Ice cream, futbal and ballet class: Nuremburg

Sometimes the best things in life are the simple things.

Since most of this trip was not planned in advance, we spent some extra time buying train tickets and trying to reserve seats, which more often than not, must be done at the train station and could not be done online. So, the overnight train trip from Budapest to Nuremberg was spent sitting up in a seat, with too much air conditioning, no leg room, frequent stops and bright lights. (The overnight, un-air conditioned train ride through Poland during a heat wave was still worse. Just imagine six people in an enclosed cabin, only five-and-a-half seats and one window.)

After a very long night of no sleep, we arrived at the Nuremberg train station, gathered our bags and walked 30 minutes to Carlos’ cousin’s house–unannounced, of course. The housing complex was very well organized, with houses lined up with small walkways between the backyard gardens of one row to the front doors of another row. Each little house was narrow, but was three stories tall plus a basement. The laundry was in the basement; the kitchen and family room were on the first floor; two bedrooms, a room with a bathtub and shower and then a room for the toilet were on the second floor; and the master bedroom, small office space and balcony were on the third floor. Each house had a small backyard with enough room for a small patio with chairs and a small shed for bikes or a large garden.

Cars were parked in a separate communal structure, but each person had his own space, if he had a car. There was a metro stop and small grocery store within a 10-minute walk from the house. The main train station was approximately a 30-minute walk from the house. It was a very special experience to live with a German family for a week as there were many differences from how I grew up in the United States.

On our first day in Nuremberg we spent the afternoon catching up with Carlos’ cousin, telling her about our trip and getting to know her two kids–Aisha and Niko. Late in the afternoon, after Niko returned from school, we took Aisha to her ballet class. From ballet class we walked to the nearby park and played soccer with Niko to pass the time. Being able to walk or bike to the park, school and the grocery store gives these children a lot more freedom to grow up without their parents observing them at all times. Children also spend more time outside, playing in the park and playing with friends who live nearby.

Most of our trip in Nuremberg was spent with family, cooking, doing laundry, playing soccer at the park, reading bedtime stories and even washing a few dishes. After many long days of travel, it felt wonderful to be in a home and be surrounded by a family. And these children were amazing. Being born in Germany, they spoke German, they were also fluent in English, switching effortlessly between the two languages. As their mother is Venezuelan, the children were also learning Spanish. They comprehended most commands in Spanish but could not yet create their own sentences or converse comfortably in the language. I loved observing how the children and mother would flip between languages. Loving and adoring words were often in Spanish, general conversation was in English–most likely for the benefit of their guests–and when the children got angry or excited, they would often switch into their native German.

The two small excursions that we did take while in Nuremberg were both highlights of our trip. Carlos and I took a day-trip into downtown Nuremberg one day to visit the Dokumentationszentrum. This museum tells the story of Hitler’s rise to power in Germany and his subsequent fall. This museum will forever be ingrained in my mind because it is one of the best curated and best architecturally designed buildings I’ve ever seen. The building itself sits atop land that was designated by Hitler to become the Nazi headquarters. The regime fell before the building could be finished. The Documentation Center used the remnants of that building and added on to create the museum. When entering the museum, visitors are met with a large triangular protrusion from the front of the building and must climb a set of steep, black metal stairs to enter. The architecture is cold, and this protrusion gives a sense of hostility as well as aggression; it perfectly sets the tone for a museum about the rise and fall of the Nazi party. The reason I think that this museum is so successful is in how it told its story.

Though we all know the story of Hitler after he came to power and decided upon the ultimate solution to his Jewish problem, very few know how he gained power and how he ultimately fell, along with his party, at the Nuremberg trials. The story at the Document Center started from the very beginning, giving some background on Hitler’s childhood, his family and how he became active in the German government and slowly gained power. The focus of this story was politics, government, military action and power. I found this unique because most stories focus only on the individual stories of Jews and the terrible situation they were forced into. This narrative is incredibly important, but we cannot understand fully what happened to the Jews if we do not understand how Hitler and his regime came to power and held that power over the people of Germany and subsequently Europe. Carlos and I spent a lot of time remarking that we saw similarities in Hitler’s rise to power when compared to modern day governments throughout the world. The more we educate people and they understand how governments can slowly be corrupted, maybe we can prevent something like this from ever happening again. That is the importance of the Document Center.

