My circus and movie theater experience while in Germany


**NOTE:  The post below was written on the flight from Germany into Singapore but I am just uploading it now about a week later.  I have had terrible internet access at my motel in Parkes, Australia and have been to busy during the conference to do much on the internet.

This post is being written on the airplane to Singapore. From Singapore I will travel to Sydney which is not my final destination. My first destination is Parkes where there is a radio telescope. Yippee!! I will be there for a week for the student portion of the IPTA (International Pulsar Timing Array) and not the International Pediatric Transplant Association as Google always likes to put up first from the search, even though my cookies and former searches should predict that I want the first one and not the latter.

I didn’t write any posts but one while I was in Germany. I am now going to make up for those unwritten posts. This year I didn’t travel at all in Germany. I have been saving money for the trip to Australia plus for my upcoming wedding. I did however go to a circus and the movie theater while in Bielefeld.   I will tell you about those in this post.

I attended the Circus toward the end of June. It was called Circus Roncalli and apparently is pretty famous throughout Germany. I chose the cheapest seat available and with my student discount the ticket was around 12 Euros. The seat was really close but I had a post in my way. It really didn’t spoil the show much at all.

The show opened up with a laser show. The laser show was superb. The actor pretended like he was grabbing the laser beam and then using it as baton or fighting weapon like in Star Wars. Sadly, the name of the weapons they used is escaping me at this moment. While everyone else was enjoying the show, I am thinking the whole time about the fact that the actor wasn’t wearing protection goggles. Granted, the performer never looked directly into the green laser light but it sets a bad example in my opinion for children. When I have done Laser Fest shows with the WVU SPS (Society of Physics Students), I always wore specialized goggles if I was going to be in front because the laser can cause blindness. We even stressed to the audience the importance of safety practices and why lasers were dangerous. Back to the point, everyone else was enjoying the show and I was thinking the whole time about safety.

The circus only had one animal act; it was horses. There were no elephants or tigers as you would expect. They did have a lot of acts suspended from ropes or hoops during the show. One act was a gentleman who juggled with soccer balls and did other tricks. One act consisted of a hula hoop show. The same performer who did the laser show also did a shadow hands performance which was neat to watch. The clowns were hilarious and provided entertainment between sets. The longest act was the performer who balanced a whole bunch of sticks and other items. She started with a feather and then went on to small twigs/bones and then ended with a giant bone/twig.   You could also tell that am I a physics major because I was thinking about unstable equilibrium and center of mass during the act. My question for myself is, will I ever be able to enjoy movies or performances again without being so critical of the safety practices or thinking about the physics behind it.

I went with another foreign student to the movie theater. Lorena is from South America and is working on some type of education degree at Bielefeld. She had spent time in Richmond so she was familiar with my part of the world.

We went to see Jurassic World.   We thought the movie was going to be in English which is why we went on a Sunday but it ended up being in German. It was okay though because I got the gist of the movie and understood some of the simpler lines. It was a 3D film of course. In Germany, you pay extra for the 3D glasses but you can keep them and not have to pay for them again if you bring them back. In the USA, the glasses are included in the price so you have to pay for them each time. While the ticket prices were comparable to those in the US, the concession stand prices were lower. I purchased a combo. It came with a soda which was in a cup you could keep, a small popcorn, and a nice Jurassic World keychain. It only cost me nine Euros which is around $10.   That type of combo would cost you way more in the US and you wouldn’t get the keychain. The other difference at the movie theater is that it sold beer but of course, this is Germany so they would sell beer at the movie theater. You could actually buy a small cooler pack with four beers in it for the movie. The movie theater we went to also had a bar inside of it.


Bielefeld, again?


So I had the wonderful opportunity to return to Bielefeld, Germany to finish my research project here and publish a paper so of course I took it.

I will be here for six weeks and then I will be going to Australia for two weeks for the International Pulsar Timing Array conference.  Woohoo!!  Anyway, I am in my fourth week out of the six here and am enjoying myself.  I am trying to conserve money since I am getting married in August so I am not traveling as much but am enjoying the people of Bielefeld.



The first Sunday I attended the Methodist Church here in Bielefeld, the guest speaker was from the UK.  One of the church members translated the sermon from English into German.  She had lived in the United States in Colorado for about 10 years if I remember correctly.  You are probably thinking by now that this has nothing to do with cars but give me a moment.  I am telling the back story to get to the point I am making.  She had recently visited Colorado and another of the members commented that she got to drive a big vehicle.  Hinting that in America we have large vehicles. 

