Rules of The Road

Traveling around Europe is a huge privilege. Learning the various rules and cultural norms of various countries can be… a challenge. On a recent trip to Rome and Florence, I have noticed several cultural differences between Copenhagen and Italian cities… in particular, the rules of the road.

Copenhagen, the rules of the road are as follows:

Cars always yield. Pedestrians have the right of way. Bikers rule the streets. You wait at the crosswalk until the light is green, even if it’s 2 am and there are zero cars around, you wait. RULES. There are rules. And they are easy to follow and  if you follow them, you will never have to worry about running into a bike, being hit by a car, etc.

In Italy, the rules of the road are:

NONEXISTENT. Vespas zooming right and left with no regards for anyone on the roads. Taxis whizzing behind you honking their horns and not slowing down. Buses pummeling down the narrow streets like a bat out of hell. Green means go, yellow means quickly, red means RUN.

Since being in Italy, I have come in real close contact with several Fiats, gotten trapped in the tram door, and enraged a bus driver because I was “in his path” (**take note that I was crossing the street on a green light). The “rules” do not apply. It is every man for himself. I have since learned that the only rule is COMMIT. If you’re going to cross, DO. NOT. Hesitate. Commit. And 9 times out 10, you’ll make it without a scratch. But I can’t guarantee there won’t be any honks.

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Transitioning in Totnes

After reluctantly leaving jolly London Town, we made our way to Totnes in the Devon region of Southwest England.

Our bus was… miniature. We were nice and cozy for what we were told was a mere 3.5 hour bus ride… SEVEN HOURS LATER, after many bumps, swerves, wrongs turns, thumb twiddling, 20 questions, I had sufficiently gone insane by the time we FINALLY made it to our destination: The beautiful Sharpham Estates.

This leg of the study tour was jam packed with activities, we had very little time to catch our breaths or to be bored.

Because Totnes is the first Transition Town, we visited numerous spots that show the sustainability efforts the community is heading up. These included, trips to several organic farms that specialize in providing weekly boxes for their customers filled to the brim with fresh veggies.

My favorite day was Saturday. We started the day at Dartmoor National Forest where we went exploring on the moors. After being there a few minutes, it is instantly clear why so much literature has been dedicated to the area. The moors truly are a magical place. There were sheep, and WILD PONIES, rolling hills, scraggly trees, and giant rock faces. Absolutely beautiful.

After the moors, we were fortunate enough to eat at the Riverfields Organic Farm Kitchen and WOW WOW wow WHOA- I may or may not be exaggerating when I say that I think I had the best meal of my entire life. Everything from here on out is down hill. I’ve reached the paramount. What was this incredible meal? Ah yes… I may tear up reliving this experience but for the sake of the blog, I will describe it.

Course 1: Salad (made with fresh greens PICKED THAT DAY from the organic farm), with aspargus, tomahtoes, onions, cheese, and a beautiful dressing. Accompanied by some delicious fresh bread.

Course 2: Broccoli (spicy) with capers; Cauliflower and white bean salad.

Course 3: Baked/glazed carrots and leeks; roasted duck confit with a pesto sauce (which I saw one of the chefs making by hand in a grinder); and litrhuly- the. most. delicous. roasted potatoes. Ihaveeverhad. They were so golden and crispy but moist and garlicy and buttery and beautiful. I couldn’t handle it.

Course 4: STICKY. TOFFEE. PUDDING. with homemade custard. Per-fec-tion.

We finished Saturday with some time by the river and a little bonfire and cider. It was the perfect ending to an amazing trip. I learned so much about the potential of communities and was inspired to take what I learned in Totnes and hopefully being able to apply a fraction of what they are doing in the towns that I live in and love aka Cheraw and Spartanburg. I was particularly inspired by the thought of The Village becoming its own micro-transition “town.” The potential is there and the possibility is very real. After our study tour week, we were asked to create an action plan inspired by our trip to apply either at home or at our home universities. I chose The Village as my model… so lookout, Wofford, I’ll be “home” soon enough and if I have anything to do with it, The Village just might be transitioning to a sustainable state in the near future. Stay tuned.

