Back in America, Back Under the Dome

Part 1: January 23, 2020

What a whirlwind of a month it has been. A month back in America. And finally back at my beloved school in blustery, flat Indiana. Gosh the amount of sunlight that Ohio and Indiana receives in comparison to Ireland and the UK is so refreshing. In reality, all of America is quite refreshing after being gone so long (even if I still haven’t had some proper Kraft mac and cheese…). I’ve spent a lot of the past month being like “Americans do this or that” as I readjust to myself being an American in America surrounded by other Americans. Other friends that were abroad are having similar feelings. We all agree that we miss the convenience of 1 and 2 Euro coins.

Part 2: February 9, 2020

I would say that I am finally adjusted back to being in America. The dollar isn’t as foreign as it once was. People have stopped going it’s so good to have you back when they see me. Life has returned to as normal as life at Notre Dame ever gets. I have settled into the routine of classes, research, clubs, and dorm life. My schedule is as busy as ever, but I have so much free time as well. I believe this is due to one of the main lessons I learned in Ireland: the work will always be there when you get back. Spontaneity doesn’t just happen; one is allowed to be spontaneous because they delegate their work accordingly and use the allocated time to get what needs to be finished done, so that they can be flexible later. My week has the same base structure and then I get to interject fun things into it like cells into a mold (can you tell I’m taking biofabrication right now?) and watch them flourish.

One of my favorite things about being back in America is no longer juggling the time differences and transcontinental cables. I love being able to call and text family and friends when I am out and about. Phones are really a remarkable invention. I have also been loving living in the dorm again and the ever present community that it brings. Whenever I need a study break or opinions on an outfit, I can just pop out of my room and walk down the hall knowing that I will run into a friend or fellow dormmate. I love having the dining hall back and dislike it. I loved the freedom of being able to cook what I want. However, I also love the convenience of getting a quick hot meal and nothing beats meeting friends for a meal. Overall, I think it can be concluded that I love America and love my campus even more.

England: A Story of Time

I have just returned from England, where I took two planes, a bus, and lots of trains across the country to see it. What makes this trip different from the others? I did this one by myself. And gosh am I glad that I did. We spend a lot of time surrounded by people, especially when you are a university student. You have roommates, friends, family, teachers, and acquaintances. Rarely do I find myself alone, especially when wandering around the city. Travelling by myself removed me from that protective bubble of familiarity; it put me in a spot where I could just be me, unapologetically. I called the shots on where I went, what I did, and when I did anything; complete and utter independence. And it was refreshing. Sometimes I and I imagine others spend so much time thinking about everyone else, that we don’t ask what we ourselves think. So where did all my travels take me? From one side of England to the other.

York

I walked off the plane into one of the smallest airports I have ever been to. It was also conveniently the bus station. So I caught a bus going to Harrogate, where I wandered around until stumbling on a book that was about the 100 year history of Betty’s Cafe. Looking at the back I discovered that this famous location was just down the street from where I was standing. I wandered in and got seated at a table by myself with my oversized backpack staring back at me. The waiter brought me a tray of tea, but it had two pots! After much experimentation, I discovered that this extra pot was full of hot lemon water, which mixed quite well with their traditional tea. Sitting by yourself at a restaurant gives much room for imagination as you look around at the other patrons and the whimsical collection of teapots that they had on display. Around this time an older lady came to be seated at the table across from me and we struck up a conversation. She gave me half of her pastry, which was like an aerated pancake to eat. And then we just sat talking for maybe an hour as she imparted her wisdom on me and told me how confident I must be to be travelling by myself. At the end of our interaction, she surprised me by paying for my tea saying I deserved it for listening to her chatter; little did she know that she made my day.

Tea at Betty’s in Harrogate

From there I caught the train to York, where I spent the rest of the day wandering this medieval city. I wandered through the Christmas markets that illuminated the main square, explored the local shops, and tried my first Yorkshire pudding. Walking across the city, I managed to reach York Minster just as the sun was setting and watch the sun set behind it from a nearby park. In the hostel, I met a women from Boston who was a “libarian” (librarian) and thought I was going to die from laughter. 🙂 The next morning I headed out early to see the city by light. I walked along the city walls, which had been built upon those placed by the Romans and Vikings by the English in medieval times. They gave the best view of the city; much better than Clifford’s Tower. Clifford’s Tower is a circular stone building that stands on a man-made hill at the edge of the city, which I do believe may have been used as an armory at one point in the city’s history. I also walked down the street that is called the Shambles, which if anyone walked down they may recognize from the Harry Potter films. It is the street that inspired J.K. Rowling’s Diagon Alley and had at least four Harry Potter stores to prove this fact. My last stop in York brought me to the National Railway Museum where I got to walk through a Japanese Bullet Train and see the Mallard, which is the world’s fastest steam train (126 mph).

