February 15, 2020 – Frankfurt with a ‘U’ (OOTD #608)

Sciences Po winter break: day 1

Here it is: the first day on my whirlwind week-long backpacking trip though Europe.

I know “backpacking through Europe” normally refers to longer trips — weeks or even months — and it’s probably better that way. I would have loved to have months to travel, to actually get to spend more than 24 hours in each city I visited. But that sort of travel is expensive and time-consuming, and as a student, those are two adjectives that I can’t necessarily indulge in right now. One day, I’d love to go back and really live the nomadic lifestyle for a longer period of time. But for an only one-week winter holiday in the middle of a semester, I made the most of the time I had.

I hit seven countries in total in one week — Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, and Spain. In each country, my friends and I had between 12 and 48 hours. Our shortest stop was Slovenia, with just a half day, and the longest stop was Spain, which I visited on my own at the end to see my friend Emma for two days.

Up first on our agenda, though, was Frankfurt, Germany. Notice the spelling there — Frankfurt, not Frankfort. Once again, as was the case with Versailles, there’s a city in Kentucky with a similar name to a much more famous European city. In this instance, though, the pronunciation is the same but the spelling is different.

I’ve been to Germany only once before, and that was on a day trip to kill time during a long layover. That time, I visited Munich, in what was my first visit to mainland Europe ever. I was there for Christmas Eve in what is possibly the most famous city for Christmas festivities (save, I suppose, for Bethlehem — which I’ve also visited — and the North Pole — which I have not).

This visit to Frankfurt was also very short. My friends and I — Megan, Margo, Ebba, and Garrett — all arrived via night bus from Paris in the morning, and we departed by evening for a night bus trip to our next destination. All in all, that probably means I’ve only ever spent 24 hours max in Germany in my entire life.

Frankfurt really only has one small part of town, Römerberg that looks like “traditional” Germany, with a big church and quaint little houses that look like they’re made of gingerbread and come out of a storybook. The rest of it looks like a modern city, with big skyscrapers and glass buildings. For my friends and, as tourists, this made it perhaps the least interesting city to visit. If I were a young German professional looking for a place to settle, though, I can absolutely see the appeal.

After taking photos in Römerberg (which was practically empty and devoid of tourists, since we were there at 9AM on a Saturday morning in the middle of winter), we stopped for breakfast before making our way across the famous Eiserner Steg footbridge that’s covered with love locks. I know that basically every European city has that — a bridge that’s covered in locks for couples to figuratively represent their love by placing a lock on a beam and then throwing away the key, essentially the European equivalent of carving your names in a heart on a tree — but I think they’re cute anyway.

In the afternoon, we checked out a thrift shop where I almost bought a beautiful dress (only regretfully putting it away because it was slightly big), a food market, and a botanical garden. Then, we tried to visit the roof of one of the tall skyscrapers in order to get a panoramic view of the city from above, but we were disappointed to discover that the line was too long to make it worth it.

But that was okay because we were hungry and exhausted from walking all day (and from having slept on a night bus — a common theme you will find through all of these retrospectives), and so we decided to get some dinner. After trying one tavern that had good reviews online only to find that it was full, we picked one across the seat and ate a meal of sausages, spaetzle, and beer.

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After dinner, we were off to the station to catch our next night bus to Prague. Though a bus is certainly not the ideal way to sleep, I think we were all so exhausted that we crashed almost immediately once we sat down in our seats.

As a final note: here’s the link to the Spotify playlist I created for the whole trip. There are songs meant to represent each country we visited. Give it a listen!

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life during my semester abroad in the Paris, France. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest,InstagramFacebookBloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Top: Express

Trousers: Express

Coat: A vintage shop in Budapest  (thrifted)

December 24, 2018 – Christmas Eve in Germany (OOTD #426)

Spending Christmas Eve in Germany was not in my life plans about a month ago.

A month ago, I had assumed I’d be spending my winter break split between Qatar and France — Qatar for a conference on Islamic theology and peacebuilding funded by my university, and then France to immerse myself in French language and culture for a week, also funded by my university. If I was going to wind up in any other countries along the way, I figured they’d just be short layovers not really worthy mentioning — kind of like the time I was technically in Abu Dhabi for two hours for a layover during my flight to Nepal.


