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The Hills are Alive… July 5, 2013

Posted by Katie Pokrant in Travel Log.
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This past weekend was the first time in a while we had had a two-day weekend- since we had hit the majority of the cities close to us, we decided to head to the reasonably close city of Interlaken. Interalaken is a cute Swiss town situated in the Alps with a beautiful lake and view. I am originally from Colorado and therefore have an extremely soft spot for mountains and hiking, so I couldn’t wait to get out of the big cities we had been traveling to and into nature.

We arrived Saturday morning around 12. Of course, it was raining and extremely foggy- we couldn’t even see the lake or the mountains when we got there! We had planned on renting kayaks, but we couldn’t see anything and it was pouring so we couldn’t. Interlaken is a pretty sleepy town- there isn’t much to do there besides adventure sports or hiking, and all of that as basically out for the afternoon. Instead, we spent some time in the hot tub at our hostel and taking a nap (I know, very lame). However, we did happen to find peanut butter, and all promptly bought a jar to bring back to Metz. For some reason, they don’t make peanut butter in France so it’s a huge treat! We had to pay for it in Swiss franks (the first time we haven’t been able to use Euros!) and their coins and bills are super weird and almost trippy. Also, I feel that it is an art in itself to figure out how much money to withdraw for the weekend so you don’t have to withdraw multiple times and incur bank fees but also not have any left over.

Although Interlaken doesn’t have a super happening night life, the hostel we were staying at just happened to have the most popular dance club in Interlaken in it’s basement. We realized this fact after we had changed and gotten into our PJ’s, but no matter- Katie N. and Andree and I headed down anyways, PJ’s and all. There was a ton of GTL students there, and although the club was a little grungy, we had a great time dancing around and talking to people. I love dancing, although I am absolutely terrible at it (maybe that’s why it’s so fun?)

The next morning, we woke up bright and early to start hiking. A lot of our friends went canyoning and bungee jumping, but at this point our groups euros were running a little low and we opted to hike instead. After stuffing ourselves with free toast, swiss cheese, and Nutella (one of our many mottos of the summer is “If it’s free, you pee or eat”). In order to get to the trail we wanted to go on, we had to take a train to Grindelwald, and from there take a Gondola from Grindelwald up to First. I wasn’t originally planning on going on a Gondola ride, but I am so glad we did. It was amazing to see how green and gorgeous the Swiss Alps were- I felt like I was in the middle of a postcard during our entire hike!

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We then proceeded to hike up to a beautiful lake, and then through something that was almost a valley up to a view of three beautiful peaks. We weren’t expecting there to be so much snow on the path and it was sort of slick, but despite the multiple falls of Jessica, Andree, Katie N. and I into the snow, we had an amazing time. When we were at the Vatican a few weeks ago, one of my friends had said that there was where she felt God, but on top of the mountains in the Alps is where I felt closest to God and the world around me. The view of the three peaks was absolutely breathtaking, and worth the hours of hiking it had taken to get there. It was almost a surreal feeling being in the Swiss alps, and I felt like I was on top of the world.

After another hour down a steep trail known as “The Trail of Flowers”, we caught a Gondola back down the mountain. Oddly enough, this steep downhill slope was by far the hardest part of the hike, even more so than the steep uphills we had done earlier. We had to run to catch the next train, which was interesting considering how much we had hiked that day. However, we made it, picked up some Swiss chocolate and a shot glass, and headed back to Metz.

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I have decided that backpacking through the Swiss Alps is something I would really love to spend more than 6 hours doing in the future, and something I will definitely be back to Europe to finish. Mountains speak to me, and the Alps are no exception!

 

First Days Out of Spain! June 16, 2013

Posted by mjmaurer7 in Travel Log.
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A LOT has happened since my last blog post. I am currently writing this on a train headed to Zurich from Lucern in Switzerland, but I won’t be able to upload it until I have a laptop so I can add pictures easily.

So last time I left off, I was about to head to Tarragona (a city an hour down the coast from Barca) for a day. I woke up that morning bright and early to catch the earliest train possible to Tarragona. It was my first time on the train system and I was going by myself, so I made sure to triple check the correct train. At the train station closest to myself, I quickly found out that there was no option to buy tickets for the train. Realizing I was going to miss the first train, I headed over to Sants (the biggest station there). I had a whole hour and a half to figure out how to get there. After about an hour, I was getting pretty worn out, and I still wasn’t any closer to my ticket. I had waited forever in the ticket window, only to find out that the person couldn’t speak English and I had to wait again.

All of the sudden, someone jumps on my back. Being in a foreign country with no one I knew around, adrenaline started pumping. However, having stood in line for an hour, I was too tired to do anything about it. After the dude on my back started hugging me, I figured out it wasn’t some crazy Spaniard. It turns out it was a very good friend visiting from Madrid who was studying abroad from University of Kentucky. We weren’t able to meet up that weekend because neither of us could communicate without phones or constant Internet and we kept getting lost. I had no idea he would be at the train station so I was happy to see him, but I got worried when I noticed he was having trouble talking.

