Bergen, Norway

June 9, 2011

I had a wonderful time when I was in Bergen. It was a beautiful city and it was so nice to spend time with my roommate from Germany. I stayed with Line and Andre and their dog Amanda while I was in Bergen and their home was so quaint. It was on the mountainside, just like all of the other houses are in Bergen. The city is surrounded by 7 mountains and many rivers so there is no choice but to build the houses on the mountainsides. It was definitely the most unique thing that I had seen while I was in Bergen and I loved it. Everyone there was so nice and I got to spend time with both Line and Andre’s families. Everyone was welcoming and I felt very comfortable there. I also saw my friend Simen who studies in Bergen. It was great to see him again and his reaction to actually seeing me in Norway was wonderful.
Since Bergen is surronded by the mountains, it rains all of the time there. Even though it rained a lot, the city was still very pretty. The last day that I was there, the weather was perfect! Everything was beautiful and there were people walking all around the city. Bergen is a very active city, rain or shine and the people are all very diverse. Everyone spoke English, tv shows were in English and the radio was in English too! Norway celebrates all of the Catholic holidays so when I was there everything was closed on Thrusday and everyone had off from work. On average a person works 37.5 hrs a week and has 5 weeks off during the year…something very different than the US.
While I was there, I was able to go for a few drives around the city and to Line’s parent’s cabin so it was nice to see the country side. We also went for coffee a few times and we walked around the downtown area. Since Line and Andre live on a little island I was able to take a ferry to the main part of the city also. We went for a cable car ride up one of the mountains:Fløyen and then we walked down which was very Norwegian since everything is about nature there. While we were on line a Norwegian reporter came up to us and asked to take our picture and interview me for the Bergen newspaper! I don’t think that we made it into the actual newspaper, but it was still kind of exciting.
I really had a wonderful time in Bergen, I was able to learn some Norwegian words including Tusen Takk (thank you very much), God dag (good day), Nei (no) and Ha det bra (good bye), I learned some history of the city including the story about the famous violinist who tried to create his own state and I met very nice people who made my trip great!

EuroTrip June 2011

June 1, 2011

Here I go again, embarking on my next European adventure! I am so excited to see more places, meet new people and reconnect with old friends. My entries are going to be sporadic and I am going to try to record as much as I can but Im doing a lot of traveling and I may not have computer access as much as I hope…

So here is how my trip began…
Dad drove me to JFK, we hit a lot of traffic, but I breezed through security in about 10 minutes and got to cut the lines…Id say a good start…
I had a connecting flight from Iceland to Bergen Norway for the first part of my trip…
Iceland is beautiful…what <ive seen of it at least…there are many mountains and hot springs…id like to explore here one day. The people seem very nice and I sat next to a little boy and his mom on the lfight…the little boy was so cute!! he was so happy and helped make the flight enjoyable, while I was waiting at the airport in Iceland a pilot walked by with a skateboard in a Target bag! I find it amusing that Im followed by Target even in Iceland…While at the airport I ate goldfish and finished reading 1984…then it was off to Bergen Norway to see my old roommate Line :)

School in Mannheim

December 12, 2009

Sometimes I actually forget that I’m here to go to school because I’ve been having so much fun. The last two/three weeks I’ve had a weekend block seminar, 4 finals and my last class. The last weekend of November, I had a seminar that was 2 full days, Friday and Saturday from 10am-7pm. We each had to give a 45 minute presentation on our topic, so they were two pretty long days. The topics were somewhat interesting so I didn’t mind the seminar too much. I liked having the class for two entire days rather than once a week throughout the entire semester. Now I’m working on my paper which is between 15-30 pages and due in January. I also have another paper due in January for my media class which I’ve been working on. I had my last class on Tuesday and it was in German since all of the students in the class except me and a French girl are Germans. I was impressed that I was actually able to follow along with mostly the entire class and I didn’t have many problems understanding things, even though I didn’t contribute much to the discussion. I finished all of my German classes the previous week and I think that they have helped me, but I’m still planning on keeping up with studying German once I get home. The only real final that I had was for my film class. It wasn’t too difficult and I had plenty of time to study so I’m not too worried about my grade for that course.
I’ve spent all of my days in the library for the past week and it feels a bit strange to be doing so much work after I didn’t do much during the semester. I guess I’m getting ready to go back to real life now. I’m looking forward to being home for the holidays, but I have a few more things I still need to do here before I leave :)

