Friday, March 18, 2022 | Written by Claire

Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria and home to one of Europe’s most ancient civilizations, is a stark contrast to the bustling Western European cities I’ve frequented in the past. Marred with Roman ruins and statues of Soviet figures, the city center has two sides: one lined with run-down buildings and tiny bakery shops while the other side is packed with luxury brands and high-end bars and clubs. The difference is staggering, and when I first stepped off the metro in-route to our hotel, I was taken aback. Old, crumbling buildings covered in graffiti, signs scrawled with Cyrillic, and quiet, empty streets paired well with the greying skies, casting a depressed look upon the city. But, as I continued to walk and observe the people, the food, and the overall culture in Bulgaria, I realized I was very far from the truth. 

Bulgaria was a place with very rich history and deep national pride. Their cultural norms were rooted for centuries, passed down from family and family. And one of the first influences I noticed was the presence of Eastern Orthodox churches and mosques. Located in the heart of Sofia is St. Alexander’s Basilica. Its brutal architecture featured green and golden domes with large, arched windows. Its intricate, rounded façade creates an encompassing sage haven, unlike the Western Catholic Churches that featured pointed roofs and arches that reached higher and higher into the heavens. 

Inside, the atmosphere was even more unique. As we slowly entered, many Bulgarians would bow at the entrance and before the cross while performing the traditional Catholic crossbody hand gestures. The Basilica itself was very dimly lit with giant chandeliers that hung lowly from the ceiling. Paintings along the walls had darker undertones, featuring a more gothic approach than the fresh rococo style seen in Spain or Italy. There was a priest standing at the front of the sanctuary reading script in worship. His low, melodic yet monotone voice sent shivers down my spine. It was unlike anything I’ve seen or heard before.

While St. Alexander’s Basilica was a perfect representation of one of the more traditional Eastern Orthodox churches in Bulgaria, we caught a train 3 hours away from the city center to the snow-covered tips of Ria’s Monastery. Here, the history runs even further back, almost all the way to 1200 BC. Paintings here were vibrant, even after so many years, and they featured works of thousands of artists and disciples year after year, adding on to other artists’ work. Breakaways in the stone walls revealed even older paintings, now faded, and discolored from years past, uncovering a web of biblical stories and depictions. The monastery was active, with 9 monks still living there. While the architecture outside was a major contrast to the classy basilica, its black and white stripes revealed its Ottoman influence. With the snowy peaks in the background, we trudged through the icy weather deeper up the mountain. Three hours later, after a long hike with our feet freezing and noses running, we found ourselves back in Sofia sitting in a giant barrel in an empty restaurant. Thanks to my friend, Deni, who is Bulgarian, she recommended this traditional Bulgarian restaurant where folks would come to dance and drink in the evenings. It is often the site of celebration and lively musical performances where people would wear traditional Bulgarian dresses and outfits. While we didn’t get to witness the scene, we were still able to try heaping plates of Bulgarian salad, chicken, and sausage for just 3 euros per person, or 9 Bulgarian levees. The food itself was fantastic. Tender, flavored, and juicy, the sausages and Kofte patties were some of the best I’ve ever tasted. It was filled with a variety of herbs and other seasoning like cumin or other strong Asian spices. 

Overall, while our trip was short with long travel times, visiting Bulgaria was a very eye opening experience. It was indeed one of my favorite trips during my time at GTL so far, and simply walking around, learning some Cyrillic, and trying local foods, I was able to have a rich, immersive experience while refreshing my Eastern European history with local tours and first hand experiences. The people there are such generous people, not to mention their beautiful culture as well. While we had so much good food and great experiences I want to write about, these are just a few highlights from my trip. To check out a more in-depth follow through of my journey in Sofia, check out my Youtube channel: Claire Lin.

