Thursday, October 29, 2009

A surprise visitor....Juanjo

Right before we left for our Fall Break trip one of my dear friends came into town randomly. Lets rewind a little bit. Back in Spring 2005 I studied aboard in Salamanca, Spain and had an experience of a lifetime. While I was there we were handing out free coffee to promote the campus ministry we were trying to get started called En Vivo. And on this cold January day in Spain I met Juanjo. He spoke great english and I spoke not so good spanish. We decided to be language partners to teach each other a thing or two. Well over the semester we became good friends and he also meet all the people at En Vivo. We had some good laughs and good times at one of my favorite places Holy Cross. It was really cool to talk to my friends after I left Salamanca and have them tell me that Juanjo was still hanging out and making great friends at En Vivo. That is why I love En Vivo and that is why Juanjo loves En Vivo too. It was one of the best times in my life and is one of the main reason I wanted to live aboard again. It was a great semester of adventure, uncertainty, and a whole lot of fun and new friendships!
It was great seeing him after 4 years and picking up right where we left off. It seems like a small world when you meet back up with someone in Germany that you met in Spain. He is actually only a little over an hour away from Frankfurt in a town called Wurzburg. He just finished law school and has joined all of us in the job search. He doesn't know if he will stay in Germany or not, but either way it was so awesome to see him and catch up. Being in Germany I do think about what lifelong friends will I make here and seeing Juanjo just made me that much more excited to see.

Good to see you man and I hope we meet up again in life real soon!!!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Strasbourg, France

To finish out our trip we packed up our stuff in Baden Baden and hopped on the train for a day over the border and into France. Many people had told us about Strasbourg and how beautiful it was and they were not joking. This town was a mix of German and French influence. At times I didnt know if I was in Germany or France. I will tell you one thing is they did not speak English and I think they were offended when I asked, "Parlez-vous anglais? " I got a quick "NO" and then Justin asked if they speak German and they said a little. So my lack of French and German skills led to an interesting day of pointing and gestures, but always a good laugh.

The cute little town of Strasbourg


The Strasbourg Cathedral- the 6th tallest church in the world


Just look how tall it is! We climbed 330 steps to get there and paid 4.50 euros.


The city was surrounded by a canal and lots of footbridges. Everything looked liked this.






This was Justin's favorite part and if I didn't say anything about it he would be so disappointed. We took a tour around the canal in this covered boat. They had special headphones with every language you could think of on it. I will mention that the English version of stuff said ended a lot faster than other languages. I don't know if English is quicker or they just don't give us as much info. I hope I wasn't being cheated of valuable information. Anyways at one point the boat pulled up into this thing which I was later told is a lock. They close the boat in and water from the front starts pouring in to level you out with the water ahead of you. It was weird and really cool at the same time.


Then it opens up and you continue on your way in the higher part of the canal.


This was the area called Petit France and we have a painting from a street artist that looks almost like this in our kitchen. It was only 10 euros and we saw her finish it right in front of us. I love street art!


I mean how awesome is this!!!

We really enjoyed our day trip to Strasbourg filled with cathedrals, a canal boat trip, street art, baguettes and crepes (of course).

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Der Schwarzwald – “The Black Forest”

                 After seven consecutive weeks of school we finally reached our October Break.  Needless to say it was time to do a little traveling.  At this point we have been thinking that we really want to focus our efforts on seeing the sites in Germany, rather than trying to see all of the surrounding countries.  So, Marisa did a little a research and we decided to go south to see some of the gems of the Black Forest.
                  From Stuttgart we took a train to Baden-Baden, one of the most famous little resort towns in the Black Forest.  We stayed in a quaint little hotel called Hotel am Markt for three nights, spending some time in Baden-Baden and taking a couple of day trips to Triberg and Strasbourg. 
                  As the photos will reveal, Baden-Baden was a beautiful little town with plenty of hiking trails, shops, restaurants, and a casino.  It seemed that we brought the average age of the place down by a few decades, but we really enjoyed ourselves.  The highlight of Baden-Baden is definitely the mineral hot springs baths that they are known for. 

Our hotel "Hotel am Markt" - lovely people, lovely hot chocolate, lovely german breakfast buffet


A River Runs Through It - or at least a canal


Overlook onto Baden-Baden


Alte Schloss - that's German for "Old Castle"; this was the pinnacle of our afternoon hike in the surrounding trails of the Black Forest


View from atop the Alte Schloss


Just before sunset - this hat, by the way, has been awesome camouflage of my Yankee'ness (not in a Northern-Southern sense, but in a America-England sense).  I've had countless Germans ask me if I'm from England, Canada, Scotland, etc.  Us English-speakers all sound the same, apparently.

