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Berlin: Dad’s Tourist Experience!

Hi Everybody!

As you may recall, my Dad was visiting me here in Berlin for two weeks. We had an absolutely terrific time, and now that he is back home it is time to tell you all about our adventures! We actually took a road trip to Amsterdam in the middle of his visit, but I’ve decided to make that a whole other blog post since I have so much I would like to say about the experience.

Dad had excellent timing on his trip; he took off from a snow-covered Calgary and was greeted by a sunny Berlin. Over the course of his two weeks here, he got to see everything come to life: trees are now covered in new leaves, and there are gorgeous daffodils and tulips everywhere. It’s hard to believe that there is still snow in Calgary this late in the year…but hopefully Spring is right around the corner!

On Dad’s first night here, we made a schnitzel dinner and gave him a chance to relax after the long flight. In case you’re not quite sure what schnitzel is: it’s a type of meat (usually pork, but we also tried chicken) that has been beaten into a very thin cutlet, and then breaded and fried. Understandably, I have yet to meet a non-vegetarian that doesn’t enjoy it.

I unfortunately had to work during Dad’s trip, but he was able to make himself quite at home around Alexanderplatz while I was teaching. He took a lot of photos of the (East) Berlin TV Tower, and was able to entertain himself in both the huge Galeria there (a large, fancy department store), and the Alexa Mall. He highly recommends the McCafe inside of the mall, since they serve impressively large coffees and have an outside terrace where people can sit.

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On our first day exploring the city together, we took Alexanderplatz as a starting point for what I think of as my “Grade 11 Tour”. When I was in grade 11, my school band came to Germany for two weeks, and we spent about two days in Berlin. We ate almost all of our meals at a restaurant right in Alexanderplatz, and stayed at the Radisson Hotel just down the street. I pointed out to Dad the restaurant where we ate, and also showed him where I had been a waitress for two weeks last summer. We then headed to the Radisson, and stopped at a few touristy shops along the way. The lobby of the Radisson is pretty amazing to see, because there is an enormous aquarium in the center that stretches to the ceiling. You can technically take an elevator up the middle of the aquarium, but this attraction is connected to an aquarium around the block, as opposed to being controlled by the hotel.

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Of course, the Radisson was just the precursor to the amazing Berliner Dom. We only viewed it from the outside on the first day, but Dad later took my recommendation and went inside. The vastness and beauty of the dome’s ceilings can only really be appreciated in person as opposed to photographed. He also took the climb to the upper roof of the dome, from which you can see a large part of the city.

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Unfortunately the weather wasn’t terrific on the day that Dad went to the top part of the Berliner Dom, but I think he still thoroughly enjoyed the experience!

After we had taken a few photos of the dome from the outside, we continued to walk towards the Brandenburg Gate (or Brandenburger Tor). It was a few blocks farther away than I had remembered, but our walking efforts were eventually rewarded. We not only saw the Brandenburg Gate, we also saw a group of dancers doing a routine around a dressed-up border guard. The routine was quite spontaneous and there were no costumes worn, but you could tell the dancers were well trained.

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After this, Dad and I called it a day and headed home. The next day, Dad once again entertained himself while I was at work. For my Conversation Course we watched Sonic Underground, since the students had been requesting it for weeks. Unfortunately, I discovered that the show was not nearly as awesome as I recalled from my elementary days. But after that, Dad and I met up with Sebastien by his university campus. The first thing we checked out was the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, which was bombed in World War II. This church has been preserved with the hole in the top of it, and is impressive to see.

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We then headed over to the “Kaufhaus des Westens”, which basically means the Department store of the West. It’s an extremely fancy store, and includes pricey brand-names. The main reason we went in was to check out the seventh floor, which houses interesting foods from all over the world. The contribution from America includes pop-tarts, maple syrup, marshmallows, and hot sauce. Of course, each of us had our own favourite part of this floor: I was all over the tea, Dad was into the coffee, and Seb was quite interested in the beer. In any case, it was a nice tourist stop, as well as the fountain which was right beside it.

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After this, we headed to the small town right next to Berlin, in which Sebastien’s parents live. We ate dinner at a large Chinese restaurant there – Seb and I have eaten the buffet there once before, and remembered it being delicious. It’s quite the impressive building from the outside, and on the inside they have a large number of intricate details. Not to mention that they have a small fountain with a live turtle in it, and there’s a crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling. Definitely a great way to spend an evening! From there, we picked up Sebastien’s parents’ small car to take on our road trip for the weekend.

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On Thursday, I had one shift and then we took off on our Amsterdam Adventure – but I’m going to save that for another blog entry. Just to keep you in suspense!

The first big adventure we had upon our return to Berlin was having brunch in the (East) Berlin TV Tower. I made a reservation for us before Dad arrived, and we therefore had priority treatment when it came to lining up for the elevator both up and down. One neat detail in the Berlin Tower was that the roof of the elevator was glass – so we were able to watch our speedy ascent. If I remember correctly, the Berlin Tower is over twice the height of the Calgary Tower – however, the revolving restaurant at the top is fairly similar. Dad and I got a spot right beside the window, and even though the day was a bit cloudy we had a great view.

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After this, I still had some time before I had to work, so we headed to the East Side Gallery. This is basically a stretch of the Berlin Wall still standing, on which a lot of people have painted art. Dad was quite surprised to see how small the physical wall itself was; but while people make it seem like the wall itself prevented people from going in or out of East Berlin, in reality it was the security surrounding the wall that was more dangerous. The art there now is quite interesting though, and it was a good thing for us to see. There is an interesting bridge at the end of the stretch of wall, as you can see in the pictures.Image

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That evening, Dad came with me to my orchestra practice. We went out for dinner afterwards the way we usually do, and Dad enjoyed speaking with the two English teachers that are members of the band.

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On Thursday, we briefly visited Checkpoint Charlie. This used to act as a checkpoint between East and West Berlin, and there are now two guards that stand representing the checkpoint, and also a museum in which there are various artifacts from this period. I remember visiting this museum on my band tour in grade eleven, but on this day there were way too many school groups for us to go inside the museum.

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That evening, I brought Dad to the usual Thursday “Sneak Peek” Movie Night. It was a lot of fun bringing him to Potsdamer Platz, because it’s a place I’ve started to take for granted since I’ve visited it so often. Dad being there with me reminded me of how cool the whole set-up is, with the roof that lights up at night. The movie of the week was “Labor Day” which was alright, but I don’t think I would bother seeing it again.

The big events of Friday were checking out “Bikini Berlin” and the Audi Showroom. “Bikini Berlin” is a brand new mall that has only been open for about two weeks, and the main reason we decided to check it out is that you can see into the Berlin Zoo. We found a window in the mall that looks into a few exhibits through the mall, and when we climbed onto the roof we could see a few monkey enclosures, and the elephants way in the distance.

