Inspired by...Munich! (Muenchen)

My train to Munich left at 8 am so it wasn’t as early of a wakeup as a few days before.  It was also a much shorter trip.  By the way, Munich is called “Muenchen” in German which is just so much more fun to say :)

I was meeting my friend from high school (the one studying in Florence) for this part of the trip and it was nice to have a familiar face after solo travelling for the past few days.  We were starving but nothing was quite open for lunch yet so we took a walk along the river a little ways north of the city centre.  We came back and had lunch at a lovely healthy cafe near the city centre and started a walking tour of the city from my book.  Like my first day in Salzburg, it rained and poured during the tour, but we didn’t mind too much.  What’s interesting about Munich is that it was completely devastated by the bombing campaigns during the war, but they chose to rebuild exactly the way it was, unlike Berlin which started from scratch and modernised.  My favourite was easily the New Town Hall in Marienplatz which also has a famous glockenspiel.  This one has more movement than the one in Salzburg since it reenacts a wedding scene between a duke and duchess from the 16th century, so it’s fun to watch.  From there, we moved on to St. Peter’s church and climbed 306 steps up to the top which was completely worth the hamstring workout because check out these views!

After climbing up all those steps, we went to the Viktualienmarket where we got a German specialty: giant pretzels!  Nothing makes you feel German like a giant soft pretzel, right? :)  The rest of the walking tour was mostly churches and a huge synagogue, which were gorgeous, and a very strange monument to Michael Jackson.  When Michael Jackson would visit Munich, he would stay at Hotel Bayerischer Hof, and after he died in 2009, some of his fanatics started putting pictures of him and candles below a statue of the composer Orlando di Lasso.  They still maintain it, actually, but Hannah and I thought it was a little weird...

We finished off the day by going to the Hofbrauhaus which is one of the most famous beer halls in Germany.  It seats about 5,000 people and you have to seat yourself, so on a Saturday night before Easter, this was a little tricky.  We eventually found seats and ordered a German classic: Hofbrau beer served a litre-size mug.  WOW, right?  Hannah somehow managed to finish hers and another pretzel, but I couldn’t quite finish my mug — I was already feeling lightheaded haha.  

The next day, we took a day trip out to Bavaria so we could see Neuschwanstein Castle!  This is the castle that inspired the Disney one, as well as the castle from the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang movie (we were both in the musical our junior year so it was a must).  It was a long trip — about 2.5 hours by train — but it was absolutely breathtaking and it was snowing!  Once we got to the site of the castle, we had to walk uphill through the snowy woods for a bit, but it felt quite festive.  We didn’t go inside because we had seen quite a few castles and didn’t feel like paying 12 euro to get in, but we had just as much fun taking pictures on the outside.  We finished off the day with apple strudel and coffee at a nice cafe near the train.


Hannah left the following morning, so I took a shorter day trip out to see the Dachau concentration camp.  It was a short ride on the S-Bahn and then a 15 minute bus ride.  I didn’t take any pictures since I just couldn’t a) out of respect and b) a picture wouldn’t capture it anyway.  Not only can you walk around the grounds of the camp, but there’s also a very powerful museum that talks about the history of the Third Reich and the people held in the camps.  Dachau was one of the first camps of the Nazi regime and this is what makes it interesting because it served as a model for all of the other camps.  It was mostly a camp for political prisoners, Gypsies/Roma, communists, and a small number of Jews, which I hadn’t known.  There’s memorials from the Jewish, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox faith traditions on the grounds, as well, and it was both peaceful and eerie.  Pretty heavy stuff for my last day, but I’m glad I went.

It was Easter Monday which is actually a big day and not just a Catholic school thing like I had thought, so almost nothing in Munich was open.  I walked around some more and saw the churches again before I headed back to the hostel to get ready to leave.  I had an evening train to Prague and I wanted to be ready!

Inspired to be,


Inspired by... Reconnecting With My Roots

I’ve already told you all about my trip to Ireland, but now I want to reflect a bit on how I felt when I was there because I can’t stop thinking about it.  I felt this incredible sense of connection the whole time I was in Ireland, and it was something I had never felt before.  It took me a little while to realise why I felt this way, but I think it’s because I’ve never actually been to a place where I’m from.  I mean, I’m from the United States, but only by a few generations.  That’s still something, but Ireland is very different for me.  


In fourth grade, I had to do a project on my “Country of Origin.”  I had a few choices since I am Irish, French, Italian, and Russian.  I’m not sure what made me pick Ireland, but I think it was the fact that being Irish (or “of Irish descent”) has been the most prominent in my life.  I loved Saint Patrick’s Day when I got to call my grandparents and tell them “top of the morning to you!” and my some of my favourite memories come from Thanksgiving when my big family would all get together — we’re quite loud so it made for some great memories.  I do remember colouring in an Irish flag, writing a report on Saint Patrick, looking up fun facts about Ireland, and making an “immigrant bundle” of things that I would bring from home.  I was only about eight or nine at the time, but I loved this project because it was my first experience with my roots.  Going to Ireland, however, and actually being there, where I’m from, was something entirely different, however.


