Wednesday, June 9, 2010

8 Countries, 5 Days

Maastricht Group Trip

The group trip started off chaotically for Bonnie and I. The night before our departure, I decided to set my alarm... not knowing until later it was for 7:15PM, not AM. At 7:50am, Jean woke us up in a panic telling us that we were late for the bus- we were supposed to be on the bus around 7:40AM. None of our bags were packed since we had planned to do so in the morning. I grabbed the stack of laundry sitting on my bed, threw in some makeup, toothbrush and moisturizer, picked up m fanny pack and was out the door. Luckily, Mama Jean had thrown in my liquids bag I took to Ireland. We didn't cause any delays in the trip so I figure it's a laughable situation. This should somewhat explain my clothing selection for the week and my rough appearance the first day (my makeup remained underneath the bus all day).

The whole first day was spent traveling through Germany. We made a stop at the intersection of the Rhine River and the ??? River. It was neat to see the differences the two rivers had as far as coloring is concerned. This was followed by a lovely boat cruise down the Rhine from Boppard to St. Goar where we saw over 5 castles, many vineyards, and classic German architecture.

Residenz Palace in Wurzburg: The palace we toured was gorgeous! The detail in the decor was unbelievable. No one is really sure what the palace was used for, but it was interesting to witness the amount of time and money pt into one room. Plus, it's not only decorated to look nice; every painting, every animal, every color has a symbolic meaning. We took a walk through the garden of the palace then returned to the bus.

Rothenburg: This has to be the most adorable town in Germany. A wall to preserve the city’s original look surrounds the village. We stayed in a hotel that has been active since 1380 called Roter Hahn (or Red Hen). It had a homey feel that was nothing like the typical hotel.

The next morning we walked across the street to the Criminal Museum: so cool!! yet, terrible. It's hard to imagine that people actually tortured other people in these horrible ways. Stretching limbs, dunking caged people into the water, chopping off hands, etc. Our favorite part was the mask display. Apparently, those who were wild, talkative, gossipy, pig-like and more had to wear a heavy, metal mask to display their bad personality trait(s). Bonnie and I chose which ones we would've had to wear if we lived during that time period. It was a common thing to have to wear one and it was a form of entertainment for everyone in the town.. I' sure it was fun until you or a family member were the ones being punished.

Neuschwanstein Castle: Next we headed out of Rothenburg to Hohenschwangau to see a castle—but not just any castle, the one that inspired the Disney castle! Sure the castle was nice and pretty, but the scenery was definitely what made it something to be inspired by. It was built in the 1800’s, so fairly recently, on top of a hill surrounded by snow covered mountains and greenery with a small waterfall below and a lake behind. I also found out that this castle is featured in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” More facts

Austria: for such a pretty place, the people sure are ugly.. Since our group was only passing through for the night, I have reason to believe that we didn’t get to see the best parts of the country. It was more of a trip to be able to cross off our list. Once arriving, most people immediately went to the townsquare—Jean, Bonnie and I weren’t far behind, but we took a bit of a detour through the city. We hopped on the wrong bus and went out of the way about an hour until we finally ended up where we wanted to in the first place. We had some pizza downtown then headed back to the hotel. So typical of us to get lost!

Luckily, this weekend I will have the chance to go back to Austria and see Salzburg and Vienna! I wonder if the hills really are alive..? J

Switzerland: my favorite place so far! The most beautiful place I’ve ever been. My two favorite things: mountains and water. Switzerland has the best of both! We had the opportunity to sit by 2 lakes; both royal blue and so clear you could see to the bottom. Surrounding each were mountains; some covered in trees and hicking paths and some covered in snow. All in one place!!? That’s how I imagine heaven. We had lunch at the top of a mountain looking over the lake (Vitznau-Rigi Kaltbad, to be exact). Afterwards, a bunch of us went for a walk down a hill where a large cross was built into the ground. Such an amazing concept, I thought. I’m sure there are TONS of people that visit that exact spot every year, believers and nonbelievers. Why not set up a cross at the edge for everyone to reflect over His gorgeous creation and remember (or realize) we are all a part of His awesome creation and should appreciate these priceless gifts given to us.

That night, we stayed in Montreaux, Switzerland. Our hotel sat right on Lake Geneva and our balcony view included more mountains and the lake. In Vitznau our group had discussed how great it would be to jump in the lake rather than only being able to dip our feet in. Once we found out our destination for the night would be on another lake, jumping in was a must! So, after dinner, each of us showed up at a central dock on the lake and did just that! Jumped into the freezinggg cold Lake Geneva. So exhilarating! Definitely my favorite memory of the trip.

From here on out, nothing we did topped Switzerland. While I learned a lot of historical information and facts and experienced lots of different cultures, I don't have much to write about the other places since they were not AS enjoyable (plus, after riding a bus for over 2500km, things begin to run together and start to take a toll on our energy levels). So, the rest of this blog is basically to jot down small thoughts to be able to remember the places we went.

Chateau de Chillon: This castle, only 20 minutes from Montreaux, was by far the most interesting one of all that I have visited. This castle was so authentic and was full of so much history that it was hard to take it all in. It was really fun for us to run around the courtyards into the "keep" and pretend to be princesses and knights (as if we were 5 years old). Good times... Facts.

Another cruise from Chillon to Vevey followed the castle tour and was a refreshing break between all the bus riding and museum tours.

Vevey to Schaffhausen: We stood next to the Rhine Falls which is apparently the "Niagra Falls" of Europe. It was pretty neat to sit somewhat underneath the falls and once again was a refreshing break from the traveling.

The scenic drive through the Black Forest in Germany was very... green..? It began to rain as we drove through but the amount of trees surrounding us was more than I've ever seen. The trees are so thick that light cannot shine through-- I know understand why it's called the black forest. More.

Freiburg: the hotel we stayed in was not my favorite and the city was a lot dirtier than I had expected. The townsquare was nice and I wish we could have spent more time there. Since it was a Sunday night, Freiburg was an absolute ghost town. The shopping would have been awesome and if the weather were better we would've walked around a bit more. Maybe another day I'll get to revisit and my outlook will change, but for now, not in my top lists.

Verdun: (say it with a country accent and it's really fun!..) My first time to France! It's so intriguing how different the culture and architecture as soon as you cross the border into a new country. The weather was great and food was excellent! I'm so excited to go back to France later in this trip.

Bastogne, Belgium: I'm not a big history buff.. facts

Maastricht: It was sooooo great to come back "home" after traveling for days! The trip as a whole was overwhelming, but it was great getting to know all the people that we are living with, eating with, and traveling for the next couple of months! I feel like we have a fun and diverse group of people that will make (and already have made) this summer this best ever! :)

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