Sunday, November 27, 2011


Hey Everyone! 

I hope you had a fantastic Thanksgiving, or Thanksgiving Break.

I'm getting pretty behind on talking about my travel break... which is a bummer because things keep happening and I keep doing things that would be interesting to blog about... So hopefully I'll get to those eventually I guess. Until then, Salzburg!

Okay, Salzburg is the fourth largest city in Austria and is still not very big. It is very close to the border of Germany and is very touristy. It is also where the Sound of Music is based (for those of you who don't know). There is a lot of natural beauty ("hills are alive") and the city of Salzburg's economy is strongly supported by tourism. The city (and region) were initially strongly connected to the Bavarian Empire but later gained independence and were then acquired by the Austrian Empire (more on that later).

The weather while I was there was really nice (sunny and pretty warm). And I saw a good amount of Americans (like families with older kids) going around, which I was surprised at for the time of year. 

Okay, my Salzburg adventure started on the train ride from Vienna (This is on Friday). It was super foggy and then all the sudden it just ended, like there was a very clear wall of fog that we all the sudden exited and then there were blue skies. So then it was very pretty (imagine lots of small towns tucked away in valleys between huge hills). I arrived at Salzburg and made my way to my hostel (which was filled with a lot of Americans and was very suited to youth). After I got settled I took my guide book (borrowed from my friend) and headed towards old town which is where the large majority of things to see are located. 

I walked along the Salt River (named that because a ton of salt used to be transported along that river and was a huge source of profit for the region centuries ago). The city has a huge mountain-hill in the middle which has a fortress on top of it, the large majority of the old town is in the shadow of the fortress and up against the river. So I crossed the river and walked through old town.
Pretty much exactly what it looked like for me on the walk towards Old Town

I started in Mozartplatz which is a square with a statue of Motzart in the middle. Mozart was born in Salzburg (and spent his first 25 years there) and of course the city likes to recognize that. There are two touristy things in Salzburg for him, his residence and his birthplace. I did not go to either but I hear that his residence is pretty interesting. 

Anyway, I continued to the Residenceplatz which has on either side of it the Old and New Residences, which I think are like government type buildings. The New Residence houses the Salzburg museum which I would be returning to later. The top of the building also has an artsy upside down metal heart in flames which is to symbolize God's love for all creations. Inside the heart there are some small bells (7 I believe) which ring out songs that are appropriate to the season (prolly chiming Christmas tunes right now).

I continued on to the Salzburg Cathedral which was enormous and impressive. 
 (View of the Cathedral from the front, statue of Mary beckoning people into the square towards the cathedral)
There is a central dome towards the back of the cathedral with four organs at each corner of the area (Mozart played them when he was younger and living in Salzburg). It was really impressive and a nice place to visit (as cathedrals normally go). It also had three dates in the front. 774 was when the area either decided the cathedral was to be built or it was finished or something. It was a big deal then because it meant that you were recognized as an official providence of the Holy Roman Empire. 1628 was when the cathedral had to be rebuilt due to a fire. Lastly, 1959 was when there was a large amount of repairs done on the building because a WWII bomb had blasted a hole in the dome.
 (Inside of the cathedral, in this picture you can see two of the four organs)

I left the cathedral and went to St. Peter's cemetery and then church. The cemetery was small and quiet and the church was dark and crazy. 

(Church interior, it was darker when I was there...)

Anyway I found myself at Universitatsplatz which has a market everyday (especially on Saturday and Wednesday) except for Sunday. There were locals selling produce (I actually walked through here the next day (on Saturday) and it was much busier).

I then walked down Getreidegasse which is a shopping street with neat wrought iron signs. It was packed and had tons of types of shops, as well as alleys (remaining from the medieval origin of the street) which had more shops tucked inside of them. So this was a pretty neat area and basically ended my tour of old town as it brought me in a huge circle through Old Town. 
(Getreidegasse; it was even busier when I was there)
It was starting to get a little dark and I wasn't feeling that well so I went back to the hostel to chill out. I met this Canadian guy and this Japanese guy playing wii sports. They were nice enough. I got some dinner and then went to my room to read (I was still not feeling well). I then met my three roommates for the night. They were three girls, two from Taiwan and one from Malaysia. They wanted pretty much nothing to do with me and were very uninterested in talking to me (They mostly were on their phones...). Then they started playing cards and didn't even bother to ask if I wanted to join... I did not like them. Whatever, they left the next day. And that was my first day in Salzburg.

The next morning (Saturday) I woke up and headed for the fortress but took the long way because I wanted to see another cemetery which was bigger and had lots of neat things.


After that I walked down a modern shopping street, into old town, and then to the base of the hill that the fortress is on. Having the option for an overpriced ride up an elevator thing or a hike with good views I choose the hike (of course). I thought I could get in for free if I hiked but that was not true, I had to buy some fortress pass to get admission to all the museums in the fortress (I was not planning on visiting them) so that was annoying. I explored the fortress and took some pictures and took in the view (gave really nice views of the city on either side of the fortress and of the surrounding countryside). Then I went to a museum which was pretty interesting. It had old weapons, tourture instruments, musical instruments among other things from the fortress. Also some information about life in the fortress. 

After that I opted for a walk through Monchsberg which is another part of the mountain-hill that the fortress is on. It is really pretty and some people (presumably really rich) have houses up there. There were some old outposts and some cafes on top of the cliffs. It was a good time. I eventually got to a museum of modern art and took a much more reasonably priced elevator ride down (was the only way down at that point of the walk). Then I found some lunch at this kooky cafe that had an African theme. It was extremely delicious. 
Then I went to the Salzburg museum and that was pretty cool. I got some background to the region. Many artists have been inspired by the natural beauty there so there were a couple rooms devoted to paintings of the region. There was also information about the religious artifacts from that area throughout history. The region was pretty rich until the early 19th century which is when Austira acquired it. It struggled for awhile and in the mid-1800s it built its central station which is when the whole tourism industry started. This brought wealth the region once more and is a very obvious part of the city today. 

Then I went to the Salzburg Panorama which an artist did just to do a 360 painting of the city and surrounding country from the fortress because he loved it so much. It was not really that exciting. There was a temporary exhibit on the real Von Trapp family (the family from the Sound of Music). It was kind of depressing because the real Von Trapp family's story is pretty different from the one told in the movie. The man (Mr. Von Trapp) was in WWI and was an important military person. He had hard times once the war was over, so he and his family started a singing group (in Salzburg) that eventually made its way to America and did performances (and were quite successful) there. I think they were just called the Von Trapp family (side note, some of the grand children have started a musical group called something like the new Von Trapp group or something). The mother of the family I think was actually somewhat disappointed in the movie's fictional take on their life. There was also a Sound of Music tour (focused on the movie not the real life), that takes you to see many of the main sights. It is actually supposed to be pretty good but was crazy expensive and I didn't have time for it (plus I was not that interested anyway). Also, according to this exhibit, if you were to ask locals about the movie, most will not even know what you're talking about.
I then headed over to the Mirabell Gardens just to see it. There are scenes from the Sound of Music here and you can tell why. It is a very nice garden area. There is also a palace where I think they have museum things and also concerts at night.
Then I went back to the hostel (it was dark) and I met my new roommates. They were pretty cool, they had just arrived, there was one guy from Argentina, one guy from Chile, and one guy from Sweden. They were friends and they were trying to see Salzburg in one day. I gave them some info on the things to see as best I could and then I left to go get some dinner. I went to a cozy restaurant and got some dinner. Then I went over to a cafe to chill. I got a monstrous (and delicious) ice cream dessert (I did not realize that it was going to be so huge). A DJ showed up so there was some music. It was nice to hang out there but I left after awhile because the place was starting to fill up and I felt bad for taking up a table. 

I went back to the hostel and just hung out in the lounge as a lot of other people were doing. There isn't that much to do in Salzburg at night. At other times of the year different things are opened late but at this time there are only classical music concerts (which I already did in Vienna and are pricey) and the bars are pretty local and small (if I were more adventurous perhaps I would have found a bar and tried to chat up a local I guess). 

Anyway, I just hung out and crashed. The next morning, I packed up and checked out and went to the train station where I stored all my crap. Then I walked back to old town (again...) and went to the cathedral for church! I wanted to hear the music because I heard that it was really good. The mass was entirely in German, but the choir was really really good (Random fact: this city has like thirty something Catholic churches). Then I left and was feeling not too good so I just got myself to Munich and the hostel and took it easy. The train ride was really pretty, it was pretty much entirely through Southern Germany, which featured more small towns tucked against hills. Many of the houses had solar panels on the roofs (which was awesome). 

So overall, Salzburg, pretty darn touristy, but very pretty. You can spend a full day there and see a lot that there is to see, but if you want to do everything I would recommend two to three full days. There are also things in the surrounding area (including Sound of Music sights) that are apparently worth seeing but I did not make it to any of them.

