Category Archives: World & Travel

GamesCom

The Heart of Gaming

Muslims have Mecca. Metalheads have Wacken. Gamers have GamesCom. Yes, it was this time of year again. Gamers from all around the world have flooded the exhibition halls of the Koelnmesse in Cologne for the 11th time now. But not only them but also developers, publishers, cosplayers and so many more that hold gaming dear to their hearts. On an area of 218,000 m² – roughly 30 football fields in size – 373,000 nerds have come together. Me being one of them…

Anime, Cosplay1 and Gaming

This year has been my third year in a row to attend GamesCom and seeing how my favourite games publisher, Activsion Blizzard, did not have a stage or booth I decided to go there rather unprepared. I had no list of things I desperately wanted to see. (I’ll admit, I would have sold my soul in a heartbeat to get to play Cyberpunk but alas, the queue was so quickly filled up every day that I decided it wouldn’t be worth the wait.) So my first day pretty much consisted only of strolling through the exhibition area, admiring some of the work developers have put into their stage presence and was blown away by some of the amazing cosplays – albeit a lot of it from League of Legends. The sheer time energy and dedication people must have put into some of these outfits is stunning. So I sat there in front of the ‘Cosplay stage’ until the cosplay dance off started which was hilarious to watch. But in a good way. Major props to everyone who took part in this event and so gladly embarrassed themselves!

Statue of Sylvana. Character in World of Warcraft by Blizzard Entertainment.

But this was only a really small part of what has been shown. There have been entire halls filled just with merchandise for all sorts of games, mangas, comics and even gaming soundtracks. Another hall was dedicated entirely to indie games where smaller studios or sometimes even one-man-projects showcased their games on a single computer. Ironically enough, I got stuck on Nanotale, the successor to Epistory. A game that is entirely about typing words which will then appear in the game world so you can continue onward on your journey. I guess writing is following me even into my video games. But there has been one thing I low-key had been excited for: the advancement on VR. Seeing how Valve released their latest headset just a few weeks ago with some major improvements on tracking, I was curious about its competition. At the GamesCom in 2017, there was an entire hall dedicated to VR, headsets, games and programs to be showcased to the masses. Queues so long you had to sign up a day before for a mere 5 minutes of playtime. Fast forward to 2019 and you would only find a few indie developers or universities that specialize in game development with some neat little VR features. Walking on a plank with a simulated abyss beneath you, for example. Back then I already got into some heated debates with my fellow gaming friends about whether VR is the future of gaming and I always saw it just as a gimmick but nothing more. I’m a bit sad now that I might have been right but who knows. Maybe it’s just the calm before the storm.

But that’s not what most of the people have been there for. Apart from Cyberpunk by CD Projekt Red, the other major titles represented there have been Monster Hunter: Iceborne – the upcoming expansion to Monster Hunter World – as well as Borderlands 3. Impossible for a regular mortal to get into any of these exhibition booths unless you’d want to wait for 10 hours straight.

Statue of the Elder Dragon “Teostra”. Monster in Monster Hunter by Bandai Namco.

eSports

I had some time to kill on my second day to see some presentations by ‘THQ Nordic’ which I mostly watched because they have fantastic stage presence and really showed their games and interacted with the crowd. So in the meantime, I had dropped by a Super Smash² eSports-tournament by Nintendo. Damn, these people are good. For all the uninitiated: eSports is the term given to tournaments and the scene surrounding sporting events that take place entirely on virtual playgrounds. While still being chuckled about by most people, there are reports within the industry that by 2022 eSports will have grown to the size of the NFL in terms of people following it and money spent on the events by sponsors. The comparison is quite apt in my opinion. There are already tournaments like ‘The International‘ that can be compared to something like the Super Bowl. Back in 2011, the first ‘International’ was being held by Valve for the game DotA 2³ with – for that time – an astounding amount of 1 million dollars in price money. This was groundbreaking news for the scene as for the first time ever such an amount of money was thrown at a tournament and from there on it only continued to grow. In 2019, the price money reached a staggering 34 million dollars. And within the fanbase, it already has reached the status of something like the Super Bowl. A lot of viewers and supporters don’t actually play the game anymore themselves but still are excited as ever for that one week every year to cheer for their team. Yes, I’m talking from experience here.

