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Journals from Telemark University, Bø, Norway

2013-04-10 Easter Break: European Style!

Hei Hei,

The last few weeks have been filled with many adventures and fun! Here they call Spring break Easter Break, because it is mostly for the holiday. The break was from March 23rd to April 2nd, so a week and a half in comparison to the one week we have at Linfield. Right before break, my grandma and aunt arrived to visit. We spent a few days in Bø. I got to show them around town and introduced them to many of the wonderful friends I have made. It was great to be able to do that and they were happy to see where I’ve been these last few months.

After two days, we started our European adventure. We had everything planned ahead of time: my grandma and aunt arranged things through a travel agent, so we didn’t have to worry about having tickets and reservations and such. None of us had done much travelling before, so it worked out great to have things prepared like that

We travelled by train most of the way. First, we went to Gothenburg, Sweden (which is where we celebrated my 21st birthday). There, we went to two different museums, the old town, and the Hard Rock Café. It was a great two days! Something I’ve discovered that I love about Europe is the fact that everywhere feels old. In the US, I’ve never been east of Utah, so all the old buildings and the atmosphere are new to me. In Europe, cities are hundreds of years old and their history spans over many years, governments, and empires. I love it!

After Gothenburg, we took a train to Copenhagen, Denmark. This was probably my favorite city of everywhere we went. To me, it seems like the city of bicycles; I probably saw over a thousand of them over the three days we were there. We did a free walking tour, which was a great experience. We learned a lot about the history of both Copenhagen and Denmark (and our tour guide was actually Norwegian). Apparently, Copenhagen has been burned to the ground several times in the last 300 years, so the Danish are paranoid about fire. We saw the famous Little Mermaid statute (which was quite disappointing considering it's one of the most famous tourist attractions). Unfortunately, Tivoli, Denmark’s oldest and most famous amusement park, was still closed for the winter while we were there. We also checked out one of the palaces, the old town, and Christiania (the “hippie” district); and I climbed a huge spiral church tower to see the city from high up. Copenhagen was just a fantastic place to visit and I recommend going if you ever have the chance.

Next, we travelled to Berlin on two separate trains, one of which went onto a ferry! That was a neat experience. I have only ever been on passenger ferries and the ones in Seattle that cars can go on, but to be on a train as it goes onto a ferry was cool. Berlin had the most history of all the places that we went. We did a walking tour in Berlin as well (it was about 5 hours long and it was snowing the entire day). Berlin is a fascinating mixture of new, old, and many contradictions. We saw a church that was built between 20 and 30 years ago, but it was built to look hundreds of years old. We saw famous places like Checkpoint Charlie, what is left of the Berlin wall, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, the Brandenburg Gate, and many others. We enjoyed our tour so much that we booked another with the same company for the following day where we went to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. That was a very intense and interesting experience. I think everyone should visit a place that shows the dark side of humanity. It makes you think about humankind and the atrocities we have committed and continue to commit today. It was a rewarding experience. I would love to visit Berlin and other parts of Germany someday, if possible.

After Berlin, we flew to Stockholm, Sweden. The airport was interesting. At the terminal, we were taken by bus on the tarmac to the plane where we actually climbed up the steps to get into the plane. The plane ride was mostly smooth--take note, though, never take an unopened bottle of a carbonated beverage onto a plane. The couple across the aisle from us found this out the hard way; their carbonated water sprayed everywhere and they were drenched. We only had one day in Stockholm and it turned out to be a good thing that it was Easter Monday. Normally, museums and the palace are closed on Mondays, but because it was the holiday, they were open. We were able to explore the museums inside the Royal Palace and watch the changing of the guard. My grandma and aunt really enjoyed visiting Sweden as my great grandmother (their mom) was completely Swedish and so they really learned about our heritage.

Our final stop was back in Norway, in Oslo. By the time we got to Oslo, we were already exhausted, but we pushed through to make the most of our last full day together. We visited the Viking ship museum, which was remarkable to see. There are two almost fully preserved ships from over a thousand years ago. They were beautiful and I am glad to have seen them. We also visited the Nobel Peace Center and City Hall, which is where the Nobel Peace Prize is given every December. I probably could’ve spent days inside the Nobel Peace Center; they have so much information about many truly amazing individuals and organizations. To finish the day off we went to Vigelandsparken, which has hundreds of naked statutes by the artist Vigeland. It was not my favorite place to have seen but it was interesting.

I was very sad to see my family leave for home, but we had an amazing two weeks. I will never forget all the incredible places we visited and all the wonderful experiences we had together. It was truly a once in a lifetime trip. I learned a lot about myself, such as my great map reading skills, and I love the public transportation systems in Europe. I would love to live somewhere in Europe someday. Long story short, travel the world and explore, it will ALWAYS be worthwhile!

Thanks for listening!

Amber Hay

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