torstai 1. toukokuuta 2014


Ok finally something important. Exams enrollment here are a bit fuzzy.

1st: the enrollment period varies per exam quite arbitrarily! Usually, but only usually, it ends a few (2-3) days before the exam takes place. I, however, had one exam for which the period closed 21 days before the exam, and I missed that by one day. No late enrollment was possible! Also the enrollment window stays open for varying time. For this exam it had been open for months! For others typically 1 week or whatsoever. They might not be told in materials, being maybe told in class or at least when asked from the course secretariat (or lecturer).

Enrolling process: For most exams in WIWI (unlike in Maschinenbau or some other faculties) as an Erasmus -student you sign up in Meine Studiume -portal. However, if you don't see a course listed there, then online sign up isn't available for Erasmus. In that case you can ask for a blue paper from the course secretary. With this paper you go to student office or somewhere, I don't quite remember and after you have the stamps from there you bring it back to secretary, or to whoever instructed to. This paper process was typical for my engineering friends, but for most business courses, the online enrollment should work. Always confirm the way beforehand! The courses are visible in the list throughout whole year and if they are not there, ask for instructions!

2st: you got 2 changes per exam. The second exam typically takes place some half an year after the first one! Good time to forget everything and start all over.

At this moment the exam calendar can be found under:
You should in my opinion check this already when planning your course selection for the semester.
The lists for different faculties are located elsewhere, use google maybe.

Results can be published where-ever. Meaning, on faculty website or physical wall, or trough study-portal ILIAS or even by Email I guess, maybe with smoke signals also if sky is clear and wind limited. Notes will eventually come to "mein studiumen" -portal also but it may take some 2-3 months as they go automatically trough appeal process before being finalized. During this period you could go whine about your grade on a certain date given somewhere.

Prepare well! Students are crowding the whole library trough the whole semester, but during exam weeks they do it already from 8 a.m. onwards! If you enter library after that, you can't find a place! Just to give you the idea how seriously some people take the exams, and for a reason sometimes. I found SCC computer rooms after semester end to be rather quiet and empty! They are probably meant for the purpose but no questions were asked. You better have earplugs or something though because there is quite always at least one group working and speaking. I used stopwatch to clock my preparations because that's good way for me to focus on a matter I have limited interest in. I spent some 20 hours for writing and rehearsing Entrepreneurship, 40 hours for Management accounting 2, 40 hours for Business and IT service management, 40 for Immobilienwirtschaft und Nachhaltigkeit. Entrepreneurship yielded 3.0, and BITSEM 2.7 as grades. I missed the date for MA2 course (oops) and will attend the exam on re-exam date in July I guess. My class participating rate was quite low as usual because attending lectures isn't my strongest way of learning.

And one peculiarity! The exams are typically 60 minutes long and contain 60 points worth of questions. Use your time wisely and pay attention to point worthiness of a question. You don't have time to think, you should know immediately. If smoke is not coming out of your pen, you are slow! On the good side, the struggle is over very fast.

torstai 27. maaliskuuta 2014

Tripping 3: Snowbording joyrney in Austria (private organiser, car rental, driving in Germany and Austria)

Once upon a time there were 2 Finnish guys, namely me and Ari-Matti, who noticed event advertisement in Facebook shared by AK-Erasmus. That event was a skiing trip to Alpines in Austria and organized by some individual organizer called Eventbrite. Original package was 300€ including bus transportation from Karlsruhe to Lachtal and excluding gear. 70€ additional charge for 3 day rent of jacket, trousers and snowboard. Helmet from the resort cost some 4€ a day.

Summing up: Ski-trip in Austrian Alps 300€ including transportation, accommodation and lift pass.  70€ for gear and some 12€ for helm.

Well, things didn't of course work out quite so smooth. The bus was cancelled and announced to us some 5 days before d-day. That's because people were gathered from all over the Germany and so few of us were coming from this region, 4 to be precise. Organizer gave us each others contact information so that we could come up with something. We decided to rent a car and drive there, at first we were ought to be the 4 of us and it was said that you won't anymore get the 100€ reservation fine back later than some 3 days before that d-day... But organizer indeed let one girl cancel it 2 days before and refunded her at least by her words, organizer denying it, pissing on our transportation costs as there would be 3 people sharing the car now.
  As there is anyway no use to cry after spilled milk, we went on with the plan. It was rather stressful since I paid the car before receiving any money from the 3rd participant or even meeting him, but he was from Finland also so generally a word to be trusted.