Statue of Solaire, praising the sun. Character from Dark Souls 1 by From Software.

Gaming and politics

As we are already on the note of America here, I want to tackle a more serious topic. Video games are constantly under fire by mass media after killing sprees. Usually criticized by politicians, Donald Trump has been the most infamous recently to do so after the attacks in El Paso in which 22 innocent people have been killed; several more injured. In a response, Trump gave a speech in which he blamed video games as a reason for domestic terrorism.“We must stop the glorification of violence in our society. This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace. It is too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence. We must stop or substantially reduce this.”, so Trump in his speech 5th August. I am sick of this nonsensical rhetoric that has been proven wrong so many times now and neither will I let a talking orange with a wig destroy part of my gaming culture. In a country where video games are as easily obtained as real weapons of war, you can not go around spouting these idiotic paroles just to defend the biggest lobby in your country. Lobby-ism is all that Trumps politic has been about for the past years and he shows no different face in this matter.

But let me tell you: It’s not the pixel-guns on a screen that kill people. It’s the actual guns sold in American stores that do. So start policing that shit maybe?

Should I give you an example on how ludicrous this has gotten? After the aforementioned shooting that happened in a Walmart, the chain decided to remove “all signs, displays or videos that depict violence in an internal memo.” This decision led to all video games, consoles and movies above a certain age rating to be removed from the stores while happily continuing to sell guns. (Source: https://www.npr.org/)
This whole discussion that is being stirred up by politicians so eagerly has only one purpose: To move attention away from the actual problem. The guns.

Fuck redneck rhetoric! Fuck white supremacy!
All hail to my fellow nerds!

Annotations

1: Cosplay = a showcase of an anime, manga or video game character in costume and behaviour.
2: Super Smash = A popular fighting game by Nintendo with playable characters from many different games. Very popular as a casual party game with a massive professional scene behind it for years now.
3: DotA 2 = short for Defence of the Ancients 2. A videogame by Valve Entertainment that belongs to the genre of Mobas in which you take on the role of a character together with your team and try to defeat the base structure of the enemy team.

Text and pictures by Tobias Lorenz

Nonna mia


Meeting new people can be exciting, especially when they’re from a different cultural background. When I first met my boyfriend Silvio’s family in Italy I had a few problems with their habits.

Getting nervous

It was summer and we were hitting the road along the Adriatic in my mum’s car. I’d known my boyfriend for a while, but it had taken some time until I got to meet his family. We’d planned to stay at his grandma’s house. All I knew about her at this point was that her name is Lola. After an eleven-hour ride on adventurous Italian roads, we finally arrived at her apartment in a small town located on the east coast of Italy called Chieti. It was late at night and the whole place seemed to be asleep. Suddenly the lights in the dark house came on and a small old woman stepped outside. I was nervous and my stomach was aching: what would she think of me? Would we get along? I didn’t know any Italian, except for ciao or grazie and didn’t know what to say or how to act towards her.

Suffering from Italian hospitality

I was pretty excited. But as soon as we approached her, all my worries were gone. She hugged and kissed us and took us into her apartment, where she’d prepared a lot of food. And when I say a lot, I mean piles of all the dishes you can find on an Italian restaurant’s menu: there were pots and pans full of pasta, vegetables like aubergines, courgettes or artichokes and: meat. Normally I don’t eat meat and I’d simply say that I prefer to eat side dishes only and everything’s fine. In this case, I had to rely on my boyfriend to translate everything for me. But he was no help: he couldn’t convince his grandma that I was fine without meat. She just started heaping our plates with food like pancetta (roast pork) or salsiccia arrosto (fried sausage) and when we’d almost finished our plates, she’d add more and more. She wouldn’t let us go to sleep until all the food was finished. As I didn’t want to offend nonna, I decided to have some meat and put the rest onto my boyfriend’s plate secretly. Problem solved. When we finally went to bed, though, my stomach was aching – not from being nervous about meeting grandma but from being stuffed with meat and tagliatelle.

