Tuesday, February 21, 2006

2006 Winter Olympics: Torino, Italy

This weekend actually started off here in Berlin when I told Pablo that I'd go with him and his friends clubbing on Friday. Apparently it was the best drum & bass party of the year at this club called Watergate, which overlooks the Oberbaum Brücke, and the entry fee was 10€. (Expensive by Berlin standards.) I'd said that I would only stay until 2, the latest at 2:30, because I had to wake up early to get to the airport. Well, go figure, I stayed longer and actually enjoyed the drum & bass floor more than the "mainstream" floor. To my complete surprise, I was pretty much dancing (or rather, bouncing) the entire time, whether because I wanted to, or to avoid some people (whose names will not be mentioned, but Alex, you know who I mean if you're reading this).

I left Watergate at around 4 a.m, walked home, got in the shower (couldn't go to sleep all gross!), and went to bed by 4:30-5 a.m. I woke up at 8:45 a.m. in order to eat breakfast, make sure I had all my things packed, and got to the airport. I had a layover at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris and the weather was pretty crappy, but all went smoothly and I got to Torino on time where I met up with Hugo and his friend Elizabeth.

As soon as we got into the city, we rushed off to pick up our tickets and then rushed off again so that Hugo and I could get to our hockey game on time. When we got to the arena, the game was only 4 minutes into the first period and it was already loud, packed, and full of energy. Hugo and I kept exclaiming to each other that it was unbelievable that we were actually there in Torino at the hockey game. We had been planning the hockey game for over a year already!

The game was pretty awesome, mostly due to the energy from the fans. There were lots of, "Settle down, boys!," "Stop being so sloppy!," and "What the fuck?!" from the Americans. (I didn't understand the Slovakian fans) From me, I kept shouting in German: "Nein!!!," "Was macht ihr?!," and "Verdammt Scheiss!" (I concluded that it was much more expressive, and well, it just came out in German, except for the times that I was shouting, "Yeaaah!!") I have to admit, both teams seemed to be a bit sloppy, but especially the Americans. There were times when it seemed that players forgot they had the puck, just didn't look up to see a pass coming, or just passed it way out yonder or to the Slovakians.

Too bad there isn't a website "overheardattheolympics.com." (If you don't know what I'm referring to, check this website out now. It's hilarious.) At the hockey game, some of the best quotes included a guy on his cell phone ("Dude! Are you watching TV now? The US vs. Slovakia game? Yeah! I'm there, man! I'm AT the Olympics! I'm behind the American bench! Well, no, farther up. But I'm there, man!") and another guy behind us ("Um, I'm already drunk. It's only the first period, isn't it?"). I'm sure some of the stuff that Hugo and I said were pretty ridiculous. We tried doing some Middlebury cheers (Tiny Bubbles and the one when we win), but we couldn't remember all of Tiny Bubbles. (Beer = cheer, Gin = win, that's all we remembered).

After the hockey game, we went to meet up with Devin, except that it didn't really happen. Hugo got us really lost and we wound up near the Olympic Village for the athletes, when Devin was by the Sponsors Village. Two hours later than we had said, we finally met at the train station Porta Nuova. We were supposed to meet up with Hugo's other friends who were in 2 other groups, but that just didn't happen. Time went by rather quickly, and by the time we knew it, it was too late to get the last trains and too early to get the first trains out to Sangano, where we were staying with a family. I was exhausted and admittedly cranky since I was running on 4 hours or less of sleep. Hugo, Devin, and I decided to just sit and hang out in the train station for a little bit, then we met up with one group of his other friends. We finally got a train at around 5 a.m., got back to where we were staying and went to sleep at 7 a.m. (Yup, a 23 hour day for me.)
Porta Nuova, the train station, with the Olympic Rings

Devin and Hugo had said they were going to wake up early, but I knew it wasn't going to happen. We ended up getting up at 1 p.m. and getting into Torino by around 2:30/3 pm, where we tried figuring out train tickets out to Sauze d'Oulx, where the freestyle skiing was taking place. (It's rather close to the French border.) That took up more time than we expected, so instead of wandering the city as we had planned, we grabbed some food quickly and got on the train.

