I tried this when I returned home from studying in Belfast. It works really well. I was surprised. Just a thought for anyone fixing to travel or study abroad. :)
Half of these photos are from my very brief stay in Dublin and the other half are from Northern Ireland. Some are from the peace lines in Belfast.
taig - derogatory term for Irish Catholic
hun - derogatory term for Irish Protestant
glibly - found in one of my textbooks. means “Characterized by fluency of speech or writing that often suggests insincerity, superficiality, or a lack of concern”.
- This may not be an Irish word but it is the first time I have ever come across it.
- such as “a wee bit”
wee’in - child
sound - civil
On the rip - are you going out tonight
pre-swall - pre-drink
film - movie
boot - trunk of a car
lift - elevator
How do they call you? - What is your name?
sesh - session
Mum/Mummy/Mammy - Mother, Mom
shag - have sex with
slag - slut
lad - guy
a while amount - a long time
treacal - molasses
grammar school/secondary school - high school (1st - 7th)
primary school - elementary school (P1 - P7)
U’ns/Yousins - You, Y’all
module - equivalent of class
lecturer - professor (many professors are called by their first names)
In It - Isn’t it
revision - equivalent of exam studying
CV - like a resume
- whats the craic?
caravan - motor home
car park - parking lot
shop/super market - grocery store
footpath - sidewalk
red sauce - ketchup
brown sauce - barbecue sauce
chips - fries
crisps - chips
Mate - friend
“We like to drink with ________, cuz _________ is our mate, we like to drink with ________ cuz he/she downs her/his drink in 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 __________ is the captain of our ship of our ship, our ship is a tanker and ________ is a wanker.”
nappies - diapers
going on for feed - going out to eat
trousers/trackies - pants
trainers - tennis shoes
nickers/pants - underwear
candy floss - cotton candy
fizzy juice - soda
camp “Stephen’s is a bit camp” - gay/homosexual/flamboyant
porridge - oatmeal
aubergine - eggplant
beatroot - beats
ASDA - Walmart
vegetable roll - sausage with vegetables in it
“They’ll think I’m a potato, a complete sprout”
Bagsy - “dibs on the front seat” “I bagsy”
cling film - saran wrap
lip butter - chapstick/lip balm/lip stick
Good luck! - Like good-bye
Poke - ice cream
curt - making out
Niamh - Pronounced Niev
Germany - Mon. 16 April - Sun. 22 April 2012
- Schweinfurt - Fri. 20 April - Sun. 22 April 2012
This is my last post about my Spring Break trip. I am sorry for the delay. This post is exclusively about my trip to Schweinfurt.
(Fri. 20 April 2012) - We arrived in Schweinfurt in the afternoon where my sister, Corita, picked us up at the train station. It was so good to see her again! We were hurrying into her car because apparently the Germans really don’t like the American soldiers being there. She told us a few soldiers had been shot while wearing their uniforms off base. The man who shot them was shot as well. I did not realize it was so hostile in Germany towards the soldiers, after all they have been there for years.
Moving on, it was my first time meeting Cori’s new boyfriend, Dan, and I was interested to see what he would be like. We decided to go to a couple bars that night to celebrate. I failed to warn Kinsley that there would probably be drinking on this portion of the trip. I also did not alert my sister that Kinsley does not drink or party. This was a big mistake on my part and I was just hoping the night would go well. The first bar we went to was pretty empty but we were trying to have a good time. Kinsley said she enjoyed herself and that made me happy. Cori’s superior’s showed up which made everyone nervous but it worked out. We left there shortly and went to a rock club. I didn’t realize how much I missed rock music until we went. We got pretty lost on the way there but I was in to good a mood to care. This club was also pretty empty, I have no idea why because it was a Friday night, but I had a blast. It was so nice to get to spend some time with Cori. We were dancing and generally just having a good time. Kinsley joined in for some dancing but after awhile she sat down for a break. I was keeping my eye on her throughout the night to make sure she was ok especially since I brought her into a setting she normally wouldn’t be in. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a guy pestering her and could tell she was uncomfortable. I immediately left the dance floor and went up to them. I was pretty inebriated at this point and my verbal skills were lacking so verbally telling the guy that he was intruding and to go away did not enter my mind. The only thing that registered was that I wanted to get this guy away from her. I proceeded to step in between them and dance towards him, leaving him no choice but to back away onto the dance floor. Of course this did not work out that well. It did get him away from Kinsley but then he thought I wanted to dance with him. Again, instead of verbalizing I just pushed him off of me. Instantly it went through my head that fighting this guy was not a good decision and I worried that we would get kicked out of the club. He interpreted the push as moshing (a form of dancing where you deliberately push/hit one another to the music). My next thought was, “oh this is great, I can hit this guy more than once and get away with it”. I was vaguely aware of pushing him several times until my sister appeared and started dancing with me. In my state of mind I became unaware of everyone but her on the dance floor which was not good because the guy interpreted it as we both wanted to dance with him. Cori had her boyfriend, Dan, step in and start dancing with me. When this didn’t work well she asked one of her friends, Clark, to ask the guy to leave us alone. He politely told him four times to leave us alone. The guy was to drunk to listen and kept trying to push him out of the way. Finally, Clark hauls off and hits him. The guy hits the ground in one hit. I was not aware of any of this going on, the next thing I know Cori is saying “Shit he just hit that guy we gotta go”. We were kicked out of the club because of the fight. We went back to base and hung out there fore awhile before going to sleep. Cori’s friend Morrison was kind enough to let us sleep in her room for the night since she had an extra bed. I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
