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Important and Unimportant Lessons and Tips August 5, 2012

Posted by Connor Perkett in Travel Log.
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Sitting here on a train towards my last destination- home- I’d like to go back and tell myself of some of the important, or interesting/ unimportant lessons I should take away from a summer of study abroad. Some are deep, others might be wacky- but all in all, they are all serious.

-First and for most, there is one rule that we shall always follow, and it’s something that has been reiterated to me over and over while I have been over here. Sauce is Boss. Yes- sauce makes or breaks a whole meal. You can have the most delicious meet in the world, but if you have a poor sauce, then it just isn’t going to taste good at all. This starts off with the most basic of meals- a kebab- and goes all the way to an expensive plate of Swedish Meatballs in Stockholm. If the kebab sauce is over-cucumbered, too salty, a low amount of mayo, or too runny, then please give me something else. If the lingonberry sauce is too sour for the meatballs, then the whole experience is off. We know this rule for barbeque, but really: Sauce is the key to any meal. I’ll remember this while I’m cooking my own food in Atlanta…

-Act early to make major plans. We had way too many problems trying to get around Europe because we didn’t make any plans ahead of time. Once we moved out of the first couple of weekends, trains and hotels were all booked way ahead of time- sometimes 1 ½ months ahead. As other people scrambled to figure out what they would do, where they would stay, or try to figure out why things were so expensive the weekend before (comeon), our group knew exactly what we were doing. Planning ahead for the big things makes the next tip very helpful.

-Don’t plan on doing too much in the city: let things flow as they come out. It is a good idea to have an idea of what you want to do or see, but at the same time, it is great to be flexible. There were many instances where our plans changed for the better, mainly because we didn’t plan for them. Either we would meet another group of people- for ex- UT, Wisconsin, UNC, NYU- where we would go do some things together. It was incredible to see some of the experience we had that were totally unplanned; it was nice to let loose when we needed to.

-Bring a waterproof backpack cover!! Unless you’re in Italy or near the Mediterranean, Europe rains A LOT. A raincoat doesn’t cover everything up, and an umbrella just drips onto a backpack. Save yourself and your important documents some trouble and protect that bag!!!

-Meet Locals! As many as you can- they usually will show you the best places to go (know some basic phrases of the area you are in to start a conversation).

-Don’t really bother taking photos from a train. They never clean the windows and there is usually is too much glare to capture anything worthwhile.

-Along the line of cameras- don’t be glued to the LCD screen or viewfinder. Sometimes the greatest memories come when you stop worrying about remembering the moment and put the camera away.

-Go out of your way to see sunsets in any city you are ever in. It doesn’t matter how many you’ve seen, you know that the next one is always better. Find the best rooftop, hill, or balcony to watch a show that never gets old.

-Don’t leave Eurail passes on a train pocket once the conductor is done checking it- you will never see it again. Whoops…

-Don’t leave your passport and Eurail in a friends backpack and go to different cities. Both parties will have to backtrack. Whoops…

-Don’t be afraid to visit the non-touristy cities, or the lesser known parts of a city. The road less travelled is usually more fun.

-Plan out your McDonald’s trips wisely- you’ll need the internet when you’re in a city, but you won’t always need that reminder of America or a double cheeseburger. Even though the restaurants are nicer in Europe, try to find a better location.

-Admire the public transportation of all of Europe and constantly wish any part of the United States was laid out correctly.

-The last lesson is always understood, but should never be forgotten: always put a smile on your face- life and its experiences are always more enjoyable if you’re smiling.

Thank you Europe for another fantastic summer; I think it’ll be a while before I return again, but it was a great run. I’ll always hold onto the friendships, memories, experiences, and lessons that I gained during this trip. However, it is time to go home.

 

Festivals. European Festivals. August 3, 2012

Posted by Connor Perkett in Travel Log.
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One of the best aspects of Europe is their celebrations for their cities and themselves. It is a big deal to put on a festival in the middle of the city, and it appeared that everyone in the city has a strong affection to these large events. My group went to five festivals during our travels in Europe, and the top ones happened to be in Germany, a fantastic place to hold any kind of celebration.

