Category Archives: World & Travel

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.

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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!!!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Author & Pictures: Maya Egger

About sushi, anime and technology

Honestly, how much do you really know about Japan? What’s the first thing that comes to your mind? According to the media and hearsay, we get a lot of information about what Japanese people do and how the country works and we’re pretty sure Japan is a crazy country, right?
Anata ni himitsu o oshiemashô (Let me tell you a secret):

Anime and manga are kid’s stuff!?

building-kleinerCan you remember playing Yu Gi Oh! or watching Pokemon, Naruto or Biene Maya after school? Known as the Japanese interpretation of comics and their animated version, anime and manga become famous in the 70s in Germany. Despite massive criticism of the violence by some people, it seems manga and anime are made for kids. However, only some anime are just for kids because there are topics and stories for all ages. While Biene Maya and Pokemon try to teach kids friendship, loyalty and honesty, others are meant for grownups and tell us something about our sometimes harsh and cruel world. They‘re very important methods for teaching values.

 

Itadakimas – Japan’s dangerous food

Besides sushi and ramen, Japanese people like food-table1-kleinerto eat dangerous things like fugo (pufferfish) and awabi (ear shells).If you go to Japan, you won’t find many restaurants serving this kind of food. Only a few selected cooks with a special qualification are allowed to serve these dishes. Apart from this, the most famous dishes are donburi, rice with a variety of toppings and karê-raisu (curry with rice).
An interesting fact about their food: they don’t put many spices into it and prefer light food, and is serve it very hot! As we’re used to western food, Japanese food might taste a bit strange, at first, but it gets better as you get used to it. And thanks to the 7/11 stores at every corner, you never go hungry, as you’re able to buy freshfood.

Japan as a high-tech country

When it comes to technology, Japan is second to none. Imagine one skyscraper next to the other with big screens on most of them, combined with the singing (!) traffic lights and masses of people wandering around – this is a typical day in Tôkyô or Ôsaka. Apart from singing toilets, a typical Japanese household isn’t full of technology. And because there’s a housing shortage in the cities, the Japanese people have to save space. They’re fans of minimalism and some don’t even own a TV. But as fancy as Japan is, not every big city is just filled with technology. Hiroshima, for example, is comparable with Augsburg in this sense, and if you take a closer look, you can see how high-tech mixes with tradition in many big cities. And if you go further into the rural areas, you’ll realise that these places aren’t affected as much by technology.

city-above-kleinerSo, clichés sometimes have a core of truth, but in order to tell the differences between the truth and generalisations, it might be a good idea to travel to different places. Every single country is uniquein its own way – datte bayo!

Author & Pictures: Sabrina Korti

Independence Day: The fourth of July

If you happen to spend the 4th July with a bunch of Americans today, you will most likely be having a backyard barbeque with burgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob, coleslaw and watermelon, the juicy ripe red watermelon everyone loves and can’t get enough of. All of this is often served on paper plates. Cans of beer, Dr. Pepper, Mountain Dew, Snapples, Coke or Pepsi are kept in cooling bins full of crushed ice. Perhaps little paper flags or streamers displaying the typical colors of the Star-Spangled Banner will be part of the decoration.

Maybe the town will offer picnic and barbeque opportunities at some public area. Baseball games, parades, concerts and other summertime events mark this national holiday. Politicians might even appear at different celebrations holding speeches on all kinds of freedoms.  Most likely there will be fireworks, too, in honor of the birthday of the United States of America.

Although Independence Day is a significant American holiday, it doesn’t dominate the summer as Thanksgiving and Christmas dominate the fall and winter season. For instance, there are no greeting cards in the stores. Along with beach parties, family trips and BBQs that dot the summer months, the Fourth of July is one of many typical summer events. School will have been out for a month already and another month and a half to go.

But what is Independence Day originally about? 

The English established their first permanent settlement in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607. By 1733 there were 13 English colonies: Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts Bay, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina and Rhode Island. These colonies were ruled by the King of England, King George III.  Over time the relationship between the settlers and the British began to crumble due to unfair laws and taxes and the growing sense of nationalism in the colonies. In short: people didn’t want to be ruled by a king so far away.It´s_time_that_we_become_independent_jefferson

A letter to King George III

The Continental Congress – a meeting of delegates from the thirteen colonies –  appointed five leaders, called the Committee of Five. They were meant to write the King a formal letter. These five men were John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston, Roger Sherman and Thomas Jefferson. Their letter explained why Congress had voted to declare Independence. This Declaration of Independence contained three essential points:

  1. Beliefs of what made a government good
  2. The dislike of the oppressive government
  3. Break with Great Britain

On July 4th, 1776 Congress officially adopted the final version of the Declaration of Independence. On August 2nd, all 56 delegates of the Continental Congress signed it.

A holiday is born

Following its adoption, the Declaration of Independence went viral in various cities, by word-of-mouth, being read aloud before troops and published in newspapers or delivered on horseback and by ship. Whenever heard, people shouted and cheered.

People continued this tradition by lighting candles, setting off fire crackers, firing guns and ringing bells.

Finally, Congress declared July 4th a federal holiday in 1941.

 

Author & Picture: Elisabeth Stützel

Happy birthday, Canada!

Today is July 1 and that means it’s Canada Day! You might be wondering why this is of special interest. Because today isn’t just any birthday of the North American country. This year Canada turns 150! What a great opportunity to celebrate the big white North or, if you’re not as much of a Canada fanatic as I am, at least take a moment to appreciate everything that’s unique to the country. It’s not very hard to tell that I’m crazy about Canada, even for those who’ve met me just once. Our love story began more than a year ago, during my semester abroad, and ever since I haven’t stopped talking about going back (shout-out to my friends for tolerating me). So, that’s what I did and I’m super excited to be here this special year.

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A bit of history

Okay, so let’s quickly brush up on our knowledge of Canada. The country was once a British and French colony until two provinces founded the Federal Dominion of Canada on July 1, 1867 – so that’s why, surprise, Canada Day is celebrated on the first day of July. More and more provinces joined the Dominion and in 1931, the country gained almost total independence, but remained under the authority of the British government. Only in 1982 did Canada gain full sovereignty. Today, Canada is made up of ten provinces and three territories and has two official languages, English and French.

 

The Big Birthday

As you might’ve guessed, the whole country is pretty excited about the 150-year anniversary and the celebrations honouring this special year. Plus, it’s not just the country as a whole that is celebrating. Montréal, a city in the province of Québec, is turning 375 this year! So, this anniversary is the perfect opportunity to travel to Canada, as numerous festivities are taking place all over the country and admission to national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas operated by Parks Canada is free! The biggest Canada Day parties are, of course, in major cities, so Ottawa, but also Vancouver, Toronto, Montréal and Edmonton are perfect for everyone who digs fireworks and parades. However, you don’t have to attend one of these events to notice that this year, or at least this summer, everything’s about July 1. Every second ad on TV is about Canada Day, stores have different offers featuring the number 150 in one way or another and you can get any imaginable item, like mugs, aprons, pillows or socks, with a maple leaf on it.

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Fun facts

Did you know that Canada is the second largest country in the world (only exceeded by Russia)? Germany fits almost 28 times into its land mass! On the other hand, Canada’s population is just around 35 million, which is less than half of Germany’s. Isn’t that crazy!?

Among other stereotypes like Canadians living in igloos (nope, they don’t), putting maple syrup on pretty much everything edible (yes, they do) and loving ice hockey (another clear yes here), Canada is well-known for its multiculturalism and diversity and the hospitality with which it greets immigrants. These attributes make it a role model for many countries when it comes to immigration policies. Toronto, Canada’s biggest city (but not its capital!!), is said to be one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the entire world and about half of its inhabitants were born outside of Canada. Their rich cultural heritage can be seen in Chinatown, Little Italy, Greektown and many more places.

 

In love

What I love about Canada mostly relates to the province I lived in. Its sheer size makes it pretty much impossible to make generalizations about the landscape or citizens. This is an important aspect you should keep in mind when talking about the country. Canada is so much more than just a few big cities most people might’ve visited or heard of. Canada is its diverse landscapes, whether it’s mountains, beaches, prairies or the sea, its languages, people and heritage. I will always love Canada for its mostly rugged but incredibly beautiful landscape and for the people who are the friendliest, warmest and most generous in probably, no offence here, the entire world. Most people refer to politeness when they joke about Canadian stereotypes, but I’ve got to say that this very feature (yes, this stereotype is true), the hospitality and the people’s optimistic and light-hearted nature (speaking in general terms here, of course) are features that made me truly love Canada.

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Cheers, Canada!

Like the country itself, ways to celebrate Canada Day are also very diverse. There is no typical way to celebrate it – there are no restrictions. Personally, I will climb a mountain in one of the many national parks all across the country and raise my glass to my home away from home. Everything’s possible here, not just on this day, but every single day. Canada is a country for everyone. And that’s probably why I love it so much

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Author & Pictures: Henrike Wilhelm

Brazilian road trip in a VW Kombi

I’d like to tell you something about my beautiful country, Brazil. In fact, we’re heading for Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetland area, in a Volkswagen Kombi, attached to which is a 1966 Willys jeep. On top of the Kombi, you can see a kayak and two bikes. Everything’s set for an unforgettable family road trip with lots of adventures!

