By Dan Carlson.
As I reflect back on the trip to Germany and Austria, I am filled with hope not that things won’t change, but encouraged in the way things are changing. Questions are being asked; long-term sustainability as well as short-term carrying capacity are being analyzed and considered. Nature does her part in helping restore a polluted earth, continuously changing, instilling awe, wide-eyed wonder, and wilderness, in individuals.
Nature will reveal her tender ways in a bog, or how birds migrate to the same spot year after year. Nature will allow some human contact, but never a full understanding of what makes it wild and unpredictable. Humans think they can conquer wilderness and can subdue and control every aspect, wind and wave. Nature always outlasts the short life spans of the beings that are here today and gone tomorrow. With that in mind nature must be respected, it’s unrelenting and furious in one sense, and mild and temperate in the next. I compare nature to my God. God has a jealous, all powerful, justice side, and yet is cleverly complex. All the while being concerned for the lowly sparrow, or small ant. He never does the same thing twice in the same way.
God deals with individuals and groups both together and separate. He understands the intricate matters of how fat bodied bumble-bees fly, and how the hummingbird can hover. Each of the species of mosquito is different but only a microscope can give the human eye enough detail to tell them apart. God reveals something new, but doesn’t change Himself. From this trip I have a new respect for the managers and park planners, as well as the wants and needs of the individual who wants to experience great enjoyment in nature. This enjoyment of nature can be in cities or in the vast empty spaces between civilizations. Even the day turning to night can reveal a different side to the same place, as bats fly overhead and owls hoot, where song birds once were just a few hours before.
So do the needs and wants of an individual change whether they go during the day or in the night, if they want to find nature or to be lost in nature? The bears will return to Germany as the wolf has already transitioned back to Germany. I enjoyed the ability to experience nature and wonder in both the Harz National park as well as the Danube Floodplains. I enjoyed the study about mosquitoes, and about visitor expectations. I have a new vision for the planners at the US National Park Service, while receiving a vision from Germany’s National Park Rangers to the changing dynamics of the Harz National Park, from solely Spruce to mixed forest. I could feel the teamwork and collaboration in the Green Zone, which was the border between former Communist countries and the West. This is now protected and countries collaborate together in protecting and preserving nature in this narrow path all across Europe.
Even former soldiers from opposite sides of the Green Zone work together for the benefit of all in protecting this area, not against capitalism and communism, but from the destructive powers of exploitation and overuse. Even though we only went to a few countries in Europe, I got a global experience and traded an old worldview for a new worldview.
You really don’t know how wonderful it is to be back in the U.S. and particularly Morgantown, West Virginia. The trip was great, every thing we saw and did will forever be etched in my memory, but it’s good to be back in these Appalachian Mountains.
Now that I have a little more time on my hands I plan on posting catalogued blog articles from the Harz, Hannover, and Vienna, along with hundreds of photos, several videos, and possibly some multimedia compilations to highlight several stops on our adventure and showcase the study-abroad course.
Be sure to check in over the next couple of weeks to see a cornucopia of new material and content, the journey may be over but the fun is just beginning!
It’s over, it’s really over. Possibly the greatest trip of my life has come to an unceremonious ending with an 8-hour plane ride and the dread of regaining a respectable sleep schedule. After nearly three weeks of hiking through the Harz Mountains, viewing the shores of the Danube, visiting a couple World Cultural Heritage Sites, and venturing through the cobblestone streets of historic cities like Hannover, Vienna, and Bratislava, the journey is finished.
The sadness for the Omega isn’t as much as the disappointment of not knowing when, or if, I will return to the other side of the pond. Life really is different there, the people, the places, and the culture. And I like it.
Although I won’t miss paying for obscure amenities like ketchup packets, trips to public restrooms, and drinking water at meals, I will certainly think of and hold dear the friends I have made, the almost 2,000 pictures I have taken, and the various situations and societies I enveloped myself in.
I originally planned on making a short list of bullet points to summarize some of the more interesting or noteworthy aspects of this Central European trip, but doing so would make a much larger list of items, moments, and memories seem futile and unworthy of attention.
Looking back on the last three weeks leads me to realize just how much I grew up in such a short period of time. While I always considered myself an open-minded individual with an ability to understand and appreciate other people and their beliefs, you don’t really know how you will match up to your own perceptions of yourself until you are pushed out of a subway car and into a land where you know no one, you can’t speak to the locals, and you are both completely invisible and the center of attention at the same time.
There really is no other way to end this post without giving my upmost respects and gratitude to West Virginia University, Dr. Robert Burns, and Dr. Bob Britten. If not for shear coincidence on so many levels, I would have never been able to experience this unquestionably unique and unforgettable venture. As these country roads take me home, I feel rejuvenated, inspired, and cultured. And that’s not too bad for a Mountaineer from West Virginia.
By Chris Caplinger.
So as we prepare to leave Europe for the states and home, a few things to reflect on…
What I brought:
This was not my first time outside the country but I still didn’t know what to think as we started our trip three weeks ago. That said, I feel like my perception of the Europe has really changed. If anything, I was somewhat indifferent to happenings “across the pond,” not really concerning myself with any of it. Unfortunately, I think this is the attitude of too many of us Americans. I think we really miss out because coming on this trip has exposed me to so many new ideas and allowed me to see what management can look like according to another paradigm. This kind of background will be invaluable to people like myself, who in order to make the most of our resources in the future, should strive to equip ourselves with a broad knowledge concerning them.
What I’m leaving:
I feel like I’ve been able to shed some of my preconceived notions of what good management looks like, particularly in high population density areas. Honestly, being from West Virginia my first thought of parks in urban areas is that the protection of biology would be the final word, a perspective shared by most managers in Europe. However, I think that this trip has really taught me that this can be too one-dimensional. Not to undervalue environmental concerns (which are indeed crucial), but human and economic issues should also be considered because the value of these areas is actually derived from the benefits people receive from them.
What I’m taking:
I think the biggest thing that I will take back home would definitely have to be a much greater thankfulness for the forests and natural resources that the United States has been blessed with. Our vast expanses of wilderness areas and protected areas are a luxury too often taken for granted. However, seeing the lack thereof and the effects of hundreds of years of human use in Europe has definitely given me a renewed appreciation for the parks and forests of America.
Well, I guess that’s it. I hope that those of you who have followed the blog have enjoyed it and maybe even been able to learn a thing or two. Hope you get the chance to check some of these places out for yourself. Anyways, take care and “tschuss!”
One of the most anticipated parts of this journey through the world’s unofficial “beer homeland” was the chance to try brews of various styles and makers. While the brewers are by the hundreds in Germany and Austria, I was rather surprised by the lack of variance in style.
Unlike the United States’ craft beer scene, which includes dozens of replicated styles from around the world (IPAs, Stouts, Ales, etc.), Germany and Austria stick very closely to the few handfuls of beer styles that have been mainstays for centuries. I have certainly thoroughly enjoyed drinking the essential “Pils” or “Pilseners” beer along with the Bavarian-classic “Weizen” beers, but I was honestly hoping to get my hands on some of the darker and more malt-heavy beers such as Dunkels, Bocks, Schwarzbiers, and Doppelbocks.
Unfortunately the darker beers are almost strictly seasonal, with a few microbreweries producing their dark beers year-round. And a lot of beers in Germany are “regional beers,” meaning a particular style of beer can only be found in one of the country’s 16 states. But I’m not going to complain about the lack of style, rather I will praise the atmosphere and beer culture found in these two beer-centric countries.
From peaceful, ivy-ridden beer gardens, to lively and jovial brew houses that provide a variance of beers with traditional foods, the setting to drink your favorite German or Austrian beer is unlike any other in the United States. Stateside, the norm for meeting friends for a round of brews is nothing more than picking out a local bar with little to no character, charisma, or charm. However, in these countries almost every establishment offers an outdoor patio area or tables where you can sit down and enjoy the historic surroundings with a locally produced brew. It’s so simple and yet wholly different and quite foreign to almost any place back home.