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The Audi Showroom was basically a building that contained a lot of movie screens depicting Audis, and there were four different Audis to climb into and check out. I quite enjoyed the one with television screens in the backseat.

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After this, we went for currywurst. It’s basically sausage covered in a curry sauce and ketchup. Dad and I are definitely big fans!

The next day, the three of us went for a bike ride to a historical GDR tower that has recently been restored. It was originally used for looking out over the Berlin Wall to make sure no one tried to cross it, but now you can climb up and see some of the communication tools they had, as well as photos and stories of escapees. There was also a set of binoculars that were extremely powerful – you could see straight across the river into someone’s porch! Our trip involved first taking a ferry across the river and then biking a while to reach this tower.

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Our next big adventure was taking a trip to the Reichstag in Berlin, which is the main government building. On our way there, we stopped at Hauptbahnhof (Main Station) because of it’s elaborate multi-floor train system, and impressive, open set-up.

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After this, we walked over to see the ever-impressive Reichstag, and walk up through the glass dome. This is the first time I’ve visited when the weather has been nice, and there wasn’t rain pouring in through the top of the roof. It was great to have a clear day, and all of the trees were showing their Spring blossoms.

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After our time at the Reichstag, we took a brief stop at the Holocaust Memorial that is only a few blocks away. We didn’t have time to visit the museum underneath, but the Memorial itself was easily accessible. The concept of this Memorial – which is a similar to a maze – is to make visitors have feelings of loss and confusion similar to how Holocaust victims would have felt. Our visit was extremely short, but even then I managed to get lost amongst the solid stones.

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We then went to Sebastien’s parents’ house for a raclette dinner. Sebastien’s parents find it funny that I constantly request raclette every time I go over there but it really is a great way to eat a meal, and it’s not at all common in Canada. Dad really enjoyed it – each person cuts up vegetables, noodles, and potatoes, and puts them in a tiny individual pan, then places cheese on top to melt in a small oven in the center of the table. It’s complicated to try and describe, but it results in everyone taking their time with their eating, and preparing their individual dishes exactly the way they like.

Sadly, the following day marked Dad’s last complete day in Berlin. We started off with a bike ride through the forest to Tegel, where Dad was able to enjoy a donair (which is a very important culinary experience in Berlin!). In the forest, we were lucky enough to spot some boars – it was my first time seeing them in person! There was even a cute little baby boar.

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And so we reach the conclusion of my blog detailing Dad’s visit to Berlin. It really was a great trip! I hope you didn’t find my writing too tedious, or repetitive in regards to my landmark stories. I shall be sure to write my very exciting blog about our road trip to Amsterdam soon.

Thank you all so much for reading!

Auf Wiedersehen,

Robyn

 

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2014 in Travel and Working Abroad

 

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Burial Sites in Annapolis County, Non-Active and for the Most Part Forgotten

Hi Everybody!

For today’s blog, I’m featuring something completely new and unique. My grandfather, Lloyd Robinson, spent a great deal of time researching and tracking down burial sites in Annapolis County, Nova Scotia. I find this quite fascinating, and I wish that there were more people like him who took an interest in uncovering historical sites that would otherwise be lost. This blog contains the article that he wrote about the experience (and it may or may not have been copyedited by me). I hope you enjoy!

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Burial Sites in Annapolis County, Non-Active and for the Most Part Forgotten

In 2009, a friend of mine related to me that he had found a grave site in the woods, well off the road, and that someone had provided minimal maintence for it. I was curious enough, and having some knowledge of the area, I went looking for the site. My wife and I found the site on Christmas Day, 2009.

Having found the first non-active burial site, my curiosity took over. For starters, I used a listing compiled by Dr. A. Marble during the period of 1966-1972. The listing has a total of 126 sites with detail recorded on each marker surveyed: the name, date of birth, etc. While all the active sites were included, many of the non-active ones were missed.

My objective was to account for as many non-active sites I could find in Annapolis County and most importantly of all, to document their location. Marble’s records give very little as to the location of each site, especially the non-active ones. For example, there is a non-active site recorded as being on the Morse Road. The Morse Road goes from Highway 201 at Carleton Corner to the West Dalhousie Road, which is a distance of 14 Km.

Civic numbers were not in place when Marble did his survey, so this would account to some degree for the lack of location detail.

Another group, the ” Annapolis Ventures,” undertook a similar project with the benefit of civic numbers. They did an excellent job, but shortage of funding limited their efforts.

By starting with Marble’s record of burial sites that had the smallest number of grave markers recorded, I got underway. I worked on the assumption these would be non-active sites.

The expulsion of the Acadians took place in 1755. The Planters started to arrive in Annapolis County in the 1760s followed by the Loyalists. The non-active site grave markers were almost all dated during the 1800s, with a few dated in the last part of the 1700s and a few in the early 1900s Basically the time frame of the non-active grave markers I found was the 1800s.

The non-active sites were for the most part one or two or very few markers. They were often a family burial plot on the family’s own property, or because of 1800s travel restrictions, communal burial sites were found in some rural communities.

In total I found 66 non-active burial sites and used the same format to document each site. I used all the available landmarks, and perhaps most significant of all was a G.P.S. fix.

With my documentation I rated each location on a scale from “0″ to “10″: “0″ portraying that no maintenance had been done whatsoever. On review of the 66 sites, I rated 32 as having no maintenance at all. These were very hard to find, with markers barely visible above the level of the bushes or the stone actually found lying flat on the ground.

The other end of the scale is where the property owner has gone to great lengths to landscape and preserve the site. One new property owner had put in in a great deal of effort to restore the location. He contacted the original owners to view his efforts but they were not interested. Fortunately this was an isolated case.

I found too that there have been cases where the property has changed hands. The burial site had no significance to the new owner so the grave stones were broken up and deposited on the property line.

I have documented 66 sites and I am sure there are more here in Annopolis County. They’re all very interesting with stories that most likely will never be known.

A few examples:

1) There was one burial marker in a cow pasture, with cows present .

2) A small pillar-type stone in bushes along the edge of a field. One side of the stone
details of the father, another side shows details of the mother. The third side gives
details of their only child; a two year old daughter. Her epitaph reads:
“Budded on Earth to Bloom In Heaven”

3) One location with 32 documented burials but only one marker. I had trouble finding
the marker but eventually noticed a rock that I thought was too precise to be a rock.
The rock turned out to be the base of the marker I was looking for. The grave marker
was flat on the ground covered with leaves, twigs, and the like.

4) I found non-active site with names I have never heard; “Halfyard” is one I have in
mind. Curious names such as these lead me to wonder about where these people
came from, what they did, and where they went within their lifetimes.

The non-active sites noted in Annapolis County have been in place for over 100 years and I am sure the same exists in other Counties. What will ever happen to the ones still in existence? No doubt they will gradually disappear and eventually be forgotten. Cremation will become a major factor. In 2012 63% of the disposal of remains was by cremation. Ashes are distributed and recorded in many different ways.

