A Weekend Full of Adventure in Interlaken

 Written by Lillian

October 17, 2022

Since applying to GTL, the one country that I have been the most excited to explore was Switzerland. The beautiful alpine hikes, extreme adventures around every corner, and a close proximity to Metz makes Switzerland a great destination for weekend travels. After weekends of exploring historical downtown cities, I was excited to finally get out into the European outdoors! 

Right when we got into Switzerland, the first thing we did was hike to Harder Kulm, a 1,320-meter viewpoint of Interlaken. The weather was forecasted to rain later in the day, so we quickly hiked up the 800-meter (about 2,500 ft) trail to the viewpoint. By the time that we were hiking down, the sun set, the rain started, and we used our phones to navigate down the now dark slippery slopes. It was an adventure to say the least. 

View of Interlaken from the Harder Kulm hike. 

The next day, we went canyoneering near the Jungfrau Mountain. Canyoneering involves traveling through canyons by jumping off cliffs, swimming through gorges, and abseiling (or repelling) down the canyon walls. There was even a rope swing! My favorite part was the camaraderie that was built between the members of my group: we cheered each other on as we jumped off the rocks into the water and trudged through the swiftly moving water. 

Abseiling! The drop was 10m (about 30 feet)! 

To round out my trip to Switzerland, there was one activity at the top of my European bucket list: hiking the Mürren Via Ferrata. The Mürren Via Ferrata is a 2.2 km “via ferrata” which is Italian for “iron path.” On these types of hikes, you cling to cliff faces, using iron rungs cemented into the rocks for foot support. Additionally, you traverse over suspension bridges and hiking paths right on the edge of cliffs. This Via Ferrata takes you from the alpine village of Mürren to Gimmelwald. To get to Mürren, you must ride on a train, bus, and cable car from Interlaken. Even though the journey is long, it was worth being able to get a bird-eye view of the Alps and walk on iron rungs over a 1000 m (about 3,300 ft) drop. The days before my hike were filled with rain, so I am thankful that the weather cleared, and I got to do the Via Ferrata with almost no clouds in the sky! 

Left: One of the suspension bridges on the Mürren Via Ferrata; the town in the background is Stechelberg. Right: a view of the iron rungs and 1000-meter cliff face; part of the hike, called the ”Cliff Walk” involved walking on just these iron rungs with nothing underneath! 

Even though I had a great, adventure filled time in Interlaken, one of the biggest downfalls of Switzerland is the cost; the trip is notoriously expensive. Most other students spend, on average, 20-30 Euros on one meal alone! My group decided to move in a different direction where we attempted to save as much money on food as possible. We ate Kebab almost every meal that we had there which clocked in at 10 Euros a piece. Another money saving tip was that we cooked chicken rice bowls with vegetables one night that cost 2,11 Euros each. We used all the money we saved to do more of the more expensive one-of-a-kind activities. 

Overall, I loved my time in Switzerland, and the weekend was my most adventure-filled one yet! It was super nice to escape the city and head outdoors, even if it was just for a weekend. Interlaken itself was very touristy and expensive, but because of that, it has a ton of different activities to do in one central location. Even though I only participated in three, Interlaken also has parasailing, skydiving, and large canyon rope swings. It also has a ton of other hikes right outside its doorstep! 

Cephalopods in Southern France

Written by Lillian

October 10, 2022

Day 1:

I arrived in Marseille in the afternoon after a very lengthy train ride from Paris. I definitely recommend taking a train that is a straight shot to Marseille, to avoid unnecessary travel time. Once we got there, we headed to the city of Cassis to start our hike in Calanques National Park: an oceanside reserve with hiking trails that connect the many different coves which cut into the limestone mountains. It was simply gorgeous. As the trails passed by each cove, we found a trail that made its way to the small beaches. We swam in the Mediterranean and spotted an octopus clinging on the rocky walls. I never would have thought I would see one in real life, especially in France. It was the first cephalopod of the weekend!

