Saturday, July 31, 2010

Day 31: My heart belongs to Scotland. No, seriously.

Right now, I'm on the train from Edinburgh Waverly Station (which was, thankfully, about 1 minute and 30 seconds from our hostel) to Liverpool (via Wigan.) Though it is early, I'm so happy to be on this train because I'm overlooking the greenest of countrysides and the early morning mist is just rising off of the fields. Nothing could be more beautiful right now and I'm absolutely enchanted and delighted by it.

To report on yesterday's activities (I'm FINALLY caught up with myself, and thanks to this WiFi I've got in 1st class, I can take the time to upload pictures!!)
We had another slow morning, but it was MOST delightful.

Spencer ordered a full Scottish breakfast again but I went across the street to the grocery store - called "Mama Said Food" HAHA! - to buy my favorite yogurt in the WHOLE WORLD - Onken Multigrain. This particular one is Strawberry. It's ever so wonderful because it's got little chunks of wheat and grain in it and the texture of the yogurt is SO smooth. And it's funny because British yogurt is all about the "bio cultures" in the yogurt. This particular brand specifies the presence of "Lactobacillus acidophilius, Bifidobacterium longum and Streptococcus thermophilus." They all sound more like Harry Potter spells to me, but I digress.

We spent the rest of the morning, into the early afternoon in the Scottish National Gallery. I'm so glad we did! It was GORGEOUS. And, surprisingly, it was really the first art museum I've been to on this trip. Quite a shame, when you think about it, but it made it special because it was a change of pace, indeed! We saw SO many great works - Rembrandt, Renoir, Degas, Monet, Van Gogh, Cezanne, and the list goes on. So beautiful! And, of course, we had a bite to eat at the Scottish Cafe at the gallery. I got a delicious barley soup and spencer got some sort of sandwich with "rocket" in it. We asked our server what "rocket" is and he said, happily, "Ooh! Ets uh keeind uf leh-us! Ets got uh rail zang to ut! 'Es queeit good, raelly." Indeed, it was.

We then bopped around. We were going to hike to Arthur's Seat, which is this FABULOUS outlook of the city (see below) but we decided not to because the day before we'd gone on a great, small hike thru a beautiful park and, being quite exhausted, decided to have a sit in Prince's Street Gardens instead.

Also we stopped by H&M - again.

After that, we went back up the Royal Mile (the street where the city originated, from Castle Hill down to Holyrood Palace) to see and do and what not, and decided to sign up for a GHOST TOUR!! We've been debating for quite some time about doing one. But this one seemed palatable and less likely to make me wet myself because it was at 7:00 - in daylight - instead of at 9:30 like the others we'd seen. Cha-CHING. After we made our reservation, we ate at the Thai Orchid, which is one of Edinburgh's top restaurant locations! Boy HOWDY was it good. And the prices weren't bad, either!!

The ghost tour was HILARIOUS! We're so glad we went. The guide was witty and quick on his feet, and the group was pretty funny, too. I'd say 2/3 of the people were normal folk, like us, but the last 3rd was a "Hen Party." In Scotland, you don't do bachlorette parties, you have "hen parties." And they were SO terribly obnoxious. They were pretty drunk already, and throughout the course of the tour wandered away to get more to drink. Lucky for us, they wandered away once and for all about 30 minutes before the tour ended so they weren't disruptive anymore. 

The stories were good, too. All about people who'd died, witches who'd been executed, etc. etc. etc. Very interesting, and all true!! Huzzah!!

Afterwards, being the interesting people that we are, we headed back to the hostel, repacked our bags for our next trip, went to the station to print out our tickets, watched an episode of Lost to decompress and went to bed. Or tried. It was quite loud last night.

Now I need to nap on this train before I pass out.

Edinburgh Castle

Spencer at the Edinburgh Castle. Yay!

Edinburgh again

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Day 27-30: 1 City at a time!

WOWZA. The days have been son long that it's been super tough to try to get online and blog. So sorry!

Monday we got a late start - but REALLY needed the extra sleep so it was okay. We spent the rest of the day in "Skansen," an "open air museum" in Stockholm. They say it's Stockholm's #1 attraction. It's got a zoo, and a petting zoo but the REAL appeal is in the fact that it's a place where Sweden has been preserved. They have taken buildings from all over the country to put in this park to preserve Sweden's old way of life. So we were able to see how to blow glass from a glass workshop from the 19th/20th century, as well as a church from the 1700's, market stands from the 1600s and even some Viking stuff! It was FABULOUSLY interesting, PLUS the appeal of moose, brown bears and seals - all surrounded by gorgeous gardens = YES PLEASE!

