What you won’t think of when you hear the word “Oktoberfest”

(Originally posted by Amanda Thompson, a CSU student currently studying at John Cabot University in Rome, Italy.  Visit her blog page at amandaelizabethblahg.wordpress.com)

Oktoberfest is typically known for its steins of beer, lederhosens and dirndls, sausages the size and length of a small child’s arm and the enormous extravagantly decorated beer tents that could fit thousands of people. Most individuals who do attend the festival would come back and rave to their peers about how many steins they chugged, the ridiculous amount of money they spent on carnival rides and all the moments that were probably forgotten in the mix.

In the midst of all the crazy festivities, sometimes one just needs to get out and explore Munich and experience it for more than just a party. Sometimes one just needs to hop on a bike or a random train and go for a ride.

Biking around the streets of Munich, Germany felt as if I was biking through a fairy-tale. The architecture and medieval-like designs of the buildings resembled castles fit for kings and queens. Past the massive castles and bell towers were wide and lengthy tunnels decorated and tagged with unique artsy designs. Unlike the typical graffiti filled tunnels, the art designs on the tunnels in Munich were full pictures that fit perfectly on each wall. None of the designs overlapped one another. Riding through these tunnels put me in a state of pure awe and amazement as I zipped past each mural-like design.

Next stop: The Eisbach River. This river is completely unlike any other river I have seen or heard of. As a California native, I have seen plenty of surfers surf…in the ocean. In Munich however, surfing comes with a bit of an unique twist. The surfers of Munich catch their wakes… in the middle of the Eisbach River. The speed and intensity of the river’s current was enough to sweep anyone under and away if they were not cautious. Watching the surfers ride the wakes and then proceed to swim in and out of the rushing rapids with ease, was enough to shock any bystander.

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Three castles, one tunnel, ten surfers, and one of the most exhilarating, scenic bike rides later, it was time to head back to the steins of beer, lederhosens and dirndls, sausages the size and length of a small child’s arm…and a carnival ride that blessed my eyes with the greatest panoramic view of Munich.

Another way to escape the insanity is to go up. Cough up the eight euro, pick a set of swings, and prepare for the gorgeous view, adrenaline rush as the ride lifts you up and takes you around and that infinite feeling of being up so high you feel as if you were flying. As my feet lifted up from the ground, I watched the ground, the thousands of people and festival grounds shrink smaller and smaller. The view that was presented before me was absolutely breathtaking. Munich’s iconic castle-like buildings, dome structures and intricately decorated apartment buildings were presented in full panoramic view. I lifted my arms and tilted my head back, embracing the wind and the feeling of flight. I absolutely enjoyed Oktoberfest for the steins of beer, lederhosens and dirndls, sausages the size and length of a small child’s arm and everything it is typically known for. But I also enjoyed it for its hidden surprises and adventures.

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Kyrgyzstan Independence Day

(Originally posted by Carl Kasten, a CSU student studying abroad in Kyrgyztan.  His blog can be accessed at http://prokastenator.tumblr.com/page/2)

This is Kyrgyzstan! It’s an interesting place, a sort of mixture of local revival culture and soviet throwbacks. Case in point, this statue of Lenin solemnly gesturing back to Moscow in the middle of Kyrgyzstan’s Independence Day.

Sorry for the delay, I’ve been spending the last two days trying to get used to the time change and figuring out Internet and all that over here.

This is Kyrgyzstan! It’s an interesting place, a sort of mixture of local revival culture and soviet throwbacks. Case in point, this statue of Lenin solemnly gesturing back to Moscow in the middle of Kyrgyzstan’s Independence Day.

As a non industrialized country, the dissolution of the Union meant trouble for the Kyrgyz Republic. Before, raw materials, fuel, and finished goods could be easily moved within the Soviet Union, but now Kyrgyzstan finds itself with a wealth of minerals and few options for processing them.

All the same, the city is nice, the people are friendly, and perhaps most importantly, street food is hot and cheap.

As a non industrialized country, the dissolution of the Union meant trouble for the Kyrgyz Republic. Before, raw materials, fuel, and finished goods could be easily moved within the Soviet Union, but now Kyrgyzstan finds itself with a wealth of minerals and few options for processing them.

All the same, the city is nice, the people are friendly, and perhaps most importantly, street food is hot and cheap.

A picture of the performance from Independence Day.

So there were three of those groups of spearmen, and after this photo was taken they split up into lines, and each group introduced a short act representing a period in the history of Kyrgyzstan.

