Cozy Christmas Sweaters

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Big European city, the beach, Tuscany… and now Albecpeta was off to the mountains. The Alps of Interlaken, Switzerland to be exact. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Since we arrived at night, when we woke up in the morning we were pleasantly surprised by the breathtaking views of the mountains from our hostel room window. Our room included a bunk bed and queen size bed…, which was used for more group cuddles, and relaxation sessions while watching funny videos and movies. Now that’s what I call a vacation.

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The cozy small town of Interlaken was absolutely adorable. Just strolling through the clear crisp air while checking out the scenery, markets and small shops was so much fun. We were so lucky with the weather too. Pete was like a giddy schoolboy with excitement from all the nature. During our exploration of the town and surrounding neighborhoods, Alana and I decided to buy matching oversized Swiss Christmas sweaters.

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In the spirit of our new purchase, we girls dressed in Christmas sweaters and Pete in flannel for our night out for traditional Swiss cheese fondue. Talk about an expensive dinner, but totally worth it. We even went all out and splurged for some chocolate fondue for dessert. Hey…you’re only in Switzerland once! (Actually I hope that’s not the case.)

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Our next day in Interlaken was our “extreme activity day”. We started off with some home cooked eggs, and a breakfast overlooking the nice views from our hostel balcony. Pete left the pack for some guy time on a snowboarding trip, and we girls headed to the top of the mountain in a van of hilarious Swiss men to go paragliding!

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My paragliding instructor was awesome. Basically, they strap you in… and then you both run and jump off a mountain. Once you jump, you catch the wind and soar high through the Alps like a bird. It’s an unreal feeling, and not to mention absolutely breathtaking. Towards the end my instructor even did some cool flips and tricks with me to add to the excitement.

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After a long day… Aleah, Alana and I turned up the jazz music and cooked a delicious meal of homemade cheese sauce and Gnocchi with some veggies in our hostel kitchen. Aleah even taught me a trick for chopping garlic! I knew I could count on my Italian roommate for something.

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After a great time in Interlaken, it was time to head back to our one true love: Copenhagen. After a ten-day trip we were all ready to return to our comfortable life back with the Danes and the rest of our amazing friends in Hillerød.

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I had such a great time traveling with Albecpeta. I can’t believe how close we all have become after this short semester abroad. I feel like I’ve known them forever! It still hasn’t quite hit me that we only have around three weeks left together. I’ve been so lucky to have met them here in Denmark…they’ve made my study abroad experience one I’ll never forget. Not quite sure what life back at home is going to be like without us all together. Guess we will have to keep up with the tradition and travel around the US together next! (Ok…Max you’re invited too)

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A Foodie’s Dream

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Finally making it to Italy can be described in one simple amazing word: food.

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Before I can tell you about our amazing time in Florence, our scary experience with our overnight train from France to Italy must not be forgotten. First, when we found out we had a 5 hour layover in a random town in Italy, we were annoyed but figured it wouldn’t be too bad. We planned to lounge out in the waiting room and prepared by buying plenty of snacks. Boy, were we in for a rude awakening. Since we arrived at the station around 11, the waiting room was closed. All that was left was the entrance hallway, accompanied by cold marble floors and half opened doors…, which willingly let all of the cold air in. Not to mention all of our new homeless friends lying among us on top of cardboard box beds (which we later became pretty jealous of). Lets just say we were all in survival mode, and took turns drifting off against our suitcases while waiting for the train. Hey, at least it made us stronger travelers in the end!

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Finally getting to Florence was like a a dream (maybe just because we were extremely exhausted). We stayed in Aleah’s friend’s adorable apartment right across from the Duomo – the main beautiful church in Florence. Once getting settled we didn’t waste any time and began to stuff our faces with pizza and gelato.

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That night I was lucky enough to have dinner with one of my best friends from home, Emmie. It was so nice to be able to see a familiar face! She was nice enough to take Alana, Pete, and I out for a night on the town…. which ended up being a night that we would never forget. We all had a blast together and I’m so glad Emmie, Alana, and Pete hit it off. I miss her already!

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In true Albecpeta fashion, we decided to join the “Taste of Florence” food tour during our stay. Although it was a little bit of a splurge, our taste buds thanked us later. Not only did we taste amazing pastries, aged cheeses, meats, wines, melt in your mouth chocolates, handmade gelato, and aged balsamic vinegar…but we also learned so much information behind what makes food from Tuscany so amazing.

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Some main takeaways from our food tour:

  • you should always fry with sparkling water for a lighter and crispier golden taste
  • grottino sardo cheese from sheep’s milk is delicious
  • ricotta cheese can always be a last minute dessert when mixed with jam or nutella
  • olive oil should be used for cooking (extra virgin olive oil for dipping)
  • salami with venal seeds and pepper grains is yummy
  • less fatty salami means lighter flavor
  • salamoia olives, salt, rosemary, sage, and garlic are great for sautéing meat
  • sweet soft ricotta cheese with lemon taste like cheesecake
  • gnash means chocolate infused with flavors (basil and baileys were my favorite)
  • cooking with white balsamic vinaigrette is better than cooking with white wine
  • the iron in foods like steak numbs your taste buds, so strong red wine clears your palate and helps keep that flavor of steak for every bite!
  • good gelato melts and is stored low, meaning you should avoid the tall pretty gelato displays with huge piles of non-melted colorful gelato