No Italian? No problem!

But the next day we – nonna and I – were finally able to get to know each other. I was very shy at first and I thought I wouldn’t understand a word. But as I know a little Spanish, I could guess what she was talking about and with the help of online dictionaries we were able to have a little chat. My boyfriend’s grandma used to live in Germany for some years, so we had some things to talk about. But unfortunately, she can’t actually speak German any more. Nevertheless, we had a great time talking about German and Italian traditions and – obviously – food.

In the evening, the rest of the family came around, and I thought I could at least speak English with the Italian cousins. But they didn’t understand a single word, so Italian was the only option. And even though I couldn’t really take part in the conversation, they never made me feel left out, and I had a really good time.

Was it really that bad?

No, of course not! During our stay I met a wonderful heartwarming family, who welcomed me with open arms (and lots of kisses). I really fell in love with the whole family. They showed me that you don’t need to talk much to get along, they taught me a little Italian and gave me an insight to their culture and way of life.

And even though I probably won’t ever get used to their eating habits, I’m already looking forward to seeing them again next summer!

 

Text & Pictures: Ramona Meisner

Wroclaw

It’s summertime! Courses are slowly coming to an end, leaving us tortured by exams, term papers and other deadlines. With such a perspective, it can be difficult to make time for a long vacation and get away from it all, not to mention that the budget could also be a bit of a problem here. So I would like to present to you a time- and budget-friendly option to escape from uni madness and free your mind, if only for a while.

Wroclaw_kleinYou might be asking yourself why, of all great cities in Europe, I chose to write about Wroclaw. Although I was born in Warsaw and grew up in Germany, I’ve spent all my summers in Wroclaw with my grandparents. The city has always meant a lot to me and I feel like it’s not getting enough recognition, especially among younger people. If you’re planning to visit Poland some time, and have Warsaw or Gdansk in mind, let me tell you that Wroclaw is a much better alternative and has a lot more to offer, especially for university students.

Mind the dwarfs

Dwarf724 kms north-east of our beloved Augsburg lies a city packed with culture, delicious food, craft beer and dwarfs. Dwarfs? Why yes one of Wroclaw’s trademarks is little dwarf statues, which are spread all around the city. They can serve as a guideline to explore the city or just be stumbled upon while walking around freely. Just make sure to keep an eye out for them.

Another thing about Wroclaw is that people tend to call it the Amsterdam of Poland, and as soon as you arrive in the city you will immediately know why. The Odra and its canals beautifully wind through the city, making it explorable from the water and giving the city an amazing Venice-like flair.


Ice-cold refreshments

IcecreamSummer is one of the best times to travel and explore new cities, but what if it gets too hot? Well worry not, there are a lot of different ice-cream shops around the city, among them Ice Rolls Wroclaw. Made right before your eyes, the fresh, creamy deliciousness will not only cool you down but make you enjoy ice cream in an entirely new way.

After you’ve stopped for your ice cream and continue your city stroll, you’re but a few steps away from the marketplace, Wroclaw’s most magical spot (in my opinion, one of the most beautiful city squares in Europe). If you’re lucky, you might be just in time for one of the fairs that take place there and which can last up to a week.

Students’ (night) life

All this might sound really touristy and mainstream, so why write about it in a student magazine and make it sound so special? Well, one thing I noticed is that Wroclaw lives for and because of its many local and foreign students. There are a lot of great things to do during the day, but at night an entirely new side of the city comes to life. So grab a fancy cocktail, sitting on the market square with a view of the illuminated town hall or enjoy locally-brewed craft beer in one of the many different types of pubs. With a little luck, you might be able to land a pint for 2,50 zl, which is roughly 70 cents. Or if you’re not the beer type, you might want to stop by Czupito, a shot bar with an astonishing variety of mind-blowing shots. Of course, you can combine all this and go on a crazy pub crawl and even end up in one of the university’s dorms at a house party with people from all around the world drinking polish wodka and eating dill pickles.

So if you’re still struggling to decide where to go on a short trip, take Wroclaw into consideration. I promise it is worth the trip!

