Germany: Around the world in 90 days

“Do the things you fear most and the death of fear is certain” – Mark Twain



The Road less Traveled

So it’s been a little over 2 months since I first arrived in Germany. A lot of my posts these past few months have been concerning travel. I’ve been to Paris, Strasbourg, Amsterdam, Bavaria, Mannheim, Frankfurt, etc. I’ve been traveling most weekends and haven’t really had time to reflect on the experience as a whole.

Before this experience, I had rarely traveled outside of Oregon. And in fact, I had barely spent time exploring my home city of Portland. I lived in a very tiny bubble. I remember the spark that planted the seed of adventure, the desire to see the world. By chance, I got a letter in the mail from an organization called “People to People” to be a student ambassador for non other than bowling (fun fact: I was in a bowling league for 10 years and president of my high school bowling club). Had I gone, I would’ve traveled to the Netherlands and competed with kids from all over the globe, but alas, it was not meant to be. Yet since that moment, I have waited for the day when the planets aligned and I could finally travel. That day never came, so I said “you know what, [insert expletive here] it, I’m going anyway”. Originally the idea was to travel to South America, as I was taking Spanish at the time and wanted to improve my Spanish while immersing myself in the culture. Yet I kept pushing the trip aside until, surprise, I was a Freshman in college. Then life happened, I grew up, started focusing on my career, and became highly involved around campus. Then I had a choice.

I could focus my energy on graduation, to have a diploma in my hand and a real sense of security, or I could push graduation back a few terms and go abroad. Not an easy decision. But as fate would have it, I decided to take summer classes a year ago. And during that time, there was an info session. And I remembered. 8 years ago, the excitement I felt when I was asked to travel to the Netherlands, the disappointment when I found out I couldn’t go. The years of Spanish, the desire to immerse myself in another culture. So I finally decided I would say yes. No matter what, I would go abroad. And here I am. Is it everything I dreamed it would be? It is. It is the single best decision I’ve made in my entire life. I’m not going to lie and say it was smooth sailing from that point out. In fact, it was anything but. As confident as I sound now, I had a lot of anxiety and reservation even after I made the commitment to myself. There were many times when I was ready to drop the program, when I wanted to say I had too much on my plate and I simply couldn’t afford to take a term abroad. But I asked myself, “When all is said and done, do I want to live a life of regrets”? To always wonder what would’ve been had I gone abroad. And that’s all I needed. A reminder that this was the next step in my journey. That, wherever life takes me, let it be forward. So why Germany?


Germany

Maybe it was all the history channel I watched as a kid, the pure fascination with the world and the association of Europe with cultural heritage. Perhaps it was the fabled rumors of delicious beer, beer that far surpasses any beer in America. Or it might of been the allure of magical castles or simply the idea itself (to experience something new). Yet if I’m to be honest, there were a few main reasons I chose Germany.

It’s centrally located

Want to spend a weekend in Paris? No problem. A weekend in Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Italy? Absolutely no problem. In fact, London and Ireland are a short flight away as well. If you’re looking for easy travel, look no further than Germany.

It’s got history

Mosbach, while small, is the perfect embodiment when you think of a German town. Each building… Well… Just take a look for yourself. This is Mosbach and I’m actually living here! No joke, it’s pretty much straight out of a fairy tale. Oktoberfest is pretty cool as well, and Lederhosen are very stylish. Of course there’s more history than that, tis’ but a snippet.

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Following my roots

In the 8th grade, I had the privilege of being in Australia for my cousin’s wedding. While there, I hunted down my great great great grandfathers grave. It was fun and made me realize the importance of heritage. I take great pride in where I come and while I’m still trying to piece together the family tree, I can say I have a lot of German in me. In fact, on the name sheet for my classes, my nationality says German; was it a mistake or something more? I can’t really say. I’ve also learned ein bisschen Deutsch, so… Anyways, it’s a lot of fun if you have heritage from the country you’re going to! It’s something to consider, but not necessary to have a great time.

