Tag Archives: Travel

Travel Log: Switzerland

It really doesn’t take much to make me happy. Just give me a couple of mountains, some source of water and a little bit of charm, and I am good to go.

That being said, these past few weeks in Germany have been absolutely magical. Every day has been filled with new sights and experiences.

Just when I was beginning to think it couldn’t get any better, it did.

So begins my story in Switzerland…

Nearly six weeks ago, when Rebecca first invited me along to Switzerland to visit one of her old au pairs, it all seemed so far away.

I said I would go, and then swiftly put off figuring out any details for, uhm, approximately five and a half weeks.

By last Monday, the distant future of “going to Switzerland” wasn’t actually so distant.

I was a little worried about six-hours each way on the train, the money and the energy I was sure to expend… But I eventually rationalized that the experience of going to Switzerland was worth all of those costs.

With everything straightened out, Rebecca and I boarded the train last Friday night.

The ride didn’t seem as long as some others. Rebecca and I kept occupied with pictures, sack-dinners and trading some magazines back and forth.

We crossed the border from Germany to Switzerland just as the sun was setting over a beautiful lake.

With the sun down and scenery gone, the next few hours seemed to drag on a bit. By the time we got to our destination of Luzern, I was pretty exhausted and ready to crawl into bed. However, with the peak of the national Swiss celebration in full swing, the party was just picking up by the time Rebecca and I arrived.

We were greeted at the train station by Rebecca’s au pair, Carolina, and Carolina’s boyfriend, Rolly. Eager to serve as tour guides, Carolina and Rolly led us through the festivities.

Food, games, music… Guess what most attracted my attention? Chocolate covered happiness strawberries!

Having satisfied both my sweet tooth my party energy, we did actually decide to call it a night at that point.

Besides, there was much more to do in the next day’s light.

We began not so bright and early by walking down to a local bakery. I opted for the light buffet, which ended up including bread, bread and butter.

But really, what more does a girl need (other than a cup of coffee)?

Rebecca and I quickly put that good carby-energy to use by exploring the town. We spent the morning shopping, perusing chocolatiers and swooning over the architecture.

By mid-day, we decided it was time to balance out our breakfast with a little fruit. This vibrant medley of blueberries, blackberries and red raspberries was just calling my name.

The sugar kick was just what we needed to continue on with our sight-seeing.

For as much as I complained about the dreary weather last week, it was definitely made up for this weekend. The skies were blue, the temperatures were mild and the humidity was low.

It was absolutely ideal for walking around town…

Admiring all the old bridges and…

Making some new friends!

One of the things that I found to be best about Luzern is that, while it is filled with all the amenities of city-life, it is small enough to easily navigate.

This was particularly fortunate, since I’m pretty certain that neither Rebecca nor I were in attendance for “navigation day” in the Boy Scouts (or even in the Boy Scouts, for that matter).

Even with our lack of direction, we were still able to find our way back to the apartment, grab our swim suits and head down to the river.

As far as views for an afternoon swim go, this one wasn’t too shabby.

The “pool” was actually an offset area of the lake with a two-story wooden sun bathing area.

We cooled off in the water for a bit, by goofing around on some “rolling logs.” I make the claim that it was really hard to balance…

After our swim, we dried off on the deck for a while. Then we continued our mission to cool off from the hot summer day.

That called for nothing other than a good scoop of ice cream.

I went for tiramisu. Although it isn’t usually my favorite flavor, it was the only kind with texture in it. Therefore, it was the obvious winner. Plus, it was actually better than I expected. Funny how gelato always seems to have that effect…

Since we hadn’t really been doing much with our day (note sarcasm), Rebecca and I decided to go for a run. Up a couple hundred stairs. No big deal.

With a little less energy and a lot less breath, we made it to the top of an old tower in Luzern. We could see past all of the city into the mountains and surrounding lakes.

We spent a little while admiring the view and catching our breath, before running back. Thank goodness that for every uphill, there is a downhill.

When we got back to the apartment, Carolina and Rolly were hard at work on dinner. They wanted to treat us to Raclette, a traditional Swiss cheese.

To prepare Raclette, each dinner gets a little pan. Then they take a thin square of cheese, top it with various vegetables and spices and then heat it all under a mini-grill.

The Raclette is then scraped off the pan, and is usually eaten atop potatoes.

I always enjoy an interactive dinner, especially since I haven’t been able to get my hands as dirty in the kitchen lately.

