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From the beerhalls of Germany to the battlefields of Italy

From the beerhalls of Germany to the battlefields of Italy

Alright alright I know its been forever since I have last posted but there has just been so much going on! I’ve been basic and visited Munich, Germany for OktoberFest and have brought my textbook knowledge to good use as I spent a weekend learning all about World War II. I feel like my posts just don’t do justice to my adventures but here is an attempt to tell you how much fun I am having and all the things I have been learning!

Waking up bright and early last Friday morning my friends and I headed for the airport as we set off for Munich, Germany. Upon arriving in Germany I was shocked as to how amazing and clean the city was. We walked off the train and found ourselves in MarienPlatz, the main square of Munich, facing the Glockenspiel. Looking into the sea of people, everyone aimlessly pointed their cameras to capture the building’s beauty.


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We spent the afternoon walking around the city and ended up at the original Hofbrauhaus (dating back to the 16th century) for lunch. I was instantly overwhelmed as we walked into the beer hall and saw everyone clanking his or her oversized beers together and hearing the band’s jolly music echo of the beautifully painted walls. Luckily, we were able to snatch a table in the corner and proceeded to eat a delicious German meal. Thankfully, one of my travel companions, Max, is of German decent and was able to order food for us because I had zero idea what to get. We sat in the beer hall for what seemed to be hours enjoyed a fabulous first afternoon in Munich.


Once we finished our meal we set out on a mission to find traditional German clothing to wear to OktoberFest for the next day. Every street corner seemed to have a vendor selling drindls and lederhosens but none of them looked appealing. Thankfully, we stumbled upon a shop that had authentic options opposed to the tourist trap choices. After our shopping extravaganza we tooled through the city a bit more. All the locals were extremely nice and welcoming to us and it fun people watching all the other tourists who travelled for the festivities.


That evening we took the train and headed for the town of Mammendorf. We truly immersed ourselves in the German culture as were hosted at Max’s Aunt Maria’s home. Maria lives in the town of Nassenhaussen, which is a tiny village of 400 people, on the outskirts of Munich. Patiently, we waited at the train station in Mammendorf for Maria to pick us up as we arrived a few minutes early. To be honest, I was a little nervous sitting on the sidewalk waiting for Maria. I couldn’t help but think we were in the wrong town and were going to end up stranded in the middle of Germany. (I didn’t say anything though, because no one likes the travel friend who always has anxiety.) Thankfully, Maria showed up and drove us to her home about 15 minutes away.


Staying with Maria was an experience I will never forget. I was so excited to be seeing Germany from an authentic perspective. Throughout the weekend she made us several home made meals that were delicious and welcomed us with open arms every time we arrived back. However, communication was a slight problem. Maria spoke no English, and Max was the only one who spoke German out of our travel crew. The only phrase I was able to catch onto over the course of my stay was danke meaning thank you. By knowing this one word and having a simple simile on my face I felt like I was able to communicate enough for her to understand how much I appreciated staying with her and how happy I was to have met her. Although, she probably thought it was somewhat strange that I repeatedly nodded my head saying thank you for three days.


Saturday morning we put on our drindls and set off for OktoberFest. We arrived around 7:45 am and waited in line in the beer-garden for the beer-hall to open. Right as we walked under the welcome sign I felt like I was in a movie. It was the biggest carnival I had ever seen and I could not wait for the day to begin! The grounds that the festival is held on have giant carnival rides, games, cute German shops, and beer halls on every corner. When the doors of the Hofbrauhaus Tent opened at 9am everyone aggressively flooded in dressed in their German clothing. I felt like I was being carried through a wave of people. Never in my life have I experienced so much pushing and shoving it was insane. Once we were in the giant beer tent we raced to get a table and establish our territory for the day.



The hall was filled with thousands of excited people desperately waving down the waitresses who were carrying 1-liter beers and fresh pretzels. We spent the afternoon in the tent hanging out with old and new friends. Every other minute someone would walk up and cheers with you or would offer you a bite of their pretzel. After leaving the tent we got a bite to eat from one of the stands outside, walked around for a little, rode a ride, and then headed back to Nassenhaussen to have dinner with Maria. Overall the day was a complete success!



Sunday we had a completely different change of pace and went and visited Dachau concentration camp. Dachau was one of the first and most brutal concentration camps during the Holocaust. There is not much I can/want to write about because the experience was so powerful and upsetting. Immediately, after walking through the same front entrance that the trains once brought prisoners my stomach tuned upside down and remained in knots for the rest of the day. Words cannot even begin to describe the sadness and disgusts that I felt when walking through the camp knowing that not that many years ago so many people suffered. The experience was very moving and emotionally draining, as I couldn’t even begin to imagine the cruelties that occurred on the grounds I walked on.

