Well, today was…draining to say the least. On top of having to get up early at 4am so that we could drive two hours to the airport, it was down-pouring! Most of us had packed our coats the night before so it was fun to see everyone scramble to get their things stowed in the van and then make a run for the front to get inside the van themselves. But by the time we arrived at the airport we were dry, if only to get wet all over again trying to unload and get into the place. But rainy day aside, the morning went off pretty well. We had fewer people going back on the same flight so it made things a little easier to get through lines, but only just. I have to comment that security at the Zurich airport was probably the best / most thorough of any airport I’ve been in. So if you fly out of that airport I would be prepared to have a little bit longer of a wait than say at the Atlanta airport. We went through ‘pre’ security before we were able to get our boarding passes and check our bags. Then we went through normal security, which seemed much more effecient here than Kansas City as we all got through in what seemed like record time! Then we had to go through passport control before being able to get into the terminal and wait for our flight.

Waiting for our connection in Atlanta! After scouting out refreshments of course!

The flight went very well, and we actually arrive an hour ahead of schedule! Again, I would pack ear plugs and keep them in an accessible place…we had a baby and toddler screaming throughout 95% of the flight so they came in handy! Anyway once we got off the plane in Atlanta it was an hour or so before we made it threw customs because their computer system was acting up. It was a good thing we had a longer layover between our flights so that we had a buffer zone. After customs and rechecking our bags, it was smooth sailing to our flight to KC.

A group of us set off in search of what we had been craving for over a week: American soda! We were successful for our hunt for Diet Dr Pepper and Mountain Dew! It was great to get back to familiar surroundings. We were over an hour late taking off because of a problem with the plane but we weren’t in a hurry so this wasn’t a problem with us as long as we got home!

Bye, Bye European Dr Pepper!

It was a long day to say the least and we were all very happy to make it back to Kansas! This was one of the most exciting and fun trips I’ve been on and I’ve made some great friends over these past few weeks. I hope everyone gets a chance at some point to experience traveling abroad. It really does open your eyes and expand your view of the world and the many unique people in it!  Until next time then!

Today was our last day in Germany :( But not being a group to waste time dwelling on that we set off for one last day of trouble making!! As it was our last day of the trip, it was decided that the entire day was a free day to be spent sight seeing in the Black Forest!

It was an incredible day, we started our day off with a quick photo stop at the world’s largest cuckoo clock! It was huge and honestly impressive. Unfrotunatley the shop that the clock is located in was closed at the time so we set off again with the promise of returning later in the day. Our next stop was at a glass blowing factory near Triberg. You could blow your own glass vase if you wanted and a member of our group did just that! It was pretty amazing to see the whole process from start to finish. After exploring the glass museum and shopping in the attached store we set off again for an open air museum.

Worlds Largest Cuckoo Clock!

The Vogtsbauernhof open-air museum was by far the most impressive open-air museum that we have visited on the trip. Though several of us didn’t venture into the museum we were delighted by the pictures and stores that the other provided once they had finished their tour. Those of us who decided to stay and explore the area outside the museum spent our afternoon getting in our last German-style lunch and some last minute souvenir shopping! This weekend has been the only time during our trip where is has rained constantly throughout the day; the weather was partially behind many of us choosing not to explore the museum. However, if I could get back to this area in the future I will defnifitly make this one of my stops so that I can experience the museum in, hopefully, sunshine!

Well, after spending our lunch time at the museum we set off again for a new adventure. We headed to roadside luge park we saw on the way in to the museum! Man, it was fun to go through all those twists and turns while being able to control your own speed! I would definitely say if you see one of these while you’re driving to stop and try it! It’s something you won’t forget or regret! Next we stopped in a local town to do some more shopping, while a few others went hiking through the forest.

Luge Park!

After all the hiking was finished and we were all tired of being wet, we once again headed back to the cuckoo clock store. This time it was open and we were able to see the clock in action as we made it back right on the hour! It was pretty neat to see the huge clock in action! After watching the clock, we then took an inside tour of the house that hold the clock and all its’ interworkings. Seeing all the intricate work that had to be done to piece the clock together was great and hearing more history about the clock making region was a real treat too!

Having spent the rest of our afternoon shopping away, we headed back to the hotel to pack a bit before heading to our last group dinner. It was a fun evening spent recollecting our fondest moments of the trip, as well as those were weren’t so fond of!! Then it was back to reality. Just a small hint…be prepared to spend some time repacking your checked bag for the flight home, especially if you bought a lot of stuff to bring home! I spent over two hours packing and repacking my bags before I was able to get everything settled in just right. Oh! Also, when checking a bag at the Zurich airport, your bag needs to weigh less than 23kg or you will have to pay fee for an overweight bag! A good piece of advice given to me from one of our groups seasoned travelers was to pack another smaller bag in your check on to use on your return flight as a carry on! I had never even thought of that but wish that I had, then packing wouldn’t have been such a trial!

