Wednesday, September 21, 2005
All through the city we munched on turingers and raspberries. It seems the favored foods were fruit and sausage, so we obliged. We eventually hit the Hofbrauhaus, since, well, it’s the ****ing Hofbrauhaus! You can’t go to Munich and not go there. While we were chilling and playing 2s and 10s over a liter and a half of beer, a couple guys came over and started talking to us. They were originally from Brazil, had lived in England, and were now living in Switzerland, but were currently in Germany for Oktoberfest. Got that? Anyway, they looked very shady, but were absolutely hilarious. They complained about how boring Switzerland was, and how they came to Germany for the beer and German women. Then they said that the way to make Germans happy is to yell loud and incoherently and hold up your beer and everyone around you will do the same. We did this, and it worked!
After the Hofbrauhaus, we headed to Oktoberfest. I can now say I have seen 100.000 drunk people in one place. It was hilariously awesome. We met up with a couple people who took the bus and hung out with them and a couple locals we met there. More beer was consumed from liter steins, cuz hey, it’s OKTOBERFEST! We had a grand old time singing and yelling incoherently so that others would too. We then made it back to the cloister. (On the subway on the way back, there was a drunken German woman who started talking to us about how much Bush sucked. That was amusing.)
The next morning, Justin and I woke up early and left for the train station, and after the travel agent tried to send us to Lendzberg, instead of Luxembourg, we got on the right train, and had a loooooooooong uneventful train ride home.
Monday evening we went to see the Luxembourg Philharmonic. Luxembourg just built a new concert hall with tax money and it is magnificent. Very much modern-art looking, but still very good looking. Inside the “Big Hall” is absolutely incredible. The box seats are in like towers, and the entire place just looks like a million bucks. The organ is incredible. There’s a concert with an organ symphony and an organ concerto that I now MUST go to. We get 40 free tickets every week, and all you do is sign up and you can go. Daryl, John, and I put on our suits, tied our ties (that was difficult) and headed to the Chateau where a bus was to drive us to the hall. They played Brahms, a violin concerto and a symphony. Both pieces were good, not spectacular, but very good. Unfortunately, Justin’s roommates, who both use air by breathing that could be put to much better use than sustaining their lives, were obnoxiously loud during the entire thing. They had gotten drunk beforehand, and then took a flash picture, talked the whole time, and were flipping through pictures on their digicam with the sound on. I wanted to kill them. However, other than that, it was a very good show.
Tuesday we decided to be French, so Justin, Meredith and I hit up Match, bought a baguette, cheese, and red wine, and headed to Lux City. We went down the 8469872352698379132741692387416 stairs to the valley that surrounds the city and ate and drank and talked about all sorts of nerdy subjects from the German elections to Lord of the Rings.
Next week is field study! Wiemar, Krakow, and Prague, here we come!
Monday, September 19, 2005
Monday, September 12, 2005
Well this past weekend was supposed to have been Amsterdam, however, there was a computer conference or something there, and there were zero hotel rooms. Unlike some others who wanted to go (and went) we did not feel like waiting until we were there and then trying to find somewhere to stay. So that trip was put on hold.
Friday we stayed in Differdange, and met a couple friends at Little Miami. While we were there, some 8 or 10 people in their 20s showed up and Raymond introduced them to us. They were in an international masters program that also is located in Differdage. They have 23 people of 14 different nationalities in the program. Talking politics and anything else with them was very interesting, since you could get a take from a number of different nationalities.
Saturday we made our way down to Gravenmacher in the Moselle valley. They had a wine festival this weekend. There was marching and music and some awesome turingers and mettwursts. Also, the Czech marching team (a dozen VERY good looking Czech women) was a good show. The fireworks over the Moselle River that night were absolutely incredible. By far the best show I have ever seen, and John and Daryl agreed with that. They had every kind that normal shows have, plus they shot some in the water that then exploded and kept going off; so many things that were just incredible.