                  We spent one morning going through the unique Friederichsbad, a “Roman-Irish” bath that’s been around for 150 years.  This place was ridiculously awesome and unlike anything one would experience in America.  Basically, men and women go through separate sides of the baths in a 17-stage spa treatment.  We started with a warm, mineral water shower; then proceeded into a “warm sauna”, then “hot sauna”.  Each stage has its own room with the recommended amount of time to be spent there posted.  After the hot sauna was another shower, followed by a soap and brush massage, performed by a member of the same sex.  Then you shower again and enter the natural “warm steam bath” and the “hot steam bath”.  Those were cool because they are the only steam rooms in the world (they claimed) that are powered solely by the geothermal energy.  That was my favorite because you can really see, smell, and feel the mineral-rich steam in the air in those rooms.  After the steam baths came a dip in a warm mineral spa, followed by two stages in cooler pools that were for both men and women.  Then the cycle comes to an end with a quick plunge into a cold pool, another shower, warm towels for drying off, and a “sleeping room” where they wrap you up in warm towels and blankets and you can sleep however long you like.  Oh, and there aren’t any pictures of this experience because at Friederichsbad clothing is NOT optional.  That’s right, totally naked through all of the stages – now go back and read this paragraph with that in mind.  We went after breakfast to hopefully catch a less-busy time, but sharing the experience with other people is inevitable.  I definitely felt a bit more European and you couldn’t help to take yourself back several centuries to Roman times when they were rockin’ it out like that every day.  Admittedly, there’s nothing real comfortable about having a dude with a mustache massage your entire body with soap and a brush.  On the flip side, at least I’m not in his shoes.  The funniest part is at the end it is customary for the masseuse to give you a little slap on the bum to let you know that you’re done.  It wasn’t quite the same as getting a “good game” tap.  Check out Rick Steves’ video for a better visual of the place.

Outside Friedrichsbad

                  Our day trip to Triberg was memorable as we took a train through the Black Forest to the little town famous for its cuckoo clocks (Kukuksuhren auf Deutsch).  We checked out the Black Forest Museum, which was informative about the life of people in that area.  Then we hiked up to see Germany’s highest waterfall which wasn’t so tall, but it was very beautiful.  The rest of the day we walked over to see the biggest cuckoo clocks in the world which were so big that you could literally walk through to see how they work.  We also checked out some of the cuckoo clock shops and tried some authentic Black Forest Chocolate Cake (good, but not our favorite).


Sign above one of the cuckoo clock shops


Black Forest Museum - some of the original clocks


Germany's highest waterfall - not so high, but not a bad view





I have nothing to say for myself here.... oh, did I mention that squirrels in Germany are red?  It's true.


The World's 1st Biggest Cuckoo Clock in the World - that's seriously what it says.  Perhaps you're thinking what I'm thinking....what a ridiculous claim to make!


couldn't leave without having Black Forest Chocolate Cake (not bad, but not huge cherry fans)


The World's Largest Cuckoo Clock (this one isn't the 1st Biggest, but it's the Last Biggest that we know of...)





All in all, we were happy with our choice to vacation in the Black Forest and enjoy the landscapes in a Fall setting.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Stuttgart

This past week Justin had a week break from school and we decided to do a little traveling. The trip would be as follows: Stuttgart to Baden Baden, Triberg (the Black Forest), and lastly Strasbourg, France. We headed out Saturday morning and started our trip in Stuttgart. Granted it was rainy and cold (a first for us since we have been here), but we forged ahead and went on a walking tour of the city center. The funny part about the tour was that everyone was German except for us, so the tour guide would first say everything in German and then come straight over to me and do it again in English. It was like my own personal tour. Stuttgart is a really cute city and I bet on a pretty day a great place to walk around and enjoy the sights. Our favorite was Schillerplatz and it had a market going on that day.

Schiller statue





Justin really liked this tree growing on the building. It is pretty cool.

After the tour we enjoyed some of the best Swabian food we both have ever eaten at the Ratskeller. Just so you know, a "Ratskeller" is simply a bar/restaurant that sits under the "Rathaus", or town hall - it actually has nothing to do with rodents.  We enjoyed some kasespaetzle and if you have never had this dish it is a must. We call it German mac n' cheese, but it is so much better than that.
Next we headed to the Mercedes-Benz Museum. I have to say this was a really cool museum. I know a lot of you are saying "really? a car museum?", but it was more than that. First it had an awesome design and layout. It was an 8 story cylindrical building and you spiraled through the whole museum from floor to floor and each floor took you through a different decade. They would explain the advances in the cars of course, but it would also explain what was going on in the world at that time too. It helped explain some of the needs in a car. I know I am sounding so dorky, but we both really enjoyed the whole thing and would recommend anyone in Stuttgart to take a visit.


The Mercedes-Benz Museum and its awesome design.


Some of the first models


The future of Mercedes-Benz cars. I think it is a newer version of the Delorean.




Did you know that Mercedes-Benz made buses? Well they do and Justin wishes he could drive one.




The Pope Mobile (seriously, the pope rode in this thing)


Arnold Schwarzenegger's car...Shout out to Cali!!!



After about 3 hours in the Mercedes-Benz Museum we left and walked through Stuttgart's version of Oktoberfest called Volksfest. Just like Oktoberfest it was packed and we just did a walk through.