Outside of York Minster

Leeds

The next train came and swooped me off to Leeds, the city of owls. Leeds is a strange city because it is very old, but has been very modernized. It is the city of the millennial, with plenty of bars, places to play e-sports, and a questionable identity. Nevertheless, it is still a cool city to visit, a very artsy vibe. I checked out the Corn Exchange, which is a historic circular building that has been re-purposed into an area for local businesses and coffee shops. From there I wandered through the city seeing Leeds Minster, Leeds Cathedral, and Town Hall as I went; the historic scattered around the modern, a stark contrast to the stones of York. I visited the public gallery, which was a hidden treasure. The rest of the night found me wandering the Arcades (like malls) that the city has in bounty. I even found a great deal for half-off burgers at a local restaurant called Giraffe! The next morning I hoped a train to Manchester to see if it held any more promises of adventure than Leeds.

Wandering around Leeds

Manchester

Manchester is much bigger than Leeds and proved to be full of adventures. Walking out of the train station I was already able to hit a few of the sites on my list. I saw the Chetham Library and Manchester Cathedral, which made me question the differences between the Church of England and Catholicism. I spent the afternoon wandering around the Northern Quarter, a neighborhood similar to the eclectic Short North of Columbus, Ohio. I found comic book stores, clothing stores, vintage-record shops, art galleries, and local cafes. I sat down for tea and a scone at one called Teacup Kitchen and had a wonderful pot of rose earl grey tea. That evening I headed to the complete opposite side of the city where I saw Old Trafford where Manchester United play. From there I made my way across a body of water to the Lowry, which unfortunately was closing the galleries just as I arrived. However there was a public art display happening in the surrounding MediaCityUK district that provided awe and wonder. The displays used light and electricity to wonder, amaze, and draw out the human imagination. At one display, if you put on glasses you would see different shapes as you stared down a light tube. At another you could produce your own lights by going up and down on a teeter totter. It was very exciting way to end the night. I grabbed dinner at a trendy l Italian restaurant where I enjoyed artisan pizza-bread with a glass of wine because why not treat myself?

The fully functional cotton spinning machine

My last day of the trip proved a good time to explore one last museum. But first I wandered the city in search of the perfect English breakfast, which I found two and a half miles later. Four pieces of toast, two sausages, a fried egg, tomato, mushrooms, two pieces of ham, a hash potato, and the rest of the plate full of beans; enough food to fill one up for the entire day. After my hearty breakfast, I headed to the Museum of Science and Industry where I got to learn about the industrial revolution of England that had Manchester at its heart. The best thing I got to see at the museum was surely the nineteenth century cotton mill machinery in action, enough moving parts to take the breathe of any mechanical engineer. After a very wet train ride I managed to get to the airport and found myself back in Dublin, ready for a hot cup of tea and the next adventures that are to come.

Enjoying the public light displays
Visiting Old Trafford where Manchester United play.

I can surely say now that the journey is much more important than the destination. I never had any true destinations on my trip through England; just the hostel where I was to sleep that night. The time was of my own. I went from the 21st century back to the medieval ages and returned back all over the course of four days. I ventured history and culture, meeting people that I wouldn’t have met had I stayed in Dublin. Being alone gave me the chance to control my time and determine the best way to spend the hours between waking and dropping back into the dream-filled darkness of sleep. We fear being alone because time stretches out before us, but I believe we’re not so much afraid of being alone as we are of not knowing what to do. But when one is alone they dream and think and yearn for knowledge to fill their heads where pleasantries once did. Travelling allowed me to step back think and see the world, the buildings around me, the faces passing by, and the sun arcing across the sky.

Ireland vs America: What can each learn from the other?

So this post is prompted by my exam this evening, which requires me to answer this exact question. However I thought it was interesting enough that it could warrant a good post while I sketch out some ideas for this exam.

What can Ireland learn from America?