The next day was the Guy Tour. He took us on his own tour of the Grand Duchy. The coolest part was probably when he stopped in the middle of a huge vineyard. It was on a hill and had a fantastic view of the Moselle Valley. There are pictures in my webshots. The grapes were good too; we just picked and ate them. He also took us to the Chateau Beaufort, a really cool castle, of which there will be pictures on webshots at some point. Then we toured the Bernard Massard Wine cellar/winery/cave. This is the second biggest winery in the Moselle, and it had a really cool slide show to begin the tour. It wasn’t as romantic as the Mondavi winery, all the tanks were steel or concrete, not wood. The crazy part was seeing all the individual bottles of wine fermenting to become crémant. (Due to copyright crap, no longer is all sparkling wine called Champagne, only those from the Champagne area are, therefore, Moselle sparkling wine is generally called crémant.) The most famous of their crémants is the Cuvee de l’Ecusson. Guy designed a custom MUDEC label for this crémant, and they put it on bottles for a ceremony at MUDEC a few years back. It took him a long time to convince them to do it, but they finally did, and now MUDEC orders ~200 bottles of the custom labeled crémant every year. They also made a raspberry flavored sparkling wine, called Royal Framboise, and I chose that for the tasting at the end and it was exquisite. This is one of Guy’s favorite Caves, so he has a lot of their wines and crémants in his personal wine cellar.
After the tour, we went to Guy’s parents’ house. We had met them the night before at Guy’s house, and they invited us there. They absolutely stuffed us with pasta and meat sauce. I could not eat any more, and then they brought out a pie. I have never been so full in my life. His dad was hilarious, downing beer, wine, and vodka at a rate that should have had him unable to stand, and the more he drank, the better his English got. He was… bombastic would have to be the word. He also thought he looked like John Wayne, which is a stretch, and the duke would have to gain 100 pounds.
This coming weekend was supposed to be the makeup Amsterdam trip, but Daryl got an email from the monks he and John stayed with in München this summer, saying we could have a free room this weekend. So this weekend is München and Oktoberfest!
Thursday, September 08, 2005
At the pseudo request of Herr Andrew Lewis, I will now elaborate on the food, wine, and beer, which it seems I didn’t talk enough about in previous posts. But first, a language lesson. Moien means “hi!” in Luxembourgish if you hadn’t already guessed. It is derived from “morgan”, which is the German word for morning. However, “moien” is not a greeting to be used only in the morning, it can be used any time of day, as it means “hi” or something similar. The only other Luxembourgish word that I know and know how to use is goodbye, which in Luxembourgish is Adee (Im not sure on the spelling of that one, but it is pronounced “ah-DEE”.) This is an obvious derivation of the French “adieu”, and not much more needs to be said about that.
On to the food. Most of what I eat is either with Guy, or at the Chateau. At the Chateau we get lunch vier days a week. Thus far, every meal has been quite good. It is generally some type of meat or chicken, some type of vegetable, and some potato, bread or noodles. The meat is very good, and they haven’t repeated a meal yet, though I imagine that won’t last. There is also soup every day, but there has yet to have been soup that was all that great. Quick aside: the system for getting food for lunch is absolutely HORRIBLE. Lunch is only open for about an hour, during which all 130 students plus staff have to eat. You get your food from a single window. This leads to slow moving lines that have half of MUDEC in them. Once you have your main course and soup, you move to the dining hall where there is milk and water to drink, a basket of bread, and a salad bar. With the whole student body in our main hall, there is just about every seat filled. As much as we would all like it, there is no Bofferding on tap at the Chateau. Alcohol is not allowed on the premises unless MUDEC is serving it.
Meals with Guy are better, however. These meals, with the exception of the first one, which was like a gourmet meal with multiple courses, including zwei entire chickens, are quite simple. Despite this simplicity, I probably like them even more than I did the big gourmet meal. Last night, for example, as the main dish, we cooked up a dozen scrambled eggs with pepper and spices in them, ate that, and then got to the best part. Every meal, guy puts out on the table a pile of bread, butter, and a bunch of different sausages and cheeses. We have, on occasion, spent at least an hour at this part of the meal, just throwing random combinations of food on the bread and chowing down. One of my favorite things to do, discovered during a late night refrigerator raid a few days back after a night at a nearby Portuguese bar, is to take a BabyBell, wrap it in salami, and enjoy, as I feel my arteries clogging. I should explain what a BabyBell is, seeing as it is one of the best discoveries I have made, food-wise. A BabyBell is a round chunk of cheese about eins centimer thick and zwei or drei centimeters around. It tastes sort of like mozzarella, but not nearly the exact same, since it tastes better. They come wrapped in plastic, but under the plastic they are in a wax shell. Once you take that shell off, you just bite into it and enjoy. That probably doesn’t sound as good as it really is, but I hope you at least have an idea of what I am talking about. Another integral part of every dinner with Guy is the wine. He is quite the wine connoisseur, and there is a different wine for every meal. He uses the correct glass for the type of wine and matches it to what we are eating.
