travel

Returning Home

After almost two weeks back, I think I’m ready to write about what it feels like to be home.

Firstly, my time in Iceland was a fantastic decision. Leaving Copenhagen, the city that had begun to feel like home was definitely sad for me, and I have a feeling that if I had gone straight home to Tennessee, I would have cried the entire eight hour flight. After six days in Iceland, I made the rest of the journey across the Atlantic to good ‘ol US of A. I was lucky enough to get seated next to a former DIS student who had moved to Denmark and was returning to the US for his college reunion. It was especially nice to have someone to chat with in Danish in the line for customs and get the new experience of having et hemmeligt sprog  (“a secret language”) that no one knows.

I returned to my hometown for only a day, unpacked all my winter clothes, and repacked summer clothes before heading for Nashville to move into an apartment for the summer. Unfortunately, I have not managed to secure a fancy-schmancy internship for the summer, so instead I got a job working for Vanderbilt in Alumni Relations. Basically that means I call alumni all day and try to convince them to donate money back to the university to fund scholarships. It’s definitely a big change from my life in Denmark, but I AM happy to be back, and ready for my last year at Vanderbilt.

It’s strange to start falling back into my old life here in Nashville; whether it’s the heat, the cowboy boots, or the country music, it’s a completely different world than Copenhagen. I miss biking the most; in fact one of my roommates insisted that he was going to create a “curse jar” that I had to put money into every time I mention bikes or bike lanes.  I still find myself saying “hvad?” or “hva’?” instead of “what” and “nej”  instead of no, and I’ve continued to watch Danish T.V. online because I can’t bear the thought of forgetting all I’ve learned in my 9 months abroad.

Above all, it’s good to be back, but I’m definitely not done with Copenhagen yet.

Til alle den Københavners hvem læser den her blog, jeg håber vi ses snart i den mest hyggelig by i verden. Mig, jeg savner Danmark, og jer, og jeg vil gerne sige mange tak til alle mennesker hvem var så venlig og hjælpsom da jeg prøvet at lære dansk. Uden jere, jeg kunne ikke havde haft den samme oplevelse. 

 

Den Sidste Kærlig Hilsner,

Molly.

The Last Adventure

20140522-084043.jpg

Icelandic air has a great deal where you can fly from the US to Europe and have an extended layover in Iceland at no extra charge.
So without further ado, the beautiful land of the nice!

20140522-083804.jpg
Gullfoss or “golden falls” is absolutely breathtaking

20140522-084131.jpg

20140522-084228.jpg

Along with the beautiful views I also got to spend the week with my favorite Icelanders from Krogerup!

20140522-084450.jpg

20140522-084529.jpg

special thanks to Margaret for hosting me for the week! But since I’m currently blogging from my phone, a more detailed account will have to wait.

Staycation in Copenhagen.

Today is truly the last day of my final travel break; it’s crazy to think that in the last eight months, I’ve had six weeks worth of breaks meant especially for traveling, and during them I’ve been to Cork (Ireland), Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, London, Berlin, and Prague.

I realized that I’ve gotten pretty spoiled with my traveling, because peoples photos of Greek isles and warm beaches just made me insanely jealous. As a Southerner who legitimately likes the heat, even the stifling, humid, 90ºF heat of a Tennessee summer, the weather has been starting to get to me a little.

Luckily, the weather this week has actually been great, and I’ve been able to take advantage of it with lots of outdoor activities. But the best part of staying in Copenhagen for the last break was undoubtedly getting to spend lots of extra time with my host family and hang out with friends from højskole.

Too many selfies with my host sister

Too many selfies with my host sister

So without fourth ado, a list of all the possible fun things you can do in Copenhagen when you decide not to travel on one of your breaks.

 

Bake Cookies with your host family/visiting family

Image

 

 

IMG_1757

Climb the iconic spire of Our Saviors Church in Christianshavn to get a nice view of the city

IMG_1761 IMG_1792

 

 

Hang out in Amager fælled and enjoy the sunshine

IMG_1788

 

bring your bike on an s-train and explore a suburb

IMG_1727

 

IMG_1806

Spring has most definitely sprung

IMG_1813

walking through the woods in Humlebæk

Go to Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

IMG_1833

Legos in Louisiana's Børnehuset

Legos in Louisiana’s Børnehuset

Visit the old Carlsberg factory/museum

IMG_1770

 

Join a family/ community activity

My host mom & I washing boats at Lea's Fritidshjemmet

My host mom & I washing boats at Lea’s Fritidshjemmet

 

Despite the fact that I purposely planned nothing for this week, it was busy, full, and flew by all too fast.  It’s about that time where I need to start finishing up all my final papers and projects, with only a little less than a month left in Copenhagen until I head back to the Nashville heat for the summer.

