When I was younger, people would always tell me college was full of non-stop adventures. This seems to be the case as I had a week between my co-op term and going off to Europe. While I thought that week would be “down time,” I found myself surprisingly busy either preparing for my trip, unpacking, packing, catching up with friends, or sneaking off to go skydiving
But enough about the US, as you are surely reading this to experience Europe vicariously through me. My journey began when I landed in the Frankfurt (am Main) Airport, where I split a room for the night with fellow Purple Snake, Parker Buntin. Parker and I landed early in the morning and slept until midday to counteract jet lag. Upon waking for our slumber, we hit the town (a surprisingly pleasant experience). Much to our liking, Frankfurt offers both buildings of historical significance/style and those of sleek, sexy modernism with surprisingly smooth harmony between old and new.
To unwind in the later part of the day, we had fun at playgrounds along the Main River (proving one is never too old for some things as seen in my avatar). To replenish lost calories, we stopped for dinner at a super authentic German restaurant that made me wish I had Lederhosen to sport.
The next day, we left Frankfurt (and the sun) for the rainy/cloudy yet still wonderful Metz. The next week was spent transitioning to the French lifestyle of walking, public transportation, baguettes, and NUTELLA
Weekend 1- The Adventures Begin
Day1: Following classes on Friday, my group left to go to Brussels. Following several hours in trains along the rather rural countryside, we arrived at our destination with eager eyes and hungry stomachs. Upon running into fellow PS, Salim Choueiki, by chance we learned that “when in Brussels, one must eat mussels…waffles…and drink beer.” And in that order, we had such things: first with dinner, then at a famous bar known as “Delirium.” Word to the wise: Belgian beer is more concentrated than that in the US (from what I was told) and is not to be consumed without that in mind. With that being said, I found all aspects of the quote to be savory and delicious.
Day2: Our group of 11 diverged into groups of 5 (mine) and 6 as we learned logistics are more feasible in small groups. We then spent the day exploring Brussels ranging from a palace to a HUGE monument of a body-centered cubic Fe structure created for a world’s fair (the MSE in me came out that day and I was lucky to travel with another one of my kind). We concluded by cheering on the Gay Pride parade while waiting a very entertaining hour for our megabus. Overall, Brussels was a city of good eats and decent views, but we were ready to move on. We then travelled by megabus to Amsterdam and arrived in the early evening.
From there, we simply explored the town and tried to figure out sleeping arrangements (and wi-fi to determine where our potential hosts would be). Just as we were becoming worn with exhaustion, we were saved by delicious frittes (original fries), free wi-fi, and a facebook message from fellow PSs: Palavi, Katie Neuberger, and Katie Pokrant saying we could stay in their apartment and could be let in right away. Sleeping on a floor never felt so good
Day 3: My group left bright and early to go to the hotel we reserved for the next day. Next, we explored the city in daylight. The Van Gogh Museum was easily a highlight of the trip (in addition to the super long lines elsewhere). The general layout of the city was also interesting as the buildings are close together and have become quite slanted in many cases. Bikes are absurdly common and supposedly outnumber the human population there (guess people got tired of all the red lights there…hehehe). The city also is host of more liberal advances than most are used to…with more varieties of plant and herb being legal in addition to a tax-filing prostitute population. Such things tend to group into select areas of the city, however, which makes much of Amsterdam still similar to other cities in that regard. All in all, the city was quite interesting and I would recommend staying the duration we stayed or somewhat less than we did.
The next day (today) we left Amsterdam and returned to Metz after spending the whole day in transit. I am grateful for this past weekend as it whet my appetite for more travel and taught me to plan ahead for future weekends.
Next stop: likely Berlin for 2 days!
The moment of surprise May 20, 2013Posted by Christine Gebara in Travel Log.
Ever since arriving in Europe, the surprises have not stopped. Not only has everything been incredible, from the architecture to the food, but every day seems to come with some amazing happenstance. While in Brussels, some friends and I sought out the musical instrument museum, but accidentally ended up in the art museum. Not only was everything breathe taking, but I stumbled upon a section dedicated to one of my favorite artists! In Luxembourg, a trip down a narrow path looking for a specific cafe turned into a wonderful evening on the banks of the Alzette and Pétrusse rivers.
I think one of the best surprises has been that daylight lasts for about 14 hours here. This leaves ample time to explore new cities before it gets dark. Late dinners at cafes have been wonderful ways to end a long day. We can watch the sunset as we rest our feet. The first full day in France, I hadn’t realized how long daylight lasts and was amazed when I looked at my watch and read 8PM while strolling through a park in broad daylight.
Classes have also proven to be a great surprise. Having a professor tell you he was asked to help develop an atomic bomb is not something you expect on the first day of classes, but it is a great way to make sure you are listening. Georgia Tech Lorraine has a great atmosphere and culture. Everyone is constantly discussing travel plans and classes, and the staff really seems to want to make this a great experience.
I can’t wait to see what surprises are next.
Bonjour, Metz! May 17, 2013Posted by karayogi in Travel Log.
I’ve never had the opportunity to go abroad, really. This trip- even the four days I’ve been in Metz, France, really, has been amazing.
Imagine walking into a supermarket and browsing the items on the shelf, not being able to read any of the labels on the packages. It’s an odd feeling, for sure. Although it is really fun; browsing the isles trying to guess at what some things are, and trying to interpret the French on a few things. Grocery shopping is much more interesting abroad. The toilet paper, for example, is available in many colors- pink, blue, and purple, to name a few. Sliced ham is available only raw (which we only discovered before checking out), and apple juice is sold in giant juiceboxes, sans straws of course. I have never had more fun shopping before. Not even shopping for shoes.
Less than 24 hours after arriving in Metz, France, we were given the opportunity to explore the city- and it was gorgeous! The buildings were ornate, with intricate carvings; beautiful buildings I’ve only ever seen in magazines. The cathedrals in the city- notably, the Cathedral Saint-Etienne de Metz, are beautiful buildings with ornate flying buttresses and numerous spires, and most importantly (for me, at least)- the stained glass windows! They are phenomenal; each window covered in millions of beautiful panes of glass. Interestingly, the stained glass windows in Europe differ in that each pane in the window is a single color. Most American stained glass windows features multi-colored panes of glass. The exception to this were the stained glass windows created by famous artist Marc Chagall. These windows look very different from all of the others in the Metz cathedral; the colors are more vivid, the panes larger, and the lead lining the panes spread on top of them to define the forms he creates. The windows themselves have immense history surrounding them; from the reasons why Chagall, a Jewish artist, agreed to make the windows for a Catholic Cathedral, to the imagery he depicts. The windows within the Metz Cathedral represent the largest surface area of stained glass in a Cathedral in the world. And they are breathtaking!
Marc Chagall stained glass windows
Aside from its beautiful Cathedrals, Metz is an amazing city. Filled with beautiful buildings and streets and parks, the whole city is just amazing. I don’t think the pictures I’ve posted here can begin to describe it, but I’ve included some- the outside of the Metz Cathedral, the Chagall windows, and some beautiful scenery.
With so much amazing architecture to describe, I nearly forgot about the food! There are what seems like HUNDREDS of little bakeries in Metz, and oh my goodness, are the pastries delicious! Each one is hand made, and many are fruit or coffee flavored. Today I had a coffee-flavored macaroon shaped into a little mouse, and it was probably the best dessert I have ever had. It had ears made out of chocolate-covered coffee beans, and little chocolate eyes, a nose, and a tail. I almost felt bad for eating such a cute pastry! (On a side note, one of the first French words I’ve learned on this trip is chocolat.)
My little mouse dessert!
Living abroad is amazing. Certainly different than life in the US, but a very pleasant different. It’s amazing how fast you begin to pick up the phrases you need; just the other day I bought bus tickets by myself, after speaking to the woman in the convenience store about what I wanted to buy. While my French is a bit broken and my grammar is far from perfect, I’ve learned enough to get my point across for a few things. Bus tickets, finding things, and names of groceries.
Tomorrow, though, is the real test. Hopping on a train to Luxembourg, and navigating the train station. But for now, au revoir!
Guten Tag Europe! May 15, 2013Posted by Parker Buntin in Travel Log.
Tags: france, Frankfurt, germany, gtl, Metz
Guten Tag Europe!
We have arrived! After a long journey with little sleep, the whole GTL crew has landed at various airports and convened in Metz, France. It is my third day in Europe, and my, it’s certainly been a whirlwind so far!
After arriving in Frankfurt around 6am on Mother’s Day, Matt Waples and I walked off our plane to a dreary and rainy Europe. That’s okay though, because after going through customs and collecting our luggage, we found our way to a hotel right next to the airport (we arrived a day earlier than most people, so we decided to split a hotel room for that extra night before the shuttle would leave the following day). Once we were checked in, we each took a nice 6-hour nap. Thanks jetlag!
What to do with an extra day in Europe? Explore! That’s exactly what Matt and I proceeded to do. We woke up, made our way down to the S-Bahn (a German subway system) and grabbed a train into the heart of the Frankfurt.
That building looks cool—Okay, let’s go see it! This brief dialogue appropriately began Matt and my somewhat haphazard exploration through Frankfurt. We wandered around and took in all the culture that Frankfurt had to offer, which, as it turns out, is more than the industrial stereotype that most travel websites give it credit for. The sleek, modern look of Frankfurt is attributed to the massive rebuilding that occurred after Frankfurt was bombed mostly to the ground in World War II. That being said, there are some old cathedrals and buildings that give off a cool mix of old and new styles.
“Hallo! Ich spreche ein bisschen deutsch.” Matt and I got to use some of the German we had learned in our respective middle and high schools. Even after not taking German for over a year, I was surprised by how much came back. I can’t wait to use more German on future trips! Matt and I ate dinner at a little German restaurant right next to the Main River, which runs through Frankfurt. The cuisine was interesting, but quite good!
After catching a train back to the hotel from a long day of exploration, Matt and I grabbed some rest before heading off to Metz with the rest of the shuttle the following day. The flight with most people on the shuttle was delayed that next day, but we were all accounted for in the end. The shuttle left for Metz, France that afternoon (Monday, May 13, 2013). Unfortunately, I don’t remember much of the bus ride, because I slept through most of it. When I did wake up, however, I awoke to beautiful German, then French, landscapes out the window. Rolling hills and lush, green grass made me excited to travel on future weekends throughout Europe.
Yesterday (Tuesday, May 15th) was a full day of orientation and exploration both on the GTL campus and in downtown Metz. The orientation was fairly straightforward: lots of rules, advice, and common sense information. It was helpful though, and I appreciated all the orientation info sessions. In the afternoon, some busses took everybody at GTL to downtown Metz. Metz is awesome! It’s a beautiful city with plenty of rich culture and history. Everybody was treated to a short bus tour through Metz, which was informational and a good overview of the city. I’m definitely going to check out Metz some more during my time here!
I’m so glad and fortunate to be in Europe! Au revoir!
Pink walls May 13, 2013Posted by vpalavi in Travel Log.
A welcome basket with pots, pans, plates, and toilet paper sat there on the small cot when I arrived to the Georgia Tech Lorraine dorm, Aloes. These walls are pink, and the rooms are small. I feel like I’m living in a box. Don’t get me wrong, the folks here try to make us feel as comfortable as possible.
The French are trying to teach us how to speak and cook on the first day here. Our neighbors are students who go to GTL and will soon be interning in Paris. They cook, clean, and study all by themselves. I went to the food market called Cora and bought groceries because just like my neighbors, I will have to cook, clean, and of course, study.
All these times I always wondered what it would be like to live in another country, somewhere in Europe… Well, the answer is pink walls, small cot, and a tiny cell-sized room.
All roads… May 12, 2013Posted by clairical in Travel Log.
In high school, I made the foolish mistake of taking Latin as a foreign language. Although I picked up useful phrases in every language, such as “Une baguette, s’il vous plait.”, I still struggled with grocery shopping, mainly because I never knew what I was buying. But Rome would be different. Just like in Latin America, everyone in Rome speaks Latin. True story.
Now, for a word problem. Rome is halfway down the boot of Italy. Metz is in the top right of France. The cheapest flight to Italy goes from Frankfurt Hahn, which is three hours from Metz by a train and bus combo, to Bologna, which is a 2 hour train ride from Rome. A night train to and from Rome takes around 16 hours and can get me there by Saturday morning. What is the best way to get from Metz to Rome and back, minimizing cost and maximizing time?
It turns out, a combination of flights, buses, and trains. Friday, I took the night train from Munich to Venice, springing for a couchette. Then I took a train from Venice to Rome, arriving before noon. I spent all of Saturday and Sunday in Rome. Sunday afternoon I took a train to Bologna, flew out of Bologna to Frankfurt Hahn, spent the night in the airport, and took a bus the next morning to Frankfurt main where I got a train back to Metz. Please, hold your applause.
The first thing I noticed about Rome was that it was warm. Really warm. As in, no-jacket-required warm. It was absolutely glorious. The next thing I noticed was that my high school teacher lied to me: no one in Rome spoke Latin. Et tu Brute? But really the only vocabulary words I needed to get by were “Gelato” and “Pizza”. Also, everything was old, even for Europe. There were ruins everywhere and all the crazy-driver filled streets were cobblestones. My feet hurt at the end of the day. Rome was the first city I had visited that I could actually see myself living in long-term, if everyone would just start speaking Latin again so I could understand them.
Rome is huge, and every part of the city is packed with monuments, ruins, and markets. It’s hard to know where to start, so I just started with the closest thing to the train station: The Foro Della Pacia – the Forum of Peace. It was expansive and only half there, the other half had been lost some time ago. From there I passed the beautiful Altar of the Fatherland on the way to the Trevi fountain, which was absolutely gorgeous. It was crowded with tourists, so I took a side-street to get away and grab some Gelato.
After eating way too much Gelato, I headed to the Pantheon, which is a temple originally built to honor the gods of ancient Rome. It is lit entirely by natural light, all stemming from a giant hole in the middle of it ceiling. The whole building looks quite a lot like a giant eyeball. It was slightly unnerving.
Although all the ruins of Rome are interesting and full of history, the best part of Rome is the Villa Borghese, a garden expanse in northern Rome. The gardens themselves are lovely, and a welcome break from the snow-covered branches in France. It has palm trees and shade and non-stop tweeting birds. And did I mention it was warm?
The Villa Borghese stretches on for a few miles, littered with statues and a few lakes and some great museums. The best museum, in my opinion, is the Borghese Gallery, which contains a plethora of sculptures and a section devoted to ancient instruments. It’s supposed to be lovely, but I wouldn’t know. It was booked out until Tuesday, which I think speaks for itself as to how magnificent this museum is.
Sunday morning I got up early to go shopping at the Porta Portese market. Porta Portese is one of Rome’s oldest markets and only open Sunday mornings. The market is split into two roads that make a V. The left side of the V is primarily a clothing and accessories market. The right side is mostly an antique market; with some stands trying to sell what I assume is a bunch of junk they grabbed from a nearby dumpster.
Rome may be known for some sketchy shopping, mainly for imitation high-end brands, but I was having no luck. I had a routine down-pat that I assumed would work wonders. I would start eyeing and picking up purses from a vendor. When he asked me if I needed any help, which they always do, I would say, “These are nice purses, but I was hoping to find some brand-name items.” Most of the time all I got in reply was, “No, these very nice.” I was sorely disappointed and went home without a fake Prada bag.
After the market, I went to St. Peter’s Square to see the new Pope’s Sunday Angelus. The square itself was magnificent and stuffed full of people all there to see the Pope. Around noon Pope Francis appeared in a window of the Apostolic Palace. He said buongiorno, followed by a bunch of Italian words I couldn’t understand. I think most of them were prayers, since other people in the crowd were chanting along with him.
Overall, Rome was a beautiful city and I was glad I was able to make the trip down to Italy. The city was so full of history everywhere you turned. There were monuments and ruins everywhere in the city. It was the first city I could see myself actually living in. The pace of the city was so fast, with people darting around everywhere in Vespas. Maybe I’ll go back someday.
Ancient (and Modern) Rome May 9, 2013Posted by stevenseligsohn in Travel Log.
Historical significance is one of Rome’s best-known qualities. Roman ruins are ubiquitous throughout the city, in the most expected and unexpected places: the coliseum, subway stations, the Roman Forum, in a McDonalds. But by far the most wonderful thing about Rome was how the city now lives and thrives atop such a rich and well-preserved history.
The first thing we did (after eating some authentic Italian pizza, of course) was to leave Rome and head to Vatican City. Walking through the Raphael rooms of the Vatican museum is an incredible experience. Every surface in the room is painted with a different beautiful mural, each with its own story and complex meanings. Originally intended as papal apartments, they were painted by Raphael and his followers in the early 1500s, but have been used as reception rooms in the papal palace. Perhaps the most famous fresco here, The School of Athens, [pictured below] was painted by Raphael to portray truth acquired through reason, as a series representing the transition from classical philosophy to religious faith.
Clearly, it was well worth the cost for us to take the paid tour: we learned of the history underlying the exhibits in the Palazzo di Popolo.
After the Raphael rooms, we were allowed a tour of the Sistine Chapel. Of course, it is very famous. I never understood why, exactly, until I was permitted to wander through it. The walls and ceilings are not only very beautiful frescoes, but they all tell stories that impart meaning on the viewers. The ceiling, painted by Michelangelo, tells the biblical stories of the creation of man and mankind’s fall from grace. The walls, commissioned later, tell the opposing Old-Testament story of the life of Moses and the New-Testament story of the life of Christ. Regardless of one’s belief system, these paintings are beautiful and meaningful, and it was awe-inspiring to absorb them.
Then, we found ourselves in St. Peter’s Basilica. Again, the place was fraught with religious sculptures, paintings, and relics. Meandering through the walkways, seeing these incredible works of art and architecture contrasting life and death, salvation and damnation, was hauntingly beautiful.
After afternoon gelato, some wandering, a hearty pasta dinner at a romantic Italian restaurant, and a full night’s sleep, it was time to explore Rome on Easter Sunday.
Because many tourists were at the Vatican that day, many of the secular Roman historical attractions were less crowded. Therefore, we started our day with some exploration of the Roman Coliseum. The 2000-year-old stone structure is amazingly intact. It is very easy to imagine the throngs of Roman spectators bustling through the walkways, sitting in the tiered seats, watching some great spectacle of animal against man.
Afterwards, we walked through the Roman Forum and the Palatine hill, the ruins of many ancient Roman government buildings and palaces. The buildings and structures are incredibly intact and well-put-together for the tools that the Romans must have used – such structures would be expensive and time-consuming, even with modern tools.
Wandering through the streets of Rome, experiencing the juxtaposition and coexistence of ancient and modern throughout the city was a very new experience for me. The people of Rome today are familiar with and proud of their history, and they gladly help others to learn from it. Rome was an experience I will never forget.
Fiji April 29, 2013Posted by pschnaak in Travel Log.
After four weeks in Australia, the Pacific Program embarked on a journey to an unprecedented: FIJI!!
Our first destination in Fiji was The Hideaway Resort on the Coral Coast of Viti Levu. Boy, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. The Fijian people accept tourists with world renowned hospitality and accommodations, and as college students accustomed to youth hostels and dormitories, we were on top of the world living in sunny, picturesque beach-side resorts! Here are some of the scenes that were ordinary at Hideaway:
After our stay at Hideaway, the group headed off the “mainland” and into the Mamanuca Islands, an island chain that is the most popular destination for visitors to Fiji. The resort we stayed at, Mana Island Resort, was more isolated and “unconnected” (NO INTERNET!) than our previous stay. During our stay on Mana, I tried my best to get out and explore the amazing oceanic tropical landscapes.
After Mana Island, my fellow travelers and I were faced with an impending reality that none of us wanted to swallow: Our time exploring the Pacific was soon to come to an end. After Mana, we headed back into the “large city” of Nadi, staying at the Tanoa Skylodge. Though Nadi was not as “tourism-oriented” as the other resorts, our location was appropriate for the time of the semester we were about to encounter: FINALS. Undoubtedly, one of the greatest tragedies I will be able to claim in my life is that I spent a day IN FIJI studying for a college final!
Though my time in the Pacific has come to an all-too abrupt end, I can make the indisputable claim that I have had a fantastic life experience that will stay with me for as long as I live.
Brisbane and Heron Island April 29, 2013Posted by pschnaak in Travel Log.
As our six weeks in New Zealand came to an end, we were reminded (unpleasantly) of how quickly time was slipping by us this semester! Though the country, landscape, people, and culture of New Zealand were all magnificent, the time nevertheless came for us to depart and head to the next great unknown: Australia.
We spent our first two weeks in Brisbane, located in the state of Queensland. Brisbane, uncertainly, has had more beautiful fortnights than the one we spent there. It rained… every day. This was not a new occurrence, as flooding had been going on throughout Queensland for quite some time. Still, the location of Brisbane provided some unique hiking landscapes. While in Brisbane, the program took a trip to Lamington National Park, which is unique because of the diversity of biomes that are included in such a small range of land. Through a break in the rain (I’m telling you: it never ended), I managed to capture a snapshot of a waterfall in Lamington:
After Brisbane, we were all eager to head towards a more… accommodating climate. Sure enough, our next stop was sure to provide exactly what we needed. After an overnight bus trip north up the eastern coast of Queensland and a two-hour ferry ride, we arrived at the destination to which I had been looking forward the most: Heron Island. Located on the southern edge of the Great Barrier Reef, Heron Island is anything but developed. Our sleeping accommodations were with the Heron Island Research Station owned by the University of Queensland:
The island is also a temporary home for large migratory bird populations. A researcher from the station who was conducting research on one particular species allowed us to come around on her “rounds” with her… and here are the adorable chicks that we got to examine!!!!
The Routeburn Track April 29, 2013Posted by pschnaak in Travel Log.
During one of our final weekends stationed in Wellington, a large chunk of the Pacific Program flew south to Queenstown: the adventure sports capital of the world.. or so I’m told. Though the town’s tourist season comes to a peak during the winter season, Queenstown was a more than entertaining and lively place to visit. We made sure to visit Ferg Buger and Ferg Baker– two of the most popular restaurants in Queenstown. The former boasts the claim of having the best burger in the Southern Hemisphere… We ate there twice !!
My stay in this alpine haven town did not last long, however, because the following morning some comrades and I piled into a van and began a most anticipated adventure: conquering the Routeburn Track—one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks” and named one of the two “most beautiful walking areas in the world” by Sir Edmond Hillary.
Unsurprisingly, our three-day two-night trek through the Southern Alps did not disappoint.
The weekend was perhaps one of my most enjoyable memories of my trip Down Under. Walking through this undisturbed landscapes, marveling at the dramatic geology of the region and the beautifully pristine alpine lakes, I have vivid memories of moments in which I was purely taken aback by the sheer beauty that this land held.
As I mentioned early, Sir Edmond Hillary named two most beautiful walking areas in the world. The Routeburn was one; the other was another New Zealand walking track in Otago known as the Milford Track. I am now determined to return to New Zealand one day and complete the Milford Track. Undoubtedly, I won’t be disappointed.