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The fresh fried polenta with a warm cream like cheese on top was one of my favorites. We also tried wild boar, which was pretty good. Can’t say the same for trying cow stomach. Supposedly tripe is a delicacy in Italy, and Aleah and I were the only adventurous ones to try it. The flavor was ok, but the soft gooey texture was too much for me to handle. Aleah liked it though…

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One of my favorite tastings was trying the same pecorino sheep milk cheese from various ages. The longer it ages the darker the cheese gets. The three day cheese was soft, while the 3 month cheese (my favorite) started to form skin, making it a little dryer and saltier. Since it’s milder, it creates a great balance with sweet flavors. The 6-month cheese was soft and strong in flavor, and the 1 year old cheese was almost too strong to handle. The “zingy” flavor was due to the fact that it was made with raw, pasteurized milk.

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We also tried traditional Italian aged balsamic vinegar that was 25 years old, aka older than us. A 14-year-old bottle of balsamic can cost up to 70 euro. The older it gets, the sweeter and thicker the balsamic vinegar becomes. It was amazing!

So, is your mouth watering yet?

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Wouldn’t be a complete blog post about Florence without mentioning the beautiful American couple we met on our tour, Bill and Patty. They met and fell in love in Florence, and were revisiting the magical city for their 30th wedding anniversary. It was so much fun sharing our food tour with them, and we all felt so lucky to get to know them. They told us that we were a good substitute for them since they missed their sons back at home. When we said our goodbyes, Patty told us how important it was for us to travel in order to understand, experience, and be excepting of all different cultures. They even surprised us with a gift of Euros for us to buy a bottle of wine on them for dinner. They were too sweet, and I hope they enjoyed the rest of their time in Florence. Cheers to Bill and Patty!

Sun and Scooters

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After roughing it through our first overnight train to the south of France, Albecpeta got to experience something we haven’t seen in Copenhagen for ages: the sun. With current Copenhagen sunsets around 3:55 after a nice cold day, I had forgotten what it felt like to be warmed by the sun, and boy had I missed it. Seeing the Mediterranean for the first time was just as beautiful as I had imagined it. The smell of the salty beach air reminded me just how much I loved the ocean.

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Some parts of Nice looked so similar to what I always pictured Greece to look like. The shore was filled with green sea glass. It was absolutely beautiful. After a day of wondering around the pebble beaches, ocean boulevards, and outdoor markets, we ventured to the top of Castle Hill to get better views of the town. At the top, we enjoyed the sunny day with some ice cream and a visit to the playground.

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We definitely got in tune with the “beach mentality”, and enjoyed relaxing at our awesome hostel, which included the cutest balcony. A few naps, as well as group cuddles on all of our beds pushed together to watch movies, took place here.

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Albecpeta decided to treat ourselves with a nice dinner. After being told we couldn’t do our usual of splitting two expensive plates four ways, we decided to cheers to anxiety and order up. Good thing we did, the food was delicious. I especially liked how well mannered Pete agreed to order the lobster pasta in hopes that he would spontaneously start liking seafood. It didn’t work out so well for him, but at least it was a cute gesture. Thanks to Aleah, I got to learn how to crack open a lobster all on my own! In true Albecpeta fashion, we decided to spend our funds for the day on food rather than partying. Hey, you have to make scarifies somewhere.

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We soaked up the sun during our last day in Nice with a picnic on the beach. What followed was something that will probably scare me for the rest of my life. While my Yankee friends (besides Alana…who is crazy) gallivanted in the cold waves of the November Mediterranean water, I decided to play “camera woman” in order to avoid that situation all together. However, after Pete decided to spontaneously throw me in for everyone’s amusement, I felt the shock of some of the coldest water I’ve ever felt. I had to hold on to everyone just for warmth. Even though they said this was pretty normal water to them, I’m used to scorching hot Myrtle Beach water…. and I still think they are crazy (southern beaches rule).

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We ended our trip to Nice with some extreme sports along the coast. We started off with rollerblades, which are a lot more difficult on a busy road versus skating around at the Jellybeans skate rink. I don’t think I had touched a pair of rollerblades since 5th grade. However, with Pete’s help from past hockey experience, we all survived. I was pretty proud of my technique, and in true friend fashion I even cushioned a fall for Alana after crossing the street. After we were done with rollerblading, Pete got a skateboard, Alana got a long board, and I decided to show off my middle school scooter skills. Let me just say…I was pretty impressive.

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After a great few days, I have to admit that Nice was probably one of my favorite stops. I hope I can go back someday.

The City of Lights

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They say that when good Americans die they go to Paris.

-Oscar Wilde

It’s true; the sparkling city lights help Paris come alive at night. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always had a fascination about visiting Paris. With Paris being the home to my favorite movie, Moulin Rouge, and musical, Phantom of the Opera, it only made sense. Carrie’s obsession with Paris on Sex and the City even helped fuel my desire to visit the famous city. This is why I knew Paris was a must stop on my last and final trip around Europe with my favorites in Albecpeta.

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As we landed into Paris Thursday night, we could see the Eiffel tower gleaming in the distance. It’s easy to say this was definitely a great start to the trip. We were a little nervous about running into some stereotypical snobby people while in Paris, but everyone was beautifully friendly. During our long trek of dragging our luggage to our hostel from the train station, we ran into many friendly faces helping us while “lost in Paris”. We finally met one older gentleman who pointed us into the right direction. He had lived in the area all his life, and explained to us some history about Paris. Boulevards always have trees, and since Paris wasn’t bombed during WWII, he feels like living in Paris is like living in a beautiful antique museum. With a friend from Alabama, he appreciated and poked fun at my southern roots. He also shared his excitement about Obama winning the election, which was a common theme when running into locals around the city. Maybe that’s why everyone was so nice to us Americans?

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Our new friend suggested a great restaurant recommendation called the Chartier, which is located in a beautiful historic building. He had been eating there for 20 years and promised it would be a great reasonable French meal. He was right! We dined on wine, steak, and cheese for around ten Euros a person during our last night in Paris. Luckily we missed the line wrapping around the outside of the restaurant waiting to be sat.

With our hostel being a five minute walk from the Moulin Rouge, I knew I was in the right place. The four of us in Albecpeta celebrated our first night with an adorable picnic consisting of wine, cheese, and grapes on our hostel floor.

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Our days were filled with visiting the Latin Quarter, Notre Dam, famous book stores, the opera house, strolling along the Sine river, exploring Montmartre, and other must do touristy things. My favorite moments were really embracing the Parisian atmosphere and relaxing at outside cafes with coffee and creeps. Nothing like some Albecpeta bonding while cafe hopping (and eating) in Paris! Thanks to Alana’s French speaking techniques traveling throughout the city was like a breeze.

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One of my favorite moments of the trip was Alana and Pete’s adorable attempt to plan a “surprise date” for Pete and I. Aren’t I so lucky to have such great friends? Though pretty obvious the whole time (Hey Pete, your on Facebook right? cue winky face), the thought was pretty spectacular. I guess it’s just something you have to do in the most romantic city in the world, right? Once we parted ways, Pete took me to this delicious hidden restaurant by the Royal Gardens. We shared wine that was agreed upon by both of us to be some of the best wine we’ve ever had…. Chevalier de Malle Graves Bordeaux 2008 if you need any wine suggestions. At the end of the night Pete decided to surprise Alana with flowers for helping him out with all of the planning. Major brownie points.

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We ended off the romantic night with the rest of Albecpeta by visiting the Eiffel tower. I always thought it would be cool, but I had no idea how breathtaking it would actually be. First off, it’s HUGE. Secondly, it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I’m so glad we got to see it at night, and every hour it even sparkles. Alana and I screamed like little girls the first time we saw it. All of us ventured to the very top to see the city from high above. I even got to fit in with Alana’s flowers with a few last minute roses from Pete at the tower. Some might say it’s because I’m a jealous brat, I just call myself lucky 🙂

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Another amazing thing I did in Paris was visiting the apartment my Dad’s grandmother lived in during her travel from Russia to Baltimore. My Aunt Becky also lived there, which was the person I was named after. It was really touching to be able to see that part of my family’s history. I really wish my parents were there to share it with me!

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Although Paris was just the beginning to an amazing week of adventures, we made some great memories that I’ll never forget. My time in Paris exceeded all of my expectations!

What a girl wants

In true Amanda Bynes style, I was off to the land of Harry Potter, Jane Austen, the Beatles, Shakespeare, James Bond, red telephone booths and funny accents….

Yes I was like a giddy schoolgirl as my Communications class headed off to London for the week. With my obsession with castles and royalty….I soon felt at home and was prepared to stalk William, Kate, and the rest of the royal family. Maybe more specifically Henry…in hopes to finally receive my official invite to join the Cambridge clan.

Our class started off with some bonding over a biking tour of the city. You can’t imagine how “excited” I was (refer back to Biking in Bornholm post…or any other entry explaining my love hate relationship with bicycles). However luckily London was FLAT, and the biking tour turned out to be quite enjoyable! It was actually one of my favorite parts of the trip. We roamed through where all of the Queens and Kings of the past and present have lived, taking the same trails as Queen Elizabeth and King Henry. We saw Buckingham and Kensington palace galore. Although in true style of my luck with bike rides, it began to rain towards the end of the tour. Either way we all still had a great time.

The next day we visited the well renowned Saatchi Gallery, which aims to provide publicity and space for contemporary unknown young artist to present their work. Afterwards we stuffed our faces at Jamie Oliver’s Italian Restaurant, a famous British chef featured on food network. I probably gain about 10 pounds each time I travel with DIS thanks to them spoiling us with food. Not complaining though.

On our way to our tour at BBC, I was lucky enough to be interviewed with some of my classmates about our first kisses for a BBC podcast. The star treatment continued as we were soon given an exclusive look into the BBC newsroom, famous studios, and celebrity dressing rooms. One of my favorite things about the tour was finding out how diva like some stars can be. For instance, Mariah Carey requested puppies to play with before her interview and Jennifer Lopez refused to sit on anything that wasn’t white. Guess she’s not Jenny from the block anymore? We ended the entertaining tour with a friendly game of trivia amongst our class. After a close tie with Amelia, I was crowned the winner. As a prize I won an antique and very valuable BBC pen.