Renting the car: is the one and only place. It's a sum up page of different car leasers providing a good search tool and best offers. What I reserved was a Opel Astra wagon type car or similar of size for 5 days, fully insured, winter tires (also tyre insurance), unlimited kilometers and even without own-risk payment share in case of accident. The price for whole deal was some 190€! Very cheap in my opinion, especially when I went to fetch the car and it turned out to be 2 year old BMW 320d, shiny baby with 185bhp. And I have lots of driving experience from older 330d m-sport. Positive turn of events happened for a change. Oh and practicalities: the leaser made additional 300€ charge as a collateral on my credit card, and in case of accident I should have had to pay up to some 1500€ damages which I could have received then from the leaser. Quite strange arrangement, but I guess it might be just so that they outsource the liquidity management that way, as they have to wait for a bit to get the money from their insurance company and if they meanwhile use customers money they don't have to have own cash reserved. After returning the car it took also quite long to receive the collateral back, over 1 week at least. The car company in question was "Buchbinder" and I can recommend it at least due to fancy cars.

The road trip to Lachtal took some 9 hours with couple of stops and accidental drive trough of Münich because I missed a turn. I was driving all the time by myself because 1) I like driving good cars 2) The car was on my name 3) Legally other drivers should be listed and some additional fee paid to the leaser. Majority of autobahns were partially closed due to some maintenance/rebuild and also because of too much traffic. On our way back during night time situation was far better and 180km/h cruise speed was standard for great parts. When speeding at autobahn, constant annoyance are those slow drivers coming to outer lane at about 140km/h speed to pass by someone at the middle lane, or when only 2 lanes are in use. It's quite typical to drive outer lane with your high beam on or flashing high beam from the distance to signal that you are coming, if you are driving especially fast (over 170km/h or so). It was very well possible to drive some 200km/h also but those winter tires made it rather uncomfortable by trembling a lot and felt to be bending a lot when cornering. Technical upper limit for the tires was  210km/h and indicated by a sticker on dashboard of the car.
   Unlike in Germany, a bingette (a sticker to the windshield) was required in Austria. A license for one week cost some 8€. Also one part on our way had additional 4,5€ one time toll. Highway speed in Austria's excellent roads felt really staggering after autobahn, but excitement came one smaller roads up to mountains. Speed limit was mostly 100km/h there and 70km/h for slower parts or villages (50 or 40 in exact center). 100km/h limit gave some sweet completely legal adrenaline boosted experience especially when roads went icy on our way back!
   One day we went to a nearby village to shop some groceries. Guys had their knuckles white and faces grayish when we were flying trough the corners as I started to gain the trust into the car's abilities. On our way back we hit blizzard right in the middle of a intensive competitive driving with some crazy Audi-man (I probably couldn't catch him even if I tried but I left some risk margin not to do anything too stupid, or shake the beers too much in the cargo bay). Some 5cm snow layer covered the road in less than 15 minutes! We had to turn back in the middle of very steep raising road because these traction tires didn't just produce enough grip to climb it! It was quite stressful to turn the car in the slope, when it was sliding backwards like a sledge while footing break pedal trough the floor, but it was succeeded without damages. The other route wasn't probably much better but by then I had realized that I must drive without drive control system and let tires just grind their way trough the new snow. It was some very slow mountain climbing drifting usually door side first but the control into that car is rather perfect so why not. Lastly we had to really back up and gain some speed to be able to make a tight turn into the parking lot of our resident area. 

Oh and important! At autobahn speed limit's can change drastically, and fast. And better to obey them fast because there are automated cameras in nasty spots like downhills etc... On our way back I got 2 speeding tickets. One after transfer from open limit to 120km/h and I recorded some 128km/h, and later when turning from 100km/h to 80km/h and I got again some 8km/h excess. Fine was 10€ in each case and bill came by mail in couple of weeks. 

