30 June 2009

...I'll have it in the mail by Thursday

It is with tentative key strokes that I type this update. My visa application and supporting documents are again coming together. On Thursday morning I have to go back to the creepy fingerprinting place, and from there, I can mail it off. I have re-collected my bank statements, pay stubs, letters from my employer and bank. I even received a call from the uni today ensuring that I got all the proper letters and such.
"Will you still be joining us in September?"
"Well, I hope so!"

I am taking the tact to inundating the office with every piece of official paperwork remotely connected with my finances, employment, or education. Thought I have a feeling that even with an overstuffed envelope, every document will be separately scrutinized. Even so, it is all there. I mean everything.
Here's a little more insight into some of the pointlessness of the application. I have to prove that I have enough money to pay for the tuition and projected room and board. This makes sense as I will be unable to work enough to make a significant amount of money. Unfortunately this is hard to prove. I have to have all my bank statements from the last three months, and all the money has to have been in it (a checking account, mind you) for at least 30 days. This is strange because they want the money to be "readily available" but who keeps that kind of money in a checking account that pays 0.001 percent interest?
Okay, so I moved the money around a couple of months ago and dutifully printed out my monthly statements, as they are not physically mailed to me. Because I had to print them myself, I had to go to my bank, and have them write a letter attesting to my current balance. Further, the bank manager had to sign each sheet of the printed out statements confirming that they were, indeed, my account statements. What's more silly is that the balance changes constantly and one could simply take out all the money and no one official would know about it. So the whole thing is pretty pointless, but I guess there aren't other ways of proving you have the money unless you show up to the consulate with big bags of it.

So, wish me luck!

29 June 2009

16 going on 21

A few weeks ago we were called for an unconscious person at the local high school. We arrived to find a young man, indeed unconscious. When they could not wake him up, school staff called us. This patient turned out to be 16 years old and more drunk than I have ever been in my life, combined. I'm not even sure how he got to school let alone functioned long enough to fool anyone.
He was so drunk he was about one step away from buying a tube. In fact, if my boss had been there, he would have been on a vent, because he intubates everything with a trachea.

I was so boggled, and amused, and irritated by this, but in the face of such a tragic situation, we mostly just laughed at him. But I wonder if this kind of silliness happens in places where alcohol is more a part of the culture than it is here. In the US you can die for your country, but you can't legally drink a beer. I think all that waiting plays on the American psyche and makes drinking far more desirable, and drinking too early as an act of civil disobedience is something I can understand (although I'll admit was something I didn't do.) But no matter where you grew up, being an unconscious 16 year old drunk at school is completely unacceptable.

27 June 2009

There, Castle!

From Luzern we drove to see the Rhine falls, the largest waterfall in Europe. We then drove through the black forest, famous for ham, cake, fairy tales, houses made of candy, and coo-coo clocks.
We made our way to Heidelberg, which is a lovely city. Again, a repeat visit is in order. I am sure we barely scratched the surface here, but did get to see Heidelberg castle, and the largest wine barrel in the world. It can hold 58,100 U.S. gallons, and let me tell you, that is a lot of gallons.

The next day we visited the adorable Rudesheim, Germany. Here we started our cruise up (or down) the Rhine river. Along the way we found ourselves in the heart of German wine country. Insane vineyards were all along the river, growing grapes on the most steep and silly places I've ever seen. We must have seen ten different castles, none of which I can name now.
We stopped about 30 km later in St. Goar. Yet another charming German town. Here we had a wine tasting, where for the first time I had ice wine. This is wine made from grapes left on the vine into the winter. They are piked, smashed, and made into wine while frozen. This particular vintner hasn't been able to make it for the last three winters because it never got cold enough. This climate change is reflected in the price.
In St. Goar I bought a pair of Birkenstocks. I'm not even sure why; I was overtaken by a cute design, the smell of leather, Euro sizes (I'm a 39), and German small towns. I do not regret them.
Later, in Koblenz, we visited the Deutsche Eck, a huge memorial to Emperor Wilhelm I where the Rhine and Mozel rivers converge.

Our last day we visited Köln (Cologne), and saw the immense cathedral there, where allegedly, the relics of the magi are housed. Mom and Dad and I went to the Roman-German museum, that houses a ton of Roman items found in this area of Germany. It was pretty cool and mostly in English. I also had a Kölsch beer, which is a beer you can only get in Köln.
We then drove to Bonn, and visited the house where Beethoven was born. We saw instruments he played, and more interestingly, the horns he used to improve his hearing.
The Haus der Geschichte is a pretty cool museum of German history from 1945 on. It was all in German, sadly, but it had a lot of cool stuff in it anyway. We got a look into the rebuilding of the country after the war, and they had interesting items including a roll of yellow fabric with stars of David printed on it.

And that's pretty much it. We happily got time at some German grocery stores where I stocked up on Haribo gummies, and on the way home, I got a free massage at Heathrow airport...after I set off their metal detector.

25 June 2009

Confoederatio Helvetica

After spending the morning in Innsbruck, chasing ambulances and eating incredibly large pretzels, we drove through Vaduz, Liechtenstein. I think the only reason for the stop was so that I could write "I've been to Liechtenstein." right now.
From there we traveled to Flüelen, Switzerland. Again another lovely drive that had me licking the windows with the desire to paddle the heck out of alpine lakes.
Our hotel was literally on the shore of Lake Lucerne, which was excellent!
The next day we went to the city of Lucerne, where we visited the beautiful lion monument, chapel bridge, and, again stumbled upon a cluster of ambulances. Those Swiss have some awesome EMS uniforms. I feel my uniform is lacking some serious hi-vis; my pants have none!

