To GT-Lorraine...and Beyond!

Over 25 years of academic excellence and adventure

Author: Samuel Burke (Page 1 of 3)

The Final Countdown

I can’t believe that this semester is finally coming to end. What has been by far the most memorable part of my time at college is now pretty much over. The language and culture change has been hard on me, and I definitely miss the USA, but this has still been an amazing experience that I’m sure I will never forget. Last year I made an impulse decision to apply for this program, despite never really putting much thought into the prospect of traveling across the Atlantic before. Luckily for me the decision turned out be a good one, and I hope to return to Europe soon if another opportunity ever arises.

Me, eating pizza.

Despite this being finals week, I made the questionable decision to take 3 days to visit some people in Germany I had met online. That sounds even crazier when I write it out, but it really was quite amazing. Being a little bit of a nerd, I play a few online games, and by random chance in a game of DotA (a video game, the title of which is Defense of the Ancients), I met a German girl named Sara, who invited me to play with her group of friends as apparently I seemed like a “nice, normal person.” Over the next 2 months I got to know this group pretty well and spent a considerable amount of time talking over a voice chat channel and playing video games with them. As they knew my time in Europe was coming to an end soon, they invited me to come visit them in Northern Germany for a weekend, which, given my spread-out finals schedule, actually worked out. The weekend was so much fun and now I have 6 new German friends that have asked me to come visit again if I ever find myself in Europe. The one thing that I felt was missing from this semester was making close friends with some people that live here and in my very last weekend I got to do just that. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to wrap up my European experience.

A picture I took of the Eiffel Tower on my first trip.

Looking back over everything now, there were a lot of awkward moments, but also many incredible ones. Some frustration, but more delight. Despite the negatives, there is no doubt that overall this was an incredibly positive experience. The same can be said about being a blogger on this trip.

Although I sometimes dreaded writing articles every week, I am so glad I took the opportunity to write for GTL and to hopefully share some of my positive experiences with others. I really do feel like much more of a global citizen now, and that is one of the most important things I hoped to get out of this semester. Also, holy cow, the food was so good. You can’t discount the way that incredible food can improve an experience, and even my own cooking was something that I came to be very proud of by the end.

As someone who as only ever left the United States a few times, and never beyond the North American continent, I now value travel so much more than I did, and understand now how important it is to put yourself in uncomfortable situations every now and then. I have most certainly grown, both as an individual and as a member of the world’s population (but unfortunately not in height) and I am excited for what the future holds for me and everyone who has been a student here over the past 4 months.

StrasBurke

As crazy as it feels, the semester is finally winding down, I just finished my last midterm and handed in my last assignment, so it’s just finals, finals, finals from here on out. But before I descend into the cocoon of studying, I planned a few more trips. I feel like I might be a little bit crazy, but I scheduled a trip to visit friends in northern Germany during finals, so this weekend actually constituted my second to last trip of the year. In addition, it also happened to be my birthday, so there was no way I was staying at home to study. Strasbourg is a very beautiful and bustling city right on the German border and was a wonderful birthday getaway destination.

Strasbourg Cathedral

My girlfriend and I arrived in Strasbourg on Friday night, ready for a little night-time exploring and some local food. For some reason, the area we were staying in seemed to be completely taken over by Italian-themed restaurants and since we both had not had pizza in a very long time, we caved and decided to eat at a cute little restaurant near our AirBnB. All the times I’ve previously traveled with Sarah this semester have been in German speaking countries, and as she is fluent in German, communication has never really been a problem. However, now that we decided to travel in France this time, we were faced with a harsh language barrier right off the bat. Neither of us speak French very well, and not all French speak more than one language. As such, our pizza night was quite an awkward adventure where I seemed to make a fool of myself trying and failing to speak French every time we came in contact with our waiter. Still, we made it through and had fun laughing about it afterwards, and were ready for another day of awkwardness.

On the one real day of being able to experience the city, we had a light breakfast from a bakery and decided to just walk around and see what we could see. Neither of us are really much for planning, so that seems to be how most of our trips go. Strasbourg has some really amazing architecture that includes this enormous cathedral that we even had the privilege of getting to see from the inside. For lunch, we decided on a traditional French restaurant near the city center, and I don’t know if it was because I had spent a little time brushing up on my French the night before, or more likely that since we were in the center of town the waiting staff was much more accustomed to serving non-native French speakers, but the interactions I had were overall very positive. That is until the end of the meal when I assume the server asked if we were done with our plates, and Sarah misinterpreted and responded by saying “Bien” and smiling. I laughed about that for awhile. After lunch we of course stopped for ice cream, finding a fun gelato place that shaped all their ice cream into flowers. After more walking around and such, we decided we would cook dinner ourselves, so we went to the grocery store to obtain the supplies necessary for mushroom, bacon, swiss bbq burgers. Of course the cooking didn’t quite go as well as planned, but we enjoyed attempting to make something that reminded us of home.

I’ve enjoyed traveling this semester so much, and it’s sad to see it all come to end. The countries I’ve visited – France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and more – have been truly amazing, and I can’t wait for my very last trip next week. Of course, despite all the fun this year has been, I am more than ready to go home and be able to walk into a store and talk to the clerk in English. It’s the little things that you miss when you’re away from home, but I love the little things I experience here in Europe every day just as much.

All By Myself

Courtesy of powerofthemusic.com

I flew into France within the first couple days of the New Year, and that was the first time that I truly traveled solo. Landing in Paris was pretty scary for me: I was lumbering around with a huge suitcase and no idea where to go next. Without luck, I was walking around the airport, looking for the meeting point for the shuttle that was supposed to take me and some other students over to GTL. On top of an already stressful situation, I was made fully aware that I was in a country in which English was not the primary or even secondary language spoken. This not only made me feel extremely uncomfortable and out of place, but it just made my primary objective that much harder to complete. Finally, after the supposed last call for the shuttle to leave, I found them all and made it in the van just in time. That was one of the most nerve-wracking situations I’ve ever been in. I thought that I was going to be stranded at the airport, all by myself, without being able to communicate to others that I was definitely not supposed to be both at the airport or alone. I would have really been fine with just taking one of those two options.

That was back in January, and I just recently made another solo trip, but this time it was about three days long, and in the Czech Republic (where their official language is literally not spoken anywhere else). Now, I feel a lot more comfortable with being in new and unfamiliar situations. I’m able to ask questions to locals without the thought that they are going to see me as dumb looming over my head. I can now confidently say that living in another country really matured me in aspects of my life I never even considered as problematic. Even talking to my friends and others in English, I’ve noticed that I’m a lot more confident in myself, and it’s a nice feeling to have!

In the past, I would too often get caught up in what others thought of me, and would always try to please them, even if it was at my expense. Many times, this would result in me missing out on activities or events I wanted to attend. This is what I’ve learned from living here: if you ever get a chance to do something, but no one will go with you, go by yourself! There is nothing wrong with it, and you will most likely regret not going at all more than going solo. You’ll also probably meet some interesting characters and have new material for stories to tell at dinner parties!

Although traveling solo can seem daunting, you’ll be amazed at how adaptable we, as humans, are. With time, you’ll be riding the metro and ordering your meals like a pro. Whenever I’m speaking to locals, I try to start off the conversation in French, and then if I can’t get my point across, I switch to English and hope they can understand me. Weirdly enough, even if neither of us can understand what the other is saying, I can usually decipher what they’re telling me using hand gestures and context. And while I highly recommend learning at least a little bit of French before coming to GTL, this way isn’t too bad!

GTL’s WIE Scholarship Recipients

This past weekend, I got to interview the four wonderful ladies who were the lucky recipients of the Women In Engineering (WIE) Scholarship! Emily Eastburn, Lauren Boulger, Rachel Clark, and Elaine Johnson all won scholarships awarded by the Women in Engineering program for being exemplary students not only in their academics, but in their daily lives as well. Respectively, the scholarships were funded by Arconic, General Motors, United Technologies, and Saint Gobain. These four are out of the 169 inspiring young women to win, the rest of whom are at GT-A and not GTL for this semester. The Women in Engineering program at Tech is one of the largest in the country – and gives out the most scholarships of any women in engineering program.
 
Here are some of the questions I asked them:
 
1. What year are you in and what is your major?
2. Why did you choose to come to GTL? How are you liking France (Europe) so far?
3. What has been your best European adventure?
4. What are your plans after GT?
5. What is your dream job and why?
 

