Q & A

Now that we are back at Kornmod Realskole for one last week we are seeing what the Danish school system truly looks like.  Our first two weeks at Kornmod were “Special Program” weeks where teachers got to keep the same students for much longer than usual to be able to do big projects (like cooking with us Americans).  Kornmod’s schedule is now lessons, like what we would call class periods, so we float around with the English teachers.  We are still meeting new teachers as they fill in our schedule for our remaining days!  I love this skole so much, everyone has been so open in how important it is for their students to converse in American English versus the British/Scottish/German mix of English that they learn.

We are very much being kept on our toes in bouncing around to different 6th, 7th, and 9th grade classes.  Tomorrow we even get to see 4th and 5th grade choir class!  But today Catherine, Melissa, and I made our powerpoint presentations about ourselves many times so that the kids could see our families, pictures of TCU, and where we are from.  After we talk about us, we open the floor for a Q & A session.  It’s interesting to do this in all the classes because of the different level of questions.

6th & 7th graders ask things like –

“What is your favorite pet?”

“What is your favorite color?”

“Do you have a favorite food?”

“Is it true that Americans eat a big pickle as a snack?” (my favorite question by far)

“Is Texas just cowboys?”

9th grade asks-

“What are your views on America’s gun control laws?”

“What are the social issues America faces?”

“How do you think the problem of student loans can be solved?”

“Why does your government not give everyone health care like we have here?”

“What have you enjoyed about Danish culture?”

“With the election coming up, who do you think are the best candidates?”

~The questions that are universal to all grade levels are questions about school shootings and Donald Trump.

 

With the higher order thinking questions, we usually reply with a canned response of “Well it depends….”  Denmark is so small and homogenous that the students have a difficult time picturing why their socialist system wouldn’t work.  We’ve done our best to talk about our diverse country and all the different views we have.  At least since Catherine is from Northern California and Melissa is from Chicago, we can point out differences in just how we grew up.  For instance, I expect my kindergarten students in Texas to respond with “Yes Ma’am” to me.  Catherine doesn’t think that is necessary.  We talked with 7th & 9th grade a lot today about all the cultures we live with, when in Denmark, everyone looks and thinks along the same lines.  If someone thinks something different, it still isn’t too far from what’s “normal.”

I actually really enjoy just standing and answering questions because the students are all so inquisitive about American life.  A few have been to America, but most just assume the American tv shows that are shown here are what life is really like.

They think Texas is like an old Western movie, which I actually love.

I asked what they know about Texas and got the class reply of “Cowboys.”

Berlin~Days 7 & 8

We landed in Berlin mid morning after a train ride through Northern Czech Republic/Southern Germany where the mountains were snowcapped!

Upon arriving we found Anna’s friend Emma from camp who has been a nanny in Germany for 4 months.  She was able to get time off from her family to visit Berlin for her first time with us!  We decided to find lunch then set off for the Brandenburg Gate!

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It was cool to stand in front of something that has witnessed so much history!

After the gate we made our way to Checkpoint Charlie.

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It was very cold in Berlin and after standing outside looking at Checkpoint Charlie and its museum, we were ready for dinner.  Our new group of 6 made our way to the main area of Berlin to find it beautifully decorated with lights along the streets.

It turns out that we had, unwittingly, landed smack dab in the middle of the Berlin Film Festival called Berlinale! Eventually we realized we had missed George Clooney by 2 days. Regrets.

We stood looking at the red carpet and the glamour, but no one was arriving at 6:30pm so we found a dinner place near a big screen to watch more of the action.  Dinner for me was a German style pizza called a flammkuchen.  It was very good!  We went back to the Brandenburg Gate after dinner to see it at night.  It did not disappoint.

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The next morning we woke up for our last day in the city.  Naturally we went to Dunkin Donuts for breakfast because it was raining and we needed a break indoors.  Just look at these beautiful donuts~

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The strawberry one was so much better than any custard filled donut at home.

From Dunkin we made our way to the DDR Museum. (still in the rain)

The DDR Museum was a hands-on museum of German culture.  This included having an actual car from Germany in the 60s when people could wait up to 16 years for a car.  And even then the car was horrible.  The museum was packed because of the rain, but we were still able to look around the replicas of houses from Communism and read the plaques.

