9 May 2005
Please note that text in red indicates comments and changes to the original 2005 text that I made in June 2008. Enjoy!
Somewhat foolishly (and because neither of us had thought to bring an alarm system of any kind), Peter and I agreed to have Claudia wake us up in the morning. Luckily for me, I had showered on Sunday night, so when Claudia came late, I was still able to make it on time for breakfast.
Breakfasts here are sort of interesting--Germans apparently love to eat sandwiches made of rolls, meats, and cheeses for breakfast (I miss this! Apparently, I love it, too! *sigh*). I had one of these, some fruit (an apple?), and something else for breakfast. Again, I took a picture so as to be able to document the whole of my journey. Wait, scratch that! I did NOT take a picutre! I had 14 chances to get one, and what did I do? I forgot! And I was the picture guy, too! Dang! On the whole, breakfast was good, albeit rushed.
Soon we made our way to the University of Augsburg (know affectionately to the locals (students) as the "Uni" (even that's a Latin root meaning "one". . . *shrug* Update: I've just (June '08) received some e-mail from a German named Ingo, and he reports that "In German "Uni" is the abbreviation of "Universitaet" (university)". Thanks, Ingo! )) to attend a lecture welcoming us to the Augsburg, Germany. Here is where we met Herr Fock, John's German counterpart. Herr Fock looks a lot like the crazy, evil doctor from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, which I think is hilarious. He's also great to talk to--he is highly proficient at speaking English and seems to be genuinely curious about American culture and geography. Heck, Herr Fock even knew that Wright-Patterson Airforce Base was in Dayton, Ohio. He's quite an intelligent and articulate man.
After our brief lecture, we traveled to the local shopping mall, the City Gallerie for lunch. I had a cold chicken sandwich and some bubbly water (that's all everyone drinks around here! It drives me nuts! It's like they took nature's perfect beverage and did their best to destroy it. *sigh*). Before we started our next activity, we had some time to go shopping in the mall. Naturally, I wanted to go to the electronics store, a store called Saturn. When I was there, I saw some interesting things: 1) An iPod shuffle (1 GB) on sale for 150 euros! When factoring in the exchange rate, that's about $192 for an iPod shuffle! The German people are getting destroyed; everything is so expensive. 2) A DVD of Battlestar Galactica that was in German. This really cracked me up because the show was so bad in English. Why even bother making a German translation? :) After seeing this, I thought of how I couldn't wait to show Ryan when I got home. :) After I left the electronics store (which was called Saturn, for some reason), I had a chance to run over to the Eddie Bauer Store, where I experienced the same thing over again--I saw goods that were common in America being sold in Germany for the same number-value. In other words, things here were ~30% more expensive than they are back in the States, not counting sales tax.
At about 1 PM, all of us started the "City Fun" contest. I would have called this game a sort of scavenger hunt, but the Germans had a funny word for it. At any rate, we had to form groups and go throughout the city, trying to find answers to questions. For example, one of the questions asked the number of faces on the fountain in Rathous Plaza. My group (Peter, Claudia, Kate and I) had a lot of trouble with this question because of its inherent ambiguity. What is a "face"? Is a face strictly a human countenance? Do goats have faces, too? If so, the acceptable number of faces on the fountain jumped from about 13 to 35. We were confused, so we kind of put both answers down and tried to move on. One of the other places we went for the scavenger hunt was called the Fuggerei, a living community for poor, old, honest Germans. The streets in this area were all very nicely paved and everything was quite tidy. There was a bit of odd archeticture, though, especially on the one corner of one of the buildings--there was a woman with a sword stuck into her chest as a statue. *shrug* I took a picture and moved on. All was then well in my world.
Most of the teams (ours included!) didn't try very hard for this contest. I still feel bad about this--Erika and the others (if any) had obviously (to me now, at least) put a lot of time and effort into making the contest both fun and informative for us.
