Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Over the weekend, we went to Museumsuferfest in Frankfurt! This was a planned outing for the Fulbright group, and it was fun to get out of Marburg together and explore a different city. 

I've been to Frankfurt before. Most recently, of course, was at the beginning of the month when we flew in and stayed a night to begin this adventure. We've transferred trains there since as we traveled south, but the only time I've ever spent much time in Frankfurt was in 2005, when I spent 4-5 days here on the way back from Ukraine. We did some fun things, and I remember bits and pieces of it, but by and large, Frankfurt had not been my favorite city to explore after that trip. 

While it still isn't my dream destination, we had a really good time exploring the city and getting to experience the festival. We met in Marburg at 10 that morning and took the train in, It was about an hour's ride. It was a really hot weekend and the temperature was about 95 (or 35 Celsius)!

Rebecca, our fearless leader (with the Fulbright commission in Marburg), took us on a walking tour around the city. We'd discussed different things we'd see the day before. This lovely building is actually a reconstruction. Frankfurt was really heavily bombed in WWII, so many of the long-standing buildings were destroyed and have since been rebuilt. I can't imagine what that must have been like, but I am impressed by the work that was clearly put into reconstructing these places.

This church was also a reconstruction. It was built as a church but didn't function as a church until more recently; it was used as a place for coronations and ceremonies. It too was destroyed and rebuilt and it is now used as a church for weekly services.

We were on a sort of round about tour, so we walked over the river and to the old town, before heading back to the river for the festival.

Frankfurt is the only German city with a skyline. It is the fifth largest city in Germany, and it is the financial hub of the country (hence the skyscrapers).

The festival was huge! Down both sides of the river for maybe close to a mile (I'm probably way off with that guess but estimating isn't my strong suit... it really was a long ways though), there were tents set up with food, drinks, crafts, people advertising their businesses, and I even saw a tent where people were playing roulette.

We were hungry so we ate first and chose boring bratwurst. There were so many options - Argentinian food, African food (yes, it just said African, not a specific country), pizza, burgers, Korean food, you name it.

This lock-on-bridge thing is very popular here. Many of these were engraved, and I'm wondering if there's a business near the base of bridges here that does that or if people just plan ahead?

As you may have guessed by the name, the festival was going on because of the museums. For one admission price (I don't know what it was because the Fulbright paid for it), we got entry into most of the museums in Frankfurt. There are a LOT so we barely scratched the surface.

Our first was this monastery. The mural on the wall depicted different Biblical and Apocryphal scenes, and it was really intricate. I didn't look this up, but I'm thinking this too was a reconstruction or at least a restoration, because although this mural was really old, it didn't look old at all.

The monastery had a courtyard garden that was lovely.

Carson took off for the Archaeology Museum and the Goethe Haus, but Sidney, Sophie and I went off to the film museum. I wasn't expecting to enjoy this so much but it was really neat. We went through a room that had a progression of early types of film and entertainment. One that impressed me were these long boxes where people had set up a bunch of layers of scenes. You looked down through a hold in the top and the images looked 3D. Can you imagine the time this would take?

Next, we went into this room that was all about actual films. There was a movie playing that showcased different aspects of film, from images to costumes to color to lighting. It was about an hour long and played on a loop, but we sat and watched the entire thing. I came away really impressed with the amount of thought it takes to craft a film.

On the same floor, there was a giant green screen you could walk past and see things like this:

And in the lobby they had these, which I didn't really look at when we first walked in. These are all of Alfred Hitchcock's movies, scene by scene, condensed. They also had one for Stanley Kubrick, but I've seen more Hitchcock movies.

We barely made it onto the 4:50pm train back to Marburg (they were blowing the whistle as we stepped on). Carson had done his own thing and our phones have had trouble getting messages to one another so I didn't realize it until we were almost there, but he was on the same train! He walked back to the dorms to study for his last comprehensive exam, but I walked down with Sophie, Lindsay (have I mentioned that there are two Lindsays and one Lindsey in this group? It gets confusing) and Sidney for some ice cream. A refreshing reward on a hot day!

There were groups going to a national park and hiking, and another group going to Wiesbaden, but Carson and I decided to do our own thing the next day and we headed back to Frankfurt. We decided not to stay long, because of the studying, but since we had the festival buttons for the whole weekend and the free ticket, we thought it would be worth it even for just a couple hours.

Even on the tiniest balconies and yards, people seem to have some green thumbs here. I've seen some really beautiful gardens in some very small spaces!

Here's another angle of the square we walked through the other day.

For lunch I had a mushroom crepe. I didn't anticipate how much food that would actually be, and I couldn't finish it. Carson enjoyed the leftovers.

