Doing Venice Like A Venetian.

I present to you all; Venice, Italy.

I was lucky enough to spend 4 days in Venice. Wish I could have stayed longer! A little information first, if you didn’t know Venice is a city in northeastern Italy sited on a group of 118 small islands separated by canals and linked by bridges, so that just means I got to take water taxi’s which was AWESOME.

Anyways, the first night my group arrived in Venice, we went to dinner together and roamed the city. While roaming the city we came across shop after shop filled with these beautiful intricate masks and let me tell you, there were shops for days! It was glorious.

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We also stumbled upon outdoor food markets.

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I was obsessed with these bushels of peppers.

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AND PASTA. Hello, ITALY ❤

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Also something I was presented with when coming to Italy besides food and Venetian masks was designer stores… High end designer. I was in window shopping heaven.

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I was also a little obsessed with the architecture and buildings in Venice… Partially because some of them were partially submerged in water.

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Saint Mark’s Basilica.

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So detailed and gorgeous.

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St. Mark’s Square.

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The canals are also INCREDIBLE.

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And the flooding commences… Since my group was there the third week in November, we happened to be in Venice at their worst flooding time of the year. This means that every day we were there from 11:30-1 the tide would rise a few feet somewhat submerging the island.

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But, the canals are so breathtaking, no one cares.

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We all bought these cheap, touristy shoe cover moon boots anyways.

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Gondola’s! I was lucky enough to ride one 🙂

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Saint Mark’s Square and Basilica during the flooding/high tide.

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Smile, touristy pic!

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Ok, get out of the water now.

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The architecture in Venice is all so unique and romantic.

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The whole city is true romanticism at its finest.

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Got to ride a Gondola with these beautiful ladies.

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And this one 🙂

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Our Gondola driver.

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After our first full day, with the gondola and the shopping, etc… I witnessed these dogs waiting for their owners or window/shoe shopping?

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I went to dinner with my professor Ripley and 5 other girls from my trip and we stumbled upon this really old street from 1601.

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A very skinny street.

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And I got a heaping plate of spaghetti because… I am in Italy.

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The next day a small group of us went to Murano, the island by Venice that is dedicated to glass blowing.

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It was unrealistically beautiful.

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We went to the glass factory.

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We watched a man make something out of glass…

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Then we went into a store where we met this cute man and he taught us how to write with a glass quill pen.. He also called Alyssa, Brittany and I bella and explained that he was calling us beautiful. He was a joyful man, singing, and enjoying life.

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Glass flowers.

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Then after Murano, we took a boat back to Venice and walked all around the Island. Stopping for food, shopping, etc… Alyssa found something she really liked.. hahaha

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Then, we found a makeup store so Brittany and I helped Alyssa join the lipstick for life club.

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And she looked GORGEOUS.

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Then Brit, Alyssa and I went for dinner and of course again, I got pasta, sue me, I’m in Italy.

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Anyways, thanks for reading these guys, I know they are mostly picture dominated but mostly because I don’t have time to write a lot. I’m heading to MILAN tomorrow! Thanks for reading these 🙂

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The Forgotten Tale of My Paragliding Experience.

As you can tell by this posts title, I forgot to share about one of my very favorite experiences so far in Europe; PARAGLIDING. If you do not know what paragliding is, click on this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76ybNxW-CRU

It was one of the most amazing experiences of my entire life thus far. I am learning on this trip one very important lesson, among the many, and that is, that taking reasonable risks is positive, and those risks can have some of the most rewarding outcomes in the end. When my group began our stay at the castle in Millstatt, Austria, my professor Peggy’s husband Jay presented us the opportunity to go paragliding. When Jay came to us with this I was like… “HA, HA, HA… No, I would rather not die in Europe, thanks though.” But, I signed my name on the list to go anyways… What was I thinking? A few days later, Jay said he had talked to Gearhart (No idea how to spell his name…). Gearhart had taken some kids from the last group of people to go on this trip that I am on which occurred two years ago, the trip I am on happens every other year. So Gearhart informed Jay that he was in Italy and could take people from our group, 4 or 5 at a time the following week when he was back in Austria. The following week rolled around and I was like, oh boy… I don’t know about this. So, I didn’t  volunteer to go in the first group but instead waited. Then, the day before we were supposed to leave Austria and the beloved castle, Gearhart showed up to take a few people and I somehow became one of them and then the next thing I knew I was in a van with three other girls and this German man headed up a mountain…

This mountain to be exact.

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It was such a beautiful day for paragliding, sun was out, clouds were minimal and the breeze was nonexistent.

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The wonderful hilarious Gearhart.

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So, the other three girls went paragliding first,  each of us went up the mountain separately so the rest of us could watch from the bottom, Kel went, then Billie, and then Cat… and then my time came.  And, I did it… There I am just floating through the air with “Yurek” I think his name was, one of Gearhart’s first students he taught how to fly years and years ago. He brought each of us girls down the mountain safely!

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It was so beautiful floating above these mountains and above the clouds even! I can’t even explain how it feels, sometimes there are things that make you feel incredibly small in comparison… Like, the ocean or a ginormous cathedral but this made me feel on top of the world.

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While I was up there I was laughing and screaming and reacting like any loud American would and my Austrian guide kept asking, Are you okay? Is this okay? Do we need to land?… I was fine but he didn’t understand.

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When we landed, I couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear. I was filled with joy.

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I was laughing and giggling and thanking the Lord for making sure I didn’t die.. I was overwhelmed.

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Yurek making sure I wasn’t dying…

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From left to right: Cat, Billie, Kel, Myself, Yurek.

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Such an amazing day.

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So, there it was… my short but sweet tale of paragliding off of an Austria mountain. We all made it down safely and had a blast spending our last full day in Austria doing this.

Anyways, I will hopefully be updating this blog very frequently so that I can stay on top of them because I will be traveling so much within the next (last) 20 days of my trip. I leave for Milan tomorrow for a day, then it’s off to Paris for four days, then Zermatt and Geneva, Switzerland, then Florence, then Rome and then HOME. Hope you enjoy the mass amounts of blog posts I will be writing within the next twoish weeks! Thanks for reading.

Life on the Adriatic: Croatia Style.