The U.S. 2016 presidential election

I picked the right time to go abroad. Will The U.S. collapse or prosper? Who knows, I’m in Germany. If I want to, I can simply come back here and live a peaceful existence, regardless of what the election outcome is.


Closing Thoughts

Am I a different person? Yes. Life is about taking risk. If we don’t takes risks, we don’t grow. And when we’re not growing, we’re stagnant or worse, stumbling backwards. I never want to wake up one morning and realize that I’m exactly the same as I was yesterday. The thought absolutely terrifies me. I want each day of my life to be an adventure and the best way to do so is to constantly set new goals. So my message is go out, be bold, and don’t waste your time worrying. If you’re on the fence about going abroad, don’t be. You don’t want to be the student that regrets not taking the opportunity while you had it. In fact, I honestly can’t imagine what my college experience would be like without this opportunity.

 

 

Germany Week ???: New Hair, New Mike (new hair not represented in photo)

So, you might be asking yourself, “gosh, is Mike alright? He hasn’t been blogging for the past 3 weeks and I really miss his beautifully crafted penmanship “. The short answer is, yes, I’m doing fine. The long answer is, I am doing absolutely [insert word of your choosing] amazing. So where do I even begin? Let’s start with The McFlurry.

The McFlurry

So this weekend I was in Amsterdam doing Amsterdam things. Then I got a McFlurry but it was no ordinary McFlurry. Before I get ahead of myself, let’s take a few steps back. Amsterdam is known for it’s snack food. Why, I can’t really say, but that’s besides the point. What’s important is that there exists what is called a Stroopwaffle. It’s a thin wafer, waffle hybrid sandwich with honey in the middle. Delicious on it’s own. Now imagine a McFlurry. Now imagine a Stroopwaffle McFlurry. That is what I had. I’m not going to try to put the experience into words, but just know I don’t think I’ve ever been happier in my entire life than when I was eating mein Stroopwaffle McFlurry.

So what else did I do in Amsterdam? Well, I went to the Heineken brewery and sampled some beer (4 glasses to be precise). Then the next day, I went to an ice bar, which was literally super cool! So yup, that’s Amsterdam for ya’, so let’s move on to Paris.

Paris

So the City of Love. Of course you may be asking, did I find love? The answer is yes (and ein bisschen no). It was a very romantic weekend where I got to reconnect with my inner self and really just treat myself. So what did I do? The day started with walking and ended with walking. There was a lot of walking. But… along the way there was…

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Arc de Triomphe

You can go inside and go to the top and see all of Paris. I did and it was absolutely gorgeous! After that, we…

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Notre Dame Round 2

Went to Notre Dame. The first time I saw Notre Dame was in Strasbourg and it was amazing. The one in Paris did not disappoint either. And of course…

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The Eiffel Tower!

You see so many pictures and pictures really don’t do it justice. Actually seeing it in person… [insert inspirational, life changing experience] It was larger than life. “Wait Mike, you said you went to Paris. Did you try Escargot (emphasis on the t)?” Yes, yes I did have snail. And you know what? It was absolutely amazing. I kid you not, it tasted so good. “wow, that’s really cool, I wish I was as bold and adventurous as you are. So did you meet any lovers”? No, but I’m sure if I had more time in Paris… So I suppose I’ll have to wait till my visit! There’s a rumor going around that I ran away from 3 girls in front of the Eiffel Tower, but I don’t comment on rumors or speculation.

That’s a wrap! Thanks for reading and stay classy friends! Also quick PSA if you’re from the US. Don’t forget to vote! That’s it [insert political commentary here].

Week 5 and 6.5: Bist Du Mude?

So how’s my German coming along? Well, it’s better than it was last week! People can finally understand me (for once in my life!) and I like to believe I now have a sexy American accent when I’m speaking German. Before I continue any further, I’d like to address some rumors and speculation that are going around. It is true, that, I indeed, got kicked out of Oktoberfest. What is not clear is why. There are many stories going around but to be honest Oktoberfest is still one big blur. There was dancing, there was singing, and of course there was beer drinking (3 liters). No one will ever know for sure why I was kicked out, but one thing is certain; I was escorted out by security. I’m not trying to brag, I just want to keep my friends and family informed.

