GT in the EU

An extraordinary education

Month: June 2016 (Page 2 of 5)

Tourist in Stockholm

Today was our third day in Stockholm and our second free day. From the moment I stepped off the train I knew this city would be amazing. Everything from the architecture to the canals to the people is beautiful and unique. This past weekend was filled with sightseeing and I know we each walked at least double the daily steps amount. Saturday was a free day and a group of us walked across one of the many bridges to the old town, which is on an island in the middle of a canal. Here you can see historical churches, the Parliament, the royal palace and tight, European-style cobblestone streets. We walked all around the island and visited the palace for the changing of the guard ceremony. We also were able to partake in multiple gelato runs this weekend as there’s seemingly an ice cream shop on every corner.

Sunday we went to a different island, again crossing from the mainland via a bridge, and visited the modern art museum. There we saw videos depicting art in sound, saw elaborate sculptures of mushrooms, and also viewed contemporary painted artwork. The museum was huge and had so many exhibits we couldn’t get to them all before our canal tour. The canal tour proved to be very useful for directions since most of the main paths in Stockholm follow the water. It lasted for approximately an hour and included commentary about buildings along the canal, including the first Absolut vodka processing plant. Dr. Birchfield treated us to a traditional Swedish dinner after the tour; most students ordered Swedish meatballs, a dish talked about in the States but almost never made.


Today was another free day and I was determined to use it to my advantage. A group of us walked back to the island hoe to the modern art museum and instead walked around in the Djurgarden, a large park that almost covers the island. It actually used to be hunting grounds for a house on the property but now belongs to the government and families live on the water in some of the old houses. We took a breathtaking walk around the water, getting views of geese, which were out in full force, and the surrounding countryside. The old homes were beautiful to look at and the boats docked were enormous. It was then that we decided to rent a boat and cruise around the river, getting views from another point of view. It was surprisingly easy to do this; we got lunch to go and rented a Go Boat, a popular tourist attraction in Stockholm, to use on the water. This was very different from the States, where you almost always need a boating license to drive anything on the water with an engine. We had an amazing time on the water; it was a sunny day with almost no current or waves. I already like Stockholm better than any city we’ve been to thus far on the program; it’s so vibrant and bustling, like a U.S. city, but has the historic architecture that makes you feel like you’re in a period drama.


Tomorrow we have a busy day of site visits; we go to the Swedish foreign ministry as well as the Parliament. I’m glad we’ve had a chance to be touristy in this city before we leave and that the weather has been (pretty) good to us so far. I’m looking forward to our last full day in Stockholm tomorrow and am already looking forward to leaving for Paris this upcoming weekend!

In Transit from Copenhagen to Stockholm

Unfortunately for me, the day for which I’m writing this blog post was the day where we spent most of the day on the train from Copenhagen to Stockholm. Our trip to Copenhagen was a resounding success as I found the city to be just as charming as the first time I visited except with MUCH better weather. With Copenhagen being such a small city, it was really nice to be able to walk around and see almost everything the city had to offer. We even managed to have a couple of days where the rain decided to stop long enough for some sun to come through. But as our time in Copenhagen came to an end, we boarded a train and headed for the border to Sweden. While the train ride was quite long, it happened to be on board one of the nicer trains I’ve ridden on across Europe. I certainly did my best to keep myself occupied during the train ride by watching the new season of Orange is the New Black and discussing politics with Dr. Birchfield. After killing most of the trip with these, a nice lunch on the train, and a short power nap we were closing in on Stockholm’s Central Station. Pulling into the city gave a fantastic view as the sun was out and the city was beautiful!

parliament pic

In front of the Swedish Parliament building!

Our late afternoon arrival would have given little time to explore anywhere else in the world, but when the sun doesn’t set until 11 P.M. you have a lot of time on your hands. We ventured out in a large group to get a taste of what Stockholm has to offer. We stumbled upon the area in which the Royal Palace and Parliament buildings are right next to each other. Neither had an extravagantly beautiful or ornate architecture, but both were impressive and distinctly Scandinavian in nature. We then spent some time wandering around the area called Gamla Stan. This is Stockholm’s “old town” where there has been a settlement of some sort dating back to the year 1252! The streets were narrow and lined with shops and houses. One of the distinct things that I noticed in regards to architecture of not just this area but Stockholm as a whole in my brief visit is the black roof tiles on most buildings in the city. When you’re in France or Italy almost every building and house has red roof tiles that I began to associate with Europe in general. However in Sweden all of the tiles are black giving the city a unique architectural aspect to set it apart from its neighbors in the south. I look forward to the coming days and really getting to experience Stockholm!

Copenhagen in 5 Days

As our first trip away from Brussels comes to a close, I thought I would reflect on some of the highlights of our time Copenhagen. Most of Sunday we spent all together, which was nice. It gave us all an opportunity to enjoy an incredible Danish meal together and catch up. Being spread out amongst our host families in Brussels makes it difficult to frequently chat with each other, but getting to spend the past few days together has definitely helped us develop better relationships. After returning to the hotel and settling in for a bit, we decided to go on a walk with no destination. The weather couldn’t have been better for getting lost in Copenhagen. Wandering around helped my friends and I decided where we should visit for our coming free day.

