A Last Note on Wien and the Wiener!

So in less than a week now my program is ending and I will be saying goodbye to Vienna and all of the wonderful friends I have made here. It is amazing how impactful a place can be on a person’s life! I love this city and this country so much, and it is going to be so hard to say “auf Wiedersehen” to it! The people in a city are one of the things that make it great, so as a final post I have compiled a list of fun facts and observations I have made throughout the semester of the Viennese. The Viennese are some very interesting people in their habits and mannerisms.

1. Grüß Gott! – Don’t dare walk into a store without greeting the workers, the cashier, the store in general, the small child in the corner, the old lady stealing your spot in line, the juicer and pretty much anyone else in the store with this phrase! Now this might be a bit of an exaggeration, but “Grüß Gott” is probably the most heard phrase in Vienna.

2. Dogs! – The Viennese LOVE their dogs, and they do not discriminate! You see all sorts of dogs EVERYWHERE! Big dogs on the U-Bahn, small dogs in the grocery store, shaggy dogs walking down Kärnter Straße, tiny dogs in purses, they are everywhere!

3. PEZ! – The amazing Pez candy was invented in Vienna! Supposedly they were originally sold in a tin and then the dispenser was later designed to have a similar feel to a lighter and the Pez candy was marketed to be an alternative to smoking to help smokers quit. Crazy right?!

4. Efficient! – the Viennese are very efficient people when it comes to getting around. The public transportation is amazing here (and is probably one of the things I am going to miss the most!) From the well-planned U-bahn and Strassenbahn system to the unspoken rule of standing on the right side of the escalator, walking on the left side, these people know how to get around!

5. Wiener Schnitzel – It honestly is like a grown-up chicken nugget, but damn that Schnitzel is good! The Viennese are very proud of their Wiener Schnitzel and one can find it on just about every menu!

6. The M Foods! – That is Mohn and Marille! Mohn is the German word for poppy seed and Marille is apricot. These two flavors are everywhere and are SO good! The best cake I have had all semester was a Mohn and apple cake and was amazing! And by far my favorite Eis (aka ice cream) flavor is Marille!

7. Scooters! – Similar to dogs, they are EVERYWHERE! And everyone uses them! You see little kids on scooters, teenage girls on scooters, old men, it is so weird. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was very fond of my scooter…when I was 9! I will never forget the day at my internship when my boss told me he was running an errand and the next thing I see is him riding down the office hallway on a scooter.

8. Cafés – I mentioned earlier in another blog post the importance of cafes in Vienna, but seriously, they are big! You cannot got to Vienna without going to one of the hundreds of cafes they have here. There are so many different types. I really like the old traditional ones, but there are also some really fun, more modern ones. I am really going to miss the café culture here and being able to just walk into a café, sit down, and stay there for literally hours!

9. Grumpy! – So there is a stereotype that the Viennese are quiet, grumpy people. This is not a stereotype, it is true. Of course, I have encountered some lovely and happy Viennese people in my time here, but in general when you are just walking down the street, the Viennese are not very smiley people. They do not smile at or initiate conversation with strangers, which makes the U-bahn one of the quietest metro systems in the world!

10. Relaxation! – The Viennese know how to enjoy themselves! My German professor actually told us once that Americans do not know how to relax, and it is true! We could take a lesson from the Viennese. Whether it be just sitting in a bench in Stadtpark watching the ducks, drinking coffee in a café, or strolling along the Danube, the Viennese know how to enjoy their free time and relax!

Well, with that I say farewell to my lovely Wien and the crazy, amazing people in this city. After my program ends I am going to travel around for a couple weeks with family in Croatia and Slovenia and then it is back to Homer for this Alaskan. This semester has been more than I could have hoped for and I am so blessed to have been given the opportunity to go abroad and experience so much and meet so many fantastic people!

A little bit of Buda, a little bit of Pest

This past weekend was full of sunshine and a little adventure in the beautiful city of Budapest, Hungary. Budapest is a lovely and fascinating city.  The city is divided into two parts: Buda and Pest, separated by the Danube River. Although equally beautiful and interesting, each side has a very different personality. I traveled there with two friends and we saw a ton of different things and had a great time. Our first afternoon in the city we wandered through the huge City Park and saw the “castle” that sits in the middle of the park. This small castle is actually a collection of different buildings that are each built in a different architecture style. It was a pretty magical little place. On our way to the park from our hostel we stumbled upon this huge bike parade. There were hundreds of bikers biking down the main street we were walking along; always a pretty exciting sight. Later that night we tried out some of Budapest’s famous “ruin bars.” After World War II there were many huge buildings left alone and untouched by the Soviets, destined to just deteriorate. Eventually these buildings were taken over by local students and other young people and turned into some of the coolest bars ever. We went to three different ones while in Budapest. Each bar was a maze of different rooms all decorated completely different with crazy decorations and themes. The main room of the first one we went to was an “enchanted forest” and had a huge tree with a disco ball hanging from it in the middle, a colony of rabbits soaring overhead, and a series of random pictures on the walls portraying various people with heads and other various body parts of animals; and that was just the beginning of the crazy and unique decorations. When we got to the second of the ruin bars, a friend told us we had to go explore before we would be allowed to sit down. Everywhere you turn there is some sort of crazy thing to see, whether it is a room full of computers mounted on the wall in weird angles with psychedelic designs rotating across the screens or a car on the ceiling with plants growing out of it. These bars are seriously the coolest! The next day we went on a free walking tour of the city (and got severely sun burnt!) It was a great tour, as those free walking tours always are! Budapest has a long, rather interesting (although a bit violent) history. One of my favorite parts of the city was all the various statues that one can find scattered throughout. My favorite was this precious statue of a young girl sitting on a fence with a crown, known to locals as the Little Princess. She was the first statue to be put up after communist times. Hungarian food is really good, although super heavy. Part of the tour was a section on different Hungarian foods and our tour guide told us that most meals have over 2,000 calories in it! I really loved the people there! They were super friendly. The Hungarian language is crazy strange though! Supposedly the closest language to it in regards to structure is Japanese! In fact, our tour guide told us that it is such a different language compared to most that the makers of Star Wars used it as inspiration! We only spent two days in the city, but it did not take me very long to fall in love with it (sorry Krakow, you might have competition for favorite city in Europe!). Budapest is a city full of life, adventure, and interesting culture, and has definitely stolen my heart!

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A Weekend Along the Danube

What a crazy weekend this past weekend was! So Saturday my sustainability class took a trip to Bratislava. We toured the hydroelectric dam that was there and then got a tour of the city. It was a glorious, sunny day and the area where the dam is located is absolutely beautiful! I had never been to Bratislava before and it was really interesting to hear a little about the history of it and the connection it has to Vienna. It is a lovely little city and I enjoyed doing a little street vendor shopping and wandering around. Perhaps the highlight however of the journey really had nothing to do with Bratislava, but was a silly Emily encounter involving me practically stalking this guy I thought might be from Alaska. So when we were on our city tour I saw a guy wearing a T-shirt that said “Camp Sitka” and I got really excited and wanted to know if he was from Alaska. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to talk to him since we were on our tour. Then a little bit later one of the girls in my group said she saw him again and heard him speaking English, so then I got really excited and was sure he was from Alaska. This time, I didn’t see him though, so I did not get a chance to ask, but I told myself if I happened to see him later in the day, I would totally stop and ask him. I did not actually think I would see him again, but then after we all split up to wander on our own, my friend Chloe and I saw him!! I told her that I had to stop and talk to him so I walked up and was like “So this might sound weird, but are you from Alaska.” His response: “No, but not far from there! BC!” Apparently, “Sitka” is a brand in British Columbia, who knew? He wasn’t from Alaska, but it was still pretty exciting. Chloe thought I was a bit silly, but hey, it is not often you meet a fellow Alaskan in Europe!  So that was a pretty great adventure in Bratislava.

Then the next morning, I got up bright and early once more to go the Wachau with IES. This was an awesome trip! We started out in Melk and toured the Melk Abbey. What a beautiful place! The abbey is up on a hill overlooking Melk and the Danube and it is so beautiful. We had a great, energetic tour guide and had a great time. Their library is amazing, and reminds me of the Beauty and the Beast library, but unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take pictures in it. After that we had lunch and then went on to Dürnstein and hiked up to the castle. Oh my goodness, was it amazing! It was so nice to get out and hike around and climb on some big rocks(reminded me of climbing around Beluga Point!) and the view was fantastic! You could see the entire valley with the Danube winding her way between the hills full of vineyards and quaint Austrian towns. It was a truly spectacular moment to sit there and take it all in! After this we had a short visit in Krems and then went on to a family owned vineyard for a wine tasting and dinner. This was so much fun and pretty entertaining as the owner of the vineyard didn’t speak English. So he would tell us something in German and then our IES leader would translate, but his English isn’t the greatest either. It turned into a team effort of those with better German skills translating for the rest of the group. And the wine! Oh the wine was great! We tried four different types, two whites and two reds, and when I saw we “tried” I mean he basically poured us almost a full glass of each one (plus seconds on a few). By the time we went upstairs to dinner, I think everyone was in pretty good spirits. Then we had this lovely spread of different foods that the family had prepared for us, along with, of course, more wine. They were so nice and welcoming and their home was absolutely beautiful! It sat up on a hill and had rolling vineyards spreading out below and around it. With the late winter we had, nothing is really budding yet, but it still was a lovely site! Overall, it was a fantastic day. It was nice to get out in nature a bit and drink nice wine and have good food, with good company!