 

Emily Eastburn (Arconic)

 I am a second year Materials Science Engineering (MSE) major. I chose GTL because I wanted to take classes that counted towards my major, and I have always wanted to travel Europe. My favorite adventure was spring break in Italy because it was so gorgeous, and the food was amazing! I am planning on going to grad school after GT. Hopefully for a PhD in biomaterials or bioengineering. My dream job would be working in a lab on prosthetics or tissue engineering. I want to be able engineer something that will make someone’s life better through bioengineering.
 

Lauren Boulger (General Motors)

I am majoring in Industrial and Systems Engineering (SyE), and I am in my fourth year. I wanted to come to Europe (for the first time) to expand my horizons and experience awesome places. I have loved it all, but Normandy was the place that surprised me the most. I went to Mont Saint-Michel and climbed the cliffs of Étretat, and they were amazing. I hope to work in supply chain and maybe a rotational program. My dream job would be a VP of supply chain, as it would challenge me to combine everything I’ve learned with leadership skills.
 

Rachel Clark (United Technologies)

I am a 2nd year, majoring in Electrical Engineering. I chose to visit GTL because it is an incredible opportunity to visit Europe and continue to take classes that count towards my degree. GTL is a great study abroad program for ECE students because they offer so many major classes. Also, I am an out of state student, so GTL is a deal!
I loved exploring some of the cities close to Metz with my roommate, Ashleigh! We spent the weekend visiting Nancy and Strasbourg. It was interesting to see the drastic differences between two cities that are so close together. Nancy has an almost Parisian vibe, with a beautiful, ornately decorated square. Strasbourg, on the other hand, looks much more German, with a gothic cathedral and medieval half-timbered houses. Ashleigh always says they remind her of the houses in Beauty and the Beast! It has a fascinating history, constantly switching between French and German possession. It is so interesting to visit cities so close to where we live that have such different cultures!
After GT, I plan on working as a software engineer in the defense industry, hopefully developing products that help the US military. My dream job would be a job where I can work on my interests within EE, which include signal processing, software engineering, and digital design. I would love to work on both the hardware and software sides of a product.
 

Elaine Johnson (Saint Gobain)

I am a second year Materials Science and Engineering major with a German minor. I chose to come to GTL because I knew it would be a great opportunity to explore Europe and meet other Tech students, while also staying on track with my degree. Europe has been absolutely incredible so far. It’s crazy to think about how many countries and cultures I have had the opportunity to experience in these past four months! My best European adventure so far has probably been hiking with friends through the Black Forest in Germany.

After GT I hope to attend graduate school for engineering. My dream job has always been to work in the automotive industry and work with cars. But the more I learn through school and in the research field, the more my dream job changes!
 
Congratulations to these wonderful young ladies!

Take on Me by (Pr)A-ha!

One of the buildings at Námēstí Míru.I recently made a solo trip out to one of the most beautiful cities I have ever laid my eyes upon: Prague, or as its called in Czech, Praha! I spent about three days there, standing in awe beneath enormous churches and eating various versions of traditional Czech goulash. This city had some of the most breathtaking buildings, very much inspired by the Gothic architecture movement originating in France, from the twelfth to the sixteenth century.

Originally coined as Opus Franciginum (“French Work”), Gothic Architecture was envisioned by Abbot Suger of the Church of Saint Denis. By the time of his death, Abbot Suger had also invented what is known as a façade (the very intricately decorated and detailed front of a building, intended to set the tone for the rest of the edifice), and the rose window (a circular form of stained glass with different colorings or tracings suggestive in the form of a rose). Very characteristic of the medieval period, Gothic architecture spread all throughout Europe, but had a larger influence in Eastern European countries, including the Czech Republic.

One of the views from the clock tower in the center of Prague!

My temporary home was in Vinohrady, which is also home to Námēstí Míru, literally translating to “Peace Square.” From my BnB, I could even see the Church of Saint Ludmila, which is a Neo-Gothic Church right in the center of Námēstí Míru, built from 1888-1893 by Bohemian architect Josef Mocker. Mocker also completed the St. Vitus Cathedral in the Prague Castle, which I had the chance to visit as well! The Prague Castle, or Pražský hrad, is the largest ancient castle in the world, according to Guinness Book of World Records, and it attracts over 1.8 million visitors each year. It dates all the way back to the ninth century, and is now the official residence of the President of the Czech Republic. The castle also holds the Bohemian Crown Jewels, which are the fourth oldest in Europe!

A stained glass window in the Cathedral of St. Vitus (feat. old guy and companion).