(Sat. 21 April 2012) We woke up around 11am, showered, and had some breakfast that Cori and Dan had picked up. We then decided to go bowling. I have always really hated bowling but everyone liked the idea so I went along with it. Morrison decided she did not want to bowl and convinced me not to bowl with her. Not wanting to leave her alone, plus my hate for bowling made me agree quickly. One of the guys with us was wasted before we left and was being a big pain while we were there. Cori was not happy that I was not bowling and the guy was becoming a handful. I don’t think anyone really had a good time at the bowling alley. We were going to go into town and see some historical things but it was pouring down rain so we went to the mall and wandered aimlessly for awhile. I think everyone was hung over and Cori was trying her best to entertain us in the short time we were there. I think we all would have been content just taking it easy for the day but it was nice she put the effort in for me. We decided to get doners, a Turkish kebab on a pita, since I had never heard of them before. I finally told her not to feel like she had to entertain us and we all went back to her place and relaxed for awhile. I was easily content and tried to make the most of what little time I had to spend with her. Unfortunately, the train to Frankfurt (where our flight was leaving from the following morning) was not available that morning so we had to book a train that evening. We left that evening, I was feeling like I had not seen her for nearly long enough. I decided that Dan was not a bad guy. He seemed to treat Cori well and if he makes her happy that is good for me.
The train took us to Frankfurt and we rushed to hop on a Metro that would take us to the airport. It was the last one of the night and we were so worried because we did not have time to get tickets to ride and we did not want to get another fine. Fortunately, it was late enough at night that no one was checking tickets. We were trying to figure out the underground system but we missed our stop and it was the last one going there for the night. Some very helpful German guys started giving us advice and told us which stop to get off to get a taxi and which stop not to get off because it was a bad part of town. Another woman overheard us and asked when our flight was, we told her the next morning. She said she was going to offer us a ride but since we weren’t in danger of losing our flight she didn’t. Their hospitality was still appreciated. I don’t think I would have given a stranger, who didn’t even speak the native language, a ride at 12 o clock at night. Their kindness extended past that though when Kinsley dropped some money on the ground they politely told her that they think she dropped something. They could just have easily not told her and picked it up when we left. I love when people surprise you like that, it was very inspiring. We got off at the stop they told us and got a taxi. We told him the airport and he asked which airline we were using. He then made some phone calls to make sure it was the right airport. Again, going out of his way to help us, clearly we were being watched over that night. To our dismay, he told us that it was at another airport pretty far away and the taxi would cost a lot of money. Even if we had not missed our Metro stop the underground would have taken us to the wrong airport. We are lucky we did not get all the way to that airport before realizing our mistake. Again, I stand by the fact that we were being watched out for a great deal that night. He told us he could drop us off at a major bus station where we might find a bus that goes there. It was a rookie traveler’s mistake of mine to assume that there was only one major airport in Frankfurt and that our flight was at it. We arrived at the station, thanked the taxi driver again for his kindness. He could just as easily not made those phone calls and took us to the main airport with no questions and gotten more money for our ride but he didn’t. Another generous act of selflessness.
We took money out of the ATM when we arrived because we had spent most of our money on the cab and knew we would need it for the next plans for our travel. We then tried to figure out the bus system off the board but could not so we tried find someone to ask for help. There was no one around but some police officers. We finally resigned ourselves to asking them and I resolutely went up to ask for assistance, fully expecting no cooperation. I am continuously learning that stereotypes, like the one I was carrying of the police officers, are often incorrect and should not be used as a frame of reference. One of them immediately stopped their conversation and offered to show us the exact spot where the bus was coming and told us the next one was not until 3:30am. Our flight was at 6am and the bus took an hour and half to get there. We knew we would be cutting it close to make the flight on time after checking bags and going through security. We thanked the officer profusely for his help and took refuge in a local McDonald’s to get out of the freezing weather. The McDonald’s closed and we ended up spending 3 hours on a bench in the train station that night. We had no idea travel in Germany would be this complicated. To my surprise several people were getting on the 3:30am bus to the airport. We arrived at the airport early on (Sun. 22 April 2012) and checked our bags with no problem. It is a standing joke that at every airport security does an extra pat down of me for some reason, even when the buzzer does not go off. They are always very professional (regulations states that a woman must pat a woman down in the main checking area before further investigation) and I have gotten used to the system but when you are in a rush it is hard to keep patient. Kinsley and I have decided it is because standing at 5’ 1 1/4” tall I must be a terrorist because, after all, I do look very dangerous and intimidating. Security, true to fashion, did an extra check on me, despite this we still made it though the airport and to our gate with 30 minutes to spare! At this point we were elated in disbelief (and lack of sleep) that we had made it to the flight at all. The flight from Frankfurt to London Stansted airport was uneventful.
