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days 23-25

on thursday, my friend’s returned from their vacation in the US (their apartment was where i was staying). it was very nice to see them again. that day i went into mitte to do some shopping while my friend’s rested a bit from jetlag. i visited a bookstore on friedrichstrasse that was quite huge. it reminded me of a very big barnes and noble type of store. they even had a huge english book section. i was really tempted to buy a book to read on the way home, but i couldn’t carry anything more back for realsies. later that evening i made dinner for them and dessert- lasagne and zucchini cake. i don’t mind cooking and baking at all, and it’s really great to be able to share food with others. we somehow got on the topic of this documentary called jesus camp, and decided to watch it after. i’ve seen the film before, but it’s really interesting and we felt like being lazy and staying in.

the next morning i woke up early to go to the bank. i had to finish the process of closing my account and transferring the money. it was a complicated situation because i had a student account that had a lot of restrictions because i’m a foreigner, so i had to wait for the office in hamburg to unlock it. on friday it was all set, but for some reason i couldn’t transfer money to my home account from that specific bank. blah blah long story short there are just lots of (german) rules and i have to transfer through online banking. no big deal.

later that evening, there was a dinner party at my other friend’s apartment that we went to as well as more friends from my class. it was a really great way to see them together before i left. i made some apple crisp, and some of the other food that people made were tapioca pudding, hummus, and some other random things. there was no special theme haha, so that is why everything was a bit random. the hummus was the best i think. at the end of the evening we were eating it by the spoon until it was gone. it was a really great fun party, and we didn’t end up leaving to go home until at least 5 in the morning. on our way back, we took the metro and went the wrong way first so it took us longer than normal, but eventually when we got off we stopped to get a döner before going back to the apartment. i haven’t eaten one in a long time because usually it makes my tummy hurt, but this one tasted so good. possibly it was because i knew it was my farewell döner.

the next day we slept in late since we returned quite late in the morning. i think i woke up around noon. we were very lazy the whole day, mostly hanging out in pajamas and relaxing. in the evening i wanted to go out to dinner since it was my last night, and we went out with a small group to a pakistani/indian restaurant. we originally wanted to go to a schnitzel place, but the restaurant was closed for some reason. we were in prenzlauerberg so it wasn’t a big deal because there are restaurants and cafes every few meters. we came across the pakistani restaurant and it looked super cozy and the menu looked cheap as well. i’ve never had this type of food before, but why not? the inside was very charming and comfortable, and it was such a really great evening with friends. i ordered something with eggplant and chickpeas, and we shared  some yummy puffy bread. for a drink, we had mango lassis which are like smoothies i think. tasty!

since we slept in so late that morning, we weren’t tired at all that night. i ended up going to sleep around 2 am, and it turned out to be only a nap because i had to wake up around 4 am to get ready before my taxi came. my friends that lived there helped me carry my luggage downstairs, and we said goodbye there. i decided it was easier to go to the airport alone, and less sad to say goodbye there instead of in front of people at the airport. i was sad to say bye to them, and i got a little choked up in the taxi ride afterwards, but then i started feeling okay once i arrived at the airport. i am writing this post from home since i didn’t have time before i flew over. i do miss germany very, very much for sure, but i do know, now that i know how it feels to be home, that i made the right decision to come home now. it feels amazing to be back, and soo good to be surround by my family (and spanky!) again. i think i will always miss germany and europe, but it feels right inside, now that i’m here. i just want to make sure though, that i never forget how amazing these last two years have been, and how proud i should be of myself for taking the chance to do it, for making some of the best memories and friends ever, and for coming home with a master’s degree.

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day 22 in berlin

today my best friend from dessau came to visit for the day! in the morning i visited the bank to start the process of closing my account, and then after i went to friedrichstrasse station to meet her there. we went to the deutsches technik museum so she could do a bit of research for her thesis, and to just explore a new museum anyways. there is the main museum, and another separate building called “spectrum” but still a part of the main one. we visited spectrum first. it reminded me so much of disney, especially epcot haha. it’s basically a big interactive science museum where you can play with and touch all of the installations. a big playground! a lot of it was really interesting and cool. there were sections like astronomy, electricity, and some different rooms about sight and sound senses.

