"Dispatches from Europe" Blog Contest

Are you planning on traveleling to the European Union this summer? Submit a post to be featured on our Across the Pond blog and win prizes!

Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic Blogs

The third Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic class traveled to the Arctic Circle in summer 2014. Check out their blog entries from this summer!

Ringing the Bells at the Banner of Peace

Landscape Architecture Doctoral candidate Caroline Wisler reflects on her travels to Bulgaria.

Zach Grotovsky's Summer 2013: 14 Cities, 15 Weeks, One Long Adventure

University of Illinois graduate student in Germanic Literatures and Languages Zach Grotovsky documents his travels throughout Eastern Europe in the summer of 2013.

Polar Bears

The Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic class spotted polar bears in Norway!

Peaceful Opposition in Izmir

MAEUS student Levi Armlovich describes his experiences with the protests in Izmir, Turkey.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Celebrating Oktoberfest: Across the Cornfields Edition

by Reneé Gordon Holley

Every September, millions of people flock to Munich, Germany, eager to take part in the annual Oktoberfest celebration. Tourists and locals alike overrun the city, spending hours in festival tents, sipping fine brews specially formulated for the occasion, and consuming innumerable pretzels and pork shanks. Among the smells of people, beer, meat and sweets, listeners are treated to traditional folk bands, which blast Bavarian classics and entice children to dance.

For those unfortunate souls who are unable to make the yearly pilgrimage to Bavaria (myself included), you may be able to catch a local party. Communities scattered throughout the United States put on their own, home-grown versions of the “Fest,” complete with Dirndl, Lederhosen, and traditional Bavarian decor.

In Central Illinois, residents have the option of making a culinary pilgrimage to experience the closest thing to German Gemütlichkeit on this side of the Atlantic. Travelers heading north on Illinois 47 encounter corn, soybeans, and the occasional pumpkin patch. But, when an old drive-in theater peaks over the horizon, you have reached a town that serves the best slice of Germany, complete with Oktoberfests, May poles, and enough apple strudel to satisfy any appetite. In Gibson City, you are transported to a Bavarian hunter’s lodge when you eat at Bayernstube.

This experience of European culture “across the pond” is really just a few miles away, across Illinois’ golden sea of corn, bending in waves with the cool harvest breeze.

On Friday, September 30th, the EUC staff paid a visit to Gibson City, complete with jovial German folk tunes, appropriate for the journey. (Those of you with UI library access, check out item number CDISC M1734 B38 – Bavarian Holiday – for a unique German music listening experience, complete with brass, yodeling, and some culturally puzzling moments that might spark larger musicological debates, if you are interested in that sort of thing.) As we approached Gibson City, we caught a glimpse of Twin Groves Wind Farm, one of the largest wind farms this side of the Mississippi. Wind farms are a staple in many regions of Germany, and since seeing my first windmill in my high school German textbook, I associate one with the other.

The EUC staff regrouped at the restaurant in the Dietrich Hall, named after the original owner’s father. Father Dietrich’s hunting legacy was readily apparent; restaurant guests enter the bar, which features walls of many fine examples of taxidermy. Before entering the beer hall, I was tempted to select one of the hundreds of steins adorning the main dining room to serve as my beverage glass for the evening.

Bayernstube maintains an Oktoberfest menu, including pretzels, traditional Munich “Weisswurst,” Rouladen, and a special Camembert and dark beer cheese spread. The regular menu boasts eight varieties of schnitzel (breaded, pan-fried pork or veal filets); red cabbage and sauerkraut so tasty that the pickiest eater might need convincing that they are indeed consuming cabbage; and potatoes that are served in salad, pancake, mashed, and sautéed forms. Each meal is accompanied by a basket of Bauernbrot, or farmer’s bread, plus Bayernstube’s homemade smoked sausage spread. Be warned; one slice is not enough. After selecting your entrée and drink from the list of German beers on tap, remember to save room for dessert. At the end of the meal, Dirndl-adorning waitresses display dessert trays at each table and feature an assortment of cakes, inviting guests to select a slice.

For as authentically German as we perceived our experience to be, we were glad to have a resident expert with us to provide a running commentary on the finer qualities of the meal. EUC Visiting Scholar Gregor van der Beek, along with his son, gave rave reviews of the food and atmosphere. Dr. van der Beek commented that Bayernstube embodied the style and feel of a restaurant that his grandparents would choose if they were to take the family out for a nice meal. After spending almost three months in Illinois, our German guests enjoyed the Bauernbrot and entrées, which reminded them of home, and Bavaria of course!

