Day Eleven

Our last day in Munich has been a really long one.  We started the day off with a visit to Ketchum-Pleon Munich, a PR agency.  We had the opportunity to speak to a few brilliant people.  They showed us some of their work, which was quite witty and hilarious.

We wrapped up our visit and headed back to the hotel for a quick lunch.  We decided to try a place right next to our hotel.  I really wish we would have discovered it prior to our last day in Munich because they had some really delicious falafel (a burger made out of chickpeas).  After my mouth watering lunch, I did some quick packing.  Before we knew it, it was time for our final media visit.

We began our adventure to Suddeutsche Zeitung, a German newspaper.  They gave us a brief lecture about the history of their company and where they stand today.  They also gave us a look at some of the innovative advertising they have done in the past.  As an advertising major, this was really awesome to see.  They had textured ads that felt like real leather.  They also had UV coated ads.  This was all really impressive and probably my favorite part of the visit.

After the lectures, they gave us a tour of their printing press.  I have never seen a printing press, so I didn’t really know what to expect.  We walked into the room and I didn’t even know where to look.  It was massive!  It was moving at what seemed to be a million miles an hour.  Thousands of papers were being printed out before my eyes.  I could not believe how compelling this place was.

Our media visit had ended and we were off to our final group dinner at the Ratskeller.  We were treated to a beautiful dinner and an even more beautiful dessert.  This was a perfect evening to our final day in Germany.  Now it’s time for packing and “quick sleeping,” as Jan likes to say. Goodnight, Munich!


Day Ten

Today we ventured off to BMW for our first media visit in quite a few days.  BMW is such a huge company, so I was really excited to see how they ran.  We arrived at BMW and my jaw dropped at how huge and modern their buildings were.   I couldn’t wait to get inside.

We listened to a lecture about their upcoming cars: BMWi.  These cars are solely electric and are filled with a ton of innovative apps.  These apps help you find parking spots, give you step-by-step directions, find public transportations, book a table at local restaurants, etc.  BMW certainly is thinking ahead with the production of their new models.  I was very impressed.

After the lecture and a free lunch, we took a tour of the museum.  Here we saw BMW’s history pan out before our eyes.  We saw all the way from their very first model to their latest model.  It was very cool to see how much they have grown throughout the years.

We wrapped up our tour and had the rest of the evening to ourselves.  A few of us went to the Hofbrauhaus to celebrate Johnie’s birthday.  I have been to the Hofbrauhaus in Pittsburgh multiple times, so I was excited to visit the one in Munich.  They were both extremely similar, only a few differences between the two.  After a great evening with great friends, I fell fast asleep.


Day Nine

Today was the day I have been looking forward to the most: Neuschwanstein Castle.  We took yet another two hour train ride through the beautiful country side of Germany.  I swear I could stare at that landscape all day long and it could still take my breath away.

We arrived at the castle and with our luck, it was drizzling.  However, I refused to let this put a damper on my fairy tale of a day.  We had an hour or two before our tour of the castle was to start, so we ate lunch at a small cafe.  After lunch, we visited a few souvenir shops.  Finally, it was time to hike up the mountain!

The walk was about 30 minutes, up hill.  Within the first 2 minutes, I decided I am completely out of shape and it would be in my best interest to join a gym the second I get back to the United States.  However, the walk was extremely worth it as made our first glance at the amazing castle that stood before us.

Amazing barely even describes the castle.  It was simple yet intricate.  It was so massive and I could not wait to explore the inside.  Only a few of the rooms were finished before Ludwig II passed away.  The ones that were completed were so ornate.  High ceilings, breathtaking paintings, spiral stairs…you name it, the castle had it.  It was everything I had imaged it would be.  After our brief tour, a few of us hiked further up the mountain to a small bridge.  This bridge held an even better view of the castle.  Although it was raining at this point, I did not even care.  The beauty of the castle erases any sign of discomfort.

Soon enough, it was time for our hike back down the mountain.  We gathered onto the train once again and headed back home to our warm and dry hotel rooms.


Day Eight

Today we took a trip to Salzburg, Austria.  The train ride was two hours long.  While most of us slept, I couldn’t help but keep my eyes glued to the windows.  The scenery was absolutely gorgeous.  We got our first glimpse at the alps.  The landscape was breathtaking.  It was so picturesque, it barely seemed real.  Before we knew it, we had arrived at our destination.

We met up with our new tour guide for the day.  She took us to the gardens where parts of The Sound of Music were filmed.  I was never crazy about this movie when I was younger, but I was familiar with it so it was interesting to see the actual places where it was filmed.  The gardens were gorgeous.  Although the sky was gloomy and there was a storm raging overhead, it didn’t take away from the natural beauty of Salzburg.

Our tour guide took us to this gorgeous cobblestoned street that housed many shops.  It is Sunday, so many of the shops were closed.  However, it was such an adorable environment I could not even be mad about nothing being opened.  We had a few hours of free time where we roamed the streets and took various pictures.  We eventually met up for a group dinner at a very old, yet homey, restaurant.

We gathered onto the train for our two hour adventure back to the hotel.  After arrival it did not take long for me to fall fast asleep.


Day Seven

Today we visited the Dachau concentration camp.  I knew that this visit was going to be a day of mixed emotions and I was definitely right.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous.  The sky was bright blue, the birds were chirping and the sun was warm on my back.  It almost made you forget where exactly you were.

You enter the iron clad gates that held in so many innocent prisoners and the emotions hit you like a brick.  Right before your eyes is the ground that so many individuals lost their lives on.  It was surreal to think that this was the last place that so many people ever got to see.  This was their final destination.

Walking through the grounds where the barracks once were gave me the chills.  To think that thousands of individuals were crammed into tiny living spaces, with no heat and no air conditioning, was heart breaking.  They had absolutely no privacy.  They shared beds, they shared restrooms and to some, they shared the remainder of their lives together.

The crematorium had to of been the most daunting place I have ever visited.  We walked through the disinfecting rooms, the waiting rooms, the gas chamber and ultimately, the crematorium. To think that so many people had their lives brutally taken away from them there was chilling.

We ended the visit with a brief movie.  The movie showed photos and videos of prisoners in Dachau.  It was surreal to see pictures of numerous dead bodies stacked upon one another in rooms that we had just visited less than an hour ago.  It is still hard for my mind to grasp it.

We have learned about the Holocaust in school since we were young.  Learning about it in text books and seeing photos online are one thing.  However, walking through the camp and seeing the conditions in person is a completely different thing.  It made the entire experience so much more real.

Our visit to Dachau was daunting to say the least but it is something I will never forget.  There will always be a special place in my heart for all of those innocent victims who lost their lives to hatred.


FC Bayern Munchen Wins!

In response to Helen’s post that mentioned Munich’s recent win in the Champions League Finals, I just want to paint a quick picture of the celebration scene.

I watched the game in apartment with about 15 people, on ZDF, and although the broadcast was in German, the excitement of scoring a goal is definitely universal. It was a nail biter, and the room was tense as we sat eating freshly made crepes with Nutella and drinking beer for the first half of the game as the ball bounced from end to end without ever passing a goal post. But when Bayern scored the first goal, the spirits immediately lifted as high fives and cheers filled the room. A penalty kick tied the game and in the final few minutes, Bayern’s Robben used some fancy footwork to put the ball into the net. The teams’ celebration was so adorable to watch! They were laughing and crying and dancing and hugging and throwing their coach in the air. We watched the post-game from our seats, still pretty calm in relation to my Mom when the Steelers win.

Just when I started to think, “Wow, this may not be as crazy as when we win the Super Bowl,” we headed out to the streets… One of Lara’s friends made a pretty convincing replica cup out of foil and held it above his head through the entire crowd, not only spurring dozens of chants and cheers, but also giving me a point of reference for where I could locate him, because I was overwhelmingly one of the shortest people celebrating. They shut down a main street and it was flooded with bright red jerseys and scarves, “Super Bayern” chants and a lot of alcohol:  no open container laws here! People were climbing atop traffic lights and scaling bus stop stations and the police were standing by, but I didn’t see any interaction with them. Above, there were fireworks and waving Bavarian flags of all sizes and below there was a mosaic of broken beer bottles lining the streets. We only stayed out until about 1:30 a.m., but noise and the level of  excitement told me the streets were lively ’til sunrise.

You win, Europe. I’m a converted soccer fan.



Some final thoughts

Sitting at home writing this final blog post, it seems surreal that just two weeks ago we left Pittsburgh for Germany. I know from our past trips that these journeys — trips we start planning months in advance — just end far too quickly.  That’s one of the reasons I started writing blogs. I want to remember as much as I can, and these entries help me recall the big and small things that make these trips so special.

Every time we go, I collect random experiences that don’t fit in one cohesive blog about a certain day or city. So here goes:

Berlin was certainly under construction. Cranes and work sites everywhere. It’s a reflection of Germany’s economic strength as compared to the other European Union countries. I didn’t expect this much, though, and the projects ranged from more hotels to new museums and cultural attractions.

But with that growth came enormous sacrifice. Several of the media outlets we visited told us about severe staff reductions in 2008, a reaction to the worlwide financial crash and severe drop in advertising revenue. We heard that in Berlin and Munich.

Munich was a stark contrast to Berlin in many ways, but what I was not prepared for was the number of beggars so close to our hotel. Women and men, some with children at times. I can never get used to this when we travel, and we’ve seen it everywhere. You want to give them money, as they appear so pitiful, but our tour guides and hotel contacts always tell us not to do so. And we saw the same people again and again. Just awful.

German men wear their wedding rings on their right hand, not the left. In fact, at one of our visits, one of our hosts told us he wore his ring on his right hand while engaged and then moved it over.

One of the loveliest sights in Salzburg were the couples or parents and children dressed in Austrian garb, strolling casually along the streets. Many were headed to shops and restaurants, enjoying their Sunday afternoon together. And not that many stores were open on Sunday, just those in the tourist center. They do know how to relax.

Germans are energy conscientious to the maximum degree, and the reminders of their efficiency and dedication to conserving resources are everywhere. But Jan and I had a hilarious experience at a restaurant one of our last nights in Munich — an energy saving bathroom with toilets with spouting water and rotating seats. You just had to be there.

Shopping was not a great experience for me.  Beer steins, cuckoo clocks, and leiderhosen and dirndl skirts could be had at any number of shops, mostly in Munich, but very little in the way of interesting jewelry and art items that I love to bring back. Great chocolate, though, and delicious gelato! (Hope you’re reading this, Audrey Prisk! Almost as good as what we had in Italy ….)

We had lots of German food, but visitors can eat their fill of Italian and Turkish food, too. Falafel and kabobs on every corner, it seemed. I don’t want sausage anytime soon, that’s for sure. But I enjoyed the meals, even though I have pledged to eat vegetables and salads for at least a week. Very little of that in our dinners … and if you wanted it, it was extra. (But no spargel — asparagus — for me for a while. It was in season, and I had quite enough!)

I didn’t have time to do much museum exploring, outside of our scheduled visits, which is just something my husband and I always loved to do. I really wanted to go to Museum Island in Berlin, as well as the Jewish Museum where the “Jew in a Box” exhibition is running. It just leaves room for another visit someday.

Visiting Dachau complemented what we saw in Berlin and brought the agony and terror of those photographs to a new light for me. First we learned that Hitler and crew used Dachau in particular for getting rid of his political opponents. Mostly men were there, and many came from other countries as prisoners of war. The Germans performed horrible experiments on these poor people, and the torture and humiliation inflicted upon the prisoners defy description here. I purchased two books — a catalog of an excellent photography exhibition of survivors and a Dachau memoir. I read them both before returning home. The memoir, written by a South Tyrol native who was really an Italian citizen, explained what happened to you if you refused to serve in the German army. It’s a miracle that he survived. One of the most terrible things was at liberation, the prisoners ran to the barracks after the guards had fled. They stripped off their filthy and vermin-infested clothes and put on SS shirts. That prompted the American soldiers to send them to another prison camp before they finally were let go, extending his jail time and preventing him from being reunited with his family. An amazing tale.

Two things we learned there: First, the Germans were so unbelievably cruel to these poor souls. Making them stand at attention outside in horrible weather or hanging them by their arms for hours or depriving them of what little food and drink for infractions such as leaving a coffee ring on a table. Second, many of these guards got away with their horrible deeds. They re-entered German society and returned to their farms and jobs. I suppose they all couldn’t be tried, but I hope they suffered … they certainly deserved it. Seeing all of this explains why the Nazi hunters continued to look for them decades later, including several Americans.

Some of the cathedrals and churches we visited we so plain compared to the Italian churches we saw last year. Former Pope Benedict’s church in Munich is one example. Lots of plain brick, not many stained glass windows. But again, many were horribly damaged in the war. The church in Munich where Jan and I attended Mass was just beautiful. Lots of attention and love in that church. It was a beautiful candlelight Mass and special service. We enjoyed being there, and when I took communion with all the others, I was moved almost to tears thinking back to the horrible things I saw at Dachau earlier that day. Catholics in particular were persecuted by the Nazis. May those victims have found peace as well as their descendants.

I did not expect Munich to be as packed with tourists as it was. Some days you could barely walk there were so many people. THe Glockenspeil there is quite lovely (although the one in Prague is more ornate). Jan and I snagged a ringside seat for that one and had some marvelous pastries and drinks. We saw lots of stag and bachelorette parties in Munich. We had fun talking to several of the brides and grooms in Marienplatz, who often wore matching T-shirts or hats marking the countdown to the big day.

And one thing we didn’t see as much were people constantly talking or texting on their cell phones. They had them, but it wasn’t what you see here in the States.

Munich is over the top today, I am sure, with Bayern Munich’s win in the Championship League. Wish we could still be there to watch the celebration!

DAY 11 – Ketchum and Suddeutsche


Süddeutsche Zeitung’s huge printing presses

DAY 11 – Ketchum Pleon and Süddeutsche Zeitung

It has been very impressive this trip that all of our hosts have been of high rank in their companies and are very knowledgeable in every aspect. We have been very lucky to hear these people talk, and I’m sure many other students would love to have such an honor. That’s why I want to thank Helen and Jan and everyone who put this all together!

As I mentioned before, BMW was a great segway into the next marketing visit. I thought the Ketchum environment was especially inviting. It kind of reminded me of the Smith Brothers in Pittsburgh. The offices were modern and colorful. It would be great to work in such a positive, creative environment.

I thought the highlight of this visit was the case study they showed us for a drug that helped with gas. It put everything that they were explaining about their company and strategies into action. I thought it was genius to work with the stigma that gas has but then relate it to the fact that everyone gets it, even celebrities. The video was also attractive and cute! I could see myself possibly going to grad school for advertising if journalism doesn’t work out for me.

Later in the day we visited Süddeutsche Zeitung was not expecting it to be the leading newspaper in Germany after we received such a confident presentation from Die Welt. The presenters seemed much more humble although not as relaxed. I took a few pictures of the slides they showed that featured charts of the few leading newspapers in the country and their circulation throughout the years. I remember researching the FAZ and its history and these charts not only matched my research, but also tied everything together. I thought it was also very interesting to hear their perspective on the FAZ, which is the most personal and accurate kind of information about a company one can get.

I also took a photo of the slides showing how people get their news, such as people get the Süddeutsche Zeitung mostly through subscription, but Die Welt readers focus a lot more on the internet. They also had a slide that basically painted a picture of the audience of the newspaper. It seemed to be that elite, educated people between the ages of 20-49, who already have an understanding and awareness of issues in the world, are the ones that pick up the paper.

Learning about the online version was also a treat, but I also felt like in the future it might benefit them to focus more on breaking the news online and then publishing it in the paper more often. I know the editor said there is some communication between online and print, but in my mind, they both need to be one in order to survive.

The communications director told us that the paper survives because it provides quality content. It is a family paper, not a full business paper like the FAZ. People pick it up for its credibility and variety. And maybe too for its innovative advertising! I thought it was great that the paper took risks with advertising, especially with BMW. I personally think risk takers set standards.

Seeing its huge presses running was also a great experience. I really enjoyed learning about the long process that happens in order to get the papers out. I thought it was interesting to know that Die Welt is also printed there. The highlight of the tour was hearing about how 9/11 affecting the presses all the way over in Germany as well as the advertising.

Overall, this was a great, informative day. I think it is so great that all of these people take the time to speak with us. I could never imagine an editor from the New York Times speaking to us. I think because we are foreign, it is like an honor to them to speak to us. Whatever the case, I am forever grateful for the experiences!

5.22.13 Was Fur Ein Tag!

5.22.13 Was Fur Ein Tag!

We have made it to our last full day in Germany, and boy do I mean full! Not only do I slightly regret the amount of celebrating that we did last night but today was also jam packed with media visits!

First we visited Ketchum Pleon. For some of my fellow students this was very interesting because they have visited the Ketchum office in Pittsburgh, where the company began. Here we were given delicious candy bars! We were taught about their many strategies for Public Relations including a lot about what they do with social media. Though I though this visit would be boring because I am a broadcasting major I could actually relate a lot of it to my Introduction to Advertising and Public Relations class that I took this previous semester.

We then had a little bit a free time for lunch before the next media visit. I utilized this time to take a much-needed nap. I woke up feeling only slightly better than I did before hand and we were off to the next visit. Screen Shot 2013-05-24 at 4.23.20 PM

We took the underground a little ways outside the city to Suddeutsche Zeitung. This newspaper company happens to compete with Die Welt which we visited while in Berlin. It was interested to here the similarities and differences between the two organizations. One thing that was different is that Suddeutsche Zeitung’s printing facility is right by there office building so we were able to tour that! I got my official birthday picture wearing a bright yellow safety vest that we were adorned with before entering the printing area.

After a very interesting tour we headed straight to dinner at Ratskeller located at Marienplatz underneath the glockenspiel. After dinner I was surprised with fireworks on a piece of cake, a plastic singing cake and a wonderful card. I am grateful to have spent my birthday and the trip with such great people!

Thank you all for making my birthday in Germany one that I will never forget!

Guten Nacht!

Alexa’s Blog – Day 12 – Farewell

Today is our final day, travel day. Our flight to Paris went smoothly and even arrived a little early. Now, we are in the Chaux-de-Gaulle Airport waiting for our 2:00 pm flight back home to good old Pittsburgh. I’m sad to leave Europe but at the same time I’m ready to be home and dig in to summer. This weekend is going to be a blur; I’m taking a Megabus to State College early on Friday morning, where one of my parents or my brothers will pick me up and make the hour-long journey back to Watsontown, PA. Then, on Saturday relatives will be in town, on Sunday I have my final shift at work, Monday is Labor Day festivities, and on Tuesday I start my internship. Whew.

This trip has far exceeded my expectations and opened my eyes to a new way to look at media and culture. There were a lot of odd things I didn’t expect from Germany, like the fact that you have to pay to use a lot of the bathrooms, the lack of trashcans and ice, and the abundance of sparkling water. It’s a funny thing.

I’m so happy I had the opportunity to travel and hopefully I’ll have similar chances in the future. I’ll always remember our crazy Point Park adventures in Deutschland. Auf Wiedersehen!