Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Berlin, travellers cheques and Visa

On Monday, I took the train to Berlin for my orientation to finding work.
Matt took me to the train station and I marked down the subway line, directions and stops along the way as I would have to get back to the apartment on Tuesday, by myself. I find figuring out the metro to be complicated and stressful. I think I took the Toronto metro by myself twice in my entire life.
I spend most of my time deciding to go places I can walk to so I can avoid the metro, at least if I am by myself. Sooner or later, I am going to have to get over this. just not quite yet.

Sadly, I did not see much of Berlin. After my orientation, which was all of 1.5 hours I had the afternoon and evening to explore. It poured rain the entire time and only get windier as the night went on.
The orientation itself was okay. I learned a number of valuable tips but job search tips did not all apply to Nürnberg and I am struggling to find the Nürnberg equivalents.

Travellers Cheques and Visa
After spending almost all of my cash the Friday I moved into my apartment on rent and the kaution, I needed to find a place to cash my travellers cheques. I spent 3 and a half days with $30 in my wallet and no place to cash the cheques. The banks didnt open until Monday and I spent most of Monday on the train. I was able to use my Visa card at the Walmart equiv when I wanted to get a clothes dry rack and laundry basket...but not at the grocery store. We had to rely on what cash Matt had to tie us over. When I finally got to a bank, the teller told me that regular banks will not cash travellers cheques in Germany. This meant I had to wait until Tuesday to go to a travel bank (at the train stations) to finally cash them.
So when travelling, be mindful of this. Get your travellers cheques cashed at the train station and make sure you always have cash on you...because your Visa card which is suppose to be so international, may be useless.

We moved in!

We moved into our apartment in Nürnberg about a week and a half ago.
Our land lady provided us with almost everything we could possibly need.
Dishes, pots and pans, serving bowls, and linens. On top of the necessities, there were tones of chocolates, juice, sparkling wine, coffee and tea and a bowl of fresh fruit.
There are 4 grocery stores within walking distance so we were able to get everything else we needed.
The apartment has a ton of closest space, we dont even need the second one. The kitchen is spacious as well. For the most part there is a lot of space in the dressing area and around the bed. Its a bit tight to get around the couch, but thats just something well have to get use to.

Day two: the search for internet.
Finding an internet cafe without internet to look it up is quite challenging. We walked around town for hours only spotting banks, restaurants and lotto retailers. We grew hungry and it bagan to rain so we decided to head back. When we were 5 minutes from our apartment, we found the internet cafe. Somehow we had managed to miss that corner. Within minutes, we located the closest mall, another 5 minute walk down the road where we could buy internet and just about anything else we wanted. Unfortunately, we could not order internet or purchase an internet stick until at least one of us had registered our address with the city and opened a bank account. Matt did that on the Monday (two days later).

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Köln (and an important point about the ISIC card)

We are one day away from going to Nürnberg and moving into our apartment! Tomorrow will be the last train ride with the BIG suitcases, at least for a while anyway. But of course, life stuck us with two transfers, just to mock me and watch me try and carry that stupid suitcase.

Anyways, Matt and I both went to Köln for 3 days, Matt to complete his job orientation and me to tour around by myself.
Overall, it was a good experience.

I learned how to not only read and follow a map, but to plan my own excursions as well based on their location on the map. Fortunately for me, everything I wanted to see in Köln was within walking distance and I did not need to attempt the metro on my own.

I noticed that the German drivers are much kinder than those in Canada. Traffic always yield to pedestrians. You step out a crosswalk only indicated by the lines on the street, the cars stop. You're on a green traffic light/ cross walk, traffic turning in your direction will always pause mid turn so you can walk across.

I learned my student card (valid until 2014) is also valid in Germany, at least for museums and the like so I managed to grab a few discounts, which brings me to an important point, the ISIC: International Student Identity Card. If you are still a student when you intend on going abroad..and by still I mean even in your last semester as long as you are full time, get an ISIC card. You need to provide your tuition receipt as proof to get it. I missed out on getting this, but Matt was able to get one before he left and he is able to by a half price card in order to get 50 percent off all train tickets! Still with me? Yes he had to purchase a card to get 50 percent off, but if I want a 50 percent off train card...I have to pay double what he did. Think about it.

I learned that I need to practice speaking and listening to German much much more. When the menu was in German or I wanted something simple like coffee with milk, I could attempt to speak proper German, but when the menu is in English and the cashier only speaks German, how do you go about translating those items for them? All I wanted was a mcflurry..

Köln has probably the coolest museums ever, or at least that I have come across so far. They don't just have art museums and history museums which I could personally do without, but a chocolate, a wine, and an olympic museum! Very cool and worth every penny. The chocolate museum also held the Lindt factory and sold Lindt products. I also did the triangle tower to get a panoramic view of the city, a cable car ride across the rhein, the zoo and some cool sight seeing, but many cities will offer things like those.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Düsseldorf !

The worst part about traveling, is the traveling itself. While I can pull suitcases on wheels all at once, I cannot lift them up and down the stairs in the subways. On Friday, Matt and I got up really early and took our small suitcases to the train station and put them in a locker. We came back to the hotel, checked out and went to the train station with our big suitcases. Almost all downstairs which was managable. There was one set of stairs heading up, no elevator. I am really not sure I could have managed this on my own. Fortunately, a random noticed I was struggling and came and lift the back end of my suitcase and we walked it up together. He never looked up or said anything. He read his newspaper as we walked up the stairs. I thanked him but I'm not sure he noticed, I felt like this was a normal habit for him. The train attendant helped me lift it onto the train and Matt lifted it on and off the luggage rack. His friends came to pick us up in their car :)

They toured us around Düsseldorf and we went to the Düsseldorf Oktoberfest! The average age was around 50 years old! But a good time was definitely had! It was different then the one in Kitchener-Waterloo. No one was selling bavarian one was really wearing bavarian hats. People wore traditional dirndl's and lederhosen and there was not a lot of polka music, instead a band that played both German and English songs. Also, people smoke IN the arena, instead of going outside to a smoking section.

Tomorrow we move onto Köln (Cologne) and Matt and I will separate. Matt will attend a 4 day orientation for his job and I will stay in a hotel and do some sight seeing. Looking forward to it for the most part, just not the traveling part.