Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Around the World in 10 Days

Being gone ten days with no time to write makes it hard to keep up with a blog. Instead of giving you a play by play of our travels I thought I could give you an overview of the trip: my favorite things, the main points that I want to share (and remember) to characterize where we went, and a little bit of my thoughts about a new universe that I found while in each place.

It was a great trip. After I spent a day in Rome, I flew to Copenhagen and met up with two of my cousins from New York. From there, we developed our plans as we went and surprisingly things turned out perfectly. We spent 2 days in Copenhagen, 2.5 in Berlin, then 2.5 in Amsterdam. We never felt like we didn’t have enough time and we usually were about ready to leave when it was time. I think that the things we chose to do were perfect. We took the train twice and stayed in a friend’s apartment in Copenhagen (Which was so wonderful!) and hostels in Berlin and Amsterdam.



-Seeing all of the Vatican Museum.

-Being able to connect the art in Rome to what I just spent the past month learning about.

-Knowing more about some of the works than the electronic listening guide told me.


-Just as in Italy, all pasta and pizza. (Getting meat in Copenhagen and Berlin was so refreshing)

-Crosscrossed with bus lines that are helpful but jumbled.

-Even if you get lost you will find yourself in a majestic, ancient, probably famous location. Don’t worry, I only got lost a few times: I saw Roman sights that I simply didn’t mean to.

-Covered in an amount of tourists that was unrivaled in Copenhagen, Berlin, and Amsterdam.

I was only in Rome for one day. The fantastic thing was that somehow the lines were practically nonexistent. You should have seen me booking it toward the Vatican Museum, trying to speed past people to save even a few minutes in the huge line that I expected, and my immense confusion when I then walked right in and got my ticket. It was great because I got to see the Pantheon, San Pietro’s Basilica, the entire Vatican Museum (and of course the Sistine Chapel!), the Colosseo, the Trevi fountain and the Spanish Steps all in one day. But the one thing that was not perfect was that I was alone. I think that is the part that I couldn’t handle for an extended period of time. I did not really mind a day and a half by myself but I have friends that have been traveling by themselves for weeks or even months. Eating alone. Traveling from hostel to hostel and place to place. You meet others of course but there is a limit in how much you can really get to know them.

Is that why people get married? No one wants to sit alone for the rest of their life? At this stage in my game I have friends and family to always sit with and be with. I have ALWAYS lived with someone. But soon I’ll be graduating, running off to the world, getting a job and my own apartment in a new place. I might live alone, I might start eating alone. And later in life all my friends will have a husband or wife; a family, or be far away. So won’t I need a best friend that promises to protect me from aloneness if only I will do the same for them?



-Denmark’s National Gallery.

-Traveling around with a native person from Copenhagen and beginning to feel like a native too.


-While in Copenhagen we stayed with a friend from Copenhagen and we hung out with her and her friends. They had a humor and understanding of the world that was very similar to ours.

-Everyone speaks perfect English that they learned in school and from shows like 90210 which are subtitled instead of dubbed.

-Even if no one is in sight, a Dane does not cross the street when the walk light is red.

-Cars are unbearably expensive because of the high environment taxes so almost all Danish people ride bikes.

-Wins ‘Best Dressed’. Most young adults share a hip fashion style. Black leather jackets are common. Great shoes (everywhere we went had shoes that I prefer to the selection in the US).

-Voted against using Euros when they were first adopted, and therefore still use the Danish Krone. The conversion rate of 6 Krone to 1 dollar was difficult.

One of the first things that our Danish friend brought us to see in Copenhagen was Christianshavn. In the 60’s, a group of hippies took over an abandoned military base in Copenhagen. They made homes there and their own community. Since they wanted to be self-contained they created their own businesses and their own way of life. And they are still there: those hippies and their kids and maybe even their grandkids. Recently they even got power and plumbing. You cannot buy property in Christianshavn but you can walk in, look around, shop, and have lunch. They do not allow pictures inside because they want to protect the drug trade that goes on there.

While I was there, I kept thinking about what it could possibly be like to grow up in that community. The children there do go to public school past kindergarten (Christianshavn has its own Kindergarten) but the rest of the time they are surrounded by a very specific lifestyle and I assume a very specific life philosophy. Do they get rebels that refuse to live so freely like that? Do the kids grow up just as radically as their parents? Every person is already influenced by their parents but imagine being shaped in the same way by an entire united community.

