How to Make an Un-American Thanksgiving American

Today Thanksgiving arrives for me in Germany.  And if I only paid attention to my microcosm of a world here in the Rheingau, it would pass just like any other Thursday during the fall.  I had class from 1pm to 9pm today.  I am preparing for two final exams next week, as well as finishing work on a term paper and a presentation in German.  If it was not for my contact with the states and my own internal clock, I would have had no idea I was in the midst of a holiday I would have celebrated eagerly any other year.

But the fact that I am American causes me to miss my family and friends on this particular seemingly normal day.  Fellow Americans here wish each other a Happy Thanksgiving, but it still does not truly register.  Normally I would be eating a lot with extended family as most Americans do, and I would have run in a Thanksgiving 10K race this morning in Cincinnati, as I do most Thanksgivings of late.  This year it was the 100th anniversary of this race, the eldest one on Thanksgiving Day in America.

But instead I am in a new situation.  So, I can do one of two things.  As most Americans here and elsewhere abroad have a tendency to do, I could gripe about missing home.  I could complain that I am missing the company of family and a feast.  However, in so doing, I believe I would be utterly insulting to the spirit of the holiday.

Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for what you do have, rather than miss the things you do not.  This year I had the chance to take an incredibly cool trip to the other side of the world.  And I do not see how I can take on something so great as this opportunity, and at the same time complain that I cannot take part in this holiday.  I would feel like a hypocrite.  You cannot have your cake and eat it too; God does not give anyone two cakes.

So today I am thankful for many things.  I am thankful for friends and family, and also for the gift of being alive.  I am thankful that technology in this age affords me to Skype with my family while they feast.  I am also of course thankful to the faculty of the University of Louisville’s College of Business for arranging this endeavor, as well as to the benevolent family which made this trip financially possible.  I would be remiss if I did not take heart in these blessings and only concentrated on my separation from Kentucky.

Furthermore, I believe that today I am acting more in the true spirit of Thanksgiving than any other year.  The first Thanksgiving was about journeying to a different world and starting something different.  The original Pilgrims were away from family.  If they spent that time feeling sorry for themselves there would never have been a Thanksgiving.  Instead, they thanked God for a good harvest and a prosperous year and ate a lot.  And thus, so will I.

Happy Thanksgiving to those in the USA!

Going to Court


I had the opportunity to visit the International Criminal Court here in The Hague, Netherlands.  The International Criminal Court is the first permanent, treaty based, international criminal court established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community.  I was able to sit in and listen to the defense of Charles Ghankay Taylor, former President of Liberia.  His 11 count indictment includes

-Acts of terrorism


-Violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular murder


-Sexual slavery

-Outrages upon personal dignity

-Violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular cruel treatment

-Other inhumane acts

-Conscripting or enlisting under the age of 15 years into armed forces or groups, or using them to participate actively in hostilities



Taylor told stories of back dealings with CIA and US Government Departments and tried to paint himself as a savior to Liberia.  I never imagined sitting only a few feet away from a man possible of all these crimes, let alone that he would be a former president.

Steve Zorn

Thoughts on Veteran’s Day from abroad

Living in Europe has given me a very unique perspective on the international impact of American affairs. For example, I have learned more about America’s role in the financial crisis here than I ever did back home. Everything that happens in the States has a global reach, and I’d like to share my thoughts about the impacts of something that hits close to home for me on this Veteran’s Day: the role of the American military throughout the world.

Today is November 11, Veteran’s Day, 2009. It celebrates the heroism and honor of those servicemen and women who have served in any capacity at home or abroad, especially those who have fought to defend our country in foreign wars. I have several friends and former classmates in the military, many of whom have taken tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. My sister and brother were both simultaneously in Iraq for a good portion of the last year serving in the Army. My sister is a Major and has been deployed several times, but this was my brother’s first deployment and he, recently engaged, was an activated reservist in a Psy-Ops division. For their service, the nation should be grateful and respectful.

