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Murray Edwards College
University of Cambridge

Orla O’Byrne: A Week in Köln

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    24 Nov

    In Easter term, I was fortunate enough to have my Gateway Challenges Funding application approved to undertake my personal challenge of solo travel. 

    I had been taking part in the university CULP German classes, having learned German up to GCSE level previously. I had also been learning about Europe in late antiquity as part of my History course. One lecture touched on the city of Aachen, where Charlemagne built his magnificent cathedral, and I knew that I had to go! Orla stands outside the wooden door of a church, smiling and wearing sunglasses. Stone sculptures of saints are above the large wooden door.

    Consequently, I applied to the Gateway fund with the hopes of learning about the history of Köln and Aachen, and to face the challenge of travelling alone. 

    On the 13th of September, I flew to Köln for four nights, and travelled by train to Aachen for an historical day trip. I was able to visit everything I wanted to, including lots of art and history museums, shops, walks along the river, the old town and more. 

    Eating alone in a restaurant was something I came to truly love, and I often used this time to write about my day in a travel journal, into which I fixed museum tickets, receipts, stamps and so on. It’s great to look back on my trip through this journal, and I remember so much more each time. 

    Naturally, I asked for student tickets to museums and historical sites such as Aachen Cathedral or town hall, and by chance when one attendant asked what I studied, I discovered that as a history student I was allowed free entry – a little tip!

    Of course, there were problems, and I had to keep an eye on the government Covid regulations, but this was a small price to pay. […] Travelling alone was one of the best decisions I have ever made, and I am now intent on doing so again. I learned to trust myself, solve problems on the spot, met some amazing people, and improved my German in the process. 

    I cannot recommend this highly enough. 

    Orla O’Byrne
    Undergraduate student, History