It is interesting to consider the implications this will have on our burial customs, and how graves in the future will be marked and remembered.

Lloyd Robinson
Round Hill, N.S.
February 8, 2014

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2014 in Travel and Working Abroad

 

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Potsdam, and other Adventures!

Hello there!

I love the irony of writing blog posts: when you don’t have a lot going on, there’s lots of time to write blogs but nothing to write about. Then when everything exciting happens, you have tons of things to write about, but no time!

There hasn’t been a heck of a lot I’ve been up to in the past few weeks, but I was surprised when I realized that it has been almost a month since my last post. A few mildly exciting things have gone on in the past month, so I shall try to summarize them now!

A few weekends back, Sebastien and I spontaneously decided to take a day trip to Potsdam. If you take a regional train from Berlin to Potsdam, it can take as little as an hour. I love the regional trains here, especially the type that we took to Potsdam – it’s a double-decker! So we got to climb stairs up to the top floor of the train.

The day of our trip was absolutely gorgeous – one of the first true days of Spring. Potsdam has the largest outdoor Heritage Site in Germany. There is a huge open park, and by following various paths you come across several historical buildings. Sebastien and I worked our way across the park from one side to the other, beginning with two buildings across from one another. One of the buildings (the first photo below) is used as part of the University of Potsdam. The one across the way is a building that has played a part in history. The most significant thing that comes to my mind is that it was where the Declaration of War was signed, beginning the first World War.

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The last photo I posted is from the backside of the building – we had officially walked from between the two buildings into the long park. As you walked through a lot of green space, you could continually look back behind you and see this building in the distance. In this photo you may also notice that there is something on the ground in a circular shape – Sebastien and I are pretty sure that these are fountains for most of the year that are currently empty. The only problem with our awesome day in Potsdam was that it was still too early for a lot of the fountains and flowers that will be there later in the summer. But it was still gorgeous, nonetheless!

The next historic site we came to was the “Orangery”, which was the last building built in Potsdam’s historic park. From what we could see of this building, it was a large greenhouse with orange trees growing inside. The setup of the building reminded me more of warmer European climates, like perhaps Italy or Spain. Sebastien and I then took this opportunity to eat an orange. It didn’t come from inside the building, but we could pretend.

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After we were finished here, we went to see the Chinese Tea House. A lot of the buildings in this park were built for the benefit of Friedrich the 2nd, because Potsdam is where he would come and stay during the summer. The Chinese Tea House was built by Europeans, who based it on Chinese design, and it is where Friedrich the 2nd would go to enjoy his afternoon tea (don’t quote me on that, but I think it’s a reasonable theory). The whole building is apparently very fragile, and every time someone moved a bit too close to the fence an alarm would go off. In any case, it was very beautiful to see!

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The next building along was one that is primarily used for gardening, but at this point in the year it wasn’t very impressive yet. Made a good spot for us to sit and have a bite to eat though!

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Right next door to this building was the most impressive of all: the Sanssouci Palace. Sanssouci is French for “Without Worries”, because this was where Friedrich the 2nd would go for his summer retreat, and apparently French was the trendy language back in those days. We didn’t go inside for a tour since it was quite full, but enjoyed admiring it from the outside. The fountains in front of the Palace were full of water and everything!

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I apologize for my photos…they don’t really do it justice at all!

In any case, we headed out of the park after that point and searched for a place to sit down and eat. Every outdoor patio was completely full thanks to the weather, although we were able to find one beer garden with space. Unfortunately this beer garden had space for a reason – the service was terrible. We spent a total of 1.5 hours there and never received food, so we left. Good thing we hadn’t been starving beforehand! We then got some ice cream, and walked through town for a while.

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Our last stop before heading back to Berlin was checking out a few of the cathedrals. We didn’t go inside any, but we definitely made a good call going to Potsdam on a Sunday: when Mass was beginning, the bells from several churches all began to ring, and it was the most beautiful cacophony of sound I have ever heard. It’s hard to describe just how powerful that sound was. In any case, it made me want to watch “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”.

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After this, it was time to head back to Berlin. Seb and I went to a restaurant with several of my British friends for “endless schnitzel” – which was just as amazing as it sounds. 10 euros for all you can eat schnitzel and fries, plus one drink.

Apparently I had a lot more to say about Potsdam than what I originally thought! I’ll make my other updates quick.

A few weeks ago, I discovered that a friend of mine from the University of Victoria (she had been in my English Honours class) was in Berlin for a few days. We managed to get together and check out the East Side Gallery together. It felt a bit absurd to me that I’ve been in Berlin for so long and had never seen this gallery before! I was surprised to find out that it’s actually about three minutes away from my school. This gallery is basically a long portion of the Berlin Wall that is still intact, and has been painted on by people with a lot of talent. It was great to catch up with my friend, and experience a bit more of Berlin as a tourist!

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I also had the chance to celebrate St Patrick’s Day in Berlin. One of my British friends said that there was a St Patrick’s Day parade we should check out – according to the website, it looked like quite the big festival! In the end, the parade was basically made of four people under a sheet pretending to be a snake while St Patrick chased them with a stick, and the Berlin Pipe Band. It was interesting for me to check out the pipeband – it was quite small, and half of the members were under 11, but they certainly owned that parade! They had a very cool bass drum head – it had the Berlin bear playing pipes in a kilt! Hopefully you can see it in the pictures. We didn’t stick around for the festivities after the parade, but it was still fun to be part of the festivities!

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My work has been going well lately. This week, the grade 10 students have a major oral exam in English – they have to speak in pairs for about 12 minutes in front of a teacher. While my conversation class has been slowly growing in size (I’ve gone from a regular three people to about seven), I suddenly had thirty grade 10 students come to me for help with their MSAs! I hope that what I told them was helpful: mostly it was basic language rules like when to use “many” versus “much”, and I had to explain that “funny” is not equivalent to “fun”. You don’t usually think that “doing sports is very funny”. This one backfired on me a bit when a German teacher used “funny” incorrectly the next day, but at least the students know what’s right.

I shall now conclude my blog with an update on what I will be doing next year. I have officially been accepted to Dalhousie University, and will begin my Master of Library and Information Studies there in the Fall! I am extremely excited. I have also decided to begin a whole new blog that will center around my library experiences, which you can find at http://thebagpippinlibrarian.wordpress.com/   Don’t worry, the “pippin” is on purpose as opposed to a mistake. I’ll try to connect one more link in case that one didn’t work: http://thebagpippinlibrarian.wordpress.com/2014/03/25/why-a-librarian/  I’ll still keep this blog going as well, but this one is more focused on my European adventures.

That is about all of my stories for now, but things are about to get very busy around here. On Monday, my Dad arrives in Berlin! I’m very much looking forward to seeing him. We have lots of plans for while he is visiting, including a short trip to Amsterdam. It may be a while before I write another blog, but by then I imagine I’ll have lots to tell you!