Anyway, next time I'll tell you guys about Munich! 


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Vienna (Part II)

Okay so, Vienna, continuing! (Also I added some pictures because I'm sure all my text is boring. These are all pictures from the internet since I can't access my pictures yet.)

On Wednesday we woke up and had breakfast at the hostel. Then we went on a walking tour around Vienna using my friend's guide book to help us.

We began at the Opera house which is a very fancy Opera house that they hold Operas in (I think basically every single night). They are expensive and classy and the inside of the Opera house is really nice as I would later find out. This is another very Austrian thing as it is classy and artsy.

Opera House

We then kept walking as my friend filled me in on little history tidbits. We found the Monument Against War and Fascism which reflected the dark years under Nazi rule. It was a gruesome Monument with terrible and surreal portrayals carved into it (I have a few pictures of it). This monument also serves to recognize many of the Jews who died during the Holocaust. In that region of Europe there are of course places in each city that serve as a memory to the terrible things that happened in WWII (and throughout a long period of history but I think this monument was mostly to the victims of WWII).

After that we continued to walk around and found the shopping street (quite a change of pace). It was filled with people and all sorts of shops, therefore it was mostly fun to just see the shopping street. After that we went to the Kaisergruft which had the imperial crypt underneath it. I got a lot of pictures of this because there were a ton of crazy coffins. Some were really huge (and some were really recent) and had these massive depictions of death and nobility on them. It was pretty cool. There were also some relics which had some bones wrapped in gold and other fancy things (which wigged me out).

 Creepy Imperial Coffin (I took many more pictures)

We left the crypt and arrived at Neuer Markt which is a market area which is just a bunch of shops with a famous fountain in the middle. There are four figures on the fountain that symbolize the four rivers that flow into the Danube (the big river in the region). Apparently many of the buildings around the fountain were destroyed in WWII and then rebuilt so I have no idea how this fountain survived, but it did.

We continued walking and were approached by a man dressed up to look kind of fancy and he wanted to sell us tickets to a classical music concert happening the next night. We told him that we would have to think about it and he was obviously desperate to sell them (he prolly got commission if he sold tickets) so he came back to us and said that he cleared it that he could give the tickets to us at a huge discount. So we bought some concert tickets for the following night. In the future we were also approached by many of these people and they were all over the popular tourist places like the cathedral and near the opera house. But anyway, we then went to the St. Stevens cathedral, which was huge and gothic and impressive. We were able to take a elevator up to the bell tower which gave views of the city... which honestly were not that impressive but still kind of cool.

 Ohh, awww, catherdal.

We then went to a walking street called Graben which featured more shops (pretty similar to the other shopping street). It was very fancy for the most part. We went into a local grocery store and got a cheap lunch. In this area there was a monument called the holy trinity plague column which features another depiction of a noble pleading for God, Jesus, and the holy spirit to save the city and its inhabitants from the plague. The man who erected the statue (as a thank you for sparing the city and who is on the monument) is Leopold and can be easily identified by his under bite (a result of the inbreeding that occurred in the royal families at that time), which I thought was hilarious.

We then went to St. Peter's Church which was easily one of my favorite churches that I saw the entire trip. It was right off of Graben and was Baroque and impressive. This church was also commissioned by Leopold as a thank you for surviving the plague.

 (look how crazy...)

We then got to Kohlmark which was another really fancy shopping street with a ton of really nice and expensive places. Yeah... okay moving on.

We ended up in Michaelerplatz which is dominated by the Hofburg Place on one side of the square. In the square there was also St. Michaels church which featured another crypt I would be returning to later. The Hofburg also has four depictions of Hercules in the front of it doing different things. From what I could tell he was helping Promethus in one, killing a hydra in another and in the other two he was doing something else he was known for (there's a little bit of old propaganda for you).

We then went in to the Hofburg palace which is where the Habsburgs lived and ruled from. It was their own, private, really fancy and huge, separated place, right in the middle of the city. The Palace has many things such as the Spanish Riding School, the Royal Apartments, some other fancy museums, and gardens. We went to the royal apartments and bought a pass that would allow us to see a package of Habsburg things in the next few days.

We then went to the royal apartments. Much of the beginning was focused on the empresses Sisi (short for Elizabeth if I remember correctly). She was focused on so much because she was so recent and because he life was conducive to being very interesting for a tourist exhibit. She was super obsessed with her figure and had crazy long hair (that took three hours everyday to deal with). She was also known for her rejection of court life and her beauty. She was eventually assassinated right before the turn of the century. The reason she rejected court life is because she felt like it limited her freedom. As a kid she was able to have fun all the time. Then she was married off to the Habsburg ruler and then had to be a queen. I feel really sorry for her because I'm sure all the working class individuals back then were able to just hang out all the time and have lots of fun unlike her (I think she is a total baby). But anyway she lived a very lavish life and a lot of her personal items were on display like her hand mirror and her jewelry and her notebook and all sorts of stuff like that. Some of it was really cool. But yeah you continue and it focuses less on her and more on just the apartments and what life would have been like if you were a Habsburg ruler. Turns out it was very busy and pretty lavish (The emperor began his day at 3AM!!).

We then walked around Hofburg for awhile and then chilled out in the park behind the new palace (it was supposed to be a residence for the next generations of rulers but then Austria became a republic so there is just this really nice building that was not ever actually used by the royal family). It was pretty. After that we went to the Imperial Furniture Collection (which was covered by our Sisi ticket). If that sounds like it would be boring... well it kinda was. They had a lot of old property owned by the imperial family. Some of it was cool and unique (even the freakin spitoons were really fancy) but I mean, one can only look at furniture so long.

We then got dinner at a nearby place and had an unhappy waitress because we ordered cheap food and asked for tap water so she was grumpy (but whatever, the place was pretty empty, she shoulda been happy for the business). Then we went back to the Opera House. The Opera House is huge and, like I said, holds operas every night. Well we wanted to see one while we were in Vienna. As I'm sure you can imagine, it is really expensive to watch one... unless you go for the standing area. You get pretty much the worst view possible but it is only 4 euro and you get to see the inside of the opera house and you can still see (ish) an opera. So that's what we did. We watched the first half of "The Barber of Seville" and then my friend just couldn't take anymore opera so we left. It was also not the most fun because we couldn't understand the opera and our translators were not working (they have these little screens along the railing that will show the lyrics in English which would have been nifty if ours would have worked).

 Inside of Opera House (I have a few more pictures)

So yeah that was that day. Lots of touristy things but Vienna has a lot of touristy things to see.

Okay, now for the final day in Vienna...

We woke up and had breakfast. Then using the guide book, were were able to take a tram tour where we were basically instructed to "look left, here is this thing... tons of info... look right! here is this thing..." and so on. Doing it that fast passed didn't really allow anything to leave a lasting impression, but we did meet a nice Austrian woman who just started pointing out everything to see.

We then made out way back to the Hofburg area and then went on a tour (with a tour guide) into St. Michael's Church Crpyt! The church itself was pretty nice, and the outside was very nondescript. We were also not allowed to take pictures in the crypt but it was a pretty neat tour and we got to hear some history about the burials. This crypt was also for nobility (like the imperial crypt) but it was for plain ol' nobles, not the imperial family who are in the imperial crypt. So while this place was still pretty nice by their standards (back in the day), the coffins were definitely not as crazy.

We then went to this place called Naschmarkt which is a market that is in the middle of two streets with all sorts of restaurants and stands. Many of the people there are from other countries and so things like hummus and pesto were pretty legit. So we got some lunch there and then continued.

Then we went to the Schonbrunn Palace which is a really fancy place where they Habsburg folks would hang out in the summer. It was a pretty nice building with some extremely massive grounds behind it. The tour was cool, mostly just more fancy rooms talking about the royal families. The grounds behind the palace were really cool. They are now just a park but the park has many secluded benches you could read at or have a picnic (presumably during the summer when it's not hella cold), it has a hedge maze, a bird cage the size of like three cars on top of each other (I'm guessing), a zoo, and then a bunch of statues scattered about (and a few huge monument/structure type things on top of a huge hill towards the back). So yeah it was a nice place, I got some pictures, espcially because it was really pretty in all of its autumn glory. Quick note, Vienna (and Salzburg) had fall colors, Copenhagen has been... confused. Some trees just wern't sure when to transition to winter mode so it happened at different times for all the trees so there wasn't like a ton of fall colors here, or at least not all at once.

Anyway, we then went walking around (which was prolly my favorite activity) and I was starting to not feel well so we decided to just go back to the hostel and take it easy for a little while. Then it was time for our concert so we went back downtown. And then had a ton of difficulty finding the venue... and were pretty late. But it was all good and I really enjoyed the concert (even though I felt pretty sick) so I'm glad we went.