The views during the hike- it was breathtaking.

Day 2:

Early the next morning, I got on a train headed to Nice. After spending the next two hours gawking at the Calanques mountains, we arrived at the Nice train station. We headed directly to the Mediterranean Sea, stopping to window shop at the stores that won our attention. Soon, we spotted the sea. The beach was covered with dark grey stones and smelled strongly of fish and salt. Snorkelers and waders dotted the ocean. We made our way into the Old City by this time looking to relieve our hunger. We stumbled upon a small restaurant near the Cathedrale Sainte Reparate. After being recommended it by a local, I tried the cuttlefish ink risotto with squid. The risotto was black and almost had no flavor except the faint trace of a salty umami flavor. That paired with the soft texture of the risotto and the chewiness of the squid made for an interesting combination. According to the local we met, it was a Nice delicacy! 

We spent the next couple of hours exploring the many different little thrift shops and bakeries that hid within the tight alleys. We stopped for ice cream at the world famous Fenocchio’s: an ice cream store known for its distinct, wide ranging flavors such as Avocado, Tomato Basil, and Coca Cola. I had to try the Olive flavor which tasted… exactly like olives. I mean what was I expecting? It was jarring at first because I would never consider olives as a suitable dessert, but I slowly got used to the milk + olive flavor combination after every lick. I highly recommend. 

We started up the steep incline to Castle Hill: a mountain with the remains of the Castle of Nice, a man-made waterfall, and a church with a cemetery. More famously, it allows visitors a panoramic view of the Mediterranean Sea and the city of Nice. The rain that was predicted for the day started to come in, and we quickly made our way over to the MAMAC (Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain) which was free with our international student identifications. I saw yet another Octopus, this time in the form of a wooden playground, and the modern art museum had an exhibition on the layers of squid from a biological and art perspective. 

The view of Nice, my ink risotto, the playground octopus, and my delicious olive ice cream- what a day!

Day 3:

On the last day in the French Riviera, we explored Marseille. We dodged seafood sellers, street performers with untuned instruments and an off kilter tempo, and stands advertising cruises and boat tours in favor of heading to the Mucem: an old fort. Ducking under the short archways and tunnels and climbing up the dizzying spiral staircases, we explored the history of the fort. Attached to the fort was a gantry way to the museum which had exhibits on the Mediterranean diet and the history of the groups that influenced modern day Marseille.  

We returned to the port after exhausting the museum. Since Marseille has influences from all over the Mediterranean- Italian, Greek, and North African, we decided to explore one of these roots and stopped by a Tunisian restaurant. I tried the North African Merguez sausages which were served on a bed of rice and French fries! The portion sizes were huge! Afterwards, we drifted through La Panier— Marseille’s old district— and assessed street art and small art vendors that filled the streets.

Finally, we walked up the even steeper route to the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde. Unfortunately, the inside of the church was closed to visitors, but the outside terrace and the crypts underneath were open. This mountain top church also had a panoramic view of the city that stretched from the Calanques in the East to the islands in the South. We ended our final day going bakery hopping for pastries and desserts.

The three cities in the French Riviera that I was able to explore— Cassis, Nice, and Marseille— were all very different from one another. Cassis clung to the side of a mountain, the roads winded up and down the steep hills. Nice, which was definitely the most touristy of the three, stood out with its old city. The crowded streets bustled with activity and beautiful colors. Marseille was definitely the most untouched city from tourists between the three; the city is larger and more empty which made us more alert when walking down the streets and stopping for food. However, it was more cultural out of three three. The many different cultures blended on the streets of Marseille, and local artists were more prevalent. Overall, the French Riviera was absolutely gorgeous, and I loved exploring the diverse Mediterranean culture that surrounds the region. And according to the local we met in Nice, “there’s only one thing you must do in Nice— come back.”

