Final Few Weeks

It’s amazing how quickly time flies, especially at the end of the semester. With final papers and exams coming up, free time is becoming scarce. But this has also allowed me to spend more time with my host family, which I haven’t really done since I arrived. Over Thanksgiving, my father came out to visit me in Copenhagen and I introduced him to the family. I found it funny that they expected my dad to be a stubborn businessman with a briefcase, which is the complete opposite of who he is. We had a great time and showed him all the important sites. My host family also took him to a lot of local places while I was in class.

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My host dad, Steen, who works for Carlsberg, decided to take us to the facilities and gave us a thorough tour. It was fascinating to learn about the history of Carlberg beer in Denmark and how it became one of the largest beer companies in the world.

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They also have the largest collection of unopened beer bottles in the world. There’s a Guinness World Record plaque to prove it.

Last week, my travel course had its final field study and we traveled to Helsingor to see the Maritime Museum next to Kronborg Castle. When I visited the castle earlier in the semester, I remember peering over into the dry-dock (where the museum is built into) and was curious about the odd structure. But I, for some reason, didn’t pay much attention to it. Now that I have seen the museum, I was much more impressed with it than Kronborg. I only traveled to Kronborg to check a place off my list and I didn’t enjoy it as much I thought I would.

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But I would highly recommend anyone to visit this hidden gem before they decide to make their way to Kronborg. It is an interestingly designed building with lots of modern architectural elements that make it so aesthetically pleasing.

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In some ways, my time abroad has felt like a lifetime. I did a very good job to keep myself busy with travel and sightseeing. But my time abroad has also felt short, especially regarding the wonderful friendships I developed here. My fear is that I might never see some of these people again. As this semester winds down, I need to consider the limited time I have with the special people I’ve met here and prioritize the time I have with my host family as well. It’s under two weeks now before my plane takes off and I’m heading back to the Southwest.

The One, The Only, Long Study Tour

It is difficult to remember every important detail from this long study tour. Covering both Warsaw and Berlin, this one-week excursion honestly felt like two weeks. Thanks to our professor, each day was packed with walking tours, museum exhibitions, local restaurants, and discussions with important and controversial figures in both Polish and German history. Throughout the entire week, we learned the entire contemporary history of both Poland and Germany and connected all the important historical and current events going on in these countries with the themes we have been discussing in our core course.

Now, I won’t go into elaborate detail because I realized that I spent almost 2 hours telling my mom about the minor details. So, I’ll emphasize the areas of the trip that impacted me the most.

On our first day in Warsaw, we traveled to the Palace of Culture and Science, once known as Stalin’s Palace during the period when Poland became a puppet state of the USSR.

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While we were in Warsaw, it was quite obvious that the architecture was inspired by Communism. During World War II, Warsaw was almost completely leveled to the ground by continuous bombing. After the war, the government considered rebuilding a city elsewhere instead of rebuilding Warsaw, but that didn’t happen. The rebuilding of Warsaw is still one of Poland’s greatest triumphs.

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We also had the opportunity to visit Treblinka, which was once a death camp used by the Nazis to murder over 900,000 Jews. This camp was notorious because it’s sole purpose was to be the site of mass extermination. There is nothing left of the camp except a memorial made up of hundreds of erected stones and this large monument. There is also a small museum and stone slabs placed where the train tracks might have been. Overall, this set the mood for the trip. At times, we were laughing and enjoying our time in Poland and Germany, but it was always overshadowed by the depressing aura of the Holocaust.

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One of the most interesting museums we visited was the Polin museum, which tells the story of Jews in Europe since the beginning. It offers an interactive experience of Jewish history and explains how Judaism coexisted alongside Christianity and why anti-Semitism that still exists today is actually an archaic term that has been around for hundreds of years.

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Our next stop was Berlin! After a seven-hour train ride through the night, which was overly romanticized by our professor, we arrived at our hotel. I think everyone in my class realized that both hotels we stayed at were chosen because of their historical location. After we ate breakfast at the hotel, our professor took us on a walking tour. After only a few minutes of walking, we arrived at the remains of Berlin’s old train station. This train station was significant, not only because it’s where thousands of Germans used to travel through, but also because it was where thousands of German Jews were deported from.

