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Random Fireworks August 15, 2011

Posted by Brian Wier in Travel Log.
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On my last weekend of travel, I decided to go to Munich, Germany.  I felt visiting Germany was an absolute necessity, as I had lived just an hour from the border for three months yet had never taken the time to visit, so off to Munich I went.

There’s really not a lot too see in Munich.  There aren’t many interesting sites to see or very many things to do.  Luckily, I was perfectly content to have a carefree of weekend of walking around the city and relaxing after several months of tiresome weekend travels.  In Munich went to Marienplatz and the Englischer Garden, where we stopped at the beer garden at the Pagoda.

After a traditional German meal that night, we went to the Olympic Park where we had heard there was going to be a fireworks display.  We never entered the park because it required expensive tickets, so we sat on a hill outside and watched a fantastic fireworks display, having no idea what it was for (I later found out it was an annual midsummer festival that was that day).

The next day, we went to the Deutsches Museum, which can only be described as science and engineering porn.  We spent a good four hours in the museum but could have easily spent the entire day if we had had the time.  Looking back, I can say my trip to Munich had everything I was looking for that final weekend trip: a few sites, a place to relax, and fireworks!

Obelisks Everywhere August 15, 2011

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On our longest weekend of the year, we all decided to go see Italy, namely Pompeii/Naples, Rome, and Florence.  To talk about the entire trip would be entirely too long, so I’ll just to stick to what we did in Rome.

We arrived in Rome late at night and had to find our way to our Hostel, having only an address and my vague recollection of where it was in relation to the train station, which my friends weren’t too happy about.  We made it safely though without any real problems.  In the morning we took the metro to Piazza de Popolo and walked along the Tiber to Castel Sant’Angelo, which was originally a mausoleum for Emporor Hadrian but was later used as a Papal residence.

From there, we went into the Vatican and toured the museum.  I was particularly excited to the see the “popemobile,” which is apparently an often-missed item in the museum.  After the museum, we made our way into Saint Peter’s basilica and climbed to the top to get a good view of Rome.

After leaving the Vatican, we made our way towards the Pantheon and saw the famous fountain of the four rivers in Piazza Navona.  Upon arriving at the Pantheon, we learned that its currently used as a church and mass was being held.  Instead of waiting for mass to end, we went to visit the Campo de Fiori and eat dinner only to find the Pantheon closed for the day when we finally got back to it.  From there, we went to the see the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps.

While we had seen Rome of the Renaissance on our first day, we saw the Rome of Antiquity the next.  We started by going to see the Colosseum, followed by a visit to Palatine Hill and the Imperial Forum.  We then went to see the Campidoglio and the museums on Capitoline Hill, and after that, we finally got around to making our way to the Pantheon.  The rest of our day consisted of aimlessly walking around the city and seeing random attractions.

Perhaps the thing I’m most proud of doing in Rome and the reason for this post’s title is that we saw all but one of Rome’s 15 or so obelisks (it has the most in the world) without meaning too.  We just stumbled across most of them as we walked around the city, but several of them are also in the major squares and plazas.  We decided that it would ruin accidentally seeing almost all of them if we intentionally saw the last, so that ended that.

 

 

Beerrrrgen! August 15, 2011

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So for the first several weeks, I had been planning on going somewhere that most people wouldn’t ordinarily consider visiting, and when we found cheap airfare to Norway, we jumped on it and went to the land of the vikings!

When we first got to Norway, we had to take a train to Oslo from the airport, and we were overjoyed to experience what I believe to be the most comfortable trains in Europe.  The Norwegian trains had comfortable chairs with plenty of room (Yes! even in second class) and free wifi.  From our first few steps in the country, Norway was already shaping up to be a remarkable place.  Once in Oslo, we took a bus to go the viking ship museum, where they have three recovered viking ships and several artifacts.

Our next destination in Norway was the city of Bergen on the west coast, which is reachable by a 7 hour train ride.  Catching this train, however, was easier said than done, because unbeknownst to us, Oslo had experienced the single biggest flood in the past 50 years in the past week, and because of this, all trains around Oslo were shut down.  We then had the stressful experience of attempting to find the right shuttle bus along with several thousand other people mobbing around the Oslo train station.  We eventually got on the right train after an hour long bus ride, but all our stress melted away as we began our ride through the flooded Norwegian countryside, one of the single most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.  The train ride to Bergen alone made the trip worth it.  We arrived in Bergen late at night and reveled in Norway’s everlasting summer days, where the sun won’t set until 2-3 in the morning.  We had neither the time nor the money to take a fjord tour, no matter how much we wanted to, so we took our time the next morning to hike up a little mountain in Bergen and enjoy the sites.  We soon had to get back on our way to Oslo, but we were lucky enough that we were sitting on the other side of the train this time and much of the flooding had subsided, giving a whole new view of the country.

It’s Cold on Top of the Eiffel Tower August 14, 2011

Posted by Brian Wier in Travel Log.
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On the second weekend of the summer, I went to Paris and saw quite a bit.  I can honestly say that our weekend in Paris is the only one that left me physically exhausted.  We started the weekend off by going to the palace at Versailles, which is truly the most impressive hunting lodge in world.  Starting in Versailles, we got our first introduction to the crowds of Paris, though none of the crowds for the remainder of the trip came close to matching the mob of Versailles.  Back in the city that day, we met up with the rest of our group at the Arc de Triomphe, though sadly the workers at the Arc were on strike all weekend, so we were unable to go to the top of the Arc.

Our next day in Paris consisted going to see Notre Dame, the Louvre, walking along the Champs-Elysees, and going to the top of the Eiffel Tower.  I was so exhausted that second day that I feel asleep standing up on the metro for several minutes.   After waiting in line at the Eiffel Tower for several hours, we timed it perfectly to arrive at the top right at sunset, though I was on the wrong side of the tower when it actually set.  At the very top of the tower, I learned that a good measure for how cold you are is how easily you can take a steady photograph.  I was unable to do so, and so was the person that took a group photo for us.

Our last day in Paris consisted of visiting Montmartre and Sacre-Coeur and the catacombs.

 

 

 

A Rude Welcome August 14, 2011

Posted by Brian Wier in Travel Log.
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Well, these blog posts have been a long time coming and just never happened for one reason or another, but here goes, starting from the beginning.

My very  first week in France, only a few days in the country, I had the “pleasure” of experiencing one of the many European social differences, the commonality of pickpockets.  I had just left the GTL building after classes and was walking back to my dorm when a French guy, no more than 2-3 years older than me, approached me asking for help because his phone had died.  He continued to bother me as I insisted that I could not help him, and he eventually stole my iPod from pocket.  I’m not quite sure how he did it, especially since I felt as though he had dubious intentions in the first place when he approached me and was on guard.  After that, he ran off, and I gave chase.  I chased him down the road, through a patch of bushes, and across the street for about 100 meters before I was able to tackle him to the ground.  I picked up my iPod from the ground and walked off, not wanting to escalate the situation any further.  The next day, I went to the local police station and filed a report, and other than congratulating me, the only words the police officer had for me were “Welcome to France.”  Unlike how most people would respond, I honestly enjoyed the chase and excitement, and if it hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have two of my favorite souvenirs: a French police report and an awesome story.

I have no photos of the incident or where it occurred, so here’s a picture from my first weekend in Luxembourg.

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