I am attending the International Crisis Management Simulation conference in Germany and Belgium. I will be writing a travelogue during this trip. I will keep updating it on daily basis. Please follow me if you are interested. It will be short and sweet, if not funny!
26 June 2012
26.06.2012> local time 10:50 am > 19 degree cel. and there is always an end to everything!
All smart ladies from the University of Mannheim! They brought colours in Otzenhausen for those 5 days 😀
At Frankfurt airport and I am counting the hours for my flight. Only ten days flew by but I have years worth of memories to cherish. Berlin, Brussels, Otzenhausan, Mannheim, Heidelberg and Frankfurt, only a handful of cities in one country in only ten days – if you think that it can’t be any special then I’d say you’re wrong my friend! One needs to have eyes to look through a city’s heart to feel its heartbeat. How? Check out the pubs- its alternative cultures; study architecture- the ornaments a city adorns itself with care, talk to strangers- befriend them and be close enough to know their life; sit by a river that pierces through the heart of the city- observe the lives that wake up, work, drink, eat, laugh and sleep there; never give up yourself to your tired boring-self- get out; keep your eyes open and connect to its history- however trivial it might be; and please, don’t run from one place to another just to take a photo-shot in your camera. Then any city will open up to you, it will be yours!
A few of my observations: Germany’s public transportation labyrinth is really good, efficient and easy to understand. Its people are nice and welcoming. People mostly use small cars, a smart choice definitely. I found German people generally care not to squander anything, be that water, electricity or anything. That is simply admiring and they are open about criticizing the North American’s excesses. Comparing with Canada, I think there is much to learn for us from Europe. However, I must say, Europe has much to learn from Canada too. Especially, the precious multiculturalism is something Europe is yet to embrace like Canada. The Europeans are welcoming as I said already, but as a society, they still need to be more open to living along with other cultures. When history is rich, the pride in it should not mount upon European exceptionalism. History accepts change, but it only gets wealthier when that change is a positive one. Canada with its somewhat paltry history compared to Europe is building a rich history of diversity, as if the whole Canadian society is a microcosm of the entire world, except only trying to make a better world within its border. May be it’s yet not perfect, but it’s an identity still in progress for better. Europe and Germany’s multikultur is yet to flourish like Canada!
In sum, Germany will always be a wonderful memory for me! Its lives are as beautiful as the lives in any other place. Especially because the Germans as a nation has gone through a history where they have made grave mistakes and learned from them in retrospect. They only got better, hard workers and more resilient. I realized from my conversations with my German friends that they are proud of their history, but it also haunts them. You can realize that especially when a german asks you what others would think if he/she is proud of being a German. I think their pride is in their ability to learn, recuperate and rebuild a new history and a new nation on top of everything it once was! Not only they are what they once were, but they have become more than that for good. I love the Germans!! Too bad that I have to leave…
I am looking forward to visiting Deutschland soon. Until then, tschüs…
25 June 2012
25.06.2012> local time 11:33 pm > 16 degree cel. and gute nacht my friend!
My heart was pounding and I was making myself ready to respond if get caught. Yes! I sneaked into a classroom at the University of Heidelberg, the oldest university in Germany, after loitering there for half an hour! It became clear that the professor knows the students because it was apparently the last class before their final exam and there were hardly 40 students in the class! God!! The professor’s eye was always fixed on me with a piercing look! I tried my best to look attentive :p
The course sounded like a drama study, and the lecture was particularly on the revenge dramas, mostly covering the tragedy of Jacobeans, the famous plays by Shakespeare and Milton. Today the professor was covering how sex, love, promiscuity, lust, disease and death shape the stories of revenge dramas! It was indeed interesting. Especially, the way he articulated the subtle aspects of a drama’s progression and its development. I was indeed impressed!!
The University of Heidelberg was one of the epicentres of Europe’s romantic movement. So let’s just say, I felt special to be there to attend a class. On a different note, the girls here are indeed pretty and they know how to do their hair, fascinated by their beautiful braids!! I should have had come for an exchange program! :p
Heidelberg from the top, on my way to the Philosophers’ Walk! The Castle is on the far left and the Karl-Theodore Bridge on the river Neckar.
Before the university, I also checked out the castle which was built around the twelve century, a mixture of Gothic and Renaissance architecture. The famous poet John van Goethe once walked in the castle’s beautiful garden, where there was a statue of him! The view of Heidelberg from the castle, high above the mountain was magnificent.
