A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about couchsurfing

Ulm

Weekend conference turned out to be a great time

overcast 3 °C
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This Friday I had a conference in Ulm so we decided to stay for the weekend. The conference turned out to be way better than I was expecting and we had a great time in Ulm. We saw another cathedral, another Christmas market, another city gate and city wall, but it never gets old.

Ulm turned out to be a great city. It’s kind of interesting since it’s divided into two sections (Ulm and Neu-Ulm) by the Donau, and the Neu-Ulm side is in Bavaria while the city proper is in Baden-Württemberg. It’s a little smaller than Freiburg so it was easy to get everywhere on foot. The Friday we got there was the conference, so Saturday we set out to see the city. The cathedral was beautiful, and has the highest steeple in the world. Ulm is foggiest city in Germany, and you could tell; I don’t think we ever actually saw the top of the cathedral! Saturday morning we went in for an organ concert, which was wonderful, although freezing. After walking around the Christmas market all morning we needed a place to warm up so we found a café in the back of a bookstore. The café culture in Germany is definitely different than at home or any of the other places we’ve been. There aren’t many here, at least not compared to Italy or Croatia. I guess the drink of choice here is beer, not coffee. There are a few nice cafes to be found though.

Another “highlight” in Ulm was the Schiefeshaus. That just means crooked house, and that’s exactly what it is. It’s a hotel in the Fischerviertel (fishing quarter) of the city which looks like it’s about to fall into the river any day now. It’s pretty interesting. I didn’t go in, but I assume the floors inside have been fixed! Also worth mentioning is that Ulm is Albert Einstein’s birthplace. The house is gone, along with most of the original buildings in the city, but there’s a monument on the spot where the house stood.

Overall we had a great stay in Ulm. It’s a quiet city but worth a visit if you’re in the area. It’s not far from Munich, and has a couple of world-record setting buildings – the highest steeple and most slanted hotel. The trip there from Freiburg through the Black Forest is also beautiful and the city itself is quite nice, lying on the Donau. We probably would never have gone here if it weren’t for the conference, but I’m glad we made it and got a chance to see a little more of the country we’re living in.

Here are some pictures.

Posted by kmclean 20:18 Archived in Germany Tagged markets cathedrals christmas conferences couchsurfing Comments (0)

Basel

Beautiful town this time of year

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This past weekend we didn’t want to stray too far with school actually getting into full swing, but we couldn’t resist taking just a little trip. We spent Friday night in Basel, and for a small city it really has a lot to offer. It’s a really neat city because it lands right on the point where Germany, France, and Switzerland meet. It’s just too bad the city is in Switzerland; that makes it so expensive! It’s really well connected to the French, German, and Swiss rail lines and easyjet flies in and out to quite a few destinations, so we always end up just passing through and this time we figured it’d be worth a stay. We spent the night with a couchsurfer and had another great experience.

The first day there we just started wandering around a bit and we came across the “Basler Weihnachtsmarkt” – Christmas market. Christmas markets here are a big deal I guess, and every village has one. They sell mostly crafts and treats rather than vegetables like the regular markets, which still go on during the Christmas market season. The Basel one was really great, although expensive. We enjoyed some glühwein there and then went on to the Basler Kunstmuseum. It’s a really fantastic art gallery. It’s three and half floors of the most amazing art; masterpieces from the 15th century all the way to the modern “Arte Povera” work, which I have to say I didn’t really understand. Either way, it was a great experience and definitely a “must-see” in Basel.

The next day we went out for a $6 coffee then ate our packed lunches on the water. We quickly figured out why there was one else around – as soon as we dropped a crumb a pigeon would come, and then another, and within a few minutes there were dozens of them. A few minutes later the sea gulls came, and that’s when we took off, finishing our sandwiches on the go. That day we went to the Basel history museum, which is in an old church in old town. The city/national history museums are always my favourite, because you learn so much about the place you’re visiting.
Another neat thing about Basel, and I think Switzerland in general, is the language. Swiss German is quite a bit different than “standard” or “high” German, and when the locals realized we don’t speak Swiss German, they started speaking to us in English rather than high German. We were talking to our host who had been living in Basel for a while about it, and he said it’s pretty common in Switzerland for English to be someone’s second language after Swiss German, rather than standard German. It’s even more common to be spoken to in French before high German once they realize you don’t understand. It’s a weird thing about German – nobody actually speaks it. Everyone has their own local dialect.

For a small place Basel has a lot to do and is really well connected. Overall we had a great time in Basel, and I’m sure we’ll be back again before the year’s over, hopefully not just passing through!


Here are the pictures.

Posted by kmclean 20:16 Archived in Switzerland Tagged art museums markets cathedrals christmas basel couchsurfing Comments (0)

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