"Down here at Cape Spartel is the celebrated cave of Hercules, where the hero took refuge when he was vanquished and driven out of the Tangier country. It is full of inscriptions in the dead languages, which fact makes me think Hercules could not have traveled much, else he would not have kept a journal."

-"The Innocents Abroad," Mark Twain

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Seeing Europe in 17 Days: Part 1

How did I do all of this in 17 days? I have no idea. I also know that I said I would write while I was gone, but sadly, between lack of internet, bad connections, lack of time, and lack of sleep, it did not happen. Instead, this will be in 3 parts so that I am able to squeeze in as much as possible! Also, just so you know, we were divided into 2 buses, with a total of 86 students. Because of this, we did not do many things together as a group; rather, we were told to go see the city and meet back at a certain time and place.

On May 15, we all came from our corners of Austria or Croatia to meet in Linz, Austria, which is about an hour away from me by train. At the train station, we all got reacquainted with one another, and the people who had not gone to ski camp (like me) met the "newbies," the students who had arrived from the southern hemisphere in January (mainly Australians/New Zealanders). We all rushed onto the bus and were headed to our first city, Prague! They are in the process of switching currency, which means that they prefer the Czech crown but will accept euros as well. We were able to have a tour of the city (which was conducted by our guide in an interesting German) - here is a quick overview of the city! We stayed the night in the city.

Day 2! We all packed up and drove to Dresden, Germany, where we spent the morning and picked up lunch to take with us. The city had beautiful buildings that were destroyed during WWII but have been since rebuilt. Here I am in the main square with Martin Luther! The people you meet when you travel...

From there we drove on to Cologne/K├Âln, Germany, where we arrived and slept because it was rather late. The next day, we went to see the main attraction, namely then cathedral, which is the most well-known in all of Germany. It is also one of the hardest to get all in one picture when your camera doesn't have a wide-angle lens and you run all the way to the other end of the square but you look at it later and it turns out to be slightly crooked. But here it is :)

From there, we continued on to what would be my favorite country we visited, Belgium. Our first stop was the capital, Brussels, which is also one of the 3 EU capitals. Now, being my favorite, I cannot just put in one picture. Here you see some of the guild halls for every trade on the main square, the Grand Palace; my Belgian waffle, which was warm with sugar inside and melted chocolate on top (SO. GOOD.); and of course, we tried the frites (french fries) at what a native told us was the best place in town!

Our next city was our second and last in Belgium, which was Bruges. Bruges is beautiful in a quirky kind of way, and a little more of a small-town feel than Brussels, so I cannot really say which I prefer. Both, probably. (Although now that I think about it, that may be because we actually saw Bruges at night and earlier in the day when it would have been less populated.) I love all of the architecture - none of the houses look the same - the greenness, the water. And the people that we spoke to were welcoming and glad to help. But I'll let you see some of it yourself:

That afternoon we continued on into Paris! In the evening we ate dinner in the hotel and unpacked, where we would be spending three nights. On Saturday, we spent the morning as a group, where we had a tour guide on the bus who took us around the whole city. (She was an Austrian that had lived in Paris, therefore we were able to understand her well.) We stopped several times, once at Tour Montparnasse, which is the tallest skyscraper in Paris, where we were able to see almost the entire city (it is HUGE), and also at the Eiffel Tower. The rest of the afternoon we spent getting lost. (Small groups, remember.) During this period, we just went ahead and bought postcards and decided to plan out how we would work the following day. Which was a much better idea. Sunday we were able to see Sacre Coeur, the church at the highest point in Paris; the Louvre (with Mona Lisa); Notre Dame, where there was a bread festival outside so we watched it being made and ate it right afterwards. After dinner, we went on a boat ride on the Seine with everyone else, and it rained. Or, more precisely, poured buckets. And then it calmed down, and we took pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower lit up. Here are some of my favorites from all of it:

I think that is enough at one time; more coming soon! Thank you to everyone who has wished me well during my travels!
mary beth

P.S. No, I did not feel the earthquakes while I was in Italy - I did not even know they occurred until afterwards!


  1. Wonderful ending to my weekend...hearing from you and just able to feel your presence in your writings. So awesome all the places and things you have experienced on your trip. Can hardly wait for Part II. Love YOU! -NANA