a polish-filipino wedding!

Among the wedding party, that’s what we decided that we would call Niki and Io’s wedding if we had a wedding blog. Well, I don’t have a wedding blog, but I have this blog, so that’s how I’ll title my post about the joyous and beautiful wedding of two of my best friends, which I had the pleasure of witnessing last week.

Niki is one of my very best friends from college and she is very dear to me–in fact, she was my wifey first!

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January 2011

Luckily, Io is great enough of a guy that I didn’t think twice about letting my wifey go as she became his actual wife 😉

November 2010

With such a fantastic, holy, fun-loving couple at the center, of course their wedding weekend was nothing short of magical. I’m still basking in the love and joy of the experience! So I wanted to write a little bit about it in case any of my readership is at all interested. (I just wish I had better photos to offer… some of these photos are from Daniel Laprea and Bailey.)

On Thursday I took an early bus from downtown Houston to UT’s campus Austin, and my friend and fellow bridesmaid Ali picked me up. We stopped by Kerbey Lane, a UT essential, for lunch and I got to have my first Tex-Mex of the year! Next, we drove up to Marynia’s (Niki’s sister and MOH’s) house to drop off some bachelorette party essentials, and then Ali and I continued our “girls’ day” at a salon to get manicures and/or pedicures.

After arriving at Ali’s house, the rest of the day consisted of nonstop reunions! First, Justin, Johanna, and Christina (other college friends!) arrived because Johanna would be staying with us, and Christina was coming to the bachelorette party as well. Before I knew it, we were on our way to the Triangle (after dropping Justin off with the guys) for part 1 of the bachelorette party: pottery painting!

It was lovely to be reunited with Niki, our guest of honor, as well as my college roommate, all of the other bridesmaids, and several other lovely ladies who I was either meeting for the first time or seeing for the first time in a while! We all got to bond over our mutual distrust of ourselves to not make a disaster out of the pottery (I made a to-go mug for coffee, which I don’t think I ruined) and mutual love of Chuy’s creamy jalapeño dip! Another really fun part of the evening: this was a true Catholic bachelorette party. We had two infants and two pregnant women in attendance! 🙂

After painting our wares and re-acquainting ourselves as a group, we moved on to the Clay Pit, a fancy Indian restaurant between campus and the Capitol. I’d never been there [too fancy for a normal college meal], and it was fabulous. I got to have some of my beloved chicken korma, Marynia bought a bottle of champagne for us non-pregnant/nursing mamas to share, and we took the opportunity all sitting around a big table to tell stories about Niki, how we met her, and why we love her! It was a wonderful way to kick off the weekend of honoring and cherishing the lovely bride.

Part 3 of the party took place at Marynia’s home, where we (in theory) all drove in a timely manner to watch a movie and drink margaritas… but Bailey, Christina, Johanna, and I made the unfortunate decision to take 35 North, where we sat on the highway for at least half an hour, causing everyone else to delay the movie! Oops!

Regrettably, I don’t think anyone took a single picture during the whole bachelorette party! But that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t memorable! (It just makes for wonky blog formatting, oops)

On Friday, I somehow slept until noon! (At the time I was thrilled that I had finally gotten so much sleep a week after my transatlantic flight, but later, this would prove problematic.) I woke up to Ali informing me that everyone would be meeting for lunch soon–as soon as we could all decide on a restaurant. [this part felt like college again. No one can ever decide much to the distress of this choleric.] After a lovely lunch at Hula Hut on Lake Travis, our little group congregated back at Ali’s house to catch up, go jogging (just kidding, only Bailey did that) and eventually get dressed for the rehearsal!

Mission accomplished (partly)

Mission accomplished (partly)

But first: Johanna and I crashed the men’s trip to Addie Roy to pick up the organ they’d be using for the wedding! I just wanted to see the progress of the brand new Schoenstatt Shrine they’re building out there, but it turns out that wearing a white dress to a construction site is maybe a bit ill-advised. Regardless, the menfolk got the organ loaded into a truck and on its way to the chapel, with many thanks to Johanna and myself, I’m sure. 😉 And the shrine looks BEAUTIFUL!