About the ski resort: When we arrived things run rather smooth and we got our keys and the rented equipment from organizers. Accommodation was in 5 people one bedroom flat with bed-sofa, pair-bed and a 2 level bunk bed. The building was a rather modern wood cottage with 4 of such apartments. All the basic functions were supported like kitchen and shower and even small old TV, big dining table etc but nothing luxurious or even proper drying cabinet, which would have been highly appreciated. Main building had fine Finnish (!!!!) sauna, and a swimming pool, for additional 8€ fee/visit. Expensive but it was sacrifice to be made couple of times. Arrive was at Thursday evening and ski passes were distributed early next morning. By 10am we were at slopes but due to some excess wind speed, chair lifts were not operating. Whole Friday and Saturday only anchor lifts served us from 9am to some 4pm. 
Some wind and snow blizzard.

Some times the wind speed really was very high: once when I carried my board in hand, if I had dropped it it would have probably flown away instead of dropping to ground. Visibility was also so limited that once it was almost impossible to follow a narrow, 5m wide, route. That was on Saturday afternoon and the resort closed even anchor lifts early (3:45 perhaps). On Sunday weather turned to be favorable and chair lifts were operational opening quite many other possible routes as anchors covered only some 4 slopes. 

Overall: the mountain was not tall at all, highest spot perhaps 2800m and the downside of the slope at 2300m or something. There were not too many routes. Quite comparable resort to perhaps Ruka, only that Ruka has far better lift capacity. One side of the mountain was still closed whole time and no street/park was opened yet or even seen to be under construction. The extreme wind provided nice powder conditions in couple of slopes and there was also some limited off-route possibilities for more powder but nothing much. Snow wasn't yet deep at all because whole winter was quite snow poor at Alps (too). I cannot actually recommend Lachtal as a ski resort to anyone because at Alps there are so many far more better options.

People and night life: Happened so that there were majority of Finns because in addition to us 3, there was a group from Münich, some 5 guys. I cannot say that I'm too happy that it was so because not all had decent drinking habits. In addition to Finns there were at least 2 Indians who we shared our flat with, two English girls, a Chinese girl, some girl and a guy from Chile, American guy and others. Total group size was something like 20. Finnish guys had experience, and most of foreigners were beginners. Majority of the people hanged out in the slope as a big group but I was mainly going only with Artti, because I don't like the constant waiting inherent with big group. 
   People were drinking every evening till some 2am and I participated one of those evening and slept more or less the other 2. It was quite possible to catch sleep with ear plugs. There was a pub in the ski village, a walk away from our condo.
Sun finally broke out

Artti doing some powdering
-Heck of a driving experience was the biggest positive element (for me, not so for my unfaithful co-passengers)
-Some powder snowboarding was new experience to me and it was really good practice before my thigh muscle started to hurt due a strain.
-The weather wasn't at all on our side and that's of course a big influencing possibility with this kind of plans.Time of the year was far too early considering snow conditions because they hadn't open park yet, freestyle being the thing for me.
-People were fine, although I'm not interested in multi-day drinking and would have therefore preferred more isolated sleeping chamber. Ski-trip is definitely highly associated with drinking and people do such trips even more for drinking than skiing purposes sometimes.
-EXPENSIVE! Car trip, accommodation, food (low budget self prepared from local Lidl), equipment rental totaled to over 450€. This to be compared to less than 250€ of  3day (as well) Erasmus ski-trip to alps which followed later.

perjantai 28. helmikuuta 2014

Tripping 2: Spain, Andalucia

Finally some 2 months after actually making this trip, is time to share something about it here.

So on some evening last September I decided that I was in need of some vacation from this demanding and laborious effort. a pretty practical cheap flight site. Baden-Baden airport is here in the region, about 40km away, reachable by the public traffic ticket we received from the city as a gift. Another options are Frankfurt am Main and Stuttgart airports which are in totally different league considering size. Germanwings flies from Stuttgart and Ryanair from Baden-Baden. There are probably other cheap fliers also of which I just haven't found out. I bought tickets from Baden-Baden to Malaga and back for 48€... but.