Hello again! I am trying to stay as up to date as possible on these blog posts because I will actually be in a new city, new country in fact, every few days. Friday my group will leave Venice, where I am now to go to Milan, Italy for a night and then from Milan to Paris, France for a few days! After Paris (but really what can follow Paris… my goodness) We will be heading off to Switzerland! So I will be very busy from here on out. So, here is my post on Croatia! I spent 10 days in Lovran, Croatia in a hotel along the Adriatic Sea and it was glorious. So here is a short, brief, picture overview of my time in Croatia.

This is what I was welcomed to Croatia with… The sight of this man catching some sea life… Yuck.

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Then, Brooke, April and about 5 others went to dinner somewhere.

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And I got this awesome chicken…

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Then after dinner, naturally all of the boys found the water as quickly as possible, in fact our whole group ended up at the waterfront.

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So naturally, in November… We decided to go swimming in the sea.

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And we did just that.

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I got my first battle wound of the trip… cut my knee on a rock getting out of the water, well worth it though.

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That night this view occurred outside of my window… God is good.

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“Those who live at the ends of the earth stand in awe of your wonders. From where the sun rises to where it sets, you inspire shouts of joy.”

Psalm 65:8

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Then the next night, our whole group had dinner together and I tried mushrooms and I hate them…

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On a more exciting note, on the weekend we had there we all headed out on a day trip to Pula, which is a 2 hour bus ride from Lovran.

In Pula, there were some awesome ancient ruins to see like in the photo below

the Temple of Augustus, a tribute to the first Roman Emperor.

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Then Brooke, Laura, and I stumbled upon a small flea market happening…

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With some of the most unique things for sale… Like these pins.

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You don’t see stuff like this in America…

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Simon and Garfunkel ❤

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Eminem the American Ninja? Oh okay, I can’t believe I thought he was only a rapper.

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The man with the army jacket was the owner of this stand, his wife was working with them and they also had a friend helping. They had a collection of things from all over Yugoslavia, Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, etc. They had pins, military medals, this tea set below that my friend Brooke bought.

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Then, after we purchased some things (I bought a nice camel colored leather wallet and some little metal tea cup things, Brooke bought the tea set and a small vase, a military medal and some other little things) We headed towards some more mainstream stores and stumbled upon a store called “Italian Fashion” and found the obsession with New York very evident.

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I was laughing out loud at some of this stuff…

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Then we kept wandering Pula until…

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We found their Colosseum…

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It was so beautiful.

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And it was the perfect time to be there.

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I could have sat in here all day.

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It made me feel so small, to be in a place that has been around for such a long time. Here’s some history on this beautiful structure. Straight from Wikipedia 😉

“The Arena is the only remaining Roman amphitheatre to have four side towers and with all three Roman architectural orders entirely preserved. It was constructed in 27 BC – 68 AD and is among the six largest surviving Roman arenas in the World. A rare example among the 200 Roman surviving amphitheaters.”

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So anyways, I loved Croatia and the Adriatic Sea, and the Roman ruins and all the rest that I was able to get in the small town of Lovran but I was ready to move on by the tenth day. It was amazing to be able to sit along the Adriatic and do morning worship services with my classmates and then have class outside by the Sea! It was all truly incredible but my group was ready to move on. My group took a bus to Venice and so far I have loved it here! I will try to keep you guys posted on everything. Thank you for reading!

A Visit From The Parents & Castle Life… Oh and Paragliding

Hey everyone! I’m trying to catch up on these posts so that you all know what is going on and where I am in the world but I must say I am struggling. At this point in the trip I am in Lovran, Croatia. I am not sure how much you know about Croatia, but one thing to note… It’s warm and my hotel is right on the Adriatic Sea. Now, with that said… I haven’t gotten much blogging done partially because I’m in Croatia, partially because this is one of the most intense homework and class heavy periods of the trip. We have class most days and the homework has been piling up because we are trying to complete the bulk of it before we begin to travel full time. I have only 23 days left here in Europe (Crazy I know, I thought that 108 days was an eternity but there’s less than a month left! How time flies, my goodness) In the next month my group will go from Croatia to Italy, to Switzerland, to France and back to Italy and from Italy, home bound. This last month will be both exciting and challenging so I will try to keep you all posted about all that is going on!

With that said, I don’t think I post enough about the group I am here with. There are twenty five of us Bethel students on this trip. Here is a photo of us all below…

Top row: April, Brooke, Michael, Elliott, Tyler, Kassie, Ben, Jay, Kel, Kelly, Laura, Ripley (Professor).

Second row: Austin, Jay Kendall (My professor Peggy’s husband), Peggy (Professor), Layne, Madeleine, Sarah, Cat, DJ.

Bottom row: Steph, Billie, Beth, Ari, Jillian, Brittany, Alyssa and myself.

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They are all such great people to be traveling with and I am having a blast with each of them.

Anyways, I was lucky enough to spend a few weeks in a castle with the lovely people above. Here are some photos of the view from the castle, some angles of the castle and the grounds.

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There is a lake right in front of the castle and also the castle is on a mountain so there are surrounding mountains.

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It is such a beautiful place.

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The colors were so beautiful during the time we spent there.

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This angle shows part of the castle, the tower.

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The castle was on a mountain that overlooked other mountains and a lake. Many members of my group took advantage of our time here with all of the nature to go on hikes and walks.

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Ohp, for once I am on the other side of the camera for this picture…

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The town of Millstatt

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The sights my group got to see while just walking around the castle towards town truly seemed unreal.

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So after the first weekend in the castle, we all just relaxed and hung out and then had intense class time all week. After classes that following week, we all headed to Salzburg! But, not before my dear friend Francisca came up to the castle to visit me from Vienna! And just like any normal Austrians would do, we decided to head down to the dock and take a dip in the water on that cold October almost November day…

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Before the jump… Happy as can be to be reunited

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I realized my life-jacket had a whistle and that made me really happy…

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I prepared for the jump, with about a million pictures and then…

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We took a picture together and then…

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We went for it…

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The moment before my whole body felt like it was stabbed with a million icicles…

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Oh no, here it comes… the trauma

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Oh no…

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Submerged in the coldest water of my entire life. It was so painful.

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The smiles we put on for pictures though…

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The moment before I screamed “GET ME OUT OF HERE”…

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And, the warmth of getting out… ahhhhh yes

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Jay jumped in right before us!