GTL Newcomer’s Guide: Food Review

Tuesday, March 15, 2022 | Written by Claire

As a new student at GTL, you may wonder where the best places to get food around campus are. Without an official meal plan, it sometimes can get monotonous eating pizza or Carbonara pasta from Crous everyday, and cooking for yourself is also no easy task. Metz has a few notable and reasonable places to help you get adjusted to life in France. Here are my favorites. 

Cora: 10/10

This is the biggest market in Metz and its definitely one you can’t miss. Basically a Walmart and Target combined into a Costco sized warehouse, Cora is the place to find anything you ever need. There are huge selections of housewares, clothing, pastries, meats, and drinks of all sorts. While prices are not much cheaper than those back in Atlanta, it depends on the meats, fruits, and veggies you end up buying. Tropical fruits, such as strawberries, grapes, and mangos are very expensive, almost 1.5 the price than we usually see at home. Meat cuts include parts from all parts of cows, pigs, and chicken, but the one thing you want to keep in mind when selecting cheaper meat is the date of consumption. Many times, the meats must be eaten within the next 1-3 days, so if you’re traveling on the weekend, it’s best to buy the groceries after you return. Overall, Cora scores a 10/10 on the scale. It has almost everything I ever needed and while it’s a 30-minute walk from Lafayette, with the metro pass, you can get there in a matter of minutes. 

Auchan 8/10 

Auchan is a smaller chain supermarket that is closer to Lafayette than Cora. It sells mostly the same things and brands, but overall, Auchan has higher quality pastries and good budget food items. While the veggies selection is not as diverse, it specializes in lot of bio or organic produce that are slightly cheaper than the ones at Cora. From my experience, it is best to go to Auchan earlier in the day when things have been stocked up and when the bakeries just restock on their fresh breads. It scores brownie points for its convenient location and accessibility to Lafayette. Finally, most French groceries stores are highly plastic conscious, so you’ll have to bring your own bags! 

Pauls 7/10

For new French pastry connoisseurs, Paul’s is the perfect place to start exploring. Located just 5 minutes away from GTL, Paul’s has a huge collection of coffees, breads, tarts, and ready-made food just for your convenience. For my first time at Paul’s, I tried their pain au chocolat, a classic French delicacy with chocolate folded into crispy, buttery goodness. Their tarts are amazing with fresh berries and a glaze that isn’t too sweet but also not too sour. Their freshly made baguettes in the morning are perfect for cheese and jam. Overall, the prices are comparable to those in Cora, so you might as well try out what they have and expand your horizons. There are also many tables set up inside for you to get your work done, in an ambient, cozy environment with your favorite pastries. While taste is good, the waiter experience was slightly awkward when we first visited there. If you do not know French, you might want to touch up on some of your basic French phrases before heading over. 

Mamma Mia Pizza 9/10

Funny enough, Mamma Mia Pizza was my first meal I had in Metz when I arrived. It is located right next to Paul’s and it has a massive selection of specialty pizzas and pastas for a reasonable price. The maxi size is enough for two and they are often loaded with toppings. My recommendation would be the Pizzaiolo, which comes with ham, peppers, mushroom, and chorizo. It is the best bang for your buck and it quite filling as a pizza itself. Mamma Mia specializes in thin crust pizzas, which are a nice crunchy and light comparison to the traditional American pizzas. It is also open all 7 days a week, which comes in clutch when stores are closed on Sundays. 

24 Hours in Copenhagen

Monday, March 14, 2022 | Written by Claire

After 21 hours of cancelled trains, freezing layovers, and cramped power naps, the beautiful Copenhagen skyline finally appeared in sight. I breathed a sigh of relief as I stretched out my limbs after standing on the fully reserved Danish train packed with rowdy teenagers hogging the bathroom to make Tiktoks. The journey there was nothing but chaotic. Our connecting train to Hamburg just magically disappeared into thin air and DeutschBahn just gave up on giving us housing for the night. So, we spent 2 hours bundled and starving in the Frankfurt station in Germany.

We left Thursday, arriving Friday afternoon at 4 PM then, we had all of Saturday to explore the city. We were there for a short, but pleasant time and there were several nuances about Danish society that made it characteristically different from any of the other places I’ve been to. 

