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A Tale of Two Cities: Munich and Berlin July 17, 2012

Posted by Lizzie Kornegay in Travel Log.
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Guten tag!

Although I visited these two cities four weeks apart, I have decided to bundle them into one blog entry for the purpose of comparison.

We started our first mornings in each city the same: with walking tours of the city.  On both tours, we learned about the history of the cities, namely their role in the rise and operation of the Nazi party.  Though Berlin is often thought to be the main headquarters of the Nazi’s regime, much of the planning and preparations for the Holocaust and Hitler’s rise to power occurred in Munich.  Our guide in Munich took us to the spot where Hitler almost took a fatal shot, which would have prevented the Holocaust entirely.  Instead, his bodyguard took eleven shots in the back.  Amazingly, the bodyguard survived this attack but was later executed on Hitler’s orders ten years later.

On both tours, our guide showed us memorials to those who resisted the Nazi regime or assisted those in danger.  Most of the memorials in Munich were fairly subtle.  For example, there is a path of golden brick leading down ‘Dodger’s Alley,’ a path taken by many who wanted to avoid passing and being forced to salute a plaque in memory of the Nazi ‘matyrs’ who died the day Hitler’s life was spared.  There are also small memorials throughout the city to the writers of the ‘White Rose,’ a resistance leaflet distributed by Hans and Sophie School (brother and sister) and other students of Munich University.  Hans and Sophie were the first to be caught, captured, and executed, and all other known contributors were soon discovered and executed as well.  In Munich, however, the most subtle memorial we saw was where the book burnings of May 1933 took place, right across the street from the university.  Under the ground, below a pane of plexi-glass, is a room with no doors or windows and whose walls are covered in empty bookshelves; ‘the absence of presence,’ or even, ‘the presence of absence.’  We also spent some time at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The memorial is a huge piece of land covered in large concrete blocks of different dimensions placed at different angles.  Walking through the memorial is dizzying; you can’t keep track of the people you go in with, light and temperature decrease as you walk through it, and all of your surroundings disappear.  Just as its designer intended, it cannot be ignored.

On our tours, we also learned how the cities recovered from the war.  Many of the buildings and structures in Munich were recreated exactly as they were before the war, thanks to detailed drawings the city planners had drawn prior to the city’s destruction.  Berlin handled reconstruction differently.  While a few of the buildings were reconstructed with original architecture, much of the buildings were redesigned completely, giving Berlin a much more modern feel.

After our tour in Munich, we went to Dachau Concentration Camp, the first Nazi concentration camp in Germany, where many political and religious prisoners were held along with thousands of Jewish prisoners.  We walked along the ground where the prisoners assembled for roll call every morning, walked through cells where ‘special’ prisoners were held, and walked through bunkers.  We also walked through the crematorium and gas chamber, neither of which were used for mass murder at Dachau, but both were still chilling.  After visiting Dachau, we returned to our hostel, got kebabs for dinner, and settled in for the night.  

The next morning we were up bright and early to catch a train to Neuschwanstein Castle, the castle that inspired the design of the Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World!  We hiked up a hill to the castle, and then hiked a bit further to a bridge with outstanding views of a waterfall, mountains, and of course, the castle!  We took an off-the-beaten-path approach to our return to the bus stop, and wandered upon some Bavarian wildlife, namely huge slugs and snails!  Upon our return to Munich, we met up with one of Danny’s friends who is living and studying in Munich and had dinner at the Hofbräuhaus, a famous 400+ year old beer hall in Munich.  We then enjoyed ‘Spaghetti Ice,’ vanilla soft soft serve ice cream that resembles spaghetti, topped with a strawberry sauce!  We walked around the city for the last time, visiting the English Gardens and Chinese Tower before catching our train back to Metz.

