Since we were studying abroad in Malmö, Sweden for a whole month Hailey, KayLeigh and I thought it would be cool to see another part of Sweden as well. We decided to spend the weekend in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden! We took a flight from Prague to Stockholm on Thursday afternoon, changing planes in Amsterdam in The Netherlands. I love Amsterdam and was wishing we could go explore the city, but unfortunately we had a quick layover and ended up having to run to our gate! Quite the sight let me tell you. We arrived into Stockholm in the evening and we were all exhausted and had growling stomachs. It’s an understatement to say we were all eager for dinner and to snuggle into our beds for the night.
We had a running joke of the trip: what else could go wrong? Hailey lost her wallet in Paris and I shattered my phone in Switzerland and we all knew it was KayLeigh’s turn for the bad luck to strike. Her misfortune came in the form of a lost suitcase. Yup everybody’s worse nightmare!! Probably due to the tight connection, but her suitcase didn’t make it to Stockholm. She was a trooper and dealt with it WAYY better than I would have that’s for sure. With confirmation that the suitcase would be delivered to our hotel tomorrow morning, we set out to find the hotel and dinner. We opted to grab some pasta at a restaurant right by the hotel and head straight to bed! Wow what a day!!!
We had two full days to explore the city and were wiped out from our long week of travels, so we decided to sleep in a bit to make sure we were fully recharged and were able to enjoy our last few days of vacation fully. Plus we have learned most things in Sweden open later than in America even coffee shops! I’m sure you guessed how we started our morning: with a cappuccino and croissant of course! There was an espresso house, aka a Swedish Starbucks because they are seriously everywhere, in the bottom of our hotel. SCORE!!!
After some much needed coffee, we sat out to explore Stockholm. There was snow piled up everywhere! It was magical, but also FREEZING! Stockholm was surprisingly much much colder than Malmö because it is further North than Malmö, which is the southern most point of Sweden. Just like Prague, Stockholm also has an “Old Town” filled with many quaint shops and beautiful, old buildings. The old town in Stockholm is called Gamla Stan. We had a fun morning wandering through the shops and looking for Swedish souvenirs to bring home to our families and friends. We even found matching Sweden hats to serve as a memory of our amazing time in this wonderful country!
Also in Gamla Stan, or the Old Town, is the Royal Palace of Stockholm. The Royal Palace of Stockholm is the official residence and major royal palace of the Swedish royal family. We had impeccable timing and were able to watch the changing of the guard! Similarly to the famous Buckingham Palace in London, the Royal Palace of Stockholm has a sort of production when the guards who protect the palace rotate positions. This ceremony involved lots of marching, yelling of commands and drums. The whole thing lasted around 40 minutes and we were freezing! We decided to warm up with some ramen at a trendy place we read about online. SOO yummy and really hit the spot!
Next, we walked along Stockholm’s iconic waterfront and if it wasn’t beautiful enough, it started to SNOW!! The flakes were so large and magical. We loved it and it truly felt like we were in Sweden now! The snow really started to come down so we decided to slowly walk back to the hotel to warm up, of course enjoying the snow covered sights of Stockholm along the way. We set out again, after regaining feeling in our toes, to check out a popular pedestrian only shopping street. After our fill of shopping we decided to find a traditional spot for some Swedish cuisine for dinner.
A popular Swedish food is Meatballs, so when in Sweden we had to try some right?? We took the subway to a restaurant called “Meatballs for the People.” I was very skeptical, but it was actually one of the yummiest meals we have eaten so far on our trip! With full and happy tummies, we took the subway back to our hotel to catch some ZZZZZ’s before another jam-packed day of exploring snowy Stockholm the next day.
We have enjoyed learning more about the history of each city we have had the opportunity to visit and Stockholm was no exception. As you can probably tell, we also love climbing up to see the city from a bird’s eye view. Stockholm City Hall had both, so of course we had to visit! We had done some research to find out that Stockholm City Hall, was the iconic red brick building seated on the coast and that they offer tours in English every hour. The tour was interesting, but the building it’s self was absolutely stunning!!! The tour was the only way to see the inside, so I am SO glad we spent the $10. The whole tour I kept anxiously awaiting to climb the stairs to see the beautiful view of snowy Stockholm. When the tour guide ended the tour without us visiting the tower, I asked her how we would get there and she explained it was closed for the season. BUMMER!! So we settled for some pictures from the outside instead. I guess we will just have to come back when it’s warmer then right?? ;)
For lunch we ate at this really cool food hall. I don’t know what to equate this to in the U.S except for a fancy food court. They always have many different counters with different types of food. We always enjoy getting three different things and all sharing and trying everything. We’ve eaten at multiple on our European adventure and love them! Always can count on them for a cheap, fun and quick meal!
