18th Memorial Lecture (Schusterman Center)

This is an annual lecture given by the Schusterman Center here at OU. This year, Dr. Jim Diamond was brought in to lecture about the different interpretations of the Ten Commandments. (Specifically the first one; what exactly does the First Commandment mean?)

The first question that was posed was how does one view the Ten Commandments? Viewing them from a mystical perspective results in a different finding than if one was to view them from a philosophical view. (Maimonides was used as an example.)

The largest portion of the lecture discussed the initial bit of the 1st Commandment from Exodus 20: “I am the Lord your God.”

Dr. Diamond spent a substantial amount of time investigating whether this could be viewed as a commandment or a statement. Almost everyone views this as a commandment, but there is no explicit commandment stated. Hearing this was interesting, as it related to Jews and Christians. (A substantial percentage of the world’s population.) — I was not convinced about it not being a commandment, as the next pieces of Exodus 20 do offer explicit demands.

Nevertheless, this was an interesting lecture that got me thinking. The Ten Commandments are important to many people, and a new view of them will always get people’s attention.

German Club

I spent my entire sophomore year studying abroad in Heidelberg, Germany; the experience in Heidelberg made me want to become more involved in German opportunities here at OU… but I didn’t know how. I began with taking German Advanced Composition in an attempt to improve my German writing skills. (This has worked, in large part to Dr, Sullivan’s willingness to help students succeed.)

As I continued with the semester, I began to focus on the German club. This organisation is tasked with the advancement and promotion of German culture and language. After I was asked to be the speak about my experiences at Heidelberg during the German opportunities forum, I contacted the leadership of German club, asking to become more involved; I was told that I could run for an officer position!

On Friday November 16th, I went to the German club’s Kaffee und Kuchen event. (Cakes and Coffee) I will cover this event in another post, but it was very fun + interesting. But, the most exciting part of the event came at the end… the elections. When the position of treasurer was called, the president of the German club mentioned me as the chosen candidate. But, as with all fair elections, others were allowed to state their intentions of running against me. Luckily, nobody decided to oppose me, and I was chosen as the new treasurer.

I look forward to this position, as well as the ability to become more involved at OU. (And promote German things around campus.) This Friday is the club’s “Christmas Bakery.” The club is offering lessons on how to bake traditional German holiday cookies. I am excited for what is to come, and I can’t wait to become increasingly involved.

Belgium

Only a couple of weeks after my journey to the Netherlands, I journey west again, and went to Belgium. I began in Brussels. Brussels is a very cool city. With a blend of old, new, and ultra modern. Again, another city with world class cultural and recreational opportunities. (A trend that seems to be apparent in all major cities.) Walking around Brussels was my favourite way to navigate the city. That being said, pretty much any way of public transportation are available.

The next city that I journeyed to, was Antwerp. This was actually my favourite city in Belgium. Known around the world as the centre of the diamond industry, Antwerp is a bustling port city. Again, all the general opportunities are available, but I think the city feels less crazy than Brussels, less touristy than Bruges, and more interesting than Ghent. Again, I recommend that one walks to see the city. The churches in Antwerp were particularly stunning.

Bruges… not much can be said about this city that people haven’t already heard. Swans line the picturesque canals, pretty buildings cover the city, and it feels a little surreal. That being said, the city was ridiculously crowded. It was a little harder to appreciate the city with so many people everywhere. I was also a little upset that there were no fast-track tickets to go to the top of the scenic Belfry of Bruges. Nevertheless, Bruges is must-see, and will appeal to almost any kind of traveller.

Lastly, Ghent. Ghent is a city that I feel does not receive the same love as the three aforementioned locations. It is located right in the middle of Brussels and Bruges, and gets passed over as a result. It features a large university, so it is a particularly fun city to go to if you are of college age. The city also contains canals, and lacks the major crowded feel of Bruges. (Although it is definitely not as fairytale looking.) The beer here is great, as with all of Belgium… I recommend the Het Waterhuis aan de Bierkant. St. Bavo’s Cathedral also contains one of the world’s most famous pieces of art. The Ghent Altarpiece is worth seeing. But it does cost a couple of Euros to get into the little showing room.

