Monday, July 25, 2011

Euro-Tour- 86 Exchange Students, 19 Days, 9 Countries (Days 1 to 5)

Day One;

I had an early start to the Euro-tour, waking up at 4 am so I could arrive in Joensuu on time of my 6:40am train to get to Turku which is in the South West corner of Finland.

It was a long train trip, but I met up with more and more of the exchangers as I got closer to Turku, so the time past without boredom.

We arrived in Turku at 2pm and took a taxi to the port where met up with all the 86 exchange students who we would be spending the next 19 days with.

We would first be taking an overnight ferry to Stockholm; it didn’t leave until 7pm so I spend the afternoon catching up with my friends on the grass at the bottom of Turku’s castle.

It felt so strange that Euro-tour was actually starting. I remember on Karkku Euro-Tour seemed like forever away. Some of the Oldies who were not coming on the Trip had also come to the harbour to say their final goodbyes, before they headed home ending their exchange.  The start trip also meant that when we returned to Finland most of the Oldies had only a few days or weeks before it was time for them to return to their home countries.
Leaving Turku

The ship we were on was HUGE and really fancy. The food was also really good, which is always nice.

After dinner we headed off to the Karaoke Disco for the night. Almost all the exchange students were there. Two groups of Australians sang some karaoke numbers as well as several Finns, while however many exchange students sang loudly alone and danced up a storm.

At one point a bald heavy metal type man came to the stage. His song choice began slowly and he began with his back to the audience. One exchange student who is a fan of this kind of music went into some kind of trance when the song started. As the song continued it picked up and our French Canadian friend began head banging, while we just looked on in amazement.

It was such a good way to begin the tour.

Day 2.

 We woke up, ate another delicious boat meal. (Overall this was probably the best food we got on Euro-tour) And headed out from our cabins, and onto the buses our home for the next 19 days. There were 2 buses and I was on bus 1. Affectionately known as the non-Latin bus.

We drove through Sweden making a quick stop, at Franssons Polkagristillverkning- a boiled sweets factory.

Our next stop on Swedish shores was at the harbour, so we could take the ferry to Denmark. We spend the trip on the top deck stretching our arms our so it looked like we were touching both Sweden and Denmark at the same time.

Copenhagen was hands down my favourite city of the whole tour. As soon as it came into sight it was amazing. The buildings are beautiful. The port that we came into was right in the middle of a group of really nice old buildings and wasn’t one of those large industrial ports.

The Statue of Hans Christian Anderson

That evening after a quick exploratory trip around the city with one of my friends, we headed to Tivoli the original amusement park for the evening. Going into the Tivoli was like walking into the past, it looks just like the movies set in the late 19th Century. Even the modern rides had been made to look vintage.

A Clown in the Silent Pantamime in Tivoli

Day 3.

The hotel was so hot. I had forgotten what it is like to be in actual warm weather and I could not cope. But the rooms looked really cool because the metal of the bunk beds had been painted an ocean blue, so I liked this hotel.

We had a bus tour of the city. The highlight of this trip was seeing the Little Mermaid, the statue in Copenhagen of the character from the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale. I also like seeing the rest of the city. Copenhagen is perhaps (Equal with Dresden) the most beautiful European City I have visited. And what I liked about it most was that there was art everywhere you looked. Every corner of Copenhagen there is something beautiful to find. I remember being told at my art school interview that Copenhagen is the art hotspot at the moment. And I believe it. It is now high on my places to live list.

Danish Guards
The Little Mermaid

We had a few hours of free time and a group of us decided to visit Christiania a free state in the middle of Copenhagen. This was a really interesting place to visit. The residents of Christiania make all their own houses so they are all unique and quirky. Like in the rest of Copenhagen there is art everywhere. In Christiania it is the murals and the houses. Photography is forbidden in Christiania, which kind of adds to the whole experience because the only thing you can take are your memories of the place. I really want to visit again and spend a day sketching, because really there is nowhere else in the world quite like Christiania.

That night we boarded our 3rd ferry and headed off to Germany. It was comforting to be in a foreign language and be able to understand everything and communicate in it. It felt nice to be in Germany as well

We were staying the night in Bremen home to the Bremen musician. The Statue where there is a chicken, on a cat, on a dog, on a donkey. It was on the front cover of my year 8 German book so it was weird to see it in front of me in person. When we drove into the Hotel Car park our eyes were treated to the sight of thousands of German people rollerblading. It was a never-ending chain of people in fluorescent clothing wearing 4-wheeled shoes.

Day 4.

After departing Bremen at 8am we headed to the Netherlands. We stopped off at this type of dam. The road ran over it and on one side there was the ocean and on the other there was a lake.  

The Ocean
Our first tourism destination for the day was a clog and cheese factory. There were every type of wooden shoe you could imagine, high healed clogs and clogs painted like popular sports shoes. We frequented the gift shop where I was re-acquainted with Strumf-waffles which are probably one of the tastiest items of food available world wide, for many of my fellow exchange students it was their first meeting with the tasty devils, made out of 2 crispy waffle biscuits stuck together with luscious caramel.

But this location was filled with delightful flavours as the cheese factory next door contained the best cheese I have ever eaten in my life. And too take advantage of that I ate the greatest amount of cheese at once in my life. It was just so good.
The Cheese Shop and one of the Sampling Stations

And there was Green Cheese, that also tasted AMAZING!

We had lunch in a small Dutch village just outside of Amsterdam where we went souvenir shopping. I am now the proud owner of an Amsterdam tracksuit. What Style!

After that we (and our happy tummies) headed off for an afternoon in Amsterdam. This was the only city on our schedule that I had visited before and I was excited to go back after 3 years.

We visited the Anne Frank Museum, which is in the house that her family hid from the Nazi’s in. Otto Frank, Anne’s father had decided to keep the rooms empty rather then furnish them as they were during their time in the house. It was a really interesting museum, but I think I would have got more out of it if I had read her diary before visiting.

We had a boat tour of Amsterdam’s canals. Amsterdam is still beautiful but it has lost some of the excitement it held when I saw it as a 15 year old. I am still definitely going back there.

Our hotel was outside of Amsterdam and looked like a large stately home. But more importantly it was home to an EMU! I am a few of the other Australian girls were so excited to see it. One of the bad things about being away from home is that you get so excited when you see something from your home country. Over the tour we would talk to everyone we walked past with an Australian accent and take photos of everything that had something to do with Australia. You would think it would be the other way round, but no.

Day 5.

After almost missing the hotel breakfast because I woke up too late, I made it to the bus in time and we drove for Paris via Brussels, Belgium.

I really liked Brussels. It is a beautiful city that reminds me of something carefully scap-booked. The buildings are carefully decorated with tiny details, and all are really light making the city really beautiful.

In Brussels we had free time, during which I found some people with a basket of puppies and a hamburger phone which I am now the owner of. We drove past many important buildings and had lunch.

After that we drove onto Paris. During the trip we would always drive into the cities, entering them slowly and loosing the wow factor of being dropped into somewhere amazing. I had never been one of those people who desperately wanted to go to Paris, but by the time it was coming I was excited to see the famed city. I decided to blindfold myself and take it off once we were in the middle of the city. Which would not be until the next day.

We had French Macdonald’s before going to sleep. 

Having now eaten Maccas in 4 countries (not including Singapore when I was 11) I can now give you an educated ranking on how good they all are in comparison to each other. I would have to say Finnish is the best (Because the Maccas in Joensuu is really good, it is bad however in Helsinki so without the quality of the Joensuu Maccas the second place would be in first position), followed (surprisingly by) Russian, then by French and finally Australian Macdonald-which is definitely the worst.  

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