Monday, January 23, 2012

Berlin, Paris, and Le Havre!

Berlin was pretty cool, but to be fair I didn’t get to see a lot of it. I went on a walking tour on the first day and saw checkpoint Charlie (apparently the spot in the past where you crossed from East to West Berlin), Museum Island (where most of the main museums are located), the remains of the Berlin wall, and a cool memorial to the Jews who were killed during the holocaust (it is uneven squares in a pretty large area and the ground is uneven as well; it’s meant to give you the impression of graves).

I did go to one museum where there were beautiful buildings from ancient times inside of it. That’s right, buildings inside buildings. Somehow, the Germans figured out how to get whole ancient buildings from Greece, Rome, the Middle East, and Northern Africa. It’s unbelievable!

Besides all this cool stuff to see, Berlin also has a crazy nightlife. I really believe it is more of the city that never sleeps than New York is. I was there on a Tuesday to Friday, not usually the best time to go to a city if you want to party. But in Berlin, there’s always a party and the music there is my favorite kind: electronic music. There is one specific area where there is an abandoned train station and the whole area seems so shady, but it’s actually awesome and full of clubs and bars. One of the nights when we arrived, we found a party set up under a bridge: it seemed that some people just brought their dj speakers and lights and set up a party and there were now over 100 people there dancing in the street. It was unreal. I’m told that if I had been there on a weekend, you can literally party from Thursday night until Sunday night; the clubs and bars never close, even during the day!

The hostel I stayed in was called the Circus Hostel. It was one of the more expensive ones in Berlin, but it was still pretty reasonable since Berlin is so cheap. I decided to go there because the guy I was Couchsurfing with in Strasbourg told me that he had stayed there and it was great and the reviews for it were excellent. The hostel was super nice, with a really nice front lounge and a cool bar at night. One of the nights there was a local band playing and they were pretty good. The beers in Germany in general are much cheaper than in France (about half the price!) and I made a good few friends in the hostel and we would split a boot of beer between us! Very stereotypical, but so awesome. One of the people I met in the hostel was a girl who is from Bellmore, just a few towns over from Massapeqeua! I also made friends with two guys who are professional divers; the kind that live in a decompression chamber for 3 months at a time and go deep down in the water to work on wells and what not.

I only stayed in Berlin for three days and then was off again back to Paris. I spent most of my time in Paris with my friends from Le Havre. New Year’s Eve wasn’t anything too crazy or exciting. We just went to a few bars in a part of Paris that I knew well and had been to a lot when I was studying there. Then we returned to Le Havre and I spent the next few days recovering from travelling.

Since New Year’s Eve, I’ve been staying in Le Havre, trying to save up money and research what to do with my life after I finish teaching. I think because of the New Year’s resolutions thing, I got into a bit of a health kick as well and have started running, swimming, and biking. I’m training to run a marathon with a friend (we’re splitting the marathon) and I’ve also gotten a ten hour card to a local pool. The pool is very modern. The architecture is all white and geometric. The pool is also half indoor and half outdoor. You enter the pool in the indoor portion and then go under a plastic kind of divider and then your outside. The pool is heated and once you start swimming it’s really warm and it’s actually really refreshing to have the fresh, crisp air while you swim. Unfortunately, I imagine it’s not very efficient in terms of energy use and I’ve heard that they built it too quickly and not well and now it leaks water into the ground and they can’t fix it. Not terribly eco-friendly I suppose.

My birthday also passed on January 12th. Had a great time seeing all of my friends. The festivities started on midnight when it turned my birthday (Wednesday) until Saturday night! During the week I had a Couchsurfer from Quebec, so lucky him, he got to see the most fun side of Le Havre. He left on Saturday morning and Saturday night was the big night where I had all of my friends out for dinner at a couscous restaurant. The restaurant was great and the woman who owned the place knew us and she gave me a bottle of champagne!

I also went to see a burlesque circus. The circus was from Australia and did cool acrobatics and contortion tricks. I really loved the theme of an adult circus; it made circus arts seem a bit more serious and artistic. The music that they performed to was also all live. I think the best trick they had was a girl lined up bottles of champagne on a piano and then walked on the tops of them on her toes! And because I am registered as a student at the university here, the tickets were 1/3 of the price!

I went to a improv comedy show here as well. I had gone with Kristen way back in October and it was hilarious because they had some funny skits that were a lot of miming, but this time there was a lot more talking so it was a bit difficult for us, as we didn’t understand a lot of it.

In other news, I got a roommate! The upstairs to my apartment is quite large so I have rented it out for low cost to a French guy. He is 27 and works for the soccer team here. He’s very nice and fun and can get me free tickets to the home soccer games! Apparently Le Havre has a great soccer team for its division. He has met all my friends and we all love him. It’s especially great for me because I speak only in French with him, and I really think that in the last week that he’s been here I’ve improved a lot in my speaking. His sister came over yesterday to visit him and see the apartment and she brought us food his mom made! It was veal wrapped in what looked like bacon but it was from the cow. And for dessert his aunt had sent us some real ginger bread.

I have also started tutoring two adorable little boys for an hour on Wednesdays in English. Last week we worked on telling time and saying numbers. Today I met a father about babysitting his daughter on Sunday. He has a Magic the Gathering tournament (it’s a card game) this Sunday and he needs me to watch her. The girl is super cute and 7 years old. She was very shy when meeting me, but I think she liked me. I’ll be her first sitter! I also got an email that someone from the business college here would like tutoring in English! Woo! Makin’ money!!

I have a friend Ali from the US visiting me now! I’ll write all about her trip soon!