Hungary and More

Currently I’m in Poland, but I’m not going to talk about that yet. I’ve got to catch you up on the first half of my Easter break.

Four friends and I left Freiburg on Friday, and we were off to a terrible start when John got on a train to Frankfurt without the rest of us. I freaked out, but it was really fine since we all met up at the airport.

We flew into Budapest, which is an amazing city that I love. I’m already looking forward to going back. Apparently, free walking tours are very popular in Europe, so we did that and learned a ton about the city and its history and culture. Also, Hungarian money is hilarious. 1 Euro = 1 dollar = 312 Florints. We felt so fancy waving around thousand dollar bills.

On Easter Sunday, we went to mass at St. Stephen’s Basilica, which is a beautiful place. Mass was in Hungarian except for a brief summary of the homily in English, but I actually think most of the people in attendance were tourists. And there were a lot of annoying tourists in the back, who kept talking and taking photos.

Unfortunately, after that I got sick. I think it’s just the same bug that went around most of our group about a week ago, but it meant I missed out on going to the Turkish baths.

Also, and this is very important: Hungarian food is wonderful. It’s all meat and bread and fried everything. Lángos is one of my new favorite foods; it is fried dough with garlic sauce, sour cream, and cheese on top and pure deliciousness. Other than that, we really enjoyed a food truck festival and the Easter market, both of which had great selections of food.

I’ve actually been to 6 countries in the past few days: Germany, Belgium, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, and Poland. Belgium and Austria were pretty much just layovers, but we had about six hours in Bratislava. Nobody spoke English there. Luckily our waitress knew enough to explain what was vegetarian for my friend Emma, but other than that there was no English. I had to buy cough medicine from a Slovakian pharmacy while speaking German (and I forgot the word for cough, so it was an adventure).

Sorry for the long post, and I’ll update about my time in Poland soon!

English Immersion

This weekend (last night, today, and tomorrow), I am working at an English immersion camp in Switzerland. It is wonderful, and the kids are great. They’re supposed to speak English, and we are not supposed to even let them know that we can understand any German. So here are a few of the highlights so far:

  1. One kid said “Scheiße”, but then corrected herself by saying “oh no, I meant shit.”
  2. Another boy asked me “kennen Sie Steve Jobs?” (do you know Steve Jobs). First of all, it was cool that he referred to me with the formal version. And second, I pretended not to understand, so he explained that he had been trying to trick me into speaking German. Now he’s convinced I don’t understand it at all, so he keeps trying to get away with saying cuss words and insults to the other kids.
  3. There were burritos for dinner, which were great, but the salsa was incredibly bland.
  4. I have free time. As a camp counselor, it’s fine if I leave the kids unsupervised, and I don’t have to break up every fight. They just do their own thing. I’m just here to lead activities.

 

One Week Anniversary

I’ve made it through a whole week! Even in such a short time, I have had so many new experiences and adventures. It’s still super awkward to be in an unfamiliar country and I don’t know what to do half the time, but I already have a couple of favorite restaurants and I can travel between my apartment and the city center without getting lost. I’ve also become so much more confident speaking German, even though I have a lot of trouble understanding when native Germans speak to me.

Day Trip to the Most Beautiful Place in the World

The IES group went hiking in the Swiss Alps today, and it was the most beautiful place I’ve even seen. I’d highly recommend Engelberg, Switzerland. There was snow on the ground (and lots of skiers), but the sun was shining, so it was very comfortable. I took lots of pictures because this town and the surrounding mountains are literal postcard pictures. But the photos can’t really capture the beauty of the Alps.

Orientation

I thought about switching to keeping a journal in German, but I decided to do a blog so that I can share. We talked a lot about speaking in German

lunch döner
lunch döner

(while actually speaking in German) today during orientation. Minimizing our English use was a major theme. The other students and I agreed that we wanted to speak in German as much as possible even among ourselves, since that’s what we’re here for.

Today we learned more about the IES program and took a tour of the city. I had döner for lunch and dinner; döner is a Turkish meal that is basically a pile of shaved rotisserie meat. I also had to buy some things, since my luggage still hasn’t arrived.

dinner döner
dinner döner

Afterwards, my friends and I split up to go to our apartments. Since I was alone and not sure how to get back, a guy named Tylor went with me. Getting lost seems to be becoming a theme because we got off the train at the wrong stop and having to use my map to figure out how to get to the apartment. I am so proud that we found it without the help of a GPS, though Tylor deserves all of the credit. It was an adventure for sure! And we found lots of streets named after famous German artists and writers.