Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Sunday, June 24, 2007: daytrip to Stasbourg, France

There is so much from Europe that I need to catch up on. I wish I had kept a detailed, entertaining, witty blog from the whole trip. Unfortunately, I did not. I did, however, take flobbity jillion photos (literally), which makes documenting my travels much easier.

The following video is from a daytrip to Strasbourg. This was my very first visit to France! I was so excited to cross the Germany/France border. Don't worry, I caught the whole thing on video tape. An unlucky few of you may someday have the opportunity to watch my 6+ hours of home video from the Europe trip. But for now, please enjoy an 8-minute video of highlights. (The resolution is pretty low because I had to compress it quite a bit... but you get the idea.)

Thanks to wikipedia, I discovered some interesting facts about this beautiful French city on the German border:
1) During Christmas celebrations in 1999, there as an al-Qaeda plot to blow up the Christmas market near the beautiful Strasbourg Cathedral. Thankfully, German authorities foiled this plot.
2) In 2001, during an open air concert, a single tree falling killed thirteen people and injured nearly a hundred. That must have been one HUGE tree, not like the puny ones growing in Las Vegas.
3) Strasbourg is home to "Arte," a French/German television network dedicated to the arts and to cultural programming.

This city is beautiful. I enjoyed a relaxing walk along the banks of the Ill River, which flows through the city. I also enjoyed a gorgeous view of the entire city from the top of the Strasbourg Cathedral via a plethora of stairs on a narrow circular staircase enclosed alternately by dark enclosures and cage-like metal bars. We were nearly 470 feet from the ground! It was the world's tallest building from 1625 until 1847. Even today, it is still the fourth tallest church in the world (or the seventh tallest, depending on the source). In any case, for a claustrophobe with a fear of heights, I felt a certain sense of accomplishment by facing not one but TWO fears.

This was my first visit to a European cathedral. In 1999, I visited the Cathedral of the Madelaine in SLC with the BYU Honors program; this visit was unfortunately colored by pious BYU students rudely commenting (inside the cathedral) on how they couldn't feel the spirit inside this building. How embarrassing. Visiting the intricately adorned Strasbourg Cathedral inspired within me a certain kinship with the architects and craftsmen who worked so hard to build this building of worship. LDS people often pay tribute to the pioneers who sacrificed to build temples. Is this not the same thing? Throughout time and across cultures, people have been inspired to create beautiful works of art/ music /literature /architecture to worship diety.

The view from the top of the Strasbourg Cathedral was breathtaking. As I continue to write about my travels in Europe, I will probably use the word "breathtaking" over and over again, enough to annoy the general readership of this blog. But it's the truth! I have seen so many sights that have literally taken my breath away. At the risk of sounding like a cheeseball, this has truly been a once-in-a-lifetime summer. Stay tuned for further updates.

Love, Heather

Monday, June 25, 2007

My plane left for Germany on June 17th at 2:20pm. The airport suggested being at the airport by 11:20am. I finished packing at 10:45am. I started out the packing my two suitcases in an extremely anal manner, even making a color-coded Microsoft Word document detailing where each item was packed in each suitcase. Towards the end, however, I was just shoving things in where they would fit. Some things didn't fit. Oh well.

At the airport, my mom dropped me off at the ominous sounding "Terminal 2," where international non-stop flights departed. My mom kept shaking her head, saying, "In all my 30 years in Vegas I've never been to Terminal 2."

Well, apparently she wasn't the only one. Walking into Terminal 2 of the McCarren Airport felt like stepping back in time to 1976. Apparently they have not updated (or cleaned) it since then. Even the parking ticket was yellowed. It looked like they bought rolls and rolls of parking tickets in bulk back then and haven't used them all yet.

My gate, Gate 4, was located conveniently right across from the miniscule and non-threatening security checkpoint. As I was about to enter the line for security, a man who was clearly dressed as a suicide bomber

made his way through the line. After he surprisingly made it through security without so much as a warning or stern frown from a TSA agent, I watched him like a hawk to make sure he was going to a different gate than mine. Seriously, if you are going to an airport, why dress like a suicide bomber? Didn't his wife/partner say something like, "Hugo, better pack your suicide bombing vest in your checked luggage. You don't want to call attention to yourself."

Anyway, the flight was pleasant. I sat next to a beautiful German exchange student who spoke English effortlessly without any trace of an accent. I would have probably thought she was American, had she not told me she was German. This 17-year-old girl spoke several European languages and had seen many more countries on the globe than I had. The plane hadn't even touched ground in Europe yet, and I was already feeling like a stupid American.

Friday, June 22, 2007