there’s really no way to reach me, ’cause i’m already gone

The International Club here at the University of Freiburg is a pretty big deal. One thing they do is host Studitours, trips around Europe, for students. I decided to join the group going to Vienna, Austria this past weekend. After the initial sticker shock (I had to pay 220 Euro up front), I started to get pretty excited about it, because I hadn’t been to Austria at all yet and didn’t know when I’d have the chance to get there on my own. Then, I started to get scared, because I didn’t know anyone else going… my friend who first suggested the trip had to drop out due to a prior commitment. Ahhh!

Luckily, everything turned out fantastically. The price ended up being way worth it (it covered transportation, hostels, and entrance to a few of the attractions we saw during the course of the weekend), I got to go to one of my favorite cities I’ve visited yet, and I met some pretty awesome people in the process!

(A few of them are Canadians who go to York University in Toronto. I worked with a few Yorkies last summer, and because of this I know their whole fight song. Turns out York students are normally not very school spirited so I actually knew more of the chant than they did… I think I scared them. U U Y-U Y-U! U U Y-U Y-U!!!!)

The one bummer about this trip was the long bus ride. We left at about 7:30 PM on Wednesday night (Thursday was a holiday) and got to Vienna at about 6 the next morning; on the way back we did about the same thing. This is a horrible time for a bus ride, but at least we didn’t waste 24 hours of daylight in a bus.

Some of the highlights of the trip: a walking tour of the city, a (very touristy and probably overpriced) Mozart concert in the hall where young Wolfgang gave his first concert at age 6, Donauinselfest, authentic Wienerschnitzel, Mozart’s grave, a tour of Schönbrunn palace and gardens, Sachentorte at a Viennese coffeehouse, the Austrian National Library, and several delicious Radlers.

The city itself was beautiful, albeit a bit under construction at the present. Of all the cities I’ve seen, it seems to be the most architecturally “together”, if that makes sense… all the buildings have this majestic, imperial feel to them, not just the ones who were actually once imperial. The Opera House was gorgeous, as expected, the palaces (the Hofburg especially) and the “ring” of current government buildings were imposing and grandiose, and the cobblestone streets are filled with horse-drawn carriages.

My first night there, Thursday, some of us decided to try to go to the Opera. Looking back, I think we may have been duped into believing that there weren’t any standing-room tickets left, so we ended up going to a string quartet concert performing pieces by Mozart and Strauss. It was great nonetheless, and a good alternative to the planned amusement-park activity, since it rained the whole evening.

The Schönbrunn tour Friday morning was great. It was smaller than some of the other palaces I’ve been to, but what I really loved about it was how authentically the rooms were decorated and displayed. We were also entertained by this hilarious Asian tourist family who insisted on taking pictures, which was strictly forbidden, and hence got chewed out by the guards several times, responding each time, “I just learned! I just learned!” The gardens were really beautiful, too, and my new friend Ashley and I also ventured up to the top of the Gloriette, a huge arch built by Maria Theresia during her reign, to take in the view and take some goofy pictures.

During some down-time, I decided to walk around a bit by myself, which is always one of my favorite things about traveling… just seeing where the city takes me. I ended up in St. Stephan’s Cathedral, thinking I could catch a 6 PM Mass, only to find that the schedule had been changed because of an ordination! I just happened to walk in right during the laying on of hands, which was pretty awesome. I came back like an hour later just to see the church and caught the end of the Mass, so I was able to see all the new priests processing out and greeting their well-wishers. It was incredible. And the church itself was beautiful.

Friday night, we attended Donauinselfest, a GINORMOUS music festival on the island in the middle of the Danube River (hence the name). I don’t think any of us expected it to be such a big deal. From the information I’d been given about the festival beforehand, I was just expecting some sort of reggae concert. Which would have been cool. But when we got there, we discovered that it was, in fact, a huge deal, with more than 20 stages and carnival food of every sort and SO MANY PEOPLE EVERYWHERE. When I picked up a program and started flipping through it, one of the band names was familiar… Train. I love Train. I have loved train since I was like 10 years old. At first I was like, “Nooo, no way are they here at this random music festival in Vienna,” but decided to go over to Stage 6 anyway. We got there right in time to hear the announcers introduce the next “Grammy award winning” band (at which point I realized that it actually was the correct band) and for me to go completely crazy because they played one of my favorite songs as their opener. I may have scared some of the completely nonchalant Austrians around me. But that’s ok because I got to see Train live. FOR FREE. And I got to hear Pat Monahan try to speak German to the crowd. So awesome.

