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Munich! July 20, 2012

Posted by Karthik Nathan in Travel Log.
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July 11, 2012

We left Weimar in the afternoon of Thursday July 5th and made our way to Munich (München), arriving at around 7:30 PM. The hostel at which we stayed is called CVJM, which is the German equivalent of the YMCA. We had rooms of three, so I was with Foster and Trey, and they did have WiFi (WLAN auf Deutsch) for €1 for the entire stay, which was definitely worth it. There were only 2 showers for all 24 of us though, so showering in the morning was always a waiting game. Breakfast was provided by the hostel and consisted of bread, Nutella, fruit (kiwis!), coffee, and musli (basically cereal).

Neues Rathaus
New City Hall (Neues Rathaus) in Marienplatz

We met Jule Meyen for the first time that night: a German student in her twenties who had actually done her Master’s at UGA in the same program that Frau Ulla had been in. Jule is studying German-English education at the Ludwig-Maximillian-Universität (LMU) München and served as our tutor for the München portion. We didn’t do much that night after eating dinner at a Chinese restaurant and turned in early.

The next day, Friday, we woke up early and dressed up all fancy to go and visit Siemens AG. The visit and tour were very well organized and we were all very impressed with just how diverse and well-established Siemens has become. They even have a healthcare division now, where they develop cutting-edge treatment, diagnostic, and imaging systems. I would definitely not be opposed to perhaps interning with them during one of the next 2 summers. A few of their engineers gave us a tour of their labs, where they did research in areas such as water quality, laser spectroscopy, coal quality, and alcohol breath analyzers.

After the Siemens visit, we went on a “Stadtrally” scavenger hunt that had been set-up by Jule to get us accustomed to where everything was located throughout München. We saw Marienplatz, the Glockenspiel, Englischer Garten, Sendlinger Tor/Strasse, LMU and TMU (Technische Universität München), Odeonsplatz, the Residenz Museum, and lots of other smaller important places in München. The city is incredibly rich in culture and history, with lots of buildings, monuments, squares, statues, and other landmarks that each has its own interesting background story.

Marienplatz with the Frauenkirche and City Hall in the background

Our first mandatory activity on Saturday was only at 5:30 PM, so we basically had the whole day free. Foster, Charlie and I decided to walk around town and “steig as many Doms as possible auf” (climb as many cathedrals as possible). We ended up finding two cathedrals with huge climb-able towers, so we did and had some awesome views and pictures of central München from the air. After that, we walked around some more, took some more pictures, and made our way towards Theresienwiese, which is where Oktoberfest takes place annually. There happened to be some sort of small festival going on there that weekend, so we looked around there, bought some snacks, and took some more pictures of the “Bavaria” statue.

Me overlooking Marienplatz and Frauenkirche

The next day, Sunday, our first program activity was only at 2:30 to tour the Alte Pinakothek (museum of art from 14th, 15th, 16th centuries), so Charlie and I got up earlier and went to the famous Deutsches Museum, only to find that it was closed because it was Sunday…oops. The two of us instead used that time to explore the southern part of Munich, particularly the area around the Isator. We also went as far north as Münchner Freiheit, a square dedicated to those who resisted the Nazi regime during World War II, and made our way slowly back south towards the Englischer Garten, which was much bigger and much more beautiful that we had imagined. There must have been at least a thousand people sunbathing or playing sports or biking or running throughout that park! The most special part of the park, however, is undoubtedly the “Eisbach”, an artificially created surfing area on the river that flows through the park. It is apparently a very popular tradition in München to grab your surfboard and wet suit and go to the Eisbach on a nice sunny afternoon and go surfing! Charlie and I stood there for about 30 minutes watching surfer after surfer take their turn and then dive into the water, swim to shore, walk back, and get back into line, over and over and over again. There were kids as young as 12 or 13 and adults as old as 35 or 40.