Later that night my friend Kate took us to an adorable London residential area where she grew up. She also brought us to this great family Italian restaurant, which use to be one of Princess Diana’s favorites! While in London I got to see my friends Zacc and Emma, which was awesome! Emma took me out to this exclusive club, and to our luck the recent Olympic crew gold medalist team joined us. They had just come from a party hosted by the Queen, so they were decked out in their Olympic gear. I finally got my chance to wear the Olympic gold!

I loved visiting 3 Fish in a tree while in London, which is a small yet very successful communication and creativity, design, and branding company. I enjoyed the family feel of the company, and they produced some amazing simple yet powerful designs for clients around the London area. They work great as a team, and everyone is expected to voice their opinion on every project. One thing that really stuck with me was when I asked about what they look for in an applicant. They emphasized that although your resume really matters, your personality might sometimes be the thing to get you the job.

One day our class took a day trip to Stonehenge and the Roman Baths. Both were  interesting and beautiful sites to see. It’s still a mystery why the stones stand in Stonehenge today. Some in our class would say aliens perhaps? I was particularly amazed by the well-reserved Roman Baths, which date back to the 19th century. Its naturally heated water makes it one of the seven natural wonders to see in the world.  Afterwards we had some time to explore the town of Bath, which was an absolutely beautiful small and quaint English city.

Visiting the Lords Cricket Ground later in the week gave me a glimpse back to my time spent studying abroad in Barbados. In both places cricket is extremely popular, however the cricket lifestyle in England is completely different. It’s an all day high-class event that can last up to 5 days. During the day people only take breaks for breakfast, tea, lunch, and even dinner.

Amongst studying the European trends in communications through business visits and class lectures, we were given the chance to also be a true tourist. Some of my favorites included Saint Paul’s church, where Princess Diana was married, as well as Shakespeare’s round opera house and Big Ben.

Abbey Road definitely wins for best touristy picture. Let me tell you a little about Abbey Road. It’s an actual road. So while tourist line up to get their perfect picture, there is ongoing traffic. You can imagine the chaos. I bet everyone in that neighborhood hates obnoxious Facebook picture alcoholics like us.

Favorite nighttime activity: seeing Mamma Mia on London Broadway! We treated ourselves to some show tickets. It was totally worth it!

Favorite meal: Chipotle. Finally got my Mexican fix. We traveled all over to London to find it, and no I’m not ashamed.

Between group tea dates, a London eye ride, and other shenanigans, our communications class really became a big family. DIS did a great job providing opportunities to see aspects of the London communication field that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Along with that, we had some great opportunities to site see, eat food we can’t afford, and get to know each other better. Towards the end of the trip we were totally delusional from exhaustion, which made for an entertaining last day in the big city.

Similar to the rest of my travels, even though I love them all it just reminds me of how much I REALLY love Copenhagen. London was so big and exciting, but a little overwhelming at times. I missed Copenhagen’s more livable small city feel. I also missed seeing the sun (the weather while in London was a tad rubbish), and I felt like I spent all my time on the tube. In London it’s ALL about the tube. Those Britts just have to keep calm and carry on…but I’ll stay in Copenhagen please!

Stepping outside the classroom

Sorry it has been so long since my last post! DIS really knows how to keep you busy! One thing I really love about the DIS program is how they take what you learn in class, and then offer opportunities for you to receive hands on experiences beyond the textbook.

Being Jewish, it was an extremely special experience to travel with my holocaust and genocide class to Hamburg, Germany to explore and discuss the events that happened there during WWII.

I’ve obviously been taught about the holocaust for years, but actually stepping foot where some of these things took place was a somewhat eerie, yet important and an extremely special experience for me.

Our first stop was to Bullenhuser Damn School, where 20 Jewish children were killed in fear that they knew too much about the mental experiments forced upon them at Neuengamme concentration camp. Along with the children included the deaths of their four adult Jewish caretakers and six Red Army prisoners of war. Today the school is used as a kindergarten, however there are subtle monuments in place to remember the lives that were lost during this terrible incident. One of the most disturbing things I learned here was that the Nazi officers were forced to pull the children down while they were being hung since the children were too skinny from starvation. It’s always extra disturbing to learn about the innocent lives of children that were taken during these terrible events.

We also visited Nicolai Kirche, one of the only landmarks to survive the bombings that took place in Hamburg during the war, which is now used as a memorial to the death and destruction of WWII. Hamburg served as a strategic port city during the Nazi regime, thus making it a prime target for Allied bombings. Our teacher taught us about “Operation Commorach”, an Allied firestorm that resulted in the death of 46,000 Germans. Here we discussed that in Europe, it is seen as “taboo” to describe the Germans as victims during the war. However, many innocent German lives were lost during events similar to the one that took place in Hamburg.

Rubble and destruction in Germany was normal back then, and our teacher described moments as a child while traveling through Germany and witnessing all of the destruction and families without homes. Danish citizens could even see the fire from the bombings in Hamburg from the coast of Denmark. Millions of refugees from these bombings were left without help due to the fact that most countries refused to help Germany. Events like these are examples of the world hopefully learning from history, for strategic bombings on full cities do not take place today. It was definitely interesting to look at WWII through a totally different complex.