After our tour in Berlin, we ate lunch at Augustines, recommended by our tour guide to those of us who wanted authentic German food.  After lunch, we visited the Neues (‘New’) Museum, which is ironically filled with incredibly old artifacts, mostly from ancient Egypt.  Within the museum is the famous bust of Nefertiti, believed to be the most beautiful woman in Germany.  After the museum, we headed back to the hostel to check in, and decided to check out a burger joint in a former public toilet.  Unfortunately, the ‘Burgermeister’s’ basement was flooded with the rain earlier in the day, so we found a Mexican place nearby which more than sufficed – it was the first time all summer we’d had guacamole, tortilla chips, salsa, queso…many of the things we missed from home.  We got ice cream for dessert and headed back to the hostel for a good night’s sleep.  The next day we went to the Pergamon Museum, where the gates of Babylon are on display, and then to a flea market!  That night we ate dinner at one of the many Vietnamese restaurants in town, and were very glad we did!  Afterward we attempted to go to Suicide Circus, an electronic club in town.  On the Metro on the way there, we ran into two guys heading out to celebrate one of their eighteenth birthdays.  When we got to the club however, the boys were turned down because they only had student ID cards for identification.  Instead we found a cute little book lounge where we hung out for a while before heading back to our hostel.

The next day we visited the Jewish History Museum, which ended up being a bit more history than we’d bargained for.   In the afternoon, we split up.  Molly and I went shopping while the boys went to another museum.  Molly and I found many…eccentric stores filled with jewelry and accessories we would never find in stores at home.  Before catching our train to Metz, we had dinner at White Trash Fast Food, a very interesting restaurant famous for its burgers where the decor of a Chinese restaurant and an Irish pub collide.  The food was great, and we left Berlin happy and full! 

I really enjoyed the two weekends we spent in Germany and have decided that it is my favorite country we’ve visited.  The culture, people, and history make it an incredible enjoyable place to be, and I hope to return soon!

Lizzie 

I amsterdam, now with PEANUT BUTTER!!!! July 2, 2012

Posted by Lizzie Kornegay in Travel Log.
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Hello again!

This past weekend, the my travel group and I ventured to Amsterdam in search of canals, bicycles, and peanut butter! 

We got in late Friday night and went straight to bed.  The next morning we got up bright and early to beat the crowd at the Van Gogh museum.  We learned about the famous artists’ life, the artists he learned from, and the artists he tutored while admiring over 200 of his paintings, including the famous Sunflowers

After the museum, we headed to the closest grocery store to stock up on peanut butter!!  Peanut butter is hard to find and very expensive throughout most of Europe, but Amsterdam is the exception!  We bought enough to get us through lunch and had a picnic in the Begijnhof Courtyard, the home of a 500-year old wooden Catholic Church, a miracle in and of itself.  After lunch, we headed to the train station to meet up our bike tour group!

While it was fun to bike around the city and get around like the locals, we didn’t see as many sights as we were hoping to and decided to go on a Canal Tour the next day in the hope of learning more about the history of the city.  After the tour, we toured the Anne Frank House, where she and her family hid between the time when the Nazis occupied the Netherlands and when they were captured.  We learned about what she and her family experienced while they were in hiding, and what their helpers risked to keep them alive.

For dinner, we found ourselves at the Pancake Bakery, where we experienced Dutch Pancakes topped with cheese, vegetables, fruits, meats, and even ice cream!  The pancakes looked much more like pizzas than any breakfast pastry we’d seen in America.

That night a few of us walked through the Red Light District just to do some people-watching and headed back to our hostel to rest up for the next day.  First on our to-do list: the Rijksmuseum, a museum of Dutch art and artifacts.  We learned about the history of the city and of Holland and saw many works by Rembrandt, including the famous Night Watch.  After the museum, we hopped on a boat for Holland International’s 100 highlights tour.  We saw the city by boat, exploring its canals and learning about various churches, famous buildings, and its booming trade industry.  The canals we traversed were lined with houseboats, most with running water and electricity!

After the tour, we did some last minute shopping and caught our first train home!  We had an hour long layover in Luxembourg near the beginning of the second half of the Euro Cup finals, so we ventured outside of the train station and walked until we found a McDonald’s showing the game.  We went inside, got Magnum McFlurries (which surpass any McFlurry I’ve ever had in America), and watched a few minutes of the game before heading back to the train station.  We new Spain had won when we were welcomed to Metz by Spanish flags being held out of car windows as cars honked their horns all over town!

That’s all for this adventure!  Next weekend we’re heading to Berlin, so check back in a week or so!

Lizzie

Roaming ‘Round Rome! June 28, 2012

Posted by Lizzie Kornegay in Travel Log.
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Ciao!

This past weekend for our five-day break, I traveled to Rome with my friends Megan and Mercedes!  We arrived on Thursday evening, and exhausted from our day’s of travel went right back to our hotel after dinner.  Thanks to my friend Megan’s dad’s hotel points, we stayed in a nice hotel downtown for free!  We watched the first game of the Euro Cup Quarter Finals, Czech Republic vs Portugal (1-0, Portugal), and went right to bed!

First on our list for the next day were the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain.  After taking lots of pictures and throwing coins into the fountain (which supposedly guarantees that we will all return to Rome), we headed to the Pantheon, where we (as engineers) marveled at the ingenuity of its designers.  The dome, 142 feet high and wide, inspired other domes throughout Italy, including Michelangelo’s dome at St. Peter’s in Florence.  The ingenuity of the dome is that the concrete gets thinner and lighter with height, which has allowed it to stand tall for centuries.  There are also square cut-outs in the interior of the dome which reduce its weight without compromising its strength!  Who’da thunk?

After lunch, we headed to the Vatican for our afternoon tour.  Our tour guide was a bit crazy (or as she would say, passionate), but we learned a lot about the history of the Vatican and saw lots of beautiful statues, paintings, and tapestries.  She also explained the most important ‘frescos’ in the Sistine Chapel, where our tour concluded.  We all sneaked some pictures of the ceiling, and spent several minutes marveling at its beauty and imagining how strenuous it must have been to complete.

We ate dinner in Vatican City and then headed to a gelato shop recommended by Rick Steves.  We had to wait in line for at least 15 minutes, but a group of nuns in front of us told us the line was usually much longer.  The gelato was well worth the wait!  Messy but delicious, we all managed to eat our huge servings by the time we got to the nearest metro station.  Back at our hotel, we watched the second game of the quarter finals, Germany vs. Greece (4-1, Germany), and went to bed (you should be noticing at pattern here…though every night we planned to go out, we were so tired by the end of each day that that never really happened).

We started Saturday bright and early at the Colosseum!  Admission price was covered by our Roma Passes, which also let us skip the line, so we went right on in and explored.  Again, we were impressed by the Romans’ engineering skills.  They were able to construct a theater large enough to hold 50,000 people with a stage the size of several football fields and rooms, tunnels, and elevators underneath, and 2,000 years later, it’s still standing!  As impressive their intellect and physical capabilities were, however, their humors were just as (if not more) revolting.  Hundreds of men and animals died on that stage for the shear enjoyment of the crowds.  The ‘shows’ were free to the public, payed for by the government to maintain the peoples’ loyalty and to keep troublemakers off the street.

Next we visited the Arch of Constantine, constructed by the emperor who legalized Christianity in A.D. 312.  He chose to decorate the arch with recycled carvings made for other buildings that glorified previous emperors to put himself on the same level as the rulers of the past.  Next we walked through the Roman Forum, ancient Rome’s birthplace and civic center, and took pictures of what was left of old buildings and structures.

 Saturday afternoon, Mercedes and I caught a train to Pisa.  Once there, we bought a map and were trying to find our way to the tower when we ran into Mercedes’s best friend’s sister, who Mercedes had no idea was in Europe, much less in Pisa!  It’s a small, small world!  We took pictures with the tower, bought postcards, and got some yummy pizza for dinner before heading back to Rome.  When we got back to our hotel, Megan was fast asleep and the third game, France vs. Spain (2-0, Spain) was finishing up.  We cleaned up and went to bed, resting up for our last day in Rome.

We started Sunday at the Borghese Gallery, housed in a cardinal’s mansion.  Here we saw my favorite sculptures of the trip, Bernini’s David, which unlike Michelangelo’s David, shows the young king in action, preparing to sling a stone at the great Goliath, and his Apollo and Daphne,’which shows Apollo attempting to seize Daphne as she is turning into a tree.  When viewed from a certain angle, the viewer sees no woman, just Apollo grasping a beautiful tree.  After the Borghese, we headed back to Vatican City to see St. Peter’s Basilica.  We climbed the 551 steps to the top of the dome, and boy was the view worth the climb!  We could see the entire city spread out before us with beautiful mountains the the distance.  We found what we thought was an ordinary mirror on the outside of the dome and started taking pictures of our reflections when all of a sudden we heard a knock on the glass!  Turns out it was just a one-way mirror with laughing guards on the other side.  We sure made their day!  We climbed back down the stairs and explored the interior of the Basilica.  We saw Pope John Paul II’s tomb, the famous and emotional statue of Mary holding the body of her crucified son, lots of beautiful mosaics, and St. Peter’s tomb.  We stayed for the 5:30 pm mass, which though in Italian, was very interesting, even for a Protestant.  I followed my Catholic friends to know when to sit, stand, and kneel, and learned a lot about Catholicism.

That night was the fourth game of the quarter finals, Italy vs. England, and we had heard from some other GTL kids we ran into at St. Peter’s that the game was going to be projected onto a screen at the Spanish Steps.  Hoping for an exciting evening, we headed to the steps to find only tourists enjoying the steps.  We headed back to our hotel to watch the game, and we all managed to fall asleep in overtime before Italy won the game (4-2) in penalty kicks.

The next morning, Mercedes and I left for our trip back to Metz!  Look for a late entry on my trip to Munich soon and an entry on Amsterdam next week!

Addio!

Lizzie

Rockin’ ‘Laken (Interlaken, Switzerland)! June 18, 2012

Posted by Lizzie Kornegay in Travel Log.
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Guten tag!

I just got back from an AWESOME weekend in Interlaken, Switzerland!  After several weekends spent in big cities, it was refreshing to be in this small outdoorsy city surrounded by snow-capped mountains and crystal blue lakes!  The scenery was positively breathtaking, the people incredibly kind, and the cheese and chocolate were sublime!

We arrived in Interlaken at around midnight on Friday and headed to our hostel to check in and get settled in for the evening.  The next morning we woke before our alarms and set out to see the city (meaning stop by some souvenir stores, wander around, and buy colorful tights).  At lunchtime, we stopped by a grocery store to pick up some sandwiches and had a picnic on the ledge of a lake, staring out at the Alps!  We played in the freezing water for a bit (Danny was the only one who braved the water and actually swam, and that was only on a bet) and headed back to our hostel to get ready for the afternoon.

We had reservations to go Glacier Bungee Jumping that afternoon!  We were told to wear bright colors (hence the colorful tights), so we all put on as much color as we had (except the boys, who picked up some extra-small black tank tops), and headed out for the adventure!  Once we got to the sight, though, we were told that the Canyon Jumping offered at the same price at the same location was a much better experience and much more specific to the area, so we decided to do that instead.  We put on our harnesses, watched several people jump before us, and then one at a time jumped off a small ledge 150 feet above a narrow gorge!  It was the scariest and yet the most thrilling thing I’ve ever done in my life, and where better than in Switzerland?  (See celebratory picture above.)

After risking our lives for fun, we ate dinner at the beer garden at our hostel and settled in for bed.  The next morning we split up.  Danny, Kevin, and Molly went to hike a mountain while Alina, Megan, and I took a boat tour of Lake Thun covered by our Eurail pass.  We hoped to see some caves, but after getting off at the right stop,  climbing steep ramps and stairs, and seeing the entry price, we decided to hold off.  Instead we took pictures by the beautiful waterfalls at St. Beatus and also enjoyed a playground (the kids and parents there enjoyed laughing at us too).  We had another picnic of ice cream and pastries at another stop, and then stopped off at a cute little village with a small waterfront castle before heading back to Interlaken and starting our trek home.

