Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Me in front of the Pegasus Statue the von Trapp Children danced and sang Do Re Mi.
I also sang that song while there.

This week was the first trip that was traveled as a group. Salzburg, Innsbruck, Venice and Munich all in 8 days. It was exhausting and fun.

In Salzburg I got the chance to really see a beautiful Austrian town, not that Vienna isn't beautiful but it felt great to get out of a huge city. I went up to the fortress that at one time was Salzburg protection and then went on The Sound of Music Tour. This was something I had been looking forward to since I watched the movie in class. It was pretty interesting but a little disappointing since the weather wasn't that great. After that tour the following day I got to go to a Salt Mine in Dumsburg. Traveling under the mountain by train and then by slides was a lot of fun and learned a lot about the salt industry. I think Salzburg was probably my favorite place to visit.

After a 2 hour train ride I arrived at the next destination of Innsbruck. Surrounded by mountains it was another amazing sight to see. At the time of this trip FPU was also on spring break there. It was great to see familiar faces and catch up on news going on back at Franklin Pierce. I only spent about a day and 2 nights there since the day after I arrived I took a day trip with the rest of the FPU students to Venice. It was 5 hr. bus trip with a hilarious tour guide Angelica ( i don't think she was trying to be funny but she was.) This was probably the longest day ever getting up at 4am and then not returning until around 10:30pm and having to hike back to the hostel but I am so happy I got to see Venice. And it was a great day filled with warmth and sun.

After this small excursion I left and ventured to Munich Germany. Once I got there I hit the ground running and didn't stop until I was in my bed back in Vienna on Saturday night. I started right away going straight to the Museum of Modern Art and presenting about Fritz Winter. This Museum was interesting but neat to go to. But what I was really looking forward to was going to the beer garden called Hofbrau Haus. After an unforgettable night of having a German time we traveled the next day to the Castles. The one that i was looking forward to seeing was Neuschwanstein Castle. This was built by King Ludwig II he was a king who loved building castles. This castle was based on Richard Wagner's operas. It was extravagant and I loved it. The mountains that surrounded the castles were so beautiful and snow covered with snow falling it reminded me of something out of a book like the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. After this long day outside seeing the castles I got to go to the Bavarian Film Studio. This was something I didn't think I would really care about and just do it to do it. It turned out to be AWESOME. The Never Ending Story was filmed there and I was able to ride Falcore the Luck Dragon and I also bought slippers. Even the rest of the sight was amazing. I really enjoyed myself and this is something that surprised me and I am happy it did. After the morning film studio I ventured outside of Munich to Dachau Concentration Camp. This was eye opening. I know that people have moments that change their lives forever and I thought this would effect me more but I went to the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. and that seemed to have more of an effect. But this was still an extremely important piece of history to visit. I was surprised to know how big a camp was as well as that there weren't just Jewish people there but also others like gypsies, mentally challenged, gay and even other religious people were sent to camps. I learned a lot and it was still a moving experience but just not what I expected. After this day I RAN to the train to catch the one that would arrive in Vienna at 9:30pm. It was fun like training for the Amazing Race.

I made it safely back to Vienna tired and ready to relax for a week until my next adventure to Paris. There was a lot of new experiences and it felt like a lot longer then only 8 days! Everything was worth it and I am happy to be here and experiencing everything I can.

Salzburg, Innsbruck, Venice, Munich

This past week I was able to visit Salzburg, Innsbruck, Venice and Munich. After arriving at Salzburg I was speechless at the view of the beautiful mountains. We did an awesome walking tour and were able to visit a fortress at night and view the city from up there. We went on a tour of The Sound of Music, which was fun to see where everything was filmed, with a very funny tour guide. We also got to go to a really awesome salt mine in Salzburg and actually eat salt just chiseled from the mine. The suits and slides were a lot of fun.

Innsbruck was fun because we were able to meet up with other Franklin Pierce students and go out on St. Patrick's Day. We also went up a tower with a ton of steps to see a great view of The Alps and an area where they had the Olympics one year. I was also able to get a drawing of Britney Spears on the street for 5 euro!

There was a day trip offered to go to Venice, Italy along with the other FPU students which was amazing. This was such a great day. We took a bus there and then had to take a taxi boat to the land. It was awesome to think that this place had all streets covered in water. Gondolas were everywhere and all the buildings were beautiful! When we first arrived we went to a glass blowing place, which was really cool. Brooke, Alison, Chelsea, and I went shopping all day and found some cool masks and t-shirts. Chelsea and I fed the pigeons and ate some great gelato. We all went on a gondola ride and had an awesome tour guide. She was probably Alison's favorite part of the Venice trip. I love Italy and the food is amazing!

Then it was off to Munich, which was also a blast. My favorite part there was going to the Hofbrau Haus. We were able to experience real German culture and customs, by eating their food and viewing their drinking habits. We also visited a really cool museum filled with modern art, which was interesting to look at.

Even though the traveling from hostel to hostel was tiring, this past week's trip was worth it! Being able to see four different places and do so many activites was great!

Roma, Italia

          I spent the most amazing 4 days of my life in Rome! I went with my two roommates Natalie & Alison, and our friend Matt came along too. We really made the most of 4 days; we walked all over the city and started off the first day by seeing the Vatican Museum including the Sistene Chapel and the Laocoön Group statue. We made our way to the Pantheon and even stumbled across the Trevi Fountain. We also had our first Italian pizza! It was delicious, and a lot cheaper than pizza in America! That night we went out with our hostel on our first pub crawl. It was a lot of fun, we met new people, many of them tourists like ourselves from all over Europe and some from the States as well.   