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Then, that night we had some group games, a goodbye to my professor Peggy and her husband Jay because our other professor Ripley would be taking over the trip from there on out. We also did some fall themed games at the caslt and then the next morning we headed out to Salzburg for the weekend! I was especially excited about this because Francisca was coming with, along with my two Polish friends Domi and Ania who had made the drive to be with us as well! I was feeling so blessed, also I was going to get to see my parents! They were to arrive in Salzburg Friday. When my group arrived in Salzburg we went on the original Sound of Music tour, which was not as cool as it sounds.

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This building here, used as the backyard in the movie. This is the lake the kids fell out of the canoe into with Maria.

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Then, we saw the gazebo where I am 16 going on 17 occurred in the movie!

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My favorite part of the tour was passing the RED BULL HEADQUARTERS. I WAS SO STOKED ABOUT THAT. How cool is this building?

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We stopped at some mountains for pics…

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Mostly selfies.

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Francisca and I.

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That night, Francisca, Brooke, My parents and I went to dinner and had a blast! I remember so clearly the moment when I saw my mom at the hotel, we were both jumping up and down, I was so excited to see her and my dad. Then, the next day my parents and I woke up for breakfast and then headed out with some people from my group to go walking around Salzburg. (Elliot, Layne, Beth, Kassie and April)

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Mirabell Gardens

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My dad, looking at some European building or another…

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I think he was looking at this, Robert Mapplethorpe Gallery showing. If you don’t know who that is, look him up. His art is well known and interesting to say the least…

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Then April and Elliot serenaded us all and sang us some Sound of Music, don’t worry I caught it on video.

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We wandered the gardens waiting for another group that was to meet up with us, Brooke, Francisca, Laura and my professor Ripley. In the meantime.. My group convinced me to go down this slide in a dress and I did… sliding across the ground is how that ended for me so that was fun. I got legitimate rug burn with scrapes and all.

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Then, we trekked our way up to the Salzburg Fortress. My parents ❤

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The group I was with! Francisca had to leave for a little while. Elliot, Layne, Brooke and Laura. Of course my parents and professor were with us also.

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After sitting on top of the mountain in the fortress with my parents, enjoying the view, we walked down and went to a street of shopping and saw this… A demonstration on not killing dog’s?

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Hermes… Yes please, if only

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We shopped a little

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Saw this ram walking stick, my dad was tempted because he keeps saying he wants a walking stick. My dad and I are both Aries, the sign of the Aries is the ram.

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That night, my whole group went to a dinner/concert. It was beautiful and Francisca came!

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Mama ❤

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My lovely parents and I before dinner.

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The dinner was very nice.

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This was the location.

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The next day we all traveled back to Millstatt from Salzburg together, I said goodbye to Francisca and my parents made their way with us to the castle. They were with me two days at the castle and then they went to Italy. That began my last week at the castle. Within that last week, the only noteworthy thing was that.. I GOT TO GO PARAGLIDING. The day before my group left Austria for Croatia, I was able to go paragliding off of an Austrian mountain… And I will share about paragliding in a separate post because it was so awesome. Stay tuned! Sorry for the delay but I had my last two finals today so I haven’t been able to do anything but study. Tomorrow I leave Croatia for Venice, Italy and from there, to Milan and then Paris by the weekend. I am going to be very busy. I will try really hard to update soon about all that is happening!

A Tale of Traveling Alone in Europe; London to Lisbon.

So, it has happened again. I have become intensely busy with all that study abroad entails, and much to the surprise of many, that actually includes studying. Since I left London and went to Portugal, and then back to Vienna and then from Vienna to Millstatt, Austria, my group has phased into a time in our trip where the course load is heavy and classes actually happen… that actually isn’t a joke. For the first 2 months of the trip my group had class with our professor Peggy when it was possible. Once a week after our German classes, then sporadically as we traveled, once we had a full discussion class period in Peggy and her  husbands hotel room. My study abroad trip is very unique, being able to travel with my professor and 25 other students is unheard of. I am very blessed by this trip. But, as we have transitioned into this new time at the castle in Millstatt, Austria that my group is living in, we have begun to have class every weekday from 9 to 1. So we went from very little class but sizable amount of homework to class and homework. Therefore, I barely have time to do this and experience life so I took some time off to experience and now I will share. My 5 days in Portugal are the topic today and the story of how I got there alone… Get ready

So, keep in mind I have never traveled alone before, not even in the US. I have never had to go on an airplane by myself or fly to a different city without the security of someone else watching my back, until I had to fly from London to Lisbon alone. My mindset towards this was avoidance until the day before I actually had to fly there… I kept it in the back of my mind trying to have as much fun as I could in London while I was there. But then, the day before I was to fly to Lisbon it hit me, Oh crap, I have to get from my hostel in London to my friend’s apartment in Lisbon alone tomorrow. What was I thinking? But, the day of travel I woke up determined to accomplish what I believed I could do. I woke up, got dressed, finished packing and set out on my journey.

First, I rode the subway with my friend DJ, who I was in London with, to a certain stop where we split and took subways heading opposite directions for opposite train stations. His, to King’s Cross, mine to Victoria. When I got to Victoria Station, I realized I had to figure out how to get to the airport from there… I walked out of the subway to see this train station and instantly felt a little overwhelmed, I remember thinking “Oh man, I am officially traveling Europe alone and there’s no turning back now.” So, naturally, I asked for help. Luckily, everyone in London speaks English pretty much so I just asked an old man and my goodness was he nice. He pointed to where I could buy tickets to the train that took people to the airport and was just so helpful in my moment of confusion, his words to me “Oh dear, it’s right there, you can’t miss it! There’s a sign and many people, oh I am sure you will see it if you just walk over there! I hope I was helpful.” and boy was he. I found it perfectly, bought tickets for the train that was to be 45 minutes long and set off in search of my train. Once I found it, I settled in at a table and began journaling.

I remember thinking, this will be the perfect time to journal a lot because I have been lagging on my journal updates. That was the moment when out of all the 50 seats on the train, this man sits right next to me. His name was Edward and he was a Londoner, maybe in his late thirties. He first offered me a banana, I declined. (HE WAS A STRANGER, WHAT ELSE COULD I DO?) But, he persisted and I accepted one of the 10 he had… Then, he offered me a juice box, I couldn’t say no. I know, I know, most of you are cringing, and thinking to yourself, Abby, why would you accept food from a stranger when traveling alone on a foreign continent? and ya know, my answer would probably be, I HAVE NO IDEA. Luckily, it was not poisonous or drugged and the only positive thing I received by meeting Edward was the banana and juice box because he was a jerk.