Two of the festivals we found were accidents, we did not know or plan that they were going on. While we were in Frankfurt, I was set on taking my group to a highly talked about Indian restaurant. As we walked through the suburbs south of the city, we happened to turn down the wrong street. As we saw that no cars were heading in this direction, we decided to continue onwards to some large music that was blaring. As we came closer, we came upon a festival- a block party of sorts. It wasn’t major, but it spanned about 15 blocks in many different directions. We quickly forgot our plans and headed into the heart of the festival. This was a true German festival, filled with your typical german meats made by local vendors, Apfelwein stands (applewine, which is native to Frankfurt), 6-7 DJ’s playing electronic music (Frankfurt is known as one of the origins for House music), and everyone just having a great time. In the middle of the festival were performers using many different cultural influences to make music, including cowbells and those long horns from Switzerland. We were there for over 4 hours, taking the whole scene in- meeting some German folks who were sitting next to us, dancing in the streets, and enjoying all of the food around us. Our waistlines didn’t appreciate the experience, but our tastebuds sure did.

The next weekend, while we were in Munich, again, we stumbled across another festival. This festival was timed around Germany’s first game in Euro 2012, so everyone was in the streets in preparation for the game against Portugal. We again were treated to delicious German food and culture, roving up and down the streets enjoying the feelings of the festival and finding the perfect place to watch the game. Munich, being one of my favorite cities in Europe, was treating us quite well once again. We enjoyed Germany’s victory over Portugal with the rest of the city, and also an experience I will always enjoy over and over.

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Lining the streets for the parade

The most impressive and fantastic festival we went to during our travels was actually during our first weekend. In the city of Berlin, a festival is held every year known as the Karneval of Kulturen (Carnival of Culture). This festival, in a very history laiden city, was started to show the revival of Berlin as a highly accepting city of all kinds. This was by far the most impressive and top experiences of our trip, as over 400,000 people went out into the streets to celebrate Berlin! Although a 5-6 day event, we headed down to the main area for the largest day- the parade. We walked through over a mile of food and shops from all over the world- starting with delicious German food, moving on to Indian, Jamacian, Chinese, South American, Canadian, French, Scottish- you get the point. Almost every single culture was represented in a great party for the city. Music was blaring everywhere we went, people were dancing and having a great time, and it was just an amazing experience to have. After a full day of eating, parading, dancing, we finally headed back, only to return for the street parties later in the night. I am sure no one had any sleep that whole night as everyone in the centrally located borough was out dancing in the street. It was one of the highlights of the trip and I was very fortunate to experience the celebration for the city!

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Parade during the Karneval der Kulturen

We as Americans have a lot of pride for our country, but over here in Europe, they love to express it through the forms of festivals. Streets are shut down for days, hundreds to thousands of vendors hit the streets to celebrate a city or a nationality all the time, and it was always a fantastic experience to behold. I hope someday that I can experience such a celebration in my own backyard as I did in Berlin, but until then, we shall have to wait for that.

Long Time Contacts August 3, 2012

Posted by Connor Perkett in Travel Log.
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Over the years, with the expansion of networking and technology, it is quite easy to stay in contact with people you have met in your life. For me, I have been fortunate to still be in contact with my Au pairs, care-takers that come to America to watch over children (Babysitters). On a very special trip to Berlin, I had the opportunity to meet my Babysitter from Germany once again, the same babysitter I had when I was six years old.

Jessica was the first Au Pair we had. It is very hard for families to switch over to Au Pairs because you put a lot of trust into one person, more than in any other circumstance I can think of. You pay for an overseas young adult (of course, they must go through a rigorous program and training before they come) between the age of 18-26, and allow them to take care of your children for a whole year. That’s a gutsy move- you know nothing about these people, where they have come from, or how they deal with kids. At the time, it was just four of us, but my older brother Garrison was born with Cerebral Palsy, so that made it harder to find the right match- a person who could care for a child with special needs. However, it was hard for my parents to watch over us since their commute to work was an hour each way, and they didn’t want to send us to a day care, so Jessica came over to watch over us.

Moving forward 13 years ahead, Jessica was still around Berlin living in the suburbs of the city. When she heard that I was coming to Europe again, she was the first Au Pair to contact me, asking me to please come visit her in Berlin. As I was already making plans on visiting the wonderful city, I decided to catch up with her the Monday of that trip. It took me an hour to go through all of the subways, bus lines, and trams to get to exactly where she wanted to meet, but as I stepped off that last tram I knew I was in for a very interesting day.

Jessica wanted to show me around the real side of Berlin, the creative and artistic side of the city, predominately in East Berlin. As she grew up here her whole life, she lived through and experienced the end of the communist era as a child, and she wanted to show me some of that flair that still existed in the city. As I walked towards Roma’s Pizzaria, the predetermined location we agreed upon, I was actually quite nervous! What would she look like? Would she be the same as I remembered her as a kid? As I came closer, I knew it; she looked exactly the same as I pictured her in my head as a child! We were very happy to meet once again, and she was thrilled to see a Perkett! She usually keeps in correspondence with my mom once in a while, but lost track of how many of us lived in the same house (I don’t blame her)! Once she learned that there were now 11 Perketts, she was so surprised and intrigued as to what has been happening. We therefore sat down at her favorite brunch location, catching up on each other’s life. Jessica was actually getting married in 2 weeks, and I was invited to their European wedding (which is very different from an American one), although I would be busy that weekend. She was also pregnant and expecting in 3 months- it was incredible to see how much time has passed!

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one of Jessica’s favorite places to eat

As we walked around, she took me to her favorite sights and places, locations that I would have never found on my own. These were sides of streets where she remembered people holding large protests against the communist regime, and the old style of houses that still existed today. We walked through lovely parks filled with urban art, and ate at locations she ate at as a kid. It was a great way to see another side of a history laden city, through the eyes of someone that experienced it all as a child. As soon as we knew it, I had to catch my train back to Metz, and we said our goodbyes. Unfortunately, I had one regret of the experience: I never got a picture with her!! I guess that just means I will have to go back sometime in the future.

It was great to meet up with an acquaintance I thought I would never see again. It was nice to hear the stories of me as a child, the trouble that I got into, or the fun that we had together. At the same time, I got to experience a city in a totally different way. It was fantastic that I was able to meet up with Jessica in that fashion, and I hope my later visits to Europe will give me the opportunity to do it all over again with my 9 other Au Pairs!

East vs. West August 2, 2012

Posted by Connor Perkett in Travel Log.
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In the United States- we’ve always had arguments of what’s better- clam chowder or guacamole, NY vs. LA, or Georgia Tech vs. Stanford ;)- east coast and west coast has always been a heated rivalry. Across the pond, we have eastern and western Europe, two distinctly different regions of the same continent. Which is more enjoyable? In a perspective, it depends on what you are looking for- a tradition visit or a more raw experience of certain livelihoods. Personally, I enjoyed heading East much more this time around.

Out of all 12 weeks here at GTL, I never once headed West of Metz. Some of my visits were mainly to the regions of Germany, Hungary, and Slovakia. During these trips, I necessarily didn’t go to the major cities or the main stops a normal traveler would head into, we tried to be a bit raw and see a side of the world we have never seen before.

The first stop begins with Germany, but with rather major cities. Both Berlin and Dusseldorf are major tourist areas, but both have been transformed into locations off the beaten path, due to their reconstruction after WWII. With the change of ownership, especially for Berlin, a (half) communist state transforming to a more democratic state transformed most of the city; however, some parts still remain. For Berlin, we walked around some of the southern and East Berlin neighborhoods, where areas have seem to stay stagnant to where they were 20-30 years ago- broken down and distraught. Graffiti was the highest form of art, where any artist used their spray cans to express themselves and the people around them. Personally it was very interesting and exciting walking though these areas, getting a different sense of the land that not many people see, experience, or even think about. Ideals and methods were so different back then in these locales, and you could still feel it in the air surrounding the mini fastfood and small shops lining the streets. In a big city setting, I was able to find an area different from a major city I’ve visited in the past.

Budapest was another great city, although on the rise, that is still hidden in the East. Walking around the city, you could definitely notice the very touristy areas, but the more east we moved into the city (on the Pest side), the rawer the city became. Graffiti and rundown buildings posed as remnants of the Communist era, providing to be a very interesting museum of its own kind. The people of Budapest also used these buildings to showcase their nightlife- transforming rundown buildings into bars, clubs, and hang out areas of a different kind- the dirtier it was, the greater the experience. The use of Hungarian baths was definitely surprisingly fun as well- we spent a whole day at the baths!! In the major cities in Western Europe have not had any of these kinds of experiences, and it was great to see life from a different perspective, as if it were actually behind the “Iron Curtain.”

