A Semester in Prague: Spring Break

Despite the weather taking a major dip into the single digits, on Friday I jetted off to Holland to meet up with my parents and begin spring break! The freezing temperatures weren’t my ideal weather choice for spring break, but we made the most of it and headed up into the mountains to find some snow.

We spent the weekend in Holland visiting my grandmother and just having a bit of a relax before a solid week of roadtripping. We spent most of our time in Boxtel, where my family lives, but managed to drive north to Wassanar and Scheveningen for a day to enjoy the North Sea and visit my great aunt. We walked along the sandy shore, made our way up to the pier, and got caught in stand-still traffic trying to leave the beach.

After developing a lose plan on Sunday night, we jumped into the car on Monday and headed for Heidelburg, Germany. On the way we stopped in some smaller towns where the rivers intersected with the autobahn. Our first stop was Kobern on the Mosel River. Situated in a steep gorge lined with rows and rows of grapes, Kobern wasn’t much of a town, but had a castle, like every good European town should have. It has been transformed into a wedding venue and office spaces and was quaint and beautiful. Our next stop was Bingen on Rhine. Here we found yet another castle, and also stopped for a bit of German fast food: hamburgers, currywurst, and schnitzel. We explored the city for a bit, walked along the Rhine, and later trekked on to Heidelburg.

The next morning we drove into the town of Heidelburg after spending the night in the quiet countryside. We had a quick breakfast of pastries and coffee, then walked along the river in search of the schloss (castle) and the beautiful arched bridge at the foot of the castle. It was a bit hazy, but it only added to the fairytale-like effect of the older part of the city. After stretching our legs for quite a bit, we climbed back in the car and went even further south to Switzerland.

After about two hours of driving we made it to the Swiss boarder! We handed over our passports, got a highway pass and set off to St. Gallen. St Gallen is known as a university town, but also contains one of the most beautiful cathedrals I have ever witnessed. It was so ornately decorated in a way I had never seen before with rich purples, greens, and golds. The murals on the ceilings were stunning and really added to the overall effect of the interior. We lit a candle in honor of my grandfather and then headed across the street to the Chocolaterie am Klosterplatz to kill some time and grab a real Swiss hot chocolate. We headed back to the car and made our way up the mountain towards Trogen where we visited an old friend of my dad’s who he worked with at a camp in the US when he was my age. We spent the night gathered around their kitchen table as they all reminisced and shared old memories of camp and their travels afterward. It was fun to hear all of their stories and reminded me that all of these memories that I’m making on this study abroad trip will be memories that I’ll keep forever.

We made plans the morning to take a short walk up to see the mountains. At this point in our trip I was really itching to see some mountains, and seeing a snow covered landscape really tickled my soul. There really is just something about being up in the open air, surrounded by peaks that heals my heart. After a quick photo session on the mountain, we made our way back down and packed up to get on the road again. Our plans were taking us to the Neuschwanstein Castle back in Germany and I was oh so excited to fulfill a childhood dream. On our way to our next AirBnb we left Switzerland, drove through Austria and stopped in the small town of Lindenberg im Allgäu in Germany. We noticed as we were exploring the small town that my dad left his wallet back in Trogen, so we hopped back in the car and made a quick trip back through Austria, back into Switzerland to pick up his wallet. After a quick cup of coffee we finally headed off towards Fussen, Germany.

We arrived in Pfronten late at night in the snow, and after a bit of trouble finding our AirBnb, we finally made it into the warmth. We finished the night with a few card games and got ready to see the Neuschwanstein castle in the morning. When we woke up we were greeted by the most beautiful scenery of snow covered mountains. We then headed into Fussen to find breakfast and walk around the town for a bit. There was a large fortress in Fussen up on the hill, but we didn’t manage to get up there in order to save time. I was itching to see the castle at this point and all I could think about was the Disney-like castle only a few miles away.

I’ve seen a few castles in my time, but nothing has ever compared to the beauty of the Neuschwanstein castle. Granted, it may not be as old as other castles, but the restoration of the castle was beautiful and it was like stepping into a fairytale book. We got our tickets, and walked up to the castle, stopping along the way to grab a few pictures. I wasn’t able to take photos of the interior, but imagine the most lavish, decorative interior you can possibly think up and then add some more gold covered furniture, and bedazzled lamp posts. It was absolutely gorgeous although way to extravagant for my tastes. But still, there is something about being in a real-life castle that makes everything seem more magical. I found it hard not to imagine extravagant balls, large feasts, and lavish tea parties happening in all of the rooms. Plus, the view from the front of the castle was gorgeous, gazing onto Lake Alpsee surrounded by snow covered mountains: pure bliss.

