Thursday, 1 November 2012

Waterfalls, Mozart, and Stonehenge

On Saturday, 13 October, I climbed a waterfall.

I'm not kidding.

My trip to the Lake District was one of my favorite weekend adventures.  It didn't involve seeing famous sites in a city, like most of my other trips have, but consisted of outdoor activities in beautiful Northern England.  One such activity was ghyll scrambling--one of the best things I've ever done! Ghyll scrambling is hard to describe, but basically you make your way upstream, traversing rocks, walking through small rapids, and climbing waterfalls.  Surprisingly, I was warm, for the most part, except for my feet.  But they became numb to the cold and I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure!

I also went rock climbing!  REAL rock climbing!  I've been indoor rock climbing in Evansville, but this was the real deal.  Our instructor said she goes rock climbing every week--now that would be the life!  I loved the challenge of mixing strategy and strength to make it to the top.  My sweatpants were too wet from ghyll scrambing, but luckily my jeans sufficed.  :)

My weekend in the Lake District was so relaxing and beautiful.  We stayed in a hostel in Ambleside right on Lake Windermere, and we hiked through the mountains to Grasmere, home of William Wordsworth.  The scenery was gorgeous and peaceful.  Once in Grasmere, we visited William Wordsworth's home and grave and ate some famous Grasmere Gingerbread.
The view of Lake Windermere from the deck of our hostel.

Alyssa Thorp, Meghan Messer, and I taking a break during our hike to Grasmere.

After an amazing weekend in the Lake District, I spent the next weekend in a different environment:  Germany and Austria!  I took German in high school, and I could hardly contain my excitement that I was actually going to a city we had learned about!  I completely enjoyed trying to read everything in German and trying to communicate as best as I could.  I could understand quite a bit, but responding was another story.  I also come from a small Southern Indiana town, where most people have a strong German heritage.  Most of my ancestors came from Germany, so I was excited to be in my "homeland." 

This trip, we tried  We were a little nervous, but ended up liking our experience!  We rented a bungalow in the Olympic Village, which is now student housing for a university.  We stayed where a female athlete lived during the 1972 Olympics!  A plaque with the names for each section of bungalows was posted, so all we know is that our athlete had a last name starting with P.  The time I most needed my German was when I had to ask another student to help us open our bungalow's door, but we won't talk about that . . .

One of the highlights of my trip was visiting Dachau Concentration Camp.  My great uncle was among the first Americans to liberate Dachau, and I wrote a research paper my junior year of high school about the camp and my uncle's experience.  It was powerful to stand where he stood and where so many suffered and died.  The camp had a detailed museum in the former maintenance building, and we toured the barracks and crematoriums.  The beautiful day mocked the hurt in my stomach.    
The gate to the camp.
A view of the grounds where the barracks used to be.

After Dachau, we changed the atmosphere completely by going to the famous Hofbräuhaus!  I saw firsthand the humungous beer steins and the beautifully painted dining areas.  We sat right in front of a quartet:  a euphonium, accordion, and two trumpets.  I liked the jolly atmosphere, and the food was great.

Jennifer Wetzler, Sean Lovellette, and I stand in front of the Hofbräuhaus.
The rest of our Munich experience included seeing sites and shopping around the city.  We saw the Glockenspiel on the Marienplatz (town square), many beautiful churches, the BMW World Headquarters, the 1972 Olympic grounds, an open market, and we even stumbled across the grand opening of a four-story Abercrombie and Fitch store.  This grand, grand opening consisted of about 50 shirtless, ripped, male models on the balconies and in front of the store.  I must admit I took a few pictures, but I spent most of the time laughing at the staring crowd.  

The next day we took a train to Salzburg.  Being a music major, and a violin major at that, made Salzburg a great choice for me!  There was violin stuff everywhere . . . pencils, t-shirts, magnets, even soft pretzels.  Of course we visited Mozart's birth house and museum, and we saw three sites where The Sound of Music was filmed.  Yes, we did skip through the hedge tunnel in the Mirabell Gardens while singing "Do Re Mi."  It was something we just had to do.  I loved being in this musical city!  Jennifer and I hoped that we would absorb some musical genius to take back with us to the States.  
In the Mirabell Gardens

Mozart's birth house
Last weekend, I went somewhere again completely different than the Lake District and Germany and Austria.  My aunt and uncle came to visit, and we went to Glastonbury and saw Stonehenge!  Glastonbury is a small, interesting town.  We stayed in a hotel built in the 15th century for pilgrims who came to Glastonbury Abbey to see the grave of King Arthur and his wife.  We toured the Glastonbury Abbey ruins and saw the site where apparently King Arthur is buried.  We also saw the Chalice Well, where legend says that Joseph of Arimathea buried the Holy Grail, and climbed the Tor, a natural hill that has been a place of worship for thousands of years.  It was so windy up there, I'm glad I didn't blow right off the top.
Glastonbury Abbey

The Tor
Next came Stonehenge.  I actually saw Stonehenge.  Let's face it--that's awesome!  I've known about this awesome creation for as long as I can remember, and it was great to see it in person.  We battled the wind, cold, and crowd but enjoyed being in such an important place.  I'd love to know everything about this incredible feat.
My uncle and aunt, Rock and Kris, and I in front of Stonehenge.  My hair shows
how crazy the wind was! 
It's not an exaggeration to say that the past few weeks have been life changing.  Each trip and experience was extremely different, but I will take away something valuable from each.  I've been to places I had only imagined seeing some day, and after experiencing waterfalls, Mozart, and Stonehenge, I've learned that "only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." --T. S. Eliot

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