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Welcome back to the United States-Whitney Murray

Everyone on this trip was so thrilled to hear this statement, I’m sure. I started my day at 6:30 am European time, 11:30 pm Kansas time. I did the usual morning routine, then finished packing. I was not ready for this long journey home, however, I knew it would be worth it. After we arrived at the Munich Airport, we had to go through security, and let me tell you, it was no fun whatsover. For some, we were able to breeze on by, others didnt get through until almost boarding time. All of us were super excited to board our flight ON TIME and with no delays! We boarded the plane and we were off. I planned to get sleep on the plane, but my brain had other plans. United Airlines had TVs for everyone. We were able to play games, watch movies, television shows, or watch our flight map. I decided to watch a movie and then I would get some sleep. I ended up watching five movies which lasted our entire 10 hour flight! I was glad the flight was able to go by fast, but oh boy was I exhausted. We landed in Washington D.C. and went through U.S. Customs (which was a breeze), grabbed a quick snack, then boarded our flight to Kansas City. Although our plane was bigger than the plane to Chicago, everyone was still very uncomfortable. I slept for most of the flight, but when I woke up, I was miserable. Soon though, we landed in Kansas City. I was so excited to see my dad when I got off of the plane. It was a comforting feeling, saying that I was finally home! I had an amazing trip. One that I will never forget. I have made so many memories with all of the people from home and the folks I met in Europe. There were definitely highs and lows, but I loved my time there. I not only learned so much about the history and culture of Europe, but I also learned that I will always want to travel and learn more. This has been an amazing start to my 2015. I hope you all have enjoyed hearing about our trip!

P.S. Here are some photos from the trip!

Our Tour Guide, Yvonne, dropping us off at the airport.

Our Tour Guide, Yvonne, dropping us off at the airport.

Shaelah and I at dinner with the University of Ausburg Choir

Shaelah and I at dinner with the University of Augsburg Choir

The mountains in Germany

The mountains in Germany

Lock Bridge in Salzburg

Lock Bridge in Salzburg

Karrington and Liz goofing around in Salzburg. :)

Karrington and Liz goofing around in Salzburg. ūüôā

Astrological Clock Tower in Prague

Astrological Clock Tower in Prague

Farewell Europe – Shaelah White

Even though our trip started out with a 6 hour layover, it got better. Actually, let me rephrase that; this trip changed my life and opened up my eyes to many different things. Like most good things that happen, this trip had to eventually come to an end. This is the day before we board our plane and head back to the U. S. of A!!! We had a very excellent, snowy, and cold walking tour this morning¬†in Augsburg, Germany. Just like all the other countries we visited, this one was just as beautiful. The afternoon was spent listening to a boys choir, but I accidentally fell asleep after lunch and missed that…ooooops! I cannot begin to express how grateful I am for getting the opportunity to go on this trip. I now know that there really is much more out there than the United States. Stay classy Europe and until next time!

Here are the last pictures I took today from our walking tour and from our delicious dinner.

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SO TIRED BUT..MUST..GO..ON…. TO MUNICH! –Ethan Winter

Wow, what a trip ! It’s winding down so fast, but has been an incredible experience! A lot of the members of our group are extremely tired, so some people stayed behind in the hotel in Augsburg while the rest of us went on to the beautiful and busy city of Munich. Munich is the capitol city of Bavaria. With a population of around 1.5 million, it is the 3rd largest city in Germany. The first is Berlin ,the capitol of Germany. We went and met our tour guide in the town square.

Upon our arrival we were able to witness the glockenspiel show which was really quite cool, it told two different stories with the puppets and the tolling of the bells in the tower. The show took place in the side of the clock tower on the new town hall of Munich. There is a new town hall and an old town hall. The old one was destroyed in the war and rebuilt later. We then visited several beautiful cathedrals where the skeleton of a saint can be seen. This was really creepy! After viewing the church, our guide took us to a open air market where we got the opportunity to try a “mystery meat” sandwich, as we have come to call it! The square for the market was very busy and very cozy. Everything you would want was there and quite affordable as well. ¬†We also got to see the Hofbr√§uhaus ( Royal brewery), which is where the royal family made their own beer to sell to the common people. Later on in the tour we got to see the spot where an early Nazi march was stopped. In that same area was a square where Hitler delivered speeches and forced passersby to give the Nazi salute. Townsfolk found a way around it, however, through what was called ,”the Dodgers Street”, which now has a gold painted line through it to memorialize the area. The rest of the time was spent on our own shopping and exploring.