Amsterdam: A Biker’s Paradise

Written by Lillian

September 23, 2022

The first thing I noticed when I arrived in Amsterdam were the bikes. They were everywhere! Extensive bike storage racks dominated the landscape outside the central train station. Bike lanes lined every road— even the ones outside large industrial manufacturing plants and in the middle of nowhere. As you walk down the cobble streets, a chipper bell will sound and then a bike will whizz past you with its rider dressed in anything and everything from casual lounge wear to business suits and heels. It was jaw dropping. The biking culture here is unparalleled.

Strop-waffles, bikes, and colorful thin houses— what can be more Dutch?

To dip our feet into Dutch culture, my friends and I went on a free walking tour of Amsterdam. Many different cities offer free walking tours, but if you cannot find one, a company called GuruWalk offers tours with local guides. The stipulation is that guests will tip the guide 5-10€ each for their service. I thought that the free walking tour was a really nice way to see the sights of the city and learn about the history in a more interactive way when compared to museums. 

These flowered bikes can be found all over Amsterdam. They are created by the Flower Bike Man, Warren Gregory, to help his wife— who suffers from memory loss— locate her bike. Since then, he has decorated over 300 bikes to spread positive messages around the city to his fellow humans. You can sometimes find him riding equally colorful bikes around the city.

After learning about Dutch culture, we took the plunge: we rented bikes to fit in. However, instead of biking through the city, we headed over to the Zaanse Schans Windmills. The 45km (about 28 mi) round trip bike path took us to downtown Zaandam, through the Dutch countryside, and right to the windmills. At the windmills, we participated in some cheese tasting at a local shop, and I was able to taste cow, sheep, and goat cheeses of varying ages. They also had white coconut cheese, a bright green pesto cheese, and a blue lavender cheese. Safe to say that I have never seen a more diverse or colorful cheese collection anywhere else (however the cheese selection at CORA comes at a close second). I would highly recommend biking to the windmills. Biking in Amsterdam is iconic, but biking in the city can bring its own set of terrors as you dodge native bikers, tourists, and motor vehicles. This, paired with the new set of city biking rules, can lead to unnecessary stress for you and everyone around you. Biking along the quaint Dutch countryside, however, was much more relaxing, and you can explore much more of the Netherlands!

Bike in the Netherlands: check!

The next day, we headed out of Amsterdam to explore Utrecht, a small canal town with a tall belltower in the center. Walking around Utrecht gave me a different perspective of Dutch culture. Utrecht was certainly more calm than the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam’s busy canal lines streets and tourist filled plazas, and the streets were just as beautiful.

The picturesque Binnentuin Domkerk garden inside St. Martin’s Cathedral.

Looking back, I loved my time in the Netherlands. It was amazing to be able to eat such iconic Dutch food like waffles, pancakes, strop-waffles, and cheeses. My favorite activity was biking to the windmills. We made an entire day of slowly biking our way through the streets, stopping to take photos at every intersection and whenever we smelled something good wafting through the streets. The small rivers, pastures of happy cows, and thatched roof farms that lined the countryside were so pleasant to see, and all were only 30 minutes away from downtown Amsterdam!

Hiking in Switzerland: Life Lesson

Thursday, April 7, 2022 | Written by Claire

Every semester, most GTL students flock to Switzerland to enjoy the hiking, paragliding, and skiing, during the colder months. I could not miss seeing this beautiful country so my travel group and I decided to conquer the hike from Interlaken, a beautiful, quaint, Switzerland town, to Augstmatthorn, a grueling 10 hour hike that ends in Hardergrat where a shuttle bus would take us back to where we started. The elevation gain was around 1500m over a 24.8km journey. Our plan was simple: start at 4 am and then reach the mountain top to see the sunrise, continue our journey and finish around 2-3 pm. 

