Posts Tagged ‘travel’

So this is what everyone is doing right at this very moment:

Morning class at the A+O Hostel in Ostkreuz – Photo by Shady Grove Oliver

I’m sitting behind them, listening to their interesting discussion about secularism in contemporary Europe, and about to tell you about the last few AMAZING days in Berlin!

I left off with our arrival on Thursday… On Friday we all met in the morning and went out for our first German excursion – to the Deutsches Historisches Museum on Museuminsel (Museum Island) in downtown east/side Berlin.  We saw exhibits on everything from Friedrich der Grosse (Frederick the Great) to WWII and Nazism in Germany to the story of the Berlin Wall and reunification.

Photo by Shady Grove Oliver     Photo by Shady Grove Oliver

Photo by Shady Grove Oliver     Photo by Shady Grove Oliver

Although we spent over four hours at the museum, it wasn’t nearly enough for the amount of information there!  After the museum there were a few hours of free time.  Some people decided to walk down part of the Friedrichstrasse (Frederick Street).  There were street musicians playing hot club music:

Photo by Shady Grove Oliver

And the students got to see Ampelmann for the first time.  Ampelmann is the famous Berlin-specific Walk/Don’t Walk sign man:

Photo by Shady Grove Oliver

Fast forward to Saturday…

While everyone walked around Tiergarten and explored other parts of Berlin, I ended up going to the hospital with a bad case of bronchitis.  Not so fun, but I definitely got to practice my rusty German and learn new medical words like “Krankenpflege” (it means female or male nurse).

Fast forward to Sunday…

Cori and Professor Nyitray went off to see Schloss Charlottenburg, one of Prussian royal family’s most beautiful palaces in the Berlin area.  The whole group met up for class on Sunday evening downstairs in the hostel.


Yesterday everyone was refreshed after a weekend of rest so we all headed out to Potsdam, one of the most historically interesting places in Brandenburg (the region of Germany in which Berlin is located).  First we explored a German department store (Kaufland) and then hopped on the M-695 bus to Schlosspark Sanssouci (Castle/Palace Park “Without a Care”).  We got off at the Neues Palais (New Palace stop) and started our journey though the beautiful grounds.

Neues Palais was constructed between 1763 and 1769 by Frederich II (der Grosse) as a symbol of Prussian prosperity after the Seven Years War.  It has 300 rooms, 322 windows, and 488 statues!

Perla, Andrew, Jason, Prof. Nyitray, Erin, Angelique, and Cori in front of Neues Palais – Photo by Shady Grove Oliver

Jason, Perla, Angelique, Andrew, Cori, Shady Grove, and Erin in front of Neues Palais – Photo by Vivian-Lee Nyitray

We continued our walk to the Friendship Pavilion, built by Friedrich II for his favorite sister, Wilhelmina, after her death.  It features famous pairings of good friends:

Friendship Pavilion – Photo by Shady Grove Oliver

Prof. Nyitray, Jason, Andrew, Angelique, Perla, Erin, Cori, Shady Grove in the Friendship Pavilion

We saw the Chinesisches Haus (Chinese House):

Photo by Shady Grove Oliver

The Windmill:

Photo by Shady Grove Oliver

And finally…we arrived at Schloss Sanssouci (Palace “without a care”)!

Photo by Shady Grove Oliver

Where a very nice person offered to take a picture of the whole group:

Perla, Angelique, Andrew, Jason, Erin, Prof. Nyitray, Shady Grove, and Cori in front of Schloss Sanssouci

We saw the grave of Friedrich der Grosse (which has potatoes on it at all times):

Photo by Shady Grove Oliver

And the Orangerie…



After we finished at Park Sanssouci, we took the bus back to downtown Potsdam where we got a bit nostalgic walking around the Hollaendisches Viertel (Dutch Quarter), built in the Dutch style by religious refugees from Holland:


We also got to see the area of Potsdam around the Nauener Tor (Nauener Gate):


We then hopped on the S-7 train back to Berlin.  Professor Nyitray, Cori, Andrew, Jason, and I went to have dinner at Potsdamer Platz – one of the most fascinating places in the city.  It was right on the border of east and west when the Berlin Wall was standing and there is still a small wall exhibit there today:



We had traditional German food for dinner at the Sony Center and watched the sunset…and the lights on the ceiling go from blue to pink to purple…


All in all, it’s been a great few days in Berlin!