I like this picture for a couple of reasons. The celebration was interesting to watch, but watching the guards interact with the crowd was just as amusing. This bloke bummed a cigarette off the guy in the front row. Also note the people sitting on the right. Elders are highly respected in Kyrgyz culture, they’re referred to as “aksakals,” or “white-beards,” even the women. They were lucky enough to have their own seating up front, everybody else had to stand behind the barricade. And finally, note the man in the blue cap giving me the shifty eyes for being the only person in the country over six feet tall.

Tomorrow we’re taking a trip to a lake aways outside of town. I expect I won’t have internet there, but I’ll take pictures and be back by Monday.

A picture of the performance from Independence Day.

So there were three of those groups of spearmen, and after this photo was taken they split up into lines, and each group introduced a short act representing a period in the history of Kyrgyzstan.

I like this picture for a couple of reasons. The celebration was interesting to watch, but watching the guards interact with the crowd was just as amusing. This bloke bummed a cigarette off the guy in the front row. Also note the people sitting on the right. Elders are highly respected in Kyrgyz culture, they’re referred to as “aksakals,” or “white-beards,” even the women. They were lucky enough to have their own seating up front, everybody else had to stand behind the barricade. And finally, note the man in the blue cap giving me the shifty eyes for being the only person in the country over six feet tall.

The Milk Market

(Originally posted by Katie Virostek, a junior at CSU studying abroad at the University of Limerick in Ireland.  You can access her blog here: https://travelingwithoutmymomanddog.wordpress.com/page/2/)

This morning I had the pleasure of going to the Limerick Milk Market with my API group. It is located in the City Centre under this big white pointed tent, almost like a circus tent, and also in the streets surrounding the tent. It runs every Friday-Sunday, with Saturday being the busiest day. What an awesome place. If you are hungry, do NOT go there because you will buy everything you see and eat it right away. While I did not see any milk, there are TONS of other goods you can buy, including some non-food ones. Cheese, fruit, vegetables, fresh fish, coffee, tea, bread, any kind of dessert, candy, honey, chocolate, flowers, tools, clothes, jewelry, scarves, greeting cards, you name it, they probably have it (except milk).Images of the Milk Market milk-market1

For now I somehow managed to only buy croissants, a Lemon Meringue Tartlet, and baklava. Do not doubt that I will be making several trips here before I leave.

In one of the clothing shops I also ran into a Cincinnati Reds jacket. What country am I in?!

For lunch we went to a local bistro called Papaz. They are famous for their sandwiches, and let me tell you they did not disappoint. I got the meatball one…….yum. To be noted is that they aren’t served in bread, they are served in more of a pita or gyro pocket. To end the day we walked through a small local art museum and through the People’s Park. Limerick has a lot of cool things to do for not being a huge “city,” and I look forward to more weekend trips into the city.

That’s all for now, folks! If this post didn’t make you hungry, you are a strong soul.

Slainte,

Katie

The Awe of Rome at Night

(Originally posted by Amanda Thompson, a CSU student currently studying at John Cabot University in Rome, Italy.  Visit her blog page at amandaelizabethblahg.wordpress.com)

I have just completed my first full week of attending John Cabot University, and residing in Viale Trastevere in ROME, ITALY. Weekdays are usually spent walking back and forth to three different JCU campuses, lounging by the Tiber River, and weaving in and out through cobble stoned alley ways littered with quaint Italian pizzerias, cafes, and ristorantes. Each weekday is an adventure in itself, even though I am still working on establishing a set daily routine. Back at home in Colorado, a set routine was feasible and easy to establish…for that is where my comfort zone lies, as well as familiarity and stability. However when in Roma…one could easily immerse themselves in an adventure whether it may be dodging aggressive cars and buses left and right just to walk two blocks to the nearest grocery store, or if that adventure is found at 3 a.m., lost and confused in the heart of Rome.

Which leads to last Friday night…and this night was just a tad bit different than Katy Perry’s version. In this case, last Friday night, we went trekking in the dark, in search of a bench mark, then abbiamo trovato il colosseo.

