Scott's Europe Trip 2015 (Powerpoint .pptx file)
August 10, 2015Home. It is great to be home. While I never really experience homesickness during my time abroad, there is something special about being able to say you are home.
During the final leg of my journey, I traveled from Milan to Dublin. When I was back in Dublin I had a layover to catch my flight the next morning and fly to JFK. I spent the night (watching Netflix to keep me awake) in the Dublin airport and before I knew it I was able to get my boarding pass, go through customs, and wait for my plane to depart. My trip had come full circle. I during the time I was waiting I was thinking about my favorite parts about the trip, what was most fun, and where will I go again. It was impossible to answer any of those questions because each country, each city was so unique that they cannot be compared.
As I boarded the plane to fly back to the United States, I longed to be able to fall asleep. I tried so hard to sleep on the plane, but when I woke up I realized only one hour had passed. I turned on a movie in hopes that it would help, but of course it did not. I was eager to be home. Eager to talk to my parents on the phone and see my family. But I had a few more destinations before I was truly home. After arriving in JFK, we were told that there had been a medical emergency on the plane and that the paramedics were going to board so everyone needed to stay seated. I was on a tight schedule. I had exactly four hours to get off the plane, take the shuttle to LaGuardia, go through security, and board my plane to Denver. If it had been in Europe, I would have had plenty of time, but the US security takes days compared to the swiftness of Europe’s. After waiting for 30 minutes we were able to begin exiting. I was now down to 3 hours. The plane had been late departing Dublin and was only able to make up a small amount of time and also arrived 30 minutes late. I ran to the shuttle and found I had to wait, again. Another 30 minutes passed and the shuttle showed up, 2.5 hours remaining. After taking 45 minutes to get to LaGuardia I was beginning to panic. I got my boarding pass and made my way to security. Another wait. After another 45 minutes I managed to get through security and make it to my gate being later than I usually am for a US flight, but earlier than I normally was for a European flight.
Overall, the flight went well and I made it to Denver, Colorado for a NAESC Executive Board meeting. After a nice and relaxing few days in Denver planning out the future of our organization and catching up with friends, I was headed home. The end was in sight. The wait to board the plane to Omaha and the flight home was the longest I had ever experienced and when it was over I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I had made it home safely.
What started as a crazy idea 8 months ago came to an end today. I finally made it back home. After 80 days of travel, 26 flights, 20 trains, and many buses, trams, boats, and metros. In total I traveled 25000 miles this summer. I walked 1100 miles. I covered 16 countries, 57 cities, 4 states, and 2 continents. But all of these numbers cannot begin to show the countless memories that I made during my time abroad. I will be forever grateful for the experiences I had this summer and the many friends I made along the way.
August 7, 2015After spending the past few days changing cities very rapidly and keeping long hours, I was expecting to have some time to relax and take it easy in Milan. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
It just so happened that this year, the World’s Fair (EXPO) was being held in Milan and was running during the time I was visiting. When I arrived in Milan, I immediately stored my backpack in the luggage storage at the train station and bought a ticket to the fair grounds. Upon arriving I looked out upon over 490 acres of land covered in buildings and structured all dedicated to EXPO. The theme this year was Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life and 145 countries were in attendance. Each country had either their own building constructed by themselves, or they utilized one that EXPO provided. The pavilions stretched for nearly two kilometers and my sensory overload kicked in. There was so much to see and so much to process that it seemed like too much. I began my tour of the world while I was touring the world, ironically enough. I went to one pavilion and then to the next, seeing the unique culture and food that each country had to offer. The most extravagant pavilions included the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Japan, United States, and a few other. Italy alone had a 7000 square meter area of land covered by its pavilion.
As I explored each pavilion and learned more about each country my appreciate grew for the things I have in the United States. I was able to better understand how lucky I truly am to live in such a developed country and to have the luxuries that I have. I thought Venice would be the best way to end my time in Italy, but Milan and EXPO certainly surpassed it. In the end, I was able to visit just 50 pavilions, far more than I had expected, but certainly not as many as I wanted to visit. My favorite countries of all were the small African pavilions where natives brought goods they had made to sell. They also were playing traditional music and some even prepared traditional meals. It was a great experience seeing how these people live and compare it to my life in the United States.
Perhaps the most entertaining pavilion I went to was the one for North Korea. Yes, North Korea had an exhibit and it was interesting to see what they had inside. There was not much on display, they were selling a few postcards and some pre-packaged foods, but it was the people’s reaching to me taking photographs that was unique. They turned away every time I held my camera, something no other country did. They refused to be photographed and would avoid it at all costs. It was interesting to think about why they were doing it, whether they were not allowed to or sincerely did not want to I will never know.
Overall my time in Italy was incredible. Although it was brief I enjoyed every bit of it, knowing that someday soon I will be back to visit again.
August 6, 2015The famed city of Venice lived up to every expectation that I had of it. From the canals and waterways, to the cobblestone streets and ancient bridges, Venice wowed me in every way and without the famous stench. During the short time I was in Venice I made it a point to get lost. First of all, there is no way to navigate the city, it is an ancient floating labyrinth. Secondly, it is a waste of time to navigate the city. Getting lost in the back alleys of Venice uncovered incredible cafés and shops. By getting lost, it felt more like I belonged in the city than many of the cities I had visited before.
I visited the major locations in Venice such as Saint Marks Square, Ponte di Rialto, and the Grand Canal. Spending just one full day in the city was not nearly enough time to truly enjoy the city. However, I knew my time was coming to a close in Europe and I made it a point to make the most of it. Keeping with tradition, I got gelato at every opportunity, I ate real Italian food for every meal, and I enjoyed the city without the bother of my phone buzzing. Venice proved to be a very relaxing way to end my summer journey.
Before coming to Venice I had heard from many other travelers that I had to make sure I visited Murano or Burano. Both of these are islands off of the main city of Venice with various claims to fame. Murano is known for its blown glass and Burano for its lace. I decided to take a short trip to go to Murano and visit a glass blowing shop and to purchase souvenirs for my family. The artistry behind the blown glass was incredible. Trying to comprehend how someone first discovered that by making molten glass, it is possible to form it into unique shapes such as a horse, a plate, or a vase. In the end, I found my souvenirs and returned to Venice.
Hostels were quite expensive on the island part of Venice and as a result I had to find hotels when I was planning the trip. Ironically enough I found a hotel that was cheaper than the hostels. Which, in principle, is backwards. Hostels tend to and are almost always cheaper than hotels, but this was not the case. My cousin and I stayed in a 1-star (yes, there are such things as 1-star hotels) near the train station. Much to our surprise, the hotel had all the necessities. We had access to a bathroom, showers, a sink in our room, comfortable beds, Wi-Fi, and best of all it had air conditioning. Air conditioning is a rare thing to have in Europe and it was quite a surprise when I saw that our 1-star hotel had individual air conditioning units for each room. This was quite a luxury to have during our final few days in Europe.
After the short time in Venice, it was time to depart. We took the train to Milan where David would then fly to Warsaw, Poland to catch his flight back to the US, and I would spend the day exploring the city before flying back to Dublin to then fly back to New York, then Denver, then home.
August 4, 2015After visiting Rome, we took the train to Florence for the day. While I came to regret only spending a day in this incredible city, I now have it as a must visit city when I am back in Italy. Because the train passed through Florence to go to Venice, we thought we might as well make a stop.