Tonight we performed our last concert at Augsburg University with the choir from there. It was spectacular! Our best one yet for sure. Their facility was absolutely breathtaking and state of the art. Our sound rang around that hall and was absolutely beautiful. The choir performed a piece called “Total Pra

Snow Day! – Ethan Jacobitz

Today, we said “Auf Wiedersehen”¬†to Salzburg and went on the road to Reutte. Though both cities are Austrian, we made a brief detour into Bavaria to visit Neuschwanstein Castle. After quickly checking in to our rooms at the family-owned Goldener Hirsch hotel, we walked to the Reutte Music School to perform our third concert.

We woke up to a cold, but gentle rain that slowly turned to snow as we drove into the German Alps. By the time we reached Neuschwanstein Castle, there was a thick layer of snow covering the ground.

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We had to walk a mile, up hill, in snow up to our ankles to reach Neuschwanstein Castle. Unfortunately, photography wasn’t allowed inside. The castle wasn’t finished – King Ludwig II died before his extensive and imaginative vision could be achieved – the fourteen completely furnished rooms are elaborately decorated. Everything is dedicated to the king’s friend Richard Wagner’s operas. We were led up and down winding spiral staircases and through secret doors. Once the tour was over, we slipped and slid back down the mountain and back to the bus.

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After our time in the snow, we were eager to get to the hotel to  change into dry socks and settle in to our rooms, but it was already time to rehearse for our concert so we quickly checked in, dropped off our things, and rushed to the Reutte Music School to warm up. The school had a beautiful performance space Рit was wonderful to have the opportunity to make music there. The audience gave us a warm welcome and, in spite of our being tired from the drive and the hike to and from the castle, we gave an excellent performance.

Dinner was waiting for us in the hotel, and we all enjoyed a hot meal together before having a bit of free time before bed.

 

The Hills of Salzburg are Alive with the Sound of Music – Addie Johnson

Today was our one and only day in the lovely little town of Salzburg, Austria. We all started off this morning with a guided walking tour at 9:00am. It was another early morning for all of us. Once we got out onto the streets and started walking , the cool air coming down off the Alps helped most of the group wake up a little bit more. On the guided tour we saw amazing fountains, the Salzach River, a love bridge covered in padlocks and, of course, all of the wonderful musical sights and sounds of this beautiful city.

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Growing up I watched “The Sound of Music” quite a bit and now seeing the place where the movie was filmed and standing where Julie Andrews sang and danced was a pretty cool experience. These were some of the shots where the movie was filmed.

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One of the most amazing things that happened today, and probably one of the biggest highlights for me, was singing in the Salzburg Cathedral.  This is the same huge, gorgeous cathedral where Mozart played and composed pieces for the Archbishop. There were five different organs and the panting and stucco on the walls and ceilings was something I could look at all day. Singing in the space was nothing like I had ever experienced anywhere. Chills ran down my spine on the first chord and by the last my eyes were filled with tears. It was something I will never forget.

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Afterwards we finished our tour that morning by visiting Mozart’s birthplace. It was very cool to see just how small the ceilings were and how little the apartments were where they lived. In the museum you have to start on the third floor and work your way down to the ground floor. As we were exploring Amanda Connell and I got a bit lost a separated from the group and somehow missed the second and first floor of the museum. As we went to through the exit we heard drums and brass out in the square, so of course we went and explored.

Every winter in Europe, around this time and in a different city, there is a festival to drive the winter spirits away. Bands come from all over Europe to play and chase out the winter. They wear crazy costumes and their makeup is outstanding. One of the bands from Switzerland is staying at our hotel and last night a couple of us got to sit and talk with them. According to the lady who spoke the best English, the members of these bands just pick up the instrument that is needed at the time they join and just start to wing it. They don’t use any sheet music, but they sound like a really good marching band.

