Friday, the group took a day trip to Brugge. We were led through the city for awhile by Dr. Taylor and Aaron, pausing to highlight several points of interest, such as a monastery where we couldn’t talk because of the sacredness. It was a place where women could go who wanted to serve God but not become nuns. It was utterly peaceful. We also stopped by a little lover’s lake, where a previous Europe group witnessed a proposal between two of its members.
Another place we stopped was the Church of Our Lady, where Michelangelo’s Madonna is kept. Supposedly, this is the only work by Michelangelo that made it to Italy in his lifetime. The sculpture is on the smaller side, not very tall at all. But it is beautiful in its antiquity and frame. They keep it behind a piece of bulletproof glass, because (I was told) it has been stolen twice. There are some pretty neat pictures of it on my facebook.
The rest of the cathedral was breathtaking. It still has people come in to pray, while being a museum of sorts. There were confessionals that were blocked off, and stone and wood carvings everywhere. And the windows! One of these days I’ll get a good picture of them.
After, we were released to wander on our own. We were going to go up into this belltower that gave you a view of the whole square, but I think the price of the tickets prevented it.
We got frites, got caught in a rainstorm, took pictures by a canal, and missed a train. From Brugge, we traveled to Oostende, a city that sits on the North Sea. We walked to the beach, where I was able to sink my toes into a sea I didn’t ever think I would see. I waded in, took pictures, and goofed off with the groups that all seemed to have taken the same train to Oostende.
The best part, though. As we were wrapping up, a woman came up to us with a camera and a little troupe of high-school aged girls behind her. In very good, but accented, English, she told us they were playing a game and needed at least five people to do the “bird dance” with them on camera. Once we Americans figured out she was talking about the Chicken Dance, we all of a sudden had maybe ten people jump in on it. So, this great big group of people on the beach of the North Sea, all singing and dancing the Chicken Dance, and laughing until our sides hurt.
From there, we had local seafood for dinner, and then caught the three hour train back to Verviers.
Classes Friday were interesting and both simple and difficult. Difficult because I have two heavy reading classes w/out much of a break in between and because we’re all distracted from being in Europe; simple because the teachers know we’d rather be exploring. It’ll be okay, though. Heritage is interesting, and I enjoy most of the kinds of literature we’ll be reading.
Friday and Saturday night I went to this music festival in Verviers called FiestaCity. There are several different stages, each playing a different kind of music. We discovered a couple of new artists - Noa Moon and Pavlov’s Dog - and ate street food. Just so you know, fries with horseradish mustard are fantastic. Waffles at the crepe cart are a beautiful thing, and my suitcase may be full of them when I come back.
One of the FiestaCity highlights: Matt and Caleb developed a huge crush on Pavlov’s Dog’s violinist. I’m pretty sure she’s not single, haha. But that concert was such an experience! I got some pretty good pictures once Caleb messed with my camera settings.
Yesterday Katelyn, Caleb, Matt, and I wet to Cologne, Germany. We caught a 06:30 train and arrives around 08:00 or 08:30. From there, we toured the cathedral, walked across the Rhine (on a bridge), walked along the Rhine, went up to the Triangle observation deck, and shopped. We got to eat our sack lunches right beside the river!
We got so many good pictures, and after several hours, we were all getting tired and cranky and sore, so we decided to head back for dinner.
One thing I’m happy about is that we haven’t had any travel mishaps just yet….but there may be eventually! All we can do is keep good attitudes and it’ll work out well.
We have. Three or four class days this week before we travel some more, but we may do little evening outings. It’s never boring in Belgium.
Yesterday, we took our first group day trip to Aachen, Germany. Aaron and Dr. Taylor took us on a tour throughout the city, telling us the significance of certain statues and taking us to a couple of different places, such as a partial reconstruction of an old Roman pavilion and an old church with such beautiful mosaics on the ceilings and walls.
After, they let us go, telling us that our challenge for today was to figure out the train system and find our own way back to the facility. So Matt, Caleb, Katie Veil and I went searching for espresso to cure Matt’s craving. We walked around awhile, shopping for a bit, trying on clothes and sunglasses, then wandered into little private shops. We spent hours exploring, taking pictures, and encountering locals.
The others wanted sushi for their evening meal, so we found this tiny shop with one asian woman working. This woman was fantastic. She spoke German and whatever her native language is; the best part was her accented German. At first, I wasn’t sure what I’d just heard — I thought I’d heard the majority of the larger Asian based languages. Nope! Just German mixed oddly with her accent. And then she spoke a very little bit of broken english! Praises! She taught us some German.
Guys. We learned German from an Asian woman. Supposedly the sushi was fantastic (I didn’t eat any due to a recent rough experience with sushi), and it was all made in the back right after we ordered it by the very same woman. There was a panic moment when Caleb thought he’d eaten bacon on top of his Tomato rolls. It turned out to be a chipotle flavored pepper of some kind.
Since I didn’t eat (but paid 2.40 euros for water!), we found a fritas stand and I got some German fries. WONDERFUL. They came in this little cone, and they had horseradish mustard that tasted fantastic on them.
After some more wandering, we ended up in the residential district. I’m not sure about the rest of our group, but I thought that was a special experience to see how they lived. We saw the truer side of Aachen. Accidentally wandered into someone’s backyard. Oops.
Eventually, we found our way back to Haupt Bahnhoff (Not sure I spelled that right), and from there to the facility. I’ll be glad when I can walk around without getting lost.
Today is the first day of classes, and I already think I’m going to die. So much reading for my Heritage class, and I’ve barely started reading for Lit.
Let’s see if I survive…even if I don’t, I will be taking classes and dying in Belgium.
Less than twenty-four hours ago I was in Memphis, TN.
I think. My math may be off. Haven’t slept more than a couple hours since Monday evening, whenever that was.
Either way. As I’m sure you’ve assumed, if you don’t already know, I am not in Memphis anymore. My current location happens to be Verviers, Belgium.
I know. I can’t believe it either. Right now, in the girls’ room, it looks more like camp.
Yet it isn’t camp. This place is beautiful. I can now say I have traveled overnight, as well as traveled by train. I’ve also towed a suitcase a mile through a semi-crowded city with a pack uncomfortably tugging on my shoulders. Over cobblestones. Did I mention that this is a lovely place?
Tomorrow, my adventure continues further into the unknown as I get to visit Aachen, Germany. Classes start friday: Conversational French (audit), Our Western Heritage, and English Lit II. Should be fun, right? Then maybe a day trip somewhere Saturday.
I’ll keep the cyber-world updated, if only for my memory and sanity.