  • Storm Water Drainage: For a country that is known for rain, you think it would be better at managing it. Sure campus has part of the main sidewalk covered with concrete pavilions, but the water comes at you from every other side. Most importantly, the water has no place to flow to. As a result the paths and streets of this country are often flooded. My teammates were once very later for a presentation we had to give because their buses got stuck in traffic caused by the roads being flooded. It took them over two hours to get to campus from somewhere that was a half hour walk. In reply to this point, people often say Ireland is old, but I always point out that they have a modern infrastructure, so where is the storm-water system?
  • Healthcare: I have been to multiple doctors while I have been here and so have some of my friends. Apparently people are more accident prone when they are in a foreign country. Anyhow, Ireland has a strange medical system that has both a private and a public dynamic. This mixed system seems like it could be good in theory, but from personal experience it is much worse than the healthcare that can be received in America. Seriously, I went in for an ear infection and the doctor pulled it up on Web MD. Also how the order of medical care goes is if you feel sick you first go to your local pharmacy and ask them for your opinion. If they advise or you’re sick you go to a clinic, which is similar to going to a general practitioner or a Minute Clinic in the States. And if they determine you need to your last visit up the ladder is to the hospital where they will somehow figure out how to deal with you. From what I have heard from friends the hospital is the place you want to avoid because it is slow and inefficient.

What can America learn from Ireland?

  • Third Places: Dublin county has 751 pubs and 2500 cafes, which is a lot. When the coffee shops close in the evening, people move to the pub to continue their conversations. Bars and pubs here don’t exist just for the reason of providing alcohol. They are a place where people can come together and talk. You might even *cue awkward look from Americans* talk to strangers. The first time I walked into an Irish pub, I got offered an interview from some businessmen and women before they left from a work function.
  • Walls don’t make things better: Venturing up to Belfast, one can see a city that is still separated by walls. Every single night at 6 pm every gate blocking the streets in the city closes except one to allow people through in case of an emergency. This is a policy that has been in continuation since the end of the Troubles with the Good Friday Agreement. The Catholics and Protestants still exist in separate areas of Belfast and keep themselves cordoned off. Now, the border wall that Trump is suggesting is slightly different, but it will still cut people off from their families. The world as we know it has only existed since the falling of another wall dividing the city; the Berlin Wall. Do we really want to put up another?
  • Local is Better: Most stores you go to in Ireland are local. You won’t find Walmarts Targets, and Costcos here. The only stores where you can get food in the same place you get your clothes are Dunnes and M&S. If you need medicine or shampoo, you either go to Boots or the local pharmacy. Starbucks isn’t as popular; the local coffee chains are ILLY and Insomnia. But people are just as likely to go to the local coffee places. And once you get out of Dublin, almost every town that we have visited mostly just has local stores and a few of the Irish chain stores, such as Dunnes, Centra, and LIDL.

Two (or Three) More Countries Visited

Rome

I traveled to Rome with my fellow Domers for the canonization of St. John Henry Newman, who was the founder of the university I am currently studying at! Rome takes your breath away wherever you go. The architectural and engineering history is applauded around the world for a reason. I probably could’ve spent a week just trying to understand the ancient sewer system if we are going to be honest. Attending the canonization, I got to see the Pope, see one of the coolest masses in history (even if I didn’t understand it), and catch up with some Domers currently studying in Rome while waiting for mass to start. Besides this we got to see some Irish sites in Rome, such as the Pontifical College where Daniel O’Connell’s heart once laid (Conspiracy theory confirmed: it was stolen). I wandered around the Colosseum, visited the Basilica of St. John Lateran, and made my way up the Holy Stairs. I was completely overwhelmed by the history of Rome. We also enjoyed food and lots of gelato; I tried a few new flavors everyday.

The beauty of Rome architecture from the Altar to the Fatherland.
James and I in front of the Trevi Fountain in Rome. It was crazy crowded!
Catching up with my friend Michael at the Canonization.

London

At the end of the month of October, my parents came for a visit and we traveled to London with them. London is definitely one of my favorite cities that we visited. We did all the tourist things: walked by the London Eye, walked across the Tower Bridge, explored the Tower of London, and visited Kensington Palace. We also took a day trip to Windsor where we toured Windsor Castle and explored the city of Windsor. Mom and I even had a traditional afternoon tea like we were hoping.

