located within this same state, and the tour will pass through a number of cities, including Baden-Baden, Baden-Württemberg. Not surprisingly, the thing I am looking forward to the most is a giant piece of Black Forest Cake!


    This week was very busy on this front, so I will break out the second level headings.

    Ballroom Dancing (Monday)

    The first portion of ballroom was spent revisiting the dances we did over the last two weeks, and reinforcing proper technique and the different variations. We also did the Wiener Waltz, which takes the Waltz and turns the speed up to 11. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to move myself fast enough for this one.

    In anticipation of the final performance, I also picked up a dress shirt and better shoes. My partner will without a doubt outshine me, but at least I will now fit in on stage.

    Because it was our second last rehearsal before the performance, the extra hour this week was focused on the details of our routine. This includes how we enter the stage, and how to synchronize the beginning of the dance. However, my friend Sebastian and I had to leave 10 minutes early, in order to make it to…

    Pub Quiz Trivia (Monday)

    In St. John’s, the German society invited students to attend Stammtisch, every Thursday evening. This coincided with Bitters’ trivia night, and every week we would join in the fun of pub trivia.

    When our Betreuerin invited us to take on trivia here in Heidelberg, I knew I had to go. It was hosted at O’Reilly’s, an Irish pub with an energetic host and a bunch of questions we had no idea how to answer. A handful of classmates attended, and we formed two teams: girls and boys.

    Despite our genuine effort to play fair and do well, the guys team ultimately received a different kind of award. We had the absolute lowest score of all the teams in the pub that night. After a minute or so of ridicule and disappointment, we were suddenly transformed into winners. The losing team receives 4 free Guinesses, along with collectors beer glasses! Not so bad after all.


    Sport Fest (Wednesday)

    For the last week and a half, our Betreuerin had been trying to get people in our class to sign up for the Sport Fest. Ideally, each class could form teams in Soccer, Basketball or Beach Volleyball, as well as for the Spaß Olympiade (Fun Olympics). Participation was low for the organized sports, but anyone who wanted to play was still able to join other incomplete teams and enjoy themselves.


    I signed up for soccer, and while our team didn’t do so well, we had a great time playing. I also signed up for the Fun Olympics, where we all had fun doing silly races like the spoon-egg race, potato sack race, and a bunch of others that had us scrambling around and looking ridiculous. We also didn’t do so well in this either, but we sure met the objective of having fun!


    Concert and Klassenabend (Thursday)

    As with every Thursday so far, there was a free concert for us to attend. This week, it was in the church by the university library. An organ and flute duo played sonatas from Bach, Vivaldi, Händel, and a few other single pieces.

    Right after the concert, we had to hurry up and wait for transportation to make it to a Spanish restaurant, where our class was meeting for supper. By the time we arrived, it was already quite late, but we still managed to enjoy a few beers and multilingual conversation in English, Spanish, German, and Chinese. I tried both San Miguel and Franziskaner beers, the latter I really enjoyed.

    Philosophenweg Hike and Brewery Tour (Friday)

    After being here for 3 weeks, I finally got to take the Philosophenweg, or Philosophers Way. It is a trail that goes through the large hills North-East of Heidelberg, and was named so because philosophers at the University used to walk the trails while thinking.


    There are a number of great lookout points up here, allowing you to see almost all of Heidelberg.




    There is also a tower with very sketchy stairs, to get an even higher vantage point.


    The hike took us along beautiful trails passing through gorgeous woodland. We also stumbled upon a pretty cool play structure.







    After around 2 hours of hiking, we reached our destination: the Klosterhof Brewery.


    Before the tour, we succumbed to our thirst and had a first taste of Klosterhof. It was very refreshing, and had me looking forward to tasting more of their varieties.


    The tour was bilingual in German and English, and gave insight into the varieties of hops used to create different tastes, as well as the processing involved.


    German beer was historically crafted according to the “Beer Purity Law”. This stated that beer was to be made with only 3 ingredients: water, hops, and malt. The diversity of flavour is then due to the differences in processes and ingredient varieties.



    On this tour, I got to experience one of the most German moments during my trip: drinking delicious craft beer while enjoying fresh pretzels.