Our last stop on our Spring Break road trip was Prague. It was such a fun experience to show my parents around the city that I’ve been exploring for the past two months especially since neither of them had been there before. We walked to the castle, went inside the church, had a mid-afternoon dessert on a floating restaurant, visited the Jewish Museum, saw the Old Town Square amongst all the tourists, and ate dinner on top of the Dancing House building. Having them here really lifted my spirits and gave me the energy to finish out the last six weeks. Being so far away from home for such a long time is very different emotionally than I thought it would be. While I’m having the time of my life here and making so many amazing memories, I can’t help but long for some comforts of being back in the U.S. I’m sure that as soon as I’m back I’ll want to be traveling Europe again. I guess we always want what we can’t have.

Thank you Mom and Dad for such an amazing spring break. It was so fun touring Europe with you, seeing things I never would have by myself. Thank you for passing this travel bug gene onto me and encouraging me to go where ever my heart desires. I love you two to the moon and back.

I’m updating this blog weekly (somewhat), but you can follow my day-to-day adventures on Instagram: @aninavdv

Study Abroad in Prague: Week 7

I’m starting to fall behind on these weekly blog posts, so I’ll try to make it short and include lots of photos. This whole trip is going by so quickly and its hard to keep up with everything. But, I’m having such a magnificent time over here and I’m not quite ready for it to end.

This week was a bit shorter than the rest as our school planned a trip to Berlin on Thursday, so classes were cancelled. On Tuesday, my cooking class met again and made chicken noodle soup, completely from scratch as well as a traditional Czech dessert, Frgály. The soup was delicious and it was new for me to make the stock (from the whole chicken) as well as the noodles all from scratch. The soup was perfect comfort food to soothe all of our sicknesses. And the Frgály was absolutely beautiful, and equally delicious.

On Thursday, we woke up bright and early to catch our train to Berlin. By noon we were in the middle of the city, with no plans for the rest of the day. My friends and I headed to a small market to find some lunch. After the most delicious burger I may have ever tasted, we walked around the city, just exploring and seeing what we could find. We wandered over to Museum island, went into a design book store and found a book written by one of our NC State Professors, found a very artistic hideaway covered in street art, and had quite an experience in the Monsterkabinett. We finished the night walking endlessly in search of a German restaurant, and landed in a asian-fusion restaurant that had my absolute favorite: bibimbap. What’re ya gunno do. Ha

The next morning, my entire class gathered at a group at 9 a.m. for a long day walking around the city. A cold front from Russia had pushed through Europe and we happened to be spending the entire day outside, so we bundled up as much as we could but nothing could prepare us for the face-aching cold we would be stuck in all day. We started the day with a Berlin-based startup: Eyeem and they gave a short presentation on their design process which was interesting. Then we headed over to the Markthalle Neun where we wandered around the booths, grabbed a delicious bbq sandwich, and escaped from the cold.

When we had finally warmed up again, we realized that we were only a short walk from the East Side Gallery, so my friends and I headed over there while we had a bit of free time for lunch. The East Side Gallery is an open-air gallery where 105 amazing murals are painted directly on the remains of the Berlin Wall. Many of the murals are fairly politically charged and document a time of change and express the euphoria and great hopes for a better, more free future for all people of the world.

After walking the length of the East Side Gallery, we met up as a large group again and headed to the Holocaust Memorial. On the way we found more Berlin Wall pieces, quite a few modern architectural pieces, and looked like a herd trying to cross the street. We stopped off at The Memorial to Homosexuals persecuted under Nazism, as well as the The Memorial to the Sinti and Roma Victims of National Socialism before arriving at the block-sized Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It was such a grave experience to walk through the memorial, and it felt as the world was flashing by before my eyes as I walked through.

Our next stop on our tour of Berlin was the Reichstag. On our way we stopped to see the Brandenburg Gate, but didn’t stay long since we were all so cold and just wanted to get inside. We made it to the top of the Reichstag just in time for sunset and sat at the top of the glass dome and enjoyed the sky as it faded from blue to orange to black.

Our last stop on the long tour through the city was to The Bunker. The Bunker is a former Nazi above-ground bunker constructed in 1943 that has been transformed into a contemporary art museum that contains the private Boros collection. While I wasn’t necessarily a fan of the art (I’m not super excited by contemporary art) it was crazy to be in such a historic building that had a real purpose during WWII. The bunker’s interior had been slightly modified to be better suited for artwork, but much of the authenticity was still there, including glow-in-the-dark paint that would provide a bit of light in the case that power was lost within the bunker.

The next day we went on an alternative tour of the city that highlighted the hipster and more artistic culture of Berlin, focusing mostly on street art. We also learned quite a bit of the history of Berlin during and after WWII, and how young activists really took over parts of the city and made it their own. We heard the stories of the Bethanien in Kreuzberg, learned about David Bowie’s affection for Berlin, and the incredible story of Osman Kalin’s Treehouse. When our tour was over, we headed straight back to our hostel to warm up and rest our feet. After a quick nap and a recharge of my personal battery, we went out and saw The Hunter at the Berlinale International Film Festival.

The next morning we had a few hours to explore before we had to head back to Prague. My friends and I decided to make the most of our time and went on an Underworld Bunker tour of an old air-raid shelter that was used during WWII. The tour was surprisingly educational and I left wanting to know even more about Berlin during the war. It was crazy to think that we were standing where thousands of others had stood as bombs shattered their city above. We had a few hours left to kill, so we hopped onto the subway and made our way to Checkpoint Charlie. I was slightly underwhelmed by Checkpoint Charlie, although I didn’t really know quite what to expect. We ended our time in Berlin desperately searching the city for a hipster place to find lunch, and stumbled upon a burger joint which was conveniently located only steps away from a cookie dough bar. We quickly enjoyed our burgers, making sure to leave time to grab some cookie dough before we had to rush back to the hostel to meet our group again.


Berlin was completely different than the other cities I have been to in Europe. After being bombed and 90% flattened during WWII, the city has sprung back up much more modern than before. There is so much history in the city, and it feels like with every turn you take there is another story to learn.

Thank you for continuing to follow me on this journey. I’m about halfway through my time in Europe already and it is flying by! I’m having a blast and gaining so many new experiences and impressions of Europe. I have to continually thank my parents for whole-heartedly supporting my travels and letting me live out my traveling dreams. Mom and Dad, you have no idea how much this all means to me.

I’m updating this blog weekly (somewhat), but you can follow my day-to-day adventures on Instagram: @aninavdv

A Semester in Prague: Week 2

My first week in Prague was mostly dedicated to the touristic side of Prague: the unique architecture, the beer culture, and the fascinating history of the city. My second week took us behind the scenes of Prague a bit more and showed us the alternative culture of Prague. We started the week with an “alternative tour” around Prague, showing us more of the up and coming culture, and the life of the younger generations. Since Prague has had a fairly rocky history, it is just now starting to boom with hipsters and a more art centered population. Having a tour guide that was heavily involved with the youth of Prague gave us such a good understanding of the ideas and movements that are emerging from Prague.

We started the tour by seeing the Invader installation on a side street in Prague. This kind of guerrilla art was all over the city. We then made our way to one of the many legal graffiti walls in Prague. The graffiti here was quite beautiful and the juxtaposition between the old historic buildings and the street art below was quite interesting. It was also cool to learn the street rules of graffiti, one of them being that you can’t paint over someone’s work that is better than your own. This way more respected and skilled artist’s work can have a longer lifespan.

We then walked to three very interesting “hipster” spots near our dorm. The first was was an old slaughterhouse that had been converted into a cafe and theater. They kept a lot of the authenticity of the slaughterhouse when the renovated it, and a good deal of the art inside was created from recycled materials. The second spot was a classic American hipster joint. There was coffee, clothing, artwork, and lots of exposed brick. The third spot was a bar, Cross Club, that was created by a bunch of steam punk artists. It was very cool, all recycled materials.

