Fall Break Posted on October 11th, 2010 by

So, I guess last time I failed to mention the DSH, which took up most of my attention that last week. The DSH stands for something that means we need to show how well we know German. We were told from the outset that about half of us would pass and half wouldn’t, but never fear for there will still be classes you can take. Nevertheless, the DSH was made out to be a pretty big deal and we spent a lot of the weekend before (the weekend of the Heidelberger Herbst) wondering how to study for it. And early Monday morning we made our way across the Uni-platz to the currently-being-renovated New University building. Where we got to take the written portion in very large rooms with low temperatures amongst many other foreign exchange students. Going in I was pretty nervous, especially since I was seated next to a girl conversing easily with her pal in the row behind us in fluent German and, upon spying on her ID sticker, found she was actually not an Austrian, like I had guessed (she was so fluent! And I thought she said they were exempt from some other part of the exam so I figured this was just a formality!) but actually from the US. Like, that place I come from. But, despite being convinced that I served as no competition for these freakishly gifted German-speakers, the test went pretty well and I found out a few days later that I was in the half that passed. Luckily, this meant I got to prepare for the speaking portion! Which I knew for sure would go absolutely horribly and I would rather have just failed outright instead of continuing to jump through these outrageous hoops. So finally Thursday rolls around and we have our practice sessions at AJY with Frau Said and it seemed to go pretty well. We got to introduce ourselves and thanks to a few follow-up questions the time went by pretty easily. There was a picture we had to look at with a graphic about what people spent their days doing in numbers of minutes (like, watching TV, listening to the radio, reading the newspaper and so forth) and we got to basically talk about that for the rest of the time. It was relatively easy and since we could basically talk about anything we could portray as related we just kept talking. However. At the actual test, they give you about 5 minutes ahead of time to look at a graph, read an article or something like that and then you go up in pairs for your test. I got this page long thing about energy consumption and how everyone in the world needs to reduce their energy consumption. So I brainstormed examples of how people I know waste (like turning up the heat to 4 just so you can wear t-shirts in the winter???) or save (my aunts always keep it at 60 all winter and just use lap blankets when they’re sitting down) but evidently this was not a just-talk-as-much-as-you-can deal that I had anticipated. The guy me and Brian got seemed very nice but would not get off the direct text of the article. We went through basically paragraph by paragraph, with him asking specific, worksheet-like questions that I did not feel particularly confident answering because my German comprehension confidence is always low with real Germans and he clearly was looking for a very specific answer. Other students I know got people who said something like, “Well, this text is rather boring isn’t it. Why don’t you just talk about culture shock?” I was feeling less than super-jazzed about the experience but after some gelato and realizing that, hey, at least the dumb thing was over and frankly it didn’t really matter too much if I passed or not, I was OK. The next morning, I found out that I got a 2. Which is pretty good. A 1 is (somewhat paradoxically?) the same as not passing and a 3 is the highest. So perhaps I have hidden depths. But really I just don’t know what happened.

So anyways, after that it was officially fall break. My friend Haleigh left for Cairo. Annika went with her parents to France. Melissa left for the weekend to visit friends somewhere in Germany and Megan went to Scotland to meet up with her dad. Also Sarah went with Dan, Brian and Aaron to Oktoberfest. I could have gone too but since I don’t really like large crowds, polka music, enthusiastically in-character people or beer, I declined. Plus it saved me a day on my German Rail Pass. SO I just stayed in my room and did all my laundry. Like, ALL my laundry. I had no sheets on my bed, or pants to wear or a towel to wipe my hands. So, I wore some old shorts and stayed inside, watching all my shows on hulu. It was amazing. Not a bad Friday, if I do say so myself, and kind of just what I needed. I also ate a lot of snacks. I don’t know if that was as necessary but it happened so we’re going with it.

On Saturday Sarah was back and, feeling adventurous, took an arbitrary bus over yonder to Handschuhsheim (a relatively distant area of Heidelberg, but yes, technically only about 5 stops North of Bismarckplatz) and wandered until we found a nice little cafe which served delicious Käsespätzle (think mac ‘n cheese times AMAZING). Later we ate dinner (delivery! A concept apparently completely foreign to Sarah before she came here) at Aaron’s and that was pretty good too. Then I ran back to my place (not all the way, some buses were involved but anyways) because I was late for a skype chat with my siblings in good old Oregon, which was fun and it was nice to finally see them.