Their service to their country is unquestionably brave, but often times the reasons for their presence are unclear. Questions about the efficacy as well as the true motivation for our strategies have gone unanswered, and I don’t really expect that to change. I have conceded that I probably will not know the true motivation for continuing this war. So I guess I don’t really like the idea of war or foreign military action in general regardless of the reason, but it’s a fact that will not soon change. When it’s my own family and friends that I have to wish a happy Veteran’s day to, I really think about our current situation in juxtaposition with previous recourses that helped to resolve world conflicts and peace keeping efforts, and it’s interesting to draw upon my experiences here to do so.

Now my personal thoughts on it aside, it cannot be ignored that the American military has a profound presence throughout the world. One of my close friends here at EBS actually served in the Korean military alongside a US Army division (all Korean men serve in the military for two years). He trained with them and hung out with them on the weekends. Twenty minutes from Oestrich-Winkel in Wiesbaden, there is a large Army Airfield, which is one of the several US military installations in Germany and one of the 761 military sites on foreign soil. It’s easy to see how post WWII Europe and would desire a US military presence to stabilize the region and prevent further conflict and how America would have a vested interest in preventing communist interference, but many people question why these bases are still here some 60 years later.

America is protecting her interests abroad by having military sites in foreign countries, and though many countries dislike the idea of having a foreign military presence on their soil (we would never allow it in our country), the fact is that a good portion of these installations are welcomed not only for the security their presence brings, but also the economic shot in the arm that a few thousand soldiers with no bills and some disposable income gives to a region. For example, on Sundays, several of the American EBS students go to a sports bar in Wiesbaden that is plastered with American sports memorabilia, serves buffalo wings and cheeseburgers, and gives a discount with an American military ID. Reservations are necessary because it is packed to the rafters with soldiers spending the entire evening at the bar watching the NFL. It’s not inexpensive either, but this bar has done a great job catering to a very specific American audience and there are many businesses in the region that follow a similar plan.

I have had discussions about the US military with several people from all over the world including one of my German friends who was very knowledgeable on the subject, and it’s clear to me that the presence of the American military is much more welcomed here than I could have ever thought. Despite their opposition to many of our current military operations, many Europeans regard the US as a stabilizing factor in the region and a safeguard against threats. They have become so accustomed to our presence that they were aghast when I told them that I don’t think it’s our responsibility to keep world peace. I mentioned to my friend that it’s the US tax dollar that supports these installations and that few Americans truly realize how many overseas operations currently exist. I then mentioned that the role that we have taken on is actually the formal responsibility of the UN or NATO and not that of any one nation’s military. He then countered by saying that these are powerless organizations that are slow to act and only do so after deliberating on an issue. So, by building a reputation of quick decision-making and readiness for military action, the US has become the de facto combination peacekeeper and local economic stimulus throughout the world.

On one hand it is nice to be regarded as a powerful nation with a strong military, but I am not sure how I feel about having the rest of the world expect us to be the first to resolve a conflict. We didn’t get involved in WWII until Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, and we avoided the European theater in WWII until 1942, three full years after the war broke out. So we have ignored George Washington’s advice not to involve ourselves in foreign affairs and have strayed far from Theodore Roosevelt’s “Speak softly and carry a big stick” view of foreign relations. Our position in the world now allows us to leverage our economic and military strength to achieve goals in line with our own interests.

This policy has had a mixed bag of successes and failures. The Vietnam War was unpopular and the effectiveness of our presence was questionable; the Cuban embargo (Cuban Democracy Act) is often regarded as archaic and detrimental to the nation it was supposed to save. On the other hand, however, two days ago marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, something that Germans are proud to celebrate, but it also serves as a stark reminder of the oppression that communism brought to the region. I can’t help but think of the way that the threat the USSR posed was neutralized: through very strong military inaction. Reagan is credited with ending the communist regime, but it was really just the straw that broke the camel’s back after a long series of strategic moves by his predecessors, none of which used military action to effect results. It is interesting, that despite very little military aggression directed toward Russia, the number of foreign bases surged to over 1000 at the height of the Cold War. The American military’s strength and global presence solved the problem without ever actually going to war with Russia. The Cuban Missile Crisis, one of the most volatile situations in modern history, was defused by a strong military presence and a slow trigger finger. It’s unfortunate to note that there are currently 184,251 troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan alone, and President Obama is in the process of narrowing between four strategies to push forward in Afghanistan; every plan involves more troops.

