Friday, September 25, 2009

Just An Ordinary Day at The Park

Today was a lovely day. We woke up at a decent hour and simply spent the day enjoying the warm English air. We walked to the Richmond Park today. It is about a 12 minute walk from our University and it is well worth the distance. Richmond Park is one of the largest parks in all of London and it is beautiful. It is not the kind of park that I imagined with a playground and a big green field. It is actually much more than that. Just as we turned the corner and saw the vast tall yellow grass field, we were astounded. It was amazing! There was grass that led on forever into the distance to be stopped only by the lining of enormous green forest trees. Separating the portion of the park that we were at, was a shallow brook. The brook was not too deep, but the grassy walls that led to the brook were. There were small dirt trails leading every which way into the deep forest trees and going around the park. Covering the grassy field was a large herd of deer! Thirty or forty deer covered a large area. There were doe everywhere, big ones and little ones... Then just when we thought we had seen it all, out of the brook strutted a very large male deer. He had a full head of antlers and a confidence about him that was just enough to make us keep our distance. We walked toward the deer in hopes to go behind their herd to a beautiful forest of trees... however, the male deer did not like the idea of us getting so close to his ladies. He stopped in the middle of the trail, stopped his hoof, and made a loud bark/growl noise that scared us all out of our shoes! We knew he meant business and decided we could find a different spot to relax.

We crossed the road to the other side of the park where there were more trees and a few solo deers just frolicking around. I spread out my red fleece blanket and we all sat under the big oak tree. Chelsea sat and wrote letters to her loved ones back home. Christina tried to catch up on her journaling from our traveling. Charissa enjoyed sharing stories about different events in her life and pondered about the events coming up. Angela took pictures of all the beauty that was surrounding us. And I tried to read Captivating but could not focus on the words that were coming off the pages.

After some time of relxing, we all decided we wanted to climb a tree. There were so many fun trees all around us, they were just begging to be climbed. We surveyed all the trees, judging many of them to be too tall or too thin or too far. Then I saw one that too me looked just perfect. So I decided to try to climb it. So in my black Ug-type boots, I grabbed a branch and flipped myself up onto the tree. It was so fun! Once up there, I just kept going... I climbed higher and higher until I could not find a place to go. Chelsea also joined me in the tree. She made the choice to take off her boots in order to get more of a grip. The other girls tried to climb up, but did not succeed and so they gave up trying. Chelsea and I relaxed in the tree for a few moments before climbing back down to find a differente tree for the other girls. We walked through the forest where it was a little darker and simply enjoyed the free air and God's complex and simple beauty.
Our time at the park was short, but it was not wasted. It opened up our eyes to a different part of London. Beyond all the alcohol and the worldly pleasures that consumes so much of this hurting city, beauty still remains.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

London: Change is Good

London is full of suprises...everyday is a new experience for me. I am learning so much about myself and about the world around me. Today was a nice day. I really enjoyed myself. Aside from what most of my flatmates think, you really can have a lot of fun without any alcohol. I woke up late this morning, just allowing my body to wake up when it had enough sleep. I got a full night's sleep. Eight hours, woohoo! We were supposed to have a fire drill this morning at 8am, but I guess it did not happen. Last night around 2:30 my flatmate said we were supposed to have it around 3am, but she wasn't all there so maybe she did not really know...
Anyway we did not have it which was nice. The morning was very relaxed, the maids were cleaning the flat so I did not take a shower for awhile and then did not eat breakfast because they were cleaning the kitchen and we heard there was a free meal. Oh my goodness, we have had at least one free meal almost everyday since we got here! It is insane. I feel like I never get a chance to eat all the food that I bought. There were a couple times that I actually felt like I was getting tired of free food. I know it sounds crazy, but its true. Lol. Well the free meal did not exist so we ended up making lunch. Chelsea, Joel, Christina, and I made lunch up in Joel's kitchen which was fun. Christina basically lives in my room. She is always here and stays the night quite often. It is fun having an extra person around. I love her. We shared potatoes and veggies for lunch which was nice.
After lunch we rode the bus into town to Putney. There are a bunch of little shops there and it is pretty much the closest place that has everything. I was not going to go, but of course I gave in and went. It was fun. Chelsea and Angela really wanted to go to a yarn store so we went there and it was so precious! It made me really want to knit. Everything was so soft and now I really want a little knitted beanie... Angela and Chelsea are so talented. When we got back from Putney, we went back to Roehampton which the CU ( Christian Union) were putting on a big BBQ. It was so much fun! First of all the burgers were amazing...then they also had tea which I love and I just the little CU group that we have met. They are all so precious! Mike is one of the main guys that we met last time we had a BBQ and he is so goofy. Tonight I found out about the big rivalry between Froebel College and Digby Stuart College. Ok so Roehampton University is broken up into four different colleges: Froebel, Digby Stuart, Southlands, and Whitelands. The two dorms that the Biola students are in, Southlands and Froebel. I am in Froebel College, but I will be taking my classes in Digby Stuart. I was having fun with Mike because he is from Digby College...Froebel College does not like Digby. I fought with him because Froebel is going to win the football game ( soccer)! It is called a Frigby game, which is Digby and Froebel put together. The sad part is that I will not be here for the big game because it is at the end of the year. But my school will still win! We are the zebras and Digby is the lions. I told him that zebras always beat lions in a fight... he disagreed. Digby has beat Froebel 5 out of the 6 times they have played them, but this year will be different. I know it!!
Anyway Mike is a fun guy. Then there is Jack. He is another one kind of in charge of the CU. He is a lot of fun to hang around. They are all so welcoming. He actually remembered my name this time which was lovely. He introduced me to his cousin. Her name is Michelle. She just came to study in London this year at a Music school. She already has a degree in teaching so I had a great time talking to her. I really wanna play cranium and taboo and all sorts of games with my new friends. They are all so great! Jack is hilarious. He is always messing with me. Him and Michelle kept making me say literature because I guess I do not say it right or at least not the way they say it. It was so funny. They are such a good group of people to hang out with. There is also Elizabeth who is always super excited about everything. She is cute. She did not talk to us for very long this time because she was running around everywhere, but she remembered all our names which is very good. Jack is not so good with names... He forgot Angela's name, so I taught him how to remember names. Hopefully he uses my tips.
So after we hung out with them for a few hours, we headed back on the bus and train to a college group get together. We found the most amazing church this Sunday. God is so good to us!! The first church we tried and it was absolutely amazing. They have a strong college group that meets every Tuesday night, this was our first time going. I left feeling so refreshed. The message and worship was amazing and the fellowship is so encouraging. Everyone was so sweet and welcoming. We just feel like we really belong. One of the pastor's of the church is going to make a Thanksgiving dinner for all the Americans...isn't that so sweet?! Oh they are all so amazing. It is a very young crowd, and they have such a passion for what they do. There are these classes called the Alpha classes which were started by this church and their advertisements can now be seen all over the world. The worship leader is Tim Hughes, he is a pretty famous artist. It is amazing! Tonight was so great though, I met several different people and everyone was so sweet. They always feed us everytime we go which is great. They feed us with the word and physical food as well. :)
I met the sweetest girl, her name is Liz and when I met her I thought she was like 21 or 22, but I found out she is 30. She was our small group leader and I had a nice long talk with her about culture and relationships and all that good stuff. She is engaged...everyone is getting engaged. Yeah Lisa!! ( A little shout out hehe)
Then I also met Naomi and Hetti (Harriet), they were very nice and friendly. Also there were a bunch of Americans there from different areas. This girl Liz that I met ( a different one from the first one) was from LA, but when to school in Boston and now is in London. Small world, huh? Then we met a guy just as we were leaving who was from Florida, his name was Austin. Another nice fellow. It was so great talking to all this different people. I love meeting the English people with their accents and different terminology. Like when we were on the bus going to church, Christina and I got talking to this young fellow who thought is was really strange that we went to a Christian Uni ( thats what they call University) because there are no such thing in England. Ther culture differences are so interesting here. I literally learn something new everyday.
In the service this evening different people had different images that they felt like God was giving them that they wanted to share with the rest of the group and I could just feel His presence there through the words that were spoken. I know it is going to be a hard semester. There will be a lot of road blocks and speed bumps, but I am excited for everything that is going to shape my life. I know God knows what He is doing and He brought me here for a reason. I am working on preparing myself for everything He has for me.
Thanks again for reading! There will be a lot of make-up blogs to come...

