Friday, July 31, 2009

Notes from Europe

After my parents and I had explored the Atlantic jewels of Canada, I set off to Europe! I traveled around with various friends from Berlin to Copenhagen and Stockholm. The pictures below were obviously not taken by myself but rather were found with the help of the nice people at Google. I have yet to either upload my own photos or grill my friends to put theirs online, so these will have to suffice.  

Before heading off on this second summer adventure, I had never really considered traveling to Germany and had always dreamed of making it to Scandinavia. In my imagination, Germany was full of a people with a harsh sounding language without the glitz and glamour of my imagined France or Italy. Scandinavia, on the other hand, was chock full of palaces, canals, harbors, ancient building, and a Viking heritage. These were my presuppositions. I was quite pleased to find that after spending about a week in each locale, I found something to love in them both.   

Berlin is a world apart from Copenhagen or Stockholm. It is large, gritty, a bit rough around the edges. One ride on the metro will tell you that the style is overwhelmingly “alternative”, especially in old East Berlin. At any given moment, one is likely to see at least a quarter of the population walking around with the nation’s most popular libation – beer! Berlin is currently suffering from unemployment rates officially in the mid teens, but most likely at almost 20%. This statistic was given by more than one Berliner I met as a potential reason as to why caf├ęs are packed at all hours of the night and morning and clubs run until well after dawn. I am not quite sure if the logic holds much water, but no matter what the reasoning, Berliners, without a doubt, know how to sit back, drink some pilsner, and enjoy life. Whether in Tiergarten (Berlin’s version of Central Park) or at a beach bar along the river, a good time seems to be had by all. I spent five days in Berlin (and one in Potsdam, a town full of Prussian royal palaces such as the one in photo # 3), seeing the traditional sites, such as the Brandenburg gate (photo #1) and exploring its plethora of museums, but also exploring unique neighborhoods full of hipsters or Turks. A highlight of the Berlin experience for me was that I was able to meet several students attending university in Berlin through a friend of a friend. They took us out, chatted with us about politics (German and American), life as a Berliner, and even Colombia! I met a German guy who had lived in Venezuela for a year and traveled all through Colombia as well, including Cali, which sparked quite the conversation. The world is small. Every time I meet someone on one continent who holds a wealth of information about life on another I make this realization yet again.  

From Berlin, my friends Hugh, Neeta, and I hopped on an incredibly clean and efficient train headed to Copenhagen. We sped past wind turbines dotting the countryside and along the water, reminding me quite vividly of the scene on Prince Edward Island I had witnessed a mere two weeks previous. Once we reached the coast of Germany, our train scooted into a ferry (yes, that is correct, our train got on a boat!) in order to cross over to Denmark and we were able to take in an absolutely sublime late night sunset aboard the ship – beers in hand of course. Copenhagen was a fairy tale. Picturesque homes where the likes of Hans Christian Anderson once lived line canals to create a scene that seems to come right out of a story book (photo #2). Spires fill the air from ancient churches and castles. The ancient is juxtaposed with the modern as sleek Danish design shows its prowess in structures lining the main canal such as the national theatre and opera house. Rosenborg Castle (photo #4) stands within one of the loveliest parks in which I have ever had the pleasure of picnicking (and what a picnic it was, complete with curried herring, delectable shrimp, and scrumptious meatballs all in open faced sandwich form – the famous Danish Smorbord). I was also able to take in some Viking history as Neeta, Rachel and I wandered through the national history museum, complete with grand Viking ships and helmets. The last vacation the three of us took together was to Mendoza, Argentina which we deemed the city that was “lovely.” Although this word would have fit our Scandinavian destinations as well, we were determined to come up with more and thus decided upon “cute” and “efficient”. This is Scandinavia…or at least Copenhagen!  

My final stop was the most beautiful city I have ever seen to date – Stockholm (photo #5). The city is made up of over a dozen islands atop which lie sprawling parks and ancient buildings. With the help of the glistening water in the harbor and twenty hours of sunlight, this city shines like a true gem. During our stay we meandered through Djurgarden, flew through the archipelago on an inflatable raft at 45 knots, dined in the old city center of Gamla Stan, gazed at amazing works of art and a stunning collection of photography at the Modern Museum of Art, lounged and picnicked (yet again) in a sculpture garden overlooking the city, and heard Theresea Andersson play and speak a lot of Swedish in an intimate venue just south of the city. It was the perfect way to end a great trip full of good friends, new sites, and new insights.  

As I hopped on my plane in Stockholm bound for Atlanta I was filled with sadness. Partially of course this was because I was leaving my friends with whom I had traveled for nearly two weeks, partly because I wasn’t ready to leave Europe. Mostly, however, because at this 10 hour resting point in my otherwise busy and people-filled summer I grasped my new reality a bit tighter that I had before. After this summer full of adventure I am not heading back to comfortable Evanston. I am not going back to all those people I have come to love so much over my four years at Northwestern. That part of my life is over. It has reached its completion. There will be no more college. Surely I will maintain countless friendships from those great years. Surely I will always remember these years fondly. Surely they will never return quite the way they were. 

Back in the South, I took a fun-filled weekend trip to Charleston with a couple of friends from Northwestern followed by a great couple of days at the lake with old friends from high school. Friendships continued. Relationships matured. I got a tan. Life kept on and keeps on, ever marching towards the future.

In other news, I would highly recommend going to see (500) Days of Summer. It is positively lovely.

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