On Saturday, I went with a few girls from our group to the Austrian National Library, which really was a highlight of my entire trip to Europe. It was absolutely beautiful, and the museum exhibit set up inside, which details the history of the Austrian Empire, was awesome. I really can’t explain what made it so cool. So don’t take my word for it, you should totally go yourself if you ever get the chance.

Mozart’s grave was quite anticlimactic, but walking through such an old cemetery was certainly thought-provoking. The way I see it, the deaths of the people buried there cease to be sad, but rather historic; the overgrown vegetation throughout gave it kind of a romantic, “Secret Garden” type look, too. Seeing the grave triggered some thoughts about the course of history, too–the fact that it’s even possible that a man whom we now regard as a genius was penniless at the time of his death and thrown in a mass pauper’s grave, and now we have to guess whereabouts he was probably buried in order to honor him.

We ended the trip on a tasty note–first, at a Viennese coffee house (not overhyped at all!!! SO AWESOME) partaking in their trademark chocolate cake, Sachertorte, and then dinner: Wienerschnitzel as big as your face. Quite delicious, if I do say so myself.

This was my one of my last big trips during my time in Europe. Kind of bittersweet–but overall I absolutely loved my time in Vienna. I’m in Freiburg for the next 2 weekends, which, frankly, I am stoked about! Tonight I’m headed to a bonfire/barbecue in honor of the Feast of St. John the Baptist (which was a few days ago… but whatevs!) and tomorrow I’m celebrating Canada Day!

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big, old, and important: perugia and rome

Hello friends! Before I start this post telling you about my trip to Italy, I’d like to begin with some random facts so that you can be informed about my current life status as well.

First, this morning on the way to class, I had what I think is my favorite pastry I’ve tried since I’ve gotten to Europe. This is a monumental event… I’ve spent money on some real dud pastries, but this one was DELICIOUS! Strawberry and rhubarb in the lightest, most flaky pastry ever. Yum.

Second, yesterday I went to the bookstore and bought “Everything is Illuminated.” I know I’m like 8 years late, and I’m only one chapter in, but OH EM GEE is it good!

Third, I am currently listening to Train’s latest album. Again, I know I am quite behind with this one, but I am convinced that they really can do no wrong. Love it.

OK, now on to bigger, older, and more important things. Like my trip to Italy!

When I planned my Rome trip a few months ago, I was just planning on going alone (which, in hindsight, would have been awful), so the dates of my trip didn’t match up with the dates of my travel buddies’. So instead of staying in Rome the first night, I took the train to Perugia, about 3 hours north of Rome, to stay with Melissa.

Perugia is a little city on a hill in the region of Umbria, about 30 minutes from Assisi. The views are incredible because, you know, it’s on a hill, and this region of Italy is especially breathtaking… cute houses built into the hillsides, rolling landscapes, blue skies… gorgeous. Melissa took me on a little tour around the city to the different viewpoints, and also pointed out two of the churches in Perugia, both of which are on the list of “ugliest churches in Italy.” The Dom looked like a barn. Too funny.

Since it was Melissa’s and her roommates’ last night in Perugia, they had planned on going to a restaurant that none of them had ever been to, but which is apparently quite renowned within the city. Its name is literally “the room of lost time,” and it consists of probably 5 tables and one old Italian woman who hand-makes all of the food. A meal there takes about 2 hours, if you’re lucky and it’s not crowded. Fortunately, we were the only people there when we first arrived, so our meal wasn’t extremely time-consuming; rather, it was relaxed and leisurely and so fun. We shared wine and ate bruschetta and delicious pasta and I listened to the girls reminisce about their semester. It was really interesting to catch them at the very end of their study abroad experience, when I’m just beginning mine.

Continuing with the “last night in Perugia” theme, everyone planned on going out to the street of bars in the city center later that night. That was quite an experience… it was basically a whole bunch of American students cramming into a tiny little bar buying drinks and then heading out into the street (because of the lack of open container law! Again… weird!). This was apparently one of the tamer nights in Perugia, because everyone was saying good-bye to each other and “wanted to actually remember it.” Haha. The best thing about Perugia nightlife, I have to say, is the amazing marketing strategy of one of the local bakeries. This place starts baking pastries at 1:30 AM, so it opens up shop for all the students coming from the bars to buy croissants or donuts for a Euro. Apparently this is somewhat frowned-upon by the authorities, so the American students call them “secret pastries.” I must say, they were delicious and a good way to end the night.

A night on the town in Perugia... craaayzay. Also--check out my purple shirt! My best friend and I each have one, and we both agreed to wear it that day even though we're on different continents. I know, cute.