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Berlin was by far one of the most beautiful cities I have visited. I loved the mix of old and new architecture and there is just so much to do and see.

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One of the coolest experiences we had was visiting the Reichstag building. We even had the privilege of eating lunch on the roof. It was surreal to think that I was eating lunch on the roof of a building that, in 1945, was stormed by the Soviet Union and symbolized Russia’s victory over Nazi Germany.

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During the trip, I realized that this was why I chose DIS. There is nothing better than being so passionate about history and having the opportunity to stand in places that defined so much of Poland’s and Germany’s history.

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Another experience my class had was listening to the Berlin Philharmonic. I’m not a lover of orchestras, but this performance had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. I suppose this was the grand finale to our core course, and it definitely felt like it.

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But I had to think twice about that statement because the next we visited the German-Russian Museum, which was one of the most, if not the most important place in World War II. On May 8, 1945, Germany surrendered to the Allied powers in this room. All the chairs and flags remain exactly where they were when it happened and miraculously the building remained untouched throughout the war.

Overall, this was a once in a lifetime experience. Never in my life did I expect to be so immersed in contemporary European history than I did last week. This past week not only enlightened my knowledge of the complexities of European (especially Polish and German history), but it also enriched my understanding of how Modern European history continues to be shaped by the past.

What I have been up to in the past 3 weeks!

As I have been finding myself preoccupied with traveling, midterms, and final projects, I realized that the difficulty of blogging at school is finding the right time to write a post. These past few weeks have been a whirlwind of excitement and emotions that I won’t go into detail about. However, I do think it’s important to at least give an explanation for my absence from blogging.

As it has been over 3 weeks now since I wrote my last post, work picked up and I found myself making plans for my travel week from October 6th to the 13th amidst the pressure of writing midterm papers and preparing for exams. My life leading up to this part of the semester had been easily manageable, but now I’ve found myself battling with large assignments and travel and just not having enough time to write.

Without further ado, I’ll talk about the more interesting experiences I’ve had these past few weeks.

The week prior to my travel week was quite stressful. Managing studying time with planning my trip with 3 other girls to Athens and Budapest was not easy. But once I had turned in all of my assignments and finished my exams on Friday, I could take a breath. Saturday came and we all met at the airport to take our flight to Athens, Greece. We had planned to stay in Greece for around 4 days and then fly to Budapest on Wednesday. In about the same time it takes for me to travel to college in the U.S, we landed in Athens within 3 hours.

Athens was incredible. It is amazing to think that, during the time I’ve been away from the U.S, I can now say that I’ve seen the pieces of the Parthenon that reside in the British Museum and the Parthenon itself. When we arrived in Athens, we had to grab a taxi from the airport to the city, which is located around 40 km from the airport. After riding in the taxi for about an hour, we arrived at our cute Airbnb. We weren’t so exhausted from the traveling, so we ventured down the streets and found some restaurants. What I realized on the first night is that Greeks take their soccer very seriously. While we were searching for a restaurant, we passed by a place that was packed with people, except no one was speaking, and everyone was staring at something. So, we, for whatever reason, decided to go in. It wasn’t long until we realized that everyone was staring at a television screen with the soccer channel on. It was a truly bizarre experience. I am used to the high energy spectator experience.

So, the next day we walked through the narrow streets of the congested city of Athens…

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Athens, compared to Copenhagen, was a very dirty city. But, in some ways, this added to the city’s authenticity. As you can see on the left of this picture, Athens is renowned for its graffiti art that can be found everywhere. So, despite my dissatisfaction with the filth, I was more inclined to look at the more beautiful things in the city. After we had our breakfast at a small cafe, we walked for another 20 minutes and were taken aback by the site we saw when we emerged from the city limits…

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It was there, the Parthenon, in the plainest and clearest view possible. It felt like we had just emerged from an adventure through a dense forest and stumbled upon a clearing with an ancient relic. We had been walking for about 40 minutes through the windy streets of Athens, but this sight made us all kick into high gear.

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It was nice to travel with people for a change!

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The view from another hill next to the Parthenon.

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After we finished our day up at the Parthenon, we walked around the surrounding areas. There are many popular streets with restaurants, shops, and bars and it is touristhaven!

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But the highlight of the trip, for me, was going on a one-day boat cruise to three Greek islands (Hydra, Poros, and Egina) off the coast of Greece. It was an expensive purchase, but I thought it was worth it! Sometimes you have to embrace these touristy excursions when you only have a few days in one location.

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Had I not gone on this cruise, I would’ve missed swimming in the clear Mediterranean water at Hydra.img-20181010-wa0005.jpg

That area where the stairs are is where we all jumped in. Instead of venturing around the island, we decided to swim instead, an activity that is more painful than fun in Copenhagen.

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On the last island, we swam again and were able to try the famous pistachio butter that is absolutely to-die-for. I thought that this butter was exclusive to the island, but the day after I stumbled upon the same stuff at a store on the mainland… Fooled!

But that was only half the trip! For whatever reason, a week of traveling felt soooo long. But on Wednesday, we got up, grabbed 2 euro gyros from our favorite spot near our Airbnb, and made our way to the next destination, Budapest!

Now, Budapest was hands down one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen. The layout of Buda and Pest allows visitors to get amazing views of the entire city from the archways of Buda castle and the cuisine will satisfy any meat lover. On top of that, Budapest is extremely cheap, which was a relief coming from Copenhagen where the cost of a beer from a bar will leave you penniless and feeling depressed.

On the first night, we made a spontaneous decision to walk around the city at night. I completely forgot that walking around the city at night was the most important reason to visit Budapest…

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The entire city lights up along the Danube river.

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I joked that what would make this a perfect setting for a vampire film would be the classic thunder flashes that we all know too well.

The day after, we traveled to the House of Terror, which is a museum I highly recommend to anyone who ends up traveling to Hungary and wants to learn about its contemporary history. We also walked to Buda castle and tried to cover as much ground as possible in the brief time we had in Budapest.

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Buda Castle

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City Park

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One of the most vibrant streets we experienced with bars, restaurants, and entertainment. We also stumbled upon the famous Ruin Bars in Budapest, which I highly recommend seeing as well because of their hip vibe.

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St. Stephen’s Basilica

The best part of Hungary wasn’t just the fantastic architecture, but the numerous public bathhouses located around the city. We were able to go to two bathhouses while we were there and it was so refreshing, especially after a long day of walking and sightseeing. On the last night, we went to one of the more famous bathhouses, Dzechenyi Thermal Bath, where I ran into one of my friends from college in the U.S. Turns out he was studying in Budapest… Small world.

When we finally returned to Copenhagen after such an eventful week, it was difficult to get back into the college routine. But everything has worked out perfectly so far. At the end of next week, I’ll be leaving with my core course on our long study tour to Warsaw and Berlin, so I’ll have more travel stories to tell in the near future!

DANMARK WEEK #5

Goodness me, it has been over two weeks since I wrote my last blog post. I didn’t realize how busy I was going to get, so I apologize for not posting weekly. In any case, I’m going to attempt to retell what I did over these past two weeks…

Where are we? Well, it’s a sunny morning in Tarnby and I’ve just rolled out of bed. I’d planned to meet some friends at the beach, but the weather outside told me that it wasn’t the right day for that. But then I remembered, this might be one of the few chances I’ll get to swim in the ocean. So, without giving it too much thought, I was on the bike with my beach towel tied on the back. The wind was relentless, which made the journey much more difficult! I rode all the way to Amager Strandpark, which is a popular beach on the island. The temperature wasn’t ideal, but I didn’t care!

