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Category: Travels (Page 5 of 12)

Ribeauvillé: Undoubtedly Belle’s Neighborhood

If you’ve been to GTL, are at GTL now, or plan to go to GTL in the future, the most important thing to initially consider is: money. Do you have enough to get across Europe? Are you the type whose parents will give you a credit card and just say “go to town,” or are you the type that has been saving for what feels like thirty summers for this experience? Regardless, it’s something you need to think about a good deal ahead of time, and you need to plan to spend more than you think.

I always factor in spending at least a little more than expected, but something I wasn’t expecting was just how crazy incredibly expensive Stockholm was. Stockholm, Sweden is a beautiful place with bountiful opportunities. They’re just all pricey as hell. I stayed in a neighborhood a long walk but short metro ride away from the center of town. I love metro systems, they’re efficient and easy to use (usually), but I wasn’t expecting a single metro ride to be SIX euros! Just for comparison, a single metro ticket in Paris is 1.80 euros. Think about that. And then think about what everything else must cost.

Basically, I blew through an unprecedented amount of cash in Stockholm. I didn’t have any plans for the next weekend, so I just decided I’d do a day trip (I was recovering from a cold and needed the sleep anyway). A friend of mine also happened to stay in, so we planned a quick and easy day hike around some ruins in Ribeauvillé, a small vineyard town near Colmar. You have to train to Colmar and then take a bus to Ribeauvillé: if you’re in a town in Europe that doesn’t have direct access to a train station, you know you’re far out. It was so worth the trek though.

Ribeauvillé is a tiny town pushed up against some mountains, where all the area in between is vineyards upon vineyards upon vineyards. So many grapes! The town itself was honestly pretty surreal. You know how in DisneyWorld they have those fake towns made to look provincial, like Cinderella is supposed to open a window and start singing except the only objects they contain are overpriced slushies and Mickey Mouse hats? I knew we were in the actual place that DisneyWorld tried to mimic, but because my preconceived notions reminded me of a children’s empty amusement park, it still ended up feeling weirdly…fake. Regardless, it was cute and I would totally run through the cobblestone streets singing about bakers and Gaston and stuff.

After finding the most roundabout way possible to get to the ruins, we finally approached three castle ruins on the mountainside. The first one we came upon was my favorite: I loved the way that the castle sat upon this massive rock jutting out from the mountain.

The castles themselves weren’t as big as you would expect them to be, honestly. One of them was a château, but I believe the others were more fortress-type structures that were used in Medieval times.

We climbed all over them and we spent most of our time enjoying the view over the flat farmland from random points, seeing farther and farther as we climbed higher. I would 100% recommend this as a day, maybe two-day trip (if you want to enjoy the town) getaway from Metz. The hike wasn’t too strenuous and there’s not many places in which you can see three separate ruins within a two hour time span.

Stockholm: Perfect…A Little Too Perfect

I’ve been trying to find the words to describe this place and I simply don’t think I can locate all of the right ones, so I’ll do the best I can. I knew that if I didn’t plan out a trip to Scandinavia way ahead of time, it just wouldn’t happen, so I booked a super cheap flight to Stockholm, Sweden. I decided to do this trip alone. I’m perfectly fine with traveling by myself, and I’ve already written a blog specifically about how to make the most of solo travel.

I landed quite early into Stockholm on Friday, and there were a few things I noticed about the city almost immediately:

1) The smell. If you’ve ever been to New York City, you know what the city smells like: a very distinct combination of subway gunk and gasoline and who-knows-what-else, with most urban metropolises having a similar smell. Everywhere I walked in Stockholm, it smelled incredibly fresh, green, and crisp. This may just be my bias because I expected the city to be incredible, but it truly was just ultra clean.

2) The greenery. So many parks! Amsterdam is one of my favorite cities because of how much they value recreational green space, and I might say Stockholm now holds that #1 title for Parks & Recreation. Ron Swanson would be proud. So many green lawns, gardens, sculptures with plants on them, plants with sculptures on them…even along the roads there were so many beautiful potted flowers, just to brighten up the sidewalk.

3) The people. It seemed like every third person I saw was a beautiful, young-ish mom running with her adorable fluffy dog while pushing an IKEA stroller containing her Gerber baby-esque child. There were so many of these women! It was almost a little unnerving to be perfectly honest, a bit reminiscent of the Truman Show. Everyone is super tall, super blonde, and super rich (looking). I felt every inch of my entire 5’4″ stature become dwarfed by these people.