When we tried to go through check-in however the passport check did not want to let me back in the country! He wanted to see the letter from my school saying I was a student because apparently the visa on my passport was not stamped correctly. I told him I didn’t think I needed it because I had already done that the first time I went. Kinsley’s school had warned her this may happen and to always travel with the letter so luckily she had hers with her. He gave me the run around for awhile and asked for my student ID which I gladly gave him. Even with the student ID he said there wasn’t enough proof that I was a student at Queens! Why would they give me a current student ID if I am not actually a student there?? He finally let us go on the grounds that since Kinsley had her letter he would let us through. I checked my visa stamp after we got through and it was correct, it was a little hard to read but still clearly said that I was in Ireland for six months and did not have the visa to work. It was another rookie traveler mistake that I definitely will not be making again. Kinsley and I said our goodbyes and went on the last legs of our journey’s back to school. I rushed through the airport to my next flight, having been held up an extra hour by the passport area and luggage claim. The flight was also uneventful and I took the bus to city center with no problem. It was a Sunday and before 1pm so everything was closed and the buses were minimally running. I needed to take the 8B but it didn’t run on Sunday’s so I took the 8A. Now, I don’t know if you remember but I have gotten lost on this bus before. I was prepared this time and tried to keep a look out for the right stop that would get me closest to Elm’s Village. Much to my horror I fell asleep and missed the stop all together. It is ironic that I made it though all of spring break with various forms of traveling and did not miss anything major like a train or a flight. I make it all the way back to Belfast and miss the bus stop on the way home. The bus driver reached the end of the line before I realized and asked me where I was going. I told him and he said he would drop me off close by on his next loop back, free of charge. This was very kind of him and put a smile on my face. It was a very eventful way to end my Spring Break trip of 2012.
Today, (Tues. 10 May 2012), I had a conversation with some of my male hallmates. They were talking about a girl one of them had “shifted” (means made-out with) the night before at a party. They were talking about her being a dirty girl. I asked why she was a dirty girl. They said it was because she is 19 and has a child. This shocked me that they were calling her nasty because of this. They then proceeded to say it was nothing against her and the boy said he had enjoyed shifting her.
I then asked, “Well which is worse, having an STD or a baby?”
One of the guys told me he thought he had an STD once because he got a rash after having sex unprotected but that it turned out not to be one. I asked him if he had it checked or if he just waited until it went away. He told me he just waited until it went away but that it was fine. This blew my mind. I know their religion still strongly affects their views on sex, making them more conservative, at least in conversation, about the topic but not having adequate sex education on health matters is another thing. He told me he would much rather have an STD. I pointed out that some STD’s never go away. He said, “Oh you mean like Herpes?” but he said it in a tone that implied that he did not think herpes was that big a deal…. He then asked one of his mates which he would rather have, an STD or a baby. The guy immediately replied, “Pshh of course an STD” and laughed. I pointed out to him about some STD’s never going away. He simply said, “Neither does a baby”.
I remembered a conversation I had last week with some of them on abortion. They said it was not a big thing in Northern Ireland and that if you want an abortion you have to go over to England. I did some research and the United Kingdom does have the 1967 Abortion Act that made abortion legal under certain circumstances but this act does not apply to Northern Ireland even though it is part of Great Britain. Women must indeed go over to England to get an abortion. Below is a link to more information on the topic.
I think that the strong religious background of the Northern Irish people influences abortion and the upholding of this restriction on abortion. Granted people have tried to get the Abortion Act carried over to Ireland and many have protested against the restriction against abortion. The fact that having a baby outside of marriage has such strong negative connotations is very different from home. My family was very opposed to having a baby out of wedlock but that is mostly attributed to my Greek heritage. It is strange that abortion or adoption was not even considered by the boys when thinking about having a baby.
