Monthly Review | May

luisenpark-1-15 wieskirche-1-2 bavaria-1-35 mithuran-1-10 luisenpark-1-2 kerris last day -1-7 kerris last day -1-2 erin-1-3 carnival-1-2 breakfast-1 berlin wall-1-3luisenpark-1-3

the most bittersweet of days. 


may  //luisenpark, mannheim//canon 5d

I've never paid for a park before I've come to Germany-I don't think that we even have any parks you have to pay for in the States {don't quote me on that, though}. Here in Mannheim, we have two-Herzogenreid Park, which is two euros and essentially a public pool {with a slide and diving boards, so it's totally worth it}, and Luisenpark, which is a whopping four euros.

I had been curious about Luisenpark for a while, so one Sunday, Kate {check out her blog!} and I made the trek over to check out what exactly you get when you pay for a park. We paid the entrance fee, and found ourself in this just...absolutely massive park full of various odd-but-beautiful things; playgrounds, wooden drawbridges, a tall tower, a little pond, even a Chinese tea garden! We were stunned, at how much was hidden behind the entrance kiosk, and vowed to go back again for the day {perhaps with some beers and sandwiches...}

Barcelona pt. 2 | Gaudi + La Boqueria

We woke up on our first full day of Barcelona in our windowless hostel room-over a cup of coffee, Katinka and I decided that there were two things we wanted to see; la Sagrada Familia and La Boqueria. Both are staples of the Barcelona "tourist" scene, things that were recommended to us-plus it helped that Kay had visited Barcelona before and knew that they had lived up to their reputation.
That being said, we headed out in search of Sagrada Familia, which is located close to the hostel we stayed at, in a quieter residential area. For a while, I was unsure of whether we were going in the right way; then we turned a corner and, suddenly we were there, standing in front of this majestic and gigantic beauty whose spires soared high in the air.  Scaffolding and cranes obscured much of the church, as it is still under construction-and will be until around 2030. It's incredibly intricate-possibly one of the most decorated church facades i've seen, statues and stones literally dripping off the front. It reminds me of a cave of some sort, or maybe a grotto, with it's rough surfaces-it's incredible.

While traveling, I've visited countless churches-and each time I step into one, it hits me that countless spent their entire lives specializing in one specific aspect of the construction of it. More often than not, they never even saw the fruits of their labor. It's such a strange + amazing concept, to think about-yet Sagrada Familia is just that. When I posted an instagram of it, people commented that it looked completely different just a few years ago-and it's hard to wrap around my brain around the fact that some day I could take my children to see the completed cathedral and tell them that I watched it being built.

With only a short time in Barcelona, we opted out of waiting in the lines that looped several times around the cathedral, heading instead to the main shopping avenue, where two of Gaudi's other works were located-Casa Milo and Cas Batilo. Both were beautiful, although I was partial to the beautiful mosaic//facade of Casa Batilo.

 We checked out the Barri Gotic neighborhood (sketchy alleys + drying laundry-my favorites!) before arriving at La Boqueria, Barcelona's famed food market. And let me just say, this place did not disappoint. The entire market buzzed with activity, as locals + tourists mingled, buying fresh-squeezed fruit juice and odd pieces of meat (cow's tongue, for example). Each new stall contained something new, colorful, and fragrant-and it was all so cheap. I got strawberry juice and a pastry of sorts with meat in it-we came back the next day for calamari, fruit, and more fresh juice.

Overall, these probably two of my favorite "touristy" things that we did-and I'd go back to both in a heartbeat. {and i'm dreaming of a fresh-squeezed raspberry juice right now...}

{end of part two}

part one//

Barcelona pt. 1 | an introduction + wandering

April 8-10//Barcelona, Spain//Canon 5d
Katinka and I boarded a plane early one Wednesday afternoon last month, headed for six sunny days in Spain. I was excited-beyond excited, actually. My childhoods were spent in the sunny yellow house of my best friend, who's grandparents hailed from the North of Spain-I grew up with Spanish floating through her house, paella cooked in six food wide pans and tortillas pressed into my hand at the baseball field. At twelve I started learning the language in school; I was fascinated by the concept of communicating in another foreign tongue and spent my afternoons sharing secrets with my mother en espanol (until my dad and siblings started to understand, that is!) I had dreamed of the sunny streets of Barcelona + the elegance of Madrid-and now, it was time to walk those streets and experience it for myself.

We touched down in Girona later that day; after a quick bus ride, we were standing amongst the trees and wide avenues, unsure of where to start. Cars and buses hurtled by; the city was ours for the taking. And so, we started to wander.

Wandering would be a common theme throughout the rest of the trip; we wandered everywhere, it seemed, down avenues and through dark little neighborhoods, the sun blocked out by balconies and drying laundry. It seems difficult to separate the trip into tangible parts because of this-so I've decided to take all of my photographs from the miles upon miles that we walked and put them into an introductory post, in order to set the scene and give an impression of this vibrant and colorful city.

