The Perfect Holiday Pt. 2: Le Carnaval de Nantes

The highlight of my spring break in Nantes was the Carnivals parade, which had the theme “Around the World.” The floats in the parade represented different countries and cultures and were accompanied by many dancers and performers. These floats were the most amazing ones I have ever seen! You could tell that everyone involved with the parade dedicated a lot of time, energy, and money to make it great. There were so many families out, confetti was everywhere, and everyone was enjoying the festive atmosphere. Despite a little rain, it was the perfect weekend to visit. Here are some pictures from the day for your enjoyment 🙂

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The float to begin the parade; let’s go on a trip!

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Ireland!
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Spain
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I wasn’t sure what this was… there was also a toaster on the back with toast and bacon? lol

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Dancers for Brazil
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Satirical Cuban float

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I can’t imagine how long it took to make all these floats, but they did an amazing job. I was glad to be in town for the parade and had a great time. I hope you enjoyed the pictures as much as I enjoyed this cotton candy 🙂

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xoxo,

Briana

The Perfect Holiday

Hey there 🙂  The craziness of study abroad has come to a halt because I am now on spring break! Or as Europeans say Holiday. I love to travel and learn about new places but for spring break I decided to return to where I studied last spring; Nantes, France. Sometimes in the midst of all the new it’s nice to take a break, I wanted to go someplace I knew I would enjoy and I knew Nantes would be that for me.

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A few of my favorite things. Maybe I love France so much because it has macroons?

Chelsey and I left Berlin at 4am for our flight to Paris where we would take a bus to Nantes. Long story short, it was a rough journey, but it was all worth it when I arrived in Nantes again. I was a bit nervous to visit Nantes again; What if I romanticized my experience so much in my head and I was disappointed when I returned? That fear quickly left when I was greeted by the shining sun, the French language and the city that I love.

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A pro of terribly early flights are the beautiful sunrises 🙂

We stayed with my French host family and it was so nice to see them again, although it was a little strange for me that I was just a visitor now and they had a new host student, but that’s life : ) We made traditional French galettes (salty crepes) and crepes for dinner and it was just like old times.

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Looking ratchet but happy after a day of traveling with my galette.

I took Chelsey to my favorite places, some being a beautiful park that my friends and I would have picnics at often, a little town right across the river called Trentmoult which has the best crepes, and the park that has a life-size wooden elephant that you can ride and sprays water from its trunk. We spent all day going around the city eating plenty of delicious French pastries and practicing my French. I was so relieved to see I hadn’t lost it! Visiting Nantes, it was like I never left.

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Colorful houses in Trentmoult 🙂
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The Elephant! A must see in Nantes.
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Jardin de Plantes

The highlight of our visit would have to have been the Carnival of Nantes which theme was “Around the World.” I will dedicate a whole blog to it because I loved it so much so look out for that next. 🙂

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The Japanese float at the Carnival

Overall, my spring break in Nantes was great. It was the perfect weekend to visit. I got to see old friends, visit my favorite places and see how Nantes has changed since I left. Even Chelsey loved it, telling me I have to get a flat there so she can come visit. : ) it’s great to love many places and I encourage you to find those places that you love as well.

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This city will always have a special place in my heart.

À plus tard!

My Weekend Homestay

It’s been quite some time since I’ve written a post. Life in Berlin is crazy busy! With classes, excursions, church, friends, babysitting and traveling, it’s hard to find time to sleep! Nonetheless, I’ve been having some really great experiences; one being a weekend home stay with a German family.

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Stephanie, Me, Zoe and my friend Chelsey : ) (the wind was really blowing)

Everyone in my program had the option to spend a weekend with a German family in Berlin to see and experience their everyday life. Living with a native family gives you a completely different experience compared to only living with students, so I knew I had to take advantage of this opportunity.