ICE SKATING TIME!!!! Well first we made our way back to the hotel to bundle up a bit more and ditch the Sweden hats that yes we were still sporting!! My theory was to put on as many layers as I could fit on my body because I knew I would still be cold no matter what I was wearing. The skating rink was actually free if you brought your own skates or you could pay to rent them. Unfortunately didn’t exactly have room in the suitcase to pack ice-skates so we opted to rent ours. KayLeigh quickly learned ice-skating wasn’t really for her, but was content watching Hailey and I skate around the rink. I love ice-skating and isn’t something this Texas gal gets the opportunity to do too often. Hailey is from Colorado so is a bit more experienced in skating, but I was pretty proud that I was able to keep up! Ice-skating in the city center in Stockholm under the beautiful lights and fun music was probably one of the highlights of the trip for me! We skated until I actually thought I was going to turn into an ice cube!!!!
We found a nearby restaurant to warm up with some Tacos (weird in Sweden I know!!!!) before heading back to the hotel for the last time. Sad that our time in Stockholm was already coming to an end!!! Stockholm was so beautiful and we truly enjoyed our time exploring this wonderful city. I’m really glad we got to experience another part of Sweden not just Malmö.
The next morning we woke up early to catch a five hour train back to Malmö. We were excited for the forced down time and about getting back to our school and kids the next day. Well we had a slight hiccup… When KayLeigh bought the tickets she purchased them for January 25th instead of February 25th. This was not realized until we got seated on the train and people kept thinking we were in their seats. It was a mess!!!! Thankfully the nice people on the train let us ride in the restaurant car the whole way. The seats were very tight and it wasn’t heated, but hey we made it back to Malmö right???? Stay tuned for this weeks adventure! :)
We woke up early the next morning to get a head start on the day! We began our morning at Café Louvre, which is a Prague institution. It is a café that has been around since around 1900! The inside was beautiful and the cappuccino and croissant was definitely the best I have had thus far on our journey! After we were fueled up for the day ahead, we were ready to explore! We walked back to Old Town Square to see it in the daylight. This square is home to Prague’s famous Astrological Clock. Sadly the clock was undergoing renovations and we couldn’t see the outside, but we were still able to go up to the top! We rode the elevator to the top of the clock where we were able to see all of Prague. It was a stunning view and I never could get tired of the beautiful red rooftops! We walked around and took in the many sights of Old Town Square after. The buildings that make up the square are picturesque and colorful. One of my favorite details of Old Town Square was the man making bubbles. He had huge poles with rope and was producing bubbles of all shapes in sizes for tourists, locals and children to enjoy.
After appreciating all that Old Town Square had to offer, we walked to Charles Bridge, a very famous bridge in Prague. This bridge offers unmatched views of Prague’s castle while walking over the river. It was filled with people walking and taking pictures of Prague’s beautiful and iconic architecture, but also with artists selling their work. I loved walking across the bridge and admiring Prague’s beauty from all angles.
Once we made it across the bridge, we walked to the famous John Lennon Wall. This was probably one of my favorite sights in all of Prague! The wall is so colorful and filled with people leaving their mark on this special city. We took some pictures and enjoyed the musicians playing iconic Beatle’s music before continuing on our journey to the castle.
The castle was quite the hike, but the views from the top were SO worth it. You could see all of Prague, red roofs for as far as the eye could see. Seriously the view was beyond breath taking and the pictures don’t do it justice in the slightest. We walked around the castle and inside the basilica before making the trek back down. Prague’s Castle holds the Guinness Book of World Record’s for being the largest castle in Europe! Pretty cool!
We all felt that we had earned our selves a treat after climbing up to the castle. Prague is known for it’s Tredlnks and I was dying to try one. To be completely honestly I didn’t even really know what a Tredlnk was. I had just seen them being made in front of the shops and people walking around eating them all day long. KayLeigh’s friend had studied abroad and recommended them from a specific spot. We decided to trust the Tredlnk expert! And boy were we glad we did! They were delicious! I ordered a plain one, which after my first bite realized was dough with nuts, sugar and cinnamon on the outside. Hailey had one with chocolate inside and KayLeigh had one with ice cream and strawberries. Now we knew what all the hype was about!