Background on Edward, born, raised and educated in London. He had the attitude of an elitist with the accent to boot. He began our discourse by asking me where I was from, etc… He guessed Canada and was hoping I was not from the U.S., I obviously disappointed him when I stated that I was in fact from the United States. He then went on a rant about how “my people” or Americans have bastardized the English language. As a lover of language and of course rhetoric (as a rhetorical communications major, duh) I was very offended. He began to correct the English that he believed Americans have corrupted by throwing away the Queen’s English and adopting their own false way of speaking. I hid my disdain as best as I could by quietly absorbing the information he was attempting to impress upon me, until I couldn’t take it anymore. Excuse me, but if you know me, you know I don’t keep silent for very long especially if I do not like something. If something seems not right to me, I will say something. So, I called him out, began to challenge him conversationally and started a controlled but important conversation with him. We dug out some of his clear prejudices against America and the United States. He claimed he never had any desire to go to the U.S., I told him that I had just been in London and wasn’t super impressed. He respected my opinion but then informed me that he would be going to New York and Miami in the Spring on his way to Rio. I told him that those two cities are not true representations of the U.S. and not to judge the entire nation based on two cities and he agreed. He asked me what my state was famous for, naturally I said 10,000 lakes and the Mall of America. He said the lakes were more impressive, my inner fashionista might disagree. Edward has been traveling for 15 years, he made all of his money off of a club he started after university and then sold it and has been traveling ever since. He is single with no children, trust me, that makes sense when you meet him…  Once we FINALLY arrived at the airport (I was four hours early because I hate being late so I went way early… I know, lame) He followed me through the airport because we had the same terminal, we shook hands and he corrected me on how to say my own name because he believes my name is just a play off of the abbey’s and monasteries throughout his home country, but that’s fine, I was happy to see him go. BYE EDWARD, FOREVER. Was not sad to see him go, so that started my free travel adventure by myself.

Then, I had four hours of waiting at the airport to go. I checked my bag, went through security, was frisked by a airport security woman who thought I was concealing something within my bra which was interesting… I obviously was not. She was feeling the under wire of my bra and said “I just need to make sure these aren’t harnessing anything other than your breasts…” Like what? Ew stop. So that was an experience… I walked around the airport, ate at a restaurant by myself, read a little, wrote a little… No wifi, so I couldn’t work on a blog but I found ways to pass the time. Then, after four hours, I got on my plane with no hassle and had no one in the two seats next to me! How nice is that. It was glorious, so I napped all the way to Portugal, just a quick 2 hours.

When I arrived, I had to find a taxi to the apartment that I was staying in. My friend Francisca, who I met in Vienna in my German class and she also lived in my dorm, contacted her friends who she shares an apartment with in Lisbon and they offered to host my friend Brooke and I. That was the biggest blessing of free travel. Once I got a taxi, I hopped in (BMW, not bad eh) and he began to drive me with the windows rolled down past palm trees through the warm night air. Feeling the warmth over me was just a sign that I was in for an awesome 5 days. When I arrived at the apartment, I went up to the door but didn’t know which apartment it was so I just did what any lost person would and pressed all of the buzz buttons on the outside of the door thinking, someone has to let me in… hahahah so many people did. Then, I had to wander up tons of flights of stairs, trying to find the apartment. Then, I heard my dear friend Brooke’s voice and I was ecstatic, I sprinted up the stairs to her and we went into the apartment to debrief about our travel days. Brooke had traveled from Switzerland alone to meet me so we both had stories to share. It was so nice to see a familiar face and be finally comfortable after a long day of traveling alone. We talked, and went to bed to rest the night away.

The next morning, we decided to sleep in a little and then went to lunch, on the way to lunch in the subway, we saw this cool thing below… had to take a picture with it.

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We had an awesome lunch and YES, I ate that whole pizza, no shame.

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Then we decided, this is basically our vacation, let’s take touristy pictures and get our nails done and massages. We did just that.

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Nails 🙂

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Brookie and I 🙂

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We tried on weird clothes… I actually almost considered buying this, no joke. It’s kinda cute in a totally ugly way.

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That night, we went back to the apartment and did homework, went to bed early, relaxed finally.

The next day, we took a train to Belem. So, Santa Maria de Belém, or just Belém, whose name is derived from the Portuguese word for Bethlehem, is a civil parish of the municipality of Lisbon, in central Portugal.

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And of course went here to get the famous Portuguese egg tart pastry!

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Wikipedia says “It is believed that pastéis de nata were created before the 18th century by Catholic monks at the Jeronimos Monastery in the civil parish of Santa Maria de Belem,  in Lisbon: for this reason, they are alternately known as Pastéis de Belém. During Portuguese medieval history, the convents and monasteries of Portugal produced large quantities of eggs, whose egg-whites were in demand for starching of clothes (such as nuns’ habits) and also in wineries (where they were used in the clearing of wines, such as Porto). It was quite common for these Portuguese monasteries and convents to produce many confections with the leftover egg yolks, resulting in a proliferation of sweet pastry recipes throughout the country.”

All I know, was the pastry was AWESOME.

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Pictures of da pastryyy!

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Also, got some Starbucks orange juice. So, clearly I started off my morning right.

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I also bought this bag the day before when Brooke and I were out pampering ourselves. I really love it.

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Jerónimos Monastery

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The beauty of the sun… Seeing the sun after being in Czech and Poland where it was quite cold for weeks was so nice. I also had just left cold and rainy London so this was so nice.

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Saw this cool thing…

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Then, as Brooke and I walked towards the Tagus river we saw the Monument to the Discoveries. It is a monument in honor of the Portuguese discoveries and exploration, through which they explored the African coast as well as colonizing selected areas of Africa. Discovered an eastern route to India that rounded the Discovered Brazil, and explored the Indian Ocean. They also established trading routes throughout most of Southern Asia, and sent the first direct European maritime trade and diplomatic missions to China and Japan. Very cool stuff!