I stayed with Stephanie, an artist, and her 15 year old daughter Zoe in their flat by the East Side Gallery. As soon as we met, Zoe asked me “Sprechen sie Deutsche?” (Do you speak German?) After I admitted that my German was very basic, (I really need to do better with German) we had plenty to talk about in English and I knew we were going to have an amazing weekend. Here are the highlights!

Berlin is that you?

Stephanie and Zoe showed me so much of Berlin! I honestly felt like I was in a different city. We took a bus around the city which allowed me to see new sites and really soak all of Berlin up. I usually take the underground train and didn’t realize how much I was missing! Some of the things we did were go to a movie in English and one in German, visited a mall that was connected to the zoo where you could see monkeys while having a coffee, and went to an opera concert and an art gallery. The weekend was full of new experiences!

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The opera concert was at this beautiful church.
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The view from the double-decker bus!
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So many interesting things around the city!

Live like a Berliner

Stephanie and Zoe showed me how to appreciate Berlin. We went to an outdoor market, sampled and brought things that we enjoyed, and Stephanie even had a bouquet of flowers made for their flat. Then we explored the city while always stopping for a mid-day coffee. It was great to actually relax and enjoy myself. So often we get caught up trying to have the perfect plan or save money when we just need to simplify and enjoy life a little.

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The flowers at the market were so beautiful.
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You can’t forget the midday pick me up!

Food

Stephanie is an amazing cook! I was eating gourmet food all weekend and am sure I had a third helping at every meal.

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Stephanie was so sweet and made me a German Easter baked good 🙂

Stephanie and Zoe

Stephanie and Zoe were great hosts! They were so open sharing their life with me and showing me a good time. It was nice to have a girl’s weekend. They even invited me for Easter and we had a great day going to a photography exhibit, grabbing a mid-day coffee and cake, and eating a delicious dinner afterwards. They always made me feel so welcomed : )

I’m very glad I did the home stay weekend! It’s nice to have a host family when studying abroad so you can get that sense of a home away from home. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience and look forward to many memories to come 🙂

Dublin, We love you!

Hey everyone! These past two weeks have been quite crazy, filled with finals and traveling. After getting the finals out the way I prepared for my first trip. I wanted to go somewhere that wasn’t like anywhere I’ve ever been before. As I checked Ryanair for some cheap flights Dublin caught my eye! Shortly after the ticket was booked. So here are some highlights from my weekend in Dublin, Ireland.

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In front of the Dublin Castle 🙂

Rush, Ireland

Long story short, my friends and I booked an Airbnb out in Rush, Ireland. Rush is a little village about a half an hour drive outside of Dublin. Whenever we asked for directions to get to our house in Rush everyone would look at us with a confused face and say “Rush? Really?” It was actually pretty funny. It was the most affordable and I was looking forward to see a real Irish village away from all the tourism of Dublin. After getting lost on the bus twice and a 40 minute bus ride we finally arrived in Rush. Our host was so friendly and helpful and the village was quite cute! The night we arrived was one of my friends birthdays so we went out to an Irish pub in the village. We had a hearty meal of roast, potatoes and veggies and had an overall great time. Everyone was so welcoming and we got an authentic experience. Overall I’m glad we stayed in Rush, it’s always nice to truly be with locals and see a part of the city tourist do not usually see!

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Low quality picture with our new friend smiling in the back.

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The Friendly Irish

Wow, the Irish have to be the friendliest people I’ve encountered in my travels! From the custom officer at the airport to the random man on the street everyone was so friendly. Our taxi driver took it upon himself to give us a whole history lesson and make endless jokes at 6am. We stopped for a moment and a man came up and asked us sincerely if we were lost and needed help. I have plenty more examples and, now I know why Ireland is in the top 10 of friendliest countries.

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Downtown Dublin

Downtown Dublin is amazing; it’s like a little London. There’s so many people out, so many cool restaurants, museums, parks, you name it. We got to visit Trinity College; where Oscar Wild attended and home of the Book of Kells. We saw the Guinness factory, St Peters greens and the castle of Dublin. A very interesting place was the Kilmainham Gaol, where many Irish revolutionaries were executed by the British. The remains of St Valentine also reside in downtown Dublin. You can spend all day wandering around and finding hidden gems.