Four trains and a reservation mishap later, here we are back in Metz!  Look for a late post on Munich in a few days and on Rome in a week or so!

Auf wiedersehen!

Lizzie

Austria: Where “Vienna waits for you” and “The Hills are Alive!” June 8, 2012

Posted by Lizzie Kornegay in Travel Log.
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Hello all!

I am studying abroad at Georgia Tech Lorraine in Metz, France this summer and will be writing as much as possible about my adventures across Europe!

This past weekend, some friends and I traveled to Austria for our three-day weekend!  We left Metz Friday afternoon, and after several transfers found ourselves in a tiny sleeper compartment on an overnight train from Koblenz to Vienna.  Upon our arrival the next morning, we dropped off our stuff at our hostel and set out to explore the city!  First stop: the Old Town square.  We started at St. Stephen’s cathedral, constructed in the late seventeenth century under the rule of Leopold I.  The cathedral was absolutely beautiful, with very unique stain glass windows; instead of portraying religious scenes, the panes of each window were different shades of a single color.

Next we were off to Mozarthaus Vienna, the only one of 13 former Vienna residences of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart that still stands today.  It was nice to walk around in his former apartment and stand in the room where The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni were composed, but the house has largely been made into a museum and holds none of the furniture or decorations from Mozart’s time there.

Vienna is famous for its gardens, and as such, we spent much of our time there taking pictures of beautiful trees, flowers, fountains, and statues.  The first garden we explored was Burggarten, or Palace Garden, which was once the backyard of the Hofburg palace.  After taking pictures with a statue of Mozart in front of a flowered treble clef, we were off to Vienna’s Natural History Museum!

The museum houses the most valuable gem collection on the European continent in addition to Venus of Willendorf, a 25,000 year old statue of a woman, believed to have been a symbol of fertility.  We had fun taking pictures with dinosaur bones and beautiful gems, but we had to head back to our hostel to get ready for the evening!

If you’re ever going to see an opera, what better place than Vienna?  Roberto Devereux was showing at Staatsoper, the State Opera House, and standing room tickets were only 3€, so of course we went!  After about an hour, our feet grew tired of standing and our necks tired of craning around the people in front of us, so we headed Prater Amusement Park to take pictures of a famous ferris wheel and get some local food.  Then back to the hostel to rest up for the next day!

We started our second day in Vienna at the gardens of Belvedere Palace.  What we found there was absolutely breathtaking; words cannot describe.  We continued to Schonbrunn Palace.  We were unable to tour the insides of either palace, but their gardens kept us happy for hours!  The picture above was taken on a hill beyond the gardens at Schonbrunn Palace, which is in the background.  We also enjoyed the labyrinth at Schonbrunn but had more fun in the kiddie maze and at the ice cream stand!

After Schonbrunn, we headed back to the train station and caught a train to Salzburg, the setting of The Sound of Music. As such, we of course went on a guided bus tour the next morning which took us to the house whose backyard was used for filming the terrace and lake scenes in the movie.  We also saw the gazebo that housed the ‘Sixteen Going on Seventeen’ and ‘Something Good’ scenes and the park where ‘Do-Re-Mi’ was shot.  Finally, we took a trip to Mondsee, a small town outside of Salzburg, to see the church where Maria’s wedding to Captain Von Trapp was filmed.  While we couldn’t explore it, our tour guide pointed out the abbey where the real Maria lived, which was also where she was married to Captain Von Trapp.

After our tour, we hiked up to the Hohen-Salzburg Fortress, whose presence kept away any potential attackers for 1,000 years.  It was opened to the public in the 1860s and provides fabulous views of the city and of the Alps!  After the fortress, we headed back to the train station to catch a train to Munich and then spent an uncomfortable 7.5 hours on an old overnight train back to Metz.

That’s all for this trip!  Coming soon: Munich, Interlaken, and Rome!

Lizzie