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The One in London

Two weeks ago, my core course went to the UK for our long study tour. And I must say, three cheers for Great Britain. What a lovely place filled with so much history and beauty, I’m tickled pink to say that I was able to experience a sliver of it.

London in itself is worthy of a million words. There’s no way I can write anything that will do it justice. So I’m just going to point out a few highlights of the trip…

1. Fish n Chips in NOTTING HILL at the quaintest restaurant, Portobello Organic Kitchen.

2. Walking up from the tube station and seeing Parliament, Big Ben, and Westminster… I was so overwhelmed with the beauty of the buildings that I did in fact cry.

 3. Going on a bike tour, with Fat Tire Bikes, of London. The proper name for the tour was “The Royal Garden Tour of London” but our our guide liked to call it the “Why London is Better than Paris” tour. We got to see all of the most famous parks, monuments, and buildings in London all the while riding upon bikes. Mine was named Prince George II and I must say he was a little incompetent… A wompy seat had me low riding and side saddling the whole tour. Despite this, it was an incredible time.
4. Stumbling upon a pub in downtown London that was “as seen on FRIENDS” aka the one with Ross’s Wedding and having a big ole burger that was absolutely delicioso.

5. Walking up to St. Paul’s cathedral, realizing it was Ash Wednesday, going inside and making it just in time for a few songs and some organ before mass started. It was a moving experience. The interior is so extraordinary, I was in awe. I stood there, jaw dropped, for the majority of the time.

6. Happening upon an 18 piece jazz band at a pub and catching half of their flawless sey.

7. Seeing a beautiful London sunset. (and the bridge from HP7P1)

8. Visiting The Crystal by Siemens and catching a glimpse at the promising future of sustainable development in the world’s major cities.

All in all, I have nothing but great things to say about you, London. Thanks for such a lovely 3 days.

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London Calling

I realize it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything but that’s because this week/these past few days have been, well, a little lackluster. I’ve had two midterms, a quiz, and several assignments occupying my time lately. I’ve been a little burnt out over this whole “school” thing so this upcoming week could not have come at a better time.

This weekend started the first of three, yes three, travel breaks that we get here at DIS. This week, I’ll be traveling with my core course, European Sustainable Development, to England. I’m absolutely bursting at the seams with excitement! As The Parent Trap is my favorite movie, I would love nothing more than running to the studio then spending the rest of the day getting lost in Harrod’s with Elizabeth James… unfortunately, recreating scenes from The Parent Trap is not on the docket for this trip. However, as disappointed as I am that I won’t be able to spend the day in Hattie Parker’s shoes, there are still several things in store that are worthy of being excited about.

We leave Tuesday for foggy London town where we’ll spend three days. We have most of the afternoons/nights off so we are free to explore. Not sure how I’m going to prioritize what all to do but I’m looking forward to it regardless.

We then leave London and head two hours south to a small town called Totnes in the Devon region of Great Britain. We’re staying on an estate/vineyard for the rest of the week. From what I’ve google searched, it’s GORGEOUS. Like a scene from Pride and Prejudice (another one of my favorite movies).

Of course because this trip is educational, we’re focusing on how towns and cities are doing their part to contribute to sustainable development. Totnes is a transition town, which are communities that are working to build resilience in response to peak oil, climate destruction, and economic instability. According to their website, Transition Town Totnes (TTT) is a dynamic, community-led and run charity that exists to strengthen the local economy, reduce the cost of living and build our resilience for a future with less cheap energy and a changing climate. [ http://www.transitiontowntotnes.org/ ] (The website has more information) It’s a very interesting concept, hopefully I’ll be able to gain some more perspective on the concept and seeing how it’s actually applied in the “real world.”

