These Minnesota college students get an A+ for adventure. Follow along as they explore the world while studying abroad.

Read about our contributors: Emily Atmore, Catherine Earley, Rachel Fohrman, Paul Lundberg, Andrew Morrison and Emily Walz.

Posts about Food, beer, wine events

Four Must-Sees in Barcelona

Posted by: Updated: February 7, 2012 - 8:32 AM

Barcelona has all the makings of a fantastic vacation spot. It has sunshine and beaches, the people take PLANNED nap time in the afternoon (I’m allll about that siesta), and the entire city is filled with awesome sculpture, art, and culture. I could rave about Barcelona for years, to be perfectly honest, so I decided to narrow it down to a few things that any Barcelona trip should include (in my opinion). Something to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to make Barca your next vacation destination is that there is LOTS of crime, mostly pickpocketing. We really had to learn just not to talk to anybody on the street, because chances are that they were figuring out a sneaky way to grab my purse! This didn’t affect us in any major way, but I don’t think it’s a great family destination; it’s not the most kid-friendly city. For anybody else, though, I’d say to BOOK YOUR TICKET NOW! What are you waiting for!?

1. La Sagrada Famila: This cathedral, still under construction 130 years later, is/was the crowning achievement of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. Gaudi’s work is found all over the city, but this church is the most spectacular of them all! And the best part: they aren’t even finished with it yet. It’s 100% worth it to pay the fifteen euro to enter (even though it’s a bit steep for the typical student budget)! The outside is amazing, but the massive sandstone columns and gigantic panes of stained glass on the inside make it completely worth it. Walking in with the sound of construction reverberating around you, gazing up at the seemingly sky-high ceiling, and admiring the swoopy curves and designs of stairwells and seating areas is an unforgettable experience. It’s also worth the few extra euro to take the elevator to the top for a great view of Barcelona; don’t forget to stop in the Gaudi museum on the way out to see his grave!

The exterior of la Sagrada Familia church!

The exterior of la Sagrada Familia church!

The massive interior

The massive interior

2. Quimet & Quimet: I KNOW I always talk about food, but this place is too good to ignore…in fact we may or may not have gone there every night! There are tapas restaurants littering the streets of Barcelona, and this is hands down one of the best- it’s on a tiny, empty side street and somehow is completely packed every night. Picture this: you squeeze through the crowds into a one-room restaurant, the walls are lined with wine racks and there are small tables dotting the wood floors. You stand at your table, yell out in mangled Spanish to the proprieter to attempt at an order, and two minutes later he produces an absolutely gorgeous tapas with unique ingredients and flavors! Not bad, eh? Our favorites were the langostinos con pequillo (caviar, prawns, and yogurt sauce on a crostini) and another one we couldn’t pronounce that was dried beef with a sweet balsamic sauce and relish. They. Were. Delicious. Make sure to try the tangy house beer, aptly named Quimet & Quimet, prepare for an unbelievable culinary experience: and the tapas are only two-four euro each! Then mail me the meat and cheese platters, and I’ll love you forever.

With new Australian friends at Quimet & Quimet!

With new Australian friends at Quimet & Quimet!

 

3. Parc Guell: Aaand we’re back to Gaudi! The man was all over the place, I tell ya. Parc Guell, a massive green space found a bit north of the city, was originally intended to be a private neighborhood that integrated eco-friendly public areas with private homes to create one exclusive community. Unfortunately for them but lucky for us, funding and the high requirements to join led to the downfall of the plan and the opening of the park to the public! A walk through the park will show you surrealist structures that seem to be out of a Dr. Seuss novel, along with leafy trees and a view from the top of the city! The house where Gaudi lived is also inside the park and is worth a walk through just to see the sweet furniture he designed. If you’re lucky, while you are there you will see a police bust of all the gypsies selling trinkets along the side of the path as well as the gypsies fleeing up the side of the mountain with the police in hot pursuit! We did, anyway- I’ve never seen anything like it.

4. The Picasso Museum: If you are a Picasso fan in any regard, this museum will be your heaven. The museum goes through stages of Picasso’s life, even the times when he was not residing in Barcelona. There is a fabulous collection of his paintings, as well as rooms full of his ceramic work that I didn’t even know existed! Beware: this museum is ridiculously hard to find, as it’s on a weird little side street in the very middle of the city, so make sure you have good directions so you don’t spend two hours attemping to find it like we did…


Some of our other favorites: Rosal 34 (a delicious tapas restaurant located near Las Ramblas), Montejuic Park and Castle (a great afternoon activity for a beautiful view of the city), and la Barceloneta (the beach neighborhood on the ocean).
 

 

Stay tuned next Tuesday to hear a little more about BERLIN! 

Wienerschnitzel and Maturaballs: Styria, Austria

Posted by: Updated: November 17, 2011 - 4:43 AM
And here we pick up where the story last left off: on the gorgeous three-hour train ride from Vienna to Graz [the capital city of the region of Styria]. After arriving in Graz, we were picked up by our friends and headed off to a party with Bavarian pretzels, delicious open-faced sandwiches, and weisswurst (which we later found out was sausage made of pig brains…). So after restoring our empty tummies to full, we went straight back to the hostel and passed out.
 
