I returned home from my 2 week trip yesterday with a cold and over 800 photos. Getting back into a routine is a little hard because I’m so exhausted, but I have managed to upload Dutch, German and French realia as well as several new photo albums. We went to Brussels, Bruges, Amsterdam, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Bonn, Munich, Hohenschwangau (Schloss Neuschwanstein), Triberg & Titisee-Neustadt in the Black Forest, Strasbourg, and of course Mini Europe in Brussels and Europa Park in Rust, Germany.
Mini Europe in Brussels: Learn about the 27 EU members!
Michelle and I only see each other once a year since she lives in Arizona, so we try to make the most of the two weeks and see as much as possible. Next year we’re planning to head to Eastern Europe to visit Prague, Krakow, Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and perhaps even parts of Slovenia. Or we were thinking of doing an Adriatic Sea/Greek islands cruise; or even a Nordic/Baltic capitals cruise. Ah, so many places to see! After visiting the two educational and fun Europe parks, I really want to see all of Europe (not just the EU) someday, but there are just so many interesting places that I don’t know how I’ll ever find the time or money.
One problem, Europa Park. Finland is not really Scandinavian.
I had been to Brussels and Amsterdam before, but I honestly don’t remember seeing much since it was very cold and I was extremely sick at the time. Plus I could barely speak French back then so Brussels was intimidating instead of familiar. Obviously I feel much less stressed about traveling in French-speaking areas nowadays. I absolutely loved listening to Flemish/Dutch in Bruges and Amsterdam and wished that more people studied it so there would be more resources available to learn it.
I heart the architecture in Bruges
I had also been to Germany before, but not along the Rhine River or in Bavaria. My German was a bit rusty but I was surprised at how much I could understand (much more in written form than spoken, unfortunately). I didn’t feel completely at ease like I do in France or southern Belgium, but ordering food and buying stamps were not too difficult. The only hard parts are when the other person responds in an unexpected way and you can’t understand what they say, or even if you can understand the words, you don’t understand why they are saying it. When buying groceries at a small store in a suburb of Munich, the cashier asked if I wanted Herzen after I paid. I knew that Herzen meant hearts but I had no idea why she was asking if I wanted them or what type of hearts she was referring to. She showed us some heart stickers, but I just said Nein, danke instead of asking what I was supposed to do with them because I was so caught off guard. (Anyone know why German supermarkets try to give you heart stickers?)
Schloss Neuschwanstein (Disney Castle)
Because of my interest in WWII and Holocaust history, German is my 3rd language and I’m hoping to attain the same level that I have in French. French has an obvious advantage (I’ve lived in France for nearly 4 years and my boyfriend is French) but with enough exposure and interaction with other German speakers, plus plenty of return trips to Bavaria (fingers crossed!), I think I’ll manage. Strasbourg was a lovely place and hearing two languages constantly spoken on the streets because of all the German tourists made me wish I lived there. Not that living in the Alps is bad. It’s just that I would prefer to live in a bilingual nation or at least closer to the border where I can always be exposed to at least one other language besides French. One foreign language will never be enough for me.
Strasbourg in Alsace, France
Speaking of bilingual nations, I am completely fascinated by the elections in Belgium. I adore Belgium and love that they speak French and Flemish, but I can see why there are problems since the two languages are separated geographically instead of nearly every citizen being bilingual such as in Luxembourg. Flemish separatists who want the country to be split into two took the lead in parliamentary elections this weekend. It’s still too early to tell if Flanders will become an independent state, what would happen to poorer Wallonia, and if they both would still be part of the EU, but it’s extremely interesting to follow how the history of language use and politics are so intertwined in certain areas. Luxembourg and Switzerland have far fewer problems with regards to language, but Belgium and Canada have always had vocal separatist parties.
So tomorrow it’s back to work, which will hopefully include catching up on e-mails. I do have another real, bill-paying job that I need to do until the end of July so I won’t be able to devote as much time as I’d like to the website, but I’m really excited about it and will explain more later.
New Photo Albums:
* Belgium and the Netherlands have a few photos from the trip in 2005 first.