Belgium was a very cool place. Each city that I visited felt completely different than the previous, and that was very exciting. In addition, Belgium is also very cool due to the numerous languages that can be heard on a regular basis. While there are tourists speaking all sorts of languages, Belgium also boasts three national languages… French, Dutch, and German. I hope my little review of each city helps make deciding which cities/city to visit. And of course, there are other interesting cities elsewhere in Belgium!

Netherlands Trip

April was a very busy month for me. I flew back to Germany after a little time back in the US. (Germany has a two month break between the winter and summer semesters.) I began school again with new and exciting classes… and I began to plan out all the travel I could.

My first trip that I planned took me to the Netherlands. Initially, I was only intending to go to Amsterdam, but this would change after a little time in Amsterdam.

A few days before I left for Amsterdam, I learned that it was King’s Day on the day I arrived. All I have to say, is wow. King’s Day was an amazing time. The entire city was clothed in orange, street parties dotted every street, barges lined the endless canals, and happy people were everywhere. I don’t know how many people know about this holiday, but it definitely worth experiencing.

Amsterdam also had bountiful cultural/fun opportunities. World class museums, brewery tours, canal rides, beautiful churches, and everything else a city can provide. In addition, apart from the real middle of the city, it never felt overcrowded. The only two major museums that I went to were the Rijksmuseum and the Heineken Tour. I can highly recommend the Rijksmuseum, and if you like beer, the HT is good. (Although I think that Guinness tour in Dublin is better.) If one wants a cheap and nice view of Amsterdam, I recommend the view from the top of the library. Also, the bridge linking the library and NEMO Museum.

While in the Netherlands, I also went to Keukenhof and Utrecht. Keukenhof has the famous tulip gardens. It is absolutely stunning, but the garden is only open for a short period of time. Utrecht has canals that look like the ones in Amsterdam, but the city is way less crowded. I would recommend this for a day trip.

The Netherlands is amazing, and there are plenty of interesting places to see outside of Amsterdam. I didn’t even it make it to The Hague or Rotterdam.

Barcelona

The semester is finally coming to an end here in Germany. In fact, as I write this, I only have two more days of class! (Although, I have term papers to write.) Anyhow, as the semester is almost over, I reckoned that I deserved a little gift. So, I booked a flight to Barcelona…and back ­čÖé

I flew out on Wednesday afternoon, arriving late in the day. The next day, I began my first of two intense days. I started my day with Sagrada Familia. All I have to say is wow. The way the sun’s light floods through the stained glass panels is surreal. I have only seen two other churches that come close to that beauty, those two being Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, France, and St. Stephen’s, in Mainz, Germany.

After this, I proceeded to see some of Gaudi’s other buildings, walk around Pla├ža de Catalunya, meander down La Rambla, gaze up at the state of Columbus, and stop at the seafront. Taking a breather, I contemplated my next move. Since I was by the water, I surmised that a visit to the Maritime Museum was in order. I was not disappointed, learning loads of new information.

That night, I went to a Barcelona FC match. They were playing against Valencia in the Copa del Rey. (The major domestic tournament.) Barcelona won 1-0, thanks to a Luis Suárez goal. Not only was it exciting to see a match at the Camp Nou, but being able to see Lionel Messi at his home pitch was an experience I will not be forgetting soon.

The following day, I went back to the Camp Nou to do the Barcelona Football Experience. (The museum/stadium tour.) Definitely worth doing to anybody moderately interested in football. I also went to Park G├╝ell to see more of Gaudi’s work. The sights from the park are stunning. (A note, the part with Gaudi’s works costs money, although part of the park is free.)

To avoid continuing what could be a boring summary, I spent a lot of time in the Gothic Quarter, and ventured out to Barcelonetta Beach as well… going through Parc de la Ciutadella as well.