Later I went to the Philosophers’ Walk, a walkway swirling up the mountain. Famous poets Eichendorff and others walked here! From the top, the view of the city with the river Neckar running in the middle was simply jaw-dropping. There was something in this view, the baroque beauty and the medieval architecture of the city were captivating!!
I walked in the old city the whole evening, saw it with my eyes wide open and felt its heartbeat with passion. It’s time to part my friend, gute nacht Heidelberg!!
25 June 2012
25.06.2012 > local time 1:50 pm > 18 degree cel. and breakfast in Heidelberg!
Right after breakfast with Rebecca! You can see the castle far on the hilltop.
Heidelberg is a city with breathtaking beauty! That says everything about this romantic city. The lady at the reception of my hostel said, “It feels like the world around you is a bit too perfect, like living inside a museum!” I thought that’s an interesting perspective!
My first night was pretty awesome. I met Rebecca, Paulina, Juliet and Rico at the hostel. Rebecca is working on a Fullbright fellowship in Barcelona, research on cell biology. Rico is a nurse in Hong Kong. Paulina, a student of Criminology and Juliet, studies medicine, is from Holland. It’s simply amazing how you meet awesome people in hostels!! We went out for drinks to a pub where there was a big tree inside!! We watched a football match and had a great time!
While having breakfast at the sidewalk table, the old bridge was on our left side!
Rebecca and I planned to have breakfast today in the morning at one of those restaurants in the city Platz. So we went there around 10, found a restaurant and a table on the sidewalk outside. The breakfast with latte macchiato was pretty good!! We sat there chatting for almost an hour. I always wished to be at a place like this, surrounded by this romantic picturesque medieval architecture!
After breakfast, Rebecca headed back to Frankfurt, and I went out to check the castle with Juliet and Paulina. My feet are hurting, but still, there is more to see, the philosopher’s walk, the student prison in the university and a handful of other things…
19 June 2012
24.06.2012 > local time 10:55 am > 17 degree cel. and the food is so great!
Beautiful German Countryside: On my way back to Frankfurt from Berlin
The last five days have been amazing at the European Academy at Otzenhausen. The simulation conference went pretty well, with a day’s excursion to NATO headquarters in Brussels. The briefing at the NATO HQ was quite interesting I must say! On our way back, we came through Luxembourg!! I have befriended many friends here in Otzenhausen, most of them from the University of Mannheim.
Now, I just ended up with a spontaneous plan! Instead of heading to Frankfurt, I decided to go to Mannheim to check the castle and then head to Heidelberg and stay there for a night. I am looking forward to seeing the old city the next day and then hop onto a train back to Frankfurt!
This is a short entry and will write interesting stories in my next entry soon! Now getting back on the road to Mannheim!
19 June 2012
19.06.2012 > local time 2:30am > 15 degree cel. and I had the best night!
The East Side Gallery: the murals on the Berlin wall!
I went to check the East Side Gallery of the Berlin wall and do exactly what Sam told me to do. Walk all the way to the end and then rest on the green grass on the other side of the wall. However, halfway through, it started pouring. I found a pub with a sandy beach right behind the wall, facing the river Spree. I hurried inside and took shelter under an umbrella. There I met, Helen and Celina, and they made my night!! Helen studies history and literature in Switzerland and wants to move to Germany to study politics. Celina is taking a year off before she starts her biomedicine program.
It was pouring for almost an hour and we kept chatting. Helen and Celina are extremely beautiful girls. Helen is so beautiful that later I ended up asking her if she had ever tried to do a self-portrait. Apparently, she is gifted with talents! She does oil painting, writes poetry and articles for a newspaper and like Celina, knows multiple languages.
So we planned for the night. We met up at a U Bahn. They both wanted to have Indian food for dinner. They found one restaurant, where I met Yusuf, a fellow Bangladeshi student working part-time and studying in Berlin. We ordered biryani and kept chatting for over an hour eating on the sidewalk table. The weather got chillier, but it didn’t stop us.
Then we headed to the Living Room, a bar where everything is decorated like a living room. Amazing!! (Sam and Sharon back in Waterloo would have loved it!) There, we kept chatting until around 1:30 am. It was such an awesome night; we chatted about French movies, Frida Kahlo, life, philosophy, crazy party stories, and we never got bored of each other. Berlin presented me coincidentally with two of its best and most beautiful minds.