On Tuesday, we went to the theater and watched the movie Anthropoid. The movie highlighted the Operation Anthropoid, the code name for the mission to assassinate the third highest Nazi official (behind Hitler and Himmler), Reinhard Heydrich that took place here in Prague. It was carried out by Josef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš, two Czechoslovakian soldiers in exile in Great Britain who parachuted into the city. When the time came to complete the mission, Josef’s machine gun jammed, and Jan’s modified grenade didn’t get a direct hit, although did injure Heydrick. They fled to a nearby church, Orthodox Cathedral of Saints Cyril and Methodius, where they (and 5 other parachuters) hid in the crypt and took turns on lookout in the balcony. The Nazi troops stormed the church after a long manhunt (I’m really shortening the story) and had a fierce gun battle with the parachuters, who eventually committed suicide to avoid being captured.

After watching the movie, we were able to visit the church where the shootout happened, and stand in the crypt where the parachuters were hiding. It was a very surreal experience to be in a place where so much history had taken place, and amazing that it had been preserved so well. I was silenced at the sight of the bullet holes that are still present around the small window into the crypt. It was a piece of WWII history that I had never learned and to be able to experience it in such a unique and very real way was quite a memory. Its a very interesting story and although rather gruesome, I highly recommend WWII history buffs to give it a watch.

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When we exited the church we saw the famous Dancing House building just down the road, so we walked down to see it. Our tour guide from the Alternative Tour was telling us that the Czech people are very proud of any modern architecture that makes its way into the city. Everyone comes to Prague to see the historic architecture, but many people in Prague, especially the younger generation, take pride in their modern architecture because its new and exciting to them.

On Wednesday, we did a spray paint/graffiti/street art workshop with our tour guide from the Alternative Tour. We each got to cut out a stencil, and create our own spray paint masterpiece. It was a lot of fun, but so cold outside where we did it! On Thursday, we all gathered as a group and presented some photos that we took during that week and shared our graffiti with everyone.

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On Friday, we made our way to Salzburg, Austria where they filmed the Sound of Music. After quite an adventure of finding the bus station, we loaded up and set off on a 6 hour drive from Prague to Salzburg. I slept for most of the journey, but my waking moments were spent smiling about the completely white landscape (thanks snow!) and the gorgeous Alps. When we arrived we headed out on the town. We stayed in an AirBnB that was only about 15 minutes from the center of the town so we were able to walk to everything. We ended up walking on the main shopping street, popping into cute stores (my favorite being one that sold exclusively hand-decorated egg ornaments) and taking lots of pictures.

The next morning, we woke up fairly early and started planning out our day. We had watched The Sound of Music a few nights before and I was very excited to live out some of my childhood dreams. We made it into the center and just started wandering around. It was snowing off and on throughout the day which only made Salzburg more magical.

Early in our walk around Salzburg, we stumbled upon the Salzburg Cathedral. We weren’t really looking for it, but when we found it, it was absolutely beautiful. The inside was absolutely stunning and beautifully ornate. I lit a candle for my Opa, a tradition that I learned from my Oma and try to keep going whenever I visit a Catholic church. I don’t personally have Catholic beliefs, but the sentimentality of lighting a candle always makes me a bit emotional.

On our way out of the Cathedral, we spotted a tram making its way up to the castle. Since we had given up on the idea of taking a gondola to the top of a nearby mountain, we splurged and took the tram to the castle. The view from the top was absolutely stunning. We were able to see the entire city and on the other side was the Alps. My heart was jumping up for joy at the sight of those mountains and I still think its the best view I’ve ever seen, sorry Roan Mountain.

We stared at the gorgeous view for quite some time before making our way into the castle walls. The castle was preserved as a museum and had a bunch of artifacts from the castle’s history. There were replicas of the grounds, gowns and garments from several time periods, and a whole room dedicated to WWII.

The last part of the day was spent ticking of Sound of Music bucket list items. We walked across the Mozart Bridge, sang the songs along the Salzach river, and jumped on the stairs at Mirabell Gardens. We headed back into the shopping street at the end of the day, and split up to save time. I stopped into a few souvenir shops and found a good collection of postcards for the family and playing cards for the collection.

We headed back to Prague on Sunday in the snowy, cold weather. We left with plenty of time to spare just incase there was a problem with the public transportation. We ended up getting to the bus station an hour early and had to wait out in the snow for the bus to arrive, which I think was a major contributor to my deep cough and stuffy nose. Oh well, it was well worth the sickness.