Later in the afternoon a couple groups of us went up to the fortress that looks over the town on Salzburg. Lane Allison and I decided that we would walk the road up to the fortress. This was one of the steepest streets I have ever walked on. I have a feeling that I will be very sore in the morning, but it was all worth it once we got up to the top. Within the fortress we were able to see how it was built, how they lived, and an amazing view of the Alps and the beautiful town of Salzburg. I believe that here in Salzburg is the most beautiful landscape that I have seen on the trip so far. The snow-capped Alps are my favorite natural landmark I have ever seen.

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Tomorrow we head to Reutte,  Austria for our next concert and our next adventure.

Out of Bed, Out of Gas – Brittni Cain

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Today was another long day of travel.

We began at 8:30 and had everyone loaded in the bus and their luggage stored underneath. But did we really? Collin and Grant were nowhere to be found. No one had seen them that¬†morning at breakfast and they were roommates¬†so that was no¬†help either. They didn’t pick up their¬†room phone and didn’t respond to any texts from Dr. Norris, our last hope was Karlene Tyler going to drag them out of their¬†beds.¬†Fortunately,¬†they were dressed and out the door when she got¬†to their room, so we were finally on the road again to C√™sky Krumlov: a quaint little village with the second largest castle in Czech Republic.

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We learned that this medieval town was not hit by a single bomb in World War II  and had not been damaged in any way other than the natural deterioration of the building facades since their construction between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries. After our tour we had about an hour to get lunch and explore the village and protective castle, we all thought that would give us plenty of time to get back to the bus for 1:30. After exploring a couple of music shops with Kyle Hopkins, we began looking for a cafe that would accept credit cards as we had run out of Czech currency. 20 minutes later I settled on a sugar bread that is cooked on a large metal spit over a heat source, paid with it with my euros and started on my way back to the bus. Only four people arrived on time and we waited about another half-hour for everyone else who had sat down to eat and received their food only ten minutes before we were due back at the bus. When we finally got on the road again not too far from 2:30, many of us were already tired from the short tour of the village and nodded off for cat naps for the remaining ride to Salzburg.

When I awoke, something wasn’t right, the bus was stopped in the middle of the highway! The indicator light for the¬†diesel gauge malfunctioned and we were only half a mile away from the gas station. Our bus driver, Markus,¬†informed us of the situation and ran off to the gas station to fetch a bit of diesel that would get the bus to the station. To pass the time we munched on shared snacks and drank our limited water, until a police officer entered the bus to see what was wrong. The officer very kindly drove to the gas station to drive Marcus back to the bus with the diesel, and then back again to make sure we had plenty to clear the fuel¬†lines of air and then drive up the road to fill the tank. While we waited for the bus to be started, a group near the back of the bus began to play charades with an app on somebody`s phone. About two hours after breaking down we were on the road and pressed for time to make it to the planned dinner and performance at seven o`clock, which we were expected at by 6:30 and had to walk about 20 minutes to.

Our dinner was at the oldest continually-functioning restaurant in¬†the world (Stiftskeller¬†St. Peter- founded in 808)¬† with performers dressed in Mozart- era costumes and¬†performing his music between three courses of food prepared as in the days of the composer.¬†¬†The woman vocalist began flirting with Skyler when they began¬†the music from “Don Giovanni” and continued during¬†the next¬†set from “The Marriage of Figaro,” even stroking his hair and offering him his drink.¬†She simply sent a wink his way during the set from¬†“The Magic Flute” but it was enough to make him flush and send the rest of us laughing, which was a fantastic way to end a very frustrating day.

 

 

A Final Trip Around Prague – Collin Wright

Our final day has come in Prague. While it will be such a shame to leave a wonderful city, we will be getting on the bus and departing to Salzburg, Austria¬†in the morning. Though we have only had a short while, we were able to experience much of what the city has to offer us. As part of our final day, we experienced walking around the Jewish Quarter, viewing a couple of Synagogues in the area, as well as a historical cemetery. Afterwards, we had a little bit of free time before our concert in the city. This concert in particular was very unique as it was a benefit for the Prague Childrens Hospital, and had a turnout of over 300 people in attendance. 300 is an insane number, especially for a small college from America coming to the Czech Republic. Overall, Prague has been an amazing experience, and I personally can¬īt wait to come back.

