Wednesday, August 4, 2010

UPDATE!!!


Living in Landau

It has been almost a month since I last wrote. Since then, I traveled to Landau to live with the Werthman's, vacationed in Ibiza, Spain, spent a lot of time with my friends, relaxed, and then finally made my way to Marburg for my second study abroad program. I want to first document my time spend in Landau. It was really amazing for a family to opened their doors and accommodate me for an entire month. If it wasn't for the Werthman's, this trip may not have been possible. During my final week in Pforzheim, I started to get a little homesick. I missed my family, my friends, and the normal summer lifestyle I was used to. With a month of relaxation and some vacation time, I had something to look forward to which could keep my mind off of home. I could not be more thankful for how the Werthman's treated me. I felt like the their third son. I felt at home.

For the duration of the month spent in Landau, some days were slow, but others were exciting. I got a lot accomplished for school in the Fall, but had a great deal of time to reflect on what had happened the previous six weeks. A few highlights of my time spent in Landau would definitely have been watching the final matches of the World Cup. It was unlike anything I had ever seen or experienced in my life. It's amazing to see an entire country unite and support their team. Unfortunately, Germany ended up losing the semi-final match against Spain, but they made a great run! The celebrations that led up to that final game could not have been better anything I every took part in (but possibly equivalent to some Penn State football moments). Other highlights included warm homemade meals provided by my "parents for a month," Lisa and Klaus. They were excellent meals which I miss very much! Thank you for always making sure I was full! One weekend, I had the opportunity to go to one of the world's most renounced clubs, Cocoon, in Frankfurt. It was great to spend some time with Gabe as well as some other friends. But, the most enjoyable moments were those spent with the friends I met. Everyone was extremely nice and always had something good or interesting to talk about. It makes me a bit sad knowing there is not a set date I will see them again, but rest assured, I will see them again at some point.

Vacation in Ibiza

So as if my trip to Germany wasn't enough, I have always wanted to travel to an island off the coast of Spain called Ibiza. Since I traveled to Germany the first time, I got very interested into Europe's electronic music scene. Ibiza is the Las Vegas of music, culture, food, and amazing views. I began planning the trip during the midst of my study in Pforzheim. Since I had a month to plan the dates of my trip, I planned a one week trip to the island during, what I thought, would be the best week in July to see all the artists, clubs, and other what-have-you. My travels included a train, a bus, and a plane and a taxi in order to get to my hotel, which was located in the center of Ibiza Town.




View by day...

View by night...

Boys Noize

I arrived very late on Wednesday night because my flight was delayed one and a half hours. Once I finally got to my hotel, I unpacked my things and began to explore. Apparently the nightlife doesn't even start until about midnight, so I was just in time. Now, I could bore you with the same club and partying stories over and over and over again, but that wouldn't be much fun. Instead, I will post some pictures with captions which I hope will illustrate the excitement and entertainment that surrounded me. Ibiza is an island of mystery, but has something to offer everyone. It was one of the best vacations I ever was on. Being alone in a foreign country made it even more interesting. I met so many people from all over the world, met some of the most famous dj's, and ate some of the best food I ever had. My hotel was small, but very convenient. I became good friends with the woman who worked there, Lia. She even hooked me up with one of the biggest highlights of the trip; a VIP entrance to one of the bigger nights on the island at club Eden. I was drinking wine and mixers next to some of the top dj's in the UK, as well as the host of BBC Radio 1's Essential Selection, Pete Tong. His show airs every friday from 9-12pm and is broadcasted worldwide over the internet and also on BBC Radio 1 via Sirius or XM Radio.



Joris Voorn



Cafe Ole @ Space

Claude von Stroke


Parade

Pete Tong

Pete Tong



Swedish House Mafia (Steve Angello & Sebastian Ingrosso)

Me, Fleur, & Char

On my second night in Ibiza, I met some girls from the Netherlands, near Amsterdam. I didn't realize I would spend the next 4 days with their company enjoying whatever the island had to offer. Fleur and Charlotte were some of the nicest girls I came across up until my trip to Ibiza. We definitely hit it off and had some of the best nights I could remember in a long time. It was nice to have some friends to enjoy the island with. Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, and they had to leave Tuesday morning, but I will always remember what great times we had together and how they made an amazing trip even more amazing.


