Måndag, Juli 21, 2008

June 5th, 2009 by whitney

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….” That is exactly how I feel at this moment. I recently took the most relaxing trip I think I’ve had in a couple of years. On July 30th I took at train to Malmö then to Copenhagen, Denmark. The train was 13 hours and entirely exhausting. I was amazed by how smoothly everything went. I couldn’t believe what a charming city Copenhagen is. It has some of the most beautiful parks I’ve ever seen and the water is so clear. I could see meters down when I was at the harbor.

I discovered that the saying “it’s a small world” to fall nothing short of the truth. A couple of days before I flew out I was walking down a side street so I could find the bus that would take me to the airport as I was leaving at 4 am, I needed to be prepared. Suddenly, a car pulled to the side of the street and a gentleman stepped out. I heard my name come out of his mouth. Lo and behold it was Atta from Pakistan! I studied with him in Sweden the fall of 2006. I had actually remembered he told me that he was living in Denmark the previous year, but it had not crossed my mind since.

The last night there he took me to Tivoli Gardens. Tivoli is a very beautiful park with a theme park feel to it. Since he doesn’t like rollercoasters I enjoyed them by myself. The very last ride I went on was scary. And that is something I am very unlikely to every say. It wasn’t a rollercoaster, but a ride I thought would be suitable for smaller kids. I think I am wrong though. It spun around and the individual carts spun and flipped upside down. I was definitely wearing the wrong attire for the occasion. Since my necklace was 24” I had to hold it in place so it didn’t come off my head without breaking. With the other hand I was holding my dress down. I was wearing bike shorts underneath it, but still very unladylike. Oh, did I mention screaming at the top of my lungs!? As I watched people get up and walk off I was convinced we would all fail a sobriety test at that moment. After that we went to an Indian restaurant. I was very proud of myself to eat a different type of food. I am a very adventurous person until it comes to new cuisine.

On July 4th I flew out to Amsterdam, Netherlands and was greeted by two of my best exchange friends, Kitty and Tom. I stayed 5 days with Tom and his family which are absolutely amazing! On the first day they brought me to Zaanse Schans, a typical Dutch village. We visited a wooden shoe factory as well as a cheese factory that made some of the best cheese ever! Wooden shoes are actual quite comfortable and they make some really cute ones. I bought a shoe so I can plant tulips in it. Now I just have to learn how to keep a plant alive.

This small village was filled with farm animals and wind mills. I absolutely fell in love with it. I am very fond of typical Dutch architecture. I think it is very beautiful and unique. Just as we were about to walk to the car I stopped to take some photos of some goats and one just walked up to the fence. It was so sweet and we just petted it like a doggie. I didn’t celebrate the 4th like I typically do, but I had some really great Dutch food. That was certainly good enough for me.

The following day I went into Amsterdam city. In my opinion, to be quite frank, it’s not exactly the place for a family trip. Being a tourist I had to go to the red light district. The smell of coffee shops made me immediately want to hurl into the canal. I arrived just in time though because a law had just been passed banning smoking inside. It’s possible that is why I could smell marijuana on the streets. It blows my mind how prostitution, animal porn, and marijuana can be legal in a place. One thing I certainly disliked where the urinals on the streets. Men can just whip it out and pee right there. The smell is almost unbearable. I almost felt like it was a joke. Considering urinals for the males, I am in favor of women receiving half-off for using public restrooms. I actually kept track and I spent about $10 using the bathroom when I was out.

We took a very nice boat tour that went up and down the canals. The side streets are more interesting than the center. It was really nice to get away from the crowds on the streets as it’s a very crowded city with under 800,000 inhabitants. During the night I saw so many people sitting on the streets that could hardly keep their heads up. It may seem that I am not such a big fan of Amsterdam and I almost believe that to be true. It seems like a city for sinners. I almost feel bad for some people who come from there because I think they are stuck with such a bad stigma. Dutch people are quite wonderful though.

The rest of the week it rained which foiled many plans that we had had such as going to the beach and Walibi world which basically is 6 Flags Holland. Tom took me to some more villages outside of the city. We went to Marken and Volvendam which I loved as well! We even had a photo taken in the typical clothing. We only looked a bit silly.
I enjoy the rural areas better.

I was very happy to meet up with my friend Michael later in the week. I studied with him in Sweden in the fall of 2006 as well. I remember the last time I saw him I thought I would never see him again, but things are really possible. The last day I visited the Anne Frank House. I have actually learned so much involving the Holocaust this year that I think I have a real shot on Jeopardy if it was ever a topic.

On July 11 I left Holland and my heart weighed kind of heavy having to officially say good-bye to some people. I knew it was going to be a very long day as well. I had to fly back to Copenhagen and then wait in Malmö for about 7 hours before I could take the train to Sundsvall. I did manage to see the most hilarious street performer though. This guy was incredible in the worst kind of way. He was about 35 years of age and had a cassette player just behind him. He would sing along with the songs….if you can even call it singing. It was more like screeching and almost reminded me of Stuart from Madtv. The best part was his dancing skills or the lack there of. It was like Napoleon Dynamite but worse. When the tape was over he would just turn it over and start again.