After the DDR Museum we went to the German Historical Museum, which is easily one of the best museums I have been to.  This place was MASSIVE (if I say a museum is massive, trust me, it’s massive).  I walked slowly through the beginning rooms and didn’t see any of the others for a solid 45 minutes.  Then I found Taylor who said, “This place has to hold a record for the most artifacts on display!!”  I would have to agree.

You enter into the museum starting in the 1300’s and it works all the way through present day.  After reading about the 1300’s I found myself face to face with the real portraits of Martin Luther and his wife Katharina.  As a good Lutheran I enjoyed seeing the real pictures I’ve seen photocopies of my entire life.  After the Reformation I found the Habsburgs once again and rows and rows of portraits and silverware. At this point I was still in rooms where America hadn’t been founded yet and I’d already been in the museum for an hour and a half.  MASSIVE.

Taylor and I just stopped reading plaque cards at this point and just looked at artifacts.  I loved it, but it was totally overwhelming.  We stopped at 1919 because the museum was close to closing and we were mentally exhausted.

I didn’t take a lot of pictures in the museum because I just wanted to enjoy it, but I did snap some random exhibits~

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The next morning we said goodbye to Emma and loaded our bus for the 9 hour drive back to Aarhus, Denmark.  Once we got to Aarhus we had 19 minutes to make our connecting train that got us back to Silkeborg.  From the train station we walked back home, stopping at the grocery to buy bread and lunch meat for our school lunches.

*Important note-5 girls with 5 sandwiches per day + toast in the mornings=Buying bread every 2 days.

I weighed my backpack when we got home.  It weighed 12 pounds.  We also calculated that we walked 75 miles total on foot in all the different cities.  It was a whirlwind and something we’ll never forget!

 

Prague~Days 5 & 6

Our bus arrived in Prague just in time to see sunset and for us to find dinner!  We walked around the town square near our hotel with all the other tourists of the city.  We stumbled upon the Chocolate Museum, which was unfortunately closed.  BUT their chocolate shop was open!  I definitely dropped some Czech Crown there.

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The next morning we set off for Prague Castle!  We saved the castle for our full day because we could leave our backpacks at the hotel.  Before the Castle we stopped at the John Lennon Tribute wall~

We pulled out our (Anna’s) TCU flag for split group shots.  A man noticed our flag and offered to take a group picture.  He was from Montana and his nephew lives in Fort Worth so he recognized our purple! Such a small world!

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As we were folding up our flag a man on a Segway rolled up.  He said, “What do those letters mean?”  We said, “Oh it’s for our university.  Our college.  University.”

Him-“But what do they mean?”

Us-“Texas Christian University.”

Him-“From where?”

Us-“The States. America.”

Him, already rolling away-“Oh.  I’m from Russia.”

We all kinda looked at each other and shrugged.  Anna said under her breath, “Good luck with your life sir.”  I laughed a lot.

Lots of funny things at the John Lennon Wall.

 

After the wall we crossed the Charles Bridge to get to Prague Castle!  Another stunning walk up to a castle that is, of course, on a hill.  (Whatever I want to see is always on a hill.  It’s a rule.)

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Above is the official entrance to the Castle, complete with 2 serious guards on the side.  As you can see, people loved taking pictures next to them.  They don’t smile.

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The cityscape seemed endless from up on the hill!  Behind the main castle gates was an old, massive church with the most intricate stained glass windows I have ever seen.  The pictures do not do them justice.

The back of the Castle~

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We had an early night to be able to make our train to Berlin at 6:20 the next morning!

 

 

 

Vienna~Days 4 & 5

Our train from Budapest to Vienna was a quick 2 hour, easy journey for us!  We went to check in to our hotel to get rid of our backpacks and then set off for Schonbrunn Palace the home of the Habsburg Dynasty.  The biggest thing on my Vienna To Do List was this Palace so I was excited to knock it out right away.

Schonbrunn is too enormous for me to even accurately describe.  We took the Grand Tour which means we saw 40 rooms in the Palace with English audio-guides.  It was far too short in my opinion.  The opulence that the Habsburgs lived in was astounding.  Maria Theresa started the great family in Austria in 1740 and they ruled the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and Holy Roman Empire until Charles I died in 1918.  That ended their rule over Austria.