The grilled sausages here, be they mettwurst, turbinger, bratwurst, whatever, are all just amazing. They also tend to be bigger than the ones back home, easily half-again the length. I have also had the opportunity to have some pizza here, made in the European style, which is surprisingly good. It only takes 5-10 minutes for them to make the pizza, as the crust is very thin, as indeed the whole pizza is. It also helps that all cheese here is awesome, so that is better as well. The most common topping is jambon (ham), and it is very good.
Breakfast at Guy’s is kind of a take what you want affair. He generally has eggs in the fridge if we want to make them, though I never have time for that. The usual breakfast is bread with butter, cheese, or his homemade applesauce on top. He has an apple tree in back, and he takes the apples, cuts them up, cooks them, and makes a delicious apple sauce. The apples are good on their own as well; last time he was making the sauce, he gave us some of the cut pieces and they were very good. We are not talking crab apples here. For something to drink in the morning, he has a seemingly unlimited supply of this brand of juice that has a number of different flavors (orange, tropical, etc) that are all good. There is also a fruit basket for us to grab something out of if we want it.
So that’s the food situation, any questions?
On to the beer. There are four major Luxembourgish beers, in order of popularity, or at least how common they are: Bofferding, Mousel, Battin, and Diekrich. You can tell what the café/bar serves easily, since whatever beer they serve will invariable have a sign out front as well as signs in the windows and awnings and wherever else they can fit the name and colors. The beer brand sign is generally larger than the sign saying what the café is called. You will not find American beers in bars or cafes. The closest you get to what you are used to is common imports, such as Corona or Heineken. I have thus far refused to drink something I can get back home. I have had the first three beers I listed above and Battin was probably the best, though I have had the most of Bofferding, due to its overwhelming popularity. I have heard that Diekrich is the best, but seeing as it is the least common, I haven’t tried it yet.
At a newly opened Irish pub the other night, they had €1 drafts to celebrate the opening. Naturally, half of MUDEC was there that night, after the host family reception. Guy gave us a ride there, and we arrived in our suits. We were overdressed for the reception and we were now incredibly overdressed for a bar. I was told by the bartender (this being an Irish pub, he was Irish) that I looked like a Jehovah’s Witness or an insurance salesman. At least I was without a tie, John even had a tie on, and he looked even more ridiculously overdressed. The bartenders were so overworked and stressed out that at one point they gave us a couple beers on the house. They told John “Here, on the house, go away.” Just to keep from having to deal with money. It was so crazy that half of us were outside the bar on the sidewalk and street. I ended up walking away with a 40cL Bofferding glass in my pocket, so that night was a success.
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
I left off last time with the trip to Nancy, and the night that followed. As a disclaimer, I realize that writing about every day would be nuts, and I do not plan on doing that, however, the first few days, with all orientation and trips, and no class, are packed with things to do and write about. Therefore, I write about every day. Onward!
Today was a couple more boring speeches, then Luxembourg City. (As a side note, Luxembourgers call it either Luxembourg or “the city”, not Luxembourg City. As Crici explained, it’s the only real city in Lux, so calling it as such is perfectly fine.) We first toured Differdange for about 10 minutes, saw nothing I hadn’t already seen on Guy’s tour, and it was on to the train station for a 40 minute ride to the city. (As another side note, the public transportation in Europe is amazing, the trains are nice, they run EXACTLY on time, and the buses are the same. As an added bonus, students get a Jumbo-Kaart(Jumbo Pass), 50 euros for unlimited rides on all Lux public transportation.) Anyway, we got to Lux, and it is frankly the most incredible city I have been ever seen. Words cannot describe it. Look at the pictures on webshots, and you still will not have any idea how incredible this city is. It is a medieval castle and fortress, turned into a city. I have not the writing skill nor the vocabulary to describe what makes this city so special. I am going to stop trying, since all I can do is make it sound much less special than it really is.
