This week I won’t exactly be talking about a J-term course, due to the fact that I didn’t take one last year. Instead, I was abroad for nine months on the Nottingham Program.
If I may summarize the program briefly: every year about a dozen Luther juniors enroll in courses at the University of Nottingham while living in a flat adjacent to a German Lutheran church. A Luther Professor accompanies them and teaches additional courses on behalf of the college. Along the way there are excursions across the UK and engagement with members of the Nottingham community.
A special feature of the program is that the students are compelled to travel across Europe during University breaks. (The program directors very kindly tell you that you don’t have to leave town, but you can’t stay here, as they lock the flat up for three weeks.) So, that’s how I ended up footloose in Europe from Christmas until the middle of January, more or less a self-planned J-term. Now, there is hardly enough time to go into everything that I did while abroad, but I ought to be able to describe a few instances of note.
First of all, I would like to take a moment to praise Europe’s rail system. I purchased a Eurail Pass and made it from country to country and city to city in a breeze. Nothing in the world could be simpler, and I recommend it to anyone considering travel.
One of the nicest cities that my rail pass brought me to was Rotterdam. I was shocked by the dazzling architecture of this exceedingly modern city. (After all, I had just come from Amsterdam with its neat and drab little houses.) As I learned during my time there, the money for all of this comes from the fact that Rotterdam (quite modestly I feel) is one of Europe’s major ports. Sadly, the entrancing appearance belies a dark history. Present day Rotterdam only exists because the old city was leveled by bombing in World War II.
A combination of eye-catching splendor and peaceful streets endeared Rotterdam to me, but it was hardly as quiet as Larochette, Luxembourg, where I spent Christmas.
Larochette is a tiny town in a small country, and it is perhaps most famous for the castle ruins perched on a bluff in the center of town. Apparently not a tourist hotspot in the holiday season, I had the local hostel nearly to myself. Nevertheless, I made the best of things, gathering myself a Christmas “feast” at the local grocery store. The next day, I went out hiking, visiting the castle, and making a feline friend along the way.
Not much later, I found myself in Vienna for New Years. Although I was unable to attend the big Vienna Philharmonic performance (it turns out that you have to apply for a ticket a year in advance) I was still able to enjoy the music played upon the many stages that had been erected downtown. The night culminated with a fireworks display at City Hall while the Blue Danube Waltz (a Viennese classic) was piped over loudspeakers. Never before have I seen so many people gathered together from all across the globe, happily cheering and dancing in the fresh excitement of 2017.
So here we have a snippet (even less than a snippet) of my time abroad, and sadly, I’ve hardly mentioned anything about the UK or Nottingham, itself. I hope to remedy this situation at a later date, but for now, I have finished addressing my Januaries-past: Modernism, Frankenstein, and the railways of Europe.