While taking a break from the beautiful sights, I made my way through the labyrinth of tiny, cobbled streets, on a search for the perfect goulash! I knew that this was a traditional Czech dish, so I had to try some while I was there. The first restaurant I went to seemed relatively new, and even though it had a traditional menu, the decor and atmosphere was very modern. A little strange, but I actually liked it a lot! I ordered some goulash, and what was served to me was not at all what I was expecting.

I thought goulash was some kind of soup with beans and chunks of meat or something, maybe I would get a bread roll on the side, but instead of finding that mess, I saw a beautifully plated hunk of beef, covered in this red, slightly spicy, but incredibly delicious sauce. To top that, it was served with four potato rolls, which I can only explain as really dense bread rolls with the flavor of a potato. That was one of the best meals I’ve ever had, and I didn’t think it could get any better, so actually my quest for the best goulash ended at this little hole in the wall, of which I could not remember and definitely couldn’t pronounce the name, but it was about two blocks from my BnB! I just went there every night for a good dinner, sometimes I also for lunch, to fill my stomach to its physical capacity.

My favorite metro sign: Náméstí Míru!

Because of my shortened food quest, and still not having visited all the places I wanted to see, I would definitely visit Prague again – no doubt. Next time though, maybe with a little more diversity in my meals? I’d like to see something other than goulash with different kinds of meat on my plate! And so, until next week’s adventure, I bid thee farewell!

La Coupe de Cheveux

For the last month or so I have been plagued with an affliction affecting both appearance and convenience. Something I normally kept under control was turning into a real disaster; I mean my hair, of course. I try to keep a nice, neat trim so that, for one, I don’t look like more of a homeless person than I already do on account of my beard, and for two, because my hair is a disaster to take care of when it exceeds more than 2 inches. Now you might be saying, “Sam, you realize that there is an entire industry dedicated to the maintaining and styling of the hair?” Well the sad truth is, that being the scared anti-social person that I am who speaks little to no French, I have been too scared of the awkwardness to try and go to a hair salon. I’ve been picturing the hairdressers just rattling off rapid-fire French and looking at me like an idiot when I have no idea what to do, and that scary mental picture has kept me away for some time. But eventually, enough was enough, and I decided I couldn’t wait another month to  get my hair cut at home.

To prepare for this daring feat, I put myself through a boot camp of hair-related French vocabulary until I felt somewhere short of confident that I could probably get the majority of my point across about what I wanted. I’d heard from other people that there was a place in CORA, the local superstore, where I could get my hair cut, so off I went. When I got there, I found that there is not one, but two hair salons, next door to each other, inside this store. I hope this gives you an idea about how massive this place is. Consulting Facebook, people said that St. James was the better of the two salons, but upon inspection, the alternative seemed much more inviting, and more along the lines of a Great Clips or something like that. Not being particularly picky about my hair, and the fact that it was cheaper didn’t hurt, I stepped into Diagonal Coiffure.

I started off strong by telling the gentleman at the counter that I need a haircut in what I can only assume was atrocious French. However he seemed to understand, because for guys, haircuts were about all they did. I encountered a bit of a snag afterward when I walked back to the chairs and awkwardly stood there for a few seconds. One of the ladies said something to me in French, and I think I kind of just stared at her, probably drooling, until, through the magic of charades, she gestured for me to sit in one of the chairs. After that my boot camp training kicked in, and I feel like I was able to pretty accurately say, in French, what I wanted for my haircut. This lady seemed to be able to speak some English, but being stubborn and wanting to use the language of the country I’m residing in, I proudly didn’t speak a single word of English the entire time, even managing to tell her that I was an international student studying at GTL in Technopole. After no time at all, I was done and finally sporting a cleaner look.

Although there were definitely some moments of awkwardness, the process was nowhere near as bad as I had imagined, and I even had some fun speaking a foreign language, although some gesturing was necessary due to terrible pronunciation. I feel like I learned a few lessons from this experience. First of all, don’t overthink things. They are rarely as terrible as what you can conjure of in your mind. Second, most people are actually nice and accommodating and will try to meet you halfway if they can see that you are trying. And last of all, a few minutes of being uncomfortable is better that a long period of inconvenience. If you just decide to go for it, whatever “it” is will almost always work out in the end, even if there are sometimes a few snags along the way.

How To: Find Your Body’s Physical & Mental Limit

The adorable village of Därstetten!