After dinner, we rested around for a little bit and then went back downtown to engage in some more of the celebrations. It was dark and I was pretty tired, so there are no pictures to document.

The next day, we woke up (actually) early and drove out to the nearby Mt. Pilatus to go hiking.

There has been a lot of rain the past few weeks, so we had to use a series of cable cars to actually get to the top of the mountain.

If I was a modest person, I would say the view of the Alps was pretty decent. If I was myself, I would say it was absolutely breathtaking.

From one side, we overlooked some of the tallest mountains of the Alps.

From the other side, we could see over the valley to the surrounding towns and glistening, blue lakes.

I could have spent all day enjoying the view, but unfortunately Rebecca and I had a train back to Germany to catch.

Of course there was time for one last treat…

Six hours later, I was exhausted, but home.

The trip to Switzerland was more than I even anticipated. It was beautiful, it was peaceful and it was the perfect way to wrap up my time in Europe.

Now, if only I didn’t have three more days of classes and a couple of finals…

Question: What is your favorite place you’ve travelled to?

I love the city vibe of San Francisco and the natural wonder of Alaska. However, my heart belongs in northern Michigan.


Save beer, drink water

I don’t know whether it was more natural curiosity or greediness (I beg curiosity), but I always wanted to try my parents food and drinks when I was growing up.

Generally they were pretty accommodating, particularly since I was a picky eater and my mom was always looking for new foods to add to my “OK’d” list.

One day, when I was six or seven, my dad was sipping on a cold drink. I didn’t know what it was, but if he liked it, then I wanted to try it

To my surprise, my dad said I couldn’t drink any. He explained that it was a bottle of beer and contained alcohol.

I still struggling to see the problem with this, so my dad offered to let me dip my finger in and have a small taste.

“Eww,” I thought, as my face surely scrunched up. From that moment on, I never had any desire to drink beer.

Fast forward to now. Over the course of the last six weeks, I’ve gone on both wine-tasting and schnapps-tastings field trips. I’ve also been to innumerable “Biergartens.”

Although I would rather spend my days hiking in the Alps or shopping around Munich, I’ve still made an attempt to appreciate the alcohol lessons.

Last night was the final of our guide-led tours, with a visit to “Brauerei Aying.”

Even with a limited interest in beer, I was still interested to learn the process behind making it.

Our guide was a fifth-generation brewer, so it was nice to see someone with as strong of a passion for drink as I have for food.

Near the end of our tour through the factory, we all got to sample some unfiltered beer, fresh off the line.

For the sake of jumping on the bandwagon, I had three-or-so sips.

After that, we wrapped up the tour with a trippy 3D movie and then progressed on to the main event: Beer sampling.

I was feeling pretty content with the three sips I had earlier, so I was pleased to learn that Ayinger also bottles lemonade drinks. Now that is more my style.

While most of the other students “tested out” all the different varieties of beer, I was content to sip on my “Orangen Limonade.”

Plus, my “main event” still waited: Dinner at “Liebhard’s,” the official Biergarten of Aringer.

I’ve heard the logic that beer is simply “liquid bread.” If that’s the case, I’ll gladly bypass it for the real, chewy edible kind of bread.

Since I hear that living solely on pretzels isn’t a socially appropriate thing to do, I opted to get a veggie omelette with a side-salad.

After the two-hour tour of the factory, it was nice to sit down, relax and sip on an Apfelschorle.

All in all, I think I will go back to America with a greater appreciation for the art of beer making. But, I’ll also be glad to get back to my plain ol’ tap water.

Question: What is your drink of choice?

I really like the sugar-free lemonade or tea packets that can be added to bottled water. I’ve found that’s the best way for me to actually stay hydrated.


No summer school blues

There may be a few crazy people in this world for whom “summer school” can actually be productive.

I am not one of these people.

As soon as the sun starts shining, the temperatures start rising and the water gets warm, schoolwork is the last thing on my mind.

With this knowledge, it was with a bit of hesitation that I signed up for study abroad.

Sure, I’d be spending my summer in Germany. But school is still school, no matter the continent.

Even still, I bit the bullet, packed my pencils and crossed the pond for a summer of school.

Immediately upon arriving, I realized that this wasn’t going to be any ordinary type of school.

Wine tasting with my professors? Check.

Cruises along the Spree in Berlin? Check.

Hiking in the Alps? Soon to be checked.

Field trip to Bonn to watch the World Cup in a bar.

Basically, this is a lot less “school” and a lot more fun. Best of all is that I’ve been learning more German throughout these past two weeks than I ever did in six whole years of structured classes.


