January 22, 2006


Filed under: Travels, Germany — Alex Ravenel @ 1:33 pm

The night before last, I got a call from Ralf, a German who had stayed in the US with my aunt when he had studied abroad a few years earlier on an exchange program. It turns out that, by happy coincidence, he lives in a small town about 20 minutes from Tübingen, in the village of Glems, population about 1000.

Anyways, we had been trading emails back and forth trying to figure out when to get together, and we finally worked things out, so he agreed to come pick me up after he got off work on Friday night and we’d head back over to Glems and get a few drinks. He was picking me up late, 11PM, because he worked the second shift, so the plan was for me to just stay the night over there and he’d bring me back the next morning.

After a fun time trying to describe where I live given that I don’t really know any street names around, we got into his small Audi and headed back to his village. It was a fun drive; I’ve always liked the German countryside with its rolling hills covered with scraggly apple trees and small farmhouses surrounded by massive stacks of firewood. It quickly became clear that his village was really small, as we wound our way through the curvy country roads, passing one small town after another. Eventually we got to Glems, and went inside to pick up his sister.

A quick note about language here. Both Ralf and his sister, who had also studied in the US, in Wilmington, NC, spoke excellent English. Normally when speaking with someone for whom English is not a mother language, you have to watch what you are saying, because (American) English is so filled with idiomatic expressions that non-native speakers quickly get totally lost, especially seeing as they were almost always taught British English, which is much lighter on the idiomatic expressions. This wasn’t so with these two. Both spoke excellent conversational English, and I had no problems speaking freely without having to pay attention and make sure that they weren’t getting lost. Their German however, was another story. They grew up in an area that speaks a very strong dialect of German, Swabisch. To imagine how different Swabisch is from Hochdeutsch, the normal German and the type you are taught in school, think about English Cockney. Ever seen the movie Snatch, with Brad Pitt as the gypsy that had to have subtitles because his accent was so thick? Or ever ridden in a London cab? That’s cockney. It, and Swabisch, are so different from their “normal” mother languages that even natives have a hard time understanding it. They saw the baffled look on my face when they started speaking German and quickly laughed at their accents, and tried to speak a bit more Hochdeutsch for me so I could understand and get some practice.

We headed off to the bar, the Hirsch, probably the only bar in town. This was by far one of the coolest bars I’ve ever been to. It’s not a secret that I’m not a fan of clubs or “party bars,” places with flashy lights, loud music, where the entire point is to get as drunk as possible as quickly as possible. I’d much rather find a quieter place to sit around with a few friends, drink a few beers, and have some good conversation. This place fit the bill entirely. There were probably 15 people clustered around three tables, all just hanging out and talking. There wasn’t even really a bartender, just a guy that sorta worked there and sat at the tables too, talking and having a good time. If someone needed something, they’d call his name and he’d go get it for them, then return to sitting and talking. Some people didn’t even bother with this, and would just get up and go behind the bar to get another beer when they needed. Everyone knew everyone else, and people would freely walk from one table to another. I was sitting at a table with Ralf, his sister, and several friends of theirs. Most of them spoke some English, but aside from the occasional thing that them or I couldn’t get out in German/English, we spoke in German. It was good practice for me, and things went surprisingly well. At the end of the night, when we were the last ones there, the bar owner joined us at our table, and we kept on talking and carousing until five in the morning.

All in all, it was one of the best times I’ve had here. It was excellent to get out with some real Germans, hang out and talk and drink some good beer. We’re planning on getting together again when I get back from my Prague/London travels over the next couple of weeks.

January 13, 2006

The Year in Cities

Filed under: Travels, Random — Alex Ravenel @ 5:54 pm

I saw an interesting post on Kottke, The Year in Cities. Here’s my 2005, in cities that I’ve spent the night in:

Charlotte, NC
Chapel Hill, NC
Lansing, NC
Sparta, NC
Charleston, SC
Columbia, SC
Bonneau, SC
London, England
Rome, Italy
Florence, Italy
Venice, Italy
Tübingen, Germany
Stuttgart, Germany
Berlin, Germany
München (Munich), Germany
Nürnberg (Nuremberg), Germany
Colmberg, Germany
Paris, France
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

With study abroad, it’s been a big year for me in terms of travel–though my American travel is noticeably small. I’ll work on that this year…

