As I began to think about what my favorite part of the trip was, I realized I could not narrow it down to just one. Some of my favorite cities were Brugge, Belgium; Paris, France; and Amsterdam, Netherlands. I loved the quaintness and old-European feel in Brugge. Everything was within walking distance and we were able to see most of the city. In Paris, the highlight for me was seeing the Eiffel Tower. It was even more beautiful than I expexted, especially at night when it glittered. The subway system in Paris was also very nice and allowed us to explore the city easier. I liked Amsterdam because it was different than the other cities we visited. The many bridges and similar buildings gave the city a distinct look. I enjoyed every city we visited, but these three stood out to me.
Before this trip I had never been to Europe, and through traveling with a group throughout Europe for 3 weeks I learned a lot. I became more familiar with the different cultures and customs in Europe as well as adjusting to the language barrier. This experience has definitely prepared me for future travel. Reflecting on this trip I am amazed at how many cities and cool places we got to visit. I loved traveling with this group of people and the professors who made it all possible!
During our time in Europe I noticed many cultural differences. One of these is the more relaxed and family-oriented pace of life. For example, we found that most restaurants didn’t open until late morning and on Monday’s they opened even later. Stores usually closed around 6 pm, which was sometimes inconvenient for us. One night we were complaining about this and our bus driver, Joop, told us they closed so that they could go home and eat dinner with their families. He told us Americans could learn something from Europeans about spending time with their families. “Americans live to work, but Europeans work to live.” I thought this was very interesting and it goes to show how a slower pace of life can at times be beneficial.
Another example of the more relaxed vibe in Europe is how restaurants are in no rush to get their customers out the door. It would occasionally take a while for a waiter to even come to the table and start with drink orders. After ordering and receiving our food it was expected that we would stay and eat for a while. The waiters and waitresses would check in our table minimally. Once we were finished, they would clear the table and allow us to stay and talk until we asked them for the bill. I thought this made our meals more relaxing and enjoyable, and allowed us to appreciate the place we were in and the company we were with.
This morning we left the hotel early in order to make it on time to our tour of Gentex Corporation. I found this tour very interesting as they explained to us the different technologies they produce and how they function. We also got to see many of these first-hand during the tour, including sitting in a test car with one of their high-tech rear view mirrors and testing it out for ourselves. Gentex Corporation is headquartered in Zeeland, MI, which made this visit especially relevant, as its very close to Calvin in an area we’re familiar with.
After the tour of Gentex, we got back on the bus and headed to Ulm, a city known for its Cathedral. The Cathedral has one of the tallest cathedral spires in the world. Once we ate a quick lunch we were able to climb the tower all the way to the top, climbing 768 steps! Needless to say we were rather winded by the time we reached the top, but it was well worth it because we got a great view of the city.
We gathered back on the bus after climbing the tower and headed for Landsberg where we will be spending the night.