View of the Deutsche Bahn building from the Sony Center at night – Photo by Shady Grove Oliver

Thursday, 09 August 2012

Tot ziens, Nederland! –> Guten Tag, Deutschland!

On Thursday, we checked out of our lovely home for the week in Utrecht — Hotel Mitland — hopped into a few cabs, and went to Utrecht Centraal.  At the central train station, we dragged our bags onto the regional train to Amersfoort and then transferred to the red “Hispeed” train to Berlin.

After a couple of hours, the announcements on the train switched from Dutch to German and we stopped to pick up a German engine and staff at the first border station.  On the train, some of us slept, Angelique and Erin watched one of our course films [“Zwartboek” or “Black Book”], a few people made their way to the lunch car for a first taste of German fare, and others spent the six hours watching the landscape fly by through the windows.

We pulled into Berlin Hauptbahnhof (Central Station) at around 17:30 (5:30 pm on a non-24-hr. clock).  It sure is an impressive train station!  It even has a huge sign on one end of the ceiling that says “Wilkommen in Berlin” — Welcome to Berlin!

After getting our transportation passes and getting a feel for our new home, we made our way to the S-bahn platform (the S-bahn is like an above ground metro/subway) and rode to our stop in the Ostkreuz neighborhood.

Ostkreuz S-bahn station – Photo by Shady Grove Oliver

Ostkreuz S-bahn station – Photo by Shady Grove Oliver

And what a neighborhood Ostkreuz is!  It’s filled with restaurants and snack shops (one block alone has a Pho place, a “chicken hut,” a Mexican/Indian joint, and a Japanese/Korean eatery).  Right next door to our hostel (A+O) is a “biologisch” market = all organic with LOTS of vegetarian and vegan food.

Street art in Ostkreuz – Photo by Shady Grove Oliver

Ostkreuz neighborhood – Photo by Shady Grove Oliver

We dropped our bags in our rooms and went out for a wonderful dinner at the Indian restaurant.  For a number of people, this was their first time trying Indian food!  It seemed to be a big hit.  Several bowls of palak paneer and aloo gobi later, we walked back to our new home for nice, long night’s sleep…

…But first we went downstairs for an impromptu survival German lesson and a sampling of local beverages.  I went up stairs to get the vocabulary sheets; when I came back down to the communal area to meet everyone else, I was surprised to hear Disney songs emanating loudly from the lounge.  I was even more surprised to see that it was emanating from two of our own intrepid students who had–to the delight of the lonely barista–discovered the karaoke machine.  Post-Disney and Michael Jackson, we all sat down for a crash-Deutsch course, followed by a round…or two…of pool and then sleep.

Will be updating about our last few days in the Netherlands – due to illness and lack of internet for a few days I’m playing catch-up.  But current updates to come as well.  For now, I bid you…

Auf Wiedersehen!


Posted: July 28, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

Photo by Shady Grove Oliver

Hello everyone~

This is just a quick post to say the course has officially begun!  The first student arrived tonight at Schipol Airport.  Despite the briefly-lost luggage issue, everything went smoothly.  I, for one, am very excited that things are getting underway.  In just a few hours, I head back to Schipol to pick up the rest of the students.  Then we’ll take the train to Utrecht, get all of our transportation cards (OV Kaartjes), deal with the jet lag (nap time, anyone?), and have an intro dinner tomorrow evening.

To all of the students– welcome to the Netherlands!  To all of the blog followers– welcome to the start of the program and thanks for reading!

Photo by Shady Grove Oliver

YES!  It’s almost time to fly to the Netherlands!  We’ve had a few questions from some of you that others might have as well…

1. If I want to travel during my free weekend, do I need to book that trip before I leave the US?

*No, you do not.  It’s likely the prices of flights/buses/trains will be the same now and in a week (or longer) so you shouldn’t miss any special deals.  When you get here, your intro packet will have useful websites and other info about inter-Europe travel, along with a revised syllabus.

2. Do I need to declare medications I’m bringing when I go through customs in Amsterdam?

*No, you do not.  Both over-the-counter medications and prescription medications are OK to bring and do not need to be declared.  You should be able to pass through the NIETS AAN TE GEVEN / NOTHING TO DECLARE line at Schipol Airport.

3.  What do I need to declare?

*You need to declare items such as firearms and controlled substances (not prescriptions) so none of you should have that issue.  You are no longer allowed to bring meat or vegetables from any non-European Union country into the Netherlands (even if it was purchased on an airplane or in an airport that is non-EU).  If you have any meat or veggies from the USA, leave them behind or eat them because if they are declared, they’ll be confiscated.