I’m still planning weekend trips and now that classes have started, I’ll be a bit busier during the week, but so far I’m loving this experience.

P.S. I’ll be updating this blog weekly, but you can follow my day-to-day adventures on Instagram: @aninavdv

 

Europe Trip 2016 || Day 9: Colmar, France

After waking up and having breakfast, Lorenzo took Marguerite and I (and Pandora, that dog goes wherever Lorenzo goes) to France. Chris had a study group for one of her university classes so she could not join us. Lorenzo first took us to the point where Switzerland, Germany, and France all intersect. We didn’t stand at the actual point because the actual point is in the middle of the Rhein, but we went to the monument which is as good as we could get. Lorenzo let Pandora off the leash, and she scared an old woman half to death. Lorenzo apologized, but the old woman was not having it. We then got back in the car and drove to Colmar, France.

In Colmar we walked around and saw the very storybook-style setting with colorful plaster buildings and a nice canal. I think Colmar might have been my favorite town that we visited. It was super crowded, but the houses looked so quaint and almost medieval. Also I absolutely loved all of the color. We had a little coffee and traditional Colmar tarte flambée (which was kind of like a thin crust pizza). We walked around for awhile longer before getting back in the car to drive to the Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle. The castle was built in the 12th century but was renovated at the turn of the twentieth century, after having been abandoned and destroyed during the Thirty Years’ War. When we got there, we figured out that dogs were not allowed in so Marguerite and I bought tickets and walked around the castle while Lorenzo stayed outside with Pandora. The view from the castle was absolutely magnificent. You could see for miles and mile.

After we had walked around the castle for about an hour, we drove back into Basel. There we met Rob Watts (another former counselor) and his girlfriend and Chris at a restaurant. It was nice to see and catch up with them after three years. After chatting with them for a while, we went back home and had stir fry spring rolls for dinner. After dinner we watched Mamma Mia and we all sang along, Lorenzo included. Then we went to bed.

Europe Trip 2016 || Day 6: Göttingen, Germany to Düdingen, Switzerland

After our last breakfast together, Johannes took us to the train station where we said our goodbyes. I had such a lovely time in Göttingen and had a blast catching up with Johannes again. The night before, we had bought first class train tickets (how luxurious of us) since they were only an extra 10 euros. I definitely felt like we didn’t belong in the first class car of the train though. Everyone in there was at least 30 years older than us and we probably wondering why two young travelers were in the first class car. It was worth it for our long train ride from Göttingen to Basel though. Having pretty much guaranteed seats was wonderful after our past few train journeys. This trip went very smoothly and we spent the whole time reading, and enjoying the free snacks of first class. It was fairly frustrating though because we never got our tickets checked on our whole journey. We only got asked IF we had a ticket but no one ever asked to see them or punched holes into them. We had spent a total of 230 euros to get the ticket and could have potentially ridden for free. But, in the end it is better to be safe than sorry.

When we arrived in Basel we switched trains and headed to Fribourg and then switched again to get to Düdingen where we would meet Valérie (another former counselor). Again, not once did our tickets get checked. When we arrived in Düdingen, Valérie was waiting at the train station to pick us up. We walked up to her family’s flat and met her parents before going back out to the train to venture into Fribourg for dinner. We went to a cute little local burger place called Cyclo Café which was very tasty. Then Valérie showed us around the town. It was a very cute little city, especially charming in the evening with the twinkling lights. It was definitely a change of scenery from the gentle rolling grassy hills of Germany to the steep mountains of Switzerland. She showed us around her university, then we went to get gelato. We then went further into downtown (downtown being the lowest part of the city, not the center) and saw the Fribourg Cathedral. We walked even further down and saw the city from below which was really quite beautiful.

Then we were walking to catch the bus back up to the center of the city but we missed it, so we took the stairs back to the top. There were SO MANY stairs. We had to take a break a few times, but after about 30 minutes of climbing up we made it to the top. There was a little train next to the stairs that was fueled by poop (I can’t remember if it was human or animal waste, but nonetheless). When we finally got to the top of the stairs, we walked to a little club and hung out there for a little while. We met some of Valérie’s friends and then managed to find a table and Valérie told us more stories about Switzerland. After about an hour or so, we walked back to the train station and went back home. Once we got home we were all tired and it was so late so we all went to bed.

