Don't Wish for Less Problems, Wish for More Skills.

- Jim Rohn

Friday, February 26, 2010

In Bruges

Today, I ventured to Brugge, Belgium with two of the CUBC tour guides and fellow students. We all met together at around 8:45 at Brussels' Central Station. After a few late comers, we crammed onto the train en route to Brugge. We luckily made it to the city without any major problem like every other trip, haha. Once we arrived, we split into two groups and attempted to take on the city like we always do.

Our first tour started with a walk around Brugge's Lake of Love, which is known for its scenery and unusual swarm of swans and ducks. It was the post card setting that I saw on the Internet. It is too bad that we had typical European weather, overcasting clouds, rain, and an unexpected cold front due to heavy winds (lovely). Our guide introduced us to the city, making an effort to stress our observation of the architecture. Brugge has by far the best architecture I have seen during my travels. It was very similar to Amsterdam with more gothic hints to it. We then went to Beguinage, which was once a woman-only neighborhood. During many of the wars in Europe, there was a surplus of widows and single women. Brugge established a neighborhood where these women had a secure lifestyle built around supporting each other. The entire time, I was thinking about the similarity this neighborhood had to sororities (not saying they are all widows and single).

Our next set of stops included Godshuis, Old St. John's Hospital, and the Church of our Holy Lady. There was a main theme amongst these three stops, giving. Godshuis was a set of small houses built for poorer individuals. They were gifts given by wealthy individuals as a last stand to prove he/she was worthy of eternal life in heaven. We were shown a set of Godshuis(es) across a canal from Old St. John's Hospital, the last European, church-related hospital. We learned that the hospital was used more for spiritual healing than curing sicknesses. It is remarkable how loyal the people of the city were to their faith. But, the hospital was infected with a multitude of diseases. At the final stop in the area, the Church of our Holy Lady, we learned that a Brugge family purchased one of the few pieces sculpted by Michaelangelo that is outside of Italy today . They bought it as a gift for the Church of our Holy Lady. The sculpture now resides on a side altar. We enjoyed the peaceful bliss of the sanctuary before venturing back into the dismal weather.

We then walked to the back side of the Church of our Holy Lady where we stumbled onto the Gruuthouse. The Gruuthouse was the quarters of the tax collector, Charles V, of a beer spice, called gruut. Let me tell you, this guy was "flossed." This house was about 15,000 square feet, located right on the canal, and it had a widow's watch and a private balcony in the Church of our Holy Lady. He had no excuse to not go to church, because it was in his living room!

After visiting the Gruuthouse we went to the Quai of the Rosary. I don't know much about this spot, except that it was an awesome photo opportunity.

We meandered past typical Brugge-style houses and shops until we made it to the Town Hall and the Basilica of the Holy Blood. The town hall was an amazing art-like structure that looked almost identical to the town hall in Brussels. The Basilica of the Holy Blood was an unusual experience. Supposedly, the church has a relic holding a few drops of Jesus' blood. People waited in line and gave a decent donation to touch this golden vile. I did not expect for Brugge to house one of the most controversially important relics of my faith. But, apparently the Holy Blood was brought to the city after the first Crusade.

We finished our first tour at Brugge's Market Square, the center of the city's activity. Amongst the small shops, sits another amazing monument, the Belfry Tower. We were fortunate enough to "climb" up the mind-boggeling stairs to snap a couple pictures of the city's landscape before we were blown off the top balcony due to the fifty mile/hour wind. No one was hurt in the capturing of these photos.

After enjoying some spectacular Flemish stew and fries, we joined up with our tour guide for a second tour. We meandered past chocolate shops and restaurants, and made it to Jan Van Eyck Square. We saw a lodge of a "freemason-like" society right at the end of a beautiful canal. After nearly being hit by several cars and sneaking into someone's backyard (check the photos), we went to St. Anne's Church. It was a simple church in the middle of a quiet residential neighborhood that was built during the Baroque Era. We finished up the day walking back through the park with the Lake of Love, and an enjoyable train ride back to Brussels.

The entire city felt like colonial Williamsburg. It is a must see!

What I Recommend You Do In Bruges:

1. Only go to Brugge for a day or two.

2. Stay in a small hotel near Minnewater Park (Lake of Love).

3. Find Dumon, the chocolate shop that Rick Steeves made famous.

4. Take a guided walking tour of the city.

5. Eat at the restaurants off from the market square (get something Flemish).

6. Go during April, supposedly the flowers are awesome.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Book in Review: Superfreakonomics

I have decided to branch away from talking about travels for a part of this blog as a way to share more about what I'm doing in between adventures. This is the first of many book reviews. I know, it sounds boring. But, my goal is to create a library of books perfect for the traveler. If there is one thing that is true about travels, one of the most important assets is a good book. Some of these books in review will not be too relevant to going abroad, but rather they are can be relevant to making changes in your life.

Book In Review

Book: SuperFreakonomics

Author: Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

Genre: Business - Economics

Review: Have you ever picked up a book, read it, and then felt like your life has found meaning or a new path? When I read Levitt and Dubner’s first book, Freakonomics, I decided to follow in Levitt’s footsteps and become an econ major. The second book in the series, SuperFreakonomics, has the same effect. Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner created a page turning miracle to the science of economics.

Levitt and Dubner use the art of Behavioral Economics to explain, legitimize, and/or compare things in our world in ways that few people ever think. The two authors investigate the business of prostitution and relate it to your department-store Santa Claus, why suicide bombers need life insurance, apathy and altruism, global warming, as well as countless other examples. It is supposed to be controversial. Levitt and Dubner explode through writing barriers by talking about such unethical things as a means to explain how economic practices occur all around the world everday. The greatest facet of this book is its ability to shine a new light on the so-called “boring” science. Superfreakonomics will change the way you think of the world as well as economics. It is a must read.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Trip to ... Brussels? Locals and Aussies

I did not have any grand adventure through some historical part of Europe, nor did I ski the Alps. I had a pretty slow weekend (compared to past trips). Nonetheless, I had a few events worth publishing on my blog.

I had decided to take the weekend off from adventure so that I could unwind a little and become more grounded in the city I apparently am studying in (who knew?). Up until this weekend, I had spent more time in other cities than I had in Brussels. Hence, the title of the blog post, a trip to Brussels.

That being said, this weekend was by far the most relaxing weekend I have had in a long time. I enjoyed working out, reading, watching movies, as well as going out with friends. I got to do at least one P90X workout a day, as well as a six mile run on Sunday. I finished reading "The 4-Hour Work Week" by Timothy Ferriss, and have started reading "Touching the Void" by Joe Simpson. But, that was not the highlight of my weekend...

There were two occasions that happened that were extra-ordinary. First, I hung out with some local university students along with a few other CUBC students. We met up with a guy named Lionel, and went to his apartment to hang out with him and his close friends. We enjoyed learning more about each other's cultures, as well as learning more about ourselves.

The second occasion was the arrival of two Australians to our apartment. We met two girls, Tiffany and Candace, in Prague. We got to know them pretty well while there. Charlie kept in contact with the girls as they travelled to Amsterdam after we left Prague. After a few Facebook messages, Tiffany and Candace decided to swing through Brussels for a night before going to Paris. We picked them up from Central Station and brought them back to our apartment. Along the way, we joked about Prague, and the ridiculous sports they play in Australia (Netball and Australian Football). A few other CUBC students meandered over to hang out with us and the two Aussies. We spent most of the night at our apartment, but at around midnight everyone except me went to a club. After some needed sleep, the six of us (the four in the house and the two Australians) went downtown to enjoy some lunch and the sights. We took the girls to our favorite kebab restaurant close to La Grand Place. We then showed them around the city until the Aussies had to board their train to Paris.

All in all, I think that the joys of traveling is finding a niche and enjoying it. This weekend proved to be special not because of the sights or sounds of a new city, but rather spending quality time with interesting people. Staying in one city for a while and discovering the nooks and crannies is what makes life enjoyable.

To Everyone, do not settle for what you have if you think it is subpar at best. Find something you really enjoy and live it! I am happy to have this experience abroad. I don't want to ever leave.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Visit with an Old Friend

Last night, I ran into an old friend from high school, Molly Leebove. She is currently studying in Prague for the spring semester. She and I originally planned on meeting up while I was in Prague, but with two very different schedules and a malfunctioning cellphone, we were unable to see each other. Luckily, she facebooked me and asked if we could possibly see each other on her way to Amsterdam.

I met up with her and her friend, Liza, in Grand Place and took them to my favorite gyro joint. We talked a little about the past and a lot about Europe. It is sometimes an unsettling feeling meeting up with someone you haven't seen in awhile, but Molly and I started talking like we were close friends. I wish for the best for the two of them as they conquer Amsterdam.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Prague! Day 4 + Leaving Prague

The last full day we had in Prague, we spent walking through a park. The sun was out, which was an uncommon sight for us. We aimed our adventure towards the Prague metronome, but diverged by about two hours by walking in a park as we joked and conversed. We were a little childish at the playground, but I guess it was us reliving old ways we haven’t seen in years. We got to the metronome and felt like it was an upset. We hung out at the top and took a few awesome pictures of the scenery and of ourselves. We then walked down towards Old Town Square again. Along the way we conquered some intense steps that were more like a ski slope than steps (I have videos, don’t worry). It reminded me of one of my goals that I want to accomplish while I am over here, go skiing. We enjoyed some peasant potatoes and kielbasa sausage in Old Town Square, and then a piping hot latte. Overall, it was a great day. To end our last day, we ate at Spirit Bar, and then went out to the five-story club.

We ended our journey, and were forced to go back to expensive Brussels. We all wanted to stay a few more days, but we do have other fish to fry. The trip back went smoother than the trip to Prague. We got to the airport with two hours to spare. I walked around looking for deals in all of the duty-free shops. In the end, I bought 400 grams of Twix for 5 US dollars. I made it home safely, even though I could not take the train due to the crash.

Prague is a definite “go to” city in Europe. It isn’t too touristy, but there is so much to see. Everything was intricate and lavish. And the greatest part, it was cheap.

PragueDay4 (pictures)

Prague! Day 3

With a sense of grief from missing out on the castle the day before, we tackled the castle first thing. Many people were probably mad as we jolted past them on the icy sidewalks, forcing them to slip and fall or grab onto their loved ones for support. Nonetheless, we made it to Prague Castle and ventured into its depths. Our first stop was the cathedral, St. Vitus cathedral, inside the castle’s walls. My pictures try to give it justice, but most of us in the group could agree that it was better than Notre Dame. Afterwards, we walked through three separate buildings that included the royal palace, and a shopping district. At the end of our investigation of the castle we found the torture chamber. I will not go into detail about it (And you will not find pictures of it). After a few snowballs thrown at each other inside the castle, we left the castle and walked down to the Jewish Quarter. We did not really venture too far into the museums and temples. We were all pretty tired and decided to walk back. Later on, we met back up with the Fighting Illinini, and went to a bar called Beer Factory. From a business point of view, it was an awesome idea. Everyone had to reserve a table like a restaurant, and there was a beer tap for each table. We ended our night with a long, cold walk back to our hostel. One thing that I definitely recommend to all future travelers, stay in a hotel or hostel that is close to the downtown area. As much as I like to workout, walking thirty minutes to the downtown area is a hindrance.

