I'm currently in the midst of a two week break from classes. I'm not entirely sure why we get a break now. I think it's supposed to be a combination of Thanksgiving and Fall Break. But anyway, last week I went to Ireland and Sweden and stopped in Denmark on the way home. I didn't want to miss too much here in Reutlingen, so I'm staying home for the second week of the break.
I went with Erin and Hilary. Our first stop was Dublin. We flew there from Memmingen, a little airport near Munich. Just a word of warning for anyone planning on traveling in Europe: Ryanair has really cheap flights, but you have to read the fine print very carefully. I think we each payed something like 20 Euros for the ticket. The catch is you have to print your own boarding pass and you have to pay for each checked bag. If you pay for the baggage before doing the online check-in it's only 10 Euros, but if you want to add a checked bag after checking in, it's 35 Euros. Bummer. I didn't read the fine print until it was too late. So I ended up paying a little more 20 Euros. But whatever, Ireland was beautiful.
We got to Dublin in the evening on Friday Oct 9th. First thing that really threw me off when we got there was that everyone was driving on the left side of the road. Whenever I went to cross the street it took me a few seconds to figure out which direction the cars would be coming from. So anyway, we wandered around the city for a little while before turning in. Visited the campus of Trinity College. That was really pretty.
On Saturday we visited the Christ Church Cathedral. Definitely take a look at the pictures I took there. I especially enjoyed the detailing around the ribs of the vaulted ceilings. Very unique. Then we went to the Guiness Storehouse. This was basically a museum all about Guiness. It is situated on the grounds of the Guiness brewery but you don't get to actually see any of the brewing. The price of the ticket includes a pint of Guiness, though, so that was nice. I bought a pair of special edition 250th Anniversary Guiness pint glasses. I don't think there's anywhere in town that actually sells Guiness in bottles, and I don't even like it all that much, but it is a legend and I needed some glasses.
On Sunday we took a train to Killarney, a little touristy town on the South Western coast of Ireland. The hostel we stayed in there was very quaint. I liked it. One of the other people in the hostel was a college student from Stuttgart. That was fun talking to him for a while. We visited the Ross Castle on Monday. That was really neat. It was recently restored using only medieval materials and techniques. I liked this castle because it was actually built as a fortress to protect livestock. Unlike Neuschwanstein which was built just to be pretty.We wandered around the country near the castle too. There were some massive fir trees.
On Tuesday, we took the train back to Dublin to catch a plane to Stockholm (another 35 Euros down). Stockholm was also beautiful. It wasn't bombed at all during WWII so all of the old buildings are still intact. I also appreciated that most of the streets made right angles to each other. A lot of the German towns I've visited are still laid out the way they were in the middle ages i.e. completely randomly. It's much easier to follow a map when the streets are straight. Stockholm was really cool too because it's situated on a bunch of islands, so there's a lot of bridges and docks.
The first attraction we went to in Stockholm was the Vasa Museum. I absolutely loved it. The Vasa was a warship built by one of the Swedish kings back in ~1620, and this guy went all out on this ship. It was covered with carvings and gold leaf and it had 64 cannons. The problem was the shipbuilder didn't give it enough belly to counter the weight of all of those cannons. So after launching on its maiden voyage it promptly keeled over and sank in the middle of the Stockhom harbor. Epic fail. But since the little wormies that usually eat through oak shipwrecks can't survive in the Baltic Sea, it was pretty well preserved in the 1950s. So they floated it back up and into a dry dock and doused the whole thing with polyethylene glycol which replaces the water in the wood. So the whole thing is now in a museum. Bummer that it didn't sail long enough to blow any other ships out of the water with its 32 gun broadside, but it sure is cool to look at.
After the Vasa Museum, I wandered off on my own and managed to find the Swedish Army Museum. That was pretty interesting. They had quite a collection of artifacts from the 30 years war: something I never really learned much about because, well, the Civil War kind of takes precedence in the American history curriculum.
The next day I went to the Museum of Modern Art. That was a nice change of pace. I'm not sure I understood much of what I was looking at, but when do you ever really understand modern art?
On Thursday I began making my way back to Reutlingen. This entailed first a 5 hour train ride to Copenhagen, Denmark. Apparently my Eurail ticket wasn't enough for this train and I was supposed to have made a seat reservation, but I didn't know that. So the conductor just told me to find a place in the vestibule. That was fine with me because I would have expected to get thrown off the train at the soonest stop. So, made it to Copenhagen and then had 4 hours to walk around before my next train. I checked out the city hall and a couple of the cathedrals. I got a sausage from a street vendor. The sausage was about twice as long as the bun he gave, so I don't know what the deal was there, but it was good.
I took a night train from Copenhagen to Mannheim, Germany. I was in a 6 berth cabin with fold-down beds. There was a man and his 12 year-old daughter in my cabin from Switzerland. That was fun listening to them speak Swiss German. We played some pictionary and a Swiss card game that was pretty much Uno. I actually slept pretty well once I found a comfortable position. The bed was about half an inch too short for me so I had to kind of hang my feet off the end. We got to Mannheim about 12 hours after leaving Copenhagen and then I got to Reutlingen another 2 hours or so later.
When I got back I had an email asking me if I could play drums at the Baptist church I've been going to. Of course I couldn't turn down a chance to play drums. We had rehearsal on Saturday and I didn't know any of the songs, but I managed. None of the songs demanded much rhythm anyway. It was fun, though. I'm glad I got a chance to get involved in a church.
So far I've planned a trip to Wiesbaden on Thursday. I have to go there because it's the capital city of the German State that I'm doing a project on. But other than that I'm just going to relax for the rest of this week. I volunteered to participate in an English Theater project so I wanted to be around for that. We're going to finalize our script and start rehearsing soon.
I think that's all for now. Keep in touch!