Standing in front of Tower Bridge.

Life in Ireland Besides

I’ve been exploring Ireland a lot, more on these adventures will come in another post. Classes have been keeping me plenty of busy with projects, lab reports, and exams. Not much else can be expected of an engineering student in college :). I love the classes that I am taking though, so that makes the work a lot more bearable. One of my classes has me working with a team to design a medical device, so I spend a lot of time on CAD designing. My data science class’ first assignment was to analyze data from any API that we wanted, so I looked into the FDA of course. It’s really fun getting to get more into my bioengineering focus now that I am in upper levels.

Living on our own has a few perks like cooking. I’ve gotten more adventurous in my cooking and have made my own taco meat, chili, and pancakes from scratch! I even successfully made dinner for my friends and I one night: Doritos casserole with roasted vegetables and shortbread for dessert. But I do look forward to the dining hall again in the spring, just so I can have the time I spend cooking and grocery shopping back to do things like study or work on clubs. Returning to Notre Dame will be a big adjustment, but it will be really good to see all my friends again and return to the professors I know and look up to.

Life in Ireland: 9/24

I have been here for three weeks now, which doesn’t seem that long. I have my go-to grocery stores. I know when I am getting ripped off at a pub (the price of a Guinness is the best marker). I can get to and from without getting horribly lost on the bus. These all seem to confirm that I am settled into life here in Ireland. Maybe it will even be hard to adapt back to American culture in the spring, but that is a later discussion.

Living with mostly Irish apartment mates gives me ample opportunity to compare Irish and American culture. Often our conversations are interrupted by us trying to figure out a common word that we use to describe an object or concept. A sweater is a jumper. Cotton candy is candy floss. High school is secondary school. Granola is muesli. There are many more examples. The other night we got to talking about Irish traditional names, which resulted in us all being very entertained as I stumbled through the pronunciation of every name they could think of. But it’s all in good humor, I’ve impressed them with my very basic Irish language skills.

Watching the sunrise from Elephant Rock while in Northern Ireland

Ireland has been full of many adventures so far; we’ve barely been in Dublin on the weekends. We have taken a trip to the North with Notre Dame. We visited Belfast, Derry, and the Giant’s Causeway all in one swoop. On this trip we learned a lot about the Troubles, which is still a much discussed topic here, especially with Brexit and the Backstop. We visited the site where the Titanic was constructed in Belfast, which was also home to the Titanic Studios where Game of Thrones was filmed. Most of Belfast is still separated by walls, keeping the Protestants and Catholics apart. All the gates close to separate them at 6:00 pm except one guarded road. As an outsider I was shocked, but the locals we talked with didn’t seem to mind them. Derry (or London-Derry depending on who you are talking with) also has walls running along the city that have been in place for hundreds of years. These walls also served as peace-keeping walls between the Catholics and the Protestants.

Visiting the Giant’s Causeway

Another weekend we went on a pilgrimage to Glendalough where we hiked up and down a mountain. It was absolutely gorgeous. When we got near the top we looked down and saw a path coming from the valley and went “I’m glad we’re not walking that. It looks so far.”; that is the path that we took back. It looked flat, but in reality was not in the least. The views fed our bodies and rewarded us to keep moving. Every bit of Ireland I see is more gorgeous than the last. That same weekend we had the chance to watch the Women’s Gaelic Football Final at Crokepark. The game had record-breaking attendance and was quite the match. It was pouring down rain, so the scores were low because the players could just not get traction. At some points it looked more like a slip-n-slide than a Gaelic football game. Dublin won the game making it their third championship win in a row. For those of you that don’t know what I am talking about, Gaelic football is a traditional game that is like a combination between American football, soccer, and rugby. The goal appears as the resultant of smashing a soccer net and a goalpost together. If you punt it through the goalpost, your team receives one point. If you kick it into the net, your team receives three points. There are fifteen players on a side at a time and only four substitutions are allowed during the game (2 30 min halves). To get the ball down the field you can either punch it (similar to throwing) to a teammate or carry it in your hands, but only for four steps. After four steps, one most perform a dribble-like maneuver where they bounce kick it back into their hands. It was much more exciting than an American football game, since the action barely ever ceases.