I have traveled to foreign countries before and have noticed that most of the cars are very small.  What I noticed though in Germany these past two months is that there is not much of a difference between their vehicles and ours.   They have station wagons and SUVs.   I have seen a Jeep dealership here in Bielefeld.  I do not think small car when I hear the word Jeep.  The Mercedes SUVs sold in the States are sold here too.  Again, I really don’t see how America the insistence that America has big cars.   The only thing that I haven’t seen in Germany is pick-up trucks such as the Ford F-150 or the large Chevrolet Suburbans or Tahoes.  Other than that, most of the vehicles seem to be pretty much the same size.  

When it comes to brands there were of course the German brands of Volkswagen and Mercedes Benz.  I also saw a Citroën, Renault, and Smart cars which I know are also European brands.  Volkswagen has a car here called the Polo which looks like a Golf to me.  They have Golfs here too so I don’t know what the difference is between the two. There was a new brand I saw called Skoda which I had never heard of as well as Dacia and Ibiza.  As mentioned before I saw a Jeep dealership.  I never saw a Ford dealership but I did see Ford cars including one called the Ka which I don’t think is available in the US.  I saw Toyotas including advertisements for them but I never saw a Chevrolet car once.  

Germany has awesome public transportation so you really don’t need to own a vehicle and fuel is expensive.  Most prices are around 1.30-1.50 Euros per liter.  I did  notice that diesel is cheaper here than gas.  This is the other way around in the US.  If you don’t own a car but maybe need one from time to time there is this program called Cambio which is a car sharing program.  My landlady here in Bielefeld participates in it.  She went and picked up the car the weekend she needed it and then returned it when she was done for the next person to use.  I am not sure all the details about this program but I think this is very cool.   I wish there was better public transportation in the US.

In conclusion, I want to point out two big points from this blog.  Most of the vehicles are the same in Germany as in the US just Germany doesn’t have the super large Ford F-150s, Hummers, or Chevrolet Tahoes  and Suburbans.  Also, the public transportation in Germany or in Europe in general rocks.DSCN5139 DSCN5140 DSCN7256 DSCN5143 DSCN5142 DSCN5141

Brauhaus, Kachelhaus, and food in general in Germany


This post is about food. If you cannot tell from my profile pics, I love food!! A little tidbit about me, my favorite food is potatoes.

One of the first restaurants I ate at in Bielefeld was the Brauhaus.  It is the only place in Bielefeld that brew their own beer. Brauhaus means brew house.  They only sale their beer so you can’t get any other brand there.  They have four types:  Kupfur, Messing, Lieneweber, and another that I can’t remember the name of.  My palette is very selective  when it comes to beer.  I only like dark beer.  Kupfur, which translates as copper, was my choice of drink.  I found it very refreshing.  Brauhaus also has very good food.  I wanted to try some traditional German dish there so I chose a dish consisting of slices of pork in brown sauce, sauerkraut, and a potato dumpling.  I do not like sauerkraut so I forced myself to choke it down. The pork was delicious.  I loved the potato dumpling.  I have had dumplings made with Bisquik in the past but never a potato.  It looked like a ball of mashed potatoes but it was a little more solid than that.  It was really good and would love to eat it by itself but I didn’t see it as an option for a separate side order on the menu.  I also once tried Flammkuchen which is a traditional dish in Germany and southern France.  It is a little similar to pizza.  The classic version has onions and bacon. It is made on a very thin dough; almost burrito shell like in taste and thinness.  It is then covered in some type of soft spreadable cheese and toppings.  No marinara on it.  I loved it.  It was very delicious, and the nice thing is it is one of the few dishes you can eat with your hands.

I also went to the Brauhaus to watch many of the World Cup matches there.  If Germany was playing and made a goal, everyone got a free double shot of Messing.  One double shot for every goal. I am very glad that I was not there for the Germany vs. Brazil match where Germany slaughtered  Brazil 7-1. I would have been completely wasted.   Because of these shots I got to try the Messing beer which I did not like, and I also didn’t care for the Lieneweber beer that I tried.  It of course is named for the infamous statue(s) in Bielefeld.  The Brauhaus has their own Lieneweber statue in the restaurant.

Right across from the Brauhaus is the Kachelhaus.  This restaurant was a delight to be in.  I did not eat a meal there but I did enjoy their special where you can order a Kuchen (dessert) and a coffee for around 5 Euro.  The atmosphere is great.  The chairs were antiques and I don’t think they had very many that were similar.  Most of the chairs at the tables were mismatched.  I sat at a loveseat with a coffee table in front of me for my treats. I could imagine this being a restaurant back in the 1800s where a traveling family could come for a meal and you felt at home.  You wouldn’t have to worry about getting “fancied up” since the chairs and tables were mismatched.  It is just a quaint little restaurant near the old part of the city.  Side note:  The exterior was  painted a seafoam green color.  My favorite color is teal and so I enjoyed the choice of color very much.

