June 16, 2012Tomorrow, I'll be setting foot in Paris, France. My name is Adrianne Speranza.I'm a rising senior at Rutgers University as a double major in Food Science and Nutrition. The past two weeks for me have been an absolute whirlwind.
On June 5, I landed in Zurich, Switzerland with one of my best friends, Lisa, to visit one of our best friends, Krissy, for two weeks in Germany. Our other good friend was in the hospital and had to postpone her flight. We'd planned 8 days of travel around Germany's major cities, and those of nearby countries by means of German rail passes, but two of the four rail passes never came by mail. We spent a few days around Konstanz and travelled to the beautiful gardens of Meinau. I had my first German beer, potato salad, and pretzel (brezel).
We also went to a Beer Garden (Bier Garten) one night for dinner, which is a very interesting concept and are highly prevalent in Germany. They're almost like picnic areas with outdoor seating which serve several beers and some snacks (bratwurst, bread, french fries, pretzels, cheese, etc.). People are also allowed to bring their own food and purchase only beer.
We spent a day in Meersburg, a brief ferry ride away across Lake Constance, where we visited a historical castle in which royal family still resided. Approaching Meersburg on the ferry, what stood out was a large yellow building atop a hill with rows and rows of grapevines: the winery. The weather was cold and rainy, but from beneath our umbrellas the city was still beautiful.
We took a train to Singen to visit the Hohentweil castle ruins, given the rainy weather, we thought this would be a good indoor, day activity. Little did we know, we were to be climbing a mountain on sharp, painful, cobblestone in torrential down pouring rain for over an hour before reaching the entirely outdoor castle ruins. All I can say is, thank goodness for coffee (kaffee). Nonetheless, from the top of the mountain, we did receive a beautiful view of the entire city and countryside.
Our friend who was previously hospitalized, arrived in Germany a few days later only to require further hospitalization. It was clear that our plans needed alteration, as she and Krissy would unlikely be able to backpack for 8 days. Lisa and I decided we needed to do it alone. In a single evening, we replanned our entire trip and were to get up at 5:30 the following morning to begin our trip. We were off to Brussels for one day, followed by Berlin for two days, Prague for 2 days, and Munich for 2 days.
Brussels was very interesting. After having worked on our German skills for several days, we were thrown into a cultural hub with an indistinct blend of French, German, and English-speaking people.Where we also saw a giant Brussel, we also set foot into several beautiful Belgian chocolate shops where Lisa and I tasted delicious chocolates.
Our next stop was Berlin. Our train arrived in the evening, and after checking in o our hostel we went on to explore the city. We saw several beautiful buildings and monuments, as well as the Berlin wall. On our second day in Berlin, we ventured to the Berlin zoo, which was a great break and a lot of fun. Afterward we got doner and falafel before going to the German History museum. Doner is a popular German street food consisting of a warmed and crisped pita-like bread filled with a tangy garlic sauce, cabbage slaw, lettuce, onion, tomato, and roasted meet, or falafel for vegetarians. This is a street food which originated in Berlin and and has since become very popular throughout Germany. Lisa and I ended our stay in Berlin with dinner at an Irish pub (not exactly traditional, but delicious nonetheless) while watching the Eurocup game. At 3:30am we had to depart for Prague.
After a brief few hour layover in Nuremberg, which ended up being an adorable town, we were en route to Prague. Again after checking in at our hostel in the early evening, we went on to explore the town. We visited the Prague castle during our stay there. The cathedral was one of the most beautiful I've ever seen. The castle was set high on a hill and provided a breathtaking view of the entire city--and, of course, a vineyard. Breakfast consisted of these delicious rolls called "trdlos" which have an at least 3 inch diameter hollow center, were rolled in sugar, and baked. They were delicious.
We left Prague early on Thursday, June 14, and met up with Merrill and Krissy in Munich. We all went for a very funny and informative bike tour before spending the evening in Haufbrauhaus. On Friday, we visited the Dachau concentration camp memorial site, which was very interesting, sad and chilling. That evening we made our way back to Konstanz to spend the last day relaxing at the beach followed by pizza tonno, or tuna pizza, which seems to be a popular thing here--and was very good. Finally, we stood on the border of Germany and Switzerland at once, explored one of the largest flea markets in Germany, and watched the sunset from Bismarck, a tower overlooking the city of Konstanz.
I'm now thoroughly ready to be in France. The language barrier in Germany wasn't so bad, as many of the citizens had phenomenal English, and oftentimes, Krissy was able to act as our translator, and provide us with phrases that we would need. As a lactose-intolerant vegetarian, my dining options in Germany, were relatively limited. I tried everything I could.
When passing through a market in Munich, which townspeople flock to with large baskets in hand to pick up produce, fish, meats, bread, and cheeses, I caught a glimpse of the most fantastic cheese and wine stand I'd seen yet. I can't read/speak German but I was fascinated. I only had time to snap a few pictures. It was at this point that I realized that only in a few days time, would I be in France, looking at this stuff everyday. And I couldn't wait.
Almost every city I'd been in had multiple beautiful vineyards. My excitement would mount at the sight of them; I wanted to know more. What grapes were those? What wine were they making? How was the terroir? What was the house name? What treatment did they give their wines? What did the wine taste like? When did they harvest? So much left unanswered, but not for long.
I'm anxious to taste new cheeses and wines and learn about them. After getting a glimpse of German history and culture the past few weeks, I'm excited to compare the differences and further enrich my experience here. It's been unforgettable so far, and I know it's only going to get better. Cluny, here I come!
**I had several pictures to upload with this post, but internet is too slow to get them up here in under three hours!
- Adrianne Speranza