When I first found out that we were going into the Jewish Quarter of Prague, I did not know what to expect. I was not sure whether we would see some of the old buildings from WWII, whether or not we would see ruins, no idea at all to be honest. What we did see, however, was a memoriam to those of the Jewish community who lost their lives during the rule of Nazi Germany. Our tour guide, Barbara, told us that before the war, there were around 120,ooo Jews living in the Czech Republic. Afterwards, there were less than 40,000 of them. To think that 2/3 of your people are gone, there is no doubt that no one would want to leave the area. Today, there are very few Jews living in Prague, or the Czech Republic in general.

Next came the cemetery. According to Barbara, there were approximately 12,000 gravestones there, but many were reported destroyed by Nazi soldiers. The best estimates say that there are approximately 40,000 bodies within the cemetery. That is absolutely ridiculous. By those numbers, at least 25,000 people do not have something to memorialize them, and it seems like they have been forgotten from history. Seeing these things makes you wonder about what would happen if it had been you in their position.

After the Jewish Quarter this morning, we had a little bit of free time to pick up souveniers, eat, sleep, whatever we wanted to do. After a little bit of time to ourselves, we departed for our concert. Like I said before, it was a benefit for the hospital in Prague, and more specifically had to deal with pediatric cancer. Due to the benefit nature, we amassed an audience of over 300 people. It was excellent. Everyone put on a spectacular performance. In fact, when Karrington sang her solo in City called Heaven, I saw a woman in the front row crying, and I know that they were not tears of sadness, only tears of joy.

Overall, everyone had a remarkable time over here in Prague. From the shows to the history, the music, dancing, and just overall fun had in the country, I can say we have had the time of our lives here. And we still have another half of the trip to go. I am sure everyone will be excited for what the rest of Europe has to offer us.

 

“Czech” it out – Joshua Hall

This morning brought our first full day in Prague in the Czech Republic. We started our day with breakfast provided by our hotel. Shortly after we began our bus ride to Prague Castle and our tour of the city. We visited Prague Castle and St. Vitas Catherdral. If one word could describe the City of Prague it would be miraculous. The city itself holds so much beautiful architecture and history. With over a million inhabitants Prague leaves no stone unturned, and in the spirit of this packed city, both historically and architecturally, neither did we. The group turned over every little stone that Prague had to offer. Seeing street performances, drinking the local pilsner, and walking its many winding gorgeous streets, we stumbled across an experience of a life time.

Shortly after arriving at Prague Castle, the largest series of castles in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records, you could immediately tell we were in for a treat. Lined with medieval buildings and tcobblestone streets we navigated this ancient subcity with cameras in hand and eyes wide open. The most breath-taking building in the Prague Castle complex was definitely the St. Vitas Cathedral. This gothic style church is packed with so much history, reminding us that we are so much more than we see on this earth. Shortly after singing a few numbers in the center of the church and finishing our tour of the castle we found ourselves traveling down hill where we found the most amazing and mind-blowing views of the Old City and the Charles Bridge where we were heading.  The Charles Bridge is the oldest bridge connecting Old Town to the outside world. While strolling the bridge we found many street performances, but the most impactful was the classically-trained accordian players.

The sheer volume of the architecture here in Prague is absolutely astounding. After the Charles Bridge, we made our way to the square where the world famous astronomical clock stands. At 10 stories tall, this clock overlooks Old Town keeping time as the lively city passes by. In the early evening, we went to see Adam Plachetka of the Vienna Opera perform at the Rudolfinum, the home of the Czech Philharmonic. This was a special show for a few of us because he performed songs that we as students have studied in past semesters of voice lessons.  His performance gave us a reference to the work we are doing back in the States. After four encores, we made our way to dinner to celebrate the days activities.

Prague has left me with an absolute appreciation of the world around me and has shown me that there is beauty in small and large cities. I cannot even begin to describe the feeling and mental pictures that this magical city has given me. It has been and will be an experience i will cherish as long as I live. If you get a chance to visit this magical city, “Czech” it out!