Flight took of on Sunday morning something past 8 a.m.. Last bus connection from Baden-Baden train station to airport was on Saturday evening 11'ish p.m. And earliest on Sunday too late. Last train connection to Baden-Baden direction arrived in Sinzheim Nord (a stop closer to the Airport) at around 1 a.m..
Starting point: Map shows that Airport indeed is some 8 kilometers into that direction, no road signs anywhere, nor road lights if somebody was expecting them. It was rather interesting experience to walk trough the farm side in darkness. Some 8 car's passed me during that ~1,5 h walk which would have given opportunities to hitchhike. I had only a back bag and was therefore perfectly fine with some walking, to stay warm and so.

Nest problem was so small size of the airport that it actually stays closed until some 5 a.m.. So after I arrived to the completely abandoned looking shabby airport, I had to improvise some shelter against coldness or stay up next couple of hours. There luckily is one hotel opposite of the terminal building which has open wind locker. It was rather small but the electrical doors anyway closed behind me and there I managed to try to sleep a little bit. I even found some polish guy who had shared same idea of overnight trip, only difference in that he had taken the last bus on Saturday. No employee of the hotel bothered us during the whole stay.

As the terminal opened, some half an hour sleep there on bench and another 1 hour in plane made miracles and I was in perfect condition to continue my morning adventure. Ryanair offered cozy 3-bench-row in a plane that felt very new. And then some people dare to complain about the company! :o

I had made all the hostel reservations in advance trough First night in Malaga, 2 following nights in Granada, and again one night in Malaga. All I had to do was to figure out how to change cities but that wasn't much of a problem anyway. I had on 2 occasions actually difficulties to find the hostels because I had written addresses incompletely or wrong. Note: it's useful to actually use navigator beforehand to know where the place approximately should be.

Malaga is a lovely holiday resort with a nice medieval castle on very nice location atop a hill in the middle of the city, rose gardens, some Roman ruins and beach line boulevard. It's also houses Picasso museum and museum of music with one of the biggest collection of instruments in Europe, but I didn't have time to check those out. I spend most of my day walking in and about the castle and sitting at one cafe I actually got stuck into a conversation with one Korean guy. Nice new acquaintance. 

After one night in freezing hostel I went as a first thing on morning to buy a hoodie. I had woken up numerous times during night just because temperature sunk close to 0 degrees and blankets were summer style thin. With a new shirt I went to bus station to buy ticket to Granada, for some 14€.

Bus trip to Granada took some 2 hours trough a beautiful mountain landscape. My hostel, which I had to search again in one internet cafe was somewhat hidden in old Arab-quarters of historical center of the city. The old center is location for pretty impressive cathedral definitely worth visiting because of magnificent decorations and play of sun light, and the infamous castle Alhambra. Alhambra definitely is big and on such a site that it's easy to imagine having been quite a task to conquer.  

Infinite cobblestones @ Arab quarters
First task was to find the hostel, after walking some 5 kilometers from bus station, to drop my back bag and find some food. The Makuto Backpackers hostel proved to be very cozy hippie place with a tree-house and really relaxed people as volunteers, workers and customers. Facilities were good including leisure room, good shower, grill and fireplace, kitchen..  They gave free tour in the neighborhood to the couple major outlook spots (definitely worth a visit) and to see gypsy caves. These things were also marked in a map but the quarters are pretty tricky to navigate because lots of staircases and alleys and for the reason that roads are not build straight at all (also making it quite unique place to be). At the end of the tour we went for some beer and tapas in one of the numerous tapas places of the city. It's rather cost-efficient way to dine. 

Luckily enough one of these new friend showed to share same interests with me and we ended up spending big part of these Granada days together visiting Alhambra, walking around the old city-center (where I tried my first time chocolate con churros! Pure madness. Cup full of thick chocolate, like melt chocolate bar, accompanied with kind of donuts resembling bars of deep fried dough dripping of fat and loaded with sugar, sweet death), eating and drinking tea. 

Granada as seen from Alhambra

Alhambra, Sierra Nevadas snowy tops at background
Sierra Nevada, the mountain region south and south-east from Granada, got it's first snow coating some week before my stay in Granada took place. It was really stunning and intriguing view, and I really weighted the idea about going there to snowboard for one day, which would have been possible by taking a bus and renting gear on site, but I didn't find compelling information about rental prizes and was short on time anyway. Instead I left Granada early after spending 2 nights there by taking bus to Nerja, a small tourist oriented city at coast, rather directly to south. 

The bus trip in itself was again pretty beautiful
Nerja was stimulating experience consisting of totally empty and quiet beaches, stormy weather and fascinating mountain background. I did just walk around there for couple of hours before taking bus back to Malaga, but there was some kite surfing activity going on. 

A beach in Nerja
I was back to Malaga at early evening and was just chilling. I was still a bit confused after having met so great nice new people and having left them behind also almost in the same instant. New, valuable experience. I went out to eat with the Korean guy I had met before and sleep tight after this short but intense adventure. I will definitely go back into Spain again to travel properly, in backpacker style. 

Colourful canal garden in Nerja

keskiviikko 18. joulukuuta 2013

Tripping 1: Paris

Not drug abusing, sorry. This text is about some organized and unorganized trip options I've or haven't participated.

First check-around was that 3 day train trip with guys of course and couple one day trips to cities in couple of cities located in this region. Since then I've done some more.

Paris trip organized by Studentwerk. For 99€ bus transportation to Paris, tour guide, and one night accommodation. Sounds good, no? Practically it was organized so that we left Karlsruhe around midnight on Friday by bus to arrive in Paris at 7 a.m.. There we drove around a little bit and the guide was telling nice but scarce details about historical locations. Perhaps 12 o'clock we finished touring with a bus, having spent a break at ho(s)tel. We took a metro from hotel to city center and the guide disappeared on that instance. After asking a round a lot (nobody knew exactly) I was quite sure that we were to meet him some hour later at Notre Dame. There then we had a rendezvous and headed to Eiffel tower. The guide offered to book river boat tickets to whoever wanted to participate, at group discount. At that point we had some separation of group and spent like one hour negotiating what we should do as some would like to go to the tower, some others not and whatsoever. After probably 2 hours of wasting time altogether in Eiffel park, we finally got to the tower. There our group was divided even more and I tagged along with some 3 or so guys for the river boat. After the boat, we as a small group decided to walk to Arc of Triumph and I took a metro with only one person from there back to hotel.

The next day we had scheduled departure at 1 p.m.. (already!??) and we were to hit Louvre at 10 o'clock for about one hour (laugh). One hour for a museum trough which a walk would be some 14 kilometers is almost an insult. Well on the good side, we had the guide again with us and therefore got past the fast growing line and for free. I separated from the group and walked around fast for that one hour and met some of the the guys again at metro stop on my way back to hotel. Louvre: check.

Summing up: 
- Bus trip is no sleep. I was horribly tired and hungry when we were walking around Paris. Not exactly fun. There was no organized, predetermined, pause for eating in any point. I finally bought my self an 7€ Panini-kind-of-thing from the usually terribly expensive area surrounding Eiffel tower. It was comparably good investment containing quite extreme amount of cheese and filling me up so well that I got to sell remaining part to one fellow.

- I made one major idiotic act myself by buying new shoes just before the trip and using them there. They hurt my legs like hell! I didn't really care for a slightest bit to walk a meter more when we finally had reached the arc of Triumph.

- We didn't see Versailles at all and few lucky of us spent a little more than one hour in Louvre, others were there in that long queue and never reached indoors in time.

- We saw couple of historically important buildings from outside and got some very brief and almost negligible information of them, mainly expressed in German. Visited 2nd stand of Eiffel tower.

-Stay was in bunk beds of hotel Ibis budget wing. It's like a hostel facilities without the fun social interaction of hostels.

- I had couple of Hungarian friends there who I tagged along with, but there were some 3 more Bulgarians also who didn't speak proper English, nor German. So quite soon that whole group was speaking only Bulgarian, leaving me to annoying position.

- Wasted awfully lot of time because there wasn't actually any schedule on that trip after the bus tour and except for the Louvre.

Judgement: Go by yourself hitchhiking or something and stay couple of nights in some hostel. Definitely a city worth visiting but not in this way.

tiistai 19. marraskuuta 2013

Some critics after over 2 month stay and comparison with facilities of Lappeenranta University of Technology

It's still generally good to live here as all the services I want for now are rather nearby and relatively cheap, but...

