Nirvana!

Zadar: The Mediterranean as it Once Was!

Nirvana!

Pure Nirvana

I ended up in Zadar purely by chance, and if anyone had asked me, before I went, if it was a place I would ever visit, the answer would have been no. I never even really had intentions of visiting Croatia, but when push came to shove it was the cheapest of three destinations chosen by friends and I. Therefore, we booked our flights on Ryan Air, and found a cozy looking hostel to call home.

Zadar is a small coastal city in Croatia, on the east side of the Adriatic Sea. Zagreb and Split are popular tourist destinations in Croatia, but if you want to take a step back in history while enjoying the sea, then Zadar is the place you should go. One can experience many different types of architecture in Zadar including Roman, medieval (Romanesque, Gothic), and Renaissance.

Places to Stay

Room at the Old Town Hostel

There are many places to stay in Zadar, but hostels are my preferred method while traveling through Europe. I stayed in the Old Town Hostel, which was a bit difficult to find in the narrow streets and alleys, but it was still a very welcoming spot. When we arrived we had to travel up a questionable staircase with rickety railings, and a long drop down. In the lobby, we had to wake up a girl sleeping on the couch to find out who to check in with. Turns out she was the front desk girl, and she had come to work straight from the previous nights events. May sound sketchy to some, but the Old Town is a very chill location and the employees are very helpful.

Food

Pizza is never hard to find in Zadar.

Pizza is never hard to find in Zadar.

There is no shortage of places to find great food. Most of the restaurants offer a variety of sea-foods and other dishes, so finding something to satisfy is no problem. Also, if you find yourself out late at night or looking for a cheap meal, there are many small pizza shops and stands scattered throughout the city. We had a couple of nice sit down meals, but for the most part we cooked in the hostel’s kitchen or ate street stand food. If you enjoy people watching, then one of the many outdoor cafes is a great place to relax and watch the bustling crowds. We ate our fancy final meal at Pet Bunara. The dishes were a little more on the expensive side, but it was well worth the price. Along with the pizzerias and cafes, there is a great market place near the grocery store to get fresh produce and other goods. You have to go in the morning though, because they shut down around mid-day.

Nightlife

There are many bars located on the peninsula of Zadar, but if you go mid-week as we did, there might not be many people out to enjoy the night with. The University of Zadar is also located out on the peninsula, so on a typical weekend there are many people out and about. Some of the better bars recommended to us were Arkada, Caffe Bar Hippy, Brazil, and Zara.

Attractions

Sea Organ

Sea Organ

There are many unique things to see in Zadar. There are many spectacular churches to visit, like St. Donatus’ Church. It is located not far from People’s Square and the Roman Forum, where one can walk through the ruins of the past. The Citadel is also a neat place to visit. Built in 1409, it remains the same to this day. There is even a super posh bar located within that has an underground section. There are four gates around the Citadel and the Land Gate was most stunning to me. Outside of the monuments of the past, Zadar also has some intriguing modern sights. One of the main attractions in this category is the Sea Organ. As the waves lap against the sea wall, air is pushed through metal tubes located under marble stairs and exit through holes that play the music of the sea. Right next to the Sea Organ is the Sun Salutation. The Sun Salutation is a circular panel of solar powered lights. At sunset the lights switch on and light up the waterfront. Unfortunately it wasn’t working when we were there, but it looks quite spectacular in pictures.

Excursion

If you want to travel outside of the city to enjoy other splendid sights, then there are many choices. The best of these are to go for a swim at a beach (if the water is warm enough), go kayaking through the many small islands along the coast, or you can take a trip to Plitvice Lakes. The lakes are located two hours away from Zadar in the mountains. The lakes are extremely clear and look green due to minerals and microbes. Also, there are many waterfalls at the park, and some are quite spectacular. For a nice hike through nature this is the place to go. It offers stunning views of the landscape, and adventurous trails that are sometimes closed due to the water level. That didn’t stop us from venturing out though. We ended up wading at times, and since it was March in the mountains of Croatia, this turned out to be a “chilling” experience. For more pictures check out the photo gallery at the bottom.

