Trip to Athens

Over the weekend I went on one of my final trips to Athens. I have always had a fascination with Ancient civilizations and Greek mythology so it was a trip I was very excited for. I was lucky to also find a hostel that allowed me to experience what it was like to live as a local. Like my trip to Barcelona, Athens had its own unique look and atmosphere. The historical roots were seamlessly embedded into the city itself. Of course much of it is emphasized for tourism purposes but most of it felt authentic.

Like most other European cities, Athens was very much local, stirring away from big named brands and commercialization. The residential areas were so authentic with older building designs established on the hilltops of the city. The residential areas felt so cozy. People would stop and talk on the streets, whether it was with other residents and shop owners. It was the first time I experienced a suburban type of lifestyle in a city, which was very cool.

But of course all eyes are set on the historical sites within the city, but more specifically, the Acropolis. I am happy to say that it did not disappoint! Nor did any of the historical sites within the city. I was blown away by beautiful and well preserved the Parthenon, Temple of Athena Nike, and Odeon of Herodes Atticus were. Each structure blew me away with their design and purpose. It was fascinating to hear the history behind these monuments.

Having dedicated a full day to seeing the Acropolis and some of the markets, I had to find other things to do for the second day. Of course I visited the colossal Temple of Zeus, the Ancient Agora, and the National Gardens, all of which were just as impressive as the Acropolis (not to mention a lot less touristy). However, one of my most favorite sights was the Philopappos Monument on Mouseion Hill. The walk up and view from the monument was absolutely breathtaking and I highly recommend taking an hour to walk the hill and take in the entire city. There was so much more I wanted to see in Greece and I will definitely be returning to see the rest of Athens and the rest of the beautiful parts of the country (The Temple of Poseidon in Cape Sounion). Like Barcelona, Athens was so unique and immersive that its a must visit when in Europe!   

Trip to Barcelona

After a month of relentless homework, assignments, and mid-terms, I was finally able to go on a mini vacation to Barcelona. Meeting with a friend from back home in the states,  we were fortunate enough to explore the city for four days. However, I felt when we were leaving that we had barely scratched the surface. Barcelona is such a large, lively, and beautiful city. We could roam around the city randomly and always discover something incredible. On the first couple days we checked out the main tourist attractions such as the Sagrada Família church, La Rambla walkway, Rambla del mar, and the Barcelona Olympic stadium from the summer of 1992. Each of these attractions were unique and beautiful. Even secret gems such as the Jardin de Aclimatacion park were breathtaking. We capped off our visit with a trip to the Barcelona Zoo and an FC Barcelona game at the incredible Camp Nou stadium. Although Barcelona lost, the game was electrifying with such a different feel and atmosphere than that of most sports games back home. Plus, who wouldn’t want to see Messi play in person!

For me, the trip also gave a unique perspective. I have now lived in eastern Europe for two months and going back to western Europe gave the feeling of a different atmosphere. Although Spain and Hungary are located on the same continent, Barcelona felt a bit more different than Budapest and Prague. There is a notable difference in atmosphere between western and eastern Europe. Most differences I saw were in the architecture and history. Spain had its own unique buildings, monuments, and other attractions. The differences between the eastern European cities and Barcelona no undoubtedly are in large part to the history of each country and region. Taking three history courses while I’m here has been eye-opening. The effects of two World Wars and the Soviet Unions communist takeover of eastern Europe have had different impacts on eastern and western European countries.

But even with the differences, I enjoyed Barcelona all the same! The city is beautifully laid out and well kept. Whether it was walking along the harbor or rallying with the Camp Nou crowd to cheering on FC Barcelona, I felt like I was always immersed in the culture of the city. I highly encourage anyone who takes a trip to Europe to stop in Barcelona, even if its just for a few days. The city is unlike any I have ever been to on this trip, as it has its own personality. I cannot wait to return to the city and see what else it has to offer!

Esztergom and Štúrovo

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This weekend we went to Esztergom, Hungary and Štúrovo, Slovakia.  Esztergom is small city located about 30 miles north of Budapest.  It took us about an hour and a half to get there via train.  This charming little town is home to the Esztergom Basilica, the largest church in Hungary.  It is also home to the largest Christian museum in Hungary (which we unfortunately

forgot about and did not visit).

