Wanderlust war bereits ein mittelhochdeutsches Wort und beschreibt die Lust am Wandern, den steten inneren Antrieb, sich zu Fuß die Natur und die Welt fern der Heimat zu erschließen // A middle-high German word describing the joy of wandering, the constant urge to walk through nature and the world far from home.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dresden, old and new // so it goes...

        This weekend we were able to make a second trip to Dresden (significantly longer and less dramatic than our first attempt, this time thankfully excluding riot police and/or bands of political demonstrators). It boasts a beautiful "Altstadt," or old city center, as well as a thriving and alternative "Neustadt," or new city; these two sections of Dresden are appropriately divided by the Elbe River, which cuts a long, picturesque swathe through the center.

        What is perhaps most striking about Dresden is this juxtaposition of old and new. Even within the "Altstadt" you see this mix--buildings that are a collage of periods, styles, and materials; sandstone structures blackened by age and neighbors that still glimmer; and protestant churches facing Catholic cathedrals in the same city square. This mixture within the Altstadt can largely be attributed to the Allied bombing of Dresden during WWII, that not only killed up to 25,000 civilians, but also completely destroyed about 15 square miles of the city center, leveling in one day a historical center that dates back about 800 years. The most famed of these destroyed buildings, the "Frauenkirche," or Church of Our Lady, was only recently renovated, completed in 2005 after significant donations from nations the world over. When the city was rebuilt it was rebuilt with historical loyalty, thus the sandstone architecture is still prevalent.

Outside the Frauenkirche, the black bricks throughout are sandstone bricks recovered from the original structure

The opera house in the old city center

Altstadt plaza

        For me, the most haunting of these reminders within the Altstadt is the land along the Elbe River. When we drove past our tour guide pointed out to us that the land is about 4-5 meters higher along the river than it was originally. Expecting some geological explanation for the heightened land and/or lowered water level, her response caught me off guard: beneath the grass lies the rubble of the Altstadt, a city buried for lack of any other place to put all of the debris. In some cases small remnants of these old buildings were recovered and integrated into the "modern" Altstadt as a remembrance. In fact, if you walk into the Frauenkirche you can still see the original cross, blackened and warped from the bombing, enshrined with prayer candles near the nave. Unfortunately, cameras were not allowed inside, so I don't have a picture of the interior of the church (which is beautiful), or the cross.
        The Neustadt adds a new dimension to this juxtaposition, adding a younger, alternative art scene to the community (reminiscent of some neighborhoods in Berlin, but to a lesser extent and perhaps less volatile, I can't be sure though). I'm finding myself drawn to street art here in Germany more and more, so here are some things that caught my eye along the way:

Some Pulp Fiction

Street art and graffiti meet

Dear Constitutional Court,

And some Darth Vader 

Some fun courtyards

Postage stickers ripped to create a "relief" of sorts

Looking closer--all DHL stickers

My only regret is not having found the Slaughterhouse Five. And for my fellow Vonnegut readers: so it goes...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

When ordering pastries...

        I would love to write to you all today about our travels to Dresden this weekend; however, with finals forthcoming this week and preparations for the long-awaited arrival of my beautiful sister/mother/Aunt, I may have to put off a longer post until later this week. Until then, a couple tips about ordering pastries in Germany, inspired by today's events:

1) The word for "nut" in German is not "nutte," as would seem only logical. It is "nusse." When you ask the kind bakery lady across the street if her praline cakes have "nutte," you are really asking her if her pastries have "prostitutes."

2) Apple cake And this is exactly how they will answer you when you ask.

3) When you see "cherry corners" on sale in the morning, buy them immediately. Those sales are just as attractive to everyone else in town as they are to you and they will definitely be gone by the time you meander that way in the afternoon. And then you will have to resort to prostitute pastries.

Unfortunately, I made all three of these mistakes within one week, at the same pastry shop, with the same kind-hearted bakery lady. To round off today's performance, however, I managed to poke myself in the eye with my sunglasses while ordering, and nearly ran head-first into the display of wind chimes outside the window. So if you take anything from this, take heart in knowing that you can most definitely never embarrass yourself in a German pastry shop any more than I have already.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Beaches and Tapas and Olive Oil and Mountains // Spring Break 2011

        We have safely/happily returned from our Spring Break travels! In thinking about this blog post I’ve come to the conclusion that I will try to limit myself to four stories (brevity is ambitious for me). I am going to aim for four because I took roughly four hundred pictures, and I figure this makes for a fitting proportion (and won’t take you all several years to read). This is also the number of cities we stayed in, so I will try to share with you one story and a favorite snapshot (or two) from each place. So here goes.

Malaga, Spain:
        Malaga is not an incredibly touristy place really. When I mentioned to our Australian tour guide (one of many Australian tour guides we met in Spain, not sure if this is coincidence or not) that we were simply here because our Ryanair flight brought us here, he replied “everyone comes to Malaga because their Ryanair flight brought them here.” Luckily for this small coastal city, cheap European domestic travel has upped their tourism value, and lured many American students along the way. We stayed at the Melting Pot Hostel, right on the beach, and I can’t say enough about our experience there. We were immediately introduced to Jorge, the owner and head chef, who had Katherine slipping into an apron and cleaning barnacles off of mussels within our first half hour. Under his (entirely Spanish) tutelage we prepared seafood paella for our fellow residents, complete with shrimp, mussels, and a number of other seafoody ingredients I did not recognize (Midwest upbringing, what can I say). It was delicious, and served us and all of the Californians/Canadians/Brits/Scots we met that evening. The highlight of Malaga: the people we met.

