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ashley b.

Relaxation and Struggle – Ashley Burtch

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Things have been much more relaxing lately after leaving the business of Florence and Rome behind us.  We spend a few relaxing days on the Amalfi coast of Italy.  Highlights from there included swimming in the Mediterranean, touring the ruins of Pompeii (an ancient Roman city preserved by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE) and riding around on the back of a friend´s scooter for awhile at sunset.  After leaving the coast we headed Northwest for Assisi, home of St. Francis and the slow pace continued from there to Venice.  We were given a free day to wander through the city and although I didn´t ride on the gondolas (a definite tourist trap at 80 Euros a ride) we did see the canals from the water taxi and had our last taste of gelato before leaving Italy and entering Austria.  We spend the last couple days camping on the shore of one of the cleanest lakes in Europe, just outside Salzburg.  Our campsite had views of the Austrian mountains (though we learned the Von Trapp family didn´t actually hike through the mountains – they pretended to go for a mountain hike and then hid on a train to Switzerland).  I spent most of the day feeding leftover bread to the ducks, which were so tame they would eat from your hand and kayaking on the lake.  We´ve been brushing up on German and getting ready for the big football match between Austria and Germany tomorrow night.

We also visited Hitler´s Eagle´s Nest, a secret location in the mountains on the border of Austria and Germany where he dug a bunker and it is believed he and Eva died there, two weeks before the end of the war.  It was very difficult to wander through the place listening to information on the development of the Nazi´s power and the effect it had on the people.  50 million people are believed to have died in WWII and 28 million of those were civilians.  As I´m sure everyone knows, millions of Jews were targeted and exterminated, but so were gypsies, elderly people, disabled people, soviets, and those with (or perceived to have) hereditary diseases, as well as any who showed opposition or resistance.  Being there was odd in that I have always wondered how such an atrocity could occur and the information presented to us gave me both an understanding of how Hitler rose to such power through the manipulation of the masses and yet I left feeling more overwhelmed at how this could have happened.  In a way I both understand more and less at the same time.  The evil was more systematic then I ever thought possible.   I am both anxiously anticipating our visit to the Dachau concentration camp next week and I hope these thoughts can become clearer as our class discusses the impact of WWII on Western Europe.

Life on the road – Ashley Burtch

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The days here blend into each other so I have no clue what day or time it is but we are having an amazing time. Here’s a short excerpt from my journal entry from earlier today, just to give you a taste:The shock and awe of travelling sets in sometimes like a heavy fog. Yesterday I woke up in Carcassone, France. Two days ago I was in Barcelona, Spain. Tonight I will be sleeping in Florence, Italy. I had a chocolate crepe for breakfast this morning while overlooking the French Riviera in Nice, France and last night I swan in the Mediterranian Sea. Now we are driving through a series of over 100 tunnels on our way to Italy.

It’s been a whirlwind of events. Highlights have included The Dali Museum in Figures, Spain, wine and cheese and chocolate and olives at lunch, drinking Sangria on Las Ramblas in Barcelona and seeing Parc Guell (designed by Antonio Gaudi). The Passion Facade at the Sagrada Familia, a huge cathedral also by Gaudi was amazing too. We weren’t in Southern France for too long, just transiting though but we will be returning to Paris and the surrounding area later in the trip. Tomorrow we’ll be going to the Accademia in Florence and seeing the David by Michelangelo along with many other icons of Western art and history. Florence (or Firenze in Italian) was the center of the Italian Renaissance during the fifteenth century. It’s been amazing to learn as we travel. I don’t think I would have remembered the half the things we’ve learned if I hadn’t been seeing it right there. The thing that has impressed me the most has been the Passion Facade at the Sagrada Familia – designed by Antonio Gaudi. Building began on the cathedral in 1882 and there is a projected completion date of 2026, 100 year anniversary of Gaudi’s death. The Passion Facade was described by Sam as blockade design, which is fitting. I’ve never seen a depiction of the Passion like this before. The thing that struck me the most was the pillar in the center of the two doors to which a sculture of Chris is tied. The expression on his face can’t be described. You should just come see it for yourself.