The ride out to Sauze d'Oulx was about 45 minutes, and then an additional 30 minutes by bus up the mountain. When we got there, it was snowing pretty hard, and when neared the actual venue, we were told that the event was postponed until 8:30 pm. We found a small bar that was relatively empty and drank some hot drinks, but then heard that the event was postponed even more. Finally, we actually got word that due to the heavy snowfall, the event was to be rescheduled for Tuesday, 21 February. It was disappointing, since Devin and I were flying back here to Berlin on Monday, and Hugo and Elizabeth had to go back to Ferrara for classes. Elizabeth and I trekked back down to the venue to see if anything could be done about a refund, where we got the last forms in English to get it.

Everyone had to leave the mountain since almost no one was staying there. It was rather chaotic trying to stay together and not get seperated, but we managed. (Devin's quote: "I think we just got seperated from our peeps.") The buses were boarded and people were in lines for the next buses to come, but nothing was moving. No traffic was coming or going. Word got around that the climb down the mountain was only 30 minutes. Devin, Hugo, Elizabeth, and I decided that we might as well walk, since the traffic wasn't moving and it didn't seem that we were going to get a bus.

First of all, the walk down was way longer than 30 minutes. It took us 2 hours to get walk to the train station. What we didn't realize was the mountain was 1,509 meters high (or 4,950 feet). Additionally, it took a little longer than expected because there was snow and nobody wanted to fall. The whole experience felt like a disaster movie with loads of people walking by stuck cars, or it felt like a zombie movie because there were points where there just lots of people walking in the dark. Then suddenly there would be one shining light, and everyone was just surprised to see there was light.

It was pretty beautiful walking down. The mountains eerily rose out of the darkness and were these huge gray masses with very little light. Looking up from where we had walked from, there were bright lights illuminating the whisps of cloud and outlining the crowds of people walking down. Additionally, we walked through one or two very small mountain towns that were very rustic and Italian. I have several pictures up on my Flickr account and you can view all my pictures from Torino as a slideshow, if you want.

So all in all, Sunday was spent trying to get an event that didn't even happen, but it still made for a fun experience. On Monday, we actually woke up early (7 a.m.) and got into Torino by 9:30 so that we could explore. We first went to go see the Shroud of Turin at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. We had kept making jokes all weekend that this was the one damn thing in Turin that we had to see, and it had better not be a disappointment, like a giant piece of toilet paper or something. We only could see a replica of it with pictures of it x-rayed underneath, and then way up front, the Shroud was in a case of aluminum and glass lying horizontally. I could see how it sort of looked like Jesus, but as an atheist, I wasn't that convinced, though it was pretty remarkable to see. (I personally thought it looked like a big tablecloth with a big coffee stain on it that happened to look like Jesus. Not that I'm saying it's real or not. That's just my perception of what it looked like to me.)

After the Shroud, we went to go see La Mole Antonelliana, which was a synagogue at one point and is currently the highest point in Turin. Unfortunately, the elevator to the panaromic view was closed because it was Monday. La Mole is basically that thing that you see in all the Visa ads with a ski jumper going past it. Devin and Hugo kept saying that it looked like a large stump coming out of a dome. I suppose that's one way you could describe it.

La Mole Antonelliana

Next, we went and got some food near the Sponsors Village, where this huge plastic thing that Devin described as an Aggro Crag. (Yes, that thing from that show Guts on Nickelodeon.) I forgot to take a picture of it. After lunch, Devin had to leave to catch a train to Milan, where her flight back was leaving from. Hugo, Elizabeth, and I went into the Sponsors Village to see if we could buy anything, but it turned out that the huge Olympic store was in some plaza a bit farther out than I could go, since I had to catch a bus to the airport for my flight. However, we did see past Olympic torches on display there. The three of us departed at the Sponsors Village and I walked back to a smaller Olympic store closer to the Medals Plaza. I came to the conclusion that there wasn't anything worth buying, so I didn't spend any money.

I was actually awake for part of from Torino to Paris. The view from the plane was stunning and I had to take some pictures of the Alps. After that, I actually fell asleep so deeply after not getting much sleep in Torino that the only thing that woke me was when the plane landed. I had to admit that I was relieved to get back to Berlin, if only because the public transportation here is so much more reliable.

The view of the Alps from the plane from Torino to Paris

The rest of the week will be devoted to resting up from the Olympics and getting ready for Karneval in Düsseldorf and Köln. From what I hear, it'll be.....interesting.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Die Berlinale, Olympische Spiele und andere Ereignisse

Right now I'm feel exhausted even though I haven't done anything extraordinary today. However, I am finished with all of my papers and classes, so I can finally say, "The semester has officially come to an end." Technically it ends tomorrow when I email all my papers in, but whatever. I haven't been doing anything for the past two days.