I quickly learned that Prague is best experienced by simply just exploring and wondering its cobblestone streets. So that we did! We walked in some shops and purchased a few souvenirs before ending back up in Old Town Square. The sun was beginning to set by this time and I remembered I had read that a few restaurants in the square had roof top terraces perfect for watching the sunset. We found one that was tucked in among the cathedral and bell tower and provided a beautiful view of Prague’s rooftops and essential sights at the most magical time of day. It was gorgeous! As we were driving in from the airport the night before we caught a glimpse of the castle at night and wanted to see it up close. We thought Prague was stunning during the day, but oh my goodness it only got even more beautiful at night!
Our last stop for the evening was to try some authentic Czech cuisine. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this because Czech food looked quite different from what I normally eat, but thanks to some encouragement from my friends I tried the goulash with bread dumplings. It wasn’t as bad as the name makes it sound! I would say it was extremely similar to the American classic, pot roast. With full tummies, we strolled back to our Air BNB for the night, making sure to soak up every last bit of Prague on the way of course.
Our flight left early afternoon on Thursday, so we still had a few hours left in Prague. We were eager to take advantage of more cobblestone street walks and of course another Tredlnk. We had found a brunch spot we wanted to try across the river from our Air BNB, so we laced up the snow boots and began our walk across the magical Charles Bridge again. I enjoyed walking across the famous bridge just as much the second time! Prague sure does know how to do breakfast! I had some amazing French toast with fresh fruit on top, and of course a cappuccino (or two….).
The Malmö girls are total suckers for a good souvenir shop, so naturally we stop in (almost) everyone we see. One we passed on the walk back was full of wooden nesting dolls, a famous tradition of Prague. We noticed they had some college football ones in the window, so of course we had to check for TCU. We were shocked when they had it!! How cool that a small school from Texas could be found all the way across the world? GO FROGS!! We leisurely strolled the streets of Prague, taking in the beautiful red rooftops and stunning sights, one last time before taking an uber to the airport to embark on our last leg of the adventure. Our flight to Stockholm will be the last flight we take before heading back to Texas. WOW where has the month gone!! We are all looking forward to seeing the capital of Sweden. Can’t wait to tell you all about it!
Sadly, the Paris chapter of our trip was coming to a close, but that meant more adventures and cities to explore lie ahead! Yay! The next stop on our travels is Geneva, Switzerland!!!! I have always wanted to go to Switzerland and was in shock and disbelief that it was actually happening!
No flight this time! We took a taxi to the Paris train station and took about a 3-hour train ride to Geneva. I would SO much rather travel by train than plane: more room, no luggage restrictions, no security and you get to see so much more than just clouds! The train also had wifi, so we were able to catch up on some homework, which was an added bonus. The train ride into Geneva was STUNNING! We were able to see the crystal clear lake and mountains. I knew right then I was already going to love Switzerland!
We took a taxi from the train station to our hotel, which we soon learned was actually walking distance (whoops!). The hotel was SO cool! We felt very unworthy of our room. It was two stories, had a huge bathtub and a little courtyard!!! Yeah it’s official we’re never coming home!!! We threw our stuff down in the room, which we nicknamed the bungalow, had headed out to explore the sights of Geneva! Our hotel was about a 5-minute walk from Geneva’s most well known sight, the lake! It was beautiful and we enjoyed spending the afternoon walking around it. On our walk we found where the lake and river collide and we also stumbled upon St. Pierre’s Church in the old town, which was beautiful, but, in my opinion, didn’t quite compare to Notre Dame. Next we set out to find Geneva’s other well-known sight, the fountain. After a long, cold walk we soon found out that the fountain is turned off in the winter unless an important guest is in town. Clearly we weren’t important enough. Cool.
After A LOT of walking, we worked up quite the appetite. What better food to eat and warm up with in Switzerland than cheese fondue?? We had done some research to find an authentic and extra yummy spot. Thanks to the hotel concierge, we landed on Les Armures, which was in a hotel right off of old town square. The bread dipped in cheese was unlike anything I had ever tasted. Wow I am still dreaming of this meal! SOO yummy!! After consuming WAYY too much bread, we decided to walk back to our hotel and settle into the bungalow for the evening. We tried to catch up on the Bachelor, but all fell asleep within the first ten minutes. Needless to say we were exhausted and in desperate need of a good night sleep before our big adventure tomorrow.
