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Archive for November, 2011

“Music does bring people together. It allows us to experience the same emotions. People everywhere are the same in heart and spirit. No matter what language we speak, what color we are, the form of our politics or the expression of our love and our faith, music proves: We are the same.” 

― John Denver

A common experience that I had in the various countries I visited was the presence of music. It came in different languages, genres and deliveries, but every time it served as a unifying force.

Dodi dancers

I wrote about the boat ride that I took in a previous post and briefly mentioned the singers who welcomed us when we reached the halfway point. Inhabitants of the small island, they sang and danced in an effort to collect donations. I wondered if they would do so otherwise, but they truly seemed to be enjoying themselves.

And it was contagious, as several boat riders danced alongside them.

Sing-alongs at Sacre Couer

An Italian man named Youri performed on the steps of the Sacre Couer on my sister’s first night in Paris. We had ventured over to see the Basilica and, after hearing him sing Rupert Wainwright’s “Hallelujah” on key, decided to join the crowd. We did not, however, give in to the men peddling Heinekens for 5 euros a piece, despite their persistence.

Here’s Youri singing “Hallelujah” while another man provides an entirely different form of entertainment (and I’m not talking about the man who appears to be performing magic tricks next to the singer):

The Basilica is situated atop a hill in Montmarte and is the only hill where you can properly view the city of Paris. So, as the sun set, we had a beautiful view to accompany the music. At one point Youri paused and told the crowd that we were all very lucky to be visiting Paris and asked our origins. Brazil, Spain, Italy, U.S., Canada: many different nationalities were all sitting together singing.

Given the chaos taking place all over the world, whether it has to do with finances, regimes or famine, I found solace in the moment. Hopefully you can capture some of it with these two videos of the crowd singing “Imagine” and “Let it be” together. Don’t mind my sister and me singing along/laughing!

Familiar tunes in Deutschland

The first family member I visited in Germany was my cousin, the director of several choirs in his hometown. I went with him to two of the choir practices and was surprised to find them singing American songs. ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ was followed by ‘Uptown Girl’ and then ‘Since U Been Gone’.

I sat watching and singing quietly, tapping my foot along to the familiar tunes. The German accents added to the moment and the happiness that the individuals felt in singing was contagious.

“…there is music in the air, music all around us, the world is full of it and you simply take as much as you require.”

—  Sir Edward William Elgar

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The end of my 3 month trip took part in Germany with a visit to my family. Wrapping it all up there was fitting because Germany was the first foreign country I traveled to; first at age one and then in July 2009 for a month with my Omi.

Had I not gone on that trip two years ago, I can say for certain that I would not have been able to go to Ghana. In applying for the scholarship to report abroad, the committee sought out students who had experience abroad. I am so thankful for my family for many reasons, this being one of them.

Now that I’m back home I find it hard to believe that the three-month trip even happened. Was I really in Ghana last month? I keep seeing pictures of the Eiffel Tower in picture frames for sale and try to determine where the photographer stood to capture it.

Thankfully I will be continuing to travel this spring when I venture to Finland with one of my best friends. So excited for the opportunity!

But, back to Germany, here’s a glimpse into my week of rushing from one city to the next:

Cologne Cathedral: construction began in 1248 and lasted until 1880.

It is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe.

The Cathedral's two largest spires help you to orient yourself while in Cologne.

Fall in process.

The Seilbahn Burg (cable car) connects Schloss Burg in Solingen, Germany to the town below and offers great views.

The cable car.

Germany's largest bench--made from one tree and measuring almost 73 feet--is at Schloss Burg. I sat on it!

I love the flower boxes.

Steinhuder Meer, the largest lake in Northwestern Germany.

Sunrise at the Minden train station, on my way to see more family.

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Tag, you’re it!

I miss taking random videos of animals in Ghana. In this particular one, I was watching the chickens frolic outside my house and decided that others should enjoy it, too. Hope you do. In other news: I’m back home in the U.S. of A! That doesn’t mean this blog is coming to an end, though.

One big thing that traveling made me realize was how much of my own country I have yet to see. I’d meet people and tell them I’m from the States and they’d say, ‘Oh I’ve been to NYC, DC, Chicago, etc.’ and I’d shock them when I responded, ‘Oh really? I’ve never been.’ Granted, many people don’t realize the massive size of the country and the cost of travel. Regardless, I have some upcoming trips in mind to Chicago and Dallas and will be blogging about those.

Plus, I’ve got numerous anecdotes and pictures that I have not yet shared on here and will be doing so. For now, here’s the chicken video. Sorry for the wind.

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I cannot remember a time when I walked into a house and immediately looked up. Why stare at white space, possibly stuccoed? That is, before I visited Schloss Bückeburg in Germany.

The royalty of old wanted their guests to look up, down, and all around. Why waste space? Why not flaunt your money? I often found myself unsure where I should focus. And it’s not just this castle; many of the churches and castles in Europe have decked out the ceilings, windows, doors, and light fixtures.

After their political power was taken away in 1918, the family continued to live in the castle and currently Prince Alexander and his wife live there. They host parties twice a year, and if I had come a month or so later I could have enjoyed a Christmas festival! Oh well.

Instead I listened to a German tour (none in English) and did my best to understand. It helped that my uncle purchased a guidebook in English for me, although I waited until after to read it so I could pay attention to the sights.

The gateway entrance from the town.

Herbst (autumn) in Deutschland.

A corner of Schloss Bückeburg. There are 251 rooms in all.

The main entrance.

The courtyard.

As I gazed up at the ceilings adorned with elaborate frescos and moldings, I wondered ‘why?’ They’re gorgeous, but quite unneccessary. It’s not like you can look up for that long without your neck hurting, and I’m sure there were better ways to spend money. Nevertheless it serves as a source of tourism now for the town; I am an example of that!

The corners each have an image symbolizing the four seasons.

Not sure what season this is...fall?

Always best to impress the guests!

A light fixture in the Great Hall.

The chapel is very elaborate and also poorly lit, hence the coloring.

Light fixture in the men's smoking salon.

A lamp in the 'yellow room', where the women gathered after parties.

Chandelier in the yellow room.

Ceiling paintings in the 'Golden Hall'.

The most elaborate door I have ever seen.

No, not the princess; a photo shoot was taking place.

Slanted windows seen in the spiral staircase.

And, back outside into the real world.

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