Oktoberfest in Munchen!!

I just experienced one of the greatest events of my entire life this past weekend!!! The one thing that I had to do while in Europe was go to the real Oktoberfest in Munich. When we realized that our finances and our class schedule would allow us to venture to the great festival, we immediately jumped on the opportunity.

It is quite difficult to describe in words the magnitude of the fest. Oktoberfest was kind of like the Kentucky Derby on steroids. In fact, combine: all the action of the state fair (rides, booths, attractions, etc), the party atmosphere of the Derby, hundreds of thousands of people, and German food/beer and you have Oktoberfest in Munich. Everywhere you look, you could see thousands of people in their traditional lederhosen. There was also plenty of music to go around for everyone to enjoy, as well.

The beer tents were immense; I read that some of them could hold around 5000 people each. Imagine that amount of people singing, drinking, dancing on the tables, etc. You don’t even have to drink to have a great time. I strongly believe that anyone would be able to enjoy themselves in that environment regardless of the circumstances. Everywhere you look, you see people from all over the world with a big smile on their face.

There was even a mini-amusement park inside the fairgrounds. It contained a few roller coasters, a ferris wheel, small children’s rides, typical county fair rides, etc. Quite literally, there was something for everyone to do at the festival. There were people there that probably ranged from 3 years old to 90 years old. And the food……the food was fantastic. The streets were lined with different snack and sandwich vendors. I definitely got my fair share of schnitzel, sausage, pretzels, and anything else you associate with German cuisine.

All in all, Oktoberfest was more than I expected. I am so glad I was able to go, especially since I have no idea if I will ever be able to return. If you enjoy parties, festivals, beer, food, music, and a great atmosphere then Oktoberfest is your place to be. I honestly feel that this is one event that everyone needs to attend at some point in their lifetime.

Thanks for reading,

Josh Heeman


This past weekend, I took my first trip outside of the Netherlands. Six students from U of L, along with one other girl went to Dublin, Ireland for a long weekend. Getting to and from Dublin was kind of a hassle (about 12 hours of airports/planes/train stations/trains going there and about 10 coming home), but nonetheless it was well worth it; I have no complaints. I really enjoyed spending three whole days in Dublin, rather than the two that we were originally planning. We were able to see and do everything that we wanted to plus a lot more.

On Friday morning, we took a 3 hour walking tour around the city. The tour was through the website neweuropetours.eu. I highly recommend that if anyone goes to Europe to check out this website. They offer free walking tours in probably ten major European cities. They will take you to a lot of the famous sites for three hours and give you a lot of historical background information. When you are done, all you have to do is tip them (if they did a good job of course). The tour took us to Dublin Castle, Trinity College, Village Green, some cathedrals, Jonathon Swift’s birthplace, etc.

Later on Friday night, I partook in my first pub crawl. It was a really fun time, especially meeting many college age students from all over Europe and the United States. The crawl took us to 3 pubs, one pub/dance club, and one club all in one night. Needless to say, we enjoyed ourselves. Dublin’s main strip is called Temple Bar. Everywhere you look, you see restaurants, upscale shopping, pubs, and clubs. I personally thought that it was a much better version of Bardstown Road. It is quite touristy, but nonetheless it is a good place to enjoy yourself.

On Saturday, we kind of did our own thing. We went to a famous prison that housed and executed many political prisoners during the Irish rebellions against the British. I have always enjoyed history and learning about the Irish’s centuries-long feud with Britain was quite interesting. They had 5 revolutions in about 300 years, with it all culminating with the Easter Rebellion in 1916. The Irish have a lot of pride, and we were able to experience some of it while touring the prison and seeing the sites where the political leaders were held and executed.

Afterwards, we toured the Guinness brewery. We went to the Heineken brewery in Amsterdam, but the Guinness brewery was much larger. In fact, there were about 20 or so different buildings scattered within one complex. They did a good job explaining the various steps in the brewing process. The end was the best part-we got to drink a beverage at the top of the tall building. The “Gravity Bar” was circular and completely encompassed by glass windows. You could literally see the whole city. It wasn’t nearly as tall as the Sears Tower or Empire State Building, but nonetheless it served the same purpose.

On Sunday, we went on a tour bus to venture away from the city a little bit. We went to the countryside for a few hours and got to see the famous Irish rolling hills, green grass, and lots of sheep and cattle. It was the Ireland that we had always imagined. Afterwards, the bus took us to a city called Kilkenny. The city was well-known because of a castle that has been maintained in almost perfect condition. It was nice to walk in a real and fully-standing castle.