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Our most recent stop that was quite surprising, and the most “Eastern” city we visited, was the city of Bratislava in Slovakia. Bratislava was under total communist control, and over 60% of the city center was destroyed to make way for economic housing and highways. After recovering since the early 1990s, there are still remnants all over the city of it’s past, but more importantly, the 40% of the city center that is still intact is quite beautiful!! There were little to no tourists in this beloved city, and the prices were almost half of anywhere I have been in Europe! The town was very quaint, without all of those currency exchange counters and touristy shops. It was great to try totally different foods that couldn’t be found anywhere else in Western Europe- including halusky (a delicious potato dish). The trip was very different from everywhere else I have been before.

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Monument to honor those lost during the Communist Regime in Brastislava. A meeting spot for citizens during very important times (elections, riots etc.)

Eastern Europe was a very different realm away from the West. After being sheltered from the rest of the world during the Communist regimes, their raw nature still exists if you know where to go, and they put on an extensive showcase. Even though the areas are fantastic history lessons to the past, I hope that they are renovated soon enough to move up to the standards of the rest of the cities. But for now, they will exist as some of my favorite places in Europe due to their difference from everyone else.

How’d that Happen in Vienna? July 26, 2012

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Expectations are meant to be broken- a statement itself that I didn’t expect.

I was very fortunate to take part on Oxford study Abroad 2011, and decided to come back across the pond for 2012 with GTL. I looked forward with a bit of apprehension, as I would be visiting some of the same cities I saw just a year ago- would it be better? Would it be boring? All in all, revisiting some past cities changed my preferences and thoughts from my first trip; some visits were better, others were a bit lackluster. However, there is one experience that was unlike anything else this trip, and it happened while revisiting the city of Vienna…

My good friend Tim and I arrived in Vienna around 5pm after being delayed 100 meters outside the train station (power failure) for over 1 ½ hours. The best way to combat frustration of hot trains is with a nice hearty meal, so we set off to a predetermined restaurant. I found a quaint nice place to eat supposedly with the best schnitzel in all of Austria through a couple of local recommendations; a place that wasn’t quite touristy at all. When we arrived, there wasn’t a person to be seen sitting down, except for two old gentlemen at the corner of the bar. They starred at us, as if we walked into the opposite sex’s bathroom or something. Even with the lack of people, we quickly took our seats.

As we sat down, I noticed that both gentlemen at the bar stopped eating and were continuously glancing at us. One of the men, with slicked back gray hair, 5 o’clock shadow, and around his early 70’s- using his best effort- asked us how we found such a restaurant. We then described how I met some locals earlier, which they were very happy to hear! The old man reiterated what we’ve been already told- “This is the best food you will find in all of Austria, let alone Vienna!!” Both parties went back to our respective conversations, but I kept noticing that the two men kept looking at us- their food must have been getting cold! Throughout our meal, which of course, was one of the best meals I have ever had, the same gentleman came over to our table- asking if we needed help with deciding on the menu, where we were from, how long we were in the city, and so on. When he learned that we were in Vienna for only a day, he became a bit distraught or upset- he was disappointed that we had no time to see the beautiful city that was their home. For the next ten minutes, I witnessed two men act like teenage girls in a classroom- conversing quietly in each other’s ear, laughing, and continuing to glance at us. As it continued, I thought the situation became very weird- again, we were the only people in this restaurant.  Finally, both men came over to the table, and told us that since we weren’t in the city for long, that they wanted to show us around the area for about an hour looking at Tim, I knew we didn’t have any plans, so we agreed to walk around with these two local older men.  We finished our meal, and set off into the night, a particular night I will never forget.

We first walked to Stephansplatz, where St. Stephans cathedral is located. During Oxford, I walked through the area many times, but never knew the details of the building. The two men, Hannes and Ule, then quickly dragged us away, and walked us through the lower part of the ring. Again, I was seeing all the same sights, but it was great for Tim to see everything. It was a beautiful night, and we continued onwards.

Our one hour trek turned into two, and we began to learn a lot about this old couple. They deviated from their college studies to work with the Austrain Casino Association, which is now the most prominent Casino business in Austria with 12 branches. As they quickly moved up the ranks, they began to live very, very comfortable lives and retired. They regularly attended operas at the Famous State Opera House, usually 3-4 times a week. Across the street stands the most expensive and lavish Hotel in Vienna- the Sacher. Hannes and Ule have had breakfast there almost every day for 30 straight years, and have dinner and drinks before and after operas at the lavish restaurant underneath. The head waiter first served Hannes and Ule when he was 18; he is now over 50. The restaurant does not serve anyone who has shorts on (all 4 of us did), but Hannes and Ule wanted to treat us to the world famous Sacher Torte- a rich and delicious chocolate cake. Without hesitation, the owner sat all four of us at table 21, the same table that is always reserved for the two.