KIT campus is sad as it's just bunch of scattered buildings. In LUT of Lappeenranta, everything is nicely in one building making it more or less like a big home where you meet people from different schools and branches of science. In LUT everybody more or less go in every day trough the same main doors and pass the big dining hall or stay there for coffee or whatsoever. In KIT my 5 courses take place in 5 different buildings. There are no other visible activities happening during the same time so you won't see other people during breaks or just idling in the hallways excluding a few exceptions. It's yet different thing that does seeing other people actually lead to interaction but at least it feels more warm than just lurking into the lecture and sneaking out when it's already dark at streets with the other 30 course mates or so. Of course LUT hosts only for about 5000 students whereas KIT has 25 000 but still.. matter of design.

The big dining hall is also a separate building and certainly a cross-faculty meeting place, but it boasts huge queues during peak hours and nutritionally poor food (I wouldn't complain about taste though, but that ain't important factor for me anyway). Yeah you guessed it.. library is separate building also, like just everything.

Facilities are old and small, and poor. Maybe I was under too much expectations thinking of Germans as the ultimate masters of technology and efficiency and everything... well they are, they invent a lot, but they are terrible at implementing. Buildings are ages old and energy-inefficient, have barely nothing smart inside (ok wohoo there are projectors!), some headband microphones are clearly just coming as one professor tried to use some silly neckband with old school hand mic hanging from it producing zero amplification to sound, but luckily found himself a modern and working one after probably facing some feedback. Many classes or lecture halls seem to seriously lack electricity sockets as they clearly are from era before major break trough of laptops (or maybe they are just ahead of their time and anticipate leap in battery technology). One class keeps hardheadedly on taking place in such a class room where about 10 people (out of 40) don't have access to table.

Computers are scarce and sticky. For some reason first time when I used computer here in one computer class it was amazingly fast! I was impressed... only to find out that it was probably broken. All the later sessions on computer has been blood pressurizing experiences of pure hell thanks to many systematic internet failures (other computers experienced same problems simultaneously). During peak hours it's also rather troublesome task to find any free computer anywhere. Printing is cheap, some 3-4 cents for double sided black/white sheet, but only at central printer. You usually have to wait 0.5-2 hours because it has processing queue. And then you will fetch your finished print-work from a locker with student id indications. Somewhat complex but yeah works anyway. If you order many printouts, the central printer combines whatever orders it has received from you probably up to the point when it's your work's turn in the queue. They all come stapled together. So better to order one course's all available material one day and another's other day... If you don't have a nice heavy stapler at home. You can also print double sided at every computer class and there are not much queue but it costs some 6 cents a paper. I think in LUT printing costs 5-6 cents/sheet and every work can be chosen to be individually stapled and punctured for mapping. Here you have to puncture your own holes, even central printer doesn't have the option.

Earning ECTS feels mainly more laborious here than in LPR. These courses have quite a lot content, but on the other hand they are new to me and I probably don't have some of the base knowledge that some other students may have as these are master level courses. Anyway, you may expect to work rather hard here to survive. One course, namely Entrepreneurship, has proved to be incredibly boring bla bla bla course with no new insights. Others are still rather interesting and demanding.

Germans still don't use blinkers of their cars'! ..just saying.

Otherwise I seem to miss animals and nature here. In Finnish cities nature with exhaustive (soft surface) jogging routes are always relatively near. Here for some freaking reason they have asphalted paths in these few tiles of forest in central city. I guess one just has to humbly take some 10-15 min tram-trip to outskirts if willing to go run into real forest without asphalt.

Next week I'm off to Malaga and Granada, Spain, to relax a bit and a week after that seems to be snowboarding trip to Austria. Christmas is good time to recap the courses.. right?

sunnuntai 10. marraskuuta 2013


Sport offering of KIT is fairly comprehensive:

10 € insurance payment is obligatory for a person who wish to attend any of those courses and sport courses themselves cost ~6-16 € per semester.

The not so funny part is that the subscribing period started on 14.10. at 9.00 a.m. and most courses were full 5 minutes after. The website experienced also hardships with staying up and proper functioning under pressure of thousands of activity hungry people.