The next morning, we watched the Royal Wedding while Melissa finished packing up her stuff to head to Rome. After a small mishap with our tickets (don’t worry, we ended up finding them!) we just barely made our train and were off! One thing I’ve noticed on my train travels is that each country has characteristic colors to its landscape… Germany, or at least the area through which I’ve traveled, is green, yellow, and blue. Italy is much more brown: the greens and yellows of the trees and grass are browner, and all the houses are brown, too. And there are red wildflowers! Beautiful. (I like colors, ok? I’m weird.)

The Rome Metro was a shock at first, because of how dirty/crowded/big-city it is. We barely fit on the train with our luggage… I think I almost smothered a baby with my ginormous backpack. But once we were out of the Metro, I was able to take in the true beauty of the city. It was an absolutely perfect day. We sat outside and ate some bruschetta, because we had missed lunch due to the aforementioned ticket debacle and it wasn’t late enough for dinner, and enjoyed the amazing weather.

We then attempted to walk to the Trevi Fountain, considering that we had gotten off the Metro at the Trevi Fountain stop, but apparently it was “too complicated” for our waiter to give Melissa directions to get there (what?!), so instead we followed some signs to the Spanish Steps. I wasn’t expecting much from the Steps, because let’s be honest… it’s a staircase. But it really was beautiful! The whole thing was decked out with pink and purple flowers, the sky was sapphire blue, and there were people milling about everywhere… it was charming.

The view FROM the Spanish Steps... I know, I decided to shake it up a bit. Check out those beautiful flowers and the huge crowd! Love it!

At that point, we went to meet Monica near the Colosseum so we could check into our apartment and finally get rid of our luggage. It was really something to step out of the Coliseo Metro stop and immediately see the huge Colosseum. Only in Rome, man. We got to see even more crazy ancient Roman sights en route to our apartment, which was really closer to Circus Maximus than it was to the Colosseum. Not only was it surreal to just casually walk past the ruins of Circus Maximus, but we were all reminded of the reason why we were in Rome on this specific weekend when we passed this huge group of nuns, walking almost procession-style. Crazy and AWESOME.

Check out all those sistas!

It was really cool to see priests and religious all over the place all weekend. One of the best instances was when, after a 10 minute conversation about the Milanese Rite versus the Roman Rite while walking through Rome, we turned around and discovered that a priest had been walking behind us. I wish he had joined in the conversation and/or told us how wrong all of our facts are, but he just wished us a good day and kept on walking.

After stopping at the ATM and dumping all our luggage at the apartment, our quest to find delicious pasta began. It didn’t take long, this is Rome, remember? We ate near the Trevi Fountain, and it was delicious. I am kind of thankful that I am not studying in Rome because I would weigh 500 pounds by August if I were. Then we did the obligatory touristy “throw the coin in over your shoulder” thing at the Trevi Fountain and had to fend off some awkward creepsters who wanted to take a picture with us, but then brushed off our rejection by pretending that they really wanted us to take a picture OF them. Yeah, right.

In this picture, I'm not actually throwing a coin... I used up the coin for the first picture, which didn't come out very well. And no way was I throwing away another .01 Euros!

Then the real fun began.  After buying some gelato for the road, we headed out on our nighttime exploration of the ruins. We just kind of bopped around the city… heading off in whatever direction seemed right, and especially heading towards buildings that looked “big, old, or important.” The whole tour was littered with embarrassing conversations which mostly consisted of none of us knowing what any of the buildings were, despite two of us receiving excellent educations from the esteemed University of Texas College of Liberal Arts. Luckily, the business student among us was resourceful with her knowledge and served as our tour guide, blessing us with wisdom like “Those are some really old Roman columns. And that big one is like the parent column of all the baby columns.” Thanks Melissa, couldn’t have done it without you! 😉

I was convinced that this was the Pantheon, but that is completely and totally incorrect. How embarrassing, hopefully Plan II will take me back in August

At first, I was a little bummed that I hadn’t gotten to see any of the ruins in the daylight, but it really was very cool at night. Everything was lit up, and the darkness and lack of crowds made it seem like we had just kind of stumbled upon all these cool old ruins… it didn’t seem like we were the 10,000th people this week to look at them. Which was kind of nice. I really did love seeing Rome spontaneously, without the help of a guidebook or anything like that, and with people who really made it fun. Even if my feet did hurt something fierce afterwards.

We finished up our serious and scholarly tour of all the sights of this old, important city by doing the only logical thing: attempting to drink out of the fountains. It did not end well.