Café: http://www.sacher.com/en-cafe-vienna.htm

Sachertorte: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sachertorte

As I sat in the restaurant, I thought to myself- how did we get here? An odd couple in the corner of a restaurant wanted to show us around for a little bit, but this little bit turned into 3 hours, and we were with 2 of the more successful people living in Vienna eating one of the world’s most famous cakes. After dessert, the night took one more unexpected turn. Hannes and Ule wanted us to come back with them to their apartment for 10 minutes to show us something “no one else in Vienna will ever see.”

At this point, I was kind of creeped out. Two elder men, asking two teenage boys to go back to their apartment, seemed really awkward. I cannot really tell you why, but we decided to go- they were very kind and highly respected with each person they met- they didn’t seem like they were going to cause any harm; and what a great decision it was.

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Across the Danube.

Hannes and Ule’s apartment was actually a 3 story penthouse suite in the tallest building in Vienna. We stepped out onto their balcony, and truly had a glimpse no one else has ever seen. Being 31 stories above such a beautiful city (yes, buildings aren’t very tall in Vienna, Europe to boot) watching the sun set was an astounding experience. It was so interesting to see the lives of these men, and their interest in two people from North America.

After our 5 hour excursion, lasting until 11pm, Hannes and Ule then told us they have never done such a thing for someone before, and never will again. When they were our age, an older gentleman did the same to them, and they were waiting for the right time to pass the favor onto the next generation. They urged us, whenever we are older, and see a tourist wandering the streets of our hometown, remember that night, and pay it forward some day in the future.  Who knew eating at a certain restaurant could have such a profound impact on our lives. It was truly and experience I will hold with me.

The Oxford Experience: August 13, 2011

Posted by Connor Perkett in Travel Log.
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And here comes the end- the culmination to the greatest summer of my life. I feel like some of the experiences I have had on this trip will go unmatched in my life for a very long time, and I am quite alright with that. With all of the great memories I will hold throughout my life, I wanted to note the differences I saw between our two lifestyles- that of America and that of Europe. So let’s get it on.

 

A Beautiful day in Vienna at the Palace.

  1. Ventilation. Non-existent in Europe. Many hotels that I have stayed in America have a vent above the shower, so the heat and moisture does not totally build up in the bathroom. However, I have noticed that it does not exist here- it is kind of hard to breathe after a shower. Also I have noticed a lot of mold in the bathroom due to this. Just an interesting note.
  2. Ice is a precious gift in Europe. Almost every place you go to does not include ice in their drinks- they are mostly sold lukewarm to cool temperatures. Mcdonalds might be nice and give you two cubes, but that is about it. England is much better when it comes to ice, but overall, I am definitely looking forward to some cool beverages when I get back.
  3. MUCH more tourists in Europe. This may be due to the fact that Europe is just so old, and rich with history. The United States is relatively new, and does not have a lot of old historic sites on the same caliber as Europe. Therefore, all tourist attractions are relatively crowded. Plan on long lines to get into churches, crowded strips, and language barriers.
  4. English has saturated Europe. It really is kind of sad from a standpoint. All of the countries we went to spoke their native language, and then English. It is kind of selfish that many Americans aren’t as bilingual, and that many do not make an effort to change that, but it is what it is. I wasn’t to distraught by the language barrier, because there was someone who always spoke English. After this trip, I am looking into Spanish again.
  5. Transportation is very effective in Europe. Cities are planned over very well- public transportation systems touch almost all of the cities, and were found in every city we went to. Just an interesting observation.

     

    What a great summer. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I cannot believe all of this has happened to me, and I want to come back as soon as possible. I hope to see you again soon Europe!

A Changing Perspective… August 12, 2011

Posted by Connor Perkett in Travel Log.
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Everyone has had some life changing experiences on their respective travels around the world. There were two specific instances for me that really changed the way that I look at my life and what I enjoy to do, and both of them happened to occur in Italy.