Then we went back, I gladly jumped into bed and crashed immediately.

The next morning was basically packing, breakfast, checkout, and then going to central station and saying our goodbyes. My friend was staying for the remainder of the day in Vienna and then was catching an overnight train to Berlin. I was able to catch a train to Salzburg pretty much immediately... and that is my Vienna trip.

Looking at the guide book, there are still things we could have seen, there is honestly just a ton to see. And there are also art museums aplenty that we did not look into at all. Vienna just basically has a ton to see. It was a good visit, pretty jam packed. Glad I saw the city though.

For anyone looking to visit the city in the future, if you want to see a lot of things, I suggest going for 4 or 5 full days because there are a ton of things to see. I liked the amount of time I spent there and got to see pretty much everything I was interested in seeing. This was also the place where I saw the most things.

Anyway, I'll get Salzburg later on. Because everyone will most likely see this after Thanksgiving (which the Danes do not celebrate at all, they are beginning to focus on Christmas stuff now (which I guess I'll have a blog post on later...)), I hope everyone has had a nice Thanksgiving break!


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Vienna (Part I)

Alright everyone, it's time to get crackin' on this travel break stuff. 

So... my trip began on a Monday morning... all was quiet in the house (because I took too long to wake up like normal...). There was an eerie dark cloud cover in the sky (which is common on about 90% of the days this time of year). It was uncomfortably chilly... (also very normal). I walked out of the house and the street was completely empty (as it always is). Eventually I made my way to DIS to print some final things for the journey and there was no one there... all the students were mysteriously gone... (at other places in Europe because the travel break had just started). 

I made my way to the train station after buying lunch and found out that the trains weren't running between Copenhagen and Germany because they were having to fix the rails (damn it). That meant that I would have to take a bus to the coast of Denmark and then get on a train and that it left at irregular times. Well turns out that a train was supposed to leave at 11:45 so I got to the station at 11:30 and then found out that for some reason the buses left at 11:15 (why not just leave when the train would have originally? Maybe that would have messed up the timing. Whatever.) and the next buses were not leaving until 3:00 PM. So that was a bummer and I got stuck in Copenhagen which turned into me walking around Central Station until I found a nice enough and not too crowed cafe where I could read. 

Eventually it was time to go back to Central Station and get on the buses so I did that and my journey really began. Well the buses took us to a train station on the coast of Denmark where we boarded a train. Then we were on the train for about 5 minutes and during this 5 minutes, the train drove onto a freaking ferry! Yeah, the train drove onto a ferry (I thought we would go over a bridge or something). Then us train riders were not allowed to stay on the train while the ferry was moving so we had to get out and go upstairs (and I was soooooo excited to finally be on a train). But then we reached Germany and I got to ride the train until Hamburg. I hung out in Hamburg and got some dinner then waited for my night train to Munich. Which involved sitting next to a drunk/mentally unstable man for an extended period of time. Finally though the train came and I was off. 

While on the train I made friends with a really nice German woman who was extremely thankful that I helped her lift her luggage ("Hey thanks a million for helping me with that luggage earlier! You're the best!" "Uh, yeah no problem..."). The train was not that full so I wasn't that uncomfortable sleeping (and the loungers are pretty nice anyways). 

Anyway, got to Munich the next morning and had missed my train to Vienna (cuz my night train was really late). So I was stuck in the Munich train station for quite some time so I went to a Starbucks so I could read. I was meeting a friend in Vienna so I texted her to tell her that I was going to be late and then she texted me that she was going to be late as well, and that she was arriving at 1:44PM (or something) which was the exact same time I was going to arrive... So texting ensued and it turned out she was also in Munich, in the same freaking Starbucks just around the corner of a wall. So we hung out and then caught our train to Vienna. So on the way there I just hung out and talked to her and observed the countryside of Southern Germany and Austria, which is really pretty by the way. We got to Vienna and bought some unlimited travel passes in the city for 3 days and then made our way to our hostel and checked in (which was about 15 minutes by metro from most of the sights).
I'll go ahead and explain the city a little bit right now just to give a general impression. Vienna is a historically very rich city. It is the home of the Habsburg rulers who were a very wealthy family that showed up in the 13th century and ruled the Austrian Empire until the end of WWI when it was dissolved and the Republic of Austria was established. During the rule of the Habsburgs, the head was often also elected the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire. They were also great patrons of art and music which makes it little surprise that both Beethoven and Mozart come from Austria and spent time composing music in Vienna. Therefore there are many art exhibits and there are classical music concerts going on every night all over the city. Additionally, there are many opportunities to see remnants of the Habsburg dynasty in different parts of the city. The city has an astounding amount of public art just hanging out on many corners and between roads. Many buildings also feature baroque architecture and statues on the tops of the buildings (The Habsburgs were also great patrons of the arts). Often the ones that don't were either built fairly recently in history, or were hit by a bomb in WWII. Although, many of the buildings remain in their original splendor. I was just blown away by how easily you could just look up and see buildings with art and statues gracing them. Other than that the city is not very big so the locals are pretty chill in how they move around (and you can definitely get that feel when walking around). Things were also very expensive and when I was there it was crazy cold. Okay back to my explorations.

By the time we had done all this we of course wanted to start exploring the city so we first went to Karlskirche because there was a unique opportunity to take an elevator up into the main dome where you could get very close to the art. We did this and it was pretty neat. The art work had a lot of scenes but the main one was of this guy named Barromeo who was pleeding to God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost to save Vienna from the plague. This church was built much later but was dedicated to that event. I took a lot of pictures of all the art in the dome so you'll get to see those later. We then walked around Old Town some, nearby the Opera house (more on that later), until it was dark. We found a cheepish place (still pretty expensive) and got some Viennese schnitzel which is usually pork which is flattened and breaded and is a very Austrian dish.

We then went to the Haus der Musik which featured a lot of information about well... music... and sound (as it relates to music). It was also half price for students and opened late on Tuesday making it a great thing to do that first night in Vienna. Well the museum featured some Biology and Physics themed explanations on how we can hear sound and then there were some interactive things where you could learn about some different elements about sound like how sound bounces and how tones and pitch work. There were also some tools that you could use to manipulate your vocal range and mess around with stuff in that way. It was kind of interesting. Another floor was dedicated to the famous classical musicians from Austria (Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Schubert, Strauss, and Mauler) and that was pretty interesting. The next floor had a lot of weird interactive things that I often times could not figure out and were mostly weird so that was not the most fun. Then there was an interactive conduct the Vienna Philharmonic where you waved a baton around and the orchestra would play (it did not work that well but was mildly entertaining). So that was the Haus der Musik. My friend and I give it mild reviews as the history stuff was pretty interesting but the interactive stuff was either kind of boring, weird, or didn't work that well (and occasionally cool).

We then passed the Opera House as we were heading back to the metro and there was a huge screen that was showing the current Opera. Apparently the opera house does that for free so if you want to see the Opera for free, you can just show up and watch it outside on the screen. It did not have any subtitles (which you can get inside the Opera House) so we did not stay that long. We then went back to our hostel for the night. Our plan was to visit the Opera house on another night when we could get inside and there was a more interesting Opera playing.

I'm going to go ahead and cut this post in half here because it is already pretty long. I will try and get the other half of Vienna out today though.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Summer House

Hey Everyone, 

I am now back in Copenhagen!

I went to my host family's summer house a few weekends ago and wanted to write a post about that, but never got around to it. So I'm going to write that now (and then I'll get to all my exciting adventures traveling around Germany and Austria).

Well first of all, the school system here has a week long break in the middle of the Fall semester. The historical reason for this is that long ago the kids had to get off school to help harvest the potatos and it survived and turned into a week long vacation right in the middle of October. During this time, my host family wanted to go to their summer house for some time just to relax. So they left on Tuesday for the summer house (I had to stay at home because I still had school and such). I was able to join them on Thursday and basically left as soon as class was over (and skipped my one class on Friday). 

The summer house is located on the Northern coast of the island that Copenhagen is on. It took me about 2 and a half hours to get there as I had to take regional trains. I got there when it was already dark (7ish) and my host dad picked me up from the train station (in the town 20 min away from the summer house). 

The house is owned by my host dad's parents. My host family goes up there when they can and they often hang out with the grandparents there and just relax. The house was really nice and big with the bed rooms set in the front and the rooms like the kitchen, dining area, and living room set in the back towards the sea with huge windows. It was quite pretty. 

So on that first day I just had dinner with them and hung out. The next day we woke up had some breakfast and then put on hiking boots and the like, and hiked up the coast. Denmark has a law where some amount of meters from the coast cannot be owned by an individual so there are trails along the coast that anyone can use.