At around 3 a.m., the night owls of Rome were starting to find their way back to their homes. The restaurants and bars began to shut off their lights and stack up their chairs one by one. Everyone and everything seemed to start to settle under the moonlight…all except four. My friends and I wandered the empty cobble stoned streets, questioning the way back to Viale Trastevere. We finally asked a local Italian who led us in the opposite direction…and straight to the famous grand Colosseum, which was vibrant and lit up, illuminating all that surrounded it with its yellow lighting. Despite the pain in our feet and the heaviness in our eyelids, the four of us stopped in awe of the monument. To me, the Colosseum appeared to be even more breathtaking at night, without all the crowds of tourists and vendors surrounding it. What a sight.

Colosseum at night

Colosseum at night

Even if the local Italian man led us in the wrong direction, I was glad he did. Maybe he knew these four soon to be locals needed one last adventure before the sun came out…or maybe he just did not understand our broken Italian.

Cheers to the confused Italian local and to the beautiful lit up Colosseum. Cheers to getting lost. Cheers to the spontaneous adventures that makes everything worth it. I can’t wait for what the next 4 months will bring.

Backpacking Europe

{Originally posted by Megan Rakoczy. She is a Journalism and Media Communication major spending the spring of 2015 in Swansea, Wales. You can find Megan’s blog directly here.}

“In a sense, it’s the coming back, the return, which gives meaning to the going forth. We really don’t know where we’ve been until we’ve come back to where we were. Only, where we were may not be as it was because of who we’ve become, which, after all, is why we left.”

This quote is a perfect representation of my experiences these past few week. Growing up, I was always blessed with the opportunity to travel. My parents were able to show me the world at a very young age, and I have always thought that each of those experiences helped me become who I am. My childhood was one giant adventure accompanied with each new deployment thrown our way. Things settled down in high school. It was nice to stay put somewhere for a little while. Junior year, in my mythology class, our big project was to make a scrapbook of our lives, needless to say, I had a lot of pages to fill out. At the end of the project we all had to present, and my teacher left me with the comment, “Your childhood will be a hard act to follow, have fun trying.” Boy was she right, I had already lived such a great life. I read her feedback and thought, and still think to myself, how am I going to top that?

This semester I chose to study abroad, not only to continue the adventure, but also to rediscover the pieces of my childhood. Revisit the places I have built up in my head that I so strongly believe shaped me. These past three weeks I have attempted to do just that.

The hardest question you can ever ask a military child is, “Where are you from?” Such a simple question for most, but every time it is thrown my way, I freeze. I never know quite how to answer. My default response usually ends up being, everywhere. Then, I have to carry out a long explanation. I can list out loud all the places I have lived, and before these past few weeks, I thought I remembered a lot about each location. What I discovered instead is that the going back, the return, really isn’t seeing things as they were 10 years ago.

Let’s start in Italy. My memory begins in Gaeta at the Lions Hotel where we lived for a few months during one HOT summer. I remember meeting the Strong’s (good family friends). I remember walking to the beach from the hotel. I remember when we finally moved into a house. I remember ripping my shirts climbing over the red fence to my friend Katelynn’s house. I remember going to church and absolutely loving when Mrs. Gwen would sing. I remember climbs to split mountain, Gelato from IL Molo’s, and Nutella pizza in the shape of a heart. It all kind of plays in my head like a fairy tale.

I did not end up going back to Gaeta this trip. I decided it would have been a lot on my own. So I started off in Rome. Walking down the streets, the smells, the sights, the language, though I couldn’t understand it, were all so familiar. They were all huge triggers, and though they didn’t bring up specific memories, it just felt like home and I couldn’t help but smile. When I was a kid, I remember always being grumpy when we had to go to Rome. It was always a lot of walking and the same old museums each time. This time around, I walked the streets with a more open mind, just trying to embrace what I was seeing, and also trying to remember the past visits. I remembered things like the Colosseum and a few other sights like Trevi Fountain, but honestly, other than that, not much. What I wish I could remember was the moments, but I think I was just too young to remember it all.

I then continued on to Florence. Once again revisiting a city I had been to before yet really don’t have much of a memory of. I do remember going to the museum and the Statue of David. I remember getting a flip book of the Duomo, which I still have somewhere. So though I could not remember much, I spent the week making new memories instead. My amazing roommate, Belle, graciously took me in for the week and showed me around town. This world has some absolutely beautiful places, great food, and intriguing cultures. I have seen some pretty amazing things, but at the end of the day, it is truly the people that make the place. Italy itself was good, but getting to share the new experience with a good friend, made it all the more special to me. I had a wonderful time getting to see Belle. I missed her a lot, and it was hard to leave. It is fun for me that she ended up in Italy. It will be nice when I go back home to relate my childhood memories of Italy to the ones she is making there now.