During our brief time in Florence we visited the most famous landmarks, Il Duomo and the Ponte Vecchio. Both of these landmarks were astounding. Although we arrived early to get a good spot in line to enter Il Duomo, the line still wrapped around the building as far as the eye could see. We decided to skip the Cathedral for now and to explore the city first. We walked all around the city just as we had in the previous ones. We hiked up to Forte Belvedere to look out over the city and take the iconic picture of Florence. We also walked along the river and stopped into various free museums that were sparse throughout parts of the city. Before we headed back to the hostel to get our bags and board the train for Venice, we stopped by Il Duomo and much to our surprise, there was no line. We waited for just a few minutes to get in and were able to see the beautiful Cathedral.
We then headed back for the hostel, grabbed our bags, and headed for the final city on our journey. Florence was a very expensive city, and although we did not have much time there, for the amount of money we spent and the sights we saw, we got to do many things. Before we knew it we were crossing the water and making our way to the islands of Venice.
August 3, 2015After Berlin, I was off to Rome. While simple in theory, it turned out to be a nightmare. When I tried to board the plane in Berlin to go to Rome I was denied because “there wasn’t enough room” after seeing the plane take off without me on it I didn’t know what to do. After talking with the gate agent I was routed to Barcelona where I was told I had “a chance” to make it on the plane to Rome that evening. I had met a group of people in the airport in Berlin that were in the same situation as me and we stuck together during the travel to make sure we all made it. After hours of delays and changing gates our plane arrived and we made it to Rome. After getting a ridiculously expensive taxi ride to the city I had arrived over 10 hours later than scheduled. My mom’s boss’ daughter had an apartment in Rome near Termini Station and I was able to stay at her place, which was a huge help on scheduling. The apartment was only five minutes from the station and 10 minutes from the Colosseum.
The first day, after sleeping in from my horrendous journey the day before, I set like I always did to explore the city. In total I walked over 15 miles making a loop throughout Rome. I walked to the Colosseum, the Forum, along the river, to the Vatican, to the Castle, to Piazza del Popolo, Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, the Four Fountains, Termini Station, and Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore. In just one day I had seen two of the four greatest basilicas in the world and I walked through one of the most historic cities in the world. That evening, my cousin David rejoined me in Rome. He had just finished his studies in Poland and was traveling through Italy with me for the week. We explored more of the side streets throughout the city that evening, getting gelato every chance we had.
The next morning it happened to be a Sunday, the first Sunday of August in particular. This meant that all museums in Rome were free admission. Because of this, we got in line for the Colosseum very early. In just 30 minutes, the line exploded and wrapped nearly around the entire Colosseum. Arriving early was worth it, especially when you can take the iconic Colosseum picture without having other tourists fighting for the same shot. After the Colosseum, we went to the Forum and explored the area. We then walked to the Vatican to see the Pope. At noon on Sundays, the Pope speaks and performs a blessing over the square and we were able to be there to see the Pope. Then we went exploring the city again. We hit the major locations that I had by myself on the first day, but that was okay because I now had a chance to take in everything rather than just take pictures. The next day we were back at the Vatican to tour the Necropolis and the Basilica. Only a limited number of people are allowed to visit the Necropolis each day, and we were part of that group. We were able to see where Saint Peter is buried and actually see his bones that were discovered. Additionally, we visited Saint Peter’s Basilica. The shear size and grandeur of the basilica was incredible. The intricacy of everything from the floor, to the columns, to the paintings was just unimaginable. After spending time in the basilica we ventured to the final parts of the city before we boarded the train and set off for Florence.
July 31, 2015Once again I was back in Berlin. The trip had nearly come full circle and it was weird thinking that in just a few short weeks I would be back in the United States and back in Nebraska. I was eager but at the same time I knew I would miss Europe. During my return trip to Berlin I decided to make it much more relaxed than the first. My relatives and I went to a few local museums and castles throughout the three days I was in Berlin and we enjoyed being around each other.
The main reason I decided to return to Berlin was to work on the family genealogy book that my dad’s side has. In recent years I have become more intrigued in my family history and a few years ago, the German relatives visited the United States with a book that a family member in California had put together with information about the Schenkelberg family dating back hundreds of years. While there is great detail about our history, there is much information lacking on the current members of the family. I decided to use this time with the family in Berlin to update the book to the best of our knowledge in order to have the most recent copy available for everyone. Over the course of three mornings we managed to add all of the new family members to the book. While this may not seem like much, there were around 300 pages to the book before we updated it and afterwards the book was nearly 375 pages. This was one of the most significant accomplishments of my trip and it was rewarding knowing that I was able to connect more with my family in the exact locations where my ancestors had lived.
While I was in Berlin, the European Maccabi Games were taking place and one of my relatives had to do news coverage for it. As a result, we all attended the Opening Ceremonies which were held in the same stadium that Hitler held the 1936 Summer Olympics. It was very symbolic to have this event here. It was an incredible experience to be where history had been made just 70 years prior and to see what Germany was doing today. Additionally, it was quite the coincidence that it happened to take place during the same time that I was in Berlin.
During my final night in Berlin my family and I went to a traditional restaurant that was modeled to resemble a restaurant in Munich. With large “German-sized” drinks and meals we extremely large portions. It was the perfect end to a great time in Berlin and I would not have changed one bit about my return trip here.
July 28, 2015After leaving Lille and going to Luxembourg I set off back to Denmark to see my mother’s side of the family. I had never met this side of the family before going to Denmark so it was quite interesting arriving in Copenhagen, once again not speaking the language or having a way to communicate with them and still try to find them. After walking through the lines of people waiting for their friends or family to come through the terminal I still did not see my relatives. I started to worry that they had forgotten about me or were late. Shortly thereafter, a tall older man approached my with my name written on a piece of paper and asked if I was Scott. It was such a relief to be found by him, since I did not know what he and his wife looked like.
That evening, we stayed in a hotel just outside of Copenhagen because the drive back to Aarhus, where they live, was 3 hours. The next morning we woke up early and began our drive. We stopped at various important locations along the way. We stopped at museums and historical sights which noted important information on the Vikings and the history of Denmark. I never was really interested in history until I came to Europe, there is something about the history here that is more intriguing than the history in the United States.
After we arrived in Aarhus, at their home, we had a traditional Danish entrée. It resembled crab cakes, but was made with pork instead. That evening I went to bed early, after seeing so much throughout the day I was exhausted and I knew that more sights were still to come. Over the next few days I met various members of the family and saw many historical family sites. Some of these included the family farm that has been in the family for over seven generations, and the church that was built in the 11th century that still has family buried in its cemetery. I saw so many things during my time and was able to connect with my heritage a bit more than I have been able to in the past and in the United States for sure. We went on a historic tour of old Aarhus, visited Hans Christian Anderson’s childhood home, and visited a brand new museum nearby that had the Terracotta Warriors on exhibition from China.
When the time came for me to leave, it was quite difficult. I had grown close to my family over the past few days and they did not want me to leave so soon. We said our goodbyes and I invited them to come visit me in the United States. It seemed like I had just arrived in Denmark and I was already on my way to visit my family again in Berlin.
July 24, 2015The day after my program ended I jumped on a bus to go to Charleroi, Belgium to transfer busses and go to Luxembourg City, Luxembourg. There really was no reason to go to Luxembourg except to add yet another country to the total for the summer. I could have just as easily left from Brussels or Paris, but I might as well have gone while I had the chance.
In just under five hours I arrived in Luxembourg City and began touring the city. Because my flight was leaving that evening for Denmark, I didn’t have anything too extensive planned and it turned out to be for the best. I started my tour of the city by walking through the main streets and down various streets and alleyways, looking into shops and cafés. The entire time I walked around the city I carried my 10 kg backpack with me.