On the way back from the Fuggerei, Claudia wanted to stop and buy some small packs of tissues, so we entered the nearest drug store we could find, which was very, very close. We located the kleenexes without any difficulty, though choosing the proper kleenexes was difficult. Originally, only Claudia wanted some, so all of the packs were too big ( who wants 10 packs of 10 kleenexes?), and the prices on them were poorly marked. About this time, I happened to see that they were selling STAR WARS napkins in preparation for the new film that's coming out next week, so I urged Claudia to buy these. She said that she didn't need 24 packs, and she seemed to think that having STAR WARS kleenexes (that were 4-ply, even!) was kind of silly. Then Peter said that he would buy 6 of the packs, and then I suggested that we split the kleenexes three ways--each of us would get eight packs. After hearing this, Claudia and Peter both agree to buying the STAR WARS kleenex--it was a major triumph on my part! Somehow, even though I don't speak any German, and probably because the whole STAR WARS thing was my idea, I was elected to actually do the paying for of the kleenex. *shakes head* Alas! :) I had some of these kleenexes for at least two years after this trip. It was with a heavy heart that I blew my nose on the last of them!
I also had a pastry at some time during the afternoon, I think. It was good, but not exceptionally flavorful. In fact, it was nowhere near as good as the "brain" was the day before. :) I'm not so sure that this topic deserved its own box. . . :/ I didn't appreciate having to point to my food to order, but I suppose that's a consequence of studying Spanish in high school instead of German (I knew I should have studied German! Dang it!). I'd be much better off now, of course.
After all of this, we went to the University to have a tour of the place. We got to hear mostly from Ellena what was good and bad about the University, where to eat, where the library was, et cetera. We were also given a chance to use the internet at the University on their strange computers with German keyboards. The main difference that was most bothersome about the computers was that on a German keyboard, the 'z' and 'y' keys are switched, which took some getting used to. After checking my e-mail via one of these machines, I tried to use the wireless internet that was simply permeating the air, but alas--I could not get it to work. Finally I asked some friendly German students (nobody who was associated with our trip--they were all clueless) to help me. It turns out that you need to download software onto your computer to make everything work. Luckily for me, the software was available for free via an ethernet cable at the University's web portal. After installing this software, I still couldn't make the internet work with our given Pittsburgh login, so I had to give up and just go to the barbecue.
Personally, I think how Apple does umlauts is better--why have a key for each special letter? Totally unnecessary. On my PowerBook, I type option-o, and then I press a letter that is allowed to have an umlaut. Boom. Instant umlaut-ed letter. What could be better?
Due to the nature of the German language, this layout makes sense.
The "barbecue" of which I speak was put on by the University and was actually very nice. It was one of the first times that all of us, that is, all of the students and faculty connected with this program, were grouped in one place. The small grills that the Germans had (electric ones, no less!) were really quite amusing to see. However, they had an abundance of meat for us to eat, along with some various salads and desserts. There were also free beverages there--something I've come to love and cherish. Nothing is free in Germany--you even have to pay for ketchup at McDonald's! I'd go nuts! *sigh* Speaking of ketchup, I did have some ketchup when I was at this barbecue, and it was different tasting than the stuff we have in the States, even though it said Heinz on the bottle. Ellena said that when she was in America, she noticed a different taste in the ketchup as well--the ketchup in Germany is sweeter than the ketchup in America. *shrug* Ah, well. At the end of the barbecue, they announced the winners of the 'City Fun' contest--Kate, Claudia, Peter, and I won! We got a box of German chocolates to share! They were really good and, even better, they were all labeled so you always knew what you were getting next. Take that, Forrest Gump! Ha! It was nice. That pretty much finishes day three.
Our group so totally dominated the City Fun Contest! We pulled down first place with a score of 8.5/50. All right! In this photo, my lips are forever frozen at the beginning of the command, "Just hold the button down." I never would have guessed that my camera had such a steep learning curve.
More shots from the Cathedral: our group is deciding what to do. Hrm. . . any suggestions? Truth be told, there was a little bit (read: a lot) of posing involved for this photo, but not much.
Although you wouldn't know it from the picture here, this truck is actually a Mercedes. Must be a sweet ride. :)
They told us we wouldn't see any German flags in Bavaria, but here I've seen two sets in one day! :D I sure showed them!
Actually, what "they" told us was that Germans aren't patriotic in the same way that Americans are--German citizens don't often display German flags.