I have also started to wonder whether it is cultural differences that makes me stand out here or if I am just as different in the USA. It is not even important things, it is little things that are different that they think are unique to me. I never thought they were unique or even out of the ordinary. For instance, I cannot do homework in my room, not here or at GC or at home. There are to many distractions like the Internet or a comfy bed or cleaning. I went into the hall to do some work and you would have thought I was the next big circus act. They thought it was the strangest thing. Sometimes when I can’t sleep I go for a walk/run…also a scandal apparently. Then there is the subject of my eating habits. I feel that they are pretty normal, maybe a little less restricted than most, but overall not that strange. Half my meals are questioned here. For example, take tonight’s meal of cocoa snaps w/a cut up banana in it (I was scared my milk would go bad so it was a breakfast for dinner night). The boys walked in and stared but did not say anything. A few minutes pass with other conversation until the loudest one brings it up and the others confirm that they thought it was new as well but that they think it would taste good. Still, they are all eighteen years old and they have never once seen someone put a cut up banana in a bowl of cereal? Hmm? Plain spaghetti with butter and cheese was also a huge uproar. One guy, the loud one, even offered me his tomato sauce. These are not great ideas or novelties and I usually don’t understand the uproar.
Germany - Mon. 16 April - Sun. 22 April 2012
- Berlin - Mon. 16 April - Fri. 20 April 2012
Kinsley and I arrived in Berlin on the afternoon of (Mon. 16 April 2012) and hopped onto the U-bahn (UG) to get to our hostel, the Heart of Gold Hostel. Usually finding a hostel is an art and takes a significant amount of skill. This one made it idiot proof and we found it with little to no effort. The hostel was modeled based on the book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Each room was painted to have some meaning with the book. Below are some photos. The two mirror ones are a mirror made with computer parts (spray painted gold) and a mirror made using a bicycle tire. Very creative.
I was immediately in love with the hostel. The first impression with the receptionist, who was helpful and had a great sense of humor, was a perfect indication of the type of hostel we would be staying. It was in a great part of town, the people were relaxed, and many young people were staying there. The stay included free breakfast and tea/coffee/water 24 hrs a day. Towels and locks were provided with a deposit that you got back when you returned them. The hostel was clean, had a bar, included free wifi in the lounge and printing. I would definitely stay there again.
We settled in to the hostel and then decided to get some dinner at an Italian place. We spent some time hanging out in the lounge at the hostel and planning for the next day and then went to bed.
Unfortunately, after being in Greece, the weather in Berlin was not thrilling. It was still coat and scarf season. However, on one day it was so hot that we could take off our coats and walk around in t-shirts so overall the weather was nice.
(Tues. 17 April 2012) - I woke up at 8:30am to get ready for the day and enjoy the free breakfast at the hostel. We then headed to the Brandenburg Gate for an 11am free tour of the city using Sandeman’s New Berlin Tour (the same company that I took the tour with in Amsterdam). This tour guide, named Lewis, was not as skilled as the Lee (the one in Amsterdam) but he still was informative and helpful. The tour was 3 1/2 hours long and we got to see the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag (the German house of parliament), the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews in Europe, the Berliner Dom, the Memorial to War and Tyranny (buried under it are the remains of a unknown German soldier and victim of a concentration camp), the site of Hitler’s former underground bunker (a parking lot), Luftwaffe Headquarters, Gendarmen-markt (where the German and French churches are), Bebelplatz (where the Opera house, St. Hedwig’s Cathedral, the Catholic church, and the book burning memorial), and Humboldt University (Einstein taught there and the Brothers Grimm studied there). My favorite spots were the Memorial to War and Tyranny, the Brandenburg Gate, Humboldt University, and this mural we looked at near the Luftwaffe Headquarters.
The Memorial to War and Tyranny (pictured below) was made by a local artist named Kathe Kollwitz. She lost her first son in WWI and her husband and grandson in WWII. The memorial shows a mother with her dead son in her arms weeping. Buried under the memorial are the remains of an unknown German solider from WWII and a victim of a concentration camp. It was a very moving memorial.
Another cool memorial that showed a large print of propaganda for socialism on the wall. Everyone looks happy and well nourished in the mural. A large protest happened and over 100 people died so in memorial they placed blown up pictures from the protest right by the mural to show the fantasy and the reality of the situation.
The Brandenburg Gate is Berlin’s only remaining city gate and is known as the symbol of the city. When Germany was divided the Brandenburg Gate was in no man’s land behind the Berlin Wall and symbolized the separation of the city. After the wall fell the Gate symbolized a united Berlin.
After the tour Kinsley and I decided to split up for a bit and I went to revisit Checkpoint Charlie and the Topography of Terror (former SS headquarters) while she went to Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. Checkpoint Charlie was a checkpoint in West Berlin that faces East Berlin and was a crossing between the two. Charlie meant checkpoint three and coincided with “C” in the alphabet. They also had a Checkpoint Alpha and Checkpoint Bravo.