January 12, 2006

Christmas Trip: New Years

Filed under: Travels, Germany — Alex Ravenel @ 2:38 pm

Note: This post is part of a series:
Christmas Trip: The First Days
Christmas Trip: Venice
Christmas Trip: Rome, Part 1
Christmas Trip: Rome, Part 2

We made it to Stuttgart without any fuss, on what was, despite being a budget flight where all five of us flew for cheaper than the fare for one person from Charlotte to New York, a nicer flight than most of the “big name” ones I’ve been on. A pleasant surprise. We landed in Stuttgart in the early evening, and made our way into town, before getting totally lost trying to find the hotel. Thank goodness for GPS–I don’t think we ever would have found that hotel.

By this time, it was around 9 and we were all hungry, so we headed out to find something to eat. All being tired of German food, and wanting something different than Italian, we wandered into an Arabian restaurant and enjoyed an excellent meal, with an excellent beer (Andechs double bock), and were even treated to a bit of belly dancing–interesting, to say the least.

Not having any plans for the evening, we decided to take it easy and head back to the hotel after dinner. Just at midnight, as we were about to get in bed, we started hearing popping, bangs, whistles, explosions, shouts–looking out the window, we were treated to the most incredible fireworks display I have ever seen. This wasn’t some massive city sponsored show, but was all small, personal fireworks. The kicker was that everyone was shooting tons of them. Everywhere you looked, the horizon was just filled with rainbows of exploding fireworks. From our 5th floor windows, we could see it all, and just sat there, taking it in, for 30 minutes. The street below us was filled with celebrators, and we could see bottle rockets bouncing off cars, people, and buildings–one even hit the window next to me. The sheer number of the fireworks going off overtook any professional display I have ever seen. It was, by far, the best fireworks “show” I’ve ever seen–and maybe even the best New Year’s I’ve ever had.

That was really the end of our trip. The next day, we ambled around Stuttgart’s meager sites, Wilson went ice skating, and then we just hung around. Not much to report on there. The next morning, I caught the train back to Tübingen, and the rest of the family headed to the airport to fly home, thus bringing a close to our Christmas trip.

January 11, 2006

Christmas Trip: Rome, Part 2

Filed under: Travels, Italy — Alex Ravenel @ 9:56 pm

Note: This post is part of a series:
Christmas Trip: The First Days
Christmas Trip: Venice
Christmas Trip: Rome, Part 1
Christmas Trip: New Years

Vatican StatuesThat next morning, we got up early and headed out. Grabbing a quick breakfast at a local cafe, we then boarded the Rome subway and headed over to the Vatican. Coming out of the station and back into the sunlight, we were disheartened to see a massive line, looping around the block, to get entrance to the Vatican museums. Turning down an exorbitantly priced tour that would, however, have gotten us past the line, we decided to head into the Piazza and then Saint Peter’s itself.

Saint Peter'sComing through the line of columns surrounding Piazza San Pietro, I was once again struck by just how huge the Vatican is. The enveloping line of massive columns, four deep, topped with hundreds of statues and the millenia old obelisk in the center are enough to strike one dumb with amazement. Add to that the solid marble mass of the basilica rising at the end of it all, and you have easily the most impressive sight I’ve ever seen in my life–until going inside, that is. We quickly hopped in the line to get inside, moving with surprising quickness through the security line, and then headed into the basilica proper, stopping for a moment to look at the Swiss Guards standing stone still in another entrance.

Swiss Guards, VaticanWe entered the Basilica of Saint Peter, and I was as awed as I had been the first time I’d seen it. Rising to seemingly impossible heights, with ornate decoration covering every surface, the scale and magnificence of the place is unmatched. Everywhere you turn, the sheer size of the basilica astounds; the cherubs on the wall that look small and cute are actually eight feet tall. PietaEvery available surface is covered in decoration, and the sculptures and paintings (now mosaics, replaced to protect the originals) read like a who’s who of Renaissance masters. Michaelangelo’s Pietá, sitting in an alcove all to itself, is predictably crowded by visitors peering at it’s lifelike mastery from behind the bulletproof glass, erected after a vandal attacked the statue with a hammer in 1972.