Dinner that night was at McDonalds :) 

Tuesday we got up and had the greatest of all days. We went to the Nordic Museum and saw some great exhibits about Swedish furniture from now back to the 1800s, as well as table settings from the 1500s to the 1800s, Swedish interiors from the 1600s - 1800s and fashion from the 1760s, 1850s and 1960s!!! This was also FABULOUSLY interesting. We tried to go to the Vasa museum where you can see a 100% preserved ship from the 16-somethings, but the line was freakishly long so we didn't get to go. Instead we ate a hot dog and got sodas. 

Then we went SHOPPING. If you didn't already know, the most favorite of stores, H&M, was started in Sweden and in the center of the city you can stand at this one intersection and see 4 or 5 (if you crane your head) H&M at once! So we went shopping indeed. I got some denim leggings and a long, collared shirt. Spence got some great things, too. I say HooRAH to that!!

We ate at McDonald's again. It was fine, really. And not really too expensive. After purchasing another set of tickets to get from Warsaw to Stockholm, we felt we should try to save money. 

Then we made our way to Gamla Stan, which is the Old Town island in the archipelago we call "Stockholm." It is where the palace is, and thus, the city began to be built around that. It has since become rather trendy to live and apparently actors and such live there. It's also a gaping mouth that barfs tourism at you. Every other shop is full of yellow and royal blue regalia, with "Svenska" all over it. But hey, it works. I bought a magnet or two. AAAAND we stopped at a watch store and both Spencer and I got a new, high-fashion Swedish watches. Love it.

Wednesday, we got up and packed our stuff all up. And after a ridiculously long process we got it stashed in the lockers in the central train station so we wouldn't have to lug it all around the city. We visited the royal palace. It was really REALLY neat because even though we've seen a couple palaces, we haven't seen anything quite like this. The palace in Krakow was neat and old, but basically just a museum. In Warsaw, the palace LOOKED old but was actually new, so the history is what made it most interesting. But THIS palace is actively used by the Swedish royal family. In fact, one of the princesses was just married in June, and the ballroom of the palace was used for a celebratory wedding disco. Yeah. Cool. Not to mention the royal jewels and such we saw. SO SPARKLY.

They have this museum beneath the palace that we were able to walk through that was amazing. The swedish palace began with just a single defense tower in the 1200s, and was built up from there. Around 1600, however, it burned down. Then for about 60 years, they built the current palace that we toured. In the museum beneath the current palace, we were able to see the ORIGINAL walls that survived the fire. These walls were built about 800 years ago! Crazy! They had artifacts on display - animal bones they found by an old oven that were used for food, old chain mail, old shoes - - it was amazing. So amazing. 

And, sadly, that's basically where our Stockholm trip ended. We went to the station and took a bus to the airport to fly to Edinburgh.

Oh. Fly to Edinburgh? That's riiiight. We flew with RyanAir. If there is something I can tell you for sure, it is that YOU, I, YOUR FAMILY, YOUR FRIENDS, MY FAMILY AND MY FRIENDS SHOULD NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER FLY WITH RYANAIR. Oh did I say that out loud?! YOU BETCHA. You see, yesterday I had the WORST possible flying experience ever. Need proof? How about these apples: 880 Swedish kroner, (yes that's $121.88) to check an extra bag. 

See - when I paid for the tickets a month or two ago, I included one checked back for both Spencer at I. They had 2 weight options available, 15 and 20 kilos. I picked one, thinking "well, if there's a problem, we'll upgrade at the airport." OOOOH not so. We were both "allowed" to have 1 bag each, at 15 kilos (yes, that's right - a measly 33 pounds.) Well, Spencer's bag was at about 25 kilos, and mine was at 17 or something. You'd think well - just upgrade one of the bags to a 20 kilo bag, and shift the weight around! But no, we weren't allowed to "upgrade" from one bag size to the next (which was only 20 kilos anyway - 44 pounds.) AND because we had only specified that we would be taking 15 kilo pound bags, we couldn't even buy a 20 kilo bag. We had to convert a carry-on bag to a check bag and could only put up to 15 kilos in it. And that extra bag cost us One. Hundred. And. Twenty. One. Dollars. (And 88 cents.) NOT KIDDING.  Even with the extra bag (which was supposed to be carry-on so it was very small) we were having trouble adjusting everything. Had it not been for the GREAT GUY behind the desk who let one bag slip at 16.5 kilos, and the other at around 19, we would have had to throw away toiletries, books and clothes at the airport. 

Beyond that, passengers are only allowed to take ONE carry on bag. Period. No personal item or anything. One carry-on bag at 10 kilos (22 pounds.)  Because Mr. Nice guy helped us check bags, we didn't have a problem with this but he says the fees are GHASTLY if you're overweight at the gate. But what's STUPID is the plethora of over-head bin space that was in the plane. Ridiculous. Also, announcements were made on the plane every 10-15 minutes all about the food, magazines, drinks and other products the airplane had for sale. Good thing we weren't trying to sleep or anything because the announcements would have made that absolutely impossible. However, it was inconvenient to have to pause our movie every 10-15 minutes to wait for the announcement to pass so we could actually hear it.