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After spending over four hours in Dachau and seeing the museum we headed back to Munich to do some more exploring. Monday morning we arrived back in Rome and got back into our routine of school! Tuesday night a group of students went to Eataly for an amazing wine tasting! Even though the Eataly in Rome is probably twice the size of the one in Chicago, I still felt like I was back in the windy city being in a familiar place. I am sure when I get back to Chicago I will appreciate the Eataly a little more after falling in love with all the food here! The night was so fun and was filled with amazing fresh Italian food and delicious wine!


I spent the rest of the week and weekend in Rome getting to know the enteral city a little better. Friday afternoon it was lovely to meet up with family friends from home, The Valdez’s, and then I enjoyed a nice afternoon of shopping. (For some reason when I was packing I didn’t think to pack any fall sweaters or scarves so naturally I keep ending up at Zara.)

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Saturday and Sunday were a bit more on the educational side as I went on a study trip focusing on World War II in Rome. The trip was lead by two incredibly intelligent Loyola alumni who provided us students with a plethora of information.

Saturday the day began by visiting the German War Cemetery Pomezia. Seeing the hundreds of crosses throughout the field honoring the men and women who died for their country reminded me of how many people perished from both sides during World War II.

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Our next stop was Museo Piana delle Orme, which was one of the most impressive museums I have ever seen. Our whole experience was completely interactive and really helped me understand more about WWII. Each exhibit had life size manikins dressed in a soldier’s uniform while commentary played in the background to make one feel like they were on the battlegrounds. Aside from the serious part of the museum there was a lighter side, we visited the toy museum, which was on the grounds. That afternoon we also visited Isola Bella and the Beach of Nettuno, which were both historical and significant sites during the war.

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However, my favorite part of the day was when we visited the Sicily Rome American Cemetery in Netunno. This cemetery is commissioned under the American Battle Monuments Commission and is absolutely beautiful. The cemetery has over 7,000 headstones honoring American men and women who fought in Italy during the war. Walking through the grounds it was difficult to process the fact that most of the people who were fighting in the war were the same age as myself. This revelation made me so thankful for the opportunities I have in my life and reminded me how lucky I am to be an American. The cemetery is 77 acres and in the back center there is the “Brothers in Arms” Memorial. The symbolism behind the memorial is that the young men that were fighting in the war were all brothers no mater what branch of the military they served in. It was an extremely moving experience when we placed flowers on the memorial and read a pray to honor all those who served for our country.


Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 12.20.52 AMSunday we retraced the events that occurred on March 23rd, 1944. We began our day by visiting Fosse Ardatine, which are the caves where 335 people were killed in reprisal for the events that occurred at Via Rasella. A simplified version of the story goes as such: several members of a political opposition group planned a bombing on a German police parade. Consequently, Hitler ordered a reprisal for his men that were killed, this lead to the execution of 10 Italians for every one German dead. These Italians were killed in the caves we visited and the caves were later blown up to cover up the evidence of any murders. Visiting the caves put my stomach in similar knots to the ones I had when I visited Dachau. It was so intense seeing the massacre site and visiting the graves of the men that were killed.

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Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 12.22.56 AMWe continued our afternoon at Museo della Liberazione on Via Tasso. This museum was the former Gestapo headquarters as well as a prison for the Jews of Rome. From the outside of the building one would never know that it had such a historical significance. Walking through the building we were able to see the actual jail cells that prisoners were held in and see the rooms where Nazi meetings were held. The walls of the cells are filled with personal belongings and memoirs of the hundreds of people that were detained there. Seeing this reminded me that average men and women were locked up and beat for no real reason, they had normal jobs and families like anyone else. We heard countless stories of the people that were in prisoned and really got to see the Nazi’s oppression first hand.

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After visiting the museum we went to Via Rasella where the bombings that triggered the murder of the men in Fosse Ardatine. We walked up and down the street and heard the story of the brave Italian men and women who planned the attack. Looking up at the sides of the buildings you can still see the bullet holes from the attack. We took a break from our history lesson and had a fabulous lunch in Piazza Navona.

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Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 12.25.50 AMWe concluded our day by visiting the Jewish Ghetto. This neighborhood is were the Jews of Rome were forced to leave and were later forced out of. It is estimated that around 1,040 Jews were taken from this neighborhood and only 15 survived by the end of the war. The neighborhood was really fascinating to see and we ended our day by eating delicious Jewish doughnuts! Throughout my two-day trip I think I learned more about World War II than all the information a textbook ever provided me. So far studying abroad has given me so many great opportunities to learn about other cultures and see history first hand.

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Rome is still absolutely amazing. The weather is starting to change, street vendors are starting to sell umbrellas instead of fans, and fewer tourists fill the streets. My new favorite “Italian” thing to do is enjoy aperitivio which is a cocktail and finger food buffet. It is pretty much a happy hour but Italians just sit and talk and enjoy the evening before they go out for the night. As for my Italian language skills I feel like I can understand more than I can speak but that is expected. I finally have the bus system and the Metra down which is a huge personal accomplishment! Next week is fall break and I will be travelling throughout Italy with my mom!

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GRAZIE FOR READING! XOXO11181875_10206603152830531_7090343740594758230_n




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