Thank you so much for reading. Sorry that it was such a long update – in any case, I hope you enjoyed it! Have a lovely rest of your week!

Bis Später,

Robyn

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2014 in Travel and Working Abroad

 

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Prague Blog!

Hello all!

As you may have guessed from the title of this entry, Sebastien and I spent the weekend in Prague. About a month ago we decided we should go somewhere new just for the heck of it, seeing as it is so cheap to travel within Europe. I had heard great recommendations about Prague, and we were able to get a great deal since we booked it so far ahead of time (and didn’t mind super early/late travel times).

We woke up bright and early on Friday morning, and headed to Berlin Hauptbahnhof for our 7am departure by train. I love traveling by train; it’s quick and comfortable, and you have a chance to see amazing scenery along the way. This was my first time on a train with those little seat chambers like what they have in Harry Potter, and I thought of all sorts of quotes from the first movie to reenact for poor Sebastien. My favourite was when a man with a trolley slid the door open and asked if we wanted anything, and I thought of “Anything from the trolley, dears?” along with chocolate frogs and Bertie Bott’s every flavour beans. However, we stuck with muggle food, and within 5 hours we arrived at our destination!

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Sebastien had found a hotel that was a few minutes walk both from the train station and the bus station from which we would leave on Sunday. We didn’t pack too heavily, so the walk from the train to the hotel was pretty painless (although Seb was carrying the bag, so maybe he figures it was a heavy bag after all).

We checked in and dropped off our bags, and were ready to go out and begin seeing the city by noon. We quickly found a bank and picked up some koruna, which is the Czech currency. That was probably the biggest adjustment we had to make during our time in Prague – we were holding 1000 koruna bills in our hands, and it was not worth a ton of money! 2800 koruna equals about 104 euros, or 156 dollars. When we went by restaurants to try and see the price range, it was hard to take it seriously when it was dealing with such huge numbers. At the restaurant in our hotel, they had a menu showing prices of chicken breast for 240 Kc and steak for 520 Kc. We eventually got the hang of it, but it was fun to see such huge numbers! In any case, here are a few pictures of where we first walked through. If I recall correctly, this is where the Concert Hall was located, as well as either a Ballet Hall or else an Opera. Sad to say we didn’t see the inside of either, as you can tell! But they were gorgeous buildings.

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We hadn’t made a lot of definite plans for the first day, so we began by wandering through the Old Town part of Prague. We soon reached a big, open square, where there impressive buildings, including a church and a clock tower that displayed astronomical progressions. This is a major tourist area, and it was quite crowded. Based on the amount of people, Sebastien and I are scared to think how full it must be during the tourist months, if it was as busy as it is in the middle of February! In this square there were also a few extremely talented street performers. I imagine performers must have to get special permission to play in that square, because they draw huge crowds in that specific area.

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We knew that at the top of the hour, something special would happen on the astrological clock, but we didn’t know what would actually take place. While we didn’t get to see the top of the hour on the first day, we came back later and were able to see it twice during our trip. You could tell it was approaching the top of the hour when the crowd in front of it got exceptionally large. The clock was adorned with a lot of figures, and on the top of the hour a little figure of a skeleton would ring a bell, and then two windows right above the clock face would open, and little saint figures would rotate within view. The other figurines by the skeleton would also move for a while. Once the windows had closed again, the golden rooster would crow, and then a trumpeter from the highest part of the tower would play a short melody, and afterwards wave at the crowd below as they applauded. It was pretty cool! I wish the top of the hour was such an exciting event everywhere. Maybe I should get Sebastien to bring out his trumpet and play for me at the top of every hour from now on. I’ll try and put up a few pictures of the event here, but of course it’s not the same as if you see it in action.

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I’m sorry my picture of the top of the tower is sideways, but the point is that the trumpeter was all the way up there.

Anyways, back to the first day. We walked as far as the Charles Bridge, but didn’t go across it because that was a large part of our plan for the next day. We then went on a hunt for one of the large historic libraries we had wanted to see while in Prague. It took us a while to track it down, but soon we were inside a building and had signed up for the next tour of “Klementinum.” The tour comprised of the Mirror Chapel, Astronomical Tower, and Baroque Library Hall. While the library was the part of the tour I was most looking forward to, the other aspects were definitely worth seeing as well. We began in the Mirror Chapel, which had mirrors in the ceiling that reflected the star-tiled floor, as a way of imitating the sky. It also had a set of mirrors at the front of the room, and when you looked into one side it make it seem like they were infinite.

As the tour progressed from there, we saw various astronomical artifacts throughout the tour. Our tour guide spoke English with a very heavy accent, so we could understand part of what she said but not all of it. She often threw in a German translation for what was going on – we had a few experiences on our trip where the locals spoke better German than they did English.

On about the third floor, we reached the Baroque Library Hall. We could only stand in the doorway and take a good look from that viewpoint, but it was absolutely amazing. There were globes of all sorts along the center of the hall, including astronomical patterns as well as geographical data. A section of the books were missing, since they are currently in Germany having the pages copied digitally. There were books of all sorts of languages in the room, but unfortunately I don’t really remember the rest of the trivia since I was too busy staring in awe to listen to the tour guide. Here’s one photo of the Chapel of Mirrors, and another of the Library.

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The dark spots on the ceiling in the first picture are the mirrors. As you can tell, both places have amazing artwork on the ceilings! I ended up buying a poster of the library, for 50 Kc – or about 2 euros. It suffered a little damage coming back to Berlin, but hopefully it will still be worthy to hang on a wall when I’m an awesome librarian student nerd next year.

After the Library, we travelled all the way up the tower to the top. The stairs near the top were wooden and quite uneven, which made everybody just a little more careful about climbing them! But we soon got to the top, and were in a small room with large doors, which is where astronomers would do the majority of their observing. You could walk out of these doors though and be on a balcony surrounding the tower and from here we got an absolutely gorgeous view of the city.

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The tour guide kindly took our photo, and we learned the Czech word for thank you: dekuji. We never did really learn any other words, but we were able to thank the tour guide and use the word occasionally.

We then found a place to rest our feet and enjoy an early dinner. Sebastien had noticed a place proclaiming to have beer that cost 35 Kc, which is about 1.30 euros. Needless to say, that was our place of choice! Seb had a goulash, while I ate a beef and potato dumpling dish covered in a traditional Czech sauce. It was all very delicious, and coincidentally enough, the Olympic game between Canada and the US was on TV! We took our time with the food, and ordered dessert, and enjoyed watching the game as it unfolded. At the end of it all, we paid about 700 Kc. Biggest bill I’ve ever gotten? Not really sure!

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Throughout the day, it was interesting to see what types of stores are emphasized in Prague. There were several alcohol shops that put an emphasis on Absinth – there was one that claimed to be an Absinth museum, and served such specialties as Absinth ice cream. Seb and I never checked any of these out, but I had no idea it was such a big deal there. There were also two museums of “Medieval Torture Instruments” which had gory displays in the windows and the sounds of recorded screams coming from inside. Seb and I didn’t exactly feel the need to check these out either! The two places we did check out though were the marionette shops and the crystal stores. We went into one marionette shop, and there were tons of detailed marionettes and other handmade toys. The one we went into had a cute display in the window, where there were four marionettes set up on a sort of carousel where they would walk around.

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There were tons of these small shops everywhere. There were also a lot of shops selling crystals – there were at least two Swarovski Crystal stores between our hotel and the Charles Bridge, and there were a lot more of different brands everywhere. I had no idea that crystals were such a big thing in Prague! We went into Swarovski because I love collecting their crystal animals, and wanted to see what outrageous prices they had for everything (thanks to the change in currency). There were a lot of digits involved!

The walk back to the hotel was of course a scenic one, and we got a good night’s rest to prepare us for the next day’s adventures.

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We awoke bright and early the next day to a lovely, sunny sky. After our complimentary breakfast at the hotel, we headed straight for Charles Bridge. The many vendors that set up their carts along the bridge were just starting to put their paintings and jewelry on display, and I, of course, took a million photos.

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In a few of the pictures posted above, you can perhaps see a large castle in the distance on the right side, with a green roof. This is where we climbed to next! Sebastien’s guidebook said to avoid going there in the morning because that was when it was most full with tour busses, but thankfully for us it was bearable since it isn’t exactly tourist season. The stairs we climbed led us fairly close to the cathedral at the top of the hill, and after passing through “guarded” gates, we were able to take a peek inside the cathedral.

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The sun was coming through the stained-glass windows at the perfect angle, so it was much more gorgeous than I can portray in the picture. We wandered around the area a bit more, and there were historic royal quarters involved, but since we weren’t prepared to take a tour we meandered back into the street. The area at the top of the hill was a lot more populated with houses and restaurants than we had expected, and we slowly made our way towards the old Monastery that had a library within the grounds. When we got there, the library was closed for a lunch hour, so we decided to sit outside at a nearby brewery and take a break. We sat at a long bench, and eventually a middle-aged couple sat beside us since the place was quite full. We got talking, and quickly found out that the couple came from Glasgow, Scotland. When I told them I’m from Canada, they mentioned that they had family out there – one of their siblings had moved there and was living with their family in Vancouver. To make the whole thing a very small-world experience, their niece and nephew played bagpipes and drums with the SFU pipeband, and we have a few friends in common. I swear, Canada isn’t so small that we usually have those experiences, but the bagpiping world is!

We eventually bid our new friends adieu, and headed back to the library. The writing on the building said that it dated back to the 1200s. There were two separate libraries: one was two stories tall, and was themed with a warm brown colour (sorry for the terrible description, but I’m sure if I said something like “mahogany” it would be totally wrong). There was then a long hallway that was lined with ancient manuscripts, as well as unique book bindings. This led to another library, which was only one level high but was no less impressive with artwork and rows upon rows of books from the ceiling to the floor.

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The air coming from each of the libraries was cool, in order to preserve the books. I think that was a big part of why we weren’t all allowed to browse around the library too. These were absolutely amazing to see, although I have to say that I’m looking forward to when I am working in a functional library, where I can put information to use and physically take books off the shelves.

Anyways! Once we were done looking around, we headed back outside. The hill we had climbed extended a long way, and we walked towards a building that was apparently built shortly after the Eiffel tower. There was of course an amazing view from the top of the hill, although we didn’t bother to climb the tower itself. After we admired it all for a while, we slowly walked back down the hill on a scenic route. Eventually we ended up back at the bridge we had crossed early that morning, which by this time was quite crowded.

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Once we were back in the Old Town area, we grabbed a quick snack – light, fluffy dough wrapped in a circle and dusted with sugar and cinnamon. Smelled amazing, and was pretty tasty too! We then headed back to the hotel to start getting ready for our night out at Europe’s biggest night club!

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When we were all ready for dinner, a man at the front desk in our hotel recommended a good restaurant. It was about ten steps from the hotel, and it was indeed a great choice. After that, we headed to the club!

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Above are a few photos of it from the outside during the day, but of course you can’t really get a sense of what it was like from that. I didn’t actually bring my camera or phone with me into the club, so I will just have to describe it a bit for you.

The club was absolutely amazing. We entered the coat check on the first floor, and there was a long hallway where you could then enter a staircase or else keep going straight and enter the ice bar. We never did try out the ice bar, but it’s basically a really cold room where everything is made of ice – or at least I assume that’s the case. But back to the staircase. We first took it down a set of stairs, which led to a fairly small dance floor. The ceiling was clear, and you could see the people walking through the coat check above us. The music seemed to be pretty standard and recent, but we didn’t stay there very long. We got back into the staircase and went up two flights of stairs (so one above the coat check). There, they had lots of modern songs with a slightly lowered dance floor below the DJ. The theme of this floor seemed to be lasers, since there were a fair amount of them everywhere. You could then walk down a narrow hallway which was where the bathrooms were located, and on the other side of the hallway was a bar area and a bunch of chairs where you could relax. The floor plan of every floor was the same: a dancing area with the DJ, a narrow hallway with the bathrooms, then a bar and an area to sit. Each one was differently themed though. The next floor up had a lot of 80s music, and there were pictures of Elvis and Marilyn Munroe everywhere. We stayed enough to hear a bit of Grease and “Video Killed the Radio Star” before we explored further. The next floor up had lots of modern music (without many “remixes” though) and in front of the DJ’s podium there was a scantily-clad lady dancing for all she was worth. The other dancers were all below, and I think she was there as an ice breaker for shy people. The next level up had a live saxophone and drummer playing solos along with the music. The dancing was a bit more old-fashioned there, although the floor never seemed to get very busy. We had a lot of fun exploring each floor, and all of the decorations and displays within the club were extremely impressive. We found beer that cost about 1 euro or so, which is pretty darn amazing considering the fact that clubs usually overcharge on beverages. When one floor got a bit too crowded, we would just check out another. We ended up leaving at about 3am, and it was a short walk back to the hotel (much shorter of a distance than when I was living in Victoria!) All in all, I’m extremely happy we checked it out!

The next day, we began by seeking out the City Hall from which people were first defenestrated. For those of you who are curious, “defenestrate” means to throw someone out of a window. Apparently this was first done in Prague, and led to a 15 year war. We weren’t positive if we found the right building in the end, because there were very few markers to indicate that this is where it happened, but here’s a picture of the place we think it was.

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On the way there, we walked along a very famous and expensive shopping strip, where all the most popular stores are. We meant to also walk by the hotel from which a few superstars have been kicked out, but we never really located it. Unfortunately, I was absolutely no help at finding anything on this day – two days of walking everywhere followed by a late night made me into a bit of a zombie!