Ireland is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.  It was truly love at first sight, and I can’t get the scenery out of my mind.  It’s incredibly green and the air feels so clean and fresh.  Even the accents are beautiful — I spent an entire weekend listening to brogues and it was music to my ears.  Perhaps all of these sensory experiences were a subconscious awakening of my ancestry and my roots.  I felt something so deep the whole time I was there.  It was a sense of belonging and a sense of seeing where I come from and a part of who I am.

If you ever have the chance to go to a place where you’re from, I highly recommend it!  It is something you will never forget.

Inspired to be,


On My [Digital] Bookshelf

If there’s one thing I love to do to unwind or escape, it’s reading.  I’ve been an avid reader for about as long as I can remember, and it’s always been my way to escape from everything going on around me and delve into another kind of reality.  It’s a running joke in my family that the reason I’m so directionally challenged is because I never looked up from my book when we were driving in the car, so I had no frame of reference when I got my license.  Usually, I’m a quick reader - I call it “binge reading” - since I can get so immersed in a story that I simply have to know what happens next.  When I was a senior in high school, I went on a trip to Quebec, and we drove for over 10 hours in a coach bus all the way to Canada.  I got through two entire books that weekend.  On my flight back home from Paris two summers ago, I read The Kite Runner in its entirety, barely looking up for lunch (not that it was that good…).  Books have a way of pulling me in and not letting go until I’ve gotten to the last page, and it’s such a thrilling experience for me.


I have to read a lot for classes, so by the end of the day during the term, the last thing I want to do is read.  When I was home on break, however, I read a ton!


I started with Leaving Time, by Jodi Picoult.  She’s one of those authors that I can only binge read because her writing is incredibly compelling.  This book starts with a girl named Jenna Metcalf whose mother disappeared when she was a baby.  She lives with her grandmother and has spent years searching for her mother, Alice, who apparently vanished without a trace.  She enlists the help of a disgraced psychic named Serenity Jones, as well as a detective named Virgil.  Not only do we hear Jenna’s search for her mother, but we also get to hear her mother’s story, Serenity’s, and Virgil’s stories as well - this is a signature technique that Jodi Picoult uses.  Alice used to work with elephants and study the grieving process, so that was an interesting storyline, as well.  I literally flew through this book on our first day of vacation - that was how good it was.  The end, however, took me by complete surprise, and I remember sitting there with my mouth hanging open, I was so shocked!  I always say each book is better than the last, but it’s true every time.  HIGHLY recommend!


I love historical fiction, so a friend recommended Ken Follett’s novels.  He just completed a trilogy, which he calls The Century Trilogy.  It’s aptly named, because each book traces a generation of the same group of families throughout the twentieth century.  Fall of Giants is the first book, so it begins in 1912 or so, as Europe is heading for the Great War.  Each of these families - English, American, Russian, German, and Welsh - becomes intertwined in some way, despite their class differences and countries or origin, so it was fascinating to read each of their perspectives on the events leading up to, during, and after the Great War.  It’s romance, politics, history, and so much more, all together in this master story.  This was another binge-read for me, even though his books are massive - we’re talking 900 pages here!  I also had a ton of free time when we were on vacation, but I couldn’t put it down.  If you love history, like I do, get this book.  DO IT.  I’ve moved on to the next book in the trilogy, Winter of the World, which is about the children of the characters in Fall of Giants, and this one deals with the Great Depression and World War II.  I’m about 400 pages in, but it’s taking me longer to read this one because I’m back in school right now, not because it’s any less compelling.


I also finally finished Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s newest book, A Path Appears.  That one took me longer because I like to take my time with non-fiction, but I loved it and was incredibly inspired by their ideas, as always.  I read Half the Sky, which is about global issues facing women and girls and WOW was it incredible!  I had never considered the impact that simple operations, for example, could make, or even the ripple effect that women and girls have on their communities.  A Path Appears is almost like the next step you take after reading Half the Sky, because it is about what you can do to help resolve these issues.  It first examines the organisation and initiatives that are already hard at work around the world, and then examines the sociology and science surrounding philanthropy itself, as well as how to make the best difference you can.  This was easily the most inspiring book I’ve read in a long time.


Oh and if you’re wondering why I said “digital bookshelf” it is because I am a proud Kindle owner.  I love paper books (I read the actual paper copy of Fall of Giants), but being able to read on both my iPad and my Kindle is just so convenient.  This is especially true for a study-abroad student who has limited room in her suitcase!  I’ve had a Kindle since they first came out, and upgraded a few years ago, and I still say it’s one of the best purchases I’ve ever made.


Any books you recommend?  I’m always open to suggestions!