The purpose of this year’s ELASA meeting was to show the international group the alpine landscape of Europe and some of its bigger cities from a green point of view. As part of the group you quickly realize that there is nothing as nice as walking around and exploring a region, talking about landscape architecture among like-minded people. Quite a big part of the group consisted of Germans, but some of them actually came as representatives for the Netherlands. The group of six Estonians made up another big part and the rest of the crew came from everywhere in Europe: Finland, Turkey, Bulgaria… Our guest student Jin even brought in some Chinese vibes! On our Grand Tour we traveled through four different countries, as long as Liechtenstein is considered an actual country. We discussed the differences as well as the similarities in both natural and urban landscapes. On the trip we experienced certain places personally, instead of just looking at pictures. Thanks to the organizers, we could do it without having to worry about anything. They did a great job in showing us the most beautiful places, providing us with lots of food, entertainment and most important: with beer, even on the bus ride. Which might be a reason why we always had something to laugh at.
Firstly, the event started with a social gathering at the green campus in Freising. Some lectures about the alpine landscape got us in the right mood for the tour and we got impatient for our big trip to finally start. We were told to find the right setting for our little model people and to make it look like an actual human being in a 1:1 scale. Additionally, we made up a compelling story and started a fierce contest about the most inventive character. Nobody knows why the stories all conveyed a rather depressing mood, because we actually were in a cheerful mood! The night was spent in ‘The Tent’, a hip backpacker place, where you can chill in a hammock while listening to people playing on their guitar. The morning began with a breakfast of veal sausages, that everyone tried curiously and open-mindedly. The actual journey started with a walk along cultivated and wilder parts of the Isar river. We talked about our studies that are quite different in the different countries. In order to understand the landscape a bit more, we went to an open-air museum and learned something about the way people dealt with the mountain pastures and worked with nature instead of working against it. Afterwards, we explored the Pfrühlmoos on our own and annoyed a shepherd, because one of his sheep wanted to become a member of our group. Furthermore, we spent an eventful night at an organic farm. After a cool down in the lake, the barbecue experts mastered the challenge to fill thirty hungry stomachs, using only one grill. A bonfire with guitar and Stockbrot under an impressively starry sky was the highlight of the night.
Then we already went to the next stop: sleepy Garmisch with it’s cute, coloured houses in front of the mountains we would climb the next day. The first challenge was to pack our baggage as light as possible, but to have lots of food supplies nevertheless. On our way to the Schachen mountain we cooled down in the Partnachklamm canyon. In the first minutes of climbing up the mountain, we already realized that as a landscape architect, you definitely need to get a compensation for sitting in front of the computer. Seriously. It was tough to get up there! But considerately we carried the baggage for the small people and shared our food generously. Up on the mountain we treated ourselves with greasy Kässpätzle and disgusting Schnaps made from strange plants that grow up there. It would be healthy they said… Together we watched the sun going down or just missed it, because we were staring at a wall on the wrong side of the mountain. Due to the lack of showers, it got determined, if we really liked each other. Even though the thunder storm at night increased the cosiness in the attic, the rain made the descent in the next morning quite difficult. We slid down the hill and tried some rock climbing, but due to a good team work we all got down safely.
As soon as we made it down the mountain, we went to the next destination. A tight programme, because there are so many nice places to see. By accident we found an amazing place to chill at Lake Zurich where we had a big picnic. We sat on a plateau under a weeping birch, fairy lights hanging above our heads and enjoyed our beer while starring across the lake. In Zurich we focused completely on landscape architecture. The big and well-known bureaus invited us to explore their rooms. They cleverly used the opportunity to lure us as potential trainees with coffee and croissants, while they proudly showed us their biggest projects. Thereupon we explored those projects. We had another picnic at Oerliker Park and run around at the MFO Park in order to test their usability at first hand. You can not only see at first glance that Switzerland is quite rich, but also that they truly care for landscape architecture. At least in Zurich, sustainable investments for the citizen’s well-being are on the move. You can find works of landscape architecture and qualitative recreation rooms at every corner. And I am certain that’s one of the reasons why the people in this city beam with so much joy.
At Lake Constance
Our route continued all the way to Lake Constance, passing hundreds of apple plantations. There we visited another bureau: Studio Dreiseitl. Furthermore, they allowed us to enter the area of the horticultural show 2020 and told us about all the years of planning the show. Afterwards, the ferry took us across the enormous lake to the Mainau island, which turned out to be like a huge playground for plant people like us. We explored the inspiring use of plants and attractions enthusiastically. Only the bushes in the form of rubber ducks almost hurt our eyes as future landscape architects. Despite all that fun we didn’t forget about the serious business: the ELASA meeting where we discussed about the further development of this wonderful association, which enables us to have such a great time of interaction and inspiration.
In the Allgäu region
On our way back to Munich, we stopped in the most idyllic region: the Allgäu. Besides happily grazing cows and green hills, there actually were some more things to see. We looked at the Rottach lake from a distance instead of jumping in, since it was cold and rainy, and we are a bunch of wimps. In Nesselwang, we visited the Red Bull Fun Park which is highly criticized. To tell the truth, I have to admit that we supported the whole thing by taking the summer toboggan run down the hill and that we enjoyed it.
Back in Munich
Back in ‘The Tent‘, we celebrated the trip with a barbecue and went to the ‘Backstage’ club for our farewell party. The next day, people had the last opportunity to explore the popular parks in Munich and to have a final dinner, making some music together. The end of that great event was a brunch at the Isar river where it all had started.
At a meeting, participants from everywhere in Europe are coming together. Due to same interests and an easy-going atmosphere, it already feels like being together with good friends. You can connect easily and develop a network of international future colleagues.
2. Secret corners
The meetings are organized by local students, so you get to see nice places that you cannot find in a travel guide. Besides, they can give you some insider information about the place.
3. Other countries, other landscapes
You deal with a foreign regional context and the way people manage it. Maybe you even get to see internationally known projects. And when they say: “You must have been there” in the next lecture, for once you don’t have to extend that frighteningly long list in your mind. You can sit back and say: “Well, I’ve been there already. He’s right. You really must have been there.”
For a change you’re not focused on your own projects. Instead you can relax and go with the flow. Suddenly, you perceive your environment more intensely and find inspiration everywhere. This way, a thousand ideas can flourish in your mind.
There is a lot of time to talk about one’s studies, motivations and possible future plans. Also, you get curious how the landscape in other people’s country might look like and suddenly there is no place you want to see more desperately than Estonia for example.
Your English is not the yellow from the egg? Then it’s time to practice it! ELASA people are very tolerant when it comes to one’s English skills.
You’re out in the fresh air a lot!
8. Learning the vocabulary was worth it
Mentioning botanical names doesn’t appear like showing off. A fantastic way to communicate with people in the same language. It’s even easier than switching to English. Everybody gets it immediately what kind of tree you’re talking about. And you’re talking about quite a lot of them.
9. Full board
The organizers take great care of anything you need: food, beer, warm socks with cute little hearts on it…
10. Another quite important thing: fun!
Even a bus ride is fun. And who doesn’t like sitting around a campfire, singing and eating marshmallows?
During the IFLA EU general assembly in Brussels last weekend, ELASA was invited to present the organization and to promote our student activities. With great enthusiasm we talked about our vision and gave insight into the fantastic international ELASA meetings. We are very pleased with the positive responses and look forward to stay in touch in the future. Many thanks to IFLA EU for having us!
Next stop: let’s discover Turkey! Join the ELASA meeting and become part of this great cross-border experience with fellow landscape architecture students.
Find out more: elasaturkey.org facebook.com/elasaturkey2016