Overall, Dublin was a great experience. It was definitely a nice change of pace to be able to communicate with everyone and read signs in English. The city wasn’t the cleanest by any means, and with the exception of some scattered cathedrals and castles, there were not that many nice buildings to see. On the other hand, the people were extremely helpful and friendly. However, after some people began to drink, they could possibly become quite loud, aggressive, and possible violent. I believe that kind of behavior is overlooked by the population (which is quite different than in America). Needless to say, I would never want to be a police officer. Regardless of these facts, I still had a lot of fun, and I recommend that you travel there if you ever get a chance.

Thanks for reading,

Josh Heeman

Running Intertwined in Berlin’s Rich History

Last weekend I had the opportunity to participate in an international event of rare quality: the Berlin Marathon. This event, over the course of the weekend, caters to just under 50,000 athletes from 122 countries. Most of them are in the capstone race, which is the 26.2 mile marathon that takes place on Sunday morning. It is part of the most prestigious series of marathons currently: the World Major Marathons.

Berlin and this race were absolutely unbelievable and my only regret is that I did not have more time to explore this city. Though I saw more landmarks than I ever needed to throughout the race, there was a certain nagging, distracting pain inhibiting my enjoyment of the history surrounding me. Shortly after the halfway point I passed the Rathaus Schöneberg, where JFK gave his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner.” speech. All I could think at that point was “Ich bin müde.” (tired)

One of the most fascinating points about the race is not only that it introduces history to a runner the way only a marathon can, but also that the race itself is a part of history. Before the reunification of Germany in 1990, the race course was only in West Berlin. The only way an East Berlin runner could participate was to sneak to the other side of the Wall. So many people in the East crowded the top of the Fernsehenturm (TV Tower) to watch the race from the East side in the 80’s that it had to be closed during the race in ’87 and ’88. In 1990 the marathon was held on September 30th, while the official reunification of the country was to take place on October 3rd. The race director, in a wise move, was able to allow the race to flow through the Brandenburg Gate for the first time ever to the East side. Because this race actually occurred before people were allowed across, registration was flooded that year. In 1989 16,410 people ran, but in 1990 they had to limit the influx of entries to an astounding 25,000 who were eager to be apart of history. That year and the city’s history make the race the world class event it is today, which attracts the most elite athletes the world has to offer. Today the race crosses between East and West Berlin four times, including the most prominent one, through the Brandenburg Gate, 400 meters from the finish line.

My race number and finisher’s medal
My number and finisher’s medal

In the end, I ran a 3:15, good for 2,581st place. Not my best performance in a marathon, but what was supposed to be my peak training days for the race were spent backpacking across the Mediterranean area. The lesson for the trip, however, is to make sure you have a seat reservation on the train out of a city after a marathon. I neglected to have this foresight, and had to spend the duration of the trip in the gangway between cars. Leg cramps abounded, but life goes on still.

Ciao di Italia!!!!

Ciao!! This is my 20th day here in Florence, Italy and I absolutely love it here so far. Here in Italy I live with seven other Florence University of the Arts students and one is also from U of L!! Luckily with eight people our apartment is huge! I have been traveling within Italy a lot since I got here 2 and ½ weeks ago. Last weekend all of my roommates and me went to Pisa (to see the leaning tower) and Livorno (which is one of the many beaches here in Italy). The beach at Livorno was weird, no sand just concrete and then the sea. Then this weekend we went to Cinque Terre and this was the most beautiful place that I have ever been. Cinque Terre is on the coast of northern Italy and is where five towns are connected by a hiking path. Monterosso was the first town we stopped at and then we hiked to Vernazza, which was my favorite of the five towns. The views from the town were incredible and the town just had that homely feel about it. After Vernazza we took a ferry to Manarola. After Manarola we walked to Riomaggiore. To walk to Riomaggiore we had to walk on the “Via dell Amore” Translated means the “Path of love.” Back in the 1500’s people in Manarola were only allowed to marry within their village so in order to connect the two villages together they built this walkway so people could meet and marry within the two villages of Manarola and Riomaggiore. That was a little lesson of the Via Dell’ Amore, sorry to bore you!

Things in Italy are different from that in the United States, as you would think so. One thing I noticed about how they run their businesses is that they have no set hours of store operation. They just open and close whenever they feel. Sometimes I go to a store and they will be closed in the middle of the day and they might open back up that day and sometimes they won’t so you have to learn to be patient when wanting things. Here in the United States you can just about go anywhere at anytime of day and get something that you need. Whether it be Wal-mart or another 24 hour grocery store. Being here is teaching me a lot of things about myself, and a lot of things about how different cultures work outside of my culture.

My classes here at the Florence University of the Arts are going to be pretty fun. I am taking International Marketing, International Management, an Italian class, and the one I am most excited about is my wine communication and marketing class!! In this class I get to sample wine and learn all about how to promote Italian wine. During the semester I get to go to my teachers wine estate where they have own it for 700 years!!! Then I get to go to a wine festival here in Florence on October 8th where I will get to taste wines from all over. Some bottles that I will taste will cost 500 Euro, that’s $735!!