 

The Fake David

A copy of David in the Plazza

The first instance looks into the way I look at how I spend my time on vacations. Now coming from a family of 11, and as we also lived in Upstate New York, I rarely went on vacations to informative sites and places around the world. If we were to go anywhere, it would be Hilton Head, Disney World, a place where everyone would really enjoy the whole vacation. However, one spot that everyone dreaded was museums of any kind; therefore, I didn’t really ever have any interest in visiting any museum by choice. That changed, ironically (since it is so famous), at the Accademia in Florence. I have never been awestruck by a piece of artwork before my life- I never really gave it the time of day. However, after looking up to the 13 foot tall David by Michelangelo, it was the first piece of work that actually made my jaw drop. It was astounding, beautiful, intriguing- something that I have never seen in the world. I left that day holding a new view of museums and what they showcased. Ever since that point, I have really looked into what museums held and what they had to offer, and actually enjoyed getting lost for hours looking at pieces of art. I even when out of my way a couple times to visit museums, both in London and in Edinburgh. I am extremely grateful for that chance to actually appreciate that piece of work, because now I can appreciate art as a whole.

 

Home to the Accademia- Florence on a beautiful sunset

The other perspective change on part of my trip comes from the artwork we looked at in every museum. Of course throughout the renaissance and early forms of art, Christianity was a strong depiction in many scenes. With the art that our professor focused on, there were many reoccurring themes from the bible and items that each disciple had in relation as to identifying them. Unfortunately, even though I am catholic, religion was never a priority in my family- I have not been to church in a very long time. Therefore, I haven’t read the bible at any point in my life. However, after noticing the reoccurring themes, as well as some of the really interesting stories in each paintings, I now have an interest in reading the bible. I am not sure when exactly I would get around to it while at Tech, but maybe I could tackle it bit by bit. The artwork really sparked my interest in something I thought I wouldn’t turn my eye towards.

 

It is really interesting to see how much art on this trip has affected my life. With a renewed interest in museums and reading a text I thought I wouldn’t get around to, art has seemed to really open my eyes. I have seen some incredible things on this trip, and I am extremely fortunate to get this opportunity.

Riot Gear and All August 9, 2011

Posted by Connor Perkett in Travel Log.
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(None of the pictures in this post were taken by me- I’m not that close to the action)

Well, as many people know, it has been a very interesting scene throughout the UK for the past 3 nights. With the police shooting of suspect Mark Duggan who may or may have not shot at police, a once peaceful protest has now turned into a relentless riot throughout 6 major cities, and now in many corners of Great Britain. Although we are tucked away here at Oxford, Oxfordshire, we are feeling the reverberations from London and the surrounding cities even though we are an hour away. I wanted to record my observations and experiences here just to see what happens from here on out. However- luckily, I don’t think anything will.

A Building burning during the first night of Riots in Tottenham.

The First three days of rioting were very quiet for Oxford- it was brought up in class and discussed extensively, and we were told to be careful going to London during the week- we were advised to return early and stay close to the city center, but we were still allowed to go outside late at night here in Oxford. It has been terrible to see all of this ridiculous accounts happen in such a thriving city. Out of the cities that have been experiencing the most problems, I have been to Birmingham (the largest concentration of youths in one area in all of Europe), London, Wolverhampton, and Manchester, so it is sad to see all the turmoil caused by these outrageous stunts.

Some of the aftermath in Croydon

Now today, August 9th, the day right after probably the worst part of the whole riot, attitudes around Oxford really started to change. As I walked around town for lunch, I noticed an increased presence of the police force, as they were very visible at their stations and on their patrols. There was a campus-wide email sent out informing us that we essentially are not allowed outside the school walls after 10-11 pm tonight, as police were going to send away any large groups of teenagers. The campus pub extended its hours to give all of the students a place to go to at night, as opposed to going out on the town. We have also been told not to go to London for any reason until the situation finally passes. Unfortunately for me and my friends, the England vs. Holland game that we were all stoked for Wednesday night has been canceled because of what has happened. As mad as we are about the situation, I am kind of happy that they made the right decision- I don’t think 70,000 people right after the game in one area is a good idea…

This evening, Oxford has a very different feeling in the air. First and foremost, there are many more sirens heard throughout the night. It may just be that we are all a bit more concerned/ on edge, but the police are definitely out tonight. There is also more security within the college itself, as I have passed by a couple of nightkeepers with flashlights- which I have not seen until today. There has also been a helicopter flying in the air for the past 30 minutes hovering above the town, bringing a feeling I rarely ever feel. For the first time in a while, I don’t feel the safety/protection that I have always had throughout my life. There isn’t anything happening in town, there is just a lot of vigilance, which makes me think that they expect something to happen. It is great that the police are trying to stay ahead of the game and we really appreciate that, but the security that most of us always feel doesn’t quite form together tonight as it usually does.

