The End

I’ve been putting off this post since forever. Or at least since I got back. I want to synthesize all the experiences and feel ready for it to be over and feel totally settled in my life back in the US. But you know what? Life doesn’t work quite like that. Though the semester has started, and with it, good things and bad, a new place to live, revisiting an old city of mine, old friends, old places, it feels new and like a return at the same time.

I did so much in Europe, and now that I’m back, I’m not going to say that I feel like a whole new person, but I do feel like I’ve entered a new part of my life. In which I’m more of an adult, a little more confident, a little more sure of what I want. An emphasis on “a little” but still, it makes a difference. I understand more about how I want to be treated, what kinds of people I want to meet, and what kinds of people I can laugh about and not take too seriously. I learned a hell of a lot about people on this trip.

And also about places. I’ll never watch a movie set in Paris or Rome or wherever and not look for the places I’ve been. How it feels to walk on the street alone in London and how it’s different from Copenhagen or Barcelona. How I love cities but I love countries too. The crisp air in Bath, the dampness of the Czech mountains and caves, and riding my bike in the driving rain or wind or sun or dark in Fredensborg. And I’ll try my best to cherish it all.

And before I do a photomontage, I just wanted to thank my loyal readers and my drop-by-once-in-a-while readers. This blog made me feel really good about my writing, made me want to put off this last post. Which is why soon enough I’ll be starting another blog. Because Wanderlust was only ever going to be my abroad journal, for me and for you. Here’s a little map of where my readers come from– this map makes me happy. Thanks to my abroad friends for helping this map be a little more colorful. And thanks also to the abroad strangers who did the same thing. And thanks to my non-abroad friends and family for making the US such a standout.

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START THE PHOTO MONTAGE: The best of Wanderlust! (stay tuned, there’s a little something at the end)

IMG_1989Grafton, MA, USA

IMG_2211Humlebaek, Denmark

IMG_2532Odense, Denmark

IMG_2742Fredensborg, Denmark

IMG_2755Ugerloese, Denmark

IMG_3259Rome, Italy

IMG_3284Barcelona, Spain

IMG_3375Barcelona, Spain

IMG_3783Wiltshire, England

IMG_4252Cesky Raj, Czech Republic

IMG_4430Hilleroed, Denmark

IMG_4537Fredensborg, Denmark

IMG_4628Fredensborg, Denmark

IMG_4653Berlin, Germany

IMG_4796Berlin, Germany

IMG_4842Essen, Germany

IMG_4909Dortmund, Germany

IMG_4914Paris, France

IMG_5234Paris, France

Thank you to everyone I met, everyone I re-met, everyone who gave me a chance or taught me something or extended a hand or supported me. Thanks to people who smiled, who were concerned, who were patient, who played cards, who shared a beer or a laugh, who asked me for directions or who gave me directions or who showed me something wonderful. Thank you to people who ate the food I made, who made food for me, or who shared their company over a meal or who shared their company on a train or plane or platform or waiting room or airport terminal or theatre or their home. Thank you to the people who shared their children, their parents, their brothers and sisters and their grandchildren and grandparents or their friends. Thank you to the people who I visited, the people who I’ll revisit, the people who will come visit me, and to the people who I met who I’ll never meet again.

It was one hell of a ride. Thank you.

Christmas Markets and Kebabs: Berlin

So after I fled Denmark, I went to Berlin! Here’s how it went.

My last view of Denmark.

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Sunday I had a beautiful breakfast with the host fam, said my goodbyes, and went to the airport, where I said my goodbyes again, and boarded a short, spacious flight headed for Tegel Airport. From there I took a bus and the metro into Berlin, where I found my hostel, checked in, and went to a cute Christmas market nearby at Alexanderplatz. After the Christmas market, I went back to the hostel, which has a sports bar in the downstairs and met some cool people– 3 Swiss boys and 2 Australian girls. We sat and talked and played foosball and then walked to a club. Mind you, this was 1:30am on a Sunday night, so it was totally dead. The boys and one of the girls ended up just chain-smoking in the lounge at the club, so I got home smelling like smoke, but they were fun, so I forgave them for smelling like an ashtray.