The Danish Refugee Council was our first site visit in Copenhagen. My classmates and I can agree that it was one of the most interesting and informative visits that we have had. Hearing the Danish, Copenhagen, and even our presenter’s perspectives was an awesome experience. We haven’t heard much of that from other presenters. It’s always nice to hear a little more than just the basic facts. Following our presentation, our presenter led us to the rooftop where we were able to see a beautiful view of the city. After several pictures, we headed out for lunch before meeting up at the hotel to head over to the University of Copenhagen together.

Once we arrived at the university, we were greeted by Ian Manners, a Professor of Political Science. He talked about a lot in such a short two hours. Of course, once the questions began, we went over our set two hours by about thirty minutes. Manners gave us a wonderful presentation and had a lot of information to share with us. It was cool to hear his opinions on problems such as migration and a possible Brexit. It was a nice way to end our first day.


The Little Mermaid

Tuesday was much more relaxed and finding things to do was all on us. After gathering friends after breakfast, we set out for the famous Little Mermaid statue. Our first stop along the way was Rosenborg Castle, a renaissance castle. It was originally built as a country summer home in the early 1600s. It is home to the crown jewels and is surrounded by beautiful gardens and a park. After briefly walking around the castle and through the gardens, we returned on our path to the Little Mermaid. We were once again side tracked, this time by St. Alban’s Church.

Not often do you come across open Anglican/Episcopalian churches in Europe, so it was especially touching to me as an Episcopalian. Immediately upon entering, I noticed similarities to my church at home in everything from the structure to the linens used. The church was built in 1885 and is the only Anglican/Episcopalian church in Denmark. After spending a little time inside, we finally headed for the Little Mermaid statue. The statue happened to be a little underwhelming, but it was still a wonderful opportunity to see such a famous piece of art.

After all of this exploring, we had really worked up an appetite. We headed for Papirøen Copenhagen Street Food. It is essentially a waterside marketplace that features independent food stalls and trucks that sell snacks, meals, and drinks. I enjoyed a pulled duck sandwich (similar to a BBQ sandwich, but better) and fries that were double fried in duck fat! It was hands down one of my favorite meals in Copenhagen. With this, our first free day was in the books. We returned to the hotel to watch lots of soccer together.

Wednesday morning was all booked up with our second site visit. After a short thirty minute walk, we arrived at the Danish Foreign Ministry where we were briefed by two gentlemen. About an hour and a half later, it was time for lunch. We all went together to another street food type market. This time I indulged myself in some tacos. Once everyone had finished eating, we headed for the parliament building where we climbed (rode the elevator) up to the top for an incredible view of Copenhagen. By the end of our visit there, we were all ready for our canal tour. A lovely hour boat ride accompanied by lots of history was the perfect way to wrap up the long day.


View From the Parliament Building

Today being our last day here, we were all up for different things. Some of us checked out a few museums while others took a day to catch their breath and relax a little bit. Copenhagen is a beautiful city with a lot to offer. Five days isn’t enough to take in any city, especially this one.

Work and Play in Copenhagen

Today was our third full day in Copenhagen, and it was an incredibly exciting and fun one! We started off the day quite early when we visited the Danish Foreign Ministry and received a briefing from a Senior Advisor in the European Policy Department. He gave us some insight on where the European Union stands currently and how Denmark fits into the EU and its issues.


He addressed issues such as migration and the refugee crisis and how Schengen policies affect that, as well as Grexit and Brexit. Something really interesting he mentioned was in regards to borders closing due to the sudden and severe influx of refugees. He said that even two years ago, the idea of closing borders was “unthinkable.” I thought this was really fascinating to think about, especially in terms of how quickly things can change. It made me think of the domino effect that one action can have, and how those actions can illicit change so rapidly in a manner that was previously thought of as impossible.

Sort of going off of that, we also discussed the implications of Brexit on the EU and on Denmark. He mentioned that a possible Brexit won’t affect Denmark too heavily in terms of trade and economic policies, but that it will significantly impact the European Union as a whole. On the other hand, he mentioned that if Britain chooses to remain, there will be a final certainty about the UK’s position and commitment to the EU. It’s crazy to think that the British Referendum is only eight days away; we’ve spent so long discussing it and what could or couldn’t happen depending on what is decided, and now the decision is so close. I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens on the 23rd.

After the briefing, we headed back to the hotel to change quickly and then head out for some lunch at the Torvehallerne Market, which was beautiful in today’s weather. The inside of the market was also packed full of stores and places to eat, and some of us were looking for something traditionally Danish, so we got fish cakes, rye bread, and remoulade from a fish stand.


After a great lunch, we went to the top of the Parliament building, called Christiansborg Palace, for a gorgeous 360 degree view of the entire city.


While we made our way to the top, we also worked through some interesting riddles that someone brought up. It was a lot of fun trying to figure them out (and very satisfying once we finally did), and I think that just goes to show not only how intelligent and inquisitive everyone on this program is, but also how quickly everyone has become good friends.

After taking some pictures of the view, we headed over to a canal tour, which was really informative and enjoyable. Our guide talked about Danish architecture and different buildings that were around us, and we also got a glance at the famous Little Mermaid statue.

Overall it was a fantastic day, balanced with both work (during our site visit in the morning) and play (for the rest of the day). I’m loving Copenhagen so far, and I’m excited to see what the rest of the Scandinavian trip has in store for us!


Page 2 of 5

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén