• 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.

  • 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.