The Topography of Terror is sitting at the spot where the old SS Headquarters stood and shows different stories and tells about the propaganda used during the time. Remains of the Berlin Wall also stand at the spot. Both sites were free and worth going to visit. I met back up with Kinsley and we decided to get Italian again that night for dinner because we could not find something we both liked to eat. Luckily, with the free buffet breakfast I was able to skip lunch and save for dinner. One of my cousins, Pavlos, recommended I try Weissbier while in Germany. I had been searching for it on all the menus hoping to get to try it at dinner. I started to wonder why none of the places seemed to have it. I reconciled that I may not get to try it as we sat down at the Italian restaurant. I went to the bathroom and asked Kinsley to ask for Weissbier for me if the waiter came before I was back, just in case they had it. I was very excited to see that they did have it. When it arrived I started to laugh because it was Weissbier (pictured below) when during my search for it I had been looking for VICE beer (the pronunciation), no wonder I couldn’t find it on any of the menus!
We hung out talking and planning for Wednesday in the lounge again. I was feeling rather sick still so I took some medicine but it had some bad effects on me and I ended up crashing very quickly that night in bed.
(Wed. 18 April 2012) - We had decided to go to Charlottenburg Palace that morning at 9:30am, after our free breakfast of course, and then go to a movie theater where Tokio Hotel (one of Kinsley’s favorite bands) played and end the day with some shopping. We went to get on the U-bahn (UG) and after seeing the security checking tickets we determined we needed to get tickets. We went to the machine and since I only had a 10 euro bill on me I put it in and tried to get a ticket. It ate my 10 euros and did not give me a ticket. Now I am a very frugal person and was very upset by this. I was ready to just get on the UG and forget the ticket I was so mad. Kinsley convinced me to try to get help and get my money back. I was doubtful but agreed that she was right. We tried calling the help center but could not get it in English and of course all of the security checking tickets had already left the platform with the last UG. The next bus came and I, still bitter about my 10 euro, decided I was going to get on and not risk having more money taken from me. Kinsley reluctantly agreed. The very next stop security got on and of course we were the very first people they asked for tickets from. We tried to explain our situation to them after they took our IDs and made us get off at the next stop with them. They did not listen but told us that you can buy tickets on the machine in English. We had tried to do the right thing and get tickets and then tried again to do the right thing and get help but neither had worked. They wrote us each tickets for 40 euros! Stubbornly, I resolved not to pay this fine and just let it be on my “German record”. Kinsley convinced me we needed to pay them so we paid the security (who could have just as easily pocketed the money) and grudgingly got back on the UG. I felt absolutely horrible for getting Kinsley a ticket because of my stubbornness not to mention being extra bitter for now losing 50 euros to the system, even if 40 of it was my own fault. Below is a picture of my ticket.
Charlottenburg Palace was absolutely beautiful and after the walk through, that true to German fashion was very organized, we went for a nice walk through the gardens there. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures inside the Palace. The Palace is the largest in Berlin and was built at the end of the late 17th century. A lot of reconstruction was done after WWII. The palace was originally built for Sophie Charlotte, the wife of Friedrich III. We only visited the Old Palace not the New because we did not want to pay admission to both especially after the ticket we had just gotten. Sophie really loved philosophy, art, music, and drama and devoted much of her life to the arts which is evident in the Palace. One room was called the Porcelain Cabinet where literally thousands of porcelain pieces decorate the room. I really loved the ceiling paintings in many rooms that showed what the room was used for, like her bedroom and dressing room.
After leaving the Palace we set off to find the place where Tokio Hotel had one of their concerts (on the roof of a movie theater). It took us quite a few stops on the U-bahn and S-bahn (and a couple stops to get tickets to avoid another fine) and some walking before we found it. We had almost given up but at the last minute we found it. I was very happy we could find it and Kinsley got a few pictures before we headed to the shopping mall. Another thing worth noting about the day is we kept running into apples. For instance, at the Charlottenburg Palace in one of the garden fountains there were several apples just floating around in the water and then later we saw at least 4 or 5 sitting on the top of a trash can. Not sure what this means but I want to remember it.
We headed to city center to go shopping. To my delight when we were going through the tunnels in the UG we found a to-go Chinese place that had the Vietnamese spring rolls that I love. Remember, it is the little things in life that you have to be thankful for and enjoy. (Note: I did not take the picture below and do not own it.)
We spent some time shopping and took some pictures especially with the bears that can be found all over Berlin. We had some dinner in the UG strip so that I could get Chinese and Kinsley got some chicken. We also got some ice cream, mine was mango (Mmm), before heading back to the hostel.
(Thurs. 19 April 2012) - We decided to go to the Tiergarten, a preserved part of the Berlin Wall, the Neues Museum, shopping, and to the train station to get tickets to Schweinfurt for the following day.
I loved the Tiergarten, it was beautiful and the weather was nice so we had a great walk through them.