I really thought that was going to be a lousy day, but it was really the opposite. I meet some incredible strangers and I am so thank for it. Whenever I am in a bad mood all I need to do is talk to people and immediately I am better. I even did some good deeds. Even though they were small, they were very significant to me because I felt better. People were also kind to me in return. Sometimes I believe strangers can be the most caring and helpful out of all people. This gives me hope for the World.

Now I am kind of back in that lousy mood. I have been packing and saying good-bye to my Swedish friends all week. I really am not ready to go home. The stay I had before in Sweden was different. When the time came to go I was ready to. It’s completely different now. I am very excited that I am going to get to watch some baseball with my best friend and then take a trip to Florida, but I feel like I am leaving part of myself here. I really fell in love with Sweden and Europe. I know I will adjust when I get home, but I don’t like the fast pace of life at home. I really need to enjoy my month before school starts back because 18 class hours and 30 hours of work are going to hit me like a load of bricks.

I met an amazing friend during my time here and he will be the last person I see as he will see me off from the train station. I just know I am going to be a wreck and him as well. This is the point were I feel so reluctant to transition.
I fear tomorrow. I fear watching Sundsvall disappear as the train carries me far away.

Eastern Europe Tour

June 24th, 2008 by whitney

Helsinki, Finland May 30-31

Thursday May 29, 26 Erasmus students left on the train for Stockholm. We all seemed to be pretty quite, so I’m sure everyone was tired right already. Immediately after getting off the train we had to rush to catch the subway. I had a ticket thanks to my friend Annamiek, but we still had to wait for the others. I looked down at my suitcase and noticed my handle was bent. Haulke, a student, bent it into place and of course one side broke! I always keep a ribbon on my bag so keeping the handle intact was possible. I had over 50 lbs of luggage so this wasn’t the best way to start off the trip.
Most of us ran to the Ferry and we made it about 5 minutes before departing!! I really was worried about missing it. We were 4 to a cabin and they were very cute and did not smell. That’s always a bonus. We all went up to the sun deck where the weather was perfect. The sun was shining high in a cloudless sky. It was warm and the wind was just right. We were going a bit slow because we were not at open seas for some time.
I’m not sure how to stress this point exactly, but when the sun began to lower in the sky ever worry in my life disappeared just as the sun was beginning to. The photos I have of the sunset do not by any means give it enough credit. After the sun went down it definitely began to get chilly so we all went inside. At this point everyone was scattered about on the ship.
Some friend and I went to the restaurant and they had hamburgers on the menu! I never order hamburgers, but it’s been so long since I had one, much less saw them on the menu that I just had to have it. It was so tasty! Afterwards we just wondered around finding something to get into. There was a karaoke lounge and a bar/club open at that time. We went to the bar and all of these old people were getting down on the dance floor. It was so cute!!! After a while we got out there and then the senior citizens cleared out. I think we all managed to get in bed before 3.
We arrived at the dock in Helsinki, Finland around 09:45. I was so happy to be there is just look beautiful, much like Stockholm with all of the islands. We all went to the hostel, left our luggage, and then went exploring. Our hostel was in a large sports stadium. I’m still wondering if it is used for practice or events because the maintenance on the field was excellent.
Right away I noticed there were not many signs in English, but it was perfectly okay because they were both in Finnish and Swedish. I could not believe how different those two languages are. It was very manageable though. I was a bit disappointed that Helsinki did not have a very great city center. I felt everything was too modern. It is very much similar to Sweden, although I love Stockholm much more. I do not think I got a good impression of what Finnish people are like. Maybe they are just very similar to Swedish and I couldn’t distinguish between the two. I did discover that Santa Clause comes from Finland. Why did one not bother to tell me that the North Pole has no specific location!?! Then again they tell the Dutch in the Netherlands that Santa hails from Spain. So who really knows?

Tallinn, Estonia May 31- June 2

On Saturday, May 31 we took the ferry to Tallinn, Estonia. The ship was the cutest thing to look at. I don’t have any pictures of it, but it looked like the sky. It was blue with clouds and had a large giraffe panted on it. I was astonished to see all of the people who return from Tallinn getting off with cases and cases of alcohol. There is no tax at open seas so I wouldn’t doubt that people pay for the ferry just to go on an alcohol shopping spree.
On the ferry I got a taste of Estonia music and it made me want a hot poker in my ears! Or…. perhaps just settling for ear plugs. We all just sat on the sun deck and watched the sun go down. It only took a few hours to get there.
That night we went out, trying to find a nice pub or somewhere to just hang out. It is very difficult to please so many people though. We ended up splitting, but not soon enough. Tallinn has a very beautiful Old Town and I think the people really take advantage of the tourist possibilities. I saw that many restaurant servers wore traditional costumes. It was nice though and it seemed to be a less expensive city than most.
We had our last dinner at an African Restaurant. This place was so fun! I’m sure they were fed up with us by the time we left though. We ordered a lot, so they made some money, but we were also loud and obnoxious. I didn’t think of this night as being sad, but now when I reflect on it, it was. That was the last opportunity I had to see some of my friends.