At first, our journey was smooth, we were able to catch a glimpse of the beautiful sunrise as it shimmered across the lake and reflected off the snow-covered mountains across from us. Preparation wise: we really loaded up on food. With 3L of water for each of us, a dozen or so ham sandwiches, 12 granola bars, a pack of Biscoff, 2 fruit squeezies, and a pack of Dutch Nutella cookies, we were set. However, in terms of gear, only one of us had hiking sticks and the rest of us managed to get around using regular school backpacks, tennis shoes, and our overall balance. That was where we made a grave mistake. 

The hike to Augstmatthorn itself isn’t necessarily a challenging one, for us at least. Physically, the overall terrain wasn’t too rugged, it was just very steep and death defying in many places. However, hiking in March, the trail didn’t reveal itself to be dangerous until we completed 7 hours of hiking. As we reached further into the ridge-line, snow began to coat the ground. Some of it was packed and slippery, a menace for those with tennis shoes that had poor grip. Some of it was on the verge of melting, which was extremely dangerous as one wrong step could send the entire snow pile rolling down the ledge only a few inches away from our feet. On the other hand, the snow was cold and wet, numbing our feet perpetually and making it even more slippery. 

The trails became narrower and the ridge even steeper, with two sharp drops on both sides. We were ill-prepared to take on the trail any longer. When we were almost about the clear the trees, several experienced hikers had turned back, warning us that the ridgeline would be too snowy to continue, but we were determined to check out the scene for ourselves. Long story short- we turned back. The sharp drop was covered in packed, melting snow, the most dangerous combination. With our lack of equipment and expertise, we had to give up the hike. It was just too early in the year to reach Augstmatthorn. 

On the way back, we sighed a breath of slight heartbreak as we mentally prepared ourselves for the 7-hour journey back. We would reach Interlaken much after the sun goes down, but luckily three of us had flashlights that would hopefully last us a few hours. As we squeezed through a maze of logs, we spotted a sign: Ringgenberg, a 1.5-hour hike down to the nearby town where we could take the next train back to Interlaken. That turned out to be the worst decision of our lives. This trail took us on a steep, strenuous route that had an elevation loss of 1060m in a climb that was a fourth of the original trail length from Interlaken. The route was steep, winding, and extremely muddy. My shoes, once black, had turned brown, and dirt accumulated under my fingernails as we had to get on our hands and knees to stay balanced. Halfway down the mountain, the trail disappeared. The red and white markers vanished into a maze of fallen pines that completely blocked the path further down. There was no way past the tangle of spiny branches. Even the ground, once made of hardened dirt, had become a slush of mud and accumulated snow. We were stuck. As we sat there, covered in mud and becoming increasingly cold, we felt a wave of panic as the sun began to dip over the ridge and we were no where near the town that was thousands of feet below us… until we thought of another way to reach there: slide. The trail had opened to a grassy slope of long weeds and small tree saplings. The slope was long, but not extremely steep, and near the bottom, we could see the opening to the road leading to the town. Fighting against the time and desperate to get back home, we decided to go for it and slide down the slope. 

Slowly inching our way down, we were able to scoot slowly over the grass, with one of two terrifying moments when we would lose control over patches of slippery grass, grabbing desperately onto the weeds for some stability. In the end, after 40 miserable minutes of sliding, slipping, and sprawling on the ground to slow our descent, we made it to a flatter ledge on the side. Just getting to the ledge was difficult enough, spreading into a sea star and grabbing the small tree saplings to pull us over to safety. Finally, we had made it. Miraculously, just several meters away was flat ground that looked relatively clear of snow and mud. The trail. Somehow, we had made it to the same trail just further down the mountain, saving us a hundred meters or so of downhill hiking. From there, we hustled down the mountain, almost running as we heard strange animal sounds and breaking branches coming from deep within the forest. After another hour, we collapsed onto the pavement, relieved, exhausted, and elated to be one step closer to home… sike.