PragueDay3 (pictures)

Prague! Day 2

The second day we left around eleven from our hostel to take on the biggest site in Prague, its castle. After a few distractions including food, starbucks, watching the astronomical clock as the hour struck three, and stopping at a few of the shops. We stopped off at the Tyn church adjacent to the astronomical clock. The décor and architecture was by far the best I have seen in Europe. We finally made it to the castle (Which was two and a half miles away from our hostel) with little time to spare. But, like some other tourists we watched the changing of the guards instead of getting into the castle before it closed (As my mom would say “ohh well”). With our tails in between our legs we dragged our feet back through the Old Town Square to our hostel. Feeling slightly defeated we decided to eat at a pizzeria called Einstein’s right next to our hostel. Apparently, the restaurant knew we were all tired and could not fight them scamming us over a few extra crowns on our bill (They charged us for every piece of bread we ate without telling us beforehand that if we eat the bread they bring out we will get charged). All of us called it an early night (by Prague’s standards).

PragueDay2 (pictures)

In Transit! + Prague! Day 1

With high hopes and smiling faces, myself along with seven others met at Grand Central Station in Brussels to start our voyage to Prague. It was a little snowy outside and temperatures were typical for February. The first part of the trip was a train ride from Brussels to Charleroi. Unfortunately, this was the start for our misfortune. Our train showed up thirty minutes past its schedule departure. Tensions were high, and a few of us had already accepted the fact that we would miss our flight. But, that was only the start. After arriving at Charleroi, we missed our bus to the airport by about thirty seconds (It is an awful feeling watching your bus drive off without you). We looked at the bus times and saw another was scheduled to arrive in fifteen minutes. Tensions grew more, and more of us had accepted that we would miss the flight. After about forty minutes and hair pulling, a bus finally showed up. We got on with speed, but apparently everyone else wanted to crawl onto the bus. Fortunately, we made it to the airport and checked in with nine minutes left until the flight was closed. We ran to our gate and immediately got in line (We were ninth in line). Ahhh, we all felt relieved and our spirits were recharged. Our journey felt like hell, but it did not matter what came next made up for the whole misadventure.

After checking into our hostel, we went a restaurant called the Spirit Bar. If you have never ate in Eastern Europe, you are missing out. I got 500 grams of meat (chicken, steak, pork, smoked ham, and sausage) for 185 Czech crowns. Which comes out to about nine US dollars. It was the happiest meal of my entire life. We were all in a unique euphoria for the rest of the night. After eating, we watched Arsenal beat Liverpool on the big screen, and then went back to our hostel for free drinks. It was the perfect night.

The next day, batteries recharged and adventure kicking at the door, we left our hostel to visit some of the sights of the city. We landed upon an interesting breakfast place called Pavlac Café. I had coffee and cottage cheese crepes with berries and cream on top (for about 4 US dollars). We then aimlessly walked past shops, taking pictures of interesting buildings until we found ourselves in the middle of Old Town Square. If you look at my pictures, you will agree that this square is nothing but special. There were local merchants selling local cuisines such as peasant potatoes and smoked ham. We sampled candied almonds and cinnamon sugar pretzels. We took some more pictures until we decided to climb to the top of the astronomical clock tower. It was a simple fee of 5 US dollars to go on an unguided tour of the grounds, which included some of the best views of the city. We walked around the top of the tower, looking in every direction. After getting our fill of history and tourism, we decided to go to the mall (which had five floors, holding over 200 stores). The boys and the girls split up for obvious reasons, but met back up after an hour (we had to set a time limit, and it wasn’t just because of the girls). Once we were all together, we convoyed up to the food court to have a mid-afternoon snack. We decided after a good meal that we had had our fill of the city for the day. We marched back to the hostel to get ready for the night. We, once again, ate at the Spirit Bar, but with less than perfect food. Feeling a bit annoyed we decided to boycott the restaurant for a while. We then ran into some fellow Americans from University of Illinois. The group, now over 15 strong, went downtown to a FIVE-story club. We explored the depths of the place and deemed it suitable for an American takeover. We stormed the place and turned it into a truly great night for everyone.