Bikes: To make our time there more efficient, we rented bikes for the day! All of the online tips said Copenhagen is a bikeable city and they were not wrong! The city was built around biking. Massive travel lanes dedicated just for bikers were sometimes wider than the car lanes themselves, and each corner was equipped with a bikers-only traffic lights. Furthermore, not only were there actual turn lanes, but there were also massive sections on the metro for people to snag a spot on their short journey. The design of the metro was interesting. To fit the width of the bikes, the middle of each train cart bowed outwards to make extra space. Inside, you could park at least 6 or 7 bikes in one car, and there were also seats on the other side for passengers as well. Even on every street corner or marketplace, there would be hundreds of bikes parked in designated bike lots, creating an array of colors that are characteristically Danish.

Coffee Shops: We also stopped by a quaint café that doubled as a bookstore and cozy living room. As a group, we ordered out a bundle of cinnamon rolls, bread and butter, pain au chocolat, and several cups of espresso. The aesthetic was immaculate, and the huge shelves of books that canvased the entire wall made the vibe very homey. The café itself served the pastries on different colored plates, just as if we were to eat a quick snack in someone’s home. With some people there tapping away on their laptops or grabbing a quick caffeine fix for the long day, others were sitting at wooden benches, chatting away. The entire café had such a positive vibe that reminded me of home. 

Masks: One of the more “shocking” traits of Copenhagen was the lack of masks or any social distancing restrictions. On the train ride, as soon as we crossed the border out of Germany, everyone ripped off their masks and started bathing their faces in the warm sunlight that floated in from the windows. All the shops and restaurants had no mask mandates and hardly anyone was even wearing one, not even the elders. With young people hanging around the cannals eating smorrebrod and hot dogs, older people also walked around, hand in hand, just soaking up the liveliness of the city. It was indeed a beautiful scene to see, something that seemed straight out of a movie. Especially when the sun started to dip below the horizon, casting a pink hue across the sky and reflecting against the water, I found myself smiling as I enjoyed my last minutes of sunshine in Copenhagen before hopping on the 7 AM train the next morning. I’d say it was well worth it. 

A Winter Wonderland Fever Dream 

Hallstatt, Austria. A white wonderland dotted with cream-colored villages and small tendrils of smoke rising from white-topped houses. It was a fever dream the moment I stepped off the train and into a pile of freshly fallen snow. As if a postcard came to life, I stared in awe at the chain of ice-capped mountains that surrounded two small towns and a shimmering lake that rippled along with the wind. The heavy, tranquil blanket of snow that covered the land brought upon a peaceful silence, except for the quiet gurgle of the river that meandered near the tracks. As I continued past the train station, my senses were livid. 

It was the sound of the snow crunching under my boots, the whistle of the wind, and the rustle of the everlasting pines that engulfed me into a magical world. It seemed as if every small movement brought a tingle to my ears as I tried to search for the source of the sound. Here and there, the rumble of a car engine and the scrape of a shovel pierced the still air; however, it still seemed to be an art within itself. It was as if nature and humanity met at a crossroad, blending into a circle of life. The sounds, so mundane yet so foreign, seemed to hold such deeper meaning in a place so different from home. 

It was the taste of the fresh snow as it fell swiftly from the sky, the smooth creme of the hot chocolate as it warmed my soul, and the impeccable crispness of the glacial water as it cooled in the snowy air that nourished my spirit. As the snow continued to pelt down in silent waves, frosty ice crystals coated my hair and my clothes, leaving a small wet droplet as they melted away. The cold seemed to seep into my bones, and I was grateful to find a small Austrian coffee shop as a quick pitstop for some warm hot chocolate. The sweetness  of cocoa and milk created a swirling blend that coated my tongue. Following that, a quick swig of clear glacial water just added to the beauty of the surrounding mountains, which were beginning to peek through the foggy haze that crowned their snowy tops. 