The pavement we landed on had no direct route down to the town of Ringgenberg. Instead, it weaved back and forth on the mountain as it descended from the slopes. The walk would take at least 45 more minutes and the sun was almost completely gone. We were losing hope. There was not a single light in sight and just more and more rolling hills. We were thinking of cutting across but our muddied shoes would not have made it up those hills to begin with. Then we walked, further and further down the pavement road towards the town, losing hope and spirit. Until yet another miracle, a duo of Swiss guys were coming up the road. Parked to the right was a caravan, big enough to hold at least 10 people. They were our saving grace. They had offered us a ride down to the town, and we willingly said yes, crowding into their van looking tired and hungry. After a short 10-minute ride, we were outside the Ringgenberg train station. We made it to safety. 

On the same night, after we reached our hotel in Geneva on the French border, someone set our hotel on fire, and we escaped out of the burning building just as black smoke began to fill the room. More on this in another blog. 

 As a lesson, this trip was by far one of the most adrenaline-inducing, death-defying, and life-changing experiences I’ve ever had in my life. Hiking in Switzerland is no easy task, and you need to be prepared with the right gear to conquer the terrain. Our journey is just an example of what you SHOULDN’T do when hiking dangerous trails anywhere in the world. And I hope that whoever goes hiking on that same trail won’t have the same experience as us. 

To find out more details about what happened on the hike: check out my vlog on my YouTube channel

For Nature Enthusiasts: Portugal’s Benagil Caves

Friday, February 25, 2022 | Written by Claire

Blue. That was all I could see for miles. Perched upon a sea kayak along the Benagil Coast in Lagos, Portugal, I paddled with all my might against the roaring waves that trailed behind the wake of a passing speed boat. To my right was an endless stretch of glistening turquoise waters, while to my left, giant white cliffs loomed into the sky. As the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks grew louder, so did the sound of hundreds of seagulls and pigeons, circling above a giant chasm of rocky shores. The Benagil Caves is a sight that everyone must see at least once in their lives. Not only does the crisp, clean, water hold such depth and color, the caves themselves are canvases of natural forces carved out in circular patterns over millions of years. 

At the Benagil Shore in Portugual, there are things fit for everyone who wants to see its pristine beauty. For those looking for a more relaxed activity, sunbathing or swimming along the coast is always an option. Sands in Portugual are more rusty-colored and coarse when compared to the white-sand beaches, but they’re clean and toasty, just enough for you to get a tan. For those looking for better views off the shore with minimal effort, taking one of their boat tours is the best option. They have speed boat tours every hour and in small groups, they take you on a cruise through caves and water holes where people normally wouldn’t be able to swim to. While you might get a splash here or there, you might be able to spot a whale or two on your excursion and you’ll be returning with a camera roll full of beautiful pictures and great memories for sure. 

If you want an up close and personal look at caves, go sea kayaking with a guided tour. Those people can help you get to certain landmarks such as the crocodile rock while telling you stories about how the rocks formed. Not only do these tour guides help you dock your kayaks, but they’ll also help you get back on board in case you flip! Sea Kayaking is a great way to be immersed in the natural beauty while paddling close to the water without getting drenched in the cold waters during the winter. You’ll get an adrenaline rush from racing through the waves and get a waft of cool, ocean breeze while basking in the warmth of the sunlight. 

Finally, for the ultimate adrenaline rush and to fuel your love for speed, you can go mountain biking across the southern coast where you can ride along the top of the cliffs and get a stunning aerial view.  There are trials for experienced and non-experienced riders of all ages and rental companies are super accommodating. If you’re going during the summer, make sure you have a reservation as tourism in Lagos will skyrocket. Mountain biking will give your legs a workout for sure, but the ups and downs of the coastal trails will get you flying out of your seat at times, so be careful! If you’re worried about getting lost, they also have many guided tours as well. But if not, don’t fret. There is a special app where you can load a pre-marked trail onto your phone so all you do is just follow along the path and then you’ll end up where you started, safe and sound. Each bike also comes with repair kits, locks, helmets, and tire pumps just in case you get a flat tire along the road, so you’re well prepared to face whatever comes your way!


