Freiburg, Berlin, Latvia, Swiss Alps, Belgium, and Paris, Oh My!

Posted on October 11th, 2009 by

Guten Tag once again Friends, Family, Faculty, Gusties, and those interested in my worldly travels,

To remind you of who I am since I have not been blogging as frequently as I should, my name is Eric Cronin and I am a junior Gustie and I am studying the European Union in Freiburg, Germany this Fall in the Black Forest under the Institute for the International Education of Students (or IES Abroad).  So the intention of this post is to try and fill my dear readers in on what I have been doing with my life since my last blog post back in September after my program’s orientation phase and right before I went on a field trip to Berlin and Riga Latvia.  The short answer as to how I have been keeping busy is by doing studying for classes and lots of it.  I am sorry for not posting since September, but my goal is quality over quantity (plus unlike the India program I have no one else who can write about what is happening here), but I hope this gives you a glimpse into first my classes, then my travels to Berlin, Rigam, Swiss Alps, and the next field trip I have to Barlgium and Paris. Enjoy this post!

I have five classes here (1 German language class and four English taught classes).  I am taking an European History Class since WWII basically covering the creating of the European Union and the challenges it has faced.  I also have a Regions and Regionalization of Europe class where we study the different regions in Europe and how they are different with in each country like East Germany being different than West Germany or the Wallonians in Belgium not getting along with the the pesky Flemish in the northof Belgium (I know silly Belgians, can’t they just eat some waffles with their King to settle their differences).  

 The third class I am taking is a Migrations and Ethnic Minorities class where so far we have studied varying theories of migration, worker migration, and migration in Southern and Eastern Europe.  The last English taught class is a seminar on the European Union where we learn about how the different institutions operate and how each country is different and the issues the Union faces, it is cool because at the end of it all we get to do a model simulation meeting of the EU heads of states and then act like we are representing the interests of our country (mine is Cyprus the island in the Mediterranean Sea off of Turkey, p.s. Cyprus dislikes Turkey joining the EU).  And German 101 is going well, I know have the confidence to talk in German when I am shopping and how to ask a question like where I can find something or how to do something but then I haven’t a clue what the German is saying as an answer, that I guess is step two in the learning process.   

But enough about the tediousness of my classes, on to the fun stuff the traveling I had the chance to do.  First to help you see all of my travels,  I have a photo album service through Picasa on Google for you to peruse the numerous photos I have taken and the website is: I encourage you to check it out and leave a comment if you would like, due to the number of photos I have taken, I find it impossible to keep up with the captioning so if there is something you want to know about leave a comment on the photo and I will caption it with the full  details on it.

First of all let me talk about the field trip to Berlin, Germany and Riga, Latvia.  First the German sideof things, I went with the program on September 15th to Berlin and almost as soon as we got to our hotel we had to go to an academic tour and meeting at the German Bundesrat (analogous to our Senate), followed by Q & A with someone who worked at the Bundesrat. Interesting fact about the Bundesrat: the representatives of each German states must vote as a bloc, meaning all of their votes (up to six per state) go for or against a measure and the full body only meets one Friday every three weeks for voting.  The next day of my trip we went to BDI, which is basically a coalition of coalitions for German business and industry and their function is to lobby on behalf of German industry, it was mostly economic in focus. In the afternoon was a meeting at the German Foreign Ministry where we learned the official German policies on a lot of Foreign policy matters. 

 The final meeting of the day was at the German Bundestag (Parliament), which is similar to our House of Representatives. We spoke with a member of Parliament. He was in the FDP, which is the free democratic party of Germany. Side note: It’s really hard to compare their political parties to ours, however, because they have at least six political parties at the moment with extremely varied views that don’t really match up to our parties. Let’s just say the FDP is liberal, but pro-business. The next day, one of my classes met with a chairman of a Turkish Immigration group that helps immigrants in Germany.

Have no fear I did get to sight see around Berlin to see the Brandenburg Gate, the Bundstag Parliament building, the Berlin Cathedral, Checkpoint Charlie, the Berlin War, and various WWII and Holocaust memorials. It was nice to see that Germans were really coming to terms with their history and there past actions.

