Saturday, June 5, 2010

New Culture - New Sights

It has been a while since I last wrote. I have been traveling near and far with the group to a variety of places. I will start right where I left off.

On Tuesday 5/25 and Wednesday 5/26, I spent most of the day at the University. My "Perspective and Developments in the EU" course fell on both of these days. I am enjoying this class a lot. The course is very interesting to say the least. Prior to this study, I hadn't much knowledge of the European Union. Since the first class, I have learned about theories and strategies of economic integration, the history of Europe, including WWII and the Marshall Plan, institutions and bodies of the European Union, and monetary issues that face the EU. It is great to get a different perspective on bureaucracy, politics and how government differs from country to country.

Considering the slow start of the week, Thursday was an exciting day which included a trip to Karlsruhe to visit the Federal Constitutional Court (FCC) as well as the ZKM - Center for Art and Media Museum. One interesting difference the FCC had was the environment and architecture of the building. In the United States, when visiting a political building, there is a clear depiction already in mind of the buildings.

Federal Constitutional Court

Visiting the FCC was interesting because of its modern appeal. No statues or large columns shaping the outside of the structure. No inspiration from early 18th or 19th century. Instead, it looked as though it was built with modern creativity. In fact, it was. The building was constructed between 1965 and 1969. According to plans by the Berlin architect Paul Baumgarten, he deliberately did not design a "Palace of Justice" . The open construction is intended to convey the impression of democratic transparency. The tallest wing is intended for the public and is where the courtroom is located.

ZKM - Center for Art and Media Museum

After the tour of the FCC, our group continued to the Art and Media Museum. This museum is a great place to visit if you are interested in technology. Everything from Atari to 3D-HD projectors were on display with information about each technology at your disposal. Personally, I enjoyed the music and acoustics room which gave the user a crystal clear sound with equally spaced speakers placed perfectly throughout the room. The user could then choose what style of "noise" he or she wanted to experience. It was a masterpiece to say the least.

Robot - Writes page long stories using a pencil.

Penn State students in Karlsruhe

The following day Friday 5/28 included a morning German course until 1:00pm. The next three days I spent relaxing and getting more accustomed to the new culture. Just to give you an idea what I mean when I say "new culture" I will give a few examples.

1. There is no regular bottled water. Most parts of Germany, especially ones that don't have tourism, do not sell regular water. I have come across the most interesting kinds of bottled water, but none that taste the same as Dasani, Aquafina, or even filtered tap water. If you order a water at a restaurant, you need to stress that you want tap water, which then comes with the disturbed look of your server as though you ordered rubbing alcohol. I have been trying to steer clear of soda, or rather anything carbonated, but it is honestly extremely tough unless you want beer. I ordered an apple juice hoping there would be no carbonation, but unfortunately I was sipping bubbles. One more example regarding liquids in Germany, and possibly the entire continent of Europe is that they don't use ice in any of their drinks. Oh, except for alcoholic mixed drinks; hmm, wonder why?

2. I'm all about eating healthily when I can, but since my time in Germany, it has been tough not to run to MacDonald's when I am starving. It is convenient and it is something that I know I will enjoy, more so than some German delicacies. I don't want to bash the German culture for their food and drinking habits, I just need to get more accustomed to it. On the topic of food, I would like to take this time to mention the food shopping experiences I have been having. It is great to see the small specialty shops thriving in smaller towns of Germany, when in the smaller towns of the US, they are closing due to the big box stores over-running them. But, it is difficult to go shopping at the local grocery store with a weeks worth of food on my shopping list (half of which I can't find or understand if it is the right food) all while taking public transportation 15 minutes into town. Like I said, I need to get more adapted.

3. Weather. I don't know if it is the area that I am located in or if it has just been a wacky season, but when I wake up to go to class or a field trip, I will look outside at the cloudy, dreary sky and dress appropriate to the weather. I bring my umbrella just in case, but by the time I get done my first class or step off the bus, it is 15 degrees warmer and I am ripping layers off left and right. I don't mind this, but when I see students in the perfect attire, eating a great looking meal, happy as a clam, I can't help but to be jealous. Like I said, I need to get more adapted.

