one last adventure: Vienna

On my last weekend abroad, I traveled to Vienna with a couple of friends.  Even though I was a bit travel-weary at this point in the semester, I just couldn’t pass up such a good deal (we found $50 roundtrip flights)! Besides, Austria was the 10th (!!) country I have had the opportunity to visit this semester, and it was satisfying to hit double digits on my country count.

After a delayed flight, we arrived in Vienna late on Friday night.  Since we were flying out on Sunday morning, we knew we had to make the most of our one full day in the city. And so, we spent all of Saturday exploring!

We began the morning by grabbing apfelstrudel pastries and wandering around the Naschmarkt food market.  Next, we visited the cathedral and famous Vienna Opera House.

Though we had basically eaten dessert for breakfast, we couldn’t resist stopping at the Sacher Cafe to indulge in the famous Austrian dessert–the Sacher Torte.  I don’t usually enjoy the combo of chocolate and fruit, but let me tell you, this cake is amazing. Who know that chocolate and apricot could be so delicious?

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After overdoing it on the sweets, we stopped for a quick lunch in one of the Christmas markets that we stumbled upon as we wandered the city. Although Copenhagen is known for having good Christmas markets, they simply cannot compare to the ones in Austria! These Christmas were massive and jam-packed with tourists and locals alike.

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After poking around the crowded markets, we made our way to the Hofburg Palace and enjoyed wandering around the grand facade.

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Next, we took a 40 minute walk across town to visit the Prater amusement park to take a ride on the Wiener Riesenrad Ferris Wheel.  From the top of the massive ferris wheel, we enjoyed a gorgeous view of Vienna at night.

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After a busy day in Austria, we packed up and came back to Copenhagen on Sunday morning–just in time for me to study for my last exam.  After completing that exam on Monday afternoon, I can finally say that I’ve finished my schoolwork for the semester!

This experience has been such a whirlwind–I’m looking forward to some time at home to catch my breath before jumping into another busy semester at Kenyon.  Even though I’m so excited to go back to Nashville (and sleep in my own bed), it’s going to be hard to leave Copenhagen and my host mom on Friday.  However, I have a feeling that we’ll keep in touch, and maybe someday I’ll be lucky enough to come back to visit Denmark!

czeching it out

Over the weekend, I visited two of my high school friends who are also studying abroad this semester. Oddly enough, I think I’ve spent more time with my friends from high school this semester than I have since starting college.  Many of my Harpeth Hall classmates are currently studying abroad in Europe, and it’s been so fun getting to catch up with them–some of whom I haven’t seen since graduation!

Two of my close friends from high school, Dasha and Carrie, are spending their semester in Prague. Carrie is studying communication and journalism, and Dasha is doing an intensive film program. Visiting the two of them in the city where they have been studying for the past three months was the best–I got two built-in tour guides!

Together, we explored some of the famous landmarks of the city.  In a whirlwind day and a half tour, I got to see the iconic John Lennon Wall, the Prague Castle, and the Charles Bridge.

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the view from the Prague Castle

The city itself was gorgeous–and the prices were even better! Unlike Copenhagen (which rivals NYC for being outrageously expensive), food and drinks in Prague were so cheap.  I wandered around the grocery store there in total awe.

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beautiful Prague

Though the attractions were beautiful (and the food delicious), my favorite part of this weekend trip was spending time with old friends. After being in Copenhagen for the past three months, I was beginning to feel a little homesick. However, spending my weekend in the company of my lifelong friends was the perfect remedy!

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enjoying the John Lennon Wall with Dasha

italy/more like eataly

I can hardly believe that I spent my last week exploring Italy.  My time there was so beautiful, so overwhelming, so wonderful–it feels like a dream.  I already want to go back.

One of the main reasons I decided to study abroad through DIS was “travel weeks,” or the two weeks in October that are dedicated solely to travel.  During one of these weeks, I will be visiting Amsterdam with my core class; however, the other week was open for independent travel plans.  I chose to spend this week in Venice, Florence, and Rome with my friend Sarah.

We arrived in Venice on Saturday afternoon and spent the day exploring the island. Even though it was raining and a little chilly, we fell in love with the city.  Venice just has a particular charm–it is so unlike any city I’ve ever visited.  We loved wandering the zigzag streets and simply taking it in.

