Sunday, December 7, 2008

Now that I'm back...

I'm back Stateside now, and I'm realizing that I didn't post as much here as I wanted to. I still have several million pictures to post, though, and just because my time there has ended doesn't mean that I don't still have a lot to say. Where to begin, though?

A Complete list of places visited:
Salzburg, Austria
Vienna, Austria
Bled, Slovenia
Ljubljana, Slovenia
Rijeka, Croatia
Opatija, Croatia
Rome, Italy
Vatican City (I believe that the Vatican is considered a separate country in itself)
Venice, Italy
Munich, Germany
Berlin, Germany
Interlaken, Switzerland
Prague, Czech Republic
Amsterdam, Holland (the Netherlands)
Copenhagen, Denmark
Stockholm, Sweden
Olso, Norway
Dublin, Ireland
London, England
Florence, Italy
Pisa, Italy
Paris, France
Budapest, Hungary
Heidelberg, Germany

15 countries and 24 cities in 3 months!!


A list of my favorite places:

1- Salzburg, Austria. My little home nestled in the Alps. I traveled to every major metropolitan city in Europe, and at the end of each trip my heart was beating fast with anticipation as I stepped off the bus and headed for Haus Wartenberg. It is a small, beautiful, quiet city that I will forever remember as a place of peace for my heart.

2- Prague, Czech Republic. What is better than being surprised by history, by beauty, and a good weekend with close friends? Prague caught my attention because of it's spirit of revolution and inspiration that have renewed it in the years since Communism fell. The history, the street art, the impressive gothic architecture highlighted by the October sunlight made it an unforgettable memory.

3- Berlin, Germany. History's impact on this city has refined it into one of the coolest and most impressive cities in Europe. Walking in the footsteps of history and seeing the unabashed acknowledgement of the things that took place there make it sacred and unforgettable.

4- Paris, France. For purely sentimental reasons, Paris was a delight for me to experience. I finally used the three years of French that I took in high school, and to my surprise I remembered a lot more than I thought I would. Paris is rich with history and breathtaking sites. And for the record, rude French people are a virtual myth. They are friendly when their culture is respected, and that attitude is no different than any place else in the world.


5- Amsterdam, Holland. This city, for all of its controversy, was still a fun and beautiful city to me. They have a thriving Red Light District and they sell marijuana in public establishments, but the city itself is beautiful and has an interesting history.



They say that travel is the best education, and let's not forget, I went to Europe to study. My studies are what made my experiences in travelling so rich because we were learning about the impact of the World Wars on Europe and their growth from the turn of the 20th century to present. Europe has seen so much in the last hundred years, and their experiences have made the historical sites and monuments a sacred place for people to go and really contemplate what it truly means to be an active voice in society, whether you are a citizen, or a visitor, or a leader, or a writer, or an artist, or a student, or a soldier, or a descendant, or [fill in your status here]. I had no idea the impact that my studies and my travels would have on my experiences as they intertwined. I am still reeling. I am still in awe. I will always be grateful. I hope that I never forget to make the things I learned apart of my daily experience, no matter where I am in the world.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I Go to the Hills...

There is a place very close to my heart here in Salzburg. It has been an unusually warm Autumn for the Austrians, and I've tried to take advantage of it in the weekday afternoons by taking the lift to the top of the Monchsberg. The Monchsberg is a mountainside, and at the top there is a museum and an entrance to a large park. I take the trail through the park as it winds around to the most beautiful view in the world (in my opinion). I find my parkbench, and I sit and I journal and I gaze in awe. I listen to the leaves rustling in the trees. I listen to the elderly Austrian couple speak in hushed Deutsch to each other. (Sometimes I pretend that my Deutsch is good enough to know what they're saying)... I smell the crisp, clean air of the Alps and the scent of Autumn on its breeze. There is nothing in the world like that sense of being drawn to a place, and feeling that God has met you there. I stare at a mountain, and I think about my life and what I'm doing with it. And when I'm not there, when I'm sitting on a train packed in like a sardine and I'm reduced to a weary and smelly and hungry and agitated traveler, I dream of that place. Come Monday afternoon, when classes are over and there's still enough sunlight for me to get up there and back, my feet can't carry me fast enough.
And when I get there and I sit down, I hear Him ask me, "So how was your weekend? Is there anything you are struggling with today?"
And I tell Him everything. And then I feel compelled to ask Him, "How can I praise You more for this? Can I ever praise you enough?" And then I feel compelled to say, "I don't think I ever could thank you enough. I don't think I ever want to stop praising you for this."