  • Plan in advance what you would like to take, also the plan b's and c's.
  • Read carefully course instruction: some courses don't take subscriptions on this date but have instead a meeting somewhere where they give password personally for appealing applicants
  • About the gym (walk-in) of the school: I think you can go there to register up whenever you please, also before 14.10. after you have enrolled to school. I went there on 14.10. because I didn't yet know how my sport course selection would turn out to be and was told that next possible time for obligatory pre-examination and show-around would be in January; the gym was fully booked already and no exceptions for that. Class activities like bodypump or zumba etc. are a different matter and I guess there is space for 80€ semester fee. Overall costs of the walk-in gym would be some 175e for 6 months. 
  • I subsidised walk-in gym by going to commercial Venice Beach -gym on east side of centrum. It's open 24/7, costs 6e/week for a student and is fairly spacious and has good quality equipment. Minor flaw is that they have only 1 squatting rack and quite a toy-like-quality, disappointing weightlifters. However I'm able to do everything I could wish for there more or less and the price also includes variety of classes to participate. The gym also has mixed gender sauna open all the time. The contract is binding for 1 year but if you move out of city during that period, you get a certificate of unrolling as citizen from city office and by showing that can break the gym contract. Highly recommended. 
Other interesting activity I found here is a climbing hall on the west side of city:
I had no prior experience about rope climbing, but I just happened to bump into couple of friends there accidentally and they taught me how to ensure that my partner would stay alive and how to keep my own life also and after that I bought my own shoes and harness here and climb on Mondays when it's cheaper, 6-7€ entrance for unlimited time period. Renting gear costs 5.5€ if you don't have your own but i'd recommend buying it right away if you have any intention to continue every now and then. Altogether great hobby and good complementary action for bodybuilding.

I also attend HipHop class from KIT sport offering once a week. Annoying thing is that the class takes place from 21.00 till 22.30. Otherwise it's been this far quite nice. Unlike in Finland, here also some guys dance hip-hop and gender distribution is something like 5 men - 20 girls in our group. The hall where this class is run has good floor and is spacious enough. Mirrors are there but they are apparently very old and therefore bend image awfully.

Yet another activity is pair dance class taking place on every Wednesday for 2 hours from 8 p.m. It's completely free of charge and offered by local student organization. There we dance standard style dances with lead of an instructor. Audio systems are good and teaching is clear and progressing rather slow giving changes for those with 2 left legs and sometimes boring the life out of me. There are a little bit more guys than girls at the moment but it's fairly balanced and I haven't experienced problems getting a pair. Gentlemen get to choose every other and Ladies every other time so pairs are mainly constantly changing between every dance.

lauantai 2. marraskuuta 2013

Railtrip Frankfurt - Mainz - Bonn - Köln

We (5 man team) made 3 day - 2 night -trip to mentioned cities during holiday week after the end of German pre-course and before the beginning of lectures.
The companions ready to hit the rail
Start was at 10 a.m. after waiting for one oversleeper for one hour and first target was Frankfurt. Nevertheless quite good timing since it took something over 2 hours there and check in to hostel is available earliest at 1 p.m. so we got to drop our back bags right away.

How: whole Germany train ticket for 5 persons in any day costs 68€. It covers buses, trams, REgional trains and InterREgional trains, but doesn't allow for utilization of faster CE or ICE trains, sadly. Those 2 types of trains are highly expensive and probably only CEO's and Ministers travel with them...

Hostel booking in advance for one night in Frankfurt in Five Elements (central location, in red lanter district, cheap happyhour coctails and spacious common room) and one night in Köln in The Black Sheep (20-30 min walk from old center, nice location, nice colorful rooms, nice showering facilities, quite small common room (kitchen)). Both were about 20€/person/night half a week in advance and highly recommendable. Sheets included, bring your own towel. We could have wanted to stay in Köln for other night to see some more, but the whole city was full booked. 

