It’s been a bit of time since I’ve posted here. The last few weeks have been incredibly busy with traveling and being out and about, but I’m glad to be back in Copenhagen and at home, and to be able to sit down and talk about what just happened.
So, a bit of background. DIS is structured so that the Core Courses travel during either TW1 or TW2, which is either mid-March or mid-April. My CC travels in the second week, so I had a free ten days to plan an itinerary of my choosing. With two friends from my classes, I decided to travel to four different cities in four countries – Budapest, Vienna, Bratislava, and Prague.
The biggest realization that I had was that Europe is incredibly diverse in its own way. It’s funny, because in America, our census documents typically categorize all Europeans as Caucasian, or just “from Europe.” But within each country there is so much diversity, and even neighboring countries differ so much in culture, language, and even the overall appearance of the populace that it feels like a different world, despite not even having to flash my passport to cross borders here.
Copenhagen and Scandinavia has its feel – the reserved nature of the quiet Metros, the soft Ls and Ss of the Nordic languages, the colorful, painted plaster buildings serving as a splash of life against the gray sky, underscored by the hustle and bustle of people as they turn their coats up against the rain on their way to warm fireplaces.
Budapest and Prague were cities of vibrance, with the soaring turrets of the Hungarian Parliament building, the stolid bastions of Buda and Prague Castle, and the stunning spires dotting Prague at every corner. Despite seeing more aged people in these countries than anywhere else I’ve ever traveled, the energy was unparalleled. The smiles, the laughs, the loud comments on the trams – perhaps it was the sunlight and warmth, but there was an infectious energy that pervaded the entire city that persisted late into the night as we explored the amazing ruin bars and the thermal baths.
But Austria was different. It was professional, it was reserved, it was straight-backed and chin upturned, but not unfriendly – or perhaps that was just because we were at the opera. The imposing pillars and statues of what was once the dominating power of the continent serve as a reminder of what once was, and you can’t help but feel in awe at the landmarks of such a powerhouse of art and culture.
Coming back to Copenhagen, a city of low buildings and short travel times, was a calm and quiet reminder to back home. If Europe was in the Lord of the Rings, Denmark feels like the Shire – the low, rolling foothills are more than reminiscent of the landscape surrounding Bilbo Baggins’ hobbit hole.
One thing nobody tells you about traveling is the toll it takes on you. The circumstance of being in an unfamiliar environment forces you to stay on your guard, and you’re hyper-aware of everything going on around you.
But at the same time, I think that being constantly aware of what’s going on is a blessing. There is something to be said about spending only a few days in a place, as I realized on my first weekend trips to new countries. Having that constant awareness lets you take in so much in so little time.
Yet as I mentioned, I am excited to be in Copenhagen for these next two weeks. Because of all of my traveling, I haven’t yet had the chance to explore Copenhagen to the extent that I want to. One popular thing to do while studying abroad is a “tourist weekend,” to act like you’re a tourist in the city you live in, and hit as many attractions as possible. There is a spirit of novelty in the first few weeks of being in a new place, and I’m hoping to recapture a bit of that as the city opens up for the spring.
I look forward to updating you all on my grand-slam tour throughout the city. I’m excited to get to know this city and country better.
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