The museum actually started in backward order, beginning with Franz Joseph I who was the last Habsburg to live in Schonbrunn and told about his life in Austria with his wife Sisi.  Sisi is something of an obsession for Austrian people as she set the styles for the time, but was from Bavaria and didn’t really love her husband.  Her bedrooms were shown then we moved into the Maria Theresa Room, for lack of a better name, that housed all the portraits of her children such as Marie Antoinette.  I loved seeing the real portraits that I’ve read about and seen in textbooks.  My TCU European History elective class has come in very handy this week!

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I didn’t take any pictures inside other than of the ballroom above.  I wanted to just enjoy what I was looking at…. And pretend that I was in my summer house.

After walking around the inside of the palace, we walked through the garden on the sides of the Palace.  They have a zoo on the grounds and a maze!  The former we didn’t buy tickets for and the latter was closed for the winter.

 

Here’s the view of the back of the Palace~

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Pretty grand isn’t it?

In the back of the back courtyard is a massive fountain depicting the Roman God Neptune riding his hippocampi into battle.  The water was turned off for the winter, but I can only imagine the beauty of the flowing fountain in the summer.

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Behind the fountain was a steep hill that we climbed to get a better view of the Palace.

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I sat for a long time just looking at this view.  Below are random shots from the grounds.  The top left picture was at the top of the steep hill behind the fountain. It’s a cafe now.  The fountain is a fountain in the Maria Theresa sector of the land.  Another Roman battle scene!

After leaving the Palace we still had a little bit of daylight left so we made our way to Mozart’s House in the middle of the city.  No pictures were allowed to be taken inside, but I snuck one of the original copy of his opera ‘The Magic Flute.’

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I went into this house knowing basically nothing about Mozart and his life.  We had heard a little bit about him at Schonbrunn from when he played for the Habsburg court at the ripe old age of 6 years old (haha).  He was apparently quite the precocious youngster.

Mozart’s House was 3 floors of artifacts and stories about his life in Vienna.  He moved multiple times in Vienna, but the museum we went to is the only apartment that is still standing.  By the time we got there it was dark so I didn’t take a picture of the front.  I learned that Mozart was a big gambler so even though he made tons of money from his operas and music pieces, he always needed money.  He and Joseph Haydn were very close, often dedicating works to each other.

The museum was an overwhelming amount of information that corresponded to the room you were in.  When I say a museum threw facts at you, you know they threw facts at you.  I was in the first room of the house for 20 minutes listening to the audio before I just started to wander around and look at artifacts.  It is not entirely known how Mozart actually set up his apartment because there are no photographs or journal entries about the space.  The one thing the museum did have was a list of what the Mozart family owned at the time of his death.  They staged a recreation according to that list.

The next morning we had about 4 hours until our bus left for Prague, Czech Republic so we slept in a little then made our way to the Imperial Butterfly House or Schmetterling Haus!  The before mentioned Franz Joseph and his wife Sisi loved the Butterfly House, it stands close to the center of Vienna near the Albertina Museum.

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After the Butterfly House, we got on the Metro to get to the bus station… Which ended up being more of an adventure than we needed.  The previous day we had bought a 24 hour Metro pass, but in getting to the bus the next day, it was the 26th hour of the pass.  No one had ever checked tickets before (Europe runs on the honest system basically) so we figured it was only 5 stops, what’s the harm?!  At the next stop, I noticed a man got on in plain street clothes with a bag strapped around his waist.  He put on reading glasses even though he had nothing to read with him.  I thought this was odd, but looked away.  I looked back up and realized the man was checking tickets.  The 5 of us began muttering to each other about the current situation and formulating a plan.  I wanted to just move farther up the train away from him, but we decided that was too obvious.  We decided to hop off the train at the next stop and wait for the next Metro, which would follow about 5 minutes later.  Lucky for us, the man had caught someone in front of us without a ticket, so we were able to bolt.  As Anna said, “But isn’t everyone leaving Austria supposed to be fleeing?!” We eventually got on the next Metro and made our bus with about 5 minutes to spare.  To say I was relieved to be sitting comfortably on the bus to Prague is an understatement!  Anna says we became the Von Trapp Family Flee-ers.

