I had meant to give an earlier update than this, but a combination of busyness plus technological failings has pushed it back. My camera ceased to work. I'm working on replacing it and getting the old one returned under warranty, but in the meantime, I'm going to have to be stealing pictures from my friends here, that I've been along with for. It's the best I can do. I'll also not make this too overly long, but if there's anything else you want to know/are interested in, let me know and I can write another post on it or just e-mail you back if it's specific at all. I'll also include parenthetical Wiki links to things that are mentioned, should you happen to be self-motivated and intrigued enough to look at them.
So, I arrived last Wednesday morning after a flight mishap got my first route canceled. We've been kept very busy since then. In case I really haven't told you anything at all about my trip, I am studying in Freiburg, in southwestern Germany (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freiburg_im_Breisgau). The town of Freiburg itself is pretty straightforward and centralized - everything that's open past 6 pm is located downtown as a general rule. So all of the tramlines lead downtown, which makes navigating the city relatively easy. For those who haven't looked it up at all, it's about 220,000 people. But it has a bigger light rail network than Minneapolis, with 4 lines. That's how you know you're in Europe. The juxtaposition of building constructions has been really interesting.
My apartment itself is rather odd. It's part of a converted French military barracks from the military occupation after World War II. Each unit is unique and they do not follow a set pattern. Mine actually happens to be two stories tall, centered around a staircase. I live with two German girls, one German guy, and one French guy, though one of the German girls is yet to appear in the apartment. All of my roommates have been nice, and they all speak English well enough for us to communicate without any problems. Pictures of this will be forthcoming, as right now they are trapped in my broken camera. This is a picture of the street that I live on though:
The 75 students have largely started to segregate by this time, and really did rather definitively by day 3. It was actually really interesting how quickly it happened. When first going to college, I remember there being some fluidity in figuring out who we wanted to spend time with, and people breaking in and out of groups and it not being a big deal, but here, everyone seems pretty set. There is of course mixing, but we have a group of about 12-14 people that I think will be mainly fraternizing, and then I have a smaller group of 4 that I've been generally spending time with.
This last weekend we went out and about twice. On Saturday, a group of us went hiking between two small German towns, Staufen (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Staufen_im_Breisgau) and
Sulzberg (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sulzburg). It wasn't a strenuous hike, but it was up in the foothills of the Alps in the Black Forest, mainly hiking through vineyards. It's really relaxing, and I'd like to find a couple more routes through the area over the course of the semester. Preferably when my camera works. In Staufen, there is a small old castle overlooking the town, from which I'll include a couple pictures at the end of this post.
On Sunday, we took the train to Basel, Switzerland (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basel), with an unscheduled detour in Schliengen (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schliengen). From what we saw of Schliengen, it looked like Braham (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Braham,_Minnesota) - essentially a three bar, one post office town. However, from what the Wikipedia article says, it's actually interesting. This may or may not be true. If it was, they hide it well. Basel itself was pretty interesting - it's right along the Rhine river, and the row houses along it make it look more like Copenhagen than what you would expect Switzerland to be. After meandering for a couple of hours, we were forced to walk through a downpour for an extended period, making for a very wet trainride back to Freiburg. Switzerland also provided my first of many currency exchanges, where I learned that nothing is more expensive in Europe than eating in Switzerland. The exchange rate between Swiss Francs and Dollars is pretty much equal. In looking around, McDonald's cost about 14.00 for a value meal. Naively, we were led to a restaurant with misleading prices on the outside, where I was cornered into paying 17.50 for a personal pizza. Next time I go to Switzerland, I will pack a lunch.
Anyway, classes have started today. My German class is moving relatively quickly, but I feel good about it, and my professor for my seminar is rather entertaining, spending most of the hour and a half quoting Winston Churchill. This Saturday we are on a field trip to Heidelberg (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heidelberg), one of the more important German cultural cities. Then Thursday, I leave for Tallinn, Estonia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tallinn). But more to come on those when they happen. For now, here are a few more pictures of the trek so far:
The view from atop the castle in Staufen. For the record, this picture I actually took myself, as I was borrowing a friend's camera who didn't feel up to this last part of the hike.
Two pictures of the mountains on the hike
Staufen, the hike's end, with the castle on top.