Monday, I managed to pull myself out of bed pretty early and set out to discover Berlin. I wandered into the Topography of Terror Museum, which is on the site where the SS and Gestapo headquarters were before they were destroyed in 1945. It was kind of a hard, emotional start to the trip, but it was still really a great museum. Then I wandered over to Potsdammer Platz and had a chai latte and a sandwich while I read my book for an hour. I’m reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and it’s wonderful. Then I went on a free tour, which was long but relatively fun and very informative and I got some good pics and learned stuff about Berlin.

Brandenburg Gate on a clear day.

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Memorial of 1933 book burnings at Babelplatz. (It’s an empty library you look down into, which shelf space to hold the 20,000ish books burned that day)

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Christmas market at Gendarmenplatz

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Then I went back to the hostel, and met a Canadian girl studying in Glasgow, Hanna, and we got some baked apples at Alexanderplatz. Later, I hung out with the same group– staying in and playing card games. One of the Swiss guys was really good at card tricks, and told us that he was a dancer and entertainer, somewhat like a cruise ship staff member, which was funny for me. He was quite the character.

Tuesday, I got up early for an appointment at the US Embassy to get a document notarized, which was an experience, and I was yelled at in German more than once before I got in. German is possibly the ugliest language to be yelled at in. Horribly angry language. Because of Tobey (the Swiss guy) doing card tricks the night before, I was really tired because I went to bed so late watching the tricks. So after I got some lunch and took a walk, I took a nap back at the hostel. After the nap, I met up with Hanna, who introduced me to three guys she’d met, one Taiwanese and two Aussie, and we hung out at the hostel bar for a long time.

Wednesday, after a terrible night of sleep, possibly the worst in my entire life, I finally got up and walked over to the Brandenburg Gate with Hannah for our “Alternative Berlin” tour, which was looking at street art in the Mitte and Kreuzberg neighborhoods of Berlin. We got to go to the East Side Gallery, which was something I’d been wanting to see.

In both the realms of street art and memorial, these are “stumbling stones” and they’re all over the city. They are slightly raised cobblestones (so you trip) with the names and a little information about the people killed in the Holocaust who lived or worked at the building the stones are placed in front of.

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A piece of the wall near Checkpoint Charlie.

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Hanna and I met two other fun  women on the trip, one an Australian woman, Renee, the other a Brit, Monica. Monica is a professional travel blogger, which was so cool! She’s living the dream– her blog is http://thetravelhack.com/. The group of us had some dinner, and then I sat down for some chill me-time starting this post, writing in my journal, and reading my book. I never realized how important taking chill time is on a vacation. Since I’m traveling alone, I should be able to do whatever I want, but not pressuring myself to go all out all the time is not easy.

Thursday, I was back up to my regular self, for the most part, as it seems as I’d acquired a cold somewhere along the way. Hanna and Renee and I had breakfast at the hostel, and then went to the Jewish Museum, which I had learned a lot about in my divided cities class of last spring. It’s an architectural wonder, truly, and a quite good museum too.

The museum from above.

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I expected it to be a Holocaust Museum, but in fact it paid tribute to Jews through the history of Germany, which of course included World War II.  There was a room in the building called the Holocaust Tower (I think that’s what it’s called) which is a door at the end of a hallway, and you walk in, and you’re in a tall, dark, metal room with only a small light in the corner of an upper wall– it’s just a crack of light from a window. And the door slams shut with the most horrible sound, and it’s cold– the room is not heated. And you can hear the street noise and the museum noise but you’re cold and it’s so dark. And if you look around, you realize that there’s a ladder, going from about midway up the wall to the ceiling, but there’s no way to get to the ladder, and it doesn’t really go anywhere anyway. Obviously a really powerful and unique room.

The Holocaust tower from the inside.

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This is a ground-up view of the Garden of Exile, another part of the museum.

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After the museum, we went for some doner kabab, (which was invented in Berlin) and I got some falafel, but the bread was actually the best part (oh, Germany). Then we pulled a total tourist move and went to the Reichstag building, but we didn’t have tickets to go in, so we just were completely obnoxious in the front part (totally sober, I promise).

Nothing screams “I’m American!” like this move in this place.