Once the tour was over, I wandered through the city, deliberately lost for an hour or two, just seeing what there was to see, knowing I had a map in my pocket and could find where I was quite easily. I wandered down partially into the valley on the outskirts of the city and sat quietly with a Sprite, people watching and relaxing. I eventually went back to the train station where I found an English language newspaper, and was absolutely astounded to find what had happened since I had been gone. Apparently, as soon as I leave, an entire section of the country descends into anarchy. I wandered into a few MUDECers and we were sitting at a café reading this and barely believing it. Eventually they headed to some bar and I headed over to the train station to meet up with John, Daryl, Justin, and Guy. We then headed to the fair, which I will not try in Luxembourgish. Guy made us go on a ride that made me cry, then we headed off for some mettwursts that must have been a good foot long and oh so delicious. We continued to wander around the fair, going on rides, munching on the food and drink that was available, then went to the train station to go home. We missed our train by 15 seconds, and decided to try to make a connection by taking another train. That didn’t work, since it was too late for the trains to run normally, so we ended up taking a taxi back to Oberkorn. When we got back we planned on going to bed, but Guy suggested a card game, and that turned into 2 hours of cards before we finally crashed to end a fun and long day.
The final day was the “War Tour” for my group. We headed to the American Military cemetery outside Luxembourg for the first part. It was spectacular. The memorial was very impressive, a large obelisk type building in the middle that had a memorial, along with slabs of rock with maps of the war and explanations of the liberations of Luxembourg by the Americans. The cemetery itself was Arlington Jr. There were rows of crosses, in no particular order of rank or seniority, merely alphabetical. The only grave set apart from the others was Patton, due mainly to the large number of people that come to see it. Another interesting feature was that instead of crosses, Jewish soldiers had a Star of David. The next stop was the German cemetery, which was accessed through a trail through some woods, then through a small stone doorway. The cemetery itself was smaller, hainvg been purchased by the Germans, whereas the Luxembourg government donated the land to the Americans. There were more German dead however, so each cross represented 4 soldiers. There was also a large mass grave in the back, something else the Americans didn’t have. The American headstones said “Here rests in honored glory, a comrade in arms known but to God” for unknown soldiers, whereas the german headstones said “Ein Deutscher Soldat”, literally, “A German Soldier”. At times, there would be two unkown soldiers with the same cross, so it would just say “Zwei Deutsche Soldaten” or “Two German Soldiers”.
This was the last part of our orientation, so there was a group dinner planned at an Italian restaurant outside Lux City. Raymond Manes, our intrepid guide for the day, decided that we should take the scenic walk to the restaurant, instead of the bus dropping us in front of it. There followed a 45+ minute walk that had to be 4 or 5 kilometers. Once we got there, however, things quickly got better. The dinner was excellent, the tiramisu for dessert was even better. We probably pissed off the whole restaurant, however, since 50-60 Americans in one place become incredibly loud. Regardless, a good time was had by all, and we got back to the chateau without further incident, and went to bed in anticipation of the first day of classes Monday.
Since classes have started, I will not be sending exhaustingly detailed messages about every day any more. The emails will be more infrequent, probably detailing one or two weekend trips at a time, along with anything else that happened during the week. All y’all need to not be shy, and don’t hesitate to email me back. I would feel more loved if you had questions or comments.
I write to you from the home of the best host-dad in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Living at 53 Rue de la Gare, Guy Graul has a fantastic house, with separate rooms for the three of us, and even a urinal on our floor for our own personal use. The house is great, but what really sets it apart from the rest is the view. Looking out over the back yard, one sees first his yard, which has an arch, fountain, and apple tree, but beyond that is the real treat. You look out into the farmland owned by his neighbors and past that is a rise, covered with trees. Luxembourg is a beautiful country, and we have a first row seat from this house. The first day Guy was a bit late getting to the Chateau to pick us up, but he made up for it by recognizing us and driving his 5-day old VW Golf straight at us. It took two trips, but we got all our stuff back to his house. He then took us to his picturesque backyard, and treated us to a snack of ham, cheese (made by Belgian monks), and bread, grapes, and Luxembourgish champagne(a bigass bottle of it). We sat around eating and talking for a couple hours, then we wandered around Differdange (where the Chateau is) and Oberkorn (where Guy lives). Both towns are incredibly clean and neat. There is a definite small-town feel; Guy seemed to know a lot of the people we passed. We took a private little tour of the Chateau, just Guy, John, Daryl, and myself, saying hi to the housing director, Crici Dumount, as well as the Director, Dr. Ekkehard Stiller, who happens to be a good friend of Guy’s. From there we continued to wander through Differdange and Oberkorn, stopping along the way to pick up ingredients for dinner and breakfast. Dinner consisted of two whole chickens, noodles, salad, and of course, wine. After dinner we had a lemon cake that was also exceptional, with some limon cello liquor that would ahve been good if I werent so damn tired. though throughout all this I was only half awake. Finally, we were able to sleep at 22:00 after having been up for god only knows how long. I was asleep before my head hit the pillow and didn’t wake up until 8:00, when it was time for breakfast.
Allow me to regress; on the way into the airport to catch our flight, John’s carryon bag IDed positive for explosives, so that necessitated a nice search and a lot of questions, until it eventually tested negative. On the flight over, John, Daryl (yes his plane eventually got to Ohare, despite boarding, disembarking, and boarding again), and myself were unable to switch around to sit next to each other. I ended up sitting next to a junior girl who was one of the other 3 people staying for the entire year. We talked when we weren’t asleep, in other words while eating horrid airplane food, and fun was had by all. Customs in Brussels was a joke, they didn’t say a word to me, I filled nothing out, all I did was get my passport stamped. All our bags got there on time, so we got on the bus to Differdange and fell asleep. Once there we unpacked all our stuff from the bus, and sat around until Guy got there, which brings me to where I was. Or something. This is starting to turn into a Jason letter, god forbid.
The next morning Guy showed us the bus to the Chateau that runs every half hour and is free to all, which is pretty sweet. We then got to listen to Dr. Stiller (Ekkie, as Guy calls him) for quite a while, as well as Crici and Erin Schoen, the activities director. After lunch at the Chateau, which was INCREDIBLY inefficient, by the way, we headed out for the “Medieval Tour.” At this point John, Daryl, and I were all on separate trips (they saw the War Tour and Lux City, respectively). We headed to Clervaux and Vianden, and saw two medieval Chateaus in and around Vianden, which were quite impressive, and then headed to Clervaux. In Clervaux we went to an abbey and saw a service by the monks. These were no ordinary monks, but ones who still did service in Gregorian chants, which was interesting, although not for the full 30 minutes that we watched. Then it was time to head home for the night, which was uneventful, and I even managed to make it from the Chateau to Oberkorn without mishap. Once there, since I was the last one home and John already ate, Guy offered us his fridge, and Daryl and I obliged, cleaning out his ham and Belgian cheese. then we headed to the famed little miami bar, across the street from the chateau, where there were another 10 MUDECers. Had a beer, then headed home, embarassed by the rest of the loudass americans. The next day was scheduled to be more boring speeches, then Nancy, France.
After breakfast, speeches, and lunch, my group headed to Nancy, along with newly made friend Mark, a senior on the trip, and one who wasn’t inclined to have the seemingly normal “Dude, the drinking age is 18, lets get TANKED, and talk about nothing but BOOZE!” mentality that so many of my intrepid fellow students displayed. In Nancy (pronounced nahn-cee, with some French nasalness, not like the American name), we saw the first of hopefully a lot of the 1001 places to see before you die. Place de Stanislas took my breath away. Reading about it in the book before I left, I thought it sounded kind of lame, but in person, it was incredible, wrought iron gates, balconies, and light poles were all gilded with liberal amounts of gold. Everything was incredibly beautiful, and on a perfectly sunny day, it could not have been better. (Other than the prices at the cafes, I passed on getting anything, and it’s a good thing I did, 33cL Coke was 3.50, and 25cL beer was 3.10! This caused one of the admin with us to exclaim “Holy shit!” in a French accent, which was pretty funny.) Other than the Square, there wasn’t anything as spectacular, though the gardens were very nice, as was the rest of the city, Crici saw enough shops that sold hats to cover her shaved head that she wanted to come back. (On another side note, she was wearing a frizzy black hat that day that made it almost look like she had spikey black hair, which was disconcerting when I first saw her.)