Anyway, Monday morning brings a 4am wake up call with a 4:30am departure for the Zurich airport! It will be great to be headed back home! Not that being over in Europe and experiencing the new culture hasn’t been fun, but there are just some things you can’t help but look forward to! We made a list: Mountain Dew, Diet Dr. Pepper, ice cubes, tap water, and ceiling fans!

Today we went to visit a mill/bakery that has been in the same location for over 500 years!! It was amazing to see the difference in a family run business compared to a commercialized mill. The family that runs the mill has been in possession of it since the 1840s and added on the bakery. They now have over 18 shops in the surrounding areas! The fresh baked goods were to die for. All of use went through and bought food to take back to our rooms for a snack later in the afternoon!!

Old Mill in Villingen-Schwenningen

Old Roller Mill

After spending the morning exploring the family mill, we made our way to the center of town for the once weekly farmers market! It was fantastic to see all the local goods that were being displayed. Many of the group bought various items from the market, including wine, cheese, baked goods, and fresh fruit! I would be on the lookout for places like this because it was a fun cheap way to buy some lunch and to explore more of the city!

This town has some amazing shopping for the size it is!! There is a huge downtown section with soo many shops and cafes it would be impossible not to find something you would like.

After that, the students were let loose for the rest of the day. We all split off into groups and did our own things. Tomorrow we will be headed deeper into the Black Forrest region and to some cuckoo shops!! I’m pretty excited about that and can’t wait for morning to get here!! More on the cuckoo clock adventure tomorrow!!!

Well, I know officially know how wheat goes from kernels to flour and the many different machines that make this transformation occur. We spent all morning and afternoon at Buhler touring their manufacturing buildings, research labs and of course their practice/training mill.

I can now say that I have stuck my hands in a roller mill (?) or some type of equipment that crushes the wheat kernels. It was exciting and a fun time to actually see the whole flour making process and to get to feel the difference in the product at the different stages of production.

During the day we had learned from our guide that a chocolate store/factory was close by. Of course, being a bunch of chocolate junkies we just had to go!! So we made a side trip after leaving Buhler to stop at Schoggi Land, the chocolate super store!! The prices were fairly cheap and everyone loaded up on some good Swiss choclate for the road since this was to our last day in the country.

Random side note, the Swiss speak what they call ‘Swiss-German’. It is similar to German but they pronounc and spell words differently so if you happen to know German, you should be able to get by here but you won’t always know what people are trying to say! Even our group leader, who is a native German, had some trouble.

Anyway, on the drive back to Germany we made a stop at Rhinefalls. It was a beautiful place to stop and take pictures. If you had time you could also visit a castle on top of the falls, or take a boat ride up to the falls and climb a rock formation in the middle of the falls. We didn’t have much time and were more concerned about finding some food so we only stayed for half an hour but if you had time I would recommend a stop here if only for the view!!

Rhinefalls!

Well, we are at our final hotel of the trip in Villingen-Schwenningen, which is actually near the hometown of our group leader. After grabbing a bite to eat at a local Italian place, most of us have headed back here to catch up on some well needed sleep! Tomorrow is a bit of a free for all, so more later on what happens!

City Square Fountain in Villingen-Schwenningen

Holy Cow!! Literally, the Swiss take their dairy cows seriously which is just fine with me! Almost all the items I bought for souvenirs  have some type of cow on them and you can’t drive anywhere without seeing a few cows out in the pasture. There are even a few cows across the street from out hostel. Speaking of hostels…the one we are staying at in St. Gallen couldn’t be more different from the hostel in Hamburg.

Brown Swiss Dairy Cow

I’m not sure that I would recommend staying in this one to someone. The rooms are fine, they are dorm style with bunk beds and each room seems to have a sink and lockers you can rent to keep your things in. It is just the atmosphere of the place that gets me.It is not very bright and cheery here and of course not having access to internet isn’t helping anyones mood. Word of advice if your are planning on staying in youth hostels in Europe and want internet, check and see if you will need a phone to use to receive the internet codes for access. This hostel required that you use your phone to entire a code, then you would receive a text with the code for internet access. Well this would be fine if you wouldn’t end up with a ridiculous roaming charge if you could even get your cell phone to work over here in the first place! Anyway, if you have no interest in having internet it’s not something you have to worry about either way!