I wish we had lived in the same city. There are hearts in Europe, and only the lucky ones get to meet them! I was that lucky one tonight!!
18 June 2012
18.06.2012 > local time 08:45pm > 25 degree cel. and a city to fall in love with!
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Where to start? Berlin! oh! Berlin, you keep making me wonder what you’ve gone through. I keep getting lost to think about the depth of your stories! You are a living history, an edifice of emotion and a reason to come back to you again.
I tried to write this entry a little earlier, but I couldn’t. My heart is still overwhelmed by the weight of Berlin’s history. But I will try anyway and will keep it short.
I took the walking free tour today in the morning. Sylvia, a French Canadian who too fell in love with Berlin and moved here to become a certified travel guide filled my, in fact, all of our days with the experiences we just needed. She is a walking, talking and living historian of Berlin. She was cute, knew how to pour whit in her presentation, and was best at dramatizing the historical background of all the sites in a light-hearted, yet emotional way.
The tour went all the way from the island museum, crossing the river Spree to the Humboldt University, Check Point Charlie, the remaining of the Berlin wall, Hitler’s bunker, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and the list goes on. I was surprised by the artistic depth of all the memorials the Germans made. Simply, mind-blowing! For example, the underground empty white bookshelves, seen through the small square glass at the front yard of Humboldt University signifies the presence of what is absent – the books burnt under the order of the Nazis.
The stories of all the lost life aged my heart today and yet, I wanted to know more and want to go back again. Berlin is a city to love, live and die for.
18 June 2012
18.06.2012 > local time 11:10am > 24 degree cel. and the city is waiting!
After a huge breakfast, I am chilling at the lounge at the Circus Hostel in Berlin. Yes! Sam, I made it 😀 I slept only for 2 hours last night, or I better say early morning :p
Xenia, I missed the pub crawl, but it was for good. The night started from the Circus pub, the one Sam mentioned to me about many times. Now, I introduce you to Gareth, a British lad from Briton, Emily who is currently residing in Brussels and looks alike Winona Ryder and Hanna, Hannah Amber – originally from Sussex – who just finished her internship in a think tank in Brussels.
Hannah at the Palm Beach bar!
The night was splendid and crazy, bar hopping one after another from Kreuzberg to everywhere, only four of us. I don’t really remember how many pubs I have made to last night. It was 5 in the morning, we were in a pub which had sand all over its floor, giving a beach vibe. It appears Berlin never sleeps, indeed!
Now there is something about Hannah. She has an incredible mind, a very intriguing one and she knows how to translate what’s in her eyes into words better than anyone I’ve met! There is more to her than meets the eye…
Anyway, Berlin is waiting and I must finish Sam’s list! A list that ends up with her words: “Make sure you get good German beer – you can drink on the streets in Berlin. Drinking beer at noon is absolutely acceptable. If you find yourself in Kreuzberg (the Turkish/ punk rock district of Berlin) go to Mustafa’s for the BEST durum in the city —- there is ALWAYS a line up there haha….”
17 June 2012
17.06.2012 > local time 4:50pm > 16 degree cel. and the sun is smiling!
Claudia Lewis by M83 on my headphone and my train is blazing through the meadows to Berlin! The countryside is incredibly beautiful, stairs of slanted red roofs around the hills, looked like patches of red in a green flood. Yes! That’s my impressionist mind.
It wasn’t hard at all to find my way from Frankfurt airport to Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof rail station. It was a piece of cake then to hop into my train with a quiche and a cappuccino in my hands! A small gaffe: I was wondering how come my second class seat feels so comfy! It wasn’t too late to figure out that I was warming up my ass in the 1st class mistakenly. So had to head towards the second class.
But no worries! I got a beautiful german girl studying biochemistry right in front of me. The sun kept playing on her face the whole time! Her beautiful hazel eyes reminded me of someone from the past. 😀
The track changes to I found you by Alabama Shakes…“well, I traveled a long way…….”
16 June 2012
So here I am at the airport, after my baggage check-in and a ‘random’ full-body security scan, I’m sitting with Matt, a grad student from McMaster and waiting for the Farhan to show up, who is from Queens. The first foolish thing I have done is that I bought a ‘fresh’ juice for $3. I doubt how freshly squeezed that was :p People are all over, running for boarding, the plane must be flying on time, got my boarding pass, and here I am sitting nonchalantly!!