If you ever have the chance to travel to Croatia then it is something you should most definitely do. Zagreb and Split offer their own sources of beauty and nightlife, but Zadar holds its own. If flying there, you can take RyanAir, German Wings, and other cheap airlines to Zadar Airport located about 20 minutes outside of the city. Be prepared to exchange money though, because Croatia does not have the Euro. The conversion rate is a little over 5.50 Kuna per American Dollar, or 7.60 per Euro. They speak Croatian (Hrvatski), but most know how to speak English so no problem there. Zadar is a beautiful and wonderful place. I hope to return one day so I can spend more time there, and the decision to travel there was one that I will never regret. Check out the pictures below of my travels in Zadar and Plitvicé!

 

Stuttgarter Frühlingsfest!

Mayor of Stuttgart Fritz Kuhn opens Frühlingsfest by tapping the keg!

Mayor of Stuttgart Fritz Kuhn opens Frühlingsfest by tapping the keg! Flickr/Landeshauptstadt Stuttgart

When I traveled to Germany last year, I was a bit disappointed that my semester was in the Spring and not the Fall. How could I ever become an extreme tourist in Germany without going to Oktoberfest? Well if any of you plan to do a semester in Germany during the Spring there is yet hope. The Stuttgarter Frühlingsfest (Spring Festival) is Europe’s largest spring festival, and lasts 23 days long. This year it began on April 19th and went through May 11th. It is located at the fairgrounds in the Bad Cannstatt district of Stuttgart. It is not quite Oktoberfest, but that is alright because it still offers the same attractions. Also, since it is not as big as Oktoberfest, instead of waiting in 8 hour long lines for the beer gardens, you might only have to wait 4 hours. If you go early enough in the day though you might not have to wait in line at all. I went to the festival twice last year, but unfortunately since I was more focused on the cultural experiences in the beer garden, I didn’t take many pictures. The internet has me covered on this one though.

One might think that beer fests are all about the beer, but it is actually a fair on steroids with beer gardens.

One might think that beer fests are all about the beer, but it is actually a fair on steroids with beer gardens. Flickr/Orkomedix

It is custom to wear traditional clothing like Dirndls and Lederhosen even on the roller-coasters.

It is custom to wear traditional clothing like Dirndls and Lederhosen even on the roller-coasters. Flickr/Rob124

Also, what would a beerfest be without other gut wrenching fair rides? I would suggest that if you want to enjoy the rides, you should do it before the beer garden.

Also, what would a beerfest be without other gut wrenching fair rides? I would suggest that if you want to enjoy the rides, you should do it before the beer garden. Flickr/baba_1967

 

If you get a bit peckish while going from ride to ride, there are many vendors that offer beer and food from around the world!

If you get a bit peckish while going from ride to ride, there are many vendors that offer beer and food from around the world! Flickr/Ken Hawkins

Ok! Now you have rode every ride that you could possibly stomach, so where better to go than the Biergarten! The wonderful place bursting with food, polka, more expensive beer than you could ever consume, and of course other drinkers!

A view from inside one of the many beer gardens. Stuttgarter Hofbrau Biergarten is the largest one at the festival.

A view from inside one of the many beer gardens. Stuttgarter Hofbrau Biergarten is the largest one at the festival. Flickr/Ken Hawkins

What should you order you ask? Well a liter beer is the most popular request, also known as a Maß.

What should you order you ask? Well a liter beer is the most popular request, also known as a Maß.  Flickr/ Giesbert Damaschke

If you get hungry again, then order a whole half of a chicken (complete with Brot and hand wipes) or a Tellerschnitzel. You don't even have to leave your table.

If you get hungry again, then order a whole half of a chicken (complete with Brot and hand wipes) or a Tellerschnitzel. You don’t even have to leave your table. Flickr/Ken Hawkins

When you are done drinking (your body will tell you) find a safe way to stumble home!

When you are done drinking (your body will tell you) find a safe way to stumble home! Flickr/Ken Hawkins

If you do find yourself in Germany, but are not near Stuttgart, then life is still good. Frühlingsfest  happens across Germany, but Stuttgart offers the best experience in my opinion.