Saint Peter's, BaldachinoWe continued wandering toward the other end of the church, ending in the center, peering at Bernini’s massive bronze baldachino and the huge dome, the first dome to take the crown from the dome of the Pantheon, which was the largest dome in the world until St. Peter’s. The baldachino, reaching toward the skies, is made of solid bronze, and required so much bronze to make, that they had to melt down the bronze tiles inside the Pantheon to build it after exhausting all of Rome’s bronze supplies. Saint Peter's, InteriorAfter walking around and back down the other side, still gaping at the size of it all, we went back out the front and got into the line to climb to the top of the dome. We waited for about an hour for our chance to climb the dome, but it was all worth it. We filed in around the side of the basilica, climbing to the first level, which affords views into the basilica from the cupola of the dome. Here one realizes just how huge everything is, seeing the size of fellow visitors in comparison to details that looked small from the floor. Saint Peter's, Dome and BaldachinoThen it was back up the staircase towards the top, this time between the interior and exterior wall of the dome, with the walls curving around you and throwing off your balance making it hard to walk. Eventually you come to the top, and are rewarded with expansive views over all of Rome, extending all the way to the snow capped mountains in the distance.

Piazza San PietroFrom there, we headed down and out, deciding that we unfortunately didn’t have the time to wait in line to see the Vatican museums and their treasure troves, which also unfortunately meant that we wouldn’t get to see the Sistene Chapel. Despite my protests, we ate lunch at one of the tourist cafes near the Vatican and ate the most overpriced, poor quality food I’ve had the misfortune to eat, with the worst service I’ve ever had. After discovering that we weren’t about to spring for delights such as their €8 a scoop gelato, they ignored our table, being slow to bring anything we asked. Our glasses were dirty and still had lipstick stains on them, the food was bland, and after waiting for 30 minutes after asking for the check, I had to track down the waiter and demand it from him.

Pantheon DomeNext stop was the Pantheon, just a few blocks away. On the way we stopped to admire Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers, one of the most amazing fountains I’ve ever seen. After I quickly walked around the Pantheon and saw Raphael’s tomb, something I’d somehow missed the last time I was there, we wandered around the corner down a back street to find Della Palma, an excellent gelateria that I had visited last March when I had been here. The gelato was just as spectacular as I remembered. I had four scoops–mandarin orange, strawberry, and two of mango, my favorite gelato flavor. All were incredibly intense, mixing the perfect amount of sweetness and tang, with strong flavors that just exploded in your mouth. Absolutely worth a visit.

ColosseumThe next morning, New Years eve, after yet another spectacular meal in a local trattoria the evening before, we headed to the Colosseum in a light rain. Unfortunately, the Colosseum doesn’t afford much to the repeat visitor, so I somewhat ambled along behind everyone while the others took it all in–though I did notice many more details than I did the last time I was here, when we had been rushed through it. Afterwards, we walked back to our hotel around the corner through the parts of the Roman Forum that had been closed due to the late hour the day before. It’s a very impressive thing to see the incredible engineering that went into these things, two millenia earlier. Once back in our hotel, we packed our bags and caught a shuttle to the airport for the very reasonable sum of €55 for 5 people and bags, all the way to Fiumicino. Not bad at all. The flight to Stuttgart was on the budget carrier German Wings, and was very uneventful, and mercifully short.

As always, more pictures in the photo gallery, and check out my Flickr page for even more…

January 8, 2006

Christmas Trip: Rome, Part 1

Filed under: Travels, Italy — Alex Ravenel @ 11:37 am

Note: This post is part of a series:
Christmas Trip: The First Days
Christmas Trip: Venice
Christmas Trip: Rome, Part 2
Christmas Trip: New Years

The next morning, we had a leisurely breakfast and headed over to the train station to catch our train to Rome. We rode in style, first class the whole way–though not by choice. Unfortunately, when we had gone to the train station to buy our tickets the day before, all of the second class seats on every train to Rome had been sold out. Without any choice, we shelled out the €380 for the tickets. It was quite nice to experience first class, but I maintain that, unlike on a plane, there is little use for first class on a train–second class on trains already has plenty of leg room and comfy seats. The ride itself was uneventful, and we made it into Rome without a hassle.