The view from the “flat” path through the valley.
Celebrating Dublin’s win at the Women’s Gaelic Football Final

When I am not travelling around Ireland, I am either on campus here at UCD or at the O’Connell House hanging with Notre Dame kids and attending classes. My classes here have proved to be very interesting and spread across many different fields ranging from history and language to computer science and design. The Irish college system varies from that in the States. The course grades depend usually on only one or two assignments or exams. All of the classes are much more lecture-focused than interactive. And fewer Irish students attend lecture than American students. But I am still chained to my desk during free time, studying and trying to master the content. Who knew manometers could be so complicated and that you could learn an entire coding language in 24 hours? There might be a lot of different things to learn, but they are all much more interesting than my introductory courses last year, which definitely makes studying a lot more enticing!

Enjoying Murphy’s ice cream in Dingle

To my family in the States: I miss you all and hope that you all are well. Feel free to drop and email, Facebook message, or Whatsapp to say hi. Just because I’m an ocean away doesn’t mean we can’t figure out some way to communicate. I am doing very well here and eating really good meals. I even made pancakes from scratch the other day that were fantabulous!

Atop a hill (mountain) in Bray

Arriving in Ireland

Monday I flew from Amsterdam to Ireland to start my next great adventure: studying abroad at University College Dublin (UCD). Ireland is absolutely gorgeous, completely green like a brand new spring day. Coming in to Ireland from the main land you see the beaches with waves lapping on them spreading out into the distance. There are mountains to the left and a small island off the coast to the right. Flying over the island you can see the farmland underneath. It is mostly evenly cut rows of hay at this point in the season, with the bales evenly lined up. Even just flying in, I felt like I was at home; more so than in the cities of Europe.

The view from the airplane as I landed in Ireland.

Arriving in Ireland was a bit crazy because the flight was delayed due to a strike in Amsterdam. Instead of going to UCD to check into my dorm, I got into a taxi with other late-comers to go to the Notre Dame O’Connell House for orientation things with the university. We went shopping for bedding and kitchen supplies to fill our apartments on campus. After dinner, we finally managed to lug all of our luggage and purchases to UCD to move into our new residences. When I walked into my apartment, all my roommates except one were already there. They bombarded me as I walked into the door asking all sorts of things and wanting to just say hi; they were so excited to meet me. They are very friendly and bubbly. Our apartment is very nice too. There is a common room with a small kitchen and an eating area, plus we all have our own bedrooms.

The engineering building is one of the first things you see when you arrive on campus.

The past few days have been very busy with orientation activities and setting up the apartment. I finally have groceries and everything I need in my room. It is so nice to be unpacked and settled after weeks of travelling. I have a warm bed to sleep in, a wardrobe for my clothes, and a desk under the window to write at. Being able to cook in the kitchen has been its own adventure as well. The meals have already taken quite a range from chicken stir fry to soup to beans and toast in a hurry. The hot meals in the kitchen surely beat eating from grocery stores and bakeries on our backpacking trip.

Officially a UCD student after receiving my scarf in the university colors.

Notre Dame has already kept us quite busy. Our first full day in Ireland we had a scavenger hunt that took up the entire afternoon. We ran all around the city centre trying to find different landmarks or solve puzzles. One member of each group even had to chug a Orange Soda in under 20 seconds! We didn’t win the scavenger hunt, but we did get 36 items on the list and won the best photo. Thursday night we had an opening mass and dinner at the O’ Connell House, which was very welcome after a few days of cooking for ourselves. Today just brought chores and preparing for classes to start next week. Tomorrow we are headed to the North to see Belfast and the Cliffs of Moher.

Sliding into the start of the scavenger hunt

Stacking up the wins on the scavenger hunt
Whelan n’ Dealing (our team name) can beat Doctor Who anyday

Fifth Stop: Berlin

Berlin is the last city on our grand tour of Europe before we start are studies in Ireland. We have been to four countries and five cities in a week and a half. So without further reflections on this trip (expect another post on that), here is the story of our last stop.

Day 1: Friday, 30 August

We got into Berlin on the 29th and went straight to the hostel and crashed after a busy day in Prague and then a 4 turned 5 hour train ride. A tea kitchen at the hostel was a nice welcome for our weary bodies.

Friday started with free breakfast in the hostel (always a nice perk) and then we headed for the S-Bahn station that was right next door. We retraced our ride from the night before and found ourselves at Brandenburg Tor, or the Brandenburg Gate. It is a large classical structure that has stood for peace since its creation. Many embassies can be found nearby, including our own.