While we never ordered more than a couple of beers in a single setting at any one location, I was able to add a few more notches on my international beer list (I literally keep track of these things). Thus, included below is a listing of each beer and style that I was lucky enough to enjoy on this trip. Cheers!
7 Stern Pils
Scheider and Sonn
7 Stern Rauchbier & Dunkel
So far in Vienna we have seen ancient homes, monuments to legendary leaders, and imperial hunting mansions, however the group was simply astounded by the elegance and grace of the Schloss Schönbrunn (Schönbrunn Palace).
The Schloss Schönbrunn is the historic palace of Austria’s royal family and an ungodly-huge estate which is now designated as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. Though classified alongside Essen’s Zeche-Zollverein, the palace is a fascinating location that showcases the craftsmanship, architecture, and landscaping beauty of a time of emperors and kings, as opposed to the might and hardships of 20th century industrialization.
The grounds are situated within a horseshoe shaped complex that once housed the royalty, dignitaries and guests, and the plethora of servants and grounds workers. Behind the palace sits a nearly three football field length “backyard” boasting delightfully colored and symmetrically designed gardens with hedge mazes, exquisite sculptures, secret trails, fountains, and even a zoo. The end of the yard is anchored with a large gazing pond and a masterfully constructed sculpture series depicting a Greek mythology tale.
Apparently even that is not enough for an emperor and his lady. Rising above the gardens and gazing pond is a magnificent structure situated atop Schönbrunn Hill. Used for imperial events and galas, the 1775 building offers a breathtaking view of Vienna and the palace grounds.
As we walked along the perfectly lined gravel pathways and gawked at the massive main palace and flanking buildings, it was hard to not be envious of an emperor’s life. The maintenance of the facility and complimenting gardens allows today’s poorest visitors the chance to feel as if they have been elevated to the status of a king. I can honestly say if you ever visit Austria’s capitol city, you must pay your respects to the Schönbrunn Palace…a true fine jewel in the crown of a wondrous city!
By Chris Caplinger.
Time has flown here in Vienna, and there are only a couple more days until we leave. Our time here in the beauty of the Austrian capital has been a great way to begin winding down our trip. We have marveled at the rich diversity of the Danube Flood-Plains Park, been awe-struck by the extravagance of the Hapsburg’s Shonbrunn Palace, and enjoyed the youthful energy of the Viennese streets, shops and restaurants.
I think one of the best experiences here in Austria came on one of our day trips out of the city. We travelled to the Neusiedler See, which is located to the south of Vienna and is popular vacationing location for many people seeking to get out of the city. This shallow, inland lake is a bird watchers paradise; the vast expanses of reeds and flat shoreline provide prime breeding and wintering grounds for flocks of birds from all across central Europe. Also, natural fluctuations in the water level make this a very dynamic and delicate ecosystem.
Meanwhile, the rolling countryside surrounding this lake is famous wine growing country. In fact, in the picturesque country town of Rust (pronounced roost) we had the opportunity to tour the Conrad Winery. To my amazement, our guide, who also happened to be the owner, explained that her family has been in the winery business around Rust since before the 16th century. Likewise, the building from which they now operate was built in the 1700’s (with a few renovations, of course).
As our guide and winery owner so willingly noted, this area is extremely unique. The intricate balance of conditions here are what make it possible for her to stay in business. At the same time, hotel owners and recreation providers surrounding the lake have tried to manipulate the water levels of the lake so that their shore side interests aren’t jeopardized. However, this could create even bigger problems.
For instance, if the lake isn’t allowed to expand and recede naturally, the water level may not be sufficient to make it through particularly dry seasons. This could then have much more serious ramifications for both businesses and the environment. That said, I think that the Neusiedler See serves as a good reminder that sometimes by trying to manage an area, people can actually hurt not only the environment, but ultimately the economic interests which they seek to preserve.
