During our field study trip to Paris, my study abroad program provided an optional excursion to Versailles (just like the optional trip to the Swiss Alps) to see the famous Palace that served as the seat of political power in France for about 100 years in the 17th-18th century.
The Palace of Versailles is enormous. It features vast gardens, lavish decor, gold leaf everywhere, and extremely detailed interior and exterior architecture. The size and decadence of the place is overwhelming and pretty in the embellished, extravagant way.
Your first entry into the Palace is marked by a long, gilded gate….
My favorite part of the Palace was the extensive garden, full of walking paths and fountains. Here’s a picture of one section of the garden:
I loved the endlessness and simple lines of the landscape. It was a cold day during our visit, but I bet this garden is even more breathtaking in the springtime….
I noticed a lot of clocks around Versailles as well, both inside and outside. They make a great architectural detail….
It’s been sooo busy these past few days here in Freiburg! Everyone had a lot of projects, papers, and presentations due this week, which meant a lot of hours at the library and in the computer lab.
Last week, I went to Luxembourg, Brussels, and Paris to study institutions of the European Union and enjoy the sights of the cities. We met a lot of interesting people employed by the EU as well as experts from both economic and foreign policy think tanks. I can’t wait to post more about it asap! : )
In the meantime – here’s a photo from Brussels, Belgium….
That’s the St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral in the background. We got to spend about half an hour in a small park in front – enjoying the view and the unusually nice weather of Brussels that day.
Every day (except Sunday), the Freiburg open-air market is in the Münsterplatz, or the plaza around the Freiburger Münster, our big cathedral.
I looove visiting the market! They always have fresh fruits and vegetables….
And lots of fresh flowers….
But my favorite part of the Freiburg open-air market is the myriad of wurst stands! Germany is home to so many different kinds of sausage, and the open-air markets are great places to try some. This photo shows one that the owner told me was a Freiburg specialty:
No two days are ever exactly the same at the market! I love the variety, the freshness, and the authentic German experience!
My friend and I had the chance to go for a short hike through Schwarzwald (the Black Forest) from Titisee to Hinterzarten. Titisee is a small village about 45 minutes away from Freiburg by train, famous for its huuuge lake which gets frozen solid in the dead of winter.
Before we started our hike, we stopped for a quick bite in Titisee, and came across all these stunning, intricate clocks….
After lunch, we started on the hiking path to the next village, Hinterzarten, which was about 3 miles away. It mostly wound through the forest or open, snow-covered fields featuring the occasional old barn or newer getaway house.
These extremely tall trees remind me of the pine trees back at home in Georgia. They look so calm and serene in their habitat, the forest.
We also came across a kids’ ski-jump competition in action. I’ll share more on this in part II! : )
Here’s a few photos from this week! Around Freiburg….
And one of my favorite things about an average week — gelato!
Inside Mensa Drei, home of some great currywurst + intense hot sauces, and a fave among our study abroad group:
Sunset on the countryside around Schauinsland after our field trip….
And lastly, a sidewalk cafe – Starbucks style! I usually end up here about once a week – they’re one of the few places in Freiburg with free wifi.
I’m having a super busy weekend — this morning, I crossed the French border to spend the day in the town of Colmar, and tomorrow I’ll be hiking in Germany’s Black Forest near Titisee. I can’t wait to share more about it soon! : )
We’ve been working in a couple of my classes on reflections, essays, and projects from the Berlin trip. Berlin is a hard city to describe…. every time I thought I had gotten an idea of the vibe of the city, I encountered some totally different aspect of it. So here are three quick scenes, each about a different dimension of Berlin!
It isn’t really raining, but it isn’t really dry.
The sky above is utterly blank and white as if someone had erased the sun and the clouds and the blue. But there is a heaviness to this erased sky; it weighs down with something more than just emptiness.
Graffiti pervades everywhere.
You noticed it before you left the train station, even before you got off the train. It covers without discrimination: buildings, signs, walls. Graffiti, the mask of the city, acts as a tough exterior, a film between Berlin itself and the tourists passing through. Tourists like me.
To your left stretches a Wall. The Wall. It is relatively inconspicuous – not tall, not thick, but colorful with its own excessive explosions of the graffiti. In my own mind the Berlin Wall has always loomed large and menacing… the Iron Curtain, the impenetrable barrier, the edge of a system and lifestyle that I knew and understood.
The reality of these stooped and broken remnants of a wall does not jibe with my expectations.
In some ways, Berlin was kind of a downer – we focused our studies on the upheavals of history, the war, and communism. But at the end, I really liked the city. It has rebuilt and restructured itself into a unified Western European city in such an amazingly short period of time. And everywhere you go – historic sites and buildings coexist with new, modern structures…..
J’adore that juxtaposition. : )
So. Traveling around Europe has been great so far! And this weekend, I’m headed for the Swiss Alps for lots of snow and sledding – I can’t wait! But first… German test on Friday. : O
It’s been a busy week in Freiburg! Classes started, and I was sick earlier in the week. I’m feeling a lot better today though, and ready to post more updates!
For Berlin and Prague, we broke up into two groups of about 30. I was in Group B for this trip, which focuses on economics and finance issues, while the other group focuses on politics.
We went to Berlin first, where we studied the reunification of East and West Germany. Here’s a picture of Potsdamer Platz, which used to be flattened, empty and sliced straight through the middle by the Berlin Wall….
In Berlin, we stayed in hostels – sort of like hotels but with 5 or 6 people to a room.
The weather was frightful! It was cold, wet, and rainy/snowy the whole time we were there.
After Berlin, we went to Prague for 2 and a half days, where we got to stay in hotels. Here, we studied transitions to market economies in countries of the former Eastern Bloc, such as the Czech Republic.
The biggest challenge in Prague was trying to figure out the exchange rate – they aren’t in the eurozone! I had to keep swapping out euros for Czech crowns, and the mental math got a little complicated sometimes.
Prague is situated on the Vltava River, and is home to sooo many pretty bridges!
This trip was great and I loved seeing the history and current issues of the two cities up close! I’ll post more pictures and impressions from Berlin and Prague soon! : )
The Freiburger Münster, our big cathedral built around 1200 ad:
Germany loves international food! There are tons of Turkish restaurants here, along with Irish, Spanish, Chinese… and more. Here’s a photo from lunch at an Italian place…
We get sparkling water at almost every restaurant! Its one of the most popular drinks in Germany, and flat water is hard to come by!
I’ve been in Freiburg for just over a week now, and I’m starting to know my way around and get comfortable here! Today, I’m going to see an authentic European soccer football game, Freiburg vs. Nürnberg! Can’t wait! : )