Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sachsenhausen

     On our second day in Berlin we went to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. It was my first time seeing a concentration camp and it took me a little by surprise. You learn in school about the holocaust, but for the most part you pretend it happened in another realm. It was before we were alive, in a place most of us have never been and ya It affected a bunch of our families, including my own, but It's easier just to pretend it happened in another world because one disgruntled evil man decided to start a war. You picture concentration camps isolated from the rest of society, from the rest of the world. They're not though. The main purpose of concentration camps was to work people, that means they produced a lot of goods, which  needed to be transported. The need for transportation means most concentration camps were near major railway lines. They weren't isolated in another world, they were in towns, where bystanders could see what was happening
     The holocaust didn't occur because of one evil man, it involved an entire world. This isn't saying anything bad about Germany or Germans. If there is one thing you take from my blog it's that Germany is so much more than the World War II. The culture here  is welcoming and accepting, honestly more accepting than American culture. Obviously it was different 70 years ago, but the world was different 70 years ago. What happened here was more a result of the aftermath of World War I, the result of a negative environment more than anything. The times were hard and it was easy to just succumb to hate. It's cliche, but hatred blinds us, it takes away reason and can make it easy to commit horrible acts; it's also something we are all capable of feeling.
    The most startling realization of the whole visit is the ease with which this could occur again. Looking back what happened was so horrible, but at the time it was just a slow progression of hateful acts until murdering large groups of people just seemed like the status quo. Genocides have occurred after World War 2 and are still occurring now. People continue to remain silent as thousands are wrongly killed. All of this is just because of hate. If people could dispel whatever hateful views they have and view everyone as fellow people, and not just brash stereotypes that can't love or hurt. I guess the main thought I got from all this is that we have to be incredibly aware of our own hatred and prejudice. We all have it, we all forget that the people and figures we hate are just as human as we are. The heights of human kindness are infinite, but so too are the depths of hatred.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Berlin Part 1

    This weekend we went to Berlin and met up with a few friends from back in the states. I know I've only seen a few of the world's cities so far, but Berlin is so far my favorite. There's so much history, so many things to do, it was hard to squeeze in so much into less than 36 hours. Also would be hard to squeeze the whole weekend into one post, so surprise you get two : )
    Before I get into the actual city, just want to discuss how we ended up getting there. So ICE trains are really expensive, ranging above 100 euro for one way, which is a little too steep for me. Luckily, they have the schönes Wochenende ticket, literal translation is nice weekend ticket. This lets a group of 5 take any number of regional trains in a day for 42 euro for the entire group. The downside is instead of one happy 6 hour train, you have a bunch of short trains and a 3 hour layover in a tiny town called Minden, amounting to a 12 hour trip. With a group of people you like it's really fun, also now I can say I've slept on the floor of a German train station. The way back was a hassle too, but that's significantly funnier to me than it would be to anyone here so If you really want to hear the story ask me when I get back : )
     Back to Berlin, the city has a rough past, but It's coming back and is honestly one of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen. We saw all the touristy things, including the Berlin wall. The wall isn't as intense as you would think, it's just a wall. It's odd that it took less than a weekend to build the first draft of the wall, which would keep the east and west of Berlin separate for almost 30 years. Of course the wall was manned by soldiers with guns, but still. One weekend was all it really took.
     Oh well, I need to head out soon, but If you ever have the opportunity  to visit Berlin please do. It's beautiful beyond words.

P.S. I broke my computer mic some how so until further notice the videos won't be happening, sorry friends : /

Monday, June 17, 2013

Do You Remember When?

    More a random musing anything, but as I'm making posting and messaging friends from back home something really odd hit me. I haven't said "Do you remember when?" this entire trip. Back in the US I said this at least every day, just kind of in passing. I guess it's just because in the US I have so many memories, while here each day is still so new. Honestly, I kind of miss the ability to share memories from more than 4 weeks ago. I guess I could just start doing it randomly... "Hey Remember when we went to Maastricht?" "Ya that was last weekend...."

Sunday, June 16, 2013

It's Been A Month...

     I left Pittsburgh on May 15th, and I left New York on the 16th...which means that I've been away home for a full month  now. The initial wonder of being somewhere new has worn off, the follow up sadness and homesickness has also faded, more or less; all that's left is comfort. In only a month, this place has become a home of sorts. Don't get me wrong, there are still 6 weeks of new and awesome experiences. It just feels a little better at the end of the day when I get back to Aachen
   Also, I've realized that besides the few people that read this from Carnegie Mellon linking it out, http://www.cit.cmu.edu/global/student_spotlights/current_students_abroad.html, the majority of you are just my friends and family. So I'm just going to make this more of a travel journey, with a few more deeper entries. That way when I don't respond to emails, you'll know where I am. Don't worry though, you'll still get some quality video upload entries.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Video Entry 1: Caffe Crema Pads and Degraa

video
Finally figured out how to do this:) Should have at least one video entry a week from now on

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Zurich!

     Spent the weekend in Zurich, Switzerland. It's incredibly beautiful and, just like Amsterdam, very welcoming. The entire town is a beautiful mixture of old and modern architecture, with canals, a large lake and a beautiful, albeit distant, view of the Alps.
      While walking along the lake shore we past a pride rally, but the surprising aspect was there were no protesters, just the rally people. Further in town there was a Turkish protest trying to promote the views of Ataturk, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/08/turkey-protesters-proclaim-heirs-ataturk. The protesters were calm and reserved and, just like with the pride rally, there were no other people picketing the protesters views. The ability to fully express your views without interruption was really heart warming. The few protests I've seen in the states have always had other people picketing the opposing views. I understand the right to picket others views is freedom of speech, which is great in it's own right. The lack of picketers in Zurich wasn't due to a lack of freedom, but a respect for people to explain their own view without interruption. It just seems more respectful to let others express their views, and then say your own when you get a chance. 
      Either way Zurich was a fantastic way to spend the weekend. I think this song, by The Last Bison, sums it up pretty well:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUDKrQyeXKY

Monday, June 3, 2013

What I Learned in The Last Three Days:

1. Amsterdam is a beautiful city full of tolerance and amazing people, but try to find the none-touristy spots.

2. Science is fun when done correctly.

3. If you use a hair buzzer that was meant to be used in the US in Europe, it will make very loud sounds. Then your neighbors will yell at you.