The most touching visit on the trip was to Neuengamme Concentration Camp, which was a forced labor camp used by the Nazis during the war. Our teacher, an amazing historian, took us around and gave us a private tour of the grounds with room for stories and reflection. The ride into the camp from our tour bus was extremely upsetting. While passing through cute and quaint towns, you suddenly enter the concentration camp gate. We learned that residents in these neighborhoods knew about the events that took place at the camps, and children even used the torture of prisoners as entertainment on their way home from school. While discovering more about the camp, our teacher helped us reflect on the daily dilemmas that campers faced. For example, since prisoners only received one piece of bread each morning, one would weigh the options of either eating it all at once, or saving one piece for inspiration to survive throughout the day. However, having that half piece of bread stolen was a constant worry…since food was a rare commodity. These simple decisions are things I know I will never be able to truly relate to, but it makes me feel so fortunate for my life today.

The conditions of the campers were completely unbearable. The little food they were given was rotten leftovers that the surrounding farmers refused to feed their pigs. What really hit me the most was touring the camp cellar. During air-raid alerts towards the end of the war, thousands of prisoners were herded into the cellar vaults. Many lost their lives in the resulting crush or at the hands of the SS during such alerts. While listening to interviews from surviving prisoners, these events were sometimes the most violent incidences that took place at camp. There weren’t many surviving prisoners left, with around 50% of the campers reaching their death during their stay at Neuengamme.

Although this wasn’t your typical “European travel vacation”, I feel so fortunate to have shared the experience of visiting these important places with a historian who is truly inspired by teaching and providing hands on experiences for his students. It will definitely be something I’ll never forget.

Austria’s biggest fan

Vienna was a great end to our amazing first week of independent travel. We saw many beautiful things, learned a few life lessons, met some more friendly Austrians (and Australians for that matter), got to know each other better, and most importantly I took a shot that was on fire.

Kelsey and Caroline, some of Kate’s friends, joined us in our hostel. I’m so glad that I was able to meet them, and we all had so much fun exploring the city together. Random side note: did you know that Kate and I are middle name twins? We both are the only people we know with the middle name Lillian. Just a fun fact.

Our first day in Vienna started off as an emotional roller coaster. I think that my obnoxious uploading of pictures proves how much I love my camera. Walking throughout Vienna is overwhelming, everything is so beautiful and you want a picture of everything. With us girls being so ridiculously good looking, you can only imagine how intensified this overwhelming factor was. Needless to say, and to make a long story short, my poor and innocent camera got caught in a crossfire of photo confusion. After being dropped, my lens unfortunately came to its tragic demise. Luckily with the help of some great friends, I avoided a total personal meltdown and made it my mission to find a Canon store. Literally the first Austrians we ran into informed us that there was a Canon store right up the road. What were the chances? Can’t help to think that the camera gods were looking down on me. The theme of Austrian friendliness helped to my advantage when the Canon storeowner gave me a discount on a new lens. I kept staying positive and was really thankful I still had a camera to use for the rest of the trip!

After the drama, we decided to relax at a cafe for lunch. The cafe ladies overheard about our rough day and gave us free strudel to try! Please Austrians…could you try to be any nicer?

Touring the State Opera House was probably my favorite thing about Vienna. I felt like I was living straight out of scenes from my favorite musical, The Phantom of the Opera. It was so cool to be roaming around where Mozart and Beethoven first played their famous concerts. Not only beautiful, but the opera house had some great stories. When first opened, they warmed the theater by using body heat from 200 marching soldiers two hours before show time. Eventually people complained of the smell.

Second favorite place: the Imperial Palace. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a girl that loves her a good castle. Well, so far, this was the most extravagant castle I have ever seen. The grounds were gorgeous, and we all were speechless as we wondered around the gardens.

On a different note, remember that time I said I took a shot that was on fire? That was at Travel Shack, a bar meant to be a common spot for people traveling through Vienna. Besides the fun and delicious shots of different flavors and “themes”, our time spent at Travel Shack added a lot to our culture immersion for the week. (I promise mom and dad!) We were able to meet a lot of people from all over the world, but especially Australians. Australians run wild throughout Europe, I don’t know how they all find so much time to travel. I’m jealous!

There was a running joke with my friends about my so called “southern charm”. With their northern background, we all started to realize some funny differences between one another. While they might seem a little more stand offish, they teased me for being too open when meeting people for the first time. Some might just say that I’m adorably friendly. And I argue that Amelia is just as friendly if the “stranger” happens to be a male and happens to have an Australian accent. Either way, my “southern charm” helped me make some great new friends in Vienna. My favorite was the owner of a coffee shop right down the road from our hostel. After a few days of friendly conversation, our short-lived friendship came to an end, with a surprise free croissant included. Gotta thank my mom for raising me with some southern charm, it sure can come in handy!

On our train ride back to Prague, I realized something. Babies bring everyone together. No matter where your from and what language you speak, babies have this special ability. In our train car, Amelia and I sat with a random variety of Czechs and Austrians. At first things were a little quiet and awkward. Then this one baby arrived. He was just so incredibly cute that during the rest of the five-hour train ride we all giggled and played with the baby together. Afterwards, although we didn’t speak the same language, we all had this weird closeness and shared a warm goodbye. In conclusion, I believe babies can solve world peace.

Even though it was sad that our travel break had to come to an end, we were very ready to return to our lives back in Copenhagen. My obsession with Copenhagen has come to the point where it was comforting to hear people speak Danish on our flight home. We were so happy once we landed on Denmark soil, even though I have to admit, I didn’t quite miss the weather. Either way, you just have to love Copenhagen.