Wroclaw_2

Author & Pictures: Aleksandra Goralska

Fairies, sheep and solitude

So, burning out on those end-of-term exams? Struggling with your essays? Just sick of all the people crowding you each day, demanding your attention and generally being a bother? Well, how about just getting away from it all? Like, really far away?

To boldly go…

Iceland_2In recent years Iceland had been in the news a  few times, especially during the European Football Championship 2016, when as many as 10% of the nation’s total population visited France to cheer for their team and subsequently charmed the other nations with their jovial demeanor. This, in turn, caused a surging interest in Iceland, especially in vacations there. Even the author of this article, otherwise couchpotato extraordinaire, got interested and took a hiking trip on the island.

Iceland_1Small-town charm

Stepping off the plane in Reykjavíkurflugvöllur, Iceland’s main airport, the capital city of Reykjavik will spread out before you. A large town by conventional standards, it is nevertheless the bustling heart of the nation. But it’s really outside the “big city“ where you will first become aware just how vast and sparsely populated the country appears to be. Over one and a half times the size of Bavaria but with less than 3% of its population (of which around one third resides in the capital), most visitors from central Europe will be struck by the solitude one experiences even right outside the few population centres, let alone out in the wilderness.

Iceland_3

Entrance to another world

Between rocky outcroppings, hardy vegetation and sulfurous springs you’ll rarely see anything but free-roaming herds of bleating sheep and the occasional group of tiny horses. And you might well hike for hours on end without ever happening across another living being. No wonder this kind of environment causes the imagination to wander. Mystical beings supposedly inhabit the country in large numbers and their influence, it is said, can be seen and felt everywhere. There are rock formations that are giants’ bathtubs, cave entrances leading to elven kingdoms and ponds infested with lurking demons.

Sights to behold

Iceland_4

You might laugh at the superstition, but Iceland does go out of its way not to upset the Huldáfolk for fear of their displeasure, up to and including relocating entire roads and buildings. Unsurprisingly, this lends itself to an astoundingly pristine outdoors. It is no wonder much of HBO’s fabled Game of Thrones series was filmed in this enchanted landscape, since much of it looks like it was taken straight out of a fantasy novel, with active volcanoes and massive glaciers right next to each other and mountains sloping dramatically right into the ocean.

Language barrier? No such thing.

Interested yet? Well, should you consider a vacation there – don’t worry about communicating with those few locals you might meet. Reading this text shows you will have no issues in Iceland. Most Íslendingar (Icelanders) speak good to excellent English and quite a few, especially those from the younger generations, also speak German, French, Polish or Spanish.

Author & Pictures: Simon Benseler

Yorkshire

What did you think about the Twilight Franchise? Did you like it? Or was it too cheesy? As far as my vampirology knowledge goes, vampires are supposed to resemble demonic, sublime characters with a twisted romantic touch. But where does this misguided love theme in Coppola’s Dracula movie and the sinister notion of vampire films like Nosferatu come from? Well, it was the Irish author Bram Stoker who kicked it all off with his Gothic novel Dracula, in 1897. But where did he get his inspiration from?
Yorkshire_Dales_1

A northern English town called Whitby, located in Yorkshire, inspired Bram Stoker writing his novel Dracula. The weather conditions and the local dialect are worked into the novel and even the novel’s name itself – Dracula – derives from a book about Walachian and Moldavian history, which Stoker stumbled upon in Whitby.

Not only did Dracula put the town on the map internationally, but also well-known explorer Captain Cook acquired his early nautical skills in this Yorkshire town.

However, Yorkshire has more to offer than vampire-related trivia and nautical history. It was also home to the famous Brontë sisters, Emily, Charlotte and Anne. Emily’s novel Wuthering Heights, for instance, is regarded as an English masterpiece of the nineteenth century. The three lettered sisters lived in Haworth, which is one of many picturesque towns you can find all over Yorkshire. If you like cobblestone streets and dry-brick walls, you’ll get your money’s worth in the countryside of this northern English county.