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After our defenestration quest, we walked along a park until we found the “Dancing House”. The building itself isn’t used for dancing or anything like that, but from the outside it looks as if the whole building is dancing.

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From there, we walked along the Moldau river. We were a fair ways away from the Charles Bridge, but we passed several bridges (meant for cars instead of just people) as we approached it.

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We eventually arrived at the Charles Bridge, and once again admired the night club from the outside. It’s apparently open every night of the week from 9 to 5am – you can tell that there are no houses nearby for them to disturb! After that, we headed towards the Spanish Synagogue and Jewish Graveyard, but didn’t actually go inside or get a decent look. And so, we headed to our favourite brewery for some lunch, just in time to watch the Canadians take on Sweden in the Gold Medal Olympic game! It felt pretty cool to be watching the game from such a unique place, but it also made it feel extremely strange when we won and no one else in the brewery took any notice. I made sure to make a bit of noise though!

By the time the game was over, we had a bit more time to kill until we went to the bus station. We stopped inside a candy store where they were making hard candies from scratch, which was pretty cool to see. It was a bit like watching the chefs in Disneyland make caramel apples, except I’m pretty sure the ones in Disneyland had much more traditional hairstyles.

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We then went into the strip mall we had noticed earlier, and spent our remaining few koruna on ice cream cones. By then, it was sadly time to say goodbye to Prague, and ride the bus home. It was sad to have to say goodbye, but that’s always a sign of a great trip!

And so concludes the tale of our adventure in Prague. I’m sorry that I ended up writing so much text, but I hope you enjoyed the pictures in any case! For this weekend, we don’t have a lot of big things planned – I’m enjoying getting to relax a bit! I hope you all have a terrific weekend!

Tschüss!

Robyn

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2014 in Travel and Working Abroad

 

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Short little update :)

Hello All!

When I realized that it has officially been a month since my birthday, I realized it has been almost that long since my last blog post! So I shall briefly summarize the most exciting things I’ve been up to lately, and it’s up to you to decide whether they’re actually that exciting or not.

Since my last post, Berlin was hit with a fairly large amount of snow – just a little sample of what everyone else at home has been experiencing all winter. Luckily, I finished knitting my very fancy scarf right before the snow hit, and was able to coast through the bad weather in comfort. Now, it’s back to being nice and mild. I realize this is a pretty boring update, but it does present a good chance to put up a few photos: one of my school in a winter wonderland, and another of the amazing scarf.

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One of the teachers at my school has put me in charge of the Lesson Plans for a grade 10 class. I’ve been producing tables that list what the class will be doing every ten minutes, based on their current unit (Science…who would have thought I would be teaching science! Good thing it’s not their first language). I get nervous before every class I teach, but so far I’ve been very pleased with how each one went. The students are attentive and good at doing the tasks I set out for them. I think they enjoy having me teach them vocabulary, because I involve my amazing charades skills to describe exactly what each word means. During the first class I was able to use the seating chart to memorize a good portion of their names, but by the second class they were back to sitting wherever they wanted – so by now I know about 25 percent of them. Most of the time, I point and kind of make a vague murmuring sound so they think I have addressed them by name. A few of their names are really tough, especially since I’m learning from a sheet of paper. My personal favourite is ‘Ngoc”. I thought maybe she was prone to choking, and that’s where her name comes from. But if I recall correctly, it’s pronounced “I-nuq” or something like that. There was another one that was spelled really strangely, but in the end it’s pronounced “iTouch” which isn’t too hard to remember. In any case, I’m really enjoying working with that group. All grade 10 students have a really intimidating oral exam coming up, so when I’m not acting as the main teacher I’m taking pairs of students into the hall and helping them to practice their speaking skills.

This Thursday, I attended my last German class at the Technische Universität. Each student was asked to bring some sort of food for the last class, so I made three separate attempts at baking cookies. Unfortunately, granulated sugar and icing sugar are very different, so my first batch of shortbread cookies turned into one big sugar-butter blob. Then I tried my classic peanut butter cookies using German peanut butter, and these turned into…well, they actually looked the exact same coming out of the oven as they did going in, except greasier. Luckily, my boyfriend very kindly gave me some of his Canadian peanut butter, so that batch turned out a lot tastier. (Note to self: better ask my Dad to bring Sebastien more peanut butter in return for his kindness!) I brought said peanut butter cookies to the class, and they went over very well. There were a lot of really interesting dishes there for me to sample too – a friend from Britain brought in English mustard with sausages, and there were a number of different Chinese delicacies to try. We finished the class by playing “Mensch ärgere Dich nicht” which is the name for a game that basically every culture knows. I think in Canada we have “Trouble” and “Sorry” and it’s all basically that same concept. It was really sad to say goodbye to everyone in that class – it had been a really close group thanks to the small size of it, and I feel like I learned a lot through having such long discussions all in German. An excellent experience to add to the list from my year here!

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And Friday was, of course, Valentine’s Day! It was my first Valentine’s Day in the same city as Sebastien, but we didn’t get up to a lot of romantic things. Sebastien’s sister invited us to an event going on in Hohen Neuendorf, which is a small town outside of Berlin. This event was “One Billion Rising” and was actually taking place throughout the world. I think I read somewhere that in 2013, the event occurred in 203 countries worldwide. People gather in public places and dance in protest of violence against women. The event was well publicized, with coverage in the newspaper and an entire youtube video created afterwards. I had a lot of fun at this event, although I acted all shy and was therefore in practically no photos. However, I’m going to attach a photo of the event – I’m the one in the dark purple sweater and colourful sheepie hat, if you would like to try and spot me. Also, here’s a link to a video of the event this year: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9PVO_ZPbVc

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The last, but certainly not least, most interesting thing that has happened to me this past while is that I’ve been accepted to two Library Science Master’s Programs! Yay! I have been accepted to both Western Ontario University, and the University of Toronto. I still have a ton of decision-making ahead of me, but it’s nice to know that I can officially begin a program in September. The application process isn’t over yet, especially since I’m still applying for a few scholarships, but it’s nice to finally be getting results.

And this weekend, Sebastien and I are off to Prague! It’s a short trip, just for the weekend, but we’re hoping to fit in lots of sights while we’re there. Perhaps my next blog post will be longer than this one was, with lots of new stories to share.

I hope that you have a great week! Thank you so much for reading!

Auf Wiedersehen,

Robyn

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2014 in Travel and Working Abroad

 

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Geburstag Feiern in Deutschland :)

Hello Everyone!

Don’t worry, even though I used fancy German in my title, this blog will be in English. Quick translation of the title: Birthday Celebration in Germany!

My first few weeks back at work have been quite pleasant. The tasks I do for each class vary quite a bit; I do a lot of small group work to help students get more practice speaking, and one particular teacher is helping me get more comfortable with standing in front of the entire class. He’s actually given me the task of coming up with an entire lesson plan based on the material the students have to learn next – I’ve only gotten started, but it’s an interesting challenge for sure!