My memories of Italy have definitely faded over the years and things have changed with time. It was not the same with out my family and the other families that became part of me when I was there. However, both the old memories and the new are good even though things aren’t as they were. Italy will always hold a big piece of my heart.

London and Munich were also two cities I went to as a kid and retraced this trip. I had a really good time in both places, but once again found that most of my memories fell up short. In London I did a photo recreation at the Peter Pan Statue in Kensington Park, which I do remember. The city itself, still absolutely beautiful but somehow different than it was. Perhaps it is just because I am a different person than I was 12 years ago, and I just have a different/more developed view of the world now than I did before. Never-the-less London will always be one of my favorite cities, even if I’m not a city girl.

Munich was fun. It was a good place to end. The city was so open that it just felt easier to breathe with a little less people. My most dominate memory there from childhood is the clock tower with the moving figures. That is still there and they still move! We also took a day trip to Neuschwanstein Castle. I know I have been here before too. I did remember the castle, at least the outside of it. I think we went here when my grandparents were visiting, but I could be wrong. I also have a vague memory of eating spaghetti after seeing the castle. I only remember this because I was forced by “someone” to use a spoon to twist the noodles on my fork and that made me mad. It’s also quite possible that, that memory wasn’t at this spot, but even if it wasn’t let’s pretend it was.

So in the end it was a long but good backpacking trip around a few spots in Europe. I learned that you can’t always go back to your childhood home. Well you can but it isn’t going to be the same. Places change and people move on. We also change, I know I have changed a lot since I was last in Europe. Therefore, when I sit and look at the sights I saw as a kid. Though in reality, they may be the same on the surface. They are foreign to me now because I am looking at them with different eyes.

For a closer look at each of my stops, follow the Links below:

DSC_0008Ireland, Take Two

IMG_2657London, England

DSC_0066Italy

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The Barca Fam

{Originally posted by Rachel Wertz. She is a Journalism and Media Communication major with a minor in Spanish spending this semester in Barcelona, Spain. This post is from a few weeks ago, but it eloquently captures the complicated feelings of wrapping up a semester abroad. You can find Rachel’s blog directly here.}

Someone recently asked me what my favorite thing about study abroad has been, and I stood there speechless – that’s a loaded question. But I have been thinking about it for a few days, and while I don’t think I could choose a “favorite,” I think one of the coolest things about studying abroad is the people you meet. My friends and family in Barcelona have played a huge role in my experience abroad. They have been nothing but supportive and encouraging, they constantly make me laugh and they remind me just how short life is.

The crazy thing is that we are all such wildly different people. We are a group of people that come from all over the world and have completely unique backgrounds, but at the end of the day we all suffer from extreme wanderlust. We crave change and speaking a different language and trying new things. We are passionate about seeing the world and we are addicted to the thrill of traveling. And while we are all so different, we can come together and love each other because we share a love for travel.

I find if pretty amazing that after spending just a few months with these people, they have had such a positive impact on my life. Friendships happen at hyper speed when you study abroad because you are with the same people all day, everyday, sharing a rare and incredible experience. When you’re living in a foreign country and traveling a lot, you are arguably at your most vulnerable state because you are so far away from your normal – but vulnerability is where friendship happens. If you get along with someone while you’re both jet lagged, hungry, stressed and trying to navigate a new place, that is a lasting friendship right there. You see someone at their very best and their very worst when you travel with them, and that is why my parents have always told me, “travel with the person you want to marry before you marry them.” I really get that now.


With just under two weeks left with my friends in Barcelona, I find myself pre-worrying about having to say goodbye. I know in the back of my mind I am running out of time, and it is making it difficult to say no to anything. (I went out every night this week. Am I exhausted? Yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely.)

People always say “don’t be sad its over, smile because it happened,” and they are so right. It will be hard to say goodbye to everyone, but I am so lucky to have met these people and have them in my life.

Here are some of my favorite pics from the last few weeks of me with my Barca family:

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ISA Cooking Class at La Patente

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ISA Cooking Class at La Patente

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These lovely ladies kept me company when I was on crutches and couldn’t do the walking tour in France. Talk about true friends!

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Having lunch at our favorite lunch spot in Barcelona, Ve De Gust.

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I am so grateful for my sweet host mom, Lluisa.

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This is Alex, my awesome host brother from Berlin and our cat, China.