It’s like growing up in an Amish community… but entirely different.



-The Berlin Zoo, which has more species of animal than any other zoo in the world. It was almost empty, the monkeys were fascinating, and I think I squealed at every different cute little rodent or catlike animal.

-The Tophography of Terrors exhibit, Story of Berlin museum, and the DDR museum: all three combining to give us a complete picture of the history of Berlin, the history of the Holocaust, and the history/ experiences of the Berlin wall.

-The East Side Gallery: a stretch of the Berlin Wall that still stands and was painted in sections by artists from around the world.


-Has a very distinct identity as a country especially intensified by its history.

-Filled with art, whether music on the street, graffiti, old warehouses serving as workshops for artists, bars hosting improv bands, or art museums.

-Great over ground (S) and underground (U) subway systems that reach all corners of the city. They tell you at the platform what and when the next train will be. Unfortunately the tickets, although working the same way as in Italy, cost double as much.

-Those of Berlin generally have a darker, more punk hip style. There is less of a unified trend than in Copenhagen but I did not fit in with my dresses and flats.

-Live on staples of hearty meat, thick wheaty bread, potatoes, and pickled green things (similar to what we found in Copenhagen). Much of the city is overrun by American stores and restaurants, and you can find any style of food there.

Most of us have grown up in a country with a fairly clean, proud history. Slavery was definitely a very bad thing, and something that we still cannot write off as completely behind us. Vietnam gave us a taste of loss, and the war that we are entangled in currently has not been smooth sailing that we can brag about. But imagine being on the losing side of both WWI and WWII. Not just losing World War II but causing it and being responsible for the murder of millions. When the war was finally over Germany thought that they would never be able to clean up their country from the destruction of the war. Since most of their men had been killed, the women of Germany had to clear the rubble away so that the streets could be used again. Germany struggled to get its economy up and running. And right after that, other countries come in and divide Germany’s land among themselves, splitting one of its largest cities and its families right down the middle. How must that feel? Berlin is a very beautiful and complex city with an expressive culture. They clearly have great pride for their country (as we experienced with the World Cup) but how does their past tie in? How would we be different people if our pasts were filled and spilling over with the history of Germany and Berlin?



-Riding bikes for 3 days around the city!

-Anne Frank’s house

-Getting too many free Heineken’s at the Heineken museum and actually enjoying them.

-The Van Gogh museum.


-Seemed to have the most bikes and the most developed system for bike traffic—we’re talking lights and lanes for bikes (although they had large degrees of this in Berlin and Copenhagen). My cousins and I only almost died about twice each.

-Set up like an extending radius instead of a grid system.

-There are many large canals (larger than in Venice) flowing around the city, filled with moored and traveling boats.

-Even though their team wore white, red, and blue in the world cup game that we watched there, every Amsterdamer wore obnoxious orange. (Berlin still wins ‘Most Spirited’).

The things that most people know about Amsterdam are the prostitutes and the weed. Pot is not legal but it is sold in ‘coffee shops’ and you can smell it frequently wafting down the streets as you walk by. Prostitution is legal and I was taken aback every time I looked into a window and saw the girl posing there in her lingerie. In the red light district these two leniencies were very obvious but otherwise (maybe to others ‘because of this’) it was a beautiful city filled with drifting water and spindling brick buildings each claiming their own small style in the tight, tall space they had.

While we were there, we frequently wondered about how life was different in Amsterdam because of the weed and prostitution. Was their more cheating on wives? More accidents involving high people and bikes? Freer sexual activity? And was this freer possible lifestyle better?

And what do these places have in common?

-smoking at atrocious levels (but obviously they would not make that judgment). When we found ourselves in a huge space filled with benches and tables crowded with all ages of Germans, we did not expect the people around us to smoke so much that the screen seemed hazy. When we collectively stood up with a roar at our single goal the 20-something in front of us was on his 4th cigarette out of the 5 that he completed during the game.

The other nice thing about my cousins is they listen to me blabber on about what I am learning and seeing and what I want to share with others. And in the end I found that they shared my same desire to summarize the cities, to announce the foreign jewels of our travels. I simply love my cousins. It was hard to part ways.

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