847┬áNow, I’m not one for jumping into freezing cold water, but it was actually very nice. I’m sure that this beach would be lovely on a calm sunny day, but I’ve come to realize that those days are rare in Denmark, especially now that it’s late September. I spent the rest of the day chatting with friends and finally made my way home to get ready for the wild evening ahead.

I can’t remember if I explained the 18th birthday celebration in Denmark. For weeks leading up to my host sister’s birthday, the parents had been planning the event. I honestly thought they were planning a wedding because there was going to be a catering service providing food, an open bar, and different rented games. On top of this, 70 people were scheduled to show up. I didn’t know what to expect, but it ended up being the best birthday party I’ve ever been to! The food was fantastic and at roughly 11 pm, half the room turned into a college-style party and the other half remained a birthday party. Everyone embraced hygge! I ended up leaving the party at around 1 and my host family and their friends kept partying until 4 am. It was a night (and a morning) I will never forget.

The following week was my first study-tour. In the first half of the week, we went on a bike tour and visited different memorials dedicated to the resistance fighters who fought against the German occupation in Denmark during WWII. We also listened to lectures given by a sociologist about the Danish minority in South Slesvig and by historian Therkel Straede about Danish perpetrators.

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On our bike tour to one of the memorials.

In the second half of the week, we packed our bags and got on the bus for our short trip to Flensborg and Sonderborg. Both of these cities lie on the German-Danish border and played significant roles in German and Danish history. During WWII, Flensborg was where the last Nazi officials fled to after Hitler had killed himself.

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The beautiful city of Flensborg

In between out visits to these two cities, we also visited the Froslev Internment Camp, which is where Danish resistance fighters were imprisoned during the German occupation. After the war, however, Nazi officials were imprisoned and many of the guards were former prisoners. The director of the museum, Henrik Skov Kristensen, spoke to us about the opposing perspectives Germans and Danes have about the camp. It was fascinating to visit a location that I had only heard about in textbooks.

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A few minutes outside of Sonderborg was the location of the famous Battle of Dybbol in 1864. The battle was between Denmark and Prussia and resulted in Denmark’s defeat. This would redefine borders and tie into 20th-century disputes and conflicts over border regions between Denmark and Germany.

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The Battle of Dybbol memorial.

This was such a memorable experience. It was awesome to spend quality time with the professor outside of the classroom and listen to his perspectives and approaches to Danish and German history (as he is a part of the German minority). As a history major, I picked this study abroad program because I wanted this kind of exposure to historical sites and how they’re remembered. It was an invaluable experience.

The following Tuesday (this past week), we had our hygge dinner with our homestay network. We all decided to make tacos and spent the afternoon and evening talking about our experiences, life, and whats’ coming up next in our lives. I was so glad that our homestay network had made such a great effort to remain connected so that we could schedule special nights like this.

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On Wednesday, I had my first field study with my podcasting class. We visited the media company DR on Amager and took a tour of the facilities. Our professor took us to the radio broadcasting room where he had worked as a DJ for 8 years before he became a teacher. We also met Torben Brandt, a creator of radio production, who told us about how he fell in love with the field. He then asked if anyone would like to be interviewed. I half-raised my hand out of excitement and was picked. So, there I was, telling a story about how I got lost in Walmart when I was 8… sitting next to Torben, who had his microphone so close to my face that I couldn’t keep my eye off of it. It was a bizarre experience, to say the least.

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DR cooperation

And that wraps up my adventures in the past two weeks. I could’ve added a lot more depth to these stories, but I think that would require me to write a few books on all of my experiences.

Until my next post!

Cheers!

DANMARK WEEK #3

What is going on beautiful people! I have already failed to live up to posting weekly, but I’ve been extremely busy.

Since arrival, I’ve been getting used to my daily routine. Every morning I wake up and prepare my breakfast and lunch for the day. For breakfast, I typically eat a bowl of granola or muesli with cut-up banana and a warm double-shot espresso. For lunch, I make a sandwich that consists of either rye or white bread, cold meats, cheese, and mustard. This will help me last the day in the city without having to spend money on snacks (not saying I don’t enjoy snacking). After I pack my bag, I head to the end of the road and wait for the bus. I’ll either take the bus all the way into the city or jump off at the metro (this is typically faster than riding all the way on the bus).

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I have also been getting into the habit of running more often to get in shape for club soccer. Nearby, there is a large open area in Tarnby that you can run along. I usually run into sheep grazing along the path, which always requires me to get out of their way because they don’t give a damn. In general, it is very peaceful. It’s always nice to escape everyday life.

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This past weekend, I met up with my friend Emma and we traveled to the Blue Planet aquarium on the east coast of Amager. People spoke very highly of the aquarium, but it didn’t live up to my expectations. They even had a whole section on Amazonian creatures, including frogs. We also walked down one passage and there was a random exhibit of a chameleon sitting on a stick. So, I was a bit confused. However, it was still enjoyable to see so much ocean life.

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After we finished our time at the aquarium, we decided to visit the National Museum of Denmark. In my opinion, I found this museum more interesting than the museums I had visited in London and Paris. Their collection of Viking age materials was absolutely amazing. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of this place, but I would recommend anyone who visits or studies here to see this museum.

Yesterday, I made a spontaneous decision to make dinner with my friends. I had been waiting for a film screening in the afternoon and I ran into two of my college friends, AJ and Emily, and their new friend Haley. They asked if I wanted to go with them because they were going to be making Mexican food. I thought for a second, and then said: “ah what the heck, I’ll watch the movie later.” This decision would lead to a fantastic, messy night making a Mexican dish with carnesita, patatas, y tomates.

*A side note to this story! What I have learned about Copenhagen is that you may be walking through some residential neighborhood and suddenly find yourself in front of some magnificent building.

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Anyways, back to the rest of the evening!

When we arrived at AJ’s rented room, we got to work preparing the meal. By this point, my stomach was aching from all the amazing smells. I was given the job of making the tortillas, which turned out to be super messy!

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But the effort we put was rewarding!

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We spent the rest of the night drinking wine, eating amazing food, and gossiping. Finally, the evening came to a close and we all parted ways. I realized after I’d left that, had I said no earlier, I would’ve never had this experience to remember. I also didn’t end up watching the movie after all…

 

DANMARK!@

Velkommen til Danmark! Hopefully I will be able to upload my future posts weekly and treat them as a reflection of what I have done.

After arriving in Denmark I met my host family (Steen, Gitte, and Naja, all of whom I had been in contact with since arriving in Europe) and was taken to their house, which is located south of Copenhagen in the town of Tarnby. After being shown around the house and to my room, Naja showed me the public transportation and how to get to DIS. We also walked around the city!

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My room, Notice the American flag pillows and flag… They must’ve thought I was super patriotic.

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Their living room. Yes, they even have a gumball machine, but they told me they’re rock hard.

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The other children I wasn’t told about…

Surprisingly, their house is not full of IKEA furniture. Apparently, many other homestay students said their houses were full of IKEA items. However, Steen is the manager of transportation for Carlsborg, so they’ve got lots of coca-cola glasses and beer!

Moving on to the week! These past few days were incredibly hectic and full of events and adventure. I have been slowly getting used to riding the bike to the metro and using the bus system as well. One morning, the bus trip ended up taking 20 minutes longer because of rush hour traffic, so I had to sprint to one of my first classes. One relief was the organization of our introductory program for the first week. DIS has been great as far as connecting homestay students and providing tours of facilities and talks about subjects such as health, fitness, and fun. I ended up going on a tour with a few people from my homestay network.

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View of Copenhagen from the top of the Round Tower.

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A beautiful lake located in Christiania

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Just a picture of the most famous street associated with Copenhagen.