But, as it turned out, once my flights were organized by the conference coordinator, I got an extra long layover in Munich, Germany, on my flight to Doha, Qatar on December 23 — a whole seven hours! Initially, I figured I’d just hang out and explore the airport. I’ve heard good things about the Munich airport.

Remembering the fun I was able to have in Bucktown, Chicago during my long layover in O’Hare on my flight home from Nepal, I began to wonder though if maybe I’d be able to do the same for Munich. I’m not the most comfortable traveling by myself to foreign countries, though I don’t know if anyone ever really is, but I’ve been getting more confidence over the last few years, especially having traveled to London and Nepal semi-independently.

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merry christmas from munich with much love

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After doing some research (namely consulting the TripAdvisor forums), I decided to go for it and try to see the city during the seven-hour layover. There was another Notre Dame girl going to the same conference who wound up on the same flight from Philly to Munich, and after telling her my plan, she agreed to go too. Neither of us had ever seen Germany and neither of us spoke German, but we figured we could function for a few hours.

I departed Kentucky midday, and then I had a medium-length layover in Philadelphia. From there, it was a nine-ish hour flight — at which point, we arrived in Munich at about 9:00 AM local time.

Immigration was a piece of cake — the officer only asked how long I’d be there, and then he sent us on our way. From there, we purchased the less than 20 USD train tickets to Marienplatz, as the TripAdvisor forums suggested.

If there was anything I loved about Germany, it was the S-Bahn train. The New York Subway, the London Underground, the Chicago L — none of those public transport systems have anything on this German train. It was clean, quiet, modern, and perhaps most surprisingly for me — perfectly on time. There was even a screen where you could see estimated arrival times for each stop, and how those ETAs changed based on how long loading and unloading took each stop. The future is now, I guess.

When we stepped out into Marienplatz, the town square, I admittedly didn’t know what to expect. I’ve hardly ever studied German language or culture, and I was too lazy to do much studying up before I went. I had almost no preconceived notions of what a German city should look like — but rest assured, I was not disappointed.

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pretty! buildings!

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I saw a lot of different things over winter break — the colorful Doha skyline, sand dunes in the Middle East, gothic churches in France, a spring of supposedly magical healing water — but I don’t think anything had quite the same effect on me as seeing Marienplatz all decorated for the Christmas Eve Market. For context, the second you walk out from the Marienplatz S-Bahn stop onto the street, the first thing you see is the massive Rockefeller Center-sized Christmas tree in front of the spectacular gothic-style New Town Hall.

Coming from the US, and a relatively small US city at that, I don’t get to see much that even vaguely resembles Marienplatz very often. Notre Dame’s campus has some cool collegiate gothic architecture, and I do love God Quad with the basilica and the Golden Dome, but Notre Dame can’t compete with the feel a real European city. Everything there is so old — even stuff that technically isn’t that old, like the New Town Hall (which actually was only built in the 19th century), feels old.

One of my favorite things about travel is the ability to get a feel for a city — the facial expressions of locals as they walk through crowded train platforms, the ambient sounds as you maneuver through the town square, the kind of birds that nest in the crevices of buildings. If I had to describe Munich from my short visit, it was quaint. London, or what I saw of it in 2017, felt old, but somehow, Munich felt older. Munich felt a little quieter, a little friendlier — distinctively different from the sense of frustrated energy that exists in a massive city like New York or London. And I love the frustrated energy of New York and London — in fact, I’d love to be a frustrated, energetic New Yorker one day — but I also appreciated the slower pace of Munich.

In the end, my friend and I didn’t do much more than walk around. We did end up getting hungry and wander into a random restaurant, where I had the most German encounter of my trip: I tried to order water to drink, and instead I was given beer. I mean, I have nothing against drinking beer in Germany — in fact, that seems to be probably a pretty good place to do it — but I was still kind of surprised when I thought I was just getting water. It was good though. And what was even better was that it ended up being free, for some reason? Don’t know what happened there, but no complaints from me.

I was a little worried about getting back in time for our flight, but I shouldn’t have been. The train ran just as beautifully as it did on the way there, and immigration was once again a simple interaction. From there, it was another six hour flight in order to make it to Qatar. I got in at around 11 at night local time, and I didn’t stumble into my hotel until around 1:30. But more on that later.

To check out my full Munich adventures, I highly recommend checking out my Instagram story highlights from that day!

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my travels. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Top: The LOFT

Pants: Thrifted (Salvation Army)

Scarf: My mother’s closet