Well, after spending the morning visiting the newest milling plant in Switzerland we headed off to visit Mt. Saentis. Saentis is the tallest Alp in this part of Switzerland at around 8,209 feet in elevation. It was an amazing sight to see from the ground below but we got the opportunity to ride a cable car, I guess that’s what they are called, up to the peak! At the top they have a structure that houses a meteorology center as well as a telecommunications center. But for visitors the site also houses several restaurants as well as a shop to buy souvenirs. It is several stories high and from the top level you can walk right outside to take in the view! No unfortunately, even though it was nice and sunny at the bottom of the mountain once we made it to the top the weather had changed drastically and we were only able to get a few clear view of the surrounding area. After those first few moments it became very windy and cloudy so pictures were not very good. Nonetheless it was an amazing thing to be able to experience and if you are every in the position to travel to Mt. Saentis then you simply must go to the top! It is something I will never forget.

The ascent to Säntis!

After spending a few hours on top of the mountain we all were feeling a little on the light headed side and decided to head to a small village near Saentis. It was a cute town that, finally!, had open shops so that we could get in some shop time before our trip is over!!

We spent an hour or so there then headed back towards St. Gallen taking what was supposed to be a short cut… Thirty minutes later and we were no close to St. Gallen than before and we were stuck in nine-seater vans going around 180 degree turns. It was not the most fun experience ever even if the surrounding countryside was nice to look at. Moral of that story, buy a good map and double check your Garmin or GPS directions before blindly following them. It will save you some headache, I think, in the end.

Well tomorrow we will be spending all day at the Buhler company headquarters and will be practicing some hands on milling… It will be a learning experience to say the least but hopefully a fun, if not dirty one!!

So, after a bit of a drive this morning (about 3.5hours) we finally made it to St. Gallen, Switzerland! It was a beautiful drive and we all took plenty of great scenic photos! St. Gallen is a medium sized city with around 70,000 people in residence there. It’s a college town, and is also the home to the famous Swiss Milling School.

Lake Constance

We were able to go and visit the school and learn more about how it works today as well. We met with the principle and he took us on a tour and then explained the German schooling system again. It is just fascinating to me how different out schooling systems are from each other. Anyway the school has some tight requirments for entry but is now allowing more international students to participate.

I’m not sure why I’m still surprised by this but it never ceases to amaze me how connected things are. For instance, several people from KSU have attended this school and many of the professors on my trip also know the professors at the school! It was neat to here them all reminisce about past meetings.

Getting to know students at the milling school!

We were treated to another fantastic meal by our hosts in Switzerland, Buhler. Tonight we ate at the restaurant called Candela. And was it an amazing meal…if you have a little extra time and cash, want to experience a fanastic dining experience and are in St. Gallen then you must go to this place!! I think it might have been the best food of the trip so far!!

Well, our schedule just got changed around I was told. The weather in Switzerland is a little unpredictable it seems and we are going to be visiting a mountain top observatory tomorrow instead of Friday because the weather is looking more like rain Friday now instead of tomorrow! I did notice that many locals were carrying umbrellas with them while walking around downtown today but it didn’t really make sense to me until it just starting pouring later today while we were walking to our cars!! I’m really have I brought a rain coat even if I haven’t needed on yet in the trip. It it really a good thing to have with you because you can never really count on the weather to not change on you! Sounds a little bit like Kansas weather to me!!

Well more on the mountain top experience tomorrow!!! It should be fun apparently we get to ride a tram or something to the top. More on that later!!

Alright so after having a few days to wind down after  a super busy first week, on Tuesday it was back to the ‘grind’ ;) We started off the day visiting a local university, another mill and lastly eating at the oldest brewery in the world!  It was a step filled day.. just be prepared when visiting Europe to walk a lot! And if you are visiting busniesses or universities etc be prepared for the stairs. Oh and in hotels too as a lot don’t have elevators or if they do they are often small and it is hard to fit both yourself and your luggage in them!

But stairs aside I learned a lot of fun new information today about the many different processes someone can use grain in and about the vast quantities of products that are made either using or from different grains. One thing that struck me about Munich and the surronding area was the differences in the attitudes of people there versus our bigger cities in the states. People were always taking their time going places and if they didn’t absoultely have to, they wouldn’t drive anywhere they would always walk or use public transportation. If you are going to be staying abroad for a longer period of time than just a few weeks, I would say that looking at either buying or renting a bicycle! It’s a fast, easy way to get around and there are very well marked bike lanes on virtually every road here.

Well, as usual, the food today was superb. Eating at the Weihenstephan Brewery house was a fantastic experience that I would definitely recommend. They offered highly authentic German traditional meals and had a few more modern dishes as well! Definitely a highly recommended stop if you are in the Freising area!

Weihenstephan – School Brewery

Well tomorrow we are off to Switzerland! Yay Swiss chocolate!!

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