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Then, we went over to Charlottenburg Schloss (palace– so similar to Danish) for a Christmas market, as recommended by Patrick, a friend from AU who spent the semester in Berlin and told me about what I should see. It was a great call, and even though it wasn’t as good as Alexanderplatz market for shopping, the ambiance was much better. But then we went back to Alexanderplatz so I could fulfill my dream of buying paper stars and we had some dessert.

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On Friday morning, the triumphant trio (not sure if that’s going to catch on, but whatever) parted ways– me for Dortmund, Hanna to Cologne, and Renee to Prague. It is entirely possible that our paths will meet again. Why not?

Anyway, that was my week in Berlin! I’m writing this from Dortmund, where I’ve spent the weekend, and will be having Christmas. You’ll hear about it soon, I’m sure.

Vi ses, Danmark

It’s Friday, my second to last day in Denmark. It’s unbelievable how much time has flown. Right now I’m checking things off of my pre-departure to-do list before meeting up with some friends to complete some things on our Copenhagen bucket lists. I’m not going to post this until Sunday, though, because I want it to be my goodbye post to Fredensborg, Copenhagen, and the Svendsen and Lippert family.

Does anyone else ever really feel the fight or flight response in action when they’re about to go somewhere? Like, I start to feel super-nauseous, like my body just wants to get rid of the food in my system and bolt. I’m trying to calm my nerves at every second of the day. It’s not that I’m actually that nervous, it’s just a lot of nervous energy shooting around my body. I can’t sit still and everything smells like ramen (that’s not a normal response?)

I’m listening to the song “Home” by Philip Philips, and even watching the music video (shot like a road trip) is making me carsick. I feel like this place has been a real home for me. And it’s okay that I don’t idealize it, and I don’t want to live here for the rest of my life, because that’s also how I feel about small town Massachusetts and about the city of Boston. It’ll always be a home and a home city for me, filled with memories, good times and bad, even if I don’t want to stay forever.

I guess I’ve really been coming to terms with that this semester. I’ve had the problem where I really want to want to stay, and it has made my trip hard. The pressure has always been there, whether it’s just in my head or if my classmates are gushing about how much they’ve found a place here. That pressure has made it harder to just live in the moment and take things as they come. Maybe I’ve been pulling a total American tourist move and expecting too much.

I do want to express my eternal gratitude to my AMAZING host family. Some people have found families that they’ve felt like a daughter, which I can’t say that I totally have because my upbringing was so different from the way they treat their kids and me in my family. It has been so peaceful here. I can always count on a smile, a chat, some jokes, some amazing food, and just general support. I’ve never been in a situation before where I was sure that I was never going to disagree with people. They’ve treated me better than I ever could have hoped for or imagined, better than I treated my hosted sisters certainly, when I hosted in high school. They have encouraged me but never pushed me into anything. They have offered me everything but never asked anything in return. And in that way I idealize Denmark in immense ways. This family dynamic is so unreal in its trust, happiness, and hands-off approach to hosting and parenting. Thank you so so much to Jytte and Ole, if you ever read this. I love you guys so much. I also want to thank Maria and Linea, for always being kind to me and being able to share YouTube videos and complaining about school and making fun of Jytte and Ole. You are both inspirational in how smart and driven you are, and I know you’ll both be able to do whatever you want to do and have the best support while you do it. Thank you to Gitte and Lasse, and your families, your sisters are so blessed to have such positive, loving role models. Though I only met you a few times, you were always kind and friendly to me. Gitte, you were the first Dane to hug me, and it really made an impact.

After writing this, instead of feeling sick I’m crying all over my keyboard. The sad music isn’t helping much.

So, I’m not sure if it’s grammatically correct, but I do want to say Vi ses Danmark, meaning see you later, Denmark. I know I’ll be back, if only to make you another Tuesday night dinner and chill in the sitting room and watch movies with Linea.

Best Peanut Butter Cookies Ever

Oh hey dere world. It’s finals week, also my final week in Denmark! Where has the time gone? I seriously am going to be so sad when I write my goodbye post, so I’m going to save it. Today, a happier topic.

It’s a recipe I like to call the K-C Family Peanut Butter Cookies (I would normally just write the names out, but I actually haven’t run it by them, so I thought maybe better not to.) It’s fine, because I also refer to them as

The Best Peanut Butter Cookies Ever.