It was the fresh smell of timber that wafted through the air as we continued to trek into the forest. Logs upon logs of wood lay in a pile under a light blanket of snow, as if it were to contain the comforting aroma. Upon first glance, it was just like any ordinary sight; however, as I stepped closer, I could smell an earthy sweetness, a deep scent of cedar and pine that engulfed the pile of wood. It instantly brought me a vision of a log cabin, warmed by a crackling fireplace, hidden away from others for miles. It reminded me of Christmas, but this time in a winter wonderland. 

It was more so the lack of feeling in my freezing fingers and toes that jolted me from my winter fantasy in my head. As the snow fell upon my hoods and gloved fingers, the cold, dampness of my clothes became a numbing medicine. My feet, nestled between two socks and leather boots, stood no chance in the ice. Hours and hours of trekking forests, climbing mountains, and simply walking down the village streets, became increasingly more painful as each step came with a spiny, prickly sensation in addition to the biting cold.

Finally, it was the sight of the cascading chasms of mountain chains that will forever burn an image into my mind. The snow sitting upon treetops seemed to sharpen the minute details across the land. Despite the lazy blanket of fog that cast a gloomy, gray aura, the bright, glistening layer of snow was a stark contrast. The magnitude of the looming mountains seemed to stretch into the skies until finally, as the train began to depart the station, the clouds split apart, revealing a patch of baby blue skies.

Meet Mira, the Fall 2021 Blogger!

Meet this fall’s new blogger, Mira! Be sure to keep an eye out for stories of her travels, tips and tricks for living at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, and so much more— coming soon on the blog!

Bonjour mes amis, je m’appelle Mira Mutnick! I am a third year at Georgia Tech, majoring in biomedical engineering, minoring in health and medical sciences, and pursuing the International Plan. I am 20 years old and originally from Roswell, GA. My love of traveling (and reality TV) came from watching the Amazing Race with my brother. I have been to Ireland, England, Italy, and Israel, but I am so excited to live in France—and finally add a consonant to my international travel list!

Summits above Switzerland

Join Kaitlyn as she visits a place she’s dreamt of – Switzerland. Read her story– one filled with chocolate, chess, and snow capped mountains– in her latest blog post!


Thursday, January 28, 2021 | Written by Kaitlyn

From the Appalachians to the Sierra Nevadas, my favorite family trips growing up were always the ones we took to visit the great mountains of the United States. As I spent my time staring at and summiting peaks, I’ve always dreamt of being surrounded by the majesty of the alps. This weekend my travel companions and I journeyed to Luzern and Zurich, Switzerland to make what was once a distant dream, reality. 

Day 1

My group and I left Thursday morning to start our multi-train journey towards Luzern. Our travel went relatively smoothly… except for one of our transfers in Basel. We only had a few minutes to change trains and ended up sprinting to catch our next one before it departed. The nine of us running at full speed through a small train station must have been quite a sight to the other travelers.  While I was sprinting, I looked to my right to see a small Swiss boy take one glance at us, then start sprinting in the same direction. I was so focused on catching my train, I never glanced back to see if he realized there was no reason for him to run.

swan in a lake Once we caught our breath (safely on our train) we were able to fully take in the scenery as we rode closer to Luzern. In the span of just four hours, we had gone from viewing the lush green countryside of France to staring, awestruck, at the snow capped mountains of the Alps. We arrived in Luzern in the mid-afternoon, and had a few hours to kill before we could check into our Airbnb. So, we did as one would do upon arriving in a foreign city: we explored. It was a beautiful, partly sunny day (something that is hard to come by this time of year in Metz) and we took full advantage of it. We came across an urban park where two old men were playing giant chess. I’ve never played a game of chess, but I watched Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit, so that must count for something right? Lack of chess knowledge notwithstanding, it was enjoyable to observe the men amicably argue back and forth in German. Our last activity for the day was hiking up to the top of a very tall hill. Standing on the top, I came to the conclusion Luzern has a sort of indescribable charm I could never aptly write about as I took in the view of the lights of the city.