For now, it’s time to pack, convert some Danish kroner to British pounds, watch both The Parent Trap and (the critically acclaimed Mary Kate and Ashley film) Winning London, and brush up on my British accent/slang.

Cheerio!

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Arts & Culture

I was fortunate enough to be chosen to live in the Arts and Culture LLC right in the heart of the city for the semester. As a member of this house, we are given the opportunity to explore the city through its art and culture. Today we went on a gallery tour of several galleries in Copenhagen’s meat packing district, a district of the Vesterbro neighborhood, fondly referred to as Kødbyen or “meat city.” Mmm meat.

The first gallery we stopped at was featuring the artist Jonathan Meese. It was quite an interesting exhibit… His pieces were all quite colorful and unique. This painting really caught my eye. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s so busy and colorful or because the paint looked like frosting, but whatever it was, I dug it.

We went to several other galleries all featuring local contemporary Danish artists. Some of my favorite pieces were one that was from an exhibit that featured ancient Roman and Greek -esque sculpture with a piece of modern clothing, or accessory added to them. Ancient Roman and Greek sculpture is one of my favorite areas of art history, so I gravitated towards this whimsical little guy in his tube socks.

This same gallery had several other pieces from contemporary artists some of the most interesting to me were, the kick drum entitled “Rock Around the Clock” that served as a clock. Luckily we were there at around 3:00 so we heard the drum beat three times on the hour. Another interesting piece was a line of four pairs of prosthetic legs in brightly hued tights that would randomly kick their legs up in the air every so often.

I thought it was very interesting to be able to visit these galleries and see modern pieces that I am not used to studying and seeing. The arts scene is huge here in Copenhagen (and Denmark as a whole) so it’s cool to be able to participate in a lil bit of culture.

**Disclaimer- Don’t be fooled, I would be lying if I said I appreciated all of the art that we saw today… Some of the pieces in particular that I just did not understand were photographs of morphed body parts, and an entire exhibit called “Winter” that feature different pipes attached to the wall…. Sometimes, I just don’t get it.

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Life in the Potato Rows

Here comes the inevitable class related post…

First and foremost, DIS is the most bizarrely scheduled program there is. Wednesdays are free; they’re reserved for individual exploring, or site visits and study tours with your classes. So for our first Wednesday, my friend and housemate Nick and I had to visit two housing developments/neighborhoods as a part of a site visit for 20th and 21st Century Danish Architecture… We set off on our journey ready to tackle the cold. We battled through the blustery snow and frigid temperatures determined to find our destination. Thirty minutes and several almost frostbitten digits later, we made it to our first destination: The Potato Rows.

The “Potato Rows” is a housing community in the Østerbro neighborhood built in the 1800s. It’s now one of the most popular and highest-priced addresses in Copenhagen. There are rows and rows of the townhouses in the community. We were supposed to focus on how individual identity and community space are combined in the area. Each of the townhouses has it’s own small garden space in the front and there are various community spaces like a little playground or picnic tables around.

^I loved this door

I was a little homesick for South Carolina when I peered down one of the rows to see a line of brightly colored “Rainbow Row-esque” townhouses. I’m always looking for some familiarity wherever I am in the beautiful city, so it was nice to see something that reminded me of my home state.

We then frigidly made our way to Brumebly the next housing development on the list. This one reminded me of the creepy housing community in Lost… All of the houses were a bright yellow and looked exactly the same. Very little variation. However, I did come across a bench covered in snow that just struck me as so cool and beautiful, I had to sneak a pic.

Despite the cold (I’m not sure I’ll ever be warm again…), it was very interesting to see these housing communities and gain a little perspective on how some of the Danes live and have lived. I’m really looking forward to seeing more of the city and surrounding area and the various architecture it holds. There’s such variety within this relatively small city. Everything I’ve come across so far has been absolutely beautiful. I honestly feel like I’m on a movie set most of the time because the city is so clean and perfect. There is so much this city has to offer and I cannot wait to head out and see even more.