Finally having arrived in Interlaken, Switzerland on a very cloudless and sunny Thursday morning, my three travel companions and I checked into our small AirBnb, then went out to do some exploring. Our home for the next few days was comfortably nestled in the rolling hills of a village called Därstetten. This village was so small that the cows easily outnumbered the humans, and trains only went through every hour. Our house was this sweet, little country home, with the architecture and design staying true to traditional Swiss style homes. It had dark wood paneling on the outside, and carved wooden shutters painted green. There were vibrant red and yellow tulips surrounding the front, as well as a couple of free-range chickens wandering the campus, and we all fell in love with the area almost instantly.

Now I could go on an on about the home and our immediate surroundings, but I’ve actually got a very interesting story to tell you, so I’d better get started:

Waterfalls at the halfway mark!

Saturday morning, we woke up bright and early to do some more exploring. We ended up deciding to rent a couple of mountain bikes in Interlaken to ride around Lake Brienz. This is where the story really takes shape. I have not touched a bike since probably my freshman year of high school, but some part of me chose to ignore that fact and take on a 40+ kilometer trip in jeans and a sweater. It was nearly 65 degrees Celsius, and I had one bottle of water. Well, I figured I could use the exercise, plus I would be able to see the lake from all sorts of angles! During the first half hour of the trip, I was doing great. We were riding on flat, paved road, and I was really enjoying myself. Then the hills started.

*Pensive thoughts*

I don’t know what we were expecting, seeing as we were in one of the world’s most hilly/mountainous regions. We all turned a corner and saw the road go up. And up. And up. At first, I tried toughing it out, so I switched my gears and went into the first ascent at full speed. Soon enough, I lost my momentum, and found myself pedaling just to keep my bike from falling backwards. At this point, my thighs and calves were feeling a healthy sting, so I kept going until I reached the next turn which seemed to plateau off.

But what was waiting for us when we turned that corner? You guessed it- another hill! I took a breath, gathered myself, and started to tackle this one. We all got about halfway up before we hopped off our bikes and walked them to the next corner. This is how we took on every other hill. After seeing some beautiful waterfalls, falling a couple times, and a lunch break, we finally got to the opposite end of the lake. This next half of the trip was supposed to closely follow the water line, and we all joked that we would get there and see nothing but upwards roads. We would literally be going uphill both ways. That joke quickly turned into a sad reality.

Lake Brienz

There was a stint about a kilometer long that went all the way down to the lake and then it flattened out along the turn. Coming out of that turn, we, I kid you not, saw Another. Freaking. Hill. By this point, I’m already sweating bullets (the hot sun did not make any of this easier), and my legs were on fire. However, against my better judgment, I trekked up the hill. We were just over halfway home, and I was not about to be a quitter. There was one more relatively flat part, when we were going through a small town, but then the uphill battle quickly continued. We did actually go all around the lake- uphill both ways. What a story.

Towards the end, all of our bodies were feeling the toll of 40+ kilometers in our legs, backs, and souls. By the time we returned the bikes, one of us had a faulty ankle, one of us had a crazy-intense sunburn, and the other two of us had enough muscle cramps to last an army a lifetime. Plus, due to the questionable lack of padding on the bike seats, none of us could walk normally. We all hobbled and waddled into our beds that night. We were physically and mentally drained, so after cooking dinner at six that night, we fell asleep quicker than you could say “spaghetti bolognese and frozen vegetable mix” (our dinner).

The moral of this unfortunate story, even though I really did have fun and I’m thankful that I had the experience, is to NOT ride a bike for four and a half hours if you haven’t exercised those muscles in over six years, do NOT overestimate your physical or mental preparedness, and ALWAYS bring two to three bottles of water! Until my next misadventure, this is Sam signing off! 

Top 5 List of Favorite Encounters of the Food Kind

Thinking introspectively I’ve come to the conclusion that my love for travel might actually be not so subtly linked to my love for good food. Seeing famous landmarks and learning about the history of places is great and all, but my favorite part is undeniably the food. Be it street vendors, marketplaces, little cafés, or fancy restaurants, good food can be found everywhere, and in Europe you have nearly unlimited access to foods from many different cultures, and cuisine that might not be so easily accessible in the United States, so in the spirit of Buzzfeed, I decided to make a top 5 list of my favorite encounters of the food kind.