The next morning, we were picked up bright and early for our first adventure in the Austrian countryside:  the Riegersburg. It was about an hour away from Graz by car- apparently it’s rather difficult to find by public transportation, so we were feeling pretty lucky that we had an Austrian at the wheel! First of all: the Austrian countryside is beautiful. Especially in autumn, the rolling hills and changing leaves seemed never-ending and were just spectacular- my little eyes were glued out the window the entire way!
 
As I mentioned, I’m not positive about how one would hop a bus or train to Riegersburg, but I’m sure it can be done and is absolutely worth the trip. Photos do it better justice than I can explain [so take a peek below], but Riegersburg is an ancient medieval fortress built atop a long-extinct volcano- incredible, right? We parked the car at the bottom and started the long, winding ascent to the top. It’s absolutely a manageable climb that takes you past vineyards situated upon the hill, crenellated stone walls, and breathtaking views of the trees below. Once at the top, we stayed true to our poor little student habits and elected not to pay the 9.5 euros for a tour of the inside of the fortress, but instead ate lunch at the Austrian restaurant after checking out the moats around the fortress. We ate outdoors on the small patio overlooking all the scenery and had a DELICIOUS lunch of fritattensuppe and holundersaft- Austrian food is my hands-down favorite (sorry, Chipotle!) Next time, we will be sure to enter the fortress, if only to see the Witch Museum on the lower level that sounds fascinating! And for children, the raptor exhibition is supposed to be very exciting. All in all, it was a great Austrian find that we probably never would have visited on our own, so we felt extremely lucky.
 
From a distance: Riegersburg from the car window.

From a distance: Riegersburg from the car window.

 
Breathtaking views were the result of a long climb.

Breathtaking views were the result of a long climb.

 
 
My delicious meal of fritattensuppe!

My delicious meal of fritattensuppe!

 
It was a steep path...

It was a steep path...

 
The patio where we ate lunch

The patio where we ate lunch

 
Stunning.

Stunning.

 
Next up: The Zotter Chocolate Factory. And yes, this experience was as ridiculously great as it sounds! The factory was only about a ten minute drive from the Riegersburg, and is known for being one of the best chocolate factories in Austria. They are also known for their sustainability, fair trade, and more importantly- making so many different flavors of chocolate that you just can’t believe your eyes! On the tour, you learn about their ethics of business, how the chocolate is produced, and get to sample—oh, hundreds of different types of chocolate! You can sample different flavors of chocolate fondue, chocolate bars, marshmallows, hot chocolate, and essentially chocolate in any form that you could ever ask for it to be in. My favorite was either the Himbeer (raspberry) or the chili-flavored chocolate, and you can bet I bought more than a few bars home with me.
 
The man himself, Josef Zotter!

The man himself, Josef Zotter!

 
One of the many candy flavors we could taste...

One of the many candy flavors we could taste...

 
 
Look at those pleased, chocolatey faces!

Look at those pleased, chocolatey faces!

 
Now, here’s where the trip gets exciting. Our roommate’s younger sister is graduating from high school this year, and when Austrians graduate: they have a ball. Not a party, not a small gathering, a ball with gowns and tuxedoes and champagne and lots and lots of Austrians! We were lucky enough to be invited to this maturaball, which took place at the Congress building in Graz. Needless to say, it was the classiest event I’ve ever attended!
 
The graduates all wore white gowns or suits, and performed a dance that they had been practicing for MONTHS. There was the opening ceremony (all in German) where the graduates brought out roses to thank their teachers and the headmistress, who later came out to officially announce the opening of the ball. The entire event was filled with prizes, the graduates selling baked goods, families and friends mingling, ballroom dancing, and performances- it was incredible. There was also a casino attached to the Congress that we visited- I felt as if I was in Casino Royale! Jackets were required, ladies and gentlemen were gambling in gowns and tuxedos, and we blended right in. We also won twenty-five euros at roulette- and I’m never one to scoff at extra euros. The party lasted until 2 a.m., when the Congress closed and the graduates went off to a club in Graz until sunrise. It was undoubtedly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us, while being a fairly standard event for the Austrians.
 
The view as we entered the ball. The graduates are all standing on the stairs in line.

The view as we entered the ball. The graduates are all standing on the stairs in line.

 
The room the dancing took place in

The room the dancing took place in

 
Pretending to be Austrian...

Pretending to be Austrian...

 
Ballroom dancing that the graduates performed

Ballroom dancing that the graduates performed

 
 
 
Quite pleased about winning my money at the casino!

Quite pleased about winning my money at the casino!

 
Since I don’t want to skim over Graz and the rest of our time in the city, I’ll end the Austrian tale here for now. Check back for more on Graz, Styrian pumpkin-seed oil, some very delicious wienerschnitzel, and how one should travel with miniature Jagermeister bottles- it’s trickier than you think…
      

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT