Happy Thanksgiving!

If you have no idea what I’m talking about I refer you to Wikipedia. For all of the Americans (and apparently Canadians) out there, I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is hands down my favorite holiday. It’s essentially all of the great food you would get at Christmas a month early–plus you eliminate the stress of gift giving. And I suppose if you’re into sports there is a lot of American football that you can watch–I tend to ignore this part of the holiday although a few of the Brazilians that I know here have not. Personally, I’m all about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

And while Thanksgiving provides you with an excellent opportunity to gorge yourself on a ridiculous amount of food, it’s also a day to reflect on what you are thankful for. I know that I have a lot of things that I’m grateful for (don’t worry I won’t bore you with the details, although I will say that my family deserves a huge shoutout) and I encourage all of you to think about the same, even if you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving.

So, happy Thanksgiving wherever you are and hopefully you’ll all get to have a delicious slice of turkey and reflect a bit on some of the wonderful things you have going for you.

Facebook

Norwegians really really like Facebook. I’m personally the sort of person who uses Facebook to communicate with friends, read good articles, watch hilarious cat videos, and occasionally look up people that went to my high school. In other words, I tend to use it as a fun way to stay in touch with people and as a source of procrastination. I see email in a completely different light. It is a way for businesses bug me with promotions, a way for work related things to get done, a way for extracurricular things to get done, and a way for people bug me about things that require an in depth or thoughtful response.

Norwegians see Facebook and email slightly differently. Facebook is seen as THE way to get in touch with people. It’s not uncommon for a business to have a Facebook page instead of a website or for people to use a Facebook group to coordinate instead of say email or Google Groups. Since coming to Norway, the number of pages that I’m following and the number of Facebook groups that I’m apart of has exploded. In terms of Facebook groups alone, I’ve joined or been invited to:

  • The best Norwegian course!!
  • Moholt Student Village Activities
  • Nordlysvarsel for Trondheim (Northern Lights group)
  • Fulbrighters on Top of the World!
  • TEDxTrondheimStaff
  • TEDx Trondheim Community
  • Hyttevaktgruppa høst 14 | Studenterhytta (Information on the NTNU Student Cabin)
  • Students’ market Trondheim
  • NTNUI seiling
  • Sailing group autumn ’14

Yup, that’s a lot. Or at least I consider it a lot. Reminder: that doesn’t even include Facebook pages.

As for email, the only emails I’ve received in Norway have been from other teachers and from students; in short, only work related emails.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think that Facebook can be a great resource. I just like to keep my personal life and procrastination separate from my extracurricular activities and other miscellaneous things. I’d much rather have my inbox explode than get tons of notifications from Facebook (largely because I can leave something sitting in my inbox as a reminder whereas I’m more likely to see a notification and then promptly forget about it). The lazy part of me also acknowledges that it’s much harder to try and run a Norwegian Facebook page through Google Translate than it is to do that for an email or a website.

Something else that has surprised me about Facebook in Norway has been posts like the one below:

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Having been told time and time again to be careful with what is posted on Facebook, I find it hilarious to see such unapologetic posts in Norway. And yes, weed is illegal here.

In conclusion: having recently graduated from college, I was hoping to decrease my Facebook usage and instead have had Norway drag me back into it half heartedly kicking and screaming.

Amurica

Since coming to Byåsen, I have only worked with three classes: an International English class, an English class in the health vocational track, and a Social Studies class. So I was excited when a teacher contacted me about a month ago asking if I could stop by her English class in the restaurant vocational track. She sent me a follow up email earlier in the week asking if I could talk about life and work in the US and that she had “also picked up that [the students] find the litigation culture interesting  (specifically, “why people say they will sue people so often”).” To be frank, my initial reaction to the comment on litigiousness was “I wish I knew.”

Anyways, I duly set about planning for my lesson. Because the topic was so broad I wasn’t quite sure how to structure things, but in the end I decided to talk about:

  1. Demographics: What the Population of America Looks Like
  2. Religion and Politics
  3. Work and Family Life
  4. The Restaurant Industry
  5. Particular Quirks of the Restaurant Industry in America

Now I wouldn’t say that the lesson was a complete disaster, but it was definitely a bit of a reality check.

My International English and Social Studies classes are in what is called the “college prep” section of the school. College prep more or less covers core subjects, similar to what you would learn in an American high school, with the goal of helping students go to university. The students that I’ve encountered in college prep all tend to have very good English.

Vocational tracks on the other hand are geared towards helping students enter their vocation of choice. The impression that I got from my Fulbright education orientation and comments made by teachers at Byåsen is that vocational students are generally not the best at core subjects like English. While I occasionally work with a health vocational class, the English level required has never extended much farther than “Who is your favorite singer?” (in most cases Justin Bieber) or “If you were stranded on a desert island what are three things you would bring with you and why?”

Having been spoiled by the high English fluency of my college prep students and the pretty good English of my health class, I completely overestimated the English ability of those in the restaurant class that I was visiting.

Now there were definitely some vocab words that I knew I shouldn’t have used. When trying to explain the Supreme Court I used “unconstitutional” and immediately realized I should have said something like “illegal” or “against the law” instead. I also knew I would probably have to go back and explain what a census was. So when my co-teacher asked if we could review the slides and some of the vocab I had used, I was more than happy to oblige. I think I fully realized how much I had overshot my audience when we had to check if the students knew the meaning of “government.”

Even though most of my lesson was a bit too complex for my students, it still proved to be an instructive and hilarious class. I think the parts of the lesson that amused me most were when:

  1. We were reviewing political parties and I was asked what the turtle and the camel were for. Democrats and Republicans take note: your political animals could be drawn better. After I got over my fit of laughter, I didn’t even bother using the terms Democrats and Republicans, realizing that things would go over better if I called them the donkey-people and the elephant-people. In the end, I told them not to worry about the elephant-people since their equivalent doesn’t even exist in Norway. To be fair, they thought that the donkey-people were pretty weird too.
  2. Answering why there is no Church of America. In Norway, most people belong to the Church of Norway and so my students were a bit confused as to why America doesn’t have a state church. I then explained how many of the people who first came to America were coming to escape religious persecution (I then totally blanked on a simple way to explain the word persecution, resorting to a poor definition along the lines of “people actively didn’t like them”) and how that made our founding fathers value religious freedom. After the lesson, I speculated on what a Church of America might look like and settled on thanking our founding fathers for not allowing that to happen.
  3. Tipping. First things first, apparently the word tipping means betting in Norwegian. So my students initially thought I was describing some weird betting system that exists in US restaurants. Once I managed to clarify, my students were still at a bit of a loss as to why you would just give people extra money. When I explained that the federal minimum wage is just above 2 USD/hour for certain restaurant professions, they began to freak out. Needless to say, they began to understand why Americans have this weird habit of giving away money as tips.

While my lesson was not the smashing success I had hoped it would be, it was definitely still a fun experience and a learning experience. I’ve learned that in a vocation track it’s important to review my lesson slide by slide and to be more diligent in consulting with my co-teacher about the level of English that I’m working with.

Cell Phone Plans

A few weeks ago one of the lovely Roving Scholars contacted me to ask if I knew much about phone plans and pay-as-you-go systems in Norway. I thought that the information I emailed out might be helpful for anyone else who might be moving to Norway or even just coming for a short stay.

I am currently using a pay-as-you-go system with Netcom. Alix can attest that I have historically complained about Netcom’s customer service, but I like to think that four months into my time here Netcom and I have worked out all of the kinks in our love-hate relationship. Hopefully. 

Here’s what I would recommend (and I like to think that if you follow these steps that you will avoid all of the problems that I had with Netcom):

  1. Find your local Netcom store and buy a starter pack. 
  2. The starter pack includes a SIM with 14 days worth of calls, texts, and 250 MB of data. From what I can deduce off of the Netcom website you’ll pay 99 NOK for this.
  3. Because you’ll probably want to contact people for more than 14 days, you can buy one of these month long services:
    1. 1 GB with calls and texts for 199 NOK
    2. 3 GB with calls and texts for 299 NOK
    3. 6 GB with calls and texts for 399 NOK
  4. When you decide what sort of monthly pay-as-you-go plan you want you can either buy this service at the store (which comes with a physical card) or buy it online. 

If you buy a card at the store make sure they explain how to use the card. You have to dial a particular number and then type in another number that is listed on the card. Being handed a card and having none of this explained to me at the store started my initial saga with Netcom–make sure they explain which numbers to dial since the voice recording you will hear on the phone will be in Norwegian. I honestly found it to be a bit of a hassle to go to the store every month, so now I just top off my plan online. To do this is pretty simple. You just go to www.netcom.no/smartrefill. Then you:

  1. Input your phone number (kontantkortnummer)
  2. Select the plan you want
  3. Fill out your credit card info and you’re good to go

One benefit of paying for things online is that they will let you pay for up to 6 months of phone usage at a time.

There are a few other things you should know about Netcom:

  1. If you get a weird text in Norwegian including the refill link it’s probably Netcom telling you to top off your balance. 
  2. Only top up your phone once you have completed the 14 days or month long service plan that you have paid for.
  3. For reasons totally incomprehensible to me, the minutes that you buy with a month long plan are valid only for Norwegian cell phones. This means that you have to be a bit wary when calling a business. For example, a call to my bank goes through without a problem, but when I tried to call the Norwegian Health System I ended up using Google Voice for the call since my cell phone didn’t have enough credit.
  4. Unlike other telephone providers, you do not need a personal number (Norwegian version of a social security number) to open an account with Netcom.

The only other phone company that I’ve encountered in Trondheim is Telenor. I initially stopped by one of their offices in Trondheim and they told me that things would be cheaper if I worked with Netcom. From what I’ve heard, working with Telenor costs closer to 500 NOK a month and they won’t let you purchase a plan until you can provide them with your Norwegian personal number.

I hope that helps! Now go forth and call, text, and data use to your heart’s content.

The House in the Woods

It’s been a while since I’ve gone on a cabin trip so I was excited to be invited on one this past weekend. Because TEDx Trondheim isn’t hosting any more events for 2014, the group decided that it’s be a good idea to get some bonding in and talk a bit about plans for 2015. The founder of TEDx Trondheim, Martin, happens to have a cabin in Gjevilvassdalen and graciously offered to let us spend the weekend there.

There were thirteen of us who were able to go on the cabin trip and Friday afternoon we all piled into two cars and headed to Gjevilvassdalen. Considering that my last cabin trip had an old fashioned wood burning stove, no electricity, no running water, and an outhouse, I was originally prepared to rough it. So I was a bit shocked when I was told to bring toiletries like shampoo with me on the trip. Yes, there was a shower at the cabin, there was running water, electricity, a refrigerator, and even a dishwasher. Even Martin admitted that it wasn’t a cabin in the woods–it was a house.

IMG_1423  IMG_1425  IMG_5941

We spent that first evening more or less relaxing and playing games. After dinner we played a get to know you game where we all wrote down a fact about ourselves, shuffled the facts around, and then voted on who we thought each fact belonged to. Shockingly enough, most people believed I had dreamed of being a professional athlete. I dislike most forms of physical activity but I guess I come across as athletic. The other fact people thought belonged to me involved playing bongo drums for a band that makes stoner rock music. I guess I shouldn’t have talked about Venice Beach earlier in the evening. In case you’re curious, the fact that I did submit was that I have ridden an elephant. Only one person out of the thirteen guessed that it was me so I felt pretty successful.

The next day was a day mostly dedicated to hiking. Martin has a five year old son and he told us that the path we were taking was one that even his son was capable of. So, with this extra bit of motivation we all set off. Within ten minutes of leaving the house we encountered reindeer! A whole herd of them calmly crossed the road in front of us. For our part, the only people who remained calm in our group were the Norwegians and the Swede. The rest of us were shutterbug happy.

IMG_5955  IMG_5961  IMG_5966Once we had finished taking pictures of the reindeer, we continued on our hike. The hike wasn’t too strenuous, but it was incredibly windy. Because of the weather we didn’t spend too much time at the top of the mountain, but the views we got at the peak made everything worthwhile.

IMG_5970  IMG_5979  IMG_6019After the hike, we warmed ourselves up in the house and started to discuss the organization of TEDx Trondheim. The objective of this was for the group to determine how TEDx Trondheim should be structured in the future. It was a long three hours, but by the end of it I think most people were satisfied. Or at least just happy to finally eat dinner.

We spent the rest of the night lounging around the cabin until Martin convinced most of us to play Cranium and Cards Against Humanity. I decided to sit out both games in favor of reading a book, but as the only native English speaker I was occasionally called upon to help with both games.

Our last day at the house was very relaxed. There happens to be a beach in Gjevilvassdalen so we took the cars and drove down to it. Considering that the weather wasn’t exactly what I would call warm, we spent most of our time just walking around the beach and exploring.

IMG_6052  IMG_6118  IMG_6145After that it was just a matter of heading back to the house, cleaning up, and then hitting the road. I would say that the trip was definitely a success and I came out with it with some nice memories and closer friendships.

Final Presentations

I’ve been told that my last few posts make it seem like everything is all play and no work, but don’t worry! I’ve still been teaching–I’ve just assumed that you’d rather hear more about the fun parts of my week. So, for this post I decided that I should reassure you that I do in fact have a job here in Norway.

Things at NTNU have slowly been coming to a close. November 21 is the last day of classes at the university and many of my students’ weekly writing samples tend to detail their various panic levels as they approach the end of the semester. In my smaller NTNU class, Academic Writing, Nancy has established a tradition of inviting all of our students over to her house for dinner and presentations. Many of the students in the class are international, in fact we only have one Norwegian student, so the presentations are meant to help us understand their experiences in Norway and learn more about about how Norway compares to their home countries. But, first things first, we dined.

Nancy happens to be a fabulous cook and made a mixture of Norwegian and American dishes for the class. My meager contribution to this part of the evening was setting the table, chopping lettuce, and generally trying to be a good sous chef. Basically my role at family gatherings since the dawn of time (though for any family members reading this rest be assured I am not complaining).

After we feasted and managed to roll ourselves away from the table we started up the projector and after a few technical difficulties began the presentations. I learned a good deal from these presentations, but the thing that actually surprised me the most was how funny my students are. This particular class is notable for how quiet they are so I was surprised to see so many of them crack jokes. So, here are some of the highlights from these presentations:

  • Our first German student decided to present on Turkish street food in Germany, particularly doner kebab. The student gave us some of the history of the industry as well as some stats (just about everyone was prepared to move to Berlin when he said that doner costs about 1 euro). My favorite part of his presentation though was his concluding slide, which had the picture below and the caption:Angie knows…doner makes beautiful
  • We then had three French students do a fairly comprehensive comparison between France and Norway. I think that their biggest complaint centered around the food. Their biggest concern was Norwegian cheese. In Norway, cheese is made by boiling whey and the most highly prized Norwegian cheese is brown cheese. Needless to say, my French students do not think that this qualifies as cheese. All three students practically waxed poetic when talking about the sheer amount of hard cheese available in France (one girl said that the number was over 350 cheeses).
  • I think the thing that made everyone laugh the most was a presentation by our Spanish student. She said that she was shocked by thermometers in Norway since it was the first time she’d seen a thermometer that measured temperatures below 0 Celsius.
  • One of the stranger things I learned about that night was about sports in Finland. Finland apparently hosts world championships in wife carrying, boot throwing, air guitar playing, swamp soccer, and sitting on ant’s nests. I kid you not these are real things. There are even stamps depicting these sports in Finland.

After the presentations, we all dug into dessert and continued to talk. Some interesting moments from this conversation include:

  • Talking about Christmas foods and having our Chinese student explain that Christmas is not celebrated in China. Many of my students struggled to wrap their heads around the idea of no Christmas.
  • Having our German students explain that they pay state taxes to the church, though apparently you can go to court and get yourself banished from the church, thus avoiding those taxes.
  • Germans still pay taxes that support East Germany, a hangover from World War II.
  • Apparently Germans used to build a lot of churches because they could use them as an excuse to celebrate and drink. They would celebrate the day each church was started, the day it was opened, etc. In essence, Germans tried to created a year round party centered around church building; at least until the kaiser put his foot down and declared that there would only be one celebratory day.
  • I also had fun realizing how small some of my student’s hometowns are. One student in particular described his birthplace as containing “approximately two hundred souls. About a hundred human and a hundred cow.”

All in all, it was a fun and educational night and I like to think that everyone walked home with a little bit more knowledge and a full tummy.

Munich and Füssen Wrap Up

I thought I’d repeat what I did with the Lofoten Islands and do a little summary of tips and advice for anyone planning on going to Munich or Füssen.

  1. Fly into the regular Munich Flughafen airport (MUC) NOT Memmingen airport
  2. Google Maps is your best friend. Google Maps syncs really well with the transportation system in Munich and makes the city very easy to navigate. Thanks again to Michael for being the designated navigator for most of our adventures.
  3. Definitely utilize the public transportation system and know that a ticket will cover you on the subway, tram, and bus and that a partner ticket works for 2-5 people.
  4. I would highly recommend everything that we did in my Sights of Munich post (St. Peter’s Church, Munich Residence, English Garden, Pinakothek Museums, and Hofbrauhaus).
  5. Definitely drink beer and eat the pretzels if not schnittlauch breze, a pretzel with cream cheese and chives.
  6. To look into trains to Füssen or book one you can go here
  7. If you’re going to Füssen and looking for a more jam packed day I would say that you should visit Hohenschwangau before Neuschwanstein.
  8. To get a great view of Neuschwanstein follow the Marienbrücke path.

Overall I had a thoroughly enjoyable time in Munich and Füssen. Thanks again to Julie for being an amazing hostess!

Last Stops and the Trip Home

This was my last day in Munich and to be honest there wasn’t too much left to do on my bucket list. At Julie’s suggestion we hopped on the S-bahn and headed out towards Olympic Park and BMW Welt (BMW World). Neither Julie or I happen to be huge car fans so the majority of BMW Welt was totally lost on us. That being said, we did enjoy looking at some of the cars and trying to design our own Mini Cooper.

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Afterwards, we walked towards some of the housing in Olympic Park. Much of the old Olympic Village has been converted into student flats and Julie actually lived in one of these buildings when she was studying abroad in Munich. According to Julie, artists were invited to paint these student apartments so you get some pretty fun designs on the buildings. We even managed to find Julie’s old flat.

IMG_1300  IMG_1303  IMG_1306Afterwards, we continued our walk around Olympic Park and it’s actually quite charming. Julie told me that the reason why the park is so hilly is because after World War II the rubble was built up into piles and those piles now transformed into tree covered hills. Once I realized why Olympic Park was so hilly it was hard not to think about how devastating World War II was. Although I studied World War II in the course of my undergraduate studies, I never thoroughly studied the German experience of the War. It was incredible to be reminded of just how thoroughly bombed some of these cities were and also a bit strange to encounter how the War has been incorporated into living memory.

IMG_1309  IMG_1313  IMG_1315 IMG_1320  IMG_1323  IMG_1324Julie and I took our time walking through the park and we walked by the soccer stadium and the pool before getting tickets to the tower and getting a pretty great view of the city. We then made slow tracks back towards Julie’s apartment and even made a short stop at the Nymphenburg Palace to take a quick walk around the grounds.