There is a military base up at the tip of the coast so we walked through that (you can walk through it unless they are doing drills) to right up against the water. We spent a long time digging under rocks in the shallow water looking for crabs and other oddities. We were able to find a lot of small star fish and eventually found some smaller crabs hiding underneath the rocks. We then hiked back the house and I went into town with my host dad and the two kids to get some fish at a local place for dinner (it was a Friday and the place closes early on Friday so we had to go early). The fish place had all sorts of fish just laid out on ice, it was pretty interesting.

When we got back, I made Oreo Balls with the kids, which was pretty fun for both me and the kids. Then we just hung out till dinner and after dinner the kids wanted to watch Cars on Disney channel. I had seen it so many times that I knew what was going on (and knew a lot of the funny lines) even though the entire thing was in Danish. After that the kids crashed and I just watched TV with my host dad. 

Funny side note, there is a fox that lives behind the house in some brush, whenever my host family or the grandparents are staying at the house they leave out scraps from dinner for the fox and it will usually come into the lawn around midnight. It came out that night but I ran over to see it (from one part of the house to the other) which scared it away... bummer. 

The next morning (Saturday) we woke up and ate some breakfast which included some weird Danish twists on fishy food. Then I played crocket with the kids and my host dad which was pretty fun because the kids got pretty into it. After that we packed up and headed home. 

It was a really nice place to hang out and relax for some time. When I got there my host dad told me that they do nothing whenever they are there, they just relax. Hey sounds like a good time to me.

I also have some pictures of the place (only a few because my camera died really quickly for unexplained reasons) but I can't get them on my computer because my computer tells me that it will have to delete all the data in order to be able to get things off of the storage card. I guess I was supposed to configure the card before I took any pictures, but how was I supposed to know that? Instead I'll just hold onto the storage card and I'll extract the data once I get home. 

Later that day I also got the bike out and rode it to some nearby parts of town and found some really pretty areas. 

The following day I also went with my host family and my host dad's grandparents to a nearby castle that has a huge park around it (I also have a few pictures of that). The weather was really nice and I was able to really talk to my host dad's parents for the first time. His mom was really nice and liked talking to me but his dad didn't really seem all that interested in talking to me, he mostly wanted to hang out with his grandkids. 

After that it was back to school but it was a really nice and relaxing weekend that allowed for some good bonding with my host family.

I promise I will post soon about other adventures. I hope everyone has been doing well and that it hasn't been too cold at home (it is starting to get really cold here all the time).

Talk to you guys soon,

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Travel Plans

Hey Everyone!

I'm writing this post about my travel plans partly because I'm super excited and partly to make sure there are no holes (just kidding, my plans are flawless)...

Okay! First, on Monday, I will go to DIS and print any final things I need (such as city maps and hostel reservations). Then I will make my way to Central Station and hopefully finish with everything else early enough to catch a 10ish train so that I will arrive in Hamburg at 14.30. I then will spend the afternoon in Hamburg and will prolly just walk around a little and try to see a few things. Then I have to make my way back to the train station and catch a night train at 21ish to Munich. Then I spend the night on the train and arrive at 7.00 on Tuesday.

Then I have to catch a train at 7.20ish to Vienna and will arrive around noon. Then I will meet up with a friend and I'm spending Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in Vienna. There are a lot of things to see there so we're pretty pumped for that leg of the journey. We are also staying at this hostel that looks pretty great. We have a private room and the hostel has lots of neat facilities like pool (Erik I'm going to practice so much, I prolly won't even explore the city) and Foosball! The hostel is very like ecofriendly and bragged about that a lot online (I can dig it). It is also right up against a forest with trails and stuff. Not really sure if I'll have time for that, but it at least sounds like a nice location.

Then I leave Friday morning for Salzberg which is supposed to be very pretty. I will be staying there on my own for 2 days and exploring. Salzberg is also where the Sound of Music was filmed for anyone who doesn't know (that should give you an okay idea of what the place looks like). The hostel I'm staying at apparently plays the movie everyday at 10.30 (which I found hilarious).

Then Sunday morning I continue to Munich and will explore for 3 days. I will definitely make an effort to try some beer (Vivek told me I had to) and to meet some people at the hostels. Apparently it is ridiculously easy (to meet people).

I then leave on Wednesday morning for Berlin and will explore there for three days. Then finally I will leave on Saturday morning and go to Hamburg (eat lunch) and then continue to Copenhagen and I'll get back around 20.00 on Saturday night.

So that's the plan. 3 days Vienna, 2 days Salzberg, 3 days Munich, 3 days Berlin, home (plus an afternoon in Hamburg). So overall, 13 days (2 of travel to and from Copenhagen). Additionally, because I will not use up all my travel days on my Eurorail pass, I'm going to try to do a weekend trip with a friend to Germany for one of the Christmas markets in late November or early December which would be really cool to see.

I will be staying in only hostels and will be sleeping in rooms with strangers for 3 out of the 4 hostels (4-6 people a room) and will also be mostly on my own for 3 of the cities. I am quite excited to be on my own and kinda planned it that way. Furthermore, I do not have a suitcase, only my heavy clothes and a backpack which holds all my clothes, travel documents and random accessories. (I will have to rent linen and towels from the hostels)

The trip is overall quite expensive but I'm also not doing it as cheap as possible and am still doing it fairly cheaply. I'm not sure what the final price will be but at the end of the trip I'll let you guys know.

I have 2 hefty books for reading material and my ipod and charger. My ipod is full of podcasts and music. I plan to be never bored on the train (I'm not sure how I ever could be because trains are too awesome). In fact, I'm very excited about this method of travel because I just find it a lot less stressful way to travel (no airports involved) and I'll be able to see lots of countryside which I will love (that is why I am leaving in the morning for going to every place (except for the one overnight), so that I can see lots of neat things on the way).

Oh and about the couchsurfing. I looked into it but just was not comfortable doing it on my first trip like this. Additionally, I don't have any references yet and they like you to have a few before you start actually couch surfing (or get verified which I need to be at home for). So I might try to meet up with someone from for coffee or something because you can do that. That way I can get an idea of things to see in the city and will get some references on my profile. So yeah, it will be only hostels for me on this journey but I will be on my own quite a bit so I feel like I'm still doing quite a bit to get out of my comfort zone and explore. But I'm not ready for couches yet. Maybe next time.

Also I like my plan because I get to spend a good amount of time in each of the 4 cities I am visiting. I've talked to a lot of DIS kids about their travel plans (because everyone asks eachother constantly even though you can never remember because everyone is going to different places in different orders) and some people are going to like 8 places in 14 days all by plane. Sounds pretty hectic to me. Obviously the mentality is that they want to go to as many of the major cities as possible in order to be able to say they've been to them but it doesn't seem like you'd really get a feel for the city of even be able to see that much unless you stayed for at least 2 nights. I even heard of one group who on some days will land late morning spend a few hours in the city and then catch another flight later that day. If you ask me, that sounds pretty kray kray. Although, most people are going to 4-6 places it sounds like. But yeah, just wanted to share that.

So those are my plans, not too exciting of a post, I'm sure the post-travel post(s) and pictures will be more exciting. I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Also the sun just set. It is 17.38 (5:38 PM). Tonight we fall back an hour... The sun will set at 4:30ish tomorrow... I don't leave for 7ish weeks... Yup.


P.S. Erik, I will write a post on Positive Psychology perhaps (might have to wait till after the trip) tonight or tomorrow cuz I think it is pretty interesting (and I would love the opportunity to just explain it anyways).

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Culture Night!

Hey Everyone,

Thought I'd do a shorter post tonight before going to sleep. It is about... Culture Night!

Culture Night is an event in Copenhagen that occurs once a year. Essentially you buy a Culture Night pass for about 18$ and it allows you access to transportation for free for the entire evening and access to all culture night events. The large majority of them are free. Basically any organization that wants to (especially churches, museums, and anything related to culture (duh)) has events that go on that night. The event is from 18-24 (6pm to midnight for all you non military time speakers) which means that many places are opened way past their normal hours giving people a unique opportunity to go to these places that may normally be hard to access (because they work during the day or whatever) and makes it easy to travel around the city and see multiple sites. Additionally, because it is a special night, many places have special modifications to what they have to offer. In other words, some places may just extend their hours but other places do exciting things. Some examples of events are, getting to explore the Danish Parliament building (something you cannot normally do), getting to go into a medieval basement of an ancient church that people outside of the church are only allowed into during culture night, being able to explore Rosenburg castle with flashlights, and so many more exciting things! Seriously, the program for Culture Night I received had so many things to do. The city also gets really packed as people come from outside to experience the culture.