Stockholm is a very large city spread out across 14 main islands. This means that pretty much at any point you’re within a mile of a coast line, and this makes for an incredibly beautiful view from wherever you go. This is a view from a bridge next to the Royal Palace.

The subway system is extensive and goes both above and below the surrounding Baltic Sea. The very first thing I did upon dropping my bag off at my hostel was to go to this restaurant that’s only open during the summer called Mälarpaviljongen (I butchered every single Swedish word I attempted to utter). It has the main restaurant off of a beautiful park on the water and a cafe/bar on a floating dock literally on the water, making for a nice calm rocking while you sip your fancy espresso and chow down on their salmon/capers/dill combo sandwich. It was absolutely gorgeous.

This restaurant is also very progressive (a.k.a. standard Swedish) because they sell some goods with which all the proceeds go to supporting LGBTQ+ organizations. Stockholm is extremely open to all things rainbow: it’s not strange to see a pride flag hanging up in a random restaurant.

My favorite thing aside from just the city itself is between the public library and thVasa Museum. The Stockholm Library is the largest in Sweden, and it was so aesthetically pleasing – look at that!!

 

There was a large English section, so I plopped down and read a little bit of Dante’s Inferno, just to feel like a schOOOLar in the fancy LIIIIbrary. I met an incredibly interesting guy named Kim 

at my hostel, and he told me more people are fluent in English in Sweden than America. (Maybe true? I wouldn’t be surprised, everyone spoke extremely well. Don’t quote me on it, though.)

The Vasa museum is basically this massive building devoted to a shipwreck that was unearthed in the 1950’s near Stockholm. The Vasa ship sunk in the mid 1600’s, and because the water has such low salinity, it’s extremely well-preserved.

Look at the detail of the little wooden heads – how insane is that?? If you’re into nautical history/history in general I would 100% recommend going.

Stockholm was so incredible that I’m leaving many things out of this post, or it would go on forever and ever. All I’m going to say is just go, make sure you have enough money for it, and have so much fun!!

Solo Travel: A How-To

As GTL students travel all over the continent, there may be times where someone wants to go somewhere or do something specific that absolutely no one else wants to do. If you’re one of those people, but you’re worried about traveling by yourself, have no fear! I’m here to tell you how to do it right (as I’ve come to experience) and safely.

One thing you have to keep in mind is how you appear to others. If you’re worried about getting pick-pocketed or being scammed, try not to look über-touristy. Save your fanny pack for another time and maybe zip your jacket up over your American flag t-shirt. If you’re lost, stop and find a map or look at your phone on a spot away from a street corner where you would stand out. Maybe try to go to less-touristy places instead. I mean, there’s so much to see in these incredible places you’re exploring, and especially being by yourself, you’re more likely to chat up a local in a neighborhood art gallery than in the London Eye.

I recently went to Stockholm by myself and got to enjoy a goblet of strawberries, the best smoked salmon I’ve ever had, and an overpriced – but refreshing – cucumber soda. If I had been there with anyone else I’m not sure I would’ve paid them any attention anyway.

This leads me to my next point: talk to people! Be open to it! That was very hard for me to figure out how to do, not being the most social butterfly of the bunch. If someone doesn’t want to talk to you then that’s fine, but most often people in a hostel or in a relaxed social setting will be open to conversation. Talking to other travelers is easiest, as you both might feel like outsiders, but I really urge you to try and speak with a local if you really want to get a feel for the culture you’re visiting. It’s so fascinating to me how Europeans perceive America and the contrasts between growing up in these two similar, but also incredibly different atmospheres – and without fail the young Europeans I’ve talked to feel the same.

By now you’ve probably heard earful after earful of “be wary of pick pocketing don’t put down your purse don’t stray from main roads at night,” and unfortunately I’m going to give you yet another earful, but hopefully a meaningful one. Simply be aware. That’s all. Don’t do anything that would put you in a weird situation, especially now since you can’t just call your friend over. Lie if you have to, and I mean this especially for my girls out there – if someone asks if you’re traveling alone, never ever say yes! It gives you a good escape plan with a fake call if it’s necessary, and if they end up being cool and you become lifelong friends, then they should understand your precautions.

I hope this has been helpful. I know there’s a decent number of people that I’ve overheard talking about solo travel, so if you have a friend in need then link them this tidbit right here!