Peace, Love, and Potato Rows,

SF

 

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Week One

Today marks the official ONE WEEK milestone of living in Copenhagen. Though I may only have been here for a few days, it seems like I have been here for months.

My arrival into the city started off early. At 6:30 am my plane touched down in Copenhagen. After no sleep on the plane, all I wanted was to make it to my new home and take a little nap. Of course, I had to wait. There were orientation things to be done, forms to sign, phones to buy, bikes to rent, the list goes on and on.

I finally arrived at my home, located on Store Kannikestraede (roughly pronounced can-ick-a-strale). I’m living in an LLC (Living and Learning Community) that focuses on Arts & Culture  in Copenhagen and Denmark. It couldn’t get much better than where I am. Located in the very center of the city, a mere 5 minute walk from all of my classes, I really am in the heart of the action.

Throughout the week DIS had us doing a thousand different orientation things, that I will not bore anyone with. Thursday started classes. I had: European Sustainable Development, 20th and 21st century Danish Architecture, and History of Jewish Life in Europe on Thursday and Sustainable by Design on Friday. I have two more 1 credit courses, Classical & Renaissance Rome, and Impressionism in Paris, that are at fewer dates throughout the semester. My first impression of my classes was good. I think they are going to be relatively similar to what I’m used to at Wofford. The expectations from the professors are straight forward and similar and the course loads seem manageable. I do have my first paper due Thursday, about a piece of Danish architecture I’ve found particularly interesting in the city. The strangest thing about the classes is that the professors all prefer us to call them by their first names. Maybe it’s because I’m from the South where everyone is “sir, ma’am, Mr. Professor, Dr., or Mrs.”,  but this whole concept has been hard for me to grasp.

Tomorrow starts the first week of classes and I’m excited to get into a routine and schedule.

This city is so beautiful and there is so much going on. I have so much more to share and will hopefully be able to get it eventually. However, it’s now time for me to start some homework. It is Sunday, afterall, and my Sunday routine has definitely carried over from Wofford to CPH.

Hej Hej,

Sara Frances

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The Countdown Begins

In t-minus 14 days, I will be jetting off to Scandinavia! Copenhagen, Denmark is my destination and home for the next 5ish months. I thought I would share a little background info on what I’m getting myself into…

The way my program, DIS, works is you choose one core course and then however many elective courses you would like to take as well. Since I am an Environmental Studies major and very recently added Art History as a second major, Denmark is actually the perfect location for a gal with such an eclectic major combination as me.

My core course is European Sustainable Development where I will be learning about how Europeans go about incorporating sustainability into their everyday lives, something we Environmental students have come to know quite well.

My elective courses are 20th & 21st century Danish Architecture, History of Jewish Life in Europe, Sustainable by Design (a green architecture course), Impressionism in Paris, and Classical & Renaissance Rome. The Paris and Rome classes each include week long trips to Paris and Rome, which I am most excited about.

Now that you’re so well informed of what my academic schedule is like, I’m sure you must be asking yourself, “Now, is she staying with a host family, living in a dorm, or what?” Well funny you should ask that question… I am asking myself the same thing because I DON’T KNOW! Yep. You heard right. I have zero clue where I am living for the next few months…. and get this, I won’t know until less than a week before I leave. For those of you who do not know me, I like a plan. I need a plan. I don’t do well with flying by the seat of my pants. I feel like DIS is already challenging my in that aspect and I haven’t even let the country yet….

But hey, change can be good. Challenges are great. That’s why I signed up for this. If I don’t challenege myself, I’ll forever be a list making, agenda following, planner… spontaneity is great. Good for the soul. Am I right??

So, as frustrating, terrifying, exciting, and challenging, these next few months will be.. I am up for it. Bring it on, Copenhagen. And better yet, prepare yourself, I’m comin for ya!!

 

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