Being that we were all exhausted, we headed back to the apartment and went to bed, knowing that the next day would be JAM PACKED with fun Vatican stuff. It was so jam-packed that I actually have to cut this post off here. I will report back, probably later today, with my account of our Vatican City adventures and the celebration of Pope Blessed John Paul II’s beatification!

And just because the title of this post reminds me of this song, and because I enjoy intertextuality and Ben Folds: here!

not all who wander are lost

Let me begin by telling you a bit about myself.

I fancy myself to be a pretty good writer.

I am a perfectionist and a romantic, especially when it comes to writing.

I am additionally quite verbose, if you haven’t noticed.

Until less than 12 hours ago, I didn’t have Internet in my room yet. (Sidenote: BUT I DO NOW!! Praise the Lord!)

and

I rarely save documents on my computer.

You may be wondering what these things have in common. It doesn’t seem like they fit together, but believe you me, they do.

See, I went on a grand Schwarzwald adventure last weekend, and I wanted to write an awesome post telling you about my experience and what I did and what I learned. So I did!

It was awesome, trust me. I interspersed pictures throughout, told you about my day on Sunday (which, in case you were wondering, included a museum with cuckoo clocks and regional art, a 10-km hike with one of the most beautiful views of my life, and a pretty church), connected some past life experiences to my Schwarzwald story, and then wrapped the whole thing up with a grand realization I made about Divine Providence. I was really proud of it. I couldn’t wait to post it, but I had to, because, you see, the Internet company has taken forever to get me connected.

As I told you, I rarely save documents on my computer, and if you have ever borrowed my computer and been horrified at how many windows I keep open at once, you can imagine that it gets a little overwhelming and confusing. This is the part of the story where tragedy strikes. Between the completion of the brilliant post and my next Internet trip to McDonalds, my computer decided to shut itself down. And delete my beautiful writing.

Undeterred, I sat down again and reproduced my original post, rather accurately, from memory.

And then my computer died again.

And so I gave up.

So instead, here are some pictures from my day on Sunday. First, I took a train and a bus to St. Märgen, a small provincial town built around and named after this monastery.

The monastery is now partially a museum. They have lots of cuckoo clocks there, because the cuckoo clock is native to this area of the Schwarzwald. Here’s one.

After I got bored of looking at cuckoo clocks, I headed out on the Panoramaweg, a trail through the forest and the hills.

The view was spectacular.

There were a couple little chapels along the way. They were pretty neat.

"Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us and grant us peace."

There were also a lot of passive-aggressive trail signs. Very funny, German sign writers.

"Man is good and the world is beautiful on holiday in the hills of the Black Forest. Don't forget to praise God for them and to throw away your trash!"

I determined that all forests, no matter where in the world they are, smell the same. And, to some extent, look the same.

This tree, specifically, reminded me of good ol' Big Sandy... activity trees, anyone? #Pinesonthemind

The Panoramaweg led me to St. Peter, another small monastery town. The inside of the church was beautiful!

It was nice to have a chance to sit down after all that hiking.

The kneelers were PADDED. Take note, other churches of Europe.

So there you go, friends. I apologize for the lack of deep thoughts, amusing childhood anecdotes, and romantic language. But really, if you use your imagination, this is almost as good.

Random fact of the day: iTunes rounds up when determining song lengths! Who knew? Now you do!

top five friday: the bear necessities

I didn’t bring too much here to Germany… enough to fill one suitcase, one backpack, and a little extra. There are some things, though, that I just had to bring.

  1. Pictures of friends: If you’ve ever been in my dorm room in Austin, this probably doesn’t surprise you. My favorite people’s faces make my room a little less depressing. After I put them all up in what I thought was a clever and fun design, I realized that it looked a little like an angry cat face, and so I also put up some prayer cards. Now the wall is full of my best friends on earth AND in heaven! Sweet! And also it doesn’t look like an angry cat face.
  2. My UBI rock: This is one of two UBI rocks I got from my two summers at Covecrest, a Life Teen summer camp in Tiger, Georgia and a place that is very close to my heart. The inscription, UBI, stands for “U are the best, B Happy, I love you.” Two special people I associate this rock with are my BFF Laura, who also went to Covecrest the second year I went (which is when we became BFFs), and my friend Andrea, because I gave her my second UBI rock when I was her angel for Longhorn Awakening 48. It can also be used as a paperweight so, you know… score!
  3. Verses auf Leben und Tod: This is kind of cheating because I bought it once I got here, but it turns out that it’s pretty hard to find German novels in America. This one’s pretty good so far. It was originally written in Hebrew and then translated to German, and it’s about the life and experiences of an author. My goal is to finish it by the time classes start… we’ll see.
  4. My Cubs blanket: When I was packing, I wasn’t certain that they would have a blanket here for me. (In retrospect, that was kind of a dumb thing for me to worry about.) But I sure am glad I brought my Cubbies blanket with me! I got it for Christmas from my Aunt Pam a few years ago. You know how some blankets are soft at first and then they pill and get less soft? That never happened with this one because it’s magical. Also, I hope it will help me feel connected to the baseball season this year even though I’m not able to follow my boys this year.
  5. Purple Teddy: Since he turned 18 recently, I decided that it was time for Purple Teddy to see the world. Besides, he would have been pretty upset with me if I’d left him at home to hang out with my cats while I was in Europe. I actually brought him with me instead of bringing my traveler’s pillow. Totally worth it. 