Jorge and Katherine, our chefs for the evening

The paella master at work

The final product

Sunlight and orange trees

Beach beach beach

Granada, Spain:
        If Malaga is the coast/palm trees/Sangria portion of Spain, then Granada is the winding roads/white-washed neighborhoods/tapas portion of Spain. It is well-known and well-loved, among tourists and Spaniards alike. It is most famous for the Alhambra, a complex of Islamic fortresses and palaces built in the 14th century, and for its tapas tradition. If you order a drink before 1 am the bar/restaurant owner is required to serve you free food as well, which results in many drinks and many small plates of “tapas,” delicious usually-seafood appetizers. Needless to say we took advantage of both of these attractions.

the Alhambra

A panorama of Granada taken from the Alhambra

The Alhambra at night


Views of the Albaicin, the historic Muslim neighborhood of Granada

Roads built for donkeys, tight indeed

Florence, Italy:
        I will always remember Florence for one tucked-away family restaurant and a fried pasta bread appetizer with Arugula, olive oil and perfect clouds of mozzarella cheese that changed my life. I saw the Uffizi, a number of Raphael paintings, the Duomo, Italian marching bands and unification day celebrations, and honestly, I can still say that this one dish was my favorite part of Florence. I feel like I should apologize for my lack of culture and unashamed love of anything that involves cheese and olive oil, but it’s probably not that surprising to any of you. I am still trying to find a similar recipe for the bread, and will probably spend most of my life trying to replicate it.
        Here are some pictures that hopefully do justice for the non-food portions of our Florentine experience.

The Duomo

The Duomo, as seen from Michelangelo Plaza

A panorama of Florence, also from the Michelangelo Plaza

Kath, Nat, and I, Michelangelo Plaza

Levanto, Italy and the Cinque Terre:
        Our final experience was perhaps our most memorable one, for me at least. The Cinque Terre may be familiar to some of you, as it has (over the past 15 years or so) became a tourist attraction along the West coast. It is a collection of five villages/small cities that dot the coast, each within several miles of the next, wedged into mountain sides and cliff faces. There is a lovely coastal boardwalk-type path that connects all five, so people flock to it in the Summer and Fall to hike the entire stretch (a journey that takes a few hours, but ultimately isn’t overly taxing from what I’ve heard). This was our plan when we arrived in Levanto, one town to the north of the northern most village (one train stop and a few short miles away from the start of the hike). We arrived that morning prepared for leisurely hiking (brought along our hiking packs to look like we fit in, but didn’t expect them to be much more than sophisticated picnic-packs), and found out very quickly that the usual hike was closed for repairs. This left an alternate trail, however, the “red trail,” or more difficult and presumably-inland trail. This trail was free! And as poor college students at the end of a week-long European road trip it sounded too good to be true. It would take longer, and as we traced it along the map we saw that it would take us in from the coast before bringing us back out to the lookouts in each village, which was fine, we were okay with some wooded walks (we brought our hiking packs, after all).
        What we failed to realize, however, was that the trails were not actually “inland” at all, but that the trail map had attempted to convey what was impossible with a 2-D representation: these trails, literally, went up. For my mother’s sake I will not go into further detail about the lacking trail width and the number of times I was using all four limbs to climb up narrow rock faces, but I will say that after a quick midway-five-minute-fetal-position moment of near panic I was able to pull it together and we climbed to the top, between the villages of Vernazza and Corniglia. This was the most terrifying, most absurdly hilarious, and most rewarding adventure I have ever embarked on. When we reached leveler ground near the top we noticed a small cottage tucked into the mountainside, and a beautiful Italian couple eating a late brunch together on a terrace overlooking the trail. The man, David, waved us up, asking us pleasantly if we would like to join them for tea. As if in a dream we wandered up to the terrace, met his lovely girlfriend Sarah, and shared Earl Grey tea, biscuits, and some kind chit-chat about the weather and Italian tourism for a half hour or so. He laughed easily with us, joking that we “didn’t look so good” coming up, and that “not too many people come up this way.” How true David, how true.

Halfway up and feeling pretty good...level ground

A panorama from the terrace

Terrace tea-time

Hiking through olive groves

San Bernardino, a small village halfway up and a lovely resting spot

Views from the top

Clouds moving over the mountains

A view of Corniglia on our way down

Finishing the hike

Views from Corniglia

One final snapshot of the coast

        I knew brevity would fail me, but I do hope these snapshots suffice. I can hardly put it all into words, but it was certainly an incredible experience, start to finish, and if you have any interest in the pared-down 200 photo collection of our travels you can check out the album here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Heading South // Spain, Italy

        Midterms are (finally) over and we are heading south! Departing from Berlin around 10:40 am tomorrow and arriving in Malaga, Spain just after lunchtime. Our first hostel is will be lovely. After a few days in Malaga we are off to Granada, Spain, and then later in the week we fly to Florence, Italy, where we will spend the remainder of our Spring Vacation. While in Tuscany we plan on hiking the Cinque Terre and taking a bike tour (aaand a wine tour, of course). I will have limited computer access during the week, but here's a map of our destinations!

View Spring Break 2011 in a larger map

Friday, March 4, 2011

Pictures thus far // Month one and a little extra

     Due to a nasty German-style-cold-bug I won't be traveling anywhere this weekend, so no new places to report! But, I have compiled all of the photos of the trip so far into a Picasa web album, so I thought I would post the link here for anyone who may not have seen them on Facebook. It includes the newest Berlin pictures as well. Click "Deutschland, part one" to go to the page!

Deutschland, part one