Day 2

church in luzern Luzern still had plenty more to offer, so we spent our second day continuing to explore the city. A friend and I split off from our group and wandered around with no specific destination in mind. We walked into a stunning cathedral which reminded me more of a Disney princess’ castle than the typical gothic European cathedral. The ornate details of the architecture took my breath away upon our arrival. Instead of being made of stone and stained glass, it was covered in white and pink plaster and embellished with perfectly placed gold accents. chocolates, yum!After our time in the cathedral, we checked off a Swiss must-do: eating delicious Swiss chocolate. It might have been expensive, as everything in Switzerland is, but I can say with confidence that it was worth every Franc.

Day 3

zurich street photo Luzern treated us well, but we wanted to see more of what Switzerland has to offer, so we took a day trip to Zurich (only a 50 minute train ride from Luzern). One of our first stops was to grab lunch from a kebab restaurant. I have a feeling that this might be a recurring destination throughout my time traveling in Europe, as we also ate kebabs the previous day. It’s filling, delicious, and relatively cheap which is all a college student could ever ask for. After exploring the streets of the city, we hopped on a bus to Uetliberg, which is affectionately nicknamed the top of Zurich. To anyone who visits Zurich, I highly recommend you visit Uetliberg. We climbed the mountain to the summit, where we saw the entirety of Zurich below us, and the Alps above us in the distance. It was a fantastic way to end our last day in Switzerland and a truly breathtaking experience, mostly from the beautiful views, but partially from the steep uphill climb.top of zurich picture

Interloping through Interlaken

Join Kaela for her adventures in Interlaken, Switzerland – a weekend filled with mountains, canyons, and chocolate of course – in her latest blog post!

Monday, October 26, 2020 | Written by Kaela


As our train made its way through Switzerland, I felt more like a tourist than I ever had before. My phone was glued to the window trying to capture the scene true to life as we sped by snow capped mountains, dense forests, and turquoise water. I could barely contain my awe at such a breathtaking country, so much so I was taken aback by the people surrounding me on their electronics and asleep. How could they take their eyes off the window? Graced with good weather upon our arrival, we quickly dropped off our belongings at our airbnb and made our way to a popular hiking trail, Harder Kulm. 

cityI underestimated this hike. As we started the hike I was singing, running, and taking treacherous shortcuts, but soon enough, my singing became only the rhythm of my heavy breathing. As we made our way up the mountain, we took periodic stops to take in the view, catch our breath, and eat some snacks. I, naively, trusted google map’s 1.5 hour estimate for our hike. To compensate for the steep incline the trail goes up, the path zigzags, making the hike more manageable. There is a tram that takes people straight to the top of the mountain, we used it as a reference for how far we were from the top. As we neared the 1.5 hour mark we wondered why it seemed to go on for much longer, but we were convinced our multiple breaks and slow pace were the reason for this. As we neared the 2 hour mark, we started to get worried. We needed enough time to come back down the mountain before the sun set. After asking a fellow hiker, we came to find out that the hike actually takes about 2.5 hours: much longer than we had anticipated. 

mountainsOur main concern was our misunderstanding that you can only pay for the tram with cash, and neither of us had francs. We debated cutting the hike short and heading down prematurely, but we had worked hard to get to that point. We were so close to the top and despite the beautiful views on the way up, nothing could compare to the one waiting for us at the top. We made a call to some friends who intended to meet us and worked out a plan: they would take the tram up to meet us at the top, francs in hand, and we could use that cash to pay for a tram back down, allowing us to watch the sunset from the summit. (We found out later you can pay for the tram in cash, but I’m grateful this dilemma helped to motivate us to the summit.) 