Like true tourists we got the Stuttcard and got some discounts at museums and restaurants; so to end our day in Stuttgart we went to a local brewery called Dinkel Acker where we got a free beer. The cool thing that I really enjoy about traveling in Germany is every town makes their own beer so it is kind of an adventure to try each town's brew. After a long day of being tourists we met up with my Uncle John. He and my Aunt Nancy moved to Germany a week before us and live about 30 minutes outside the city of Stuttgart. It was great to see family and just share stories of moving to a different country. He lives in a beautiful little village called Schlaitdorf and it has an amazing view of the Swabian Alps.



My aunt and uncle were amazing hosts and my uncle took us onto some of the military bases. I had never been to one and it is literally an American bubble. He took us to a PX which was like a Target. After not seeing anything American for a few months it was overload...in a good way. If we had not been traveling I bet we would have bought the whole store. My aunt and uncle also cooked up some Mexican food which we had not had in a while and it was AMAZING!! Thanks for starting our trip on a good note.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Arden Noelle Jackson

Living abroad has been a fabulous experience thus far with lots to see and enjoy.  However, there is also a downside to living so far away from family and friends – life back in the States doesn’t take a time-out and we end up missing out on some exciting events.  Take for example the birth of my newest niece, Arden Noelle, who came into this world on October 2nd in Greenville, South Carolina.  She weighed in at 9 lbs., 3 oz. and is the first daughter of my sister-in-law, Candace, and my brother, Jason. 
        We regretted not being able to be there for the big event, but through the beauty of technology we’ve been able to stay up-to-speed on everything, via calling the hospital with skype and being able to watch Arden sleeping in her bed via gmail video chat.  That definitely helps keep in touch with family and friends and we look forward to following her along until we get to meet her face-to-face next April.
       If you know Jason at all then you know that he has a big heart and will do absolutely anything at any time for those that he loves.  However, it is a difficult thing for him to outwardly express his feelings through words, side hugs, full frontal hugs, etc.  We are especially excited to see this baby completely change my brother and bring out his sensitive side that we all know is there.  Congratulations to the new parents!  We love you both more than you know.  

My brother becoming a dad

She is so adorable!!! I love her already.

Friday, October 16, 2009

German Bowl XXXI

If you know me at all, you know that during the Fall there is not much that I enjoy more than watching college football every Saturday and supporting the Falcons on Sunday.  That being said, since we don’t have television or cable in Germany I have had to spend time on the weekends keeping up with Georgia Tech and the Dirty Birds on game tracker.  I’m still able to stay in the know, but it’s definitely not the same as being able to watch it either live in Bobby Dodd stadium or on t.v. 
                Well about a month ago we started seeing posters in the subways announcing the "German Bowl" that was coming to Frankfurt on October 3rd. Out of pure curiosity we looked into it and found out that there is a German American Football league that runs from Roughly April to October and that the equivalent of the superbowl would be in Frankfurt this year. To our surprise tickets were available ranging from €10-30 (translation: only $14-42 to see the best two teams in the league in the championship).  We were totally there!!
                  Of course we had no expectations for quality, but we went for it with our American comrades Ryan and Katy.  This year’s game featured the Berlin Adler (Eagles) vs. the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes.  Uniform-wise, it looked like the Iowa Hawkeyes vs. the Miami Hurricanes (except the uniforms have advertisements all over them).  It was a blast, although the level of competition was probably in the ballpark of a division I-AA school.  The size of the players probably wasn’t much smaller than in the NFL, but the speed was much slower.  Case in point – the teams were able to run some option plays against each other, which wouldn’t fly in the NFL.  Surprisingly, while there were some American players on the teams, the majority of the players were actually German.  They also seemed to do their best to keep the game moving (i.e. running out of bounds did NOT stop the clock).  Lastly, I’ve never been to a game with fewer penalties – perhaps that’s because Germans really like to follow rules! 
                  It was nice to see some live football, even if the crowd was only 13,000.  To make it more interesting Marisa and I decided to pull for the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes while our friends rooted for Berlin – I mean what fun would it be if we didn’t cheer for a team.  The game came down to the wire with the Berlin Adler winning 28-21.  

No German Bowl would be complete without the cheerleaders - not exactly Dallas Cowboys but they were there.

The Kiel Baltic Hurricanes taking the field, resembling the Miami Hurricanes - Kiel is much colder than South Beach however.

The Berlin Adler slowly strutted onto the field seemingly way more "badass" - and they backed it up too.

All lined up.

This cheerleading squad was a little skankier than the actual team cheerleaders, thus, they got to perform at halftime and leave afterwards - I think they had to go to work.  Notice the band set up directly behind them - it was a German rock band that opened up the halftime entertainment with, I kid you not, "Rock You Like a Hurricane" by Scorpions (you may recall this jam from such video games as Guitar Hero III - Scorpions were a real German band, fyi)

This fine specimen is not a lineman....not a linebacker......not a defensive end.......not even a center - he's the place kicker, and he never missed.

Katy and Ryan, pulling for Berlin

Marisa and Justin pulling for Kiel

Berlin continuing their domination, winning 28-21.
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