The Travels Continue! (Belgrade, Budapest, Vienna)

(Disclaimer: This travel update was a bit lengthier than I intended. I really just wanted to tell everyone about the pure magic that is St. Gilgen, but felt I had to move in chronological order for the sake of my avid readership and of course – accuracy. Read as you may, but feel free to skip to the end and just read about St. Gilgen)

To share every story of every city and country would be a daunting task, if not an impossible task. Even sharing brief glimpses into our journey is intimidating at times. Am I telling the right stories? Am I casting the right light? After recapping the first two weeks of my trip, the Greek adventures, I’ve been a little quiet, not really knowing where to pick up again.

Quiet because after leaving Greece, there was so much to explore and too much to see that we’ve spent very little time stagnant. Walking everywhere, we’ve been constantly moving. Learning new cities rather quickly, walking, has proven to be a pragmatic and cost-effective way to understand our new surroundings. 10-mile days leave your legs aching and your eyes satisfied, and we’ve been aching and satisfied for a while now.

We spent our first few days in Belgrade and were pleasantly surprised by its charm. The Kalemegdan was our favorite site, an expansive park and Belgrade’s old fortress punctuated by the junction of the Danube and Sava rivers.

Church in the Kalemegdan

Saying goodbye to Belgrade we took an overnight train to Budapest. Arriving early in the morning, we set off for another long day of walking and sightseeing. Budapest was lovely, with beautiful architecture and culture. We made a stop at the iconic baths, although we were a bit perplexed at first. The Széchenyi Thermal Baths which opened in 1913 (much later than I would’ve thought) are the largest spa baths in all of Europe and draws large crowds to bathe in its supposedly medicinal water. I’m not sure how medicinal the water is in 2018, but it’s definitely worth checking out. Make sure you save some energy for the wild nightlife that Budapest has to offer. Ruins bars, party boats down the Danube and nightclubs all await you in Budapest!

Széchenyi Baths

From Budapest we took a short train ride for some relaxation in Vienna. We spent a few days there, taking in the stunning palaces and museums all teeming with interesting things both on the inside and the outside. The Museum Quarter in Vienna can have your mind occupied for hours, and the Schönbrunn Palace will give you all the information on the Hapsburg empire you could ever need. Vienna is also surprisingly a vegan’s heaven with one of their most common bakery chains (Anker) featuring dozens of vegan treats. Their apple strudel is worth the trip alone!

But after uninterrupted days of exploring city after city, we needed to some real rest and relaxation. We needed to get back to the mountains, have some green space around us. With Salzburg next on our itinerary, we decided to stay a little bit more removed from the city.

About 15 miles outside of Salzburg was the picturesque, perfect Austrian town of St. Gilgen. I wish I could accurately describe its immediate, irresistible charm, but I can only try. Right after getting off the bus (that we somehow rode for free) we dropped our bags, changed into bathing suits and walked not 300 meters to the most beautiful lake I’d ever seen – Lake Wolfgang. Situated in-between towering green mountains was the beautiful turquoise water, glimmering for us, inviting us to jump in.

Lake Wolfgang

Lake Wolfgang

Early the next morning we picked up a map of hiking trails and selected one that seemed up our alley – not too long in both distance and time. We hiked about 4,000 feet up one of the mountains. It was long stretches of steep uphill followed by even longer stretches of more mild, but more meandering uphill.

The whole hike was surreal – expansive greenery with the occasional view of the turquoise water poking through at certain bends and points on the trail. We got to the first end point, where the cable car lets off, and continued up a little longer before finding our ideal, secluded spot to lay amongst the bugs and wildflowers and bask in the golden sun heating up the meadow.

Our Perfect Meadow

We only had a little more than 24 hours to enjoy the beauty of St. Gilgen but we definitely stretched those 24 hours as far as we could. If you ever find yourself in Austria and have a few days to spare, you would be remiss to not visit St. Gilgen. Take our word for it! The magical hills and magnificent lake will be waiting for you! They’ll be waiting for me till I return.