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See how the cookie almost has a halo? That’s no coincidence.

And in Denmark, cookies are really not a thing. My host family doesn’t even have a baking sheet. I kid you not. They eat cake and pastries and stuff but you don’t often see cookies besides small, dry ones. (tasty in their own ways). But they those aren’t the cookies I actually wrote home about, these are. These cookies are moist, and for my  friend Allie of the K-C family, chocolate free. And they’re perfect. Luckily it’s not a family secret and I have been privy to the recipe. Which now you also are. HOORAY for me and for you!

Best. Peanut Butter. Cookies. Ever.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup = 1 American stick = 113 grams butter, softened

1/2 cup = 100 grams white sugar

1/2 cup = 100 grams brown sugar

1/2 cup = 127 grams peanut butter (usually smooth, today I used crunchy)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/4 cups =156 grams flour

chocolate chips optional (wholy unnecessary if you ask me, but if it floats your boat)

Cream butter, add white sugar, brown sugar, peanut butter. Mix thoroughly between additions. Mix for 5 minutes even if you have a hand mixer and your hand gets tired. The batter should lighten in color. If you think it is impossible (as I did) to overcome the darkness of the peanut butter AND the brown sugar, you are wrong. It is possible. Maybe get someone else to hold the mixer for a few minutes.

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Add the egg. Yup, mix it really well.

Add flour and baking soda, this time mixing with a spatula or spoon, not the electric mixer.

Spoon out (big) cookies onto cookie sheet, flatten/crosshatch with a fork.

Bake at 375 F (190.5 C) for 10 minutes. NOT MORE. Do not over bake. They should be slightly browned, it’s okay if they’re soft. Cool on baking sheet. Cookies will deflate and be chewy and tender. If you over bake so that they puff back up when you poke them they will be crunchy/dry when they cool.

Eat with a glass of milk and seal leftovers in an airtight container. If you know any Danes, try to insist that this is not cake, instead tell them that in English we give sweet baked goods several different names (cake, cookies, bread, pie). They think everything is cake.

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And Then My Stomach Burst

God I just want to tell everyone everything but not actually write a post. That may be a bad sign.

Things. All of the things. I guess I’ll number them. The things I remember since my last post. You may be able to tell I’m rather tired.

1) I went to Tivoli with Amanda and Gabrielle last Wednesday, to see the Christmas markets and the amazing decorations. As with any time you go to Tivoli, we were not disappointed. We saw reindeer, drank some gløgg (hot spiced red wine) and ate some æbleskiver (think spherical pancake) with strawberry jam and confectioner’s sugar. It was a good time, and I bought some small souvenirs for some people back home.

The entrance to Tivoli

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Hotel and giant white peacock. There were live, real peacocks just strolling the park, too.

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Carousel in the Russian-themed area

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THE WORST PRIZE EVER (or maybe the best one?)

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Gløgg og æbleskiver

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More holiday cuteness

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year at the most magical place on Earth

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2) Thursday was Thanksgiving, but since my core course final was from 4:30-6:30pm, there was no chance of even making anything special for dinner. But I did skype with my Dad, Harry, and Nicole (Harry’s gf) from my Dad’s house in Mass. It was really nice to see them, hear about their Thanksgivings and talk about stuff a little. Harry’s moving (has moved, now) to the Boston area, which he’s really pumped about. And I taught my dad how to say “gløgg is good” which is very easy “gløgg er godt.”

3) On Saturday, we did Thanksgiving at my house. I got up and started to cook– cranberry sauce, cranberry relish, apple sauce, and apple crisp. Then I cleaned my room and waited for Becky and Bonnie to arrive from the city. They did, and we had a hyggeligt time making mashed potatoes, roasted green beans, and butternut squash latkes (for me, baby’s first latke cooking experience, for them, baby’s first latke eating experience). Becky also brought a brussels sprouts and apples dish, which was nommy. We even had a lot of extra time and oranges, so we made what I’ll call a bittersweet orange compote, and chocolate cake with chocolate ganache. Gabrielle came and we made some incredible stuffing, before sitting down to  dinner at 6:35. It was a perfectly planned and executed meal if I do say so myself. I love Thanksgiving a lot and it made me feel so happy to have that holiday. I was seriously beaming all night and then my stomach burst from food and wine and like 4 hours of talking. The group of the four of us also went for a very dark walk in the Slotspark, which was a little creepy (bats abound and Becky told me that 90% of bats carry rabies. Ha! Now that fact is on you to struggle with). And then I got them on the train, came back, ran the dishwasher, wiped down the counters, and went to bed. It seems that the cleanup impressed the host fam even more than the food did. What can I say? My parents raised me right. (But the food was pretty damn good).