Anyway, I think that Culture Night is a really great idea. I went with a couple friends to the zoo... and the zoo only. Which was kind of a bummer because there were so many places to go. But they really wanted to go to the zoo and it normally costs 40$ to get in... Also I was quite limited on time because I had to go volunteer for DIS (which meant that I got a free pass). I basically got to go to the zoo for free. So anyway we went around the zoo at night which was pretty cool because a lot of the nocturnal animals were more active (including the tigers which were running all over the place). So that was kind of cool to see and then we walked back to where we needed to be and there were people everywhere. Then we spotted a free soup stand and were of course all over that.

We then got to the DIS event. I helped run the bar that sold hot drinks in a DIS courtyard. The main attraction was a haunted house though. It was crazy, we had a line out of the courtyard that was like an hour wait to get into the courtyard and then another line inside the place which was another hour (also we had no bathroom for these people). I was like what the heck people it is culture night why are you willing to wait two hours for a fairly poor haunted house (it was just like four rooms and a one night thing run entirely by DIS volunteers). My friend was one of the volunteers though and she apparently had a great time making Danish people flip out. We also helped Danish people make smores (they do not have gram crackers here though so we had to use biscuit cookies) and carve pumpkins. So the DIS event was surprisingly successful.

Anyway, that was Culture Night. Overall, cool idea I think. Also quick commentary on Halloween. I have heard that it is relatively new here (but also that people have been trick-or-treating for years(?)) and I asked my host family if their kids are going to trick-or-treat and they said no but they are going to a Halloween party. Also many kids do not trick-or-treat because it is seen as begging. Not knowing what this meant I ignored it and found out later that nowadays kids often go around and ask for money instead of candy (which makes it very clear why it might be seen as begging...) but apparently 20 years or so ago they got candy. If you're confused, don't worry, I am too. What I do know is that many kids do not trick-or-treat and that many houses do not give candy, and that some kids ask for money, and that some houses give money in the absence of candy. Therefore, many kids and teens and older people go to parties for Halloween nowadays (instead of just teens and older).

Anyway, that is culture night and some Halloween traditions in Denmark. If you're interested in Culture Night I strongly suggest looking it up because it's a neat tradition and there are a lot of things that are offered and it can be cool just to see all the attractions that are offered on that night (especially for an extremely affordable price!).

I am also in the process of trying to plan a large trip right now and I'm not sure what I'm going to do or how it is actually going to work out. I will of course report when I do know. It is for a 2 week break that we DIS students get in order to travel around.

Also I have been crazy busy since I returned from Scotland and I am now basically done with important academic things until classes resume in mid-November so that is a huge relief. I also went to my host family's summer house this weekend with them so I will prolly blog about that sometime soon. Also I missed the window for going to Tivoli in the Halloween season which I'm majorly bummed about because it looked really cool. Also, it has started to get really annoyingly cold from time to time (depending on time of day and wind); I had to whip out my winter jacket for the first time tonight and was cold (although was not using the combo of long underwear, jacket, and winter jacket so I can still handle much colder). So yeah that is what is going on in my life.

I hope you guys are getting some rain and some cool weather.

Talk to you again soon! (Hopefully)


And Kynan, yes I would say that meditation central is a commonly accepted nickname for Europe and I am very surprised you have not come across it before. And I think I have just encountered it because of my Positive Psych class and meditation's focus on experiencing positive emotions and relaxation. And I don't know what else to say about the drunken scotsmen... they were drunk, and weird. I did not join the cult, I'm not much into them.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Scotland! (Part III)

Alright everyone, time for Part III!

So Thursday night... we decided to go out to a bar. I really wanted to play pool and there was a bar that we knew had pool tables (but we had not been in yet). So we went there and got some drinks. As soon as we did we were approached by a drunken (older) Scottish man who began to sing to us. Several more drunk Scots then approached us (noticing that we were not locals) and began to ask us lots of questions about where we were from. These people had very very thick accents and were sometimes very difficult to understand. The first guy continued to sing songs (mostly older American songs) and then fist bumped us frequently at scattered intervals. We entertained their questions for while and I told the singing man (after he had calmed down, and fist bumped us, and then gave all five of us hugs...) to take it easy at which point he launched into singing Take It Easy by the Eagles (and he had only just finished singing Motown...). Yeah... 
I found out later that there was a young couple there who were having relationship problems and the girl was asking my friend for relationship advice (strange...) while her boyfriend was literally 5 feet away apologizing. There were also many other Scottish people there who were just locals and not quite as eccentric but we did not talk to them until the end of our visit. We eventually started playing pool and that was fun but towards the end this one guy (in his twenties) who had not talked to us yet became interested in another friend I was with... So he came over and was obviously quite drunk and began to question her about where she was from. Then he noticed me and asked where I was from. Upon hearing Texas his face lit up and he said something about guns and shooting. And I said yes many Texans have guns and my friend informed me that he was asking if we shoot gay people in Texas. I was like no! and then he asked if I was gay and I said no... do you think I am? and he said sort of. I asked him why but he was not able to give a coherent response and instead decided to shake my hand.

So... at that point we had had enough and decided it was time to leave. On the way out I talked to two older Scottish men who were friendly and they thanked us for coming in and told us to have a good visit (so not everyone we talked to was quite so eccentric). 

So that was a fun experience, but obviously quite strange. So then we went back to the hotel and I hung out with people a little and then retired to my room. Asa then came back while I was watching TV and we just hung out (for the only night of the trip that Asa did not go out partying) and watched TV which was nice.
The next morning (Friday) we woke up and then walked a ways to a Buddist mediation center and participated in a meditation session. It was very relaxing (duh). I think pretty much everyone in my class liked it. After that we were going to go to an art museum but it was not open yet so the group split up and I went with a lot of people and one tour leader to Loch Lomond (the same place we had dinner in the first post). It was supposed to be really pretty and we would be actually able to see it during the day. So we rode the train for awhile and then walked around the Loch (it was pretty). When it came time for lunch we split up again and I went with some friends and the tour leader to a cafe that was on the water(ish). We had a nice lunch and our tour leader bought us desserts(which were delicious) just because she is nice. We then went back to the train station and hopped from train to train to hurry to our last academic visit (we were almost late).

The last visit was called InnerSpace and is a place that does some meditation (a little differently) and gives people a place to relax and reflect. Sounds nice, but then we found out that it was a center that was somewhat based on belief. Also, scientific evidence was cited during the lecture that did not make sense to us and seemed made up. We asked many questions that everyone felt like were not adequately answered or dodged. We then participated shortly in their meditation which involved thinking (rather than the traditional emptying or clearing of the mind), listening to one of the presenters say positive statements through a microphone, and looking at the forehead of the presenter (which is where her soul was supposed to be located). The visit ended with us receiving a treat from the main presenter that was "baked with love."

So yeah interesting experience not very many people enjoyed it and many afterwards made fun of it and referred to it as a cult. I however thought that it was a worthwhile visit/experience as there were things to be learned from it. Obviously the organization worked for some people because it had something like 80,000 members world wide. There were also benefits that could be gained from participation in the organization (such as potentially relaxation and community) that did not require one to believe the things the organization said were truths about the world (such as the soul being in the forehead). So... kooky place, but I thought there were some elements that could be taken away. I think most of the people in my class were so turned off by the negative things from the start they weren't in a mindset that could consider the potentially positive elements that could be extracted from the visit (if there were any).

After that we went to our final fancy (seriously, I don't know how DIS took us to that many nice places) group dinner. We ate some good food and I talked to some people that I hadn't as much yet so that was a good time. Afterwards, there was a plan for most of the class to go out together so I went to the grocery with friends to buy some alcohol to drink while hanging out with people before we went out. Generally it was a good time, I played spoons and then just talked to people who asked strange questions and told me interesting things (influenced strongly by the alcohol). Then we left for a club (which was really far away). Once we got there not everyone in our group was let in because many of us were not dressed nicely enough. So the majority of the group left and found another club. Most of the people went in but I did not because the music sounded weird plus I was not that interested anyways. So I went with a few friends on a search for a fried Mars bar. Unfortunately everything that was still open did not make the legendary fried Mars bars so we eventually returned to the hotel defeated (I was the only one who cared). We retired to our respective rooms and I watched some TV before crashing. I have no idea what time the party goers returned, but it was late. 

The following morning we awoke and packed and got on the bus and slept on the way to the airport in Edinburgh.We were given money for lunch and had time to kill in the airport so many people bought lunch and a few souvenirs.We then flew through London (customs was extremely quick unlike when we had to go through London on the way to Edinburgh) and then home to Copenhagen. Everyone was quite tired and ready to get home.

So that concludes my Scotland journey! Everyone had a good time! Friendships were made/strengthened. Stories were made! Things were seen! Things were learned! Right. Well, if anyone has any questions or wants me to talk more about something, leave me a comment!

