Lao students travel in Europe before and during Covid-19 (Erasmus+ Mobilities 2019 and 2020)

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Travelling in 2019 – by Thaithanawanh Keokaisone

Hello People Internet Users!

I am Thaithanawanh Keokaisone, I am from Lao D.P.R. Last year, I was an international student in the current Erasmus+ Mobilities programme of Karlsruhe University of Education, Germany, and Savannakhet University, Laos, together with my colleagues Mr Napha Khothphouthone and Ms Viengvilaiphone Botthoulath.

I heard that many of you have been homesick very much during one semester abroad. I have had experiences for six months in Germany. I spent my time to study and also to travel around the European countries. I scheduled the time after studies for relaxation in other places as travelling during the weekends time.
Friends and professors of mine asked me to travel with them at the weekends, near and far, and the International Office also organized day-tours. For me it was great, I could even travel to Zurich in Switzerland and Paris in France.

There were so many tourists coming from Asia, they were Chinese group tour. For the European tourists, they liked sunning bath. Zurich city is more expensive than Paris. I bought some bread for lunch, in Paris, it is more cheaper than Zurich, if you buy things in the market.

I have been to Black Forest and Speyer city. Speyer Cathedral is more than a thousand years old with pilgrims from Germany.

The International Office of Karlsruhe University of Education (Pädagogische Hochschule, “PH”), it was really nice to organized the tour for the international students as visiting Heidelberg Castle, Turmberg in Karlsruhe city, Strasbourg in France. There is a big church, and it is very old.

I am never feel lonely, and I never forget the places where I have been to, and people who are very kind with opening their minds. This will remind me forever.

 

Travelling in 2020 – by Chanthalakone Souydalay

My name is Chanthalakone Souydalay (“Thon”) and I was almost 7 months in Germany for Student Mobility under scholarship of Erasmus+ until one week ago, together with my colleague Phongsavang Xaikhongkham. When I was a young I always dreamed to get on plane, travelling and studying abroad.

Luckily, I got opportunity during Bachelor’s degree that I have been on agriculture training in Israel for a year, Youth conference in Singapore, and English Camp in Thailand. While I trained in there I also traveled a lot.

 

I am very  proud and impressed all my life to have been exchange student in Germany because I got new knowledge, experiences, lifestyles of European and culture, even in Covid-19 pandemic. Moreover, after the lockdown gradually lifted after 2 months in Europe, I finally traveled in my dream’s places of Europe, and Prof. Martin encouraged us also because travelling is part of intercultural learning and education in the Erasmus+ programme to broaden horizons and take on new challenges.
I am really fond of travelling and to meet interesting people (Foreigners), because it certainly allows me to learn about myself, know worldwide and open my mind to become more international.

Here comes a guide to the best destinations that I visited in European countries. I could travel in July on day-trips at weekends and in the holiday-month of August to France and Switzerland and Berlin. I could not go to Italy as planned because of Covid-19 danger increase again in September.

Maybe Lao or other readers who cannot travel to Europe can get an impression this way.

 

A special trip with German family

In July, It was last month for my Summer semester in PH-Karlsruhe of Erasmus+Mobility. I planned to visit some places in European counties after I finished all my courses’s examinations and traveling was possible again. Besides, I love learning, I also like to explore the world by traveling a lot.

I am deeply indebted to Rebecca Dengler and her family who organized and took us on an impressive trip. Moreover, they were very kind and friendly to me, as they provided the comfortable and nice room, yummy foods, tour guide and warm welcome. We arrived at her hometown (Nagold, Southern of Germany) in the evening of 3 August 2020, she picked us up at the tram station. As soon as we got her place, she introduced her parents and get to know each other by corona greeting procedure. After that, we had a great dinner, small talking and planned about journey of the day after.

 

I got up early in the morning to see the view of the village that it was located on foothill, instantly I felt homesick because it is quite like my hometown surrounded by the trees. In that day, the weather was very cloudy and a little bit cold.