We were feeling much more rested and excited for the day ahead! We were heading to the ski village of Charmonix in France to see the Alps! We had our usual croissant and cappuccino at the hotel and then made the short walk to where we were to meet our bus and tour guide for the day. We had booked the tour online before we left Texas to study abroad, so we were all a little skeptical. I can confidently say I am SO glad we did! The bus was very nice and our tour guide Neil provided details about Geneva, Charmonix and the surrounding area during the ride. The bus ride was only about an hour and a half long and we were in a totally different country when we arrived! You can drive for an hour and a half in Texas and still be in the same state, much less a different country!
The main attraction to the ski village of Charmonix is Mount Blanc. From this mountain you can see the French, Swiss and Italian Alps. As part of our tour, we had booked tickets to ride the gondola up to the top of Mount Blanc. We took one gondola half way up, where we then switched to another that seriously went straight up! This was easily the highlight of the day for me! The gondola ride up the Alps was breathtaking and truly a sight I will never forget. Once we got to the top, we were able to walk around to all the different viewing platforms and take in the Alps from all angles. IT WAS FREEZING!!!! I have never been that cold in my entire life. We may be smiling in the pictures, but we were shaking we were so cold!! Torchy didn’t get too many pictures because I was so scared he would blow away! On the gondola with us there some people in ski gear with their skis. We watched as these crazy people hiked down the side of the mountain with all their gear and started their decent down the mountain on skis! We couldn’t believe it! I was a little nervous just standing at the top of the mountain behind a barrier much less skiing down. It looked so frightening! Also at the top of Mount Blanc was the opportunity to stand on a glass floor box over the Alps. Of course we had to do it! After catching what we were convinced was hypothermia, and taking more than enough pictures we hopped back on the gondola to return to ground level in hopes of feeling our toes and the rest of our bodies again.
All that looking at the Alps really worked up an appetite so we set off to the ski village to find a bite to eat. We ended up eating at this fun, family run burger joint that really hit the spot! Our tour also included a train ticket to a glacier, but the Malmö gals weren’t too stoked for that so we decided to check out the shops in the ski village and the Alpine Slide instead. The Alpine Slide was SO MUCH FUN! We got on what looked like a sled and rode it up the track (like a rollercoaster) to the top. Once at the top you controlled the speed of the sled. It was a BLAST… until I dropped my phone from the top and watched it bounce down the metal track into the snow. By some HUGE, GINORMOUS miracle I was able to grab it quickly on my way down. I thought it was a goner and I would never get it back, so I gladly accepted the completely shattered screen. For now, it is still alive and well so stay tuned and cross your fingers that it will keep working until we make it back to Texas. After the slide we had a little more time before we boarded the bus back to Geneva. We souvenir shopped a bit more in the village and warmed up with some hot chocolate while enjoying an unreal view of the Alps. It was an absolutely incredible day and one I will remember forever I’m sure!!
The next morning, we had a few hours before we had to head to the airport. Geneva is home to one of the four United Nation headquarters in the world. They give daily tours, so we decided to check it out! The tour was incredibly interesting and we learned a lot about the history of the UN and the work it continues to do today. For example we learned that although the UN in Geneva was the original headquarters, now most of what we see on TV happens at the UN in New York City. We got to go in a few of the rooms, too. It was really cool because there was a conference being held there that day and the whole place was bustling with energy! After the tour, we enjoyed walking around the beautiful grounds and of course taking more pictures.
We left the UN, or Palais Des Nations, as its called in French (did you know that people of Geneva and Western Switzerland speak French, but in the Capital of Switzerland, Zurich, and Eastern Switzerland they speak German?? Weird huh!) to grab our bags from the hotel and head to the airport. I couldn’t believe we were already on the go again! Any guesses where we were off to this time?? Guess you will just have to read my next post to find out :)
Well if you know me at all then you are probably very much aware that Paris is my absolute favorite city in the whole wide world, so much so that this is my third time visiting this year (thanks mom and dad!!!!!!!!) I still get chills seeing the Eiffel Tower every single time, but more about that later :)
We finished our four-day week up at the school on Thursday afternoon, and headed back to our room to cram a few more things into our already bulging and over weight bags. We hopped on the train back to Copenhagen airport, our new home away from home, and anxiously waited to board our flight to PARIS!! This was the best flight I have ever been on! Why you ask?? Well, Hailey, KayLeigh and I each had a whole row to our self on the plane. AMAZING! The flight was about two hours, which I used all the extra space to catch up on some emails, work on my honors project and of course what flight is complete without a little Netflix. By the time we landed, got our bags, waited in line for a cab and got to our hotel it was after 11 and we were exhausted. Yet again, we were already enjoying the luxurious hotel accommodations and decided to call it a night, so we could be well rested for our full day of exploring the next day! Hailey and I got to be bed buddies again, which I know she loves :)
We woke up early Friday morning because we had so much we wanted to see in our two days in Paris. Hailey, KayLeigh and I had been in Paris together with TCU College of Education last May, so we checked off many of the classic tourist spots then. Although, some tourist spots a trip to Paris just isn’t complete without and were just so great we wanted to go again. After a quick croissant and cappuccino at the Starbucks connected to our hotel, we purchased a two day subway past for around 19 euros and headed to the Louvre Museum, home to the famous Mona Lisa. I have been inside this iconic museum on both of my other trips to Paris to see the Mona Lisa. Most people will laugh, but both times could probably set the record for the world’s shortest trip to the Louvre, so needless to say we did not feel obligated to pay to go in this time around. The outside of this museum is just as spectacular to me. Characterized by it’s glass pyramid, tourists (like us) from all over the world flock to take pictures trying to touch the pointed top. The building that houses the museum is HUGE and there is no way you could look at everything in one day. It used to be a royal palace so is very beautiful and ornate, too.