Riga, Latvia June 2 – June 4

The morning of June 2 my friend Tom and I departed from the rest of the group to continue our trip south. One student returned to Finland and the rest flew back to Stockholm. We took a luxury bus from Tallinn to Riga and now I understand why. They want you to be comfortable on the journey to Riga because that city is less than impressive. It wasn’t the worse city, but compared to the rest of them I’d give it a low rating. My friend and I spent 2 days there and it became difficult to get around in the Old Town because Finnish Royalty was in town so we had to stop many times in the streets so the vehicles could be escorted down. It was a tad bit annoying.
I definitely noticed the more East and South you go in Europe the men become more attractive. I sure like that! The women in Latvia are so tall. I couldn’t believe it.
I do believe the only ones who really spoke English were the employees of the hostel where we stayed. We went to several museums and I would ask questions. It turns out they only knew certain phrases of English such as the exhibitions in the buildings. Getting directions on the street was hopeless as well.
We went to an Occupation Museum and I began to be really touched. The countries I visited in Eastern Europe have only been independent for a couple of decades. I read something that brought tears to my eyes. Had I lived there in the early 1940s around the time of the war, I would have been one of the first ones killed (perhaps). I read that Christians were often killed first. I would not deny my Father, so therefore my life would have been taken. All of this I felt was preparing me a bit for Auschwitz.

Vilnius, Lithuania June 4 – June 5

My first impression of Vilnius was not good at all. As soon as we arrived I had to use the restroom. Like many other cities you have to pay between $1-$4 or something. The first stall I opened I saw a hole in the floor, literally a hole that resembled a sink. I just started laughing and quickly stopped by the fear of the others looking the same way. Half way covering my eyes I was surprised to see that they were all like that. There was one handicapped stall that had a normal toilet, but there was no light, no windows, no switch, nothing! I then had to decide if I would try something new or use my camera flash so I had some light. Lol
The next horror came when I discovered there was no toilet paper in any of the stalls, but thank goodness for my sneezing because I had a package of tissues. Okay enough about the toilet, but the point is some countries standard of living is still not up to par.
The Old Town of Vilnius was amazing. I felt it was spread out well. I also like the more modern part of the city. There are many beautiful cathedrals to see there. In one I even saw 3 mummies. I found it a bit creepy and for a moment I thought it might not be real. I then saw the feet covered with socks and I could tell by the ankle bones they were.
I definitely noticed how people are more religious in Eastern Europe. I think they are mainly Orthodox, but every time we walked into a cathedral there would be a slue of people praying. It was people my age doing this as well. It really made me feel better knowing religion is still alive in many parts of Europe.

Warsaw, Poland June 6

From Vilnius we had to take an over night bus to Warsaw, Poland. This was certainly not much fun at all. It seemed as though every time I began to fall asleep we had to stop at border control and have our passports checked.
We arrived with not much sleep, but we knew it would be a busy day because we only had one day to spend in Warsaw. I have to say I absolutely love that city! The Old Town is very new and this is because it was blown up around WWII. The colors of the building look so nice today and my favorite part was all of the bears. Warsaw was hosting United Buddy Bear. The countries of the United Nations were given bears to design and paint. The USA bear was painted to be the Statue of Liberty. It was just okay compared to many though.
We checked into the hostel, but decided not to stay because a big mix up in the amount owed and we were only going to be there from 3 pm to 2 am. It didn’t find it worth paying for in that case. The lady was kind enough to offer us showers. We got our rented car and decided to go ahead and drive towards Oświęcim. It took a couple of hours just to get out of the city. It probably wasn’t the brightest idea to leave during rush hour.
We were only about 70 km from our destination so we camped out in the car. It was much better than the bus, but wasn’t fantastic either.