While walking the city, I stopped by major landmarks, the most prominent being the Adolphe Bridge which was undergoing massive construction in order to accommodate for the growing city. There was a museum set up on one side of the bridge detailing its history, purpose, and what the future plans for the bridge were going to be. The best part about the museum was that it was air conditioned, which on such a hot day that it had been, it felt great. I soon set off to look at various churches and the palace in the center of the city. A massive valley separates the two halves of Luxembourg City and the Adolphe Bridge spans the valley with a large park down below. I crossed the bridge and headed to the largest church that was perched on top of the valley on the opposite side. Just like the countless churches I had seen before, this one did not disappoint. The stunning architecture and artistry in the paintings and sculptures were incredible.
I continued to explore the city throughout the day, stopping in a café for lunch and to watch a building get torn down in a new part of the city. I then decided to head to the airport, but I chose not to take any means of transportation that one would normally choose, I decided to walk. The airport was only six miles away from where I was and I had plenty of time to get there so I thought it would be a great way to see more of the city. Hiking out of the valley that city sits in, I made my way through residential neighborhoods and the suburbs. Surprisingly it did not take too long and when I arrived at the airport I realized I had more time than I had planned. I took my backpack off, relaxed, and charged up my devices before getting on the plane to return to Denmark.
July 23, 2015Today marks the official end of my study abroad program, and also my time here in Lille. Tomorrow I will board my bus to go to Charleroi and then onto Luxembourg City. It has been quite the adventure here in France, and I will be forever grateful for my time. It is crazy to think that I would be able to survive for a month in a country where I spoke none of the native language, yet somehow I was able to learn the basics and manage.
In honor of my final day in Lille, besides taking final exams, I decided to take a walk around the city to take in everything I could before departing. I ventured all throughout the city, visiting countless churches that, in the typical European style, seemed to pop up out of nowhere. I look pictures of everywhere I looked in order to be able to remember this wonderful city. There is a unique quality to this city, one that I was not able to fully appreciate until my time here was nearing its end. This city reminds me much of Omaha. It is a large city with many events always going on, however, it always seemed small and that each person fit right into every street and alleyway. As I explored further into the suburbs of the city I began to fully appreciate my surroundings. It was at this point that I realized that my European vacation was coming to an end.
Before I knew it, I had to head to the University to take my final exams. After the exams we had a farewell party at the school where all of the students made traditional dishes from their home countries and we all shared them with each other. This was a great way to learn more about the cultures of the students that I interacted with all month long.
That evening I packed all of my things back into my backpack and said my goodbye’s to all of the friends I had made throughout the program. I had to get to bed early because my bus left early the next morning and I had a full day ahead of me in Luxembourg.
July 20, 2015As my study abroad program was about to end, there was one final weekend that did not have plans already scheduled, so a group of us made our own plans to go to Amsterdam. Since transportation around Europe is so quick and simple, we decided to book a bus to Amsterdam so we could see more of the scenery as we drove.
In just over four hours after departing Lille, the five of us made it to Amsterdam and began our weekend adventure. We first had to find the apartment we were staying in, so we ordered an Uber to drive us to the address. Much to our surprise, we got a Tesla car to pick us up! I had the opportunity to drive a Tesla back at UNL, but to be able to ride in one in Europe was awesome.
After we found our housing, we went to the grocery store to stock up on food for the weekend and to explore the suburb of Amsterdam where we were staying. I have said it numerous times, but I will say it again, the great thing about Europe is the well-developed public transit system. We were able to stay on the edge of Amsterdam for cheap and take the subway into the city every day for a few euros.
The next day we woke up early, made breakfast, and made our way into the city center. We picked up a tourist map and began exploring the city. People frequently say that by getting lost in a city in Europe is the best way to experience it, and that statement is very true. We walked up and down back streets, finding local shops and restaurants that were not overrun by tourists. We saw the famous canals of Amsterdam, the train station, a few churches, and then we made our way to the Van Gogh Museum.
Since we purchased our tickets ahead of time, we were able to skip the two-hour wait in line and get in during our allotted time slot. The museum was a great thing to visit, it detailed the life of Van Gogh from his childhood to his death, covering friendships, family life, and his personal life. Through the three floors of the museum, we were able to see many of his works and read about his life. To finish the busy day we had, we stopped by the famous “I amsterdam” sign and then headed back to the apartment to relax and make dinner.
The next day we finished seeing the city, walking through more canals, visiting local souvenir shops, and of course eating at the Hard Rock Café. We had been craving to have an American meal with American service. Although we overpaid greatly for the meal, it was well worth getting a taste of home from across the globe. Before we knew it, our time in Amsterdam was over and we had to head back to the apartment, pack our bags, and board the bus back to Lille to finish the final few days of classes.
July 14, 2015After Aachen, Bremen, and Hamburg I was on my way to Paris to meet up with the group of students from ISA. I arrived at the airport and found the bus that would drive me into the city. The hostel we were staying at was near the Arc de Triumph so I had a long ways to go before I would be there. Luckily enough, I managed to arrive at the hostel just a few minutes after the group did, saving me the trouble of checking in and finding where everyone went. That evening we went into the city and ate dinner along the Seine River before going on a night-time boat tour. Seeing the city for the first time, at night, by boat, was an incredible experience and a great way to start off our time in Paris.
The next morning we woke up early and set out for the Eiffel Tower. We knew that the lines would be long and when we arrived they certainly were. There were so many people waiting that the lines were indecipherable from one another. We jumped into a line that looked like it led to the stairs and we hoped for the best. After waiting for just over an hour the line began to move and we realized that we were in a better position than we thought. We finally bought our ticket and began the ascent to the first level, and then the second level of the Eiffel Tower. Looking out over Paris on such a beautiful morning was breathtaking. The city stretched for as far as the eye could see and each photo was different than the one previous. Next, we got in line to take the elevator to the top. Ascending through the tower, beams crisscrossing all around, we caught glimpses of the city through the windows. As we ascended higher and higher the city grew and continued to stretch to the horizon. Arriving at the top was even more breathtaking than the previous level. The top level soon filled with people. We even got to see a proposal when we were ready to go back down!
Paris continued to amaze me with visiting places like Norte Dame Cathedral, the Latin Quarter, the Champs-Élysées, the Arc de Triomphe, and so much more. Spending two days in Pariswas not nearly enough time to see the city. I could have easily spent four more days seeing more of the city.
While we were in Pairs, France was celebrating their independence day La Fête Nacionale on July 14. Since we were still in Paris, we got to experience the major parade in the morning, various concerts throughout the day, military flyovers, and an insane number of people filling the streets of Paris. It was incredible to be in another country for their Independence Day celebration, especially because I was not home for our Independence Day.
Unfortunately we left for Lille that day and did not get to see the fireworks in Paris, but we did get to see the fireworks in Lille. When we arrived back in Lille everyone headed to the store to get food before we went to the park to get a spot for the firework show. Once the show began I noticed something very different than in the US, everyone was standing. I don’t know if it is a tradition, or just something that happened, but everyone was standing when there was room to sit and enjoy the show. Regardless, we had a great time enjoying the fireworks and headed back to the dorms to get sleep because most of us had exams the next day.
July 12, 2015This weekend we were set to go to Brussels, Belgium. However, I was in contact with an engineering group in Germany called Bonding, which is similar to NAESC, and I made a plan to attend one of their events.
On Thursday, I booked two trains, a bus, and a plane that took me from Lille to Brussels to Aachen, Germany where I would ride with the group to Bremen, Germany. I would then take a bus Sunday morning to Hamburg where I would spend the day before flying to Paris to meet with the group on Sunday when they arrived for the Paris trip. Surprisingly enough, the last minute booking was not as expensive as I had initially expected.