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A German and Polish Spring Break

What an adventure the last couple of weeks have been! So this past week was our spring break and I think it was the best spring break I have ever had! I traveled to Munich and Freiburg, Germany with a couple of friends and then went to Krakow, Poland. The entire break was just a whirlwind, but was truly fantastic! It was my first time really traveling on my own, which is a very invigorating and freeing experience.

[A lot happened in those two weeks, so this post is kind of long. I apologize and won’t judge if you just skip to the pictures :) ]

So the adventure started out on Friday the 22nd with a train ride from Vienna to Munich. Besides Amtrak, I had never been on a train before, so that in itself was pretty exciting. We got into Munich and found our hostel, put our stuff away and then started out for the first night of our German adventure. I was traveling with two friends of mine, Drew and Caitlin, and we had a blast in Munich. We spent about three days there and definitely got the German experience, touring around, eating traditional Bavarian food, and of course, drinking a lot of beer. We toured the city during the day and spent our evenings sampling some of the local beer and making new friends. The hostel we stayed at was great and we met a lot of cool new people there. Unfortunately we didn’t make it to the “Disney Castle,” Schloss Neuschwanstein, which means I will just have to go back some day!

On Monday we took a four hour bus ride to Freiburg. The drive was really beautiful. I woke up at one point and felt like I was back in Alaska, driving through Turnagain Pass, with all the snow and mountains surrounding us. I have really been missing my mountains, so it was a pretty good feeling! When we got to Freiburg, it did not take us long to realize that we might have overestimated the amount of time needed to see the city. Drew was just staying one night because she was meeting friends later on, but Caitlin and I had booked an extra night and it did not take us long to realize, that we probably shouldn’t have. Freiburg is truly lovely and quaint, but very small! What was really an experience was the place we were staying. Cheap hotels are rather rare in Freiburg and the “hotel” we ended up booking was a rather interesting place that was basically a room in this guy’s apartment. Our “double room” consisted of a twin size bed, a couch, and a mattress to shove in between the two for our “extra bed.” There were definitely some glances passed between the three of us reading, “where the heck are we staying?!” but overall it was not a bad situation. Our host spoke very little English and was straight out of the 90s with his Simpson T-shirt, smiley face belt buckle, and Smurf figurine collection, but he was very nice and the place was clean enough. That first day in Freiburg we met up with a friend of Drew’s and a friend of mine from PLU, both of which are studying in Freiburg with the IES program there. They took us on a little hike up Freiburg’s “mountain” and at the top we climbed a tower of stairs and were able to see the entire little city. It was truly a beautiful site! The next day we toured Freiburg’s one big attraction: The Münster! This is their big church in the center of the city. We were able to climb up into the tower and once more had a pretty awesome view of the city. We spent the rest of our time in Freiburg trying various places to eat and of course we had to sample their local beer as well (I have drunk more beer in Germany, than I have my entire life combined!) Although it wasn’t quite what we all were expecting, we had a great time in little Freiburg.

Then came my day of trains! I can definitely say I have been on a train now! Coming back from Freiburg was a 9 hour train ride to Vienna, with us getting in around 11:00 at night. Then the next morning, I left again at 7:45 to catch an 8 hour train ride to Krakow! So within a 24 hour period, I spent about 17 hours on a train!