He had a steak from this place. We haven't looked into this here, but his steak was most certainly pork and not beef, so we're wondering if they just use the same word for any meat that's cooked that way or what the deal is. He said it was really good regardless, and loved this grill set up.

I thought this stand was really cute.

There were some rowing races going on, so we watched them go. From far away, it didn't appear that they were going very fast, but from this standpoint on the bridge, it was obvious that they were really working.

We actually returned to the film museum. I really enjoyed it, and Carson wanted to check it out too!

This time we went to the Wallace and Gromit/Claymation special exhibit on the third floor. It was amazing to see the work that goes into these movies. I knew they were a lot of work, but seeing the progression of the clay models and even the molds for the little clay hands and eyeballs, I was really blown away by the time this takes! These are from the Shaun the Sheep movie and it's supposed to be Abbey Road.

They had a set up from a scene shot for one of the movies. Look at all the detail!

After that museum, we headed down the river past more tents.

We visited the Communication Museum. This exhibit was all about messages in bottles. They had so many from all over the world! The signs were all in German, but it was really neat still looking at all the different bottles. Later, I noticed they were selling plastic bottles in the gift shop that you could actually mail! I didn't, but wouldn't that be so fun?

They also had these sheep, made from phones!

There seems to be a Dunkin Donuts obsession in Germany. I don't like Dunkin Donuts very much so I don't get the hype, but I do find it funny.

There were lots of stands selling Apfelwein (Apple Wine). It's a special drink here in Hesse and at this stand you could watch the guy on the left press apples and make the drink. We didn't have any, but I've heard it's really good. It's also made in Marburg, so perhaps I'll try some before we leave!

On this stage they were having a talent contest or something. We watched a group of dancers, followed by this group doing Tae Kwon Do.

We were in Frankfurt for about four hours before heading home. Once again, it was super hot, so we bought water before getting on the train back. It was sunny when we left and remained sunny until about two minutes before our train pulled into Marburg.

At that time, we had a sort of freak thunderstorm. It started pouring BUCKETS of rain. Here's the view from the Hauptbahnhof as people run to the buses in the middle there. We ran out to see when our bus was coming and it was going to be 50 minutes. We were already absolutely soaked from running to the bus stop, and it was really cold, but walking up that hill in that rain was a no-go, so we caught a taxi.

We were drenched. I hope the poor taxi driver had a towel or something, because we were dripping water everywhere. Don't worry, we tipped well! He pulled up to the bottom of the hill where the dorms are and I had to take off my shoes to run up. There were huge tree limbs on the ground and the water running down the hill was over an inch deep! As seems to be our luck, it stopped raining about an hour later, but by that time we were nice and dry again.

We had a fun weekend! We aren't really big museum people, but it was really neat to learn in Frankfurt and also to explore there more. We went into a part of the city that I don't think I'd visited the first time and I really enjoyed it. And Carson liked that he could say that he'd explored the city a little bit, instead of just using it as a stop between trains.

This weekend we're headed to Kassel with the group to see the Hercules statue and the waterworks. It looks like it will be impressive!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Werfen, Austria

So we woke up in Austria. Although we'd gone to bed before 9 the night before, our 7am departure still came too early. Our beds were cozy and we could have just relaxed all day. 

Instead, we grabbed our things and headed down to breakfast, where quite a spread was waiting for us. We had to eat quickly because the trains came once an hour and we needed to get on the 7:45 one. Breakfast started at 7:30, so we cut it close but made the train.

The train left at 7:45 and we were at the Werfen station at 7:47, so I guess we probably could have walked, but we knew we'd already be doing a lot of that. We waited for the shuttle bus to take us to Eisriesenwelt, the ice caves!

I don't know that I could have ridden in the front of that bus. The driver had no fear, it seemed. We sped along curvy narrow mountain roads at what can only be described as a breakneck pace. Other cars and people walking on the same road veered out of the way, and we made it up without incident. 

We bought our tickets at the main entrance and then had to hike uphill about 20 minutes to get to the cable car. We had our choice of taking the scenic route or a shortcut through a cave for part of it, so we chose the cave on the way there and the scenery on the way back.

It was okay, I guess (that's the shortcut cave on the left)

We took the cable car up and our ears were popping like crazy.

After the cable car, we hiked again for 25 or so minutes. We took a little longer than that because we were taking pictures.

There's the ice cave!

Here we are! It wasn't as cold as it looks, but we knew we WOULD be cold so we wore the jackets, not considering the fact that as we walked up, we'd get sweaty and then more cold. Not so smart.

We were part of the first group up there. We'd heard that it can get especially busy on the weekends and we wanted to avoid the lines. By the time our tour started (about 15 minutes after we got up there), there were a LOT of people, and by the time we came out people were crawling all over!