We powered through the last of the hike and surely enough, we made it to the top. The mountain no longer blocking the wind, the sun setting in the distance, and the high altitude, made the temperature difference almost shocking. Nonetheless, the view overlooking Interlaken was more than worth the steep winding journey. No camera, on matter how good the technology, can accurately capture the magnificence my eye could see from the summit. Our friends ended up joining us soon after we got to the top and we spent hours taking photos, talking, and appreciating the landscape. After the sunset, we took the tram back down the mountain and headed to our airbnb. Needless to say, after all of the twists and turns of our day I had a great night of sleep. 

The view over Interlaken

canyoningThe weather the next day was rainy and cold, but we took advantage of this by doing an activity that ended up with us being cold and wet anyway: going canyoning. At least this way we would be rappelling, exploring, jumping, and sliding distracting us from how cold and wet we were. I felt so daring as I rappelled and swung around Interlaken. The final slide made me feel exhilarated but sad the day was almost over. We ended this experience the best way possible: with a warm cup of hot chocolate. We spent the rest of the day exploring the city, souvenir shopping, and of course, eating lots and lots of Swiss chocolate! (And I’d be remiss if I didn’t leave you with a picture of some delicious ice cream with Swiss chocolate in the background, one of my traveling staples.)

Cueillette de Peltre

There is nothing better than going to the market to get fresh produce, except for picking it yourself. Read about Kaela’s experience visiting Cueillette de Peltre, where she spent a couple hours roaming strawberry fields, apple orchards, and even made a new friend!

Monday, September 28, 2020 | Written by Kaela

Fresh produce is abundant in France, but in order to get the best produce, you have to pick it yourself. Luckily, the Leonardo Program at Georgia Tech-Lorraine gave us an opportunity to do just that in Metz. After the end of classes one afternoon, a group of us loaded onto the provided bus to head to the local farm in Peltre. On my arrival, I was overwhelmed on arrival by how many areas of the grounds I had to explore in the one and a half hour period we were visiting for.

I grabbed one of the provided bags and, along with many others, headed straight towards the strawberries. We were told they were the last of the season and soon to go, so of course I had to get some. The rainstorm in the distance made the trip a bit ominous. I thought, “Will it head towards us and cut our short trip even shorter?” and hoped it would move further into the distance.

We started our strawberry expedition at the front rows of bushes, a rookie move. After perusing the picked over bushes near the front we discovered as we moved further in and further away, the strawberries got larger and more plentiful. I guess few are willing to walk through the enormous strawberry patch to the back. The strawberry bushes sat in troughs raised above ground, which put them at eye level and made for easy picking. Once we had stuffed our bags with ruby red strawberries, we headed to the nearby apple orchard, grabbing some beautiful tomatoes on our way. 

Pink lady, fuji, gala, honey crisp, granny smith, red delicious, golden delicious: To me, an apple is an apple. This may be a controversial statement, but I honestly don’t eat them enough to tell the difference. I find the variety of apples to be overwhelming enough when there are between three to five to choose from at the grocery store; to say I felt in awe when walking towards what seemed like an acre of apple trees is an understatement. There were endless rows with an uncountable number of apple varieties, most of which I had never heard of. My solution: pick a random row of trees and begin picking. The twisted trees towered above me and below my feet lay fallen fruit in various stages of rot. I was surprised and initially felt disappointed by how many apples laid on ground: seemingly all gone to waste. Luckily, they can be turned to compost and the nutrients will return to the ground to further the growth of more apples, a nice reminder of the beauty of the circle of life. 

After leaving the apples we walked past a multitude of in-ground veggies which naturally I turned into a fun guessing game. What was it we were passing now? Would it be a carrot? A radish? A beet?

As we continued on we happened upon a large variety of leafy greens. I was excited at the prospects of the dishes I could create with them, but unfortunately, I was leaving for Nice the coming weekend so I only picked a small bunch. My group decided we would eventually make a trip back and make dinner with the freshly picked food. We made our way towards hoop houses filled with peppers, eggplants, and more but we ran out of time quickly. As we walked towards the exit, we ended our trip by making friends with a couple of goats.  