PragueDay1 (pictures)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I'm Fine! Belgium Train Wreck

To All,

If you have not heard yet, there was a severe train wreck right outside of Brussels yesterday morning. 18 people were killed and several others were hurt. Fortunately, I was not on the train. I flew back from Prague yesterday afternoon into Charleroi-Sud Airport. I had scheduled to take the train back into Brussels. But, I was supposed to take the same line that crashed. I gladly jumped on a bus knowing I made it one more day.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Amsterdam, the Netherlands!

Amsterdam, Netherlands (pictures)

When people think of Amsterdam, a few things come to mind. To some, the first things to come to mind are windmills, fog, clogs, and really tall people. To others, the relaxed law system and outrageous nightlife might come to mind. No matter what comes to mind, I want you to do like the people of Amsterdam do, be tolerant, especially when reading my blog. I want to share what I found to be the real story of the city. Enjoy!

Getting to Amsterdam

One of the most traumatic travel experiences happened to me on my way to Amsterdam this past weekend. The story starts off like this: I bought a train ticket to Amsterdam for right around 19 Euros (both ways). The travel center employee has specific that I could get on any train I wanted to take on a certain day. I thought, “Great!” But, I never would have guessed what happened to me next. I jumped on a Thalys train right around seven thirty to Amsterdam. I sat down and waited for the ticket lady to come around, hoping that she wouldn’t so I could save a day on my eurail pass. Unfortunately, she came around and looked very hard at my ticket. She informed me that the ticket I had would not allow me to ride on the desired train. When the train stopped at the next stop, I was kicked off. Fortunately for me, the train stopped at Central Station. I hoped back on the metro and got back to Bruxelles- midi station. In a fit of rage, I ran up to the travel center desk again and asked why I was just kicked off the train. To the attendant’s surprise, the train company had given me the wrong ticket (which is why I had to pay the extra 19 Euros each way). The silver lining in this story is that I was refunded for the ticket since it was the company’s fault. I was directed to the right platform, and hoped on another train, which left exactly an hour after I had wanted to leave. The train ride went smoothly. I read while a few locals told stories to each other a few rows in front of me. I enjoyed my ride, and was very happy to have arrived in Amsterdam.

Day 1

The first morning, the group (Andrew, Brittany, Charlie, Thomas, and myself) had the energy and enthusiasm to take on the vibrant city. We got out of our hostel early without any real plan set in stone. Along the way, we decided to take the free walking tour. We met at the meeting point along with a sea of people and a few charismatic guides. The small city of people were split up into roughly four groups, all around 30 people. This was the start of a great day.

The first thing we did as a group was get a chance to meet our tour guide, Ryan King. Ryan is an Aussie who found his way to Amsterdam just recently. Nonetheless, Ryan spewed out detailed information about the city that locals probably did not even know. The best part about the entire tour was Ryan’s presence as a speaker. He spoke with great confidence, as well as having the craziest body language I have ever seen. For the first part of the tour, Ryan escorted us through the red light district, passed old churches, through Dutch music videos (I know it was a weird), as well as past the V.O.C. headquarters. Along the way, he told us stories about the legalization of some scandalous practices including prostitution and marijuana. He also talked a lot about the city, including the architecture, the canals, and the people. One of my favorite parts of the tour was the description of the architecture of the city. As many of you probably know. Most of Amsterdam sits below sea level. The ground that the city is built on was actually the sea floor, until the city was dammed up and channeled. The unfortunate circumstance to doing this is that the foundations of the buildings move around a lot. Almost all of the houses in the red light district are tilting forwards, backwards, or to one side. Another interesting point is that all of the houses have stairwells that look more like rock climbing walls. I couldn’t get a picture of them, but you can use your imagination. So, Even though the city is well known for its immoral practices, I would stress that there is much more to the city.