Anyway. RyanAir is so bad. Just don't go there.

But we're in Edinburgh now which is really great.

Today was full of "Traditional Scottish Breakfast" - which included Haggis, thank you very much, - a trip to the Edinburgh Castle, a tour thru Mary King's Close - a preserved series of rooms, buildings and streets from the 1500s, - a walk up Calton hill and photo shoots of the city, and dinner at a Scottish Pub. I'm in heaven :)

Again - time is short, so I can't take time to load in pictures. Sorry!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Days 24-26: Oh the Adventures.

The day we left Krakow was quite uneventful. We woke up in the morning, checked out of the hostel, and made our way to the train station. Now that we knew where we were going it only took about 12 minutes to get there.

We caught our train from Krakow to Warsaw around 10:20 and rode the train to Warsaw for about 2 hours. That was a funny experience. We got in this little car with 2 women and a man. 1 woman was quite pleasant and kind looking. The other kept glaring at us, and TWICE had a very heated conversation (in Polish, of course) with various train officials that had walked by. We are pretty sure she was griping and complaining about us - we didn't really care. We weren't doing anything to her. And the train officials both told her to 'Chill out' - from what we gathered, at least.

We found our way to our next hostel, with the help of a feisty taxi driver who didn't rip us off TOO badly thanks to Spencer's bartering techniques. After the driver dropped us off, we wandered around the square with 2 Finnish backpakers who were trying to find the same hostel. We found it. It was adorable. We were told that it only serves as a hostel for 2 months of the year, and the rest of the year it serves as a home for kids who are underprivelaged. No wonder the color scheme was yellow, pink and blue, and the decor consisted of a giant, stuffed hippo in the corner of the room!

The hostel was right in the main area of Old Town Warsaw. We napped for about 2 hours after we got to the hostel, but spent the rest of the evening walking around the old town, and eating pierogies and ice cream (swinekie to be exact. I think that was how to spell it...)

The next day we got up and toured the royal palace. It was bombed twice during WWII and completley destroyed. Some curators were able to recover hundreds of original pieces, and the country really rallied together after the war to rebuild the palace (and the rest of the old town.) But the palace was rebuilt 100% by donation. COOL! And it is really gorgeous, to boot.

After a nice, last lunch at a place where we went to specifically for the globki (but they told us the fresh cabbage was out of season, so they weren't offering it, thanks for NOTHING) but ate more pierogies and borsh, we headed back to the hostel to get to the bus station to get to the airport.

Well - long, embarrassing story VERY short, we checked our ticket on the way to th eairport and realized that we looked at the wrong ticket/time and the plane we were SUPPOSED to be on was gone. Yay.

So we got to the airport, and Spencer noticed a flight with WizzAir that was leaving soon, that would take us to an airport about an hour away. We got tickets, and - though the flight was delayed - got to Stockholm by this plane, and then a bus. And Spencer's friend Jennifer picked us up and we are now staying with her and her family!! AND Lot airlines assured us we could get some of our money back. Oh good.

After a late night, but a good night's rest, we went to church with Jennifer in a ward where Spencer spent 1 year of his mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Everyone was so happy and surprised to see him!!

The rest of the day was spent relaxing, eating with the missionaries, and talking with Jennifer and her sweet daughters. We also watched 'The Holiday' whlie doing laundry. OH how I love washing machines.

Today, we are going off into Stockholm for more adventures!! I will post pictures later!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Day 23: Auschwitz

Yesterday we paid for a bus and tour to get to and see Auschwitz and Birkenau, the World War II concentration camps.

We were only really able to take pictures in the outside. They said no pictures inside because it causes congestion, but I snapped just a couple.

They have converted many of the barracks in Auschwitz into museum-like displays, with pictures of the camp, and of prisoners, blurbs of the history, quotes, and artifacts. Only one of the barracks buildings you see in its "original" state. That barracks (#11) contained rooms upstairs where officials would hold small trials for crimes (which usually resulted in a death sentence), undressing/"wash" rooms for men and women who were going out to be shot at the death wall between barracks 10 (the "medical experimentation" barracks) and 11. 

Entrance Gate: "Work makes you free."

The "Death Wall" where executions were carried out, primarily before the use of the gas chambers.

Display of hair found from female victims. In the beginning of the camp, they shaved the hair upon arrival, but it became "easier" to shave heads after the masses of women and children were executed in the gas chambers. Due to the passage of time, the hair has lost its color.