 Cesky Krumlov & Sudentenlands

 

View of Cesky Krumlov

View of Cesky Krumlov

IMG_1419

After our three days in Prague, we took a bus to Cesky Krumlov, a town near the Sudentenland mountains and the Austrian border.

Two countries at once! IMG_1471 IMG_1464

The Sudentenlands are a ring of mountains that run almost in a circle around the Czech Republic, and have been habituated by mostly German speakers for hundreds of years. During the Austro-Hungarian empire, the ruler had incentivized the moving to the area because no one wanted to live there with its harsh climate and overgrown terrain.  Before WWII, it was the first part of Europe annexed by Germany, with approval from the rest of the West during the Munich agreement, because the area was populated by people who wanted to become part of the German nation.

IMG_1451 IMG_1450

After the war, the Czechs decided that all the Germans ought to be removed from Czechoslovakia, so when they were deported, the Sudentenlands were left barren, and became overgrown again without the care of the people who had lived there for generations.

IMG_1479

Cesky Krumlov was one of the places that sustained absolutely no material damage from WWII, because Hitler liked the architecture of the charming medieval town. Even today, the place looks absolutely unreal, like something from a fairytale, with a majority of the tiny, sleepy, town taken up by a huge castle.

During our time in the area, we had a wonderful guide named Ollie, who was from Cesky Krumlov, and had lived through communism and the Velvet Revolution( the nonviolent transition of power from communism to democracy in the Czech Republic) after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

IMG_1509

She told us stories about how after the East was opened, it was very popular for Czechs in their teens and early twenties to hitchhike all over Europe for weekends, savoring their new freedom of movement. But seeing the west for the first time often was disillusioning; they had become so distrustful of the government that they assumed that EVERYTHING about western democracies was perfect.

They do not take kindly to communism in these parts

They do not take kindly to communism in these parts

She told of the first time she went to McDonalds in Paris, assuming it must be a fantastic restaurant, because the communist government had always warned about how terrible it was, and was surprised to find out that it was indeed, not so great a place.  Her stories of her own life as well as those of her family brought a human face to what we had been studying about Czech history for the last two months. Overall, our study tour was the perfect example of what it means when DIS tells us that we will have “Europe as our classroom” while we study abroad.

Sites of Genocide: Lidice & Lety

Where Lidice used to lie

Where Lidice used to lie

On a more somber note, we also visited two sites of mass murder that took place during WWII. A town called Lidice, and a concentration camp for Roma (commonly called Gypsies) named Lety.

Memorial at Lety

Memorial at Lety

Lidice was burned to the ground, all the men killed, and most of the women and children sent to concentration camps, except those who were deemed ethnically suitable to be Germanized. All this because they were suspected of harboring two Czechs who had been trained by British special forces to Assassinate Heydrich, one of Hitler’s high ranking officers who presided over Bohemia during WWII. The intention was to make an example of the town, in order to warn others who considered rebelling. During it’s time, the Allied Powers used it as a symbol to rally behind, on why we must protect the innocent victims from Germany.  Because of this, there are remnants of the tragedy found in the obscure places in the United States, for instance the town outside of Chicago that was renamed Lidice in honor of the Victims. Despite all this, I had never heard of Lidice before studying in Europe.

The actual visit was powerful, the former town has been left empty and desolate, a reminder of those lost. With a museum and a memorial built near the edge.

Memorial to the Children killed during WWII

Memorial to the Children killed during WWII

We were lucky enough to be accompanied on this trip by Torben Jørgensen, who specializes in Holocaust and Genocide Research, and (teaches a class on it) at DIS, as well as being  a favorite among students for just being supremely interesting. I’m not the first, and I’m sure I won’t be the last to blog about what a great experience it is to have him as a teacher and friend.

Torben Jørgensen

Torben Jørgensen

Later we continued to Lety, where a concentration camp specifically for Roma had been situated. It’s here that you begin to find some of the more complicated nuances of who perpetrated the crimes of the war. The Roma people have a long history of being persecuted for their migratory lifestyle and struggle to fit into mainstream society, and Lety was actually originally run by Czechs, before Germans took the camp over during the war. Furthermore the Roma Victim’s memorial is denigrated by the fact that a pig farm now lies on the land that used to be a concentration camp, leaving only a small, and fairly recent memorial off to the edge.

Torben explained that sadly, this may have to do with the fact that Roma are still heavily persecuted in Europe, often continuing to live on the outskirts of society. He also explained that “Atrocities will not be remembered unless the victims push for remembrance,” drawing light to the fact that history in some ways is a coping mechanism, for dealing with the darker sides of what humanity is capable of.  As human beings, we may want to forget things that have damaged us, but we must also realize the importance of remembering to cultivate empathy, understanding, and hopefully move towards a “better” world.