Latkes and Cranberry relish

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Green beans, brussels sprouts, and stuffing

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Round 1: My plateIMG_4539

An unfortunate light fixture (seriously, one step to the right would have solved this problem) but over all a cute pic of my and my short friends

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I realize I have NEVER BEFORE posted a pic with the host fam. That’s because this is the first one I’ve taken.

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Dessert (tastier than it looks)

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4) This movie happened with my class, designing communication campaigns. The process of making it was much too embarrassing for those involved to write about here, but we had a good time. I did next to nothing but am still really proud of how it came out. I’m the featured disembodied hand writing at the end. Wait. I actually can’t post it here until it’s on YouTube. Check in next week for the updated version!

While we were not working on the project, we played a lot of games with this whiteboard, including one where you stand against it and the two others write speech bubbles. Then you make a face having never read the bubbles. Then you take a picture. This one is incredibly me. (besides the incorrect grammar)

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5) Uhhh… I bought a bunch of souvenirs after a trip to the fabric store for my mama turned into a trip to the fabric store for me. That’s right, my mom sent me into a fabric store and expected me not to fall in love with yarn and beautiful, beautiful fabric. Not likely. Unfortunately, out of my relatively small reader-base, and there is an even smaller gifting-base. Stuff is pricey pricey pricey here, and I still need to finance another month!

6) Speaking of which, my ticker on the right tells me my time left in Europe is no longer at months, we’re at days!! It would actually make more sense to do weeks next, but whatever. On December 15th, I’m headed to Berlin for 5 days, then on the 20th, I’ll go west to Dortmund for Christmas, to spend with former host-sisters Lara and Lena, and their parents, as well as a teacher my mom hosted, Friederike! I’m really excited for that part of the trip. Then I’ll go on the 27th to my FINAL DESTINATION: PARIS and spend New Year’s there, hopefully living it up by myself, with my friend Nancy from DIS, and with new buddies from the hostel (just speculating). At the very least I’ll see the Louvre and walk by the Seine (swooning as we speak). Then home on January 2nd– Paris to London, London to Boston, Boston to Grafton. This trip is what’s keeping me going right now through an emotional finals season, the horrors of packing (haven’t happened yet), and a lot of homesickness. As much as I have love love loved seeing things and experiencing and living it up, there are few things I look forward to more than hugging my parents, seeing my cats, and baking cookies.

This post feels like it needs this:

Love, Eleanor

P.S. I wrote this post in about 20 minutes. If that’s not something to be proud of, I don’t know what is.

Who Can Say? The short version of two crazy weekends

HI WORLD. It has been a crazy week. Just a week ago, I’d just thrown Rachael on a train and another train and plane to go home to Madrid. So. There’s that part, then the boring school part, then the this weekend part.

So, Rachael got into Copenhagen from Madrid on Thursday evening (Rachael’s my roommate from last year and a dear dear friend for my rare reader who doesn’t already know that). Unfortunately, her flight was really testing the public transportation system by being so late. Because trains kind of wimp out after midnight on a weekday. In that way, they’re a lot like me and Rachael. But we did get home, we just had to take a rather pricey taxi. Which Rachael kindly and unnecessarily paid for.

