• Berlin – Day Four

    How is today already Thursday? It is unbelievable how fast the days flew by this week. This leaves us only Friday to enjoy Berlin. Bright and early Saturday morning we catch a train to Heidelberg, and start a new chapter of this adventure.


    Today the students were responsible for planning the group’s transportation to two landmarks: Checkpoint Charlie, then Charlottenburg Palace. The first train we took brought us near Checkpoint Charlie, which was the border crossing used by Americans to cross the East-West German border after World War II.


    We also visited as preserved section of the Wall, and an exhibit which detailed World War II and the events before and after. It contained a number of interesting documents and items from the era, and also had a table I liked which recreated Berlin in miniature, and showed which buildings were occupied for secret police purposes. Those occupied are translucent.


    After this, we took another train to reach Charlottenburg. Part way through the 1km walk to the palace, we stopped for lunch at yet another döner place. This time I captured the deliciousness.



    We made it to the palace, and walked the grounds. The palace was built for Sophie Charlotte, the wife of Friedrich III, and has an enormous yard and beautiful garden, complete with a small lake. Yet another stunning and picturesque construction.




    After we returned to our hostel, we heard the the roof was open and serving BBQ and drinks. We made our way up, to discover a nice pool, lounge chairs, a ping pong table, and a perfect view for me to make my first time lapse. While waiting for the evening, I took a dip in the pool to cool off, and sat in the sun with my favorite summer drink. It was 24°C and sunny, with a gentle but cooling breeze.


    Absolutely perfect.

    Tonight I also set up for a time lapse, and took pictures until the rooftop was closed (schade).  It was pretty cool, but I feel there is room for improvement. Below is the installation.


    Tomorrow, we will be visiting a few final landmarks, such as the Tiergarten. In the afternoon, we will also be visiting the Berlin Zoo. I’m looking forward to it!

  • Berlin – Day Three

    It was another early morning, where we had to catch the S-Bahn all the way to Potsdam. Potsdam is in the far-West of Berlin, and when the train finally arrived we had to walk quickly to make it to Sanssoucci Park.


    This enormous park has several palaces and structures, many of which were made solely for decorative reasons. We had a tour inside of Sanssoucci Palace, to which we arrived too late to take the tour as a single group. Regardless, it was a remarkable summer home which was very well preserved.


    By this time it was lunch, and we stopped by a small casse-croute equivalent selling German fast food. Here I had my first Wiener Schnitzel!


    Afterwards, we enjoyed a long walk around the grounds, seeing the other palaces and buildings, and enjoying a few moments of light rain. The grounds were filled with tall trees and statues, and paths that stretched all over.


    Once we made it out, we made our way to downtown Potsdam, and walked through the market in front of the Potsdam Brandenburger Tor. Here we enjoyed some time to sit down, have an ice cream, and see some of the shops that lined the alleys.



    On our way home, we played several rounds of 20 questions to keep entertained, and this evening I enjoyed my first döner kebap sandwich. It was delicious, and at 3.30 Euro is was very affordable. I’d say, at 3 out of 4 food groups this is the best meal by value here! No pictures of this, but I doubt it will be the only one I have. Superb meat slices with vegetables and herb sauce. In order to go there, we had to wake Jonathan to join us. Multiple methods were employed. This one was not very successful.


    After this great supper, we went out to a swing dancing club, Clärchens Ballhaus. It was very old fashioned, and a really great way to burn off some energy on the dance floor. After a few dances with some friends from our group, and a cute German girl, it was time for me to return to the hostel and go to sleep.

    Tomorrow we go on an adventure where students plan the transportation to our destination. Should be interesting, and as always, more to come!

  • Berlin – Day Two

    This morning our schedule was shifted 15 minutes ahead, meaning we had to speed-walk to our first destination: the Bundestag. This is the parliament of Germany, where laws are debated and voted on. This very imposing building allows visitors to see into the parliamentary discussions by means of windows above the hall. Visitors are able to sit in during parliament, or they can observe proceedings by peering down through the roof. The idea is for open and transparent government.


    The Bundestag is lit using natural sunlight as much as possible. An array of mirrors direct sunlight into the parliamentary chamber.


    After our tour of the Bundestag, we headed back to Museuminsel (Museum Island), to obtain a day pass to all of the museums there. There are several museums on the island, though I only managed to visit the Nationalgalerie, where there are three stories of paintings and sculptures from the nineteenth century. Below is part of the Pergamon Museum, which had a line-up of about 50 minutes to get in.


    vlcsnap-2014-07-29-23h40m01s113An interesting quote on concrete: “The truth is the sum of all lies.” – Manfred Giesler

    Once we returned, I took a power nap during the first thunderstorm I’ve heard in almost a year. Afterwards, I decided to give the Theater of Magic in the games room a try. I put in €0,50, only to notice after that there was already a credit in the machine. In the end, I made my money back big time: I managed to win 4 free games, and bumped the free game score threshold from 230 million to 350 million. For half a Euro I was able to play 6 games, which helped me get my pinball fix for the day. It was very satisfying to hear the knocker firing over and over.

    This evening, I was delighted to find that our hostel was serving Sommersby Apple Cider, in a glass bottle! It was priced the same as beer, and it sure made my night to have that taste again. Earlier on, while visiting the grocery store, I discovered they carried Captain Morgans pre-mixed with cola – in a can! Very strange, but sadly not good value. It was over €2.80 (approx. $4). In general, though, liquor is cheaper here, with a 26 0z of Captain Morgans costing under $20 CAD, and 375ml of Jäger being under $10 CAD.


    Like every day, my focus was on filming, not photographing. My plan is to produce a video of Berlin, and during the Heidelberg portion I will develop individual sequences for our excursions and other interesting partsof the experience.

    Tomorrow morning we have another early departure, as we are going on a field trip by train to Potsdam. More updates to come!

  • Berlin – Day One

    Now that everyone has arrived and mostly settled down, the educational part of the course begins! With Dr. Buffinga as our guide, today we went on a walking tour of the areas near to our hostel. Today was a video intensive day, but here are a number of samples.


    We went to iconic areas such as the Brandenburger Tor, Alexanderplatz, Potsdamerplatz and the Nikolaiviertel. We also walked through a number of courtyards filled with little shops and cafés. Some of the landmarks we visited were the Mahnmal memorial, Rotes Rathaus, Nikolai Kirsche, Berliner Dom, the Berlin Walk memorial at Potsdamerplatz, and countless other streets and side roads. There were so many construction and renovation projects underway, which show the ever-evolving face of Berlin.

    vlcsnap-2014-07-28-23h55m00s142The Brandenburger Tor

    For lunch, we stopped at a seafood restaurant, Nordsee. We were too early for main courses, but we could still enjoy salads, wraps and smaller seafood dishes.


    After our tour ended, we made our way back to the hostel, and enjoyed a beer and some Pommes mit Mayo. We also made our first trip for supplies and groceries. While water was on average €2.50 anywhere we’ve been, it was €0.69 for the same size at the grocery store. We stocked up on water and picked up a handful of supplies and snacks. Beer was also plenty cheap, but we didn’t grab any… this time.


    Later this afternoon, we went to a Japanese noodle restaurant Jescinda wanted to visit, called Makoto. I had Miso Ramen, which reminded me a lot of Pho noodles. It was a nice place to sit and eat outside.

    20140728_203639_HDRGelato cones after supper, under the Fernsehturn (Jonathan)

    We walked to Alexanderplatz later on, and checked out the various acts performing there. It was amazing to see how much had been set up since we were there earlier in the  day. By some stroke of genius, we ended up splitting into two groups and lost each other. Our group finally walked back to the hostel after waiting around, and about 10 minutes after we arrived there the other group joined us in a taxi.

    vlcsnap-2014-07-29-00h20m29s55A sadly out-of-order Theatre of Magic at the hostel. I offered to fix it!

    It was really neat to see how much history we could cover with about 6 hours of walking. I expect the rest of the week will be equally full of interesting sights!


  • Flight by Night – Train by Day

    Our flight from Halifax to Frankfurt was delayed by almost an hour, but we arrived with time to spare to catch our train to Berlin.

    This was my first flight out of North America, and I found it to be fairly comfortable on our 767. That being said, I was also fortunate that I didn’t have to share my seat with anyone!


    My dreams of free beer on the flight were proven false (€3), but liquor was still available. In nothing but German, I was able to order my first drink: vodka and apple juice.


    It was well mixed, but even with double the pillows I couldn’t manage a restful sleep.

    Frankfurt airport is huge. It is the West Edmonton mall of airports. There are so many services and stores and people, the landing strip even goes over the autobahn! Frankfurt, with the S-Bahn and airport, reminds me of Montreal.

    Once we made it to our ICE train, it was time to make up for over 28 hours of being on the go.


    After some train delays, and a slightly difficult taxi ride, we made it to the hostel, baxpax! We set up our rooms, and the students that had arrived got together for supper at the restaurant downstairs.


    First beer in Germany – check.

  • Overnight to Frankfurt

    The Boeing 767-300 that will be taking us to Frankfurt has landed in Halifax! image In another half hour we will be on-board, hopefully enjoying complementary beverages shortly after take-off. This will be the last post today. After what I hope will be a good night’s sleep, our next leg of the trip is by train, from Frankfurt to Berlin! Bis morgen!

  • We are on our way!

    Julie, Jonathan, Jescinda and I are trying to keep entertained during a 12 hour layover in Halifax. I think a good nap will be needed later, since we had to get up around 4am. Our flight to Frankfurt doesn’t leave until 7:45pm tonight. It will be a simple overnight flight, and we land in Frankfurt at 7:15am Sunday morning.

    Fish Tales

    Turns out, I was able to find the best source of entertainment! Not quite as clean as the ones back home, but I still managed to get a free game :). If I had more change on me, it would surely start to get expensive.

    You can actually follow our flight across the Atlantic here: http://flightaware.com/live/flight/CFG63. There is a small delay for this data, but it will still show our progress across the Atlantic tonight!

  • Ready, set…

    Hold up, there’s too much to do before leaving!

    From the comfort of one week before the trip, I write this first post to explain this site’s purpose. Memorial University of Newfoundland offers students the opportunity to study abroad, in Germany! After completing the first two German language courses (GERM 1000/1001), students are able to register for the Heidelberg Field School, a 5 week course with 1 week in Berlin, and 4 weeks in Heidelberg.

    The Berlin component of the course is a historical and cultural examination of Berlin, the Capital of Germany. One week is dedicated to exploring the architecture, art and history in this vibrant and ever-evolving city.

    After Berlin, students are enrolled in German language courses at Heidelberg University, living in a beautiful, picturesque city complete with a castle! The Berlin and Heidelberg components together are worth 3 German courses, or 9 credit hours. It is a great experience to explore new cultures and develop German language skills with native speakers. Inexpensive weekend trips allow participants to explore even more of Germany (and even other parts of Europe!)

    This year, 23 students are registered for the program. All of us are likely in the same situation right now: still trying to sort out paperwork, finishing off last minute assignments and papers, deciding what to bring and worrying about all the travelling, tickets, and planning what to do during our Freizeit!

    Follow us here as we embark on our journey. The first official day of the program is July 27, 2014. Talk to you soon!