All posts by Ross Tenney

Trip Reflections

Now, back in America, I have finally had the time to reflect on the incredible journey we took in Europe.  Looking back, it is surprising how many places we were able to visit in only three weeks. Nearly everyday we were on the move in the bus heading to new cities and exploring Europe.

I would definitely like to make highlights of the trip. Beginning in Amsterdam was a perfect way to start the trip. The city was a good transition from America to Europe since almost everybody spoke English and were super friendly. Amsterdam was so alive on the streets with bikers everywhere and so many people walking around. Seeing the storm barriers  in the Netherlands was also very cool and showed their engineering feats in relation to water. The city of Brugge, Belgium was my favorite small town and was very quaint and well lit at night. Visiting Paris was amazing and something I have always wanted to do. Seeing the Eiffel Tower at night, viewing the catacombs, walking through the Louvre, and touring this city rich with history were highlights. Southern Germany seemed to be all about the castles with Neushwanstein castle, the Alps, and Munich as notable destinations. It was also very cool visiting Prague which had so many amazing old buildings and a certain Eastern Europe vibe no other place could offer. Berlin also was rich with history from many time periods from the kings, WWII, and the Cold War. Finally, visiting all the war memorials , museums, and the concentration camp was very sobering, and they gave me the greatest respect for our men in service who are truly heroes for us and the entire world.

This trip also provided me the opportunity to meet and make many new friends both from Calvin and even from Europe. I enjoyed spending time with people from the group and learning more about them during our travels. I also enjoyed talking to the locals and hearing their perspective on life.

I also discovered a few pros and cons for living in Europe compared to America. Some pros include public transportation, everything being within a walkable distance, emphasis on learning many languages, and a more laid back life. During our final group dinner with our tour guide bus driver Joop, we asked him what he thought was the major difference between life in America and Europe. He said that Americans live to work while Europeans work to live. While cliche, I overall believe this to be true and will hope to apply this way of living more often. Some of the cons to Europe are no free water or refills, paying for bathroom use, and the people being generally more reserved.

In conclusion, I would like this chance to extend my hand of gratitude towards Prof. Brouwer, Prof. Plaisier, and our driver Joop. I would like to say thank you for all your efforts in making this trip the incredible experience it indeed was. Without your efforts, this amazing trip would not be possible. This trip through Europe with friends was a once in a lifetime experience and one I will never forget.

Ross Tenney

Favorite Places: Quaint Town and Big City

Wow. What a journey. This trip has taken us  all around Europe providing us the opportunity to see amazing places and experience foreign cultures. Looking back on our trip, it is difficult to choose my favorite place as I enjoyed every location we visited. However, if I had to make a decision, I would have to narrow it down to two different categories: a small, walkable town and a large, metropolitan city.

My favorite small town was definitely Brugge, Belgium. This city is actually one of the larger cities in the country of Belgium, but everything important was within a reasonable walking distance. Brugge was a very quaint town that felt as if it could be set in a Disney movie. There were many rivers and canals that ran through the city, many having beautiful swans. When we arrived at night, it was quite eerie with there being fog and mist; however, this caused a really awesome effect when the steeple buildings and town squares were lit up. I really enjoyed our group tour of the city learning about famous sites such as the Begijnhof, the Church of Our Lady with Michelangelo’s famous Madonna and Child statue, the Rozenhoedkaai, and the Burg Square. The food here was also amazing as they are noted for their Belgium waffles and chocolate. Finally, some of my friends and I found a secret tavern at the end of a skinny and easily passible alley where we enjoyed the local beer.

My other favorite location was the large city of Munich and the surrounding region of Bavaria. This entire region of Bavaria as a whole had its own unique culture and people which I really enjoyed. Seeing the picturesque Alps and the Neuschwanstein castle is something truly to behold. The capital of Bavaria in Munich is located in the scenic countryside just nearby the Alps mountain range. This city has a Bavarian touch that really no other city on the trip has to offer. Within the downtown area we were able to see famous sites such as the Frauenkirche, the New and Old Town Hall, Marienplatz, Hofgarten, Asam’s kirche, the National Theatre, and the world famous beer hall of the Hofbrauhaus. At the Hofbrauhaus, we were able to experience the Bavarian culture first hand with liter sized beers, pigs knuckle dinner, giant pretzels, and waiters and waitresses dressed in liederhosen and dirndls outfits. When I was on the Summer Program to Germany I also was able to experience seeing the Olympic park and stadium, the BMW Welt, and the Allianz arena, home of soccer club Bayern Munich.  Munich and the region of Bavaria has so much history and culture and would probably be the most livable city for me personally.

Well, when given the choice for my favorite place on this trip, I would have to say for small town, Brugge, and large city, Munich.

Ross Tenney


The Castle of the Mad King

Today we visited the Neuschwanstein castle on the foothills of the Alps. Just outside the alpine town of Füssen, we hiked up the mountainside to the site of the castle. Here we were able to have a panoramic view of the Alps and the valley below. We also had the opportunity of going on a guided tour inside the castle.

Inside the castle, the tour guide spoke of both the history of the castle and its owner. King Ludwig II became king of Bavaria at the age of 18 and lived with his parents in the nearby castle of Hohenschwangau. He then wanted to have his own castle; therefore, the construction of Neuschwanstein began in 1869.  He dedicated the castle to the composer Richard Wagner and much of the inner artwork has his style. The castle had many elaborate details including fine woodwork, bejeweled chandeliers, and famous artwork. We walked through the various chambers of the castle including the throne room with its 2000 pound bronze chandelier and two million mosaic stone floor. We then went to the bedroom where fourteen woodcarvers spend four years making the fancy woodwork.  Here as well as many other locations were statues of his favorite animal, the swan. After walking through an inner cave, our final destination was the concert hall which held great concerts and events. Finally, we learned about how King Ludwig II only spent 172 days at the castle, and he later became mentally ill. He mysteriously died in 1886 when found drowned in a lake.  The castle construction came to a halt as a result of his death.

The castle visit was a fantastic experience as I was able to learn a lot about the history of the Mad King and his castle. I really enjoyed the beautiful view of the Alps from inside the castle as well. I now understand why Disney based the Sleeping Beauty castle on the Mad King’s Neuschwanstein castle.