5. Schnitzel with Noodles, Heidelberg
Don’t get me wrong, this simple meal from Germany was delicious, but it secures a spot on my list for the experience of finally getting to eat the iconic food combination sung about in the Sound of Music. Growing up hearing that song, I never even knew what schnitzel was before coming to Europe, so it was fun for me to not just figure out what is actually was, but also to eat it.

4. Hot waffle with Ice Cream, Amsterdam
Right outside the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, by the famous sign, there’s a little food stand that sells an amazing combination that I had never seen anywhere else. Waffles, ice cream and coffee was a perfect way to break fast before enjoying the incredible art of Van Gogh and touring the beautiful canals of Amsterdam.  

Picture Courtesy of TripAdvisor.

3. Roasted Duck, Paris
This was one of the very first meals I ate in Europe, occurring in my very first weekend of travel. I’ll always have a soft spot for that first destination and the trip was highlighted by finding this tiny little café in the middle of Paris with great hospitality and even better food. This was also my first time actually trying duck and it has quickly taken it’s place high among my favorite meats.

2. Pork Belly with Creamed Potatoes, Munich
This whole meal at a lively restaurant/pub in Munich was amazing but I can say with some certainty that their potatoes were the best I had ever had. People who know me know that I love potatoes, so this was truly a wonderful experience. There’s just something great about the simple cuisine of Germany, and when it’s prepared as well as it was in Munich, there’s not much that can beat it.

1. Gyros, Athens

Right across from our hotel in Athens.

My number one spot comes from a little hole in the wall in the middle of Athinas street called the Pita Bar. My girlfriend and I discovered this place near the end of our trip and proceeded to go there for at least 4 meals in 3 days. It wasn’t particularly fancy or anything, but they knew how to make gyros like you wouldn’t believe. If you ever find yourself in Athens, I cannot recommend the Pita Bar highly enough. Just watch out, because other gyros will never taste as good again.

It might sound a little weird that food would be such a big part of traveling, but really, food is a huge part of culture. Europe is known for its diverse and impressive cuisine and it hasn’t disappointed. I look forward to a few more weeks of amazing food and amazing places.

The Travel Bug

I think that I’ve been sick more times in the past three months that I’ve been here than in the last three years of my life. When coming into this European adventure, I expected to get sick a couple times. At least once. Maybe twice. Definitely not more than that.

Boy was I wrong.

I’ve been sick almost every other week, barely recovering from the past illness before I was struck down with yet another virus. Now I know that I’m not the best candidate for World’s Healthiest Traveler, but come on man, I should not be getting sick this many times. Once I exchanged health horror stories with some of my more seasoned traveler friends, and after reading up on other travel blogs, my physical restoration and mental sanity seem to be on a good, solid path upwards!

With all of this new knowledge, I have come up with a list of five things that you can do to prevent illness (and keep mental blissfulness) while traveling, or at least control it to the best of your ability.

Courtesy of shswstatic.com

1. PRE-TRAVEL CHECKLIST: When making a journey anywhere, I strongly advise creating an essentials kit. This should include, but is not limited to, hand sanitizer, hand/face lotion, a light sweater or small blanket, a travel pillow for those cramped, long distance trains or flights, one or two reusable water bottles, some nasal spray, and of course my personal favorite, a pack of gum. Also, make sure that if your eyesight requires some kind of support, like mine, wear glasses instead of contact lenses. While contacts may seem like the nicer, more comfortable option, they quickly dry your eyes (especially on airplanes), which makes your them more vulnerable to bad microbes!

Courtesy of mrdoorsign.com

 

2. SANITIZE: While this may seem a bit over the top, you should sanitize your hands after touching germ centrals. This can include anything from the seemingly harmless ATMs, ticket kiosks, and airport security-line bins, to the germ-y cesspools that are public restrooms. And speaking of public bathrooms, try not to touch any surfaces! It is a little difficult, but trust me, you’ll be regretting that one time you laid your hand on the counter when you’re sick in bed WAY MORE than a weird stare from a local stranger when you do a miniature Tai Chi/Olympic gymnast move to keep your coat off the floor.

Courtesy of coresites-cdn.factorymedia.com.