Then on Friday morning, set out to do Copenhagen, but first did a walk through Fredensborg Slotspark, which is the park behind the castle near my house. I know a fair amount about the royal family and the grounds so it was fun to see that and be a tour guide. It was actually pretty great being a tour guide all weekend. In Copenhagen, there were just some things we HAD to do, like see Strøget (Europe’s longest pedestrian shopping street) which also included a venture to Magasin (see my post “Less Ironically Good, More Actually Good”); a Danish interior design store I’d meant to hit up, Illums Bolighus; went to a very old, amazing bakery near DIS called Sankt Peders Bageri (I’ll bet you can translate that); The Round Tower (but our picture at the top has inexplicably disappeared from my camera), went to a Christmas Market; rode the water bus (great, free experience); The Black Diamond Royal Library; The København Bibliotek (main branch); Nyhavn; saw Amalienborg Palace and the Opera House from across the harbor; got super-lost, and ate some Chinese-ish food. It was a busy, busy day. And then we went home and had dinner with the host fam. Who loved Rachael, obvi.  I hate saying and then, and then, and then. But… I have to. We do a lot. What can I say. After dinner, we skyped Elana (a mutual friend and my future roommate) and watched Michael Cera’s masterpiece “Youth in Revolt.” A great movie, but we were really tired. Did we finish? Who can say?

Nyhavn (pronouced Nu-haun)

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The Opera House from across the Harbor

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Day two was day of castles! We went up to Helsingør (translates to Elsinore in English) and saw Kronborg, Hamlet’s Castle. It was a very quaint little town but a scary and forboding castle, and we walked around and hit up the gift shop and some shops around it. We also both enjoyed some laks (smoked salmon) sandwiches at KulturHus in Helsingør. We headed back south to Hillerød to see Frederiksborg Slot, which is crazy pretty, but sadly was closed. There was a wedding happening in the church there and we could hear a choir and saw a beautiful car to come pick up the happy couple. It was great, but would have been a little greater if we could have gone in!

This strange but cool shiny boy statue (Hamlet? Is that you?) and Kronborg in the background.

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Kronborg with a model of Kronborg in front of it.

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This picture came out cool (well, the car is in focus and the back isn’t, say what you will, it was an accident). A great wedding day for some people!

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Some call us RachaEleanor.

Some call us Ghost Cat.

Some call us crazy.

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It came to be snack-time, and we went to a cafe that advertised cake and coffee for around $10. Which sounds like a lot, but is actually a great deal in Denmark. We went in and asked the waitress for whatever that special was, and she looked at us with a dumb stare. She even went outside because I guess she’d never seen the sign before? Even the manager was confused. I guess no one had ever asked…? Anywho, we ended up getting it and then going home to a big family dinner and eating some chocolates Rachael brought from Spain. We then watched similarly stellar film “Me and You and Everyone We Know” by Miranda July. She’s a genius. It’s so funny and so real. That’s all I’m going to say about it. And this: ))<>(( Rachael got on a late train and and early plane and before I knew it was back in the land of Espana. Sad. But it was a great time. Rachael brings out the goofy in me in a way that few do.

Then there was school blah blah blah no one cares. Except I did see a great exhibition of Barbara Probst at the Black Diamond Royal Library. She’s very talented and has a great conceptual mind. Look her up.

Then this weekend, weekend of culture!

On Friday, I got a cheap ticket to a ballet called “Come Fly Away” which was a lot like the music of Sinatra set to the dancing from Guys and Dolls. It was good but not the best dancing, costumes, or music. It didn’t blow me away (though there were a few sets of abs in the cast that DID blow me away).

View from the nosebleeds (I could touch the ceiling while sitting)

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Saturday was the Hunger Games: Catching Fire with Bonnie. The movie was really fantastic, and at $20, it was the most I’ve ever paid for a movie ticket. The theatre was the biggest I’ve ever been to, also. And clean. And in Danish movie theaters you buy your specific seats. We had great ones. I’m team Peeta, and Jennifer Lawrence can do no wrong. That’s what I have to say about the Hunger Games. I’m ready to see it again.

Sunday SUNDAY (today) was the Royal Opera with an old buddy who I haven’t seen since September (sad). We went out to this kind of famous restaurant called Grød (pronounced kind of like gruel) which is a new nordic cuisine restaurant specializing in porridge! I got rice porridge with tarragon sugar, toasted hazelnuts, and Asian pears. I like to eat things I’ve never eaten before because I know I won’t hate it. It was beautiful and interesting, which are great words for a lot of things, but not the highest compliment to pay towards food items, if you get what I’m saying.

The green stuff is sugar.

