Ah dear, I have been super remiss with blogging this semester. What can I say? Things have been hectic and spare moments have largely spent in the company of people I shall miss desperately after this year. So to make up for the time, (fair warning), this will be a massively long post.
Where to begin….
Best place to start, I think, is with Innovative Learning Week in February. I decided that, while the activities on offer by the Uni were interesting, my week would be spent in Istanbul with 3 of my lovely flatmates. The three of us had found a flat on AirBnB, settling us right next to Taksim Square- fortunately protest-free and calm while we were there!
It was an amazing trip, making my little history nerd heart collapse into a puddle of joy. We, of course went to all of the necessary stops: Aya (Hagia) Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Bazaar, the Basilica Cistern and the Suleymaniye Mosque. I shall refrain from bombarding you with too many photos, as I took almost 600 in 4 days.
My definite favourite moment of the trip was in the gardens of the Suleymaniye Mosque. We had just finished walking around the inside, and had walked out into the gardens, enjoying the view, when the call to prayer began. Standing in that garden, being surrounded by what sounded like the city singing and uniting as one, looking over the Golden Horn was a moment I’ll never forget.
I also made a stop into the Archeology Museum- well worth the stop for any history/archeology nerd as they have an exhibit on the history of Istanbul starting in the Stone Age. I would also be remiss in talking about Istanbul without mentioning the cats, which are everywhere and it’s a fantastic thing as long as you are a cat lover, which I am. If there had been a way for me to take one home, I would have in a heartbeat. Although there were a few things we were unable to do, such as a boat tour around the Golden Horn and Dolmabahce Palace,the rest of the trip was so magical I didn’t mind. Sadly, we were only there for a short time- enough for me to be planning my trip back!
This fantastic trip was followed by March, a month full of classes, papers and, of course, archery. I would be remiss to not mention SSS Indoors. Held in Aberdeen, a large group of us traveled up, and, if I may say so, did quite well. I placed third in novice recurve women, with first and second novice women also going to EUAC! For the full medal recap, check out the EUAC page: http://archery.eusu.ed.ac.uk/2014/02/26/edinburgh-university-dominate-scottish-student-archery/
Among all the excitement of the end of the semester, I was visited by two old friends from high school whom I haven’t seen in years, both also doing their study abroad around the UK, Farah at Cambridge and Mel at Birmingham. It was so lovely to see both of them, and to finally play tourist around Edinburgh! We of course went to the castle, climbed up Calton Hill, went whisky tasting, and just generally caught up on each others lives. It was so much fun being to show off the city through the eyes of not just a tourist, but as someone who has been lucky enough to get to call this place home for the past year.
With the end of the semester and spring break came another trip, although this one taken solo. Amsterdam and Berlin had been on my must-go list from this year, along with Istanbul, so I’m immensely pleased to have been able to check both off! Amsterdam was stop number one, and I even surprised myself at my ability to geek out over art. From the Rjiksmuseum, to the Van Gogh museum and the Hermitage, I immersed myself in every museum I could find. This, of course, also included the Anne Frank Huis, a sobering moment in a vibrant city (and good preparatory stop before Berlin), as well as the Amsterdam Museum, the Rembrandt House, the Royal Palace and the Oude Kerk.
As pictures are not allowed, I don’t have any of the red light district, but even for this liberal American, raised on the remnants of Puritan values, it was admittedly still a bit of a shock, albeit one that gave pause and a chance to reflect on why it was shocking. In other news, I apparently look Dutch, according to all the little old ladies who tried to speak to me in Dutch and looked sad when I explained that I was, in fact, German-American, because I apparently reminded them of their granddaughters. Overall, it was such a fantastic city to visit, and one I’d love to go back to, although, in all honesty, not alone. I know there’s still so much more to explore! Someday!
Next stop was Berlin, a city I fell in love with surprisingly quickly. Although Amsterdam was lovely, it didn’t appeal to my previously mentioned history nerd heart quite in the same way that Berlin did. In someways, Berlin is very much a living historical city, albeit one that is attempting to reconcile its past with its present and future, which, to be honest, just made me fall in love with it that much more. Plus, I’m potentially too fascinated by WWII and Cold War history, largely because it plays into my IR major’s focus (aka the creation of the modern nation state), which made Berlin ideal from an interest perspective, and then the city slowly won me over.
My 4 days in Berlin felt too short, with every moment filled with something, or so it felt. Whether it was a walking tour, complete with an open bottle of beer, or just walking down Unter den Linden, Berlin was charming. With a trip to Charlottenburg Palace, the Reichstag dome, the Pergamon Museum, walking about a third of the Berlin Wall (from Wall Memorial to the Topography of Terror and Checkpoint Charlie ), the Jewish Museum, the gorgeous views of the Berliner Dom, the amusing DDR museum, Potsdamerplatz and Alexanderplatz and everything in between, I was always moving.
Berlin is certainly a city I would move to in a heartbeat if given a job there. In addition, both the woman at the Reichstag who saw my German passport and others throughout Berlin reassured me that my German was good, which gave me hope for my upcoming German exam!
There has, of course, been a bit more archery, this time outdoors! Sadly, (but maybe fortunately for this slightly ridiculous blog post), there are no pictures, but I must brag nonetheless. SSS Outdoors, held at Edinburgh’s own Peffermill playing fields, was successful, and I managed to place first in my category, and also be part of the winning novice team! It was such a great way to finish off what was my last competition for Edinburgh (until grad school, if I have my way!).
With my travels over for the semester, I’ve been focusing on exams, the first of which was this past Wednesday. The countdown to having to leave is becoming more real, and planning for senior year (wait, what?) has commenced, with classes chosen, jobs arranged, and leadership positions secured. Things are slowly being shipped home in an attempt to avoid overweight bag charges, and my time is sadly wrapping up. But, although my departure is imminent (in my mind anyway… 24 days left!), each day is still full with potential and I look forward to what Edinburgh still has in store for these last days.
Best wishes to everyone in this time of exam stress! You can do it!