posted by MorganThe 2016 summer semester for GTL students is quite different than most years. It is not because it is the 25th anniversary for Georgia Tech Lorraine, nor is it because the Euro Cup is being held in France. No. This year is different as a result of the record breaking rainfall in France and the almost daily train strikes.
As you can imagine, these two things are somewhat problematic for us students. Walking to class in the rain, while unenjoyable, is not the end of the world nor is having a train cancelled. Hey, it happens right? We all knew that getting stranded in a train station overnight with friends was a possibility when we signed up for the program (Believe it or not, we were explicitly told stories by former GTL students of these occurrences). I did not, however, expect for train problems to prevent me from leaving GTL. I can “deal” with being stuck in Paris or Rome for an extra day, but being stuck on campus for a weekend is not what I would call “appealing”. It appeared that a weekend at GTL might be the case for my friends last weekend. We had planned to go to Munich, but upon arrival at the Metz train station we quickly learned our train was cancelled.
So it was time for plan B! Off to Brussels we go! An hour later we were sitting on the floor of the Luxembourg train station with another disappointing look strewn across our faces. Our train to Brussels was canceled.
So now it was time for plan C! What was plan C? Well, we did not really have a plan C, so our plan C then became, “Ask the Woman at the Information Desk Where Four College Students Could Go For a Fun Weekend in Europe.” Cologne, a smaller city about 3 hours away in Germany, was the answer.
As we sat on the train with our eyes glued to our phones, we quickly learned that expensive shopping and few city sights was not exactly our idea of a fun 3 day weekend, so I looked at the train route and found a new destination: Koblenz. It was déjà vu moment. I had faintly remembered my experience there with my family when I was 8 years old. Something about beautiful rolling hills and a quaint town rang in my mind, and, seeing as we were all out of options, I figured we could just hop off the train at Koblenz and hope for the best!
And that’s exactly what we did. After an hour of wandering the streets and searching for the cheapest, last minute accommodations we could find, we finally found somewhere to sleep and it wasn’t even the train station. The next morning we were up and ready to go see what Koblenz had to offer; backpacking our way towards some fortress we went. Of course, we got lost on our way up the steep incline in the humid, slightly rainy weather, with our luggage weighing us down, but when we finally made it to the top, our eyes were met with the rolling hills I had remembered from my time in Koblenz almost ten years ago.
Quaint German houses lined the rolling hills, reminding us of the fairytales we read when we were children; picturesque vineyards wove their way up the sides of mountains, making us question how someone even managed to stand on something so steep; small boats sailed their way down the Rhine, inviting tourists to fill their cameras with photos. While the rain didn’t seem to leave us when we left for Germany, we were still met with these beautiful sights.
When we had finished touring the impressive fortress and observing the detailed architecture, we decided to make our way back down the incline, but this time we were going to find an easier, less physically exertive way. Using my rusty German to converse with a local, we found the cable car that made its way over the river and down the mountain. My high school German teacher would have been proud as I discussed directions, where we were from, and what we thought of Koblenz so far.
The rest of the day was spent wandering until we made our way towards the train station and headed to our next destination: Trier. According to a friend of
mine who was studying abroad in Germany, Trier was the place to
go if we wanted the traditional German experience. The oldest town in Germany, it is full of history: a cathedral, old town square, Basillica dating back to the 4th century, and the Roman baths. After hopping off the train and making our way to our last minute airbnb, we realized that Trier was the perfect place for us girls to spend a weekend. It was calm, traditional, quaint, and the most important part– it had delicious gelato.
We still did not really have a plan at this point, but we just spent the rest of our weekend exploring. When we passed the palace and gardens, we took time for a photo op. When the rain began to pour, we found a local cafe that served Wiener-Schnitzel. When our feet began to drag, we found an international music festival to sit down and listen to.
The unexpected and unplanned weekend was a little anxiety-filled for me at first, but I could not think of a better memory to look back on. So I guess these train strikes are not as unfortunate as I thought. I was with three wonderful friends enjoying company and culture. We might not have made it to the castle of Neuschwanstein or the city of Munich, but I think our adventure in Koblenz and Trier made up for it. No train strikes could bring us down.