I had been to Rome once before, last year during spring break as a stop on the way to meeting friends in Florence. The feelings I’d had then upon entering Rome flooded back, and not all of them were good. Immediately upon entering Rome Termini train station, you are bombarded with the essence of Rome. Unbelievably crowded, tens of thousands of people shove and cram their way past you, all moving haphazardly in one direction or the other. Don’t lose sight of the people in your group, it might take you a while to find them again. Keep your hands on your valuables, the pickpockets in Rome are notorious, and immediately upon entering the train station you get the feeling they aren’t an urban myth. You make your way out the main exit of the train station into the parking lot and taxi terminal, to be bombarded by sketchy people selling umbrellas or offering you an illicit taxi. The taxis themselves don’t pick up from a designated point, you must practically fight for one in the only place I’ve ever seen with fewer taxis than people waiting for one. People, seeing the luggage you are carrying and the dumbstruck looks on your faces, will offer to find you one for a small “finder’s fee”–it may or may not be worth it to take them up on the offer. Finally making it into a taxi, you’ve got to make sure not to get ripped off by a driver claiming “thats what it costs.” Rome is intensely sketchy, dirty, overcrowded, but above all, alive, and despite the potential to get ripped off, pickpocketed, or otherwise have a bad experience, it’s a welcome change from the sterile German cities with which I have the most experience.

My foremost impression of Rome is that it is a city of contrasts. Intensely dirty, crowded, and leaving one with the feeling that he could be ripped off at anytime, it is nonetheless a city of intense beauty, a city that moves, breathes, feels alive. Two thousand year old Roman architecture mingles with 17th century Baroque masterpieces in a beautiful, if disjointed, amalgam of building art and mastery. Friendly, sincere Italians mingle with rude, opportunistic ones intent on taking tourists’ money. This abundance of contrasts is what makes Rome what it is, and is the reason I like the place, despite all the negatives I’ve listed. I got this impression last time I was there, and a second visit only served to reinforce that.

Roman ForumWe got checked into the hotel, and, with daylight fading, walked down the street to the Roman Forum. I had walked by part of the Forum on my last visit, while we were on the way to the Colosseum, looming in the distance just down the street, but I had never gotten to actually visit it. This time my Mom, Dad, little brother, and I walked over everything that we could, unfortunately not much as the light was fading fast. I scrambled trying to take as many pictures as I could in the low light, all while admiring the 2000 year old ruins surrounding me, crumbling columns jutting into the air with remnants of their less fortunate neighbors haphazardly littering the ground all around them. The amazing thing is that large parts of it had been buried over and built over, only to be rediscovered a hundred years ago when a neighborhood was torn down to be renovated. While we were walking, I also took the opportunity to look around me and take in the domes of all of the churches all around me on the horizon, the sheer abundance of beautiful architecture astounding me once again.

With the light now totally gone, we headed back to the hotel, and soon, to a small neighborhood trattoria on a nearby sidestreet. We walked in the door, sat at one of the tables, covered in red and white checked tablecloths, and started with a liter of wine and some bruschetta. For dinner, I had Cacio e Pepe, a pasta dish with finely grated cheese and freshly ground pepper on top, while everyone else had various pasta dishes, all of which were uniformly excellent. While we were eating, several accordion players wandered into the restraurant, playing tunes for tips. The first one did reasonably well, collecting tips from most tables; the second had the bad luck to come in 5 minutes after the first left and was promptly chased out by the owner, not wanting his customers to keep having to tip the performers. When we finished, we paid the astonishingly low tab and wandered back up the street and around the corner to our hotel, getting to bed early to get as much rest as possible for the next day–our biggest day in Rome, primary event, the Vatican.

As always, more pictures in the photo gallery, and check out my Flickr page for even more.

January 4, 2006

Christmas Trip: Venice

Filed under: Travels, Italy — Alex Ravenel @ 3:10 pm

Note: This post is part of a series:
Christmas Trip: The First Days
Christmas Trip: Rome, Part 1
Christmas Trip: Rome, Part 2
Christmas Trip: New Years