we only planned on seeing the spectrum building, but we noticed on our ticket that the price also includes entry into the main museum too, so we went there as well. i was surprised by this museum. i expected it to be kind of boring, and mostly about boy things, even though that is stereotypical haha. but this was actually one of my most favorite museums i’ve visited in berlin. it has a lot of really cool information and installations, but the interior architecture and design is really well done i think. one of my favorite rooms was the engine hall which had really old train wagons and engines. they seemed so massive standing right next to them, and so impressive. you could also see inside some of the old passenger wagons and see the old furniture and decorations. i liked the smell of the room too. it smelled old but historic, the same way some old churches and palaces smell. the upper floor was also cool. it was about the history and science of photography and film. there were really old cameras, as well as some of the first designs for moving pictures. i’m not sure what they are called, but they are these little contraptions that you spin and there is a hole you look through which makes the inner image look like it’s moving.

after the museum we went to zoologischer garten and got some asian noodle boxes that are apparently popular. this is the first time i’ve been brave enough to eat asian noodles since i got food poisoning in china a few months ago. but these were fine and delicious. they were super salty though. we had to go to a grocery store after to buy colas because we were so thirsty so fast. we walked around ku’damm shopping street for a bit, and then went back to the station so she could catch the train back to dessau. 

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day 21 in berlin

again, i was lazy in the morning. in the afternoon i ventured out to a new neighborhood i haven’t visited yet in berlin, called charlottenburg. this part of berlin wasn’t damaged too much in the war, so it still has the original style from the early 20th century. i think this also used to be the richest part of the city, maybe still is i’m not totally sure. anyways, by the time i got around to getting outside, the weather had changed and it began to rain. it wasn’t so bad, but i decided to just walk over to see charlottenburg palace and then head back. it is quite nice i think, and it’s said to be a mini version of versailles palace in france. i didn’t go inside though, but just walked around the outside a bit and took some pictures. the main gate reminds me very much of how it looked in paris when i visited versailles.

after that, i went to kreuzberg to meet up with a friend from dessau who is now working in berlin. we met at an italian restaurant, called il casolare, that i found online with good recommendations. we both ordered pizza and it was really good and really huge. most of the pizzas i’ve had in europe have thin crusts but are served as a whole pie. i really like getting a pizza all to myself. although i almost never finish the whole thing alone, it’s still nice to think you can eat it all if you wanted.

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day 20 in berlin

after a busy, but very enjoyable weekend in erfurt, i became a little tired and lazy yesterday. the weather was quite nice so i forced myself to get outside and at least enjoy it for a little bit. in the afternoon i went for a walk in prenzlauerberg area, to take some pictures and pick up some groceries.

in the evening i met up with my friend to get some currywurst and walk around the city to see the festival of lights that is going on. we both love currywurst a lot. i know it’s not the healthiest dish, but it’s just so tasty. we went to this place called curry 36 in kreuzberg, which is supposed to make one of the best currywurst in the city. after tasting it,  i can see why. it was very good. we also got fries with it, served with mayonnaise and ketchup, called “rot-weiß pommes.” this means red-white fries. before i came to europe, it thought mayo and fries was weird and gross. but now i am a convert. i believe french fries and mayo and ketchup together are a match made in heaven. i still love honey mustard, but i will try to open more eyes to the rot-weiß magic.

after the currywurst, we walked around to the main sights in the city. the festival lasts for about two weeks, and all of the main sights and monuments of the city are lit up in pretty colors. it was really cool, and there were a lot of people out and about. we walked from the brandenburg gate, down the unter den linden street, and over to the tv tower at alexanderplatz. i liked the tv tower the most because it was a very pretty purple color. we stopped at a restaurant under the tower, called “alex,” to have some dessert. i ordered a little dish that had walnut-maple ice cream that was rolled in chopped nuts and came with baked apples. it tasted like autumn! so good!

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days 17-19 in erfurt

this past weekend i was able to make a last-minute visit to my friend in erfurt. it’s a city in the center of germany, with a lot of really cool history. it’s closer to dessau, but i never took advantage of that and made a trip there while at school. from berlin it was about a 5 hour trip on the regional trains. there are quicker, direct trains but those are quite expensive so i took the slower ones. the 5 hours weren’t so bad though, and i’m so happy i spent the weekend there. the friend i visited was one of the first friends i made after moving to germany. i spent a lot of time with her and another girl my first here year, and i will really always cherish those memories. they have been so nice to me and so helpful, and it makes me want to be a better friend to other people honestly. it touches my heart so deeply. all cheesiness aside, they are some of the sweetest people i’ve ever met in my life.