We wandered over to the Reichstag building to see it’s architecture and look through it’s unique clear dome. On the way we found the Memorial to the Roma and Senti that were killed during the Nazi’s reign. It’s a quiet memorial along a well-travelled path. Outside there is a wall that describes the history of what happened to them. Entering into the memorial there is a circular pool of black water with a triangle in the center, since they were forced to wear a black triangular badge to identify themselves. Surrounding the pool are stones and on some of these stones the camps that the Roma died at are enscribed.

When we finally made it to the Reichstag building, we discovered that you had to make a reservation ahead of time to go in (the internet had misled us again). We walked around the building enjoying the architecture of it, but if I ever return to Berlin I hope to see the inside.

Our next stop of the morning was the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It is a block covered with deep grey stone pillars that are evenly spaced apart, but of different heights. They appear as if the Jews lined for roll call at a Concentration camp. Between the pillars there are paved paths that roll over hills, making it at times harder to walk. The memorial stones are short on the outskirts, but get taller as you get closer into the center, till you can’t see anything else. Underneath the memorial is a museum where it walks you through the history behind the tragedies. There is one room in which journal writings or letters of those that were tortured are laid out around the floor to be read. Almost everyone whose story or plea I read died. The memorial was very emotional and reflective. After walking through the memorial, I wrote the following in my notebook:

One enters a uniform grid

The walls one can see over

Walking deeper the walls rise

Blocking out everything

But the sky

Scared and lost; alone

Surrounded by grey

Walking on and on across the stones

Occasionally a glimpse

Humanity looking in

But the walls are high

The order locking you in

To the rows and rows

Standing always standing

Many different heights

Living for a few glimpses

Of humanity

The Memorial and Museum brought me to silence. Emotionally moved, we prepared to head to the Berlin Wall Memorial. What I realized today, was that Germany as I know it did not come into existence until quite recently. It was divided and torn apart in many different ways over the 20th century. The Berlin Wall Memorial is located at the one street in the city that is still split by the Berlin Wall. 300 street were divided by the Wall. There were two sections of the main wall still standing at the site and remnants from the other structures that comprised the border zone. There were the foundations of border houses from which people would try to escape from the East to the West. You don’t realize how close history is to you until you visit it. The Berlin Wall in many different iterations cut off West Berlin from the East for 28 years. And only fell 10 years before I was born.

After leaving the Berlin Wall, we thought we would visit the DDR museum, which was labeled as an interactive museum to learn about the Cold War in Berlin. As soon as we saw it, we could tell it was more of a tourist trap and wouldn’t give us the history we wanted to know. So we caught a bus (our first double-decker!) to the area by the Brandenburg Gate, where we found the Europe Experience and learned about the European Union (EU) and how it operates. We really enjoyed getting to learn about this parliamentary system that is actually quite similar to the US House of Representatives.

We finished the day by exploring a suburb near the Botanical Gardens and our hostel. We ate dinner at a local beer hall that was the true mom and pop place. No English and no English menu; it was our first time without any help in ordering. But we both liked our food and enjoyed the atmosphere. We strolled around town and were amazed to find that the suburb still felt like you were in the middle of the city.

Day 2: Saturday, 31 August

To celebrate the end of our trip we decided to spend our last day learning about the beauty of German engineering at the Deutsch Technik Museum. Originally we thought we would only spend part of the day here, but the sprawling museum enticed us to spend the entire day. The museum consisted of seven buildings with many exhibits explaining the development of technology and manufacturing processes.

There were two entire buildings that contained nothing but train engines, trams, and passenger cars. You could even walk under a few trains to see their undercarriages. The museum also boasted two floors of planes in the “new building”. I loved hearing about the development of airplanes from the German perspective. There was even a very small mention to the Wright Brothers (go Ohio!). I particularly enjoyed being able to check out the engines of many different planes and the creative designs of inaugural flight machines.

The first exhibit we went to was on the advent of computers and we learned of the German inventor, Konrad Zuse, who designed some of the first working computers in the world. James and I both equally enjoyed this exhibit. We also went through an exhibit on telecommunications, which was James’ favorite exhibit. It explained the development of radio, telegraph, the phone, and other similar devices. The most surprising exhibit to us was entirely on sugar. After delving further we were both very intrigued because it not only covered the manufacturing in history, but it’s role in history and its novel uses in material science and medicine. Did you know at one point in time most of the sugar in the world came from beets?

