Wednesday, July 7, 2010

European Adventures!

Listening to: "Vienna" by The Fray 
(Yes, I listened to this song, along with "Dear Vienna" by Owl City, multiple times while actually in Vienna. I've always wanted to do that. I'm lame, I know.)

Now that I'm actually free for a few weeks, I figured it was time to update you guys on my amazing trip to Europe! Hard to believe that it was a month ago. Dang. Anyway, just a heads up, this is going to be a long post!

The adventure started with a 9-hour flight from Atlanta to Frankfurt, Germany. This wouldn't have been so bad if 1) I hadn't been in the middle section (at least I was on the aisle...), causing me to miss a gorgeous sunrise, 2) I could have actually slept, and 3) there hadn't been a restless, screaming child directly behind me who cried and kicked my seat for at least a third of the trip. I was sooo ready to get off the plane! When we finally got to Frankfurt, we were all pretty exhausted, but we were only there for about an hour and a half before catching a quick 30-minute flight to Zürich, Switzerland.

After arriving in Zürich, we got on a bus that took us to our hotel. As soon as we pulled out of the airport, I happened to catch a glimpse of the Alps waaaay in the distance. I kinda freaked out in my head a little bit. (I probably would have been a little more open about it, but no one else was anywhere near as pumped about the Alps as I was. Things would have been so much better if I'd had someone to share my excitement with!) We got to our hotel and after Lauren & I had an adventure in the super slow, super small lift (wish I would've gotten a picture!), we walked into our room and swung open the windows (literally) to see this (click to make them bigger):

Sooo pretty. Zürich is a perfect picture of what I think of when I imagine a European city. Anyway, we cleaned up a little bit and then headed out to explore a little bit. We were all pretty tired, but in an attempt to beat jet lag, no one was allowed to take a nap. This resulted in me being awake for 36 hours straight, but fortunately, I survived just fine. Number one on my agenda was to walk down to Lake Zürich so I could see the Alps a little better.
You can just barely see the snow caps in the background. I don't think I can really explain what it was like for me to finally get to see those mountains. I've wanted to see the Alps my whole life, and...I don't know. I don't know why it meant that much to me, but seriously, it was a big deal! After walking around the city for a little while, we decided to head back to the hotel and get some rest. The next day, we began with a walking tour of the city. That was pretty cool; I just wish I could remember all of the stuff our tour guide told us! A few pictures from that...
Second largest clock face in the world (this was apparently extremely significant) and a street in the old part of the city.
View of Zürich from the top of the hill where it has been prohibited to build anything ever since the days of the Roman Empire. Pretty cool.

After the tour, we just explored for the rest of the day. For lunch, we wanted to find something authentic instead of going to one of the more touristy places. After searching for awhile, we stumbled across Rheinfelder Bierhalle.

We decided to go for it, and walked inside to find that we were the only English-speaking people in the entire place. Most Swiss speak a decent amount of English, but not here--we were on our own! Since none of us were familiar with any of the local foods, we basically just picked something random off the menu and hoped for the best. Fortunately, this turned out okay! I ordered Rahm Schnitzel. I'm still not sure what that is, exactly, but it was pretty good!
That evening, the whole group (all 36 of us!) took a "short" walk (it ended up being at least half an hour) to a local church. Personally, I wasn't a fan of the church in general, but the people were really nice. It was cool to get to meet and talk to some of them. After church, some of our group decided to take the subway back, while the rest of us joined Dr. Sargent in walking back in an attempt to save 4 francs. That ended up being an adventure in itself. It had been really sunny and clear all day long, including when we were walking to church. However, when we walked back outside, it was cloudy and starting to rain. We decided to go for it anyway. Promptly after making this decision, it started to pour. And thunder. And lightening. Too late now--we were going to walk. Some people had come prepared with umbrellas. Lauren and I were not two of those people.
Yeah, we were pretty soaked. Fortunately, we both have good senses of humor, and found the whole thing pretty amusing. It ended up being so much fun!

Overall, Zürich was my least favorite city. It was nice, and I'm glad I got to go, but there was just something about it that I didn't care for. It's one of the wealthiest cities in the world, and it's kind of obvious, so I felt a little out of place. Plus, the whole place has this very worldly, materialistic vibe, and...I don't know. It was just weird. Not to mention the ridiculous prices! (Ever pay $13 for a Big Mac? You can if you visit Zürich!) I would love to visit Switzerland again, but I don't care to ever go back to Zürich.