Friday morning I headed for the train on my way to Brussels and then Aachen. It was a relatively easy train ride all the way through. I stopped in Brussels to walk around before heading to Aachen and exploring that town. Because I arrived so early, there was a lot of time to relax before the group was going to Bremen, so I relaxed at their office and saw some of the town. That evening we got in the car and headed for Bremen for the start of the event the next morning.
The event that was taking place was their President’s Meeting. It consisted of a roughly 12 hour meeting full of discussion and presentations entirely in German. Yes, they spoke in German the whole time and I, speaking only Spanish, sat quietly in the room trying to pick up anything I could understand. Although I could understand very little, it was quite enjoyable for me to experience. Plus, I accomplished a goal of mine for NAESC, which was to meet with each of the European groups in person.
The next morning was an early one. I headed to the bus before 8:00 AM so I could get to Hamburg with enough time to explore. When I arrived, I found the train station that took me to the airport and then began walking the city. What surprised me most about Hamburg is that it has an extensive canal system. In fact, I wasn’t expecting a canal system at all! Hamburg turned out to be a beautiful city to explore. I spent so much time walking through the streets, parks, and canals that I lost track of time and had to rush to the airport.
When I got on the train headed for the airport, I looked at the map of the line and noticed that it split just before the airport. After a few stops an announcement came on saying that only the first three cars would be going to the airport and the last three would continue on the line. I found myself in the very last car. Each stop that went by I would exit one car and enter the next closest to the front, hoping to make it in before the doors closed. Sure enough, at the respective stop the train split and the first three cars, myself included, were headed to the airport.
European flying is much different than in the US. Where I would normally arrive one and a half hours to two hours before a flight in the States, people arrive thirty minutes to one hour before a flight. The biggest reason being is the security checkpoint. Where I’ve spent twenty to thirty minutes waiting to get past TSA, I take five or less to get through in Europe. They aren’t skipping on security measures either. I’ve been stopped or my bag has been rescanned more in this trip than ever in the US; they just know how to move people through more quickly. So arriving to the airport just one hour before my flight and still needing to print off my boarding pass would normally put me into a panic back home. I just got in the long line at the check-in desk and waited to be helped.
I got to my plane right on time and before I knew it, I was on my way to Paris!
July 4, 2015Immediately after arriving in Lille, the program was already heading on its first excursion. This weekend we would be traveling to Bruges, Belgium. Bruges is a beautiful city in the north of Belgium commonly referred to as the Venice of the North. There are canals everywhere, and everywhere I looked, there was a beautiful picture that could be taken.
When we arrived in Bruges we were taken on a canal tour of the city. This consisted of twenty or so people sitting in a small boat close to the water (we nearly tipped it over had we not balanced out some weight) driving through the canals and under the low bridges throughout the city. It was a beautiful boat ride, giving us views of the city not reachable by foot.
The next thing on the schedule after the boat tour was free time. We had time to explore the city on our own for a few hours before the bus would be going back to Lille that evening. I split off with a group of friends and we set out to find waffles. The Belgians known how to make really good waffles. They are so good that you can’t seem to eat enough of them. They make waffles with toppings like strawberries, chocolate, whipped cream, powdered sugar, even ice cream, and more! Each bite tastes better than the last and when it’s gone you just want to get another, bhere wasn’t time to keep getting more waffles. There were churches, cathedrals, historic buildings, and the main square to see before the day was over. So we set out visiting everything we could before it was time to buy chocolate.
In addition to the waffles, Belgians make incredible chocolate. Chocolate shops in Bruges were just as common as pubs were in Dublin. Every time you turn the corner there is a new shop with new chocolates that look incredibly delicious. After deciding on one shop, the selection of chocolates began. There are prepackaged ones, ones you can select on your own, and of course there are assorted ones. After spending over thirty minutes in the store I walked out with forty euro worth of chocolate. I could not wait to get to the bus to try some.
Bruges was definitely a city I would return to and visit. It deserved much more time than just one day to see all that there was to offer. But it was time to go back to Lille and wait for the next trip! But also, we the Americans all got together to celebrate the Fourth of July!
July 3, 2015I arrived in Lille a few days ago and it has quickly become my home. From the other students here for the same program to the feel of the city, I think I am going to enjoy spending the next month here.
There is such a wide variety of people on this program that there is always something to do. People are constantly hanging out, going out to eat, going out for drinks, and seeing the city. There is always a group of people to be with. Also, people are so welcoming. I met people from Hawaii, Georgia, North Carolina, and even a fellow Nebraskan! I also met people from Australia, Egypt, India, and the Philippines. Students from around the world attend this summer program and it is great to be able to hear about their culture, their country, and their lifestyle.
Since I haven’t been in Lille long, I will write another post about it after the program is finished. Until then, I will be writing about all my travels during the weekends!
June 30, 2015Poland was the last country I would travel to before my study abroad program would begin, the real reason why I am in Europe. In fact, I am glad that I saved it for the end because it exceeded my expectations and I am eager to return.
Upon arriving, David and I called a taxi to take us to his grandmother’s apartment that was ours to use for the time we were in Poland. It was a good sized apartment in the old part of Warsaw. It was actually an old communist bloc that was still in use as apartments. That evening we met up with the local BEST group in Warsaw as they were celebrating the elections of their new officers. The next day we took the tram into the city. Public transportation in Warsaw and most of Poland is quite cheap. Only costing 1 USD for 75 minutes of travel on any method of transportation means that one can see much of the city for very cheap. We walked around seeing all of the major attractions in Warsaw and then we headed for the train station. During the planning of this trip I had wanted to include a concentration camp visit at some point in my travels. It just happened to be that this would be the time to do the visit.
We got to the train station and booked the only available train tickets leaving Warsaw for Krakow early the next morning and arriving back in Warsaw two days later in the evening. So it was early to bed after booking our hostel in Krakow so we could wake up in the morning. The train ride was surprisingly quick and in no time we arrived in Krakow, jumped on a bus, and in just over an hour and a half were in Oswiecim, home to Auschwitz.
Over the next few hours we toured the camp. We saw where people used to sleep, eat, work, and where they were killed if they did not cooperate. We saw a gas chamber and a crematorium where Jews and other persecuted groups were put to death. It was an extremely powerful visit and words simply cannot describe the feeling one gets when visiting the camp. We also took the shuttle over to Birkenau in Brzezinka to visit the other part of the camp that made up Auschwitz-Birkenau. This vast camp was surrounded by trees on most of the sides of the camp, feeling like a prison before even entering. We walked to old tracks that brought in train cars full of prisoners both dead and alive depending on if they managed to survive the ride to the camp. We saw the remnants of the gas chambers and crematoriums that the Nazi’s tried to destroy when the camp was nearing liberation to attempt to hide any evidence of wrongdoing. We also saw where the younger kids would sleep. This building was lucky enough to have two pictures on the inside, but it did not make it feel any more like home.
Overall, touring Auschwitz-Birkenau was an incredibly powerful experience that I am so lucky to have been able to do. It was such a critical part of the world’s history and to see first-hand what took place makes me so much more appreciative of everything I have and the people I have in my life. We headed back to Krakow and did the touristy things yet again. Krakow was much different than Warsaw, it had a different feel to it and I couldn’t figure out what it was. Krakow was not hit as hard during the war and remained largely intact, preserving much of its history and incredibly beautiful churches and buildings.
The next day, David and I caught the train back to Warsaw and in just a few hours we arrived. His mom met us at the train station and took us out to dinner. She is from Poland and was back for the summer to take care of her mother. It had been many years since I had seen her and it was wonderful to get to catch up. As darkness set upon Warsaw, I knew that this was my last day before my study abroad program began. In the morning I said my goodbyes and I was on my way to Charleroi, Belgium and then to Lille, France where I will be studying for one month.