 

After breakfast, we got ready, prepared some stuffs, indispensable drinks and some foods. We traveled by her father’s luxury van that there were with 5 co-travelers as her parents, my colleague, and me. While we were traveling to the first place (Hohenzollern Castle), I looked the way sides that I saw very beautiful natural and varieties of plants. When we arrived closely the castle, it amazed me because I have never seen ancient site like this before. I couldn’t imagine how do they build. It was located in atop of the mount Hohenzolern, in central Baden-Württemberg state, Germany.

The palace was know as one of the most beautiful in the world, besides that it is very unique architecture. It was a place of German historical significance and in 1945, it briefly became the home of the former Crown Prince Wilhelm of Germany, son of the last Hohenzollern monarch, Kaiser Wilhelm II. Nowadays, It is now a museum of Germany.

 

On that day afternoon, there was a drizzle and a bit cold. While we were walking down the hill, my colleague said: “Unluckily, the first time in Europe but didn’t see the snow.” As soon as her father heard that he offered somewhere as where he been, the Säntis mountain, Switzerland. After that, he checked the weather app on phone and then he said: “two of you were very lucky because there were a little snowing in there because it normally didn’t have on this month.”

I was very excited and so happy, because it would be first lifetime experience to see the snow. When we arrived that place, I was excited by seeing spectacular and amazing place with its snow-berg (Säntis). The snow had cover the mountain, but there was still some at the top. That it is the highest mountain at 2,501.9 metres above sea level of northeastern Switzerland.
Hence, we had to take the cable car, exactly I was a bit frightened while I was getting cable-car because I am afraid of heights. I decided to let my fear go away to touch the real snow. When I got on top, it is very fantastic and pleasurable place. I felt like I was standing in the space without land. It is very nice view and amazing place even though it is quite cold for me. I would not hesitate to say that it is the best trip of my life.

 

Strasbourg trip

After I just finished the examinations of summer semester for a week, our best friend Phi Ha organised for this trip for us in 25 July 2020. When I got her message that she provided and planned for us to visit Strasbourg, France, I was very excited to hear that. She is a person who always willingly assist us when we need some help.

There were 5 co-travelers on this trip, we drove her friend’s car that it took about one hour from Karlsruhe to Strasbourg. The trip took only the day-time, and we had a cool time. We enjoyed the conversation along the way and listened to nice music. When we arrived the downtown, it was strange for my eyes because we parked in a high building. It is normally in my home country that we can only park in the front of own house or park in sidewalk. And then she explained it if we park in an unauthorized place we will have to pay for fine.

After that, I and my co-travelers spread a map to mark where we want to visit. For the first feeling that I have seen the city, it has typical German features as house designing. It is the capital of the (Alsace Region) which located in the east of France, bordering Germany. And it also had been occupied by Germany for a while in the history. For the most of the tourist attractions are concentrated in the old town area called “Grande Île” which means big Island. I think it is probably the L’Ill river flowing around the island. Nowadays, this area is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We started to walk along the bank of the L’Ill river, I took the pictures without stopping because of its very beautiful view and the weather was very nice. There was a historic old town known as la Petite France (“Small France” = Second Paris) and beautifully landscaped with houses set on either side of the river. In addition, It is also a point to get off the river cruise that the boat will cruise along the river through the city center.

 

I usually like to buy the souvenir when I visit tourist attractions. It is very wonderful here that there are a lot of souvenir shop. I did not hesitate to buy it as a gift for my family and friends in my home country. Every shop here had to have the stork pictures or stork toys because of it is a unique animal of the city.

 

After we were tired of wandering around the city we looked for a restaurant to recharge our batteries of body. We took about 20 minutes to find the restaurant because each restaurant is full and not allow closely customers in Corona season. Finally, we found the restaurant next to “Notre Dame de Strasbourg”, we ordered the food very good healthy. It is very yummy food and I had great lunch there.