The basement of that barracks is where they have starvation rooms - if 1 member of a barracks escaped, 10 others would be sentenced to starve to death in these rooms. One man, a priest who was later canonized for his actions (he took the death sentence in place of another man), began dying by starvation in one of these rooms. There are also "standing rooms" - the size of a telephone booth - where 4 people were put together at once for punishment. The basement is also the location of the first experiment with Zyklon B, to see if it would execute a mass amount of people at once.

What was most stunning at Auschwitz was the fact that we actually walked thru the first working gas chamber of the camp. We were able to walk into the room that thousands of people walked into, but never walked out of. There are holes in the ceiling from where poisons were poured. The adjoining room was the crematoria. It felt, and smelled, like a great, emotional weight in there. It's hard to explain in words.

After seeing Auschwitz (which was SUPER crowded), we drove a few minutes to Birkenau. I cannot BELIEVE how huge that one was. And it was sobering because most of the pictures you see of "Auschwitz" are of the gates to Birkenau. 

They have reconstructed a couple of the barracks so we can see what it was like. The buildings that were made of wood were burned by the Nazis before liberation to try to minimize evidence. (Right, guys, the barbed wire, electric fences and acres of chimney remnants don't look AT ALL suspicious...)

The major crematoria (II, III, IV and V) were there, too. They were blown up by the Nazis, also, before liberation, except for IV - it was burned down by a group of the prisoners who had revolted. Hooray! Our guide explained that the prisoners who survived after liberation were asked their opinion of what should happen to the camps. Some wanted them destroyed and forgotten, but most wanted it preserved. Some wanted to replicate buildings that had been destroyed, but as for the crematoria, they chose to leave them demolished because the fact that the Nazis tried to destroy them only stands proves that the Nazis were well aware of their criminal actions. I thought that was very interesting.

The remains of the undressing room in crematoria II. You can see the stairs at the top of the picture, where the people entered the room. This room, and the crematoria themselves were underground, so as to not be seen by the outside. The buildings built above these rooms were used for medical experiments and such.

It's a sobering place, that's for sure. There seems to be a big mental block in my head, though, that prevents me from grasping it all. I think I'll get there eventually, but it felt SO surreal. Everyone in our group was discussing how impossible it seems. 

After we got back, Spence and I went to nap and decompress at the hostel.

We then went out for a meal - PIEROGIES!!!!!! The "maxi" plate of 36 for 39 zloty. That's about 11 dollars!!


We shopped in the main square and it is ever so exciting! There was this FABBO concert (heh...) and later, we also tried to find the location of the jazz festival nightly concert, but to no avail. :( Ah well.

Also - kiwi ice cream is delicious.

AND there is a bugler who plays his trumpet from St. Mary's basilica many times a day. We heard him yesterday and today and it's just neat. It began in the 13th century something about a trumpeter who stood in the church - the highest point to see if there are invaders - and when the Turks? came, the trumpeter played to warn the town, but was shot with an arrow mid-phrase. So even still today, his music sounds like it ends with a little hiccup, to commemorate the trumpeter who saved the town from the invasion! See a video on Spencer's FB page!

The end.
Tomorrow we're headed to Warsaw! I'm a little sad about it because Krakow has been my favorite town so far. I'd say Krakow and Skien, Norway. Please and thank you!! Copenhagen didn't seem nearly s social and fun as Krakow. Those Danes are too reserved for me :)

Ta ta for now!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Days 19-22: Blood, Vertigo and Dragons

It's been FAR too long. 
I know. 
I'm sorry. 

But - allow me to fill you in on the last few days!

Sunday (day 19) was OFFICIALLY the last day of tour, though I touted Saturday as being so. We got up, checked out of our wee CabINN hotel and hopped on the bus to church. We sat thru the 1st hour with the entire congregation but were able to have a small meeting on our own for the last 2 hours. It was an incredible meeting. Our director, Ray Smith, began by speaking of how much we had accomplished on the tour an dhow far we've all come. He then proceeded to name each member of the band one by one to explain to the group why he felt it was rucial for them t be there, what he felt they contributed, and why he was grateful to have them in the band. So cool! Then he opened up the time for everyone else to share their thoughts and feelings.

Mine were, summed up, that of the 3 BYU tours I've been on, this one was the most special. There was something different about this group. We are all SO close now and it was really amazing to be a part of it. So grateful! 

The rest of the day was spent driving back to Copenagen to stay in our same hostel one more night. We fended for ourselves for dinner, sent last minute post cards and went to bed. 

I shall miss Johnny, our sweet, Swedish bus driver!!

Monday (day 20) the band had a call time at 4:45 AM. I got up with them to say goodbye, but sine I was staying beyond the tour here in Europe, I was able to go back to SLEEEP. There were 3 other members of the band staying, too, so we planned to all meet around 10 (check out time) in the lobby. 

