Spring is HERE! That may not look like much, but I’ve never been so excited to see a tree budding and blooming. I took this picture today from my living room window, as a celebration of the first day above 65 degrees since October! I figure it was worth remembering.
Admittedly, I’m already getting back into a work schedule again, since I started teaching again last week, and my language course at KIT starts next week, but before I get back into my routine I thought I’d share some of my experiences during my Spring Break. The IGS had vacation from March 18th until April 3rd, so I had a good solid three weeks of vacation. I spent the first week in Karlsruhe participating in KIT’s O-Phase, pretty much an orientation week for new international students. Even though I had already taken a language course at KIT last semester, I decided to go anyway just so I could meet some more people and also to get some more information about the specifics of registering and preparing for classes. I’m interested in that because, since my new living situation provides me with more opportunities to be on campus, I’m going to try taking one class in German this semester. I won’t be getting any credit for it, taking any exams or writing any papers, but I will be trying to do the work and attend lectures regularly, and use the class as another opportunity to practice my German in a more topically-specific, unique situation. Anyway, I learned a few important things during O-Phase, but I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit that biggest focus of the week was partying. It felt nice to cut loose again, and I had a lot of fun and met a ton of great people.
Immediately following O-Phase week, I decided that I wanted to travel around for the rest of my Spring Break. Though I initially tried to find a few people to travel with, at least for part of the time, I ended up doing the whole trip on my own. I left in a hurry on the morning of March 25th, and took a train to Munich. At that point, I had a train to Salzburg from Munich and a hostel to stay at in both places, but no further solid plans. It was equal parts exciting and stressful to be heading out without a plan, though I ended up easily deciding on a travel route and finding some good, cheap hostels to stay at. The route I ended up taking was as follows:
And yes, I did make an excel sheet to organize the trip. Never did I expect to use skills acquired at my old job to help organize a trip through Germany, Austria, and Italy!
I saw so much and did so much in each city that it would take ages to give them a full description, so hopefully you’ll be sated by a few sentences about each city:
I had high hopes for Munich, but upon reflection, I think it was my least favorite place during the trip. That said, I still had a really good time, which should really indicated just how much I loved all the other places. Munich is a very modern city, and though it has a few touristy things like Oktoberfest (which of course wasn’t going on in Mid-March) and the Hofbraeuhaus, there isn’t all that much to see. It also snowed the entire 4 days, so that made walking around outside for 6 hour stretches considerably less fun than in, say, Florence (more on that wonderful city later). I think Munich is worth 2 or 3 days, unless you’re visiting during one of the beer festivals.
Just across the Bavarian border to the east in Austria, Salzburg is famous for being Mozart’s birthplace. There are several museums, concert halls, statues, town squares, and even a chocolate called the Mozartkugel, all of which pay tribute to the famous composer. I enjoyed the city of Salzburg much more than Munich, and I can only imagine how beautiful it must be walking along the banks of the Salzach river during spring. Even though it wasn’t quite spring-weather, I still really enjoyed exploring the town, and I almost wish I’d had more time there.
I will admit upfront that my experience of Venice was both too short and ill-fated. I only stayed one night on the island, and I got soaking wet when I arrived, and was cold and uncomfortable for most of the visit. I don’t feel like I can judge this city fairly, so I’ll withhold any criticism. If I could have done this trip again, I probably would have left Venice out, simply because I didn’t have the money to stay in a nice place for 2 days, and because 24 hours was not enough time. Still, it was fun to get lost in the labyrinth-like streets and ride on the rivers connecting the islands.
This is my favorite city in Europe, and quite possibly the world. I was there for two nights but would have gladly stayed until the end of the summer. I really can’t put my finger on exactly what about the city I loved so much, but I loved it so much I felt intoxicated just walking around the streets. Everything had such a unique look and mood, and it was all so beautiful. Then of course, there’s all the excellent statues and paintings in the various museums and squares around town. The Uffizi Museum is probably one of my favorite museums that I’ve ever visited, as it was big enough to hold a truly amazing and vast collection of sculptures and paintings, but still small enough that you could enjoy and digest everything you saw in one trip. The weather was also amazing, and I had gelato two days in a row. No shame.
This was my last stop on my trip, and though I really enjoyed the time I spent here, I think I was just getting a bit tired by the last two days. I had been walking 6 hours a day for the last 9 days, and my cash started running low so I stopped eating out, which meant I wasn’t eating enormous Italian meals to replace all the calories I was burning. It seems stupid now in reflection, but you don’t always do everything perfect the first time. Despite my travel-weariness, I managed to see the Colosseum the Roman Forum, St. Peter’s Cathedral and the Vatican Museum, which was surprisingly excellent. I had expected more of the same Christian art that I’d grown weary of, but the Vatican Museum had a surprisingly diverse collection with some real gems, not least of all The School of Athens (I didn’t even know it was there until I walked into the room where it was!)
After Rome I flew back to an airport near Karlsruhe on my first RyanAir flight (which actually went perfectly fine because I sucked it up and paid for one checked bag ahead of time), and crashed for a weekend. It was a long and exhausting trip, but an awesome experience. I now know not only that I can do solo traveling, but that it can actually be a wonderfully free and enjoyable experience.
Anyway, that’s all for now. I may post a few more pictures here later, but I’ve already uploaded a lot of the best ones to my Facebook, so you can check them out there.