If you do find yourself in Germany, but are not near Stuttgart, then life is still good. Frühlingsfest happens across Germany, but Stuttgart offers the best experience in my opinion. Flickr/Karsten Hoffmann

Unfortunately Frühlingsfest has ended this year, but there is always next year. For those of you who would wish to experience Oktoberfest but can’t due to the season, then Frühlingsfest will save you. If you are there for a year even better! You can go to both, and continue your good choices of gluttony and over drinking. If you are an alcoholic you should probably fight the urge and not go. Also, be prepared to have your body hate you the following day. You have been warned. Viel Spaß!

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Berlin School Films: Counterculture in Film

Flickr/Tekke

Flickr/Tekke

Last winter I came to the brilliant conclusion that I would take a 4000 level Film Studies course in the Spring. One might say oh that sounds like fun, what do you know about film studies? Not a thing, but since it is a course on German cinema it is relevant to my studies. There was definitely a learning curve on the film studies part, but after taking the class I can say I have gained a new perspective in viewing films.

Flickr/MorBCN

Flickr/MorBCN

The professor warned us at the beginning of the semester that the second half of the class would be focused on Berlin School Films, and that these were difficult to watch. If I had to use one word to describe the Berlin School style of film making, it would be counterculture. These films were indeed difficult to watch, but not because of gore, violence, or ideology. These films were so hard to watch because of the nothing they most often showed. The Berlin School is more of a school of thought than it is a school, but many of the directors that are categorized into the Berlin School style attended the German Film and Television Academy Berlin (DFFB).

Bungalow

Bungalow

The Berlin School Films that I saw during the class were Bungalow directed by Ulrich Köhler, Milchwald (This Very Moment) by Christoph Hochhäusler, Yella and Barbara both by Christian Petzold, Sehnsucht (Longing) by Valeska Grisebach, and Der Räuber (The Robber) by Benjamin Heisenberg.

Aesthetics

Flickr/Jonathan Kos-Read

One of the major things the Berlin School Films focus on is aesthetics, and the sounds and images in the films are meticulously planned. The films are known for long camera shots, weird camera angles, lack of non-diegetic sounds, lack of a typical storyline, ambiguous endings, focus on the negative space, unattached characters, focus on landscapes, and ambiguous images.

This Very Moment

This Very Moment

Milchwald, Sehnsucht, and Barbara are all loosely based on other stories. Milchwald is considered to resemble Hansel and Gretel, and is a story about a step-mother who loses her husband’s children. It follows the timelines of the lonely step-mother, and that of the children trying to get back home. Sehnsucht is a Romeo and Juliet type story, and at the end a scene is shown of children discussing the tale and relating it to Romeo and Juliet. The movie is about a man who is struggling with the love for his wife and his mistress, although he is not really attached to one or the other. Barbara is considered to be Petzold’s remake of the award winning The Lives of Others, a movie about life in East Germany before the fall of the wall.

Flickr/muckster

Flickr/muckster

My favorite movie from this genre of films is Yella. The first time I watched this film I was not very impressed. A plus for the movie was that it stepped out of the Berlin School norm and had a storyline. Yella is a film that deals with the East-West issues in Germany after unification. It follows the tale of a women who leaves her life, in what was formerly East Germany, to find success. I don’t want to spoil the movie for anyone that might not have seen it yet, so that is all I’ll say on the plot. This movie definitely has to be viewed more than once or twice to fully appreciate it though. There are many minor nuances in the movie that might be difficult to catch on the first viewing. Petzold’s focus on aesthetics in this film is almost unbelievable. The depth he went to in creating this film is quite amazing. He focuses on such little details, that in some cases have so much meaning, and that is what makes this film so intriguing.

Movie Poster

Thimfilm and Zorro Film

If anyone out there is brave enough to venture into the world of Berlin School Films, I would highly Film Posterrecommend watching Yella first. I would also recommend Barbara and Der Räuber. Although this style of film can seem rather boring at first, these three films follow a storyline, which make them easier to follow. Like Yella these movies often require more than one viewing to understand the meanings. Also, when approaching this genre the viewer will have to step out of the world of Hollywood cinema. A great thing about the Berlin School Films is that they make the viewer have to come to their own conclusions, instead of leading them in a single intended direction. Their are many more movies that fit into the Berlin School genre, but of the ones I discussed, I would not recommend Bungalow or Sehnsucht. To me these films go along with no purpose, and the main characters are painfully unattached from the world. These are typical traits of Berlin School style, but in my opinion these movies are just “l’art pour l’art” (art for art’s sake). Go forth though, if you dare, and make your own opinions on these films. They open the mind and offer a different viewing experience, than that which we know in Hollywood.