Surfing area (Eisbach) in the garden

After visiting the Pinakothek, Jule (our tutor) took us to Schloss Nymphenburg, a huge palace that was wider and longer than it was tall, with a stunning garden. We walked around, took some pictures, and sat on some benches in the shade to kill time until our program-sponsored dinner at Augustiner Keller. The food at Augustiner Keller was nothing short of excellent and Dr. Cothran kept the food and drinks coming for about two hours (all on the program)! A few of us hung out there for a while longer after the dinner was over and then slowly dragged our very full bellies back to the hostel.

Beautiful Schloss Nymphenburg

Monday was set aside for a business visit to a mechanical engineering firm called Grenzebach, which is located near Augsburg, about an hour and a half away from München by bus. They gave us the usual company overview, treated us to a cafeteria lunch, and gave us a tour of their facilities. This company builds large-scale factory machines to be used for the production of other products, such as porcelain, glass, wood products, solar panels, and more. Getting to see the production of such large and complicated machines was definitely something we will never forget! There were cranes that could carry up to 25 tons, warehouses with towering ceilings, and piles and piles of metal waiting to be shaped, cut, and welded together. After the Grenzebach visit, we took a tour through the city of Augsburg, which was highlighted by visiting the “Goldene Saal”, or Golden Hall, in Augsburg’s city hall. The entire hall was covered in gold leaf and sparkled and shined like no other.

The Gold Hall (Goldene Saal) in Augsburg city hall

Tuesday morning was gifted to us as a few free hours, so Foster and I took advantage of the time by taking the train way out to Allianz Area: Home of FC Bayern München! We took some pictures from the outside and then found that the gates were open and went as close as we could to the seats to take some pictures. We also visited the Fan Shop there and found some very cheap player posters, so we each bought one. Mine is of Thomas Müller, a young German player who I think will be the face of German soccer for the next 10 to 15 years, and Foster got a poster with the Bayern München logo and the many trophies they’ve won over the years. We had a tour of the Neue Pinakothek (aka more art…) at noon, after which we went to BMW-World! At BMW-World, we first looked around and drooled over the awesome models that BMW had put out on display. After depressing ourselves about not owing cool cars for about an hour, we had a factory tour of the 3-series plant that BMW operates right next to their headquarters in the northern part of München. We got to see the entire process of how a 3-series is made, from start to finish and even learned some weirdly interesting facts like this: BMW owns an ostrich farm. That’s right, an OSTRICH farm. Why, you might ask? Because BMW uses ostrich feathers exclusively to dust off the surface of the cars before they get painted. OSTRICH FEATHERS! That is how you know you’re buying a good car.

Me in front of Allianz Arena!
I…just…aghhhh. I want it. ‘Nuff said.

After the tour and more drooling over BMW cars, Charlie and I decided to go up in the Fernsehturm (TV tower) to get some awesome views of Munich from the Olympic area (right across from BMW-Welt). Here are some pictures, in this case, these pictures are even better than any amount of words I could try to write:

BMW Headquarters from the Fernsehturm
See those looming shadows? Not clouds. THE ALPS!
Me on the Fernsehturm (TV Tower) platform overlooking Munich

And then came Wednesday, our departure day. We all woke up nice and early, packed, ate, and made our way to the train station to catch our 9:30 AM train to Berlin. It was a bittersweet goodbye, because we all loved München a lot, but we’re all also very very very excited to see what Berlin has in store for us!

Thanks for reading! Please look through my pictures on Picasa (see the Picasa post) and look for my next post about Berlin!

A little teaser from Berlin! :D

–Karthik Nathan

Prague! July 8, 2012

Posted by Karthik Nathan in Travel Log.
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July 5th, 2012

From Thursday June 21 to Sunday June 24, a group of us German LBAT students spent our long weekend in Prague, Czech Republic! Our group consisted of myself, Trey, Charlie, Foster, Hannah, Heather, Michael S. and Michael F. We left Thursday right after class and got into Prague at around 9:30 PM, after an hour-long stop in Dresden. That night, after checking into our hostel (Hostel Orange), we just walked around the city trying to figure out where everything was and how to get from place to place. The next day, we woke up relatively early and took a New Europe free walking tour of Prague, which was given by a guide from, of all places, Macon, Georgia! He was incredibly informative and very enthusiastic about the rich history of Prague (King Charles IV is apparently like a god there) and the role that it has been playing in Europe for hundreds of years.