On a lighter note, we also spent an afternoon visiting the town that holds the Guinness world record of having the most breweries per capita. It’s a small town with a lot of breweries and a ton of a really great beer. And some of the best schnitzel we had in Germany.

While in a neighboring town, we also visited the family castle of Claus von Stauffenberg, the man who attempted to assassinate Hitler. Anyone seen the 2008 movie Valkyrie? Yeah, I’ve been to that guys house. And by house, I literally mean castle.

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Such a punny country: Budapest

Budapest, Hungary.

There’s just so many ways that you can make jokes. And I promise, we made use of it the entire time we were there.

One of the best parts of backpacking is that you walk a lot. And I mean A LOT. Every day I eat ice cream, chocolate and as much bread as I want. I’m probably eating double the calories that I do at home and I’m still losing weight. Eating has become one of my favorite pastimes on this trip. Well, that and drinking beer.

So, I’d like to say that I was actually very hungry in Hungary. (That joke was used at least once a day while in Hungary.)

And, just to share some of the funny stories of the people you meet while backpacking, I also met a pest in Budapest.

The one piece of privacy that you maintain while in a hostel is that of your locker and your bed. And sometimes, you don’t even get a locker. After checking into our hostel in Budapest, we decided to go out and get some lunch. When we returned to change clothes, we found someone else’s stuff in Carlos’ bed. After telling the staff and moving the stuff we went out to get dinner and some drinks. And, when we get back from dinner, around 11, which Is quite early, we find someone asleep in Carlos’ bed. Out of the 10 beds in the room, the one person who is asleep decided to sleep in one of the two beds that did not already belong to their group. Kind of amazing.

People watching can be an enlightening experience if you keep your eyes open and always watchful. Some of the strangest things we’ve seen to date:

1. A man pooping in the middle of a public square, in broad day light. He just pulled his pants down, sat down on the wall and took a dump. We almost didn’t believe our eyes, until we smelled it.

2. A woman sitting in a restaurant with her legs up on the chair in front of her while facing the street in her lovely dress, with no underwear on.

3. There’s a running tally to count how many European women do not wear bras. It’s reached too high of a number to keep track.

4. Some French women really do not shave their arm pits.

5. A man jumping off a bridge into a French canal, to all the cheers and clapping of everyone enjoying a beer on the banks of the canal. (He came up laughing and was helped back out by his friends so that he could jump again.)

6. A line to take wedding photos in front of the Eiffel Tower.

7. Sex machines museum

8. Young men in t-shirts and traditional lederhosen

9. You can always find someone drinking a beer or a bottle of wine on the street or in the park. And they’re the normal people.

10. Showers. With no curtain and no bracket to hold the nozzle. I’m still learning how not to get the entire bathroom wet.

When you keep your eyes open, life will never cease to amaze and surprise you.

Tourist city: Prague

In other words, I mean Prague.

The city was beautiful and there were wonderful things to do, but I felt as if I spent the entire time being careful to not fall into tourist traps and even after being so careful, I still did.

In Prague, Carlos and I met up with some of my good friends from my hometown, Joe and Sophia.

In Prague, we took a fabulous free tour given by a guide who had lived there all his life. He was able to talk with us about the regime changes within the country and even joked that his grandmother had lived in eight different countries without ever leaving her same apartment. The Czech Republic certainly has had an interesting and varied political history.

We also ate really good food in Prague. In addition to the traditional local food, we had a discount ticket to eat at a burger restaurant one block from our hostel. I can say this because I’m from Texas and know a good burger when I eat one, but that was one of the best burgers I’ve eaten. We ate there four times it was so good. It probably also helped that I’ve been deprived of burger-eating for almost a month.

One of my worst/most frustrating memories from Prague was that I was really excited to see the Mucha museum and when we found it, they were also hosting a Dali exhibition. What could be better? Well, of course it was too good to be true. After paying our admission and wandering around the galleries for about 15 minutes, Carlos and I began noticing that none of the works were original. Everything was a print and some of them were not even very good prints. I have no idea how this “museum” started but it is located in one of the best places in town, the central square. I don’t think it is a real museum and felt that I was not given a full experience for the money I paid. But, you live and learn.

One of the best experiences we had in Prague was going to a concert hall painted by Mucha and listening to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Though I think the production was solely for tourists and is put on every night (not very special) the show was great. The orchestra was small but powerful and the pieces were well known (possibly cliché) but also classics. I’m so glad that I went. And, since the concert hall was not full, we got to sit in much better seats than the ones we paid for. :)

Our last and best memory of Prague was an impromptu hike with Joe and Sophia on our last night. We stopped at the grocery store, grabbed a few beers and a small bottle of plum brandy and hiked up a hill to the most beautiful view of Prague. From our location we could see the entire city and the city’s castle. On top of great friends, good beer and brandy and an amazing view, the most wonderful acoustic guitar player just happened to be sitting on the bench next to us practicing. It was an idyllic end to a not quite perfect visit.

Early the next morning we were off to Budapest.

Auschwitz: Krakow

One of the things I’ve been most interested in and struggled with on this trip is the comparison between the historical idea of a country or city and the modern idea.

While visiting Berlin and Krakow, I thought it was very important to acknowledge and attempt to understand the things that they went through during WWII. But, I also didn’t want to lose sight of the fact that the Berlin/Krakow I saw today was, though formed through that history, a completely new and modern city.

Berlin was the central capital for the Nazi party, but today, it has become a fashion capital and is known to be a party city. There are places you can go to eat, drink and dance for three days straight. There’s no such thing as last call.

And Krakow, though it is home to the largest complex of work, concentration and death camps, it also has developed an interesting and vibrant modern culture.

I really feel as if I was able to find a compromise between these two worlds of modern and historical. Spending time with locals and discussing this issue with them and how they feel about being from the city/country where these horrific things took place, really allowed me to feel as if I understood the country and the people.

One of the experiences that I will remember for the rest of my life was visiting the Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau camps in Krakow. My friends and I decided to take a tour, the driver picked us up from our hostel at 8:30 am, drove us to Auschwitz while we watched an informative movie about the Nazi’s decision to start building concentration and extermination camps. After arriving, we took a tour of Auschwitz I which was a small work camp and administrative camp for the Nazis. After the tour, our driver took us to Auschwitz-Birkenau which is the largest extermination camp and afterwards drove us back to our hostel, where we arrived around 4 pm.

I expected that the camp would make me sad, that I would cry and be emotionally exhausted afterwards. But, the stark reality of seeing the camp, the shoes and hair left behind and the gas chamber, was only horrifying and shocking. The vast majority of our tour focused not on the personal stories of the people who lived and died in the camp, but on the entire picture. Though the acts committed by the nazis were unforgivable, this tour really presented only the facts and statistics.

My most shocking realizations while visiting the camp had to do with the daily lives of the camps inhabitants. Though only 20 percent of Jews who were deported to concentration camps actually entered the camps (the others were immediately exterminated in the gas chamber) they were in my opinion the unlucky ones. The life expectancy in the camp was three months. Roll call began before sunrise and could last for hours. All people had to be standing at roll call, including those who died during the night. After roll call they received a cup of coffee and were allowed to go to the bathroom. They had approximately 5-7 second to use the bathroom and were not given toilet paper. After that they must work all day, possibly 10 hours. When work was finished, they were given a piece of bread and were sent to bed. Lunch was a small bowl of soup. (Even with the strict 5-7 second bathroom protocol, it took hours to allow all prisoners to use the bathroom.)