I hope everyone is doing well at home. I am going to go to my host family's summer house tomorrow evening and spend the weekend with them there so I am looking forward to that. I am planning on making Oreo Balls with my host siblings and enjoying my time relaxing with my host family. However I still have a lot of work so I am trying to get some of that done at the same time. And I still have to plan my two week break. Ugh. Busy times.

Everyone make Sam update her blog.

Talk to you guys again soon!


Also I hope everyone noticed that even in Scotland, not once did I need a bubble shield.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Scotland! (Part II)

Alright everyone! Time for (the greatly anticipated) Part II! 

First off, I want to apologize for the delay, I have had a quite busy week during which I had a major grade due in every class. However, it is done, I finished today. Things went well for the most part but it was very very busy. Oh I was also minorly sick (thanks to one girl on the Scotland trip who got the majority of our class sick) which didn't help anything.

Anyway, Scotland!

So, we woke up Wednesday morning (still in Edinburgh) and walked towards the Royal Mile. The Royal Mile is a place that was introduced to us on Monday but I forgot to mention it in the earlier blog post. It is a street that has very many shops and famous buildings on it. When you guys look that the pictures of Scotland that my friend Rosemary took on facebook, you will see many pictures of me and my class walking in a street, the street was prolly the Royal Mile. It is very famous and has many things there, like a really amazing cathedral, it is very close to the Scottish parliament, has a huge stone heart (picture on facebook) that people spit on (there is a legend that if you spit on the heart then you will return to Edinburgh at some point in your life so a lot of people spit on it on Monday because we all already wanted to come back), yeah. If any of you do find yourself in Edinburgh at some point and you see that heart, don't stand on it for a picture because it is a very gross heart (many tourist couples do not know that..).

Anyway, we went to a swanky hotel near the Royal Mile where we had a meeting with Geoff Huggins who is a Scottish Government employee who works in the mental health part of the government he essentially told us about the plan for the Scottish government (I think I mentioned that earlier). He was quite cynical and informed us that the Scottish government wasn't actually doing that much with positive psychology other than funding smaller organizations (like the PlayField Institute mentioned in my last post). He also said that Martin Seligman (the father of Positive Psychology and former president of the American Psychological Association) was a not nice person and asked for a very large sum to help the Scottish government with the plan, which they said no thank you to. We had been lead to believe that Seligman had done a lot with that plan so we were shocked to learn that he was not involved and that Positive Psychology was not a big part of the plan... Anyway, he was an interesting person to see. He was quite smart and knew a ton and gave us a viewpoint of improving overall mental health from a governmental standpoint which was good for us to get. After talking to the class about it later, the visit got very mixed reviews as some people really didn't like him (found him rude and boring) while other people really enjoyed him for his honesty.

After that visit we were released onto the streets of Edinburgh to conduct street interviews. We were supposed to approach at least five Scottish people and ask them questions about well-being such as, "How do you define happiness?" and, "what are your strengths?" and, "what qualities lead to a successful positive relationship?" I personally did not like these interviews because we just approached people on the street and asked them if we could interview them. Then we blindsided them with these opened questions that were not super easy to answer without some thought. But what we generally found was that the Scottish people were content and enjoyed their lives and that many placed a large value on their relationships. Nothing too surprising. 

We still had a large amount of time on our own in the city so we went to a restaurant and got some Scottish food. Apparently the Scottish love deep fried things so I got a deep fried pizza and a milkshake, which was good(ish) but interesting. My friend got deep fried haggis. If you don't know what haggis is, I suggest you do a wikipedia search. It is a very Scottish food. One thing we were unable to try which I really wanted to try (this lead to a desperate search on Friday night at midnight) was a deep fried Mars bar. I am quite bummed that I never got to try one. It is extremely unhealthy. After lunch we split up and I went with one friend on some adventures, including climbing the tower that you can see me (getting attacked by wind) at the the top of on facebook. That was a really cool tower and gave a great view of the city. We then went back to the hotel for another academic visit. 

The room was horrendously hot so many people were falling asleep and having a rough time concentrating... but we got this presentation from a women who was working on improving mental health on college campuses in Scotland. The information we received there felt like it was mostly common sense but it was still interesting to think about. She worked with a program that essentially was increasing awareness and resources for students who just started college who were having difficulties with starting the college lifestyle, as can happen with many people when they first start college... 

After that we went to a cafe where JK Rowling worked and like invented Harry Potter so that was neat. And the cafe was really cool and had elephants everyone. We then left when it was time and had dinner at a fairly fancy place (apparently DIS really wanted to treat us on these trips in terms of food) and that was fun. My group (when I say group I mean the people I usually hung out with) ate with one of our tour leaders so it was cool to talk to her during the meal. Afterwards we went back to our hotel. Many people were going out that night and Asa invited me but I just wanted to go to a bar (not a club). So I went with a couple people to a bar and we drank a little (not very much Mom... chill) and played spoons. We went back to the hotel with the intention of finding the rest of our class so that we could hang out with them but we had just missed them (we found out later that they really wanted to hang with us). So that was a bummer so I just hung out with people for a little while watching TV and then went back to my room.

Thursday morning was interesting as Asa was still drunk from the activities of the previous night. We had to wake up, pack quickly and bring our luggage upstairs because we were checking out. We were then going to go on a hike to Arthur's Seat but it was raining fairly heavily and we left late, so we only walked through the town to the base of the hike and turned around which made some people very grumpy (I was just happy to go on a walk). We then loaded all our stuff on the bus and went to Glasglow! It was a great bus ride because everyone was exhausted so we all slept.

Once in Glasglow we checked into our hotel and then walked (a very long walk) to lunch and then our academic visit for that day. Lunch was at the Willow Tea Rooms (not the famous one but their second restaurant) and we enjoyed some sandwiches and fancy, delicious deserts. I also just had a great time at lunch cuz everyone was at my table was in a really good mood and generally being hilarious. After that we went to the academic visit (was quite a walk), GoWell. I really enjoyed this visit because everything we had talked about in our Positive Psychology course was applicable at the individual level but GoWell was focused much more at applying Positive Psychology from a more macro, group view. The organization was studying the effects of housing developments on well-being on some populations in Glasglow. The organization studied the effects of relocation and housing improvements as it related to well-being. I found it very interesting and won't go into it in great depth here but I enjoyed the visit.

After that we had time on our own so we went back to the hotel and got our rooms. Then I went out with some friends which ended up as not super fun because they wanted to go shopping so that happened for awhile... bleh. But eventually we went to get dinner and had a Chinese buffet (we were all looking for something a little different) which was actually pretty good (and really expensive). We then went back to the hotel and ran into our group on the way back. They said they were going to go to a bar much later and we should join them (we ended up not finding them because the bar they were going to go to was closed...) So with time to kill we decided to go to a bar ourselves... which turned out to be a very interesting experience...

I'll pick up there next time for the third and final, exciting entry about Scotland!

I should post that one soon. Like tomorrow or Wednesday hopefully. 

Goodbye everyone!


Sunday, October 16, 2011


Hey everyone, I've been very busy so I have not been able to blog at all, but I will soonish (hopefully). I wanted to let you know that I tagged myself in some friend's pictures from Scotland and you should be able to see them, so check it out! Most of the pictures are from Edinburgh. Also good news! I have my own camera now, so for any adventures that I go on in the future (if there are any), I will bring my camera (if I can remember). SO GET (moderately) PUMPED.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Scotland! (Part I)

Hello Everyone!

I just returned from Scotland! It was my "Long Study Tour." The purpose of the tour was to see how elements of my core course (Positive Psychology) are being implemented in the real world, but also to give the students time to hang out with each other and to get to see another country.

The trip started on Monday with a flight to London and then to Edinburgh. The flights weren't that bad (had to be at airport at 9:30 so I did not have to wake up super early) but we did have a somewhat hectic layover in London as we had to wait in long lines to get through security and customs again in order to be able to move around the UK. I did nothing else but go from one gate straight to the next and I only got there with literally 3 minutes to spare. Anyway, we got to Edinburgh and went to our hotel (Holiday Inn Express). After getting settled, we went on a walking tour of the city (which was really cool) and then had dinner at a bar. The city was extremely pretty. The architecture was very old and gothic and there were some amazing old buildings and churches. The city has some very interesting history and stories as well (too many to share).

Also, for those of you who do not know (I did not know before going), Scotland is part of the UK and has its own parliament. It has recently (2009) passed some legislation with the intention of improving overall mental health in Scotland, which is part of the reason that Scotland was our destination for the long study tour.

Anyway, we then went back to the hotel and I went out with a few friends for a drink at a pub (a very Scottish thing to do). I went back to the hotel early as my roommate was getting together with a friend who is studying in Edinburgh. My roommate was named Asa and he is a cool and friendly person; he also likes to go out a lot (he went out 4 out of  the 5 nights in Scotland).