Barcelona is an amazing city. Beautiful, interesting, fun, and with generally decent weather. Barcelona is not like the rest of Spain, as one can feel the Catalan pride pulmonating through the city’s veins. Catalan flags fly high in the sky, are hung from patios, and even make their way onto Barcelona’s football emblem. This makes for a very different feeling than one would get from Madrid.

Lastly, tapas. I could not get used to them. I understand that the point of them is to be small, so one can order a variety of different food. However, I prefer one big meal. While the food was tasty, tapas were not my favourite. But, seeing as this is the only culture clash during my entire trip, I would call it an overwhelmingly successful trip.

German Football

This past month, I decided that it was time for me to start to go to some football, (soccer) matches in Germany. I mean, when one thinks about Germany, football is one of the first things that comes to mind. Although the national team was not playing during January, the Bundesliga was… which meant that I could see my favourite club play.

Before I could see my favourite club play, I figured that I had to see the club from around Heidelberg play. So, I went to TSG Hoffenheim’s website, bought a ticket for the weekend’s match, and got ready to watch an exciting game of football.

The match didn’t go well, as Hoffenheim would lose 1-4 against Bayer Leverkusen. However, the atmosphere was impressively good for a stadium of 30,000 and a team being throttled. Songs were sung, and the fans kept their heads up even in a loss. I plan on going back to see another Hoffenheim game…

After getting my first taste of Bundesliga football, I decided it was time to see my favourite club play at their home. I was going to Dortmund.

I pocketed my bus/match tickets, brought other things I could fit in my coat pockets… as bags and whatnot are never allowed in the stadium. The first bus ride was seven and a half hours. I arrived in Dortmund, and quickly rushed to Signal Iduna Park. I made it an hour before kickoff, and enjoyed aimlessly wandering around the grounds. The game was an exciting one, despite it ending 2-2. The atmosphere was the best I have ever experienced, including Manchester United, Barcelona, and other large clubs’ stadiums.

After waiting for two and a half hours to get on my bus, and a five and a half hour bus ride later, (I know! An express bus!) I was back home in Heidelberg. I have no regrets over doing such an intense day, and if I could, I would go to every Dortmund game. But, I can’t… I guess I’ll just have to wait until the last game of the season, when they pay a visit to Hoffenheim.

Some Family Time

First of all, happy holidays, and best wishes for the upcoming year. Over my holiday break, I was visited by my parents. After four months of not seeing them, it was a very exciting time.

Even though we all understood that the weather would not be a friend, we intended to explore what we could. First, I had to show off Heidelberg. I am happy to say that both my mother and father found Heidelberg to be both a pretty and an interesting city. We walked down the main streets, saw the various famous sights dotted around the old town, toured the castle, and ate lots of good food. (At places that I had never eaten at!)

In addition to seeing Heidelberg, my parents rented a car so we were able to visit other places in the area. Mainz, R├╝desheim, Schwetzingen, Stuttgart, T├╝bingen, and Baden-Baden. I am very happy that we went to a few of these places. Particularly Mainz, T├╝bingen, and Baden-Baden. Mainz is a major city, but is not within the limit of my semester ticket, (which allows my to take specific public transportation for free) so it was unlikely that I would’ve gone there. And R├╝desheim/T├╝bingen are difficult to get to. Neither are in the area of the semester ticket, and neither are possible for me to get to without having to change trains. (I haven’t been able to find a bus company that goes from Heidelberg to T├╝bingen. If someone reading this can find one, please comment details below.)

My parents flew home yesterday. But, we saw a lot, were able to spend time together, and had lots of fun. And, I don’t have to wait another four months to see them next. I fly home during my two month break between terms. I’ll be in Norman, Oklahoma in about five weeks… with so many experiences under my belt. (And another semester to look forward to after the break!)

Christmas Markets

Over the past month, I have visited the Christmas markets of Germany. (And one in France.) As it is New Years Eve, most of the markets have ended and packed up until next year. However, through these markets, I have visited places that I had originally not intended to see, and that makes me very thankful for them.

