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Ich Bin Ein Berliner

"All—all free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin. And, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words 'Ich bin ein Berliner.'" These words, by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, were on the minds of many in our group today as we embarked on a whirlwind tour of WW2 history sites. Our local guide, Mike, is a native of New Zealand. He moved to Berlin about 10 years ago—for love. Now a husband and father of two, Mike loves showing groups all the sites of his second home of Berlin. He uses humor and an iPad to inject much energy into his tours. Mike also talks fast. Very...

Willkommen! -or- Say It Ain't Snow!

We started our day on ICE—the Inter-City Express—from Hamburg to Berlin. Per usual, we hit the ground running once we arrived to the capital and largest city in Germany. The group enjoyed lunch at local cafés (Who knew Berlin would have such stellar Vietnamese food??) before braving the city's metro (subway) system for the Reichstag. First built in 1894, the Reichstag houses German Parliament. It fell into severe disuse and repair after WW2, but reconstruction efforts began some time later and finished in 1999. The pinnacle piece, literally and figuratively, became the new glass, open-air...

Guten Tag. Hash Tag.

Our long bus ride this morning was rife with rainy skies and cars zooming past us on the Autobahn. #solongamsterdam #heytheregermany We stopped for fuel at a gas station and rest area near Bremen, where some of our group enjoyed our first hamburger on the way to Hamburg — at a Burger King. #classyamericantourists #holdthepickles #holdthelettuce <Blogger's Note: ALL things from Hamburg are called "hamburger," actually — including the residents of the city. Say it with an "ah" vowel instead of like the "ham" in "ham sandwich," and you'll offend far fewer natives. #themoreyouknow> Once...

Little Town, It's a Quiet Village...

...every day...like the one before. Little town, full of little people, waking up to say... Hello! Hello! Hello, hello, hello! <Blogger's Note: Yep, "hello" in Dutch is typically just "hello." Not quite the same punch as that Disney intro; apologies.> Today we ventured into the Dutch countryside to visit the town of Groenekan, a village of about 1,800 people—including NDC alum, and former chair of the Art Department, Marilyn van Doesburg (and her husband, Cor). Marilyn and Cor most graciously invited us into their home for great conversation and an even greater lunch (pea soup, potato...

A Day At the Museum

Though the weather is still cooperating for us (just a brief shower this afternoon), today was spent mostly inside for touring the best that Amsterdam has to offer. Medieval-era traveler Ibn Battuta said, "Traveling—it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller." There are no truer words for today; the sights left us speechless, slack-jawed and more than a little reverent—but we'll be telling friends and family about all we did today for years to come. We're staying in another lovely and wonderfully situated hotel, that serves an equally lovely breakfast. Why more American...

A Grand Dam Time

One would never guess, today, that Amsterdam was founded as a small fishing village in the 12th century. Now the capital and most populated city of the Netherlands, Amsterdam is full of hustle and bustle — and lots of dam bicycles! Truly, there are over 600,000 bicycles in the city. Where we have parking garages, they have bike decks. While we look both ways so as not to interfere with auto traffic, they risk life and limb at the turn of each street corner. Those dam cyclists take no prisoners! Upon leaving Belgium, we set out on a dam five-hour busride for the Netherlands (formerly, Holland...

Blondes Have More Fun

Many call Bruges the "Venice of the North." One walk through winding cobblestone streets, one glance up at the tower of city hall and especially one boatride on a canal later... and many in our group feel the same. Known for lace, medieval architecture, chocolate (no, we still haven't had our fill) and Stella Artois (Blonde #1), Bruges has cast her spell. Yesterday's journey began with a modern view; we stopped to ogle and photograph the Atomium, a Belgian monument of an atom—at one million times actual size—made for the World's Fair. Erected in 1958, it gleams in modern, silvery-sleek glory...

Waffles, and Chocolates, and Kriek! Oh, my!

Rudyard Kipling once said, "The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it." If this is the case, this group of Notre Dame College globetrotters thinks that Belgium is pretty, well, sweet. We left frigid Cleveland, Ohio, on the morning of Thursday, February 26, and landed in Newark, New Jersey—basking in the balmy 21-degree weather. Our group of 16 settled into a layover lounge reserved for McLeod, enjoyed snacks and sat wondering what we'd forgotten to pack (an umbrella, in my case—well, NOT in my case!). Our smooth trans-Atlantic flight settled us into Belgium (41...

Despues de Todo Muendo Es Pequeno

It's a small, small world... Really, we'll need to come back to Portugal when the weather is better... Kidding, kidding ─ we couldn't script lovelier days! It's a whopping 20 degrees in Lisbon today ─ that's Celsius ─ so some of us are happily sunburned. Our last day of the trip began with a walking tour of the Alfama district of Lisbon. This is the city's oldest district, yet one that still affords a visitor the best views and truest sense of how the people of Lisbon live day-to-day. The Alfama is truly a maze of paths and narrow alleyways ("narrow" as in "NARROW" ─ as in 'turn sideways or...

Bienvenido a Portugal!

Over the river and through the fog, to Lisboa we go! Hello, Lisbon — Portugal's capital and one of the oldest cities in all of Europe — often called "the white city" because of the mirrored reflection of the water, and meaning "beautiful bay." We experienced some traffic getting into Lisbon (though not of Fort Lee, N.J., proportions) and crossed the Tagas River on what looked like the Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco — with good reason — the same makers of our America's Golden Gate made the April 25th Bridge (named to honor Portugal's revolution and independence). We met our local guide,...

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