So glad I made it back from traveling in one piece! Next adventure is Germany this weekend for my Holocaust class. Oh, and my parents come next week! Life couldn’t get better 🙂

The hills are aliveee

Salzburg, Austria is the most beautiful place I have ever seen in my life (so far). Salzburg is home to the birthplace of Mozart, where Sound of Music was filmed, Einstein did many presentations here, “Oh Holy Night” was written here, and it is even where Red Bull has their headquarters. (The owner of Red Bull lives in a castle in the middle of Salzburg, pretty random.)

Kate, Amelia, and I began our journey to Salzburg from Prague in true Sound of Music fashion. During our train ride, we decided to download the movie onto Kate’s iPad in order to study up for our tour the next day. Our train ride began with beautiful scenery; we were even fortunate enough to see the sun set over the rolling hills of Austria’s country side.

It was early on that we realized just how friendly Austrians are. The first friend we made was a train conductor, who sat down with us during part of our journey. He told us all about skiing and snowboarding in Austria, and even showed off pictures of his one American possession, a Harley motorcycle. From then on we referred to him as our Austrian father. We were lucky to have such friendly Austrians around during our journey, since our trip to Salzburg included jumping from five different trains with four connections. Sometimes we would get off one train, and have about three minutes to figure out how to get to the other one, at train stations in the middle of no where, where no one spoke English. Lets just say it was a journey. We were lucky enough to meet another friendly train conductor who offered to fill up our water bottles for free in between one of our connections (for those who don’t know…water can be an expensive commodity in Europe).

The Austrians kindness was key during a (now hilarious…then not so much) mistake we made during one of our train connections. We accidentally got off one stop early, and found ourselves in the middle of an industrial Austria town surrounded by factories. The only sign of civilization was a trucker bar around the corner. In need to make our next train connection, we ventured inside looking for help. The whole bar went silent as everyone stared at the over dressed lost Americans with luggage. It was basically straight out of a movie. Luckily the woman bartender called us a taxi immediately, and we were able to make it safely to our original destination. Definitely had to get some McDonald’s for comfort food once we arrived though. In the words of Amelia: “I came, I saw, and I conquered that bitch” #thuglife. I know we will never forget our journey to Linz train station.

Once we finally made it to Salzburg after a long day of traveling, we were warmly welcomed by an amazing hostel with great staff, awesome roommates from around the world, and even better we arrived just in time for happy hour. I know we needed it!

During our time in Salzburg we took the Sound of Music tour. Jealous? Figured you would be. During our trip we saw the largest fortress in central Europe, the oldest monastery in northern Europe, and amazing views of the Alps. It was refreshing to see the countryside, which was a unique experience to just traveling throughout European cities. There is so much history in Salzburg, and we were able to see things built in as early as the 12 century. Many of their buildings were an “imperial yellow”, a beautiful and popular color used for royal buildings in Austria.

Our Sound of Music tour guide loved us  (obviously, who wouldn’t). We were by far his favorite, and were always so enthusiastic about everything…including singing along to the Sound of Music soundtrack. It was fun to see where different scenes from the movie took place, and learn the true story behind the Von Trapp family. For example, in real life the Von Trapp family actually took a train to Italy in order to escape the Nazis. If they climbed over the mountains like in the movie, they would have ran right into one of Hitler’s properties. Funny side note: during one of our heart to hearts with our new best friend the tour guide, we found out he had only seen the movie twice! It’s ok; we still loved him and promised to keep it our little secret.

The tour not only focused on the movie, but also was a great way to learn more about the culture of Salzburg, and was the perfect transportation to view the absolutely breathtaking views of the countryside. One thing I found to be most interesting about Salzburg, and Austria in general, is the stone plaques placed throughout the city in exact places where the Nazis shot victims. They are used as a remembrance of victims from the Holocaust, and our tour guide emphasized how important the Austrians found it to not forget that dark part of their history. We all found this to be very touching.

The whole tour experience was magical (corny but true). We listened to the Sound of Music soundtrack and works of Mozart as we drove through the mountains and over the lakes. Saint Wolfgang Lake is the most beautiful lake I’ve ever seen, I’ve never seen water so deep blue! The leaves were changing colors for fall, which just added to the beautiful landscape. I can see how Austria is known for their classical music with all this great inspirational scenery surrounding the town. It made all of the drama during our train ride adventures to Salzburg so incredibly worth it. At the end of our tour we were able to walk around Moon lake town, a small quaint area known for their apple strudel (best with vanilla ice-cream on top). We also were able to see the breathtaking church where the wedding scene from the Sound of Music took place.

After our tour I continued my role as the restaurant finder (goes perfectly with my obsession over food) and I took everyone to this hole in the wall family Italian restaurant. Fine, I will give some credit to my Lonely Planet travel book. Homemade pasta is made here every day! I ordered seafood pasta with white wine sauce…and complimented it with some white wine, of course. It was absolutely delicious!

Before we left we stopped by Mozart’s old apartment and hung out with him for a bit. He is pretty cool. (A little uptight though in my opinion.)

After our amazing experience in Austria, we could not wait to see what Vienna had in store for us!

Czech me out

Did you know Americans are some of the only ones to come up with “new names” for cities? This can make for a VERY confused traveler. (Praha is Prague, Wien is Vienna.) All I needed was more confusion, I was already pretty nervous about planning my first week of independent travel….hostel hopping throughout Europe. However I had some great friends to help, and we took off last week for Prague, Salzburg, and Vienna…with no idea of how many adventures there were in store!