June 7

When we got to Auschwitz I Museum, the administration center, were among the first to arrive. My mood changed immediately after seeing the gate that read “Arbeit Macht Frei“. Not to sound inconsiderate or anything, but the place looked quite nice. The building were all in a row, the grass a lovely green, birds chirping, and silence other than that. The weather was just beautiful and perhaps that place should be left to a cold rainy day.
The exhibitions they had where very good. It was a lot of stuff to read though. It was very difficult to look at the bunks, the wash rooms, and especially the cells. Just knowing people died in there broke my heart. I have seen the movie “Schindler’s List“ and it is really a great movie, but also very tragic to see. I think the movie depicted the place very well.
I found it amazing that they tried to make the place somewhat legal. When they killed someone there was a letter posted with the reason why. My friend can read German so he was able to translate for me, but one person in particular got shot because he was 10 minutes late for work. That wasn’t the most disturbing thing for me though, it was the hair. In several exhibitions there were items that people had. For instance pots and pans, shoes, suitcases, those kinds of things. There was a glass case about 20 x 6 ft filled of nothing but hair. Everyone had their heads shaved upon arrival and the hair was sold to make bedding such as mattresses. As I looked at this hair I just thought it had to be real. This was the hair of the people who were murdered there. One more thing that really made me sad was I saw a couple with an old photograph looking on the wall of photos. I suppose trying to find a grandparent or something. I guess it’s possible….
The last thing we looked at was the gas chamber. I actually walked in it and had to ask what it was. I recall from the movie that the men, women, and children were separated then lured into the gas chamber with a bar of soap under the impression it was a shower room and they could bathe. This is when they were gassed and then incinerated. Once again I didn’t feel threatened by being in there. I wasn’t scared by looking around and I believe this what the Germans wanted. They knew their intentions mostly, but they didn’t want them to feel fear. This made their job easier.
After we left there we went to Auschwitz II Birkenau, the extermination center. There’s not much left here. They tried to destroy what they could so many parts of it are just ruble now. Some of the train tracks still lie there. Most people died after getting off of the tracks as they were separated and brought directly to one of the four gas chambers. I saw a large hole that was used for burning the corpses. I think that was the most difficult thing for me to see because it is still a hole.
Growing up I know I was taught about the Holocaust, but in grade school I didn’t really care. Now that I’m older I love history. I remember when I was in the 6th grade I asked the teacher “why do we need to know this“ and she replied “so we don’t repeat the same mistakes“. It makes all the sense in the world to me now. It’s very true. I just can’t believe that happened about 60 years ago. I thought about both sides of my family being of German descent and it occurred to me that because of their times of migration they couldn’t have played a part in that or slave trade. Just thinking about that made me feel better about my blood!
The rest of that day was very good. Tom and I didn’t have much to say in the car at first. I think we were still trying to soak everything in. We started heading towards Slovakia and I saw some of the cutest Mountain Towns. As the date was 06.07.08 I suspected there would be many weddings, but we actually drove by 4! The people were wearing traditional clothes. I thought it was interesting to see.
We arrived in Slovakia and I thought the nature was amongst the most beautiful in the world. The standard of living in not as high though. We saw many gypsy towns and children everywhere! We stayed in this lovely cottage up in the mountains. My favorite part was being able to see the sky at night because there were windows in the roof. It stormed our second day there, so it kind of foiled our plans to do the chair lift in the mountains because the visibility was so bad. We did go to an ice cave though. I thought I was going to die walking there! Lol I was certainly under dressed for the tour.
Driving back to Warsaw seemed like it took forever. We drove down though Hungary and up through Ukraine. Our drive was about 14 hours or so. We returned the car one hour late, but that was no problem.

Prague, Czech Republic June 10-12

We had a night bus to Prague, so we were in the same predicament with having no sleep. I had heard many things about Prague and how it’s such a beautiful city and everyone should go there. Well I certainly liked it, but it wasn’t what I thought. I really think now that I’ve seen so much I compare cities more and more. My expectations are far too high! So when people talk it up, I’m expecting just that. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful city and I loved Charles Bridge. There’s so many people, little vendors with people painting, selling jewelry, singing…you name it!
My favorite thing was definitely St. Nicholas’s Cathedral. It was the MOST BEAUTIFUL CATHEDRAL EVER! I don’t believe there’s an inch of that building that isn’t hand painted or covered in gold. It’s completely magnificent. Many of them in Prague were so beautiful though.
The first night there Tom and I went to a concert. People advertise them like crazy there too. It was a bit expensive, but nice to see once. One lady who sang probably had one of the most amazing voices I’ve ever heard. Being in Prague I definitely understand how big Fotball (Soccer) is for Europeans. As the Eurocup began recently, cities really celebrate it. In the square they had some rings set up for playing and winning prizes, jumbotrons, pre-game concerts, and of course everyone drinking beer. By no means did we watch the entire game there in the street, but the atmosphere was fun. I did noticed when it was over there were what appeared to be many homeless people camping out there. I guess it’s nice for them to enjoy some tele.

June 12
We were stuck at the airport for quite sometime because of a flight delay. It wasn’t awful because I was able to change the bus tickets back to Sundsvall. The airline gave food vouchers and I really thought that was a nice gesture.
We finally got back to Sundsvall at 3 am the next morning. The streets were filled with the night’s drunks crawling about. We couldn’t possible get a taxi because of this. We managed to get our things home though. I finally got to bed around 8 am.

