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First Impressions June 4, 2012

Posted by kmorrisey3 in Travel Log.
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Today marks the beginning of my third week abroad. It’s strange to think it’s only been 14 days! I feel like I’ve already become a world traveler! So far, Oxford Group 3 has visited Budapest, Hungary, Prague, Czech Republic, and Vienna, Italy. Currently we are in Venice, Italy and next on the itinerary is Florence, Italy. To say I’ve been having the time of my life would be an understatement. The experiences I’ve already gained in the short amount of time I’ve been abroad is remarkable. In just two short weeks, I’ve attended 3 concertos  (an instrumental performance centered on contrast between soloists and a string-dominated orchestra), 1 opera, 1 ballet, 6 churches, 9 museums, and other numerous historic monuments. A couple of things I’ve noticed about Europe…

  1. Bread, meat, and cheese are a part of nearly every dish-especially for breakfast. Nutella is nearly as abundant!
  2. NOTHING is free. Water and public restrooms included.
  3. Wifi is hard to come by…explaining my lack of blog posts thus far!

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest was Group 3’s first stop on our trek across Europe. It was absolutely beautiful-clique, I know. Upon my arrival in Budapest, I quickly realized two things: 1) I was definitely no longer in America, and, the more painful realization, 2) I had packed way too much (shocker)! We had to carry our suitcases up and down a few staircases in the city of Pest (Buda and Pest are actually two main cities that are separated by the Danube river-I had no clue either!) to get to our hotel. Taneisha and Derek, our group leaders, weren’t kidding when they said to practice carrying our suitcases up three flights of stairs before we came on the trip. The ornate architecture of the city of Pest distracted me from the weight of my suitcase as we trudged through cobblestone streets and down into underground tunnels to get to our hotel.  The city’s architecture was very strange to me; it is nothing like the architecture of American cities. Throughout our stay in Budapest, we visited multiple museums, cathedrals, historic monuments, and, of course, local pubs. One of my favorite tours in Budapest was our visit to St. Stephen’s Basilica. I was overwhelmed by the amount of detail in the interior and exterior of the building. European architecture is just so different than what you see in America-the history here  is so rich!

St. Stephen’s Basilica- Budapest, Hungary

Another tour I enjoyed was our tour of Castle Hill. The Castle Hill area was just precious. It’s a picturesque blend of cobblestone streets, quaint restaurants, and historic monuments. The most impressive part of Castle Hill was the view atop it. A couple people in our group watched the sunrise from atop Castle Hill one night. I decided to get some sleep instead of trek up the hill early in the morning-a decision I’ve regretted ever since. Who needs sleep, anyway?

View overlooking city of Pest from atop Castle Hill- Budapest, Hungary

Prague, Czech Republic

I was sad to leave Budapest (and their incredibly weak currency, the Florin), but excited to be in Prague! Unfortunately, our trip to our second city was rough. We got little lost, and then held up at a gas station, but our hilarious and amazing bus driver, Baloo, got us to Prague safely, and that’s all that matters, right? (I’m trying to not stress about things this trip…..mission impossible, but I’m trying) Our welcome dinner in Prague was DELICIOUS. The caprese salad was so fresh, and my chicken dish was cooked and marinated to perfection. But even that delicious meal doesn’t compare to the new dish I discovered in Prague….KEBABS! Kebabs are kind of like European burritos, made from skewered and slow roasted meat, fresh veggies, and a creamy ranch like sauce. I can already tell I will miss those in America! I saw my first opera in Prague called Tosca. Tosca is a melodramatic piece set in June 1800 in Rome, a time when the leadership of Rome was threatened by Napoleon’s invasion of Italy.  This opera centers on the main character, Tosca, a famous female singer, Mario Cavaradossi, a talented painter and Tosca’s lover, Scarpia, the police chief and main antagonist, and Cesare Angelotti, the imprisoned former consol of the former Roman Republic. Angelotti escapes imprisonment and seeks refuge from Cavaradossi, his longtime friend, causing a chain of events which end tragically in torture, murder, and suicide. Initially, I didn’t think I would like Tosca, but I made sure to keep an open mind throughout the performance. I was pleasantly surprised by the opera; it was fairly enjoyable! I’m definitely coming to appreciate art and music through my experiences on this trip.

Allison and I at the Prague State Opera House before Tosca- Prague, Czech Republic

Vienna, Austria

Prague was definitely too short of a trip. I wish I could’ve spent more time there! I was eager to move on to Vienna, though. Our first day in Vienna was crazy busy-we only had 3 hours of free time to eat dinner, change, and get ready for a concert later. After our classes and tours for the day, my friend Mary and I decided to skip dinner and shop (shocking). There is literally an H&M every 3 blocks, so we just had to stop in one. We shopped for a little (I only got a pair of shoes, mom and dad! …..and two dresses…..and a shirt….hehe) and decided to explore the city for an hour and then walk back to our hotel. BAD IDEA. Mary and I got so hopelessly lost. With every turn we took, we just walked deeper and deeper into the city and away from our hotel. To make matters worse, it started pouring-not just raining casually-POURING. Our map, of course, got wet and ripped. We asked many locals and eventually found the underground metro, where we discovered the routes to take us back to our hotel. We had to switch routes so many times; we had unknowingly and unintentionally wandered so far! The good news is we made it back to the hotel safely. There is no better feeling than getting lost in a completely unknown place and finding your way back. I felt so empowered and independent! It was definitely a learning experience. The bad news? Well, by the time we arrived at our hotel, we were supposed to be ready and at the concert hall for our second concert, a Mozart Concerto featuring the premier violinist, Anne-Sophie Mutter. I’m not sure how we did it, but Mary and I changed into our business casual and got back downstairs to the lobby at the same time as our professors/group leaders. We walked with them to the concert and all was well. It was definitely a success.