In Venice, we also enjoyed a day trip to the neighboring islands of Murano and Burano, a tour of Saint Mark’s Basilica, and a canal cruise on an iconic gondola boat. And, maybe best of all, we had so much good FOOD.  One afternoon in Venice, we looked up “best gelato” and mapped our way across the island just for an afternoon snack.  It was actually a great way to see more of the city, and the gelato was totally worth the extra couple of miles.

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Our next destination was Florence.  We woke up at 5am to catch a train from Venice, and even though it was way too early, the train ride gave us a gorgeous view of the Italian countryside.

Our hostel in Florence was right near the stunning Basilica of the Saint Mary Flower. It was pretty unreal to walk a few blocks and have this view every morning.

Florence is famous for its leather, and we had so much fun wandering the street market and looking at all the beautiful purses and jackets.  I had never tried to haggle with a vendor before, but I tried in Florence, and ended up with a new leather purse for only twenty euro!!

The highlight of our time in Florence was a pizza and gelato making class.  Though it was supposed to be a large group class, Sarah and I were the only people signed up for the earlier time slot, so we had a private lesson!  This meant that we couldn’t mess up too much since our instructor was there to guide us through each step.  And the result–amazing pizza! It also meant that we got extra servings of chocolate gelato.

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On our last morning in Florence, we climbed the Piazalle Michelangelo for a panoramic view of the city–a good way to burn off the pizza from the night before and take in a gorgeous view!IMG_4369.jpg

Next, we made our way to Rome.  We only had two days to explore the city, and there is so much to see.  The first day, we spent a big chunk of our day at the Vatican. Unfortunately, we didn’t realize that there was a dress code, and we couldn’t have our knees showing.  We had to buy overpriced scarves right outside the Vatican and tie them around our waists–a very fashionable look.  It was pretty amazing to have seen the Sistene Chapel, a sight I’ve heard about my whole life.

In an attempt to see as much as we possibly could, we booked a four-hour walking tour for our next day in Rome.  We went ALL around the city and got to see most of the iconic sites–the Colosseum, Pantheon, Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish steps, and so much more.

After an exhausting day of walking the city, it was so wonderful to sit down to our final dinner in Italy.  I hated saying goodbye to all the pasta, but after a whirlwind of a week, it will be nice to settle back into routine in Copenhagen.

Berlin (a whirlwind)

While millions made their way to Munich, Germany this weekend to celebrate Oktoberfest, I took the opportunity to travel inexpensively to Berlin.  And by inexpensively, I mean, really inexpensively.  My friend found us a bargain with a company called FlixBus, allowing us to travel from Copenhagen to Berlin for around $48 round-trip.  To minimize cost, we decided to take the overnight bus into Berlin on Friday night and then take the overnight bus home on Saturday, so we wouldn’t have to pay for lodging in Berlin. We anticipated that this would be truly exhausting, but we ultimately decided it was worth it to have seen another city. And so, at 11pm on Friday night, we boarded our overnight bus and began our whirlwind 33 hour journey to Berlin and back.

Even though we were interrupted around 1:00am to board a massive ferry (complete with duty-free shopping and a full dinner buffet), I was able to sleep surprisingly well on the FlixBus to Berlin.  We woke up as the sun was rising over the city, eager to begin our day of tourism.

Our first priority upon arrival Berlin was CAFFEINE.  For breakfast, stumbled upon a little hipster paradise called the Steel Vintage Bikes Café. We snuck into their bathroom to wash our faces and brush our teeth, and got some funny looks from our fellow diners. After this (very necessary) refresh, we enjoyed the most delicious coffee and breakfast in the quirky Berlin café.  This AMAZING croissant french toast was exactly what we needed after a long night on the bus.

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breakfast in Berlin

After finishing our breakfast, we walked around some of Berlin’s major tourist attractions–the Brandenburg Gate, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, and the gorgeous Tiergarten.

Next, we walked to the German Spy Museum where we learned about the history of espionage. The museum had fascinating, interactive exhibits on everything from invisible ink to truth serum to Edward Snowden.   I particularly enjoying learning about how bees, dolphins, pigeons, and dogs have all been used in various spying capacities. We also learned that, at one point, they tried to train cats to gather intel, but their behavior was too unruly for them to be effective spies.