i took a train from berlin friday afternoon, and arrived in erfurt in the evening just before 7pm. i had one connection in magdeburg. i met my friend at the main erfurt train station, and then we took a tram to her house to drop off my backpack. it’s nice because her family’s house is a bit outside the main center of the city where it’s nice and quiet, but it’s right next to a tram stop so you can easily get to and from the center. i met her mom and boyfriend, and then we took the tram back into the city to go to the oldest restaurant in erfurt, called the feuerkugel, which means fireball. i guess this restaurant was well-known for it’s “klöße” which are like fluffy bread dumplings. i ordered them with “rinderroulade” which was a piece of steak rolled up with some onions and pickles inside with gravy. it was very delicious, but quite heavy and i could not eat all of it. this heavy meat and potato style dish is typical in my mind for german cuisine. but i enjoy it very much. after dinner, we walked around the city center for a bit, as like an “introductory tour” for me haha. erfurt is a very nice city. it was not destroyed much in the war, so it is very beautiful still. a lot of it is done in a medieval style with lots of timber-framed houses, which i think are very charming. after walking around for a bit, we went back to their house and played some wii before bed. we played wii party and some wii bowling. i forgot how fun wii is haha.

the next morning we had breakfast with her boyfriend and mom, and then we all drove to a castle about 45 minutes away. it’s called wartburg, and it’s next to a small town called eisenach. i felt very nostalgic for some reason when we were driving. i think it’s because it was fall and the air was cold and crisp and it reminded me so strongly of the first fall i was in germany. i can still remember the feelings i had during that time, and this day i was definitely reminded of the happiness and excitement of seeing new things with very sweet friends.

anyways, this castle is actually very important in history, yet before visiting i didn’t even know about it. martin luther stayed here for awhile and it’s where he translate the new testament into german. the castle is on top of a big hill, and when you are up there, there are really great views. i wonder how it felt to live there  a long time ago. this part of germany has more hills, compared to where i was in dessau. there it was all flat it seemed.we took a group tour of the castle, but it was in german. luckily my friend is a very good translator :). the interior, as well as the exterior, was very interesting. there was more timber-frame architecture and i found it so charming! after the tour, we took a break in the castle cafe to have some lunch. i had a cup of coffee and some green bean soup. it was delicious! and surprisingly the coffee tasted really good with it. on the way up to the castle, we took a shuttle bus, but on the way down we walked. the weather this whole weekend was perfect. blue skies and sunshine. it was a bit cold, but by the time we walked down the hill in the afternoon it was comfortable and the air felt good. it feels so much like fall now. the air smells like it, and there are lots of crunchy leaves on the ground that are always fun to walk on.

when we got back to the car, we drove to a town nearby called weimar. i’m really glad my friend took me there because it’s a very important city and i didn’t have a chance to see it yet while living in dessau. weimar is where the first bauhaus school was, before it moved to dessau. the bauhaus building here in weimar is very different. it looks more warm and cozy, and although the one in dessau is very famous and important, that one is more cold and block-like. actually, this is how i felt about all of weimar, especially the town center. there are nice colored houses and buildings, cobblestone streets, red roofs, old fountains, and lots of historical monuments. i liked it very much, and i felt like a comfortable, welcoming town. besides the bauhaus, there is also a lot of other important history about weimar. both goethe and schiller, famous german writers lived here, as well as other famous people like johann sebastian bach. we saw schiller’s house, and both goethe’s house and garden house.

then we drove back to erfurt and stayed in for the evening. my friend made really good lasagne (it’s common to use creme fraiche in lasagne here, and i love this), and then we played wii again and ate some good christmas chocolate candy.

the next morning we had breakfast again around 9am. i like german breakfasts. normally what is eaten are brötchen (bread rolls) with things like cheese and deli meat, or sweet things like nutella. it’s all set out like a mini buffet typically. hard boiled eggs are also common, and they are put in very cute little holders. my friend’s family also has this little contraption that cracks the egg shell perfectly. you don’t really need anything fancy to crack an eggshell, but this is just fun to use anyways.

after breakfast we took the tram into the city center of erfurt for a daytime tour of the town. like i mentioned before, erfurt wasn’t damaged much in the war, so it still resembles its original medieval style. there are cobblestone streets, tiny winding canals, old churches, and wood framed houses. i didn’t expect to see so much in erfurt. for some reason i didn’t think there were many interesting things there, but i wad definitely wrong. there is so much history about this town. i learned that the first german empire began there, and i saw the building where it happened. martin luther also lived and studied there, and i saw both the residence and the church. one cool place was this little inner courtyard/beergarten area where he used to gather with colleagues to socialized and discuss politcal things and whatnot, and since then it’s still been a student gathering place. my friend said even when her father was in college, he would meet his friends there too. i just think that’s so cool that it’s still in use today, and i wonder how it feels to socialize with your friends in the same place that someone as important as martin luther used to be. there were a lot of old, historic houses and streets that were really cool. one famous bridge, called krämerbrücke was quite charming i think. it’s very famous, and every year there is a festival for it. it’s interesting because there are shops and apartments on the bridge, so when you walk across it you don’t even realize you are on a bridge. we were able to visit one of the houses on it to see how it looks on the inside. it’s pretty tiny, but i think it would be so cozy to live there. we also saw the basement which is used to be a big refrigerator basically in medieval times. we walked around and saw lots of old things like this. we eventually made our way to the square next to the big erfurt cathedral which seems magnificent in the skyline. there was a mini oktoberfest going on there, with lots of food booths and carnival rides. on the first evening i was there we rode on the ferris wheel. it’s pretty big and there were great views over the city, although it was quite chilly up there! on this day we hung around a bit more, and had some food. we had bratwurst that used a popular type of sausage that i guess is very good. i liked it. we also had some cotton candy, which in german is called zuckerwatte, meaning “sugar cotton.” it was quite cheap, and quite big. i normally don’t like cotton candy, but this was actually tasty. and it’s always fun eating fluffy, cotton-like pure sugar. my friend and i also rode one of the rides that is like a very,very big swing. it’s next to the cathedral, so once you are up in the air you have a perfect view. i normally am not scared of rides, but this brings you up so high that i started actually feeling nervous haha. but again, the views over the city were breathtaking.

afterwards we went inside the cathedral. i love visiting european churches. they are usually big and tall and made of stone, and somehow always smell old. i don’t say that in a bad way though, i like this smell very much. to me it smells old but important and humbling i guess, because you can sense how amazing and important and historic it is. it gives me chills sometimes, and puts me in awe. this cathedral was like that. the ceilings were very high, and this always makes you feel so small. there was a mass earlier in the morning, so it was a bit smoky inside which made it look so cool, and you could still smell the incense. when we were about to leave, there was a small choir group that started singing. it echoed perfectly. this was one of those special moments i get when i feel like all of my senses are in overload mode and i wish i could remember that exact moment forever. the sights of the huge interior and the beautiful stained glass windows, the sound of walking on the stone floor mixed with the silence of being in a church mixed with the chants of the choir, in combination with the smells of the smokey incense still gives me goosebumps now. i get moments like this quite often when i’m traveling. i know i can’t remember them all which is normal, but at that exact moment in time i wish i could freeze time just for a little bit and absorb what i’m seeing and smelling and hearing to experience it for as long as possible. it’s during these moments that i realize where i am and how lucky i am to be there, and how i sometimes still can’t believe that this is my life. 

there was another smaller church next to the big cathedral that we also visited. it looked similar, just smaller, but somehow felt just as special. it was less crowded too which always makes it more enjoyable. after visiting the church we visited this big fortress, called petersberg. it’s quite old, and also very big. when you are up on it, there are good views again of the city. near one of the big gates was a mini museum of an old room which was decorated to look like how it used to look a long, long time ago. you could see the old canons and other weapons, and other barrack things that the soldiers would use.

after visiting this, we went back to my friend’s apartment, and then soon after they took me back to the train station. since i took the regional train again, i had a 5 hour trip. it wasn’t so bad, but the train was very crowded and i think every seat was taken. i was quite sad to leave my friend, because i know i won’t see her again for a very long time. it breaks my heart a little because like i said before, she was one of my very first friends in germany and she has always been so sweet to me. i will miss her very, very much. but i hope we stay in contact for sure.

on a side note, i was able to practice my german with her this weekend too. she speaks english better than i speak german, but the best way for us to communicate is when she speaks english to me, and i speak german to her. i have a hard time understanding when she speaks german, depending on the topic of conversation, and i think it’s the same for when i speak english. i wish i practiced my german with her much more starting when i first got to germany. i could feel this weekend that it was very awkward for me in the beginning to switch into german mode, but once i did i started feeling more comfortable with it. that’s always been the biggest problem for me, feeling shy and all trying to speak a new language. i do feel though that my german has come a long way since my arrival two years ago. i can definitely understand more, and am able to write and read a decent amount, but my speaking is still very rusty and slow. i’m guessing that this is normal though. i hope that keeping in touch with my german friends will help me to continue practicing over time.