When I think of “rust” there is one thing that comes to mind; the orange metallic flakes of water logged iron that at times can offer you an annoying stain or less-than-pleasant infection.
But all of that changed following a visit to the medieval town of Rust (pronounced Roost in English). We entered through the 16th century city gate to explore a local winery that area residents suggested and admire, the Conrad Winery.
Today the winery is ran by Brigette Conrad and her husband, who carry on their family’s 400-plus year old craft of making homegrown, handpicked wines. The tour started off with a quick visit to the cellar, which showcased huge barrels of various wines aging in native Austrian Oak.
It was here that Mrs. Conrad shared the illustrious history of Rust and the critical role winemaking played in winning the city’s freedom from the rule of the Viennese emperor. She said a handful of Rust wineries (including her own) offered the king money and a variety of the city’s most delicate and delicious wines.
The group was then presented a carefully selected group of various wines from Conrad’s own 5 hectare vineyard. Mrs. Conrad informed us that her winery produces almost 20 thousand bottles of Bacchus’s nectar and celebrates the ability to make handfuls of different wine styles due to the area’s unique climate and fertile soil.
Needless to say we were all clamoring for more grape goodness after our brief tasting session, it really was that good. Yet our time at Conrad came to an end with a final glass of their “golden liquid,” the 10-year-old “Ruster Ausbruch.” The wine pours a deep golden color and tastes similar to sweet honey and grapes, easily the most delicious liquid I have ever ingested in my life. This particular selection was gifted to the Hungarian Emperor for the aforementioned request for freedom, and after a few sips he obliged. He also believed Rust would never bee looked at the same again.
Before I came to Vienna, I had only seen awe-inspiring pictures of centuries old buildings and magnificent sculptures and urban art work. I had heard the whimsical musings of the city’s great composers, Mozart for instance, but I didn’t really have a true idea of what the ultra-historic Austrian capitol was all about.
Like a fine painting or perfectly rendered photograph, Vienna is a city of a thousand words. Breath taking, fantasy inducing, majestic. All of these terms match these ancient confines perfectly but none of them actually define the lush landscape surrounding Vienna, simple words can’t produce the feelings of seeing an Emperor’s palace, and these collections of letters will never capture the energy of the people that make Austria’s jewel city such an exciting place to visit.
Vienna is laid out similar to Washington D.C., and our nation’s capitol appears remarkably similar. However, when you take a finer look instead of a fleeting glance, you realize that the facades, terraces, and structures are the same ones that have been created by dynasties and kingdoms…not acts of Congress or Urban Renewal. For as beautiful as the Capitol of the United Sates is, it’s history, it’s story, and it’s beauty will sadly never compare to the beauty of Vienna.
Editor’s Note: This article was catalogued when the group was in the Harz Mountains.
By Audra Sabo.
Predators all around the world have been subjected to hunting for all of the human existence. Many are endangered, extirpated, and extinct. In the US we have seen large predators such as the black bear, mountain lion, and wolf disappear from our landscapes and are just recently returning due to careful planning and reintroduction.
This has also been the case for the lynx in Germany. Extirpated many years ago the lynx was removed from the forest ecosystem and along with it a great predator. This allowed the roe deer and red deer populations to grow exponentially. Hunters got used to seeing many deer in the woods and an easy kill.
After much collaboration and planning it was decided that the lynx should be reintroduced to the German landscape. Zoo cats were brought to the forest and kept in cages until they became acclimated to their new surroundings. As in any experiment there were some subjects that were not fit to be placed in the wild. Those who were placed in the wild thrived and reproduced. Today monitoring of these cats gives us information on home ranges, dispersal, and reproduction rates.
The German people have to decide for themselves how they feel about the reintroduction of a large predator into the system. Of course there are hunters who complain that the lynx are eating all the deer, but this is an argument that will always be present. I believe that the Germany lynx reintroduction is a great success story and I hope that it will influence the minds of Americans so that we can also share success stories.
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