Saturday, May 22, 2010

Copenhagen and Berlin

The good news: Today, June 1st, I had my last final exam of the semester! I'm a senior!

The bad news: I've got a month and a half of travel to record in my blog before I leave Bologna! I guess the "bad news" is not so bad, is it? In any case, I do have a lot to write about, and now is the time to write it! So here we go...


Back at the end of April, I flew up to Copenhagen to visit my friend Dave Jenkins, thus fulfilling our freshman-year plans to study abroad and visit each other in our respective countries. Denmark turns out to be the polar opposite of Italy in turns of way of life. I was shocked to see that even drunk rowdy teenagers in Copenhagen wait patiently for the walk signal before crossing empty streets. Even more striking is difference in basic communication: Italians LOVE to talk, while Danes seem to avoid talking to each other at all costs. These are not meant to be stereotypes, but rather the cultural norms that I have personally observed. At the lunch table with an Italian family or friends, if there is ever a lull in the conversation, people start shouting, "What's with this silence!" On the other hand, when I helped a random girl pick up the unopened beer bottles she had dropped on a Copenhagen bus, and she took the bottle from my hand with neither a thank-you nor a glance up in my direction. Dave's response to this situation was, "Now what have we learned about Danish culture?"

At a certain point, Dave and I met up with Maya Stroshane from Brown, and we did a tour of the city. The aerial picture above was taken from atop a kooky spiral clock tower on one of the churches, and the picture below is off the hippie-and-dog-occupied, marijuana-filled "autonomous neighborhood" of Copenhagen known as Christiania, the back entrance of which is shown below:

Another important thing to mention about Denmark is the fact that is absurdly expensive. Everything in Copenhagen sells for the equivalent of American ball-park or carnival prices. Coming from Bologna, where you can buy a kilo of pasta for 53 cents or an entire pizza for 2.50 euro, I was very shocked to see $7 coffees and $10 beers... Dave and I therefore bought all of our food and beer from the supermarket and cooked for ourselves. Below is Dave kneading the dough for our homemade gnocchi. Hey, I had to bring a little bit of Italy with me...

Flash forward to my last full day in Copenhagen, May 1st, which also happened to be Europe's Labor Day. As in the rest of Europe, there were big celebrations, outdoor concerts, communist flags, and, at least in Copenhagen, lots of beer-drinking out in the cold. Shown in the pic below are me, Dave's Swedish friend Ed Sandels, and Dave at the Labor Day festival:

From Copenhagen, I flew directly to Berlin to hang out with Maya Stroshane - the same friend I had just met up with by chance in Copenhagen! Berlin is a really fascinating city, with unique history, lots of things for tourists to do, and, best of all, it's super affordable. Bockwurst and bratwurst are sold on the street for like 2 euro all over the city. Here is the brief photo tour:

The Brandenburg Gate, icon of Berlin

The Dom (Cathedral) of Berlin, with TV Tower in background

The Berlin Wall, East Side Gallery

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

The Reichstag, home of German Parliament

I really enjoyed my time in Berlin, got a great tour with Maya, and even picked up some very limited Germany while I was there! Everything would have been perfect, if not for the flight home. There was a 5 hour delay, which caused me to arrive in Milan at 2 am...after all of the airport shuttles had stopped running... Let's just say it was an extremely eventful night, and I could not have been happier to be on that 5 am train to Bologna...

The Duomo of Milan at night