Frankfurt am Main, a.k.a. Mainhattan. City of money. Fairly small city with 600 000 inhabitants, expensive streets and skyscrapers (tallest being 259m high Commerzbank Tower). Mainz tower is only one accessible for public and provides really worthy view at 200 meters (~4€ for students). 
View from Mainz tower
There would have been couple of interesting museums, most notably Naturmuseum Senckenberg, but we were too late to visit that. Frankfurt Stock Exchange is also one central point of interest to see. Oldest parts of the city lie in Römerberg, not visited this time. Frankfurt was the first city I've been with skyscrapers and mainly therefore an interesting experience. 

We ate our stomachs full, and more, in a Chinese buffet with Sushi for a little less than 10€. 

After strolling a while in the city, a beer would have tasted good, but it provided to be challenging task to find a pub. We visited one promising looking one, but inside an old guy came talking to me that "yes, you may stay, but we are over 60 year old men here discussing about impotence". I didn't too much look around, but friends noted that some of them were also kissing each other. So we bumped into a veteran gay impotence discussion club. We didn't stay there to find out whether or not we would have been solution to their problem. 

Walking a little more, we saw a beer advertisement sunshade and went in to a cozy looking bar. There was interior space made of glass walls and bar counter in there, and out of that in the hallway of that building were some sofas and tables. Ok, fairly priced beer, we chose to stay for one. I wen't to toiled and saw there some gay concert advertisement poster. At least we had a good laugh and got to drink the beer to drive away biggest thirst. 

9 p.m. or so we went back to the hostel and stood in the common room drinking and playing some pool and slept well after long day.


The next morning we headed to Mainz with intention to visit 1-2 places on the way to Köln and to arrive there at evening. Mainz really is a beautiful city with nice atmosphere and it's landmark is rather huge cathedral with big fascinatingly-detail-rich sculptures inside.

Cathedral of Mainz
After seeing that and strolling a little bit more, it was time to take train to Bonn. Bonn is the old capital of Germany and therefore culturally rich. It's also well known for being the home city of Beethoven. Hour was already quite late, around 6 p.m. so it wasn't possible to visit any potential museums or anything. Neither we had proper plans or map about locations of interest. There happened to be markets taking place and 1 kilo of grapes for 1 euro. Great bargain for sweetest grapes I've tasted but that was pretty much all the city had to offer for now. 
Typical style of center of Bonn

Some minor Roman ruins
The train trip down the riverside of Rhein was worthwhile. Between Mainz and Köln, we could see approximately 50 castles, some more and some less impressive, and also the landscape is something as such. Would be nice experience to have a boat cruise on Rhein. 
One of those castles, don't remember where
We finally arrived in Köln at 9 a.m. perhaps and wen't to eat 6e hamburger/steak meals into a close by place called Barbossa or something. Köln is the proud city of Kölsch, local beer served in ridiculous 2dl glasses, to make people angry, I'd guess. Taste wasn't anything special. After that, it was time to go rest for the exploration of the city being in turn the next day, especially after finding that we would stay only 1 night in the city due to the full reservation books in hostels. 

The big day in Köln: walking to center took about 30 min from the hostel and we had received a nice map from there with all the points of interests to see. There are lot's of churches but after seeing the one in Mainz, and when expecting for Kölner Dom, these were not much. Striking feature of Köln were those ugly concrete cubicles everywhere (Köln was pretty well levered down in WW2)! Oh a church, oh a monstrous building from soviet union, oh another church...
Definition of massive
Köln is hometown of candy firm Haribo, has a nazi archive which we actually visited and which would have been quite interesting with good German skills (no English text anywhere, ofc), chocolate museum, a Roman museum with some outrageous 6e entrance fee, didn't go there, hey it's not Rome anyway and then the Dom. We paid the couple of euros to climb the tower up to sight stand at height of some 100m. It was a nice experience even though the views are not very good because the place is so thickly covered with a cage to prevent suicide activities probably. The Dom is simply massive. It was impossible to make a decent picture of it because it just won't fit in one meaningful photo. Also it has astonishing amount of detail in it's construct, but hard to say if it's very beautiful or not. Worth experiencing definitely. One day was well enough to see the main points of the city, and to see too many concrete cubicles but they also say that both Köln and Frankfurt have very lively nightlife. Don't know about that then since to me it seems to be the (mostly boring) same basically everywhere. That area remained unstudied. 
The city of Beton
Six hour or so train back to Karlsruhe was rather ass numbing experience.