Actually, there is one thing that has been going on since 9 February, which is the Berlin Film Festival (aka "Die Berlinale"). Christian, Pablo, and I wanted to go see V for Vendetta and Syriana, but both sold out before we got tickets. I wound up seeing Roman Holiday on my own and it was pretty lucky that I even got a ticket. I had gone to the ticket booth over in the Potsdamer Platz Arkaden expecting that it wouldn't be sold out, but I was wrong. I decided to go to the venue (which was literally across the street) and see if I could somehow get a ticket there. I was standing on the line when a guy approached me and asked, "Willst du eine Karte für Roman Holiday?" to which I answered, "Ja, gern! Danke schön!" I bought it off him for the same price he bought it for (7€) and got the chance to see the movie on a real movie screen. Additionally, there was a guy from Paramount Pictures who had helped do the digital restoration of the print that was being shown and he introduced the film. That was really fascinating.

This weekend I'm flying to Turin for the Olympics. I'm looking forward to it, but at the same time, I'm a bit nervous. I don't know why, but I'm just crazy like that. It's kind of sad because I haven't really been able to watch the Olympics. Ok, I'll admit the reason why is because I can never find them on TV. (Call me stupid.) Plus, I never watch TV, so I never know when they're on. If you're watching the Olympics this weekend and watch a hockey game (USA vs. Slovakia) or women's quarterfinals for aerials, I'll be there.

"Andere Ereignisse" that have been going on: Christian and I found a new roommate to take Pablo's room when Pablo moves out. It turns out that Pablo isn't moving back home to Köln, rather, he's moving in with Julian (his friend) and staying here in Berlin. It makes me a little sad because Pablo and I have had some good times recently, having a good laugh. He asked if I could make pancakes (last night I made brownies from scratch) because apparently he likes pancakes, so I did. But yeah, he moves out on February 28, when I'm in Düsseldorf.

The new roommate that Christian and I "chose" is named Valentin. The reason why I put chose in quotes is because we chose him by default. Three people came to see the apartment, the two that we liked better took other apartments, and that left Valentin. When he came to see the apartment, Christian and I agreed that he seemed to have no personality. But whatever, it's for two months when Heike comes back and then I'll move into Pablo's room (which is actually Krischan's). I still haven't decided if I'm going to stay through August or not.

The last thing that happened is that last Friday Alex and Meredith left to start spring semester at Middlebury. I helped Alex pack up her life into some bags and shit, it was a lot. I'm posting a picture of Meredith and Alex's stuff combined at Tegel. It's been really bizarre this past week without being able to constantly call Alex and say stupid stuff, such as, "You need to see this mullet on the U-bahn right now," or, "Oh God, I just ran into (insert name here) and it sucked." Additionally, I've been over by Meredith's U-bahn stop and it's strange to think, "Wow, I don't know anyone that lives here anymore."

The other thing is that when Alex and I were taking a cab to the hotel that we all stayed in near the airport, I thought to myself how I am so incredibly glad that I am staying here for the year. I was filled with various emotions, from jealousy (dining halls, classes in English, familiarity) to sadness (no more rolling over and making calls on the weekends to hear that I'm not the only one wallowing in bed) to content/relief (that I'm staying the year).

Right now I think it's just readjusting to the fact that I have fewer friends here and have to wait until the other MiddKids get here. Then again, I'll be traveling for the next five weeks (which means I will be updating my blog less frequently).

Oh, and another event (but completely mundane) is that I cut my own hair. It turned out really well, even though it was my first time cutting it myself. Just thought I'd like to tell everyone that. Go me.

Currently listening to "Tremenda Expectativa" by Dan Den. Yes, Latin music rocks.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Computer Problems, Deep Frozen Hot Dogs, Mushy Stuff, & Weimar

Well, I haven't updated this thing in awhile, mostly because my computer has been out of commission for the past three weeks. I had given a presentation for my comics course and used my computer for a Power Point presentation. It started to freak out in the middle of the presentation (to which I muttered, "Fuck!" Not good.) and then it just stopped working. The screen would remain black while the rest of the computer whirred normally. I had to take it to the Apple Center here and damn, they suck in comparison to the service in the U.S. Just a tip, kids: If you want stuff done here in Germany, it'll take a long time. "Service is a desert" (Dienst ist eine Wüste) is one of the sayings they have here that Christian told me. I concur.