Wandering for distraction, traveling for fulfillment.

Two weeks in Germany (almost) down, and I’ve noticed a few differences between America and Germany.

Of course, any amateur Sherlock Holmes would pick up on the contrast in language, landscape and lifestyle.

But me?

I pride myself on (beyond my great modesty) my sharp powers of observation.

Here is just a brief list of my discoveries:

  1. It is ever-so important to make the distinction between mineral water and tap water. The alternative is to learn to appreciate the taste of beer–it is almost always the cheapest beverage option.
  2. Always use the restroom before leaving the house. Public restrooms are either blocked off with a gate, requiring 50 cents to access, or are guarded by an sweet looking old lady, who courtesy also requires you pay 50 cents to.
  3. There will be somethings lost in translation. For example, when I was explaining to my host family that I like to cook, it came out as “I like cake.” We figured it out and had a good laugh. Still, it is always more appreciated to try and speak the other language than to submit to frustration.
  4. Finally, everything costs money. The bathrooms are just the beginning of it. The “complimentary” bread on the table? Don’t touch it, unless you are hungry for an extra charge. Down the non-mineral water before the food arrives? Be willing to dish out another couple Euro for another drink. Have a blog and want to update the world on your on-goings? The two Euro per hour at Dunkin Doughnut’s Internet cafe only goes so far.

The good news, however, is that I am settled into my host family’s house. That means free restrooms, unlimited water and, best of all, wireless Internet.

More updates to come, but here are a few pictures to whet your appetite:

Die Kolner Dom.

Marketplatz in Bonn.

Marketplatz in Bonn.

Wein!

Die Berlin Holocaust Memorial.

Question: What do you find to be the most difficult part about traveling?


A taste of home

A funny thing happened: After a two hour delay, a nine hour flight and a few quick-rail connections, I had convinced myself that I was pretty far from home.

"I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Toto..." Yeah, I said it.

I heard a lot of German, saw a lot of unfamiliar buildings and felt a cool European breeze.

First view of Holzkirchen, my home for the next seven weeks.

Then I bit into lunch on my first day, and it was like I was right back home all over again! Corn cakes, in Germany? Not the first thing I think of, but tasty nonetheless.

In fact, every single meal here has been absolutely amazing. I haven’t had many options as far as meal choices, but I have enjoyed everything I’ve been served.

I’m glad to report that there is also much more to Germany than good eats.

Thanks to the dangerous combination of jet lag and adrenaline, I was unable to sleep. Rather than stay restless in my bed, I went out for a 5 a.m. run.

The temperature was perfect, the breeze was cool and the hills were just challenging enough.

After returning to my hotel, I was able to get a little bit of rest before eating the best breakfast ever.

The remaineder of the day offered no rest for the weary, as my group was shuttled through orientation, my corny lunch, a village-wide scavenger hunt and then dinner.

Finally back at the hotel, I crashed onto my bed like a tree in the forest. Wanting to adjust a little to my new timezone, I made myself stay up a bit longer.

Tomorrow I take off for a whirlwind eight day tour of Germany with my group.

Wiedersehen!

*Disclaimer: I apologize for any incoherencies in my writing these next few weeks. Aforementioned sleep deprivation has strange, uncontrollable effects…


Hallo, von Deutschland!

After a two hour delay, a little jog to my international flight and eight hours of my poor rowmate suffering from food poisoning, I made it to Germany!

Throughout my life, I’ve traveled to the majority of states in good ol’ America. But, aside from a few jumps over to Canada, I’ve never been to another country. My travels through the states have kept the light of desire to explore burning fervent; there simply has never been the right time and right place to travel abroad before.

In addition to food and health, one of my other major passions is history (ask me anything about the presidents, I dare you!). With an Austrian heritage, I figured the best way I would be able to experience my own family’s history would be by immersing myself in it.

Enter studying German. I began taking German in eighth grade and continued through my junior year of high school, picking it back up in college.

Even with a good amount of knowledge of what I’m getting myself into, these first few hours have passed by as if in a dream. I feel myself walking the streets, but I hardly comprehend that I’m not looking through the screen of a TV… I’m actually here!

For the next seven weeks, this blog will take a slightly different course. Naturally, I will still attempt to live healthfully while I’m here. In doing so, I know I’ll be met with challenges, but also with new opportunities.

The blog will also feature a lot more details about travel. It’s OK, you can live vicariously through me!

Auf Weidersehen!