The most exciting event that happened since my last blog post is my birthday, which was January 18th. It was the first birthday I’ve been able to spend with my boyfriend since I was turning 16 – that was the year he was still in Canada. Since then, he’s always been in Germany for my birthday while I’ve been in either Calgary or Victoria. Needless to say, this birthday was certainly an unforgettable one!

About a week before my birthday, Sebastien told me to make sure I left the 17th (Friday) completely open, since he was going to borrow his parents’ car for the day. I didn’t really know where we would be going, but on the night of the 16th he gave me a new towel and told me we would be visiting a tropical island about an hour outside of Berlin. I made sure to pack my bathing suit in the car, but still had no idea what he could possibly mean. I know Europe is small, but driving to somewhere “tropical” like Spain or Italy would definitely take more than an hour’s drive from Berlin.

So on the morning of the 17th, we drove for about an hour, and eventually I started seeing signs for the aforementioned “Tropical Island”. We drove into what seemed to be the middle of nowhere, but eventually we arrived at this:

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I thought of the big tent-like structure back in Calgary, “Lindsay Park,” which was a gym with a weight-room and swimming pool. We then had a bite to eat in the car, and finally walked into the mysterious building. Unfortunately I left my camera in the car, because I didn’t want it to get wet in the pool.

We opened the door and were greeted by a gust of warm air from inside. I could hear club-like music echoing from behind the entrance gate, but still couldn’t really see what the place was like. Both Sebastien and I were given wristbands with an electronic button connected to them, and told that saunas cost extra if we wanted to use them.

Finally, we entered the tropical island. People were walking everywhere in a mixture of swimming suits and robes. We stood facing a wall of tropical plants, and could see a few rustic buildings as well. Sebastien then explained the concept to me – this huge dome was about the largest built in Europe, and was originally intended to build air-crafts in.But by the time the huge dome was completed, the air-craft companies were broke, so the dome sat unused for a number of years. Then, someone brilliant came up with the idea to turn the dome into a tropical paradise: keep it nice and toasty in there throughout the winter, add lush plants and big pools, and turn it into a great vacation spot.

We first changed into our bathing suits, using the electronic wristbands to lock our lockers. The wristbands turned out to be really handy – you could use them anytime you wanted to do something that cost extra (like enter the saunas) and also to pay for food and drink, and then you would just pay for everything once you left. While that meant that people could easily lose track of how much they were spending, it also meant that they weren’t walking around with cash that could easily be stolen. Sebastien and I walked through the tropical plants to find a huge swimming pool, where a water-fitness class was just finishing up (hence the music from earlier – after the class, it became pretty quiet). We arrived at about 11:30, and Sebastien told me we could stay and relax until 3am.

So that is how we spent our entire day. There were two large swimming pools, and we took turns going in each of those and enjoying a few waterslides. In the middle of it all was the section with tropical plants, along with flamingos and turtles and large fish, and we took our time walking through and checking everything out. There were lots of areas to sit on lounging chairs, along with little tourist shops and nice restaurants. Part of the deal of this place is that you can stay overnight – there are large sandy areas of tents you can stay in, and there are several themed huts and hotels throughout the dome. I guess there was an area of hotels attached to the dome as well, but of course had no interest in leaving the dome to check it out. Some of the huts were along the water, and were made to look exactly like holiday homes along the beach. My favourite was an area that looked like Tortuga from “Pirates of the Caribbean” – there were about three levels, with lots of fake signs for fortune tellers and Pirate meeting places, and when Seb and I climbed to the balcony between rooms, we got an amazing view over the entire resort.

There were some things we didn’t do, since they cost extra – there was a section with three huge waterslides that would have cost 5 euros, and a small ride for another 3. There were also a few hot-air balloons you could go up in and get a walk around the grounds to see it all from above. But there was more than enough for us to do, and we enjoyed the luxurious experience of having hours on end in which to explore and relax. Around dinnertime, there was one restaurant that had a small stage, where you could pay extra to go see a show. The funny thing about that dome was that you could hear the music from the show no matter where you were in the dome. A lot of the restaurants required you to actually put on clothes, so Sebastien and I went for the schnitzel restaurant where you could stay in your bathing suits. There weren’t too many people at the dome, and by the time it was about 11 it became very quiet. When the clock struck midnight and my official birthday began in Germany, we were among about 6 people swimming in one of the huge pools. We stayed until about 1:30, and then finally faced the cold and drove home. It was a terrific day! Unfortunately I was unable to attach any photos of the tropical island here, but please Google search “Tropical Island Berlin” and you can see for yourself what I mean. Every time I’ve tried to attach photos here, it ended up deleting my entire blog post…so this blog isn’t going to be as rambe-y as originally expected.

I had a lot of fun on Saturday. A friend of mine who’s birthday is on January 19th graciously volunteered to have a group of friends over at her house before we went out to a club. There is a group of friends in Germany I’ve known for about two years now through Sebastien, and I was really happy about how many of them came out to celebrate. There were also a few people there that I’ve met through the PAD program. All in all, I like to think everyone had a good time! On the Sunday, we went over to Sebastien’s parents’ house for birthday dinner, and we had a pleasant evening. All in all, a terrific birthday weekend!

And so we reach the conclusion of today’s blog. I hope that you enjoyed the read, despite it’s shortness! Thank you so much for reading :)

Bis später,

Robyn

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2014 in Travel and Working Abroad

 

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A Christmas in Berlin – and New Years Too!

Hello everybody! I may have made the mistake of waiting too long to write this post…I figured it would be a good idea to wait until after Christmas was over before writing, but now there are so many different things I want to tell you about! But allow me to start at the beginning.

During my last week of classes before the holidays, I accompanied a grade six class on a field trip. We headed first to a Christmas Market by Potsdamer Platz, where the kids got to play a few ice games and slide down a snowy hill in tubes. I’m pretty sure they all had a great time, despite the bitter cold wind that kicked in about halfway through our two hours outside.

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We first got to Potsdamer Platz by train, and I found that riding a train with 24 students and two teachers on it was a very enjoyable gongshow. It was a bit stressful making sure everyone had boarded, but I loved the happy chaos of it all.

After our time outside, we headed to Legoland. The kids had taken part in a competition to raise awareness against smoking, and their prize was this trip. For a free trip, I found it extremely enjoyable – there were a few fun “4D” movies to see, a small ride to go on, and naturally lots of cool Lego structures. There was one room with lots of famous buildings in Berlin built from Lego, and that was exceedingly impressive.

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I got to know the other two teachers a bit better, which was nice since I hardly ever talk to them outside of class. We went on the little ride with two of the students – the ride was very slow with lots of Lego structures to see, and at the end during the “scary part” a photo was taken. I pulled off one of my notoriously-good horrified facial expressions, but regretted it a bit when one of the students actually bought the photo to remember her lovely time at Legoland. All in all, it was a very enjoyable day.