Barcelona is a little different than everywhere else I've been; instead of all of the touristy, historic sights being concentrated in one location, everything is spread out. It's like a pinball game; visitors ricochet from one spot to the next, each place located in the opposite direction of the first. Spread out in between are sprawling neighborhoods, each with its own feel- the crowded, run down alleys of el Born; the wide avenues and quiet residential hum of Exiample; the elegant wrought iron and plazas of Barri Gotic; and Barceloneta, whose sun and sand won me over (they get their own post). Each one had a different population of people, a different style-I felt like I was getting the whole picture, rather than the clean, quaint and charming image the tourism board presents. For the first time on exchange, I set up shop in my daydreams; picking out potential apartments and planning a life there, where the dogs walk without leashes and it seems to always be sunny. Here was a city that somehow managed to simultaneously convey a laid-back lifestyle while still buzzing with energy and life-and I was utterly and completely in love, with every inch of it.

{end of part one} 

life abroad | ulmenweg

**this is part of a series for my university about studying abroad in Mannheim**

I have a love//hate relationship with Ulmenweg, my residence in Mannheim. On one hand, it's a 20 minute bus ride to the city center-my apartment is literally falling apart {although this seems to just be my apartment, go figure}-and as I type this, I will probably go offline because the internet sucks. But I also have amazing roommates, a sink in my room {why don't American dorms have these?}, a kitchen, a bar in the residence, a supermarket across the street-oh, and it's a mere 289 euros a month, which is almost half of what I pay at UMass for a shared double with a bathroom down the hall. I'll take it.

I think that the most important thing about Ulmenweg is that it's full of international students. Since most German students snatch up the residences near the city center, Ulmenweg has plenty of spots open, and that's where most end up-so in an ironic twist, the kids who did get to live in the city center oftentimes end up bussing out to Ulmenweg before we go out.

Here are some other tidbits of information and some pictures-


ulmenweg room-5ulmenweg room-3 ulmenweg room-2 ulmenweg room-1ulmenweg room-8ulmenweg room-9All rooms come with the same furniture that you find in a UMass dorm-bed, bookshelf, wardrobe, desk and chair(s), and a nightstand. You also have a sink, which as I mentioned before, is a phenomenal idea-no more waiting for the bathroom!

Each apartment also has a kitchen (only some have ovens, though), two toilets and a shower. I have five roommates, from Hong Kong, Colombia, India, Taiwan and Canada-they're all super awesome. The only thing that I don't like is that I'm on the ground floor-I can't ever leave my window open when I leave the room or go to sleep, for fear that someone will climb right in and rob me! My suggestion is that you pick a room on the upper floors (quick reminder that in Germany, the 1st floor is actually the second floor, and so on)

the residence 

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Ulmenweg consists of several buildings, each referred to as a Haus. The numbers are 1-6, 42 +43-this makes no sense, but hey-that's Germany for you. If you are having a package or letter delivered, make sure to put your full address, which consists of the residence (Ulmenweg 55), your house number and your room number-otherwise you might not get your mail.

I live in Haus 5, which has a laundry room and a party room (affectionately called the dungeon, due to its low ceilings and grungy look). There are also barbeques outside, which are very popular-now that it's nice out, someone is grilling almost every day. Ulmenweg has its own student bar, called Gezet, which is run by students and seems to be open whenever they feel like being open-it's a great place to grab a beer and play some foosball.

the neighborhood 

ulmenweg-8 ulmenweg neighborhood-5 ulmenweg neighborhood-9 ulmenweg neighborhood-10 with emily-1-20 erin-1-3 erin-1-4 erin-1-13Once again, there's not too much to do in Ulmenweg-however, if you search hard enough, there are a couple of hidden gems. There's a bowling alley and mini-golf place around the corner, doner, pizza and a supermarket across the street, and community gardens all around (something fun to explore.) I highly recommend exploring Herzogenreid Park, (2 euros with student ID) which has a couple of swimming pools with diving boards and a slide. There's also a network of little paths around the park, which are a good shortcut late at night home from the 1 tram (i also recommend getting to know those). ulmenweg-1-13

Overall, Ulmenweg isn't a bad place to live-and even though it's not the most beautiful or picturesque place, it has some of the most insanely beautiful sunsets I've ever seen-something to make up for dirt piles and crumbling doorjambs. And it's home-and that's the most important thing.

day trip | Meersburg am Bodensee

Meersburg am Bodensee//April 3//Canon 5d

If there's anything I'm learning about traveling, it's that I don't really enjoy day trips that much (and I find them equally difficult to write about). A day trip, while extremely cost efficent, does not give you near enough time to see the city or country-I mean, a weekend or even a semester sometimes isn't even enough sometimes, but at least you can get a taste. A day trip is cruel; it's like waving a city in front of your face, a taunt, a tease, at what could be.

Writing about the first half of my spring break has been difficult because of just that. Three days, three cities-you only have enough time to see the same things-the "equation," which consists of the town square, the church, the view, and the castle (if there is one). It's the same as every small town in Europe. And while they're all equally beautiful, it becomes hard to write about-I'd much rather the pictures speak for themselves.

Which is exactly what I'll let Meerburg am Bodensee do- speak for itself. it was a quaint, beautiful old town shadowed by a castle on a hill. The giant lake {Bodensee} lapped on its shores; it was good weather, finally, and we ate schnitzel and spatzle in the sun. It was the last trip that I would be taking with my mother, which was bittersweet-soon she would be on a plane, headed back for home, and it was my job to save these little moments.

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