(Seek out your mind and your heart and His voice actively.)

Monday, November 3, 2008

October Travels/ November Nordic Adventures!

Hey, friends! To make up for lost time, here is a photo-update of where I've been the last few weeks:

Interlaken, Switzerland (the Adventure Capital of Europe!):
Prague, Czech Republic (My favorite city so far!):
"Imagine all of the people/Living life in peace..." - John Lennon. This is the wall that the victims of communism memorialized for him the day that he died.

I also spent a day at Mauthausen, a concentration camp located between Salzburg and Vienna in Austria. I am still editing those photos and will make a separate post about that experience later.

We are currently traveling through the Nordic countries on our 10-day trip. We spent Thursday and Friday in Amsterdam. Right now I am sitting in my hostel in Copenhagen, delayed by another mistake in our train schedule for our week long. We will be leaving this evening for Stockholm, nearly two full days later than planned. We will not be able to spend any time there since we are leaving for Oslo, Norway tomorrow. It's alright, though. We still have time in Oslo, Dublin, and London before we head home 6 days from now.

More to come soon, I promise!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Psalm 39:4-7

Lord, remind me of how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered-
how fleeting my life is.
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
at best, each of us is but a breath.
We are merely moving shadows,
and all our busy rushing leads to nothing.
We heap up wealth not knowing who will spend it.
And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
My only hope is in You.


If you think this is depressing for me to write the day after my birthday, read it again, and remember that life is short and beautiful and it's the only one you have. So this is my birthday wish: that you would make a list of all of the things you want to do with your life, and then do them. And do it with the people you love the most, because that is what makes it worth it. And TELL them that you love them. And SHOW them that you love them. And remember that asking God to remind you about the beautiful brevity of your life might make living it complicated, but so much more meaningful.

I dedicate this note to Sufjan Stevens for his song "Casimir Pulaski Day", and to my mother, who gave birth to me, who has loved me, who has shown me that life is SO worth it in the Lord.
(Mom and I at Judson '07.)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Munich, (Oktoberfest), Berlin

I know it's been awhile since my last post, but the constant weekend travel has made my schedule a little crazy. Last weekend we were in Rome, which I will save for a post tomorrow, but for today I wanted to blog a little bit about our trip to Munich, Oktoberfest, and then Berlin. It was a crazy plan we had, but we decided that we're young and we're in Europe, so we might as well be as crazy as we want.
We left for Munich, Germany on Thursday morning and spent the day wandering the city. We didn't know much about Munich, and it was cold, so for the first part of the day we didn't see anything spectacular. Our main attraction for the evening was Oktoberfest, which we thoroughly enjoyed...

After celebrating with the Germans at the biggest Beir Fest in the world, we took a night train from Munich to Berlin. We were able to get rooms at a hostel right away and rest before taking a full city tour of Berlin that evening. The tour was incredible, with in-depth explanations of different buildings and monuments that bear witness to the significant events of the World Wars and the Cold Wars.

The Brandenburg Gate.

The Holocaust Memorial.


Our group standing over Hitler's bunker, a site left unmarked to avoid attracting Nazi sympathizers.


"Where books are burned, in the end people will burn." -Heinrich Heine.
The memorial of the Nazi book burnings in May, 1933. Bebelplatz, Berlin.

On Saturday a few from our group took the Red Berlin Tour, which toured and explained the different places that the Soviets used in the Cold War to separate East and West Berlin.

The East Gallery is the longest stretch of Berlin Wall left standing, and it has been painted and graffiteed to memorialize it.

After touring the entire city of Berlin, I am in awe. The city has seen so much, just within the last century, and they have completely rehabilitated themselves without forgetting anything that happened to them. They have erected monuments all over their city that, however obscure or startling or harsh or honest they may be, are unavoidable. When the German government commissioned the artist who designed the Holocaust Memorial, they agreed that they wanted it to be as large as possible, and they wanted it to be in the center of the city, so that no one could avoid confronting that part of Berlin's past. That's a bold statement.
We will never forget.

Monday, September 22, 2008

There is LOVE in SLOVEnia, and Croatia is for lovers, too.