On day two, we woke up and went to the PlayField institute in Fief for our first academic visit. The institute is designed to cater to children in both psychiatry and therapy. The institute is also designed to assist and provide workshops for anyone who interacts with children, whether that be parents, or teachers, or psychologists working with children. The institute invites people to do workshops and not charge the institute that much so that the institute does not have to change locals who want to take advantage of the workshops that much. In general, it sounds like the institute has been very successful and has been able to provide a large number of workshops and information to the people in Fief, and Scotland. I think everyone in my class enjoyed the visit which consisted of a lecture, lunch, and then some activities related to positive psychology. (If anyone is interested and wants more information about the institute and their work related to positive psychology, go to

After that visit we got back on the bus and went to the Glengoyne Distillery which is an old distillery located right on the border between the lowlands of Scotland and the highlands. By the way all of these bus rides took us through the very pretty Scottish countryside which was filled with rolling hills and roughly 5 billion sheep. Anyway, we got to try a few different types of whiskey of very high quality (and alcohol content). I was not the biggest fan but some people enjoyed them (and got drunk). After that we went to a lodge on Loch Lomond and had a fancy dinner. It was dark so we were unable to see much of the Loch (but we went back on another day) so we just had a nice dinner. We then went back to Edinburgh, it took about two hours and I had some good talks all the way back. I went ahead and went back to my room while Asa went out.

So that was the first two days of my adventures! They were fun and there is more to come in the future! I know everyone at SU is on their Fall Break, so enjoy your time off! I'll talk to everyone again soon!


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Danish Impressions of America

Hello Everyone!

I hope everyone one is well and, for those of you in school (which should be the large majority of you), I hope you are rocking in your classes!

I mentioned in an earlier post that I talked to my host mom's dad and talked to him about his impression of the US and how it didn't jive with what I thought Europeans thought of the US.

First off, I just want to say what I thought Europeans would have thought. I thought Europeans would consider Americans to be ignorant, proud, wasteful as well as hardworking, educated, and independent. I thought that for the most part Europeans would consider us slightly negative, positive or neutral, in other words, somewhere near the middle. This view of mine lacked substantive evidence as I had never been to Europe and all of the Europeans I had talked to had lived in the US for a significant amount of time.

After talking to quite a few Danes I've learned that the impression of the US is generally pretty positive (as I assume most Americans think of Europeans). One thing that is interesting is that many Danes (and prolly Europeans in general) are very interested in Obama and usually like him a lot. Whenever a Danish person starts talking to an American they will almost certainly get around to asking about Obama and what the American thinks of him and the political climate as a whole. I have been asked several times if I am annoyed with Obama for not delivering as much as he promised (i.e. there are still problems that Obama promised to fix). I usually just reply that he came into office with a lot of big problems and it would be unfair to expect him to fix them all. I also try to highlight that there has been a lot of difficulty recently with the legislative branch as the parties have been heavily resisting each other which has contributed to Obama's partial inability to enact legislation to the effect he would have wanted to.

Anyway, talking to my host mom's dad. He has traveled the world quite a bit (in fact he had just returned from a trip in Southeast Asia... I think...). He sails a lot and also just loves to travel. Additionally, I am the fourth student my host family has hosted (I may have mentioned that earlier) and my host mom's dad hosted DIS students back when my host mom was a kid. Therefore, some of his most extensive relationships with Americans are going to be with individuals like me, young, interested in Denmark, open-minded, liberal, polite, etc. His view of Americans is that they are generally nice, talkative, open-minded, and friendly (which I think is pretty congruent with all of the Danes I have talked to). He also said that he thinks that every European is going to think the US could improve this or do this that way but at the end of the day, the large majority of Europeans think very highly of the US and will support the US in its endeavors. One very important reason for this (for him, I have not heard anything similar from any other Dane, I also have not asked) is that he feels like many Europeans are very thankful for the US's support during WWII in defeating the Nazis. He said that Denmark owes its freedom to the US and for that reason Danes will always be thankful towards the US and will support them. He went on to explain that Denmark, while it is a very small country, contributes what it can to the efforts of the United States and often sends troops (or monetary assistance) to support US troops in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.

Of course, he was eager to tell me his two major problems with the US. They were The National Debt and the US's impact on the environment. He thinks that the US should either not spend so much money or should tax its citizens more rather than borrow from China. And of course he thinks Americans rely too much on fossil fuels (I agree) being the environmentally minded Dane that he is (Danes are very environmentally friendly).

So that was him, if I remember anything else he said, or I talk to my host family and want to add something to these thoughts I'll put it in a later blog. But yeah, overall positive review from him.

Another thing that I found interesting was that many Europeans think that the US is very dangerous and that there is a lot of crime. This seems to be an impression that a lot of Europeans have (due of course to some degree by the media). I was first asked by a student at DIA if it was dangerous to live in the US and I was surprised and said no and then questioned my host family and adults at my volunteer sites if this was an impression they had. They said that it was. I don't know about other parts of the United States but having grown up in Austin, it has been very safe and talking to friends from Chicago and Seattle, they have also said that it is generally safe as long as you don't do stupid things (e.g count large amounts of cash in plain site, walk around the south side of Chicago at 2 am, etc.). My host dad even said that many Europeans would not want to move to the US today because they would feel like it is not safe. Huh... I didn't know...

I have also made a habit of asking Danes if they have been to America (because I want to know what they think and where they have been), many of them say no but they all very very much want to go. If they are young adults (i.e. on their own) they quickly point out how expensive it is and that they want to visit the East Coast (mostly New York and Miami) or California and if they are younger (like the students at DIA) they always are very interested and almost always immediately say they want to go to New York.

So that's what I have for my impressions of Americans so far, many people think well of the US overall. Again, I will add more thoughts to later posts if more interesting things come up. If anyone has any impressions the would like to add from their travels (Europe or elsewhere), please do so in the comments as I am interested and other people may be. I would also like to know if anyone else had assumptions similar to the ones I had prior to talking to many Europeans..

Furthermore (if you don't go to Southwestern you can ignore this paragraph), there is a counter culture blog that has sprung up in response to my blog, and I encourage you guys to submit your stories to it (the esteemed Sam Reese is the co-head author with Elmira Mehdizadeh) as I am eager to hear about exciting things happening back home! For example I heard about some poor bloke named Kynan Murtagh who just collapsed today out of exhaustion (most likely behavior that has been seen before and frequently) and then died on the spot, due to illness (presumably some super virus). Luckily the heath services were called and rushed to his aid (they were greatly needed) and everything turned out alright. If anyone wants to offer an alternate version of that story then feel free, but until then, that should be the accepted version. But seriously, I want to hear about y'alls lives so tell Sam/Elms to write more or ask if you can write a column for them.

Well, I have been doing a lot of fun things so I will try and tell you guys about that before next week (I have a paper do... oh yeah and I'm going to Scotland for a week).  So hopefully talk to everyone soon!


P.S. Thanks Erik, it was a pretty good roller coaster.

Monday, September 19, 2011


Hey Everyone!

This weekend I went to Tivoli! For those of you who don't know what that is, it is a very old amusement park in Copenhagen. It is the second oldest amusement park in the world (opened in 1843). It is fairly small due to it being in the center of the city. It features a small assortment of rides, a few nice gardens and fountains, and lot of very expensive restaurants (featuring food from all over the world). It also has some stages on which plays and concerts are preformed. I think concerts are preformed every Friday night so I might try to catch one of those in the future. Also, the park has weird hours through out the year. It is about to close because the summer season is going to be over. It will reopen for 10 days in October for the Halloween season and then will open again in November for the Christmas season. For these other two seasons, the park gets decorated quite a bit and apparently it is definitely worth the visit for the different seasons so I am looking forward to visiting Tivoli again! Also the park costs money to get into and the rides cost even more money (and they cost a lot) so I bought a pass that allows me to get into the park unlimited times and ride the rides for no cost! The pass was not cheap but it will definitely save me money if I'm going to go back at least two more times so it was definitely worth it.

But yeah anyway I went on Saturday night and met up with a friend and a girl I didn't know (she was cool too) and we rode roller coasters for a good 3 hours. I then got a milkshake, which was quite different from the milkshakes I get back in the states. (As many of you know I am a shake/ice cream connoisseur so I have to comment on the quality of the shake) The shake was kind of like icy chocolate milk. It had only high quality ingredients so it tasted pretty alright, but it was not thick at all. Very strange. It was worth a try and I enjoyed it, but I definitely prefer the thick ice cream milkshakes from home (for those of you who know my ice cream habits, can you believe that I have only had ice cream on the 2 occasions in Bornholm?). Anyway! The park was very nice and I can't wait to go back later this year!