Yorkshire_Dales_2

If you’re not too interested in vampires, sailors and classic literature,  don’t worry! Yorkshire has you covered. The county features three of the biggest cities in England, namely Leeds, Sheffield and Bradford. Leeds is considered to be among the top ten towns for live music and upcoming bands. Sheffield doesn’t make this list, however, even though both bands Pulp and Arctic Monkeys come from there, which tells you a bit about the quality we’re talking about.

If this doesn’t sound hot enough for you, visit Bradford, which was named “Curry Capital of Britain” for the sixth year in a row in  ????. Thanks to its many citizens of Indian descent, you can find the best and most original Curry in the UK here. Maybe spicy food isn’t your cup of tea, though; in this case you can always go for a hearty Yorkshire pudding – a traditional Sunday roast.

The historic town of York gives its name to the entire county, the already-mentioned pudding and it’s definitely worth a visit. Not only York, but also Leeds and Sheffield have tradition-steeped football and rugby clubs where you can experience authentic English passion. Luckily the football teams don’t compete in the Premier League at the moment, which makes buying a ticket more affordable and less mainstream.

And if none of these aspects intrigue you, you can still go for a hike and enjoy the beauty of the Yorkshire Dales.

 

Author & Pictures: Johann Beß

Na Ceiltigh in Éire

Fáilte. This was the first thing I read after my plane had landed at Dublin Airport. In Irish this means ‘Welcome’. I’d always known that the Irish had a language of their own, but I figured that they’d completely adopted English. But, of course, there’s still a lot that remains of the Gaelic language.

The origin of the Gaelic language

It’s assumed that around 600 B.C. the Celts, from Northern France, made their way to Ireland. Shortly after their arrival, the Celts mixed with the original inhabitants of the island and formed about 150 small kingdoms, in which the Druids, as mediators between the gods and the people, wielded power.

As the Celts didn’t have a writing system, all we know of them derives from archaeological findings. We also know that the Druids generally passed on their knowledge to the next generation orally. In this way, their secrets were kept. Later, the Celts invented an early medieval alphabet called Ogham – a simple form of writing only used by Druids. The inscriptions on tombs, for example, were the first records in the Irish language.

The Gaelic language today

Although the Celtic culture ceased to exist centuries ago, the Irish preserve their Celtic heritage by keeping their Gaelic language alive. Even though English is the dominant language, Irish is still an official language; in 2007 it became one of the twenty-four official languages in the European Union. Although only 1% of the Irish population actually speak the Celtic language at home, at least 30% say that they can or could speak it, but don’t. There are a few parts of the country called Gealtacht in which Irish is still the predominant language, most of which are located on the west coast. For example, the Aran Islands in County Galway, so tourists wouldn’t be able to communicate in English here.

Wegweiser_Gälisch
Irish in public and media

The Irish language is very present in today’s Ireland. Official signposting is not only in English but in Irish as well; legal texts have to be published in both languages and some official institutions only have Irish names, for example, the parliament is called An tOireachtas which basically just means ‘assembly’. And there are many radio stations and TV channels broadcasting only in Irish, but compared to the small number of speakers, there’s a huge variety of Irish literature in Irish.

Irish in the educational system

In schools, Irish is compulsory. As one of the official languages, everyone has to learn it, but most lessons are usually in English. There are a few schools called Gaelscoileanna in which Irish is the language of instruction. Thus, all subjects are taught in Irish.

Celtic heritage: the importance of the Gaelic language

The Gaelic language is of utmost importance for Ireland. The Irish identify with it; it’s part of their identity. For example, the Gaelic language distinguishes them from Northern Ireland and it increases their sense of solidarity.

Text and pictures: Aileen Reifenrath

Camping from Windhoek to Cape Town

Etosha National Park

My first – and let’s be honest best – highlight from Namibia was the Etosha National Park.

As our tour started, the first thing we did was to drive five hours from Windhoek to Etosha. On the road, we had lunch and I tried not to freak out because I was so damn afraid of malaria…

Our first game drive through the park became very exciting pretty quickly when we saw the first elephant. I took about a thousand pictures and was convinced that this was the most beautiful elephant I’d ever seen and will ever see. We also saw a lot of springboks, antelopes and kudus, which honestly weren’t as appealing as a 2.5m elephant. When we arrived at our camp site, our first mission was to put up our tent named “Giraffe”, which turned out to be quite a challenge. Slowly but surely with the help of our guide “Doctor” we managed to put it up and were ready to have dinner at the camp site. Then that night we spotted elephants at the water hole and were seriously ecstatic. However, the night was extremely cold and I didn’t think I would survive the next eleven days of camping.