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The book of Kells
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St. Stephan’s Green; a beautiful park in the middle of the city.
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Trinity College

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Cliffs of Mohr

On Valentine’s Day my friends and I decided to take a day trip to the Irish country side. It was great to be able to learn so much of the history of Ireland as well as see so much of the country which is truly beautiful. We rode up the side of a mountain (terrifying), saw plenty of sheep and visited various sites. The main attraction were the cliffs of Mohr which are one of the natural wonders of the world. We were blessed to have a beautiful sunny day to climb the side of the cliffs. Fun fact: 15 people die a year at this site, so I was extra cautious. After the muddy journey we made it to the top and I was very proud! It was truly a beautiful site and a great way to end the trip.

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I made it!
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Our muddy journey.

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Sleeping in the Airport

Okay, this wasn’t a highlight but it was memorable. Our flight was so early there were no taxis at that time so we ended up sleeping in the airport. It was an experience to say the least. I arrived back to Berlin right in time for classes, of course exhausted, but it was worth it. 🙂

That’s a little bit about my trip to Ireland! Dublin is truly great. I would encourage you to look up the country’s history and of course visit if you ever get the chance! Look out for my next post about my time in Venice. 🙂

Tschüs!

 

“You Need Dirt”

This past week, I and 20 other CIEE students had the great privilege of touring the East Side gallery with the amazing artist and co-founder, Günther Schaefer.

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Gunther and I 🙂

The East Side Gallery is the largest remaining portion of the Berlin Wall. What differentiates the East Side Gallery from all the other graffiti covered areas in Berlin is that it is full of beautiful and powerful paintings by artist from 43 different countries. It is one of the highest trafficked sites in Berlin; everyone has to take a picture in front of the East Side Gallery.

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Our obligatory East Side Gallery picture.

We met with Gunther in the early afternoon as he greeted us with a smile. He was more than ready to share his story with us as we walked along the Gallery. Each piece is a powerful depiction, either gives insight into life during the time of the Berlin wall or other hardships going on in the world.

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This painting depicts an 18 year old young man named Peter Fetcher. He was the first person shot attempting to cross the wall over to west Berlin.

 

After walking the length of the wall we finally arrived at Gunther’s piece called “Vaterland (fatherland)” a grand German flag with a blue Jewish star in the middle. It represents a warning against fascist ways of Germany’s past. With pride, Gunther begin to pose in front of his self proclaimed most important piece of work. Gunther told us “Cleanliness is the enemy of art; you need dirt.” You have to get messy, you have to be real. I feel like that quote encapsulates the heart of Berlin.

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The quote that accompanies “Vaterland”

After our tour, Gunther had us all over to his house and studio for coffee and cake. He shared with us more of his art work, specifically from during the time of the fall of the Berlin wall. It was a moving experience to hear him speak about the background of the photos.

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Gunther took this photo of an East Side solider the day after the wall fell. the soldier told him after “if this was yesterday, I would have shot you for this”.
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Some students admiring Gunthers vast array of work.

As a number of tourist were crowding the wall to get their perfect selfie for Instagram, we had a truly valuable experience listening to Gunther. We were able to see the pieces the way they were meant to be seen, with a deeper meaning. (If you have any spare time I would highly recommend reading about the different pieces and artist 🙂 It was a great honor to be able to meet Gunther and hear his stories. The result of Gunther’s work and dedication to the East Side Gallery will enable it to be preserved as a memorial for years to come.

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An Insider look into CIEE Open Campus-Berlin

CIEE’s Open Campus Berlin program is a brand new program; they just opened their doors last semester! It’s pretty cool to know that I am a part of one of the first groups of students to participate in this program. Throughout the semester, I’ll be referencing different aspects of the program and I wanted to give you all a run down since it’s a new and interesting concept.

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Entry Way into CIEE G27 (Photo from slate.com Photo by Chris Mosier. Courtesy of Macro Sea.)
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First floor lounge which now has a TV; great for chill night. (Photo from slate.com Photo by Chris Mosier. Courtesy of Macro Sea.)

CIEE created this open campus concept first in Berlin (Yay!) then later London and Rome; which allows students the ability and flexibility to study abroad in whichever facet they need. The semester is broken up into three blocks (six weeks each). If you wanted, you could spend one block in each location which I think is pretty amazing. Each students is given the opportunity to choose an academic track; business, communications, health sciences etc.

Each block I take two classes of my choosing. It’s really nice to have the freedom to take classes that interest me for example, International Marketing and Grimm’s Fairy Tales, while also pursing my major. Another perk is that CIEE makes possible for everyone to have the opportunity to take German classes. I’m currently in Survival German which is a 0 credit, fun, low pressure environment to pick up some Deutsch.

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CIEE G27 (Photo from slate.com Photo by Chris Mosier. Courtesy of Macro Sea.)
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What you see when you first walk in; not pictured is the little cafe and cozy fireplace. (Photo from slate.com Photo by Chris Mosier. Courtesy of Macro Sea.)

We live, eat, and take classes all in this amazing old renovated factory. There are at least 120 students here. Between 2-4 students are placed in a room and each room has a personal bathroom. We have 4 kitchens, 1 laundry room, a café, and multiple classrooms and work spaces. The building is filled with amazing art work from Berlin artist. If you are worried about safety they have plenty of security measures in place and we have 24 hour security guards on duty.

We have German RA’s and students living with us which is great to already have an insider’s perspective into the city. They plan weekly dinners for us if we’d like or even let us tag along on their daily activities.

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One of the rare moments the kitchen is empty. The bright side of sharing a kitchen with so many people is that our rooms come with microwaves and mini fridges 🙂
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One of the many works of art we’re surrounded by.
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Every room is a little different. (Photo from slate.com Photo by Chris Mosier. Courtesy of Macro Sea.)

Our program plans optional weekly excursions around the city to places like the Outdoor Turkish market, or more serious places like the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It’s a great way to learn Germany’s history and get to know the city. Also we have plenty of clubs, or even better- you can get out and get connected to Berlin.

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Exploring Berlin
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Class excursion to a local brewery, great way to start the day.

CIEE Open Campus Berlin is a great program filled with lots of opportunities. I hope this helped you to understand my program a little better!

Until next time,

Briana

First Impressions

Wow the time has finally come; I’ve made it to Deutschland! It’s Friday and I arrived in Berlin on Monday and it has been quite a week to say the least.

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My good friend from Hope and I getting ready for take off!

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Studying abroad is crazy because everything is new; the country, the school, the language, my luggage (thank you Macy’s Black Friday sale), my roommate (she’s great), the food and even water! (99% of Germany’s drinking water is carbonated for some reason.) All the new can be overwhelming if you don’t have the right mindset, but it should make you excited! It is the most amazing feeling to know you have so many new experiences ahead of you, especially in such a great city. Berlin is bursting with character; there are so many quirky little cafes, shops and anything else you can think of all around you. There is so much street art and of course Germany is filled with a rich history. For instance, CIEE set up a city tour for us around Berlin during which I learned that Germany is a country that truly acknowledges and embraces its past, despite its dark history.

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One of the last remaining pieces of the Berlin Wall; this is where the most people died attempting to escape East Berlin.

We’ve been going nonstop between orientation and trying to soak up the city. One thing that I truly love about Berlin already is the vast array of restaurants from all over the world (it’s all delicious). I’ve been doing more than eating though. For example, I’ve visited the mall of Berlin in all its beauty, started some really interesting classes and have been meeting so many new people; American and German. All while trying to learn some basic German to better navigate the city which has been challenging but I’m loving every second of it.

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Berlin has so many great restaurants! This Thai place was delicious and so close to my program center.