I did just that. I got all ready and was downstairs around 10 to check out. Then i went to grab a quick breakfast (roll with butter, jam, cheese, etc.) to be portable for my last day of Copenhagen sightseeing. 

Well this is where it gets interesting. (Cue "Psycho" screetchy violins here)

While slicing my thick, crusty roll with the uber sharp bread knife, I also sliced thru my left index finger.

Blood everywhere.

I grabbed napkins and a nice chef from behind the counter came out with a wet paper towel for me. He led me to the front reception where they had a first aid kit.  After taking off the napkins to put on gauze, I saw just how deep it was. I began to shake a little, but the pressure of the gauze helped to distract me.

Feeling REALLY STUPID, and quite sheepish, I approached my friends and told them what I had done. They kicked into "damsel in distress" mode. One got our tour advisor on Skype (he had luckily just landed in London) to ask about tour insurance and one spoke immediately with the front desk people about directions to the nearest medical station. I am so grateful for them. 

I was opposed, at first, to going to the hospital but I caved because I notice, about 45 minutes after the initial cuttage that the tip of my finger was black-ish (that, my friends, is what we call TOO MUCH pressure) so after unraveling the gauze to relieve that, i noticed it was STILL bleeding.

So off we went to the hospital. One of my comrades had to leave to catch a train, but the other 2 stayed  faithfully with me. And, long story short, we got to the hospital, the nice nurse checked me out, said "it's just a scratch, gave me a TETANUS shot (and believe me, I DEFINITELY tried to talk her out of it - but it didn't hurt at all!) and then she asked me to wait for the doctor.

After some light-hearted conversation and seriously sarcastic, dry, Danish humor, he cleaned me up and wrapped up my finger and I'm not allowed to change the bandage or get it wet for 5-7 days. Which, of course, means 5 days.

From cutting myself to walking onto the bus after being at the hospital, the whole ordeal took only about 2 hours! Not bad! Thanks socialist healthcare!

The rest of the day was spent touring and climbing the "Wizard of Oz" church (which is actually called the "Our Saviors Church") and Christiania - the designated "free" zone in Copenhagen established by hippies. You're not allowed to take pictures there because everything is legal. Like selling marijuana plants out in the open and everything else like that. Shady shady....but neat to visit.

THEN SPENCER CAME!! (And the angels sang!!!)

I met up with him at the Copenhagen airport and we checked into the EXQUISITELY convenient Hilton right next to it. Soon after we caught a train back into Copenhagen and met up with Kevin and Charles and spent the evening in the city. Tah Dah!!!

Day 21:

Spence and I slept in. In the "deluxe king" room that we had - WHO WOULDN'T?!

We trained ourselves to Malmo, stashed our luggage in lockers at the station and spent the day in the city. It was a very slow, easy day (and sort of had to be because, despite my already crippled finger, my foot decided to bum out on me too. Seriously lame.) But it was a wonderful day. We took a boat tour, walked around the castle, thru the city and park and ate outside at TGI Fridays (FREE REFILS). We then made our way back to the station, caught a bus to Malmo airport, watched the 1st episode of LOST season 5 and landed in Katowice where we made camp.


Day 22:

It is not comfortable to sleep in airports.

We woke up at 1. Moved camp. Then at 2 and 3 and 4 and 5 and then i was lucky enough to stay out till about 9. Then we ate muffins and juice for breakfast for only about $6.50 total. I love Poland already.

With some magical non-verbal communication skills, we bought bus tickets to the Katowice central bus station. Then with an even sweeter set of skills (and a pocket sized Polish-English travel dictionary), we found the train to Krakow. As we walked thru the train station I noted how run down it was, and also the smell that is similar to an indoor penguin house at the zoo. Stale, damp, and EEEVER so slightly foul.

The train from Katowice to Krakow was a little too long (2 hours or so....) and very rickety. Methinks the train is very, very old. But it was okay and thanks to Spencer's sweet phone that does GPS independently of wi-fi, we got off at Krakow central - where it was BLAZING HOT.

You see, we hauled our luggage from the train station to the Main, Old Square. This is only about a 10 minute walk. But by the time we got to our hostel (up 3 flights of stairs) we were both sopping wet and exhausted.

So it was after a couple quick showers that we ventured out into Krakow. Which, despite the cold showers, was still blazing hot. Must be a Europe thing.

After stopping at one of the plethora of bagel carts outside for authentic Polish baked goods (only 50 cents a piece, mind you. SCORE!!) we visited Wawel Castle and Cathedral (where Chopin was or is buried...not sure which...) and the "dragon's cave." I really wanted to know what the REAL purpose of the cave was what, with all it's mysterious brick support and staircases, but all the signs were in Polish. Go figure. We also saw the "State Rooms" but couldn't take pictures. Lets just say they were pretty great - I'm talking tapestries galore and walls covered with leather. 500 year old leather.