It was worth it though for the magical city that awaited was more than I could ever have hoped for! Krakow is truly a spectacular and amazing city! I was traveling with my friend Ramon and we had the time of our lives in Poland. Polish food has really rich, hardy flavors and I loved it; we ate a lot of pierogies! The hostel we were staying at was very cozy and the hostess was so welcoming. She helped us plan our entire stay there and greeted us each morning with a great breakfast. Krakow is full of history, stories, and legends with an air of magic to them. The infamous Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, is only about an hour away from Krakow and there are many different groups that offer tours of it. We toured that our first full day in Poland, and although it was a rather hard experience, I definitely think it was a really important and powerful thing to see. The next day we took a free walking tour of Krakow and heard all about its history, myths, and of course, its dragon. With its mix of communist-style buildings, numerous churches, castles, little winding streets, and huge market square, Krakow is quite the place to just wander around! All of the old buildings in Krakow are the original buildings because it was never bombed during World War II since it was occupied by the Nazis, so there is some spectacular architecture throughout the city. Sunday was Easter Sunday, and was probably the most interesting Easter I will ever have. We attended a very nice Catholic mass in the morning, even though Ramon and I are not Catholic (when you are in a country that is 89.9% Catholic you don’t have much of an option of other churches). In the afternoon we went on a tour of Nowa Huta, an “ideal communist city,” that is about a half-hour tram ride away from the city center of Krakow. The tour was fascinating, but the weather was absolutely awful! After 3 and half hours of standing in a combination of rain, snow, and hail, I couldn’t feel my feet, but I learned a lot about communism. That night, sadly, Ramon and I had to say goodbye to our beautiful Krakow and catch our night train back to Vienna. After a night of restless sleep and full of claustrophobic feelings in my tiny bunk on the night train, we arrived back home in lovely Wien.

It was an absolutely wonderful spring break, but I have to admit that I did miss Vienna while I was away! It is nice to be back here, although I am not looking forward to getting back into the swing of classes. It is crazy to think I only have two months left in Europe! Time really does fly by here!

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An Adventure in the Dark…

So the last few weeks have been a whirlwind of preparing for midterms and planning spring break adventures. I haven’t had much time do very many exciting, Viennese things, but the last couple days were quite the adventure and I thought I would share it.

On Sunday, my professor for my internship seminar hosted a field trip for us to go this experiential museum called “Dialog im Dunkel,” or in English, “Dialogue in the Dark.” This was an amazing experience where you go through this “museum” in complete darkness. The tour is supposed to show how it is to be blind and you go through a series of different every day activities in the dark. There multiple tour guides at Dialog im Dunkel and all of them are visually impaired, almost 100% if not completely blind. We never actually saw our tour guide, but she was one of the best tour guides I have ever had! What an experience it was to walk with a guiding cane through a park, over a bridge, across a busy street, and through a shop, we even took a ride in a boat and could feel the wind blow through our hair, even though we couldn’t see anything! The tour ended with a visit to a “bar” where we all got a drink in the dark. Our bartender was awesome and served us “green beer” since it was St. Patrick’s Day. (Although we have no idea if it actually was green or not since you couldn’t see your own hand in front of your face, let alone the beer you were drinking!) I was about to say it was a truly “eye opening” experience, but I guess in this situation, that phrase doesn’t really work! It was amazing though and if you ever get a chance to something like that, I highly recommend it.

Afterwards, a few of us that had gone on the tour decided to wander over to the Albertina art museum for their open house. They were celebrating their ten year anniversary and had a free admission to the museum day. It was great! I saw some amazing artwork in there. They had real Picassos and Monet paintings, along with dozens of other amazing artists! They also had a Max Ernst exhibit going on at the time, which was fascinating! I was not familiar with Max Ernst and it was truly amazing to see the variety of styles he used in his artwork. I overhead a girl ask one of the museum employees if the paintings were really all done by the same person, and I had to admit, I was thinking the same thing!

On our way to the Albertina that day we stumbled upon one of Vienna’s Ostmärkte, Easter Markets. It was so fun! Hundreds of egg ornaments decorated in different styles and lots of little booths selling crafts and yummy food. They even had these two bunnies that were so stinking cute, and gigantic! (I think they were the biggest rabbits I had ever seen!) I am going to try to go to another one of the big ones tomorrow. I really just love markets! All the colors and things to look at, and the little interactions you have with each of the vendors, it is great!

This weekend is the beginning of our spring break, which is coming at a perfect time for me! I am so ready for some fun and relaxation after the work the past few weeks. I am going to three different cities over break. The first part is going to be a Germany adventure: Munich and Freiburg. Then I am coming back to Vienna, I get in at 11:00 pm or so next Wednesday and then leave at 7:45 am the next morning for Krakow, Poland! I am really excited about traveling a bit, and not thinking about school stuff for a week!

A Taste of IES Vienna Classes and Life in Wien!