Vlog 2: Luxem-Boujee

Final Blog Post *sobs*

Well GTL, this is it. This is my last post. Amidst the impending chaos of final exams and the packing and cleaning of dorm rooms, I think it hasn’t quite sunk in yet that this is the last week we have as a group in Metz. Reflecting on my semester, it seems like only a week ago that a very jet-lagged and food-poisoned girl walked into orientation and met her professors for the first time. Now as an engineer, it is my job to provide you with the hard data results of travels.

Weekends Traveled: 15

Countries Visited: 9

Cities Visited: 20

Museums Visited: 18

Classes Taken: 4

Travel Mishaps: 8

Now, before you go making graphs, fellow engineers, I would like to share that a GTL experience cannot possibly be measured with just numbers. Not in the above statistics: The amazing lifelong friendships, the feeling of being alone in a place with a language and culture far different from your own, identifying with a city where you don’t even speak the language, and learning more about the history of the world than you have in your whole life prior to coming. This feeling of novelty, of being out of my comfort zone, and this feeling of wonder when I learn new things about the world I didn’t know before will be hard to hold onto when I go back to the US.

Now that I am done uncontrollably sobbing about going home, here is a detailed account of some of my favorite memories every weekend. Planning a trip to one of these places? Check out my favorite things!

In Heidelberg, the first city I visited, my favorite memory was standing in the Heidelberg Castle grounds, looking at the city below. I will never forget the look on my friend’s face as he looked out over the valley. It was his first time in Europe.

In Paris, I loved the Hall of Impressionists in the Musee D’Orsay. I remember the light feeling I had looking at the Degas paintings, inspired to dance and do ballet again. This is when I truly made a new friend, my fellow blogger Sam.

In Salzburg, I loved talking to the Australian guy in our hostel. He came with our group to get dinner and we learned so much about his culture, and he about ours.

In Prague, I loved going to the communist museum. Reading about the communist occupation of the Czech Republic from the perspective of someone who lived through it was truly eye-opening. It proved to me that we can’t be complacent in the world, because terrible things were happening in our parent’s lifetimes.  

In Garmisch Partenkirchen, I skied with an infinite view of the top of the world. It reminded me how small I was, and how lucky I was to experience such beautiful nature. I also got to know a really great group of people, and experience their wacky skiing mishaps with them. It really brought us together.

In Venice I loved going to the Doge’s palace. I learned about the immense wealth and power the city state had, and how much that sea-based land could be worth.

In Rome, I loved the Roman forum, standing in the footsteps of the greatest ancient civilization and realizing that our world has come a long way since Roman times. The ruins reminded me that nothing is forever.

In Florence, I learned that art is captivating, and the more life-like the painting or sculpture the more talented the artist. I also became friends with two amazing people here. (What up Bryston and Peugh!)

In Cinque Terre, I loved hiking to each of the villages. Each were unique in their own right. I felt strong and happy.

In Amsterdam, I thought the Van Gogh museum was beautiful. It reminded me that things don’t have to be exact to be beautiful, and don’t have to be completely real to make you feel.

In Berlin, I loved going on the walking tour. It showed me that my love of history doesn’t just belong to me. Looking at all of the people in my group made me realize I love this earth, and we can learn a lot from our history, good and bad.

In Krakow, I visited Auschwitz. I walked the path of the millions that were slaughtered. It reminded me that hate cannot be allowed to win, and acceptance is the only course of action.

In Munich, I loved the Deutsches Museum. It reminded me why I became an engineer, and gave me back that childlike sense of wonder for science that I had forgotten in school.

In Interlacken, I learned to push myself. I didn’t give up, and rode 28 miles on rough hilly terrain. Even though I needed to rest I pushed through and I am very proud of myself.

In Stuttgart, I visited my exchange student and attended Wasen, the big festival. I made great friends and I really felt a part of traditional German culture.

My experiences are unlike anyone else’s. They are uniquely mine, and I am infinitely lucky to have been able to experience them. So if you can, come make memories. Travel. Be outside your comfort zone. Because you will grow so much. Thank you all, and to all good night.

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!

Easter Break: From Witches to Waffles

This weekend I got to see my family again! The weekend kicked off in Riquewihr, a small town in France dating back to the 1500s, known for its beautiful vineyards and amazing architecture. Every house looked like a gingerbread house, the cobblestone streets were winding and sloping, and the roofs were topped with old tile or thatch. We spent the day walking through the town, hiking through the vineyards and sampling local foods. I even had frog legs!