I like to collect little trinkets from places that I visit. Usually I buy a postcard and put it in an album when I return to the United States… but at the markets, I was able to buy gl├╝hwein. (Mulled wine.) It came in special mugs/glasses that showcased where I had purchased them.

In the markets, there were trinkets from all over Germany! In fact, there were things from all over the world. In Nuremberg, I bought a couple of little pins from a Ukrainian woman. Despite the copious amount of things available for purchase in each city, most of the stuff was not practical for me to purchase. Large beer steins, beautiful hand crafted woodwork, and other impressive creations were too large, (and sometimes too expensive) for me.

Regardless of what I bought/didn’t buy, I think Christmas markets are great. People of all ages, religions, and races came to walk around, socialize, and be happy. I always smiled when I saw grandparents ice skating with their grandchildren… These markets took me all over Germany. (And to Strasbourg, France.) Not only fun, but capable of showcasing the culture of the city/region. I know that I will be back to Europe to experience these again.

Prague

The major trip of the month. Kelsey and I randomly decided to go to Prague. So, we booked our tickets, (Only 55 Euros for a direct, and roundtrip bus fare.) Early note on Prague, do not take a taxi. They are outrageously expensive, and will attempt to rip you off. For example, they tried to charge Kelsey and I twenty Euros for a fare that was only half a mile. We walked.

I’m not going to go into too much of what we did, but we walked the famous bridge, visited the castle, walked in the main square, toured the Jewish quarter, and saw the Lennon Wall.

The main sites in Prague are relatively simple to get to. As the city is condensed, everything is within a short walk of one another. Charles Bridge links the castle with the rest of the old town. Side note, I am not sure about the reasoning for this, but I can assume that the monarch, clergy, and wealthy people lived on the one side, with the other end of the population on the other.

One of the main reasons that people go to Prague is the low cost of everything. For example, on the first night, I got a beer, burger, goulash, bread, french fries, and a dessert for around 460 Czech Korunas… that is around 18 Euros. For the most expensive 500 milliliter beer, (that I saw) one would pay about $1.2 USD.

Prague is beautiful, fun, and cheap. I would recommend it as a “budget” European trip… although nothing in Europe is actually cheap.

Hirschhorn

This past month has been a blur. I actually didn’t travel extensively, ┬á but with my classes really turning up the pace, and the travel that I did do, days disappeared.

One of the best places that I visited this month was Hirschhorn. Nicknamed “The Pearl of the Neckar Valley,” this small city within a Geo-Naturpark, is stunning. With Hirschhorn being only 30 minutes away from Heidelberg, I was happy to be able to take one train and be done. (S-Bahn)

I arrived in Hirschhorn at around midday, knowing that I would be able to see the parts that I wanted to see within a small amount of time. I began with a walk to the castle.

Walking to the castle was a fun experience. I walked up a steep hill, full of little shacks made of logs, with the scent of wood fire in the air. Walking at a slower pace than usual, I made sure to enjoy the moment. When I finally got to the top of the hill, (where the castle is) I proceeded to climb the castle… All the way to the top of the tallest tower. The climb was worth it, as I was immediately greeted with some beautiful views of Hirschhorn and the surrounding area. After getting my fill of the views, I climbed down and headed toward the old town.

The old town is very small, but makes up for it in beauty. It is a traditional southern German town. (And, despite being very small, the town is proud of its history. There are little plaques dotted on the outside of houses providing a brief summary of the historical significance.) Perhaps of the most interesting thing was the flood marker. Dating from 1491, it precedes even Columbus’ voyage. I thought it was very cool to see a little mark on a wall representing a time in history. (As opposed to the copious landmarks, buildings, and plazas that every European city has.)

While Hirschhorn may not be the most famous place, it is another place in the region of Heidelberg that I would recommend to everyone.

*Disclaimer* Although I have plenty of places along the Neckar that I have yet to see, the majority of the cities require hiking and the ability to do a fair amount of stairs.