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.

adventures in nørrebro

In my Danish language and culture class, we were divided into groups and assigned a neighborhood in Copenhagen to visit with the goal of creating a presentation for the class about the neighborhood’s particular culture and history.  My group was assigned Nørrebro, an area northwest of the city center known as Copenhagen’s multicultural neighborhood.

Nørrebro has gotten a bad rap recently for some instances of gang violence; however, I have never felt unsafe wandering around the area, particularly when traveling in a group.  In fact, Nørrebro has been one of my favorite Copenhagen neighborhoods to explore (and to eat)!

The neighborhood boasts a trendy shopping street, Jægersborggade (try saying that five times fast).  Lined with coffee bars, vegan restaurants, and quirky shops, Jægersborggade attracts a young hipster crowd.  My personal favorite find on Jægersborggade is a restuarant called Grød, Copenhagen’s first porridge bar.  Their menu has everything from chia seed pudding and caramel oat porridge to daal and risotto.  A friend described it as “anything warm, mushy, and delicious.” I don’t think the porridge trend has caught on yet back in Nashville, but I’m sure it will!

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a hispter hangout on Jægersborggade (spot Grød in the background)

My other favorite food trend in Nørrebro is the falafel. Almost every street in Nørrebro features a shawarma restaurant, and, though they might not look like much from the outside, I have had the most AMAZING falafel on the streets of Nørrebro. Best of all, some of these shawarma restaurants stay open through the night. After enjoying some of the nightlife in Nørrebro a few weekends back, I stumbled upon the Konyali Cafe and had falafel sandwiches with a group of friends at 3am (quite possibly the best falafel I’ve ever tasted).

Nørrebro also contains the famous Assistens Cemetary, the burial place of famous Copenhageners Søren Kierkegaard and Hans Christian Andersen.  Oddly enough, the cemetary is a beautiful place to go on a leisurely walk.

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As I’ve established a comfortable daily routine in Copenhagen, I’ve noticed that I’ve also become a bit stuck in a rut–only traveling from my homestay in Sydhavnen to Indre By (the area where DIS is located) and back again. However, this field study in Nørrebro has reminded me that I need to keep exploring the city, as each unique neighborhood has so much to offer!

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view from the Dronning Louises Bro, a bridge on the edge of Nørrebro

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.

 

wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen

This week in my Danish Language and Culture class, we were assigned a reading entitled “Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen” from the book How to Be Danish by Patrick Kingsley.  Within the chapter, Kingsley discusses the structure and recent history of the city. In particular, the chapter focuses on the famous Danish architect Jan Gehl Hon and his influence on the Copenhagen’s urban design.

Throughout his life, Jan Gehl Hon has strived to reorient the city of Copenhagen to be an optimal space for both the pedestrian and the cyclist.  As a result of incremental efforts over the years, Copenhagen has thus become one of the most livable cities in the world (in fact, it ranked in the top 10 according to this recent evaluation).

Kingsley’s chapter, in celebration of the city, has been reflective of my amazing week here in Copenhagen. After being here for almost three weeks (!!), I have become more comfortable navigating the city, and it is beginning to feel like my happy home.

This week has also been full of exploration in and around Copenhagen! Hoping to take advantage of the beautiful sunny weather, I’ve spent all my free time this week checking items off my tourist to-do list.

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view from our go-boat

On Saturday, I went with a group of friends to cruise the canals of Copenhagen on a go-boat. We packed our own picnic and spent two wonderful hours taking in the sights of the city from the water.

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cruising with my friend Sarah

On Wednesday, I had some free time before my field study, so I visited the Church of our Savior, famous for its winding spiral staircase up to a gorgeous bird’s-eye-view of the city. After trudging up the 400 stairs, I was exhausted, but it was worth the climb.

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read more about the church

After visiting the church, I took a brief visit to the iconic sidewalk trampolines in Copenhagen. I’m not sure why they exist–perhaps it has something to do with Jan Gehl Hon’s principle that cities should have open spaces for play.

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hard to capture in a photo, but I really am bouncing

On Thursday, the last day of predicted warm(ish) and sunny weather, I decided to go swimming in the harbor with a group of friends. It was one of those things I wanted to say I had done in Copenhagen, though it was a little cold for a swim. At the last minute, I almost changed my mind, but I’m happy to say I took the (very chilly) plunge at least once.

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a moment of hesitation before we took the plunge

After getting back into warm clothes, we wrapped up the night by visiting Reffen, an outdoor food market north of the city.  My host mom goes to zumba classes on Thursday nights, so I took the opportunity to eat out and enjoy the “foodie” side of Copenhagen.

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a delicious chocolate waffle at Reffen

From what I’ve seen so far, Copenhagen is truly is a wonderful, wonderful city.

 

field studies & FOMO

my first field study

On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to go on a “field study” with my Danish Language and Culture course.  Along with my professor, my class visited the Nationalmuseet (National Museum of Denmark).  At the museum, we were divided into groups and asked to create a brief presentation about a period of Danish history.  I was assigned the Middle Ages, so my group mostly observed the elaborate Catholic iconography of the era.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many crucifixes in one place!

Working in a small group to create a presentation, I got to know some of my fellow classmates a bit better.  Unlike my other elective classes, most of which are focused on some variation of gender and sexuality studies, the peers in my Danish elective course are studying a wide variety of disciplines.  For instance, the students in my group were studying Global Economics and Medical Biotechnology.  I enjoyed getting to know my classmates better, and I think that feeling comfortable with each other will make our time in Danish class more productive (since it can feel embarrassing to try to pronounce all the difficult Danish vowels)!

After visiting the museum, our professor took us to a nearby coffee shop and taught us how to order in Danish.  He made a deal with the barista that we would only receive a drink if we ordered correctly in Danish–a little intimidating–but I’m very glad that I know how to order my tea in the local language now!  At the coffee shop, the various groups also had time to present about our respective historical eras, so we all gained a broader understanding of Danish history.

Following this break, our professor took us to have a personalized tour of the Danish Supreme Court.  We had a lively discussion about differences in the American and Danish legal systems, learning from one of the justices of the Danish Supreme Court himself.

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The Danish Supreme Court

The opportunity to go on field studies such as this one with my Danish class is one of the main reasons I chose to study abroad with DIS.  Instead of meeting in my regularly scheduled classes on Wednesdays, I will get to spend the day exploring the city and participating in cultural experiences with my professors and classmates.  For instance, I will be visiting the Counseling Center for Foreign Women with my Human Trafficking class and attending a play of Virginia Wolf’s Orlando with my literature class.  I am really looking forward to these opportunities for hands-on learning–something that I rarely get to experience at home.

…and FOMO

Even though this week of classes has been dynamic and exciting, it has been difficult to watch on social media as my friends back at Kenyon move in, start their classes, and take on the beginning of junior year together. Though I feel so lucky to be taking on this adventure in Copenhagen, a part of me deeply misses the college community that has become my home over the past two years. I have experienced a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out) despite my enthusiasm about this semester abroad.

In order to combat this FOMO, I have done my best to disengage from social media as much as I can (and hey, it’s probably better to save my cellular data anyway). Though it sounds cliché, I am doing my best to “live in the moment.” I simply have to accept that I’ll be missing out on some fun beginning-of-the-year traditions with my friends in Gambier and embrace all the new possibilities for fun here in Denmark!