Luckily, I didn’t die that night and even woke up around 5:30 am for a one-day of game drive through the park. It was super interesting and quite an adventure, but to be honest, after a while, I did get a little bored of seeing the fiftieth elephant or the seventy-third giraffe. Of course, I wanted to see the Big Five (elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion, leopard) but we only managed to see the “Big Three” (elephant, rhino, lion). But favorite memory and the most impressive panorama was seeing the biggest group of elephants with their cutest young ones at the water hole at our lunch site!!!

etosha

 

Himba Tribe

On our way to Swakopmund, we also visited a Himba community close to Kamanjab and had the opportunity to interact with the people who live there.

In the tribe we visited, the tourists who would like to get a better understanding of the way of the Himba, their lifestyle and their traditions can do so, without interfering with those still living in their natural environment, the “real” Himbas. The income that this specific tribe generates from the visits goes towards the education of orphaned Himba children, a scheme which we were of course happy to contribute to. There’s also a market, where the women hand-made jewelry and obtain a small income.

It was interesting to see their red-clay houses and the Himba women preparing incense as an anti-microbial body cleanser/deodorant and fragrant. We also saw how the women made otjize paste out of ochre pigment to cleanse their skin. But as interesting as the experience was, the educational village did feel more like a super touristic attraction than the Himbas’ natural habitat I was hoping to see.

himba tribe

 

Sossusvlei Dunes

Located in the southern part of the Namib desert, Sossusvlei is a salt and clay pan surrounded by high red dunes. One of the most fascinating places around the middle of Sossusvlei dunes is the Deadvlei. Vlei means a lake or marsh in a valley between the dunes in Afrikaans.

The Deadvlei is a dry lake covered in white clay pan. It’s full of dead trees and the white really stands out against the bright red of the dunes. We also had the pleasure of climbing Dune 45, which is a 170m star dune that’s composed of 5 million-year-old (!) sand. The panoramic view over the dunes at the top is tremendous but let me tell you – the climb is tiring as hell!

dunes

 

Swakopmunddunes2

Known as the biggest city on the coast of western Namibia, Swakopmund is surrounded by the Namib desert on three sides and the Atlantic Ocean on the East.

As Namibia was once a German colony, Swakopmund is still a very German city. You can hear many people speaking German on the streets and there are lots of German signs outside of cafés and shops.

Numerous activities like camel riding, squad biking and sandboarding are offered in the desert, and you can also go on dolphin and seal cruises or go fishing. The city itself isn’t very big but we were all happy to have a day in civilization after the desert. It was also our only accommodated stay on the whole tour and I was very excited about a soft bed and my own shower!

 

 

Cape Town

Cape Town is the most populous city of “the Rainbow Nation South Africa” after Johannesburg. It’s one of the most multicultural cities in the world and is very modern and westernized.

And there’s plenty lot to do there. One of the best-known attractions is of course Table Mountain, which you either can hike up or use the cableway up. At the top, you have an incredible 360˚ view over Cape Town but be ready to stand in a looooong queue on the way up. Another typical tourist attraction worth seeing is the Cape of Good Hope, the south-western most point on the African continent. Not only is the Cape itself a beautiful view but also the roadtrip there is full of breathtaking landscapes.

If you’re strolling around the city near Long Street, I would also advise you to make a detour to Bo-Kaap, a part of the city filled with colorful houses and amazing places to take photos at.

However, in my opinion, one of the best parts of Cape Town, apart from the people, was the beautiful coastal areas like Camps Bay or Hout Bay. To explore the coast, I would strongly recommend you to buy a ticket for the hop-on-hop-off bus, as it gives you the chance to tour the coastline and stop anywhere you want to in order to explore the beauty of the beaches.

capetown

 

Author & Pictures: Maya Egger