So far, it has been a fantastic experience. The professors come from a variety of backgrounds and are all interesting and unique characters. Something I realized though was how large the female population is in the program. I calculated 70% girls and 30% guys because in three of my classes, I am one of three guys out of a class size of 20. Whether this is for the better or the worse, we’ll have to see. All the people I have met so far have been girls, and we’ve been having lots of fun. On the weekend, I decided to go to the city with no plans. Thinking I was going to stay for a few hours, I ended up returning home at around four because I met up with college friends and people living in my area. We went to a lovely coffee shop, an arts and crafts market, and a restaurant. After exhausting ourselves with conversation, we split up and I headed back with a girl who lives a few streets down from me. As soon as we left the restaurant though, it started to pour and so we ran all the way to the bus stop. It was a good bonding experience I guess! Today, a DIS faculty member hosted a host family brunch, so I ended up socializing again with other homestay students. And if you thought the uneven distribution of girls was surprising at DIS, I am proud to say that I’m one of two guys in my homestay network with around 15 other girls. Sigh* Nevertheless, I have been having a really great time with all the new people I’ve been meeting.

The fun didn’t end there! Because Steen works for Carlsborg, which is a major sponsor for F.C. Copenhagen, he got free tickets to the game the same night I uploaded this.

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This was such a great experience! Having been a soccer fan all my life, watching a professional match live was so exhilarating! The crowd to the left was cheering, chanting, and jumping the entire game. F.C. Copenhagen won 3-1, which was a win for the family.

So!

Stay tuned for next weekend’s post (I’m going to really try to make these weekly)

 

 

 

ENGLAND@!

When I traveled to Europe, I decided to solely rely on WhatsApp to contact people because I’m cheap. However, I had to coordinate with my aunt to meet a cab driver at the Heathrow airport, which turned out to be a bit more challenging than I had anticipated. After walking around in circles for a while and trying to control my dread and excitement, I found the cab driver and we headed out towards Kingston. When we arrived at the house, I was met by two shy cousins who I hadn’t seen in around 7 or 8 years. It took us a while to open up to each other, but everything was fine when I pulled out the bags of German candy I had smuggled over. I came to really love Kingston. The Thames river is a 10 minute walk from their house, and the Hampton court palace is right around the corner.

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After a short bike ride, you can find yourself in one of the many parks that used to be the hunting grounds for the kings of England.

*I also realized that in many of these pictures I’m wearing the same shirt… that’s just a coincidence… it’s not because I only packed 2 shirts. Don’t judge me.

I found that transportation into London is a lot easier than in Paris. But it still requires some getting used to. So, once I had done some research on what to see in London, I headed out.

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The Imperial War Museum

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The British Museum

After visiting the British Museum, I was on my own for the day in London. I decided to head to Covent Gardens, located in the west end. The place was bustling with tourists and vibrant street markets. I spent quite a lot of time watching the various street performers. My next stop was Trafalger Square. It was a shame though because I wasted all of my phone battery on filming the street performers. When I arrived, I was again lured in by the street performers and again started dropping my spare change into their hats. Thankfully, I was pulled away when my cousins arrived. We were scheduled to see the performance, Young Frankenstein, at the Garrick theatre in the west end. The show was a blast and reminded me yet again about my love for the stage.

In the final days, I spent time walking around Westminster and relaxing along the riverside. It was unfortunate because so many of London’s magnificent structures were undergoing construction and restoration. Still, there were quite a lot of buildings that were lovely to look at…

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On my last in London, I decided to travel to Windsor Palace. Now, I knew that I was going to experience a traveling nightmare at some point. Being my first time using public transport so regularly, it was bound to happen. So, while standing at Richmond station, I knew I was at the right platform, but somewhere inside me said I needed to get on the new train I saw. This, of course, turned out to be the wrong train. So, after riding the train for about an hour, I knew I wasn’t on the right train. I needed to backtrack. After spending double the amount on different tickets, I finally realized my mistake and got on the right train. After 30 minutes, I was in Windsor. And because of my mistake in the morning, I could only spend half the day in Windsor. But it was well worth it…

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The popular marketplace

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and Windsor palace of course.

And just when I thought the journey was over, I was on the plane the next morning at 7:00am for Denmark. I had been speaking to my host family for the duration of my trip to France, Germany, and England, but now I was going to be living with them for 4 months.

What did the future hold? Stay tuned in the coming week(s).