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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!

 

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Barcelona!! (Pronounced Barthelona) May 26, 2013

Posted by mjmaurer7 in Travel Log.
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(Please forgive the lack of photos for now. It says I have to compress them down to 60 kb)

Two weeks have never flew by this fast! So much has happened since I arrived that it will be hard to pack into one post, but I’ll do my best to give the highlights.

Stepping out from the plane after a nine and a half hour flight was certainly disorienting. As I walked past the airport security agents, I noticed something incredibly odd. They were speaking a different language to each other. For some reason, it had never really sunk in that this would happen. I think half of me expected for there to be an English translation of what they were saying over the loud speaker. Still, I moved along to customs where I started to break out the Spanish. I delivered “Hola!” and “Gracias!” with the charm of an American tourist. The agents rolled their eyes, and I continued on my journey.

A short bus ride later, and I was at my dorm. One of the things that struck me immediately about Barcelona was all of the graffiti and art lining the streets. I had always pictured every city in Spain to be picturesque and quaint. The art gave the city a much more urban feel, and I liked it.

The first day consisted of experiencing the fresh markets in Spain, pointing to pictures on menus, and taking naps on public benches (which is totally acceptable here). Despite the lack of sleep, many people decided to go out for a taste of the Barcelona nightlife. We headed to a club, and I soon discovered something hilarious. One of the rooms in this club had an “American” theme. The DJs were donning jean overalls, American flags lined the walls, and a completely random video of Dolly Parton was being looped in the background. I spent most of my time in that room. However, the best part of the club was the people. Over that night, I met a group of three Italians, five Germans, a guy from France, and a girl from Barcelona. Most of them were on “holiday”, and they all spoke some English with the exception of the Italians (communicating with them was like playing charades). They all had different stories to tell and differing opinions of Barcelona and America. (The most interesting fact: the girl from Barcelona learned English almost exclusively from American movies)

Barcelona Beach

Barcelona Beach

After a long night, we woke up the next morning to explore more of Barcelona. We headed down to the beach during the day, witnessed a spontaneous parade over lunch, and hiked up to Monjuic in the afternoon. For reference, Monjuic is a old military base overlooking the town. It was great to get a sense of Barcelona so early. I never would have been able to grasp the layout otherwise. Monjuic also provided an interesting mix of old and new. The base was built in the 1600s, and includes cannons that are now covered in graffiti. I thought that I would be opposed, but it actually provides a very interesting contrast. On the way down, we passed through parks and other landmarks while being informed by the group’s leader Sabir Kahn. He was incredibly knowledgeable about Barcelona and filled us in on a lot of Catalonia history.

Soon, it was time to go to class. Unfortunately, the campus we are commuting to is 40 minutes away by Metro :(. Still, it is nice to see college life outside of the states. For most of the week, I was able to explore Barcelona during the night. Sometimes, I would wander to a new part of town to see if I could discover anything new. Because the program is split between CS and Architecture majors, the programmers are getting much more exposure to architecture. One place I traveled to was the German Pavilion, which is extremely prevalent in Architecture. I went with a couple architects, and they explained to me why the building was so important. Their excitement was very interesting. However, the weekend soon rolled around, and I had the opportunity to go to two extremely exciting events: the X-games and the FC Barcelona game.

While at the X-Games, we got to see Moto-X and skateboarding big air. It was a lot more exciting than what you see on TV, but the announcers spoke Catalan (different from Spanish) so it was hard to understand. Another amazing thing was the age of the competitors.   The kids probably averaged 16. On Sunday, we traveled to Camp Nou for the Barcelona game. We fought freezing rain, but there was still a surprising amount of people out. One thing about Barcelona sports: people watch the game. Unlike America, when I went to go to the bathroom, there was almost no one in the halls. I was even the only person in the bathroom (something you would never see at a football game).

This weekend, Barcelona was blessed with great weather, and I went with a group of others to hike up to Tipidado, a mountain that contains the odd mixture of a cathedral and an amusement park. The hike was beautiful, and the top of the cathedral is the highest point in Barcelona. That night, I had the opportunity to meet up with friends from Madrid who were studying abroad as a part of the University of Kentucky program.

These experiences were just the high points of the first two weeks. As the program progresses and we start to travel, many more incredible times will be had.

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