The reunions continued at the church (the chapel at Niki’s high school out in Westlake): college friends served as groomsmen, ushers, and altar servers! The rehearsal was very… thorough… and the chapel was warm… a sign of things to come! But alas, we made it through, and resolved all issues regarding where to stand, when to bow (hint: ALWAYS bow), and whether all the bridesmaids would fit in the first row (we did). And then we were off to Maggianos for dinner and for me to reunite with this guy:

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Eating Italian food while catching up with good friends in a fancy ballroom and watching a slideshow of embarrassing pictures of the bride and groom can’t be bad, right? Right.

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Bailey, Ali, the lovely bride, myself, and Johanna. AKA the “vintage girls”–we’ve been together since freshman year at UT!

Resisting the temptations of an invite to Rainey St., we bridesmaids retired to Ali’s house to watch Say Yes to the Dress (which has a new version totally devoted to the progress of one [inevitably terrible] couple’s wedding, apparently) and go to sleep at a normal hour. Which we all did. And then I didn’t sleep. All night. And then it was 8:30 AM and it was time to drink some coffee, grab our bridesmaid gear, and head to the Bridal Headquarters to get this party started!!

I hadn’t been in a bridal party since exactly 20 years previous, when I was a 3-year-old flower girl in my Aunt Patti’s wedding, so the craziness of the bride’s house the day of was kind of new to me. Brothers and brothers-in-law rushing to Party City last minute for balloons; everyone getting their hair and makeup done, convincing each other to have another bagel or a cup of tea, and soothing crying babies; the bride printing out programs and handing them off to a competent assembly line for folding, hole punching, ribbon tying, and insert stuffing… the most fun kind of insanity.

Half of the bridesmaids are ready!

Half of the bridesmaids are ready to go! [Johanna, Bailey, Ali, and myself, for the viewers at home]

And finally, everyone was ready, or ready enough, and we headed for the church! We girls got dressed in some offices in the school building across from the chapel. Occasionally we’d see members of the men’s contingent out in the hallway and have to shove Niki around the corner so they wouldn’t be able to see her in all her bridal glory…

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(With a nice view of my hair, there, on the left)

And she was glorious!

We had time for a quick prayer all together, led by Marynia (chosen because she would be able to be both “deep and efficient”), and we, sans bride, headed into the church to join the congregation in singing the litany of saints before everything kicked off.

And then we processed. Despite my practice-walking, I did stumble slightly on my dress on my first step… but recovered! It was hot in that church in floor-length navy polyester, let me tell you. [James, who was an usher, informed us that he and Ryan, the other usher, stood at the back the whole mass and “just watched the thermostat rise.”] And someone, probably the aforementioned ushers, didn’t put programs in the bridal party row… so we were lost during the confusing Gloria setting and all the hymns!

But EVEN THAT did not take anything away from the absolute beauty of that wedding mass. The homily by Fr. Brian was thought-provoking and beautiful (a funeral homily, actually, but he pulled it off), the music was simple and gorgeous, and the marriage ceremony was perfect. Especially fitting were the vows: as one could predict, Io was incredibly emotional as he said his part… and then Niki came in in a perfect stage voice 😉 Very them. 

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I remember thinking during Communion… wow! It’s over already? I can only imagine how fast it flies during one’s own wedding! The joy and love just carry you through the ceremony.

After re-hydrating back in the school building, taking an effective and efficient number of family/official/wedding party photos in the church, and driving to the reception site, the wedding party was introduced at the Marriott! My partner, Marynia’s husband/Niki’s brother-in-law, James, was the tallest member of the bridal party, but I held my own in my 4-inch heels.

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This wedding truly was a Polish-Filipino affair, as advertised by the title of this post 😉 Niki, Io, and their families seamlessly integrated traditions from both cultures into the day. For instance, Io’s parents escorted him down the aisle before the Mass in keeping with the Filipino culture’s more predominant role of the groom, and after the ring exchange both sets of parents performed the imposition of the veil and lasso, an Hispanic tradition also used in the Philippines. And at the beginning of the reception, the Polish welcoming was used: guests threw/bestowed money on the newlyweds (their first money as a couple), and the parents of the bride presented them with bread, that they may never know hunger, and salt, that their lives may have flavor.

Then the ceremonial dances… Io and Niki danced to Ben Rector: (My first time hearing this song was actually at a Ben Rector concert with both Io and Niki, a few months before they got engaged, and they got really excited when he played it 😉 I wonder why…)

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Niki and her dad danced to Sunrise, Sunset from Fiddler on the Roof, and Io surprised his mom with Isn’t She Lovely. Both pairs could really dance! I know Niki’s family pretty well, but it was really sweet and wonderful to “get to know” both families during the weekend at the various events and through the fathers’ toasts at the wedding.

I mean, we all know how wedding receptions work at this point, right? Eating, drinking, general merriment, dancing… the dancing in particular was very lively! I was worried about my high heels and my too-long dress, but in the end, it worked out fine! Of course I had the best wedding date, and although Daniel and I hadn’t really danced together for over a year, we were able to bust out some decent two-step, cha-cha, and polka skills. I was very impressed by our polka, I must say. The Poles know how to party, and we kept up! 😉

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It’s not a secret that I had been really, really excited about this wedding for a really long time. The chance to catch up with so many wonderful friends, in such a joyous atmosphere, after being gone for so long was so. much. fun. Our table was Johanna, Bailey, and me, six of our best guy friends from college, and Fr. Brian, who celebrated the Mass. It was awesome swapping Canonization/World Youth Day stories with Daniel and James, laughing at Io’s dad’s crazy toast with all the guys, and looking forward to Justin and Johanna’s wedding next year!

My gentleman friends at our awesome table... Ryan, Daniel (me) and James

My gentleman friends at our awesome table… Ryan, Daniel, (me), and James. And James’ shirt.

At toast time, the DJ opened up the floor for people to offer some remarks (advice, nostalgia, well wishes) to the happy couple. James and I both debated saying something, but were edged out by time constraints. So instead we did this: wedding1

No regrets!

There are no pictures of this yet, but at some point a few members of the wedding party snuck down in the garage to decorate Niki’s car, in which we “sent off” the couple at the end of the night… even though they were staying in the hotel where the reception had taken place. We labeled Io as “whipped” on the driver’s side and Niki as the “ol’ ball & chain” on the passenger’s side. And, the piéce de résistance, on the windshield: “To boldly go where no man has gone before.”

I keep thinking of fun things from the reception: the “grand march” around the ballroom, dancing to “Love Shack,” someone not knowing that “Twist and Shout” is by the Beatles, so many fun line dances (The Wobble! Copperhead Road!! I love Texas), the 4-year-old who was intent on dancing (very violently) with every bridesmaid, getting the bride and groom up on chairs for the Horah… the list goes on. It was such a fun time with some of the people I love the most.

But probably one of the most beautiful sights came the next morning, after everyone dragged themselves out of bed before 9 to go to Mass at the Cathedral. We took up half of the church, y’all, between the bride’s family, the groom’s family, the couple themselves, and those of us friends who came out. Niki kept saying afterwards, “I can’t believe this many people love us so much!” The joy of the wedding day isn’t the end, it’s just the beginning. I can’t wait to experience the joy that Io, Niki, and their new family bring to all of us in the future 🙂

my blog title and what it means now that i’m back

I started this blog about 3 1/2 years ago now, just before my 20th birthday and just before I left for my first ever experience in Germany, when I studied abroad for half a year in Freiburg. I finagled with the name for a long time, trying to get something clever or partially in German and came up short. So I settled for a little lyric snippet from one of my favorite songs at the time, which continues to be near to my heart.

It’s from “Ought to Be” by Audrey Assad, a little song from her first album which I love very much. She wrote it for her husband, but as she is a Catholic singer it is often read from a spiritual/religious perspective, which still works. I like it because it speaks to the experience of learning, and learning to love. It resonates with me in my youth, but I suspect it also has meaning to people who are older, because who has perfected the art of loving?

A sample of the lyrics, including my humble blog title:

“It may not be clear as the morning yet, it may not be strong as the restless seas

And it may not be red as the roses yet; it may not be strong as the old oak trees

But love planted deeply becomes what it ought to,

And hearts given freely become what they ought to

Love planted deeply becomes what it ought to be.”

At the time, I liked this lyric and this song because I didn’t know where I was going or what I was supposed to do, but I had faith that if I continued with faith and love that my life would become something beautiful. And I think that’s still true, but I also think that the meaning of that little poetic sentiment has come true in a lot of ways I wouldn’t have expected… life imitating art or something like that.

The differences between myself at 23 years old and myself at barely 20 years old… how do I even begin to understand them? I’m a totally different person now. I have a much better idea of where I want to be in life, professionally, personally, spiritually, etc. Many of these things, I have found or determined based on a lot of faith and trust in God’s love and the love of others.