Like I said before, a Veteran is any person serving in the military during a time of war. So while the world remains divided on what the role of the US military should be, this time of war drags on into its ninth year creating more and more veterans each day, each having made unique sacrifices for his or her country. This war may not be popular and the end may not be in sight, but these men and women deserve the gratitude and respect of their countrymen. So I would just like to take this opportunity to remind everyone to thank the veterans they know.

Study abroad experience so far

I started the abroad of my study abroad a month before the studying part. I arrived in London at the end of July with a full month of traveling before settling down in The Hague and starting classes. On the long lists of places I wanted to visit during my stay in Europe London wasn’t very high but it happened to be where I was flying in, so i spent a few day there. Looking back I’m glad I got the chance to see London, it’s a wonderful city. It was also a great way to start my trip since it’s an English speaking country unlike any of the other places I visited while traveling.

My experience in each city always fits into one of these two categories: Spending 12 hours every day going from site to site trying to see everything even though it’s never possible or leisurely wandering around exploring a city and taking it all in. London was definitely category one. There are so many amazing things to see in London the first thing to do is make a list in order of importance. Me and my travel buddy bought a day ticket to ride one of those red double decker buses that took us to a lot of the sites and allowed us to hop on and off anytime. This really gave us the opportunity to see a lot more, by saving us the time we would have spent lost on the tube system.

In London I went to two great museums, The British Museum and Tate Modern. Also, they were both FREE, that never happens site seeing is expensive. I got to see all of London from up high on the London Eye, which is like a farris wheel but you ride in a big glass bubble that fits about 10 people. It was really beautiful, it was a clear day and I could see the whole city. Big Ben Rang at pm and then it was off Picadilly Circus, which was described as the Time Square of London. It was crowded and exciting, a great way to end the last day in London.

Next I went to Montpellier in the south of France (Louisville’s Sister city!) where a friend of mine from UofL was finishing up a work study. This was definitely category two. Montpellier is a small City with tiny streets and stone roads. I stayed in dorm here and met a lot of people from around Europe who were there to improve their French. Not being able to understand or speak French in France makes things pretty difficult. Luckily my friend was fluent and did all the talking.

After four days in Montpellier I traveled up to Paris where my friend was flying out of, and later that day my boyfriend was flying into. I love the use of trains for travel in Europe. Trains in a lot of cases are cheaper, usually less hassle. There are rarely delays, you don’t have to wait in security check, just be on the platform when the train is scheduled to come.

Paris with Jerimy was great. Our hostel was two blocks away from the Moulin Rouge and our first morning together we climbed a giant hill that the Sacre-Coeur sat on top of. The Church was beautiful and enjoyable despite the herds of people. And the view of Paris from that hill was breath taking. There is so much to see in Paris between the Eiffel Tower, Sainte-Chapelle, Notre Dam, the famous cemetery Pere Lachaise, the Catacombs, Musee d’Orsay, Arch de triumph, and dozens of other things that you couldn’t possibly have time to see in 4 days. People complain about going to cities and seeing all the touristy things, people travel across the world to see these sites for a reason, they’re mind blowing.

By this point I had been travelling for almost 2 weeks. I was living out of only a backpack, staying in hostels, struggling to communicate, walking all day long, getting lost, and loving it.

Opel Stays in the GM Family, and the Pride of Hessen

Yesterday news broke out that the European Auto-maker, Opel, a division of GM, will not be sold by the American Automotive giant.  I found this to be especially interesting news, as an American currently residing in Opel’s home state of Hessen, Germany.  Their headquarters in Rüsselsheim are a mere 30 minute drive from my flat.  General Motors cited Opel’s significance in its future global strategy as a key reason to reject a potential sale to a Canadian or Chinese company.  According to Reuters, Opel held a 7.2% share in the European automotive market in August.