Here are some excerpts and random thoughts from our fabulous time in Praha:

Tara, Amelia, and I started things off right with Czech Airlines… our complimentary wine made us feel so adult. Also, most legroom in a flight that I’ve EVER had. This was definitely a pleasant surprise. Once we arrived to the Czech Republic, we realized we were not in Denmark anymore. People talk on public transportation? There aren’t blonde Barbie dolls running around everywhere? Also…Prague has scary escalators! They are about four stories tall and go so fast. Something you can’t even explain without seeing them.

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Prague is a fairy tale city. Literally…I learned that lots of Disney World was based off Prague’s atmosphere and unreal architecture. I kind of felt like I was wondering around Bush Gardens. At night the bridge, castle, and city lights lit up over the water has been ranked one of the top most romantic places to go in the world. Now I can understand why the Czechs PDA like animals. One of the most romantic things I’ve ever seen was on Prague’s Charles Bridge, where couples monogram their initials onto a locket and leave it on the bridge. They then throw the key into the water, symbolizing that their love can never be broken. It was an amazing thing to see.

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Hostel hopping is an experience…(emphasis on the experience). Didn’t think I would ever be able to handle sharing bathrooms…and even bedrooms…with strangers. But it’s actually a really unique concept that somehow just kind of works. Our first night in Prague we had a middle aged couple as roommates. Caught us off guard at first but they were so nice and you have to give them props for traveling around Europe together at this point of their life, especially in hostels. I can only hope my future husband and I are as cool!

I miss traveling with my parents. Ok, ok I said it. I’d have them take care of money conversions, finding things on the map, figuring out a place to stay, and more any day. Amelia and I entered complete culture shock while trying to figure out buying a transportation pass for the Czech metro. You can only use coins? The machine doesn’t work? No one speaks English? Oh and not to mention the drama we had trying to purchase a train ticket to Salzburg thanks to the language barrier. Even though it was difficult we always figured it out every time, and it was obviously a great learning experience. And anyways, it was nothing a Starbucks couldn’t cure! (Yes Prague has Starbucks THANK GOD.)

The best news ever: The Czech Republic’s liquor prohibition ended literally JUST in time for our arrival. Shots all around! The restaurants were also making their drinks extra strong out of celebration. You know we weren’t complaining!

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One of my favorite things about Prague…we felt like we could afford things for once! No more expensive Copenhagen. We spoiled ourselves with delicious food…and basically ate like kings all weekend. Beer was cheaper than water. Water was cheap in general. And we could eat something more delicious than an eight-dollar sandwich (no offense Copenhagen). One night we spent around $15 American dollars each for two cosmopolitans, a traditional and delicious Czech dinner (Goulash- meat stew and potatoes, also known as the “Czech Big Mac”), and dessert. In addition we were in a beautiful candle lit dungeon restaurant. Don’t mind if I do!

During our time in Prague we were lucky enough to meet up with some of Tara’s friends who were studying abroad in the city. They showed us to the best restaurants and bars, and gave us a glimpse of Czech culture. Czechs are always late, which is SO unlike the Danes. Similar to the Danes, Czechs are very reserved until you meet them. However in my opinion, Danes in general are a lot warmer people. I missed my Danes!

A few things about the first bar we went to: I had the best beer in my life, which was grapefruit flavored. They constantly played Aerosmith, which really excited me, made me feel at home, and also made me really miss my mom.

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One day we headed to the Czech suburbs to watch our friend Tara’s cousin play on Prague’s baseball league. Talk about going back in time…all of the neighborhoods looked like they were stuck about 20 years ago. It was an experience for sure. However being at the game was great, and we had the greatest meal ever with beer and the best chicken I’ve had in Europe for a whopping four dollars. And our team won so we got to celebrate their championship status! We were lucky to be able to see a different side to Prague.

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Thanks to Tara’s cousin we were able to have our own personal tour guide while exploring the city. He showed us the Absinthe Museum, where I got a delicious Absinthe smoothie (flashback to my favorite movie Moulin Rouge). We saw the John Lennon expression wall, which was used for Czechs to express themselves during the communism period. Even though it was painted over every morning back then, people kept returning with beautiful artwork. Amelia wrote a great quote: “The shadow proves the sunshine”. With traveling Europe after her second torn ACL surgery, along with more I’ve learned as I’ve gotten to know her better, this quote really reflected how strong of a person she is. I can definitely live by this quote! She really is an inspiration…you just have got to love her (#thuglife). Lets not forget Kate, who you’ll hear more about it later post. She met us towards the end of our time in Prague and made our adventures even that much more amazing. I’ve been so lucky to be making such great friends.

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At night we went to the biggest club in central Europe, complete with 5 dance floors all bearing different themes (house music, radio hits, oldies, disco, ice bar, etc). It was like a Chuck E. Cheese for drunken adults. We obviously spent all of our time on the oldies floor. Even met some people that went to Chapel Hill! Can’t get over how small our world can be…

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My new mission: to find a Mexican restaurant in every European country I travel to. I know its pathetic but if you knew me and how much I love Mexican food, you’d understand. Thanks to my lonely planet travel guide I was able to find the BEST Mexican place, finally got my fix for some chicken enchiladas, and I was the happiest girl in the world.

