Berlin, the Birkebeinerrennet, and the FIS World Cup.

It has been a while since my last post but I can assure you I have been doing great things in the mean time.  I have finally begun travelling around Europe as I made my way to Berlin.  I have also been doing some exploring here in Norway as my study abroad trip comes to its halfway point.

My trip to Berlin was an absolute success.  In the three days we were there we tried our best to do as much as we could and even so, felt like we did not have nearly enough time to completely explore the city.  After a short one and a half hour flight we arrived in Berlin before noon on Wednesday.  From there it was easy to ride the train to Alexanderplaatz where our hostel was located.  It was my first time staying in a hostel and I was surprised to see how modern and nice this hostel was.  The check-in had a bar and our room had nice bunk beds and a clean feel to it.  Everyone in the hostel was around our age so we felt very comfortable staying there.

One of the things about Berlin that was tough for me to handle at first was the fact that there was no absolute city center.  In Oslo, there is one city center called Sentrum and all the metro lines lead to it.  However, in Berlin there was no single city center as the city sprawled out for miles.  Our hostel was located at one of the centers, Alexanderplatz.  This is where the famous T.V. Tower is located.  That first day we explored our surrounding area, taking pictures, and getting lost in Berlin eventually finding checkpoint charlie, the famous pass between East Germany and West Germany during the Cold War.  We also visited yet another chocolate factory, Ritter Sport.  There we had a lot of delicious chocolate and again it was almost too much.

By far my favorite part about Berlin was feeling like wherever I walked I was walking through history.  From World War I to present, Berlin has been a part of so many important historical events that walking through the streets gave a feeling of experiencing history.  This became evident during the second day as we toured around the entire city seeing the Olympic Stadium, the Parliament building, some old churches, and visiting the museum for the cold war.  It was amazing to see how much history could be found in one city.  That night we had dinner at a small restaurant in near our hostel that served some delicious Shnitzel and beer.  I was beginning to really love this city.

The final day was spent mostly on a tour of “Nazi Germany.”  Our tour guide brought us around the entire city pointing out all the important locations that took part in the Nazi takeover of Berlin and Germany.  The tour was fantastic because it gave me a lot of historical context for the city.  This made it even more interesting when walking  around as I could begin to relate how much occurred here.  There were countless landmarks that it was almost overwhelming to see how much Berlin has changed in 60-70 years.

At the end of the day it became apparent that we had not enough time in Berlin.  I had hardly any expectations for the city but as I boarded the plane back to Oslo I felt a little sad as I know we could have spent at least another whole week in Berlin without losing ideas of things to do.  When I was first coming to Europe I had a list of cities I wanted to see, the generic ones like Paris, London, and Rome.  I had never thought to put Berlin on that list but after a trip like that I highly recommend that city to anyone wishing to study abroad.

After another week of schooling I was invited to attend the Birkebeinerrennet in Lillehammer, Norway.  Lillehammer was the place of the 1994 Winter Olympics and therefore had an amount of Norwegian culture to share.  Some of my relatives here in Norway were participating in the famous cross country race and had asked if I wished to see it.  I was excited at the opportunity because my family in Minnesota has attended the American birkebeiner in Wisconsin.  After purchasing my ticket at the Oslo central station it was only 2 hours by train to the beautiful city in the “mountains.”  Now living in Bozeman we are a little spoiled when it comes to mountains right outside the city so that when I came to Lillehammer having been told about the mountains there I was slightly disappointed as they were only hills compared to the Bridgers.  However, the city itself was beautiful.  It was the first city that I had been in Europe that reminded me of Bozeman as it was a small yet busy town.  It had one main street that was very similar to the one in Bozeman as well as plenty of things to do outdoors in the surrounding area.

Just outside the city we arrived at the finish line of the famous race.   There were countless people skiing and the participants ranged from 16 years old to 94 years old!  All in all there were 17,000 participants in this years race.  This made me really appreciate how much cross country skiing is a part of the Norwegian culture.  After a little wait we got to see my relative cross the finish line.  He seemed happy to have finished but extremely tired as the race took him about six hours to complete!  It was only a day in Lillehammer and again I wish I could have stayed longer but being able to see first hand the amount of importance that cross country skiing has in Norwegian culture made it all worth it.

The Norwegian culture weekend was not over as the next day myself and friends were attending the FIS World Cup right here in Oslo.  It is the world championship for ski jumping that is held at the Holmenkollen ski jump.  There is also a professional cross country ski race that is held right next to it.  This event is very popular here in Oslo as when we arrived we saw many people dressed up in the colors of their home countries and carrying flags from Norway and all around the world.  There were representatives jumping from all around the world including the United States!  It was awesome to see the amount of support everyone had for their home countries in a sport that I had never imagined would be so popular.  In the end an American won the Women’s Ski Jumping and a Polish man won the Men’s jumping.  It was a great day to be an American in Oslo.

In the coming weeks I have Easter break which is the equivalent of spring break in the US.   I will have two weeks off of school in which I will be going to the island of Svalbard in the Arctic circle in Norway with my relatives.  I will also be going to Alghero, Sardinia in Italy in about 3 weeks.  Finally, it will be my 21st birthday in about two weeks.  I will be trying my best to try and make it as incredible as it would be in Bozeman.  Thanks for reading the post if you did and as always I will try and make it more frequent. Skol!

Too long, Did not read: Went to Berlin, loved it.  Went to a popular cross country ski race in Lillehammer, loved it.  Went to the ski jumping world championship in Oslo, loved it.  Going to Svalbard soon and going to Italy soon.  Birthday is also close.  Whew!

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