Monday, February 11, 2013

Exploring and/or Studying?!

So it's been a while since I last posted. Last week I got the oppourtunity to travel to Dyboll, Denmark and to Kiel and Lubek, Germany with my European Politics course. It was pretty fantastic being able to travel around to some places where the importance of the politics of the European Union is shown.
Fortunately, I was also able to do some touristy things on my various stops.

Stop 1: the Baelt Bridge

This bridge is actualy one of 2 completed bridges (of a 3 bridge system) that connects Scandinavia to Central Europe via Denmark and Germany. The section of the bridge in this picture goes between Jutland and the largest island of Denmark (where Copenhagen is located). It's the 3rd longest bridge in the world and was built to facilitate commuting between the two parts of Denmark. On our visit we were allowed to go inside the bridge structure (which was completely enclosed, as you can see) and were told about the economic and political significance of the bridge system. Particualrly how negotiations with the German government to build the 3rd bridge are affected by policy making with the EU. 

Stop 2: Dybbol, Denmark (pronounced, I believe, like do-bol)

On this stop we were shown around on of the battlefields of the various Danish-German conflicts over the Schleswig-Holstein territory. This particular battle marked the end of these conflicts and the loss of about 1/3 of the Danish state. The S-H territory still has strong economic connections to Denmark, as shown by the next two stops. We stayed in this town on our first night and were treated to a beer tasting* and delicious dinner at a local microbrewery. (note: the beer pictured was consumed in Germany, I unfortunately didn't get any pics from the beer tasting)
Stop 3: Kiel, Germany
Here my class got to meet one of the members of the S-H foreign ministry and we learned about how the federal system in Germany interacts with the EU. Specifically, our presenter explained how the three companion offices (in Kiel, Berlin and Brussels) worked together to promote the goals of the state of Schleswig-Holstein within the EU and the German government. 

Stop 4: Lubek, Germany
This was by far my favorite stop of this trip. Not only was I finally able to have some FANTASTIC German food and beer but we were able to actually explore the city thanks to this fantastic tourguide (and his truly EPIC moustache).

  He animatedly shared various stories about the history of this Mideval city, including the history of the Guild hall, and how the Devil (also pictured) helped build the largest church in the town. I later visited the church with a fellow student and discovered that the bells had fallen from the bell tower when the city was bombed during WWII. The falling of these bells was apparently so amazing and unexpected that the city decided to leave them as a monument to the trials and horrors of that attack. 

Perhaps the most famous aspect of Lubek is it's impressive Holstien Gate. It represents the importance of the city as an independent (from Germany until the 1930's) Imperial merchant  center. One interesting thing to note about this gatehouse (that you may not be able to see in this picture) is that it appears to sag in the middle but there is no sign of stress, leaning or wear that one would think could cause this sag. 

After returing home from this adventure my professor took the class to tour the Danish Parliament, guided by a former Foreign Minister and current member of Parliament. She was an impressive lady and inspired me to consider a carear working with the US mission to the EU.

Overall it was a truly inspiring and adventurous week of travel and learning. I am so grateful to be able to see these places and learn about how though they may be historical and 'old' they are still relevant to current dynamics in the European Union and foreign affairs. I leave you now with a picture of my first taste of 'official' Danish fare; Smorbrod (a type of open-faced sandwich) and a hearty meatball (which were absolutely DELICIOUS)

*More on the beer tasting: Please excuse my lack of good beer discriptions as I am still a novice beer drinker. We were given 3 litres of four different beers for 8 people (there were four groups of 8-10 ppl). The first was a very light beer. The second was a fantastic wheat beer with apricot flavoring (and boy you could definitely taste the apricot ^_^). The third was a darker beer that I thought was ok, and the fourth was darker still. Surprisingly I enjoyed the last beer more than most other dark dark beers I've tasted.