Long story short, this little Italian boy found Carson's knife on the ground, returned it reluctantly (apparently it's a thing with little boys and knives). Carson decided later to give it to him because he knows that little boys love knives. This kid was PUMPED about that. His parents said no at first but the little boy was so excited that they told him he could accept it. Carson told him about the knife and how it was the safety award for one of the years he worked for the fire crew, and told him all about the forest he got it in. His mom translated what Carson said into Italian, and then asked for a picture (and I stood next to her and got one too). She also mentioned that they live in Rome, where they run a bed and breakfast and she's a tour guide. We exchanged contact info, so maybe we'll see our new friend Marco again soon?

The inside of the cave was a balmy zero degrees. I think I must have known that when I was packing, but I conveniently packed a rain coat and a light jacket. The train on the way there was freezing, but nothing like this. Yikes!

Getting ready to go in the cave! The German tour group went first, and then about five minutes later they let the English tour group enter.

Jessie and I with our lamp. It blew out moments later because of all the insane wind blowing just inside the mouth of the cave, but our guide relit it.

So, you aren't supposed to take pictures inside because it will slow people down. So while we were stopped already listening to the guide, I took a couple of sneaky ones. It was SUPER dark in there and our guide lit up some of the ice sculptures with a lantern as we walked past, otherwise, it was just us and our lanterns in the dark up 700 stairs. They said that we were free to use the pictures on their website, so I decided to do just that. It's pretty obvious which ones I didn't take. Here's the website, in case you're interested.

 After an hour and a half inside the world's largest ice cave, we stepped back into the sunshine. It felt very warm outside to our little red noses. 

Carson treated himself to an apple doughnut.

We took the cable car back down.

This lunch tasted AMAZING. Anything would have been good, but we were tired and still getting warm and this was perfect. 

We tried this, which I would describe as tasting like flowers smell... and that is not a good thing. It sort of tasted like floral soap. 

We only had a little bread left, full stomachs, and a whole bunch of cheese, so Carson decided not to waste food:

We said our goodbyes at the shuttle drop off to the the Italian family as we decided to walk up to the castle we'd seen on the hill (we'd already walked 5 miles that day, what was a few more?)

It wasn't that long of a walk, surprisingly. It was semi-steep, but I think it felt worse than it was, due to all the walking from earlier.

To our chagrin, we discovered that admission to the castle was 14 precious Euro. I bought a postcard because we really were there, but that's all I purchased. We did discover their free wifi and hopped on that while we were up there.

Sidney and I explored a little bit. She's 6 feet tall and I am not, so in this picture, I have jumped and am holding on for dear life to the (extremely hot) slate roof tiles so Carson could snap a picture.

We headed back down toward the Bahnhof. I liked this sign because of the warning about strollers. Hilarious illustration.

We bought our tickets and realized we didn't have anywhere to be until our train left at 7pm, so we stayed another hour until the next train and enjoyed the river. Carson had been dying to jump in since we saw the water, so I'm glad we got to do that. It was really refreshing. 

Maybe a little too refreshing. 
In this picture you can see the castle behind Carson and if you look REALLY close, you can also see the mouth of the ice cave up there too.

We were looking at all the rocks and I mentioned that I'd never seen a heart shaped rock... and then on this day we found three.

We hopped back on the train, refreshed by the ice water :)

We didn't feel like doing too much more walking, so we wanted something close, but everything within a reasonable price seemed to be closed on Saturdays, so we navigated to the nearest McDonalds. 

We thought their "America" menu was funny. Breaded Gouda stars (like mozzarella sticks but with gouda) and of course a bacon burger. 

This happy dog watched us finish our meal. 

And everyone else had gotten one of these little apple pie things the day before in the train station and RAVED, but I didn't have one, so Carson and I split one of those. It was pretty good, I must say.

I just like all these new funny signs. 

We had to go back through Munich and Frankfurt before getting to Marburg, and we were so happy when we did. We got one of the last trains of the evening from Frankfurt and it was definitely the "party train" - most of the people going back were quite loud and some were singing loudly. Nothing rowdy or rude, just a bunch of people who'd had a fun night, I guess. I didn't get much sleep, so I entertained myself. 

We got back to our dorm a little before 3am. There weren't any buses running that late, so we had to walk up yet another hill, and after sitting for so long, our legs were very sad about that development. I spent the next day not walking very much and was really pleased with that decision!

It was a fantastic trip! If we'd have had one more day to explore Salzburg a little more, I think that would have been great, but since we weren't able to do that, I think we still got a really great little trip out of the weekend. I'm hopeful that we will get lots of weekends to take off and see new places, whether in Germany or elsewhere in Europe!
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