The Berlin Cathedral


US and Russians 'Soldiers' pose in front of the Gate 

Me on the roof of the Bundestag with the Bundestag Dome

Then it was off to Riga, Latvia which had been hit rather hard by the recent recession as was evident by the number of  For Sale signs on my apartments. Riga was very fun as the city center was rather small so in the two days I was there I felt like I explored all of the important sights I could have hoped to see in Riga (just try doing the same thing in Berlin, impossible).  We met with a professor from the University of Latvia, had a nice tour of the city,  met with an Economics professor from the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga , and had a tour of the Latvian occupation museum that commemorated the Russian, Nazi, and Russian again occupation of Latvia (interestingly, Latvians saw the Nazis as liberators when they drove away the brutal Russian rule during WWII).  My favorite part of Riga was the nice historic downtown and the quaint small town feel it had unlike big cities in the US.  Hankerin’ for some Riga photos, check out

A Saxophonist plays infront of the Blackheads Guild House in Riga

A Saxophonist plays infront of the Blackheads Guild House in Riga

After Berlin and Lativa, classes started and have been going strong ever since. I have went to a German soccer game for the local Sport Club Freiburg which competes on the German National level. But last weekend, I went to Stuttgart, Germany for Volksfest which is a smaller version of Munich’sOktoberfest only closer and a nice day trip. I would actually compare it to the Minnesota State Fair in a number of ways. They had a ton of rides that people could go on, but the German ones were more extreme.  And they had a ton of different foods that are extremely bad for you.  The only huge difference with the Minnesota State Fair is that they also have somewhere between 8-10 huge beer tents (oh, and I guess they lack the farm animals, a Gustavus admissions booth, and carved butter heads that we Minnesotans have at the great Minnesota get together). In addition to the festival I also traveled around the city of Stuttgart which is the home of Mercedes Benz and is the capital of the German state of Baden-Wurttemburg where Freiburg is located.

 Volksfest in Stuttgart

Now on to this weekend, on Friday, I went with my study abroad program to the Swiss Alps, and let me say it is stunning, (Buckhill and Mount Kato has nothing on this). I hope that my pictures do it justice as to how beautiful it was even though it was a cloudy day for our  5 hour hike the last hour of which was in the rain. I definitely had the Sound of Music flying helicopter scene on the mountain top (yes I know that that is in Austria not Grindelwald Switzerland (yes it is a Harry Potter Villain too)). And on Sunday I went to the nearby town of Breisach, Germany, while I intended to go to Colmar, France I thought that Breisach would be enough so in about 4.5 hours I managed to explore the whole city doing the three tours the tourist info maps suggested. Photos you ask? Look no further than


Looking down from the Alp peak.
Looking down from the Alp peak.

The Swiss Alps and a Glacier

Starting tomorrow (Oct. 12th until 18th), I will be going to Luxembourg, Brussels (Belgium), and Paris for a field trip with my program. To give you an idea of what is in store for me. First I visit Saint Avold which is the largest US Military Cemetary in Europe. Then I get to visit Luxembourg for the afternoon before a meeting at the European Court of Justice which is like the supreme court of the EU.

Then in Brussels we visit the European Commission which is where each country has one representative to represent their national interests.  As well as a meeting with a Belgian Flemish representative to the EU to ask him why the waffles don’t help them just get along. We also visit the Council of the European Union (don’t worry I had no idea what these institutions were until I go here), and also NATO headquarters for a military meeting.  Then in Paris I meet learn about the Middle East and the EU, and have a half-day trip to the palace of Versailles with my program, plus a ton of free time for me to get my Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triumph desire finally fulfilled.  

But in conclusion (of this post at least, this is further evidence that I am versed in the writing of long descriptive papers), I will keep this blog updated when I can get around to it otherwise your best bet is to follow my photo albums online at because I am always updating the photos so follow that, first and foremost.

Now I must finish packing for Brussels and Paris as for the post, this is Eric Cronin ‘11 saying “Auf Wiedersehen!”


One Comment

  1. Nancy Hanway says:

    Thanks for sending me news of your blog, Eric! It is fascinating to read about your adventures!