Outpouring of support to clean up has come from average citizens

Looking overall at the situation, it just all seems so out of control. Looking at the Riots as a whole, there is really no justification or reasoning behind any of it. No one is fighting for a cause, no one is trying to overcome a submissive power, hooligans are just out at night to cause trouble- it gives them an excuse. The Duggan Incident is long gone, and now these people are just going crazy. It is also interesting to see the view London has on its young- there is a lot of fingerpointing and concern for these teenagers and kids. Most media sources point towards these kids as being the source of the violence. Many people have also noted that this situation was a ticking bomb waiting to explode- the UK is “frightened by its own youth.” The fact that the country thinks so negative about the younger generations is quite concerning, and I wonder what is going to be done to change this situation. However, as of now, nothing major has happened in the little town of Oxford, and let’s hope it stays that way. However, although unfavorable, this will always be a situation I will always remember- being in the UK during the London riots.

The Best of: Oxford edition- Travel Portion August 4, 2011

Posted by Connor Perkett in Travel Log.
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Let’s see-travelling around Europe for over a month… you really do see a lot; probably more than I will see at one time for the rest of my life. With so many fascinating places and discoveries along the way, what could have possibly been my favorite location? Out of the Eight stops we had along the way, my favorite city was actually the place I originally wasn’t too excited for. However, I fell in love with Munich, Germany.

The location where the Nazi party was originated.

Well after a very nice time in Italy, I was definitely ready to move onto a new country, and there was no better way to do it rather than going to Munich, Germany. I think I have been spot on with this whole trip going in a with a great mindset- I have expected little or nothing for many different cities, and Munich was one of them- I did not think that this would be a special city. However, man was I wrong; Munich is definitely my favorite city, even in the most drastic conditions. When we originally arrived, and essentially throughout the whole stay (except the 2nd to last day), it rained. Usually rain stomps on my parade, but as you will see, it only made me enjoy the city more than I already did. The first day of classes, we learned about the Northern Renaissance and its difference with the rest of the world at the time, it was time to go off to the Glyptothek. On the way, we finally got an awesome kebab- probably the best of the trip. Who knew that a greasy, and unhealthy to boot, would be so good. With the yoghurt sauce, chili top, and the delectable meat, I definitely was happy missing the first five minutes of the museum (we were lost afterwards). The Glyptothek was very enjoyable; they had a great collection of pre- High Italian Renaissance sculptures, that were still pretty astounding . After the museum, I truly connected with the city- we went into the city looking for Haufbrauhaus, and fortunately we walked through the city center, which is like an extremely large open mall filled with a lot people. There was so much there- street vendors, cafes, stores, really high end stores, and anything you could imagine. The inside part was essentially open in the hallway, but a ceiling of vines dangled from the top. This is where I fell in love with the city, mainly because it was so different from every other place we visited. I feel as if the abundance of tourists in the other cities sometimes deterred me from enjoying the location as much as I should have. However, in Munich, I received the opposite vibe- this was a living and vibrant city. People actually lived here, worked here, and this wasn’t apparent at all in the other cities. The fact that it wasn’t just another tourist stop made me feel really special-as if I was just fortunate to be in such a wonderful place.

Barbed wire surrounding Dachau

The next day we had class again and then went to the Pinakothek, which was gigantic and had some really interesting and aspiring art. It was just a gigantic hall, overwhelming at times, with room upon room of Rembrandt, Rubens, and many more.

Afterward the museum, I had a really eye opening experience- we went to Dachau, a ruthless concentration camp. It was really an interesting experience- I do not know what my body was feeling; nobody did. We were interested to see what there was to see, but we were scared, petrified, sad, and very passive at the same time. It is hard to describe the feeling of excitement to visit such a dark location; it was essentially just a reserved feeling. The whole time I was there, I never heard anyone talk or saw anyone smile, it was just a surreal experience. I walked into the crematorium, as well as the gas chamber; I felt as if life right there was going to end; it was something I never thought I would experience. The perplexions on every visitor’s face was just of remorse and sadness, yet it was unimaginable to grasp what had actually happened upon the same soil we current trekked on. As sad as the visit was, I was really glad that I was able to see what was left of Dachau and pay my respects. We then went to a very nice palace for 5 minutes and took some pictures.