Wow! I have failed at trying to get at least one blog post up every week! Forgive me everyone! So the last month has been a bit of a whirlwind as I try to figure out my classes and schedule. It has been really challenging to try to juggle the work for four classes and my internship plus just living in and enjoying Vienna! So a little bit about the courses that I am taking:

I have four classes, well five if you count the seminar part of my internship. Everyone is required to take German, so I am taking a “Conversation and Composition” German class, referred to as “CoCo” by everyone here. I am taking one other German taught class called “Kulturgeschichte Österreichs,” which means “Cultural Heritage of Austria.” It is with Frau Schachermeier, who is one of the cutest people ever! Every week we go on a little field trip around Vienna and see sights related to what we are studying. I have learned so much about Vienna from Frau Schachermeier, I love it! This past week’s field trip was to Karlskirche and we got to go up inside of the dome of the cathedral! They are doing restoration on the fresco paintings of the dome and so there is currently an elevator that takes people up. I have never been that close to a fresco before, and probably will never be that close again. It was amazing! I have really been struggling to try and improve my German, I feel like the German I am learning in my classes is not very practical, but I guess every little bit helps learn the language. It is challenging though, especially with all my friends here being American students! Another class I am taking is called “The Woman as Writer and Perspective in Austrian Literature after 1945” (a very long way of saying Women’s Lit). It is probably my favorite class. The professor is very good and the readings are fascinating! For my environmental studies major I am taking a class about sustainability in Europe. This class has been interesting but we only meet once a week, Wednesday evening for three hours, and those three hours can be pretty exhausting! Then the last class I am taking is a seminar for my internship. I am working with the World Wide Fund for Nature (previously, the World Wildlife Fund). It is my first time really working in the office atmosphere and has been quite the learning experience. This branch of WWF covers the Danube-Carpathian region of Europe and there are quite a lot of different things going on in within their operations. My work is focusing on research about forestry practices and the timber industry in the various countries of this region. It was a bit tedious and boring at first, but now as we get into information about illegal logging and the politics of these huge timber companies, it is pretty interesting!

So with all that going on, I have been kept pretty darn busy! However, I am still finding time to enjoy Vienna. Last weekend was a long weekend and so I had time to go to das Naturhistorische Museum. We spent three hours there and still had only been through the first floor, it is huge! There are a ton of great museums here in Vienna. It has been hard to find time to go to all of them! I have also been going to a lot of opera performances. Last night I saw Don Giovanni and die Staatsoper. It was really wonderful! Going to the opera is quite the experience for us poor college students. We get Stehplatz tickets, which is standing room, so you have to stand for the entire performance, but it only costs 3 euros, so it is totally worth it. To get these tickets, though, is quite the process. We go about two and half hours before the show and stand in line, or more rather sit in line, until they open the ticket booth. Then you get your ticket and walk as fast as you can, because they won’t let you run, to the stairs where you then wait again until they let you in to get your “seat.” By this time it is about 45 minutes or an hour before the performance, so you tie your scarf around the railing at your spot and then go and get noodles or a bratwurst for dinner. It is always a bit of an adrenaline rush as you run to get your spot, and is very exciting! Some of the music kids at IES go to the opera three or four nights a week, but I usually average about once. Standing for three and half hours can be pretty exhausting! So far I have been to die Staatsoper multiple times and also to das Theater an der Wien and die Volksoper. It is so wonderful being in a city with so much music and art!

Besides operas and museums, my life has been spent in Viennese cafes studying, wandering around the city, and planning travel adventures for future weekends and spring break. One of the greatest things about Vienna is its central location within Europe! For spring break I am going to Munich and Freiburg and then going to Krakow, Poland! I never would have thought to go to Poland before my time here and I am so excited for that experience! The last week has been absolutely gorgeous! The city comes alive with the onset of spring and all the sunshine! There are suddenly tables outside of every café and restaurant and the ice cream shops are opening up again (which I think is the greatest thing ever!) I discovered this ice cream shop that is open 24/7, which is amazing here because almost everything in Vienna closes by 6:00 pm every night. I have been there probably way more than I should have been the last couple weeks, but I just can’t say no to ice cream! I love to get an ice cream cone and then just wander the streets of Vienna. There is always something new to explore. I am definitely going to have to come back here though, because there is no way I am going to be able to see everything in the next couple months! It is crazy to think I am about half done with my time here! Well that is all I have for now! Bis später!

A Viennese Ball and A Deutschland Adventure!