On Sunday I went with Sarah to her church, which is a German-American church and fairly free-form. I can’t remember the name of the denomination but it was nice to go and meet some people and sing together. Plus I got a lot more out of the sermon than I usually do at the Jesuitenkirche. Probably because everything was translated into English but that was honestly only part of it. After that we decided to make pancakes at my place (my former roommate had moved out so I had the place to myself for a while) and went in search of an egg, despite it being a Sunday (all stores are closed) and the holiday commemorating German Reunification (all stores are definitely closed). But there was a place at the train station that was yet open and at the bus stop a little later we saw the most adorable kid who kept saying “Eier! Eier!” (German for “eggs”) and it was so cute. Then we actually made the pancakes and I was so full I almost didn’t eat for the rest of the day, except I felt like I ought to so I had some bread and nutella and maybe peanut butter I don’t remember at Megan’s at like 10:30. I spent the night at Megan’s since we had to get up early to get to the train station before our train left at 6:57 and try to get our passes validated (we didn’t but it ended up not mattering). Also meeting Melissa there but that all turned out for naught, as she did not in fact show up in time and missed the train to Salzburg. Megan and I just left because we had our seats reserved and everything and we hoped to meet up with her there.

Salzburg was so beautiful. The day was surprisingly warm but so sunny and cheerful! We left our heavy bags at the station which was a brilliant idea on Megan’s part, and set off in search of the interesting part of Salzburg. We had a good tourist map, so like, one with clearly labeled streets and enlarged cartoon-y pictures of the important buildings? Yeah, I was so proud I was able to get us around. We didn’t know exactly what to look for but the map gave us clues. “Oh, is this on the map? Better take a picture. OK, moving on.” We got to go inside a couple churches and eat wurst on the church steps while watching small children chase pigeons like the little cuties they are! We wanted to go up to the Festung, or fortress on the hill but thought it looked a little steep so went for the Bergbahn (mountain train). Unfortunately, I did not realize until Megan had already paid that it cost €10,50!! to go up!! I was less than thrilled. Also because I didn’t have the ,50 so I asked Megan and she was searching her purse and I had the 10 on the counter and moved my hand to move the ticket toward me but the guy was all like, “No! I say it is ten Euro fifty, you have to pay ten Euro fifty. That’s how much the ticket cost!” And I wanted to be like, Cool it, dorkwad, I’m getting your fracking 50 cents! but I did not because I don’t know the word for dorkwad auf Deutsch. Although he was actually speaking to me in English, which I took to mean he thought I was a total idiot.

Needless to say, I started out the Festung experience rather peeved. First all my money is wasted on something I could have avoided whilst strengthening important butt muscles, but then that guy was such a tool about it. But the ticket did also get us into the museum rooms up there so you better believe we saw all those old things!! It was actually very interesting to see it all, and some of the rooms were marginally air-conditioned, which helped as it was unreasonably warm and my water supply was dwindling. But I found a free bathroom and totally filled up my water bottle there so take that, Cranky 50 Cent guy!! After overcoming my dehydration, we tried once again to contact Melissa with absolutely no luck. Our phones were all wonky in Ausland (not-Germany) and Megan’s just plain ran out of money. We finally walked back to the train station, as the last thing we heard was that she arrived in Salzburg after all. But she was not there and we couldn’t find her so we tried everything we could and got on a train to Vienna. The tickets we bought were valid for any train to Vienna so we told her in unreceived texts and Facebook messages that she just needed to do that much and we would meet her there and go on from there. Once Megan and I had left the train station we finally got a call from Melissa and made arrangements to meet her later. So, after about a day of trying to catch up with us, we finally met Melissa at nearly 11pm that night. She had in fact, been able to see some of Salzburg and was still rather cheerful about the whole thing so we just continued on to the Metro and got off at the last stop on this one line, and crossed the foot bridge over the highway, and went through this park and crossed the street by the grocery store and went up the hill and found our hostel! It was pretty nice, but would have been even better if we didn’t have to be out of our rooms by 9:30am to 3pm and/or if we had remembered to bring towels. I really should have known that there wouldn’t be towels but somehow I’d missed out and frankly I didn’t have the room in my backpack. So we just used our shirts to dry us off as best we could and rallied on.