Venice ColorsWe had reservations the morning of the 27th for a train from Munich straight to Venice. Straight shot, no train changes, and straight through the alps, something we were all looking forward to. We got to the train station with about 30 minutes to spare, and the train pulled in about 20 minutes before departure. We walked the length of the train to the car where we had our seat reservations… Or where it was supposed to be. Car 258, 257, 256…. 255? Wheres 255? Car 255, the car that our seats were in, wasn’t there. The train just stopped at 256, missing a car. What’s more, there were several others in the same predicament. Leaving the family with the luggage on the platform, I walked up to the conductor to ask her if she knew anything about it–sometimes, they add another car in the station. “Don’t know, I think they lost it.” They lost it? Please explain to me how one loses a 20 ton train car. She didn’t seem to know much more than that, so I then pounced on the lone TrenItalia employee walking through the train, who was also being mobbed by others missing their seat reservations.Venice, Small Canal “Excuse me, we have reservations for car 255, and there isnt a car 255.” “Yeah, I know.” “So, is one coming?” “No.” “Um, we paid for reservations–where is the car?” “Dunno, they lost it.” “So then where are we supposed to sit?” “Good question.” At which point he turned around and left. Eventually we had no choice but to board the train, grabbing free seats in the hope that the people that had reservations in them wouldn’t show up. We lucked out, getting an almost empty cabin until about 2 hours away from Venice, when two of us were kicked from our seats and had to move to another cabin further down the car. I asked another employee during the ride what happened to the car, and all I got was a shrug and “kaputt.” I guess that’s what you get for riding on an Italian train.

Venice, GondolasAside from having to spend the whole ride not knowing whether or not we’d be kicked from our seats and have to stand the whole 7 hours, it was an excellent ride. The train took us through the heart of the alps, and we all gawked at the snow covered peaks towering above us the whole way as our train wound its way through the mountains. We eventually got to Venice roughly on time, and checked into our hotel, the Hotel Abbazia. Tucked into a side alley just around the corner from the train station, it was a great little place. Nice rooms, good service, great prices, and the location meant that we didn’t have to schlep our luggage all over Venice. We ate dinner in an excellent trattoria around the corner, gorging ourselves and enjoying the excellently smooth wine. Afterwards, a quick walk to digest, then back to the hotel to rest up for the next day.

Venice, Man and his PigeonsOur plan for the day was to basically just get lost in Venice. We were only there for one full day, and there weren’t any individual sights that we just had to see, so we decided to go more for the experience of Venice, and get ourselves lost. The wonderful thing about Venice is that there are so many side streets and alleys that are off the beaten tourist track. Some of them are so narrow that only one person can walk down them at a time, and if someone else comes, one of them must back out so the other can pass. All of this makes for a wonderful atmosphere. Venice, WindowsThere are also the canals. While the Grand Canal was impressive, the ones I like the best were the small ones, winding their ways lazily through the town, seeing very little traffic. Walking along these canals, especially on the smaller bridges off the main traffic areas, one can imagine the city as it must have been hundreds of years ago. And then there are the colors. Everything seemed to be colored the most beautiful shades, from the pastel buildings to the bright boat covers to the turquoise water. I loved this, and took many photos to capture it.

Saint Mark's Square PigeonsEventually we made our way to Saint Mark’s Square, the main square in town. Everyone would immediately recognize it from countless movies, TV shows, even commercials (think the diamond commercials). Also, the ever present pigeons. As many people were crammed into that square overlooking the lagoon, there were more pigeons. And the pigeons there had become so used to people, that you could almost step on them before they would fly off–and I even saw them landing on several people. Venice, LagoonThere were tons of children running around chasing them, providing plenty of entertainment. We then moved on to walk alongside the lagoon, admiring the views of the buildings on the other side, with the gondolas hawking rides to everyone. This area of town is the main tourist drag, and unfortunately, after seeing the square, there was little else there except for Gucci and Prada stores–nothing any of us wanted to see, though we did see an excellent mime who was looking like a statue and scaring people as they walked by.

Venice, WorkerWe soon made our way back to the other end of town, near our hotel, and ate a very late lunch, filling ourselves again on good food and good wine. After a quick break, my dad, mom, and I went back out so that my mom could look at some of the interesting shops she had seen along the way. I ended up buying a nice black and white photo of the lagoon, and my mom ended up with several pieces of glass jewelry. By then, everything was starting to close, so we headed back to the hotel to rest and get ready for the trip to Rome the next day.

As always, more pictures in the photo gallery, and check out my Flickr page for even more.