It was seriously such a wonderful trip and I saw so much. I couldn’t have been more blessed with the wonderful weather and most importantly safety! I realize my blogging skills stink. I have been told I talk a lot and apparently that stands true. I write a lot! I like details, but I don’t like reading! Lol Just on a side note…my grammar is so awful.

Söndag Maj 25, 2008

May 25th, 2008 by whitney

What a good weekend it was! I finished school this week and I felt like I had a million pounds lifted off of my shoulders. What a great feeling! I really must say things here lately are so great. Well all things are great except for my English. It is really getting a bit rusty; my grammar is bad. Things are all coming together and it could not be more perfect. Life is wonderful!
I discovered on Saturday that it is Memorial Weekend at home. I actually have a calendar that says May 30 is Memorial Day Traditional. I suppose I didn’t know the difference. Friday night we had a Sunset to Sunrise party. Right now there is only about 5 hours between the two, but it’s only dark out for 2-3 hours. I sure do love it! We had a barbeque at Norra Berget. I played on the playground for a good bit of the time. It’s sure nice to do it without having adults telling you to get off because there kids want to play on it! It was a bit cloudy as the sun was rising, but the horizon was a deep pink-orange. It was just so beautiful!
Saturday morning I woke up early because there was an event at the University. It’s a canoe race called Medel Paddeln. Several of the exchange students competed and they did quite well. I got in some good laughs because some teams dressed in costumes. There was one group in all black with capes, yellow masks tied around their faces, and they carried a flag. Another group of guys were almost naked. Some girls wore really old granny dresses. Another group had on things that resembled nun robes with big, bright, and green afros. The Swedish are resourceful and very creative. And of course the tipping of canoes is always interesting to watch especially when the water is really cold. I didn’t stay until the end because it was getting a bit chilly and I was so tired.
I went home and took a nap and went that night to the Rod Stewart concert. It was so great that he was here. He was my first celebrity crush. I remember being about 4 years old watching a live concert on TV and dancing in front of it to Midnight Train. He sounded great and still has some moves! It really amazed me that during his performance he kicked around a fotboll and he also changed his outfits a lot. After that I just went Norrmalm and watch Eurovision Song Competition with some girls. We gossiped, ate junk food, and it really reminded me of a slumber party. I sure miss those.
Today my friend Tom and I walked to Sidsjön. It is the lake that we barbequed at during the winter. I was very curious to see what it looks like not frozen. It was just as great as I imagined. We went out to a dock and just sat for a while and admired our surroundings. I had a bit of bread and the birds came swarming. They don’t like bananas, that is for sure. We walked around a bit afterwards and took the bus to some nearby town. We had some dinner and came back to Sundsvall. It was a great way to spend the afternoon.
I leave on Thursday for my trip! We keep adding things to our itinerary. It’s up to 9 countries for certain now. We are renting a car in Poland so I am excited to have a road trip! I won’t be driving at all though. We opted not to get an automatic. I won’t feel comfortable driving the manual so I’ll only be the passenger. I don’t mind though! I’m about to call it a night. I will write after my next journey!

Tisdag, Maj 6, 2008

May 13th, 2008 by whitney

So it’s been a good bit since I have written anything. I took a break and I am not sure why. April did seem like a difficult month for me though. The brother John, of my uncle Tim who passed away in February, passed away in April. It is very difficult for me to be away from home at times like these. I know if it was my choice I would be there of course, but it is just not so easy to do that. I feel that I can truly celebrate his life though. He was very sick. I called him on his birthday, April 1st. My grandmother put the phone by his ear and he tried to speak, but the sounds just did not come out. I just hope all of this happening can make me stronger as a person.
School got very busy for me during the first week of April I was doing 5 courses at once so things did get a bit hectic. There are only two weeks left of school for me and I am so happy about it. I am not sure if my grades will be good or not.
My health is in tip top shape now although it took about 5 weeks for my rib to completely heal so I had to take it easy. During the first week of April it snowed 9 inches. I couldn’t believe it; I had hoped all the snowing was over. It was absolutely beautiful and I enjoyed it. I decided it was possibly the last decent snow I might ever see in my life. I took advantage of it with all I could. My friend Tom and I built a snowman. He didn’t look like the typical snowman, but instead he looked like an ogre. I named him Gustoff and ever since then I have really liked that name! We also went up to Norra Berget and took some amazing pictures. It was all very breathtaking.
The snow has been completely cleared for several weeks now and the weather is absolutely perfect! It is still a bit cool, but I like it. I’m still waiting for all of the stones on the sidewalks to be cleared, but I can live with it. I am also waiting for the leaves to bloom. It’s hard to believe it is May and the trees are naked!
The end of this month will be very exciting. Several of us students are going to Finland and Estonia. A friend and I will continue on with Latvia, Lithuanian, Poland, and Czech Republic. During our time in Lithuanian we will only be about 30 km from Belarus. Visas can be obtained 3 days prior so I am thinking about doing that… I think this will be a very confusing trip. Most of the countries will be changing to the euro soon, but not soon enough. It’s very difficult having to constantly withdrawal money from the ATM and do conversation rates in the head especially when they vary everyday and not to mention the different languages. It is sure a good thing that I enjoy challenges. This will be one.
I also booked a trip for Denmark and Netherlands for July. I really want to go to Lego land and 6 flags! I will be visiting some friends in Amsterdam. One which I haven’t seen since 2006. It should make for a nice reunion!

