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The McDermott Scholars Award covers all expenses of a superb four-year academic education at The University of Texas at Dallas, in concert with a diverse array of intensive extracurricular experiences, including internships, travel, and cultural enrichment.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Euro-Rail trip

The end of summer has marked a successful end to my studies in Cologne. I "passed" the Numerik math class that gave an end of the semester exam and got certificates of participation in the other classes who didn't offer takeable exams for me.
I left last Sunday after a frantic move-out from my 23rd-story apartment in Cologne and met a friend from Dallas, Aidan, at the train station in Duisburg, Germany. Aidan spent the summer learning Italian and touring the opera houses of Italy.
We met two Canadian girls on the connecting train to Amsterdam who recommended a youth hostel there. We had just picked one at random from the internet so we blindly followed. The Bulldog, it was called, happened to be in the midst of the Red Light District in Amsterdam so we got a first hand look at the Amsterdam underworld and nightlife in the evenings.
During the days we saw the Van Gogh museum, took a canal tour, hiked around the city, and visited the Nemo, a stunning Science and Technology museum with tons of neat experiments to wow little kids like me.
On Tuesday we headed to the Hague and spent a nice evening on the beach and even took a dip in the frigid North Sea waters. A beautiful sunset over the rocky pier ushered in the night and the chilly north wind. But we still had time and energy to admire the beautiful yachts moored in the cove and dream about hitchhiking a boat ride to Bilbao or Lisbon.
From the Hague the next morning we left early and went to Brussels where the whole town was out to celebrate our arrival. There were tons of people waving flags and the whole military and even the king turned up. It was actually the Belgian Independence Day and we just happened to visit at just the right time.
After a nice Belgian lunch and some potent dark beer, we hopped on the Thalys high-speed train to Paris and on to Bordeaux. We were originally planning to go to Nantes but we met some other Canadian backpackers who convinced us to head to Bordeaux, where on the first evening we tried to order two glasses of French wine and ended up with two half-liter beer mugs. Oh well.  The next day we took a tour of the Bordeaux vineyards and got to see firsthand more than we ever need to know about the entire wine-making process. It is indeed a feat that some of these little chateaus can bottle more than 400,000 bottles of wine a year.
From Bordeaux, we took a train to the coastal city of Arcachon and then took a ferry across the bay to Cap Feret where we have been for the last 24 hours. Yesterday we rented bicycles and rode all around the peninsula and put our feet in the Bay of Biscay. Since the youth hostel is so cheap here, we figured we could have one real 2-and-a-half hour French meal, which much more than made up the price differnce between here and the hostel's in the other cities.
From here it is on to San Sebastian, Bilbao, Salamanca, Lisbon, Gibrlater, Barcelona, Interlaken (switzerland), Nice, Monaco and Rome or until we run out of time along the way and have to speed to Rome to get Aidan to his flight home.
I then have another week to see Italy and return to Germany to collect my belongings that remain at my aunt's in the town of Hagen.

>> See Walter and Aidan's web site, EuroTrip 2004

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