After spending another night in Zürich, we got on the bus and started heading towards Germany to go to the Dachau concentration camp. Well, shortly after getting into Germany, we discover that Dachau is closed on Mondays, which our tour guide's assistant failed to mention. Change of plans. We decided to continue heading towards our next stop: Salzburg, Austria, to have a couple of extra hours to explore there. That whole drive was absolutely beautiful. I love the Alps!
We eventually arrived in Salzburg, which was definitely my favorite city. It is known for two things: being Mozart's birthplace and the home of The Sound of Music. By the end of it, I didn't care to ever hear either of those things mentioned ever again. However, it is a beautiful city. Lauren, Josh, Sam, and I walked around together when we got there and discovered the cathedral there. It's huge!
If you look closely, you can see a tiny little person at the bottom. Yeah, that'd be me. Seriously--it's huge. After exploring for a little while, we decided that it was time we try some gelato. Sooo good!!
It wasn't quite as good as the gelato Josh and I had in Vienna...but still. I'm a fan. We ended the day with one of the most gorgeous sunsets I've seen in a loooong time (and, considering I think every sunset is gorgeous, that's saying something!).
Day two in Salzburg consisted of a walking tour with a guide, ending with us taking a trip up to the Hohensalzburg Fortress.
I love that place. It is so amazing to me that it was built in 1077. That's 933 years old. That's mind-boggling to me. That was one thing that I absolutely loved about Europe--there's so much history there! Here in America, our most historic places are few and far between, and are typically from the 1700s or later, with the occasional site from the 1600s. But 1077? Sometimes, I wish buildings could talk. Just think of how many people have walked there, looked up at it, how many things have happened in and around it. It's incredible! Then, of course, there was the view from the top:
So. Incredibly. Beautiful. I could've stared forever. Even though it was cloudy and kinda hazy, it was still amazing. After the tour was over, we were free to wander around the city again. Lauren, Josh, and I got some lunch at a literal hole-in-the-wall restaurant. It was excellent. I was also pleased to see that Sodexho is spreading the joy worldwide.
We also explored Mirabell Gardens for awhile. That was a lot of fun (especially our impromptu chase through the maze-like bushes)!
Next day was what I had been looking forward to for months: the Eagle's Nest! Oh my gosh. Most incredible view I have ever seen, ever, and I'm not kidding. I wish you guys could see it in person, because honestly? Pictures are disappointing compared to the real thing. Really, I feel kinda depressed when I look at pictures of it because they don't even come close.
Wow. I want to go back so bad! It was the most perfect view I've ever seen. It's breathtaking. And the fact that it was perfectly clear and sunny and warm... Thanks, God! We also took a short hike while we were there. It was only about 45 minutes, but it was way more intense than I was expecting! It was a lot of fun though. I can officially say I've been hiking in the Alps--how awesome is that?!
After hanging out on top of the mountain for a couple of hours, we headed down into Berchtesgaden, Germany, to visit the salt mines there. Another gorgeous drive--I think Berchtesgaden is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to.
The salt mines were a lot of fun. Super-fashionable clothes (as seen below), riding on a little train, going down a slide...yeah, it was pretty cool. It was also a nice, much-needed break from the heat!
The next day, we started heading toward Vienna, Austria. On the way, we stopped to tour Mauthausen concentration camp. That was a really sobering experience... It was hard to process and it's even harder to explain, so I don't think I'm going to attempt to. I think it's one of those things that you just have to experience for yourself to understand.
We also stopped at Melk Abbey. Not my favorite place of the trip, especially not when it came right after Mauthausen. Oh well. The library there was pretty cool, at least!
After a long day of driving, we finally arrived in Vienna. Vienna is big. Really big. After doing so much traveling already, I don't think I was completely up for taking in such a large, fast-paced city, but I did my best. There was so much to do and see there that I honestly had no idea where to begin.
We walked around for awhile that night, and then the next day, we visited the Freud Museum like good psychology students should do. :)
While I'm not a huge fan of Freud in general, psychology would not be anything near what it is today if it hadn't been for him. He's one of those people that you have to respect, regardless of whether or not you agree with him. As a psychology major, it was pretty awesome to be able to visit the place where he used to live and counsel his patients! We also visited Stephansdom, ate at The Chattanoogan (yes, it was named after Chattanooga, TN--I wasn't too concerned with making a point of eating "authentic" European food by this point), and watched part of an opera on a screen outside the opera house. Kinda cool.

On our last day in Vienna, we got to ride the Prater Wheel! To be honest, it wasn't a very exciting ride in and of itself, but the fact that I got to ride the Prater Wheel in Vienna was awesome!
Next, we visited the Schonbrünn Palace. By this point on the trip, I was so exhausted that I didn't enjoy it anywhere near as much as I would have otherwise. It was still pretty cool though.
Then it was off to take a tour of Vienna, by bus this time. Thank God--I couldn't have survived a walking tour! I wish I could say that it was interesting, but honestly, I wouldn't know. I was just focusing on staying awake. Oh well...we did stop at this place that had lots of cool artsy things, which I really liked.

So, there's my trip to Europe in a nutshell. As long as this was, I left out a ton! I would love to be able to go back someday. It was awesome. Anyway, I'll leave you all with that for a few days, and then maybe I'll get around to updating you about Camp JOY and my 20th birthday! (Yes, I'm 20, and yes, that's still super weird to me...)


  1. Sounds like you had a blast, I was born in Europe and always try to go back once every few fact I'm almost due soon for a trip :P


  2. Beautiful pictures. I want to go to Europe so badly...maybe one day. :) The Salzburg cathedral- I was thinking, "It doesn't look so huge," until I noticed you standing there. Wow. :) I just keep looking at it over and over, trying to imagine what it must be like in person. I'm so jealous!