We then headed to St. Mary's Basilica. AMAZING. I have seen many an old Cathedral - but I have NEVER seen one as ornate as this. Not in England or Denmark or anywhere. It. Was. Incredible.

So was dinner. We shared a delicious appetizer - a mix between bruschetta and capresi - each had a large, individual pizza, and shared a dessert. Sorry Dad, it wasn't Polish. That's for the next few nights. We were so tired and hungry we just didn't have the gumption to find an authentic Polish restaurant (A) and tackle a menu in Polish (B.) Tomorrow. Promise.

WELL! Now I'm all caught up. Tomorrow is off to Auschwitz and then we've left the afternoon and evening fairly open!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Days 17 & 18: ThththhththhThat's all, Folks!

Yesterday and today we played our last concerts!!

Day 17 started with a 2.5 hour walking tour of the city of Aarhus. I think if one were to walk around the city center, here in Aarhus, it may take them maybe 25 minutes, tops. But with a group of oooh - 15-20 people, things get slow. Real slow.

But we saw some great things! A museum where they found some great viking stuff, and left it all intact! Skeletons and houses and boats and stuff! We saw the longest church in Denmark. And, being good Lutherans back in the day, they painted over all the majestic, detailed, medieval Catholic paintings with white. Neat.

We had some time to kill and - i took another nap :) Delish.

We had a concert that night - started at 7:00 and played till 9 with a 15 minute break where we were served yummo sandwiches of pesto and sundried tomatoes.

The set was great and was VERY well received. They gave us clapping ovations and we even were given special permission to play another song beyond 9:00 - past the noise ordinance in the town! Woo hoo!!

Then I stayed up WAY later than I should have chatting and laughing with the buddies. It was most enjoyable.

Today we went to Ebletoft - a beautiful little town (only 7,500 people or so!!) and played a concert there. We ate - you guessed it -sandwiches and I topped it off with DELICIOUS Danish ice cream from Paradis (para-dees. Play on words. Get it? Paradise...and "is" (pronounced eese) is the word for ice cream here. Get it? HA!)  Again - the concert went well and, alas, it was our last of the tour.

We drove back to Aarhus for about an hour. I read some of my "Leadership and Self-Deception" book. Great book. We had about and hour and a half before our next call time. I did laundry in the sink. Hooray for clean undies. 

At 6:00 we headed to the church for a musical "fireside" (for those of you who don't know - it's just a general spiritually themed meeting. Very nice.) There were many people and it was good fun. So I guess THAT was our last performance. And the refreshments were divine.

Now it's girls night. Out on the town, baby!!!!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day 16: Go to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

Today we woke up early (no surprise) and drove about 15 minutes to go to the local prison. After waiting to be cleared thru - note that "cleared thru" is a very lose term. The security was very low - we set up for a concert for the inmates.

I will admit that I was nervous. I've never been to a jail or prison before and all I've ever heard is about abuse and attacks and escape attempts and fights that break out in those places. Yeah. Scary! But after today, I hope to go to the prison back home and perform for the inmates more. I was amazed by how grateful and gracious they were to us. They said no one has ever come to play for them! (At least not in a very, very long time...)

Here's how we were set up. Picture a small courtyard outside. On the "North" wall is a door into the main building, on the "East" and "West" sides are long-ish hallways, and there is nothing but the wall on the south side. The "South" wall extends down the east and west corridors. Each of those hallways is divided up into maybe 5 cells each. We set up the band in the center courtyard area with a small walkway thru the center of the band. As we played our first tune, they walked the inmates into the courtyard, thru the walkway in the center of the band (so they could at least see us at first!) and into the cells on the east and west sides. 

We played a few tunes and then stopped for lunch. Our leaders encouraged us to socialize, which I did! And I was so glad. The inmates were really quite kind and sociable (one even offered me a cigarette! How sweet!) We ate our sandwiches together, more or less. It was just divided up by the bars. We got to know the inmates a little - one lived in Phoenix for 9 months, one was from Romania (!!!!!!) and the one woman there told us she had only been there 15 days and was in because she married an abusive man, and hid their child from him. Apparently it's against the law in Denmark to hide a child from the man of the family. She said one of the men in the cell there with her was in a similar situation - he married a Danish woman, had a child, and then got divorced which then disqualified him from staying in the country (he's not a Dane) but he didn't want to leave his kid. But since he wasn't legal and stayed anyway, they put him in jail. So sad! Those are the only stories we heard. Didn't want to pry, you know :)

One of the inmates told us he was a musician, so Jordan - our drummer - and Alia - our guitarist - took their instruments down the hallway to play with him during our break.

(I wanted to insert a video but it wouldn't work. Sorry!)

Overall the experience was really great.

After that, we had a couple hours to kill, so we came back to the hotel. I slept :) Naps are wonderful. I'm really getting worn out!! This tour has been busy busy busy!!