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day 16 in berlin

renaissance-mission-accomplished day! finally haha. since i’ve pretty much seen the rest of the things on my “to-see-before-i-leave-berlin” list, i made yesterday dedicated to getting into the bode museum to see the renaissance exhibition. third time is a charm in this case. i woke up yesterday at 7:30 and left the apartment by 8:45, got to the museum and in line around 9:30. the museum doesn’t officially open until 10, but by the time i got there, there was already a long line around the side of the museum. and within a few minutes after i was standing there, the line looked like it had doubled. i think everyone there had tried a few times before, and learned that the only way to see it was to show up early and just wait. i’m assuming most of us were tourists too, waiting in line without anything better to do haha. luckily the weather was quite nice. it was sunny and the sky was a pretty blue, but it was a bit cold. i didn’t get my ticket until almost 11:30, and at that point my toes were very cold and starting to go numb so i had to go into a cafe to warm up. so yes, after two hours, i finally got my ticket. and then the time slot i was assigned for visiting the exhibition wasn’t until 2:50 in the afternoon. there was a guy handing out coupons in line from a cafe where you could go and get a free cookie with a coffee while you wait for your number to be called. it wasn’t really worth it, the cookie was barely anything and the coffee was overpriced, but i was distracted by getting a coupon. the cafe was interesting anyways, and it was warm so it ended up being fine. the theme of it was the “ampleman” which is the german crossing signal man in the crosswalk lights. outside there were about 20 different crosswalk lights that show the different types of icons that countries around the world use. this is what the cookie was in the shape of too by the way. i learned after an hour so that you can actually go into the permanent collection of the museum while you wait to go into the special exhibition. i could have gone in there earlier to hang out instead of going to the cafe or waiting around outside i guess, but oh well. i did go in about an hour before my number was called and was able to see most of it anyways. it’s a nice museum actually, and i really liked the way it looked. it also had a lot of renaissance sculptures and paintings which i always enjoy. i guess renaissance period work is my favorite. i’m not sure why, but it’s what i feel most excited about seeing.

the actual exhibition was really cool once i got in finally. i’m not sure if it’s worth waiting around all day to see, but since i had nothing better to do i was happy i was there. the whole thing is dim to protect the work probably, but the lighting was done so well. the paintings were against black backgrounds, the lighting highlighted it perfectly. i’m not sure how to describe it, but it just looked so cool. maybe it was the way the colors were brought out, i’m not sure. the ticket price also included an audio guide which was actually an ipod. that was unexpected but i liked it. it was set up so you type in the numbers that are listed next to some works to hear more information about them. it was quite informative, and there was usually some music accompanying it that made it feel like you were back in time. there were really big names present in the exhibition, which is why i think it’s so famous and hard to get in to. for example, botticelli, bellini, and da vinci. there was one famous painting of da vinci’s that was only going to be in the exhibition for a few more weeks. it was a really nice painting i think, called lady with an ermine, and i always am in awe when i see something from someone as famous as leonardo da vinci.

after visiting the exhibition, i walked around the permanent collection for some more minutes, but i felt so tired and sleepy from being there all day that i decided to head back to the apartment. later in the evening i went to have dinner with some friends from my class. two of them live together now and invited us over. i brought some cookies that i made the night before, and glühwein. even though it’s a bit early for christmas things, the wine was a good idea because the weather is very cold at night and it feels as it might as well be christmas time soon.

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day 15 in berlin

yesterday i woke up early in a second attempt to see the renaissance exhibit at the bode museum. i had went last thursday in the afternoon and by the time i got there the tickets were already sold out. well yesterday i woke up early and arrived around 11:15 and the tickets were sold out then! jeeez. it was frustrating but i knew i would try the next day since i’m on vacation and have nothing better to do. but i can’t imagine how it is for people with real jobs and schedules. it must be next to impossible for them to see this exhibit if you have to show up and wait in line super early for tickets. i decided yesterday after that to do some window shopping on friedrichstrasse since it was very close. then i took the s-bahn to another museum that i haven’t visited yet, the museum of photography. this was over near charlottenburg, right next to zoologischer garten station. i stopped in the station to get a snack and bought a little pastry with spinach inside. it was so good. i was surprised haha. it tasted like a really, really great hot pocket. anyways, i could use my year pass at this museum which is the primary reason why i went. although in the end i’m glad i went anyways because it was very interesting and i was happy to spend my afternoon there. i think all of the work was by helmut newton, who is well known for his fashion editorial photography. i liked his work a lot.

after that, i headed back to the apartment because i need to mail out one more box of things before the post office closed. i went to the one here in prenzlauerberg since it’s the closest. i’m guessing i went a rush hour because there was a very long line and i had to wait for awhile. again, no big deal for me because i have nothing better to do haha. this post office was in a big mall, so afterwards i got distracted by a shoe store that was having a sale and ended up buying a pair of oxfords that were on sale. i felt guilty, but i still like them. i’ve been looking for a nice (and affordable) pair for awhile.

in the evening i decided to bake cookies. sometimes i really like baking at night, not sure why, but somehow it’s fun. it’s like eating breakfast for dinner.

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