This represents the strength of the future plans for GM, and it’s confidence in the future American and world economy.  President Obama’s administration released a statement saying they had nothing to do with the decision not to sell, despite the US Treasury having an approximately 60 percent share in GM after all of the government loans to keep the company afloat.  Hopefully this and recently reported profits in Detroit will spur more positive action in the US stock market.

Conversely, German politicians, are more than irked in general about this announcement.  Angela Merkel, current German Chancellor, was taken aback by this surprise move by GM.  Juergen Ruettgers, the Minister-President from the neighboring state to Hessen, North Rhine-Westphalia, stated that “General Motors’ behavior shows the ugly face of turbo-capitalism…”  It is possible that they have doubts about GM’s abilities to procure funds to keep its European units stable.

In contrast, at Vauxhall in Britain, GM’s other big European operation, workers and community members were relieved to hear that the Detroit company was not going to sell.  GM has stated, however, that these plans do not affect its current intentions to unload its Saab operations on a Swedish company.

It is these German-American news stories, whether positive or negative, that make me happy to be abroad and learning about another country’s economic state.  Other recent tidbits of information that I have learned about my current state of residence include that it is where the element Hassium was discovered less than twenty years ago (and named for, despite a slight spelling change).  Hessen is also famous for being the home of the best German wine, from the Rheingau region.  I live dead center in the middle of this German anomaly: a region so enamored with wine in the middle of a country so reknown for its breweries.  And naturally, although I have admittedly not thought a lot about specific American historical events since middle school, Hessen is the origin of the famous Hessian mercenaries which George Washington crossed the Delaware to surprise attack on Christmas Day during the American Revolution.  Without these men we as Americans would be without one of the most iconic American paintings.  Ain’t history great?

Harvest time for the Wine hills of the Rheingau

Rheingau Autumn – Harvest Time

Hello Again!!

Hello again!

Sorry it has taken so long to write on this blog, I have been very busy. Florence has been wonderful and I have experienced many wonderful amazing things since being here. Since it is the half way mark through the semester I am beginning to miss more and more things about being home. It’s the little things that I miss about home such as a warm bowl of chili on a cold day, autumn and the leaves falling and changing colors, I miss green grass or grass in general, I miss the classes at U of L, and I miss just being at home and the convenience of driving anywhere you want. Living with 7 other people doesn’t help anything either but it has been a fun process of getting to know people and learn and talk with them about there schools at home. But all of these things are making me miss home a little more everyday.

Since my last post I have done a lot. On the weekend of September 26th Florence had a wine event. At this event you just paid 10 Euros and you got a wine glass and you got to go around to over a hundred different booths and taste the wine. I had about 12 glasses and it was delicious. It was fun to be able to interact with tourist and locals all at the same time. On October 8 for my wine marketing class we were able to attend the biggest wine event in Florence. All the important wine producers and journalists from all over Italy attended. Oh did I mention earlier that my wine marketing teacher is apart of Frescobaldi? Frescobaldi is one of the most prestigious wine producing families in all of Europe. They have been Tuscan wine producers for 700 years, since 1308. This is just incredible to me. But anyways since I am getting off track…my class and I went to this huge wine event on October 8th. Here I tried the most expensive bottles of wine that I will never be able to try again. Some of these bottles were selling for 1000 Euros. Yes, the wine was the best that I have a ever tasted but I can’t imagine spending that much money on a bottle of wine. The outfits that the people pouring wine were wearing were so sophisticated. It was like nothing I have ever experienced before. It was exciting.

Now on to my travels…The first weekend of October my roommates and I went to Rome for the weekend. At first I did not think that I would like Rome as much as I did. Before I chose Florence as my place to study I was planning on studying in Rome. Even though I loved Rome I can’t imagine being there and studying, I think I would be over-whelmed and in culture shock with the amount of people and tourist in Rome. I went and saw everything that you should see when in Rome. Of all the things I saw my favorite was the Coliseum and the Roman Forman and ruins. It is so fascinating how intelligent the Romans where and how they built the buildings they did back some 1,900 years ago.

After Rome I went on an excursion offered through the school. This excursion was to the town of Maiori, Amalfi, Capri Island, and Pompeii. This trip was full of scenic landscapes. The Amalfi coast is filled with cliffs and towns built on these cliffs. The water here was a beautiful teal color. Capri island was beautiful as well but it was much more tourist than I was hoping although they do make the best homemade Limoncello (a lemon Liquor). While on our trip we stayed in a little town called Maiori. The locals in Maiori were unlike most Italians. They were very nice and did not judge us because we were Americans. One night after dinner there was a wedding reception going on outside and a member from the family came inside the hotel and told us to all get out on the dancer floor. We all went outside and crashed an Italian wedding. The 70-year-old grandfather of the family led all of the dances as we tried to follow a long with him. I hope I am as energetic as he was at 70 years old. The last song that they played was Y.M.C.A. I didn’t even know people in Italy knew of this song but at the end of the night we all came together as two totally different cultures with a song we all knew and spelled out those four letters. Y.M.C.A. After the reception I kept thinking about how welcoming they all were to us coming and joining in on something that is so family oriented. I kept thinking about how that would never happen in the United States. A family would never invite a bunch of foreign strangers into their wedding reception. This showed me how different and welcoming the Italian culture is from our culture. After Maiori we were on to Pompeii. I am sure most of you have heard of Pompeii. Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. killing everyone and the volcanic ash preserved their bodies. This place was fascinating. The ruins were fascinating and the bodies were the most fascinating. It was sad and hard to see the bodies of people once struggling for their lives and the look of agony still on their faces.

My next trip was to a wine estate called Castello di Verrazzan in Chianti, Tuscany about 45 minutes outside Florence. This wine estate was beautiful. It’s an old castle built on top of a hill overlooking Tuscany in 1716. On this trip we sampled his wine, which was great, and we ate some food he prepared for us. The olive oil he makes is probably the best olive oil I have ever tasted. While showing us through the cellar and the rest of the winery he was talking to us and kept telling us to live in the moment and “Happiness is only real if shared.” I have come to learn that this is true and to try and live everyday in the moment.

My fall break trip was last week and Ellie( my roommate and another U of L student) and I went to Ireland. Let me just say I fell in love with Ireland. I want to move there. Maybe it was just being in the presence of fall and being around green grass and the leaves falling and the leaves changing color, but Ireland was all I had ever imagined it to be and more. The first stop was Dublin. Right when I stepped off the plane it felt like home. The wind, the coldness, the people speaking English… ahh it was a pleasant arrival. The people in Ireland are so nice as well. We stepped of the public bus onto O’Connell Street looking a little lost and this woman came right up to us and asked us if we were lost and if she could help. It was a pleasant surprise since in Italy people sometimes tend to just kind of ignore you or act like they don’t speak English. The best thing about Dublin was just about everything. The people, the atmosphere, the Guinness beer and the rainbows were all amazing. The next stop after Dublin was flying to Cork, Ireland. In Cork there was the Cork Jazz Festival going on but it was very rainy there so we just went to a pub and listened to live music. Then we went to a little teashop and had the best hot chocolate ever with HOMEMADE MARSHMALLOWS!! This made our day. There is no hot chocolate in Florence, let alone homemade marshmallows, we were in heaven to say the least. The bed and breakfast we stayed at (Garnish House) had the best breakfast in the morning. They had Porridge with Baileys Irish Cream on top, delicious. Cork had some great places to relax, eat and drink. After Cork we were off the Blarney, home of the Blarney Castle. We went to the top of the castle to kiss the Blarney stone, which was kind of scary since you have to lean backward over the castle ledge to kiss the stone. But some famous people including Winston Churchill have kissed the stone so it was pretty cool. Then if was back to Dublin to catch a bus in the morning to go to Glendalough, Ireland. This is about an hour drive from Dublin. During the drive we got to see the countryside of Ireland. Glendalough was the home of St. Kevin back in 500 A.D. He built his Monastery there and leaved in the woods. Here there is also a really old cemetery, which was neat to see since it was 3 days from Halloween. Here in Glendalough the landscape was gorgeous. Autumn leaves everywhere and there were some great hiking trails around the two lakes that we went on. The next morning we went back to Dublin to hangout for the day before we headed back to Florence the following morning. If you ever go to Dublin go to the Archeological Museum. This was probably the most interesting museum that I have ever been in. In this Museum they had the “Bog Bodies” look it up on Google but it is where dead people were found in the bogs of Ireland. These people that they found are as old as 300 B.C. That is 2,300-year-old people and since they were found in a bog the chemicals in the mud preserved all of them. Their skin and organs are still preserved! Amazing. I found this to be even more interesting than Pompeii because all of the people found in the bog had been murdered some 2,300 years ago. All in all I want to move to Ireland. I loved everything about it, the people, the landscape, the weather, the food, everything. If you ever get the chance go to Ireland… GO!!