I totally agree.

 

Budapest~Days 2 & 3

I realize that I left everyone hanging after Copenhagen!  Never fear, I will be writing today to catch y’all up on The Grand Tour de Europe as Anna and Taylor are calling it!  I didn’t want to take my computer on the road with us and writing that Copenhagen entry on my phone was hard enough!  Plus from my computer, pictures are easily installed which is what everyone is really here for! 🙂

Let’s begin…..

We arrived in Budapest from the Copenhagen airport around 11am.  I didn’t know a lot about Budapest and Hungary in general before we landed there.  We found the Metro to ride into town and I quickly began to question whether we were on the Metro or a Time Machine because what we were riding was straight out of the Cold War.  See for yourself-

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It felt and looked like we were in a tin can.  A vintage tin can, but a tin can.

Once we changed to a different line, we were able to see what Hungary is like now.  Albeit they are still recovering from Communism and the Cold War, but in parts of town you could see growth.  More on that later.

After grabbing a city map and having lunch (where I found quesadillas on the menu and definitely ordered them, they were good), we decided our first stop was going to be the House of Terror Museum on Andrassy Boulevard.  The House of Terror is housed in the same place where the Hungarian Arrow Cross Party (Socialist) and the Nazi Party (Communist) were based when they each ruled Hungary for long periods of time.  The museum is here because it literally was a house of terror when each party was ruling and the current government of Hungary doesn’t want to ignore the past or tear the building down.  I had no idea what the Communist history of Hungary was before the House of Terror. I can say now that the people of Hungary have had a difficult time since 1919, the first free elections weren’t held in Hungary until 1990.  In some of the surviving buildings we could see why Budapest was considered the Paris of the East, but the history is so very twisted.

We were very fortunate to have people to stay with in Budapest.  Anna’s family friends, the Seelys, kindly opened their home to us for 2 nights.  Both Mr. and Mrs. Seely are from Texas and have decorated their house in the Texas Ranch Style.  We felt so at home once we sat down to a family dinner of Chicken Tortilla Soup, chips, and salsa. I didn’t so much enjoy the A&M decorations all over the house, but I had a great Rangers baseball discussion with both Seelys which made up for it!  We all agreed that the World Series still hurts.

The Seelys are missionaries and have been in Budapest for 13 years. Mrs. Seely was nice enough to drive us to the Metro every morning and then pick us up again for dinner.  They live a little way out of the city in a suburb close to their church.  Because of these car trips, we were able to see the “real” Hungary.  They live in a “better off” village that still struggles considerably.  Mrs. Seely told us that labor is insanely cheap because the economy is still recovering.  People who are doctors or accountants live in a one bedroom apartment and they’re well off. Hospitals in Hungary will maybe give you the strongest medicine they have which is Advil.  Otherwise they just leave you alone.  We spent most of our time on Andrassy aka the Main Street because the government had revamped that immediately.  A few blocks either direction of the street were also beautiful.  We had no problem finding places to eat or snack as we walked the streets.

After the House of Terror we went to Buda Castle!  We crossed the Danube River over to Buda and quickly decided to ride the tram up the hill instead of walking.  Mrs. Seely didn’t pick us up until 6:30pm… We wore our backpacks all day.  To say that it was brutal walking with them on is an understatement haha

The view from Buda Castle was spectacular.  We were there for sunset in the rain which made our pictures even better.

**Warning-ALL my pictures feature the same jacket/scarf/purse combo because it was so cold all the time.

The Castle was very beautiful and the gardens built on each level were interesting to walk through. I loved standing at the wall and looking out onto the other side of the river.

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By the end of the Castle Trek, we were all bending over to get the weight of our backpacks off our shoulders.  Thanks to Taylor for the picture because the rest of us couldn’t stand upright anymore.

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On Day 3, second day in Budapest, we were Backpack-Free and ready to see the city.  After getting suggestions from Mrs. Seely, we set off down Andrassy to Lotz Teram a book cafe where I had the best hot chocolate of my life.  It was so thick and chocolate-y that I’m not convinced that they didn’t just boil down a chocolate bar.