I firmly believe that a mark of a good trip is the use of various forms of transportation. In the trip to, up, and down Mt. Pilatus, we used four. A boat took us across the lake to the foot of the mountain. We then ascended the 7000' mountain on the world's steepest cog railway (48% grade.)
I really don't know enough adjectives to accurately describe the whole experience. In short: amazing. It's not everyday that I get to see 12,000' mountains. It is also not everyday that I get into a car supported by cables and let it fling me down a mountain. That was the first stage of getting back down. When that torture was over, we clamored into smaller four person gondolas to take us the remaining maybe 5000' feet. And it wasn't a short ride, we had 30 minutes to enjoy the view and relax a bit (once I accepted that we probably would not fall to our deaths, and the thing wouldn't sway in the wind.)
Happy to be safely on the ground we returned to Luzern for some free time to stock up on Swiss army knives and Rolexes.

24 June 2009

The whole gammut

It was raining as we walked through the front gate of Dachau concentration camp, making the setting appropriately dreary . "Freedom through work" is the ominous greeting set in wrought iron above the gate. We watched an orientation video and had just enough time to explore the grounds and memorials. I say 'just enough time' because I honestly didn't want anymore time there, I have never been more ready to leave a place. I found myself oddly fascinated with the fence and surrounding trench. I felt guilty that I had privileges that the prisoners did not, I could walk on the grass, I could keep my shoes on in the buildings, I could leave.
There is nothing I can say here that hasn't been said before, by writers for more eloquent than I. So I will leave it at that.

(insert awkward transition and depressing link here)

From there, the sun came out and we drove through Oberammergau, Germany. This is a very cute town, where they host a yearly Passion Play. We stopped for lunch here on the way to Innsbruck, Austria.

We had the most amazing drive through the Tyrol region of Austria. 9000 ft. peaks, glaciers, glacially fed rivers, lakes, and valleys abound. It was one of the most beautiful drives I've been on. To get to our hotel in Tulfes, we took a single lane switchback filled road to 3000' where we found our secluded hotel. It was fantastic. Enjoying such a large dose of natural beauty was a strange way to end this particular day, but it was most welcome.

23 June 2009

Back to the beginning

We left Vienna and I didn't find another internet cafe for the rest of the trip. I did find internet in our hotel in Switzerland, but they only took only Swiss Franks, and I didn't bother to get any of those. There was also internet in our last hotel, but by then, who cared?
On our second (or was it third by then?) We drove west across Austria to Salzburg. We spent a sadly short time here, but in that time we saw the Mirabell gardens, Mozarts birthplace, a statue of St. Florian (the patron saint of firefighting), and rode a funicular to Hohensalzburg castle/fortress which gave us great views of the city. A repeat visit is in order. (I have a feeling I'll be saying that a lot.)

After Salzburg we spent some time in Berchtesgaden, Germany. Very near here is Hitler's Eagle's Nest, and Germanys' third highest peak, Mount Watzmann.

From here, on to Munich, a city so full of history! After our orientation tour, my head was spinning! Like many tourists, I would guess, I knew more and was interested in the history surrounding WWII.
The most poignant is that of the White Rose resistance. At the university of Munich, a group of students and their professor began writing anonymous resistance leaflets and distributing them via allied planes. They were sadly and inevitably caught and subsequently executed. I was really touched by this story.
(insert awkward transition (and a helpful link) here)
We went to Marienplatz and watched the famous and huge glockenspiel play. From there we took the subway to the Neue Pinkothek art museum (one of the few open on Mondays.) This is a museum of 19th century art that began with a collection of Ludwig I, the former king of Bavaria. This was really nice, and had something for everyone.
I was so excited that we rode the subway. I love public transportation and its successful navigation. I am so easy to entertain.

In the evening we went for a beer in the Hofbrauhaus. Here, oompah band music, huge pretzels, and liters of beer abound. It was campy and fun and didn't feel too touristy. I'm pretty sure I'd be found there every night if I lived in Munich.

What a strange day. But not as strange as the next day!

13 June 2009

Wien

We are here in lovely Vienna. We had an adventurous day of travel here (we

missed our connection in Munich and had to wait an extra three hours) But we arrived and spent the day wandering around this great city. We visited a Butterfly House (Schmetterling Haus) that was awesome, and more importantly, found an ambulance. Here they have a vent mounted on the ceiling, an autopulse, and a full body vaccu-splint, sweet.

Tomorrow, onto Salzburg and to, ironically, Munich.

Here are some fun kezs on this kezboard (as zou can see, y and z are in different places.) ü Ü ä Ä ö Ö § ß ° That's all for now, we'll see when we get the internet again!

11 June 2009

Sprechen sie Englisch?

I have been making fun of my mother recently. I have a very clear childhood memory of every night before we embarked on a family vacation, she would be vacuuming late at night while the rest of the family would be trying to sleep. And what did I find myself doing yesterday? (at a reasonable hour) Yes, running the vacuum over the two small rugs in my apartment.
I completely understand the desire to come home to a clean and fresh house but I could never understand why that chore always got pushed back to after midnight.
This evening I am headed to parts of Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. The parents and I planned and booked this trip pretty much as soon as we got back last year, long before my wild ass plan became more of a reality. Now, further spurred by the need for bonding time, away we go!
I'll be on the lookout for an internet cafe in Vienna.

Servus!

08 June 2009

Lappy

Apologies for the lack of the lack of proper written updates. I'm working on a couple of things, and I have spent today downloading and sorting a few things out on the new lappy. I was on the market for a lappy and a series of strange opportunistic events have led me to be typing this update, well, on my lap. I've spent some dollars giving it more memory, an excessively large hard drive and a new battery is now making its way to my house, then I will be indeed wireless. Having never had a laptop, I don't really understand the whole wireless thing, but I am figuring it out, and it's pretty freaking sweet.