Love always, Danni

Monday, September 21, 2009

London: A Slow Start

This is Day 4 I think.

London is very different then I expected...I guess I did not know what to expect, but it is taking me awhile to adjust. I have not had a lot of down time and so it has been hard to process everything that is going on. This campus is beautiful and I am excited to sit under a tree and read Shakespeare. It has been hard not having a schedule, I feel like my head is spinning from everywhere I have been and all I have done. Then on top of that we moved in at the same time as all the other international students so I feel like I keep getting hit with culture shock and as much as I love it, it is exhausting too.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Prague-Berlin-London: Three Countries in One Day

September 15

Left Prague at 6:30am. Arrived in Berlin around 11:30am. Tour at 1:30pm. Train at 5 or 6pm. That was our itinerary for the day. We had a long tiring day, but it was worth it for all that was packed in. We were given the opportunity to go to another free tour which we were super excited about because we had such an amazing tour in Prague. We had the same expectations for this one. We were wrong. Everything started out fine. We saw the Brandenburg Gate and some beautiful statues the Hotel where Michael Jackson dangled the baby out the window and a museum of the Kennedys. You know an average day. Ok so the Michael Jackson thing... I did not know that the hotel was in Germany! In Berlin! Right across from the Brandenburg Gate! Isn't that so crazy?!
Anyway back to the tour so the tour guide was interesting. He was like Bulgarian/American/something else... He seemed to waste a lot of time doing unneccessary things like make fun of this poor Swedish guy that was in our group. And he was hard for me to follow because he did not have a very upbeat voice and I get very distracted easily. I kept wandering off physically and mentally. A lot of what he was saying was very interesting, but the way he presented the information was hard for me to follow. The amazing thing about Berlin is that so much happened there... when we were standing by the Brandenburg Gate, the tour guide pointed out holes in the walls where Soviet bullets had pierced through. So much of the damage from so many years ago still can be seen.
He also led us to the place where Hitler's bunker was! It is under the ground and there is no memorial for it. We walked over to this patch of grass and he explained about the plain, ugly concrete buildings. They were the apartments built during communist times. Under the patch of grass was the bunker where Hitler stayed and no one has any desire of remembering him. While we were standing in that area, a man walked by walking his dog and brought his dog over to pee on the grass. The tour guide said it happens all the time, people purposefully bring their pets to pee or poop, or drunk people will come to throw up on the place Hitler used to reside.
My favorite part of the entire tour was the part when we went to the Holocaust memorial. It was almost an entire block of a memorial in the middle of town. The place was chosen so that no one would be able to avoid remembering what happened. The memorial is based off the grave we saw in Prague, the artist based it off of the way that the Jewish gravestones were. However the memorial is supposed to be about how each individual experiences it. It is built with lines of cement blocks of different heights making rows up and down. The ground that it is built on looks like it is rolling, very little of it is straight. It goes up and down from every which way. There is enough space to walk between all the different rows, and it is something I have never felt before.

When I was walking through, I walked slow and tried to imagine what it was like during the Holocaust time. When I was in the middle of the memorial, the cement blocks were the tallest. So as you are going in they get taller and taller and as you are going out they begin to get shorter. Imagining the time period and what the artist was trying to portray. I felt like a little Jewish child walking in at first amongst a lot of other children my same size ( the cement blocks that were the same height) and looking around no one really knew what was going on. As I kept walking and the flow seemed to spin, it was erie. The Jews in the Holocaust had no clue what was going on in the beginning because they had to reason to be there. In the middle, there was really no way out. I mean the cement blocks were so tall and I felt so small and insignificant. I walked blindly through the lines as the Jews must have done when they were led into ghettos, trains, bunkers, cafeterias, everywhere...

Going into the memorial was depressing and it broke my heart. However it did not end there. We were not left in the middle of the cement blocks and neither were the Jews! The days of liberation came and the Jews that survived the concentration camp held on to some sort of hope. That is what I felt walking out of the memorial, the blocks got smaller and there were still no answers, but the blocks began to even out and I realized even though the Jews and so many others endured so much pain at least they had each other. And even more than that they had God. It is amazing how much you learn through experience. I recommend everyone to go to Berlin and experience that memorial. My interpretation is simply what I got out of it and definently not the solution to the puzzle. See for yourself, it will change you.

One of the last stops for our journey was the Berlin Wall. It is not what I expected. It is a long thin cement slab with graffiti all over it. There is not much left therefore nto much to see. We had to head out after this part of the tour in order to head out for our train. The tour guide stood awkwardly by us for a long period of time when we told him we had to leave. It was horribly unprofessional. See because they run on tips only and we did not tip him because it was a FREE TOUR. There was no obligation to tip him and it was so dumb because he acted all rude and he was not that great of a tour guide so I do not know what he expected. He kept saying "So what something wrong with the tour" and then when we told him that there was not, but we had to leave to catch a train....he just stood them. Ug it was so annoying. He was like begging for a tip!

Well we left all annoyed by the tour guide man and that could have given us a sore feeling about Berlin, but luckily it was redeemed. After we left and headed toward the train station, we had quite a bit of time left over. We had come back to the area where the tour had started because there was a Starbucks there and the girls wanted to use the bathroom. The area around the Gate was all blocked off and there were police everywhere, it seemed as if there was so sort of parade. I stood around taking pictures of everything just in case we found out later that something exciting had happend. Then in the middle of everyone, there were a bunch of men in suits. I assume men in suits are always important so I took pictures of them... Finally after all my guessing, I asked a guy who was watching the everything as well and he told me that it was the Mayor of Berlin! He had come out to greet everyone after having a lunch meeting with the President of Macedonia! The President of Macedonia we saw get into his car and then the Mayor of Berlin began to come toward the crowd and shake hands with people. So a bunch of us got up clsoe and stuck our hands out....and wouldn't you know, he didn't just shake our hands, but took a picture with us too?! We were completely star-struck leaving Berlin. All we could talk about was meeting the Mayor of Berlin. It was such a wonderful was to end our time in Berlin.

We headed from Berlin to Hamburg to catch a flight to London. Everything seemed to go quite smoothly. We met a sweet English couple in the airport waiting for our plane to London. The gave us many tips on how to live inexpensively in London as well as what to see. They were a lot of fun to talk to and made the time fly by (no pun intended).

We arrived in London at about 11:45pm and after much debate ended up taking a cab to our guest house. It was very reasonable and it was our only option at that hour. The guest house was lovely and it was just nice to have a place to lay our heads. It was a long day, but we were back in London at last!