This short trip was a good way to take a break from the business of school work and travel. I was grateful for the quiet and peacefulness of it as getting out in nature is always a great way to destress. I think the weather knew how much we needed the break, because the once ominous rain clouds at the beginning of our trip became a light drizzle as we drove away. 

A Series of Almost-Very-Unfortunate Events

Traveling, an epic adventure, that despite careful planning can always go awry. Blanca is back on the blog, here to give you some traveling tips for those unplanned moments that *almost* go wrong.

Friday, February 28th, 2020 | Written by Blanca

Ask any GTL student studying abroad for a semester and probably trying to squeeze in every last hour of travel between classes, homework, and exams, and they’ll likely tell you that they’re no stranger to train travel.  With the convenience of a Eurail pass that can be activated for the duration of a semester-long stay, one can hop on a train to any of almost thirty countries in Europe, and as the train system in Europe is quite well-organized, getting to a city as close by as Luxembourg or as far as Vienna is usually relatively breezy.

Gare de Metz-Ville, the starting location for many a weekend excursion


Usually.  Other times, things can go a bit awry, which was the case last weekend as my friends and I were traveling to Prague by train.  Upon arriving at the Gare de Metz-Ville with plenty of time to spare on Thursday night, we approached the large departure and arrival screens in the station to see which platform we were to approach for our first train.  There, next to the 19:38 time slot for a train heading to Forbach from Metz Ville was a blinking notification that read supprimé.  I blinked at the sign.  My travel companions blinked at the sign.  Supprimé is French for “deleted,” meaning our train had been canceled.  Aside from the occasional (or not-so-occasional, nowadays) strike that cancels train lines, as we’d later learn was the culprit for our “deleted” train, European trains are typically consistent and punctual, and I was surprised to learn that something was amiss.  Confused, we approached the information office at the train station and asked the SNCF representatives what was going on and how else we might be able to get to Prague—and by “we,” I mean Noa, the only person in our travel group who could speak French; the rest of us, myself included, simply looked on quite uselessly.  Fortunately, after being given our original itinerary, a railway employee was able to give us a new itinerary that would ultimately bring us to the Frankfurt am Main Airport long-distance station, Frankfurt(M) Flughafen Fernbf, to which we were originally traveling. Unfortunately, the first train on this itinerary departed from the Lorraine TGV station in about half an hour, and it would take about that much time to get to the Lorraine TGV station by taxi, which is usually the least-preferred means of communication due to how expensive it inevitably becomes.

Within a handful of minutes, we found ourselves piled into a taxi to Lorraine TGV.  Our taxi driver informed us that there would be an additional tariff on our ride due to the fact that it was nighttime, so when we finally reached the Lorraine TGV station with ten minutes to spare and paid an eye-watering eighty euros for the taxi fare, we all breathed a heavy sigh of relief.  That is, until we realized that the train that would depart in ten minutes, according to our itinerary, was nowhere to be found on the departures display inside the train station. Once again, Noa’s French skills saved the day, as through a conversation with the SNCF representatives at the station we learned that the train we were to board was some sort of “special” train and thus wasn’t displayed on the station’s main timetables.  Sure enough, when the train arrived on time, nothing appeared on the train station screens.

Having finally been able to board the high-speed train through Germany, we were well on our way.  While on the train, we inspected the itinerary that we’d received at the train station in Metz and found that, while it instructed us to ride the train until Mannheim Hbf in Germany and transfer to Frankfurt(Main) Hbf, our original itinerary also entailed getting off at Frankfurt(Main), so we figured we might as well stay on the train until Frankfurt.  From there, we could easily walk to the airport terminal from which our overnight bus to Prague was scheduled to depart. How convenient was that, we thought, as we sat back and relaxed on what was to be our only train of the night. Despite a rocky start to the night, our travels were to end up being quite auspicious, as there’d be no need to make any further train transfers!