When I made my Covenant of Love in October 2012, the personal ideal I found was actually very similar to the ideas in the song… staying firm and rooted in God’s love as a way of truly finding myself and becoming generous, loving, and all the attributes I aspire to. And I think that’s borne fruit in a lot of areas of my life. So I guess it’s fitting that the blog still has this title 3 years later, because there are still things I can learn from it.

Anyway, that being said, what place does this blog have going forward, now that I’m not in Europe and I don’t have exciting trips and foreign experiences to blog about all the time? I will admit that I leaned heavily on travel posts last year, partially out of cultural sensitivity due to who I knew was reading the blog, partially out of mental tiredness, partially out of what seemed the most interesting to write about.

I think I will continue to post about new things that I experience, and in general whatever thoughts, patterns, or ideas I think need telling. I am moving this week to a new part of the country where I’ve never lived and starting a new chapter of my life, and who says that’s less noteworthy than living abroad? I guess I’ll take some cues from what I experience and what I’m drawn to write about the most as I figure out how this blog thing will work from now on.

I’m excited!! Yay for new chapters. I’m glad I can take my faraway family/friends and readers along on some kind of journey as it begins…

a year in review

I can’t even believe how quickly this year has passed. As you read this, I’m on the long journey home: Prague -> Warsaw -> Chicago -> Houston. So if you could say a quick prayer for uneventful travel and no delays, that would be wonderful!!

I spent 10 1/2 months living in Dresden, and each one of those months… each day, really, was an amazing adventure and I am privileged to have had this opportunity. As always, when looking back, it’s hard to decide whether the time flew past or crawled by… in some ways, it seems as if I were just yesterday being picked up by my host dad at the Dresden airport, but in some ways that seems like thirty years ago.

To make sense of the time, and to reminisce a bit at the end of my stay, I’ve compiled some of my favorite memories from the year!

Continue reading

bucket list

Here’s what I’ve been up to during my last few weeks, trying to soak in all the Dresden fun before I leave!

DSC06648Filmnächte am Elbufer! For all of July and August, the city of Dresden presents movies on this huge screen right along the Elbe. (That’s where I watched the Germany-Algeria game as well as the WM final!) Felicitas and I went to go see Prisoners, that movie with Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal that I knew would be too intense for me when I saw the preview. Turns out, it was too intense for us! So we left early. And I had nightmares. 

Soccer! I never got to a game last season, but luckily (?) since the Dresden Dynamo moved down to the 3rd Bundesliga this year, I was able to catch their very first game! It was an… interesting experience. Imagine a Texas A&M football game with the energy of Oakland Raiders fans. But they won!

Going to the cathedral when possible, as I really love it there and will miss it! Here we see the tail end of Thursday adoration, my last one. 

DSC06665Bidding farewell to friends. Adri, in the middle, is a fellow DAAD scholarship holder from Mexico. She cooked Felicitas and myself a delicious Mexican feast, which we enjoyed on this balcony with a fairly average view:DSC06663Overlooking the Stadtmuseum with a view of the Frauenkirche (hidden behind the tree on the left). Not too shabby!

DSC06658Abschiedsfeier! Felicitas and I had a little get-together of some friends where we grilled out in a park near our apartments! It really fun and we’re so appreciative of all the lovely people who came out to wish us well before we leave!

DSC06675 DSC06670 DSC06669Swimming in the Elbe! This was really fun. I may go back one more time before Thursday…

DSC06683Museums! We went with Daniela to the Militärhistorisches Museum (a statue outside of which is pictured above). Not pictured: us getting caught in the rain on our way to dinner and getting completely soaked! Later this week I’m hoping to get an appointment to see the Historisches Grünes Gewolbe museum exhibit in the palace, the last of the palace exhibits I haven’t seen!

last week in the WG with a view

It’s hard to believe I only have a few days left here! As the week starts, I wanted to share a photo project I’ve been working on: the views from my apartment through the year! I present: Die Vier Jahreszeiten.

West (from our balcony):

AutumnWinterSpringSummer

East (from my window):

2013-10-22-05-37-26DSC03946DSC04937One day after I took this shot, landscaping crews cut down a whole slew of those trees, leading to the final “summer” view, or what my view is at this very moment, which really underscores the reality check of living abroad.DSC06649Come to Germany! Then you, too, can experience the joy of being woken up not only by the beautiful bells of this church every morning, but also the sounds of a garage being demolished right outside your window!