Prague: The Mostly Forgotten City

September 14

Prague was so much more then I ever could have expected or imagined. I had always heard about Prague, but did not know why the city was so talked about. What made Prague such a 'must-see.' After being given an amazing tour of Prague by a lovely tour guide named Steph, I realized the importance and awe that this city is always given. We met our free tour group at a decent hour in the morning, it was slightly raining, and just simply the perfect setting for a walking tour. ( To me, rain is always perfect). We started our tour in a square that seemed surrounded by everything worthwhile. There was so much history that the Czech Republic contributed to and was apart of. Sadly, everything that the Czech's created or did was taken away from them. From political uprisings to landings on the moon, the Czech people have been given very little credit for their efforts. There is so much that I learned, I do not even know where to start...
Everywhere we walked, there was history and reason attached the buildings and the places we stepped. We were led into a Jewish quarter where many Jewish memories were kept and honored. The Jewish community in Prague was where all the Jews were forced to live and only live during the Holocaust time period. There was a small little plot of land where the entire Jewish community was forced to bury their dead. The plot was so small that the Jews were stacked some 10 or 12 bodies high in each grave, the graves were marked by tombstones slanting every which way from each plot.
We saw the astronomical clock which was amazing and confusing. The clock was one of the greatest prize possessions of the Czech people and every day at a certain time there is a little performance done by the clock. Our tour guide said it was one of the most ridiculously pointless performances she had ever seen, but the old Czech people will go every day on the hour to watch it. Oh traditions, how we love them.
We ended our tour right before the Charles Bridge. Our tour guide told us a story about the king and a priest that held the secrets of his wife from him. And how the king pushed him over the bridge and he took the priest took the secrets to his grave with him. It was a lovely little story... I do not remember the details, but ask me sometime and I will try better to remember. The tour was amazing and after it ended we headed over the bridge to see more. The bridge itself was amazing, there were vendors and performers lining the outer edges. There were artists of all kinds. The bridge had scultures on the high walls including one that people believed rubbing it would bring them luck and many babies...
On the other end of the bridge, we found the castle...much much later. The castle was not what I expected. It was more like a small little village then a castle. There was not one large building with towers, but there were walls around with guards in front. I guess that counts :/
Leaving the castle, we headed to see the John Lennon Wall. Melody had told us a little bit about it, but I did not know what to expect. We reached the wall and it was amazing! Everything was covered with different colors. There was so many different fonts and sizes and colors and shapes and drawings and languages. It was a wall covered by so much emotion. People have been writing on the wall for just about 50 years! It started out as a place for people to just express themselves during a time of turmoil, but I guess the turmoil from here on out will never really end. It was just a beautiful display of everyone coming together. I absolutely loved it!
We spent a lot of time at the wall, taking pictures, leaving our own mark, and just simply taking it all in. After we left we headed out to just simply explore the city. We split up for a little bit to do some mild shopping and just wander. We met up after a few hours at TGIFridays for dinner. We also met up with our new Australian friend, Erin and her friend Jay. They ate dinner with us and we had a great time. The waiter was super sweet and very helpful. I ate tomato basil soup which was 95 crowns. It sounds like a ton of money huh?? :) Well in reality its only about 6 bucks. Hehe.
It was sad because this was our last night with Melody and Joel :`-( They were leaving us to head out to Koln to meet their friend. We had a lot of fun on our last night all together though. We hung out on the bed just being goofy and taking pictures. We tried to hide in more cupboards and scare Joel, but he found out and was not suprised. It was a good night. Melody and Joel had to leave at 3 in the morning to get on their train to go to Germany so we let them stay with us. Melody slept in my bed and Joel got his own bed while Christina shared with Chelsea.

Angela and I stayed up late trying to get everything finalized with our final hostel. It took forever because we did not want to spend any more money and London is so expensive so nothing was cheap. We spend so many hours on the iPhone looking for places and then we finally booked a guest house while we were way past the point of being loopy.Tiring. Blah! I love Angela!
It was a long night, but tomorrow it is off to Germany and then home for the semester AKA London!!!

Prague: Just Settling In

September 13

This day had a rocky start, but ended up just lovely. We got the wrong directions to our hostel and hopped on a bus that we did not need to take. Since we had already paid for the ticket for the bus, we decided we would use the bus ride as our own tour of Prague. It was not the most beautiful tour... there was little to see and a lot of sad, graffiti walls. We did, however, meet an Australian girl named Erin on the bus. She was going to the same hostel as us and had gotten really lost as well, so she decided to just ride the bus with us. It was nice. We had a great time talking with her, she was super sweet. When we finally arrived at our hostel, we placed our bags in the luggage room and went straight out to eat. It was dinner time and we were starving. So for the first time on our entire trip, we had... Mexican Food! Yup that's right, we went to a Mexican restaurant in the Czech Republic. Hehe. It was actually really good. I ordered a kid's meal which was simply chicken and potato circles that were shaped like smiley faces. It was great, I loved it! We all had a great time just relaxing. The weather was quite dreary, everything was dark and it looked like it was going to rain ( which it did, much later).

It was nice settling into our hostel room after a long day of travel. We were all together in one room which was fun. It had been a long time since we had all be together in one room. The room was really pretty it looked like the entire room was from IKEA. The walls were bright colored along with the blankets on the beds and even the cabinets. The hostel was really nice, and it was only $8.50 a night. It is crazy because everything is really cheap in Prague. The hostel also had an indoor swimming pool and a sauna! The pool was too creepy for me, so I did not go in. It filled up an entire room! You walked up these stairs and then there was the pool reaching as far as you can see... it was insane! Then there was a little sauna, which looked so nice. Some of the other girls went, but Christina and I did not feel like getting our bathing suits all stinky again so we did not partake in these activities... also the pool was really cold.

While everyone was swimming, we went over to the bar to try and use the internet. All the computers were full for hours. We were given coupons for a free drink at the bar so we got that as well. My first time ever ordering at a bar! It was so much fun! I got pineapple juice. Mmmm it was yummy!

The day that started out not so great, ended up pretty nice. Tomorrow is the tour of Prague! Woowoo!

Vienna: Culture and History Revealed

September 12

We did not spend a lot of time in Vienna and by this time in our trip, everything was starting to blend together and we were getting very tired. We got here early in the morning and walked around for a long time. There were only a few big attractions that we knew we wanted to see. Actually I had nothing in mind that I had to see in Vienna, I love experiencing culture so walking around and people watching always suits me just fine. Melody knew of some big attractions that Vienna was known for and Charissa wanted to see some of the musical side. We saw the big opera house which was beautiful, but unfortunately way too expensive for our budgets. Mozart is the well known composer of Vienna apparently, so there were men everywhere that were dressed like Mozart... it was interesting. They all wanted us to go to the theater, however it was way over our budget of money as well as time. We ventured over to a well known open market which turned out to be more like a massive garage sale. There were tables and people everywhere. People on the floor selling all kinds of trickets, people with tables, and people with tents. Everyone selling "...another man's treasure." It was so overwhelming, we walked through rather quickly in order to avoid because pushed every which way. We did however manage to buy this amazing little round cinnamon treat...I do not know how to explain it and I have no clue what it was called, but it tasted amazing! That was pretty much the best part of the open market. Mmmmmm
After we left the open market, we went to venture other areas of Vienna. Our first goal was St. Stephen's Cathedral. Sadly it was a little bit of a let down. Do not get me wrong, it was amazing. However after seeing so many beautiful churches and statues and monuments, it was just another one to add to the pictures. I was more interested in the people that were surrounding the church. Let's start with the protest that was going on just as we turned the corner to see the church, a line of people dressed in green protesting the mistreatment of the Iranians... I think. Then just to the right of the protesters was a War Vet that was sitting on a rolling cart next to a small white tent decorated with a painted on marijuana leaf singing who knows what. Then there was the huge crowd surrounded around the Austrian break dancers doing a show. It was great! Also, if that all was not enough, there was a large group of girls dressed like different centuries of wenches...I do not know why... The entire experience of just people watching was priceless.
After leaving the Cathedral we headed over to the palace that Marie Antoinette lived in! It was so beautiful, the sun began and set while we were there so it was the perfect timing. The actual palace was closed however there was a couple in a suit and wedding dressed who looked like they were having a wedding reception or something, it was so lovely! Everything about the palace was magical! There were staircases leading up on either side and a beautiful garden in the back. We got locked in the garden because they closed the entire palace and brought out the doberman pinchers... it was crazy! We had to jump over a fence to get out, I felt like such a rebel. Hehe. It was great!
Then when we got back to our room, I had a lot of energy ( what's new with that right?). And so I was jumping around trying to make my bed and then I decided to climb into the cupboard and hide. So first I hid in there and scared Christina... hehe. It was so much fun! So then I told all the other girls to try, lol. So I got all the girls except Melody to climb into all the cupboards with me. I really wanted to scare Joel, but he was on the phone and never came back in. I was sad. I waited for a long time then I finally just went to sleep... oh well maybe next time.
Vienna started out with very little excitement and ended with fun little stories to tell :)