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Then we booked it across the city to the opera where we saw Verdi’s Macbeth (in Italian with Danish subtitles).

That opera house from before but sunny and close-up. Sunny-side up?

Apparently Danes think it looks like the grill on an American car. Huh.

 

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These beautiful lights.

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There were only maybe 4 people in the cast of 50 who I actually knew who they were (the characters, I mean.), but the show was conceptually very strong, innovatively (that’s a word, right?) executed, and haunting. Lady Macbeth was a stunning soprano (side note, her name is Anne Margrethe Dahl, she’s Norwegian, and she’s 53!!! An incredible lady). She stole the show, but then again, so did the sets and costumes. To see it all, here’s the link. Really though, go look. The only bad part was an inexplicable topless pole-dancer at the beginning of the 2nd act. Wait. Another bad part was that someone took my scarf home with them. It wasn’t there when I got up to leave the theatre. It was probably a cheap scarf, but I got it from my mom at a really hard point in my life and it was special. Hopefully it will turn up but I doubt it.

That was my CRAZY week, and I have another one coming up with will culminate in Saturday Thanksgiving! Yup, not Thursday because I have school until late on Thursdays. Happy Thanksgiving team!

P.S. Enimen just came up on my “Upbeat Work Mix” on 8tracks. Um, no.

The Czech Trek (I SURVIVED)

Well, it’s been an embarrassingly long time since I posted, and now my ticker at the right is reading 1 month left in Europe. That’s not quite accurate, but I’ll continue anyways. I had two stressful weeks between London and the Czech Trek, which is a DIS trip about 40 students took to go hiking, climbing, spelunking, and roaming in the mountains of the Czech Republic.

It all started on Friday, the day of my Danish oral exam. That’s right, I spoke Danish for a solid 2 minutes and no one was offended. Friday evening at 5:15, we boarded the bus, which took us south, through Denmark, across the Baltic Sea, through Germany, and into Bohemian Paradise. No really, that’s the name of the region. After a long night which included: 1) Love Actually 2) A ferry ride 3) Me taking a Benadryl to go to sleep 4) Pouring rain 5) The bus driver singing all night long 😡 we arrived at Hruba Skala a bit before 8 on Saturday morning. In time for breakfast, ice breakers, and archery.

It was all good fun, though I was significantly less good at archery than I hoped, I made up for it by being really solid knowing people’s names in the ice breakers. Here are some photos of me and the group being badass.

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Channeling my inner Katniss. And my outer Katniss.

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It was so nice to finally meet DIS people who were fun, down to earth, outdoorsy, and friendly. I got to hang out with a bunch of different people, though there were three of us who made a dynamic trio known as Pip, Squeak, and Crackle (because Becky (Squeak) couldn’t remember that the names were actually Snap, Crackle, and Pop). I was Pip. “Because you’re a Pip” said Becky. (Mom, I know you’ll appreciate this one).

In the evening, we had a nice dinner, which for me as a vegetarian was potatoes and deep-fried cauliflower. Which was miraculously good. And the lights were out in ourroom before 9:30.

Sunday was as cold as all getout, and I was placed in a group that was set to adventure through the caves first. On our hike into the woods, I saw two white-tailed deer running up the hill. The caves weren’t at all what I expected. I expected big, open-mouthed caves with stalagmites and bats. What I found was really small sandy caves with irregular ceilings that we shimmied, walked, and crawled through, sometimes just squeezing through. And we weren’t allowed to use flashlights in any of the caves, or candles in most of them. It was a part of the trip I expected to be a big challenge for me, because I often have nightmares about not being able to fit in small places (yes, weird), but it was definitely a team-building exercise and just casually being expected to do this stuff, nobody making it a big deal, took a lot of the pressure and stress off.

A Bohemian Rhapsody

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Girls in da woods.

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Unfortunately, it is really hard to take a picture inside a totally dark cave. And pictures of caves are really hard to tell apart.

After the morning of hiking and spelunking (our Czech tour guides, Hanza, Hanza, Zuzka, and Stephanka were amazing, BTW), we had a traditional Czech lunch at a small restaurant. It was an important Saint’s Day (St. Martin?) so there were a lot of people there. The lunch for me, as a vegetarian, was fried Camembert cheese and mashed potatoes, followed by a giant buttery blueberry dumpling, with sides of whipped cream and sour cream.

