Monday, March 8, 2010


This weekend, I traveled to Dusseldorf and Cologne Germnay. We left on Thursday, took the metro to the airport and got on a plane headed to Weeze. From Weeze, we waited for a bus to get to the train station. Once we were at the train station, we had to wait until the next train to arrive. It was freezing, and there was no inside waiting area at the station, so we had to occupy our time and minds to not think about how cold it was. When the train finally came, it was really warm and cozy, so I listened to my music and fell asleep until we arrived in Dusseldorf. We finally arrived, and had to take a taxi to our hostel. We saw a line of taxis outside the train station and went over to talk to them. We didnt know any German, so it was a bit of a problem. We had ten people and there were four seats in each cab, so we wanted to know if we could squeeze people in, but there was a definite language barrier. The taxi driver was saying something to me and pointing, and I thought he was pointed to the van taxi and assumed he meant that it would be better for us. The he opened my door, and again I assumed that meant get out so I got out and then went to get my stuff out of the back. Then he was really frustrated and started to get really mad at me, but I had no idea what was going on. This was the only time that I have felt really frustrated about a situation thus far on my trip. When I am in Spain, if I cant completely understand what they are saying, I at least have an idea. But here, it was total frustration. So we got back in the cab, and pointed to where we needed to go. I was really glad to get out of that taxi and the driver was too because he was really rude. We checked into our hostel. Some Italians came up to us and we talked for them a bit while we waited for our keys. After we settled in, we were really hungry and wanted to grab a drink. By this time, it was about one in the morning. We asked the guy at recpetion, which was also a bar, where we could go. He explained to us a good area, so we went off walking. It was really really cold because Dusseldorf is in northern Germany. We walked and walked and could not find a single place that was open. After walking for a long time without having found anything, we decided to head back feeling pretty discourged. We saw a bar that was open next door to the hostel, so we grabbed a drink. Me and Caroline decided that we were too tired, cold, and hungry to stay any longer so we went back to the hostel. We bought some nuts in the hostel and decided that we would just have to wait until morning to eat. The next day, we got up and went to the breakfast that the hostel served. It wasn´t anything fancy at all, but considering the fact that we couldnt find anything to eat the night before, we gladly ate everything we could find. After we finished, we headed out to explore Dusseldorf. We walked around the city and went through a park that was located in the middle of the city. Then we checked out the Goethe Museum. There were a lot of portraits and sculptures. After that, we walked through the park some more. By this time, the sun was coming out, and the day was warming up. It made the trees look really beautiful. Then we walked to the old town (Allstadt) and looked out over the Rhine River. It was massive and the water moved really rapidly. Then we grabbed a drink at a really German bar, and the bartender kept refilling your glass without you even asking. We stayed there until we decided that we should probably find a place for lunch. So, we met up with the others that did not go to the musuem earlier. We walked around Allstadt. It was made up of cobble stone roads and old buildings that had ivy growing off the sides. Everyone wanted to eat some typical German food, which consists mainly of meat. Laura and I are the only vegetarians, so we were not able to eat any of the German food, so we went off on our own to find some food that we could eat. We came to a little corner that was serving some pasta and shrimp and fish and chips. It was one of the best meals that I have had in Europe thus far. The pasta was in a red sauce sauteed with shrimp, green olives, green onions, leeks, and some spice. It was so delicious and it was worth the 10 euros that we paid for it. After we finsihed our amazing meal, we met up with the others and ordered one of those big beers that come in a mug that you see big burly Germans drinking. Caroline and I split one because I was still really full from lunch. We sat outside and watched everyone walked about the city. After we finished, we went to this large modern looking tower and took an elevator to the top. There was a cafe and we grabbed some coffee and looked out over Dusseldorf. It wasnt the prettiest city that i have seen thus far, but it was still really interesting to see from that high up. 90% of Dusseldorf was destroyed in WWII, so the city is mostly made up of industry. From the top of the tower, we located our hostel and figured out how to get back . Some of us left and walked around the city some more. We went to an open air market that had tons of fresh flowers, herbs, fruits, vegetables, cheese, meats, chocolate, soaps, pastries, and a lot more. We wakled around and took some pictures. One man that was working asked me where I was from and I told him the United States, and he said ´´yes i know, but where in the US?