I love Germany!

We then went back to the hotel where i was going to take a nap, but sean woke me up to go to the haufbrauhaus. I was reluctant, but so glad that I went. Haufbrauhuas, although kind of touristy, is the epitome of Oktoberfest and beer gardens as there were at least 1000 people there all drinking and having an awesome time. I had some of the best smoked chicken in my life, and the awesome potatoes went perfectly with the meal. Afterwards, we walked around and got some pretzels, and then rono, sean, Rachael, and I ran through the Munich fountain, which is something I will never forget. Munich was an awesome trip, and I would love to go back- hopefully I can. My expectations of Munich were just blown away, and I am very fortunate to visit such a wonderful city in Germany.

Unexpected Travelings July 31, 2011

Posted by Connor Perkett in Travel Log.
1 comment so far

July 22nd- July 24th, 2011

Some of the greatest trips begin unplanned, or just arise through opportunity.

This was the definition of my weekend from July 22nd- 24th as we ran into situations that were better than any other plan we could have devised.

 

Blackpool Pleasure Beach- a treasure that was quickly discovered. For my birthday, I really wanted to do the two thing I love the most in this world- ride rollercoasters and hike in beautiful settings! Luckily a couple days before the weekend, Rachael, Colleen, and Rono were really interested in the amusement park as well as hiking, so we booked everything. When we arrived at the park, it was unfortunately raining. Now rain can either hinder an experience at an amusement park, or make it more exciting, which we chose to be the latter! After riding some incredible roller coasters, including The Pepsi Max Big One, the tallest, fastest, and steepest rollercoster in the UK, we went on water rides that soaked us more than the actual rain. We just had a ball, going back to the days of our childhood where we had nothing to worry about, and could just have fun!

After going to Blackpool Pleasure Beach with Rachael, Colleen, and Rono (who unfortunately went home), we set out to Wales, heading to a small town named Betws Y Coed in Snowdonia National Park. We luckily booked a random sketchy-looking hostel that resembled something similar to a house you might find in a horror film- there wasn’t really any way to contact the owners (other than email), and we couldn’t find much on the hostel. When we arrived in town, no one really knew where the hostel was, which concerned me to an even greater degree. After an hour of traveling through the beautiful wilderness and hopping off a bus at the wrong stop, we finally arrived at the Hostel. From the outside, it unfortunately looked exactly as our visions. However, once we were greeted by the owners and the people inside, we truly found that we totally lucked out. The hostel was bought by two young entrepeneurs 7 months ago and have been trying to renevate the old house. They actually opened the week before we came, which is why we couldn’t find too much info on them and why no one knew where they were. The lovely owners were trying to create a 5 star hostel (and we paid for a 2-3 star price), so it was by far the cleanest, coziest, and overall best hostel I have ever been in by far.

Our original intentions in Snowdonia National Park was to hike Mt. Snowdon, the 2nd tallest mountain in the UK. From our Hostel, we could see the peak of the mountain- but unfortunately it was about an hour away, and we had no way to travel there. Fortunately with our awesome hostel, they had some great alternatives- and this is where our unplanned opportunities came in! They actually had a mountain/plateau in their own backyard, that had some amazing views of the valleys around us! As Rachael was feeling under the weather, Colleen and I went ahead and explored the beautiful area for about 3-4 hours. For my birthday the next morning, we were told to hike the huge mountain across the street, which was designated one of the best views in all of the UK. The way up the mountain was truly a special experience- beautiful woodlands, meadows, cliffs, and SHEEP! Farmers used the mountainside to feed their herds, so Colleen and I walked through the middle of many herds; it really was an awesome experience. Once at the top, we had a beautiful and crystal clear view of Mount Snowdon (which was actually covered by clouds! Lucky), as well as the rest of the park and the coastline of Wales. It truly was one of the best birthday experiences I have ever had. I was really fortunate for all of the right cards to fall straight into place.

In the future I definitely plan on going back to the park to hike Snowdon, as it seems like an incredibly beautiful mountain. Wales was definitely one of the greatest countryside experiences in my life- starting from the cozy town of Betws y Coed, to the great people we met along the trip. This really is the summer of a lifetime.

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