Salzburg: The Sound of Music

September 11

We lefted Munich, Germany today at 7am. It was an early start, but we did get a chance to sleep on the train...somewhat. We found our hostel pretty easily behind a huge construction site just under the hill with the abbey. We were all exhausted, but we got into our hostel and got settled. It was huge, looked like the outside of a children's museum. It was orange with writing on the sides, it did not look trashy at all. It was all very nice. We spent some time exploring Salzburg before our tour at 1:30. We walked to a grocery store to get some cheap lunch ( baguette, cheese, meat, fruit... the usual) and then we stumbled upon a very interesting square. We sat down on a couple benches to eat our lunch and in front of us a huge chess board was painted on the ground. A couple old men and a middle-aged man unlocked some large plastic chess pieces ( they were probably about half my size) and started playing. It was so much fun watching this event. Then just a few yards behind us this man began to play this beautiful melody on the chelo I think. It was wonderful! The weather was perfect and the scenery was just lovely. Just to the right of me a couple yards was a line of open shops under small leather coverings. Very touristy, but still held their class. Everything seemed just perfect. We watched until the end of the chess game and then another sqaure when we walked through a stone archway. It was as if we walked into another century... gathered in the center of the square was a caravan of horse-drawn carriages with drivers. It was so beautiful! On the other side of the square was a large stone church capturing many different aspects of beauty! Everything seemed so unreal.

Before ending our stroll and heading back to the hostel for our next adventure, Chelsea split a huge chocolate covered pretzel with Christina and I. Our morning could not be complete without more chocolate. Mmmmm.

The Sound of Music in Austria

Today was a beautiful day in Salzburg, Austria! It was cloudy and raining and everything was green! We went on a Sound of Music Tour today, because the movie the Sound of Music was created about a family who lived in Salzburg, Austria. There are several places in Salzburg that are in the movie, but a lot of it is filmed in Hollywood. The tour did not start until about 1:30pm so we were able to have a relaxed morning, just simply enjoying Salzburg and the free breakfast we were given at the hostel. A small van picked us up from the hostel around 1:30pm and took us to our tour bus not too far away. We joined a bus full of tourists to see the famous scenary that Maria and the VanTraps saw everyday! I love the rain, but it was a little bit of a bummer when we were in the bus because the pictures through the windows did not come out.
:-( However we did not spend the entire time in the bus, we stopped at the lake behind the VanTraps house ( in the movie) and the Gazebo where they sing "I am 16 going on 17..." and the trees where the children are hanging out of. There were many other places that we were able to see, but did not stop at. We saw the house that the real Vantrap family lived in and we were given all the history of Salzburg. The movie brought the small little town a lot of wealth. In the evening after the tour we watched the movie and saw everything all over again... it was so cool! Oh we also went to the church where Maria got married, it was gorgeous! Everything is so big, it makes you feel so small. We walked down the isles under the dome with the beautiful glass windows and the huge spaced out walls with all the small wooden pews and huge depictions of Jesus and his mother Mary. Everything was so beautiful, so much detail goes into each and every aspect of the church. It was amazing!
After viewing the church, we went to a small little bakery and ate warm apple strudel then spun around in the grass like Maria. The hostel that we stayed in was just below the Abbey that Maria resided when she was a nun. We never got a chance to go in it because we did not want to disturb the nuns, but we saw it. Looks just like the movie! The stone walls with the hills all around. It was lovely! Everything was lovely.

Dachau, Germany: The Camp That Started it All

September 10, 2009
This blog is a hard to write because it was a hard place to be. This portion of the tip was the most important part for me. I have always had a strong desire to experience a concentration camp because even though my Jewish heritage may be small and they most likely did not live in Germany during the period of the Holocaust, it still affected me along with everyone else during this time and after. So many people were killed during the Holocaust that did not deserve to be. People were killed for being crippled, homosexual, Jewish, Jehovah Witness, Polish, Slovenian, a Gypsy, and so much more. Anyone who did not match up to the standards of the Aryan Race were considered lower than trash. The man who started Dachau was named Heinrich Himmler and it was the first regularly used concentration camp. Auschwitz was based off of this camp. Dachau was used mainly as a forced labor camp and the majority of the people in Dachau were men. When I walked through the gates of the concentration camp, I felt a tears well up in my eyes. I knew this would be a hard, but I did not know how hard until I got there. The tour guide talked about the stones that we were walking on and the square we stood in. Thousands of people took their last steps in that camp. The majority of the people in that camp did not die from being gassed but instead died from the hard labor and little food that they had.
A lot of the concentration camp had been destroyed, but they were able to preserve quite a bit of the camp because although the Nazis would have loved to pretend that the Holocaust had never happened, the other Germans knew the importance of people seeing what had happened and not letting it happen again. There were three memorials at the back of the camp which showed the pain and victory of the people in the camp. It is sad that so many people in the camp never made it to the liberation day. We walked around and saw pictures of the malnourished men being forced to make porcelian. The saddest part about these camps is that they were very nice looking. The beds had to be made perfectly, every corner smoothed. Everything had to be cleaned and shined so that when Red Cross personnel checked the camps, they thought everything was going perfectly normally. If a prisoner's uniform did not meet the standards, if one button was not in the correct place... they would be tortured and killed.
From an ignorant stand point, if someone did not know what had happened in this place, they would see the brick buildings with the perfectly placed shingles and think it was a great place to be. If you payed no attention to the barb wire eletric fences surrounding the camp and the guard towers watching the prisoners every move, you would think it would be a fun place to go to camp. It is sad that the Nazis were able to hide what was going on for so long, that there were so many lives destroyed. The brick stoves that where at the back of the camp where enclosed in a nicely placed building beyond the view of the naked eye. They beautiful German scenary surrounded it with a path that could be walked with green trees and flowers... the prisoners were led through beauty to death. What irony this camp held. With beauty and pain all wrapped up in one awful package! The stoves were quite shallow, but by time the people came to this point they were so frail and thin that 4 or 5 bodies could be stacked on top of one another and thrown into the stove. The bodies were burned and the names of those people almost ceased to exist as well.
This camp really opened my eyes up to how much one man can do. One person (Hitler) who had so much intelligence, almost destroyed an entire group of people (the Jews). As I was walking through and seeing all that had happened in that place, I was numb of any emotion. After I allowed the tears to fall, I walk like a zombie for hours. I felt as if I knew a tiny bit of how those people felt, although it is not at all possible for me to do it completely.

Everyone needs to go to and experience a concentration camp at least once in their lives. It will truly change you. It is uncomfortable and it is not enjoyable, but it is necessary for us to have the images engraved in our minds so that will never forget and never allow it to happen again.

London Finally: A Place To Call Home... For A Few Months

Hello all!
Oh I am missing you all so much. I have not had internet access for quite awhile and so I have been unable to blog about my experience. I have to do a lot of catching up on the ending of my EuroTrip. However for now, I am just going to write about London because there is so much I want to say.

First of all I cannot believe I am really here. We arrived in Standsted the night before last from Berlin and stayed in a hostel. Last night was the first night that I stayed in my dorm room... the room that I will be in for the next three months. The name of my dorm is Garden Court, it is apart of Frobel College. So if you go to then you can see what my dorm looks like. :-) The dorm on the outside is all stone and is a lot smaller than the other dorms. It is kind of hidden past this small door that looks like you just walked through the Secret Garden. From my window I can see a wall covered with different vines and plants. When I first got to my room I was looking out my window and trying to get it through my head that I was really in London and this music was playing from one of the rooms above that just sounded like what you would think of would play in a movie. It was so funny. My room is very white and plain, with an old green squishy wooden chair and a long wooden desk/drawers all connected lining the wall opposite the door. I got my linens ( a duvet with duvet cover, a pillow with pillow case, and a mattress cover sheet thing) which is nice because I do not have to buy them and it adds color to the room. I also have a blue chair that is used to prop open the door and to sit on of course. There is a square of cork on my door so I guess I can stick some pins in there and people can leave me notes...hopefully. I met my flat rep, she is like my RA. She did not introduce herself to me, I had to go to her... but that is ok. Her name is Becky and her friend is named Kelly. They both live on my floor. Beth, another girl from Biola London, also lives on my floor. My other floor mates have not arrived yet. My dorm is super quiet, it reminds me of Hart ( Biola dorm) because it is super far from everything and it is quiet. I guess quiet is good sometimes, but I really hope I get a chance to meet more people. I think maybe a lot of the people are upper classmen or UK students because they do not arrive until later. School does not start until September 28... nice huh? :)

Ok so back to my room, I am on the first floor and when you walk in the door of the dorm you turn left and just go straight down the hall and straight into my room. I am in dorm 4. So if any of you guys decide to come and visit and suprise me, you can find me. :D
When you walk in the room, my bed ( which I am laying on now) is on the right against the wall and window. My bed has a blue duvet cover that looks like it has coffee cups and whip cream on it. The other girls do not really like the linens we were given because they look like they are for boys, but I like them. I mean they are free, I cannot complain! Oh and I also have my red fleece Biola blanket at the end of my bed. On the left when you walk in the room is a wall with three long doors and then three little doors on top. The top three are two cupboards ( one cupboard has two doors that open out. The first long door that is wider than the two other doors, opens to my sink area. There is a sink with some towel racks and such. There is also a baby sized trash can under the sink... I think I will buy another one. The other two doors open up like french doors ( except they are super plain and look nothing like french doors) and they reveal my very empty closet. I realized I brought so much less than I thought I did. My shoes selection is sad. :(
Oh well good excuse to go shopping :D
The wall facing the door is an off white color and it has a good sized board that blends into the wall where papers can be tacked in. There are two wooden shelves on the same wall just over the desk at the end of the wall. The desk/ drawer combination lines the majority of the wall, it is a very plain wooden desk. There are three deep and not so wide drawers first then a cupboard with two shelves and then four wider but not as deep drawers then the desk area with the chair. The room is not incredibly large, but is a good size for a single person I think. If I was to measure it based on my height, it would be able 2 Danni's wide by 3 1/2 Danni's long. It will look a lot better once I have everything organized and add some color. We are going to the UK Walmart today, it is called ASDA. I have been making a list and it will be hard spending a lot, but I will need to buy food and such. Luckily they also gave us a frying pan, a pot, a glass, a bowl, two plates, silverware, a wooden spoon, a mug, and a thin dish towel. So that saves a lot.
The nice thing about being in a small dorm is that the floors are short and there are less people you have to wait for the bathroom for. The bathroom and shower are both right outside my door. And the kitchen is just down the hall. I do not know yet where the laundry room is, but I do not need to do laundry yet so I will wait for one of the others to figure that out.
Chelsea lives two floors above me, Joel lives on floor above me, and Charissa lives one floor above Chelsea. It is nice that we are all so close. Christina and Angela live on the other side of campus along with Melody... I miss them :(
I hung out in Christina's room last night, we ordered pizza from pizza hut ( the delivery guy came on a motorcycle)... not the same as America for sure. Taste wise yes, size wise no. The medium 8 slice pizza was about the size of our small pizza. We made it feed all three of us ( Angela, Christina, and me).
The campus here is so beautiful! I am so excited to sit in a tree by the lake and read Shakespeare! The path to get to our dorm is a dirt path surrounded by beautiful trees, that are slowly changing colors, lining a large pond with ducks and a willow tree. There are also sporadic blackberry bushes, which I have taken full advantage of, all over campus. This place is amazing! I am excited for all the stressful, getting ready for school in a different country aspect to be over so I can enjoy just being in London.
I got an email saying that my classes for Creative Writing and Shakespeare got confirmed, so I am excited for that! I cannot wait for school to start! Well I can because I am not ready for it yet, but I am excited.
Oh and when Chelsea and I first got here and we were wandering around we made a new friend that was from Texas. His name is Wes. We ran into him like ten times while we were getting everything situated. It was nice having a first friend. I also met a girl who I thought she said she was from Australia, but now I think she may have been from Austria because she did not have an Australian accent... her name was Yuliana ( I think). She was nice.

Ok I am going to try to upload some pictures and blog about my other experiences. Sorry I do not have more detail. Thanks for reading!

Love always, Danni

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Switzerland: Relaxing Extreme Sports

The small little town where the guest house we stayed in was located was a small mountain Big Bear. Most everything there was pretty expensive, even in the grocery store we did not find many things we could afford. Chelsea and Joel bought swiss knives which were pretty cool because we were in Switzerland. I tried this amazing chocolate sample that was called 'Hell'. It was so good, the name did not suit the taste. We bought lunch at the grocery store, all I could afford was a baguette and some chocolate. It was so amazing and worth it. We walked up the street to take a gondola lift ( like the Tram in Palm Springs, but over the Alps!) because we bought tickets to go zip lining over the Alps!!!!! It was so amazing and beautiful. Everything was green and there were little mountain houses scattered everywhere and precious light brown cows with bells we could hear from our gondola cage. We rode up to the top of the mountain and we saw people paragliding off the Alps. It looked like so much fun. We hung out and ate lunch at the top of the Alps before taking our zip line down the side of the mountain. We relaxed and napped looking over the vast beauty of God's creation. Some of the mountains were very fierce and jagged while others were much more smooth and welcoming. There were was snow doppled on the top of the more jagged mountains and little colorful paragliders could be seen floating amongst all the rock and pure snow. Everything seemed so perfect up there. Every worry and stress seemed to float away with the wind. The sun beat softly on us, not enough to be dreadfully hot, but just enough to be cozy warm. Time seemed to have no meaning there, we just did everything at our own pace. Then when we were ready we went up to the top of the zip line. Christina and Joel are both scared of heights, so we put them in middle of Chelsea and I. Melody went after us. She has been sky diving before, so zip lining through the Alps was no scare for her. Chelsea and Joel took a video of our experience so I will have to show you all some time. It was so much fun. It did not go very fast, I felt like I was just floating. I put my arms out and soared down. I kept spinning, it felt so good. The only part I did not like was when it stopped and we hit this spring thing and it was very loud. But other than that, it was so amazing! We wanted to go again, but it cost quite a bit so we could not.

After we ziplined we hung out for awhile and then I really wanted to go see the cows. So we walked over and hung out with the cows. They were very very very large. They were just walking around everywhere. They were so cute and friendly! Well except the one that tried to butt Chelsea with her horns, we named her Veronice AkA Meanie ( they named her Veronica, I named her Meanie). There was a very kind one I named Bessie and one with spots I named Dottie. Then there was a scrawny one that I thought was beautiful so I named her Daisy. It was so much fun! I tried to feed them flowers, but I guess they do not eat flowers...who knew.