So this weekend was our first weekend to really travel abroad, and we had a great time. There were a few of us girls that were desperate to get to a beach after the sudden turn to cold weather here in Salzburg. We originally wanted to go to Greece, but discovered that it would have been an 18 hour train ride ONE WAY to get to the northernmost metropolis of Greece, which isn't anywhere near a beach. So Croatia it was, and the closest coastal city was Rijeka. The reviews we read online said that while Rijeka is new to tourism, it is still a great place to go, especially if you want to spend time on the beach. The aerial shots on the websites looked incredible, the hostel we booked sounded close, we packed our bathing suits- we were so pumped!
We left Wednesday night for our first stop in Bled, Slovenia, because we couldn't get straight to Rijeka. Bled was cold and quiet and not quite what we expected, but we were still upbeat about the days ahead. Friday morning we left for Ljubjana, Slovenia and spent a few hours there in between trains, and I got some great photos of their open market. Friday afternoon, we took the train to Rijeka, and when we finally saw the coast, we were so excited! We made it to our hostel (eventually) and had dinner and made it an early bedtime since we were tired. Saturday, we got up early, donned our bathing suits, and headed for the beach. The receptionist at our hostel explained that the best beaches were a town/busride away in Opatija, so we hopped the suggested bus, got off when we thought we were close enough to the right beach and headed down to the cement shoreline. We walked for hours, realizing with each concrete step that the entire shoreline was CEMENT. There was no sand to be sat on anywhere. Those incredible arial shots we saw on the websites? They were distant enough that the sunlight made them LOOK like sand, but they were all rock and cement every step of the way.(I still got some great shots, though, as you can see.)
Lesson learned. Beware, beware the tourist trap, even in Europe. And above all, remember that no matter where you go, the most important thing is to enjoy the people you are with. Because even if your feet hurt from miles of hard cement, even if you don't know a lick of the local language, even if the beautiful 'old' castle you saw atop the hill turns out to be entirely rebuilt within the last century, you and your friends can still giggle at all the hot European waiters. You can still lay in your hoodies and jeans on the cement and wait for the sun to burst between clouds. You can still laugh at the old geezer wearing a speedo in 55 degree weather. You can still enjoy the hot cocoa that's more like a mug of chocolate pudding. And then you can make awesome plans to go to Rome and Venice for the following weekend.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Salzburg is a Beautiful Myth

On Thursday we went to the Salzburg Museum, and something about it has impressed me in the days since. On the first floor, just off the foyer, is their most recent exhibition dedicated to citizens of Salzburg that were victims of concentration camps. They have lists of the victims' names. They have the names of Austrians that were not victims but perpetrators involved in the concentration camps. They even have on display some of the torture devices used in the camps- electric shock machines. They even have pictures of the experiments. And I must explain that I was frustrated when I first entered the exhibit because everything was in German without any English translation at all. Why was it all in German? Couldn't I read it, too? Couldn't I know?
I guessed the answer was no.
I walked through the rest of the museum, which currently exhibits paintings and memorabilia from different archbishops and royalty and high profile politicians from Salzburg, dating back several centuries. These floor exhibitions were entitled, "The Myth of Salzburg" and "Salzburg Personalities." Now Austria, up into the early twentieth century had been governed by foreign archbishops that heavily influenced the architecture and layout of the beautiful city of Salzburg. The art that reflected its development gives an ethereal feel to its history and growth. This, hand in hand with the famous composers that occupied the city, including Mozart, Bach, Haydn, etc, created a reputation of luxury and sophistication.
Upon leaving the museum, Professor Hicks was raving about the layout of the museum. "It's the most strategic museum I've ever been in," he said. "Think about it. The 'Myth of Salzburg'? Why did they call it that? And the first exhibit you see are grotesque remnants of Austria's worst moments in history, and then you see all of this ethereal art about Salzburg and it's beauty. Why did they make it that way? And why was the first exhibit only in German?"

The truth is, that the exhibit was for Salzburgers and Europeans alone. The truth is, that Salzburg, for all of it's beauty and how safe it is now, was a myth and still remains so in many ways because it was not unique to or exempt from the pain and destruction of the World Wars. The harsh contrast between that first exhibit about the concentration camp victims and the other exhibits was MEANT as a shock to the system, and truthfully, we English speaking Americans that were baby-booming on our half of the world while Europe was ravaged by the aftermath of WWII are not ever going to truly grasp what it means for this continent to continually pick up and move on. In so many ways, Europe has thrived in the half-century since the wars ended, but they still feel the sting. We will never truly know it. It's a bit like reading a foreign language; we can make out a few of the ideas, but we don't comprehend the depth of its meaning.