*Today was primarily a travel day, and I forgot to bring my camera into Fribourg when we went out that night, so not too many pictures, but there will be tons on the next post

Europe Trip 2016 || Day 5: Hannover, Germany

We woke up and had Nutella and bread for breakfast after getting ready for the day. Then we took the tram to the train station where we caught a train to Hannover. We went to the Herrenhausen Gardens which basically a beautifully landscaped and manicured yard. President Obama had visited the gardens just months before, so we felt like we had to go. We walked around for a few hours, took pictures, laughed and made fun of each other. There was a labyrinth in one of the sections of the garden which Marguerite had a very difficult time with trying to get out of. She was leading the way out, and it probably took her a good five minutes to get us out. At one point, Johannes and I snuck out from behind her and watched her try to find her way out. We walked around some more, and it was such a beautiful day, and very very hot. 

After we had walked around in the gardens for a few hours, we went back into the center of town so that Marguerite could find a shot glass. She collects shot glasses from all the places she visits, and didn’t have one from Germany yet. We had quite a hard time finding one until we headed back to the train station and saw a hopeful shop in the train station. She finally found her shot glass and made all of us happy that she found one. Then we got back on the train to Göttingen and away we went.

When we got back home, his mom had cooked a rice and chicken meal for dinner. Johannes’s mom talked about her healing practice and his dad made typical dad jokes that Johannes was obviously embarrassed by. We had rhubarb again for dessert and played dominoes again on their balcony. His parents went to bed early so we took pictures and said our goodbyes to them since they would probably be gone when we left the next morning. We finished our game of dominoes inside and Marguerite won again, which Johannes was not super happy about. We showed Johannes what snapchat smack cams were and we all laughed way to hard at some ridiculous videos that we took of each other. After a while of uncontrollable cry laughing we all went to bed, completely exhausted from the day we had had.

Europe Trip 2016 || Day 4: Göttingen, Germany

Today we slept in while Johannes went to his morning class (University was still in session when we arrived). We got to meet his lovely mother that morning and she was so gracious for the flowers and chocolate that we brought the night before. When Johannes got back we ate breakfast together. Then we went into Göttingen town center to look around and experience the city a bit. We ran some errands with him first before getting out of the car to walk around. We walked along the wall that surrounds the town, which is very old. Some parts of it have been destroyed or have fallen apart throughout the years, but much of it is still standing. It used to enclose the whole city, but now the city has grown and much of it has expanded beyond the wall. Then we found out we had to move his car so we walked back and on the way we stopped for an ice cream. After we moved the car we walked around in town for a little while longer before we went to his school to grab a bite to eat.

We sat outside and ate our food and watched all the students. It was another super sunny day, so there were a bunch of students around campus. Then we went to his English writing class since he said the professor was American and funny. The writing class was good, much of the stuff he talked about we also learn is school. While he wasn’t explaining the writing stuff he threw in stories about the nude beaches and then bashed on the Germans for a bit. Marguerite was pretty tired and fell asleep for some of the class, but luckily the teacher didn’t notice, or if he did, he didn’t call her out on it. After all, we weren’t his students.

Once class was over, we walked back to the car and drove to a little town outside of Göttingen so we could hike up to see the watch tower. It was a pretty steep hike, and I forgot a water bottle, which was not the smartest of my ideas. Marguerite had to use the bathroom, so she ran up to the top while Johannes and I took our time. Once we got to the top we walked out to the edge, and it was such a gorgeous view! You could see for miles and miles. Then we all got on the wall and rested in the sun for a bit. After about an hour we walked back down the mountain and drove back to Johannes’s parents’ house. His mom had made lasagna which was very delicious. For dessert we had rhubarb (which was from their garden) and cream for dessert. I wasn’t so sure about it at first because it is pretty tart, but after I got used to the flavor, I loved it. After dinner, we went out on their balcony and played dominoes with his Mom. We had taught the game to Johannes when he visited us for Thanksgiving a few years before, and he was determined to finally beat Marguerite (she is kind of the queen of dominos). Johannes’s mother ended up going to bed a little earlier so she didn’t finish the game. When it got dark we moved inside and Marguerite ended up winning (it wasn’t really a surprise). After the game was finished, we all went to bed, ready for a trip to the Herrenhausen Gardens in Hannover in the morning.