Wow! I have not written in quite awhile. Sorry folks! The last few weeks were a bit crazy because we had our first Viennese Ball, finals for our German intensive, and an eight day trip to Germany. Then after that was our first week of classes, so I was busy figuring out life here and my schedule. So between all that, my blog hasn’t been on my mind! Here is a brief update about all of that and some pictures to accompany it. I am warning you now, it is a bit long, so if you want to skip to the picture slideshow at the end, no judgment here!

So the ball was pretty spectacular! There were literally thousands of people there and the variety of dresses was amazing! You are required to have a full length ball gown, or you can wear traditional Austrian attire (or I guess traditional Scottish attire too because I saw a few guys in kilts…). They were really strict about the dresscode too. I actually had a friend who got turned away because her dress was too short, which was a little ridiculous because it was a lot nicer than a lot of dresses there! Each room of the Hofburg, Vienna’s imperial palace, had a different type of music playing. There was traditional waltzing in one room, “American” swing in another room, jazz music in another, and so on. My favorite room was the salsa room! It was a blast, and they played some other random music too, like the Macarena, a personal favorite! It was quite the adventure, but by the end of the night my feet were killing me, and I wasn’t even wearing high-heels like some girls were. I also did not stay until the ball ended at 5:00 am, we went home about 3:30 or so. It was a lovely night, but made taking my German intensive final the next day a little rough.

The ball was Thursday night, finals on Friday, and then on Saturday at 8:00 am 35 IES students loaded onto a bus bound for Germany! Our trip started with a “lunch break” for two hours in Prague, which is definitely not enough time to see Prague, but was fun none the less. Then we drove on to Dresden to spend two nights there. Our first night in Dresden we had a big group dinner at an Italian restaurant near our Mexican-themed hostel, so it was a very multi-cultural day. The next day we took a bus tour of the city with a great tourguide. Then we had lunch in a cellar at this nice restaurant that had very traditional, Dresden food. I have to say it wasn’t my favorite meal of the trip, but it was an experience to say the least! Later in the day we went on a tour of the Türckische Cammer, the Turkish Chamber, which houses hundreds of artifacts from the Ottoman Empire, including ornate horses’ bridals, swords, and jewelry, and other Ottoman art. It was truly fascinating and afterwards my eyes hurt from all the sparkle and gold! We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening on our own wandering around and then packed up the next morning to head to Leipzig. Dresden is absolutely beautiful and I would love to have more time there. I guess that just means I will have to go back some day!

We unfortunately only had a few hours in Leipzig, which once more, I definitely don’t think is enough time. Having seen a little bit of Leipzig already, I went with the group that went to the zoo. The Leipzig Zoo is great and we had a blast wandering around. The group I was with went on a little boat ride through the biosphere, it was quite the adventure! Then after the zoo we had lunch in a tower in Leipzig where we could see the entire city. Helmut had told us we would be having “grilled cheese” for lunch. Well, if an Austrian ever tells you that you are having grilled cheese for lunch, don’t think you are about to eat a sandwich! It literally was a large piece of cheese grilled over vegetables. I personally found it good, but others were a bit weirded out by it. Just another cultural food experience! After lunch we all loaded back onto the bus and headed towards where we would be spending the majority of the week: Berlin!

Berlin is an amazing city! I realize now that my choir from home saw only a tiny fraction of Berlin when we were here three years ago! Throughout the week we had a few organized tours and meals by IES, but the majority of the time we were on our own, free to wander about the city and do what we like. We had a blast! Everyone on the trip received a museum pass to over twenty different museums in the city, so we used those to go to multiple museums throughout the week. My favorite was the Jewish Museum. We went on a tour there, and the tourguide was really fun and the museum is a really interesting place. I wish we would have had more time there. Another one of my favorite places my friends and I just happened to stumble upon when we got lost. It was the East Side Gallery, a series of paintings on a very long stretch of the Berlin Wall that still stands. The paintings were all very different and covered topics related to the Wall, such as freedom and hope, and were just beautifully done! We also did a little day trip from Berlin to Potsdam. It was pretty cold the day we went, but it was still fun. Of course, I would have liked more time there as well, but isn’t that always the case! Overall it was a wonderful trip and I feel like I really got to know some of the students here at IES. There are some great people in this program, and I am blessed to be able to get to know them!

Since Germany, I started my semester classes and have just continued getting acquainted with my new home. Vienna never ceases to amaze me with its beauty and culture! I love it so much here! The amount of history, music, art, and culture is fantastic and I don’t think I have ever learned more in such a short amount of time. In and out of my classes, I am constantly learning new things about Austria and Europe and about myself. I really am blessed to be in such an amazing place!

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