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Two of my friends from CSU, Hannah and Kevin. A great night out with some of the best people I know!

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my person

Fairytales Come to Life in Belgium

{Originally posted by Janelle Hilmes, a Junior at CSU studying Nutrition and Food Science. Her blog is located directly here}.

This weekend, Meghan, Divleen and I flew to Brussels for our first trip outside of Spain! We visited Brussels and Bruges and had an amazing weekend!

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When we arrived we knew that we could take a train to our hostel and figured that it would be easy to figure out when we got there. Turns out, Belgium is a trilingual country where people speak French, Dutch, and German. In the North (where we were) they also speak Flemish which is a variation of Dutch. Despite signs being in several languages and people speaking all of these, we still couldn’t communicate because we don’t know any of these. Luckily, we found our way to the train and found a worker who spoke enough English to help us get to the Brussels central train station, but the trip started off a tad stressful. Over the course of the weekend, I was amazed at how many people do in fact speak English and we were able to communicate just fine.

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The first people we encountered were all speaking Flemish. We were certain that they were speaking whatever language they speak in the game The Sims because it sounds just like that. According to Google, The Sims speak a made up language but I am positive that whoever made that game was inspired by Flemish. We thought it was so funny and kept making references to this game all weekend.

It was pouring rain and very cold the first night so we found our way to the hostel, got dinner, and went to bed. We were so happy to have a break from Spanish food (which is bland and small portions) and our first meal did not disappoint. I got a burger which was big, flavorful, and delicious and made me really happy!

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The next day we got up early and hopped on a train to Bruges for a day trip. It took about an hour and only cost 12 euros round trip which was a pleasant surprise! Overall, Belgium was more expensive than Spain but it wasn’t outrageous, I think Spain is just really cheap! Bruges is one of the most picturesque places I have ever been. I absolutely fell in love.

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It has canals running through the city and cute little buildings that look like they popped straight out of a fairytale. There are horse-drawn carriages and swans everywhere which make it very romantic and just perfect. I couldn’t have dreamed up a prettier city. We took a boat tour through the canals which was touristy but very fun.

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Later in the day we went on a brewery tour of De Halve Maan Brewery (the only working brewery in the city of Bruges) which was really interesting and we learned a lot about the history of the city because this brewery has been around for a couple hundred years. We also got a great view of the city from the roof of the brewery. And the beer was good too!

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Belgium is famous for waffles, beer, fries (which apparently originated in Belgium not in France), and chocolate. We ate/drank all of these things and they were all amazing!

There is a bar in Brussels called Delirium which is in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most types of beer (over 2000 different types!). We went there and tried unique things like cookie beer and chocolate beer, yum!

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I also tried cherry beer and it was sweet and delicious! It tasted like if beer and sangria had a baby, best beer I’ve ever had! It was called Belle-Vue and it is a Belgian beer. If anyone knows how to get it in the states let me know because I want to buy it!

We ate a lot of Belgian waffles too. They are cheap and delicious!

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Belgian chocolates are famous too and there are chocolate shops everywhere! We got a few fancy chocolates and they were really good. They also have friteries everywhere that sell fries. The traditional Belgian way is to get a cone or bowl of fries with a glob of sauce (basically mayonnaise) on top. We tried several different sauces and the fries were so yummy!

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I’m sure it’s obvious but I just have to say one more time that the food in Belgium is amazing!

The next day back in Brussels we visited The Atomium. This consists of 9 giant balls with escalators running between them. It is supposed to look like the atoms in one unit of an iron crystal. It is huge and if you go inside there is a museum and you can apparently get a good view of the city but we just saw it from the outside. It was strange but pretty cool.

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Then we took a free walking tour of Brussels which was the best tour I have ever been on. Our guide was knowledgeable, funny, and interesting and I learned a ton about Brussels. Before the tour I was not super impressed with Brussels because it seemed to be just a city, nothing special. But I realized that it really is a pretty city when you find all of the hidden gems.

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The main square is gorgeous and all of the buildings have gold covering the front.

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I am so happy that I chose to go to Belgium and see this beautiful place! Despite it being very cold weather, it only rained the first night (which is lucky because it apparently rains 1 out of 2 days in Brussels). It really was a perfect weekend and we had great luck with everything we did. Though it was not somewhere I had ever really considered going, I’m so glad I did. Belgium, especially Bruges, exceeded my expectations. Hasta pronto!