It was March 2016 when we set off from São Paulo heading up to the state of Mato Grosso, where Pantanal is located. We drove a total of almost 1,600 km, and spent two days on the road and a few hours of sleep in a cheap motel somewhere. The amazing caimans welcomed us; they were everywhere and we could see them the whole time – what a feeling!

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The local road is called the Transpantaneira. It isn’t asphalted, so the cars struggled in the mud caused by the previous day’s rain. The trip along this road is 147 km long and has 120 wooden bridges in an extremely poor state of maintenance. Yes, the rickety constructions play a big role in this adventure, because going over them is a very risky business, as you can see below. ponteBut the reason why using up so much adrenaline was worthwhile was meeting so many amazing creatures. These guys impressed me quite a lot: giant otters. Seeing a pair of them right in front of me was a dream come true; I didn’t know if I should take a picture or step back a bit and be sure I was safe. Giant river otters are extremely cute and are innocent-looking, but they’re very dangerous and are capable of attacking and even eating a caiman! Take a look yourself and see how photogenic they are – one of them even looked into the camera! How adorable is that?

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The next lady is very special, a seriema, a large, long-legged terrestrial bird, which had me enthralled because of those eyelashes. Girl, you look fabulous! (I’m not sure whether it’s a “girl” at all, but I wish I had these lashes. Don’t you girls?) _REH7504 We also saw anacondas, blue macaws, toucans, southern crested carcaras, capybaras and lizards. The only animal we didn’t bump into was the gorgeous jaguar. Maybe we’ll be luckier next time, on another road trip around Brazil. Until then, let’s keep an eye on the natural world around us and enjoy it as best we can!

Author & Pictures: Gabrielle Pinheiro Machado Rehm

Five things to do in Rome

Ahh Rome…la dolce vita! Lots of you have probably already been to the Eternal City, but in my opinion, a trip to Rome is always worthwhile and who isn’t dreaming of summer at the moment? So, let me take you on a trip to the Italian capital and tell you what you shouldn’t miss out on!

1. St. Peter’s Basilica

I’ll start off with something really touristy, but the cathedral is just THAT building you’ve got to visit in Rome. I’m a total church nut and need to visit most of a city’s churches, so I’ve been to quite a lot…let me tell you this: St. Peter’s is breath-taking! Of course, it’s also really crowded, but the splendour of this place will make you forget everyone around you. Make sure to also climb the dome – the people down in the aisles look tiny from up there (but don’t take the elevator – that’s a waste of money!).

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2. Palatine Hill

This is also a well-known place, but it was honestly one of my absolute highlights. In the middle of the city, right next to the Colosseum, the Palatine Hill is like Rome’s backyard. It’s like you’ve stepped through a hidden door and found yourself in another world. You don’t hear a single car. The hustle and bustle of the city is forgotten – it’s just you (okay, and the other tourists), plants and flowers and ruins. It’s perfect to relax a bit before you make your way back to the buzzing streets.

20161017_1323113. Discover things off the beaten track

Yes, that sounds pretty vague at first. What I’m trying to say is that there are things to discover at pretty much every turn! So, don’t follow the main routes. Instead, turn into a side street (not a dubious one of course!) and be surprised. And when in Rome, why not take on the Italian lifestyle? Take things slowly (piano in Italian), sit down at a café and treat yourself for lunch or a really good Italian coffee (I’m not exaggerating – coffee is SO good in Rome!). Just because you deserve it.

4. Enjoy the view!

This is something I can recommend not only for Rome, but for every place you visit. Get on top of things and marvel at the city from a bird’s-eye view. This literally takes sightseeing to another level. My travel guide’s insider tip was to get on top of the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II – judging from the amount of people up there it’s not an insider tip anymore – but it’s still awesome. I spent a couple of hours up there watching the sun set and it was worth every second. Supposedly another great place to relax and enjoy the view is on top of the Pincian Hill in North Rome.

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5. Take a stroll in the dark

Rome is amazingly beautiful in the daytime, but at night, when everything is illuminated, there’s a whole different atmosphere to it! It’s awesome when it’s still warm in the evening and people sit outside cafés and bars. You should definitely join them at one of Rome’s great bars or clubs and enjoy a cocktail outside, maybe even with a monument in sight…

So, whatever you do, have fun and let the beauty of the place impress you. It’s pretty much impossible not to fall in love with Rome. Don’t believe me? Go and see for yourself!

Author & Pictures: Henrike Wilhelm