Winding Down in Barcelona July 16, 2012Posted by gtwreck in Travel Log.
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We are about to start our last week of classes in Barcelona. This trip has been one of the best times of my life. I visited a total of 9 European cities and 6 countries. I saw the Swiss Alps, the River Seine, and the Mediterranean all for the first time. I learned basic Flamenco, rough spanish, and countless cultural differences between Europe and America. I met what seems like hundreds of new friends from around the world. I was in Spain for their third major cup victory in a row, making them the undisputed best soccer team to ever exist. All of that while I gained credit hours for Tech.
My favorite part of Barcelona is the Magic Fountain. We went there towards the beginning of our trip and then again right in the middle, and both times were so amazing. San Juan was also really fun as we got to see the whole city come to life and stay active well into the sunrise. My favorite city outside of Barcelona is a toss up between Sevilla and Ibiza. I loved Sevilla for its small-town feel and rich history. I loved Ibiza’s beaches and night life. Amsterdam is also on that list, with its gorgeous canals and cozy atmosphere.
I will definitely be coming back to Europe every chance I get and I am so happy and thankful for the experience I have had this summer. I had to overcome challenges that I would never face in the States that will make me a better person when I get back. I learned even better time management as I balanced studying and travelling with simply living on my own. I got closer to Tech students that I probably would have never met if not for this trip. This has been a great success and has made me proud to be a Georgia Tech President’s Scholar!
Ibiza and Sevilla July 11, 2012Posted by gtwreck in Travel Log.
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We had our second week-long break this past week, and some friends and I chose to spend it in Ibiza and Sevilla. They were a couple of my favorite European cities so far. They both share the old city feel and each had gorgeous small roads and a couple of great landmarks.
Ibiza is famous for its clubs, but what we found during our short stay is that the beaches and the old city are also things that you must see. We stumbled across this beach on our last day there. It was on the western face of the island and was surrounded on all sides by gorgeous cliffs. Though it was a little crowded, it was a great place to spend a day.
The clubs in Ibiza are world famous for a reason. We went to the most popular one, Space. It was their opening party, so there were several thousand people there and a lot of big name bands and DJs. We sat on the beach outside of the club for a few hours before we went in and were able to get a promotion. We got entrance and a drink for 20 euros.
When I got back from Ibiza, another friend invited me to take a few days and go to Sevilla. I have Eurail days left, so I decided that I would tag along. It ended up being a great decision. We went on two walking tours of the city. We learned that it has a lot more to offer than we could have ever imagined.
Sevilla was once the largest non-coastal port city. All of the gold that was coming in from the Americas actually had to be claimed in Sevilla for a long time. The only reason it ever changed was because of the river flooding unexpectedly. During its “Golden Age”, though, Sevilla was built into a gorgeous city. We saw the small allies of the Jewish district and were able to learn a little bit of the coveted Flamenco dance from our tour guide.
A Rainy Day in Barcelona July 1, 2012Posted by gtwreck in Travel Log.
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It is a rare occurrence, but today we are stuck inside our room because of rain. Since I am inside doing homework all day, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity for me to post about classes in Barcelona. I am taking 12 hours, which is the exact amount you have to take here. I am in CS 4001 (Ethics), CS 2050 (Discrete Math for CS), Technical Communication, and Architecture of Barcelona. Overall, classes are not too strenuous. Teachers all realize that we are in Europe and want to have fun, and they all seem to want to have a good time as well. Other than 2050, all of my classes are discussion based. Our teacher kicks us off and then we take over and talk about whatever topic the class mandates. The only class I even have a test in is 2050, and there are only three compared to the normal four.
We live with our TA’s, which makes any time a great time to seek help in a class that you are struggling with. In fact, earlier today I got my TA to help me with mathematical induction for a problem that I couldn’t figure out. It seems as if the Barcelona Program, even more than Tech, emphasizes learning over grades. Of course everyone here is going for straight A’s, and the teachers are grading fairly, but the environment in the classroom is much less stressful and everyone is encouraged to ask for help whenever they need it.
Barcelona June 20, 2012Posted by gtwreck in Travel Log.
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My first post was about a trip around Europe, and I never mentioned the city that I am living in for the semester. Since Barcelona has been such a blast, I feel as if I owe it its own blog entry.
The pace of Barcelona is vastly different from that of Atlanta, or any other city I have been to in America. The people here will spend hours sitting outside of cafes drinking beer or coffee and chatting. In the afternoon, shops close down and the big metal blinds that cover virtually every window go down and the city takes a “siesta”. Even the students at our university sit outside in between classes and hang out. Even the dogs are more relaxed. There are no leash laws here, but they still stay within a few feet of their owners. They all look happy compared to American dogs and you never see them barking at each other when they pass on the street.
Some of the main attractions in Barcelona include the Sagrada Familia, Montjuic, Placa Reial, and Los Ramblas.
Sagrada Familia is one of the tallest structures in the city, and a clear landmark. It was started by Antoni Gaudi, but to date is not finished. Gaudi has left his mark all over this city, but this cathedral is by far his most popular work.
Montjuic is a castle on top of the mountain that borders Barcelona to the West. There is a park leading up to thecastle, and the top of the mountainprovides breathtaking views of both the city and the ocean. There are also still remnants of the military activity there, like the big cannons facing the seathat used to defend the city from nautical attacks.
Placa Reial is a square in the middle of the old city of Barcelona. There is a large gothic feel to the whole area, but I have recently learned that most of it is a facade put up by the city to attract tourists to the area. It still offers gorgeous views and is a great place to walk around and look at stores and shops. Los Ramblas borders the old city and is the tourism center of Barcelona. It is covered in stores, restaurants, bars, and other tourist attractions.
Barcelona is an incredible city with a lot to offer. Though this was a very general overview of the city, I will break down certain aspects of it in future blogs.
My First Week Long Break from Barcelona June 18, 2012Posted by gtwreck in Travel Log.
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We just got done with the first week off from classes, and it was a busy one. I went with three friends on a train trip around Europe, including 5 different cities. We went to Paris first, then Amsterdam, Brussels for four hours, Berlin, and Zurich. It was a tremendous trip, even though we were perpetually exhausted. Most of our sleep happened on trains while we switched cities!
Our first city was Paris. My grandparents were staying in their summer apartment there, so we had a free place to stay. When we got off of the train, we went immediately to the Arc Du Triumph and found my families apartment, which was a few blocks from there. We were astounded by the size of the Arc and the roundabout surrounding it. After putting our stuff away and having a nice steak dinner, courtesy of grandpa, we went to Europe’s main landmark, the Eiffel Tower. We got there at dusk, and were a few of the last ones to get tickets to go up. We chose to save money and use stairs. There were A LOT of stairs. When we finally got to the first platform, we were more than happy to use the elevator to get the rest of the way up. The view from the top was astounding. Even at night (and in a slight rain) you can see extremely far.
The next day we travelled all over the city. We started at the Arc, and traversed the Champs Elysees to the Concord. We then crossed the Seine and saw the Musee D’Orsay and walked along the river to Notre Dame. There, we ate crepes and took pictures of us imitating the gargoyles. Finally, we headed to the Louvre. It was getting late and they were ready to close up, so we used our free student entrance and sprinted to the Mona Lisa. We made it in time to snap a picture and leave. In all, we spent about 15 minutes getting through the Louvre. It was a lot of fun.
On our final day in Paris, we went to Versailles. The Hall of Mirrors was gorgeous. We saw the bedrooms of Louis XIV and Maria Antoinette. We did not get to walk through the gardens, but we saw them from inside. It was amazing to think that someone once lived there.
When we got off of the train that took us to Holland, we couldn’t believe the amount of bikes. There were bikes everywhere. There is not a great public transport system in Amsterdam, probably because of the canals, so everyone gets around on bikes. The city is fairly small though, so it is not too difficult to bike everywhere you need to go. On the first day in Amsterdam, we explored the city, but retired early to get some sleep.
The second day in Amsterdam was July 12th, Anne Frank’s birthday. We went to the Anne Frank house and explored the museum there. It was an incredibly powerful place. You could hear the bells from the church next door that she references in her diary. We then went to a cheese museum and tried some freshly made Dutch cheese. It was delicious.
We were in Brussels for a total of 4 hours, so we knew that we had to rush to wherever we were going to go. Of course the first thing we had to do was get some authentic Belgian waffles. We found a cafe with wifi and I looked up the best Belgian waffles in Amsterdam. We were lead to Dandoy’s, a century old restaurant that did not disappoint our high expectations. We enjoyed our waffles, looked at a few churches in the area, and then headed to the train station for Berlin.
We got to Berlin right in time to see the second half of the Germany vs. Amsterdam Euro 2012 game. Germany won and we celebrated with the locals. It was some of the most energy I’ve ever experienced. After the game we went to our hostel to sleep for a full 12 hours.
The following morning, we started out towards the Reichstag, but couldn’t get in because it was required to make a reservation online, unbeknownst to us. We then had some wiener schnitzel from a cart on the side of the road and walked with it to the Holocaust Memorial. Like the Anne Frank house, it was a powerful exhibit. It was very interesting to see the German take on the horrible events. After we were finished with the tour, we headed to the Berlin Wall. There was an extensive history of the wall underneath it. We learned a lot about the Cold War and took pictures on the Communist and Capitalist sides of the wall. We then meandered over to Checkpoint Charlie and took pictures of the American post there.
We did not have a lot of time to spend in Zurich, but we spent it efficiently. We first explored the city’s many churches, then sat down next to the river and enjoyed the afternoon. There were amazing views of the Alps throughout the city and the river was incredibly clear since it was composed of snow that had melted in the very recent past. The only downside of Zurich was the pricing. Everything was so expensive that we didn’t want to buy anything, especially food. A single meal at Burger King was the equivalent of almost 15 USD.
Our trip throughout Europe was taxing, but very enjoyable. I added 4 new countries to my list of places that I’ve been, and saw some of the most breath taking sights I’ve ever seen. Though getting to Barcelona and changing into clean clothes after a long shower was pretty relieving, I almost wish the trip was still going on!