It is bittersweet to be done traveling for a while, but I think I am ready for it. It will be nice to unpack and stay in one place for more than a few days.
June 25, 2015Latvia was the next stop on the trip. More specifically the capital, Riga. We had just 17 hours to see the city, but arriving at 1:30 AM was not the right time to do so. I was lucky enough to get in contact with some members of ESTIEM from Riga and they allowed David and I to stay with them for the night.
After arriving at their house, we of course did not go to sleep. Instead we stayed up talking and sharing stories until we realized it was almost 4:00 AM and that they had to get up early for work that morning. The difficult part in not realizing how late it was came in not having darkness. Because Latvia is so far north and it happened to be the Summer Solstice, it never got fully dark that evening. It was the strangest experience trying to sleep but having light come in through the windows still.
After some sleep, we met up with a member of BEST and he showed us around the city of Riga. We saw the old city and new city, the river, the old castle, and more. We went through the old areas of town that were invaded during the 1900s. We even saw old headquarters of the SS. The most intriguing part was going into the many bars throughout Riga. These bars were all underground. The buildings would look normal, but upon entering there were stairs that lead downstairs to a cavernous bar belowground.
But in no time the 17 hours were up and again we were at the airport to head to Poland. We had been lucky with flights the entire trip, but it was time to handle a curveball. When we arrived at the Riga airport we found that our flight had been cancelled. Not delayed, but cancelled! We quickly went to the help desk and the attendant rebooked our flight and said the previous plane had mechanical issues. When we looked at our tickets we saw that we had just 30 minutes to get through security and onto our plane. We ran through the airport and breezed through security with just enough time to get on the bus that would take us to our plane. Had we not been so early to the airport, we would not have gotten a flight to Poland until late that evening.
June 24, 2015Traveling to Copenhagen was probably one of the most interesting flights I have had in a while. We all know that the world is a small place, and somehow we always seem to meet people at random times that have the craziest connections to us. Well this was one of those times. On my flight to Copenhagen from Nice, I sat next to a mom and daughter from the Minnesota/Michigan border. They were incredibly friendly, asking about my travels and school. They even insisted that I have some of their lunches they had purchased before the flight! They were quite possibly the most friendly people I have ever met on a plane. The crazy part comes when we exchanged names. I told them that I was from Omaha, Nebraska and they asked me if I was ever involved with music growing up. I had played the piano and saxophone so I replied with “yes”. They then asked me if I knew of the music store named Schmidt Music. This store is a staple in Omaha for music students and I had been there many times. It turns out that this mother and daughter are part of the Schmidt family that owns the stores throughout the Midwest! These crazy connection show up in the strangest of places.
Now it was time for Copenhagen, Denmark. It was quite the change coming from warm and sunny Monaco to cool and cloudy Denmark in just a few hours. Upon arriving, David and I set out immediately looking at the city. We only had a day and a half here and we had to make the most of our time. It turned out that it was the summer solstice festival while we were in Copenhagen, so there were celebrations everywhere. Massive woodpiles with fake witches were all around the city waiting to be set on fire that evening. We stayed out most of the night to experience this traditional festival and then we got some sleep because the next day was going to be long.
The next day we joined in on a free walking city tour in order to see everything in Copenhagen in the least amount of time. For the next few hours we toured the city seeing the various attractions such as the canals, Hans Christian Andersen’s House, the Mermaid, Tivoli Gardens, and the Royal Palace. Before we knew it, we had walked throughout the city. Up and down alleyways, across canals, and through archways we saw a large amount of the city given our time. It was already time to leave Copenhagen and head to Riga, Latvia, but I would return in one month.
June 23, 2015The next stop for my travels was Monaco. With a landmass of less than one square mile, Monaco is one of the smallest countries in the world. It also happens to be home to luxury cars and incredible yachts. Some of the wealthiest people make Monaco a second or third home, and people from around the world visit this region of southern France known as the French Riviera. After visiting I understand the reason.
I never realized how important making connections and meeting new people was until college started, and while planning for this trip they became even more evident. In Monaco, my cousin and I stayed with a friend he made at his university during the first week. Had that connection never been made, Monaco would have been the most expensive place for us to stay. Connections similar to this allowed has allowed us to stay for free in Germany and Switzerland, and will be used to stay with people in Poland, Denmark, and Italy.
During our time in Monaco we saw many things. My cousin’s friend got us tickets to their aquarium and marine museum, we walked nearly the entire length of the country, saw many nice cars, and of course managed to get on a yacht. Although the country is small so many things are close in proximity.
After some time in Monaco, we also took a train to Nice, France. Nice is a nearby city that is a very popular tourist destination in the French Riviera. Beaches line the coast for miles with plenty of sun shining down on the beachgoers below. Nice is a complete tourist destination. The city was beautiful and there was enough to see that filled an entire day. The most fun part of our time there was that there also happened to be a large city music festival taking place at the same time. We walked the streets of Nice through the night listening to various types of music.
Before we knew it, we had to leave and it was time to go to the next city and country, Copenhagen, Denmark.
June 20, 2015Barcelona was the city I had been waiting for, I had been wanting to visit since my sister visited when she studied abroad in Spain. Although we had four days in Barcelona there was still much to see.
Our hostel was located in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona, a region of the city is located in the center of old Barcelona. Although the city continues to renovate buildings and modernize them, many buildings in this area date back to medieval times. It was a good location to be in, it was next to the Pablo Picasso Museum and only a fifteen minute walk from the beach.
The first day David and I went to visit Sagrada Familia. If you don’t know what this, take some time to Google it because I cannot even begin to describe it. Like I said before, I had wanted to visit Barcelona for many years and this was the reason. This newly declared basilica left me speechless upon entering. Massive ceilings, columns, stained-glass windows, paintings, and more didn’t even begin to fill the cavernous interior of the basilica. Still an ongoing construction project for over 100 years, workers continue to finish Sagrada Familia while visitors from around the world pour in to see its grandeur. The architect was a man named Antoni Gaudi. His work is quite different from anything in history. After spending over two hours exploring Sagrada Familia, we left to go to Park Guell, a park on a large hill in Barcelona that overlooks the city created by Gaudi.
Park Guell features much of the obscure architecture that Sagrada Familia does, but brings it into nature. The park was actually a real estate development that never took off. Now, it features some of the most incredible views of the city and Sagrada Familia. After spending a few more hours in the sun we began the long walk back to our hostel to relax before getting dinner. David and I met up with our cousin Gabby, who is interning in Barcelona for the summer, and two of her roommates for dinner. We had traditional tapas and a variety of Spanish foods.
During the next day, we walked to the National Museum of Art, the Magic Fountain, Montjuic, and the beach. Because there is always so much to see everywhere you look, we wanted to walk everywhere to take in the sights more. That evening we met up with more engineering people. This time these were students who are part of the group named ESTIEM. Another engineering student group in Europe. It was great having locals show us around again, especially because they know how to eat great food for little money.
Before I knew it, our time in Barcelona was over. Next stop was Nice, France and Monaco.
June 17, 2015After a day in Madrid I was off to Lisbon, Portugal to meet up with my cousin, David. He is taking Polish courses this summer in Krakow, Poland and we decided we would travel together before we started classes.
We both arrived late to Lisbon and all public transportation had been closed so we decided to take a taxi from the airport to the hostel. While this would normally be a straightforward ride to the downtown area of Lisbon, it was one o’clock in the morning and our taxi driver wanted to take full advantage of that. Most taxis have different rates depending on the time of day, higher rates tend to be when fewer people need them, like during the night. The driver also spoke Spanish so I was able to tell him where we needed to go. After leaving the airport he was driving in the completely wrong direction, opposite of where we needed to go! I told him this and his response was that this was way “took the same amount of time”. While this was true, it was considerably longer based on the mileage and would result in a higher fare. We got to our hostel with no problems after paying him much more than we should have, but we definitely learned our lesson.