Mary and I in the Musikverein (Vienna Concert Hall)- Vienna, Austria

 

I’m currently in Venice, and loving every second! I can’t wait to write about the rest of my experiences in Italy! Ciao!!

Kelliann, World Traveler.

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Wien, Austria: a few of my favorite things June 4, 2011

Posted by Joseph Mattingly in Travel Log.
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Hallo from Wien, Austria (or as you might call it, Vienna)!  After arriving in Vienna, Austria, at some point in some time zone on June 1, I can say that I am in fact in Europe, and I have a stamp from Charles de Gaulle airport (European connector) to show for it.  Our bus driver, a Belgian who goes by the name of Baloo (think Jungle Book), picked us up at the Vienna airport to take us to the Hotel Donauwalzer.  He even brought our travel group a box of fine Belgian chocolates with a Georgia Tech logo printed on them.  A couple things occur to you when you arrive in Vienna for the first time.  First, the drivers are terrible.  For the Viennese, traffic signs and signals are more of a suggestion than a guideline, and American drivers are saint-like.  (I’m told it only gets worse.)  Second, the Danube River (the Donau) is tiny.  Very, very tiny.  I drive over creeks that are bigger than the Danube when I drive to Atlanta.  It is very impressive to me how such a small waterway can have such political and economic significance.

Our first full day in Vienna included a tour of the local opera house (a sight to behold), an excursion to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, and a concert by the Wien Mozart Orchestra.  The opera house in Vienna is one of the finest in the world, hosting operatic greats like Vienna’s favorite son Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  The Kunsthistorisches Museum, or KHM, is Vienna’s

Scholars of the fine arts

museum of fine arts.  You can find everything from Brueghel the Elder to Titian to Raphael to Caravaggio and more in one of the museum’s many galleries.  My favorite, however, was the KHM’s antiquities collections.  The museum houses permanent exhibitions of Egyptian, Greek, and Roman antiquities.  The KHM is one of the few places in the world where you can see so many Egyptian mummy sarcophogi (including and alligator mummy and its sarcophogus!), a wide variety Roman statues, and a vast collection of Greek urns and jewelry.  Later in the evening, we were treated to a collection of Mozart operas and instrumentals by the Wien Mozart Orchestra (not to be confused with the Vienna Philharmonic, which is the big-time orchestra around here).  It was quite an impressive experience, as the players were all dressed in brightly-colored historical attire and the instruments used were more or less akin to the ones that Mozart would have written for.  Then there was the conductor.  Our music instructor Prof. Ron Mendola warned us that the conductor liked to dance around and that we should try to ignore him.  Indeed, that’s what the conductor did–he all but danced around the front of the stage.  On top of that, he led the audience in a choreographed clap, making this the first (and probably only) time I would clap in timed unison at an orchestral event.

The second day was reserved for an adventure in the Belvedere Palace, an Austrian imperial palace-turned art museum that hosted some of the stranger pieces (in my opinion) of art in Vienna.  The palace was impressive, as was the French garden between the upper and lower palace complexes.  Today, the third and final day in Vienna before heading to Florence tomorrow, is a free day, so I will be exploring some of the fabulous inner-city facilities and sending post cards (if I can find out how).

Until I get to Florence and post an update there, I say adieu to all and extend wishes of a happy summer!

Venice July 25, 2010

Posted by eblumer3 in Travel Log.
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Hello my friends!  I am on the bus headed to Vienna.  We have just crossed the border from Italy to Austria.  I am very excited to be headed to a new country – new food, scenery, and experiences.   One thing I am already noticing is that the food is more expensive and the cars are no longer fiats and other brands not common in the U.S., but instead, I’ve seen my first Ford and BMW.  Austrians are stylin’!

Cole and I in St. Mark's Square

It will be an 11 hour bus ride…which probably means more like 12.5 hours.  So far we have driven 3 hours, got a way to go!  This just means I’ll get some sleeping and reading and praying done in the interim.  Though I always say that and it turns into movies and solitaire on my cell phone while listening to my ipod and taking pictures of the scenery as it passes.  That is one thing I can’t stand about sleeping, I miss the beautiful scenery.  Sometimes I wish I was a photographer, I would be in heaven right now, taking phenomenal photos.  Venice was perfect for this.  (more…)

Ahoj! June 24, 2010

Posted by Megan Sweeney in Travel Log.
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(a.k.a. ‘Hello’ in Czech)

We finally left Italy and headed on to Austria, Vienna specifically. At first I was sad to leave such a beautiful country where their language is so similar to Spanish that communication is not a problem, but three cities later I was about done with pizza, spaghetti, and gelato. We also had a change of pace when we got to do more music stuff than art lecture and museums! Our second day in Vienna we visited an old opera house and attended an opera that same evening. Not to say we did not see any museums: we visited the Kunsthistorisches museum, the Upper Belvedere museum, and the secession house. Vienna marked a transition from older renaissance style artwork to modern pieces (we skipped all the years in between because we have not visited those cities yet). (more…)