I had some time to catch up with my Jewish heritage while in Prague. Prague has a whole “Jewish Quarter” section with some extremely interesting history that I was not aware of. The oldest Jewish cemetery exist here because during WWII, Hitler ordered for nothing to be bombed there in plans to turn it into a Jewish museum after his planned domination. It was great of my friends Kate and Amelia to come with me to check everything out.

Some things we missed about Copenhagen: quiet metro systems that don’t make you feel like your ear is about to burst, bikes, blondes, and fashion (bless their hearts but Czechs don’t compare to the fashionable Danes. It’s not the 80s anymore). Copenhagen has seriously become a security blanket, and with all of this traveling all of us realized just how much we consider it home.

Our motto for the trip, created by the one and only Amelia: YOPO! (Your only in Prague once). However, I mistakenly said POLO once…so that was kind of what we stuck to for the rest of the trip. Either way, we were only in Prague once and we defiantly made the most of our time there!

Keep an eye out for future posts on our time in Salzburg and Vienna…

Becca takes Bornholm

My friends at home would laugh if they heard me say I biked 70 kilometers (around 44 miles) this weekend. Well believe it because it totally happened…and to everyone’s amazement I’m still alive.

It all started off with wanting to sign up for a nice weekend biking trip to beautiful Bornholm, the supposed “flat” island off the coast of Sweden. Bornholm has been known to be Denmark’s most prized possessions, featuring sea cliffs, adorable towns, castles, famous glass handcrafts, and beaches with some of the finest sand in the world (used for hourglasses)…which are all available for enjoyment on just the seat of your bicycle. These bike paths have been praised as Northern Europe’s best and most beautiful.

Albecpeta (refer to last post) was in for a big surprise. First problem: Bornholm is not flat. My idea of effortlessly pedaling around a beautiful European island with an ice cream in one hand and taking pictures in the other was quickly forgotten.

Second problem: Although very beautiful, the weather did not always cooperate. A few rainstorms got in the way of our biking adventure. Not to mention wind, which of course blew against us. With the help of Albecpeta’s positive attitude, and my handy-dandy clunky helmet, we didn’t let the random rainstorms get in the way.

On Saturday, after doing a little shopping at Baltic Sea Glass, we headed north to explore the island. Our first trip was to Helligdomsklipperne, “The Sacred Cliffs”. Beautiful scenery, and the perfect place for we lazy Americans to rest on the rocks from an already tiring bike ride.

Afterwards, since Albecpeta is always hungry, we decided to venture further north to a popular town for some lunch. Some of us wanted to try ‘finger eating’ a warm smoked herring, one of Bornholm’s delicacies. After the long trek (mostly uphill), we figured out Bornholm was very similar to a place like Cape Cod. Beautiful all year round, but dead during off-season. We finally found the only restaurant in town that was open. To our luck it was the perfect hyggely (cozy) environment for exhausted bikers wet from the rain. We shared hot chocolate in cute little teacups and had one of the most delicious warm meals I’ve had so far out in Denmark (big servings too for a change!).

To be honest, by this time Albecpeta was pretty fed up with biking. We even considered changing the trip from “biking in Bornholm” to “busing in Bornholm”. In the end we sucked it up and biked all the way back to our hostel. Never thought I would get to the point where I considered a downhill before an uphill as rewarding as something equivalent to winning a $100 gift certificate to J-Crew.

Once we arrived my body was in shock…and pretty confused from the athletic stunt I had pulled. Did Albecpeta join the rest of the group at bars around Bornholm? No…we actually feel asleep at 8:30. Crazy night right?

Lets just say I woke up in the morning with not so friendly feelings towards my bicycle. Once Albecpeta discovered the southern town Svaneke was known for it’s microbreweries and homemade ice cream…we just knew it was the right place for us to be. So…we headed south. After the biking trek there we figured we deserved a “beer brunch”, sampling all of the different flavors the brewery had to offer. Definitely a treat from the cheap beer we’ve grown accustomed to back at home. Homemade ice cream afterwards played the perfect role for some emotional eating after an exhausting weekend that wasn’t over quite yet.

After our trip to the city, I decided to depart from my Albecpeta comrades and go solo on a bike path along the coast for my way home. Before this trip, I would have never wanted to take a long bike ride in a foreign country (or anywhere for that matter) by myself. I can tell how independent I’ve already become from just one month of studying abroad. My hour and a half ride back to the hostel was the most enjoyable time I had on my bike during the weekend. I was able to take my time and stop to explore the coastline and take pictures (including many great solo shots of me, myself, and I). It was also nice not to have to compare myself to the more athletic members in Albecpeta….aka everyone but myself.

I encountered some major “shuffle shame” while listening to my iPod, and was revisited by some old friends including, but not limited to, the Backstreet Boys, N’Sync, Shaggy….the list goes on. Definitely played “Space Cowboy” about four times on repeat, and found it to be a real source of biking inspiration.

The countryside and coastline of Bornholm is absolutely beautiful, and my time biking alone was a great time for some self and life reflections. It turned out to be the perfect end to a weekend with a major case of ups and downs. And luckily, my bike and I ended the weekend with a respectful friendship.

Ya’ll, I think my un-athletic self deserves a round of applause.