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Luxembourg, Belgium, and Germany! May 29, 2013

Posted by Parker Buntin in Travel Log.
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*Disclaimer: There are errors when I try to upload pictures into my posts. I’m working on fixing this. In the meantime, all my pictures are on facebook. Feel free to look through my albums or message me if you want access!*

Bonjour!

I am currently sitting in the GTL student lounge, helping plan multiple trips to Berlin, Switzerland, Pamplona, and other cities. Planning these weekend trips should be considered at least another 4 hour course. They take so much time to plan, searching for different scenarios and planning down everything to the last detail. As tedious as I’m making this sound, it’s so exciting! It certainly pays off too. Let me recount my last two weekends (first two weekends of independent travel).

The first weekend (Friday May 17th through Monday 20th) was a three-day weekend, and my friends and I certainly took advantage of this by visiting three separate cities. First was Luxembourg, Luxembourg. Only an hour away from Metz, Luxembourg was a good start to our trip. My group of 11 friends and I headed to our hostel in the historic section of the city. It may seem odd, but it was so much fun to walk through the city in good company, taking in everything. It took us around an hour and a half to walk to our hostel that should have been about 45 minutes away, all because we stopped every couple minutes to take pictures and laugh our heads off.

In any event, we made it to our hostel, dropped off our stuff, and then went to a pizza place for several hours. The food was wonderful, but we didn’t realize they charged for what we thought was “tap water.” We ended up spending ~35 euros on water. Other than that little snafu, it was a great night!

The next day, we all woke up and toured through the cave fortress that is embedded into the cliffs of Luxembourg’s historic district. It was pretty neat, and the beautiful weather that day added to our enjoyment. We all took lots of pictures of a very beautiful Luxembourg, then headed out to Brussels, Belgium in the afternoon.

Brussels was seemed more industrial than Luxembourg. That was my perception when I got off the train, but that paradigm shifted when we made our way to the hostel. Our hostel in Brussels was in an alleyway connected to the Grand Place Square in the heart of Brussels. The square was filled with tourists and the streets were filled with people. We soon realized that there was a Gay Pride Parade occurring in Brussels that evening. The city got more alive as the night wore on. I think the craziest thing that happened that night was my group running into friends from my dorm at GT randomly in the Grand Place Square. They’re participating in a different study abroad program—I cannot recall which—but we literally bumped into each other and were dumbfounded at what a small world. We found a little restaurant and hung out before they had to take a train back to where they were staying. It was really neat seeing how international GT students really are.

After a fun night in Brussels with good friends and midnight Belgium waffles (so delicious!), my group and I did some more touristy stuff in Brussels before heading to Brugge. Apparently one of the city’s famous attractions is a statue of a peeing boy called Manneken Pis. One of the popular stories that explains the statue is that a naked boy saved the city when a fire broke out by urinating on the fire. Interestingly, the statue has been stolen several times, which reminds me of a certain letter T in Atlanta. My friends and I had chocolate filled waffles for breakfast, which I strongly recommend! : )

Brugge is more tourism-focused than Luxembourg or Brussels. It’s a cute, small little town in northern Belgium surrounded by and interlaced with little rivers. The architecture was still stunning, and the chocolate stores around every corner were a nice addition! My friends and I basically walked around the city all day until we had to leave. Some of our mishap and adventures included talking to people dressed up as wizards and devils, buying lots of chocolate, and relaxing in a park. I almost slipped when trying to get a frisbee that rolled into one of the rivers. Whoops! The weather, once again, was beautiful, which was wonderful.

It turns out we missed the last train from Luxembourg to Metz, so we stayed at the train station over night until the first train in the morning. My mistake, but it led to some impromptu planning and lots of bonding between our group that night. We got back to GTL the next day and I slept most of Monday away.

The next week flew by in the blink of an eye. Lots of studying and movie nights happened and before I knew it, I was leaving for Cochem, Germany to start my castle tour with my friends. We took regional trains through beautiful countryside alongside the Mosel River, which was very flooded due to all the rain from the previous week. We could see the Cochem castle immediately after leaving the train station. It was a sight to behold! The castle overlooked the little city that stretched out along the river in a gorgeous valley. Cochem didn’t really have a night life, which was okay because my friends and I scouted out a delicious little schnitzel place in “downtown.” After a couple hours there, my friends and I returned with full bellies to our quaint, little hotel on the river (it was super nice for the price we got!).

The next day, we left our hotel after an amazing breakfast, only to get distracted with a life-sized chessboard. After a quick game of chess and a vain attempt to reenact wizard’s chess from Harry Potter, we were on our way to Burg Eltz, a popular castle near Müden, Germany. We were all prepared for the 4km hike we had to traverse to get to the castle, but we didn’t quite realize that that hike included going up and over a mountain. Nonetheless, we were blessed with great weather and wonderful views. The top of the mountain looked like something out of The Sound of Music to me. When the castle came into view towards the end of the hike, it was breathtaking. We made our way inside the castle despite taking pictures every two steps, and found that the castle actually seemed like a mini-village inside. This is because Burg Eltz is actually a castle shared by three branches of the Eltz family, each with their own section of the castle. We took a guided tour in English (thankfully) through the castle and got to see all the cool furnishings and rooms that were actually used for hundreds of years. The tour ticket also included admission to the armory and treasury displays in the basement of the castle, which was super neat!

The rest of that day consisted of travel. We decided not to see Cochem castle, which was wise because we made it to our hostel in Kassel, Germany later that night at 11:00PM. Kassel was a bit of a bummer because it rained hard all night and all day. We still trekked through the elements to the Wilhelmshöhe Park to see the Löwenburg Castle. It was cool, but we decided not to take a tour because they were only in German and the next one was a few hours later. We got our fill of pictures and made our way back to the train station to head back to GTL.

Four countries total in two weekends (including France)! Wow, it was a lot, but it was a blast. I can’t wait for Madrid and Barcelona next weekend! More adventures to come! 🙂

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