Okay, that was the venting portion of my post. Now I will get back to some interesting places I have been to over this past week. After a day and a half worth of classes, our group had the opportunity to visit the Porsche Museum located in Stuttgart. I was very impressed by the architecture of the building and layout of the different vehicles within the building. Below, as well as on my facebook page, are images of the different models. It is a tremendous feeling walking into a building surrounded by millions and millions of dollars worth of architecture and vehicle innovations.

Porsche Museum, Stuttgart

Porsche 356 America Roadster

Porsche 911 GT1 98

Porsche 917/20 Coupe

McLaren TAG MP 4/2 C Formel 1

Porsche 911 GT1 Strassenversion

Porsche Cayenne GTS "Porsche Design Edition 3"

Porsche 911 3.8 Coupe (997)

Porsche Carerra GT

The following day, Wednesday 6/2, was a special day for me. It marked the third week that I have been traveling. More importantly, our group had the opportunity to go to a world renowned spa in Baden-Baden, The Caracalla Spa. It was a beautiful place, looking like it was dedicated to the Greek god's. The town itself is world renowned for it's pleasant atmosphere as well as a place to find wellness, favorable to those who can afford it. Our appointment consisted of a two hour free for all with sauna's, tanning beds, spa's with multiple temperatures to satisfy and relieve any stress or pain. I managed to use those two hours to the best of my ability by favoring the hot tub and powerful jets.

After The Caracalla Spa, we had the opportunity to explore Baden-Baden for a bit before heading to the Daimler Truck plant in Wörth. Yet another vehicle plant, this time only producing trucks. It was different from the plants we previously attended. I enjoyed seeing the different methods Daimler used to produce trucks compared to a typical residential vehicle. The Daimler plant was extremely impressive. After a day at the spa and venturing through a facility larger than three football fields, I was ready to head home.

Daimler Truck Plant, Wörth

On Friday 6/4, our group had a morning German course which was followed by another trip to Stuttgart, this time to see "Milestones of Mobility" - The Mercedes-Benz Museum. Yet another architectural feat, the Mercedes-Benz museum and tour was by far my favorite yet. Showing not only luxury cars, but trucks and other specialty vehicles made this museum shine. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

Daimler Reitwagon (1885)

Daimler Motorboot "Marie" (1888)

Benz Omnibus (1895)

Mercedes-Benz 540 K Cabriolet B (1937)

Mercedes-Benz 27/170225PS Typ SSK Sport Zweisitzer (1928)

Mercedes-Benz LP 333 Pritschenwagon (1959)

Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Coupe

Mercedes Benz 230 G "Papamobil"

Mercedes-Benz Vision SLR (1999)

Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG (2009)

Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR (1998)

Mercedes-Benz F 400 Carving (2001)

I have officially reached the mid-point of my first academic journey. Pforzheim as well as the university, courses, seminars, trips, people, and culture have all been life changing. At times, it is difficult to know my family is a couple thousand miles away and the culture I have been used to for 21 years no longer surrounds me, but I know that in the end this experience is shaping a lot of things, including my future and personal development.

I want to congratulate my brother, Drew, upon his graduation from Tamaqua High School. He has accomplished so much over the past 4 years at Tamaqua. I couldn't be more proud of him. I am so happy that he will be starting his college career with me at Penn State University. Although I am having a great time in Germany, I can't wait to be with him in Happy Valley watching him develop and contribute to the music department and Penn State Blue Band. Congrats Drew!

Some upcoming events include a trip to the world famous castle and Germany's oldest university, the city of Heidelberg along with the beginning of the FIFA World Cup on June 13!


  1. Thanks for continuing your blog. I'm enjoying it. Photos are fantastic. I will be in Happy Valley in September and will try to remember to give you and Drew a heads up. I'll take you guys to lunch.

  2. Thanks for your interest Mr. Berner. It would be great to meet up in State College.