A German Thanksgiving

November 30, 2009

This past Thursday was Thanksgiving and it was very strange to not be in the US or with my family. Since I am American, I thought it was important to celebrate the holiday here in Germany. I’ve never cooked for Thanksgiving before, but this year I made dinner for my flatmates and myself. It wasn’t too stressful because there are only three of us, but I was a bit nervous preparing the whole meal. Since Carrie is from China and Line is from Norway, this was their first Thanksgiving and it was really nice to share my holiday with them. Carrie helped me cook and Line cleaned up after dinner. It was actually our first dinner with just the three of us, so it was really nice to enjoy together. We ate Turkey, mashed potatoes, carrots, green beans, biscuts and gravy with stuffing (which I made from scratch). Then we had apple pie and ice cream for dessert. The meal actually turned out to be really good and it really felt like Thanksgiving. We all said what we were thankful for before we started to eat and by the end we were all super stuffed. I’m really glad I could celebrate with them.
Later that night I was able to go on skype and talk to my family, which was also really nice. Even though I wasn’t with them I sort of felt like I was there with all of the commotion. I’m looking forward to being home for Christmas and seeing everyone again. They started the Wiehnachtsmarkets here, which are Christmas Markets. It is really beautiful around the city. I also went to Heidelberg with my friends and the markets there are even bigger. I’m definitely feeling the Christmas spirit now. I have a few Christmas lights hanging up in my room now and listen to Christmas music a lot. It’s going to be here before I know it!

LONDON

November 24, 2009

I went to visit Hillary this weekend in London. She is studying at Ithaca College in London and also has an internship in the city. I flew RyanAir and between the flight, waiting time and buses to and from the airports, my journey was about 8 hours, beginning at 3 am. I flew to London with a few friends who are studying in Mannheim and then we split up once we got to the airport. I finally got another stamp in my passport! It was strange to go through customs because usually I travel by bus or train around Europe and they might check my passport, but I haven’t really been questioned or gotten a stamp.
I was exhausted once I got to London, but it was great to finally be there. This trip actually really felt like a vacation. I got away from everything that I’ve been used to and there was really no stress. Hillary and I were in no rush the whole weekend because we had plenty of time to go trough the city. On Friday (after I took a nap) we went out to explore the city and do the tourist thing. First we went to the National History museum and saw part of the Rosetta Stone and the Greek Parthenon, in addition to a bunch of paintings that Hillary knew a lot about. Then we went to see the Somerset House, which is where Hillary has her internship. We had a really nice view of the city from there, including Big Ben, Westminister Abbey, Parliament, the Millennium Bridge and the London Eye. We walked to the British museum and saw the new Amsterdam Red Light exhibit. It was pretty interesting because we have both just been to Amsterdam. The exhibit was made a few decades ago, but because of it’s content no other museum would put it on display until now. After the museum we went to see Big Ben and Westminister Abbey. On the way I took a picture in a British Telephone booth (of course, I love being a tourist) and they are all over the city.
Big Ben was pretty cool, and Westminister Abbey was nice, but we didn’t go in because it was really expensive. It was very interesting to see the British Parliament. We went to the Tower of London next and I thought it was pretty cool. The Tower of London is also called Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress and also holds many of the crown jewels. It was really nice and the view of the Tower Bridge is cool. We were there a little while before the sun was starting to set, so the view was beautiful. Our next stop of the day was St. Paul’s Cathedral. I think that this is my favorite part of the day, if not the trip. This was the Cathedral where Prince Charles and Diana were married. The outside of the Cathedral is beautiful, but the inside was even more breathtaking. The Cathedral has been rebuilt 5 times and the Cathedral now is from it’s reconstruction during the 17th Century. There was a service that was about to start when we got there so I was not able to go up to the alter, but it was one of the largest alter’s I have ever seen. The Cathedral is also known for the Whispering Gallery which runs round the 99 feet of the dome interior and anything said, even in a low murmur can be heard by a listener whose ear is against the wall throughout the whole gallery.
That night we had sushi, went to a party with some kids from Ithaca and then I was able to experience clubbing in London. It was really fun and interesting. The next day we went to Buckingham Palace. I got to see the guards marching back and fourth and it was cool to actually be there. It was pretty much how I had imagined it would be. For lunch we went for Fish ‘N Chips. It was pretty good, but I found it very strange that they served it with peas. Maybe since they’re green people pretend that all the other fired food isn’t as bad for you. After lunch I went on a double decker bus and had the front seat on the top, which was pretty awesome. We headed down to Harrods and it really is Massive! It was all decorated for Christmas and reminded me a lot of Macy’s in New York City at Christmas time, except bigger. We did a lot of walking around popping in and out of stores. It was fun, but started to rain. We went to go see New Moon, which was sold out and we had front row seats. I loved it and I’m really glad I didn’t have to wait to see it.
On Sunday we got up early to see the changing of the guards, but it was still raining so they didn’t do it. We went to see Hyde Park and it was really cute. They had a German Christmas Market set up and I got really excited. I love when I’m traveling and hear German or see German things. After we walked through the park we went to Covert Gardens where there was a really nice market set up and a few entertainers. Next to the Gardens, there is Leister Square and we went to see a play. We saw Shawshank Redemption and it was a very good performance. I love going to Broadway shows at home, so it was very nice to see a play in London. After the show, we walked around Oxford Street. It was really nice with all of the Christmas decorations up.
I had a really good time in London. It kind of reminded me of New York City in many aspects. There were tons of people there and it had a similar feeling. Even by the end of the weekend tough, I was still not adjusted to cars driving on the Left side of the street or how they say Happy Christmas, instead of Merry Christmas. On the roads it is painted to Look Right -> or <- Look Left, there are crazy cars there and it was funny to feel so many similarities to home but so many differences at the same time.
I'm so glad I was able to make the trip to London and to visit Hillary. It was a really good vacation. It wasn't stressful and in a way it was nice to get away from everything for a few days. Now I have finals and the semester will be over before I know it!