Here is a picture of me in the town of Riquewihr.

As we walked through the town, we couldn’t help but notice that there were witches hanging in every doorway. These wooden or porcelain doll witches ranged from scary to cute, and dark to colorful. We walked through the streets puzzled, until we found a shop that sold witches exclusively. After talking to the clerk, we learned the reason. Legend has it that a young widow was banished from the town for being a witch. As she gathered her things and left, she spotted enemy soldiers approaching the town. She ran back as fast as she could to warn everyone, and the town was able to protect itself from attack. As a result, hanging a witch by the door or the window as a lookout will bring good luck and help you keep your enemies out.

The next day we hopped in our rental car and began driving north. Destination: Brussels. We stopped in Strasbourg for lunch, eating in the old city and admiring the tudor-style houses. Next, we forged on to Metz so my family could see where I am going to school and spending my weekdays. I showed them the cathedral and my dorm. Late that night, after a great deal of rain and traffic, we arrived in Brussels.

Picture of my lovely sister Kat in Strasbourg.

My mother and sisters flew back to the USA the next morning. My dad had business in London and would stay with me another day. After dropping them at the airport, we decided to take a quick train ride over to Bruges, an economic capital of Europe where luxury goods were traded and crafted. Famous for its tapestries and lace, this old city gives off an air of luxury. All of the facades of the houses were carved in amazing detail, and many roofs and windows were gilded. After a nice lunch of traditional stew, and a waffle for dessert we browsed the lace and tapestry shops. It is amazing how intricate these two thread-based art forms are; many pieces can take years to complete. We returned to Brussels that night and went to sleep.

Picture of the main square in Brussels.

The last day, we woke up early for a nice breakfast. We then decided to take a long walk through the city to see the Sablon district, famous for its antiques and old books. We then made our way over to the European Parliament and the Victory arch. After a brisk morning of walking and photo taking, we returned to the Grand Place, the big square surrounded by old fancy buildings. After a bit of sightseeing, we had to part ways.

All in all, it was a lovely weekend.

Munich: The Ultimate Food Guide

Munich is a beautiful city, and although it 90% of it was destroyed in the second world war, the rebuilding efforts for the 1972 Olympics have preserved the old world charm of the classic Bavarian city.

This is the Neues Rathaus, the city government building in the center of town.

So, my posts have been quite history heavy lately, so I decided to change things up this week and talk about my favorite food: Bavarian Food. With its amazing ham dishes, wonderful sauces and great atmosphere, the food scene in Munich cannot be beat. Here are some of my favorite Munich foods, ranked from 5th-most delicious to most delicious:

5. Bratwurst mit Sauerkraut

You can never go wrong with bratwurst in Munich. Sold on the street at small stands, in restaurants, or in beer halls, this Bavarian classic is a go-to tourist food. Bratwurst is served as a nice thick sausage, served in a small bread roll so the ends stick out, topped with tangy sauerkraut. Deliciously messy, this is really fun to eat  and an absolute must-taste in Munich! Where was the best one I tasted? In a small street stand right across from the Neues Rathaus in the city center.

 

4. Kartoffelpuffer (Potato Pancakes)

Vegetarian? No problem! Due to Lenten restrictions, I was unable to eat meat on Friday. As a result, I tried one of my new favorite dishes- Kartoffelpuffer! With the consistency of a flattened hashbrown, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, served with applesauce or sauerkraut, you will be singing the praises of this dish in no time!

 

3. Spanferkel (Suckling Pig)

This delicious cut of pork is so tender you can cut it with a fork and it melts in your mouth. Typically served with potatoes and in a dark brown beer gravy, this dish is the perfect ending to a day of sightseeing. Where did I find the best Spanferkel? The Augustiner Keller, famous beer garden restaurant of Munich. Definitely worth a taste!

 

2. Weisswurst (White Sausage)

I love weisswurst, which is a white colored sausage made from pork and veal back bacon ground with herbs. Traditionally, weisswurst was a breakfast food because before refrigeration, it was the sausage that kept the least fresh and was therefore a dish for the morning! Where is the best weisswurst in the city? Pay a visit to the Viktualienmarkt close to Marienplatz. This outdoor market has the finest meats and crafts in Bavaria. Pro tip: Peel the skin off before you eat it. Although you can eat the skin, the locals may laugh at you a bit.

