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Oh Yeah?? June 20, 2011

Posted by Andrey Kossev in Travel Log.
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So this weekend I found myself going on an intense adventure with the infamous Adi Suresh and Arjun Meka after a surprise freies Wochenende.  Using the intensely awesome Mitfahrgelegenheit website (thanks Meatro!!), I was able to find a ride from Erfurt to Stuttgart with a married couple and one rather attractive German girl for 20 Euro, and a ride back from Heidelberg (on really slow trains) with a really friendly Russian emigrant German girl named Polina for only 8 euro.  The experience was really cool, and even though I was completely out of my element, it was oddly fun trying something absolutely new.  It was also extremely meaningful to speak German with actual Germans, as listening comprehension is probably the most difficult thing to improve upon until you actually have conversations with different people.  Polina, you have my eternal love.

Ah, Heidelberg..

Anyway, why did I go on this random journey?  Well, the opportunity of a visit to the Mercedes and Porsche museums can’t be easily overlooked.  Arriving in Stuttgart Hbf, I met up with the two previously mentioned gentlemen, and stayed in a hostel in the city.  Next morning, we went to the Porsche museum thinking that it would take up our entire day.  Sure enough, the vehicles were seriously cool, and right there in arms reach, as we walked through the exhibit.

911 GT1

When I saw the 911 GT1 I thought things couldn’t get any cooler, and out came a random Mclaren MP4-1 Formula 1 car (from 1983) – seriously cool!  I couldn’t belive how massive the thing was.  Nowadays, Formula 1 cars are like scalpels cutting the track with surgical precision, but this thing was just a powerhouse.  Bare-bones aero package,  1200 hp engine, massive tires, zero safety features.

Mclaren MP4-1

But soon enough, the exhibit was over.. and we decided to check out Mercedes just in case.  We were stunned – Mercedes was way cooler.  The building itself was a marvel of modern technology.  Shaped like a peanut, the building takes you up in a capsule-styled elevator to its eighth floor, and has you spiral your way down through the history of the automobile.  It was way classier and more educational than the Porsche museum, and had really diverse information on the development of social movements, historical events, and technology in the world at large.

Cars - Andy Warhol

Just when we were getting exhausted of consuming all this information, we hit the last floor, titled “Heroes”, where we ran across numerous notable racecars, including the Mclaren-Mercedes MP4-23, which was driven to the 2008 World Driver’s Champtionship under the enormous talent of Lewis Hamilton.  It was a meaningful moment for me, realizing that just three years ago that car was the pinnacle of automotive engineering talent.

Mclaren-Mercedes MP4-23

Later that day, we met up with a friend in Heidelberg, and walked to Bismarckplatz, witnessing some really beautiful scenery and visiting Heidelberger Schloss (not all that impressive) the next day, before beginning an arduous trip back.  It’s an odd thought, but I feel like the most significant part of the experience was honestly just travelling with strangers.  If I can be comfortable with a stranger whose language I understand only when actively using all of my listening powers, I feel like there is little that I can’t do.  To those of you who haven’t studied abroad, that feeling is priceless.

Class..

Later this week, I go to some chemical company, and Thursday-Sunday will be spent in Berlin.  That should be a fun experience, so I’ll hopefully get back to you guys soon!

Excursions June 13, 2011

Posted by Andrey Kossev in Travel Log.
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My first weekend in Germany was fantastic.  Prior to coming here I thought that the structure of the program would be a little too much, but having us all together has made for some awesome memories.  Saturday we went to Naumburg, and were given a rare dose of Freizeit, which we spent crashing a city tour, and eating in a waffle shop (Frau Held is widely considered an expert in the field of waffles and she had seconds).

The Dom

The main focus of the trip, however, was the Naumburger Dom, in which we got a rather exlusive tour which allowed us to climb up to the top and go in the various towers.  We also got to ring the bells (lightly for fear of deafness), which were barely salvaged at the end of World War II.  Naumburg is a great little town, and the streets (as in most old towns) are clean and the architecture beautiful.  I was particularly impressed by how neatly the drainage in the city was made – some really beautiful engineering done with cobblestones in these parts!  The drains got some exercise while we were there too, because the weather has thus far been rather unpredictable here in Germany.  Thankfully it cleared up for the hour or two that we were up in the Naumberger Dom.

Up Top!!

Next came an excellent wine tasting in a nearby vineyard and winery – which was paid for by the program!  We took a tour of the fermenting vats and where the bottling was done and barrels were kept, and later went downstairs and enjoyed an incredible dinner of bread, wine, sausage (two thumbs up on the Leberwurst), and cheese.  With our stomachs fuller came the wine tasting, which showcased 5 different varieties.  The single red wine they offered, in particular, was a bit drier, and had a seriously awesome smoky flavor that I can’t even describe.  Absolutely incredible.

Das Essen

Yesterday, our adventures took us to Erfurt, the capital of Thuringia. The city was built around a ford (furt) on the Gera (formerly Erphes) river, and was a center of trade.  Our tour was quite an experience, as one of our tour guides didn’t show up, and the other spoke to us in hilarious, and very quiet, English. I’m not sure why our tutors didn’t ask him to switch to German, because the history he was trying to discuss was clearly above his English, but it made for serious entertainment.  What I got from the tour besides the origin of the name was that woad was traded a lot in Erfurt, and that Martin Luther studied and became a monk there.

Best Tour Ever

Well, cheers guys, and I’m sorry about dumping a week’s worth of experiences on you all at once.  Bis Bald!

Sofort! June 12, 2011

Posted by Andrey Kossev in Travel Log.
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Hallo Studenten!

I (finally) left for the German LBAT last Monday morning, and the past week has been ridiculous. I seriously love everything about Germany. Tech is taking a serious risk by allowing me to go on this program, because there is a good possibility of me never coming back. The food is excellent, and laughably cheap.  The market culture in general is one of the biggest differences between the U.S. and Germany, and I love it.  It’s difficult to describe, but the personal interaction between seller and consumer in shops and restaurants seems to make a noticeable difference in how much sellers care about what they’re selling. In pretty much every setting, Germans seem to radiate a sense of awareness you just don’t find in the U.S.. In their food, cars, clothing, architecture, entertainment, public transportation – whatever, Germans show a lust for life that makes everything American seem like nobody really put any thought into it.

Frankfurt Hbf

Moving on from the life lessons, I arrived in Frankfurt on Tuesday morning and chilled at the airport until my train to Weimar for three hours. I had some of my first German speaking experiences there ordering food, exploring the airport, getting my passport stamped, etc.  It was really fun and different, and then I ran into another LBAT student waiting for the train, which made for a pleasant train ride.  We met with one of our program coordinators, Frau Ulla, and the other LBAT students who hadn’t opted for the Duesseldorf extension (we later met the others too – and there are some cool ones), and went for a walk in the town to get some toothpaste, shampoo, etc., and have a look around. Weimar is overwhelmingly beautiful, and there are tons of shops on the streets and corners around town. Everything is around 15 minutes away on foot, and we got bus passes to make it even easier to get around.  The city is perfectly safe, too, and the population is mostly composed of students, tourists, and young people. Viel Spass!

Snail!

I’m sorry about the awful photography – I haven’t really taken any proper photos of Weimar due to weather and laziness. I’ve got some excellent stuff from excursions in Naumburg, Erfort, and a winery though, so be patient! Bis Bald!

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