Hamburg & the Return

Our last weekend in Europe was spent in Hamburg, Germany with Paul and his wife, Kay.  The train journey took all day on Thursday, but it was very relaxing and enjoyable.  That night, we went to dinner with Paul and Kay near the train station and returned to the hostel to get a good night of sleep.  At this point in the three-month trip, we were all pretty exhausted.

IMG_9672The next day we met Paul by the train station and went to a newer area of Hamburg – Hafencity – where they were doing a lot of newer, modern design work to expand the size of the city.  We took a tour of Hafencity with a guy that worked in the Information Center for the city’s expansion.  They had an insanely detailed site model that they update with each new building that is constructed on the site.  We ate lunch and then Paul took us on a journey following the career of a newer, up-and-coming architect by the name of Hadi Teherani. He works a lot with glass, and we took the metro all around the city viewing several of his works,IMG_9731 mostly office buildings that take on very cool forms and expressions.  That night, we went to an enormous carnival and walked around.  Erin, Karissa, and I rode a couple rides and the others had a great time watching as we got spun out of our minds.

IMG_9782On Saturday we experienced architecture in a way that none of us had before: blind.  We went to a place called “Dialog im Dunkeln” (Dialogue in the Dark) and were led on a tour through different spaces in complete darkness.  Our guides were blind themselves, and helped us find our way through a space that was completely absent of any light whatsoever.  There were a series of rooms set up to resemble different places and scenarios – a forest, a city sidewalk (on which we had to avoid being hit by traffic), a warehouse, a boat house, a boat ride (simulated, of course), and finally, a restaurant in which we ordered drinks in complete darkness and talked to our guides.  This was definitely one of the coolest experiences I have had involving architecture.

After Hamburg, we headed back to Antwerp and spent our time packing and seeing one last movie at the theater (which was way more comfortable than any theater I have been in in the states).  Tuesday morning, seven of us (Alex and Karissa excluded – they stayed an extra two days), Paul, and Kay hopped on a plane and headed for home.  The 9 1/2 hour flight got a little lengthy, and when we landed in Chicago, our flight to Fargo was delayed about a half hour.  Going through customs wasn’t nearly as big of a deal as I thought it would be, either.  It was just a lot of waiting in line.  We got back to Fargo at 6:30 and the jet lag began.

One Last Journey

Netherlands American Cemetery

It is not what we take with us that is important, but rather what we leave behind.

It was the morning of April 24th, 2013 one day before my departure from Europe. Feeling eager to make the most of my last day I decided to make one last trip. The plan was simple, See the Calatrava Train Station in Liege, Belgium and visit the Henri and Chappelle American Cemetery. The actual endeavor of the plan became more like trying to maneuver a raft through rapids using a broken paddle. 

            So I left Antwerp for Liege and after a 2 hour train ride though some beautiful countryside made it to Liege. Liege is a part of the French speaking portion of Belgium and the people there are not really up on their English, to put it nicely. However, I cannot be too upset seeing my French is on par with most 6 month year old French Babies. Moving past the language barrier, I began exploring the train station. Santiago Calatrava was the architect and I have always enjoyed experiencing his architecture. The white structure laden with glass creates an open expanse that allows a lot of natural light to penetrate the space. The way the light plays on the structure creates these beautiful interior and exterior spaces full of life and vitality.

            Even though the work of Calatrava was impressive it was not the highlight of my trip and so I decided to continue on my journey. This is where I hit my first snag. I was informed that the only way to get the American Cemetery was by car and it would take forty minutes to get there. So, after a few minutes of feeling very disappointed, I remembered that my teacher had talked about an American cemetery in Maastricht! So I found my way to the train information center and found that Maastricht was only 30 minutes away by train.

            So I hopped in the next train to Maastricht and away I went. I arrived in Maastricht only to be blown away by what I saw. Stepping out of the train station I was greeted by a gorgeous city. The architecture, the people, and the city were great; Maastricht would prove to be a bit tricky though. I had to navigate my way to the center of the city twenty minutes from the station in order to find out how to get to the Netherlands American Cemetery only to find out that I needed to get on a bus back at the train station. As a side note, you might have caught that Maastricht is not in Belgium, but the Netherlands. Anyway, back to the story.

            After riding the bus for approximately 20 minutes I arrived at the Netherlands American Cemetery. I wandered the sight for over an hour and a half. The experience of the site started by bringing you through a long paved walkway with beautiful trees on either side of you and gave you sense of calm as you approach the site. The path then turns and greets with you with the first view of the cemetery. I was blown away at how perfect and pristine the cemetery was. Standing there, I became silent and as I walked through the site spent the first 30 minutes in silence. At one end of the American Cemetery is a church / memorial which was, in its simplicity, beautiful. I appreciated how well maintained the site was and even as I walked the site people were working on maintaining the site. I saw one man using a tool to level off the grass between pavers so that it was all level with the pavers. Another thing I found to be very nice was that the other visitors were not American, but locals that came to pay their respects and left flowers in front of some of the graves.

            After visiting the site I hopped back on the bus and made my way back to Maastricht. From Maastricht I took the train back to Liege and finally from Liege to Antwerp. To my great surprise I made it back with ten minutes to spare before the premiere of Iron Man 3 which came out in Europe that day of April 24th. The reason this made me happy is because, Iron Man 3 was not to premiere in the U.S. until May 4th. IR3 did not disappoint, it was an amazing movie and a great end to an epic day.