After an hour and a half of walking, talking, and shivering in the rain, the tour stopped at a place for some warm coffee. We all warmed ourselves up inside and enjoyed our coffee. We then set off for the other half of the tour. Ryan took us through small streets, over wide bridges, and past some unique landmarks. He stopped us at the Anne Frank house, squat houses, the smallest house in Amsterdam, the coffee shop where Matt Damon and George Clooney go to in the movie “Ocean’s Twelve”, and then finally a restaurant for a late lunch. The tour was a great experience. Ryan told us some funny stories about the wacky laws in Amsterdam. In one story, Ryan told us how bike theft is one of the most common felonies in Amsterdam. The law (as stated by Ryan) is that if you are caught stealing a bike, you can go to jail. BUT, if the thief throws the bike in the water, there is no penalty…Ryan also told a story about his friends throwing a car into the canal, but that is neither here nor there, haha. All in all, the walking tour was an experience that I will never forget. We liked it so much we actually took another tour with Ryan after dinner, strictly on the red light district.

The night tour was much more scandalous, yet I still would advise everyone to take it. There is a lot to be learned about the city and its questionable practices. For one, there is a lot of interesting history behind the city. One thing that I found to be true about the city is that it felt like the safest city I have been to in Europe (except from the biking tourist…They will hit you if you do not move!). Everyone seems to mind their own business, and is very patient when you ask them for help.

I got the chance to meet a very interesting individual during my stay in Amsterdam; his name was Christopher Sturman. He attended both of the tours with his enthusiastic wife. The two of them gave me incredible insight on Europe, business, and life in general. I appreciated all of the wisdom they passed onto me, and I hope that I get the chance to see them again.

Day 2

The following day, the group went to the Heineken Experience, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Ann Frank House. The Heineken Experience was the one thing we did that stood out the most in our minds. The entire tour lasted about two hours, but felt like fifteen minutes. We enjoyed reading the rise of the company due to the cunning entrepreneurs of the Heineken family, as well as an interactive video on how beer is produced. We were able to watch old commercials from Heineken, as well as learn how to pour the perfect glass of beer. After the Heineken Experience, we went to the Van Gogh Museum. It was really interesting to see many of the legend’s works of art. It was also interesting how the museum used his art as points of interest in Van Gogh’s life. His paintings are more like chapters in his autobiography. You could tell a change in his style, as he got older. I believe that I would not appreciate his work as much as I do today if I did not go to the museum. And finally, we went to the Anne Frank House. The house was both an adventure but also a nightmare. It was so interesting to see where the author of the book I learned to love in the sixth grade lived while she was writing. But, it was also a tragic recall of how terrible the Holocaust really was. The apartment that the Frank’s hid in was surprisingly big. There were at least three levels, with plenty of space for all of them to have their own privacy. Yet, it must have been awful living there because they were not able to enjoy the luxuries of light, windows, and most of all freedom. In the end, we all came out feeling a little down, but we were all very moved by the experience.

As I close, I want everyone to know that Amsterdam is a unique place for its culture. It has seen a lot of troubles as well as a lot of exciting things. I felt like the city had more to offer, but I did not have enough time. This is the second city in my trip to Europe that I would definitely visit again.

Thanks for all the comments and emails from you all! They inspire me to do more, and to learn more!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Hamburg, Germany!

Hey Everyone,

Sorry for the delay, but I recently got back from Hamburg Germany. I visited an old friend who lives there. His name is Benedikt Greiwe. He spent a semester at my high school FOUR years ago! This was my first time seeing him since then. Enjoy!

Day 1:

On Thursday I hoped on the ICE (high speed train) en-route to Koln, Germany. This was my first European train experience. I spent my time watching small towns and farms scream past me. There were a few stops along the way, but I got to Koln in about two hours. I had an hour layover so I took the time to check out the city. When you walk out of the train station in Koln there are two things that you see: an old cathedral and a super modern building. It was an interesting contrast, but I think it is a true testament of the architecture in Europe. I enjoyed food from a German restaurant called "Ditsch." I hopped onto my train to Hamburg excited, but also a little anxious. As I said earlier, this was my first time seeing Ben in four years, so I was nervous if we would be able to connect as well as we did in high school.