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Jews in a Box at Berlin Museum

Boxcar Carrying Jews

Jews being deported to death camps in boxcars.

1. How many Jewish people are still living in Germany today?

2. What is it like to be Jewish person living in Germany?

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

The answer that you might be thinking is, “Who knows?” Although, in our day and age I guess “Google!” could also be an acceptable rhetorical answer to these questions.

Nevertheless, the Jewish Museum in Berlin opened an exhibit in March of 2013 to help answer these questions. It was called „Die ganze Wahrheit … was Sie schon immer über Juden wissen wollten“ or “The Whole Truth…Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Jews.” One display of the exhibit is a three sided glass box, and yes you guessed it, housed inside this box for two hours a day was a Jewish person.

Leeor Engländer, a columnist for Die Welt and participant of the exhibit said,

“Because there are so few Jews in Germany—Engländer puts the number at around two hundred thousand—most Germans are deeply unfamiliar with Jewish culture.”

With Germany’s population of over 82 million that roughly equates to a Jewish population of .2 percent. Because of this, many Jewish stereotypes still exist in Germany. Though many, like Engländer, feel this exhibit is “fantastic,” and a perfect way to bust stereotypes, many criticize against it and find it extremely controversial despite its popularity.

6238852798_3653b233d9_n

Adolf Eichmann (Huntington Theatre Company/Flickr)

Stephan Kramer, the general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said the box reminded him of the glass booth that housed Adolf Eichmann (high-ranking SS officer who was responsible for deporting Jews to death camps during WWII.) during his 1961 war crimes trial in Israel that led to his execution.”Why don’t they give him a banana and a glass of water, turn up the heat and make the Jew feel really cozy in his glass box?” Kramer told the Associated Press after the exhibit opened in the spring.

A Jewish American blogger stated that the exhibit was “SO FREAKING WEIRD.” She goes on to say, There is something deeply unsettling to me about this exhibit – this stark presentation of “us” and “them”; a venue where people are literally put in boxes.”

The people who find the exhibit to be controversial feel it is demeaning to put a person on display, but I feel that this exhibit did what it was intended to do. It gave German visitors a real life person to speak to about Judaism, and broke

(AP Photo/Markus Schreiber; via Huffington Post)

(AP Photo/Markus Schreiber; via Huffington Post)

down many stereotypes about Jews. It also helped people to move past defining Jewish people solely with the Holocaust. For many Germans who still feel guilty about the Holocaust, the exhibit gave them a place to ask questions without having to visit a Synagogue or Jewish center. Unfortunately though, for those who might want to visit this exhibit, it was only up through September of 2013 and is no longer on display at the Jewish Museum in Berlin.

Bushido for Berlin: German Rap and Politics

In June 2012, he completed an internship in the office of Christian von...

Center, Rapper Bushido

When I first visited Germany I was surprised to see the differences between their rap music and ours in America. The styles, messages, and even the beats seem to be quite different in some cases. The biggest thing that stuck out to me, though, is how political their rap can be. Sometimes American rappers will touch on political topics, but in Germany there seems to be an entire branch of political rappers. They rap for and against political policies, and even world issues.

Die Fantastischen

Die Fantastischen 4

Rap, or hip-hop, in Germany came about in the 80’s, and was quite similar to the rap in the United States, including the fact that it was made in english. Since the style of German rap was so similar to American old school rap, it did not grow in popularity until the 90’s. A notable name for the rap scene during the 80’s was Die Fantastischen Vier (Fanta 4) from Stuttgart. In the 90’s Fanta 4 followed suit, with the group Advanced Chemistry, and started rapping in German. This would be the moment that German rap rose in popularity within Germany. Rap was not the only thing on the rise in Germany during the 90’s, though. After reunification between East and West Germany, there was a rise in immigration, and this is the period that one can notice the use of rap as a voice for current affairs. Billy Jam, a radio host from New York’s WFMU, wrote:

“By the early ’90s, Turkish-German, the country’s largest minority, became a powerful voice in German hip-hop. German-Turkish rap essentially came into being in the 1990’s as a direct correlation with the rise of anti-immigrant feelings in Germany and violent attacks upon Turkish immigrants in the country. Hip-hop quickly became a voice for this marginalized sector of German society and consequently the number of Turkish-German rappers has multiplied vastly.”

