Bregenz was my home for a month this summer and I enjoyed every second. It is in Northwest Austria on Lake Constance (or Bodensee as they call it). The town is home to about 28,000 Austrians. I had the privilege of staying in a family’s home while in Bregenz, with one roommate who was also studying. We lived in an apartment above a flower shop with a husband, wife, and 10 year old boy. They were wonderful to us. They made sure we had everything we needed, especially when our luggage had not arrived. Our home was only about a 20 minute walk from our school building. This is where I could always be found between the hours of 8am and 3pm.
After classes and on the weekends, I would explore Bregenz and the surrounding areas. We took trains to nearby towns where we went to a cheese factory, women’s museum, churches, and local markets. Throughout my stay in Bregenz, I was also able to visit some larger cities including Munich, Berlin, Vienna, Venice, and Innsbruck. I hiked a mountain, found small shops, and went grocery shopping. Grocery shopping was fun because I would always buy something I had never seen before.
Every night for dinner, I was provided a meal at the Hirschen, a restaurant in a main square of Bregenz. They would feed us a traditional Austrian three course meal with soup, an entrée, and dessert. My favorite meals included soup with pancake like strips, pork and rice, and a crepe with apricot jam. Once dinner was over most things in the town were closed. Therefore, most of the group would go down to the lake to hang out and watch the sunset. I loved being in Bregenz because I was able to really get a feel for the town. It was a very relaxing place to come back to each week after a weekend of travel. I can truly say it felt like home.
After the first week of studies in Bregenz, Austria, a group of about 15 students and I decided to explore Munich and Berlin. My very first piece of advice is to travel with smaller groups. We had an amazing experience but quickly realized it is easier to travel in groups of 4 or 5.
First, we took a train to Munich. I have a Eurail pass which makes taking trains very simple. We arrived in Munich around 12pm and wanted to explore the city. Our journey started on the outside of the city. We took a bus to Dachau, the first concentration camp during WWII. This was an experience I would not have wanted to miss, and something that is hard to put into words. It was a very emotional few hours. We learn about concentration camps in school. We see pictures and old blurry videos, but nothing can prepare you for what you feel when you enter. It was so horrible to think that so many people had suffered where I was standing at that moment.
Once concluding our experience at Dachau, we traveled back to the main part of the city in Munich. I saw a beautiful glockenspiel and climbed almost 400 steps to the top of St. Peters Church. I enjoyed this view because it allowed us to see a good portion of the city that we would not otherwise see due to time. I wish I had more time to explore Munich because there was so much more to see. After finding some dinner and walking through an amazing park, we boarded a night train to Berlin.
I really enjoyed the night train. I think this is very efficient and makes it easier to see more sights during the day. We arrived in Berlin at 8am on Saturday morning. There were many cool museums and churches that we saw but the main event of the day was the UEFA Championship match. It was amazing to watch the biggest game in Europe in the city where it was being held. The match was between Barcelona and Juventus. Everyone in the city was wearing soccer jerseys and chanting and cheering throughout the streets. We made our way to a giant festival for the match. It was incredible to see all of the energy in the people and how many cultures had come together to watch. There were many Americans present but the majority were Italian, Spanish, or German. Barcelona won the match 3-1!
The next morning we took a train back to Bregenz to start our second week of classes!