The food in Germany consists of potatoes, meat, and kraut.   If you are a meat and potatoes kind of person than this is the country for you.  The meat products were mostly pork in nature and there were a lot of bratwursts and other types of sausages.  The word for sausage is wurst. I ate many brats while here.  Currywurst is a popular dish.  It is a brat cut up  into small chunks smothered in a red curry sauce.  It was very good. There are many curry dishes here and they even have curry ketchup. I am hoping to buy  a small bottle of it and bring it home with me. You can also buy hot dogs in a can or glass jar.

As mentioned  above, I do not like sauerkraut but there was this salad made with cabbage called krautsalad.  I loved it.  It was served chilled and tangy as opposed to the warmth and sourness of sauerkraut.

Another weakness  of mine is bread. You can buy baguettes here but they are not as popular in Germany as in neighboring France.  Here the popular bread is brötchen.  The German word for bread is brot.  A brötchen is a little chewy roll. It reminds me of a baguette.  Germans love to serve these with a slice of cheese, a cucumber, and sometimes a tomato.  They also serve it with other types of cheeses, meats, and vegetables.  The bakery in the Jibi Mart around the corner from my flat sells five brötchen for 1.50 Euros.  I buy many of these.

Bakeries are everywhere in Germany.  With so many bakeries that means only one thing: a plethora of delicious sweet treats.  I have downed many pastries in my two months here.

Some of the food and beverages you can get here but not in the US.  Diet Coke with lemon is actually made with real lemon juice.  MezzoMix is a Coke product and is cola with orange flavoring.  Lift is another Coke product.  It is Coke’s version of apfelschorle.  Apfel is apple so apfelschorle is apple juice mixed with carbonated water.  One of my favorites is Orangina.  It is like mixing orange juice and Sprite together including pulp.  It is delicious.  I fell in love with it in France in 2000 and my love for it has not diminished.

Germans also mix their beer with cola or lemonade.  I enjoyed the cola and beer but was not crazy about the cola and lemonade.  I have fallen in love with a drink by Herforder Brewery.  It consists of alcohol free beer and cola zero with a splash of orange flavoring.  It is quite refreshing and I enjoy one with my dinner almost every night.

As you can see, I love German food and will be very sad when I get back to the US and am no longer able to purchase these delicious treats. At least I won’t gain any more weight because I am certain that I have gained 10 pound since living here these last two months.DSCN5490 DSCN5489 DSCN5272 DSCN5271 DSCN5680 DSCN5679 DSCN5678 DSCN5670 DSCN5292 DSCN5266 DSCN5665




The air is filled with wood smoke.  You see people wearing strange clothing.  All around the ground is covered in tents with merchants selling their wares.  Maybe you would like your fortune told.  Maybe you want some mead.  Maybe throwing an ax would make your day.  Where are you?  Well, you have found yourself at Sparrenburgfest, a Medieval festival at the Sparrenburg Castle in Bielefeld, Germany.

My day started off by heading to the Alten Markt in Bielefeld to catch the Sparrenmobil.  The Sparrenmobil is a tourist kiddie train that takes you to some of the most frequented tourist spots in Bielefeld.  Normally, this train takes you up the hill to the castle but not today as I found out after riding through all the stops on it today. The Sparrenmobil doesn’t go to Sparrenburg Castle during Sparrenburgfest.  It is a nice ride though and only costs four Euros for an adult for four rides.  I have three more rides left so I will use them next weekend.  

After my hour of wasting time riding the Sparrenmobil, I found out that I had to walk up the hill to the castle.  I don’t mind walking but I abhor walking up hill.  I walked anyway and of course was hot and sweaty by the time I reached the castle.It was a nice bonus to hear a canon fire from the tower of the castle as I was walking toward the hill to go up it.  I paid my six Euros to enter the festival but first I went and checked out the grounds of the castle. The castle was being worked on all this summer since I arrived so today was the first day I saw it without the scaffolding around the tower. It is really a neat place and I appreciate that the markers for historical places/explanations were both in German and in English.  Visitors are not allowed to go up the tower during the festival so I plan to use one of my rides on the Sparrenmobil to go the castle next weekend and go up the tower.

After exploring some, I entered the festival. The festival was replete with people wearing period costumes and activities/demonstrations from the time gone by. The first thing I saw was a stand selling wine and mead in fancy bottles.  The wine selection reminded me of Kirkwood Winery selling their wines at Pioneer Days and the Autumn Harvest Festival.  I then saw bread on a stick being sold.  I decided to walk around the grounds and look at all the stands.  Someone was demonstrating being a blacksmith and another was showing people how to make posts for beds and tables.  Most of the tents though were merchants selling things from necklaces to hairbands to clothing.  This would seem like a normal American festival except that everyone was wearing dress common to the Medieval period and the tents looked like they could have been from that time as well.  The festival was split into different sections with one being a scene from the Orient.  It looked like those their were depicting people from Turkey: a sultan with his harem, musicians, tea, etc.  There were stages set up around for different acts. 

