London.

Last weekend we ventured across the Channel to visit our fellow intern Molly in London. London bursts with national pride, with grandeur and eloquence and all things proper. In keeping with the nature of our weekend trips we walked miles, visiting the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, The Globe and St. Peter’s. We were awed by the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, and stunned by the majesty of Westminster and Big Ben.

Perhaps our most incredible experience was attending service at Westminster Abby. We thought we had missed it as I, a lover of my sleep, refused to get up at 6am to leave (silly me as I would later find out).  After we finally left our hotel we decided to venture back to Westminster Abby, just to see the outside. By a stroke of luck, we were able to attend a later service. It was perfect.

No photos allowed, for an hour and a half we merely sat and looked. Words cannot describe the beauty of Westminster Abby. Every inch of the walls is adorned in marble tributes to the deceased greats of England. Larger-than-life statues tower over worshippers, busts of England’s famed turn inward toward the congregation, and plaques pay homage to those gone before. The stained glass windows give beautiful honor to the saints, and the caverns of the Abby seemed like open arms. I felt that surely there could only be room for love and thanks in a place such as this.

Molly, Sara, and myself have been raised in different faiths and none of us are members of the Church of England. I think that many of the churchgoers who visit the Abby are not Church of England practitioners. I imagine that many, like us, came to the service with the intent to see the inside of the magnificent church. However, I believe that no matter one’s faith, it would be impossible to sit there without feeling the history catalogued across the walls, without imagining the weddings and burials of England’s royalty, without feeling the power bestowed inside. It would be impossible to sit through that service, in that astonishing building, and not feel incredibly blessed.

As I sat there, I could not help but note the peace. All of those people, come to see Westminster Abby, awed into silence and prayer. I found myself wishing that the world could model this behavior more often. I wish that a mutual love of beautiful things and an appreciation for history could bring people together, regardless of religion. I wish that faith, not necessarily the same faith, but respect for each other’s faith in something bigger than ourselves, could bring us together. And I think if a few hundred people from all over the world, from all different types of beliefs, can sit together peacefully for an hour and a half… it must be possible. 

Westminster Abby London, England June 23. 2013

Westminster Abby

London, England

June 23. 2013

I Amsterdam.

     Amsterdam is best described as beautiful chaos. Completely overwhelming to the senses, the streets teem with residents, tourists, hundreds of rusty bicycles, trams that stop for no one, and a steady stream of motorized traffic. Amsterdam is of course internationally infamous for allowing its inhabitants and visitors access to industries legally forbidden much elsewhere. In these aspects we found the chaos, but as we roamed the maze of winding canals and handsome buildings, we discovered the beauty of the city.

     We spent the weekend trekking through the streets, stopping to view sights such as the Anne Frank House and the Rijksmuseum. Sometimes we just stopped to admire the scenery. It is a truly impressive city. It seems to me that today’s modern architecture leaves out the details, and creativity is lost to efficiency and frugality. But in Amsterdam no street is the same. Each building looks like a story. Different shapes, colors, windows, trims, and foliage all distinguish each residence or shop. Add cobblestone streets alongside picturesque bridges that span swan inhabited waterways, and we could not help but be charmed by Amsterdam.

     Not only were we enthralled by Amsterdam; the tales of fellow travelers made great impressions upon us. As we traveled by train we met many interesting characters, each more than willing to share their view of European politics. We asked about the economic crisis, the continuation of the Euro, and if Turkey will become a Member State. Sara posed the most poignant question, as she asked each traveler if they believed in the European Union.

     As United States students, we often hear from American politicians and professors that the EU institutions are doomed. Well, we have yet to find a European politician who does not believe in the system (obviously), but more importantly we have yet to find a EU resident who does not believe. And herein lies one of the most important lessons we have learned while here. Ask the people. Every day we become more cognizant that the media will tell us what they want us to hear, and many politicians will tell us what they think we want to hear. But we can testify that the truth, the ideas, and the solutions can be found by asking the everyday people. 

Amsterdam, The Netherlands.   June 8, 2013

Amsterdam, The Netherlands.  

June 8, 2013

Expo 58, the Atomium

Today we ventured far outside the main streets of Bruxelles to visit the infamous Atomium. We learned the Atomium was the primary Brussels icon of the 1958 World Fair. It was intended to symbolize, "the democratic will to maintain peace among all nations, faith in progress, both technical and scientific and, finally, an optimistic vision of the future of a modern super-technological world for a better life for mankind." -http://atomium.be/history.aspx

The structure symbolizes what we are experiencing through our various internships, the desire of European nations to maintain collaborative peace and progress. The Atomium is bizarre as it is intriguing, an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times its true size. A representation of such an elementary substance, it is a truly remarkable and futuristic looking icon. The Atomium was not intended to remain an attraction beyond the 1958 World Fair but it has remained, much like the "faith in progress," that Ian, Sara and I experience every day.

 

June 1, 2013 Brussels, Belgium

June 1, 2013

Brussels, Belgium

Anchors Away in Brugge

Last friday we had so much fun, we went to Brugge and took a boat ride through the canals! I love this city so much and it was so much fun to be there with some awesome friends and family! Also me and Kendahl recommend wearing rain boots and rain coats. 

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Bruges

This weekend we visited Brugge "The Venice of the North,"  which is less that two hours from Brussels by train. Here we found towering cathedrals, horse drawn-buggys, a hospital used during the black plague and of course the infamous bridges and canals. We fell in love with the ancient architecture, many of the buildings and bridges were constructed as early as 1500.

De Grote Markt

For our first weekend together in Brussels we visited De Grote Markt, "Grand Place." We enjoyed searching the maze of streets around the square for the best Belgian waffle.

 Grand Place, Brussels, Belgium

May 19, 2013