           The next day we went to the archaeological area on and around Palatine Hill. This included seeing the Roman Forum and Titus' Arch. The archaeological ruins were so amazing. Matt, Alison and I are all Anthropology majors so it was really interesting to see these sights! If we did not have more to do that day I could have spent the entire day there, but eventually we left to go see the Colosseum. It was just about as amazing as I was expecting it to be. It was so cool standing next to and within something so massive, old, historic, and well-known. That night we enjoyed gelatto by the Trevi Fountain and we all threw in coins to make wishes!

            On the third day we took it a little easier. We walked around the Trastevere area and had heart shaped pizzas for lunch. During this day and the next day we just did out best to see all the rest of the sites and check out the main areas in Rome. We saw the Temple of Hercules and the Mouth of Truth, plus we saw the beautiful ruins of the Caracalla Baths. The weather was warm and we thoroughly enjoyed the sun and grass all around us. We spent a lot of time looking at the fun souvenir shops as well, I bought two beautiful Venetian masks and a ton of postcards!

           I learned quite a few things about Rome while I was there. For example, I never knew there was a pyramid in Rome, which we got to see on our last day! Plus I did not know anything about the many obelisks that exist in the many Piazzas all over Rome. It was an experience of a lifetime and it is something I will never forget! Thank goodness I took 1,000 pictures to help me remember everything!

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Journey Back in Time

After being on the road for more than week, it certainly feels good to be back in Vienna, my "home away from home," for a reprieve before heading to Paris. Looking back, however, it is hard to believe that we got to visit so many places in such a relatively short period of time. Indeed, Salzburg, Innsbruck, and Munich were amazing cities, each very different from one another but connected by a somewhat similar geography, culture, and history. Though I did often wish that the weather had been warmer, it did seem fitting in many ways that for most of the trip snow could be seen covering the mountains in a blanket of white.

Our first stop was Salzburg, a few hours away from Vienna by train. Even in the twenty-first century, the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart looks like a town from the eighteenth century, largely free of major industrial factories or intrusive modernist architecture. One has the impression of stepping back in time as soon as exiting the train station! The two major excursions we participated in while visiting Salzburg were "The Sound of Music" tour, which brought us to locations where the world-renowned film was shot. We learned some highly interesting and amusing things about the film. Indeed, I never suspected that the production used two different houses when shooting scenes at the Von Trapp villa, or that the actress playing Leisl was almost seriously injured while shooting in the gazebo where many of the film's romantic scenes take place.

The day after taking the movie tour, we went to visit the local salt mines, a major source of revenue for the Salzburg area for many centuries. It was interesting to see how this precious mineral is mined, and it was even more fun to ride the underground slides that transported the miners to their jobs every day. Spending an hour so many feet underground, however, was enough for me; I would not have enjoyed working down there every day, regardless of how good the pay may have been!

Compared to Salzburg, Innsbruck was a more relaxed and carefree trip. I only spent one day in the city, but once more, I was taken by the natural and artistic beauty of the city. Surrounded by mountains everywhere, Innsbruck, like Salzburg, is a quiet town which seems to have let the modern world pass it by. At the same time, however, it is a town which is most beneficial to those who enjoy winter sports, such as skiing and snowboarding. The mountains, as seen in the picture below (taken from the top of a tower in the center of the city), must be heaven for those who like the snow and cold weather. They are much more impressive than the mountains found in New England, that is for sure!
I, however, am no fan of the cold or of winter sports, so I, along with a few other students, decided to leave for Munich a day earlier than the rest of the group. The largest and most important city in Bavaria (in Southern Germany), Munich is one of my favorite places in Europe for several reasons. Like the other two cities on our journey, it looks much like a Medieval town, with cathedrals, monuments, and Gothic architecture. In addition, however, Munich is a thriving modern city with shopping districts, theaters, and restaurants at every corner. Through history, the city has served many purposes, chiefly as the birthplace of National Socialism and the Nazi Movement. In these streets, Adolf Hitler laid the foundations of his political career. As a student of history, this fact is what made Munich so fascinating to me. Indeed, I ate dinner in the very same beer hall, the Hofbräuhaus, where Hitler gave some of his most memorable and popular speeches before becoming Chancellor of Germany. It was a surreal feeling knowing that the Nazi Party's policies were formulated in the very same room in which I was sitting

Even more surreal and sobering, however, was the trip we made to Dachau, the first Nazi concentration camp, before leaving Munich for our train ride back to Vienna. One cannot accurately express in words the horrors that took place there between 1933 and 1945, and the memorial site remains one of the most important locations in Europe in terms of the location's historical value. Walking into the former gas chamber (which was never used for mass exterminations at this particular camp) was the event that impacted me the most, yet it was also very difficult for me to visit the crematorium, where so many men, women, and children became nameless victims of
industrialized and systematic murder. Though I do personally feel that the countless books, movies, and documentaries that I have read and watched have to a degree "desensitized" me to what I witnessed at Dachau, it was nevertheless an emotional and educational experience that I will never forget.
The Crematorium at Dachau