The next day we woke up early and began to explore the city. David was going to meet up with a friend for lunch and I was going to meet with some engineering students from Lisbon. In the United States I am on the Executive Board for the National Association of Engineering Student Councils (NAESC) and there are similar groups in other countries such as BEST, CFES, and bonding. Today, I was meeting with the newly elected President of BEST. We had lunch in the square and talked about our organizations and our groups working together in the future. This marked the first time in NAESC’s history that someone met in person with members of BEST. After lunch I met up with two other members of the BEST group in Lisbon, similar to eSAB at Nebraska belonging to NAESC. They showed me around the city for the entire day and the one thing I remember the most is that Lisbon is full of hills.
Everywhere we walked seemed to be uphill. It reminded me of what my parents and grandparents would say about walking to school uphill both ways through a foot of snow when they were young. I now knew that saying could be true. Except without the snow and about 80 degrees warmer. The weather in Lisbon was beautiful when we were there. It was sunny, few clouds, and a nice breeze. It was wonderful to finally be spending time on the coast. Everywhere we walked had incredible views of the city and of the ocean.
Again it was time to pack and head to the airport. It was an endless cycle of flying in, exploring the city for a few days, flying out. I was ready to relax a bit more with our longer stay in Barcelona.
June 15, 2015After leaving Zurich, I headed to Madrid as a stopover to get to Lisbon. When I was booking flights for this trip I had a few options. One option included a layover in Madrid, but it was eight hours long and that was not enough time to do anything meaningful in the city and it was too long to sit in tone airport doing nothing. Instead I was able to find that there was an option for a 22 hour layover in Madrid, so I booked it and made myself a day trip in Madrid.
Flying out of Zürich my flight was delayed for more than an hour because of rain. I couldn’t believe that a simple rainstorm was stopping all air traffic at Zürich’s airport! Finally the plane took off and we made it to Madrid, but because the plane was so late getting there I was going to have to navigate the metro system late exhausted and late at night. Much to my surprise however, it was fairly straightforward with the exception of finding the right exit to take when I made it to my destination. I went to bed right away so I could wake up early the next morning to explore the city during my limited time in Madrid.
The next morning I found a free map at the front desk of my hostel and drew out the route I was going to take in order to see as much as possible in the ten hours I had remaining before I flew to Lisbon. My route included major attractions such as the Royal Palace of Madrid, Cathedral de la Almudera, Plaza Mayor, Puerto del Sol, and Parque de El Retro. I set out and was traveling on my own once again for the first time in two weeks. It was great wing able to set my own pace and spend as much or as little time at each destination, but I missed having someone to walk with me and to chat with throughout the day. It was quite the change going from traveling with a group of three people to just myself in one day.
I realized early on during my tour of the city that I was ahead of schedule and went to Puerto del Sol to sit, have a pastry, and people watch. It was very relaxing not having a schedule and being able to sit and soak in the fact that I was in Europe. It hadn’t yet hit me that I was away from home until that moment. Because I was traveling with my sister it always felt that I was connected to home.
After I finished my tour of the city it was finally time to once again board a plane and fly to my next destination. Normally this is where I would end my post, but there was something that happened at the airport that I thought I would share. I was in line waiting to board my plane when a couple in front of me went to scan their tickets to board. The computer denied them which had seemed normal since I had seen it multiple times in Europe. The desk attendant simply printed out a new ticket and scanned it, but they were denied again. Upon inspecting the ticket, the desk attendant informed the passengers that they were flying put the next day and that they could not change to the flight they thought they had because the plane was full. I was amazed that they had even made it through security with a boarding pass for a flight that was still 24 hours away! The couple then walked away from the gate to try to sort out what to do next, and the plane took off and I was on my way to Portugal!
June 14, 2015After a spectacular trip to Germany, it was evident that we didn’t want to leave, but nevertheless the trip continued. The next stop was set for Basel, Switzerland. After we said goodbye to our relatives in Berlin we boarded our plane and in just under two hours we set foot in Switzerland.
During our time in Switzerland we stayed in two of the major cities, Basel and Zurich. In both of these places we were graciously accepted into the homes of the families of my sister’s friends from her time at Kansas State University. After we arrived we were picked up by my sister’s friend’s family and we drove to their home where their mother had prepared an authentic Swiss dinner of cheese fondue for us. We ate until we were full and the fondue was gone, and when we thought that dinner was over, another pot was brought out along with more bread. Staying in the homes of people who live in each country we visit seems to make us feel more a part of the culture, like we belong. For a few days we aren’t tourists anymore, rather we are friends who are visiting.
Over the next few days we explored Basel, Lucerne, Liestal, and Rheinfall with the family. They showed us so much throughout the cities and took us everywhere, the most notable was Rigi. Rigi is a mountain in Switzerland that lies between three of the many lakes (which look more like oceans) throughout Switerland, Lucerne, Zug, and Lauerz. Although it is not the highest point in the Swiss Alps with an elevation of 1798 meters, it certainly offers incredible panoramic views of the surrounding areas. To get to the top of the mountain we had to take a funicular to the top that started at the shore of one of the lakes and twisted its way up and around the mountain until stopping at the peak.
During the next few days we spent time in Zurich and the surrounding areas. There was so much to see in Zurich that I know I need to go back again just to see it all. We were able to climb to the top of one of the church towers in Zurich and see the entire city and the mountains all around. Although Switzerland is such a small country, compared to the US and even to the size of Nebraska, there was so much to see during every minute of our time there.
Just four days after arriving in Switzerland, it was already time to leave once again, but this time I would be saying goodbye to my sister and her friend. For them, the trip was over. Two weeks seemed to pass in the blink of an eye and traveling without them for the remaining time would be quite different. For them, they would fly out to Dublin once again to catch their plane back to the US. For me, I was off to Portugal, but not without a 22 hour layover in Madrid first.
June 10, 2015Yalla!
Germany was a whirlwind of adventure, the past few days in Germany have gone by so quickly and I can’t believe they are already over. From the beginning of the trip I knew that Germany would be a special place. With everything that was already planned, we would be moving non-stop for our short time here. The Arabic word “yalla” means “come on!” or “let’s go!” and it was the theme of Germany, especially Berlin.
Being greeted by family at the airport is a wonderful event no matter where you are traveling, but is even better when that family is your host when you’re traveling through Europe. When we arrived in Berlin, two members of our family, Uta and Christoph, were there to greet us and host us in their home. Two years ago, Uta and Christoph came to the United States to visit the plethora of Schenkelbergs and other members of our family. During that time they invited any of us to come stay with them if we came to Berlin and my sister had told them of the conference in Europe that would be held in 2015. It is crazy to think that in just two years, the idea of visiting them in their home country would become a reality.
Our time in Berlin was packed with events from morning to night. Instead of traveling by car, we decided to take Berlin by bike! On the first day we rented bikes and began the tour of the city, led by our own personal hosts and tour guides. During our tour of the city we went between the former East and West Berlin to see the differences in the divided city and country just 26 years ago. Police officers still guard Jewish centers for protection. Buildings still have bullet holes from where people were shot. There are even buildings that are empty because the government does not know who they belong to. Construction is taking place throughout the city and in 10 to 15 years the city will be vastly different than it is today.