Now I am back in Florence enjoying my last month and a half here. I will definitely miss Florence and the beautiful skies here.


If you search Google for “The Most Beautiful City in Europe”, that’s where I was last weekend. Prague is famed to be one of the few European capitals untouched by both World Wars and as a result, its old world idiosyncrasies have homogenously coalesced with modernity to form a vibrant city with an ancient past.

With its Gothic architecture imposing and crepuscular in the amber-tinted mist, its unadulterated medieval grandeur evokes a sublimity that cannot be easily described. The castle and cathedral overlooking the Charles Bridge are monoliths that stand as a testament to an archetypal epoch in European history, one in which knights rode steeds across the golden hills and besieged strongholds stood defiant amidst a flurry of bolts and arrows. When walking down a cobblestone street lined with the shops of marionette purveyors and street artists of all kinds, my imagination ran wild thinking of all the generations that had walked those very same steps and all the different things to which they had the privilege to bear witness.

We had the opportunity to see this city with a few friends, two of which grew up in Prague. Every chance I got, I marveled at what it would be like to grow up in a city like this. We stayed at our friend Hoang’s apartment in the Branik district and had home cooked Vietnamese meals prepared by his mother (his family is from Vietnam, but has been living in the Czech Republic for 20 or so years). We were introduced to his friends from high school and went to a few of their regular bars where we were educated in the art of foosball, something about which I thought I already knew a fair amount. They quickly showed me the error in that belief.

At night, we toured the historic areas in Old Town, visiting shops and taking advantage of the relatively weak currency and strong spirits. We were able to meet up with fellow EBS students one night and enjoyed the ambiance of the evening in the company of good friends and a beautiful backdrop. One night, we were even able to get lost by taking the wrong bus stop to some scary warehouse encircled by dimly lit, tree lined paths; the dense fogged being pierced by the barking of German Shepherds just behind the fence nearest to us. Somehow, even that experience was surreal. I was able to appreciate the beauty of the moment, something I very quickly should have overlooked in favor of my concerns for self-preservation.

After surviving our weekend, it was now time for the car ride home. I had the fortune of driving from Bavaria back to Oestrich-Winkel on the famed autobahn. It was unfortunate that I was driving an economy sedan with five people through construction zones at night. It was still an experience, however, to get passed by Porsches traveling at twice my speed. However, it was probably a good thing that my aspirations for speed were thus thwarted because I was rusty after not driving a car for three months. But we returned safely to a mundane and studious existence void of the excitement to which I had grown accustomed. We won’t be traveling again until December, so my only option at the moment is to study, which isn’t entirely negative, but it’s not exactly Prague.