We rode the gondola lift back down and just marveled about our lives. Very few people ever get to experience the things that we have and we feel so blessed that God gave us this opportunity. Joel turned his Iphone on speaker and we sang songs together all the way down the mountain. We sang "Over My Head" by the Fray. It is so interesting how songs bring back so many memories and how a few verses or words can make you remember an entire time in your life. Now everytime I hear that song I will think about Switzerland and our time in the Alps. On our train ride leaving Switzerland going to Munich, we all sang old Yellowcard songs and it reminded
me so much of when I was in high school. I felt like our group bounded so much through these experiences because we all shared moments of our lives that had been forgotten or put away for so long. I love this group!

Next destination Germany, to see Dachau Concentration camp...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

France Before Switzerland:The Missing Link

I realized that I did not get a chance to update the blog for awhile and I skipped an entire section of my journey. Nice became our home for about 2 nights and 3 days, the first morning we arrived there at about 6am and watched the sunrise. I mentioned about this first morning in an earlier post. In the afternoon we decided to take a siesta because we were all so exhuasted that we knew we would be unable to function if we did not get some sleep. We slept for about 4 hours ( I kept waking up because for some reason my body does not like to sleep for long periods of time) and started our day again at about 4pm. It was really good, we explored Nice and had our first picnic in the park. We bought a couple baguettes and some brie cheese with some fruit and found a patch of grass to people watch. We cut the cheese with Chelsea's phone card and broke bread together. It was great! There were so many different types of people roaming around from people having play dates with their dogs to people having play dates with their children. There were friends sharing memories to friends sharing drugs. There were people in love and people wanting nothing to do with one another. It is amazing what you see in the park. Our meal was amzingly filling and cheap. The best thing about Nice was that it was our vacation of our vacation. Although our entire journey is a vacation, a lot of what we have been doing has been rushed and we do a lot in one day. While we were in Nice, we were able to slow down and just simply enjoy the French culture. It is much different in France then in America. There is a lot of emphasis on the pleasures of the world instead of the important priorities in life. There was probably two or three churches that we saw in all of Nice, but there was about one Sex shop on every street. It was sad. It seemed like the daily life of the French was to eat pastries and go to the topless beaches. The French men and women are all very thin, France is like the dream of every guy ( ok not every guy, but the stereotypical guy). I do not mean to be so negative, I am just being realistic and please do not be offended. Honestly I loved France, more then I ever thought I would. There was a lot of emotional and spiritual pain there, but it was a great experience.

We did not just stay in Nice, we also went to Eze and Saint Raphael. It was so cool, the small little cities near Nice were all like 30 minutes away so we could simply hop on a train and go to a couple cities a day. It was really fun, we felt like natives. Hehe. We met so many interesting people on trains and other public transportation, it was great. On one of our trips, we met a couple from England who were living in France and traveling around on their day off. They were super sweet and gave us advice on what to see in France and what to see. We went to Cannes ( prounced 'Con') one day and it was nice, but we were not treated very nicely at a couple resturants. Not very good customer service... maybe they knew we would not be paying a lot. We spent time just walking along the water and just simply watching people. I think that is one of our favorite things to do, walk around, eat cheap French food, and watch the people. We meet a lot of people in random ways and I feel like we got a good sense of the culture. We were able to learn a few French words to get by and for the most part we were treated fairly decently. Everyone says that the French hate Americans, this is false. We were treated very nicely by almost everyone we met. Most everyone was very helpful and the people who were rude or not helpful, acted that way toward everyone. So it was not just us. :)

Eze we went to on our second day in France and it was amazing! It is this beautiful little French town that is built off the side of the mountain. We had to take a bus up the steep mountain to get to the village. It overlooks the French Riviera and it is absolutely breath taking ( I feel like I say that about a lot of things, but honestly there is so much I did not know even existed and God is so amazing with these life paintings that it takes my breath away). We walked through this little slanted town and saw this beautiful hotel with a cactus garden at the top of the mountain from which you could see a castle in the distance. We had a picnic at the top and took a tour in a different area on how to make perfume. It was right next to Eze in a town called Grasse. The most amazing part of this entire day and maybe this trip thus far is what happened before we left. We were getting ready to leave and we saw these little donkeys. We were petting them because they were tied to a pole and that is just what you do when you see donkeys tied to a pole. I was eating a pear and one of the donkeys kept trying to get it, but I moved away because I did not want to feed a donkey without asking their owner. So I placed the pear core on a brick wall in the reach of the donkey so that I could say that I was not the one who fed her the pear... Lol. They were so cute! While we were petting the donkeys, the owner came out and asked if we wanted to ride. Everyone said no because usually everything cost money, but I said yes and asked how much...The nice old man looked at us kinda confused and said 'cost? It does not cost.'
:0 Then he put Chelsea on one donkey and me on the other and he led us toward the stables where the donkeys stayed. Joel, Christina, and Melody walked alongside. I was so excited! I could not believe that I was seriously riding a donkey down the rode in France! I could not stop smiling the entire time and I kept giggling because I could not believe this was seriously happening. My donkey's name was Nina and Chelsea's was Nani. They were so sweet! They did not bite or buck or anything. They just walked and let us ride them. When we got to the stables Joel and Christina got on the donkeys and we fed them fruits and vegetables. The old man told us stories about hoe Nice used to have no cars and just donkeys everywhere. He was so sweet. Oh yeah and Melody rode the donkey too, she had trouble getting on the donkey. It was really funny. You had to be there, but lets just say she kicked the donkey and we were all laughing so hard that even the nice old man had to turn away because he could not hold in his laughter. The whole experience really made our day, our week, everything. I just loved it!

I really need to head to bed, so let me sum everything else up as fast as I can. Chelsea is patiently waiting for the computer and I need to get some rest so I can enjoy the fun filled day tomorrow.

We went to the Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco ( which is in France, but is actually it's own country), on our first night and it was too expensive to go in and there was little to see there. The water and the lights were all very pretty to look at. I saw the most expensive cars there then I have probably ever seen in my life. All the cars there were Ferraris and Bentleys and more Ferraris and I do not know all the other names. It was all glamorous, but not for me. I am glad I went just to saw I have been.

We also went to San Raphael, we were going to go to Sab Tropez but it was farther than we expected so we went to San Raphael instead. We went to the beach and walked around. It was very relaxing to swim in the water and lay on the rocks. Chelsea found a piece of sea glass and so then we were all sifting through the rocks to find sea glass. It was fun. The beaches are much different then the ones in California. Besides the nude aspect, the phyical aspect of the beaches is different because the sand is not as soft. There are pebbles lining the beaches and the water is full of rocks, but it is also a lot more clear. It is so beautiful there... Mom you would love it!

Let's see what else... food... crepes are amazing, I had a chestnut one and a sugar one while I was there. Sugar or 'sucre' was my favorite. The baguettes were amazing, cheap, and filling. Brie cheese is sooooooo good. I love the pears! France is so beautiful, the people and the architecture and the natural green hills lined with beautiful blue water. I really loved France, I hope to go back one day. Hopefully I can go to Paris when I am in London, it will be interesting having such a different experience.

Alright I love you all! Thank you for yours prays and support. Thanks for reading.
Love always, Danni

Switzerland: Words Cannot Describe The Beauty God Creates

Good evening my friends,

One of things that changes in every country that I did not expect are these keyboards. Every country we have gone to the keys have been different. It is very interesting. I really just wanted to add that because on the z key and the y key on the keyboard are switched and it is really messing me up. Lol.

Ok well I am sorry it has taken me so long to write, we were traveling all day today. We left Nice, France around 9pm last night and did not arrive in Switzerland until about 11am, but did not arrive at our hostel until about 7:30pm. So to say the least, it has been a long day. It has been a good dy, full of a lot of unexpected events but it has been tiring. I kinda knew before I went on this trip that there would be a lot of days with little food and sleep. It is a lot of fun and I am glad our group gets along so well or else this would not be as fun. We all get kinda crazy toward the wee hours of the morning. Everytime I am woken up to get off a train or move to another area, I am always so confused. We usually all walk around like zombies for awhile. I am glad there is a good group of us because we are able to sleep in shifts and look out for one another. We have really been blessed because we have not come across any super sketchy situations or any pit-pocketing. Keep praying. :)

Last night we slept in trains and dozed while waiting for other trains to arrive. It was not too horrible because I have taken a red-eye flight before and it was pretty much the same situation... little sleep and a lot of moving around. It was a very interesting experience. We have met so many people on this trip, we met a guy during this experience named Jais ( prounced yice rhymes with rice ). He was also backpacking around, and came to chat for awhile. He was headed to Denmark and he was originally from Minnesota. He was a very artsy person and had a lot of interesting story. I do not know how people do this whole backpacking adventure on their own, I could and never would do that.

For food in France, we ate baguettes and cheese everyday. They were pretty amazing, but I am definently getting tired of Brie. We also picked up fruit and I bought this massive Nestle Ice Tea at the grocery store for cheaper than the little one was at small markets. I am also very tired of cookies because in Italy I bought a very large bag of cookies because they were cheap and I still have them... they are good, but I am tired of eating cookies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Tonight we had our first real meal in quite awhile. Mmmmm it was delicioso (I do not know where the explamation mark is... maybe they do not use those in Switzerland, I will just have to write it in whenever I get really excited).

Ok so the first place in Switzerland we went to was Geneive. We had a 3 hour stop before our next train was to come and so we went to explore the sights. We were all very tired, but wanted to see the United Nations building and the Red Cross building.


It was cool to be in such a historical place where so much has happened, I think I would have appreciated it more if I payed more attention in history class and was not so tired. We did not actually go inside the UN building because it was like 10 dollars for a tour and we all decided against it. We walked into the Red Cross building, but that museum was closed because of course it is closed on Tuesdays and who knew we would go on a Tuesday. Lol. Oh well it was nice just to be able to be in the same area. The rest of Geneive was extremely disappointing. We were so excited when we were able to leave Geneive, that was our favorite part of Geneive. Everything was extremely overpriced and there was not much to do in our short stay there. We ate at McDonalds because that was the cheapest we could find and those small little cheeseburgers that are like 39¢ in the US were 2.50 here. It was insane. To buy a hamburger meal it was about 11.50 Swiss Francs which is about the same as US dollars! Then we went to a chocolate shop because we really really wanted to chocolate, its Switzerland you know, and all of the chocolate was extremely pricey. I found a 50% off section ( you know me, always looking for those sales), but they were still too much for me to spend. Geneive was just really disappointing because the people were not very nice to us and we spent an entire hour of our 3 hours in Geneive just trying to figure out transportation. Then everything was so expensive that we ended up standing by a bridge watching swans and other random birds fly around because we could not afford anything else. It was funny, but I am glad we did not stay there for a long period of time. Three hours was more than enough time.

Our train ride toward Interlaken was gorgeous! It is everything you imagine Switzerland to be and more! On either side of the train there were round grassy hills will little quaint villages placed so strategically that they almost looked fake. Everything was so perfect that it seemed like it came straight from Heidi ( the children's story). Behind the green hills were the sharp pointy Alps that were frosted with snow just on the tips. Covering the hills were trees everywhere! It reminded me of Vermont and Maine, if you have ever been there you will know exactly what I am talking about. There were little brown cows spotting the hills as well and wild flowers adding color to the vast amount of green. There were small little paths appearing almost from nowhere leading to someone's secret place I am sure. The houses were few and far between with a few dense villages here and there. As we got closer to Interlaken and moved toward Grindelwald ( that is where our hostel is), we followed a beautiful rushing river with trickling waterfalls. It simply added to all of the perfect beauty. This place is so breath taking, it is hard to believe that it is all real. I am just afraid that I am going to wake up and everything is going to be gone. However I have fallen asleep and every time I wake up, this dream continues on.

When our train stopped in Grindelwald, we ended up in this little mountain town surrounded by the Alps. The bed and breakfast that we are staying at is right up against the Alps, we can see the beautiful mountains from our window. This place is so precious. The room we are staying in is really nice, it looks like a large dorm room and youth house type place. There is room for eight people, but there is only the five of us in there right now. It is so cute, the beds are little iron beds like in Annie. There are three bunk beds and two singles. There is also a large couch with a coffee table and a table with a bunch of chairs. There are also lockers and a place to hang clothes. It is probably the nicest hostel we have stayed at ( besides the one the girls and I stayed at in Gatwick, England). We ate dinner here and I had Goulash soup... it was really good! I kept saying that all I wanted was meat and potatoes because I have noto had that in so long and so I ordered that soup not really knowing what it was and it turned out to be meat and potatoe soup! Isn't that great? Hehe. It was a very filling meal. Tomorrow we are planning on going to the grocery store to get food because all the resturants charge on average about 20 dollars a meal.
We really want to do some type of extreme sport tomorrow because I guess that is what Switzerland is known for, but we do not know yet what we will be doing. We were going to do Water Rafting, but it is over 100 dollars so we may not do that, but kayaking is only like 25 dollars and I think that would be really cool but we will see... we have all day tomorrow, our train for Germany does not leave until around 10pm I think or maybe 8.

I love you all so much and I wish I could write more. I think I need to back track on the missing events between this blog and the previous one so I will check on that. However for now this is all I can say, I am exhausted and I need to sleep. There is so much to say, but I hope this gives you all a little glimpse of my life. Thanks for reading!

Love alway, Danni

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Venice-->Nice: An Experience Worth the Wait

Hello everyone who is reading this blog,

I am currently at my hostel in Nice, France! This is so amazing! We arrived here at about 5:45am and so we travelled through the night... it was a very interesting experience. Going from train to train through the night. We stopped in Milan for about 20 minutes, it was beautiful and I hope to go back one day.

I know I have not written in awhile so I feel like I should back track...

Did I tell you all that I went to Venice?? Well I did! It was so amazing to see everything. Not what I expected at all... The canals flow through the entire city just like you see in movies, it is really beautiful. When we stepped out of the train station and saw the water, it took my breath away. There were steps leading all the way down to the water that was glistening under the light of the beautiful antique lamp post. There were people sitting along the edges of the water eating pizza and gelato. Either way you looked the water flowed under bridges. On either side of the canals the buildings met the water, with doors that would slide up or open wide for the boats to float in. They have no cars in Venice! I mean it seems like something obvious, but it was probably one of my favorite things about Venice. Everyone walked everywhere or took the water taxis or the water metro system. And then of course there were the gondolas :-) They were so precious with the little men in their stripped black and white or red and white t-shirts... but I was suprisingly disappointed by them. Every couple I saw riding in the gondolas did not look happy, they all just sat there and I did not see any of the gondola men singing. I dunno maybe that cost extra to make them sing...who knows.
The funny thing that I saw was that, this was the first city I saw a fire hydrant in! I am not saying that there were not fire hydrants in the other cities, just that I did not see any. I just think it is ironic because the city is full of water! It is just so funny how everyone gets around by using the canals. As we were leaving (we took the water metro system to our train so that we could see more of the city) we saw a water ambulance in action, a water fire boat in action, and a water police boat. It was so much fun!! Angela got pictures and Joel took a video, so I will show you all when I come back or as soon as I can.

Oh ok well I need to start from the beginning of Venice, our adventure to finding our bed&breakfast was probably the most interesting I have had...well in Italy at least. So I guess in Venice they do not really have street signs and the numbers on the buildings do not mean anything to the people who live there...also the numbers do not necessarily go in order. So Joel called the hostel several different times to get directions as well as asked people in shops and we were always told to go straight on "Per Rialto". Let's just say we went 'straight' on "Per Rialto" for over an hour...maybe an hour and a half. We arrived from the train in Venice at about 10pm and did not get to "The Best B&B in Venice" until about 11 or 11:30pm. It was the most interesting experience walking around in circles with huge backpacks on our backs through the cobblestone streets with narrow alley ways. I thought is was very nice... but hot. It was a fun way to explore Venice on our first night...some people did not agree so much. Hehe. We ended up finally finding the B&B because the lady from the place we were staying told Christina to find an Italian and give them the phone. I think the lady on the phone was very frustrated with us because we were so lost. So we ended up being lead to the place we were staying by a group of random Venicians that we met on the street. It was the funniest thing! They were very nice and they got us to the Bed and Breakfast in about 10 or 15 minutes.