Upon recommendation of one of my professors at DIS, we then walked to the Ritter Sport Museum in Berlin.  The flagship Ritter Sport store is like one giant ode to chocolate, with a vibe similar to Dylan’s Candy Bar in New York City.  At the shop, we got to make our very own chocolate bars.  Though it was surprisingly difficult to decide on a combo of ingredients for my chocolate bar, my personalized combination of coconut flakes, caramelized almonds, and rice crunch turned out to be delicious.

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Next, we began to make our way to the DDR Museum, stopping for lunch at a German restaurant on our way.  There, we enjoyed the classic currywurst sausage dish–the perfect way to recharge before our next museum destination.

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views from our walk around the city

The DDR Museum offers an immersive look at life in the former East Germany.  It was so interesting to walk through this exhibit and view the artifacts and replications of everyday life in the DDR.  In particular, I was fascinated by their temporary exhibition, “Love, Sex and Socialism.”  Here’s an official description of the exhibit from the DDR Museum wesbite:

“‘Love, sex & socialism’ shows the connection between highly private interpersonal relationships and the states’s expectations of love from its people. It highlights ideologic, social and economic relations in the DDR which influenced gender relationships, family planning and every day life. Furthermore, it makes the ruling party’s demand of love, devotion and eternal loyalty from the party members as well as all the people of the DDR a subject of discussion.”

I was glad to have received a refresher on the historical context of the East/West Berlin divide at the DDR Museum before I visited the East Side Gallery, the longest remaining remnant of the Berlin Wall.  This open-air gallery is 1316 meters long, and contains 105 different murals by various artists.  The East Side Gallery was incredibly powerful, and definitely the highlight of my trip to Berlin. Here are some of my favorite images from the day:

After enjoying a dinner by the river, we boarded our bus back home to Copenhagen. And even though I am totally worn out by this weekend’s activities, I am so glad that I experienced this chaotic whirlwind.

a weekend in Norway

Over the weekend, I traveled to a city in Norway called Bergen. Prior to this trip, I had never heard of Bergen, and I hadn’t really considered visiting that region of Scandinavia. However, my friend Sarah’s mom offered to take us with her after her visit to Copenhagen, and I was more than happy to take her up on the generous offer.

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As it turns out, Bergen is a gorgeous little city on the southwestern coast–the perfect place to spend a peaceful weekend! Bergen is surrounded by the mountains and fjords of Norway, and it features a colorful historical wharf, a mountainside funicular, and great opportunities for hiking.

Though we only had two days in Bergen, we made the most of our time there despite the chilly weather. We used the funicular, Fløibanen, to reach the top of the neighboring mountain. After exploring the lake at the top of the mountain, we hiked back down and enjoyed some beautiful waterfalls and breathtaking views of the city down below.

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Though we experienced some light rain during our stay, this didn’t put much of a damper on the trip. In fact, we got to see a rainbow!

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We also got to sample some traditional Norwegian cuisine during our stay. Since Bergen is on the coast, it has AMAZING seafood. Our favorite was the Norwegian fish soup–a creamy soup that contained salmon, mussels, shrimp, and cod. We also indulged in some less traditionally Norwegian seafood, going out for some delicious sushi.

Before this weekend trip, I assumed that Norway would be very similar to Copenhagen; however, Bergen had a vastly different feel to it. In fact, going to Bergen felt like stepping into the world of Disney’s Frozen. It was so easy to take an overnight trip there from Copenhagen, and I would highly recommend it.

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core course week

This week at DIS is known as “Core Course Week.”  Instead of meeting in my regularly scheduled classes, the entire week was dedicated to intensive studies with my core course (in my case, Prostitution and the Sex Trade).  This week also included the first of two study tours with my core class. In accordance with DIS’s academic model “Copenhagen as your home, Europe as your classroom,” my class had the opportunity to travel together to Sweden for two days and attend a series of lectures.

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Sweden was an optimal location for our study tour because their policy regarding prostitution is quite different from the Danish legislative model.  While prostitution is legalized in Denmark, Sweden takes a unique approach.  Though the selling of sex is legal, the purchase of sex is criminalized.  This approach, more commonly known as the Nordic model, is designed to protect sex workers while minimizing the rates of prostitution and sex trafficking in Sweden.

Prior to our trip, the class had been assigned a selection of readings that analyzed the effectiveness of the legal policy. Thus, we were eager to hear from some of the people who had experienced this model in action, hoping to learn more about its pros and cons.

During our time in Sweden, we attended five different lectures regarding the Nordic model.  Three of these lectures were from representatives of non-profit organizations working in Sweden. In addition, we heard from a member of the Swedish police and an academic who researched the “Multiplicities of Prostitution Experience” in Sweden.

It was so interesting to hear from this wide variety of perspectives within our organized lectures. However, we also gained insight by speaking to Swedish citizens during our study tour. While in Sweden, we were assigned an interview project. In small groups, we asked some of the people we encountered about their views on prostitution and the Nordic Model. By doing so, we learned a great deal about public perception and the Swedish mentality in regards to sex work.

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On our way back into Denmark, we visited the famous Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. As a class group, we were able to attend a private tour of the “Men and Masculinity” exhibit. Though the exhibit wasn’t directly related to our course material, our tour at Louisiana was spefically curated to spark discussion about the link between gender roles and sexuality.

Though our trip had ended, we continued our discussion and debate throughout the week. For instance, on Thursday, we heard from a representative from the Rose Alliance, a Swedish organization for sex workers. Even though we were back in Copenhagen, this lecture was one of the highlights of core course week for me. If you’re interested in what we’re discussing as a class, I’d recomment the Rose Alliance’s website!

http://www.rosealliance.se/en/about-ra/

This has been such an amazing week. After traveling to Sweden together, my class has definitely become much closer as a group, and I can’t wait to travel again (to Amsterdam!!) with my new group of friends at the end of October.

 

first stop: portugal

Prior to beginning my journey in Copenhagen, I planned some additional European travel with my friend Sarah.

(Side note: Sarah and I attended high school together in Nashville, and although we went to college separately, we both ended up choosing DIS as our study abroad program. A very happy coincidence!)

Since we were already booking flights to Europe, we decided to take advantage of this opportunity and find another interesting city to explore for a few days before our academic program.  This way, we could have plenty of time to adjust to jet lag while also having some fun!

In order to choose our destination, I began researching up-and-coming tourist destinations in Europe.  I knew I wanted to visit someplace warm before facing the chilly fall weather in Copenhagen, but we also wanted to find a city that would be relatively inexpensive.  And eventually, we landed on Porto, Portugal.

After a long 17 hours of travel, we arrived in Portugal on Tuesday morning. Though we were exhausted from the flights, we immediately began to explore the town (mostly to keep from falling asleep)!  We wandered along the shore of the Douro River, then spent a peaceful evening sitting at the gorgeous Gordarém beach.

On Wednesday, we decided to splurge a little bit (my summer job at Nordstrom finally paying off!), and we booked a tour of the region that included a boat ride and port tastings.  This was, by far, my favorite part of the trip!

On the tour, we took an hour and a half long van ride into the Douro Valley area.  Not only was the drive stunning, we also got the chance to know some of our fellow travelers–a few Australians, Canadians, and other Americans.  It was such a lovely surprise to befriend these kind and well-traveled strangers, and they had so much wisdom to share with us about backpacking in Europe. By the end of the day, we were all hugging and exchanging contact information.

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The Douro River Valley (the region of Port wine)

On Wednesday, we got a whole new view of the city from the Torre de Clerigos.  This beautiful church is open to the public, and we climbed the two tall towers to get a bird’s eye view of the city.  It was stunning, but we were out of breath by the time we got to the top! In fact, after walking to the top of the tower and all around the hilly city of Porto, Sarah’s fitbit reported that we had walked 75 flights of steps.

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Our View from the Torre de Clerigos

On Wednesday afternoon, we went on a walking tour of the city.  This was such an amazing opportunity to learn more about Porto from the perspective of a local.  We also got to know much more about the history of the city during this tour.  For instance, our tour guide Angela took us to a beautiful historic prison (now a photography museum) near the city center and told us a legendary love story about two of the inmates.

Another highlight of the tour was seeing (what is probably) the world’s fanciest McDonald’s!  Certainly the fanciest McDonald’s we’ve ever seen.

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The McDonald’s in Porto

On our last morning, we visited the beautiful Crystal Palace Gardens (the recommendation of one of our new Australian friends).  It was the perfect end to our vacation, and we left Portugal so full of gratitude for this opportunity and excited for the next chapter!

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The Crystal Palace Gardens