First Couple Weeks in Den Haage

After spending the first few weeks staying in Den Haage some of us decided to make our first trip outside of the Netherlands.  This trip was to Dublin and 7 of us went.  There were 6 students from U of L and my roommate Alex who is a senior at a school in Michigan.  We took the train late Thursday night arriving at the airport in Brussels very early the next morning and waited for our flight with anticipation.  We were all very excited for our first trip.  As soon as we arrived in Dublin we went straight to the hostel and dropped off our bags.  Next up was some food and a free walking tour.  These free walking tours are in cities all over Europe, and the ones I have been on thus far have been very interesting.  On the tour I learned a lot about Ireland’s history and the struggle they went through to gain their independence.  That evening we went on a pub crawl which was a lot of fun.  They took us to five pubs and one disco.  We had tons of fun and met people from all over the world.  We made friends with some Americans that are studying in London.  They offered to show us around London when we made our trip there.  The next day we went on a tour of a prison and to the Guinness factory.  When you reach the top of the Guinness factory your tour concludes and you can have your free drink at the top bar where there is a gorgeous view of the entire city.  The following day we decided to take a tour through the countryside.  It was everything we expected.  It had beautiful rolling hills and we even got to see a castle.  The next trip we took was to Munich for Oktoberfest.  For this trip we rented a nine person van.  Two of us were U of L students; there were boys from Wisconsin, Maryland, California, two French boys, and two French girls.  We bought a tent and decided to camp for the weekend.  We drove all night Thursday and arrived Friday morning, and went straight to Oktoberfest.  We got into the first beer house; it was a grandiose building with ornate decoration on both the inside and out.  We had a blast meeting all different kinds of German people.  The beer houses were so amazing.  They were decorated with lots of pictures of the German countryside and people dressed in lederhosen.  Actually, many of the people attending Oktoberfest were dressed in the traditional lederhosen.  We all decided that when we go again, and I’m sure we will, we will attend in the traditional lederhosen.  They had thousands of people sitting at tables drinking big glass steins full of beer.  Our waitress came up to table carrying 10 steins, each holding a liter of beer.  We then went back to our campsite exhausted and slept all night.  The next day we got up early and went to the tents again.  It was just as amazing as the day before.  The following day we took a walking tour of Munich.  On this tour we learned an enormous amount of Nazi history.  The next trip we took was to Hamburg and Berlin.  We again rented a car but this time it was just four of us.  The people that went were two U of L students, a friend of the other U of L student, and the boy from Wisconsin.  We got a late start on Saturday so we did not arrive in Hamburg until about one am.  We decided to still go out, so we parked the car and arrived at the area where most of the pubs are located and had an amazing night.  The pubs do not close until after 6 a.m., so we stayed up all night.  We went back to the car at about six and slept for a couple of hours then woke up and continued our trip to Sachsenhausen, a concentration camp near Berlin.  The concentration camp was so moving.  It was what Hitler deemed to be the ideal concentration camp.  It was originally a prison camp before everything began with WWII.  The day we went was very gloomy and rainy and that felt fitting.  You could see some replicas of what the buildings looked like.  They also had stone blocks where the other buildings would have been.  Many of the buildings contained old pictures and newspapers from that time.  After the camp we continued on to Berlin.  We found a hostel and decided not to do the walking tour that day because of the rain.  We took a nap and got ready to go on the pub crawl that evening.   

Even though it was a Sunday the pub crawl had more than thirty people on it.  They took us to five different pubs and a disco.  We had tons of fun meeting people from all over the world.  Even on a Sunday night the pubs in Berlin were busy.  The next day we woke up and went on a walking tour of the city.  Berlin is a beautiful city.  Most of the buildings are new and that is shown through the architecture.  Our tour began with our tour guide showing us the hotel where Michael Jackson dangled his baby over the balcony.  We then continued on to the Jewish Memorial.  That was one of the most moving pieces of art I have ever seen.  It was interactive and you could walk through it.  We then saw the location where the bunker in which Hitler committed suicide had been.  It rained for most of the tour so the tour guide gave us the quick story.  A very interesting thing that I learned was that the Berlin Wall was not straight; it wiggles throughout the city.  There are gold bricks in the streets to remind everyone where the wall had been.  Our tour ended with the tour guide telling us his very elaborate story of how the Wall “actually” fell.  We then went home with a new picture of what was going on in the world at that time.