Here is a picture of the park during Christmas time (I can't wait):

I also met my host mom's dad this weekend. He was very nice and liked to talk so I'll prolly tell you guys about that in the future because he had some thoughts about the United States that surprised me. I also had my first volunteer experience with DIA last week and Denmark had their elections last week which was kinda cool to see. They had their first female prime minister elected and she is from the red group the Social Democrats (The most influential red party). The other half is the blue. I won't talk about politics too much because it is confusing, but generally the blue group is more traditionally conservative and the main group is called Liberals (yes it's backwards and confusing).

So my life has been filled with lots of work and doing some fun things, I've been kept quite busy. This Wednesday I'm going to be going to the National Museum for a Nordic Mythology trip. So that should be interesting. I also think I'm going to take some time tomorrow afternoon to do a little exploring! There is also a bike race going on all over Copenhagen so I might try to see some of that!

That's all for now! Hope everyone's life is going great!


Monday, September 12, 2011

Bornholm (Short Study Tour)

Hello Everyone!

This weekend I went to Bornholm! Bornholm is an island owned by Denmark to the South of Sweeden and is a very touristy place during the summer (because it is beautiful). The purpose of the trip was to see some positive psychology (my core course) be applied in different settings in an area outside of Copenhagen. All core courses went somewhere outside of Copenhagen to see the application of their core course. So the trips were designed to allow you to see an area outside of Copenhagen, get to know the people in your core class, and experience your core course through academic visits. My group was the only one that went to Bornholm (and was therefore very lucky).


My trip began at 4.30 on Thursday morning. Yes it was insanely early and I was grumpy about it but that is when I had to wake up in order to catch the train to Copenhagen central station by 6.15. Once there I joined up with my class and we took a train to Sweeden and then quickly hopped on a ferry to Bornholm. We got there around 10 and it was raining (of course) and went to a cafe to get some coffee and pastries. Then we went to our first academic visit. The woman we visited was interesting and had us participate in some activities (I can talk more about those specifically if you want but they are mostly just positive psychology and therapy related things). She is a private therapist and works in Rønne.

After that we got lunch and then went to the Bornholm Art museum and looked at art! Then we went on a hike (it stopped raining) to the the largest waterfall in Denmark, which was not that impressive but still fun. I was pretty much the only one who had shoes (hiking boots) that were appropriate for the activity. We then went to Gudhjem where we stayed the night in a hostel.


We had dinner at a nearby hotel and then I went with some friends to get ice cream at a local ice cream place and explore the town at night. We were going to have a bonfire on the beach but it was too wet from all the rain that day. Then I returned to the hostel and played catch phrase with some people I didn't know as well. I quickly proved to be a very good catch phrase player. Then I went to my hostel room (that I shared with 4 other boys) and crashed. So yeah, long day.

On Friday (no rain today, all sun), I woke up at 7.45ish and had breakfast with the group at a hotel in town. We packed up at went to Baltic Sea Glass and got to see some really cool pieces of art (I'll hopefully post some pictures once my friends with the cameras upload them). Then we went to one of the Round Churches. There are four Round churches that were all built around the 12th or 13th century. They were for religious purposes but were also fortresses in the case of attack from the Sweeds or pirates.

Then we went to a hospital for our second academic visit at Nisbeth Healthcare. Their program was one that included initiatives to increase health among the employees of the hospital through opportunities to participate in different exercise classes and healthy meals at the hospitals cafeteria. The program was pretty interesting but we were fairly critical of it as it did not have a ton to do with well-being but more with physical health. There were definitely some good things to get out of it but we didn't feel like it was catered enough to a psychological perspective.

Then we ate lunch in the hospital's cafeteria and went to our hostel in Rønne. Rønne is the capital of Bornholm and is still pretty small.The rest of the day we had to ourselves. Also this hostel was randomly pretty nice and had random things like ping-pong tables, a vending machine for alcohol, and a minigolf course. So I played some ping-pong and then walked to the beach with some friends. Then we decided that we wanted ice cream so we walked into town and found some sweets and then just hung out and explored in town until we wanted some dinner. We bought some dinner (all food before this and after this with the exception of Saturday night dinner was provided by DIS which was extremely awesome) and then went back to the hostel. I played cards with friends until we had a bonfire (because we weren't able to have one the night before). So I hung out with everyone around the fire and was entertained by people antics. One of my friends that I made on the trip told scary stories (that were legitimately scary) and was hilarious at all other times. Then I showered (much desired) and then read until my roommates returned from drunken beach adventures and crashed. Yeah, another long day...

On Saturday I woke up at 7.45ish again... tough times. We had breakfast at the hostel and then picked up the woman who was to lead our last academic visit at Hammershus. Hammershus is now ruins of an old Danish castle built in the 13th century. It was very pretty and it was misty and cool outside making the experience pretty awesome overall.


The woman had us do a positive psychology activity which was pretty alright before we left Hammershus. We then went to this pretty nice restaurant that was on a huge hill that looked out towards the ocean (pretty much every town on Bornholm is on the ocean) where we had this raw salmon dish. I observed that in general the Americans at my table were not able to eat a lot of the salmon while the non-Americans were able to eat it easily and enjoyed it (I was able to eat it and thought it was pretty good).

We then went to Svaneke (another small coastal town) and enjoyed more free, local ice cream and we were able to explore a little. We then got back on the bus and went to the ferry. By the way this ferry was very large and pretty nice. On the trip home I just hung out with people and we talked about our hometowns and what we have done in Copenhagen so far. Then we got on the train in Sweeden and I sat with some people I didn't know as well from my class but I talked to them the entire way home and then got back to Copenhagen Central Station. I exchanged phone numbers with a few people and then booked it to the train home. I got home around 22.30 and was extremely exhausted.

That was my trip to Bornholm! Overall, pretty jam packed but I think everyone in my group had a really good time and made new friends.

In other news, school has kept me very busy and I have a lot going on every day but I find time to still do fun things and explore the city.

Also you guys have been asking lots of questions in the comments so I'll respond to them here. 

Ruth, my school is not diverse, it is technically all American students or at least students that are all from American universities. However, I made friends with two women on this trip, one from China and one from Japan. They are both very nice and only have gone to the US for college. But yeah, the very large majority of students are American. Also, there are many Muslims immigrating to Denmark. I talk more about it in another post. And there have not been any misunderstandings that I can think of. Only horrendous mispronunciations on my part. It's always embarrassing when a guy at a bakery asks you in Danish want you want and you say brød (word for bread) while making a funny face and weird gurgle noise and the guy is like, oh, you want some bread? and you're like yeah... sigh (was it that bad?).

Kynan, I have not been to Hugo's yet, but I will go some day and try every single one. I did get some Apple Cider though and it was alright because I couldn't taste the alcohol.

Erik, I guess this post will in part answer that question. Additionally, there are a lot of old buildings in Copenhagen. My school is in the historic district of Copenhagen so there are very old buildings (most have been fixed up of course). There are also some old statues and churches that you can go find, I have seen some of them. Often the statues or churches have stories behind them so it can be very interesting to go find and learn about them. As for castles specifically, there are a couple nearby that I want to visit but the only one that I have been to are the ruins at Hammershus. Also, really old ruins (pre-Christian ruins) do not exist so there isn't really anything left from Viking times except for post holes and burial mounds (you may already know a lot about that). I know some about that because they have told us an okay about the history of Copenhagen and because of my Nordic Mythology class.

Sam, I dunno... like 30 maybe? we are still working on the 2nd world. TOUGH STUFF. Also the town has been around for centuries (wikipedia says it was founded in the 13th century). Many of the towns in Denmark have been around for about that long of a time or longer which I'm guessing is characteristic of many different parts of the world. Many of the names of towns can be used to show approximately when they were created in a lot of Scandinavia and many were established in pre-Christian times (shown by their references to Nordic religion). So the town is pretty old in terms of how long it has existed but is otherwise modern. Also I'll see what I can do about buying a digital one here and/or/additionally stealing friends photos from facebook.

Vivek, at least twice. Also, having not really experienced any other mass-transit it is hard to say. But from what I can tell it is very good. Everyone I talk to says that it is really good and it seems very convenient and efficient to me (there is a train every 10 minutes unless it is crazy early in the morning (which only concerns me when I have to wake up at 4.30 for a trip) or after 1.00 on a weeknight, and even in those inconvenient times it usually runs every 20 minutes to where I need to go). A ton of people use it to get to work and to the city, and the trains have recently been outfitted so that you can bring your bike onto the train (which some people do because the Danes have a lot of avid bikers). I have heard that the quality goes down somewhat once the weather gets bad, but I have talked to this girl from Chicago and the way she talks about the trains here, it is like they are better here at their worst then they are at their best in Chicago (hope that made sense). So yeah, from what I can tell, they are very nice.

Alright, talk to you guys later,