Anyhow, that's the first part of the update. To explain the "deep frozen hot dogs" part really quickly: Pablo bought these deep frozen hot dogs from Plus two weeks ago. They're disgusting. It's a frozen hot dog on a frozen bun with ketchup, cheese, bacon, pickles, and possibly some sauerkraut frozen on top of it. I was in disbelief that he would actually eat it and his reasoning was, "But I want to try it at least once!" (They came in packs of two.) I know the picture is blurry, but I had to take it without a flash, otherwise you wouldn't be able to see the glory of the disgusting frozen hot dog. I also told Pablo, "Man, Americans put a lot of junk into their bodies, but you wouldn't be able to pay me to eat that!" To top it off, he threw it into the microwave to heat it up. Microwaved stuff is always mushier than if you put it into the oven.

Speaking of mushy...My embarassing moment of the week. I had made a tiramisu this past weekend using a recipe from my sister and it turned out really well. We ate it only after it sat in the refrigerator for an hour or two and put the rest back into the fridge. The next day, there was enough that Christian and I were just like, "Well, we'll just eat the rest out of the pan." (Actually, there was a lot, which I, the fat ass that I am, mostly ate.) I pulled the pan out of the fridge and said to him, "Hey, the tiramisu is firmer as yesterday. It's not as mushy." He looked at me and said, "What did you say?" I replied in German, "Die Tiramisu ist stärker heute. Es ist nicht so....um, mushy. Wie sagt man 'mushy' auf deutsch?" He started snickering at me and said, "Weisst du, was 'mushy' auf deutsch bedeutet?" I probably looked utterly confused because he started cracking up. I repeated myself, "The tiramisu isn't so mushy today!" He laughed even more and through his laughing, managed out the reason why it was so funny: "Mushy in German is slang for a woman's vagina!" I was so embarrassed, but hey, how am I supposed to know that? So to make things better, I just repeated myself. "The tiramisu isn't mushy....auf deutsch oder auf englisch!"

Statue of Goethe and Schiller in front of the theater in Weimar

The last order of business to tell about is our little trip to Weimar two and a half weeks ago. It was the trip to hell. Seriously. Weimar is a cute little city as you can see by the many, many photos I took there. However, there is nothing to do after 4 pm when the museums close. There is no nightlife whatsoever, probably because Weimar is filled with little old German people. And even with the museums open during the day, they're tiny. Devin and I went to the Bauhaus and Schloss Museums and we managed to go through both of them in their entireties (is that a word?) in about 4 hours total.

I have to say, though, that the highlight of the trip was Friday night dinner in a restaurant with almost the entire program there, including those from Mainz (meaning, one student and Oliver Strauss, our TA from freshmen year). We sat at these round tables that were brought together and it was a bit strange because down at one end of the table, Kevin, Zoey, Meredith, Alex, and I were having a very nice conversation. In the middle, Oliver, Franziska, and Devin were having a nice chat. Then at the other end, it was just awkwardly silent. Dessert came around, and while reaching for her dessert from the waitress, the Mainz student knocked over Bill's tall half liter glass of beer which shattered and spilled beer onto Heike, the program director.

One other highlight of the excursion worth mentioning was that we went to Buchenwald, which was a concentration camp only 8 kilometers from Weimar. It was ridiculously miserable weather: cold, gray, cloudy, snow, and wind. We walked around while Heike told us some information, but pretty much everyone was miserable because of the weather (and the fact that it's not exactly a happy place to be). Devin, Zoey, Meredith, Alex, and I ran off as soon as we could so we could get back to Weimar and sit in a warm cafe. We felt a little guilty for leaving earlier than everyone else, but we were not pleased at all to be standing around in the cold. I think Meredith was the only one who had two pairs of pants on, too.

Alex, Meredith, Zoey, Devin, and me looking miserable after spending too much time outside at Buchenwald.

So now it is nearing the end of the (first) semester and I am definitely looking forward to it. I've finished writing one paper, which I actually wrote by hand because I didn't have my computer. I have to see one more film for film history and write my paper for my French Revolution course. (And frankly this paper is going to kill me. It just doesn't want to be written.) At the end of it all, I will be going to Turin, Italy for the 2006 Olympics (what what!) for a weekend, and then Ethel is coming. We're going to Düsseldorf and Köln (Cologne) for 3 days for Karneval, and then we're heading off to Prague. It'll be a busy month. Oh, and then Alex and Meredith are leaving next week. Time flies.

I also have a ton of pics up on Flickr from Weimar if you want to see more of them.