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It was such a beautiful sight.

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Brookie lounging in the sun.

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Then, that same day we took a train to Cascais… WHERE WE FOUND THE BEACH.

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Sand castles!

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Finally a reason for sunglasses!

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Then, after a day of lounging in the sun and absorbing as much sun as we could, we headed back to the apartment to go out to dinner with our lovely hosts. We were hosted by two girls and a boy, Maria, Claudia and Daniel. They were so awesome.

We went to dinner with Maria, her school colleague Jorge and Claudia and it was a blast to get a chance to talk and learn from each other. Then, we went walking the town! Jorge and Maria are both studying tourism and so they had fun showing us the city and sharing its history with us. Seeing how much Maria loved showing us Lisbon, her passion, made Brooke and I fall in love with it.

Commerce Square.

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Coolest elevator I have ever seen.

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Beautiful overlook of the city.

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Claudia and Jorge!

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After dinner we headed down to a bar in bairro alto to meet up with Daniel, our other host. It was such a fun night full of laughter. Our hosts were so amazing.

Of course the next day, Brooke and I went back to Cacais, to the beach.

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Toes in the sand 🙂

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Then we had dinner at Cascais and took the train back to spend the night at the apartment packing to leave. But not before Brookie told me to take a picture of the awesome view from our hosts balcony!

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The next day was travel day! We were to travel back to Vienna. So we woke up and walked around Lisbon in the morning.

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Brooke and I 🙂

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I love being near the water.

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I had some gelato for breakfast and lounged on this fountains ledge.

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Coolest entrance to any Starbucks I have ever seen.

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We spent the morning relaxing before going to the airport. I had some earl grey tea 🙂

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Bronek is my new nickname for Brookie. I love it.

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Lipstick probs…

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GELATO.

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Anyways, I had an amazing time in Portugal. It was such a restful 5 days that I got to spend with a dear friend and meet new awesome people as well. My hosts were so kind, fun and hospitable. Seeing Lisbon through their eyes was more valuable than anything I could have imagined for free travel. I can’t thank them enough for being awesome and letting us stay with them! I will always remember the memories I made in Portugal. Looking forward to the day I can come back!

A little update on where I am now: CROATIA. I am currently in Lovran, Croatia in a hotel that overlooks the Adriatic Sea. It is a very beautiful place and my group gets to be here for the next ten days! My next post will be about my time at the castle that my group stayed at in Millstatt, Austria for three weeks. That post will include details from the visit from my parents, my weekend in Salzburg and my paragliding experience! Hopefully, I’ll have that coming soon for ya’ll. Until next time!

Welcome Down to London Town!

I’m delivering on my promise to you all! Another post, right after the other. This post details my time in London. I spent the first four days of my free travel experience in London.

Free travel was a point of anxiety for both my parents and I going into this trip.  The thought of ten days, without my professors traveling throughout Europe with other students, freaked my parents out. Therefore, I went into this trip very anxious about what my free travel plans would be and if they would appease my parents. My plans presented themselves in the form of two glorious cities. London and Lisbon… First, I was to head to London with three girls from my group: Sarah, April, and Madeleine. We met up with a boy from our group there as well, he came to London on a separate flight.

So, Friday, October 11 was the beginning of free travel. Sarah, April, Madeleine and I woke up to leave our hotel in Vienna at 5:20 AM. We had to catch a bus to Bratislava, where our airport was. The bus was to leave Vienna at 6 and so we had to be quick… We jumped on the subway with our travel backpacks in search of the bus station. What we didn’t realize was how far the bus station was from our hotel. We had fifteen minutes to go 13 or so stops on the subway and then we had to exit the subway and find the bus station. We sat on the subway as the minutes ticked away and the stops faded away, and by the time we reached the stop where the bus station was to be, we flew out of the subway sprinting and it was 5:55AM. We had about five minutes to find a bus station, buy tickets and get on the bus. We asked the first person we saw whether or not they knew where the station was, they said that it was down the stair.. We took off running, Madeleine was in the lead, bounding down the stairs at a rapid pace. She was going so fast actually, that we lost her… So April, Sarah and I were scrambling to find her. We didn’t know whether or not she exited the staircase at street level, or kept going down the stairs, or what level she had gotten off at. Then, we heard her screaming for us… We didn’t know where the screaming was coming from though… Until I ran out onto the street and saw her at the end of the road next to a huge bus screaming as loud as she could for us while trying to catch her breath. I signal to April and Sarah to follow me and we sprint to the bus. We pay, the bus driver throws out luggage in the hold and the bus takes off… We entered the bus at 6:01 AM. It was the most stressful beginning to free travel I could have imagined.

Good news though, after this, we could handle anything. We got to the airport and headed to London! When we arrived in London, surprise, surprise, it was raining! Classic London. We couldn’t check into our hostel until 9 PM. When we arrived, it was midday. We went in search of food and sights with 30 pound backpacks on our backs and umbrella’s in hand.

We stumbled upon Her Majesty’s Palace and Fortress better known as the Tower of London, which was used as a prison in the 16th and 17th C. It has an enduring reputation as place of torture and death.

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Then, we found the tower bridge. The photo below showcases how bad the weather was. The wind turned my umbrella inside out! I didn’t know what else to do but laugh…

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Tourist pic with my travel backpack… Hahaha

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Tower Bridge.

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This was a very exhausting day.

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Tourist pic after tourist pic… So many

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The bridge in all its glory.

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We walked across the bridge,

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Then, stumbled upon St. Paul’s Cathedral.

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But, after these historical London sights… We found a TOPSHOP. I had never been to one before and so I was so excited to explore this store… Of course, I found a jacket there and bought it.

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After a long day of walking, shopping and carrying 30 pound backpacks, we were exhausted and a little bit miserable. We took the subway to find food… When we exited the subway station we saw this beautiful sight, BIG BEN ❤ When we saw this, the exhaustion of the day slipped away for a few seconds, we were in awe of the awesomeness of this building.

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Then, we went to dinner at a pub and met up with the boy from our Bethel group who had arrived in London.  He was to stay in the same hostel as us so we met up with him and headed to the hostel. When we arrived at the hostel, we checked in and found our rooms. I was in a ten person room with the boy from my group, DJ and as it happened, 8 other males. That was an interesting experience. I felt like I was the only girl at an all boys camp… with 5 sets of bunkbeds lining the walls of this cabin style room. To say the least, it was an interesting learning experience.