We went over to our next venue around 3:30 and set up. We played at 5. It was our first (and only) indoor venue. It was a really cool location - an old church, i think, with high, vaulted ceilings and neat windows. The sound was great and the reception was wonderful. Not only did they clap in unison, they gave us an ACTUAL standing-clapping-in-unison double ovation. TAH-DAH!

The concert was great - 2nd maybe to the Kongsberg concert.

Tomorrow we get to see more of Aarhus! I'm thinking of going to the art museum here. I've heard it's wonderful!!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Day 15: It's because my pants got wet.

Today was pretty slow. We left early (9:00) and drove to this monument in Esbjerg - the Man by the Sea, i believe it's called. Neat monument. Okay beach.

Because THAT beach was only "okay" - we had 10 minutes to spend looking at the dudes - they drove us to ANOTHER beach. I've heard rumors that Danish beaches are pretty spectacular.

They are.

We spent an hour here. Unfortunately that wasn't enough time, really, to get ready and go swimming and then get cleaned up. But i found some great shells! Conches, too! We saw crabs and jellyfish and fish fish and it was good fun. I loved it and it's been one of the highlights of this trip, I feel, along with swimming in the fjords in Norway.

We drove some more to an old viking church and cemetary. It's been around for over 1000 years now, i think!! We learned about a viking king named "Bluetooth." I betcha some Dane figured out bluetooth for technology and named it after him. They said the symbol for bluetooth is a mixture of the B, T and H in Bluetooth's name in Rune form. Makes sense.

Then we drove and drove and drove some more. Now we're in Aarhus, and we're going to jail tomorrow. 


It's true. We're going to play a concert for the inmates. Then we're playing at our FIRST indoor venue at the Aarhus jazz festival. Hooray!!!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Day 14: Witchcraft

Today we got the BEST BREAKFAST! We got a break from rolls, cold cuts, cheese and jam and got rolls, jam, scrambled eggs (that were WARM, mind you!) and baaacoooonnnnnnn.

We drove to Ribe and got off for a sweet walking tour. Ribe is a REALLY old town. Denmark's oldest, I think. Anyway - all the buildings are saggy and the whole little town is just seething with history. We learned about the trading there and the floods and the kings and the witch trials. They burned "witches" at the stake in Denmark like they did in the US. Only in Denmark, we learned, they made them wear belts of gunpowder so there was a bit of an explosive effect. Morbid? Yes. That was the last story we heard, followed by "Now, let's have lunch!!"

Pretty Ribe.

(Ribe - this harbor was CRACKALAKIN in the medieval times.)

We played two "concerts" - two 30 minute sets at 2:00 and 4:00. They set it up this way so people wouldn't be drawn away from shopping for too long. Shopping is a big industry there so they can't stop the tourists from shopping :)

(Cute venue)

(At the concert)

I ate my first Danish pastry today. It was a "superchako" - I took this to mean "Super Chocolate." Which it was, indeed. It was like a mix between a croissant and a cinnamon bun that was actually chocolatey and not cinnamon-ey. SO GOOD.

We then drove to Esbjerg - about 20 min away. We met up with our new host families at that point. We're staying with the Petersens. He is Danish, she is not. She grew up in these isolated Pacific Islands in somewhere i can't remember and they have 6 SUPER COOL kids. Turns out, the man of the house served a mission for the LDS church with the dad of a really good friend of mine. SMALL STINKING WORLD. We talked about everything from school systems, college degrees, and such, to the healthcare stuff, to government and patriotism. Tah-dah. Life is good.

(Scenic view. Tah dah!!)

Anyway. Hope you like the pictures of the great things today and also the pictures I added for yesterday!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Day 13: Fairy Tales and Rain

I was so sad to leave Copenhagen this morning! Okay - not REALLY because I'll be back in a week or so. But still - it was great to be there for so long!! At the same time, I'm glad to see more of Denmark.

We drove for about 3 hours to the town of Odense. It is the birthplace of Hans Christen Andersen! So we visited his house and a museum and it was lovely! So far I like this town a lot - maybe even the most!! Er...Drammen was pretty nice. Anyway - I found this great art shop with some GREAT art. I loved it. I loved it a lot. And bought many things. (4 post cards, 1 magnet and 1 print.)

(cute duck bumb at the H.C. Andersen museum)

We played a concert in the afternoon - I think it was from 4:00-5:15. Anyway, it was timed perfectly because despite the warm warm weather, the sky BURST INTO TEARS after our performance. When we were about half way cleaned up it started POURING. It felt great and the sky got real dark and it cooled way down. We were all actually pretty thrilled about that.

The concert went well. We heard there were about 300 people standing or sitting, watching us at all times - so that's encouraging. We got another unison-clap ovation. That's 3 for 3 now, or something like that!!