    One Week Left

    This is it – my last 7 days in Heidelberg are already ticking down. Keeping as active as possible with events and classmates has really helped set this adventure over the top. That is what I will really miss, the freedom to explore more of the world with others, without worrying about time.

  • Excursion – Straßburg

    As the bus was crossing the bridge at the Germany-France border, our tour guide announced, “I hope you all brought your passports!” Very funny, thought a number of us who were initially caught off guard. Travel between most EU member countries does not require a passport. In fact, there is usually no border control at all! Our bus continued into Strasbourg, France, and we were greeted by street signs in French.


    Our first stop on the other side of the border was the European Parliament, at the glass-faced building located along the Canal de la Marne au Rhin. We stopped there for a quick photo-op.


    We then drove a short distance to another building at this site, le Palais de l’Europe.


    After an even shorter photo session, we were finally let off at Place de l’Étoile, and began our exploration on foot. We started by walking towards the old town, which is mostly on the island at the heart of the city. Yet again, we were all met with very old architecture and really small and quaint streets.



    The first major landmark we visited was le Palais Rohan, which faced the canal.


    Perhaps the biggest attraction here is la Cathédrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg.


    It is a giant single-towered church, with well preserved and impossibly intricate stone detailing, inside and out.




    Inside, there is an astronomical clock, which keeps track of much more than just time.


    After our smaller buddy group left the church, we discovered the entire tour group had disappeared. So, after scooping up another lost soul, we wandered the little cobblestone streets of the old town some more.




    Somehow, we found the group 5 seconds before the guide announced it was time to break for lunch. So, we looked around for a place to eat and found an inexpensive pizzeria. In keeping with my (failed, but valiantly attempted) goal to try a new beer every day, I discovered a Turkish beer called Efes, which I had to try.


    It was actually rather tasty, I must admit.


    After lunch, the group met at a bridge to continue on to the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. There we found a diversity of expositions to explore. To get there, we got to cross this very neat covered bridge, which also seemed to double as a storage area for random sculptures.







    The museum was the final point of our tour, and we made our way back for the bus to Heidelberg.


    This was the second-last weekend excursion I will do here. Stay tuned for a post sometime next week about Sunday’s Black Forest trip!

  • Heidelberg – Week Two

    Today is pretty much the mid-point of the Heidelberg Summer School – two weeks down, two to go. There were plenty of things to keep busy with this week with school, excursions, and other extra-curricular activities. The weather here shifted dramatically, however, and the beautiful 30 degree days of last week were replaced with mostly rainy, sub-20 days. I was quite happy to have the umbrella I picked up in Berlin!

    vlcsnap-2014-08-16-17h34m49s185We still had a few sunny days, and I managed to stitch together a nice panorama from my friends’ balcony.

    Panorama from a friend's balcony on Plöck

    Here is a summary of week two in Heidelberg.


    This week, we had our first test, which gave us an idea of how we were doing so far. It had no official bearing on our grades, but covered the important concepts we’ve been working on in class so far. I did fairly well, and it pointed out a few areas to improve on.

    While these classes are much less in-depth than those at MUN, the focus is really on speaking and comprehension, and I definitely feel like I am understanding German a lot better than before. My spoken German hasn’t met the same dramatic improvement, but I’ve been able to hold my own in a number of full-German conversations this week!


    This week, there continued to be plenty of activities for us to take part in.

    Monday was the second session of the weekly ballroom dancing workshop. This week we covered the Rumba and the Jive, though the Jive was definitely the more energetic of the two. What set this week apart was that, after the standard workshop, there was an additional hour for those who were taking part in the closing ceremony performance. With a partner who also wanted to take part in the show, I stayed the extra hour, and we learned and practiced the choreography for the first half of the performance. I imagine this will be a good laugh for many of you reading this, so I hope to have some great footage for you after the show!

    On Tuesday, I got to flex my tech support muscles again, and fixed my instructor’s overheating laptop. The evening, our class was invited to a barbeque at our mentor’s apartment, and we had a great time enjoying inexpensive beer and eating plenty of foods. I’m not completely certain on whose idea this was, but we discovered a delicious barbeque dessert which tasted so good!

    BBQ Banana

    What was slightly less fun was when I broke the screen on my friend’s iPhone while we were playing “Heads up/Charades”. Luckily it was I who broke the screen, so it was also I who fixed it.

    iPhone Fix

    On Wednesday, the University planned a free mini-excursion to Schwetzingen, a little town just outside of Heidelberg. It is home to a castle with a large and beautiful garden, and I was really looking forward to filming there. Unfortunately, it was raining somewhat heavily, and a majority of students, including our class, decided to postpone. We decided to try again on Wednesday, 27. August, and barring any issues I will be able to post about it later!

    Instead of going to Schwetzingen, we visited the Studentenkarzer (student prison), an old artifact of Heidelberg University. Centuries ago, there arose a problem with student behaviour which needed to be addressed. The solution was to create a prison, where students who misbehaved would be sent as punishment. Showing up to class drunk was also one way to get a direct ticket in.



    Students here were not permitted to leave for the duration of their punishment, for anything other than class. There was actually a tunnel which connected the prison to the main lecture hall, so that students could be escorted directly to class, and then back to prison once class ended.



    The walls of the prison are covered in paintings, signatures, faces and crests. It wasn’t clear whether these were introduced before or after the prison was decommissioned.


    “For academic freedom”

    After walking through the prison, we also checked out the University museum, which showcased the history of Heidelberg University. It was interesting to see that Kirchoff was once a student here.

    There was an old photo of the campus across the river, In Neuenheimer Feld. The building above is actually the Mensa (cafeteria) there, and is where the disco last Friday took place.


    I also found my name, but someone made a typo.


    We also took the time to check out the Alte Aula in the Alte Universität building. This is where all class lectures used to take place. Now, this is where a number of concerts and ceremonies are held.


    To warm up after exploring all this history, we visited a little café which served many varieties of hot chocolate.


    They serve it by giving you a glass of very hot milk, and a special kind of chocolate made to be melted in drinks. I ordered chocolate-banana.


    The table where we sat had a drawer, and in that drawer we found tons of notes, letters and stories on pieces of paper, left by visitors of the café for others to find. We took the time to add our own contributions.



    Thursday night there was a classical piano concert, where works from Beethoven, Brahms and Chopin were played with great energy on a Steinway Grand Piano. You can see the piano and venue in the photo of the Alte Aula, above.

    Friday night there was another disco, like last week. This time, it was hosted at Halle 02, a club in a warehouse, with the bathrooms interestingly located inside shipping containers. It was a bunch of fun, but by 2.30 am I had to leave to make it to the excursion in 5 hours. Sadly, in a couple paragraphs you’ll read that this still didn’t work out.


    You can check out my last post for details about the excursion to Cologne, which took place on Saturday.

    For this weekend, I purchased tickets to two excursions: Saturday was a boat cruise on the Rhine river (Rhinefahrt), and Sunday is a tour of Straßburg, France.

    Sadly, Friday night’s disco rendered me incapable of making the departure for the Rhinefahrt. The two alarms I set simply couldn’t get me out of my slumber. I was really looking forward to a relaxing tour and seeing even more of Germany. The Straßburg trip tomorrow has no reason to suffer the same fate, and I will be sure to post about this small French-German town later this week!


    The recurring concept I’m finding with traveling is time. You see it in history, in buildings, roads, nature and people. You feel the effects of it as you get settled in a new location, with a new daily routine, and new transportation needs. Two weeks is a short amount of time to experience and learn so much, to meet new people and push yourself to try new things you wouldn’t have considered before.

    At home, it feels like there is a higher level of commitment to the tasks that fill up a day. The very nature of “home” has a permanence, and maybe demands more forethought. My experience here in Heidelberg has been the opposite. I’ve been able to really relax and change my pace. There is a lot of comfort to be found in not needing to schedule things to the minute, and instead to the hour or half hour.

    While there are only two weeks left, I am thankful there is still so much to be done, all things that will continue adding to how special this trip is. Maybe I just won’t use that return ticket 😉


  • Excursion – Köln

    On Saturday, I went on my first excursion offered by the university. We went to Cologne, a three hour bus trip from Heidelberg. It is yet another incredibly old city that reminds me of just how young North America is. Churches and artifacts dating back hundreds to thousands of years are easy to find here.


    When we first arrived, our guide from the university asked that we stick close and keep pace with his tour. He was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable, which certainly made it more fun. We began by discussing the outside of the Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral).



    He walked us around an area of Cologne home to many churches, as well as the city hall and several museums. The streets and markets are decorated with many fountains and monuments, reminders of just how much history exists here.




    After his tour was complete, we were free to explore independently until our departure time.

    After getting some lunch, the first stop was the Lindt Chocolate Museum. Although dreams of unlimited samples proved to be misguided, it was still an interesting look at the history of chocolate, and some of the processes involved in its production. Naturally, at the exit there is a shop with infinite chocolate varieties. A short visit there netted me a lemon white chocolate bar, and a bottle of Crème de Chocolat liquor.


    The Rhine river runs through Cologne, and has a lot more traffic than the Neckar river in Heidelberg.


    The next stop was inside the Kölner Dom. While we already saw the outside, a group tour inside is not possible, so we came back independently to go inside. Enormous stained glass windows and stone pillars follow the height of this church, and rows upon rows of pews run along its length.




    After taking in the scale and only a small amount of the detailing of the Dom, the afternoon was waning and there was little time left to take on other sights. A short walk led to a really neat public water fountain, which doubled as a play area for kids.


    The bus ride was about 3 hours each way, and at the end of the day I was happy to take a small nap on the way home. At 22 Euros, this excursion was a great way to see even more of Germany while I am here. I look forward to doing several more!

    This weekend I have two excursions booked – Saturday is a boat trip along the Rhine, and Sunday is a trip to Strasbourg. Two and a half weeks remain in Heidelberg – plenty more to come!

  • Heidelberg – Week One

    Tonight marks the 7th day of my visit to Heidelberg. Berlin feels like a distant memory, now that a new routine is established here. A lot has happened this week, and I will do my best to recap everything here.



    We began the schooling process Sunday morning with an oral exam. The oral and written exams are used to determined which difficulty level we get placed in. There are 4 primary levels:

    • Complete Beginner
    • Elementary (Grundstuffe)
    • Intermediate (Mittelstuffe)
    • Advanced (Oberstuffe)

    Within each of these levels, however, are numerical sub-levels. The range varies, but for Grundstuffe there are 6 sub-levels that I know of. The greater the number, the greater the difficulty.

    I applied for Grundstuffe, and after a mediocre oral exam, and a rather good written exam, I was placed in Grundstuffe 5. Not bad!

    Classes truly began on Tuesday, where we met our professor, Thorsten, our Betreuerin (mentor), Juliane, and all of our classmates. Within this class I made some friends to hang out with after class. It really is an outstanding opportunity to make friends with people from every corner of the world. This week I made acquaintance with people from Romania, Hong Kong, Spain, Bulgaria, China, the UK, and it goes on!

    So far it has been challenging with 100% German instruction, but it is getting easier. Even though I do not have the vocabulary to understand everything, I can still fill in most of the blanks and gain context. The biggest challenge now will be in diligently completing my homework…


    Heidelberg University offers summer students a number of free workshops to help increase exposure to spoken German and help teach new skills. Sports, singing, writing and film are all options, and there is also a ballroom dancing course. I attended the sports and film introductions, but the activity I plan on making time for is ballroom dancing.

    Monday was the first session of this weekly workshop. This week we learned the basic Cha Cha and Waltz. I partnered up with a complete stranger, and had a great time trying to stay afloat in something completely new. I’m looking forward to future weeks and getting more practice, since dancing really is a worthwhile and fun skill to have.

    The city here is so beautiful, and has a preserved Alt-Stadt (old city) area. The buildings and scenery are picturesque, and above it all is the Heidelberger Schloss, a castle high up in the hill.


    With a few others, I made the trek up a long, steep cobblestone path to reach the castle. The view was incredible, overlooking the entire city. All of the bridges on the Neckar River were visible. We took a walk through the large park up there, complete with a fountain, garden and plenty of trees.


    The university hired a party boat Wednesday afternoon, where a live band played plenty of rock music and got the crowd in a dancing frenzy. It was a great time, and brought us far along the river past the outskirts of Heidelberg.


    Exploring the city itself is an extra-curricular activity, and this week I walked along several of the bridges and enjoyed a few parks.


    Thursday night, our class as a whole went to the park beneath the Theodor-Heuss-Brücke to enjoy a group picnic. Later that evening, we went to see a Jazz quartet playing a free show in the old university hall.


    When I was first brought to my apartment, I was shocked by how far it felt from the rest of the city. Like my map from last week showed, it is a good trek from downtown.


    Bikes are everywhere here, and it really is the most practical method of transportation.

    After riding my bike for a few days to get to school, I didn’t feel so distant from everything and it seemed that biking would work out nicely. That is, until the rear tire went out on Wednesday. So, I ended up purchasing a bus pass to allow me to get around. Less independent, but perhaps a bit more reliable.


    In Heidelberg, there are buses and trams for getting around in-town. However, the bus pass I purchased also allows travel in all of the Rhine-Neckar region, which extends out to Mannheim, and even further East and West. While I don’t expect to do much traveling that far away, it is very convenient to have all of that included in a 55 Euro ticket.

    Living Arrangements

    Once we were all settled into our own apartments, we also began to visit friends’ apartments.


    There are some great views to be had from those with top floor rooms, but even my front window offers a taste of something different from home.



    With 90% of my waking hours spent near the university, this means that almost all my meals are purchased. European universities generally have cafeterias, known as Mensas, which offer a selection of real meals at very low prices. So for the past week, almost all of my lunches and suppers have been at the Mensa.


    The buffet there has many vegetables, meats, and occasionally fries and noodle dishes. The cost is based on weight, with a rate of 8 Euro per kilogram of food. It takes a few days to calibrate yourself for taking food. A full plate might cost 5 Euro, but end up being more than you can eat. It is very easy to pile on multiple main courses.

    Today I smartened up, and was able to get a good lunch for 1,28 Euro. Much better.


    Yes, it deserves its own section. The beer here is pretty awesome. Both in price and in taste. There is a local brewery, Heidelberger Brauerei, which makes tasty and inexpensive beers. Beer can be bought at the Mensa, and the Heidelberger comes in Kristall, Light, and Dark varieties. I have become a fan of their Dark.


    Another common drink here is Radler. This is beer mixed with a carbonated beverage, possibly Sprite, Coke, or most commonly Lemon spritzer. They have half the alcohol content of beer, but taste good and are worth a few tries.

    And yes, 500ml of beer really does cost around $0.50 from a grocery store. The taste is equivalent to the cheapest varieties found in Canada, no doubt, but they are drinkable and do work as advertised.



    One of the exciting offerings of this summer program are the excursions. For around 22 Euro, students can buy tickets for trips to Cologne, Strasbourg, Rothberg, Bodensee, the Schwarzwald, and more. This includes transportation.

    This Saturday, I will be visiting Cologne, to see the Dom and hopefully a few other sights there. The tickets sell out very fast, and I ended up snagging one of the last seats. Hopefully next week I can arrive earlier and have a greater selection.


    Tonight there is a disco put on by the university – a dance. I will be there, and it should be a great time, even though the trip to Cologne leaves at 7.15am tomorrow morning. Hopefully I can sleep on the bus there!

    Until next time!

  • Heidelberg – Day One

    Today we woke up for the last morning in Berlin, and will sleep for our first night in Heidelberg! With alarms set bright and early, we managed to get our entire group ready to leave the hostel at 7am. We made our final walk to the Friedrichstrasse Bahnhof, where we took a short train to the Berlin Hauptbahnhof (main station).


    There, we had our first meal of the day. For many of us, myself included, this was McDonald’s. This was also the only meal many of us enjoyed until supper time.

    Our ICE train arrived around 8:30, and we all crammed aboard Wagon 5 to our reserved seats. That is, the 21 seats that were reserved for 22 people. A ticket was missed, and by sheer luck and circumstance, I ended up not having a seat number. I moved from seat to seat as the passengers who reserved those seats moved me out. Eventually, I found a safe spot in Wagon 1, where I could take a little nap.

    It was over 5 hours to get from Berlin to Heidelberg. Once we reached the Heidelberg Hauptbahnhof, we were greeted by the Heidelberg University Summer Course desk, and bought our bus tickets to get to the university. At the same time, we also ran into Josh, who arrived the day before. He was going to follow us to the university on his bicycle, and departed just as we tried to cram 22 people onto an accordion city bus. It didn’t work. I ended up having the doors closed on me, with no room for me to get in.20140802_233203

    The bus departed, and I returned to the bus shelter and talked with a few other summer students. After 20 minutes the next bus came, and I got on not really sure of where I was going. As it was going through Heidelberg, I looked out the window and saw Josh, on his bike, grinning back at me as he followed the bus. It turns out, he reached the school with the first bus, and when they realized I was missing, came back to check if I was going to take the next bus, then saw me get on.


    At the Universitätsplatz, we entered the main building to be greeted by four lines: cashier, office, exam registration, and habitation arrangements. After ensuring we had paid, collecting all the documentation we needed, registering for the level placement exam, and getting information about our housing for the next month, we all sat and waited for our name to be called. A volunteering student would then drive us to our new home, and introduce us to the people there and give information about what should be done and where to find things.

    After 2 hours, I was finally called and brought to my place. I am very far from the school – 20 minutes by bike, barely faster by bus. Walking is out of the question. However, my room is very nice, with a great desk and plenty of room.


    The back yard is also directly on the Neckar River, and has a view of the taller buildings in downtown Heidelberg.


    I am living with 3 roommates, all university students. They speak English and German, and have been very helpful for getting settled. They even provided a bike for me to use, hopefully allowing me to save money on buses and get in shape over the next 4 weeks. As far as I am, I am not alone. My star is surrounded by a green box, and the red boxes surround a few others from our group.

    Map HD

    Tonight, I tested out the bike by buying some groceries, and biking downtown to the university. I biked around looking for others from our group, but was unsuccessful for a long time. Finally, as I was about to give up and go home, I ran into Iain as a crowd of people cleared. We walked around, and ended up getting supper at the Mensa. The Mensa is the university cafeteria or meal hall. It offers buffet food by weight, at 8 Euros per kilogram. My plate of food tonight was only 2.78 Euro, complete with fish, sausage, rice and carrots. Great value there.

    After this, we walked around more, and after finding no one else, we split ways and I biked the 20 minutes back home.

    Tomorrow, we are taking our placement exam. It will determine which difficulty level we get placed into for the course. They evaluate both oral and written skills to find the best fit. Class begins Monday.

  • Berlin – (Last) Day Five

    This time last week I was still finishing up my summer work term. Today, I’m getting ready to bid Berlin goodbye.


    Today we stopped in West Berlin, taking a bus to the Kurfurstendamm area and passing by the Gedächtnichkirche and KaDeWe, the mega shopping center.


    It was a lazy morning, so we arrived later on. After lunch, we moved on to the Berlin Zoo, advertised as the zoo with the most species diversity in the world.



    In the two hours we spent there, we were hardly able to cover all of it. So many exhibits and animals were left unvisited. Regardless, it was a beautiful zoo and a great experience.

    After visiting the zoo, myself and two others visited the East Side Gallery – a section of the Berlin Wall which was preserved, containing many iconic paintings, and sadly, excessive graffiti. Regardless, it was fantastic to see.




    I was also able to snag myself a nice new profile picture behind the Wall.

    Behind the Wall

    In the evening, we prepared for Heidelberg by packing and organizing our luggage. Afterward, we went to the main floor of our hostel for drinks, and to get together before we left Berlin completely. We had a great time talking with people from England, Australia, France and even other Canadians! We all got along well, and I was even able to speak French with a few from Montreal and France.

    It is very late, and I am very well done in. Hopefully my alarm wakes me up properly this morning, in time to leave the hostel at 7am to catch our train. This is the final post from the Berlin series.  More to come from Heidelberg!