Day 1: The Marathon Day

Today was travel day. The flight from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia was a breeze, fortunately. The next flight, from Philadelphia to Munich, was just a bit longer – more like 6 hours longer. I tried to view the result of the time change as a mini day as follows. The “day” portion of the day was waking up at 7, taking the flight from Pitt to Philadelphia, and the layover there. Then, the “night” portion of my mini day was the 7-hour flight, which I originally intended to sleep the whole way on. Except, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and unfortunately, I got hardly any sleep on the plane ride, so I was very tired when we finally got to Germany. Once we arrived, it was strange how similar Germany was to the US but also, there were little things that made it strikingly different. For starters, the lines on the road dividing oncoming traffic were white, not yellow. Secondly, something that I personally thought was fascinating, the street lights flash yellow/red before turning from red to green to alert drivers that they are about to change. That got me thinking about why the lights didn’t function that way in the States. A group of us on the bus then launched into a conversation about the imperial system of measurement, pennies, and other silly things Americans hang on to.

When we got to the hotel in Augsburg, there was a crowd of people eating food in the lobby area, and I was genuinely surprised to find out that they were eating breakfast because my mind was messed up with the time zones. Many of them were repping FC Schalke soccer jerseys, and I deduced (despite my half-functioning brain) that their team must have been in town playing FC Augsburg. I loved the enthusiasm from the fans and can’t imagine the energy that must be in the stadium during the games. That’s quite the experience I’m sure.

Later, we went on a mini tour of Augsburg and saw the Town Hall (Rathaus) and learned about the acorn, the symbol of Augsburg. We also saw Roman ruins and saw St. Anna’s church. During all of this, we were told stories by Dr. Feick about the history of the city, from its Roman times to the Holy Roman Empire to World War II up to today. Being the first day and being in a group of twenty loud Americans, it was very apparent to the locals that we were from out of town. I felt a little bit out of place, but I was sure I would pick up tips the longer I was here.

After recuperating at the hotel and restoring our energy, we went out for another tour of Augsburg and, in particular, the Fuggerei, which is the first (nearly) free lodging system for the homeless. It struck me as particularly interesting that there were only two things one has to do to “pay” for a Fuggerei apartment. First, one has to pay the rent of 0.88 euros per year. Secondly, the tenant has to be Catholic and say three prayers per day to release Jakob Fugger’s soul from purgatory.

Finally, we ate dinner with the students from the University of Augsburg. Everyone that I talked to was extremely friendly and genuinely interested about us and our trip to Germany. It surprised me how many of them had either travelled extensively around Europe or had travelled to the United States. Also, their English was impeccable, in stark contrast to my knowledge of German. I currently knew only about 5 phrases. I looked to expand this in the future.

After dinner everyone was exhausted and we crashed hard in our beds.IMG_4595MerkelG24

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