Amsterdam!

November 18, 2009

I went to Amsterdam this past weekend with a bunch of friends. I had a really great time and there was a lot more to the city than I had anticipated. My friends and I took a bus to get there, which was about 8 hours. The bus was really crowded and we were all pretty tired and hungry after we got to Amsterdam so we got settled in the hostel, went out to eat and then went out for the night. The city is absolutely beautiful and there are canals running through the entire city. On Saturday a few of my friends and I took a walking tour trough the city and it was really interesting to hear all about the history of the city and the culture of the people. Over the years, Amsterdam has been a profit driven city with their main focus on economic advancements. Amsterdam is a really beautiful city with quaint canals running through the entire city and old architectural buildings. On our tour I was able to see many different aspects of the city in a very concentrated area. Amsterdam is a simple city in that they name things according to their function and role, such as national monument or the new/old church, but it is also very complicated because the city center is structured like the layers of an onion. It is very confusing to get around the city since most streets all look the same. One of the only parts of the city that is very distinct is the Jewish district, which was redesigned by students in the 1960′s. This area of the city was falling apart because during the end WWII the people of the city were so deprived of everything during Nazi occupation that the began to take apart the buildings and take the wood from the buildigs in the Jewish district. Since all of the Jews were moved out of Amsterdam, this part of the city was vacant and then falling apart so it needed to be rebuilt. After these students rebuilt the Jewish District, the buildings were all strange shapes and colors, so the rest of the city protested to maintain the architecture of the rest of the city. Amsterdam was under Nazi occupation for a while without too many problems until the young Nazi children lost a fight to the young Jewish and non-Jewish boys of Amsterdam and the Nazi’s invaded the Jewish district and moved all of the Jews to camps. Some families went into hiding and were able to delay their capture, but spys and informants would give away the locations of some of these families and they would be found by the Nazis. One of these families was the Frank family. On my tour I saw the building where Anne Frank and her family was in hiding for 2 years and the church tower that she could hear the bells from. I could not believe that it was right there along that canal where she was forced to stay in small room up stairs behind a hidden bookshelf for over 2 years. It’s crazy to be able to see things and places that I’ve read about, but for some reason was never able to place into reality. On my tour I was also able to see one of the secret Catholic Churches in Amsterdam. When the Catholic religion was banned in Amsterdam, the government and police had more of an interest in making profits and did not want to drive away all of their wealthy Catholic business men so they allowed for “secret” churches, as long as they were plausably deniable. In one of the regular business buildings, a wealthy Catholic businessman converted the top two floors of his building into a church and every Sunday 500 Catholics would walk down the street, go into this building, in a secret entrance, up a secret staircase and into secret church. The Catholics had an agreement with the police that there would be no investigations on Sundays and the police got paid. This allowed for Amsterdam to maintain it’s wealth and to keep it’s citizens content. A similar trend can be seen today in regards to the Coffee Shops and Cafes in Amsterdam. The culture of the city is to focus on things that are more detrimetal to society and to not focus attention on things that they believe to be overall harmless. This city was unlike any other city I’ve been to because of all of the different aspects of it. From the history to the coffee shops to the red light district to the van gogh museum, it is remarkable for such a small city. Everyone that I had met seemed very friendly and people were welcoming to tourists, which is not very common. My friends and I walked around the red light district and I still cannot believe that it’s real. For blocks there were girls in windows trying to get attention and make money. Whether it was 1 in the afternoon or 1 in the morning, there were girls everywhere. By 2015 the city is trying to eliminate the red light district so the city is beginning to buy some of the windows and display local work of artists. Prostitution is still legal and the girls are tax payers, but they will be forced into brothels or shows instead of being in the windows. The red light district is as old as Amsterdam itself and there is a church located right in the red light district. When Amsterdam was port city, sailors would arrive into the city with pockets full of cash, go right into the red light district, then feel guilty and go to confession at the church. The Priests would mark down an amount next to each sin the sailor would confess and then they would pay the church so they would be allowed to go to heaven. This is a perfect example of how profit driven the people of Amsterdam have always been. There are a lot of tourists in Amsterdam so the night life is very exciting and there is always something to do.
On Sunday, some of my friends and I went to the Van Gogh museum.
It was really interesting because there were over 500 of his paintings, along with many of the letters he had written. Most of them were to his brother Theo. Through reading some excerpts from many of the letters I was able to gain a better understanding of who Van Gogh really was and what his motivations, as well as struggles were. The letters gave a real insight into who he was as a person, not just an artist. After the museum we saw the i amsterdam sign, which is life size letters saying i am sterdam.
I really had a great weekend and I find it really interesting how Amsterdam has become the way it is through it’s history.