Fedde le Grand

Carl Cox

Fedde & I

Ibiza Town

Walking home after Pacha






So, after about a week of nonstop partying, eating, and drinking, I was totally worn out. Although I was so beat, I would not have done it any other way. It had been my dream to travel to this island to see what it was all about, and I finally did it. I hope to one day return and possibly land a job which would require me to travel there.

Saying goodbye / Traveling to Marburg

Once I returned to Landau, I knew it would only be a few days until my next study would begin in Marburg. I took that opportunity to spend as much time as I could with the family and friends I met. I even had the opportunity to visit Gabe's university, Zeppelin University, in Friedrickshafen. So 2 days before I left, on Saturday morning, we began the 3 hour trek to his university. I was really glad I had the opportunity because it gave me a chance to talk and spend some time with him, knowing it was a mere 2 days until I would leave. Gabe had some obligations regarding housing and academics which he needed to complete. I had the chance to visit his apartment and even his school. We talked about the differences and similarities between Penn State and Zeppelin universities and also living situations, etc. His university is in a unique location in southern Germany on the coast of Lake Constance. I had heard of the lake, but never researched it or seen it for that matter. The waves on the coast of the lake were bigger than those in Ibiza. So once everything was finished, we left and started the 3 hour journey back to Landau. On the way back we got stuck in some traffic near Karlsruhe, but found a CD with 160+ songs dated between 2000 and 2006. Lets just say we got pretty into the music and had some people turning their heads, but it was all in good fun.


So came the day I would leave Landau and head to Marburg. A very bittersweet moment for me. I left on Monday around 8:30am, but not before having my last breakfast and saying my goodbye's to Gabe, Julian, Klaus, & Lisa. The day before, they had took me out to eat at a local authentic German restaurant. It was a neat place because the restaurant was more of a brewery that had some dishes to choose from. To put the cherry on top, they even bought me my own mug as a gift to remember my time in Landau. Don't worry, that mug is very practical and sentimental, so a lot of beer will be drank out of it! But finally, the day came where I would leave my second family and travel to Marburg for the last of my days in Germany. It was tough saying goodbye, but I managed! Once again, thank you all for making my experience that much more enjoyable and accommodating. Love you all!


School / Trip to Frankfurt

I arrived in Marburg to find some of the ISU workers meeting at the train station. My first impression of Marburg was that it was similar to Pforzheim, but with a different architecture and layout. Since Pforzheim was heavily bombed in WWII, much of the buildings were relatively new, whereas Marburg still had buildings, castles, and other small structures which set it apart from my view of Pforzheim. After checking in and registering with the ISU program, I decided to wait a bit longer for my friends Madeline to arrive. I had been friends with her for almost a year now, meeting back at Penn State working for The Daily Collegian. We had stayed in touch all summer anticipating our study and time in Germany together. I was really, really excited to see her not only because she was a great friend, but to finally have someone close to me, close to me! She finally arrived and, as she stated, "It was an epic embrace."

So since then, we began our first week together which included our German classes, a seminar on religions, cultures, and conflicts, and also a day trip to Frankfurt to visit some of the more cultural sights. If I would try to compare the Pforzheim program and the Marburg program, it would be like comparing apples and oranges. A few differences are that in the Pforzheim program it was 12 Penn State students and here there are 50 students from all over the world taking part in different seminars and german courses, depending on their schedule. Also, Marburg is a much more cultural program than the Pforzheim program. But on the other hand, both programs had trips to Frankfurt and Strasbourg. In my next post, I will definitely include some photos and a more detailed description of the city and what I have learned so far during my studies.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Winding Down...

Our last week was extremely busy, filled with trips to Frankfurt to visit different financial offices, the ROLF BENZ production facility and showroom, and finally the Maulbronn Monastery.
In Frankfurt, we had a busy schedule which started off at the European Central Bank with an assembly of students from near and far. It was an interesting presentation which gave the history of the Euro, the current conditions of the economic crisis, as well as some other information about the central banking system. This particular stop during our trip interested me because I am interested in different types of currency from around the world. I started to collect coins when I visited Germany three years ago. The gift shop at the ECB had a lot of coins which were no longer in circulation due to the Euro. I took this opportunity to find as many interesting coins from around Europe and add them to my collection.