 

Our visit started off by crossing

Sign on the Mária Valéria Bridge indicating entry to Slovakia

the Mária Valéria Bridge to see Štúrovo, Slovakia.  We were shocked to find that there was no border protection whatsoever, people were free to cross the bridge back and forth. Štúrovo is very underwhelming, it’s just a normal town with many pastel colored apartment buildings.  It’s an ancient town that’s been inhabited for at least a thousand years but being a border town especially one on the Danube will bring war and destruction.  Becuase of this much of the town is not very old and the biggest attraction in the town is a large thermal bath resort (which we did not visit but saw on the map).

Apartment building in Štúrovo, Slovakia

View of the Basilica from Stúrovo, Slovakia

We ate lunch at a restaurant in Štúrovo and then crossed back for the night.  The next morning it was raining but we hadn’t walked around Esztergom and we wanted to see the Basilica and another cool looking church we had spotted while searching for dinner.  All of my pictures from inside the Basilica didn’t come out very well because I was using my phone.  But the Basilica is much much bigger than it looks unfortunately the dome and a third of the church were under construction and we were unable to see many of the paintings.

Church on top of hill in Esztergom, Hungary

We made the trek across town to this church which was nothing special, but it did give a spectacular view of the Basilica.

View of Esztergom Basilica from other side of town

The town was small and homely.  We took this trip to seek reprieve from city living and we certainly got it.  We have a lot more trips in the upcoming weeks and months we will be going to Lake Balaton (wine country in Hungary), Athens, Barcelona, Prague, Vienna, Italy with more to be planned.

Stay tuned,

Zack

An Introduction to Budapest

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A view of the Pest side from atop the Buda castle

When I arrived in Budapest I didn’t know what to expect. I had only heard of the city six months ago when my friend suggested it as one of the locations we should consider to travel abroad. Other than seeing a few pictures of the Parliament Building and other famous structures on Google Images, I had no idea what to expect. When we initially arrived, we were met with heavy rain, massive lightning strikes, and fireworks going off in the city… all topped off by a crazy taxi driver going 130 k (80 mph) through it all.

 

 

 

After that hectic night, I got to see the city in its entire glory, and I was immediately blown away. In our two group tours we got to see the beautiful architecture, learn the history, and try the food in both Buda and Pest. The city immediately took hold of me with its beauty and atmosphere.

You won’t find major businesses, heavy traffic, or skyscrapers in Budapest but the city overcompensates with breathtaking architecture and rich history. This seems to be the biggest distinction between most European and U.S. cities, and something I love. A lot of U.S. cities feel and look the same, as where in Europe, each city has its own distinct background, culture, and atmosphere.

The outside of Szimpla Kert, one of the  many Ruin Bars (bars established in run down and abandon buildings) found throughout Budapest

 

Even with it’s drastic differences from the Boston area, my transition between cultures has been surprisingly smooth. Although English is spoken more commonly in the city center, I have still found the language barrier less difficult than I imagined. However, I was surprised when our RA informed us that Hungarian social norms are very different than those in the U.S. She told us that people in Hungary kept to themselves, meaning they would not smile or say hello when they walked by someone on the street. She told us not to take offence if someone doesn’t acknowledge us if we signaled with a friendly gesture and explained that it was just part of the culture.

Other than the language boundary, I have adjusted to Budapest surprisingly well by learning the transit system and Hungarian cultural and social norms. I am excited to explore and become accustomed to the beautiful city of Budapest and to learn as much that I can about Hungarian culture and history!

Welcome!

Follow this Fall 2018’s Office of Study Abroad & International Experiences Global Correspondents: Paul Murphy and Zachary Krausman, on their studies in Budapest, Hungary!

Zachary is a UMass Lowell Computer Science major with an Economics minor. Paul is a UMass Lowell Philosophy Major. This Fall, they are both studying through the UMass Lowell Partner-Led: AIFS Study Abroad in Budapest.

You can also read blogs from other trips across the globe!

Follow this Fall 2018’s Office of Study Abroad & International Experiences Global Correspondent's, Paul Murphy and Zachary Krausman, on their studies in Budapest, Hungary!