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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! 🙂

Do they speak Luxembourgish in Luxembourg? June 14, 2011

Posted by Steffan Slater in Travel Log.
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First, a quick explanation: this post is actually about a trip that happened several weeks ago.  I will be going back and adding posts for all my trips up until now, and from now on I’ll try to keep this updated on a weekly basis.

And to answer the title question, yes, apparently so.

I arrived in Metz on Monday, May 16 after a lovely flight from Charlotte International Airport and a not-so-lovely bus ride from Frankfurt International.  The aforementioned bus ride was plagued by technical issues.  First we hit something trying to get out of a rather tight parallel parking spot.  Then, after about 20 minutes, the bus basically died, on the Autobahn, no less.  All the radiator fluid was gone.  The driver called for a new bus and we sat there for a while, until he realized he could refill the radiator.  He did so, finishing the job right as the new bus arrived.  Rather than transfer to the new bus which we knew would be fine to get us to Metz, we stayed with the one which might or might not have been leaking from the radiator all over the highway, and which might die again in another 20 minutes.  Fortunately it didn’t and the rest of the trip to Metz was uneventful.

On our way to the dorms we got our first look at the GTL building:

GTL BuildingGTL is located in an area called the Metz Technopôle, which contains a large number of schools, both college- and high school-level.  For being in an area with so many academic buildings, the GTL building looks the most like what you would expect to see on a college campus, at least on an American one.

We had an orientation to Metz and GTL on Tuesday, which was actually pretty useful, particularly in the case of finding the nearby grocery stores, Simply (a smaller store, similar to a Publix or Kroger) and Cora (a “hypermarket” where they sell more or less everything you need and some things you don’t, similar to a Super Walmart or Super Target).

Classes started on Wednesday.  I won’t bore you with the details of the mechanics of deformable bodies, or of crystalline structures in metals, but I will say that the pace of summer classes can catch you off guard if you’re not prepared for it.  Most classes meet every day, unlike ones during a normal semester, so there’s no “off day” to catch up.  You have to keep up or fall behind.  This has been particularly difficult for me as I was on co-op rotation last semester.  It’s surprisingly easy to forget that when you’re in school, your work doesn’t end when classes do.

But enough about that.  You’re not here to read about classes, you want to hear about travelling, right?  The first weekend was a two-day weekend.  If you don’t know, here at GTL the weekends are of varying lengths.  I believe in the past every weekend was a three-day weekend, but now the lengths vary to allow for some longer trips.  There are two 3-day weekends, two 4-days, and one 5-day “break” in the middle.  The remaining weekends are two days long.

So for my first weekend I took it pretty easy.  Rather than deal with the hassle of train and lodging reservations (with a Eurail pass, regional trains do not require you to buy a ticket), I went with some friends to Luxembourg for the day on Saturday.  The city was great for a day trip.  Most things in the city are within walking distance of each other, and there is plenty to see, from palaces to cathedrals to old fortifications.  The highlight of the day was probably the casemates, which were part of the city’s fortifications, and were used to fire arrows or cannons.  For a very low price you can get in and walk around these tunnels through the walls.  The casemates were multi-level, with spiral staircases between levels, and even included an outdoor portion.  Here is a view from the outside:

Luxembourg CasematesYou can see the outside passage between sections of the casemates on the left of the picture (looks like an aqueduct).

After doing some walking around the city, we rode a bus almost to the end of the line and walked about a kilometer to the American cemetery there.  It’s the largest one in Europe, where many of the casualties of the Battle of the Bulge are buried.  General George S. Patton was not killed in the battle, but is also buried there.  In addition to the graves, there is a memorial to those who died in World War II and maps showing the fronts of the war.

Inscription on the WWII memorial at the cemetery

Gen. George S. Patton's Grave

This was a very stark and moving reminder that not all of Europe is ancient castles and pretty palaces.  Millions of soldiers have died here in the past hundred years, and while it is not always comfortable or pleasant to be reminded of that, it is something that should never be forgotten.

That’s about it for my first week in Europe.  Stay tuned for more adventures as I take on Europe, one weekend at a time!

Metz to Luxembourg–First Weekend Trip June 10, 2010

Posted by randrews3 in Travel Log.
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Metz, France, has been a great home so far, but every weekend my group and I have traveled to a different place in Europe. The first weekend after we arrived, we made our first big trip to Luxembourg. It consisted of two days crammed full of adventure, and I was pretty exhausted afterwards (and had lots of homework to begin soon), but it was amazing.

Neat blend of architecture

La Gare de Luxembourg (Lux’s train station) is quite unique on the inside, with high-arched painted ceilings and beautiful stained-glass windows on the ends. There’s also a WWII memorial inside for some sort of victims; we couldn’t tell what the reason of their deaths was from what we could read on the bottom. I hadn’t got far enough in my French class yet. It was relatively cheap to get to Luxembourg by train, around 14 Euros. (more…)