This turned out to be a mistake, we realized as soon as we got off in Frankfurt.  While our itinerary entailed a final stop at Frankfurt(Main) Flughafen, we were at Frankfurt(Main) Hbf, and our bus was to depart from the former in a little over twenty minutes.  Once again, we shared a moment of silence for our wallets, which we were sure were about to be hit with another extortionate taxi fare. Luckily, Noa, saving the day again for the umpteenth time, remembered that Uber exists in Germany, so she quickly called one.  By some stroke of luck, there was an available car right around the corner, and after cramming ourselves into it, we raced to the Frankfurt Airport station. Our bus was leaving from terminal 1-P36, and although our Uber driver struggled a bit in finding it (and we were of no help, seeing as we weren’t familiar with Frankfurt at all, much less the airport), after shouting out a hurried “thank you!” upon arrival, we raced across the lot to our night bus, suitcases in hand and weighed down by heavy backpacks (much to the unconcealed amusement of our bus driver).

And that, dear reader, is where the series of almost-very-unfortunate events finally and thankfully comes to a close; after this, we boarded our night bus and made it to Prague a few hours later.  While I’d love nothing more than to regale you with stories of near-disasters and close misses (some of which were our own fault) in a tumultuous weekend travel trip, this narrative actually does have a moral of sorts!  Traveling by train is typically rather straightforward, but always leave early to give yourself a bit of time in case something doesn’t go according to plan. In the case that things go amiss, have a backup plan (or a resourceful traveling companion like Noa who can communicate to find one).  Last but certainly not least, double check your itinerary to make sure you’re getting off at the correct stops. If you already do all these things, then congratulations! Let this not be a cautionary tale but instead a story of the antics and escapades on yet another one of my European travels.

Moselle Open

Thanks to the Bureau des Etudiants, students at Georgia Tech-Lorraine this semester were able to attend the Moselle Open, which served up some fun and impressive sport.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019 | Written by Karsten

A couple of weeks ago, Adam Bradshaw mentioned to me that the Moselle Open, a tennis tournament, was happening soon and that he wanted to go. He said that it was a large tournament but because the U.S. Open was happening a week prior, the faces of the sport wouldn’t be coming, which is pretty unfortunate. Fast forward roughly a week and he created a GroupMe to gauge the interest of people coming with him and thirty people joined it, so he did his research on tickets.

Last Friday, we had our election for the Bureau des Etudiants (BDE), which is similar to a student government. One of the roles available was the sports coordinator, who is supposed to create events that everyone would want to do related to sports. Georgia Tech-Lorraine can subsidize or entirely cover ticket prices that we have to pay. This is exactly what happened, as we received an email within twenty-four hours about the ability to get free tickets to the Moselle Open. There was a draw for it, but I believe that everyone that responded to the poll within a couple of days got free tickets as well as free transportation to the arena.

Today, we received our tickets and then were able to head over whenever convenient. Adam and I decided to get there around five because we’d be able to see some of the bigger names of the tournament—namely Frenchman Richard Gasquet who’s ranked in the top fifty tennis players in the world. We caught the end of his match versus Spaniard Marcel Granollers and then the entire next match between Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Spaniard Pablo Andujar. Seeing professional tennis in person is mind boggling, especially when able to move around the arena and sit where you want. When we were seated on the side, it was difficult to keep up with the speed that the players were moving and hitting the ball at.

In the early rounds of this tournament, matches are best of three sets, whereas in the biggest tournaments it is best of five. Richard Gasquet won in three sets and Tsonga also won. (I guess the luck was with the French today.) I definitely expected the more agile-looking Andujar to win the latter match. I saw multiple serves at speeds greater than two hundred kilometers per hour, including a max of 211 kph. That’s well over one hundred twenty miles per hour.

Knowing how bad I am at tennis, these matches were crazy to watch. The speed at which the ball moves and the anticipation required to play and win is next level. I would have considered going to the tournament even if I had to pay, but I’m so glad that I was able to experience it for certain through the Georgia Tech-Lorraine.