Our 14 bed room in Hostel Orange

This is how big the sign for our hostel was…

After the tour, we went to the top of the tall hill on the other side of the river to grab some food and enjoy the incredible view. Friday night was the Germany vs. Greece Euro Cup quarterfinal match, which we watched in the Old Town Square on a huge screen surrounded by hundreds of crazy yelling German fans. THAT was an experience. Germany won, of course (it’s Greece…), and that game capped off a terrific first day in Prague.

Me on the hill overlooking Prague

Hannah, Mike, and I ready to watch Germany whoop Greece!

Almost our entire Saturday was spent visiting the Prague Castle, which is way up on the hill on the other side of the river overlooking the city. We were completely blown away with the pure massiveness of the complex. You can only see a certain portion of the castle from down in the city, so we didn’t really expect there to be that much to see and do in the castle, but we were 100% wrong. The first thing we saw was the beautiful cathedral in the middle of the castle complex in the typical Gothic style that we’ve been seeing everywhere in Germany. There were different exhibits going on in the castle about the history of Prague, such as a photography exhibit that told the story of how Prague had changed over the years, both physically and culturally. There was also a vineyard overlooking the river and the city that was apparently built by one of the castle’s residents. We spent basically the entire day walking around the castle and taking advantage of the terrific view of the river and the city provided by the hill, until we finally got tired of staring at Prague and finally crossed over the Charles Bridge back into the city.

Me with the Charles Bridge in the background

Our train back to Weimar was only scheduled to leave at around 6:30 in the evening, so we basically had about half a day left in Prague when we woke up Sunday morning. We decided to use this time to visit something very unique to Eastern Europe: a KGB museum! What we didn’t realize was that the museum was very new, located in just a regular house, and employed exactly 1 person, who was the owner. Once we learned all of this, we became a little skeptical, but we decided to try it anyway and it turned out to be an excellent decision. The museum was full of interesting and exceptional little and large remnants of the former KGB and the owner/curator/tour guide was straight out of Russia and knew everything and more that we wanted to learn about the KGB. We spent about an hour and a half there and even took pictures with the owner and some awesome machine guns, rifles, and pistols that he let us pose with.

Hannah, myself, and Foster at the KGB Museum

We spent the hour or two that we had left before our train walking around some more and eventually stumbled across the German and American embassies, at which we almost convinced  Foster (the only one with his passport with him at the time) to go into the American embassy just so that we could call Dr. Cothran and report to her that “Foster went home…oh wait he’s back…oh wait he’s gone again!” This amused us enough to pass the time until it was time to go back to our hostel, pack up, and walk to the train station, which luckily was only about a 15 minute walk away. We got back to Weimar around 11:30 PM, which meant we could either wait about 45 minutes for a bus or split a taxi 8 ways. We made the smart decision and took the taxi back to Hedwig-Pfeiffer Haus, which only ended up costing us about €1.50 each.

Home sweet home!

Prague is such a beautiful city with lots of culture and many interesting things to do, I’m very happy that we were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to experience it. As with every city that I’ve ever visited, I just wish that we could have had a few more days there, but hey, you can’t always have everything you want.

Looking down our hostel’s street toward the Prague National Museum, which is unfortunately currently closed for renovations

Beautiful entrance to the Prague Castle

As always, thank you very much for reading and following along with my blog, please continue to do so until July 28th (the end of the trip), and  of course, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AMERICA!!

Weimar! June 11, 2012

Posted by Karthik Nathan in Travel Log.
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June 11, 2012

Hallo!

