What I did when the Profs weren’t there

What did you do on your free week? What did you see? Where did you go? What was it like?

John Boer, Kurt Hoelsema, and Steven Ng traveled with me to Rome via southern Germany.

The first day was spend in Stuttgart. We saw the Mercedes museum there. Mercedes has been making many of the vehicles for Europe for the past century. While their luxury cars are popular in the US, they also make many of the support vehicles needed in a modern city. Many semi trucks, ambulances, and buses that I saw in Berlin were Mercedes in addition to the iconic beige taxis.

The next day we traveled to Füssen via Lake Konstanz. We took the ferry to Lindau, stopping to see the church there and catch the train to Füssen.

Füssen is a very cool town. It is near the foothills of the German alps. It feels similar to other small German towns like Lübeck, but has a different feel from the seaside towns. We saw the Neuschwenstein built by mad king Ludwig. It was weird to see two castles that looked relatively fresh; like when a building is made to look ancient but built with modern techniques. We walked past the new castle and continued to the bridge overlooking the falls. Steve found a trail up the mountain and we followed it to the top. The view was stunning from the top. The castles and farmland stretching out directly before us, the mist encircling us, and the para-gliders floating above us.

From Füssen we traveled through the alps on a train to Venice. Their, we stayed in a tent on the mainland. That night we visited the city. We ate at a restaurant in Venice. I sampled the local seafood, eating clams and cuttlefish in black sauce. The others ate pizza. After, we wandered the streets, looking at shops, and the crazy looking buildings.

From Venice we took a train to Rome. The train’s top speed was 300 km per hour! From Rome we took the local transit train to our campsite on the Tiber. The train was much older and rickety than the ones in Germany. The countryside in Rome reminded me of southern California; dry with small scrub brush, hot with a steady wind, and olive trees and vineyards. In Rome we walked through the central district, seeing the Colosseum, the Senate, the Circus Maximus, Piaza Venicia, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, the Altar of the Fatherland, and many others. literally around every corner was a site or monument. We then visited the Vatican. John hd bought the tickets online earlier so we skipped a several hundred person line straight to the front of the line. The Vatican is a massive complex of buildings, surrounding a large courtyard. Inside the Vatican we saw countless Egyptian and Sumerian artifacts. They had collected quite a sum of ancient history there. We then started seeing the painted areas. I regret not spending more time in these halls because there were stunning paintings on every surface with massive depth and detail. One could easily spend weeks studying the paintings there. We then circled around the back to St. Peter’s Basilica. In security, one of the guards found Steve’s jar of nutella and wagged his finger at Steve. The inside of the Basilica was absolutely stunning. In the same size range as the Köln cathedral but filled with stunning sculpture and art, whereas the Koeln Dom was mostly austere stone, impressive in its own right, but nonetheless the Basilica was easily the most impressive church I saw this summer.

The following day we decided to relax and go to the beach. The water was very salty and buoyant. All of us stayed in the sun too long and got burnt.

We flew back to Berlin. Everyone applauded the pilot when we landed safely. This was interesting because I have never encountered that on domestic flights.

It was interesting to note the differences between Germany and Italy. In Italy the trains ran on a more relaxed schedule and were not as well maintained. However, Italian buildings were generally more beautiful and an effort was made to integrate the buildings into the older style of surrounding buildings, whereas German cities were often a juxtaposition of reformation, Prussian, modern, and ultramodern architecture.

Europe always fascinated me because there are countries with very different  cultures and landscape in very close proximity to each other.

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