(H.C. Andersens' pen and ink pot)

After the concert, some more host families picked us up to take us home for dinner and sleeping. Suzy, Alia and I were staying with these two nice ladies (mother and daughter.) Their car is so tiny that Alia and Suzy and most of the luggage left to get dropped off at one location with the daughter who then drove back to pick her mom and I up (but only we had a chance to sit down for a nice REAL, delicious, Ginger Ale while we waited.) Then all of us (daughter, mom, Alia, Suzy, me) went to the "summer home" for dinner - and we went out on the beach and collected shells and rocks and it was pretty!! Then the mom stayed there and the daughter drove us back to their winter home about 20 minutes away. That's where I am now. It's all very lovely, really.


Tomorrow we're going to Aarhus for a few days. I'm really looking forward to that. But mostly I'm looking forward to the cooler weather.

Sorry about the no pictures. I'm feeling lazy tonight. I'll post them here tomorrow, so re-read this blog again and I will have added pictures!!

Love to everyone!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Day 12: Fireworks and Castles

This will be one of the more interesting yet!!

I went to bed last night and was HAPPILY awakened by fireworks going off over the town square! I'm note sure why there were happening, but I'm sure glad they were! It was pretty gorgeous and magical in every way.

We got up this morning, got ready for the day and went to church. It was - can you guess - warm!! The experience was nice - they have a little headphone system for English speakers so we could hear the meeting(s) in our native tongue :) Hooray!!

After church we ate at a Greek buffet. It was SO good. Rice and hummus and couscous and yummmm! And the best part was there were FREE REFILS! Waaaater. We've all been so dehydrated. I know because usually I GUZZLE water and have to use the loo all the time. And here I GUZZLE any chance I get - the guzzling is, however, vastly different than the usual ammount - but I don't have to use the loo NEARLY as much as usual. Which is odd. But the water and Greek food was great! That's all I'm really trying to say :)

The restaurant was just across from the Frederiksborg castle! We toured it for a couple hours in the afternoon and it was A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. Seriously. The whole palace was beautifully decorated and covered in art. My favorite thing to see were the (spelling?) Carl Block paintings! See them below!

In the evening, we played a fireside for a ward here in Copenhagen. It went well. And then I ate pizza for dinner.

(the pretty view of central copenhagen from my hostel window!!)

The end!!!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Day 11: Sweat

Today was, overall, a great day. However - it is SOOOOOOOO hot. I cannot convey to you the high temperatures and uncomfortable nature of the heat we are feeling. So much sweat. The Danes here are telling us that this is the hottest summer they've had in years. And no where has air conditioning or even a FAN. Oh man. Ooooh man. 

We got up this morning and the young single adult group from the local LDS church took us on a walking tour. It was lovely and I was really glad they did so we could do a little sight seeing. We saw the queen's palace and this big lo' church with one of the largest church domes in the world (took 100 years to build!!) We saw a ton of neat stuff. But walking around for a few hours was really tiring and - HOT!

Church by the queen's palace

pretty gardens :)

We ended our tour at a church where the famous Christus statue resides. It was sculpted by a Dane. But what was most NEATO was the fact that he also scuplted the twelve apostles! It was lovely. 

(click to enlarge)

And lucky for us our concert venue was right outside the church so we grabbed some lunch (re - some people did. I wasn't hungry at ALL because i was so warm so I just got some pistachio ice cream), ate and started setting up for our concert.

The concert went really well. We had a great reception and they unison-clapped for us so - we did an encore! Apparently it's very rare for people to do that here, so we're lucky to have gotten it twice!! Again - it was SCORCHING hot because not only were we in an outdoor venue in the sun, they insisted on turning on the lights to make things hotter!! When I say "sweat", I'm serious. Some people had underarm "tacos" halfway down their torso. 'Fer serious.'

After that a handful of people went swimming in the harbor, but some of us decided to go on a canal tour where they drive you around the city in a boat. It felt like a Disney ride and I loved it. Again - i was glad to learn more about Copenhagen. It's quite the fascinating city. Some of us contemplated going swimming after the canal tour, but once we got to our rooms, we were so spent that we slept.

famous view from the water!

Dinner was next - fending for ourselves at the nearby McDonalds - and then FREE TIME! Some went to concerts - me? I stayed in to take a cold shower, edit pictures, blog and take care of my sickly body :( I'm getting better!! Which is good. But I'm still congested, sniffly, and tired. It will pass soon, though, I'm sure.

Tomorrow is church, a trip to the Carl Block museum/castle (though i'm sure i spelled that incorrectly) and then some free time - during which I'm going to head to this museum about a block from our hostel. It's got some BEAUTIFUL artwork in it that I'm really excited to see. Then on Monday we'll head to Odense!