 

1. Schweinshaxe (Pork Knuckle)
The number one delicacy of Munich is Schweinshaxe, which is a particular cut of pork. With its amazing, crispy skin on the outside, and a texture reminiscent of roast beef but the tenderness or pork you can’t go wrong with this dish. Served with baked potatoes, it is the most highly acclaimed Bavarian dish. Where to get the best one? Pay a visit to the historic Hofbrauhaus! In addition to hearing amazing live music from a traditional brass band, you can enjoy some of the best food that Bavaria has to offer. Happy eating!

Top 5 Best Museums I Have Visited and Why You Should Go

I love museums. They are my absolute favorite activity everywhere we go. No matter the subject, museums are a great way to immerse yourself in something and really learn what it is all about. Getting lost in these amazing buildings is a way to expand your mind, appreciate beauty, and have a really fun time. I am using this blog to honor my favorites.
 
5. Schindler’s Factory (Krakow)
This museum, located on the site of Oskar Schindler’s enamel factory, is a brilliant memorial and tribute to the victims of the Holocaust, as well as an immersive experience of what daily life was like for German citizens at the time. Starting in the pre-war 1930’s, you walk room to room, reading firsthand accounts of events, seeing startling photographs, and being immersed in recreations of important rooms such as courtrooms, rooms of Jewish ghettos, and other such places. The reason this museum was so special was that it gave you a personal connection to the people of the Holocaust, and helped you walk in the shoes of the people that faced these struggles. Highly recommended.

Schindler’s Factory Museum. (Photo courtesy of the Daily Mail.)

 

4. Capitoline Museum (Rome)

Many museums, such as the Vatican Museum, are so opulent and full of priceless artifacts that it can be overwhelming. The Capitoline Museum in Rome was different, in that the art and artifacts were presented in a way that wasn’t cluttered, but rather displayed in an open environment. Housing many ancient Roman and Greek artifacts, we learned many things about popular legends, the gods and goddesses, and the daily life of the ancient Romans. What really made this place stand out was the amazing view of the Roman forum. Directly overhanging the forum, this museum offers unencumbered views of all the ancient ruins in the best vantage point you can get. Go here for the views!

The view of the forum from the Capitoline Museum.

 

3. Musée D’Orsay (Paris)
This beautiful museum not only houses amazing art, but is a beautiful building with spectacular architecture. Boasting art from all periods of history, this museum is comprehensive in its display of art history. From medieval art, to the hall of impressionists on the top floor, you won’t be bored in this museum. Highlights include a full model of the Paris Opera house, the most extensive collection of impressionist art in the world, and beautiful sculptures; this is a great place to go celebrate the artistic achievements of mankind.

View from the top floor of the Musee D’Orsay.

 

2. The Deutsches Museum (Munich)
The engineer in all of us is dancing for joy in the Deutsches museum. This science museum is great for people of all ages. There was a metallurgy section and a mining section, which was really interesting for me as a Materials Science Engineer, and an early machines and machine shop section which particularly excited my Mechanical Engineering friends. This vast museum holds amazing copies of all kinds of machines, helps you learn about various manufacturing techniques, and does so in a hands-on and interesting way. In the maritime navigation section, there was a tank where you could sail different hulled model boats across to examine the different wake patterns, for example. Block out a whole day for this museum. It took us all morning to see the first floor!

The steam machine room of the Deutsches Museum.

 

1.  The Van Gogh Museum (Amsterdam)

This museum was a life changer. As someone who is a bit of a worrier and gets hung up in the details, Van Gogh’s paintings prove that the picture doesn’t have to be exactly right to be beautiful. Each floor of the museum represents a part of his life, from his early dabblings in art to his final days in the mental institution. Not only do you see his life story in his work (he always paints his surroundings) but you learn his life story through his personal letters to his friends and family.

The museum takes a delicate look at mental illness, and shows that Van Gogh was not a violent madman, such as when he cut off his ear, but rather a troubled person, afraid of the rush of the cities, longing for the serene peace of the country and the solitude it brought. Although the entrance fee is a bit hefty, this is for a reason. The museum is expertly crafted to be easy to follow, easy to grasp and moving to look at. I must say I shed quite a few tears in this museum. Definitely the best I have been to.

The Van Gogh Museum, photo courtesy of Luuk Kramer of the Arch Daily

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