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Coming Home August 14, 2011

Posted by mrubin888 in Travel Log.
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The end of my trip was weirdly relaxing. Getting back to school after the second travel week gave off all of the familiar feelings. Classes eased up and general motivation of many hit an all time low. People weren’t frustrated at classes, just a little bit of tired from all of their adventures through Barcelona and all of the other European cities that they had visited. It seemed like everyone was ready to get back to the states.

But the last day we took a morning busride to the airport at 6AM. And just as everyone had seemed ready to leave for home just a tiny bit earlier, people were now dreading leaving. No more spending your every day relaxing on the nearby beach. No more crazy nightlife and beautiful city landscapes. Barcelona was truly a special city, and we had all learned it to be a bit of a home. And who’s to say it wasn’t? I mean we acted like locals and were treated like locals. Many of us with little experience had caught on to the basics of Catalon and Spanish. We all knew the fastest way to our school (UPC) and the beach, along with many other places throughout Barcelona. Coming home we realized how much we would miss the little things…. the friendly staff of our residence hall, our favorite kebab place, the incredibly fresh markets.

I won’t say that it wasn’t a little nice landing back on familiar soil and seeing our closest family and friends. But Barcelona was an amazing trip, and the city became a home to me over an incredible 12 weeks.

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A Trip to Paris August 14, 2011

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During the second travel week, I visited a few cities with two good friends. One of those cities was Paris.

Now Paris has some pretty cool attractions. I couldn’t see them all, but I did see quite a few.

The Eiffel Tower was incredibly tall, visibly impressive for all nearby to see. We didn’t get to climb it, but if I ever do go back to Paris I would really like to. You’d be able to see the whole city from its top as it just towers over the city. Another cool thing about the Eiffel Tower was the light show that went off at night as the tower appeared to shimmer and glitter.

The Louvre was amazing, by far the biggest museum I had ever seen. We got there really early but the line was already long. It took us a short time to get through, and the inside of the museum was incredible. The museum was separated into several sections, each one greater than any other collection that I’d ever seen. The pyramid in front is amazing, and the Mona Lisa is as eerily beautiful as it has always been portrayed.

Some of the other things in Paris were pretty cool too. The Arc was an interesting city landmark. Notre Dame was almost as beautiful as the history it held.

Paris had some really cool things to see, and from both standpoints of history and beauty, it was an awesome city. Would I ever go back? I don’t know. But it was certainly a fun trip.

The Festival of Sant Joan August 14, 2011

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One of my favorite nights in Barcelona was the night of the Festival of Sant Joan. Now this particular festival is kind of like the Fourth of July with two main differences. The first difference is that everyone goes to the beach to celebrate the holiday. The second, and much more noticeable difference, is that the fireworks are going off pretty much beneath your feet.

Yea, you heard that right. I went to the beach at around 9 and met up with almost everyone else on the GT Barcelona trip… and so began one of the most terrifying and most fun nights of my life. The beach shined radiantly by the light of bonfires and fireworks. Everyone participated in the celebration. You could see everything from small children dropping firecrackers behind them as they walked to people launching fireworks in every direction… including horizontally. I saw a few people almost get hit… It was all absolutely insane, unlike anything I’d ever seen in the states.

The amazing thing though was how relaxed and happy everyone was. While it certainly took me a little bit of time to get used to the situational fun, all of the locals seemed at ease and everyone had a lot of fun. We even all ran into the ocean with our clothes on at midnight. It was probably my favorite night of the entire Barcelona trip. Huddled around a warm bonfire on a beautiful Barcelona beach we gazed out at the open ocean as fireworks lit the sky… Nothing could have been more perfect.

A City Lost in Time July 18, 2011

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When planning my travels throughout Europe, I had a lot of decisions to make. I had only a limited amount of free time that I wanted to spend traveling and really wanted to minimize my travel expenses. Having already traveled to Italy, England, Greece, Turkey, and a few other European countries, I decided to branch off a little and visit a bit of a less popular city. I ended up deciding on Prague.

Having never been attacked in WWII (except accidentally by a lost group of US fighter planes), Prague never had the need to build anything in the 20th century. The result of this is somewhat magical. One could never believe the beauty that the city has retained all these years. The city is full of mystical medieval castles, beautiful stone bridges, and the famous Astronomical Clock, which is not just huge but also provides a little show every hour at the hour.

I stayed at a hotel in old town. The location was perfect. While the streets were all winding and a bit confusing to navigate, I could wander in just about any direction and find something awesome, and then just find my way back. It was kinda cool, not gonna lie.

One part of Prague that I felt a very strong personal connection to was its historic Jewish Quarters. While I found out that Prague has a very minimal Jewish population in the modern age (being mostly atheist/agnostic and a little bit Catholic), the old Jewish Quarters have been incredibly well preserved. Upon visiting I got to see AMAZING old synagogues, statues, monuments, and a variety of other historic pieces of architecture that stood a testament to the Jews who had lived and prayed there. This part of town was also especially beautiful.

I really loved Prague. I guess the reason why is that it really didn’t even seem real. Prague looks like the kind of city that people right fantasy novels about with knights and wizards, kings among common men. I would definitely go back.

The Barca Game July 18, 2011

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I’ve been in Barcelona for a bit now and my studies are well under way. So I decided that now would be a more than good time to start talking about the beginning of my summer, while all of the details are fresh in my head.

Getting off the plane, the differences between Barcelona and Atlanta were enormous and obvious. The city I walked into was not modern in the traditional sense of the word. Technology here is not totally up to date, superstores are nonexistent, and architecture has clearly been preserved. Strangely, this is not a reflection of economic stature. What I have slowly found from my time in Barcelona is that the people here really enjoy their little old city. They enjoy their small supermarkets and their outdoor cafes. All of these things contribute to the soul of the city, something that is possibly stronger here than any other city I’ve ever been to. The people of Barcelona really love their city.

This was never more apparent than the night of the Championship Cup game between FC Barcelona and Manchester United. This night was crazy. After spending the day relaxing and painting our faces, we decided to go to watch the game at the Arc de Triomf, where a public showing was scheduled on two incredibly large outdoor screens. Walking there, EVERYONE was wearing FC Barcelona colors (red, blue, yellow) and most people had their faces painted and jerseys on. We got there a bit early so that those who wanted to could take part in the pregame festivities, and it was pretty decently crowded. But by the time the game started, it was packed. There had to have been like 50000 people there, each and every one of them rooting for the same team.

With each goal the crowd went insane. By the time the game ended with a score of 3-1 Barca, the sky was full of flares and fireworks, the air was full of smoke, people were covered from shower after shower of champagne, and just like the city they love so much, the crowd was full of passion. An awesome night… Never seen anything like it.