As it turns out, he had his bag stolen at the station. The bag had his wallet, passport and all of his other belongings in it. He had no way of getting back to Madrid because he had no phone or money. We literally couldn’t believe that we happened to see each other in such a big station without any prior knowledge. After I helped him get a ticket, he helped me order the pass to Tarragona because he was near fluent in Spanish. So as it turns out, it worked out for both of us. After all this, I still happened to barely miss the train. I decided to go back after that, and I was dazed all day because I was so dumbstruck. Sorry that took long to tell, but it was one of the most odd, least likely things to ever happen to me. Picture below.

Me and Sean

The next two weeks were more of the same. That next weekend, a lot of the people from the GTL program came to Barcelona. A few of them were even fellow purple snakes! I went with some of them around Barcelona, and it was perfect weekend to be there: bright, sunny, and very warm. We did all of the Barcelona activities that weekend like beach, tan, parks, and clubbing. It was a solid weekend, but I was still looking forward to the week-long break that was a week away.

The first stop of the trip was going to be Zurich in Switzerland. My friend who I was traveling with me had an Uncle that lived in Zurich, so we made Zurich our base camp in Switzerland. We had Eurail, which meant a lot of train travel. The night train was incredibly long, and it was my first time hearing French. There was a small fight in the train that night, and we did not understand a word of it. It was very uncomfortable, especially because it was almost right next to us. One benefit of the trains is the layovers though. There are some beautiful towns that we got the chance to stop through such as Cerbere in France (pictured below) that we never would have seen otherwise.

Cerbère, France

When we got to Zurich that day, we were supposed to head directly to Interlaken for canyoning. Unfortunately, the canyoning was moved due to weather, and so my friend decided to go to Zurich for the whole day while I headed to Interlaken by myself (I had paragliding scheduled for that day as well!). Here’s where the very bizarre circumstances start. On the train ride, I happened to meet two girls from Atlanta who were now going to college in Kentucky. After talking for a while about how we had switched places for school, we walked around a little when the train arrived in Interlaken. Interlaken was stunning. There were huge mountains with a lake reflecting them, and it was a perfectly sunny day.

I said goodbye to the girls and headed to the paragliding base. The circumstances continued as I happened to run into the group from GTL that I had seen the week before. We chatted for a while, and soon it was time for paragliding. Paragliding may have been the best experience in my life. Interlaken was even more beautiful from thousands of feet up. The guide let me steer for a while and did all of the tricks. Again, the group that I was going with happened to be from Cincinnati (15 minutes from where I live in Kentucky).

Me steering the ship

The next day, we were back in Interlaken for canyoning. Have you ever tried hiking in a wet suit? It is very difficult. The workout was worth it, and now I have some good footage of me failing at rappelling. After Interlaken came Lucern, where I’m headed from now. The train there was a huge surprise. It took us through the hills with a great view of the alps and smaller villages. We didn’t have as much time in Lucern as we planned for, so right when we got off the train, we picked a spot on the high hills and headed there. It took us a while, but we were rewarded with a great view of Lucern, the lake and the alps. And here we are, on the train back to Zurich. Stay tuned for more vacation adventure featuring Brussels, Amsterdam, and Munich!

Switzerland August 3, 2012

Posted by Frederick Grimm in Travel Log.
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Though I have enjoyed seeing the beauty of the old cities in the countries I have visited, I was thrilled to see the natural beauty of the Alps in Switzerland!

Though we did not have much time here, we certainly were able to see alot!  The adventure started in Interlaken.  I did not do traditional ‘touristy’ activities like caving, skydiving, or vanyoning.  Instead, I followed the advice of Miller Templeton and traveled to Lauterbrunnen.  It is now tied with Fiji for the most beautiful place on Earth!  The small town located in a valley beneath the Alps with waterfalls streaming on both sides was truly a sight to behold!  We found a hiking trail and continued upwards until we could see the Jungfrau, the highest point in Europe!  We pulled out our swiss cheese and chocolate and snacked for several hours while taking in the view.

The next day was spent in Zermatt.  Zermatt was exactly what I thought a Swiss town would look like, complete with alpine homes and traditional swiss yodelers.  We started the hike up to see the Matterhorn.  After several  minutes of hiking, its sharp top became visible.  What a sight!!!!  I was certainly taken back by its sheer scale.  The hike was gorgeous and the mountain air was noticeably fresh.  Here, I spent quite some time laying in the wildflowers gazing at the mountain.  We all slept well that night after our mountain hike!

Our final adventure before heading back to GTL was in Zurich.  I had no idea what was in Zurich, but we made the most of it!  There had just been an Ironman triathlon competition the day before we arrived, so many people were wearing their Ironman shirts (I really would like to complete an Ironman before leaving college, so this was very cool for me to see!).  We saw the large lake in the center of the city, and we were very surprised by the large fountain in the middle!  We walked closer to the fountain, and we noticed several people taking laps in the lake.

From this, I put two and two together and assumed I could just swim out to this behemoth fountain.  Though the water was freezing, it was completely worth it.  I swam to the fountain and my friends took some very neat pictures of me under the massive shoots.

Looking back, I could not have predicted that Switzerland would have been this beautiful.  I cannot wait to visit again!!

Ahhhhhh the Swiss Alps June 10, 2011

Posted by Senthuran in Travel Log.
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This past weekend (June 2nd -5th) I spent my time in Interlaken,Switzerland. Interlaken,Switzerland is a quaint little town set in the backdrop of the gorgeous Swiss Alps. There were opportunities for lots of pricey outdoor activities such as canyoning, para-gliding and even canyon-swinging. But the hiking was so incredible that one would not feel having lost out on not doing any of the outdoor activities. I managed to do 3 really good hikes with a group of ten people and I enjoyed every minute of it. Coming back toMetz was a sad day in that I simply did not want to leave. The hostel that we spent the nights had a warm and cosy atmosphere from which you could get great rest before beginning the next day’s adventures. I am eagerly looking forward to going back and being able to do another hike up in the Swiss Alps. This trip has been so far the most expensive but it was worth every Frank cent. The Swiss Alps are the outdoor lovers’ dream we were very lucky in that on the days we hiked it was nice and sunny. The day we left it rained but it was fitting and we were thankful the rain held off till then. Currently this trip stands as my most favorite trip this summer and the bar has been set high for the rest of the trips. The question is whether the degree of awesomeness has already peaked or is something better still to come? Stay tuned to find out! So long from France everybody or as they say in French au revoir.

Interlaken Ost

We just got off the train and on our way to the hostel. Downtown Interlaken folks.

Atop the ridgeline

Standing along trail in Schinge Platte. 2000 meters elevation.

Lauterbrunnen known as the valley of 72 waterfalls. You can catch a glimpse of one just behind the tree.

One month, one program, and many fantastic experiences! June 9, 2011

Posted by Andy Barrenechea in Travel Log.
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Bonjour amis! (That’s “hi friends” for those of you not fluent in French)

So, just the other day I received my GT Career Services planner from my parents (because I can’t live without it and of course I left it at home), and was filling in my classes when I realized I’ve been in Europe for a whole month now! Crazy!?!? I arrived a week before classes began at GTL and traveled with my sister throughout Germany, Italy, and France and in the past weeks I’ve added to my repertoire of locations visited in Europe. For the first weekend (a 2-day) I decided to stay local and explore the city of Metz with my good friend, Senthuran. Turns out the decision was a good one because we learned where to reserve trains, figured out the bus system, and even got to see St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Check out some pictures below:

The Cathedral in Metz.

In case you get lost!

For the second weekend (a 3-day) I decided to visit Paris, a close, but yet exciting destination. We initially planned on going to the French Open, but soon found out that tickets had to be bought online (bummer!), but that turned out to be a good thing because we were able to see so much more – Eiffel Tower, Rodin Museum, Amaretto (best gelato in the world), Napoleon’s tomb, Versailles, and the Louvre. Check out some pictures below:

I'm underneath the Eiffel Tower!

Best gelato in the world :)

Yeah, we wear ponchos!

And finally, this past weekend (a 4-day) the group decided to go to Interlaken, Switzerland and what a beautiful and exhilarating experience this was! When we arrived we went for a short evening hike just outside the town of Interlaken, the second day we went on a longer hike that culminated in a quaint little town called Murren, and on the third day I went Canyoning, which was the most adrenaline-filled 3 hours of my life!!! No pictures are available from the canyoning experience, so a YouTube video will have to do:

That day ended in a short hike to one of the lakes on either side of Interlaken and relaxing in a hot tub at Balmers (our hostel), so all in all an awesome trip! Check out some pictures below:

Lots of places to see!

Check out the vista!

There's snow!

Stay posted for more experiences, people, videos, and photos!!!

Au revoir,

Andy

Bern, Baby Bern August 15, 2010

Posted by nsondej in Travel Log.
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This past weekend we visited Bern, Switzerland, partly on a whim, partly because it was the only place we could get train tickets to. After planning a bunch of trips for a couple of weeks out, we unfortunately neglected to plan a trip for the nearest weekend. As this was the case, we simply packed our bags and showed up at the Metz Ville Gare SNCF (the train station) after class and decided to let fate (or more accurately, the lottery that is the Metz ticket office) point us towards our weekend destination. It turns out that Metz, being simply a stop along a major rail route, has very little in the way of tickets or destinations. With this is mind, we took the first train to Luxembourg (which is a major hub) and found a much better offering of destinations at our disposal.

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Drumfest 2010 June 24, 2010

Posted by Emi Leonard in Travel Log.
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The beautiful Swiss landscapes

This past weekend I went to Interlaken, Switzerland with Lexie, AJ and Dylan. We had a wonderful time canyoning and seeing the beautiful scenery, but the best time we had was completely spontaneous and unexpected.

It all began when we kept spotting people rather strangely dressed. It reminded me of Colonial Williamsburg. These people were often in brightly-colored and old-timey clothing, carrying drums and travelling in large groups. We constantly found ourselves wondering who these people were and why they had so many drums.

We were leaving a restaurant late Saturday night when suddenly (more…)

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