I stopped and played mauserroulette which is like the Fat Albert game at the WV State Fair except a real mouse is used here.  They have some different color mouse holes/houses together in a circle with pictures painted on top.  You put a Euro on the one you are betting the mouse will go in.  They then let the mouse loose and whichever house the mouse goes in wins.  I think there was some story that went along with the game but I didn’t understand it.  The lady doing this said she wished she would have known I spoke English and she would have said her speech also in English and not just German.  I then walked around to see what there was to see at the festival.

As I was walking around, one of the first places I stopped at was a comedy act.  The skit was based on an army training camp.  I was able to get the drift of most of the act because of the comedy even though I didn’t understand what they were saying.  This reminded me of why Dr. McNeel always had us write our French skits to be comedies because people understand comedy regardless if they know the language or not.  It was a cute skit.  A mead stand was directly across from the skit area so I decided to try some of this beverage.  It was sweet but awful tasting.  I forced myself to drink it and then went and returned my mug so I could get my four Euros back.  (In Germany you get charged for the use of the glass but the money is returned to you once you give it back.)  

Then next thing I went to was a lady who had raptors and was doing a raptor show.  She eagles and owls.  If I had more money to spend there I would have paid the 10 Euros after the show and held the owl.  It would have been cool but I was more interested in trying the food out.

My next stop was at a place that was selling pork sandwiches.  The pork though was being roasted on a spit in front of you.  It was very yummy.  For dessert, I went to the bread on a stick place and chose the “sweet” bread.  It had little crunchy things on it that made it sweet.  There were also stands that sold gemuse, flammkuchen, and currywurst but I didn’t want everyday German food.  I was at a medieval festival. I wanted to experience the Medieval culture the best I could.

Near the bread on a stick stand, there was a musical performance with a belly dancer.  I watched the show and enjoyed it.  I then went to look at the puppet show next to it but didn’t really understand it so I was easily distracted by a group of people in period costume “marching” down the path.  I followed to see where they went.  They of course went and did a skit which I didn’t understand except at the end when the actors got frei bier  (free beer).  I then went around and listened to some more musical acts with harps and drums and other period instruments. 

I proceeded to put my head in some stocks and act like I was getting my head chopped off.  The men with the stocks were from Antwerp, Belgium and talked to me for a few minutes.  They wanted DSCN6953 DSCN6991 DSCN7024 DSCN7056 DSCN7065 DSCN7086 DSCN7105 DSCN7052to know where I was from.  When they asked which state and I responded West Virginia, I heard one start singing the words West Virginia to the tune of Country Roads of course. 

Near the stocks, there were a group of people with different weapons.  You could pay what you wanted and throw axes or spears.  I wanted to throw spears.  I hit and stuck the spear in the wood board 4 out of 7 times which I think is great.  Every time I would stick the spear a gentleman in a wheelchair would cheer for me.  It was like Will was there cheering me on.  

I was staying to hear this one band Die Vertriebenen that played bag pipes but had modern drum sets.  I caught some of their music before and it was awesome so I wanted to see some more.  In the meantime, I watched a man juggle/twirl a stick on fire.  After that show, it was time for the band.  I watched two songs but had to leave before the show finished.  I was very thirsty and didn’t want to pay festival prices for something to drink so I decided to leave the festival.  Also, I was very hot and sweaty and the trip down the hill back to the main city would be in the shade. 

I wish I had more money and it wasn’t so hot or I would have stayed longer.  It was a great festival.  If you are ever in Bielefeld and Sparrenburgfest is going on make sure you take some time and go.  You won’t regret it.

Smoking Armpits and Bedding or should I say Smoking, Armpits, and Bedding


You are probably reading the title of this and thinking I have gone off the deep end. (Haha. Joke is on you. I did that long ago.)  What I want to write about in this short message is a description of some of the culture.