This past weekend I went to Berlin and on Monday there was the 20th anniversary of the Fall of the Wall. I left Thursday night with my friend Espen and we took an overnight City Night Line train, which was pretty cool. We got there early Friday morning and had met a guy who is Eurorailing for two months and he is from New York! I love meeting people when I’m traveling. We were able to stay in Espen’s friend Steve’s apartment, which was nice and we didn’t have to worry about a hostel. There is so much to see in Berlin and we didn’t know where to begin.
On Friday we wandered around the city a lot and saw a bunch of the land marks in Berlin. The weather was so beautiful, it made the city seemed so perfect. The buildings are very short for a big city, but it was really nice. The city is very spread out, which is nice and frustrating at the same time. Since we had a lot of time there I was able to see most of the things that I wanted to, but there is so much more that I wasn’t able to see. One of the first things I saw was the Fernseher Turm, TV Tower. It really stood out because it is so tall. Fernsehturm There is viewing tower on the top and a restaurant that rotates on the top, but we didn’t have a chance to go up to the top. The street lights have different figures on them, which is left over from East Berlin. They are called the Ampel Mann and they look different for green and red lighs to signal walking. I found it interesting to see this left from East Berlin. We went past Museum Island where there are many music, art and history museums in the same area. Then we went to Humboldt University where many famous people had studied, such as Albert Einstein, Karl Marx, Otto Von Bismark and many more. Humboldt University It was crazy to be at a school where so many famous people had studied. Then we ate at a cute German restaurant near the University. Afterwards, we walked to the Brandenburger Tor, which is in East Berlin and stood next to the wall when it used to stand. Brandenburger Tor There was a lot of work being done in preparation for the celebration on Monday, but it was still really nice to see. All of the Embassy buildings are right along that street and I got to see the American Embassy. Then on the other side of the Bradenurger Tor was the Reichstag, which is the giant Parliament building and some memorials. The Jewish Memorial is there and when I saw it I knew what my tour guide in Prague was talking about. Me in the Jewish Memorial There were stones of all different heights and the ground was uneven; it really did remind me of the cemetary that I saw while I was in Prague. Then we walked a little and stood over where Hitler’s bunker was. The bunkers run under a now parking lot and then under the memorial. The bunkers are not very publicized because they don’t want it to be a huge tourist attraction, but there is a map and information written near where the bunkers are. It was strange to have a realization that I was standing where Hitler once stood. We walked towards Potsdam Platz after that and that area is all newly rebuilt within the past 20 years. It used to be empty space and now there are tall and modern buildings all over the square. Sony Center The Sony Center is there and it’s very futuristic with blue lights and cool buildings under a dome. That night I walked around the city and saw some of the city life in Berlin and then we found a few bars to go to.
The next day we couldn’t decide what to do and decided to go to a cafe to get breakfast first. Then we decided to go to Sachsenhausen concentration camp, which is in Oranienburg, about 45 minutes outside of Berlin. It was an unforgettable experience and I’m really glad we made the trip, even though it was an emotional one. In May 1933, the SA troopers took over a vacant factory building in the middle of the town on the road to Berlin and the Oranienburg Concentration Camp was the first concentration camp in the state of Prussia. It was closed in July 1934. The Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp was built in the summer of 1936 and was the first new camp under Reichsfuehrer SS Heinrich Himmler. This camp was designed as a model camp for future camps. Over 200,000 people were imprisioned in the camp and tens of thousands had died of starvation, disease, force labor, matreatment or murder, in addition to thousands who died on death marches afte vacuation in April 1945. Sachsenhausen camp entrance
Going to the memorial and camp was a very intense experience, but I’m glad I did it. A lot of the original buildings are still there and it was a bit overwhelming walking into the bunkers where the prisoners stayed and the jail. Bunkers and Prison The barbed wire is still there and walking through the gated entrance gave me a bit of an uneasy feeling. It’s hard to imagine what was going through the heads of all of the people who have walked through those gates. I was pretty tired after my day, but we went out for sushi and then to hang out with some people.