Our program is now in Weimar, Germany, after about two and a half weeks of Dusseldorf. 5 new students have now joined us, bringing our total up to 24 students and 2 professors. We are staying at the BEAUTIFUL Hedwig-Pfeiffer-Haus just to the south of the city and I am rooming with Foster Yow, a Marketing major senior from UGA.

Weimar is much smaller than Dusseldorf, with only about 60,000 residents, 6,000 of which are students. It is located in Thuringia, which is east-middle Germany and is famous for being the home of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, Franz Liszt, and Johann Sebastian Bach at various times. The Weimar Republic, which was the weak and unstable government of Germany between the end of the first World War and the Nazi Regime (1919-1933) had its constitution written and signed here in Weimar, hence the name.

We have class most days from 9-12:30 at the Bauhaus University in Weimar, during which we are taking two courses: Wirtschafts Deutsch und Landeskunde (Auf Englisch: Business German and Georgraphy/Culture). Dr. Cothran, the director of the program, teaches the first course and Frau Jawad from the Bauhaus Uni teaches the second. After classes, we go to eat at the Mensa or cafeteria, where we get discounted student lunches for usually about 2-3 Euros (oh yes!). Some days we have scheduled tours or business visits (i.e. Goethe Haus, Schiller Haus, Bayer visit, Schott-Glass visit) and other days we have the rest of the day free.

We have 5 tutors here, like the 2 we had in Dusseldorf: Ben, Michael, Felix, Stella, and Martina. They are all around 20 years old and study at the Bauhaus University too. They love to hang out with us at the student club M18 and even write a blog for us to keep us updated on the happenings of Weimar and student life here.

Some days also consist of an Ausflug (day trip, more or less) to neighboring cities or attractions. So far, we’ve had trips to Naumburg, Erfurt, and a vineyard (Weinprobe), with trips to Leipzig and Eisenach to follow this week.

I can’t finish without talking about the only thing that Europe cares about at all right now: EURO 2012! If you didn’t know, the 2012 edition of the European Championship (Europa-Meisterschaft or EM auf Deutsch) is taking place from June 8 to July 1 in Poland and Ukraine. Germany played its first game of the tournament on Saturday evening against Portugal and we were unfortunately on an Ausflug for most of it. However, as soon as we got back, we ran to the nearest Biergarten and the score was still 0:0. I kid you not, literally 2 minutes later, a Mario Gomez header sailed into the net and the entire restaurant erupted! Germany won 1:0 and plays again Wednesday at 20:45 CEST against Netherlands, in a crucial game for the “Death Group” B.

Not only do we cheer very passionately for the team, but Foster and I decided to take it one step further:

Image(Don’t worry Amma and Appa, they weren’t very expensive)

Anyways, it’s been an absolutely amazing time so far here in Germany, and I can only imagine it getting better with the rest of the EM, Prague, Munich, and Berlin yet to come! Thank you for taking the time to read my blog!

Bis später, 

Karthik

Amsterdam! June 11, 2012

Posted by Karthik Nathan in Travel Log.
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May 17, 2012

Hallo!

Trey and I arrived in Amsterdam this morning at 8:30 Amsterdam time (2:30 AM EST) after a slight delay at the Atlanta airport and a loooooong flight. We took the train from the airport to Amsterdam Centraal and walked the 15-20 minute (30 with baggage) to our hostel. The thing about our hostel is that it’s actually on a small docked passenger boat! It’s called “Passenger Ship Avanti” and Trey and I are sharing a nice cozy (aka small) cabin with bunk beds, one little closet, a sink, and one shower/toilet for the entire hall.

We took a walking tour of the city after grabbing a quick lunch and our South African/English/Dutch tour guide Mark was terrific! After eating a much cheaper dinner and some delicious Dutch ice cream for dessert, we headed back to the hostel to call it an early night. Don’t worry, this won’t become a habit, we’re both just exhausted from the flight, time change, lack of sleep, and miles of walking we did today.

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