Enjoying my last week! You’ll hear from me a few more times, I believe 🙂

EDIT: Check out how cool this is!!

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today’s nerdy thoughts: the mixed blessing of flexibility

I just got back from my last meeting (or, as it could accurately be called, my fourth meeting) with my main research advisor for the year. I went into the meeting with a bit of resentment, as she did not respond a month ago when I sent her my full rough draft, and a bit of anxiety, as I always dread getting feedback about my writing. But I came out of our conversation with a renewed sense of optimism and opportunity! Here’s why.

For my whole academic career, I’ve always been a bit jealous of the future engineers, businesspeople, etc. who had a very clear path: XYZ classes during college, a summer internship with ABC company, and hopefully a job offer for after graduation. A discrete check-list to fulfill and check off, and a quantifiable plan to follow.

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As a future social scientist/writer/consultant person in a nebulous field, I never had that (especially before but even after I had a clear area of interest). My summer internships and jobs have all been somewhat random and, if a full-time offer ever came from them (which never happened), it wouldn’t result in a job I’d be qualified for or even want to have. But I have been slowly accumulating skills along the way, skills which will hopefully be helpful to me once I am launched on the right path. And I have had, and hope to have in the future, a lot more control over molding these opportunities to fit my interests, lifestyle, and goals.

The way I’ve thought about this year’s research opportunity has been much the same. It would have been much clearer and easier to work in a professor’s lab, do the daily tasks, and write a research report at the end of each week or month. But instead, I had the very nebulous task of creating my own research project, finding sources, conducting interviews, and creating some kind of meaning or result out of it all. While working under the advisement of professors whose focus area isn’t even close to what I’ve been studying. And with the vague idea that my topic (flood management in Dresden) isn’t exactly what I want to do in the long run, anyway.

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So, sometimes it was stressful. But today, after talking with my professor, I was able to see some of the wonderful fruits that will eventually come from creating my own opportunities and taking the road less traveled to my someday career. While this year’s research topic may not be the subject of my life’s work, I chose something important, current, and applicable that almost no one has researched yet. My paper tackles themes that relate to almost any question of environmental or natural research management, whether or not it is related to flooding or Germany at all.

In the more immediate scope of things, it’s possible that I can work with someone at Wisconsin to rework parts of my paper for publication. My professor also threw out the possibility of continuing to work on the topic together! In particular, one thing that my study has always been missing, which I simply couldn’t fit into a 10-month time frame, is raw data from some sort of census or poll of Dresden residents about their flood experiences.

She suggested the idea that she and some of her colleagues could conduct some such poll, and then use that data to expound upon the work I’ve already done. Which is actually really exciting! I had never actually considered that the dinky, self-guided research I’ve been doing could be my “way in” to real academic circles!

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We also discussed the “bigger picture” themes that are included in my research: top-down versus bottom-up decision making in communities, resilience to natural disasters, citizen participation, and hard versus soft implements in natural resource management, all of which are applicable beyond just flood management and in other geographic areas than Germany. So my experience this year has broadened my mind and got me thinking about themes that will be important no matter what I decide to do in the future.

But something my professor also pointed out is that my main interests and experience in my past research tend to skew towards regional comparison, which could lead to some exciting opportunities in the future: learning lessons from researching one area or scenario, and being the person to apply that knowledge to another situation in a practical way. That’s exciting to me.

Thinking about all these things actually got me thinking about a potential writing project I could start in the future! Even though writing has always been my one talent, I have never really been all that inspired to write for anything besides school, or this silly blog I suppose. So it’s weird to say that this is an oddly new prospect.

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I would never be able to consider something as daunting and nebulous as “writing” if I had ever been on a really clear professional track, so in the end, I am very grateful that I have been able to seek out my own opportunities and define my own path, even though it gets messy and frustrating sometimes.

Anyway. Just a sort of wrap-up update about the intellectual side of my experience. Accompanied by some photos from a walk along the Elbe, my main intellectual pursuit during this year!

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freiburg (with a strasbourg bonus)

Well folks, this is my last travel post! How did we get here? [how the hell? Pan left…] I had about 10 different plans back in October of how I would get back to Freiburg, and in the end I went my second-to-last weekend in Europe, but better late than never! I brought Felicitas along with me and hopefully did not annoy her too much with my constant wonderment at being back.