Adventures

So what have I been doing? Well last weekend I was in Bavaria, feeling the magic. The weekend started with a visit to the Saturday market in the town square (sorry no pictures!) and on Sunday we left early to go visit Neuschwanstein Castle. It was raining but that wasn’t a problem cause I’m from Oregon and we’re all hardy people (who don’t need umbrellas). The day started with an audio guided tour in a museum, which is a lot more interesting than it sounds! After that, we got to tour the inside of our first castle (yes, there were two!)

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Schloss Hohenschwangau from Schloss Neuschwanstein

I couldn’t take pictures while inside nor would I want to. The castles were beautiful and are best experienced in person. After Hohenschwangau, we made our way over to Neuschwanstein or better known as THE Disney castle. It was simply breathtaking. Ludwig the II (the King of Bavaria at the time) was declared insane before it’s completion and was mysteriously found dead in the Lake before his vision could be fully realized. As such, the Disney castle is a castle without a throne. It has a beautiful throne room but no throne! Some points of interest in the castle were: The entire interior, whether it was the detailed carvings or painted murals, or better yet, the cave in the middle of the castle (yes, I said cave), it did not disappoint. Touring the castles took all day, so we decided to spend the night in Neu-Ulm.

Neu-Ulm und Ulm

The airbnb cost 12 Euros, it was amazing. Other than that, I slept in a comfy bed, went to a market, and visited the childhood home of Einstein (which I thought was cool and may have more or less “convinced” the rest of my group to go see).

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“Here stood the house in which, on May 14th, 1879. Albert Einstein came into the world”

Surprise! The house was gone. But, hey, it was still pretty cool. Then after our brief tour of Ulm, we went to…

Lindau

Lindau is a tiny little island city, located on Lake Constance, one of the largest lakes in Europe, bordering Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

We it only takes a few hours to see everything but what a few hours they were. The day ending with skipping rocks and soaking in the beauty.

That’s a wrap! Danke for reading and stay Classy friends!

Germany Week 2 (and 3… and 4…): Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

Germany is pretty cool and I’ve left the house a few times!

The question everyone is asking, “does Mike Cole speak German?” What’s the answer. Well, that’s the debate. I say “Jaaa” but many say “Nein, Nein, Nein!”. I however, am not deterred and have strengthened my resolve to practice pronunciation every minute of the day.

In other news, I left coffee in the coffee maker back home. It’s only been a month, so I’m sure it’s fine. An evil nail also ripped my pants, but I hear ripped pants are all the rage. And I lost my health insurance card, so if I don’t post for a while it either means I’m super busy or got struck by illness and am dead.

Adventures

 Switzerland

My big adventure for week 2 was going to Switzerland, which was absolutely gorgeous! Rhein (Rhine) Falls was absolutely amazing. The Falls are 250 ft wide and 75 ft high (as illustrated beautifully by the photo below). After standing in awe for a good while, we then headed over to Lucerne, where we spent a few hours exploring the city.

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Lucerne was absolutely amazing. The city had a giant monument of a dying Lion carved into a rock. Of course, words and photos can only say so much, but they say enough, so here’s a picture!

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Then of course there was the old town… Which had murals painted on the buildings.

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Other than that, it was just plain beautiful. Walking around, seeing the history of the city, it really is something that has to be experience. There’s a lot of character in European cities. Then we spent 10 hours in Zurich which was more or less the same (not a bad thing). My only regret is that I am but a broke college student, so I couldn’t buy a Swiss watch.

France

This last weekend I was in France, which was absolutely amazing. I drank French wine (both red and white), ate a crepe, ate a baguette (I almost started crying it was so delicious) and had some fancy French Chicken (forget what it’s called).

And of course, the most amazing part of the trip…

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Notre Dame

Disclaimer: I am attending class in case any of you were concerned. First two weeks I had a crash course in the German language, last week I had a Intercultural experience course, and this  week I’ve had business law and leadership.

That’s it, that’s my week(s)! Thanks for reading and stay classy friends!

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