January 2, 2006

Christmas Trip: The First Days

Filed under: Travels, Germany — Alex Ravenel @ 5:28 pm

Note: This post is part of a series:
Christmas Trip: Venice
Christmas Trip: Rome, Part 1
Christmas Trip: Rome, Part 2
Christmas Trip: New Years

I made it back to Tübingen this morning after spending the last two nights in Stuttgart. Here’s the first part of the Christmas trip…

Dinkelsbuehl, AlleyThe family got into Tübingen on the 22nd without any troubles. I met them in the airport with Lindsay, who was flying out on the flight they flew in on, and after getting the rental car and getting Lindsay to her gate, we all went to pick up the car from the garage and try to get to Tübingen. I say try because the garage was something of a maze, and trying to figure out the different signs in a car that was about to explode from all the luggage was a bit interesting. Things worked out well though, and after getting onto the autobahn, it was a straight shot into Tübingen.

We got checked into the hotel room at the Hotel am Schloss, a nice little hotel right in the middle of the Altstadt, at the foot of the castle. We got all our bags in the room, and went to walk around the Altstadt. I took them to get a Döner, something they all loved, and then to the coffee/tea/chocolate shop, wine shop, and a few other places, including the castle their hotel room looked out upon. That night, we had an excellent Swäbish dinner at a local restaurant, and then I went back to my dorm room to pack while they went to bed early to sleep off the flight.

The next morning, I went to the hotel to pick them up. We ate breakfast in the hotel, in a nice breakfast room with a view looking over the altstadt and a terrace that would be wonderful to eat on in warmer weather. Then we piled back in the car and got on our way to Colmberg and Rothenburg.

Rothenburg, DoorwayGetting to Colmberg was a surprisingly easy thing to do. Autobahn the whole way, and we made pretty good time. We got to the castle, got checked in, and made a quick tour of the castle before heading onto Rothenburg ob der Tauber. We wandered the medieval streets there for a time, enjoying the Christmas market, drinking our Glühwein, eating our bratwurst, toasted almonds, and crepes, and attempting to go to the medieval torture museum there, only to be thwarted by an early closing time. So we headed back to the hotel and proceeded to eat a most wonderful dinner. Lots of fresh venison, and everyone left the table stuffed.

Dinkelsbuehl, StreetThe next day, we headed back to Rothenburg to see that museum. We wandered there for a couple of hours, and then got back in the car to head to Munich. Rather than taking the interstate the whole way, we decided to go the scenic route and take the Romantic Road, a route that passes through the countryside, winding its way through one medieval town after another. It was definitely the right choice to make, and we enjoyed beautiful scenery the whole way down.

Marienplatz at Night, MunichWe made it Munich in good time, and picked up the keys to our hotel, the Hotel Alcron, from a nearby restaurant since the front desk had closed early. The Hotel Alcron, while not the nicest hotel, has an unbeatable location in the heart of Munich, and the prices are quite affordable as well. There is a wonderfully rickety spiral staircase running up to the whole hotel. That first night, we ate dinner at the Weinhaus Schneider, a small restaurant around the corner from the hotel. We had a wonderful Christmas eve dinner, topped off with good wine and a great chocolate mousse for dessert, in what was one of the best meals of the trip. After the meal, we walked for a bit around Munich, admiring the gothic Neues Rathous in Marienplatz with its massive Christmas tree out front, and eventually ending up at the Frauenkirche, the Church of our Lady, the cathedral in Munich. The bells were ringing loud, signaling the start of the Christmas eve service, and so we wandered inside. There, we sat there and listened to the choir, accompanied by strings, singing through its carols, followed by a bit of the service, with heads craning upwards staring at the rows of massive columns stretching high above our heads. It certainly beat the service back home.

The next day was Christmas. We lazily got up and ate breakfast, then ambled around the town for a while. There is a surprising abundance of large European architecture in Munich, more than one would expect–one doesn’t equate huge architecture like in Paris, Rome, or Vienna with Munich, but it had its fair share. We saw many of the sights, but unfortunately, as it was Christmas, most places were closed. That evening, we ate a nondescript meal at the Wirtshaus zum Straubinger, then walked home, in the falling snow.

MunichThat next day, we had planned on going to see Ludwig’s castle of Neuschwanstein, but as we hadn’t realized that you had to get reservations at least 24 hours in advance, that idea was cancelled. So instead, we went to the Deutsches Museum, the German version of the Smithsonian. Inside are over 10 miles of exhibits, so you definitely had to choose. We visited the aircraft, spacecraft, tunnelling, physics, musical instruments, trains, and, my favorite, bridge building. An extremely interesting museum, and well worth the entire day we spent inside it. And we didn’t even see half of what’s in the place.