´´ so I told him i was from Atlanta. He told us that we looked like we weren´t used to the cold and he could tell by our clothes that we werent from around there. He told us that we needed to bundle up more, but unfortunately, we didnt have anything else. Then he gave us all a delicious truffle. Then we walked along one of the main streets that had a ton of people. It had all the nice and upscale stores, but we didnt have any money to spare, so we just window shopped. Then we returned to the hostel to rest before going out again. We all took an hour nap and decided that we had to get up because the eating hours in Germany were not as late as those in Spain. We walked around, looking for a place. By this time, it was really really cold, the wind was blowing hard, and it was raining. We took a taxi to the Allstadt and reunited there. Some people went to a German restaurant, but I knew I couldn´t eat anything there, so the other half went to a Thai restaurant. It was so good and cheap, definitely a good choice. After we ate dinner, we went to some bars. Later we went dancing until we decided we want to leave. We grabbed a taxi, and it was snowing a lot outside. The next day we got up and headed to Cologne. We packed all our stuff and took it with us. We walked to the train station, and hopped on a train to Cologne. We didnt know it, but we had gotten on the express train, so we arrived there really quickly. We were able to put our bags in these machines that you pay for. It keeps your luggage somewhere until you put your card in it to get it back. It was so cool because you could drop it off and pick it up at any of the kioks. When we wakled outside the train station, the cathedral was right there in your face. This cathedral is the tallest in Europe, the oldest in Germany, and has survived 14 bombings from WWII. It was really a sight to see. We went inside and looked around. The ceilings were so massive and tall and eveything was so old and beautiful. I have never seen anything like it in my life. It had huge stained glass windows and the sun shone through and it casted a rainbow shadow on the columns of the cathedral. We decided to pay 1 euro to climb to the top, all 533 steps. It was a bit strange because the same staircase was used for going up and coming down. it was a spiral staircase and pretty narrow. I got a little disoriented and it was very claustorphobic in there. We reached a platform outside and had to take more stairs to get to the very top. Until that point, I was fine with how high it was because we climbed the steps indoors, but the last strech of steps were metal, so you could see down, and it was very cold and the wind was blowing very hard. My legs were like jelly and I didn´t know if i could make it to the top, but i decided not to think about it because it was well worth the climb. Once at the top, you could see out over all of Colgne. It was extremely high in the air, and I have a pretty serious fear of heights, so I stayed away from the edge. I looked out over enough and snapped some pictures. You could see the other sides of the cathedral and a lot of it was black from the bombings, but it was also covered it snow, so it was an amazing contrast. The climb down was almost worse than the ascent because you could see out. After it seemed like a just walked a million steps, i was finally at the bottom, but i still had jelly legs. We decided to take a tour bus around the city, that you paid 15 euros to hop on and off. We took a stop at the chocolate factory, located right on the Rhine River. It smelt so amazing in the building. We read about the history of the coco plant and watched the production of how it was made. After we finsihed walking through the musuem, we sat at the cafe. We all order a hot chocolate with baileys. It was so thick and decadent, but it was so worth it. After that, we hopped on the bus again and just sat on it until it was finished because it was too cold to walk around. When it ended we still need to pass time before our train, so we posted up at a pub. We watched a soccer game and had a drink. There was this German man and he was dressed in a blond wig and a dress. He said that he was getting married and it was his bachelor´s party. He asked us to donate a 50 cent euro and you get a piece of paper to see if you won. Scott won, so he and this German man chugged a mini bottle together. He was speaking to us in English and was extremely nice. Almost all the Germans that we encountered were extremely nice and helpful, and I really enjoyed them all (except for the one taxi driver). They wanted us to party with them, but we told them we had to get back to make our train. When we got to the train station, we were trying to buy tickets. A man came up to us and told us that he had bought a two day pass and it was for 5 people and he didnt need to anymore so we bought it. Then we thought that we had been scammed and everyone started freaking out because we had gave him a good deal of money, and we were all running really low at that point. It turned out to be a legit ticket, so all was well, but it makes you think about making spontaneous decisions like that. You have to be really careful and always have your guard up, especially when dealing with money. But in this case, we trusted this man, and it worked out to be in our advantage because we saved some money. So I guess, you just have to judge every situation for what its worth because sometimes its worth it to trust people even though everyone tells you to trust no one when traveling. We took the train to Dusseldorf and switched to another one that took us back to the original train station. From there, we hopped in a bus to get to the Weeze airport. We arrived at the airport at 12 at night,when our flight wast until 7 in the morning, but the train we took was the last one so we had no other option. We had 7 hours to kill in the airport, which was cold and had absolutely nothing in it. I slept on the ground for a bit, and we just tried to find things to do to occupy ourselves and pass the time by. Being in the airport seemed like a dream because we just had such a long day and now we had to miss a whole night´s sleep. I don´t really know what we did to occupy that time, but it was finally time to board our flight. I passed out on the plane until we arrived in Valencia around 930 in the morning. We had to take the metro to our part of town, and we were all passing out in our seats. We all looked really weary and worn down. We were finally there and when we walked back to our dorm, i was so happy to be in Valencia again. It is so beautiful and i can actually understand the language. The more I travel to other parts, the more I appreciate and love the city of Valencia. It really is one of the greatest cities in the world. We got back to our dorm around 10, starving. I ate some breakfast, took a shower, and passed out for the remainder of the day. I woke up to talk to my parents, eat some dinner, and then I fell asleep again around 1030.This weekend was intense traveling. I dont see how people can do that all the time. If i end up traveling, I will have to stay in one place longer than a day because it is really exhausting having to figure our where to go, what time, etc. A lot of the times, we werent sure where to go, and I am honestly surprised that we got back to Valencia.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Barcelona, Gaudi, and Soccer