Immigration to Germany had been going on since the 50’s, but after the fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification, there was a rise in violence against Ausländer or foreigners, especially those of Turkish decent. Consequently, from the 90’s on German rap has become very politicized.

Rioters threw Molotov cocktails at the complex, trapping residents inside. It...

Riot against foreigners at Rostock

Not all German rap is political, but mainstream German rappers like Sido, Fler, and Bushido all are known for their politically controversial lyrics. The rapper Bushido is a great example of this. Bushido’s real name is Anis Mohamed Youssef Ferchichi. He was born to a German mother and Tunisian father, and grew up in middle-class Berlin, but soon after leaving school he was charged for crimes of vandalism and drug possession. When he started his rap career he joined with German hip-hop label Aggro Berlin, who is also known for provoking controversy. In a paper on changing demographics in Germany, J. Griffith Rollefson states, “as the racialized descriptions, symbols, and alter egos of the label’s artists indicate, Aggro Berlin is in the business of capitalizing on government and media fears in a racially hypersensitive nation.” This fit well with rapper Bushido who’s lyrics are known to be misogynistic, nationalist, homophobic, and crude. Other controversies of Bushido include tweeting anti-israel posts, having possible ties to a Lebanese organized crime gang, assault, and copyright infringement. One of his latest controversies comes from his single Stress ohne Grund (Stress for no reason). In the song he says:

Und ich will, dass Serkan Tören jetzt ins Gras beißt,
Ich schieß auf Claudia Roth und sie kriegt Löcher wie ein Golfplatz

In this segment of the song, he is speaking about two politicians. The first one, Tören, he wants to “bite the dust”, and the second one, Roth, he says, “he shoots [her] and she gets hole like a golf course.” Also, in the song he speaks about the gay Mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, and others. Bushido had charges filed against him, because the song was considered homophobic, racial, and violent. In a later interview, he stated that the song is “in no way a call to violence and that if he shoots with anything, it’s words.” Bushido also wrote a bestselling autobiography and played himself in a film about his life, but after all of this controversy, the next step he takes in life is quite surprising.

Bushido Internship

Bushido interning in German Parliament

In 2012, Bushido announced on Twitter that he would be starting his own political party. In an interview with Bild Magazine he says, “he was seeking to become mayor of Berlin and win a state parliamentary seat.” This comes as a surprise to many, and Bild Magazine even asked him if it was a joke, which he said it was not. He even did an internship in the German Parliament to learn more about politics. At the time of the interview, Bushido did not know what his party would be called or what platform the party would have. He did say, however, “while the platform for his as-yet unnamed party is not complete, he’s committed to helping those in problem areas, especially immigrants.” His goal is to make life easier for immigrants living in problem areas. He doesn’t just want to give them money though. He “wants to create more incentives [for immigrants] to voluntarily [learn German],” which would be a start to making life easier for them. He also wants to bring other German celebrities into his party, like actor Moritz Bleibtreu from Lola Rennt, former Wimbledon champ Boris Becker, and music producer Dieter Bohlen. When asked about his past lyrics of homophobia, misogyny, and violence, he says, “These texts are past … I have nothing against gays. And my God, we love women, women are sexy.” While the next elections are not until 2016, I think it will be very interesting to see what comes of this. To see a rapper, who has a controversial and criminal past that made his living on crude and violent lyrics, step into the political realm is something to follow in the future. It is hard to say how much success he will garner politically, but maybe his popularity in the rap industry will help him to become mayor of Berlin. Since rap has such a strong political voice in Germany, maybe it is possible for the two worlds to collide. 

Sources: A Brief Overview of German Hip-Hop from Billy Jam /// Changing Demographics: Migration Flows from or to Germany /// Bushido Ballyhoo: When Hip-Hop and German Politics Collide /// German Rapper Bushido Starts Own Political Party /// Rüpel-Rapper Will Eigene Partei Gründen