For the last ten days, I’ve traveled by plane, train, bus, and boat through Eastern Europe with some of my best friends. Here are the highlights.
Amanda joined us in Florence a few days before our trip, and flew with us to Switzerland. I was so glad to have her, and we spent the day exploring Geneva. After visiting so many large cities, the mountain towns of Switzerland charmed me. Everyone we met was incredibly kind.
Lucas met us that night in Geneva, and the six of us set off for Interlaken by train. The views as we approached the alps were stunning, and they just kept getting better. While Kristina and Lucas went paragliding that afternoon, Amanda, Katie, Sarah and I began an exhausting but rewarding hike to the top of Harder Kulm. It was a beautiful day for a hike, and we frequently stopped on our way up to catch our breath, take in the view, and stir up good conversation. As the sun set on our way back down, we watched the fading light soften the mountains.
On Easter morning, we got up and explored the St. Beatus Caves off of Lake Thun. The caves were amazing, continuing impossibly deep into the mountain. The only light inside came from the scattered lamps installed along the pathways, making it hard to take photos, but very cool to experience. That afternoon we said goodbye to Amanda as she headed back to Greece – I am already looking forward to seeing her again in May!
Our stay in Munich began with an awesome walking tour of the city center. I knew very little about Munich before going there, and it was so exciting to learn about its history and culture.
Part of this history of course, is that it was the first city to experience the horrors of World War II, including the first concentration camp. Outside the city, the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial holds a museum and memorial walk for visitors. It was awful to learn new horrors of the camps, but it felt very important to know and to learn from what happened there. While I was reading about the historical background of the Third Reich, I recognized the use of graphic design to influence the public. Propaganda played a large role in the escalation of anti-semitism and promoted Hitler as Germany’s “only hope.” In contrast, the Dachau Museum utilizes design for the public by arranging text, photos, videos, and artifacts to form a space once used for torture into one for public remembrance and education. To me, this was a reminder that design can be a powerful tool, for better or for worse. I hope to use it for better.
“Each of us today is shaping the background history of tomorrow.” –Chaim Schatzker
That afternoon, Sarah, Katie, and I visited the Pinakothek der Moderne, a museum in Munich with a large collection of modern and contemporary art. It was a great experience for two reasons: 1. We are currently taking a Contemporary Art class in Florence, and we got to see work by the majority of the artists we’ve covered! 2. Most of the European art we’ve learned about was created in reaction to the horrors of WWII and the concentration camps, which we had just witnessed that morning. Overall, Munich overwhelmed me on these points, but it was definitely an impactful day.
Although it wasn’t originally on our itinerary, Salzburg turned out to be my favorite place we went! Salzburg felt like a fairytale. Katie, Sarah, and I went there on a day trip with a guided tour from Munich, and our guide was so excited to show us around. We saw Mozart’s birth house and lots of settings from The Sound of Music! My favorite things about Salzburg were the unique passageways, the beautiful views of the mountains, and of course, the food. We tried Mozartkugel (hand-dipped almond-pistachio chocolate balls), Kaserkrainer (pork sausage with cheese inside), and cake.
Vienna is an amazing place filled with history, music, and great food. After a long bus ride there, we enjoyed a gorgeous 70-degree afternoon in the park.
The hostel we stayed in was right across from Nashmarkt, the Vienna’s largest market. Walking through the market was overwhelming at first because it was absolutely filled with food and shop owners imploring us to try things. It didn’t take us long to get comfortable taking free samples! The food was so different from Italy, it was a great experience to have falafel, fish, baklava, and more. We ate at Nashmarkt for most of our meals!
The next day, I visited the Schönbrunn Palace and gardens. While Lucas and Kristina toured the inside, Sarah, Katie, and I explored the grounds and picnicked in the sun.
On our last day in Vienna, Katie, Sarah, and I spent the morning in the K Museum – the largest museum in Austria. It was built to hold the Habsburgs’ art collection, and still contains a great variety of historic pieces. It feels like we’ve been to so many art museums, but it is still so fun stumbling upon amazing works. We go through them at our own pace, but we come and find each other often, exclaiming, “Look! Remember that one?! We learned about it in art history, and it’s right over there!” and, “Isn’t it bigger than you imagined it to be?” or, “Let’s take a selfie with it and send it to Professor Carl.”
These last ten days were a whirlwind of backpacking, sightseeing, and trying new things, and I’ll not soon forget them.