Prague

 

Beautiful Day in Prague

Beautiful Day in Prague

I just returned from my long study tour in Prague, Cesky Krumlov, and the Austro-Czech border area with my European Humanities course, which was a wonderful experience, both intellectually and generally.

In the three days we spent in Prague we attended a soccer game, saw a castle, visited Radio Praha (the Czech version of NPR) and met a controversial Czech Artist.  The best part is that it was all academically relevant to what we’ve spent the last two months studying.

IMG_1382 IMG_1316Our core course has been focused on how a people form their identity and what factors have a potential to complicate ones concept of self and belonging. We’ve focused primarily on metanarrative of WWII, first studying the concept of a Danish/German Identity as found in the borderlands, and then Czecho-German identity.

IMG_1134

A famous photo taken in Weneceslas Square in '68; waiting for communist tanks to roll into Prague

A famous photo taken in Weneceslas Square in ’68; waiting for communist tanks to roll into Prague

Recreating famous photos

Recreating famous photos

The Czech Republic is just twenty two years old. It was part of the German ruled Austro-Hungarian Empire for hundreds of years, became one half of Czechoslovakia after the first world war, was annexed by Germany during the second world war, liberated by Russia (not the United States) in May of 1945, and a part of the Communist USSR/Eastern Europe throughout the cold war, until finally becoming the Czech Republic in the early 90s.

IMG_1155

As an American, the class has been particularly interesting because I’ve learned a lot about first about WWII, and then the Cold war that was never included in courses taught in the United States, but also has drawn attention to how different an Americans concept of identity is than someone from Western Europe.

The United States as a concept is a nation formed by the mixing and melding of various identities. Many people identify as Irish-American, Italian-American, Jewish-American, Chicano, or the like. The concept of a hyphenated identity is not nearly as prevalent within many places in Europe. Anecdotally, Denmark is a place where someone with a Swedish mother, and Danish father will consistently be called Swedish by other Danes.

IMG_1164

Soccer Game

Soccer Game

While I know seeing a soccer game doesn’t seem relevant, I promise it is! In fact sports teams in general can be a huge contributing factor to identity; I had never thought about it before, but the same applies in the United States. Southerners are notorious for identifying with an SEC school’s football team, New Yorkers divided between Yankees & Mets fans.

Cerny

Cerny

We also met David Cerny, a Czech artist responsible for some seriously controversial  works, as well as absurd ones like the one above outside the Kafka museum.

David Cerny- part Rockstar, part controversial artist.

David Cerny- part Rockstar, part controversial artist.

A group at David Cerny's Bar

A group at David Cerny’s Bar

Lastly, I felt extremely lucky to be in this course because it it actually the last time it will run in its current version. Unfortunately, this fantastic course has suffered from under enrollment, presumedly because of its interdisciplinary approach, so beginning next semester, the European Humanities department at DIS will be focusing on a more discipline specific approach, offering Literature in St. Petersburg, Art & Cinema in Prague, Philosophy in Athens, and Comparative History (which looks most similar to the current Memory & Identity) in Berlin and Warsaw. As much as I loved my course, I find myself being a little bit jealous of the future Humanities students at DIS for the options they’ll be offered.

To do in Prague: Hemingway Bar

With three days in Prague under my belt, it’s safe to say that I love the city and would highly recommend a visit there to anyone interested. Although more extensive blog posts will wait until I get home, I haven’t shut up about the Hemingway since I went Sunday night.

20140327-223446.jpg
We arrived in Prague on Sunday, and after a group dinner with my core class (which is typical of DIS) I went to meet up with a friend of mine who is spending a semester abroad in Prague.

20140327-223754.jpg
We hadn’t seen each other in almost a year and decided to grab a drink to catch up. He suggested the Hemingway bar, warning me that it was “a little expensive” but had really interesting and tasty drinks. I can say with absolute certainty that I’d recommend it to anyone; it had a nice ambience and the mixology of the drinks was fantastic. I insisted on going back, and over the three nights I was there I had a “red carpet”- a fruitier take on a whiskey sour, a “dark &stormy”- which was pretty much a mojito with ginger instead of mint, and a lavender martini. It was the type of cocktail bar that I could NEVER afford in Copenhagen, but was quite reasonable in comparison.