The weather in Vienna was the complete opposite of the gorgeous weather we saw in Salzburg. Cold, windy, rainy. Which was, luckily enough, the same weather patterns Copenhagen was experiencing when we went there a few days later!! But we got metro passes and bundled up as much as we could and took to just walking around because we didn’t know where to go really. The map we got was both much bigger, and less helpful than the Salzburg one. So not only was it rather awkward to wield whilst traversing a damp, heavily touristed street, I was practically never able to find where on Earth we were. But there was a very helpful metro map we could use and so we managed all the same. We did see the castle: Schloss Schönbrunn, although we were too cheap to go inside. We were able to see the grounds though and had a good time all the same. It was outside there that we saw the first guy to try to sell us concert tickets. Apparently it was this great concert with an orchestra, ballet dancers and opera singers. Half the program Mozart, half Brahms. It sounded wonderful. But I was past the realization that I had not brought enough money with me and I didn’t know if my debit card would work outside of Germany. So the “best price” of €25 per was not good enough and we moved on, even though I would have really liked to see it. At Stepansplatz though, there were MORE guys selling tickets for a very similar concert. (basically identical but in a different place and a string quintet instead of orchestra but seriously, even the songs were the same!) His best price was to give one ticket free and so it would split out to about €19ish each. Still resistant, although this guy was quite as convincing as the last, I backed off and said we’d think about it over lunch. Once away from him though, I decided it was better to have those €19 for food than a concert because then the pressure would be on to really love the concert and who knew how great it would be. Of course, when we went to get a good look at the outside of the opera house there was ANOTHER guy who got to us. Megan, evidently a pro, haggled him down from whatever he first offered. See, on the program he showed there was a VIP section for 56€, section A for €46 and section B for €36. But he categorized section B as a “disaster view–you know what I mean, disaster view?” so he offered us section A tickets for €18 per. As I was debating (I was consistently the holdout of course, which I hated, but he even flipped a coin and so I had to choose and not Megan) Megan said, “I’ll pay 20 if you pay 16” so I jumped right back with, “It’s a deal!” What a pro I am. This concert was also held in Palais Palffy, in the room Mozart used to give concerts in. When we actually got there we found that the room was fairly small and absolutely packed. With chairs. There were plenty of open seats but absolutely no leg-room to spare. That poor couple at the end of our row…But I actually enjoyed the concert immensely, even though I got the impression these musicians and dancers did this 6 days a week for a long time and maybe weren’t always quite so excited about it as I was. But no, they did a great job and I was pleased to see there was no awkward do-we-stand-or-what at the end because no one even attempted a standing ovation. (PS Fun fact: I sort of hate standing ovations. They’re far too commonly used and I would much rather remain seated to clap my arms off at the end of a concert than have to take stuff off my lap, tuck the program under my arm and stand up just to clap some more. Gah, what a hassle.)

So that was all Tuesday. On Wednesday we had the morning in Vienna and then had our flight to Copenhagen in the afternoon. So that morning we went on that giant ferris wheel they have, which was fun, even though it was sometimes hard to get a good picture through rain-speckled windows. But it offered a good view of the city and the practically empty amusement park it was located in. We got to the airport in plenty of time and the only hitch was when I found out I had booked my flight for the wrong day! All the information was right except I had the 7th instead of the 6th. I was able to get it fixed but they charged me €110, which did not help me out any but how was I supposed to argue with that? I figured the airline wasn’t really into haggling, as I didn’t really have any bargaining chips myself. But beyond that the flight was fine (free sandwiches!! I wasn’t expecting that! And so delicious too!!) and finding our hotel in Copenhagen wasn’t too scary. Even though it was already completely dark and no one seemed to be around. It was a very comfortable place though, and, though pricey, I did enjoy the experience. Particularly the ability to watch Danish TV in our room. (Lie. We didn’t really. We found the channel where they played American shows and movies with Danish subtitles. So we were still learning. The most cultured we got was when watching this French action movie with Danish subtitles. I understood more than I thought but while I could kind of follow what was happening, it was harder to discern why.)

I think I will save the rest of my experience for tomorrow. I am currently getting kind of sick and I should probably just go to bed. After I finish this Orangensaft. And Ritz crackers that I opened 2 days ago. OK, bye.



  1. Jill Fischer, CICE says:

    sounds wonderful! Thanks for sharing. I chuckled more than a few times.

  2. Carol Sloan says:

    €110 Ouch, for a plane ride! Did that include the use of the facilities and maybe a tutorial on how to fly the plane in addition to great food?
    Other than that, your adventure is sounding better and better…..

  3. Anne Thielman says:

    Yeah, that was not €110 I was excited to get rid of actually. But, what are you gonna do. It’s all part of the adventure, I guess.