Although Oktoberfest has nearly drawn to a close for this year, plan on partaking in next year’s festivities, or perhaps make the pilgrimage to Bayernstube for a family meal or a get-together with friends. Bis dann!

Stay tuned for the next “Across the Cornfields” edition of “Across the Pond” – Chicago’s Christkindlmarket!

Reneé Holley is a PhD Candidate in Musicology and an EU Center Graduate Assistant. She is working on a dissertation that addresses the influence of EU cultural policies on contemporary German musical life.

Newcastle University Conference Explores Options for a Sustainable Countryside

The Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability and the Newcastle University Law School hosted a conference to address emerging challenges to rural areas, including responding to climate change, food security, renewable energy, and changes to crop and livestock production systems.  EU Center Director A. Bryan Endres served as the opening speaker, presenting a talk on sustainable bioenergy and legal approaches to ecological protection.  Specifically, the presentation discussed the intersection of biotechnology, invasive species and state regulatory regimes within the context of novel plants grown for conversion into bioenergy.

Two other plenary speakers, László Máthé from World Wildlife Int’l, and Patrick Begg from The National Trust (UK), explored, respectively, issues of renewable energy and sustainable rural enterprises.  Separate break-out sessions focused on issues related to climate change, biotechnology and energy strategies.  In the conference’s closing session, conference organizer and Dean of Newcastle Law School, Professor Chris Rodgers, summarized many of the legal/policy issues stakeholders must confront in shaping the future of the UK countryside.  One key component of a sustainable countryside is the need to view rural landscapes from a multi-functional perspective in which food and energy production sustains economically viable communities, while protecting biodiversity and other ecosystems services, including preserving recreational opportunities for the general public—a challenging endeavor that benefits from conferences such as this, which brings together multiple stakeholders from diverse disciplines.


New Course on the Changing Arctic

A new study abroad course entitled "Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic" is now available for University of Illinois students. The six-week course, supported in part by the EUC's European Union Center of Excellence grant, will take students of any discipline first to KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden for a five-week introduction to the political, social, historical, and cultural issues of climate change, and then north to the Arctic Circle for ten days of research alongside Swedish classmates.

Concerns over the environmental impact of melting sea ice, contrasted with "possibilities for extracting oil and gas reserves there, as well as new shipping routes," have made the Arctic Circle central in the political agendas of states in the region, reads the program description. The course's aim, then, "is to give a thorough orientation about long-term changes in the Arctic region," from ancient times to the politically- and environmentally-motivated present, "focusing on the way in which actors from the Nordic countries have interacted in their Arctic environments in a long-term, historical perspective." To that end, students will learn about these issues while experiencing firsthand the differences between the southern power center of Stockholm and the northern environment in the Arctic Circle.

The course will be taught by Dag Avango, Professor of the History of Technology at KTH; Bruce Fouke, Professor of Geology at UIUC; and Mark Safstrom, Lecturer in Germanic Languages and Literature at UIUC.

The six-credit class will take place this summer, from June 11–July 25, 2012. Interested students should visit the course's description page and information page for more information. Questions and requests for an informational flier mat be sent to Mark Safstrom at safstrom@illinois.edu. The deadline for applications is February 12, 2012.

Friday, October 14, 2011

40 Years of Exchange with Austria

This year, the Austria-Illinois Exchange Program, one of the University of Illinois' oldest study abroad programs, is celebrating its 40th anniversary. To commemorate the occasion, AIEP is holding the Change through Exchange conference, which is co-sponsored by the European Union Center.

The two-day conference will include discussions, films and lectures by speakers like Thomas Schnöll, Consul General of Austria and Josef Haslinger, Austrian author and professor at the University of Leipzig. The event marks the enduring interest in, and importance of, scholastic exchange between the University of Illinois and Europe. In addition to its longstanding support for AIEP, the European Union Center has consistently supported exchange activities between Illinois, Austria, and European nations in general. We congratulate AIEP on its terrific success, and we look forward to supporting it and programs like it for many years to come.

For more information, view the conference page or see the October 20, 2011 issue of "Inside Illinois"