20140327-224648.jpg

#WhyStudyAbroad

A multimedia account of my time in Denmark

A  couple days ago CNN started asking students to share their study abroad experiences in honor of Michelle Obama’s upcoming trip to China encouraging more students to study abroad. Last year only 1% of U.S. Students studied abroad. Finding out the number is so small is disappointing, because my personal experience studying abroad has contributed to my life in a way that is completely irreplaceable. From fostering independence and personal growth, navigating unfamiliar languages and cultural norms, to developing logistic skills and learning to coordinate travel and lodging, all while staying on top of your coursework, my time in Denmark has been the final step of not relying on Mom & Dad that started with moving out for college almost three years ago.

Although I’ve done my best to describe my experience in words over the past 6 months, sometimes easy  to watch visuals can be even more descriptive.

Berlin

Reichstag- German Parliamant

Reichstag- German Parliament

The last leg of my trip was Berlin. I flew out of London on a 6.30 am flight on just 4 hours of sleep, and arrived in Berlin around 10 am, and took a train to Ostbahnhoff to meet an old family friend, Maria who I’d be staying with.

IMG_1008

The Wall

The Wall

Maria was a German volunteer who interned at the Waldorf School my mom worked at six years ago when she was my age. This is my third trip to Europe in four years, and now I’ve FINALLY managed to get myself to visit her in Berlin.

More Solperstein in Berlin

More Solperstein in Berlin

I loved that I immediately found the “stumbling stones” that I learned about in Hamburg a month ago.

Brandenburg Gate

Brandenburg Gate

Despite being exhausted, I again had only two days, so rest would have to wait. We set out, and she showed me all her favorite parts of Berlin, pointing out the neighborhood where she was born on the West side, translating graffiti, and narrating history along with the landmarks.

Old Bridge between East & West Berlin

Old Bridge between East & West Berlin

The River

The River

Delicious Baklava

Delicious Baklava

Seeing a city with the guidance of someone who lives there is truly the best way to do it. After the long day, we took a quick siesta before heading back out for Turkish food (Turkish Mocha is far superior to Italian espresso), cocktails and then a club to dance. We made it home around 6 am, at which point I had been awake for 25 hours straight, and collapsed for a couple hours of sleep.
On Sunday, we managed to wake up at 11.30, but somehow our talkative brunch ended up lasting 4 hours, so we had just a few hours before I had to head to the airport to catch my flight home to Copenhagen. Overall my time in Berlin was great because I got to catch up with an old friend, be shown around by a local, and revel in how cheap the city was compared to Copenhagen, Rome, & London.

London

I took a late flight into London, arriving around 23.30, ready to hop on a train to King’s Cross were I would meet Emmett, my second cousin who I was staying with. Amazingly enough, I think I had more trouble figuring out the trains in English than I’ve had in any other country.

When we got to the house I took a headed straight to bed, and woke up early the next morning to play with my adorable little third cousins, Tom & Joe, who I hadn’t seen in five years—when they were babies. Again, I marveled at the fact that I might have struggled more to understand their accents than I do to understand my Danish host sister.

I headed out to see some of the typical London sights; Big Ben, The Eye, Trafalgar Square, as well as walking along the south bank of the Thames, and visiting the Tate Gallery.

Big Ben & The Eye

Big Ben & The Eye

Southbank

Southbank

Trafalgar

Trafalgar

My family also surprised me also with a ticket to a Bastille concert that night, which was fantastic.

Bastille

Angel Haze opening for Bastille

The next day was more exploring, and I found my way to the Borough Market underneath London Bridge, which was simply paradise. It was jam packed with cheese, sweets, and various ethnic foods.

A shot of the iconic bridge

A shot of the iconic bridge

IMG_0988 IMG_0989

My favorite part of London

My favorite part of London

I also went to both the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Gallery. One noticeable positive difference between London and Rome is that all the museums in London are free, which is a blessing in a generally expensive city.

IMG_0971

Fashion exhibit in Victoria & Albert Gallery

Ridiculous Sleeves

Later I headed home to eat Indian food and watch a movie with family, because I was set to take a train to the airport at 4 am the next day in order to catch my 6.30 flight to Berlin.

My time in London was particularly enjoyable because spending time with family is always relaxing to me, and it was fantastic to get to see relatives that I rarely see because of the distance between The States and Europe. But I also felt particularly at home in the massive city, and it’s the first place that I’ve visited since moving to Copenhagen that I like just as much, and could even imagine moving to. Although the English may have had something to do with it, I think the vibe was more relevant.

Famous Pedestrian Bridge

Famous Pedestrian Bridge

The Shard

The Shard

In front of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

In front of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

Iconic

Iconic

I can’t thank my cousins, Sam, Emmett and Kim enough for being enormously gracious (despite my terribly inconvenient flight times) and spoiling me rotten while I was in London. Unfortunately, two days is really not enough time to see the city, so I’ll definitely be returning at some point in the future, hopefully sooner rather than later.