Hiking, Colmar & Mulhouse

Last minute decisions are sometimes the best ones. Join Kaitlyn as she hikes around Metz, visits the fairytale city, Colmar, and takes a brief stop in Mulhouse!

Thursday, February 25, 2021 | Written by Kaitlyn


Mont Saint Quentin Views

As an avid fan of hiking and the outdoors, I was looking for places to hike in and around Metz long before I arrived. This past weekend I finally had a chance to venture to the nearby natural wonders with some friends. Gone were the characteristic limestone buildings of downtown Metz and the hullabaloo of the city center; and even though we were still technically in Metz, it felt like we were much farther away.

I got a picture where it *almost* looks like I’m actually doing a pull-up

We peeled ourselves away from the narrow cobblestone streets and toward a dirt path that lead us into the hiking trail system of Mont Saint Quentin. The trails even took us along an exercise course, where we had fun trying to figure out how to use the miscellaneous gym equipment.


The town of Colmar

I’ve come to realize that I’m a sucker for quite a few things and small, picturesque towns in Europe are quickly earning their place in that list – alongside other things close to my heart, like Krispy Kreme donuts. This past weekend I fell absolutely in love with the town of Colmar, France; a city, funnily enough, my group didn’t even originally plan to visit. A last minute decision led to us hopping off of our train a few stops early in Colmar on our way to our originally planned destination, the town of Mulhouse.

This turned out to be the best decision to make. We spent three hours walking around the “Little Venice” area of the town, appreciating the unique architecture and ducking in and out of open shops. Colmar is nicknamed as “a fairytale village”, and it is often said that it was the inspiration for the setting of The Beauty and The Beast. Walking through the streets certainly felt like I was traversing the pages of a storybook. 

Just your average brunch date in Colmar!


We passed by a cafe with the doors wide open. The scrumptious smell wafting through the air was the first thing to capture our attention, but the second was, upon closer inspection, we realized that the seats in the cafe were filled entirely by teddy bears. They ranged in size, color, and age. Seeing teddy bears propped up at the seats of the cafe as if they were on Valentine’s dates just further cemented the whimsical setting of Colmar, and was a bear-y good opportunity for some puns. 

The town of Mulhouse

Feeling content with the delightful scenes we had seen in Colmar, my friends and I returned to the train station to set off to our intended destination, Mulhouse. Mulhouse had a much more industrial vibe than the whimsical streets of Colmar. The main square of Mulhouse was as colorful and picturesque and the streets were teeming with fashionable shoppers walking in and out of the multitude of clothing stores. We did some window shopping until the clock struck 5:30PM, which was our cue to head to the train station to return home. On our ride back to Metz, I was surprised with a small treat: a view of the sun dipping below the mountains with hardly a cloud in sight.

Things to Do in Metz

Metz may be known for being in the heart of Europe, where it is easy to travel between many countries, but the city itself is a fantastic place to visit! Join Kaitlyn as she catalogues some suggestions of things to do in Metz while visiting Georgia Tech-Lorraine in her latest blog.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021 | Written by Kaitlyn

While at Georgia Tech-Lorraine, you’ll probably find yourself on one of the following extremes at some point in your semester: either fervently researching far-away places to get away to, or longing for a weekend where you don’t have to worry about traveling after a chaotic school week. This post is for the times when you feel like having a calm weekend, or just for when you find yourself with extra time on your hands. Below is a list of things to do and places to go, all in the amazing city Metz that I hope you enjoy!

Hiking Mont Saint Quentin

Views from Mont Saint Quentin

Any observer looking northwest from downtown Metz will see a mountain sticking out like a sore thumb among the flat plains that surround it. This is Mont Saint Quentin, and it has an abundance of trail networks all over it. To get there, my hiking buddies and I took the C15 bus to the Plappeville bus station, which drops you off 5 minutes from one of the entrances to the trail system. I recommend walking around the neighborhood a little before you begin your hike; the quaint streets and views of Metz below are worth seeing. The mountain itself has even better views of the city!