 

3. HYDRATE: Because of the dry air that comes with plane rides or long distance trains, your body will start to (gonna sound a bit gross, but stick with me) produce less mucus. And while none of us particularly enjoy mucus, it helps our bodies fight off infections and disease! Dehydration can also cause tiredness, headaches, and chapped skin (hello, hand/face lotion), which none of us want. Usually, people should be drinking around six to eight (eight ounce cups) of water per day. However, when you’re traveling, you should be drinking at least one eight ounce cup of water every hour, totaling to about ten to twelve cups throughout your day, and even up to fifteen or eighteen on longer days. One way to get a head start on your daily hydration is to drink two cups of room temperature water right when you wake up. Not only does this knock sixteen ounces off your daily intake, but it also refreshes you and makes you more active, boosting your energy so that you can take on the long day ahead of you!

Opening_Aang_airbending.png

Courtesy of vignette4.wikia.nocookie.net.

 

4. FRESH AIR: Whether you’re sitting in an airplane cabin or the backseat of a taxi, try to get as much air flow as possible. This can be using the little air vents above you or opening the window to breathe in some well needed fresh air. Constant air flow reduces your chances of becoming ill, and as a beautiful plus, it flushes out any questionable smells that you may have acquired during your trip!

Courtesy of lifecdn.dailyburn.com.

 

5. VITAMIN UP: Citrus fruits are such wonderful things. Not only do they taste heavenly, but they also give your body nothing but health and energy! But the really great thing about citrus fruits, is that they are so versatile! You can eat them straight off a tree, you can eat them dried, you can eat them candied, you can drizzle their juice in drinks or over your meals, you can straight up drink the juice, or for a more subtle flavor, you can put a couple slices in a bottle of water and drink that instead! You should always be consuming fruits and vegetables, but juicy fruits or vegetables will make you especially full of energy boosting and immune strengthening goodness! My point here is, you can consume fruits and vegetables (my favorite being oranges) in nearly any way possible, and there’s pretty much no excuse. Just eat more fruit!

Alrighty campers, now that you’re prepared to fight infection and drowsiness, go out and travel around the world! Conquer viruses and show bacteria who’s in charge! And as for me, I will make a shopping list full of good, healthy, things and try to recover from the bug I caught this past weekend!

The München Experience

The government offices in the Marienplatz.

Last weekend I made my first foray into the land of lederhosen: Bavaria. The largest region (by area) in Germany, Bavaria is home to over 12.5 million Germans and is highlighted by the city that this blog makes its namesake, München (or as you might know it in English, Munich). A common stereotype about Germans I’ve heard throughout my life is that they only care about work and achieving peak efficiency and I can’t say whether that is true or not everywhere, but it is certainly just a stereotype in the South of Germany. I found almost every local I met to be polite and inviting even though it was obvious that we were tourists, and Americans at that. I feel that knowing how to relax after work, and being able to forget about the stresses of life are skills that Bavarians excel in. The atmosphere of every restaurant and gathering place we visited were so lighthearted and joyous, more so, I think, than any place I have visited to date. As a destination in Europe I can’t help but recommend the Bavarian region and the city of Munich to anyone interested in both history and a fun environment.

A building in the square where Hitler famously faced off against the Munich police forces preceding his arrest.

The biggest highlight of my trip had to be the walking tour that I went on through the city. I love history and Munich is a city that has been around for a very, very long time. It was really cool to hear first-hand from someone who lives there about everything that’s happened in the city’s past, from the original founder’s partnership with the greatest Holy Roman Emperor Barbarossa, that turned sour and resulted in his exile, to how in World War II, 90% of the city was destroyed, only to be rebuilt and make such a comeback that it was able to host the Olympic Games in the 70’s. It was unbelievable, and a little scary, that less than 85 years ago, Hitler had walked these very streets and led his march to try to uproot the Bavarian government through the same square where I drank an afternoon cup of coffee. If history is what you are looking for in your travels, there is plenty to be had in Munich.

A river where locals apparently surf when the water is flowing at full speed.

But of course, Munich is more than just its history, the city today alone is worth visiting, so even if history isn’t your thing, come for the people, for the food, and, if you are of legal drinking age of course, Munich is known for having the best beer in all of Germany (or as Germans would purport, the world) and is actually something that plays a large part in their history and culture.

I had the opportunity to meet a local older couple while out for dinner and was blown away at how welcoming and friendly they were, despite the language barrier. Europe is filled with exciting and interesting places, and I believe that Munich, Germany should hold a place among the greatest of these, and I know for a fact that when I return to Europe later in my life I will try my hardest to find a place for Munich again in my travels.

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