After biking the city, we went to visit the Reichstag and Chancellery. The Reichstag was first and Uta and Christoph were able to use various connections to get us in to the regular parts of the buildings that aren’t included in a normal tour. They led us through the enormous building where we saw where the politicians work and underground tunnels to go between buildings. During the renovations made to the Reichstag in recent years, Germany decided to leave some of the old building exposed on the inside. These walls had various markings and writings from Soviet soldier in 1945 that have been preserved. Next was the Chancellery, where the Chancellor, head of the German government, has their office. This tour was guided by German-speaking tour guides and Uta and Christoph were our own personal translators.
During the next few days we went to see the River Spree and the popular attraction Badeschiff. Badeschiff, or bathing ship, is a floating swimming pool on the river Spree in Berlin. Additionally, there is a sculpture further up the river with the title of Molecule Man. This 100-foot metal statue is visible from a large distance away, and if you have been to Council Bluffs, Iowa you can see the same sculpture in front of the Mid-America Center.
Our final main thing we visited in Berlin was the remnants of Berlin Wall and the various memorials from the World Wars. These powerful sights cannot be put into words and are truly something a person must experience. It is difficult to understand how such terrible events could have taken place in the past century. Even more difficult is trying to understand how these events occur each day and still go unnoticed in more developing countries. The Berlin Wall and the memorials to the World Wars could take up an entire post, but instead I encourage you to use the internet and read more about the events that took place in Germany and throughout Europe during this time. Read about the memorials that have been established. Read the countless stories from family members who lost relatives. Read about those who were persecuted. Rather than trying to forget, Germany has chosen to remember.
Now that the time in Germany has come to a close, we move to Switzerland and the final country I am traveling to with my sister and her friend. It has been quite the journey so far and it will be weird seeing them leave.
June 7, 2015Touchdown!
Germany began with a few days in Düsseldorf, a large city of nearly 600,000 people. We would be spending our time with a friend of my sister’s, named Klaus, whom she had met when she studied abroad in Spain five years ago. Upon arriving in Düsseldorf, Klaus picked us up from the airport and we dropped our stuff off at his apartment. We didn’t stay long because it was time to hit the Autobahn and drive to Schenkelberg, Germany (yes, there is a town named Schenkelberg in Germany). After a quick nap in the car and going 230 kilometers per hour (143 miles per hour) we arrived in the small town of Schenkelberg. Established in 1219 this town has around 700 residents. While wandering around the town we stopped to talk to a lady who was working in her yard. Coincidentally enough, her last name was Schenkelberg!
Düsseldorf was full of more excitement adventure. Traveling to Cologne to see the Kölner Dom, Cologne Cathedral, was incredible. The intricacy and size of these buildings that were constructed centuries ago continue to amaze me. Over the course of the next few day we toured Düsseldorf, going up the Rhine Tower, experiencing the local nightlife, visiting shops along the river, and even taking a quick trip to the Netherlands, we were always on the move.
My favorite part about Düsseldorf however was watching a football game, an American Football game. While soccer (also known as football) is popular worldwide, a group of people throughout Germany enjoy playing American Football. The local Düsseldorf team, the TFG Typhoons, played the Bonn Gamecocks with the Typhoons coming out victorious. We had a great time watching a traditional American sport played in Germany, with German food, and our host Klaus as the announcer speaking German, of course. Regardless of any language barrier there may have been when ordering food, we knew the calls and the game so keeping up with the game was no problem.
With how great Düsseldorf has been, I cannot wait to see what Berlin has in store for us!
June 5, 2015Great Scott!
Waking up at 3:00 AM to leave our hostel in Dublin to get to the airport for our first intra-European flight seemed like a terrible idea in the beginning, that is until we experienced the incredible city of Edinburgh, Scotland.
Everything in Edinburgh was amazing, from the food, the architecture, our hostel, anew even the people. My only complaint with the city is the currency. The British Pound Sterling is an annoying currency right now for being an American because the conversion rate is very poor right now. Converting at a rate of 1 GBP = 1.53 USD makes it much more difficult to track how much money we are spending each day. We are constantly thinking that things cost less than they do because the Euro, the currency used in Ireland, is near equivalent to the USD and we forget to multiply by 1.53 to get the actual price.
Arriving in Edinburgh early was quite possibly one of the best decisions made about this trip. We landed around 7:45 AM in Edinburgh and found our way to the hostel after taking the tram into the city by 9:00 AM. Our hostel was named Kick Ass Hostels, and it sure did live up to its name. I would compare it to a hotel stay, but with more people in each room. The hostel had a bar upstairs, café downstairs, plenty of showers, night activities, and a view of the castle that sits right across the street! I was amazed at how much this hostel had to offer, and it was incredibly cheap as well.
After making it to the hostel well before check-in, we stored our backpacks and headed out into the city. First finding our way around this two tiered city, then moving onto more sights. Edinburgh has a portion of the city that sits above the other one. It was quite difficult to find our way between the levels, but after a while we found a street that connected the two, with the only downside being it was incredibly steep. Soon after discovering this street we headed off to the Royal Mile, a large stretch of shops and businesses along the main road that leads directly to Edinburgh Castle.
Before getting to the Royal Mile, we stopped in a nice café named The Elephant House. Some Harry Potter fans may know the name of this place as where J.K. Rowling worked on writing the Harry Potter Series. After eating breakfast at a table that looked up to the castle we went up the Royal Mile to do a Scotch Whisky Experience. Scotch Whisky is unique to Scotland and is distilled throughout. The tour included showing how it is made, a tasting, and looking through the largest collection of Scotch Whisky in the world with almost 3500 unopened bottles.
After this we walked up the Royal Mile and toured Edinburgh Castle. The size and magnitude of the castle was incredible. It sat high above the rest of the city with stunning views of the town below. It took nearly three hours to see all that we could in the Castle. From panoramic views of Edinburgh to the crown jewels of Scotland, the castle never ceased to impress us. We continued to explore the city throughout our time including climbing Arthur’s Seat (one of the highest points in Edinburgh, overlooking the city), Saint Giles Cathedral, and so many more. One of the more historical places, along with the castle, was the Palace of Holyroodhouse. This is where Mary Queen of Scots lived and where Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal Family stay during their time in Scotland.
After exploring the city for the day, we went back to our hostel to check-in. We had a 10-bed room that was blew us away. It was so clean and modern and the people were so friendly, I would recommend anyone to stay there. The best part about our stay were the wonderful roommates we had. Upon arriving we made friends with our roommates who were from California, Australia, Michigan, Sweden, and many other places. The community spaces and friendly atmosphere made it incredibly easy to hang out with people get to know them.
Scotland has a few unique options for food that we made sure we tried, haggis and black pudding. Haggis is the heart, liver, and lungs of a sheep minced with spices and the cooked. It is traditionally served with turnips and potatoes called neeps and tatties respectively. It was surprisingly tasty and had a taste similar to a meatloaf. The second dish, black pudding, we tried during breakfast when we went to Glasgow to fly out to Germany. Black Pudding is made of pork blood and is traditional in a Scottish breakfast. It had an interesting taste and texture that really isn’t comparable to other foods.
The final night during of our time in Scotland included a hike up to the top of Arthur’s Seat, one of the highest parts of the city with incredible views. Before we set out on our hike, I got in contact with an engineering student from Purdue University who I had meet through eSAB and at the Midwest NAESC conference this past year. We were able to meet up and we hiked to the top of Authur’s Seat together. It was so cool to see that the connections I made back in Lincoln were utilized when I traveled abroad too!
I’ve written way more than I probably should have, but there was so much about Scotland that I couldn’t leave out. The past few days have flown by, our time in Edinburgh seemed like a few seconds compared our time in Ireland but with so many more memories.
Time for Düsseldorf and Berlin, Germany!