There is also a memorial to gay Holocaust victims, a box and the inside of it has a video with same-sex couples making out. Unfortunately, we did not find it on our walk. We did find the Global Stone Project by a German artist named Wolfgang Kraker von Schwarzenfeld (and I thought my name was hard). The project incorporates 5 stones from 5 continents that the artist personally went to get himself and polished them so that once a year, on June 21st, they all reflect straight line lights. The artist left 5 “sister” stones in the countries of origin of the 5 stones in the Tiergarten and arranged them so that on this day they will reflect light that travels around the world and connects to the pentagram of light created in the Tiergarten, representing the connected-ness of the world and of the world to Berlin. The five stones each have a word written on them. The five words are: Awakening, Forgiveness, Hope, Love, and Peace. Below I am sitting on top of the love rock. Other people were taking advantage of the good weather on some of the other rocks as well.
After leaving the Tiergarten we walked to the train station to buy tickets to Schweinfurt, where my sister Corita is stationed with the army. The trip would take 5 hours (12:30 to 5:30pm) and the tickets were expensive at 82 euros each even though we picked the cheapest ones. :( I will be glad to be back to North Carolina prices. Below is a picture of their impressive train station.
We then walked to the Berlin Wall Memorial to see how the Wall looked when it was being used to divide the city. It was a startling memorial to read about how many people were killed trying to get across no man’s land to the west. The wall was built in a matter of days without warning to the people which meant that some families were torn apart and many people lost their jobs. Below is the section of the preserved Berlin Wall with the two walls, no man’s land, and the guard posts.
We ate hot dogs at the post and then headed to Museum Island. We visited Neues Museum where we got to see the bust of Nefertiti which was pretty cool. The museum included the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection and the Museum of Prehistory and Early History. It was only 5 euros to get in which I thought was a good price. We were not allowed to take pictures of Nefertiti but below is a picture I found online.
On the free tour we heard we could get very cheap tickets to the opera if we went on the night of and asked if they had any left. We left the museum and tried to go but they were sold out. We went shopping for awhile and Kinsley got some German chocolate at this store that had chocolate statues in it! It was really cool. That was my favorite store by far in our shopping escapades even if I felt a little like we were intruding and that the store workers didn’t think we should be there. Kinsley assured me that was not the case and her confident manner made me feel more comfortable. Below is a giant chocolate bear in the store. :)
I wanted to try some traditional German food and even though Kinsley was not a huge fan of German food she told me we could go anyway and try it. We went to a restaurant called Nanteckt where I got a dish that included pork knuckles sausage, smoked sausage, grilled sausage, sauerkraut, and mashed potatoes. I also got an alcoholic drink called a snake bite. The meal was delicious and I really enjoyed it. I was not to fond of one of the sausages but overall I loved it. I have always been a huge fan of sauerkraut and they made theirs taste exceptionally good. I am not sure why they called all the meat sausage because the pork was not a sausage.
Some other things I feel are worth noting about our visit to Berlin are the fluorescent ambulances which I personally think is a great idea.
There pedestrian walking signs are pretty cool as well. Below they are pictured. While I did get my own pictures of them these are zoomed in better and I claim no ownership to them. Notice the hats! :)
All of the trees in the city are numbered, just another sign of German efficiency. We found tree number 9! Number 9 is one of my two favorite numbers :)
(Fri. 20 April 2012) - Friday we got up early and packed and enjoyed our free breakfast which I should mention was really good. They had cereal with chocolate in it and toast with nutella and jam. :) We arrived at the train station with plenty of time to get some food for the trip before our departure at 12:38. I think it is worth noting that openly drinking was perfectly acceptable (or at least I saw several people doing it). I decided to take advantage of this and bought a beer for the trip, a Berliner Kindle Weisse (grape flavored). Another interesting thing to me was the soap in the WC was powder soap. I have never seen powder soap before until then. The ride was a very beautiful trip and since my camera was full Kinsley has graciously let me copy her pictures from parts of our trip, including the ones below.
That ends my trip to Berlin which is followed by our short stay in Schweinfurt. I thoroughly enjoyed the city and learning about its extensive history (I really love history) but determined that it is not a place I would want to live in for an extended period of time. For more pictures go to the link in the next post. :)
Greece - 31 March - 16 April 2012
- Sun. 15 April - Mon. 16 April 2012
After arriving back from Sparta, Georgina and Angel decided we should go out to celebrate for my last night in Greece. We rushed to get dressed and I spent an extra hour with Georgina at her house before we got on the bus to go to the club with Angel and Nicos (his cousin). The clubs were closed for the holiday and we were disappointed but they wanted to do something since it was my last night there. We ended up buying some drinks and went to the primary school again to hang out. After a couple hours we realized we were just cold and bored and called it an early night. I said goodbye to Georgina but it was not so bad because we were able to hang out that day. Ironically, my last night in Greece was the first night there that I went to sleep at a normal hour and actually got a full night’s sleep. I ended up rocking the toddler (Angel’s sister) to sleep when she woke up crying which made me miss home and putting my goddaughter to sleep. I fell asleep smiling, thinking of home and how continuously blessed I am and slept wonderfully.