Even though I have only been in here for a couple of days, I can already tell Berlin is a very unique city. I feel that anyone and anything is accepted here. You can be who you are. My program center, where I will be living and taking classes, is in the up and coming neighborhood of Kreuzberg. It’s great to be close to the heart of the city; only 3 train stops away from the Brandenburg gate, but also far enough to really experience Berlin away from all the touristy sites.

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The view from some of my friends window.

I can’t wait to explore and truly know Berlin and share my experiences with you all. From what I can tell, it’s going to be an amazing semester in a one of a kind city.

Until next time,

Tschüs!

 

Travels around the EU!

Since my last post we’ve have traveled to Luxembourg, Paris, and Brussels, gone to the Swiss Alps, Lucerne, little towns in northern France, castle ruins in southern Germany, Munich, Strasbourg, studied the inner workings of the EU by visiting the institutions, conversed over problems in the Middle East and the way immigrants are integrated (or failed to be integrated) into each member state, all the while having a full course load, midterms, papers, trying to be part of the community in our living space, and enjoying all that Freiburg has to offer. It has been quite an experience to say the least- one that at the moment, has left me struggling to make sense of all that I have absorbed and left feeling a bit overwhelmed by the grand immensity of our world’s problems.

Lucerne, Switzerland
Lucerne, Switzerland
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Lucerne, Switzerland
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Lucerne, Switzerland
Heidelberg
Heidelberg
Heidelberg
Heidelberg
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Castle
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Castle
Swiss Alps
Swiss Alps
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Swiss Alps

 

I have finally settled into a routine, just in time before the program does our last big trip together to different member states to study political stability. In the last week of November, I will be going to Budapest, Athens and Bucharest to get a better perspective on the stability of these newer EU member states along with a third of IES EU. In early October, the whole program went to Luxembourg, Brussels and Paris by bus to visit the institutions, think tanks, a Foreign Ministry etc. Each of the courses available to students in the program had individual meetings as well, each focused on a certain theme. We visited the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg and on that same day we drove to Brussels. My favorite meeting in this city was with the European Network against Racism where they gave us their perspective on immigration policies. Their passion was contagious! Other meetings in our visit included a Turkish Embassy, a progressive left-wing think tank, and the Foundation for European Progressive Studies. As a group we traveled to the European Commission, the European Court of Justice, and the French Foreign Ministry. Most of the week that we spent traveling was taken up by our meetings, which only made our free time that much more valued in terms of sight seeing. IES set up a river tour and a trip to Versailles during our stay in Paris so we could do something relaxing as a group! While our time was a bit rushed as we all tried to eat as many national delicacies like macaroons, chips and mussels, and chocolate as possible, all while sight seeing such beautiful cities, it was a perfect trip!

 

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Luxembourg
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ECJ
Luxembourg
Luxembourg

 

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Luxembourg
Brussels
Brussels
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Brussels
Brussels
Brussels

 

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Brussels
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Brussels

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Paris
Paris
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Versailles
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Paris
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Saint-Avoid, the largest US Military Cementery in Europe
Saint-Avoid, the largest US Military Cemetery in Europe
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Paris
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Paris
Paris

On a Wednesday we took a day trip to Strasbourg and had a first hand perspective on how decisions are administered in the European Parliament and even sat in to a session! There, each meeting is translated live in all of the member’s languages, which was incredibly fascinating to see in person! After studying how member countries are becoming more hesitant on the supranational power growing, we could see the effects of such notions by Great Britain having miniature state flags on their desks representing that they will be putting their state’s interests first, for example.

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One of my favorite weekend trips so far has been to Munich where I met up with a Hope Alumni, dear friend and Fulbright Scholar. Susan graduated last year and is currently teaching English in Perpignan, France. It worked out that she was in her fall break and was able to meet up for the weekend. After she came back to Freiburg for three days! Although I had wanted to visit this city when the famous Oktoberfest was occurring, I was thankful to be able to see Munich without the chaos. We had a lovely time visiting the English Gardens, Lenbach House, Marienplatz, its New Town Hall, St. Peter’s Church, and Nymphenburg Palace. This city is large yet manageable and has such a strong Bavarian splendor. While I haven’t really experienced homesickness while I’ve been here, it was so nice to be able to talk with someone that has shared the same environment and show her my new community.