new passions

Apparently living in Freiburg has made me into a photographer. At least, it has made me think that I am a photographer by providing me with lots of beautiful things to photograph.

Also, I have found that I really miss two-stepping and Mexican food. I can just feel my eight-year-old Pennsylvanian self cringing at how much of a Texan I am. I get my country music fix by listening to Pat Green while I run, but when it comes to the Tex-Mex, I guess I’ll just have to ask someone to Fed-Ex me some queso.

der ausweis

So, I’m not particularly photogenic. It’s just a fact of life. And this isn’t a new phenomenon, either. I have here, as an exclusive publication of this blog, photographic evidence that I, Annie Lord, have been un-photogenic since at least the tender age of nine.

Come to think of it, this is kind of a winner of everyone. Kyle, if you're reading this, please accept my heartfelt apologies.

But recently, I’ve kind of been on a hot streak when it comes to identification photos. In fact, besides my driver’s license, most of my ID pictures are pretty decent! My passport picture actually looks like me, and I am super tan in my student ID picture, thanks to the fact that my freshman orientation was a few days after a week-long Caribbean cruise.

But that streak came to an abrupt halt yesterday.

A friend and I ventured downtown to finish all the paperwork we needed to have completed in order to matriculate at the university. For the final step of registration, we were each responsible for providing several passport-sized photos of ourselves. So we went to a photo booth in the city to take care of that step.

For some reason, I decided to wear my glasses yesterday. I almost never wear my glasses, but apparently I was really feelin’ them yesterday. Horrible decision. I figured that I should take off my glasses for the picture, since that’s normally what they have you do at the DPS to take license pictures.

The only problem was that I had no idea when the picture was actually being taken, because I couldn’t see a blessed thing. So the first two pictures were absolutely horrible. I decided to put on my glasses for my third (and final) chance, thinking that even though I’d be wearing glasses, at least I would look kind of normal.

FALSE.

The picture is TERRIBLE! And at this point, I had already paid 6 Euro for the print-outs, so I had no choice but to print out 5 copies of that baby. I have decided not to share this picture with all of the Internet, but I want you to have some kind of idea of how bad this picture truly was. So I attempted to replicate it with the Photobooth on my computer.

Behold: my identification photo according to the University of Freiburg.

This is not even an exaggeration. In fact, the real one is worse.

BUT IT GETS BETTER.

This morning, I headed down to the Rektorat to matriculate. I had all my paperwork, a copy of the horrible picture, and my registration money. So the guy at the table looks through all of my papers, staples some things, stamps some things, and asks if I have the second copy of my picture. Which of course I had left at my dorm. A ten minute train ride away.

FANTASTIC.

Luckily, there was a solution! There was a copy shop right around the corner where I could make a color copy of my picture!!!! Joy!

At this point, a couple different thoughts are going through my head.

First of all, why in the world do they need TWO copies of a picture of me? I really cannot think of too many things for which they could possibly use this particular picture. Unless they keep one copy of each student’s photo to put up on a wall of shame somewhere, so university employees can go look at it when they’re stressed out and have a good laugh.

Second of all, I seriously have to pay to make a COPY of this picture? I didn’t even want the first copy! As a general rule, I only duplicate and/or allow for the dispersal of attractive photos of myself. But no, I had to march down to the copy shop and ask an innocent employee to please make a color copy of this terrible picture. AND THEN PAY HER FOR IT. Whaaaa??!?!

Regardless, I bit the bullet and paid 60 cents for the picture. And I turned in my paperwork. And I paid my money. And now I am an official, matriculated student at Albert Ludwigs Universität Freiburg!!!

The only thing that’s left to do is wait for my ID card to come in the mail. But personally, I’m not in too much of a hurry.