Advertisements

600 Trees Planted for Louisiana’s Coastal Wetlands

Lake Maurepas - Port Manchac Louisiana
Lake Maurepas – Port Manchac Louisiana

A football field has become a colloquial frame of reference for spatial comparisons both silly and serious. Unfortunately, on the serious end of those comparisons – Louisiana has been losing its coastal wetlands at an alarming rate; and estimates produced by the U.S. Geological Survey confirm the loss to be about a football field every hour over the last 30 years.

This semester I’m taking a course on environmental ethics which has played a big role in pointing me towards my major in environmental studies and hopefully, a career focused on environmentalism. This course has an elective service-learning component – a core requirement for all Tulane students, to complete two tiers of community service during their four years in New Orleans. There were multiple, wonderful community partnerships to choose from, but a friend of mine and I were really inspired by the mission of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana.

The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL) is a nonprofit organization that advocates for Louisiana’s coastal wetlands through science-based community action with their Habitat Restoration program. Wetlands are areas where the water level is at or above the top layer of soil, producing prime environments for diverse ecosystems teeming with wildlife, food, nutrients, and habitats for native species. The loss of Louisiana’s wetlands, which make up approximately 11 percent of the state, threatens more than just the species that live there, but also the prominent fishing industry, oil and gas industries.

There are multiple factors, some occurring naturally and others produced by the strain of densely populated societies, that are causing the accelerated erosion of coastal wetlands in Louisiana.  According to CRCL, Louisiana’s wetlands and barrier shorelines have lost more than 1 million acres of land due to human influences on the environment and natural processes. the three main causes are: reduced sediment flow, caused by freshwater diversion and blockages of the Mississippi river’s natural flow; subsidence, refers to the sinking of land; and continual rising sea levels.

Processed with VSCO with 8 preset

On this past Saturday, Nov. 4th, CRCL hosted an event in Lake Maurepas as part of their ‘Ten Thousand Trees for Louisiana’ initiative, where 60 volunteers, including my friend and myself, came together to plant 600 trees in a marshy tributary. The wetlands and their barrier islands serve as a line of defense against natural disasters, protecting vulnerable coastal communities from the harm of storms and flooding, an issue very pertinent in Louisiana. The trees planted serve a dual purpose by helping to keep the ecosystem alive while also protecting the environment from further erosion.

CRCL, in addition to the tree planting, hosts other wonderful events ranging from panels and talks on advocacy for the Gulf Coast to hands-on volunteer experiences in restoring parts of the coast. Working with them over the course of this semester has been such a wonderful opportunity to learn more about a serious environmental issue that I had never really heard about before coming to college in New Orleans.

Hopefully, the mission of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana resonates with you as much as it did with me! If you want to get involved or read more about the organization – click here!

Hiking? In New Orleans? Sort Of.

From enjoying a Bloody Mary on Bourbon Street at any hour of the day to kicking back at The Fly, in Audubon Park on a Friday, New Orleans offers a multitude of ways to relax in the bustling city. For the adventure seeker, however, New Orlean’s overwhelmingly flat topography offers little in the realm of outdoor adventure – hiking.

A little over a mile from the border of Mississippi though, the geography starts to change a little. The Clark Creek Nature Area consists of a couple hiking trails which house a collection of small waterfalls known as Tunica Falls.

The rocky terrain and lush green trees reminded me immediately of hiking in the northeastern mountain ranges that I’m used to. The nature preserve contains around 40 waterfalls over a 2,000-acre spread, though only six are accessible by the noted hiking trails. The main five-mile hiking trail that is called “the primitive trail” and runs directly along a refreshing river.

Upon seeing the first waterfall, a friend and I immediately climbed up on the rocks and scaled the back end to dip our heads under the cold running water.

Steep hills and mud made the hike exhilarating and strenuous, while the shady canopy of trees and the occasional dip in the river kept us cool.

If you live in the New Orleans area and are looking for a quick getaway to clear your head or just to get some natural, adventurous exercise, I’d definitely recommend a day-trip to Tunica Falls!