One of the reasons there were so few people who escaped from the concentration camps was because there was no where for the people to go. They had nothing and if they did escape, they were recognizably from a concentration camp due to their health and clothing. No one would help them. As well, if someone did escape, the Nazi soldiers would kill five people from that person’s living quarters. Your freedom meant the death of five random others.

Seeing this camp, I was finally able to begin to grasp the magnitude in which Jews were exterminated. In the gas chamber at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Nazis were able to kill 7000 Jews in just 20 minutes. The only remaining gas chamber (all others were destroyed by Nazis in an attempt to hide their crimes) you could still see fingernail scratches on the walls. Complete silence is maintained when visiting the gas chamber in respect for all those who died there.

One of the things we saw on this tour that will haunt me for the rest of my life is the torture chambers. The Nazis had many ways of torturing the concentration camp workers, but the most horrifying to me was the standing chamber. In a cell approximately one meter square they would force three to four people to stand all night. In the morning, they would go to work with everyone else. This torture could last up to a week. Many people did not survive.

Though the reality and enormity of the camp was shocking, I’m so glad that I was able to pay my respects to the people who lived and died there. This time period is a blemish on the history of the world, not just Germany or the Nazis, but for everyone. With each person who visits these camps, there is one less person who will forget the past and possibly repeat it in the future.

Food and drink: Poznan

One of the best ways to explore a country and its culture is through the food and drink. Wherever I go, I try to eat local. It’s not always possible; sometimes all I want is familiar food so I get a pizza or a bag of chips, but I really prefer to eat the traditional food of the country.

When I don’t have a local to travel and eat with, I try to get reviews from online sources and to eat at those places because often the most convenient restaurants (the ones right off the main square) are much more expensive and cater to tourists.

So, while in Poland, if you’ve been following my Facebook you already know, that I drank a lot of beer. Many beers are very similar but if you look hard enough, you can find a unique local beer. My two favorites that I had in Poland were a Polish made, Belgium style sour ale and a Polish beer made with grapefruit. I’m still dreaming about that grapefruit beer, it was one of the best things I’ve ever had. It was so light and fresh, perfect for the hot days.

As for food in Poland, I ate a lot of pirogies. These are similar to what we call dumplings in English, but the pastry is fresh (probably homemade) and very thick. The pirogies are served very hot and sometimes with a garlic sauce for dipping. My favorites were broccoli and blue cheese with little bits of bacon on top.

Also in Poland, we ate a lot of coleslaw. Most of their coleslaw is made of the purple cabbage–it was such a beautiful color! And it’s probably so good for you. The coleslaw is not my favorite, but I’m really glad I got to try it.

The last very Polish thing we got to try was a soup made with rye. Is was so flavorful and decently thick, very filling!

As to the things I got to do in Poland, in Poznan we visited the local beer factory and took a tour of their brewery. The filling line is amazing! On just one line, this factory can fill 60,000 bottles of beer in an hour. It’s an impressive machine to watch. As well, the factory fills 4 million cans a day. Now that’s a lot of beer.

International beauty

To me, one of the most interesting aspects of traveling is seeing the beauty and aesthetics of the people around you.

This is something that I’ve been interested in for a long time. I even worked on a project during my sophomore year of college interviewing and photographing international students and talking about the different definitions of beauty in the different countries. Studies have shown that it is harder to recognize the subtle difference in bone structure and faces of a race or ethnicity that is different from your own. This also hinders our perception of people who look different from ourselves as being beautiful.

It was amazing to me to arrive in Poland from Germany and to notice how starkly different the people looked from one country to the next. The geographical differences can make subtle differences between how people look in one place to the next, but if you look closely, you can see these differences even from Germany to France or Czech Republic to Hungary.

Hungary has been the country, so far, where the people are most aesthetically interesting to me. Our tour guide even talked a little about this when she gave us our Hungarian history lesson. Just as the Hungarian language is like no other language, the Hungarian people, speaking in general terms, look different from any other people.

The geographic area that is now considered Hungary has been conquered by many different nations, including people from the east, the west and Asia. The mixing of genetics has created a people who look different from anywhere else in the world.