The final building in the museum proved to be possibly the most interesting. There were a collection of many different cars. There was also an exhibit called “The Network” which looked at how technology has effected society and globalized it. I must say parts of the exhibit made me feel like Big Brother (1984) was watching and I needed to go get my tin hat on (my dad). The exhibit raised a lot more questions than brought answers, but we enjoyed discussing the different things we saw. There was also an area called the Science Spectre that was much larger than we expected. It was an interactive science center that comprised of three floors with 5 or 6 rooms covering different topics on each floor. We tried to get through them all in the last 20 minutes before the museum closed.

We spent our final evening in the suburb of Lichterfelde, which was where our hostel was located. We grabbed dinner at a local döner and kebab joint. James got a falafel wrap and I got a döner box, which was basically a salad in a box. We grabbed groceries at Aldi’s for the train, which proved to be very economical. To end a great trip we got frozen yogurt at a local place in town before heading back to the hostel.

Fourth Stop: Prague

This is a working draft. We wanted to get the pictures up. Stories will come later!

Day 1: Tuesday, 27 August

  • Arrival in Prague
  • Game night in hostel

Day 2: Wednesday, 28 August

  • Grocery breakfast
  • Old Town Square
  • Old Town tower and astronomical clock
  • Basilica of St James
  • Church of Tyn
  • Bookstores
  • Market for lunch
  • Old Prague Castle in afternoon
  • Dinner at local beer hall
  • Laundry in hostel

Day 3: Thursday, 29 August

  • Coffee breakfast
  • Petrin Hill
  • Train

Third Stop: Vienna

  • Day 1: Sunday, 25 August

  • We didn’t get into Vienna and checked into the hostel till late in the evening. As a result, we didn’t go down to the city center tonight. Instead we opted to get drinks at a local bar, which was both of ours first time in a bar. I got a white local wine and James a red. We enjoyed the quiet atmosphere of a small town on the hillsides on a Sunday night.
  • Day 2: Monday, 26 August

  • Today we started off with breakfast from a bakery that was near the train station. After eating some pastries we headed to St Stephan’s cathedral, which is over nine stories tall! There were lots of gorgeous wooden carvings of saints and God allover the church. We managed to sneak into the main naive to look at the high altar and surrounding areas. They were working on restoring the organ that had been put in after the original was destroyed during World War II.
  • After realizing we had gotten mass times messed up (thank you internet), we headed to Schönbrunn Palace. The Palace itself was large, but the gardens surrounding it were massive. We could’ve spent all day walking around it and saw many locals out running through it. We thought we’d walked through them all over the course of two hours, but only made it through a quarter. It was impressive to watch the people take care of the gardens. In some places they cut the trees smooth to form a natural wall along the paths. We also walked up a large hill behind the gardens to a gate structure, which provided a great view of the city.
  • The gardens really tired us out, so we made our way back into the city and grabbed food as quickly as we could. We got schnitzel sandwiches from a food truck called the Berlin Dönner. They were massive for only 3€ and probably one of the larger meals we’d had. We walked towards the Rathaus, or City Hall, and rested in its vicinity, which was much needed by this point in the day! A bench and some cold water revived us. The Volksgarten had very pretty Greek-esque structures and a public rose garden. We also found Hofburg Palace, but didn’t realize that it was till the next day. We believed it to just be the National Library and Papyrus museum.
  • We took a break from sightseeing to do a bit of souvenir hunting. James found a board game at a second-hand shop to add to his collection of Eurogames. I found a blue skirt at the thrift shop for only 4 €! It will be nice to have a skirt to wear since we got hit with an unexpected heat wave.
  • To finish off the day we went out of the city to the hillsides. We ate dinner at a Heurigen, or wine garden. Food at a heurigen is served buffet style, which was great for us. We could get exactly the amount of food we each needed at very reasonable prices. We both tried a local white wine that came in a glass mug instead of a glass. I was enamored with the idea of a wine mug. After finishing our meal, we weren’t ready for the evening to end. We took a bus up the rest of the hill and were rewarded with a wonderful view. We could see the entire city illuminated below us and spreading off in the distance. The evening was definitely our favorite time in Vienna.
  • Day 3: Tuesday, 27 August

    Before catching the train to Prague this evening we wanted to get the last out of Vienna. We took the trains to Hofburg Palace after another bakery breakfast. We were able to attend Morning Exercises at the Spanish Riding School. We watched the riders train with the world famous Lippizaners while listening to classical Viennese music. The riders were mostly putting the horses through their paces and doing a few lower level dressage movements. But during the third training session (each was 1/2 hour), we got to see a few difficult maneuvers that make it look like the horse is dancing. We even got to watch as they trained a horse to do airs! I almost fell over the balcony watching because of course it was happening directly under us.