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And because we procrastinated in finding a hostel/apartment/hotel, we weren’t able to find anywhere in Freiburg for Saturday night. So, we decided to go to Strasbourg for the evening before going our separate ways on Sunday, myself back to Dresden and Flitzi to visit her grandparents in Wiesbaden. It all worked out wonderfully!

We had an early flight from Dresden to Stuttgart on Friday morning and then took a series of regional trains to Freiburg, which took about 4 hours because there isn’t anything direct! Which is a bit ridiculous, but anyway, we made it there by 2 PM. Our hostel was very basic but had an amazing location right off the Dreisam (technically a river, apparently, but more like a creek), adjacent to the Schlossberg hill which overlooks the city. We saw some of the sites as we walked to the hostel, and I began my 24 hours of marveling at how time and memory work.

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I was in Freiburg three years ago. I’m a totally different person now than I was when I left. I’ve spent so much time thinking about Freiburg and missing it and reminiscing about it. And then to be back… it was like no time had passed, but like an eternity had elapsed since I was last there. It’s strange. But in all, it was nice to be back. We’ll leave it at that.

Because we were so nearby, we climbed the Schlossberg first, taking in fabulous views like this one:

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And I recreated some old photos from last time:

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We tried to find the overlook tower but somehow failed, so we descended into the city, bought some bottled water before we died of thirst, and started meandering the familiar (to me) streets.

By the time we got there, the Münster market had mostly already closed and packed up for the day, and we got to briefly see the inside of the cathedral but there was Mass happening so we couldn’t stay for long. After a quick trip to dip our feet in the Dreisam and an even quicker “tour” of the university, we stopped at my very favorite restaurant, Euphrat, a middle eastern place owned by an Afghani family. I ate there close to every day while I lived in Freiburg and I have dreamed (dreamt?) of their food ever since. And it did not disappoint my memory!

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We enjoyed a scoop of ice cream near the theater (which now serves as the end station of most of the tram lines due to major construction in the city center) and jumped on a tram up to my old abode, StuSie. I do not have fond memories of StuSie (my dorm was disgusting and I didn’t have many friends there to speak of), but one good thing about it was always its proximity to the Seepark, a gorgeous park surrounding a huge lake. So that was our destination for the evening.

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My only regret: that I forgot my swimsuit in Dresden!!! It would have been so refreshing to take a dip.

OH!! One other thing I got to check off my Freiburg bucket list–sitting on the Blaue Brücke, a bridge over the train tracks. All the cool kids go sit on the top of the bridge and drink beer, and i never got to do it… until this time! It was incredibly terrifying but hey. I did it. (Minus the beer. Whatever.)

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On Saturday morning, we rented bikes from our hostel first thing so we’d be able to use them all day, and first stopped for breakfast near the university at my favorite bakery, Ihr Backshop. They’d renovated since I was last there, but the pastries are still just as delicious. After making a quick stop at the post office to buy stamps, we set out for our first destination of the morning: the Schönstatt shrine in Merzhausen!

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I seriously wish I had visited the shrine more often when I actually lived in Freiburg! It’s in an absolutely beautiful location, and to be honest I was in a place mentally and spiritually back then that could seriously have benefitted from some more time spent chilling with the Blessed Mother. It was fun being back there and telling Felicitas a little bit about Schönstatt (not easy to do, but she was a great “student”). It was great to be able to re-center myself in a familiar place and hopefully receive some graces as I go through a huge transition in returning home and then moving again!

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One fun bonus: there were blackberry brambles all over the place with ripe fruit!! While we were in Merzhausen we filled up a whole tupperware container with delicious blackberries, which we continued to refill throughout the day as we saw more bushes.

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We cruised back into town, parked our bikes near the Augustiner (it’s a chore to walk them on cobblestone, and foot traffic was way too heavy to ride through the streets) and headed for the Münster and market, which we hadn’t yet seen!

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We did a quick loop through the Münster, which was packed with tourists, before spending some time perusing the market. It’s absolutely insane to me how big the daily market is in Freiburg. Every day with dozens of stands selling fruit, vegetables, flowers, herbs, meat, spices, toys, souvenirs… It’s so lively and fun! I spotted a vendor with some tea that we loved when I brought it as a hostess gift to Krakow, so I bought a satchel of it to bring home 🙂

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Euphrat had been so delicious the day before that we opted to eat there for lunch, this time ordering wraps to-go which we ate sitting along the Bächle.