I must say the wine and the pasta is much better here in Italy! I will keep you posted on my future travels and new explorations.

Hello! Its been three weeks since we first arrived in The Hague and I’m starting to get the hang of it. The city is beautiful, friendly, and even though it is pretty big it has a small town feel. We live right by campus in the same building as many of the other exchange students so we’ve had plenty of opportunities to learn about many different cultures. The school is also very diversified, so even though we are learning the Dutch culture we can’t help but to pick up on other European lifestyles such as French, German, and Spanish. The school has helped  a lot in getting us familar with our surroundings and the students in the same position as us by taking us on a trip around the city,  a trip to Amsterdam, and hosting a dinner with all of exchange students.

In Kentucky you would never have the opportunity to get up and go see the queen before class started (mainly because we don’t have a queen)! Thats what I got to do on Tuesday morning, September 22 for the annual Budget Day. The queen and her family ride through the town center in a golden carriage followed by soldiers, bands, and other people of authority on horses. We didn’t know what a big deal it was until we got there. Many of the local people were there taking pictures and all of the schools were closed for the children to be able to attend. People love to see their Queen, even if it happens every year! After her ride through the streets she opens Parliament and they start the budgeting and planning for the next year.

Our first trip out of the country was to Germany to the town of Hagen and then Hamburg. Both cities were very beautiful and full of places to see. The German people were very nice and very helpful. Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany and has some of the nicest churches I have ever seen. A lot of Hamburg has been rebuilt due to a fire that spread across the city, and if anything happened to be standing after that it was distroyed by bombings of WWII. As you can imagine the city is full of history. Hamburg also has many memorials or plaques  for Hollocaust victims embedded in there buildings, sidewalks, and streets. Those themselves made me realize how much history was arround me.

There is still so much I want to see around the Netherlands and in other countries. This weekend all of the U of L students are taking a trip to Ireland, so we will see how that goes!

Introduction to The Hague

Hello from Holland!! I have been in the Netherlands for a few weeks now and am really getting a feel for the European culture. We arrived on August 24th which was a week before classes started. Exchange students that had been at U of L in the spring met up with us and helped us to the DUWO office and our apartment. It was such a tremendous help! We got moved in and all went out for dinner in the city center. The city center is so neat with its old and new buildings. There is tons of shopping and restaurants! A few days later we went to the beach to spend the afternoon. It was so much fun! There is a pier with bungee jumping and a casino and shopping.

On Thursday of our first week we had IBMS orientation. All the exchange students got together and the teachers gave us a tour of the school and the city. It was very nice. We walked through the Parliament and where the Queen works each day. The next day we all went back to the school to set up our class schedules, which took some effort! The class set up for exchange students can be rather complicated and still 3 weeks in takes some getting use to. That Saturday the Inter Access program took the exchange students to Amsterdam where we had a boat tour of the city and went to the festival. It was a great way to get to know other exchange students. I have met so many great new friends from all over the world!!

The following week classes started and they went pretty smoothly. Most everything is online and all the teachers understand our position and are very lenient with us. That weekend a few friends and I took a weekend trip to Hamburg, Germany. It was beautiful! We had an amazing weekend and got to see many landmarks and churches.

This past weekend a few of the exchange students and I went to Delft which is a small town about 15 minutes by train from The Hague. It was open monument day so we were able to go into the town hall, Water Company building, and several churches free of charge! There was a large festival in the square and plenty of things to see.

We are having a great time here in The Hague! I will be posting pictures soon and writing more about our life here in the Netherlands!

My first two weeks in the Netherlands

Hello everyone!!! I arrived in the Netherlands last Monday. It is hard to believe that I have only been here for 10 days-we have done so much already and the semester is just beginning. Classes didn’t start until this Monday, so it was nice to have a whole week off and get accommodated to the city of Den Haag (the Hague). The city is a little smaller than Louisville, but in my opinion Den Haag is much nicer, cleaner, and safer. They have everything to do here. We have already gone to the beach twice (swimming in the North Sea is quite cold), went to a Mini-Netherlands exhibit, been to a couple of dance clubs, been to some parties for international students, etc.

We had orientation on Thursday and Friday. On Thursday our professors took us around the city and bought us lunch and dinner (the only thing better than a good meal is a free meal). Also, as part of our orientation, a large group of IBMS (the business program) exchange students went up to Amsterdam for the day on Saturday. The city is actually a lot nicer than people make it out to be, although there are some questionable parts of town. There were so many people there; everywhere you look, you see thousands of people walking around. They have a lot of festivals and marketplaces they you can go hang out in for however long you want. Although the city is so busy, the mentality of the people is to be relaxed and chilled out. They came to Amsterdam to have a good time, and Amsterdam is a good city to enjoy yourself.

Classes started Monday, and to be quite honest, the scheduling process is kind of crazy. Times can change without notice, and so you have to adjust your schedule several times. I have already made changes to my schedule three times, but at this point in time, I am satisfied with my classes and the times that I take them. The best part is that I do not have Thursday or Friday classes (at least for the first couple of weeks). I was hoping to travel somewhere this weekend for a few days, but I think instead we are going back to Amsterdam to celebrate my birthday. I would like to take a 3 day trip to Belgium or Germany or wherever next weekend.

So far, I have no regrets about studying at the Hague. This already has been a great experience, and I know that the next four months will even be better. I especially cannot wait to get out and travel to as many places in Europe as possible. I have already met people from probably 20 countries varying from Thailand to Romania to France. It is so cool to meet all these people from all over the world and to learn about their culture.

Thanks for reading,

Josh Heeman

Thoughts on Empirically Learning a New Language

Since this is my first blog post for the business school, I’ll start by introduce myself.  I’m a 21 year old Computer Information Systems major from Edgewood, KY (a town in the middle of über-suburbian Northern Kentucky).  I am studying in Oestrich-Winkel, Germany at the European Business School for the duration of fall 2009.  Why did I chose to study abroad?  Originally, to figure out if I should, I asked myself the inverse question: “Why not?”  Since there were no outstanding reasons why not and way too many reasons to do so, I chose to look into options to study at a partner university.  To bolster our experience, my friend at U of L’s business school, Joe Huber, and I traveled around a large chunk of the Mediterranean Area for three weeks prior to arriving in Oestrich-Winkel.  For a verbose and extensive chronicling of that adventure, see Joe’s first post on this site.  I will not repeat his thoughts on the experience as mine are much the same, but I may write about random revelations on the experience in a future post.

So this brings me to the subject of this post: my experience with the German language.  Thus far, I have only taken German 121, or the introductry semester in the language at Louisville.  This class and it’s exceptional teacher (I have to mention Monica Krupinski.)  gave me a good basis.  This class and the limited use of the Rosetta Stone products led me to believe that I could handle the basic level of the intensive German class that leads off the semester.  (There are three levels: beginner, basic, and intermediate).

Last week I realized that I was quite wrong in this assumption.  On the first day the professor spoke 100% German and started issuing instructions for an assessment exam.  The test might as well have fit the cliché and been in Greek (and yes, we found in Greece that despite knowing the alphabet it does live up to the old adage as a very confusing language).  My professor cracked jokes when the tape player that directed the listening portion of the test did not work initially.  Most of the class laughed.  I did not understand any of them.

The process of learning a language is a slow one.  Through some miracle, I was not dropped to the beginner level after that first test, so it appears my German was not quite that horrible.  The first day of actual class I understood only an odd word here or there that my professor said.  I thought of asking to go back to the beginner level.  Two of my classmates in fact did very quickly.  I chose to stay and ride out the storm, since if I dropped down I knew I would not learn anything new at all.  Luckily a Hungarian friend of mine who is quite proficient in English explained the particularly convoluted instructions.

I just finished this Intensiv Deutschkurs this afternoon, so I can now look upon it with some very short hindsight.  Although I still do not understand a lot of what the professors say, some of it does sink in slowly.  The theory behind being taught entirely in German makes some sense because you associate new words with other German, rather than English or any other native language.  However, if you do not have the basic vocabulary, it becomes quite difficult.  Example:  On the first day of lecturing I did not understand the word “sterben” and asked my professor about it.  He started speaking about several synoyms, little of which I understood.  I feared that without the basic vocabulary I needed, I could never learn new words.  However, when he started to speak about the German word for death (Tod) and Michael Jackson, I caught the drift.  And indeed, the word meant “to die”.  It’s experiences like that make a word very easy to remember.

Learning German outside the classroom is also an adventure.  If you go up to any person in customer service and mumble something like, “Mein Deutsch ist nicht sehr gut…” (My German is not very good), most of them will launch into an English conversation with you.  However, where is the learning experience in that?  Sure, when I was in Turkey, Greece, or Italy I felt no guilt in having someone switch to English for me or use gestures to communicate, but the knowledge that I am in this country for an extended period of time motivates me to assimilate to the culture as quickly as possible.

There are some small victories involved.  I can go to the grocery store without incident (although there is little talking involved there with the cashier).  Last weekend I got my haircut in the nearby city of Wiesbaden.  None of the stylists spoke English.  My German friend who attended the University of Louisville, Martin Weckenmann, in the spring left to get a beer across the street while he waited for me.  I told him I would be alright.  I am proud to say that I came out of that day with a haircut that did not resemble any sort of lawnmover accident.  The process of learning a new language is a slow one, so just make sure that you have delved enough into a culture before you go anywhere near somebody with scissors.