Strolling Around Downtown Metz

A view of the Moselle River

Even though I’ve been here just over a month, every time I head downtown I find myself pleasantly surprised by a new discovery. Metz is such a charming city and is rich with history that practically oozes from the architecture seen downtown.

View from the Rue des Murs


A great place to see an example of this is Avenue Foch, where you can walk through a park in the middle of the street, surrounded by buildings on either side. As I learned in my INTA class, the  the architecture on Avenue Foch is so drastically different from the rest of the city due to the area being constructed during the German annexation of the city. Another incredible view of the city can be obtained along Rue des Murs (which I also discovered through our INTA class – shoutout to Professor Serafin for writing the guided tour!). From the street, you’re able to gaze above the rooftops of Metz.

Plan d’eau and Other Parks

The plan d’eau

Metz has been praised as one of the greenest cities in France, and for good reason. There is an abundance of parks and green spaces located within Metz that are perfect for a stroll or a picnic. Some of these are the Plan D’eau (you can see the cathedral from here), the Esplanade and surrounding gardens, and the Parc de la Seille. Each of these offer a welcome escape from the busier aspects of the city.

Biking Metz

During the first week of classes, a local bike rental company visits GTL with a special discounted rate for students to rent their bikes for three months. I believe any students with even just a slight interest in this should take advantage of it, just because it’s so inexpensive and opens up possibilities for trips around Metz. A friend recently rode his bike to Pagny-sur-Moselle, where he was able to tour the town. He recounted how immersed he felt in the small village, as opposed to the more touristy cities he’s traveled to so far. He recommends checking out other small towns around Metz by bike to get a better feel for the French way of life.

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.)

A Hike to Switzerland, Part 2

Some places are so beautiful that you have to go back – but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a boring trip. Karsten hiked with friends in Interlaken again, but there were different surprises this time around!

Sunday, October 6, 2019 | Written by Karsten

A week ago, I had no plans to travel anywhere this weekend. On Monday, Alek mentioned that a group was going to hike near Interlaken, Switzerland. Though I had already done a hike in Interlaken, I said that I’d be down to go again if they had space. Sure enough, on Friday morning, we left for Switzerland. The weather app all week had predicted rain and highs of about sixty every day.

The plan was to make it to Interlaken at about 1:00 PM, go from Interlaken to Grindewald, and immediately hike up to First and then on to Faulhorn. While I packed some warm clothes, I didn’t expect to need them, especially not on the way up. I started the hike with only a long-sleeve t-shirt and shorts. I decided not to make this hike in my slip-on Vans after how many times I slipped last time. Luckily, the rain held off for most of the way up. Because I played soccer the night before, knew I probably wouldn’t be able to fill up my water bottle, and sweated a decent amount on the way up, I was quite a bit dehydrated once we neared First. As we were climbing the last few stairs on the way to the First Cliff Walk, I had the worst cramp of my life (I don’t think I’ve had a cramp I’ve had since high school football) and both of my legs essentially locked up and I couldn’t move them. Needless to say, after this, I was much slower and actually drank some of my water.

On the Cliff Walk, we waited our turn for pictures and the wind gusts were shaking the overlook a little. Luckily, there was a rail to hold on to. Once we hit this point, I swear the temperature dropped like twenty degrees, so I put my rain jacket and hoodie back on. We continued up from First to Faulhorn. This is where we realized the second surprise of the weekend—the Berghotel Faulhorn, where we were staying, was on a snow-capped peak. Being near the lakes in the valley and seeing the peaks was absolutely crazy. After a couple of pictures, we headed up, and it got extremely cold with the wind gusts. With a surprisingly limited number of slips on the way up, we made it at about 6:15 PM (the hike should’ve taken about 6 hours, and we took like 45 minutes worth of breaks on the way up). I got some crazy looks when I walked in with our group in shorts. We changed and had a soup and macaroni dinner, played some cards, and turned in early (read: before 10:00 PM). 