    We grabbed lunch at a grocery buffet line. Afterwards we carried out our own tram tour around the Ringstrasse (or city center) using a guidebook to clue us in. After the tram, we headed to the main train station to catch our train to Prague, which we are both really excited to explore. We heard that you can get a beer for $1.50 and bread for 50 cents!

    Second Stop: Munich

    Day 1: Friday, August 23

    After a long train trip and a few delays, we arrived at the central station in Munich. Then we had to face the difficulty of finding the train that went to Munich. Munich’s transportation system is as large if not larger than Amsterdam’s. There are ICEs, which are the intercity trains; R-bahns, which are the regional trains; S-bahns, which are between the R-bahn and U-bahn in size (possibly suburban); U- bahns, which are underground trains with many stops. Then there are also trams and busses like in Amsterdam to cover short stops in the city and out in the suburbs. We rode every transit in our stay in Munich to get around. Peter even took us on the autobahn when he picked us up at the station to show off the finery that is a BMW M8.

    We got ice cream (eis) with Peter, then returned to his house to rest for a bit. After a walk around a nearby park, Peter helped us lay out a great path through the city for the night. We took the train to Marienplatz and walked around the area, passing the Glockenspiel and Hafbrahaus on the way. We ate dinner at a local German pub kind of place that we absolutely loved. James got a beer on tap and I got a glass of wine. We split a plate of sausages and potato-salad, which is probably our favorite meal so far. After dinner we walked through the “cool” part of town and walked along the river. We didn’t get back to Peter’s till after midnight, but we still sat and talked with Peter and his cousins for a bit.

    Day 2: Saturday, August 24

    Today was the day we were to explore all of Munich. We started off the day in Odensplatz where we saw the Residenz and the Theatrekirche, which was gorgeous inside.

    We then got lost on our way to Marienplatz and ended up near Wienerplatz, where a market the locals converge at is located. But we did find a local palace with a great view of the city to rest for a bit. We then found our way back to Marienplatz by tram. We walked through St. Peter’s kirche and marveled at all the relics. We finally found a drinking fountain outside of the kirche (church) to refill our water bottles! We got a meatloaf sandwich from a stand in Vitualmarkyt (spelling?) and found a salad at a local store. After lunch we headed toward the Englischer Garten. We saw the famous surfboarders on the river and walked past the Biergarten that is in the park.Afterwards we took the U over to Olympiapark and BMW land. We saw the Four Cylinders building and gawked at the cars in the BMW Welt. There were all the Minis, and the 2 series, 3 series, and ALL the electric vehicles like the i3 and i8. I was so excited to see them all.We ended off the day with dinner at a local Biergarten where we tried the Bavarian special and Bavarian meatloaf. I even enjoyed my first beer!

    Day 3: Sunday, August 25

    Today we went to Dachau before heading to Vienna. Since Dachau is a memorial, a place to remember and reflect, we did not take any pictures of the sight. We both took our time reading and looking at everything in the museum there, that we only made it through half of the museum. We saw a short documentary on Dachau and how it served as a model for the terror the Nazis unleashed at camps across the continent. I visited Dachau once before in sixth grade and I was overwhelmed by the tragedy that took place where I stood. Today when I walked in I felt that same overwhelming feeling, especially when visiting the Crematorium and Gas Chambers. But I also learned about how people survived there, despite all of the inhumane, unimaginable tortures they faced. None of the people I saw visiting today were old enough to be alive when these tragedies occurred, but we all were there to listen and learn. We must be the ones to speak out and uphold human dignity when we see it endangered. Where there was once darkness and pain, one can now see trees full of leaves, babbling brooks, and sunshine pouring down trying to cover, to hide the scar that Dachau is on history. We came to the site, learned, and were impacted deeply.