This weekend, we took a weekend trip to Barcelona. We took us bus over there, which lasted about 4 or 5 hours. I looked out the window as we drove along the coast and could see a lot of the rural landscapes of Spain. I saw a lot of small farms, as well as big orchards of orange trees. Everything here is so beautiful. It looks different, but there are a lot of hues of forest greens, neutrals, burgandys, and dark oranges. We got to Barcelona in enough time to see the city bustling about on a late friday afternoon. The hotel we were staying at was right in the middle of everything, just a block away from the biggest plaza in the city. Mary Clare had a room to herself so I moved in with her. Our room was on the top floor, with big windows that opened up to an incredible view of the city. We dropped our stuff down and immediately left to explore. We took a couple small streets, saw of vegetarian restaurant that we wanted to eat at sometime, and went into a retro clothing store. We found a restaurant to get a drink, and it seemed very popular because there were a ton of people. We retruend to the hotel shortly after to meet up with the group to go eat dinner. We walked to an italian buffet restaurant, which was a nice change from the cafeteria food at Rector Peset (my dorm). That night we met up with Dave's friend and saw some of the city. The next day we got up and went on a bus tour throughout the city. I wish we could have walked around a bit, but we didnt have enough time to see everything we wanted if we were walking. We went to a park called Parque Gruel, which had a lot of Gaudi influences and structures. Then we were driving along again and all of a sudden, there was La Sagrada Familia. It was absoultely breathtaking. Imagine just driving along and the next block is just this massive church. you can barely even see it when you are standing in front of it because it is so high. The church was designed by Gaudi, but is not finsihed yet. He died before it was finished but he didn't write all of it down so they can't do exactly what he had in mind. His ideas are absolutely absurd. There are these three towers that make up part of La Sagrada Familia and he wanted to construct it so that each one made a different musical note when the wind blew into them. A lot of his art and architecture is influenced by the natural world. The inside is supposed to be a forest. The columns are supposed to the trunks and the ceiling makes up the canopy, and there are a ton of little star lights so that when the sun shines in, it makes a pattern on the ground. What is so crazy about this church is that every detail is different and each side has a completely different feel to it. There is some coherency in the overall look, but to me there were just crazier details and structures at every turn. That night we went out to a couple places. First we ate at the vegetarian place we saw the first night. We all got different food and sangria and shared everything. Then we went and met up with some people and went to the biggest bar that I have ever been in. There were a ton of foreigners there, but really just a ton of people in general. Then we got on the metro and headed to a discotech that we heard was supposed to be a must-experience kinda place. We got there and it was surrounded by all the warehouses. The line to get into Razmataz was about 2 city blocks long. We really didnt want to wait that long, but we had come all that way and we wanted to see what the hype was about. I understood completely as soon as I took my first step into the club. It was this huge warehouse with lights, loud music, and dancing bodies everywhere. But that room was not jsut the craziest part. We walked up some stairs, outside on some bridge and into another room equally as big and crazy as the first. Each room had different music, but we as equally packed with peope. There must have been a couple thousand people there. We left around 6 in the morning, which was early compared to everyone else who were still dancing away in there. We got back to our hotel and about 7 people passed out on our bed. Needless to say, I didn't get much sleep because an hour later we woke up to grab breakfast in the hotel. We had to pack up our stuff after we got back, took a little nap, and then went to the bus yet again. We were leaving just as soon as we had got there. This was not nearly enough time to experience Barcelona, one of the craziest cities in the world. I should be seeing myself back there in the future, but I am still happy to be living in Valencia. I think its not as crazy, more manageable, but still very unique. That night me and Caroline were invited to watch the Marselle vs Paris soccer game with Gilles and Jean Manuel. We went over to Gilles apartment, which is a 2 minute walk from our dorm. His place overlooks the Plaza de la Virgen and there were a ton of people in it. This week marks the beginning of Las Fallas, a week long celebration, party, and parade of the coolest looking structures. There are already a ton of people in the city to get ready. There are parades at night and something called Mascelta in the day time, where they shoot off cannons in Plaza del Ayuntamiento, which is one of the biggest plazas in Valenica. Gilles cooked dinner for everyone, which was rice with mussels in this yellow creamy sauce. It was so delicious and a lot better than the food I could get at my dorm. I can't remember the name of the dish but it was a traditional French dish. Marselle won the soccer game 3-0 in Paris, a huge upset for them but a great victory for Marselle, so everyone was in high spirits.