I just got back from my Fall Break and traveling around Europe, known colloquially among the students as “10-day” (we get a Friday and all of the next week off, so 6 school days off plus two weekends is 10 days).
I have a lot of random stories from it, naturally, and I’ll give a brief run-through of what we did here. The names of the people I was traveling with will be changed, mainly because it’s more fun this way.
Thursday, 23/10 – I began my journey Thursday after classes, taking a night train to Zurich along with “Beleg” and “Gwindor”. We met a Catholic doctor from India on the train who told us random stuff about his home country, then went to bed.
Friday 24/10 – We got to Zurich and wandered around the city. There were a bunch of churches, and we decided to walk into some of them, but disappointingly (and I suppose we should have expected this) most of them were Protestant instead of Roman Catholic. We didn’t actually do much else. We went out to eat, had some beer, then went to our hotel (we mistakenly booked one near the airport, which is far away from the train station and everything else; ah well) and were in bed by 10PM.
Saturday 25/10 – We took an early morning train to Cologne, where we went to our hostel, dropped off our stuff, and walked down the Rhine till we reached the cathedral (which was Gothic – a refreshing change from the omnipresent Baroque Roman churches). The cathedral is amazing, though unfortunately it’s very touristy and they don’t do a good job of preserving a sacred atmosphere. We went to vigil mass there that night though, and that was awesome. German hymns with organ music sound amazing. Then we went to sleep.
Sunday 26/10 – Beleg and Gwindor both took a train to Freiburg at 11AM, but I stayed in Cologne for the day. (I was to meet up with Beleg on Tuesday in Vienna, and with Gwindor again on Friday in Munich.) Basically, I wandered around the city for eight hours, until 7PM when my train left for Munich. I got there at midnight and slept in the McDonald’s. Fun. Why was I going by myself to Munich, you ask? To meet up with Nienor and Morwen. Morwen was catching a plane Monday morning in Munich (alliteration!), and I was then to begin traveling with Nienor, meeting up with Beleg again Tuesday morning in Vienna. And yes, this plan was unnecessarily complicated.
Monday 27/10 – And so, after a terrible night’s sleep in the McDonald’s in the Munich train station, I met Nienor and Morwen, went to the airport with them, then went back to the train station with Nienor. We decided to go to Salzburg (which is between Munich and Vienna, so it’s on the way) for the afternoon. There we ran into Celegorm, Caranthir, and Curufin (which was completely unexpected), went up to the big fortress on the hill, then split off from the three guys because they had already been to the Mozart Wohnhaus and told us we ought to go. Then we had dinner, caught a train to Vienna, and spent an hour trying to find our hostel even though it should have taken twenty minutes. Then bed.
Tuesday 28/10 – After we met back up with Beleg at the train station, we just wandered around Vienna, saw the cathedral, and decided to go to a concert that night by the Vienna Residence Orchestra. We picked up our bikes (more on this later) at around 4PM, rode them back to the hostel, and went to the concert at 8PM. The concert was amazing – the concertmaster had a Stradivarius, actually, and it was held in a small room (probably only about two hundred seats) so we could hear it really well with no microphones or anything. Apparently they have these concerts every night – probably they get decent attendance, since every tourist who comes to Vienna will be thinking of Mozart and saying to himself, “I should listen to some music while here!”. Then back to the same hostel for bed.
Wednesday 29/10 – So, I may have left you confused when I mentioned “bikes” and said nothing more… essentially, about a week before we left Nienor decided it would be cool to spend two days biking along a trail that goes down the Danube river. So we rented bikes on Tuesday and on Wednesday morning caught a train to Melk, which is about 120km up the river from Vienna, and began to bike back. The actual biking began around noon. Among other adventures, Nienor caused a three-car accident on the highway (she was standing at a cross-walk about to cross, but wasn’t actually walking forward, and the cars got confused, one slammed on its brakes, and the two behind it didn’t stop in time – actually a cop witnessed the whole thing and then yelled at Nienor in German and asked for her passport and place of residence), and, just as the sun was setting (at about 5PM), got lost trying to get to the next town and had to drag our bikes up a steep hill to the highway, bike along it for a while in the dark, then go 20km along the river in complete darkness except for our bike lights (one of which was broken). We then got to the tiny town of Altenworth (which is so small it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page) and stayed in a random bed and breakfast (and ordered pizza for dinner, since there were absolutely no restaurants in town and the stores were all closed – at 7PM). This was definitely the most interesting day of the trip.
Thursday 30/10 – This day of biking was much more peaceful. We basically just got up, left at 9PM, and were there by 2PM. (It was about 60km of biking each day, but the second day was much more even ground so it wasn’t as long – even considering we got lost for went the wrong way for half an hour.) We returned the bikes to the rental place, rode the ferris wheel, and bummed around Munich until 8PM, at which point we tried to catch a train to Munich. Except that this train didn’t exist, the one at midnight required a reservation, and so we ended up booking a random hostel at 1AM and getting up to catch another train at 6AM. So, we spent about 20 euros for 4.5 hours of sleep.
Friday 31/10 – We caught the train to Munich, got to the city, and immediately began running into other classmates (there’s a tradition of everyone meeting up in Munich at the end of 10-day, so this was not unexpected). We did a free walking tour of the city, then had dinner, went back to our hostel, and prepared to go to the Hofbrauhaus (a famous beer garden). At the hostel we met up with various other UD-ers, including Gwindor, Celegorm, Caranthir, and Curufin. (I won’t bother naming everyone we saw at this point because there’d be about 50 of them.) There we had some drinks, went back to the hostel, and slept.
Saturday 1/11 – This being All Saints’ Day, we had to go to mass, and decided to go to the 10AM mass at the cathedral (again, Gothic, though redone after WWII – WWII basically screwed over all of Munich, actually). Once again, German hymns and organ music are amazing together. We had lunch, climbed the tower of St. Peter’s (another church in Munich – the city has an absurd number of churches, it felt like almost as many as in Rome), and bummed around the city until 6PM, when we went to a vigil mass (the next day being Sunday) at St. Peter’s (unfortunately, Baroque). Again, German hymns + organ music = awesome. Then back to the Hofbrauhaus, where we saw more UDers, had more to drink, and got in an argument with drunk Germans who supported Obama (I was better at German than they were at English, which was gratifying). Now, that night, most of us had planned to stay up all night, but what we had not considered was, after drinking 2-4 liters of beer, you’re not really in the mood to be awake… so almost everyone actually decided to get a hostel after all. But Beleg, Celegorm, and I decided we didn’t want to pay for it and slept in the train station (and we were more sober than most of them anyway, so it wasn’t necessary for us to be somewhere safe). So I’ve actually slept in the Munich train station on two non-consecutive nights.
Sunday 2/11 – This was basically a travel day. We woke up (well, we had been in and out of sleep all night – McDonald’s is not the best place to get a good night’s sleep), went upstairs, found everyone who was catching the same train (which was good, since a lot of them had been quite inebriated the night before
and we weren’t sure they would make it to the train, but they did – the people I know did, anyway). The train ride was from 9AM to 7PM, and I slept (having gotten little sleep the night before) and read Merchant of Venice. Then we were back in Rome.
So, that’s the story of my 10-day. I’m sure it was somewhat boring (it’s just a sequence of events, after all, no real story arch), and it doesn’t quite get across the feeling of what it was like to be there, but it does tell you what I was doing for the last 10 days and why I haven’t been posting. So, I consider my storytelling duties satisfied.
Oh, and one last thing; I managed to memorize the Hail Mary in German while listening to them say the Rosary before mass three times.
Gegrüßet seist du, Maria, voll der Gnade, der Herr ist mit dir. Du bist gebenedeit unter den Frauen, und gebenedeit ist die Frucht deines Leibes, Jesus.
Heilige Maria, Mutter Gottes, bitte für uns Sünder jetzt und in der Stunde