The next day, we hopped the train to Venice…

December 29, 2005

Quick Update

Filed under: Travels — Alex Ravenel @ 7:34 am

A quick update–I’m still alive. I’m in Venice with the family, and have just awoken to the sound of church bells ringing. Better than an alarm clock…

I’ll have plenty to post when I get back. I already have a bit written, but I won’t be able to do the images until I get back, so I’m waiting.

I hope everyone had a merry Christmas…

December 23, 2005

A Summary

Filed under: Travels — Alex Ravenel @ 8:09 am

Christmas is fast approaching, and with it, the visits of my girlfriend and then family. Lindsay got here last Friday, and was here until Thursday when my parents arrived. With the family, we will be travelling to Munich, Venice, and Rome. As such, posting will be very sparse, if it comes at all, until the new year. In the meantime, I’ve compiled this list of travel posts I have made since the site started. Enjoy!

Burg Colmberg, Rothenberg
A Bit More About Berlin

Happy Holidays, everyone…

December 10, 2005


Filed under: Travels, Germany — Alex Ravenel @ 7:33 am

Nuremberg ChristkindlmarktOn Thursday morning, I got up early again and hopped on another train, this time to Nuremberg. I wanted to see the Christkindlmarkt, the Christ Child Market, Nuremberg’s world famous Christmas market. I got there about 12:15, and after checking into the hostel, headed out, stopping on the way to get some Nuremberg bratwurst, a smaller and more heavily spiced version than a “normal” bratwurst. Nuremberg ChristkindlmarktI was very much in the mood for taking a lot of pictures, and so wandered around, camera in hand, seeing what caught my eye. There more than plenty, with the colorful stalls overflowing with their Christmas wares, all sorts of ornaments and carvings, and the various German Christmas foods, Glühwein and Lebkuchen. There were many people out as well, and I had no shortage of subjects to photograph.

Saint Sebalduskirche, NurembergI headed into one of the churches, the Saint Sebalduskirche. Like most of Nuremberg, it was destroyed during the second world war, but rebuilt using as much of the original stone as possible. While not the most impressive church I’ve ever seen, the inside was filled with a veritable treasure trove of interesting nooks, with carvings and paintings, and all sorts of other things decorating the place.

View from the Castle, NurembergFrom there it was on to the castle. Unfortunately much of it was closed for some reason, but the museum with it’s collection of medieval armor and weapons was still open, as was the main tower. I climbed the stairs to the top, and was rewarded with a splendid view over old Nuremberg, enclosed in its rebuilt city walls, encompassing its castle, churches, and cobbled lanes. The view was aided by the castle’s location, perched on a small plateau overlooking the city.

Christkindlmarkt, NurembergThat evening, it was back to the Christkindlmarkt. Christmas markets are totally transformed at night, with the lights and the crowds walking around, a choir singing on the stage, and the trees all lit up. I sipped a glass of glühwein and wandered from stall to stall. Unfortunately it was hard to take pictures thanks to the low light, so I put the camera away and just enjoyed the experience. Afterwards, I headed into a bar and sampled a Rauchbier from Bamberg, a beer where the hops are smoked before being added to the brew, giving the whole beer a rich smokey flavor. On the way back to the hostel, I stopped to listen to a violinist on the street playing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. He was extremely talented, nailing every one of the difficult violin progessions in the pieces. His violin case, open in front of him, was full of money, and not just the normal 10 and 20 cent pieces–I saw several €20 bills in it, and a mass of other bills and larger coins.

Reichsparteigelaende, NurembergThe next morning, I headed to the Reichsparteigelände, the infamous Nazi Party Rally Grounds everyone knows from the images of the massive ranks of troops all hailing Hitler like a God. The grounds were bombed heavily during the war, and so there isn’t much left of them. Much of it has been turned into parks and such now, but enough remains to get a good view of what they were. Make sure to check out the pictures, I have a comparison of what they are now to what they used to be.

As always, there are tons more pictures in the photo gallery. Check them out. You can work your way through them chronologically starting here.

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