Then, the next day, we woke up and had breakfast at the hostel together. Then, Sarah, DJ and I went out for the day. We jumped on the subway in search of the most touristy things possible to do!

This was in the subway station, Sherlock:

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Our first stop, THE LONDON EYE ❤

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DJ, Sarah and I in front of the London Eye.

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We had to wait in line to buy tickets to ride the London eye and in the line there were wax figures. I took this time to take some wedding pictures with my new husband, David. Yes, it’s true.. He left Victoria. (hahahahah jk)

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Then, once in the London eye… I saw this awesome view.

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Sarah and I in the London Eye

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DJ, Sarah & I 🙂

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Then, after  the London eye, we walked across one of the many bridges in London and saw some pretty cool stuff…

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This man wearing a kilt was pretty cool…

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We happened upon Westminster Abbey.

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And a classic London telephone booth!

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So, I got a few touristy pictures of course…

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Then we wandered through St. James’s Park… Found a food cart, got food and sat in the park and ate.

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Then, it was off to search for Buckingham Palace… We followed the Princess Diana Memorial Walkway and happened upon it.

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So much beautiful foliage outside of Buckingham Palace.

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I’ve decided if I die, I want a statue above my grave with me and a Lion like this.. So cool. Definitely leaving an instruction for my children in my will to create one of these for me.

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I saw these two girls looking in on Buckingham Palace, they were a real life Blair and Serena (Gossip Girl reference) so I had to take a picture of them. Loved their outfits.

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There was no changing of the guard ceremony this day, so we came back the next day.

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Buckingham Palace in all of its glory.

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Oh, how I wish I was a royal…

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Then, later that night after, Buckingham palace we met April and Madeleine under Big Ben and went out to dinner with Madeleine’s brothers girlfriend Suzie, who is from Scotland but was visiting a friend in London. I saw this awesome sight on our way to dinner. We had dinner at a Gourmet Burger Kitchen, SO GOOD.

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The next day, we went back to Buckingham to see the changing of the guard. Went to church at Hillsong church and out to lunch! So much fun.

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Then later, we went to Trafalgar’s Square and to  a taco place.

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Trafalgar’s square

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That night, we went back to our hostel early to pack and get a good nights rest! The next morning we all had a travel day ahead. My travel day was to PORTUGAL. My next post will be about my time in Portugal. Be ready, it is hopefully coming very soon 🙂 Thank  you all for waiting for these posts and reading them. Sorry this one is so short! I was only in London for three full days. My next post will be about my 5 days in Portugal! Until next time.

I LOVE POLAND.

Well, I’ve done it again. I’ve promised a post way sooner than I can deliver one but the weeks just fly by in a blur over here… One minute I’m in Poland, the next I’m in the Czech Republic (No, that literally happened I went out for dinner one night with my Polish friend Domi and she just drove right over the border and right back and I was like mind blown…) But really, over the past couple weeks since I left the Czech Republic, I have gone from Poland, back to Vienna for a day, then to London and I am currently writing this from Lisbon, Portugal!

So, I know it’s been awhile but I have two posts coming your way so bear with me! The first of this set of two I’m promising is about my time in Poland!  I was fortunate enough to spend about 2 weeks in Poland. In those 2 weeks, I fell in love with Poland and Polish culture. It is a country full of people with beautiful souls. I was lucky enough to get to know a few during my time there. But, I will once again tell my stories through the pictures I have taken! So, when we first left Prague to head to Poland, we took a few trains meaning we had a couple transfers. This is always extremely stressful, running from one train to the next but we made it to Krakow, Poland.  Our first night, we checked into our hotel which was in the Jewish Quarter, the hotel was called Hotel Ester. And, for those of you who know me and my weird quirks well, you know why: I LOVE JEWISH HISTORY. I have always had a deep interest in the Jewish people from their biblical origin and onward. Therefore, this district just intrigued me so much. I was so ready to explore that first night we arrived and of course plans had been arranged for us for dinner.  So, we unloaded our things and headed to an Oktoberfest themed dinner. This was my meal below:

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MASHED POTATOES. SOOOO GOOOOOD.

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This Oktoberfest themed dinner party was what welcomed us to Poland! It was awesome. We ate and danced and enjoyed our first night in Poland.

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This room was filled with joyful dancing people. I had such a blast.

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This was some graffiti I saw on the way to dinner, the Lion of Judah. (Significance: the Lion of Judah is the symbol of the Israelite tribe of Judah in the Book of Genesis. Judah was the fourth son of Jacob the Israelite and was the progenitor of King David. The Lion of Judah is also a phrase in the Book of Revelation representing Jesus, who originated from the tribe of Judah.) This is probably the coolest graffiti I have seen so far though.

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The next day, we were given a lesson on Polish history and culture from a Polish woman named Marta and her husband a Minnesotan and a Bethel grad named Billy. His dad is actually a professor at Bethel. Marta and Billy met through the missionary group we were connected with in Poland. The group is called Josiah Venture, they have operations in many countries in Europe but we were connected with them in Poland. Josiah Venture provides English classes through each of their European locations but they are a faith based organization. Billy and Marta met in the Ukraine. They now live in Poland together and they were kind enough to show us around Krakow and share their insights with us! Above is a picture of St. Mary’s  Basilica. We went to mass here which was a very interesting experience, it was all in Polish.

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Above is a photo of the city center in Krakow.  The long building is the cloth hall where merchants sell their items from both sides of the building. I bought some fur mittens there. And let me tell you, they are glorious.

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Marta and Billy showing us around!

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First, they showed us the Jagiellonian University, which is where Marta is a professor! The Jagiellonian University was established in 1364 by Casimir III the Great in Kazimierz. It is the oldest university in Poland, the second oldest university in Central Europe and one of the oldest universities in the world.

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This part of the University is not utilized but instead remains a museum of sorts. This is the school that Nicolas Copernicus attended as well as Pope John Paul II.

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The next thing we saw was this church which has a statue of each of the twelve disciples. I thought it was so cool.

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Then passing through the Jewish Quarter we saw this.

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And, this Jewish Cemetery.

The next day, we went to Schindler’s Factory. Oskar Schindler was an ethnic German industrialist, German spy, and member of the Nazi party who is credited with saving the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his enamelware. There is a famous movie about him, called Schindler’s List.

Before reaching the factory, we saw these huge chairs below. The chairs as I have read noted the scene in the streets after the ghetto’s ultimate liquidation of Jews in Poland, the poignant scene of furniture and belongings left behind by the people of the ghetto, the majority of which were either murdered in the ghetto or transported to their deaths.

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After Schindler’s factory…  and our second full day in Krakow… We were all exhausted.

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So, the napping commenced.

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Naps on naps on naps! IN THE STREETS, NAPS.

Then, following the naps we took vans from Krakow to Katowice, where we moved into the camp. Camp H2O, a christian camp facility owned by Josiah Venture. It was the nicest and most modern camp I had ever been to. It was lovely and here we settled in and prepared for the following week. Within that following week, we were to teach English classes through Josiah Venture at local schools.

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CAMP. I LOVE CAMP.

Then, the week began and we started teaching. I was lucky enough to be put in a group with my dear friend Brooke. Here’s a picture of us from our first day of teaching! We taught English to middle school aged kids.

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My teaching group consisted of  the people below:  DJ, Brooke, Cat, Ben, April and Laura. The woman next to me is Domi. She was basically our guide for our time teaching. She led us to our schools, provided us with snacks throughout our teaching days and was an overall angel. She is amazing. Domi is an orthopedic trauma nurse, youth group leader, and in my humble opinion, a saint. She has such a beautiful soul and heart for the Lord. Without her, Poland wouldn’t have been the same.

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For some of our classes, our group had to split up into two smaller groups so we could teach more students in separate classes. This was my group Ben and April, both ROCKSTARS:

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We had such a blast teaching English and getting to know all of the Polish students. They were seriously so awesome and we had the opportunity to be in a different classroom everyday at different schools meeting so many students. Below is a picture of some of our students from one of our classes:

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They treated us with so much respect. These two asked for a photo with us, which was so shocking for us… but we were so flattered. Also, at the beginning of each class the students would all be standing until we told them to sit. They are such respectful students. I couldn’t have asked for a more enriching experience in Poland than teaching these students.

Let me share with you, one of my favorite students.. Matthew:

Matthew was so enthusiastic, very young but so excited about learning English. When I told him I was from Minnesota he wrapped his arms around himself and said brrrrr… it’s cold there, right? I couldn’t help but laugh because he was right… I responded with, yes, a lot like Poland, he nodded and smiled in agreement. He was so excited that we were in his classroom teaching. At one point when we were playing hotseat, a game in which the class is split in two teams and there is one person in the hot seat from each team, the teacher writes a word on the board and the students who are not in the hot seat are to describe the word to the person in the hot seat. The first student in the hot seat to guess correctly, wins. He was trying to explain in English to a classmate the word “school” and he kept yelling things in English like “teacher”, “books”, “students” and he finally yells “SO MANY CLASSES” and shakes his hands at the student… It was probably the most hilarious moment of my short teaching career. He was great.

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Okay, so following our few days of teaching. Friday rolled around quickly and the majority of the 25 Bethel students went off to homestays with Polish families, except my group. We stayed at camp for Friday night because Domi’s youth group came and stayed over night for a camp follow up. We had a blast as you can see by the photo below, they hid toilet paper rolls all over the building and two teams went in search of them, Ben clearly was excited about this:

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As were April and Brooke… and Domi in the background

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We played all sorts of games like the one below where a person from each team had to unroll the whole roll of toilet paper with their mouth… This is Domi and her awesome sister Ania.

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Then, we had some time dedicated to worship. April and Ben both led a few songs which was awesome.

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Ben leading worship:

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Then Saturday, the whole group went for a walk and had lunch and the students went home. This was our night to go to homestays, April and I went home with a student named Kasia and Cat, Brooke and Laura went home with Domi and Ania. This group below (Cat, Brooke, Domi, Ania and April) spent a lot of time together in Poland, I had so much fun with all of them.

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Then, the homestays commenced! Saturday night after arriving at our homestays April, Kasia and I had dinner with her mother and sister and then headed over to Domi’s to hang out with the other girls. At Domi’s we all just laughed, talked and drank tea for hours, it was the best time ever.

Below is a photo of Kasia and April. April and I were blessed to be able to stay with Kasia and her mother and sister. Her father was out of town. Below is a photo of Kasia and April singing and playing guitar together.

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April and I brought gifts for our host family. I brought a twin cities t-shirt, a Minnesota mug and coaster. When I woke up Sunday morning for church and went into the kitchen, my host mother was wearing the t-shirt and drinking out of the mug! My heart melted in that moment. She told me she collected mugs which I didn’t know but was glad to hear.

My favorite moment from my homestay was when my host mother told her daughter Gabba to tell me (because my host mother didn’t speak English) that she could always tell what I meant by my facial expressions even though she didn’t understand my words. Overall, my homestay experience was an incredible blessing. Polish people are some of the most hospitable people I have ever encountered.

Then, Sunday night all the Bethel students returned to camp to get a good nights rest before Monday. Monday we embarked on a journey up a mountain to a ropes course! It was such a blast, climbing all day followed by dinner at a “hobbit” restaurant.

ROPES COURSE 🙂

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Bethel group:

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Following our day of reunification at the ropes course and dinner, Tuesday we had a scheduled tour of Auschwitz, the concentration camp. I was very anxious about this experience, as I detailed in a previous post I have been reading holocaust survivor stories since 5th grade. I have only delved into the history of the holocaust through words and text because pictures were always too much for me, I would have nightmares or I wouldn’t be able to shake the images from my mind. This historical event is both the most tragic and overwhelming for humankind because it truly shows how brutal we can be to each other. I have always struggled with why and how it could have happened and so touring Auschwitz was something I had always planned to do but wasn’t sure when or if I could handle it. It seemed though, that my time was now whether I was ready or not.

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The entrance sign to the main camp reads: Work makes you free.  As if that was true for the prisoners of this camp…

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The barbed wire fence surrounding the main camp was enough to make me shiver and shudder at the sight. I already felt a sense of panic come over me upon seeing it.