Susan and I
Susan and I

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Heidelberg & the Rhine

After Carsten was done with class on Thursday, we borrowed his sister’s car and drove north to visit his grandparents who live just outside of Munich. On the way up to their house, we stopped at Heidelberg to look at the castle and eat dinner. We arrived in Heidelberg somewhat later in the evening, and we ended up practically jogging through the city so that we could reach it to the castle before the sun set! We barely made it! The view from the castle was awesome, and I could not stop taking pictures. After touring the castle and its ruins, we walked back down to the town square to have a “traditional German” dinner before finishing our road-trip.

Heidelberg
Heidelberg!!

The next day was one of my favorite days so far this semester. Carsten’s grandparents wanted to take us on a tour of the castles along the Rhine River. So in his grandparents’ car, we crossed over a bridge, drove up one side of the river, took a ferry back across to the other side, and drove back down along the other side. It was amazing! Every few minutes we could see ruins of a castle. There were so many, and they were fantastic! Along the way, Carsten’s grandparents would tell us (in German – Carsten translated) historical facts and legends about the castles on the Rhine. They were excellent tour-guides! His grandma loves to talk, and I was amazed with how much she knew about the Rhine. Carsten’s grandparents are two of the nicest people I have ever met, and they insisted on taking us out to lunch in a castle overlooking the Rhine. The food and view were incredible, and I was overwhelmed by their generosity. On our way back down the other side of the river, we stopped to walk through the woods to look at more historical monuments, and we also stopped for coffee and cake in a different city along the river. It had a terrific view of the Rhine and the surrounding vineyards! Have I mentioned before that I love vineyards?! Of course, I could not stop taking pictures.

What a fantastic day!
What a fantastic day!

The day felt like I was living in a fairy-tale. I enjoyed every minute of the busy day, and am so thankful that Carsten’s grandparents wanted to take us on a tour of the Rhine. It was a fantastic weekend, and thinking back on it, I am still amazed how God blessed me throughout that trip. I am so thankful that I was given the opportunity to visit Germany for my week of vacation – it was an unbelievable experience!!

 Until next time,

Marga

 

Stuttgart

My first few days in Germany were spent in the city of Stuttgart. I loved the atmosphere of this city, and there was so much to do! During the mornings and afternoons while my friend, Carsten, was still in class, I spent the majority of my time just walking around the central downtown area, and admiring how the autumn colors enhanced the beauty of the historical buildings. Also, Doro, Carsten’s sister, took the time to show me around the city and take me to some of her favorite cafes. We went shopping together (which I normally do not like to do), but it was actually a lot of fun! The majority of our time was spent visiting sports-gear stores, bookstores, and shoe stores (which are my favorite stores to shop at). And I had a lot of fun helping her choose which snowboarding coat to buy. During the evenings, Carsten, Doro, and I would enjoy the city lights and night-life. And on the one afternoon that it rained, I was able to spend that time in the Stuttgart Art Museum!

Some of my favorite pictures
Some of my favorite pictures from the city

In my opinion, one of the best views of Stuttgart was from the Sepulchral Chapel on Württemberg Hill. The chapel overlooks hills of vineyards, and the colorful autumn leaves were a perfect touch to the picturesque view. The climb up the hill was also a highlight. With permission from the grape harvesters, we walked straight up the hill through the vineyards, and were instructed to eat as many grapes as we desired! I love fresh grapes, and am convinced that one day I will have my own vines in my backyard.

Fantastic view! Clouds and all! :)
Fantastic view! Clouds and all! =)

Stuttgart was fantastic, and I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to spend part of my vacation in this city!

More to come on my German adventures!

Auf Wiedersehen! 😉

~Marga