Once I picked up my luggage Julie and I went back on the S-bahn. I was heading to the airport while Julie was going to the central station. At some point in this journey I realized that I had received a text from my airline, SAS. Since everything I get from SAS is in Norwegian I more or less skimmed the text before ignoring it. When I showed the text to Julie however she happened to notice that the message contained the word “kansellert” and asked me if my flight was cancelled. I hadn’t the faintest idea but figured that either way I would be able to figure things out at the airport.

Sure enough my flight had been cancelled. Because SAS is a Star Alliance member I was told to go bug people at the Lufthansa desk. I quickly gathered that I was not the only one with a cancelled flight. There were a ton of stranded Americans there whose United flight had also been cancelled. Keeping in mind my stranger danger lesson from before I decided to entertain myself on my phone instead of striking up a conversation with any of my fellow stressed out fliers. By the time I actually got to someone at the ticket counter it was clear that the people working the desks were also exhausted. I swear at one point I saw a ticket agent banging his desk phone against his head. All of these things meant that I had a less than stellar conversation with the Lufthansa agent which more or less went like this:

Agent: Ticket?
Me: No, sorry my flight was cancelled.
Agent: Yes, but I still need your ticket.
Me: But I don’t have a ticket
Agent: Yes, but you need to print one out.
Me: But how can I print one out if the flight is cancelled?
Agent: Well everyone else has a printed ticket.
Me:…Well I’m sorry but I don’t have one
Agent: Don’t you have something from United?
Me: No, I wasn’t flying United.
Agent: Where are you trying to go? Houston?
Me: No, Trondheim.
Agent: So Dallas?
Me: No, Trondheim…you know city in Norway? Kinda up North?
Agent: Not the United States?
Me: …No. Trondheim. T-R-O-N-D-H-E-I-M.
Agent: So you aren’t on United?
Me:………..NO
Agent: So why are you in this line? This is for United passengers
Me: Well that wasn’t stated anywhere. If anything you have Air Swiss listed above your head.
Agent: So no one told you to come to this line.
Me: No
Agent: Well there should have been someone
Me:…Well maybe you can fix that next time

As you can see it took some time to make a bit of headway. Once the guy had confirmed for the fifth time or so that I was NOT flying United and was NOT going to the United States he finally managed to start rebooking my flights. What he eventually organized wasn’t exactly ideal but there really weren’t any other reasonable alternatives. I will say that some of my frustration disappeared when I realized that Lufthansa was giving away free coffees and teas before the flight and when I got a free cup of wine during the flight. If Norway has taught me anything, it’s to take the free/cheap/reasonably priced alcohol when it comes.

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

Throughout our trip Michael and I kept seeing pictures of animals paired with indecipherable German. Having seen these signs everywhere we figured it was a signal from the universe to go to the zoo. So, in the morning I tentatively asked Julie if she would like to go with us to the zoo. To my surprise and delight Julie told me that she 1) would love to go with us to the zoo 2) had yet to go to the Munich zoo 3) had been meaning to go there. Not only were Michael and I excited to have Julie join us, we were also in awe of her knowledge of the Munich transit system. Having Julie along also significantly reduced our breakfast ordering struggles.

At the zoo, all of us were happy to look at all of the animals, although I insisted on seeing the elephants and Julie and I insisted on seeing the penguins. Our college dorm’s mascot was a penguin so we wanted to go pay a visit. Unfortunately, Michael was out of luck since his dorm’s mascot was a cod, so no mascot visits for him. While I liked looking at all of the animals I have to say my favorite was a black monkey who really seemed to enjoy posing for the camera. Not wanting to let him down, I’ve included some of his better shots.