Smoking:  I didn’t know how much the US has truly done to reduce the amount of smoking.  I know WVU has a lot of smokers and I can’t stand sometimes walking into the entrances of buildings because there is a cloud of cigarette smoke at the door  or the number of cigarette butts on the sidewalks but it seems that it is worse in Germany.  I feel like many people smoke here.  I see young, beautiful girls take out a cigarette and I just want to go up and tell them to stop, that it causes wrinkles, yellow nails, and smells bad.  Why would you want to waste your beauty for this thing that can kill you?  Prices here are outrageous anyway.  One pack is 5 Euros which is easily over $6.  I don’t know how people afford to smoke here or in the US.  Since being here, I am so proud that the US decided to stop allowing tobacco companies to advertise in magazines, billboards, etc.  I find myself drawn to the advertisements for cigarettes here.  They show young, pretty woman in the ads and I want to go buy that product.  I never knew how susceptible I was to propaganda.  Anyway, cigarette ads are everywhere and again, appeal to young people just like they used to in the states.  Again, I appreciate the effort the US has done in letting people know about the potential health risks and not making cigarettes look cool.

Armpits:  You are probably thinking this is a weird topic to write about but it was the best way to describe two things that peaked my interest culturally.  While preparing for my trip, I packed three sticks of deodorant.  I was going to a European country and they notoriously don’t wear deodorant and the stores don’t sell it.  Some of this is from personal experience traveling abroad in the past.  I wanted to make sure that I didn’t run out.  I don’t like being sweaty and stinky.  To my amazement, the stores do indeed sell deodorant; mostly they sell Dove products.  The containers are a little odd in shape compared to those in the US.  Also, spray deodorant is very popular.  I have noticed that not all people use it as I can smell body odor from time to time.

The second part of the armpits reference is that of shaving.  Americans think that European women don’t shave under their arms but from what I have seen, they do.  This was somewhat hard to find out because most of the time the weather is mild so long sleeves or light jackets are worn.  Over the last week, the temps have soared to around 30 degrees Celsius (around 90 degrees Fahrenheit).  Because of this, women have been wearing spaghetti straps and other more skin baring clothing.  Maybe it is French women who don’t shave under their arms. Either way, I know there was a stereotype in place and I cannot find evidence to support it.

Bedding:  I want to describe the neat bedding they have here.  I have a twin bed with a fitted sheet.  There is no other sheet.  Instead there is a comforter that is not really thick but thick enough and has interchangeable covers.  The pillows are large and are actually square in shape not rectangular.  This is the same type of bedding as they have in hotels.  I would love to one day open a hotel with a restaurant and use German types of bedding and their restaurant techniques.

These are just some of my many cultural differences I have noticed.DSCN5125 DSCN6065

Berlin Day Two 13 July, 2014


So I toughed out the night in the female dorm. This was not easy for me and I didn’t get but three hours of sleep at the most. I got a shower yesterday evening at 8pm and then took myself down to the lobby so I could use the free wifi. I was down there until almost 1am. I was hoping everyone else would be in bed and I could just get in and go to sleep. No such luck. Two girls came in a little after I did. They whispered loudly and turned on one of the lights beside their bed that lit up pretty much the entire room. I would have been able to know what they were saying if I spoke German. They also took almost an hour to get ready for bed. I was pooped at 1am and ready to sleep but because they were loud, I got frustrated and then when they were done I couldn’t sleep because I was flustered and the room was so hot. I tried for an hour to go to sleep. I finally gave up and went back to the lobby until 4am. By then, the room was a little cooler and I was dragging my feet so bad. I fell asleep quickly. I think was upset me the most about the above incident is the one girl who turned on the light was the one who shut the door to the bathroom the night before. I had left the light on in it and was planning on using that light to make my bed. It was after she shut the door on Friday night that I went down and paid for a hotel room. Because I didn’t want to disturb anyone and because the room temperature was oppressive.

Enough about last night. What did I do today?

I started off the day by going up the Berlin TV tower. I had an Early Bird ticket and I was the first one on the elevator to go up. The TV tower has a 360 view of Berlin complete with a view deck, bar, and a restaurant that rotates so you can see the whole city while chowing down. I decided to treat myself to a very nice breakfast. I ordered a glass of orange juice and the Berlin 360. The Berlin 360 consisted of smoked pork slices, smoked salmon, and North Sea crab. It really wasn’t crab meat but really tiny shrimp. It also came with a small plate of assorted cheeses, a platter of fruit, two rolls, a croissant, honey, and strawberry jam. It also came with a glass of champagne. I didn’t read that on the menu which was in German, English, and French. But who doesn’t want to start their day off with a glass of champagne at 10am. The meal was a not really pricey but I consider it a little on the expensive side. I could have saved 5 Euros on my meal though which would have made it very affordable. I forgot to give them the coupon I got with my Berlin Welcome Card. Again, if you ever go to Berlin, purchase one of these. It is very valuable and will save you money. I also suggest booking tickets for the TV tower ahead of time and choosing the Early bird because there were not but about 20-30 people when I was on the observation deck which is enclosed. When I came down from the restaurant at 10:30 the place was packed.