That Friday was the staff Christmas party, which was hosted at a restaurant. I ran into one of the teachers on the train, and had a very proud moment when I knew where the restaurant was better than he did (thank you, google maps). The restaurant was Bavarian, and my female coworkers pointed out that it was very manly with all the mounted deer heads and tons of meat on the menu. But the Christmas decorations were lovely, the food was tasty, and someone made the mistake of bringing chocolate and putting the bowl beside me. I also got to have a few good conversations (albeit in English – the teachers were thrilled to be able to practice) and established one of them as a crocheting buddy for the new year.

On that Saturday, Sebastien and I were able to meet up with some good friends that were in Berlin for a brief time. We went to the Schloss Charlottenburg Christmas Market and were able to spend a few hours walking around before it started to get dark and therefore busy. I was able to try a few foods I hadn’t had the chance to last time I was at the Market, such as “Langos” – a deep-fried bread with sour cream, garlic, and cheese. It was amazing. We also went to a brewery in the area for a drink and a chat, and a great time was had by all.

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On Sunday Sebastien and I attended a karaoke birthday party. Those of you who know me well will know that I kicked it at “Baby Got Back”, and for something new I pulled off a wicked “Grace Kelly” by Mika too.

Monday was the 23rd, and so began the Endreekat Christmas family festivities! We headed over to Sebastien’s parents’ house in the afternoon, and I got a chance to meet Pupping – a friend who always joins the family for Christmas. The word “Puppe” means “doll” in English, so “Pupping” is basically the equivalent of “Dolly”. We began by decorating the newly-bought Christmas tree all together, and then enjoyed tea and baked goodies. After that, Pupping gave me my very first lesson in crocheting – we were able to complete a cellphone case for Sebastien by the end of it (which Santa mysteriously placed in his stocking a few days later).

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The next day was Christmas Eve! In Germany, this means something quite different from what it means in Canada. At home, my family tradition has always been to go bowling on Christmas Eve. There’s a family with which we go every year, and have been doing since I was 2 years old – this was sadly the first year I was unable to make! We even have t-shirts that say “Christmas Eve Bowling League” on the back, and our names on the front. While it began as a way to wear out us kids before going to bed on Christmas Eve, it now has been a lead-up to going back to my Dad’s house for chili and meatballs and fooseball. On Christmas Eve I’m allowed to open one present, and then Santa comes during the night to fill our stockings (just for those of you that don’t know the drill!)

In Germany, Santa actually comes during the afternoon on Christmas Eve to deliver gifts, and children usually must perform a song or dance for him before they get their presents. We went to Sebastien’s parents’ house early in the day, and after sitting down to tea at a very well decorated table, we had a bit of a concert.

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There were lots of piano performances, as well as some violin, clarinet, trombone, trumpet, and small pipes. Any guesses as to who performed what? In any case, Santa unfortunately was a bit too late for the performance – but we luckily got our presents anyway.

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Once Santa came, we all opened our gifts. I was definitely spoiled! Received a puzzle, a beginners crochet kit, and a popcorn maker (finally I can have buttered salty popcorn again!) – amongst other things. We then had a delicious Raclette dinner, and played a few games (most notably, Telephone Pictionary). It was a lovely way to spend Christmas!

On Christmas Day, Sebastien and I still kept up a few of my home traditions. I had saved my gifts from my family for that day, and opened them in the morning. It also appeared that Santa remembered to come back that night and fill my stocking, because I received a new book and some goodies from him. We got the chance to Skype both my parents, and spent a lot of time relaxing. That night, Sebastien and I cooked our own duck! It turned out extremely well, and we enjoyed it with corn, stuffing, and mashed potatoes.

In Germany, the 26th isn’t Boxing Day, but instead “Second Christmas Day”. We went back to Sebastien’s parents’ house for the evening, to socialize and have a nice dinner. I had just about finished my new crocheted hat by the end of it! I don’t think anyone would go shopping on the 26th the way that people in Canada do, although since then I have noticed quite a few sales in stores.

On the 27th, we drove to Lenzen to see Sebastien’s grandparents. Lenzen is an extremely small town, about 3 hours away from Berlin. It was lovely to see his grandparents again, and I think my German has improved a lot since I saw them last summer. I also completed my crocheted hat, and got a lot of knitting done on my scarf.

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Once we returned home, we took it pretty easy for a few days. As for New Years Eve, one of our friends had generously offered for us to have a small party at their house to celebrate. First thing in the morning that day, the fireworks slowly began. In Germany, it becomes legal to buy fireworks on about December 27th up until New Years Eve. And on the day, you are legally able to set them off from 6pm on or so. There weren’t exactly a lot of people enforcing the time designation, and the fireworks began in earnest as soon as the sun was beginning to set. It was quite the amazing thing to hear so many going off all the time – and it was nice when you got to watch them. The unfortunate part was that often, the only people able to see them were the ones that lit them since there were so many buildings.

In any case, we headed out for our party at 8 or so. It was a fairly small group of people, and we talked and danced. I was excited to find out that the hostess had a doggie, and we were glued together for part of the night. At midnight, we went outside to see the fireworks and light off some of our own. It was absolutely insane; fireworks everywhere! They were going off from all sides of us. It was quite the sight to see! The following pictures aren’t good quality by any means (fireworks usually don’t photograph well!) but I was trying to capture how they were absolutely everywhere. In one picture, you can see the sparklers that a few girls and I are holding up.

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Eventually we went back inside to continue the party. I got to partake in a neat New Years tradition; you lay a piece of thin metal on a spoon and melt it. Then, you toss the metal into a bowl of cold water, and the metal takes on a shape. The shape would then depict something that would characterize your New Year. My metal turned into a hedgehog/snail/bug – I can’t remember what a hedgehog means, but a bug means “you will have new love in 2014″. Seb and I aren’t worried though – we figure it means I’ll get a dog. I would love that!

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I managed to get home in time for Calgarian New Years, although by then it was time to go to bed instead of celebrate all over again.

And so we reach New Years Day. I’m doing great with my resolutions so far: write more blogs, play bagpipes every day (I played yesterday, and will play in a short while), and finish up my university applications (I am now halfway through). I also intend on finishing the puzzle I started right after Christmas, and doing lots of knitting. Perhaps those aren’t proper resolutions, but I figure my chances of going through with them are pretty good!

And so concludes the blog about my Christmas and New Year in Germany. There are things I missed about not being at home, but it was fun to take this year as a chance to try something completely new. I’m so lucky that Sebastien’s family welcomed me for the holidays, and I had no shortage of fun things to do and see.

Thank you so much for reading! I hope your holiday season was filled with good times with loved ones :)

Frohes Neues Jahr!

-Robyn

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2014 in Travel and Working Abroad

 

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