SO MUCH CHEESE

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SO MUCH SUGAR

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To work off our food babies, there was rock climbing and rappelling in the afternoon. We climbed a giant ladder to the middle of a rocky cliff, and you had the option of climbing up rocks or rappelling back down to the ground. I was WAY too scared to rappel, and after an unsuccessful first try, I made it to the top of the easiest climbing route, feeling like a champion.

Oh yeah, no problem.

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Me vs. the cliff

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View from the bottom of the wall.

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In the evening was another giant meal, which began for me, again with the weird veggie options, with a bowl of clear gelatin with hard boiled eggs and pickled vegetables in it. Not my favorite, but not the worst thing I’ve ever eaten. Mostly just texturally unappealing. After dinner, we had a “haunted scavenger hunt” through the grounds of the hotel, which was set at our hotel, the Hruba Skala castle, which according to Wikipedia was built somewhere in the 1400s? It was definitely creepy, and my group won third place, which was a bottle of wine, candy bars, and t-shirts. Pretty good.

Noms?

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Another crazy day of facing fears on Monday morning, when we stayed on the grounds for more rappelling as well as a zip line and rope bridge (both across a gorge). The gorge that we were rappelling down and zipping and walking across was 45 meters deep and I freaked out before rappelling. I really wanted to do it, but I was so scared. Hanza (the guide) helped me feel comfortable and Becky was waiting at the bottom to cheer me on and talk me through it. Which was really awesome, helped me conquer a fear and accomplish something. It sounds so cheesy but it was really important to me.

Arianna (Crackle), Carolina, me (Pip), Becky (Squeak), and Nick

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That moment before I jumped off a cliff

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The jump.

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Almost back

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We made it!

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ALSO mad scary was jumping off a cliff, even connected to the zip line via a full-body harness. But I did it, and it was so much fun it was worth the second trip across the shaky rope bridge back so that I could do a second zip across. Thinking all the way of a giant t-shirt my Gram gave me when I was 7 or 8 that she got at a zip line in Costa Rica (Gram is the coolest) that said “I SURVIVED” and I wore for upwards of 4 years (as pajamas. not to worry).

Then in the afternoon, Stephanka took us on a hike through the sandstone cliffs and forests around Hruba Skala. Rock climbing is a huge thing in Czech, and it’s SO impressive that people actually climb these rocks without ropes, free climbing more of the way in order to clip themselves in. We also saw a memorial for Czech climbers who died on the rocks all over the world. The circle with the line through it is representative of the last sight of a falling climber: the sun and the rope.

Just the hotel. No biggie. And that mountain in the distance? A volcano.

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Don’t these make you want to climb without ropes?

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The sun and the rope

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Bright and early on Tuesday morning, we left our guides and boarded the bus to Prague. Prague at first looks like an industrial, post-communist city, but getting downtown you get to see the rich history. The architecture is varied and glorious, especially the art nouveau, which apparently was very big in the region. We went on a way-too-long walking tour, but did get to see so many wonderful sights.

Forgot what this is.

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2:00 at the astrological clock

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A statue of Czechoslovakia’s first president, overlooking the city.

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Art Nouveau stained glass

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Drooling over stained glass.

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PRAHA et moi!

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Shopping was great in Prague, so cheap. Bought some Christmas presents and also gifts for myself and my host family, for no particular reason except that it was there and I could afford it. Finally, we loaded back onto the bus, watched the worst movie ever (Short Cuts from 1993… horrible), slept on and off until we arrived in Copenhagen. As one of the DIS tour leaders said “#NapOnNapOnNap.”

Also while I was gone my friend/hero Caitlin registered me for classes at AU for next semester. Here’s what I’ve got right now to look forward to, though I hope to get an internship for credit (meaning I’d have to drop one of these):

Reporting (finally.)

Communication Law (waitlist, but only a matter of time)

Creative Writing: Poetry

Survey of American Literature II

Digital and Emerging Media Design

Intermediate Swimming

Real pumped for all that. AND THEN TOMORROW (or maybe today depending on when I post this) Rachael is coming from Madrid. Just you wait, world. Shit is going down.