 

The last place of this trip was “Notre Dame de Strasbourg“, this cathedral was the tallest building in the world from 1647 until 1874, with a height of 142 meters. It is the 6th tallest Gothic church in Europe. It is an amazing thing I have never seen since I was born. I could not imagine how they built it, I only said impressive. I did not get inside of the cathedral I just walked around and took some pictures. And then we had to get back home because while that time was raining. This place is one of the best memories for me that once time I have ever been.

 

My trip to Paris, France (two days)

Paris is the main destination for many tourists around the world. Because there are many tourist attractions in different styles to choose from as you like. Whether it is a palace, historic monuments including shopping street for brand-name brands or fashion. You can also explore the city on a double-decker bus or take a boat trip. It is a charming and exciting experience.

Because this trip took place when during the Corona was not strong, I traveled from 19-21 August 2020, but still it was a complicated trip. Because, my colleague and friend and I made a mistake of planning. Since before travelling, we planned to go together but he misunderstood me about the day of leaving or I misunderstood him, so he booked the hotel and bus already. He traveled the day before me, but luckily we stayed the same hostel in Paris, France. I was obviously excited and anxious because I was going to travel alone, fortunately my journey went safely. It took me 9 hours from Karlsruhe, Germany to Paris, France by bus.

When I arrived there, the first things that I did as take the “Metro” to the accommodation. It is the first time I take the Metro and first time I lost my way to my destination. Because while I was getting on the train, I used the Google Map to find my place. But, unluckily the Internet signal was very low, hence Internet Map guided the wrong, I obviously got to another place. As the same time, I decided to ask someone in the Metro like how to get to this place and showed the location to him. He advised me how to know stopping of the train in every station and also told me the way back. Finally, I arrived my destination place and I met my friend there.

 

My first point “Eiffel Tower”

Paris is my dream city that I would like to visit and it is a wonderful city in Europe for many people too. Especially important landmarks like the Eiffel Tower that I am familiar with and have seen since childhood in TV. And until now the dream was come.

I got up early in the morning, the first place I have visited the “Eiffel Tower“. When I got there, I  was excited by seeing some spectacular things. It is amazing and in addition to the grand construction with gorgeous arts. I could not imagine how do they build in that time. And then I walked to “Trocadéro” because it is a viewing point for the Eiffel Tower that is known as one of the most beautiful in Paris. You can also take a photo with the Eiffel Tower as well. “Trocadéro” which was built as the site of the 1878 World’s Fair. But nowadays it is a museum and it is also city park of Paris.

This place is usually very crowded, but during my visited there were a little tourists as it might be from result of pandemic of Corona. Moreover, they did not allow the tourist enter the Eiffel Tower, I only took a look and walked surround there. I cross the bridge of “Seine River” it is a nice view for tourists who like selfies. And then I got the bus to next point.

 

My second point “Louvre Museum”

It is the world’s largest art museum and a historic monument in ParisFrance. Which was open to the public to visit in the year (AD 1793), it is famous place and should be visited if coming to France. And it is a place that I was impressive and infatuated with the art of creation. But, unluckily I felt very sad, I lost great the occasion to enter inside of the Museum to see famous painting “Mona Lisa”  because it was closed. Hence, I walked around the museum and took the pictures with the glass pyramid, which it is very beautiful landmark of this place.

 

My third point “Arc de triomphe”

The Triumphal Arc “Arc de Triomphe” is considered a monument to the heroes of the “French Revolutionary War” and “Napoleonic War” with the first intention of creating the French arch that it is coming from the Emperor Napoleon in 1806. But, it took more than 30 years until it was completed in 1836 in the reign of Louis – Philip king. It was located at the western end of the Champs-Élysées at the center of the city. The location of the Arc de Triomphe is on a roundabout with 12 confluent streets. I visited here in the day two of my journey in Paris. It is a nice place and it is similar to Lao’s triumphal arcPatuxai“. It would be great if I could get in side of the arc, because it is a point to see the beautiful city construction’s view.