Fredag Mars 21, 2008

March 24th, 2008 by whitney

You know those moments in life that are truly breathtaking, literally? You have to remind yourself to keep breathing so that you will live to take it in for just a while longer. These moments make me want to life forever. Then again, if there was no beat in heart I could pass on and feel satisfied with the life that I lived. I am such a blessed person to have these moments in my life and fortunate enough to live to tell about them.
I am back in Sweden now and a bit happy about it. I got very sick during part of my trip so I was thankful to get back. I saw nurse and it seems I have managed to crack a rib from my bronchitis. Who would have thought? Of course it’s painful but nothing like breaking my arms. There’s nothing I can really do but take it easy.
From the point of leaving Liverpool, England it took me 20 hours to finally reach Sundsvall. What a long exhausting day…. I am not sure why, but for some reason the last days of holiday are always the worst for me. This started about 15 years ago when I went to the Lookout Mountains with my Aunt Hazel. I seem to always get in an ill mood and I of course I do not like this about myself.
I really try to prepare myself mentally nowadays for such strenuous days. It all really started as I was going to the airport. This man Ray, who is the father of a friend, drove me to John Lennon airport. Traffic was a bit congested so of course it took a good bit to get there. We where just talking and he ran a yellow/red light and the police just so happen to be right behind us so after that I made it to the airport just in time. Unfortunately, the check-in lines where each about 20 people long. It took ages to get up there, but finally I did and was not pleased by how rude the lady was and of course saddened to know it would cost me 86 Sterling ($180) to get my overweight luggage back to Sweden. This is when I let out a very large shriek. Apparently, I accumulated about 20 lbs of stuff during my duration. I will be sure to never ever let that happen again. I just made my way to the trash can and began to throw my life away. I’ve had to do that several times so I am getting used to it by now. I ended up having to pay only $60 extra so I was not completely devastated.
I arrived outside of Stockholm city at midnight and had to wait more or less 2 hours to get a bus into the city. There were complications with the carrier so instead of having a couple of buses for the people there was only one. This meant waiting on the curb to be the first to get on and the queue started right away. It was freezing, but I got on that bus! It was so insane to watch the people combating for a seat, but it was a bit crucial at this point. It almost seemed that we were on a sinking ship with a very limited amount of life rafts. I finally arrived in Stockholm and the city terminal was closed and I suspected it would be. I basically wondered around for a couple of hours. The streets of Stockholm where filled with drunks leaving the clubs trying to find a bite to eat. Creep after creep approached me trying to wisk me away to keep me company. I know there are times I do things or put myself in situations that are unsafe but I do have a level head and I make sure I am not in a secluded area. I also prepare myself to scream, kick shins, and run. I was okay though! The terminal opened early so thankfully I had a warm place to stay and wait. Again, people were crowding the doors trying to be the first ones in. I tell you, getting through the revolving doors was a challenge in its own. So many people stepped in that the doors would actually stop moving and when they began again managed to carry people with it. It really was a very long 5 hours to wait for me. I made myself drink enough coke to stay awake that I did not sleep when I got back home.
Once stepping on the bus I felt home free. I just knew it would be long 6 ½ hours. The sea was a deep blue with a cotton candy sky just above it. The islands and trees where dusted with snow, it was just beautiful.
While on my trip I tried to keep entries about each city I traveled.

Dublin, Ireland

March 24th, 2008 by whitney

So happy to be back in Ireland!!!! I arrived in Dublin around midnight after my flight was delayed for a bit. My friend Frederick met me on the runway as soon as my foot touched the ground. He works for the airport so it makes the task easy to do. We brought my luggage back to his flat and I saw that he had decorated the place in my honor. It was a warm welcoming. His flatmate was in bed so we went out for a bit. The pub we went to was very high end and looked like a palace. I loved it! I am not really a fan of Irish accents mainly because there is a 5 second delay with every sentence spoken to me. So between music and that it seems to make conversation with strangers not so enticing. I would have to say the people really make that place so great. They know how to have a good time and are the most polite people. I’ve had nothing but great experiences there.
Because I have already made a visit to Dublin I really wanted to see some surrounding areas. The next day Frederick and I went to Bray/Bré. It was the most beautiful landscape I have seen in all of my life. I really could not believe my eyes. Certainly the weather could have been more pleasant but it really did not matter. I saw some gorgeous golf courses, adorable sheep, and we had our own accordion concert in the train for most of the trip there.
The sound of the waves hitting the beach put a huge smile on my face. It was very hard to walk though. It was filled with rocks so it made for a geologist’s haven which was still nice since I am into that. We hiked up the mountain and along the way was a family having a picnic. The was a little boy, perhaps 2 or 3 sitting at the picnic table and as I walked by had the cutest smile on his face. His eyes followed me as I walked on by and he actually fell of the bench and started crying. He was okay, but I really could not help but to be so flattered, haha.
Up the mountain we seemed to be walking in circles, for some reason I was hoping for a trail straight to the top. It turns out we walked so far we could see the neighboring city. Too bad we had to turn around because of all the falling rock.
Frederick had to work the majority of the time I was in town but it was still very good. His friends kept me company so it was good and the nightlife is great. As soon as these folks get off work they go straight to the pubs and sing there silly Irish hearts out. I love it! I saw Irish step dancing again. Thinking about taking it up….or not…but it seems like it could be a lot of fun.

