While some Scholars decided to go back to the States for Christmas to be with their families, I wanted to stay in Europe and use this opportunity to travel. As “team mom” I organized a European Christmas trip for eight of us who had the same idea: myself, Jenna, Kollyns, Shay, Johnny, Courtney, Justus, and Tom. As a group, we eventually decided on visiting Prague, Vienna, and Munich. I researched and booked everything and made a five-page itinerary. To say I’m an extremely organized person would be the understatement of the year!
We started our trip in Prague, the capital city of the Czech Republic. The Christmas market there was by far my favorite of the trip. Located in Old Town Square near the Astronomical Clock, there was a huge tree and stalls lit up beautifully beneath the Church of Our Lady before Tyn.
We walked across the St. Charles Bridge to the Lennon Wall, which is covered in colorful graffiti originally inspired by the assassination of John Lennon.
Afterward, we made our way to St. Nicholas Church which was absolutely breathtaking. We were all in awe standing in a church that took 100 years and three generations of architects to complete. Another major landmark we had to hike up multiple flights of stairs to see was Prague Castle with its own ornate church. It was definitely worth the trek though! The views of the city from that high up were spectacular.
After spending a few days in Prague, we made our way to Vienna, Austria via train. We spent a few days there touring the city and castles/palaces there as well, but I think Rathaus left the biggest impression on all of us. Like Prague, there were Christmas markets and lights everywhere.
We had planned on ice skating at the rink there, and it didn’t disappoint. Instead of your typical circular ice skating rink, the one at Rathaus was more like a maze. I think we all had the most fun there. We ended up organizing relay races around the rink – it was a close one!
The day before Christmas Eve, we said goodbye to Kollyns in Vienna and met Justus and Tom in Munich. After we got settled, we made our way outside Munich to Neuschwanstein Castle on Christmas Eve. Those views were by far the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. It was literally like something out of a fairy tale – a gorgeous castle in the mountains covered in snow.
Everything was going great until we started to hike back down the mountain. I wrote in a previous blog how I had injured my knee, partially tearing my MCL and meniscus. Well, the worst happened as we were making our way down the mountain and I re-injured myself. Long story short, with everyone’s help I eventually made it to the base of the mountain and back to Munich. I cannot thank Shay, Johnny, Tom, Justus, Jenna, and Courtney enough for how they reacted to the situation and made sure I was taken care of. Especially Shay and Johnny literally helping walk down the mountain! The Victory Scholar family definitely showed their true colors at that moment – I’m honored to be considered a part of it.
While my little mishap on the mountain put a slight damper on things, we made the most of the rest of our time in Munich. On Christmas Day, we visited two beer halls, one of which is the famous Hofbrauhaus. The upbeat vibe, live music, and plethora of people moving in and out gave it the perfect atmosphere to spend Christmas Day.
The next day, we said our goodbyes to Justus and Johnny, and Tom found us a free guided walking tour of Munich. Our guide, Vasilly, did a fantastic job walking us through the city and giving us a thorough history lesson as we went. In fact, the beer hall we had spent Christmas Day in had a dark history. It was the location of one of Hitler’s first speeches to the National Socialist Party and had swastikas painted on the ceiling, which are now covered by colorful artwork. We spent the rest of the day sightseeing and visiting famous landmarks and museums around the city.
If you’ve made it this far through my blog, thank you for reading! I had a blast visiting three cities and countries in eight days with these absolute stuudds. If it wasn’t for Sport Changes Life and the Victory Scholar program, I don’t think I would have had this amazing opportunity to see more of the world. I couldn’t have asked for a better group to spend my first Christmas away from home with!