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I had a slice of a traditional Hungarian dessert, Dobo cake, to go with my hot chocolate.  Since it was raining outside (When isn’t it raining here?),  we took our time at Lotz Teram.

We eventually climbed to the top of St. Stephen’s Basilica for a bird’s eye view of Budapest and the world’s largest Parliament.  It did not disappoint.

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After eating and the basilica, we walked down Andrassy to Heroes Square and stumbled upon the Hungarian Agriculture Museum!  The Museum was closed because it was Monday (a problem we ran into quite frequently, Europe kinda shuts down in February), but it was such an ornate building (read-castle) that I took a lot of pictures of it.

A visit to Parliament was up next…. The building is even more massive than it looks!

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To close the day we had the best gelato that I’ve ever eaten and certainly the most beautiful!

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The next morning Mr. Seely drove us to our train and saw us off to Vienna!  But first we took a picture with our Hungarian mom after she gave us tubes of the spices so that we can make Hungarian Goulash when we get home!

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Copenhagen and Me

 

Today we have explored Copenhagen and logged 10 miles on foot! Eventually I’ll count up how many miles I’ve walked on this trip, but I honestly think it’ll be too many to count! Especially after this European Tour week!

We started off this morning in Silkeborg by being picked up by our wonderful Silkeborg university coordinator, Alice, and her husbandyo be taken to the airport! they always laugh at us because we fly out of Karup which is technically a militay base. But the flights are cheap and we only have to be there 20 minutes in advance! (sweet!)

We were quickly on our way to Copenhagen! Anna’s cousin Scott currently studies in the city so we made arrangements to meet at noon along suggestions of what to do in the morning.

We touchd down to discover that it snowed yesterday in Copenhagen giving the ground a wonderful white blanket!

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Once we disembarked from our airplane, we bought metro cards and rode the train to city centre! My fa vorite thing about Europe is the buildings and being on water. I told everyone else multiple times that I would be completely fine sitting, watching boats come in and out, eating a chocolate croissant.

I got most of my wish. Our first thing in Copenhagen was to take a canal boat tour of the city! And since no one had eaten breakfast we stopped for coffee and pastries to eat on the boat. I ate the croissant so fast I didn’t get a picture, but rest assured that it was delicious!

The boat was glass topped, but “When In Europe…” so Taylor and I braved the uncovered front of the boat for clear pictures and the sea breeze on our faces!

 

Lake Day

Today, all TCU Horned Frogs got to experience the Virklund Skole and partake in the last day before the Ski Week!  It was a very big day.  Anna and Taylor’s teacher Jorgen has been so kind while we’ve been here, inviting Melissa, Catherine, and me along on some adventures even though we’re at Kornmod.

Virklund Skole did something today that they’ve never done before.  4th, 5th, and 6th grade went hiking around the local lake then met up at the end of the trail for vegetable soup.  Jorgen put students into groups while the rest of us watched.  One teacher went with the first group to place trail markers.  I did not realize at the time that he was the only adult with all of these students.  The 5 of us and Jorgen brought up the rear.  The students knew that they were to follow trail markers and that was it.  They had to freedom to run ahead or hang back and eat a picnic if they brought sandwiches.

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I was shocked at the number of students with essentially only 2 adults who could really communicate with everyone.  The amount of head counting that goes on during an American field trip would be laughed at here in Denmark.  They trusted that the students would make it to the camp.  And they all did.  Vegetable soup was had by all.

I, on the other hand, was not mentally prepared for the journey around the lake.  It was quite the trek.  Some uphill, some downhill, but just long.

By the end of it, we had walked 7 and a half miles.

Some of the students laughed at us Americans basically dragging ourselves into camp.

We did get some beautiful pictures of the lake-

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Our camp-

 

Group shot-

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After our vegetable soup, we loaded up and headed back to school!

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Tomorrow morning we head to Copenhagen for the day.  Sunday morning we fly to Budapest then to Vienna, Prague, and Berlin!  We got so lucky with the Ski Week falling at a time when we’re here to be able to go on vacation too!  We have about 2 days in each city!

I have a backpack to pack!  Pictures from these amazing cities to come!

Until next post,

Emily