After this I went and bought some souvenirs, took some pictures of the Rathaus and Marienkirche which is right next to the tower. I then decided to take another bike taxi so I could see the sites while going to my next destination Checkpoint Charlie. This taxi driver did not talk hardly at all so it wasn’t worth the 16 Euros but again, I did get to see the sites while traveling.

Checkpoint Charlie was a checkpoint between the US side and Soviet side of Berlin during the years the wall existed. Today, it a tribute to that time. You can get your photo with two men dressed in US American Military Outfits and get your passport stamped with some of the stamps they used back in the day I suppose. It is pretty cool. On the street there is a picture of a US Soldier and on the other side a Soviet soldier. It is called Checkpoint Charlie not because the soldier in the picture is named Charlie but because of the military alphabet where you say Charlie for the letter C.

Next to the Checkpoint there is a museum about the wall called the Mauermuseum, Haus am Checkpoint Charlie. This museum was actually started as soon as the wall went up. I think it is really amazing. It was just a man’s apartment and he turned it into a museum. It shows actual devices or replicas used to escape from East Berlin or East Germany. It tells stories of those made it and those who didn’t. I thought it was a small museum so I was taking my time to read everything until I realized it was bigger than it looks. I was tired and wanted to see other things as well so I just went through and looked at the escape vehicles. I stumbled upon something else in this museum. It not only is a museum about the Berlin Wall but it is also about human rights. There was an exhibit on Gandhi and one on Martin Luther King Jr. It also talked about NATO’s history and its role today because it played a part in the history of the wall. There was also a room dedicated to Ronald Reagan. It had boots and a cowboy hat that he wore at his ranch. It also had a picture of him and Gorbachev at his ranch. The speech he gave in front of Brandenburg Gate is played constantly on video. This is a really awesome museum. I could have easily spent all day there but if you do decide to go to this wonderful museum be prepared to read. Because most of the exhibits are text with some pictures.  

Again, I urge you to get a Berlin Welcome Card if you plan to visit Berlin. I saved money at the Mauermuseum but also saved 5 Euros on the next part of my day.

I decided to go on a city bus tour. You the know buses I am talking about. A double decker with the top open so people can see the sites. There are many different bus tours but I got on the City Circle Sightseeing tour bus. I was lucky with this choice which I will explain in a moment. First, I saved 5 Euros on the cost for the day (It is a hop on hop off bus tour and you can buy up to a two day pass). The normal pass costs 20 Euro but with my Welcome Card it was only 15. The reason I was lucky for choosing this chain of bus tours is that it has a roll away cover for the top in case of rain and of course it had to rain while I was on the tour. Other companies don’t always have this luxury. City Circle also provides you with headphones and has an audio guide available in many different languages. I thought it would just go to the sites I had already seen on my bike and boat tours but I got lucky again. Not only did I see what I saw yesterday but the bus also went to Charlottenburg Castle, KaDeWe (a huge shopping center), Potsdam Platz, Tierpark, the Victory column, and down the Kurfürstendamm which is a street made to resemble the Champs Elysees in Paris.

I got off at the Berlin Cathedral so I could take a picture of this statue I saw on the bus tour. I also wanted to check to see if I could get into the church but you had to pay for this. I refused to pay to go into a church that is still used. All the other churches let you go in free but they sell you souvenirs. I quickly took a picture of a street performer. The kind that doesn’t move until you put a coin in their can/jar/hat. I used one of the self-cleaning toilets on the street today. I took a picture of the instructions for it. I then decided to walk back to the Hauptbahnhof. It was a good decision because I got to pass the Jewish Temple, the Natural History museum, and other cool buildings.  

The Hauptbahnhof was crazy. People are arriving to go to the beach close to it for the World Cup match or they are heading this way or that way. Either way, the Hauptbahnhof was a sea of black, red, and gold. I am wearing the cheek paint I got during the NRW Tag and am disappointed that I will be on the train during the final match between Argentina and Germany. Go Deutschland!!!

I am on the train now and am pretty pooped.   Berlin is an amazing city. You could spend a whole year there and still not see everything there is to see. The only thing I wish I could have done was go to the Berlin History Museum.

Did you know that Berlin is Europe’s largest city area wise. London and Paris have more people though. Berlin has over 3 million people calling it home. Unlike the other two cities, Berlin has lakes, numerous parks, and a forest in it. This I guess is why it is so large.

Berlin is a resilient city. It has been through so much during its history and yet it is going strong. Seventy percent of Berlin was destroyed during WWII. You would never know that from the looks of it today.   If you get the chance to go, do it!!