4.  Do I need to change money before I arrive?

*No, you do not.  When I meet you at Schipol, I’ll take you past the airport bank and you can do it at that time.


If you’ve got any other questions, feel free to ask.  See you all soon!

Groeten uit Nederland!  (KHROO-ten OUT NAY-dur-lahnd)

Greetings from the Netherlands!

Arrived in the lowlands this afternoon, waved hello to Amsterdam from Schipol Airport, hopped on a train and came to Utrecht.  Apparently brought the warm California weather along…but luckily it will be back to the high 60s / low 70s, overcast, and rainy Dutch weather by the time all of you fly in this coming weekend.  Treated myself to Dutch bread (tijger brood–tiger bread) and cheese (komijnekaas–Gouda cheese with cumin seeds) for dinner.  That would normally be a breakfast food–but hey, I’m jetlagging.

Just a few reminders and tidbits of info before you come:

1.  If you are accustomed to using a small, square, American-style washcloth, consider bringing one along as Dutch people use long, rectangular towels instead.  If not, doesn’t matter.

2.  As I’ll be handling most of the breakfast and lunch prep, please let me know [] if you have any dietary preferences or allergies.  For example, if you’re vegetarian but really hate celery, let me know so I don’t go on a crazy celery kick and make you sad.

3.  Don’t forget to bring a small umbrella or rain jacket (or be prepared to buy one here) as there is a 99.9999% chance of rain next week.


*I will be meeting you all at Schipol Airport and then bringing you back to Utrecht on the train.  If you are one of the 7:45am arrivals, you may have to wait for an hour or two for the others so bring a book!

*When you arrive at Schipol, you’ll go through the baggage claim and pick up your luggage, then exit into the main corridor of the airport/train station (you’ll most likely have “NOTHING TO DECLARE / NIETS AAN TE GEVEN” <–follow that sign out of baggage claim).  Immediately once you exit the baggage claim, follow the signs hanging from the ceiling to the “MEETING POINT”.  It is a HUGE red and white checkered cube in the central entrance to the main train terminal/shopping area.  If you get lost, just ask for the meeting point and someone will tell you where to go.

*I will be sitting on the meeting point and will be wearing bright pink tights, so hopefully will be hard to miss.

*There will be a place to change money from dollars to euros before you exit the baggage claim.  I’d suggest not changing money there.  Once you meet me at the meeting point, I can take you all over to the bank in the train terminal and we can do all the money stuff together.

*I’ll be providing you with a transportation card (called an OV Kaart) and will show you how to use the train ticket machines before we head out.

*Near the meeting point there is a place to buy postcards, lots of places to eat/snack/drink coffee, a phone store, pharmacy, etc…

*Tomorrow, you’ll all get an email with my Dutch cell phone # and Prof. Nyitray’s Dutch cell phone #.  Keep this with you–written down–in case you need it while you’re in transit.


Please comment on this post if you’ve read it.  We really want you to start interacting with the blog and I need to make sure all of you can access it/comment.  Let me know if you have any issues.  Thanks and goede reis (good travels)!

We’ve got a blog!

Posted: February 26, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

Thanks for checking out the brand new blog for “Religion, Secularism, & Civil Societies in the Netherlands, Germany, and the US.”  My name is Shady Grove and I’ll be the Program Assistant for the study abroad course, working with Faculty Instructor Vivian-Lee Nyitray to make sure you have the best experience possible this summer.  I’m still in the process of putting together this blog, and will be smoothing out the wrinkles over the next few days.  The goal is to have this site work alongside the Facebook page and Twitter feed [@EAP50thNyitray] to bring you the most up-to-date information about the course.  Stay tuned for:

*Articles in the news re: religion and secularism in NL, Germany, and the US

*Practical tips on preparing for your time abroad (packing, language skills, etc)

*Required and recommended books and films to read and watch before we go

*Updates to the itinerary for the course

*More in-depth information about the purpose of this course and what it will cover during the 4-week trip

Also, please feel free to use this blog (as well as the Facebook page) to contact us with your questions about this program. Once we are abroad, I’ll be updating this blog daily with photos and descriptions of our activities.  Make sure to tell your family and friends about it so they can follow our adventures from a distance!

Thanks again for checking out this blog, come back soon, and remember: