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Brussels, Amsterdam, and Munich! June 30, 2013

Posted by mjmaurer7 in Travel Log.
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I’m finally on my way back to Barcelona. I loved every second of the trip, but a week of constant travel is very tiring. This half of the trip was more experiencing culture than sightseeing. It started off in Zurich.

There was nothing particularly interesting in the city itself except maybe the people. One thing that stuck out was an almost complete lack of crosswalks. Pedestrians pretty much weave in between the trams and the cars to get where they are going. Plus, the sidewalks sometimes blend into actually roads, making the situation more difficult. On the more serious side of things, on a subway ride in Zurich, we were stopped by the metro police because we no passports to go along with our eurail passes. Thankfully, we were staying with my friend’s uncle, and he was able to bring our passes to the next stop. They had four officers wait with us at the stop along with three security personnel. It was incredibly awkward, and I apologized in every language I knew afterward. Her uncle later told us that running away from the police is pretty common, thus the extra security.
Speaking of the people in Switzerland, I happened to be taking a train to Zurich by myself and I had a great conversation with three swiss people. We started talking after they heard me speak English. Two of them were a couple headed to a birthday party, and the third was headed to a business meeting. After talking about some great places to go in Switzerland, the topic changed to America. Everyone there had been, and they said they found people in America nicer than those in Europe. The business woman (her boss happened to be from Kentucky) did say that the American system of production could use some work. According to her, Americans prefer the “quick and dirty” method of quickly producing a product and making improvements each time. The Swiss prefer to do it right the first time no matter how long it takes. Another thing I noticed was that the birthday cards all started off “Happy Birthday to you!” I was very surprised about the English, and asked them about it. Apparently it is a very common way to say happy birthday, and it was the first time I realized how prevalent English was in other cultures. At the end of the trip, the couple gave me their email, phone, and address in Switzerland, along with a beer they were taking to the birthday party. I don’t plan on actually drinking the beer because I think it would be funnier if I take pictures with the beer around Europe and send the pictures back to them. I will post progress pictures.

Belgian Waffle!

The next stop of the trip was Brussels, where we met up with a bunch of other people from the Barcelona program. The stay was for two days, and it consisted mainly of eating. Brussels’ food is phenomenal. I must have had three waffles, and it didn’t help that our hostel was right next to a chocolate factory. It was my first time staying at a hostel, and I have to say I’m a big fan. It lets you meet people from all over, the only problem is the showers. You have to hold down a button to get water drizzled over your head. I am so glad a got a haircut beforehand.  One last thing about Brussels, the grand plaza is beautiful at night, because the biggest tower starts to change colors.

Brussels’ Grand Place

After Brussels came Amsterdam, still with the whole group. Maybe it was because our hostel was a minute from the red light district, but Amsterdam came off as a very sketchy city. I never really felt in danger, but there is just a lot there that we were not used to. The red light district was more sad than interesting, but highlights include the Anne Frank House, the Van Gogh Museum, and the IAmsterdam sign.

IAmsterdam Sign with friends from Barcelona

Next, it was on to Munich with just the two of us. Our entire first day in Munich was spent at old castles in the country. Even though the weather was bad, the castles were absolutely beautiful. Also, there were a lot of interesting facts from that day. For instance, the king who built the castles was gay and had trouble dealing with the situation, so he spend a lot of time in seclusion (of course no one knew he was gay until years later in his journals). When we got back to Munich, we fell asleep almost immediately (we were pretty tired by this point). The next morning (this morning) we headed for a German Beer Garden. Even though I have never lived in Germany, I felt some connection to the atmosphere because I have a very German family and name (that sounds odd but it was a weird feeling). At the hall, there were huge pretzels, meat everywhere, and massive glasses of beer. We stayed for a while before we had to depart to catch our last train, where I am now.

Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria

And so ends my weeklong break. The second half of the trip includes a lot more travel, so these posts will hopefully stay interesting. Until next time!

June 5-7: The Netherlands August 10, 2010

Posted by Stefanie Olivier in Travel Log.
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We visited Amsterdam in the Netherlands, one of the most imperative stops for any tourist in Europe, during our third weekend spent in Europe. Since we started travelling to the city on Saturday morning, we didn’t arrive there until the afternoon. The several train rides we had to take to get there, though, were saturated with interesting sights. In Luxembourg we saw countless castles and old-fashioned mansions, in Belgium, one really impressive train station (the Liege train station), and in the Netherlands, fields of modern power-generating windmills. Every train that we traveled in was different from the others as well. In one of them, the seats within a single compartment could be folded down to form one massive bed! (As a side note, I really recommend traveling via train in Europe. And getting the Eurail Pass to do it. It saves you big time!)

After we arrived in Amsterdam, we encountered another very impressive train station; however, its classical architecture looked very out of place within its unkempt surroundings, which included disorganized bicycle parking lots, smelly outside urinals, and flyers for a tattoo convention strewn everywhere. We took our time strolling through the Red Light District while at the same time searching for our Hostel Arosa. After we found our hostel and relaxed in our room a little bit while a Dutch orchestra played what sounded like Dutch melodies from five floors beneath our window (we seemed to be greeted by live folk music in every country we visited), we walked to Amsterdam’s China Town and had dinner there. For the rest of the night we strolled up and down the canals of the city, familiarizing ourselves with its sights, sounds, and smells.

The following day we familiarized ourselves even more with the sights available in Amsterdam, this time by visiting museums instead of aimlessly wandering along its canals. We took our time examining the masterpieces found in the Van Gogh Museum, read all the stories behind the devices displayed in the Torture Museum, and were moved by the exposition in the Anne Frank House. A couple of intermediate stops in Dutch shops made that an all-day experience, and after we walked through the Red Light District at night (a very unusual adventure!), we were ready for bed.

We rented bikes the next day and made extensive use of them to see the part of the city we weren’t able to see on foot. After we had breakfast within a windmill that was renovated to serve as a restaurant, we pedaled to Vondel Park and raced on its cemented pathways until we saw an incredibly big tree. Within seconds, the guys in our travel group climbed onto its branches, followed closely by the girls in the group. Surprisingly, no one ordered us out of the tree; only one passerby called us “apies” (which means monkeys) and told us how he used to climb in that very same tree during his childhood. Soon, our train’s departure time approached, and we had to hurry back to catch it.

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Two Weeks in the Heart of Europe June 4, 2010

Posted by eranmordel in Travel Log.
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It is quite hard to believe that I’ve been in Europe for a little over two weeks! To think that I’m taking a semester of classes while traveling is a little mind-wrenching. I came here with no clue what to expect, and now I feel that even 11 weeks are not near enough to scale Europe — there is so much to see and do.

The real benefit of the program, beyond studying/living in a new environment and seeing Europe firsthand, is the people I meet and the depth of which I acquaint with them. Georgia Tech Lorraine provides the perfect balance of platforming an entire new mentality [of Europe] and keeping the comfort zone of Georgia Tech. I appreciate those I meet in restaurants, hostels, festivals, etc. and absolutely value my new/old friends with whom I travel.

That said, my classes thus far have been… well, they have been classes at Georgia Tech. It is nearly the same as in Atlanta, but my professors are much more reasonable about the timing of homework, tests, and class material — they take a personal interest in their students’ traveling schedules, which is quite refreshing and convenient. We work hard during the week and do not waste much time, take our homework on the [endless] train rides, and then have the weekend to relax and spend anywhere in Europe doing anything we’d like. Anywhere in Europe, anything we’d like. (more…)

Shock and Awe Campaign June 2, 2010

Posted by Hunter Hammond in Travel Log.
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Hello Again,

It has been a while since I have been able to write; however, I wanted to make an update on my trip to Berlin and on my recent adventures in Amsterdam and in Brussels. The last two weeks have been amazing, tiring and exhausting, but wonderful nonetheless! As I mentioned in my last post, I spent a few days in Berlin and in a small German town called Fussen. While in these places I made it a point to enjoy as much international flare as possible; however, I also made it a point to stay up to date on my task to discern the common opinion regarding the European Union and its relation to the country.

In Berlin, it is important to understand that the city was once two independent municipalities and that it has a very long and dark past. These characteristics have left a visible mark on the city, as well as on its inhabitants. I made it a point to talk to as many English speaking (there are many) residents as possible. These people ranged from tour guides, to shopkeepers, to business people, to even younger adults as well. For the purpose of this post, I want to focus on two main people; the first is David, our tour guide. David did an exceptional job at explaining the history of the city and at providing comedic relief when necessary. Two hours into our tour, I began to feel that I had a vague recollection of what he felt of the city. He loved it! He spoke with passion and fervor, his eyes lit up when he spoke about a particular area of the city or of the success that was finally met once the wall fell down; I knew that he would give me the response of a deeply nationalist individual. I expected that he would tell me the EU was a shadow government that hoped to establish a new world order at the expense of Germany; however, I was proven wrong. When asked about his general opinion of the EU, David responded by going off on a five minute monologue explaining how the EU was paramount to the success of Europe! He said that the EU was the way to unite Europe and to weather the economic storm to come. He was very adamant that he was not an economist, but that he felt that Germany was uniquely better because of the European Union.

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