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Welcome to Prague – Micah Waugh

IMG_3366This morning found us in Krakow, Poland. After an early breakfast, we loaded the bus once again and departed for Prague. Our trip took several hours to complete, but it was well worth it. The European countryside was beautiful, and this was one of the first times that we were able to enjoy it on this trip.We finally arrived in Prague at about 4:30. Although we had just arrived, the city was already living up to its reputation as one of the most beautiful in central Europe. Despite being so early in the evening, it was already dark. This made the city seem even more beautiful and mysterious.Some of us wandered through the streets for a few minutes, taking in the sites and sounds. There were interesting shops and interesting people. The sidewalks were full of activity.We soon gathered again and departed for dinner. We went to a charming traditional Czech restuarant. We were served a delicious three course meal. Bread, soup, pork, ham, chicken, mashed potatoes, and a delicious apple pie were served by a friendly wait staff. To drink, we had honeywine, white and red wine, beer, and soft drinks available to us. Everyone agreed that the food was cooked to perfection, with the perfect balance of flavors cooked into every dish.The decorations in the dining room were beautiful and festive. Various bouquets of grain hung from the ceiling, and animal skins and painted plates adorned the walls.

IMG_3368Perhaps the most enjoyable part of the evening was the music and dancing. An amazing trio that consisted of a violinist, string bassist, and dulcimer player started the entertainment. They were dressed in traditional Czech outfits. Their music captured the attention of the whole room as the violinist’s eyes sparkled from behind his strings. After a couple of songs, a host and two dancers joined the show. They spent a good portion of the rest of the evening singing, playing, and dancing for us. The musical group even let the audience members join in the fun. They taught us lively dances and songs.

After we finished dinner, and the performers finished their set, we thanked them with our very own rendition of the “Thank you song.”

Today was a lovely day and a great start to our time in Prague.

Auschwitz Tour – Ryan Kresky

This morning after we left our rooms and ate breakfast, the entire group waited for the bus at 8:30. The bus came on time and we walked onto the bus to take a trip towards Auschwitz concentration camp. It would be another hour before we would arrive so our guide played a related fifty minute video about the history of Auschwitz which gave us insight into what we would see in the museum. While riding, we took in the Polish countryside as we passed by houses, forests, local stores and billboards posting different prices in Polish currency.

We arrived at the museum early and had to wait for our groups to be called. The waiting area contained multiple items for sale including post cards, books and movies while there were individual vending machines containing a range of candy bars and sodas.

When our group was called, we entered a hallway where they told us to take a headset and transmitter so we could hear the tour guide. We then started the tour with our guide showing and telling us about the gate and the tragically ironic German phrase, ‚ÄúArbeit Macht Frei‚ÄĚ which means in English, ‚ÄúWork Sets You Free.‚ÄĚ We then entered the camp itself, seeing all of the brick buildings with some serving as exhibits for tourists.

Going through these buildings, we were able to look into the living conditions, the history of the camp itself and how the prisoners were treated. Personally, a few of the most moving exhibits were the room filled with human hair, mainly female, all removed before they were sent to the gas chambers; the basement where prisoners were shoved into rooms where the guards would either leave them to starve or suffocate to death; and the courtyard where they would privately execute prisoners. (We did not take photos of the hair or death chambers out of respect for the victims, but the photo with a small metal box shows the only window into the suffocation chamber.)

 

 

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Finally we were led toward Crematorium I, the only crematorium that was not destroyed by the Nazis. The small building held four rooms: One was the entrance, the second room served as a gas chamber, the third was the furnace room and the last was the exit. We walked through the small building in silence. (Below are photos of the smoke stakes of the crematorium.)

After we walked through Auschwitz we removed our headsets and transmitters and returned to the bus. We drove to Auschwitz II, Birchenau, just a few minutes away. Birkenau was much, much larger than Auschwitz I. It was filled with buildings and vacant areas where other buildings used to stand. The entrance had the main guard tower where a huge tent is being built in order to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the camp’s liberation. We walked through one building made for the prisoners where they slept on straw and the building contained little to no heating in the winter.

We then returned to the bus, thanked our tour guide and rode back to our hotel.

Taking a tour of Auschwitz and Birkenau was an incredible experience. It helped me to understand that humans are capable of such heinous acts of genocide and the importance of understanding history. This experience is one that I will remember the rest of my life.