IMG_5905  IMG_5910  IMG_5914 IMG_5916  IMG_5919  IMG_5921The three of us spent a bit more time walking around Munich before we saw Michael off to the airport. Afterwards, Julie and I headed back to Marienplatz and a Tripadvisor recommendation, Asam’s Church. Asam’s Church is one of the most elaborate churches that I’ve been to. Julie told me that the Asam brothers were responsible for selling things to churches, such as artwork, pews, confessionals, etc., and many of these are on display at the church. The church itself is pretty small so it doesn’t take too long to look around. The thing that impressed me the most was according to Julie the ceiling is actually flat. The painter managed to create an optical illusion so that it looks as though the ceiling is round.

IMG_5931  IMG_5936  IMG_5940Once we were done with the church, Julie took me on an adventure to go see the Oktoberfest grounds. Here are a few of the things I learned about the festival:

  • Oktoberfest is crowded more or less 24/7
  • The grounds are built every year although the space isn’t used during the rest of the year
  • Oktoberfest causes massive amounts of congestion in the city–causing a lot of locals to dislike it
  • Many locals will take their holiday time during Oktoberfest so that they can work during this time period. Apparently working in the grounds is very lucrative since they need so many people to actually run the festival

While there wasn’t too much to see, it was still nice to walk around the grounds and get a sense of the sheer size of Oktoberfest.

IMG_1290  IMG_1294When we finished, we headed to the English Garden to grab some lunch at one of the beer gardens. Julie was in charge of ordering and got us currywurst and spezi. Curryworst is sausage in a ketchup type sauce with curry (which I was initially skeptical of) and spezi is beer mixed with fanta (which I was excited to try). As per all of Julie’s food and drink recommendations, everything was delicious. Once we had finished, Julie and I headed back to her place for a few power naps and some Skype calls with old college roommates and friends.

Füssen and Neuschwanstein

Having been born and raised in Los Angeles, I have always had a slight obsession with Disney and Disneyland in particular. Going to Disneyland as a child was the highlight of any day, and I admit that going to Disneyland as an adult is still pretty fun. So when Julie suggested that Michael and I take a trip to Neuschwanstein, the inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle, I was more than happy to agree.

The game plan was to take the three hour train ride from Munich’s central station (Hauptbahnhof) to Füssen, where Neuschwanstein is located. We struggled a bit when it came to actually leaving the house in time to catch the morning train, but luckily the trains runs regularly enough that it was fairly easy to buy a ticket for a train leaving around noon. The confusing thing about the train tickets was that they didn’t have any information printed on them beyond the fact that we had purchased them for the day. This made Michael and I a bit worried since the tickets didn’t list the train times or platform numbers. At a bit of a loss, we wandered over to the information desk and asked for help. To our surprise (and later on Julie’s), the woman at the information desk printed out all the information we needed for our trip to Füssen, including information on where we needed to switch trains and the platforms we need to be at. More than just a little bit grateful we then went in search of brunch.

Having been told multiple times, usually by Alix, that the Turkish food in Munich is amazing, the two of us found a well rated Turkish place on Yelp and decided to check it out. We gleefully followed Google Maps to the restaurant only to pull up short once we were outside. It was a vegetarian/vegan restaurant. Now I have nothing against vegetarian/vegan meals, but Michael and I had definitely been thinking about having something with a lot of meat in it. We tentatively walked in and inquired if the signs outside the restaurant were accurate. Turns out they served chicken! Not all was lost.

It was with big smiles and happy stomachs that we eventually left the restaurant, and we caught our train in plenty of time. The plan was to take one train to Augsburg and then transfer to Füssen. Thanks to the lady from the information desk things went smoothly. The train ride itself was also beautiful. We even saw deer!

IMG_5794  IMG_5806  IMG_5810 IMG_5816  IMG_5819  IMG_5822 Once we arrived in Füssen we decided to take a cab up towards the castle. Luckily the cab drive was only around 5 minutes and cost about 10 euros. The cab dropped us off at the foot of the mountain and we decided to walk the rest of the way up to the castle, following Julie’s recommendation to do the Marienbrücke hike, a 30 minute endeavor.

IMG_5826  IMG_5827  IMG_5829 We eventually made it to the castle and it was worth the trek. We didn’t actually go inside the castle for two reasons 1) apparently you have to buy tickets at the foot of the mountain–something that we had neglected to do 2) Julie had informed us beforehand that the interior of the castle was originally unfinished, making modern day attempts to finish it a bit disappointing.

IMG_5838  IMG_5845  IMG_5851 IMG_5862  IMG_5875  IMG_5878It was around this point in time that Michael and I encountered a slight dilemna. Before we had set off on our adventure, Julie had told us that if we wanted to get the classic shot of the castle from a distance we should follow the path labeled Marienbrücke. Following Marienbrücke had led us to the castle, but it was clear that we were not in a position where we could get the panoramic view. We texted Julie to make sure we had the right path, and were again told to follow Marienbrücke. Still confused, we left the castle courtyard and sure enough saw a sign indicating that Marienbrücke continued beyond the castle. Now feeling less confused, we continued along the path until we got to a bridge. Once on the bridge, Michael and I were finally able to take the classic picture of the castle. I would say that the trip was worth it for that view alone.

IMG_5884  IMG_5885  IMG_5903Julie had also told us that we could visit another castle in the region called Hohenschwangau. Unlike Neuschwanstein, this castle has a finished interior, but at this point Michael and I were ready to call it quits. It also didn’t seem like anything could compete with the view we just saw.

On our way down the mountain, we were accosted by a man dressed up like a king and wheeling around a baby carriage. The strange thing was that the baby carriage contained beer and had beer cans trailing behind in. On our train ride down to Füssen one of our ticket collectors had tried to talk to us about “the king of the mountain.” It was in this moment that Michael and I realized that this must be who he was referring to. Our conversation with the king went as follows:

King of the Mountain: You English?
Us: Yes, we’re Americans.
King of the Mountain: Perfect! You must help me with my question!
Member of the king’s entourage: No dude, it’s quest. Not question.
King of the Mountain: Yes, my quest. You must help me with my quest!
Us: Uh, what does that involve?
King of the Mountain: You give me three euros for a picture and I also give you free beer!

This seemed like a decent deal to us, so having given the man a few euros we finished our walk down the mountain with a beer in hand and later on with a pretzel.

After waiting for the bus to take us into town and later waiting for the train, Michael and I finally began our journey back to Munich. This time we ended up having to take three trains instead of two. When we arrived in Augsburg we happily boarded the next train leaving for Munich and didn’t really bother to look at our surroundings. Once we sat down, it was very clear that we were on a much nicer train than any of the other trains we had taken that day. The seats were comfier, there was wifi, and people were dressed in suits drinking beer out of real glasses. We glanced around, glanced at each other, and more or less shrugged it off. We figured that if we were on the wrong train the ticket collector would let us know. To our great surprise, the ticket collector did not bother to check our tickets and after about two stops we were in Munich. When we told Julie what had happened she told us that we had definitely been aboard an ICE train, which was something our ticket did not cover. I suppose ignorance is bliss.

We ended the day at a restaurant that Julie suggested, Weinhaus Schneider. She mentioned that it was a fondue restaurant and both Michael and I happen to love cheese. After a bit of a wait, we were led to a table and given an English menu with a German alcohol menu. I zeroed in on a red wine, while Michael attempted to figure out German beer brands. We ordered and soon realized that we were wrong on two counts. While Michael and I thought we had figured out which section of the menu was selling beer, it turned out he had inadvertently ordered wine. German: 1 Michael and I: 0. The second surprise was realizing that instead of cheese fondue we were simply cooking our food in some sort of oil. After we realized our mistake, we snuck a few glances at our neighbors to make sure that we eating things correctly. While it was not the cheese extravaganza we had hoped for, it was still quite good. Afterwards we hopped on the S-bahn for the last time that day and made our way back to Julie’s apartment.