Belfast, North Ireland

March 24th, 2008 by whitney

As soon as I began to see the outskirts of Belfast, North Ireland I had a feeling that this city would be different than others and it was. I was dropped off at the Europa hotel, which just so happens to be the most allegedly bombed hotel in all of Europe at one time. They were crowds of people starring up at it. I did not understand all of the commotion until I noticed men sliding down the buildings. It was cool to watch, apparently it is for charity.
I could not help but notice all of the young people, everywhere! They are also very easy to pick out in a crowd because of what they wear. The all seemed to be emo or “emotional”. Many looked like they were trapped in the 80s rock decade.
The City Hall is so beautiful and many other buildings as well. There is a large Ferris wheel next to the City Hall and Albert’s clock, both which reminded me of London. The city has many different style of architecture. I stayed just beside the Titanic shipyard with a guy from Portugal and an Irish lad. I picked up the flu from Bruno, the Portuguese. The poor guy had to say in bed almost the entire time. At least at this point I would not let feeling a bit sick get in the way of my touristing.
The most interesting place I went in the city was Shanhill Road. This is the area that was so segregated for 30 years by the Protestants and Catholics. This war was not about religion but instead it was political. The Catholics or Nationals of North Ireland wanted to be one with Ireland while the Protestants vowed to remain loyal to the Queen of Britain. It was humbling to see this place. I am always thankful that our war in not primarily on our own soil, but I became even more so grateful for it.
Shankill is still lined with peace lines, everywhere. These walls stand about 30 feet in some places, still lined with barbed wire. It’s so hard to believe the fighting and bombs only stopped about 10 years ago. This area is run down, but many buildings in the city are new because of the destruction.
On every street seems to be a mural in remembrance of the fighting. I came across a few about the USA. One in particular got my attention. It was an imagine of Baby Bush with a whip in his mouth and message that read “America’s greatest failure” adjoining on the right side was our flag all torn with words of the Star-spangled banner. I was not offended by this because I do not agree with many things that have happened under the Bush administration but I started thinking about all of the lives that George W. Bush has affected by the decisions that he makes. This war does not only affect the brave soldiers and the families, nor the refuges and the people in Iraq as well as it’s neighboring states. It affects the entire world, but I can only pray that somewhere people are benefiting for all of the right reasons.
I went to a Belfast Cathedral on Sunday to listen to the Choir sing. These little boys have some of the most amazing voices, I suppose now until they hit puberty at least. I am not sure which denomination the church was or perhaps it did not have one. The service seemed a lot like that of Lutheran, but when I took communion instead of grape juice that I am used to in service is was indeed wine. I have never been to mass but I know Catholics do drink wine, perhaps not always. Either way I really have no idea, but it was nice though.
Because it was Sunday I was able to get a train ticket around North Ireland for 5 £, so I did. I went to County Antrim which I had only heard good things about. It was so beautiful there. I saw the remains of Dunluce Castle as well as giant causeways and I got to walk over a rope bridge which I always wanted to do.
On Monday morning I was walking outside of the High courts and noticed a man leaving with a barrister wig on. I find it so fascinating and hilarious that they still wear them. How did I not know this? Just as I was waiting to cross the street I heard a terrible rumbling coming from a construction site of a office block. Quickly my inside laughter of the wig was replaced with fear as I saw this building began to collapse. I could not believe what I was seeing. People in the streets where yelling and running. From the top I saw a hard hat fall and then see a man falling just behind it. The air filled with dust and debris. I stood watching and tearing up in disbelieve for a bit. Thankfully, the police and rescue got there quickly. Watching the news that night it seems 6 men had gotten trapped under the rubble. As far as my knowledge there were no deaths and a couple of men have been discharged from the hospital by now. The others are stable.