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We continued meandering through the streets, taking in the unique medieval-but-modern charm (and wondering to ourselves how it could be so different from Dresden, yet in the same country!), and I insisted that we stop at the Feierling brewery Biergarten. Felicitas doesn’t drink beer, so I ordered a solitary half-liter because I’m only in Germany for two more weeks and I need to enjoy it while I can! 😉

Hmm, sorry for all the indulgent pictures of myself... my  blog, my rules.

Hmm, sorry for all the indulgent pictures of myself… my blog, my rules.

With our time winding down until we had to fetch our things from the hostel and head to the train station to catch our bus, we headed again for the Dreisam. It was amazing to spend some time relaxing, wading in the shallow but frigid water, and enjoying the fact that nature and city can coexist so closely! It really is beautiful there.

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The next thing we knew, we were on a bus to Strasbourg, and before long, we were standing in France! Against all odds, we made it to our hotel (we had a private room AND bathroom. LUXURY), changed and freshened up quickly, and walked to the famous Strasbourg cathedral for Saturday night vigil Mass.

Normally I highly endorse going to Mass at beautiful churches to avoid entrance fees and get the authentic experience, but in this case it was literally the only way that Felicitas and I were both going to make it to Mass. Mission accomplished! Luckily we had read the readings ahead of time so we kind of knew what was happening. We did get to have a little fun making up our own words to the Mass parts.

It turns out that things in Strasbourg are expensive, especially food. Luckily, we did happen to stumble upon a restaurant/brewery that was un-touristy enough to only have a French menu and seemed to mainly cater to students and young people. Ergo, affordable Alsatian food for all!

Flammkuchen and beer

Flammkuchen and beer

Strasbourg is a beautiful city, you guys. I’d been there with my mom at the very beginning of my 2011 European adventures, but that was before I really became a conscientious traveler and I hardly remember anything except seeing the astronomical clock and dancing apostles at the cathedral (which, incidentally, was out of order this time due to construction). I don’t recall much else! But it’s gorgeous. Surrounded by a canal from the Rhine, the city has so many beautiful bridges which were even more gorgeous this time of year because of the flowers they’re decorated with!

DSC06549Not to mention stunning gothic architecture and lots of German-style Fachwerk houses.

We got to see a lot of the city in the short time we had by taking a boat tour. It was a little oddly-paced, and at some points we were really low and couldn’t see much that the tour recording was telling us about. Regardless, it was a good choice because we got to see and learn so much in a short period of time.

A few quick facts (with not many accompanying photos because most of our tour was after nightfall and the photos I attempted to take were awful):

  • Strasbourg is part of Alsace-Lorraine, the contested territory between France and Germany. It’s gone back and forth so much, but the truth is that it’s its own distinct region with aspects of French and German culture, architecture, language, etc.
  • Strasbourg is the seat of the EU Capital, which I had no idea about until this weekend! We got to see all of the parliamentary and official buildings, which were stunningly modern and striking, especially at night!
  • It is really awkward to sit in a tour boat both in front of and behind incredibly amorous couples.
  • During the summer, they have light projection shows on the Vauban Barrage (one of the city’s important landmarks) and the cathedral. We got to catch both!

On Sunday morning, I walked Felicitas to the train station as she left for Wiesbaden and I bought my ticket to the airport for later that afternoon. I spent the rest of the day walking around and seeing parts of the town I hadn’t gotten to the day before, taking photos, getting caught in the rain, going inside to cafés and restaurants and paying too much money to avoid the rain, and writing postcards.

Here are some photo highlights!

On the water at dusk

On the water at dusk (that church is not the cathedral)

Before Mass shot!

Before Mass shot! (That church is the cathedral)

Detail shot of the cathedral

Detail shot of the cathedral

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The Covered Bridge, one of Strasbourg’s signature sites, once used as an armory. Cathedral in the background!

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Casually donning an Alsacian costume and headdress

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I would say something meaningful here about this being my last trip of the year, but I’m just as tired and burnt out writing about it as I was at the end of the actual trip. So I guess I’ll just include a little taste of my next destination….

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