These differences can be viewed most easily through their art.

During the 17th century, the faces of the royalty look different from anywhere I’ve ever seen. I’m sure these women were the true beauties of their time, but to me, they have undefined chins and pudgy-looking faces.

The below image is of Janos and Judit Podmaniczky by Ádám Mányoki

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The image below is of Princess Sobieska by Ádám Mányoki

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The image below is of Baroness Erzsébet Hailer by Dániel Schmiddely

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As the art progressed, the faces of the people changed as well. This late 19th century post-impressionist piece shows a young boy gardening with an older man, who might his father. The below photo shows the same rounded face that the historical royalty have.

The below photo is a painting by Ferenczy Károly called Gardeners. 

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With a little help from my friends

In a few of my blog posts, I’ve glossed over the fact that I’ve met with and stayed with friends while traveling, but I would also like to clearly state here: I could not have done this trip without my friends.

Even before I started, they were there for me. All of my birthday, Christmas and graduation money/gifts from the last year went towards this trip. And many of my family and friends were very generous. If everything goes as planned (keep your fingers crossed!), I will be able to complete this trip, eating, drinking and seeing everything I want and not go into debt or spend my savings. I’m a very lucky girl.

As well, my friends (especially my roommates!) helped me to choose which clothes I would pack and how to pack. It’s so good to know all my backpacking clothes were friend-approved. I don’t want to look too much like a fool while in Europe.

So far in each city I’ve been to, I’ve known a local. When you know a local, you get very spoiled. The locals know the best places to eat and drink.

So, I’d like to say a big thank you here to all of those who have helped me along the way already. I know this list will only continue to grow, but I want to start it now.

Thank you to Ivana, a good friend of my family since I was three years old who now lives in Frankfurt. Ivana helped me to get on my feet and get started on my backpacking adventure. She also completely took care of me when I got sick during my first week in Germany.

Next there was Megan Marks who housed me, showed me around and let me hang out with her and all her amazing friends in Stockholm. We had such a great time being reunited and exploring the city.

I owe a big thank you to Judith Wolff, her boyfriend Lukas and all their friends for giving us advice on what to eat and drink in Berlin. And of course, for taking us out and sharing beers and stories until 4 am.

Lastly, I need to give a big thank you to Marcin Rutkowski who showed us around Poland. Though many people speak English, there’s nothing better than having a great friend who can also be your personal translator. We had such a great time together sharing beers and the horrors of Auschwitz.

I truly don’t know how I would have done this trip without my friends, and most importantly, my travel companion, Carlos Chang. Though you meet such great people in all of these cities, it’s so good to know you have someone to rely on at all times.

So, I’m sending lots of love and thank yous out into the universe. This amazing adventure would not have been possible if I didn’t have all these people, and many more not mentioned here, standing behind me.

Thank you!

Have you ever slept in a room with 15 boys?: Berlin

Well, if you haven’t, let me let you in on a little secret, they’re noisy. But, not as noisy as I thought they might be.

If you haven’t figured it out, I’m talking about my first stay in a youth hostel. The cheapest beds, obviously, are in the bigger rooms. When backpacking on a recent-graduate’s budget and the generosity of friends and family, you have to make choices. I’d rather sleep (or attempt to) in a slightly noisier and brighter room and spend my money on museum admissions, food, beer and coffee–maybe even some really good chocolate, as well.

So, my first hostel cost €15 for a bed in the 22-person dorm. This might sound cheap, but it is actually on the expensive side for how big the dorm was. But, the hostel was clean, big and very near the center of Berlin. Most hostels include wi-fi, at least in the common areas, a luggage room so you can drop your stuff off before check-in and sometimes sheets. This hostel required each person to use the sheets provided for a €3 deposit, but you got your money back when you returned the sheets. This hostel also provided a European-style buffet breakfast for €3, which is very cheap. So every morning we would eat muesli, bread, Nutella and slices of meats and cheeses. We would also take a few pieces of fruit with us to eat during the day. Most days, a big breakfast would last until dinner and we wouldn’t have to pay for lunches in the city.

For the first two days that we stayed in the hostel, I was the only girl in the room of 15 or so people. On the last night, there were a few others girls as well. But, I was actually surprised how quiet and private it was. Each bunk bed is recessed into a stand so you don’t see the people in the beds next to or below you. But just because you can’t see them, doesn’t mean you can’t hear them. There is, of course, some snoring, moving around and people coming in to go to sleep at all hours, especially on weekends. But most people are very considerate and try to be quiet. On the last morning, there was one very unaware couple who woke up at 7 am and then lay in bed talking to each other for an hour. That’s the life of a hostel, you learn to roll over and go back to sleep. There were two bathrooms, two toilet stalls, three shower stalls and three sinks and mirrors. What I hadn’t thought of before staying at the hostel was that everyone is coming and going at such varied hours (bars don’t close until 6 am or so in Berlin) that you almost never had to share the bathroom with someone else.

But, enough about the accommodations, the really interesting part is the city–Berlin. A good friend of mine who was an exchange student in high school is now living in Berlin so I got to see some of the city sights with a local. She recommended all the good beers, took us to a lake and showed us where to buy döner and currywurst. Döner is a pita with curry or herb sauce, veggies and chicken. Currywurst is exactly what you would expect, it’s a sausage cut up, curry powder placed on top and then a sauce which was reminiscent of BBQ sauce or ketchup. It was delicious; we ate it twice while we were there.

My friend also took us out to one of the less touristy of the local bars and we had so much fun drinking with her and her boyfriend. The cheapest beer at the bar is a half liter bottle for €1.50. I thought it was actually a pretty good beer. My friend described that it was made by taking the leftovers from the bottom of each brewer’s pots, mixing it together and then bottling it. It turned out not too bad in my opinion. We did it like a Berliner that night and stayed out until 4 am.

The next day we spent on museum island, where one flat rate gets you a ticket into every museum. There we saw some great and not so great art. The Berlin museums have a great collection of ancient middle eastern and Egyptian art, I’m sure some of it is of great historical importance, but most of it was not interesting to me. I was thrilled to see the Ishtar Gate and the bust of Nefertiti, though. Nefertiti’s bust was probably my favorite thing that we saw that day. Her’s is said to be one of the most beautiful faces in history.

We also spent some time looking at early 20th century German and other European art. That was more my taste. :) And of course, we went to see the reichstag or the parliament building and The Brandenburg Gate.

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But, one of my favorite things that we did in Berlin was taking a walking tour of graffiti. There are some amazing and very famous pieces of street art in Berlin.

On our last day in Berlin we had an early afternoon train so we walked to the grocery store, bought some Club-Mate soda, sausage, bread and perfectly ripe strawberries for our bus trip to Poland.

And then we were off to our next adventure!

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Rhythm: Stockholm

I decided not to post yesterday, not because I didn’t have time, but because I thought I had done nothing interesting.

And then I realized, I had done nothing Facebook-worthy or that you would see in a tourist guide, but I think I did the most interesting thing you can do in a city.

Watch life happen.

I’ve spent a lot of time the last two days just sitting and feeling the rhythm of Stockholm.

The one touristy thing I’ve done in the last two days was to go see the Imogen Cunningham exhibit at the Kulturheuset. I was so excited to hear they were exhibiting her photographs because she is someone I’ve personally studied and respect. Here’s an image she took of her 90- year-old father.

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Imogen Cunningham was influential to many other photographers and worked with some of the best in her time, including Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Alfred Stieglitz and Gertrude Käsebier. If you’ve never seen her images of nudes, you must check them out. Cunningham’s photos were also revolutionary because she was one of the first female photographers to take pictures of and exhibit male nudes. Her images show a sensuality but also a depth of emotion. The viewer feels as if he’s stumbled upon a private moment. They’re beautiful.

After seeing that exhibit I had lunch in the rooftop cafe, alone. I have realized on this trip that I really like being alone, until I get lonely. As long as there’s something to observe, I don’t notice the loneliness.

The best part of a rooftop cafe is that you can look down at all the life happening around you. The Kulturheuset is located above T-Centralen, the main subway station of Stockholm. So, there’s lots going on.

After a leisurely lunch and tea, I decided to go to the museum of living history which is doing an exhibition on the bystander effect. This was a little museum with only a pamphlet that contained English translations for some of the exhibits, but it had a powerful message.

I was also really glad to see a tour group of maybe 14 and 15-year-olds. I think it’s so important to teach kids about the bystander effect, group-think and how one person can make a big difference. Though the examples are sad (racism, lynching, WWII Nazi ideals) it’s always good to get a reminder that bad things can happen when the group just stands idly by.

In tandem with this exhibition, I’ve just finished Dan Brown’s Inferno where he often quotes Dante’s Inferno, “The worst circle of hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of moral crisis.” Neutrality feels safe, it’s part of being in the majority or part of the group, but if all remain neutral, progress can never be made.

I ended my day yesterday (poetically, I think) by watching The Pianist with my friends Megan and Geurta.

After being at the living history museum and having the bystander effect on my mind, I took a different moral from the story in this movie. Without each small act of kindness from dozens of different people, including a German SS officer, the genius of Polish composer Wladyslaw Szpilman would never have survived. He had to depend upon luck and the kindness of others to survive. Without the bravery of a few people, one more Jew would have died. Those small acts, though minuscule in the face of the entirety of the Holocaust, made a significant difference.

This movie also made me think about the history of the places that I have been and will be visiting in the future. I will be in Berlin next week and then in Poland the week after that. Though I don’t want to dwell on the past, I don’t think I can begin to understand these places until I know their history. So many European cities were completely destroyed during WWII and many more are haunted by the moral decisions of their past leaders. I want to visit some historical sites and maybe even a concentration camp while I’m there, but I don’t want to miss getting to know the rhythms of the modern city as well.

And now we have come full circle and returned to the rhythms of life. As I write this blog post, I’m sitting on a sunny wall overlooking a park. Did you know, all children play in the same language? I even watched a few games of Swedish Simon Says.

Though the differences are subtle, I really like to observe the children’s interactions, the interactions between teacher and student and the interactions between parent and child. The parents here are more active, they get their shoes dirty and play with their kids, they don’t just sit on the park bench and let them go.

As for the children, that’s all about the same. Though I never could pick out any cliques, their groups seem to rotate and they all play together. Over the hour and a half I’ve been here, I’ve only heard one child cry. I’ve seen no fighting or tattling, but I also can’t watch everything. I may just not have seen it. Or chosen not to see it, since I’m enamored by the Swedish culture and their adorable small children in safety vests. (Each class has a different color. :))

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So I guess for now, all I have to say is that I like to observe. Children are endless entertainment, but I could use a coffee. It’s time to wander the streets and find a new sunny spot.

Rudolph and a princess: Stockholm

I’m going to shake things up a bit with this blog and just give you all a list and a bunch of photographs. So far, in Sweden, I have:

1. Stayed up until 3:30 am to watch the sunrise.

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2. Seen Princess Madeleine of Sweden get married to an American.

3. Eaten Swedish meatballs.

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4. Eaten reindeer.

Stockholm_Reindeer

5. Gone to the Moderna Museet, which is a small museum with a powerful collection.

Stockholm_MarieLaurencin

6. Gone to Fotografiska, a brilliant photography museum that exhibits work by one artists at a time. I saw the exhibit on Helmut Newton.

Stockholm_HelmutNewton

7. Gone to the beach, sat in the warm sun and put my toes into the icy cold water.

Stockholm_Beach

8. Sat in a rooftop bar, having a drink with good friends and looking out to the ocean and downtown Stockholm.

Stockholm_rooftop

9. Wandered around Gamla Stan, the touristy, old town part of Stockholm.

Stockholm_downtown

10. Gotten to spend quality time with one of my best friends.

Stockholm_MP

11. Bought more socks. :)

Stockholm_socks