When I arrived at Hamburg HBF it took me about five minutes to find that familiar face. All anxiety was gone. I was very happy to see an old friend who was essentially a brother. Ben took me immediately to his school. There was a Haiti Relief Function going on. We stopped in and found a few of Ben's friends. I particularly enjoyed the conversation I had with Ben and his friend, Jonas. The three of us talked for about an hour about the school, Hamburg, and Germany. They also had a few questions about me including how I liked Brussels, and college in the states. Afterwards, Ben and I had steak at a downtown restaurant called the Block House. I quickly collapsed after a long day of traveling and excitement.

Day 2:

The next morning Benedikt woke up at 7:30...I chose to ignore the wake up call and slept in until 9:30. I got ready and met Ben at his school, Bucerius Law School. I hopped on a computer and did a few things I needed to do for school, as well as getting in contact with friends back in Clemson. While I was doing that I was watching alpine skiing, as well as talking with a native of Zimbabwe. It was my first time talking with a member of Zimbabwe. I was very interested in how he made it to Hamburg and the Law school. Obviously I did not go to in depth with him about his situation in Zimbabwe because I was scared that Mugabe himself would come after me (He might still since I'm writing about it). After Benedikt got out of class, he and I joined a few of his friends for lunch. I had a German pork dish that was rather delicious, like all German cuisine. Afterwards, Ben and I enjoyed a conversation about the city and law over coffee and tea. Ben told me that the lawyers in Germany are all very serious about foosball (the table game). He told me that one of the first things that the student body does every year is to determine the budget for the "kicker room." He showed me the room, and were met with a group of law students playing an intense game of foosball. Benedikt and I played against a few older guys and were absolutely slaughtered. We lost 10-0, uhhhh. I shrunk about five inches.

After a few games we gathered our things and left with Benedikt's entire group of friends to go play some soccer. We all jammed into three cars and travelled on the autobahn to an indoor soccer field. There we split up into three teams and played a round robin style tournament. I sat out the first game, but watched intently to make sure not to make a fool of myself. Soon enough, it was my team's turn to go out and play. Literally, five minutes into the game I had hurt someone, haha. I guess it is the American in me, not courteous (or maybe too intense). I felt bad nonetheless and helped him off the field. I was surprised because I was able to play with the Germans. After an hour and a half, the group and I left. Ben and I drove back with a friend of Ben's, named Kari. She and her sister Nina have lived in Hamburg for a couple of years now, so they were able to tell me more about the city and actually showed me a lot of the town via car.

Benedikt and I then went to a corner restaurant where we enjoyed a few currywursts, fries, and "Fritz Cola." I particularly enjoyed being able to experience the regular life of a German, I could have just down the typical tourist thing and see the monuments and go to touristy restaurants, but Benedikt showed me hidden gems of the city.

Day 3:

The next day, Benedikt and I were welcomed by a visit from Ben's parents and friends from Hannover, Germany. We spent the day walking around the city seeing more of the sites, as well as going to a couple of cool stores. We enjoyed our lunch at a restaurant called "Alex." The restaurant had a 180-degree view of the city and the bay. I enjoyed Jager Schnitzel and a coke.

We ventured to the old part of town including the old ship storage facilities and the modellbahn, the world's largest train set museum in the world. Afterwards, we walked back to Benedikt's apartment and packed up his place, because he had to switch apartments that weekend. We moved him in then enjoyed dinner at an italian restaurant. It was really great to have the time to see Benedikt's family and friends again.

My favorite part of the whole trip was being able to learn a lot about the culture in Germany. Benedikt's father's friend, Rolf, talked with me for an extensive amount of time about law in Germany as well as the economy. It was interesting to hear things that were similar and different from the economy in the States. Both sides have very distinct and different forms of law and business, yet both are very successful. I'm glad that I made the effort to go see Benedikt so early in my trip.