Europe Trip 2016 || Day 2: Hamburg, Germany

On the second day of our adventure in Europe, we decided to hop on a bus up to Hamburg, Germany. Marguerite and I woke up bright an early, and got ready for the day. Our hostel did not provide towels, so that was a bit of a riddle to solve, but we figured something out. Later Renzzo came to our hostel to help us buy bus tickets and got breakfast. Once we got in Hamburg, we met up with Renzzo again (he had taken the train instead) and went on a little self-guided tour around the city. Renzzo knew all of the places that we had to visit so we let him lead the way. He only got us lost once, but it was short and we got an ice cream by the river while Renzzo looked at the map.

We walked along the river for a while and it was absolutely gorgeous. Whilst walking we came up to the Elbe Tunnel which is a pedestrian and vehicle tunnel that passes underneath the Elbe River. It was super cold down in the tunnel, but actually quite refreshing being that it was super hot outside. When we got to the other side, we enjoyed the view of the city. When we back through the tunnel, we got to ride in the vehicle elevator. It was huge! We continued to walk around for a bit until we stumbled upon St. Michael’s Lutheran Church. We went inside and I was in awe. It was so ornately decorated and organ was quite impressive. After taking it all in, we walked around a bit more and then took a break in the town center in front of the Binnenalster which is like a little lake in the center of town. We sat and talked and people-watched since there were so many people there.

It got to be about dinner time, so we went to go find some food. Renzzo suggested Vapianos which is an Italian “serve yourself” type restaurant that started in Hamburg but has now spread worldwide. When we were finished, we had some time to kill before our bus left so we decided to walk around the lake. It was quite beautiful. The we headed back to bus station and Renzzo headed to the train station. The bus ride back was pretty quiet and Marguerite and I were pooped. When we got back to Bremen, we headed straight for our hostel and went straight to sleep. It was a good day, but a very exhausting one.

*I think that this is the day that we beat our previous “step count” from our last summer trip and made about 27000 steps.

Europe Trip 2016 || Day 1: Bremen, Germany

Its been a while, but I’ve returned from my summer long hiatus and I’m coming in full swing with a whole load of travel posts. As you may or may not know, I spent the month of May traveling around Europe. My sister (Marguerite) and I hopped on a plane on May 7th and headed across the big pond to get some adventuring in before summer camp begun. We landed in Amsterdam at 7:30 in the morning on the 8th after a long day of flying. It was strange to walk out of the airport and not see our family waiting for us, but we managed to get a train ticket to Bremen, Germany with just a little help from the International Train Service desk. Before we knew it we were on our way to Germany. Our first train was relatively short, maybe thirty minutes or so. My sister lost her ticket somewhere on (or in the process of getting off of) the first train, so we almost missed our second train in the frantic hunt to try to find the lost ticket. Unfortunately, we never found it, despite our greatest efforts to figure out where it might have ended up. Fortunately, the ticket man at the station let us through the gate so that we could catch our next train.

This train was the long one (nearly three hours!). We sat in front of of a very nice, chatty older woman, Maren, from Hamburg. She had a lot to say about design (particularly architecture and how so many newer buildings are created without any attention paid to the landscape), and was not a fan of Donald Trump. Despite the fact that we were so tired, it was nice to hear all of her stories about her own travels throughout the world.

Eventually, we made our way to Bremen where we met up with one of Marguerite’s friends, Renzzo. He took us to get Turkish kebabs (a common street food in Bremen) before heading over to drop off our bags at his host family’s house so we wouldn’t have to keep everything in the hostel. We packed daypacks for our hostel and then set out on the town. We planned on going to drop our bags off at the hostel first, but when we arrived there, it was closed so we took to the streets and explored. One of Renzzo’s friends, Raphaël came with us. In the middle of our self guided tour, we stumbled upon the last few minutes of some pig act in the town center which was fairly odd yet entertaining. After a bit more walking, we sat down for a refreshment by the river. Then some strange man sat down at the table with us and started talking about how he had been to America to try to find pretty ladies which made me super uncomfortable, so we went back to the hostel to drop off our bags. When we got to the hostel this time, it was closed as well, but thankfully Raphaël called the man and he came and let us check in. I was super tired, so I decided to call it a night there and went to sleep.