Glasgow, Scotland

March 24th, 2008 by whitney

I arrived to Glasgow on Tuesday March 11. My first impression of the city was hideous! The flight was only 20 minutes and that time was probably the best of the day. Just above the clouds it was so blue, white, and sunny and just below it was so depressing. Too bad I had a mood to match. I have never seen a place so gray and wet. Even though the city was not so lovely I would still liked to have tour it, but that didn’t happen. At that point I had the full blown flu and I ran fever for three days. I can only remember feeling sicker one time in my life. I coughed so much at night I couldn’t even get a descent sleep. Nothing was pleasant for me; I could not even taste my cough drops.

Edinburgh, Scotland

March 24th, 2008 by whitney

Edinburgh is one hour outside of Glasgow so I was happy to be there within no time at all. I arrived on Thursday March 13. Of course it was windy and raining. From what I’ve been told the UK is this way for 9 or 10 months out of the year. I think I’ll take my chances with tornadoes. However, I could tell the city was beautiful. Right away I noticed the castle and I could see many tall monuments.
I still didn’t feel great at this point, but I was determined not to stay in resting. That night I went on the pub crawl which was a lot of fun. One part of it was particularly funny. As soon I entered one pub I noticed everyone looked like hillbillies with some resemblance of home (just kidding). It turned out to be a Talladega Nights theme party. It was funny to hear the Irish quotes of the people. I must have heard “Shake and Bake” a bazillion times.
The next day was very busy. I did a thorough tour of city. I visited most of the tourist attractions and hiked up Arthur’s seat which is an extinct volcano. I really felt like I was going to die! I was wheezing so badly, but I just kept reminding myself I may never have this chance again. I made it though! Along the way up was a Swan lake which was beautiful. The view was spectacular. The city is built on 7 extinct volcanoes so it makes for some fascinating scenery.
I went to the Royal Museum where I saw Dolly (named after Dolly Parton), the first cloned animal from an adult cell. It was good to finally see her, stuffed or not. I had been hearing about this sheep for a long time. There were many exhibitions and I particularly liked the ones with the animals, but after a bit I got sadden by seeing all of these stuffed animals. I saw many bagpipers in the streets and I loved it! I have always wanted to hear Amazing Grace on the bagpipes and I finally did. It was everything I thought it would be; it made me cry. I think I could listen to that everyday and never grow tired of it.
Walking up to the castle I saw a man who had his face painted and reminded me of Braveheart. He had these large swords for people to pose for pictures with him. I did one of course and then he asked if I wanted a laugh and of course I would never turn that down. He proceeded to give me a post card of man in a kilt with a tattoo of the Lion Rampant of Scotland on his butt. The card was autographed and he smiled and said that’s me. It indeed was him lifted he proved this by exposing himself under his kilt. It was ridiculously funny to say in the least.
Edinburgh is known to have some haunted places so some girls and I decided to do a ghost tour. Umm, it was more about history than anything which is okay by me as I like history. This guy needed some help and I had a feeling I would be picked. Usually I love being in front of people, but not this time. I slumped down so I wouldn’t be picked and Ahoy! I was. I had to depict a naked hairy drunk that was painted blue. That’s an interesting combo if you ask me. Anyways, the tour wasn’t scary until we went to a grave yard. This was the graveyard that was made famous for Greyfriar’s Bobby which was true story and then turned into a Disney movie. We all got locked into a family tomb and as cheesy as it was a man jumped out about 10 minutes into it. I almost wet my pants REALLY. I am astonished by how nice people can be in Scotland. Before the tour began and after were reminded that if we did not enjoy it we did not have to pay. I did not like it so much, but I would have felt bad not to pay. Afterwards we had some Mexican food and I promise it was the best I’ve eaten in my whole life! Anyways Scotland was amazing. I hope one day to go back and find the Loch ness Monster and to visit Skye Island. I have heard the most amazing things about that place, but unfortunately I did not have time.

Llandudno, Wales

March 24th, 2008 by whitney

My next adventure was to Llandudno Wales and ohh boy I took forever to get there. The scenery along the way beautiful though. I saw so many fat sheep and many of them had blue paint on them. Hopefully that does not mean they will be put on the chopping block soon. I kind of want a sheep now. I had a stop in Leeds, England and while I was waiting these men got into a confrontation. They were both black males, one that worked for the bus company and the other was a passenger. I really have no clue what they were disagreeing about but they began to call each other Africans. This story has no true significance except that the world is so ignorant.
Anyways, Llandudno has the largest resort in Wales. It was very quite this time of year but I can only imagine how great it is in the summer. I got there late on the first night so I did not get to see a lot really. Right off the bat I could tell that Wales was a posh and expensive area, but I certainly love the Welsh accents.
The following day I kind of wondered the area. I went up to the Great Orme and saw the light house which really did not look like the typical light house. The view was great from there. I could see cliffs and the Llandudno pier, it was beautiful.
On Sunday I went to see Conwy Castle which is not too far. It was probably my favorite castle that I have seen. The port was so pretty and the weather was nice for the most part. Llandudno was just a really nice place to visit. There were not so many things to do, but nevertheless I found it to be so beautiful.