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Our tour guide led us into the camp and into the buildings within the camp that held museum type stuff. Enlarged photos, facts, historical documents but this below caught my attention, this is filled with ashes of Jewish victims, it is a statue for remembrance:

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This photo below is of cans of Zyklon-B which were administered into the gas chambers to murder the “prisoners” from the camp. Seeing all of these cans made my stomach churn… All I could think about was how many people just these cans alone killed. I cannot imagine how many cans there were overall…

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Then, our tour guide led us into a room with a case… the case was filled, as you can see below, with human hair. The hair was the actual human hair taken off victims heads after their deaths in the gas chambers. This room physically made my heart hurt…  The single rose placed in front of two tons of human hair was just a stark image of the horror that was the holocaust and the way in which we remember it now. The ability of humans to continue to hope after such a tragic occurrence is astounding and supremely beautiful.  One holocaust survivor wrote in her recounting of her life,  “Where there is life, there is hope.” When I read this years ago, I didn’t understand truly what that meant until I saw this. Despite this horribly tragedy that will stain humankind’s history forever, we must move forward and ensure that something so depraved will never take place again. To always love one another and harm none. To see this blatant image and not want to protect your fellow humans would be inhumane… When you see something like this that so clearly shows you what humans are capable of, it is frightening but also empowering because although we have the power to do unspeakable things in the ways of evil, we also have the power to do the most amazing and kind things out of love. The power of love will always overcome that of evil. 

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2 tons of human hair collected by the Nazi’s.

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Following that we went to the open area between barracks 10 and 11 where people were routinely shot. This memorial was placed there for them.

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The skull and cross bones, the watchtower, the barbed wire… These people were not prisoners but instead mothers, fathers, daughters, sisters, brothers, grandparents, cousins, friends, who had done nothing wrong but belonged to an “undesirable race”. It is sickening that the innocent lives of so many had to live this way… Like animlas, like prisoners.

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Then following our tour of the first camp which had basically been turned into a museum, we went to Birkenau. Birkenau has basically been left untouched besides the memorials built in the back of the camp.

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When we drove up to the camp, our first sight was this beautiful sky. To see this beauty in such a dark and terrible place was a very stark contrast, I was in such a flurry of emotions.

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Then, I saw the tracks for the rail cars. I have read about them extensively… People being packed into them, with no air to breathe, no space to sit for days, no food or water and a bucket to relieve themselves in. They were packed in these conditions until they arrived in the camp from wherever their original home was that they were so forcibly ripped from.

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Looking at these tracks and reflecting on how many people were transported here on them was an overwhelming thought, to think that this modern invention that provided so much good in other parts of the world (like bringing families together, making travel possible) was such a terrible and integral piece to the Nazi’s plan.

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There were candles placed along the tracks as well as flowers in remembrance. It was as if everyday people make pilgrimages to this place, to remember, to continue to mourn, to learn about humankind’s history, I hope this place always has flowers and candles… It deserves our attention and remembrance. We must always remember those who perished in places like these so we can always be mindful and intentional to protect our fellow humans from the few who are consumed with evil, the ones with the capabilities to confuse and brainwash the masses into committing such heinous acts.  We must always remember. 

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I couldn’t shake how the beauty of the sky contrasted the dark aura that surrounded this place… It was like the sun was trying to penetrate the cloud of despair that will forever hang over this stretch of land. It broke my heart completely.

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Our tour guide then brought us to see a set of barracks where 100’s of people were packed into these small bunks. I have read stories about these bunks breaking with people in them and killing them, people watched their family members perish due to these bunks. 

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As the sun descended into the trees, my heart was sinking as well. I couldn’t handle this place, or comprehend the intensity of the emotions flooding inside me. That such tragedy could happen in a world that I live in, nonetheless was produced by fellow humans… It made me sick.

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Looking over the expanse of this place, I realized just how many barracks there were, enough to fit tens of thousands and I became very aware of how huge the Nazi’s plan was. This frightened me, that a group of people could gain so much power that they were able to slaughter million after million and continue to get away with it… It made me afraid of humankind’s capabilities. Looking over a camp of this magnitude and reflecting on how much depravity took place here is overwhelming for any human being… to visit a place like Auschwitz and not leave in a total state of distress is almost inhumane.

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Upon my exit of the camp, I felt a sense of panic escape me… I didn’t realize while I was in the camp how afraid I had been deep down. I felt that at any moment a Nazi might come out and start rounding up my group… To think that people from all walks of life perished in places like these is so frightening. There was no one to stand up for anyone at that time or it meant death for you as well… It hurts my heart to know that genocide still happens to this day. I pray to God that as humans who share the earth, we learn to love one another despite and because of our differences. Differences are beautiful and we should be learning to embrace them rather than condemn people for them.

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Following Auschwitz, we all made our way back to camp. That night, Domi came and picked up Cat, April, Brooke and I and we debriefed about our day. It was a lovely dinner filled with laughter and conversation.

Wednesday we had a group dinner with the leaders from H20 (Josiah Venture) and our Bethel group as a goodbye. This is some of the people at dinner:

Dinner

And Thursday, we left Poland for Vienna, Austria. Saying goodbye to Domi, Ania, Kasia and all of the people at Josiah Venture brought me to tears. I come to love a place by the people I meet there and the people I met in Poland were some of the most amazing human beings I have encountered. I miss them all so very much but I believe we will meet again one day.

From Vienna our Bethel group was splitting up for ten days! We were embarking on different journey’s for free travel. Free travel is ten days to travel wherever you want in Europe on your own dime. That is what has led me to Portugal. But before I was in Portugal, I went to London.  My next post will be about my time in London! Just as an update, I will be leaving Portugal tomorrow to spend the weekend in Vienna. My whole group meets back in Vienna on Sunday to head to Millstatt, Austria to live in a castle for three weeks. My parents will be coming to Europe November 1st, they will meet my group in Salzburg, Austria (Where Sound of Music was filmed) for the weekend and then come back to the castle with us for two days. I cannot wait to seem them and explore Europe with them!

This continues to be an exciting adventure each and everyday. Each day is different and I learn something new almost every second. It’s an overwhelming and beautiful journey filled with laughter and tears but I am growing and learning so much about myself all the time. Thank you all for the support and for following my crazy journey! I am going to try and post again on Saturday. Thanks for bearing with me y’all. Until next time! Take care.