We then had a brief break for lunch, so I grabbed a bite to eat. Our next appointment was at the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. We arrived, went through the security check, and headed to a conference room where we were given another presentation about the history, procedure, and current conditions of the market. Once we were finished with the presentation, we then had the opportunity to view the trading room. It is much different from the NYSE. It doesn't have much commotion and there are only a few employees monitoring the system.

Our trip to Frankfurt ended with a visit to a firm specializing in current economic conditions. We had a great presentation from a specialist who spoke about the Euro crisis, when and how it happened, as well as answering any questions our group had regarding the future of the Euro. Very interesting remarks.

The following day, Tuesday, I had the opportunity to spend the afternoon with a very special person. She had taught me German in high school and had kept in contact with me throughout my years at Penn State. Pretty much a neighbor, Frau Taylor had yet again traveled with the Tamaqua students, as I had three years prior, to Landau for an exchange program with the local school. Before heading to Germany for the summer, I made an appearance at my former high school, Tamaqua, to give the fourth years German students an idea of what I had been up to the last 3 years.
Mostly speaking about college interests and my upcoming trip to Germany, we had a great discussion that lasted the duration of the period. So needless to say, it was great to see a familiar face so far away from home! It was at this point in my trip that a little homesickness had started to really set in, but after spending the day with Frau, I felt a lot better. She arrived at the train station around two o'clock in the afternoon. I wanted to give her an idea of what Pforzheim was like, so we decided to talk a walk around the city. After Frau insisted, we took the long walk to my apartment so she could catch a glimpse of what my living conditions were like during my time in Pforzheim. I told her, "It's quite a long way," but she remarked, "Aaron, I walked the Great Wall of China, I think I can handle a few blocks." So, we took the trek up to my apartment and then circled back along the river back to the center of town where we ended up getting a late lunch. It was really great to see her and to discuss all sorts of things that have been rolling around in my head since I had been in Germany. It was definitely a highlight of the trip, and Frau if you are reading this, I will be coming back to the school to talk about my trip with the students!

The next day was my first exam, so I spent the previous night studying for my European Integration course final. Following the test, we had a field trip to the Maulbraunn Monastery located just a few miles outside Pforzheim. If your interested in reading more about the monastery, the website is http://www.maulbronn.de/relaunch/e_800/html/kloster.php - From the images and information I gathered from our tour, it is the best preserved medieval monastery complex in Europe. It is situated on the outskirts of Maulbronn, Baden-W├╝rttemberg, Germany and is separated from the town by fortifications.

The monastery was founded in 1147 by the first Cistercian pope, Eugenius III. The main church, built during a transitional period from Romanesque to Gothic, was consecrated in 1178. Along with the church were other buildings such as the infirmary, refectory, cellar, auditorium, porch, south cloister, hall, another refectory, forge, inn, cooperage, mill, and chapel. After our tour, we had an opportunity to enjoy a traditional meal of the monks,Maultaschen, which are Pockets of noodle dough that are stuffed with various fillings such as spinach, meat or cheese. While Maultaschen appear to be an imitation of Italian ravioli, there are many legends surrounding their origin. It is said that in the 17th century, monks from the Maulbronn monastery were looking for a way to to hide meat from God during Lent, when they were supposed to be fasting, so they mixed the meat with spinach and herbs and hid the mixture in dough pockets, thus creating the “Maultaschen. It was an excellent meal!

The next portion of my post will consist of our visit to ROLF BENZ the following day. It was one of my favorite places to visit because we got to see the production facility and the showroom which consisted of a light lunch before we had the chance to view the finished products. The pictures speak for themselves. Top notch quality product that lasts decades when well kept. The price for their standard couch is also top notch at around 2,000 Euros.

I will follow up with my overall thoughts regarding my first 7 weeks here in Germany as well as the Pforzheim program and experiences I enjoyed.