 

The final destination “Place de l’Opéra Palais Garnier

It is last place of my trip in Paris, I spent time a hour in here. Because, it is nearly time to travel back to Karlsruhe. I have just looked around and took the pictures. It is very nice place that the structure of building was Italian style Opera house. One of the most beautiful building in Paris, I felt well worth s visiting. The one thing was the most special as the architecture is very stunning design.

Although it was only 2 days for travelling in Paris, France, and some things closed due to Corona, but I am very impressed and had memorable trip. I was very prideful to make my dream coming true.

 

Recommendation of Paris visiting

I recommend to you before visit Paris as below (when travelling is possible again):

  • please plan to visit more than 5 days: Paris is a historic and modern city of France, also in Europe. It is very great if you plan to visit more days. In addition, you will see important places and enjoy the capital fully once you are there.
  • Find the best time to visit: You should plan for visiting at least a month. Normally, it is the best time to visit Paris between late spring and late summer, when outdoor activities, lively events, and nearby day trips allow you to experience the city to the fullest.
  • Learn how to get the metro and bus: It is very useful if you comprehend the way to another place in Paris, because you can keep time for your visiting more beautiful place as well.
  • Plan things to do: list your sights, museum, monument and sightseeing in Paris before travelling.
  • Where to stay: book the hotel or hostel in outskirts of city, it is very nice and see the native French lifestyles.

 

 Trip to  the Land of architecture “Berlin”

Berlin is the capital and largest city of Germany. It is also an significance political and cultural centers of  the Germany as well. Besides that, Berlin is also a beautiful city of architecture, it has many important places and attractions to visit. Hence, I would like to share with you my experiences during my trip to Berlin as detailed below.

This trip traveled to Berlin in total for 4 days in 24-27 August 2020. One of the reason of visiting is to consulted the Lao Embassy to find the solution for the flight back to my country because all flights got cancelled. We got to know the Lao Ambassador and his staff at the 6th Lao-German Friendship Feast on 10 July in Karlsruhe, and kindly he invited us to come and visit.

Specially, I would like to sight-see and visited landmarks of Berlin city. It was the first trip that I traveled with my colleague Phongsvang in Europe. We traveled by Flix-bus, it took 9 hours from my place to Berlin. We arrived the bus station of Berlin around 7 p.m, and then the embassy staff picked us up to stay at their flat. I was very tired on this traveled by bus, because I had to wear the mask throughout the trip. But when I arrived at the residence, I was very happy to see Lao people. I felt like come back home. It made the tire from trip to go away. They gave us very warm welcome with a comfortable room and yummy dinner with Lao foods. While we were eating dinner, we discussed and planned to visit some of the city’s landmarks next days.

I got up early in the morning of 25 August to get ready in sightseeing historic place. The first place I was visited  is Berlin Wall. Because, it is a famous and historical place of Berlin. Generally, I heard from the news, history books and from mouth to mouth. When I actually got there, it made me think back to wall history. According to I have learned that the Berlin Wall was built in 1961 when eastern Germany sealed half of the city with a four meter high wall, which it is 155 kilometres long to prevent citizens from fleeing to western Germany.
Finally, the Berlin Wall was collapsed in 1989, currently it remains only a some point about 1.4 kilometres. It has been preserved as one reminder that once separatist land. The Checkpoint Charlie is an important border crossing between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. Nowadays, the wall was painted with the arts and are remaining cold war memorials of Germany.

 

Berlin Cathedral Church

In the afternoon as the same day after sightseeing at Berlin Wall, I walked to from there to “Cathedral Church” that I took around 25 minutes. I was interested this place that it is one of the very attractive historical buildings. Moreover, It is the largest protestant cathedral in Berlin, it is considered one of the most popular attractions in Berlin too. The construction is quite large dome in baroque and renaissance styles, it is 75 meters heights. It is very incredible, it was not damaged during the war in Germany.