Berlin Day One


Made my arrival into this city around 1am this morning.  Luckily, my hotel/hostel was within walking distance.  I booked it this way on purpose.  It is called A&O Hotel/Hostel and I booked a female dorm room rather inexpensively. I was expecting something like the bunkhouse at NRAO in Green Bank but instead it was a tiny little room with three bunks and two twin beds. When I got into the room, the lights were off and the only beds left were top bunks. I loathe top bunks.  The heat was overbearing.  I went down to the front desk to see if I could upgrade to a hotel room.  I had made a guaranteed booking which at the time was the most inexpensive option.  It also meant that I couldn’t cancel the reservation or upgrade.  So I paid for one night in a hotel and just lost my 23 Euro for that one night.  I felt better.  I could open the window and wouldn’t disturb anyone.  The room was not worth the 54 Euro I paid for.  The room was pretty much bare. There was a table but no little goodies or a lamp that I can think of.  The two twin beds were pushed together and the room was small.  No decorations on the wall.  A very plain room.  I am going to try and tough out the female dorm room tonight.  I am not made for this I suppose.  I don’t think I would be dreading it so much if there was an outlet next to my bunk so that I could listen to my cell phone tonight.

I highly recommend if you visit Berlin to get a Berlin Welcome Card.  Pay a little extra and get the Berlin Welcome Card with Museum Island Pass.  It gets you into all five museums on the island. With a normal Welcome Card you get your train ticket for the city for two days and discounts at over 200 hundred locations.  Plus, with the Museum Island pass you don’t have to wait in line for to buy tickets and can skip the waiting line for the museum all together.  It only costs $38.50 Euro. Considering you would pay about 10 Euro or more per museum you are saving a lot since it includes these passes and your train fare. 

My first stop was the Pergamon Museum.  It holds the Ishtar Gate which was built in Babylon during the rule of Nebuchadnezzar.  It is beautiful.  It also has the Pergamon Altar which lends the museum its name.  My next stop was the Neues Museum.  Its most famous pieces are the painted bust of Nefertiti and the Golden Hat.  It also hosts countless other antiquities. I spent most of my time today there. It was surreal to be near these priceless artifacts.  I could have easily held out my hand and touched them.  Of course, guards would have been on me in an instant.  You could easily have spent a whole day in either museum but I am only in Berlin two days so I couldn’t.  😦  

Most of the items from the museums mentioned above were acquired before WWII. I was puzzled as to how the artifacts didn’t get destroyed during the war especially when Berlin was invaded and pretty much destroyed. In the Neues Museum they do have a small exhibit explaining how some were saved.  In 1939, the museum closed and the most priceless artifacts were crated, transported, and stored in the Tierpark I believe.  The artifacts left in the museum were destroyed or burned during the war.  This is a devastating loss.

Another problem I had in the Neues museum was that I couldn’t figure out why they had so many Egyptian artifacts such as Nefertiti’s bust. I found out that it was German archeologists who uncovered them in the early 20th Century. I guess was a time when who uncovered got to take it back to their home country.  Now, whatever you unearth stays in the country you found it in I think.  When was the agreement made?  Do you know?  Maybe I can find it out on the internet.       

After a break for lunch, I went to the Alte Nationalgalerie.  I had to pay 4 Euro extra because of the special Rembrandt Bugatti exhibition.  I would have skipped this one if I know it only had paintings in it.  Most were from German artists who I have never heard of.  I was pleased that they had one room with French artists.  I got to see some paintings from Renoir, Cezanne, Manet, Monet, Toulouse Lautrec, and Gauguin.  Also, all the museums have audio guides.  All the other museums on museum island provide these free of charge with the cost of admission but not the Alte Nationalgalerie.  You had to pay extra.  I was not impressed with the museum or liked it that much.

The next museum I went to was the Bodes Museum.  It houses antiquities from the Byzantine Empire, Renaissance, Baroque, and Gothic eras.  Most of the artifacts are Christian.  They are absolutely exquisite.  This museum is also a definite stop. 

The last museum I went to was the Altes Museum which houses Greek and Roman and Etruscan artifacts.  I didn’t spend much time in this one or for that matter, the Bodes Museum and definitely not the Alte Nationalgalerie.  My feet were tired and I wanted to make sure that I got to all the museums. 

If you are pressed for time, the two must stops on this island are the Pergamom and the Neues.  If you have time then the Bodes Museum.

After all those museums, I decided to try to get into the Berlin Cathedral.  It is a Protestant One for those interested.  I was going to have to pay to go in and look around since the church was closed.  I decided not to do this.

After walking all day, I got on a boat tour of Berlin.  I have been on a boat tour on the Seine in Paris and now one on the Spree in Berlin.  The boat tour was great. I got to see the buildings of Parliament, the office building of the Chancellor, go underneath really cool bridges, all while relaxing and not walking.  It only cost my a little over 8 Euros for a one hour tour thanks to a 25% discount I got with my Berlin Welcome Card. 

I then went on a Bike Taxi Tour.  It is a little expensive but it totally worth it.  The 30 minute tour cost me 22 Euro but my tour guide showed me places that I didn’t even know about.  She took me past Humboldt University and showed me the Book Burning Memorial which I didn’t know existed.  She showed me twin cathedrals where one mass/service was done in French and the other in German.  She showed me past the Jewish Holocaust Memorial. She also showed me this chocolate shop which has sculptures in chocolate of some of Berlin’s sites.  They also have a chocolate sculpture of the Titanic which I don’t know why.  She showed me a piece of the wall still standing and Checkpoint Charlie.  Today at the checkpoint there was a demonstration against the fashion industry.  They want better pay for their workers.    She dropped me off near the Brandenburg Gate which is what I wanted.  My tour guide was originally from Barcelona. 

I finished off this whirlwind day with a stop at Brandenburg Gate.  Of all the places in Berlin, I wanted to make sure I saw this.   Bonus, there was a German Soccer Fan Bus there so I got my picture next to a picture of the Deutschland players on the bus.  I hope they win the World Cup tomorrow night.  Too bad I will be on the train back to Bielefeld when the game is on. 

My day will start early tomorrow.  I am going up the Berlin TV tower at 9 in the morning.  It has a 360 degree view of Berlin and a bar and a restaurant in it.  Then I don’t know what the day holds for me.

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Next to Sparrenburg Castle, the Leineweber is Bielefeld’s trademark.  The main statue is near the Rathaus next to the Nicolai Church.   But the city has dozens of little Leinewebers throughout it.  Businesses have small statues of the Leineweber posted in front of their doors or inside the stores with some type of decoration to represent their business.  I enjoy going around and taking photos of the different Leinewebers in the city.  One cannot think of Bielefeld without thinking of the Leineweber. 

Leineweber literally means linen weaver.  Bielefeld was a leader in flax spinning with its own mill located in Ravensberger Park.  Located in the park is the old mill but also the Historical Museum of Bielefeld.  In it, there is a large section dedicated to the linen business.  One can see large looms and colored spools of yarn in the museum.  Even the Bauernhaus Museum, a museum of the oldest farmhouse in Westphalia, which is located just outside of the city has a special building where the family would spin flax.    The history of flax linen production is certainly important to the city and its inhabitants.

Bielefeld, Germany has many items that have been manufactured here such as Durkopp bicycles and currently Dr. Oetker’s pudding.  The production of linen though seems to be one of the most significant exports from the town according to its people.  According to the Bielefeld website, it was important in the economic development of the city.   

If you ever visit Bielefeld be sure to go see the main Leineweber statue.  Then see how many small ones you can spot throughout the city.  


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World Cup


I never watched soccer matches before or really cared for the sport at all.  I was never allowed to play it growing up so I naturally enjoyed watching the other “common” sports in the USA such as American Football.  I knew from my foreign language studies that football, or as we Americans call it soccer, is very popular elsewhere in the world.  Since living in Germany the last month, I have fallen in love with the sport.  I am not quite addicted but I have been watching as many games as the USA team plays and the Germany team as well.  This might be because the World Cup is advertised everywhere it seems.  Stores sell German flags or other apparel; cars are adorned with black, red, and yellow (the colors of the German flag).  You will see people walking around with flag colors on their cheeks and or with black, red, and yellow flowered leis on their heads, necks, or wrists.  Stores sell special chocolates for the World Cup.  McDonalds has special burgers representing different countries.  I have watched a match in a the flat above me with the girls who live there and watched one in a hostel with the other American student.  The latest Germany game I watched in a restaurant/bar in Celle.  They had a special cocktail that had three layers to make the German flag.  It was fruity and good although a bit pricey for such a small drink but comparable to bar prices in the US.  Most of the matches I have watched at the Brauhaus Joh. Albrecht in Bielefeld.  They have a projector and screen which they show the games on.  The staff there are really nice and they only sale the beer that they make on the premises.  If Germany is playing and makes a goal you get a free double shot of their Messing.  I thought the paper on the table meant beers on the house if Germany won but it meant if they make a goal. 

I have learned much about the sport including what off sides means.  It is quite nice to watch and there are no advertisements interrupting the game.  The players must be tough because they run for an hour and a half or longer while running into each other, tripping over legs, or other types of on field injuries.  So to those who call them grass fairies, you need to watch these professionals and see what they endure during a game.  They also play with out pads and helmets. 

I can’t understand the announcers here since they are speaking German and I don’t speak it. I do enjoy the way they say the names of the players and how they raise their voices and start talking faster when a goal is made or a shot was made and missed. 

Overall, I have been caught up in World Cup fever.