The next day we explored Venice some more. It was a pretty relaxed day, we walked around simply absorbing the beautiful buildings with their brick and clay foundation covered with green leafy vines. It is exactly what you think of when you think of Italy. And we went to San Marco square where the beginning of Italian job was filmed. Remember when the dad was calling his daughter ( I forgot their names) and telling her, that he got her something nice and that he was in Italy? I walked through there! Where all the pigeons were and beautiful tall buildings with towers and statues, right along the water. 

Venice is known for their Venician glass and it was everywhere! That and the Venician masks. Everyone was selling glass and jewelery and masks. I wanted to buy everything, but it is not cheap and it is not easy to carry in a backpack that is going throgh Europe. Nikki if you are reading this I wanted to let you know that I tried very hard to find you the perfect Venician glass giraffe, but there were very few stores that had them. For some reason there are not a lot of giraffes, if you liked owls or turtles I could have bought you like 20 of those because those were everywhere! However the giraffes I did find were quite pricey or their heads were upside down... but I did take pictures so hopefully that helps. Lol. I am sorry.

I did get a chance to watch them make the Venician glass figures, it was really cool. It is blown glass and they make it in the fire. They are so talented and the lady who was making them was doing it all so fast. I wish I was that talented with fire... well that's ok. We had gelato and pizza in Venice, both were amazing. I do not think the lady at the gelateria liked us very much because she did not give us very big scoops, but all the Italians had gelato overflowing out of their cup. It was still good though and it was cheap, so it was worth it. The food was suprisingly very cheap in Venice, the cheapest in Italy actually. The people in Venice were just precious, there were so many small children running around just loving life and the Italians are just so hospitable.

Ok so now Nice...
We have only been here a few hours, but already it is just beautiful.We watched the sunrise above a green hill overlooking all the beautiful buildings as we sat above the sandy, pebbly beach. In the distance you could see lighthouses on one side and a community of houses on the other. It was a public beach and very early in our journey we were welcomed into the French culture... There were very few people at the beach because it was about 7am, but there was one man who was relaxing in the sand while another was fishing on a pile of rocks. When the man on the sand was all done relaxing, he just changed out of his speedo into clothes...just right there on the beach. I missed the nude man in the distance, but the others in our group were taken aback by the openess of the French. However this was just a small taste of what we saw just after the sun rose and the day began. A group of three lovely girls went down to the beach to swim or relax on the beach... so we thought. As we people watched, we realized that they were not there to swim but instead they may have been models of some sort... nude models... They stripped all their clothes off and posed on the beach, right out in the open view of everyone walking by, as a fully clothed girl took pictures. They were quite aways in the distance, but we could tell they were fully nude. The crazy thing was that people walked by on the street above and did not even seem dazed by the two naked girls on the public beach. It was definently an eye opener to a different culture. Yup.

Well that is that for now :-) Oh we had croissants this morning that were utterly amazing, from a small little bakery as we walked to the beach. We saw three girls buy four long baguettes and eat them while walking through the streets. It looked like so much fun! So now that is something I want to do. I want to buy a big baguette and walk through the streets of France eating just that and nothing else! I am so excited. We will be in Nice and the surrounding small towns for about three days then we are off to Switzerland.

Thanks again for reading my blog! I love you all so much and I cannot wait to share more stories and pictures soon.

Love always, Danni

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Florence, Italy: Just a few hours and already in love

Hey everyone,
I just love Italy so much. Each new city we go into is a completely different experience. We are in Florence now staying at a Guest House. It is so much different from the hostel we stayed at the last two nights in Rome. It is like a little bed and breakfast. It is so nice, it has bathrooms in the rooms and it is right in the middle of town. We have only been in Florence for a few hours and I have already fallen in love. I feel like how God feels with all of us people... every city I go to I love so much that I feel like I could not love anything else as much and then I do!! London was amazing, Athens was amazing, Rome was amazing, and now Florence? I do not know how everything just keeps getting better, but nothing is getting worse. It is like if I was to rate everywhere I go from 1 to 10. Every place would be at 10!!!!!

We left Rome at around 3pm today and arrived in Florence at around 4:30pm. It was a really nice train, I liked it a lot. It is so nice having a Euro rail pass, we only had to pay like 15 dollars for the train ride. In the train they had a diner!! It was so amazing, I wish I had my camera when I went to get water for Angela. It was so cute. There were like little fold out tables with like all types of food you could buy. Cool huh?

Well anyway today we went to the Vatican and saw the Sistene Chapel as well as a lot of other amazing art. It was so overwhelming trying to take in everything we saw. There was art everywhere! Everything we saw was art. The Sistene Chapel was covered with all the paintings of Michealango... the entire place was like a story of what God did from the beginning through the life of Jesus. It was so glorious. After seeing the entire Vatican museum we went to the place where Peter was crucified! But it was super busy because the pope had just got back into town. No, I did not get to see the pope... it was way too crowed and hot to wait in an hour line. Oh well :)

So Florence is beautiful! We went out to this little Italian resturant then walked around the town. It is so much different from Rome, there are less people and cars. It seems less touristy. I like that a lot. We just walked around the streets and then the most amazing thing happened... it started raining!! We got rained on in Italy, walking the streets of Florence while eating gelato! I love it so much! And I already found the most amazing gelato place. The people working there were so nice. I talked to the guy forever and asked him a ton of questions about gelato and how to make it and what was the best and what was in all of them. Lol. I really like gelato. He gave me so much for a small price. It was fun! I had Sicilian pear gelato with Sicilian fig gelato with rose water gelato and the favorite of the employee guy which was the typical cake from the island he is from ( I forgot the name of the island, but it is near Sicily). It was so nice, I loved it! I told them we would come back tomorrow which I am planning on doing because I want to try all the flavors! I am having such a great time!

Tomorrow are plan is to just roam around Florence. It is such a small city we can easily walk everywhere. We are going to see this really pretty bridge and some other things that are really famous in Florence, but for the most part we will just enjoy the scenary and the food and whatever we find. Then tomorrow night we are off to Venice! Our train leaves at 6:30pm and we will arrive there at about 10pm I think.

On that note, I better get to bed. I love you all very much!! Thanks for all your support and prayers. Keep reading. I cannot wait to show pictures! It will be great. Hope to write again soon.

Love always, Danni

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I Love Roma!!

I am in Italy! I LOVE ROMA!!! I only have a little bit of time to write a blog. I have 30 free minutes and have to pay after that.I have to make up for two days... Lasagna in Italy is amazing!! I had my first real Italian meal and I am so happy. We went to the Colluseum, the Roman Forum, the Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish steps today. Everything is beautiful! I love Rome! It was overwhelming today, trying to process everything we saw.I felt like I was on a movie set, it still does not feel real. We are in a hostel called Yellow... it is an interesting experience for sure. Last night when we came in really late we woke up one of the people in our room I think and she was very sweet. She was from Indiana which was exciting. I have had a nice time meeting people. We met two boys from Portugal on te train. We also met two French people in line. It is really great meeting so many different people from different cultures and countries. I love it!
Tomorrow we are going to the Vatican and then off to Florence so it will be fun. I hope to have a chance to write more sometime soon. I also hope that we see the pope tomorrow... he is back from holiday AKA vacation... that would be so great!!
I love you all so much!!
Thanks again for reading!
Love always, Danni