A short walk from the Louvre is the Royal Palace, an iconic spot in Paris I had never visited before! Just like most things in Paris, the architecture was breathtaking. We enjoyed walking around outside and taking some pictures on the iconic striped pedestals.
From there, we decided that seeing some art was a must while in Paris, so we decided to check out an art museum we hadn’t been to, Musée de l’Orangerie. On the way to the museum, we walked through the Tuileries Garden. The Garden is absolutely stunning and gives you a classical Paris feeling, as it is home to many Parisians sitting around the ponds enjoying the beautiful day. At the end of the garden is a Ferris wheel! We had to ride it! It was a beautiful sunny day, so from the top, we were able to see all the iconic sights of Paris including the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, The Louvre, Sacre La Coure and The Arch de Triumph, just to name a few. This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip to Paris for me and we joked it was the best 12 euros we spent! After our Ferris wheel detour, we continued on to the Musée de l’Orangerie. Musée de l’Orangerie is home to Claude Monet’s famous Water Lilies painting. As I have previously stated, we are not the biggest art gals, so we purely went to take in Monet’s famous painting for a few minutes, snap a few pictures and continue on with our day. I know, I know we are the worst!!!!
It was seriously SUCH a beautiful day blue skies, sunshine and around 50 degrees, a nice change from cold and cloudy Sweden weather! I LOVE walking around, especially in Paris, and believe you see so much more this way, so we decided to walk around until we stumbled on a lunch spot. Paris is filled with cafes and some of my best memories are filled with sitting outside taking in the views and people watching while eating. We were pumped and so thankful that the weather was nice enough in February to do that!! WOW SO BLESSED! We found a cute café to settle in and enjoy sitting outside and munching on some Croquette Monsieur, a yummy French ham sandwich with melted cheese on top. With full tummies, we continued on with our day to visit Cathedral de Notre Dame. We walked and found some neat shops to stop in along the way. I have visited Notre Dame on all my trips to Paris and it never gets old or less impressive. This time we decided to climb up to the top! I had never done this before and was excited for the view. MANY MANY MANY winding stairs later, we made it to the top and boy was every stair worth it! The view was incredible and so cool to stand on top of such an old and famous building. After the climb, we treated our selves with some yummy crème puffs at a nearby bakery that had the perfect view of Notre Dame.
One of my friends who had studied abroad in Paris for a whole semester (shoutout to Kamryn!!!!) recommended the view from on top of a fancy shopping mall to watch the sunset. It was too far to walk, so we hopped on the subway. We hiked up to the 7th floor, not quite as treacherous as our Notre Dame climb, but a close second, to the terrace. It was a restaurant too so we decided to grab a table near the edge for the best view and settle in to watch the sunset. We walked around the shopping area after sunset and then headed to my favorite place in all of Paris, the Eiffel Tower. The first five minutes of every hour the Eiffel Tower sparkles and it is truly magical! I could seriously stare at it all day long! We grabbed a crepe and sat and enjoyed the tower in all its glory. When it was a tad bit warmer this summer during my trip to Paris my friends and I sat under the tower in the grass long enough to watch it sparkle three times, but once was enough for tonight. Our hotel was only about a 3 minute walk from the Eiffel tower which was AMAZING, so we headed back to get some much needed sleep for another full day exploring Paris the next day!
The next morning we grabbed our breakfast of choice, a croissant and cappuccino, and headed to the Palais Garnier, or the Paris Opera House. This gorgeous building is home to the world renowned Paris Opera Ballet. Ballet was a huge part of my life growing up and the Paris Opera Ballet is one of the top ballet companies. It has been my dream to visit on my previous trips to Paris and it has never worked out, but this time my friends were gracious enough to put up with my obsession. We walked in expecting just to take a peak inside and snap a couple photos, but found out there was a performance that night! We inquired about tickets and were able to get three for only 10 euros a person! WHAT!! I couldn’t contain my excitement and was already looking forward to that night.
Next, we headed over to another one of my favorite spots in Paris, Champs-Elysees, an iconic shopping street lined with trees leading to the famous Arch de Triumph. We enjoyed walking and looking around, and of course stopping to have a macaroon (or three) from Laudree. We continued along Champs-Elysees until we reached the Arch de Triumph. We had walked under this famous Paris monument already, so posed for a few pictures and continued on our way. We maybe bought a few too many things, so we took a quick pitstop at our hotel to drop off the shopping bags and grab a quick bite to eat at an outdoor café close to our hotel. We had already enjoyed the Eiffel tower at night, but of course had to see it in the day light too especially since our hotel was so close. We had to make the most of the location right??? Plus the view seriously never gets old.
After our Eifel Tower escapades, we hopped back on the subway. This time to head to Montmarte! Montmarte is characterized by a beautiful basilica, Sacre la Cœur and an art market. The art market is full of local artists hard at work painting and selling their artwork. You can also find many tourists posing to have Caricatures drawn of them. It’s such a fun and lively area to walk around full of little shops, artists and musicians. Also, Montmarte is located on hill high above Paris, so the view is INCREDIBLE! I would 10/10 recommend to anyone visiting Paris.
Where had the day gone??? It was already time to head to the ballet! I was overflowing with excitement and anticipation. We rode the subway back to the Opera House and found another cute street-side café close by to sit outside and enjoy some appetizers before the show. The ballet was called Oneguin, which I actually had never even heard of before. The story line and setting of the ballet was quite similar to Romeo and Juliet. Everything about the show was amazing! The dancers were unlike anything I had ever seen, the costumes and sets were breathtaking, and the building made me feel transported back in time. We felt just a tad out of place in our jeans and tennis shoes, but we had a good laugh about it. Our seats were actually not bad, especially for 10 euros! It was an amazing evening and truly one I will never forget! Major shout out to Hailey and KayLeigh for sitting through the show!!! We were all exhausted, but simply couldn’t resist seeing the Eiffel Tower one last time before we departed the City of Light.
Paris is hands down my favorite city in the whole wide world, and the third time around did not disappoint, in fact I may have fell in love with it even more if at all possible! It was bitter sweet to leave Paris having no idea when I will be back, but I was excited for the week of travel still ahead of us. Next up: SWITZERLAND!!!!
After school on Friday we headed back to our room to finish packing our bags and head to the airport to catch our flight to BERLIN! I was SO excited! Berlin has always been high on my travel wish list due to my love of history and World War II. I visited Germany last May as part of my study abroad trip with the TCU College of Education. As part of the trip, we went to Wiesbaden to learn about the Department of Defense schools and I also spent a couple days in Frankfurt with my parents after my study abroad trip. I was really looking forward to going back to Germany and seeing a different part of the country!
We began our German adventure by taking the train from Malmö to the Copenhagen airport (we are becoming train pros now!!!!). After grabbing some dinner, we boarded the plane bound for Berlin. The flight was so short! Only 40 minutes, which is shorter than from Austin to Fort Worth! We landed a little after 9 and were exhausted from the week (I was even able to sleep on the plane which seriously NEVER happens!!!), so decided to head straight for the hotel and get some rest for our full day exploring on Berlin on Saturday. Our hotel was beautiful and 112% an upgrade from Swedish hostel life. We settled in to enjoy the luxurious shower, giant comfy beds, and TVs even if it was just for the weekend.
After some very much-needed sleep, we woke up early to get a head start on the day. The hotel might have had the best breakfast ever, so needless to say we were really enjoying hotel life!! Fueled up and ready for the day ahead, we decided to use the underground to get around for the weekend. Seriously so easy and inexpensive! We were able to see so much of the city in a short period of time this way. Our first stop on Saturday morning was to the Berlin Wall Memorial. We saw many history filled sites during our two days in Berlin, but this one was definitely one of my all time favorites. When we got off the subway we almost didn’t see it at first! The whole memorial was outside and as you can see from the pictures covered in snow! The long metal poles in the pictures represent the fence that was erected as a barrier and protection for the Berlin Wall. At the memorial, there was also remaining stretches of the Berlin Wall, this was the wall that was built in the years following World War II to separate East and West Berlin. Also at the memorial was a guard house used to monitor activity on both the East and West side of the wall. It was very impactful to read and see photos about life in Germany when the Wall was still standing. The location where the memorial stood was one of the main crossing points between East and West Berlin. It was difficult to imagine that the Berlin Wall was a reality for the people of Berlin until 1990 (or 28 years ago!!)
Next, we hopped back on the train to go to the meeting place for an underground tour of a bunker used for protection against air strikes during the terrible times of World War II. We unfortunately, weren’t allowed to take any pictures, but you will have to trust me that it was SO eye opening. I can’t even comprehend living during a time where being consumed with fear and spending hours in an underground bunker while a war raged on was the reality. Our tour guide was amazing and truly made us feel how it would have felt to stand where the frightened German people stood 75 years prior.
Lunch time!!!! KayLeigh is VERY into reading blogs and had found one about a famous burger restaurant in Berlin that used to be a public toilet. I have to say Hailey and I were quite skeptical, but when we got off the underground and saw the long line we knew it had to be good. I am not the biggest burger fan in the world, but I can confidently say it was the best burger I have ever had. Despite it being a standing only restaurant and mostly outside it was SOO worth it and it is a must visit destination while in Berlin.
After our delicious lunch we walked to the East Side Gallery, which is a long stretch of the remaining Berlin Wall that artists have painted. It was so neat to see how something so ugly and negative had been transformed into something more beautiful. We enjoyed strolling down the wall and looking at all the different murals. Again, it was still unfathomable to me that this wall, now beautifully painted, once divided the city of Berlin and created such a dark time in German history.
Our final stop of the day was to the Topography of Terror Museum. This museum is located where the head of the Nazi Regime was once located. This museum presented us with fascinating information on the interworking’s of the German Army. It is one of the most visited museums and memorial centers in Berlin. On the way to the museum we also passed a famous landmark in Berlin history, Checkpoint Charlie. Checkpoint Charlie was the name given to the best known crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War by the Western Allies, the group of countries the U.S was apart of. Unfortunately, now Checkpoint Charlie is quite touristy and unauthentic.
We ended our long day at a rooftop restaurant overlooking the monkey exhibit at the Berlin Zoo. The view of the city (and the monkeys!!!) was incredible and it truly was the perfect end to the day.
Our flight didn’t leave to return to Sweden until 2:30. We decided to have an early start to our morning so we could make the most of our last few hours in Berlin! After enjoying the amazing hotel breakfast round 2, we set out for the Reichstag, or Parliament, Building. We had booked the free tickets ahead of time and planned to get there right when it opened at 8am. The exterior of the building was breathtaking and I was excited to see the inside and learn all about it. The tour was an audio tour that accompanied us as we walked up the glass Dome of the Reichstag building. The audio tour pointed out import buildings and landmarks along the way, gave information about the dome and Reichstag building, as well as history of Berlin. The view was STUNNING and I loved learning more about the fascinating city of Berlin.
Next, we were able to take a short walk to the famous Brandenburg Gate. This was probably the sight I was most looking forward to seeing in Berlin. So much history has taken place at this iconic Berlin monument and I was excited to see it in person! The Brandenburg Gate did not disappoint and it was very special to see it in person!
We warmed up with a quick Starbucks cappuccino (actually hard to come by thus far on our European adventure!!!) and then took a short walk to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and Museum. I stood in front of this memorial blown away by its simplicity and vastness. All I could see in every direction was differing cement blocks. We had already learned that an American architect who won a contest commissioned the memorial, but I was very curious about the meaning of his design. One of the guides at the museum explained that the architect never announced his own personal meaning or inspiration. He planned to keep the memorial abstract, so visitors could create their own meaning and symbolism. The museum connected to the memorial was chilling as we learned all about the horrific events of the Holocaust. There were pictures, videos, quotes, letters and stories about real individuals who suffered from the cruelties of this time in history. I will never forget the experience of walking through this museum.
Lastly, we still had about an hour before we had to head to the airport for our flight, so naturally we decided to squeeze in some more sightseeing. We took an uber to the Berlin Cathedral. Although it wasn’t open yet, we were able to take in its beauty from the outside and snap a few pictures. Right across the river from the church there was a really cool art market! I LOVED walking through and looking at all the art. We each were able to find a souvenir for our parents, also a plus!! We walked a little bit further through Museum Island, who knew Berlin had its own island complete with 5 different museums dedicated to art?? We aren’t huge art gals so we enjoyed taking this sight in from the outside just fine.
Sadly it was already time for us to head to the airport! This weekend FLEW by, but we were excited to get back to Sweden and our school. Crazy to think that in just four days we will be off on another even longer adventure. Can’t wait!!!!
Let the adventure begin...
Hailey, KayLeigh and I had been counting down the days until our abroad adventure arrived for months! I think I was in shock that it was finally here. I was both eager and excited to see what new opportunities this once in a lifetime experience would bring. With our bags crammed full with sweaters, scarfs and snow boots and coffee in hand, we boarded a plane at DFW airport to London on Saturday afternoon. 8 long hours and many TV shows later, we arrived in London early Sunday morning to catch the second to last leg of our journey, a flight to Copenhagen. After shoveling down some desparetly needed food, we boarded the much shorter flight to Denmark. My heart was legitimately in my stomach as we stood in the Copenhagen airport waiting for our bags. The last four trips I have been on in the last year my bags have gotten lost!!!! I could not be more thankful that my unlucky streak was broken and both of my bags made it safely. Our final leg of travel was a short 20 minute train ride from the airport in Copenhagen, Denmark to Malmö, Sweden, where we would be calling home for the next month. We looked quite ridiculous with all our luggage on the train...Exhausted from the longgggg days of travel, we made the short walk straight to the hostel where we would be staying and settled in for the night. We would be visiting the school where will be teaching in the morning and wanted to be as well rested and not jet lagged as possible.
Malmö International School
After a much needed good night sleep, we woke up and got ready to visit the school we would be teaching at during our stay in Malmö. We had absolutely no idea what to expect and had 1,001 questions floating around in our brains!! We bundled up for our 10 minute walk to the school. The first thing I noticed was the amazing location of the school! There is a beautiful church located right in front of the school and a train station, mall and many restaruants and shops right around it. We were greeted by the school principal when we arrived and she gave us a brief introduction to the school. She also handed us all a set of keys to the school!! We all thought this was very funny and not something that tends to happen in the United States. The principal then showed us to our classrooms and left us in the hands of our teachers we would be working with.
My teacher's name is Anna (the students call the teacher's by their first names here, which is definitely going to take some getting used to!) Anna is from London originally and moved here about 2 years ago. Her mom is also the librarian at the school! She is very sweet and I've loved getting to know her so far! Malmö International School is an IB school. It's been very cool getting to learn how the program works! I'm in the Primary Years Program, which is the same as elementary school, and in Level 1, which is the equivalent of kindergarten. My students are ages 6-7, which is the age of first graders in the United States, but it is their first year in school, so their academic level is more similar to kindergarten than to first grade. There are 22 kids in my classroom coming from all over the world! They only speak English in the classroom, but my teacher told me that all of them speak at least 2 languages, most even more!
For the most part, my class is very similar to any kindergarten class you would find in the United States! For example, there is a strong emphasis on phonics. The past two days we have been studying the letter "s" and "a." Where things greatly differ is recess. Students come to school in their snow suits, hats, gloves and snow boots, and where normal everyday clothes underneath. When they get to school they immediately go to their locker, take off all their winter gear, store it inside the locker and put on their "indoor" shoes. Common indoor shoes are Crocs, slippers or Birkenstocks. My teacher told me this is to keep the room clean and not track snow inside. The students put the snowsuits, hats, gloves, and snow boots back on for both 30 minute recesses. What an ordeal! Once outside, I immediately noticed recess is much more free than in the United States. There is no playground are equipment. The students simply just play! Some common activities include football (soccer in the U.S,) climbing trees and playing tag. My teacher also told me the kids go out to play everyday no matter what the weather is! Overall, it was a great first day at the school and I am very much looking forward to seeing what the rest of the month has in store at this special school!
A Bit of Exploring
The school day ended around 2:30. After school, I met back up with Hailey and KayLeigh. We swapped stories from the day at a coffee shop right by the school. It was so cool to hear about their experiences from the day and about their classes and teachers. After some much needed caffeine, we decided to walk to the city center towards a dinner spot one of the teacher's at the school had recommended and see what we saw on the way. We all agreed that Malmö is perfect: not overly busy, plenty to do and see, on the water and a good mixture between old and modern.
We are seriously LOVING Sweden so far and can't wait to see what the next month has in store!!! Hopefully full of more cappuccinos, chilly walks and beautiful views!!