Sunday was less of an intense day. We went to the Charlottenburg Schloss and it was a really nice castle with a huge garden. Schloss Charlottenburg Then we went to the Tiergarten, which had a beautiful park and the trees were the definition of Fall if you were to look it up in the dictionary. There were also a bunch of monuments, such as one of Otto Von Bismark and a tower to overlook the city. We also got to see Schloss Bellevue, where all of the people were staying for the celebration on Monday. The Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtnis-Kirche was also really interesting. Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtnis-Kirche It was a Protestant Church bombed in 1943 and the remains of the foyer of the church still stands as a memorial with giant holes in the top of it. The new church is built right next to where the old one used to stand and looks a bit strange from the outside, but has stained glass covering the walls. There is a lot of symbolism in the church and memorials of those who died by the Nazi’s. That night we went to the Berliner Dom and saw a few more memorials, including the WWI memorial and a memorial of the book burning memorial. Berliner Dom The Berliner Dom is a beautiful Protestant Cathedral and is Berlin’s largest church. I think that one of my favorite memorials was the one about the book burning in front of the Humboldt University Library. During WWII students of the University gathered all of the books that did not agree with Nazi perspectives, aline with their ideals or were written by Jewish authors and burned them on the square in front of the library. Now there is a hole in the ground which is illuminated and there are empty book shelves, symbolizing the books that have been burned. Book burning memorial We walked over to Checkpoint Charlie and there are large billboards that are covered in historical information about the wall and Checkpoint Charlie. Charlie is letter C in the military alphabet and this checkpoint was checkpoint c along the wall, hence the name Checkpoint Charlie. The pictures of the American and Soviet soldiers are illuminated and there is a large sign saying entering and leaving the American Sector. The place where the wall used to stand is now marked by a line of bricks 2 wide throughout the whole city where it used to stand. I put one foot on each side of the line at one point and it was crazy to realize that I was able to straddle the line, while people only 20 years ago were separated from their families and friends by the exact same line. Me straddling the Mauer line
After this we met up with some friends, went out to dinner and then the standard irish pub that seems to be everywhere.
The next day was the 20th anniversary and we went to see the East Side Gallery, which is 1.3 km long and is part of the wall that still remains standing. There are about 100 paintings on the wall and it is always being repainted. Me touching the Berlin Wall It was amazing to be able to get so close to the wall. That night was the celebration of the 20 Jahre Mauerfall (Fall of the Wall) and there were thousands of people were there to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall. World leaders and ordinary people gathered to remember this histoic day and I still cannot believe I was there. There were people such as, Angela Merkel, Mikhail Gorbatrov, Hillary Clinton, and Bon Jovi, along with other world leaders present for the celebration. Worldleaders There were 100,000 dominos that were decorated by students in Berlin and they were a symbol of the wall. Starting at 8 pm after the ceremony had already began, they pushed the dominos over and started to symbolize the falling of the wall on Nov 9, 1989. I cannot believe that it was a simple 2 words, “ab sofort” (meaning, with immediate effect), that were not meant to be said, during a press conference had such an impact on the falling of the wall. With these two words, not only did it become easier for people to cross into the west from the east, but the gaint barrier of the wall had fallen. Fallen Dominos I’m really glad that I was able to be at this celebration and witness the commeration of the falling of the wall. Mauerfall Celebration
I had a really good weekend and I was able to learn a lot while at the same time enjoying my time in Berlin. I’m looking forward to going back at some point to see more of the city and take advantage of all that I was unable to.

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