May 30, 2015The city of Dublin, Ireland is an incredible one filled with rich culture, wonderful history, and great views. When the city originated there was a lake just inside the harbor where the shipe were stored to protect them. This lake was named Dubh-Linn, meaning Black Pool which referred to the color of the water. During the building of the city and its history the name of the lake became the name of the city and was changed to the easier spelling of Dublin. After the first few days in this city I am amazed by all there is to do in the city.
On the first day my sister, her friend, a friend of mine and I experienced hostel living, which turned out to be the greatest accommodations that a traveler can use in Europe. For just 20€ a night we got to stay right in the city center and had a bed, locker, Wi-Fi, and free breakfast. We stayed in a 20-bed room with people of all ages and from different languages during the first night and had our own sub-room with four beds. The hostel was a great way to meet new people who were also traveling.
We met a guy from Canada named Jake who was traveling throughout Europe this summer just like I am doing and a Mechanical Engineering student as well which was a great way to connect. After chatting with him for a while, we invited him out to have dinner with us and had a great time. The next morning we woke up early to some people in our room talking and who didn’t mind to read the signs across the emergency exit door. They walked right out the emergency exit door in our room onto the fire escape and let the door shut behind them. They then pounded on the door for some to let them in, but who wants to leave a warm bed and walk across a cold room to let some people who should have read the signs into the room again. I mean for all we knew, they were random people trying to get into our room. After a long time of knocking and shouting they realized they that the fire escape had stairs and walked down them.
The food in Ireland is quite similar to the food in the US, and restaurants are as well. One place in particular though was far from a traditional restaurant back home. Bobo’s Burgers (interesting name for an Irish burger place, I know) had some of the strangest decorations so far. It was covered in cows. From the walls with paintings to the booths with cow skin, cows were everywhere. Besides the decorations, the food was wonderful.
Exploring the city has been so much fun as well. We have seen places like Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin Castle, Trinity College, and Saint Steven’s Green. We experienced a typically Nebraska day while we were at Saint Steven’s Green. Within a matter of 30 minutes there was clear skies and sun, to dark clouds and rain, to a torrential downpour of hail, then back to sun and clouds. The weather is predictably unpredictable. It will most likely rain every day, but you never know when. One day started with no clouds in the sky and a bright sun and it soon changed to windy and by the end of the day it was raining yet again. While the weather in manageable, I failed to realize how much being in a country that is so much farther north affects the amount sunlight in a day we experience. The sun rises around 5:00 am and sets just before 10:00 pm, leaving only 7 hours of darkness which does not allow for much sleep but leaves so much time each day to experience the city.
The city is incredibly walkable, while the public transportation is easy and widely accessible we have walked everywhere. Being able to walk around and look at the incredible architecture and structures. It’s amazing to see how these buildings were constructed and to think about how they were able the build the archways and construct the stained-glass windows that are throughout all of the churches.
In the next few days we will be exploring more of the city. We will tour the Guinness Storehouse, walk along the River Liffey, and take a day bus tour across Ireland to Galway, the Cliffs of Moher, and going to Limerick. The next few days will be filled with more sights, sounds, and adventures, I am sure that Ireland will continue to amaze us.
May 28, 2015A delayed flight or a 9 hour layover?
With so many flights I knew something would go wrong eventually, but I didn’t expect it to be so soon. On just the third flight of my trip I already have a delay. While most people would be frantic about a delay of an hour, I am just glad it’s one less hour I have to spend at New York’s JFK airport.
The problem with international flights and flying in general is choosing the right length of a layover. Too short and you miss your flight, too long and you spend hours on end pacing the terminals of an airport you will become all too familiar with. By the time the fourth pass of the donut shop is made, you are on a first name basis with the cashier and they give you a free donut because the feel sorry for you.
Sitting around waiting for my flight to leave is difficult not because I am an impatient person, but because the excitement is growing with each passing minute. Knowing I will be spending my summer in such incredible places such as Monaco, Spain, Latvia, and Luxembourg keeps me going through my 9 hour layover in JFK and my hour delay here in Charleston.
May 26, 2015Goodbye Omaha!
This past weekend was my final weekend in Omaha until August. While it is bittersweet I cannot wait to see what adventures this summer has in store for me. I will be spending my last few days in the United States with my sister in South Carolina before we pack our backpacks and head to Ireland.
Packing for this trip has been one of the most difficult things I have had to do in a long time, quite possibly more difficult than finals! Because I am traveling only on budget airlines, I am limited to a bag no larger than 55x40x20 cm and 8 kg, much smaller than what I normally pack for a weekend trip but somehow I will make it last an entire summer abroad. Thankfully, for my sake and for those who sit next to me, I will be visiting friends and family throughout my travels and will have access to laundry services.
The past week I have had days where I am nervous about this trip, and days where I cannot wait to be in Europe. I know it is normal to have my worries about the trip, and for my family to worry about me while I am abroad too, but I know that everything will be fine. I am confident that I will have an incredible, life-changing experience.
April 28, 2015I truly believe that when one door closes, another opens in its place, and that certainly has been the case for me this year. In the beginning of the year I did as any engineering student does, attended the career fair, applied for internships, and had countless interviews all in hopes of landing that dream internship for the summer. Although I interviewed and received offers from companies many students would love to work for, none seemed like the right fit for me. Something told me I wasn’t supposed to accept an offer. That I had a better opportunity waiting to be discovered. That opportunity came in studying abroad.
Today officially marks one month until I depart for Europe, a goal I have dreamt of ever since my sister studied abroad in Spain when she was an undergrad. Since then, I have constantly been thinking of how I can manage to study abroad, especially with engineering. With such a strict and rigorous course schedule, I thought it would be impossible to make happen, that is until I found the program in Lille, France. For just 28 days, I will be taking courses in engineering, focusing on Renewable Energy and Product Design. It just so happens these courses transfer back to UNL to keep me ahead of schedule for graduation. Initially, I chose my study abroad program because of the classes I would be taking and how they would relate to my career goals of working internationally; but in the past few weeks, something has changed. It no longer is about the classes (although still important), it’s about the experience.
After I was accepted into my program the planning begun. I am a very proactive person. A planner. An excessive planner some may say, but I say that’s not possible. I knew I didn’t want to spend 28 days in France and then return to the United States immediately after, I wanted more. I began to expand my travel plans. First, with traveling with my sister to Scotland for a conference she would be attending to present her research. Then it became a trip to Ireland before the conference. Then onto Germany to visit family and Schenkelberg, Germany of course! Before I knew it, a 28-day experience in France developed into an intense two weeks of travel with my sister and then two weeks alone before my program would begin.
It wasn’t enough. I was hooked. If you didn’t know, flying in Europe is cheap, like real cheap. I soon connected with my cousin who wanted to travel Europe this summer as well and he and I planned an insane travel schedule. It’s so intense that during a three-day span, we travel to five different countries, and that’s just the beginning. In total, I have fifteen different countries planned on my schedule, with the opportunity to travel to two or three others. For those who are wondering, the countries I am visiting include Ireland, United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, Portugal, Spain, Monaco, Denmark, Latvia, Poland, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy, and the Vatican City.
As I sit in my room studying for finals and finishing projects, it becomes increasingly more difficult to stay focused on the present. I constantly find myself thinking, “Where will I be in one month?”, “What food will I be eating?”, and “Who will I be meeting?”. The excitement continues to build, as the date draws closer. With each passing minute, I am closer to the trip of a lifetime, an experience I am incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to have. It’s all because I waited for the right door to open.
I thank you for reading my first blog post ever, and I hope you continue to follow me on my journey. I will try to update this for each country I travel to and I will be posting my favorite pictures as well. If you would like, you can check out this interactive map I created to see all of the places I will be visiting. Once again, thank you for following along with my journey and check back soon for updates!