Brandenburg Gate

In the evening, we were taken in the embassy’s car to the Brandenburg Gate, I felt like I was special quest, because it is very luxury car. It is normally car for the embassy staffs , but we were very lucky that they provided it for us. We arrived there about 4 p.m, the weather was really nice. My co-tourists and I were a little bit tired, we ordered some drinks in the restaurant. I had Ice-coffee, but I could not drink it because the taste was very bitter for me. We took the seat for drinks and talked about the Gate. There were quite a lot people in that day, the weather was very nice, it is nearly sunset. It is very suitable for photography. Obviously I took a lot of pictures there.

 

Getting to know this place

The Brandenburg Gate is one of Berlin’s most famous historical landmarks, it was rebuilt to replace the original Berlin Gate that it was destroyed from the War II. In addition, it used to be symbol of a country was divided between East and West Germany. But, currently it has become a symbol of the unity and peace of Germany. The Brandenburg Gate is beautiful and unique with 12 Doric columns, 6 on each side and 5 aisles, which we can only walk through the left and the right sides. In the top of gate has a figure of a horse carriage drawn with four horses. Nowadays, It is a invaluably historical place of Germany.

 

Reichstag Building

On the way back to our place, we went to visit Reichstag Building or the German Parliament park. It is very near with Brandenburg Gate apart bout 800 meters. We did not enter inside of the building because they not allow during Corona season. Whereas, it is popular place for local people who live there, it is a place where they did their daily activities whether sports, jogging, go for a walk and had dinner.
We went for a walk, take photos group as well, and then we drove back our place. In that day, I skipped the dinner due to I was very
satisfaction and I went to bed early to charge my body’s power for tomorrow trip.

 

Potsdam’s Park

The day two in Berlin, in the morning we planned travel southwest of Berlin and cross over to another state as Brandenburg. Unfortunately, the weather was quite drizzle, so we waited until the rain stopped in the afternoon. It is very worth trip because the Ambassador’s wife and Embassy staff joined us that there were 6 travelers. We went by luxury car of Lao embassy  to visit Sanssouci palace of Potsdam, we arrived there around 3 p.m. It is very nice place for visiting and has historical value.

The Park Sanssouci is a Rococo-style royal palace designed and constructed by Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff from 1745-1747 in accordance with the purpose of King Friedrich II (Friedrich der Große), the great King of Prussia, to serve as a royal residence. His personal rest in summer It is the origin of the palace’s name “Sanssouci” which means “without worries or carefree”.

Nowadays, Sanssouci Palace is the most important attraction of Potsdam. But, the day we visited not much more people because the palace was closed and we could not enter inside of castle. We only walked surround the park and took nice group photos with my co-travelers. And then we went another place.

 

University of Potsdam

On the way back after visited the Sanssouci Palace we drove on the Am Neuen Palais street to University of Potsdam (Universität Potsdam). It is a fantastic place whether architectural and designing of building. This place was called Neues Palais or New Palace, a new palace built in the Baroque style that it was built from 1763-1769. It is the last palace built by King Friedrich II, located at the western end of Park Sanssouci. We spent a short time there by looking in the University, because of it was getting dark and we had to travel back to Karlsruhe on tomorrow. But, It is very great that we had the nice picture with my co-travelers there.

 

I sincerely thank you to Lao Embassy to be warm welcome and guide tour in Berlin.

My special thanks to Rebecca Dengler and Phi Ha Nguyen for taking the time assist us and give memorable trip in Europe. Thank you very much to my friends and whoever was concerned with my exchange student mobility in Germany.

In the future you maybe visit Laos please come and see us! We will be very happy to show you some spectacular sights in Lao P.D.R. in return.

 

Text by T. Keokaisone & C. Souydalay

 

Photos by R. Dangler, Ph. Nguyen, Ph. Xaikhongkham, Ph. Dengkhounxay, L. Sivunglath, A. Panyanouvong, C. Souydalay.

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