(Mon. 16 April 2012) I was woken up at 8:10am to go to the airport for my 11:55am flight to Berlin, Germany. I said my goodbyes to Johanna (Angel’s sister) and Angel, promising to facebook them both. Efi was kind enough to drive me to the airport. She had decided to take me the previous night and shortly after she won 200 euros with the lottery. I met Kinsley Greer in the airport so we could travel in Germany together. We had a layover in Belgrade, Serbia and arrived in Berlin with no problems. This ended my two weeks in Greece. I am very glad I decided to spend two weeks there instead of one and really enjoyed my time there.
Greece - 31 March - 16 April 2012
- Sparta - Fri. 13 April - Sun. 15 April 2012
Having no other ideas for how to get to Sparta I decided that I would leave Friday on the 8:15pm bus and stay the night at the church until the service was over and then a club since the clubs stay open until 5 or 6am. I figured I either go to the morning service at 7am or just wait for my cousin at the bus stop after that. I knew this was a shaky plan from the start but I saw no other way and was determined to spend Easter with the Komnenos family. Efi was kind enough to drive me to the bus station in Athen to get on the 815 night bus so that I did not have to manage the bus and metro lines on a holiday. The bus (19.50 euros) took 3 to 3 1/2 hours to get to Sparta so I arrived at 11:30pm. Unfortunately, I was unable to sleep on the bus despite trying very hard in anticipation for my long night.
Upon arrival I tried to ask another passenger where the closest church was but she didn’t speak any English and did not respond well to me at all. By the time I finished talking to her everyone else had left so when her taxi arrived I tried to ask the driver. Unfortunately, he didn’t know English either and she thought I was trying to get in the same taxi as her and her two small children. She started cursing about me in Greek to the taxi driver like I was going to rob her. Unfortunately, I did understand those few words. The taxi driver was trying to help me but I was so mad at her and upset at my lacking language skills that I left them both talking and walked off in a huff, almost in tears.
I found the church with no problem but despite the service lasting late into this night of the holy week it was already over and the church was completely empty and locked. I was disappointed but still determined to make the night work so I went to a bar I had passed that seemed nice and not overcrowded, I had all of my things with me, and settled in with a beer. It was a slow night with only three people at the bar and about twenty people playing pool. I ordered my second beer and the barman treated me to it. I thanked him for his hospitality and asked what time the bar closed. Much to my dismay, this bar closed at 2am. I left around 1:30am so as not to get asked questions by others leaving. A guy followed me out and asked me something in Greek anyway. I apologized (in Greek) and told him I didn’t speak Greek (in English) and he looked disappointed and left. I know God has a sense of humor because it rained the rest of the night. I walked to the center city square and stayed there for awhile until a couple of guys told me it was not a safe place to be at night. It seemed safe enough to me, it was well lit, open with lots of space to see people coming near you, a club was nearby as well. Nevertheless, their warning worried me and I started walking aimlessly. In hindsight, the safest and smartest decision would have been to go to the open club but by then I was tired and not in the mood and I would have had to change clothes.
I started looking for an all night diner when I noticed a man catch sight of me and get out of his parked car and start walking. At first I thought I was just paranoid but when I stopped and pretended to look at street signs he stopped and pretended to look in a store window and when I turned he turned. Now I was genuinely scared and at my wit’s end. I was ready to give up at this point so I went into the first hotel I saw and asked how much a room cost. The receptionist told me they were full. I later wondered if he was lying or not because it was quite a large hotel. I left and found a diner right down the street and thankfully it was a 24 hour diner. I was still pretty shaken up about the guy following me and ordered a chocolate, banana, and honey crepe even though I wasn’t the slightest bit hungry just so I could stay in the diner for awhile. I sat there for awhile watching the crappy soap opera on the television and seriously pondering all I had learned during Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week. At least I was getting real world experience even if it was not exactly the same which reminded me yet again about my feelings on coincidences. When I had stayed awhile and dried off some I asked what the phone number was for the police just in case I may need it later, I found the number was 100. This prompted me to ask what the number was in Northern Ireland when I returned. I found it was 999 there which surprised me to think I was there for 3 months and never knew it. I knew I did not have a phone even if I need to call but I felt better being informed anyway. One of the kind women working at the diner was very concerned about me but our language barrier caused us to spend a large amount of time reassuring her all was well.
I headed back to the church and waited awhile there until 7am when the morning service started. I figured I needed to start my day off right because I had ended my last one so badly. I was not dressed well for church and was painfully aware of it but went in and only saw a few old women there so I relaxed and started to go sit down. I was stopped at the candle desk by a lady cleaning icons who got very upset at me for some reason, maybe my book bag I had with me and threw up her hands in exasperation when I did not speak Greek. Strangely, she then patted my cheek and walked off. Tired and confused I sat down determined to focus on the service. Throughout the service I kept falling asleep standing and then waking up to hear things in English which disturbed me because the service was completely in Greek. To my surprise the church was entirely filled up by the end of the service. I felt somewhat self-conscious and did receive some weird looks but was just happy to be there and tried to ignore them.
After church I headed to the bus station to meet my cousin thinking that finally my crazy night was over. However, this was not the case because on my way there a man on a bike starts talking to me. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and politely responded but kept asking me to go out for coffee and with the language barrier could not understand that I was going to the bus station. Finally he goes to give me a hug goodbye but then tries to go in for a kiss on the mouth while he is doing it! I was in utter shock and moved away just in time and started telling him “no, no, no!” (in Greek). He then tries again and I start using the few curse words I know in Greek and walk off. In astonishment I see he is still following me trying to talk, I ignore him and keep walking until I reach the bus station and lose him and his bike with a flight of stairs.
My cousin, Ilias, finally picks me up, thinking I took the morning bus into town. When he started asking questions about the bus I tried to be vague so I would not have to lie to him but I did have to eventually when he asked if it arrived this morning. On the way to Xirokambi, the village where the family lives just outside Sparta, I fell asleep while we were having a conversation. This was embarrassing and I immediately apologized saying something about having a long night and tried my hardest to stay awake. The house is at the same location where my great-grandmother lived before her emigration to America. As soon as we arrived we sat down to eat a delicious meal with the family at which I presented the holy leaves I got from church that morning to my hosts to thank them for letting me stay in their home. After the meal Ilias suggested I take a nap which was not funny then but is pretty amusing now. I fell asleep instantly and slept for over six hours until 11:30pm. I woke up very upset because I was missing the special midnight Easter church service. It is a very beautiful service and I almost slept through it! Lucky for me Ilias, his brother, Dimitri, and their mother (the last to leave the house) were just about to leave so I jumped into church clothes and went with them. I did not think we would make it but we made it just in time for the candle lighting and singing of Christos Anesti to celebrate Christ’s resurrection. I was amazed to see that everyone from the entire village was there with at least 100 people standing outside of the church because the church was so full. Plus, unlike in America, after the candles are lit a bunch of young people start setting of fireworks during the service! It was a whole new experience of the Resurrection service. After the service we went home and ate a traditional meal of lamb as celebration after fasting for so long during Lent. The older people went really traditional and ate the inside of the lamb. Afterwards, the young people, Ilias, Dimitri, and I went to the club to celebrate. Apparently this is quite common and the club was full to the brim. We met a couple of their friends there when we arrived. Dimitri worked at the club and was working that night so we got free drinks all night or Ilias paid for mine, I am not really sure what happened. I was feeling pretty sick but Ilias had convinced me to go and I am glad he did. I had a lot of fun with them and the music was great and left the club feeling tipsy. Ilias had sobered up so that he could drive us home. We got home, in true Greek fashion, around 6 or 6:30am and I slept until 10:30am. I woke up (Sun. 15 APril 2012) and went to see if they needed help preparing the Sunday feast. They did not so I ate breakfast with one of the aunts (her name escapes me at the moment). I secretly wondered if she had been a teacher while we ate. I was clearly underfoot in the house so when she suggested a walk up the mountain I gladly agreed. The view was phenomenal! We started talking and I found out that she had been a teacher which made me really impressed with myself that I had guessed correctly. I really enjoyed the morning walk and by the time we arrived back to the house it was time for lunch with 23 of the family members!
Most of them did not speak any English but all of them went out of their way to make me feel welcome despite the fact that I was a distant relative. Sitting at lunch that day all of them made me realize that my first night in Sparta was definitely worth all the trouble because it enabled me to spend Easter there in Xirokambi with them. I was fed an unreal amount of food that day and true to Greek hospitality was served multiple servings while my protests that I genuinely was very full fell on deaf ears. The roasted a lamb on the spit and had several dishes at the table of salad, bread, meat, etc. I ended up trying three different desserts as well. It did rain but they did not let this bother them at all and thankfully it passed quickly. I was able to take some pictures of the house my great-grandmother, Eleni, grew up in as well and Illias’ father promised to email me our family history.
My bus was leaving at 5pm that day which felt like it was to soon and I was sad to be leaving so soon. When I said my goodbyes they gave me a big bag with cookies, bread, and cake for my trip which was very sweet of them. The bus ride back was uneventful and Efi said she would be waiting for me at 8:30pm. When I arrived in Athens much to my surprise and delight Efi and Georgina were there to pick me up! I did not think I would get to see Georgina again in Greece and was very excited to see her. Unfortunately„ she would tell me later I did not look surprised at all. I will have to work on showing my emotions better so that I don’t keep offending people. :/ Overall, this has been the most unique Easter I have ever had.