The third surprise of the weekend came when we woke up—it snowed about five inches overnight. We were advised to go back down in a very similar way that we came up, as the cliffs we had intended to hike by were snow-covered with low visibility. While hiking down with snow-covered paths (the only visible path markers were posts) seems pretty dangerous, the fresh-fallen snow had a much larger amount of grip and it was cold enough that any snow that stuck to you didn’t melt and the wind blew it off, so we managed to stay pretty dry. We made it back to the lake, which had much whiter surroundings from the new snow. From there, we went a different route as we had successfully made it down from the line where the snow fell. We took the long path to Bussalp, then Berglauenen, then took the train back to Interlaken. We found our Airbnb, had dinner (where I had fondue for the second time this semester), and explored the city a little. We again turned in pretty early—I think I managed 9 hours of sleep in back-to-back nights.

This morning, we went to Bern, Switzerland. There, we saw the Rose Garden overlooking the city, went to see some bears, and then had lunch. It was a very cool city, and I’m glad we made the stop there on the way back home. I’m writing this as we’re heading back to Metz. We have about a half of a mile of walking left today, which adds to the forty miles I’ve walked so far this weekend. I never would’ve expected that the first time I saw snow was in the first week of October, and I would’ve thought you were crazy if you told me I would’ve seen it and hiked through it, but it was an all around great experience and I’m happy that I was spontaneous enough to decide to tag along on this unique weekend.

Soccer. . . Er, Futbol

Many Georgia Tech-Lorraine students have a passion for soccer – or futbol, as they call it in Europe – and end up both playing pickup and going to see professional games!

Thursday, October 3, 2019 | Written by Karsten

Europe’s most popular sport is futbol, or what we call soccer. I have never played soccer in my life—unless of course, you count Upward soccer when I was five as real soccer. I began enjoying soccer around 2013 by playing FIFA 14 on the Xbox. Through this, I learned the rules of a sport that I now love. I’ve played countless hours on every FIFA video game released since then (except this year’s release, FIFA 20, as I do not have a way to play it). After I began playing FIFA, I could also watch soccer and appreciate it. Not long after, my dad also began watching it and so on Saturday mornings, that’s what we would do if we weren’t busy—watch the Premier League and eat breakfast.

My freshmen year at Georgia Tech, I actually played soccer for the first time. Though intramurals are not organized, this was my first taste of eleven versus eleven soccer. Cru made a team—called the Crushers—and we were pretty successful. It was a co-rec team, meaning there had to be even numbers of guys and girls in the field, excluding the goalkeeper. We managed to make it to the school championship that year, which we lost on a cold, rainy night. Last year, we made another team and made it to the playoffs but subsequently lost in penalties. However, playing real soccer made me realize how much fun it is to play.

There are tons of people that are in the GTL program that have played soccer. Within a week, there was a group message in GroupMe solely for watching and playing soccer. A couple times each week, we’ve gone out to the high school that’s very close to the Georgia Tech-Lorraine campus and played on their turf field. If we couldn’t play there, there are lots of other possible options. It’s always a great time to go play pickup, and I’ve been able to make quite a few friends that way.

Coming to Georgia Tech-Lorraine, I knew I wanted to go see a few professional games. Being in France, PSG is the easiest choice of teams to go see, with Paris being only a couple of hours away. In the first week of being in France, I was able to go see them, so that’s one checked off. Since FC Metz got promoted last year into Ligue 1, I would like to see them, but I’m not sure I’ll be in Metz on a weekend that they play at home. I would also love to see a Premier League game, but it’s not looking too likely. Lastly, being a Real Madrid fan, I have to see a game at Santiago Bernabeu. I believe that I’ll be able to see them over fall break, and I’m very much looking forward to it.