Mauerpark Flea Market

Out of all the places we were scheduled to visit on our trip, I was most excited for Berlin. As a history lover, I was excited and curious to see how the city dealt with its tumultuous past. After a week here, I was been impressed with just how well Berlin opened up about its history. The city has done a great job commemorating those who died in WWII and explaining how the Nationalist Socialist party came to power. I could go on and on about the historical sites of Berlin,but I don’t want to forget the amazing cultural aspects of Berlin either.

In preparation for this trip, I was given lots of advice on what to see and do in Europe by my family and friends. Despite being inundated with information, I make search to seek out advice from my personal travel god: Rick Steves. In middle school, I remember watching Rick Steves and dreaming of going to all the places he went to. Now, I am living that dream. The program may be over ,but my journey is just halfway over. I am fortunate enough to be able to stay in Europe and roam for another month. With so much to see wherever I go, I always make sure to watch what Rick Steves did where I am and sometimes I follow his footsteps. In his Berlin episode, Steves traveled to the Mauerpark Flea Market. He warned that at times it can be extremely crowded, chaotic, and tourist,but I liked what I saw from the film snippet and had to see it for myself.

And boy was it insane. There were hundreds of people lounging in the sunshine,drinking, and enjoying their Sunday afternoon. I had to be very careful not to step on anyone.


I loved the craziness. In addition to thousands of people were hundreds of booths selling items ranging from food to vintage clothes to dinner tables. If I could, I would just furnish my house with merchandise from this flea market. Everyone was so happy and friendly;I could have stayed there for hours. While wondering the crowds, I ran into a giant karaoke session. Rick Steves had mentioned it in his show,but I thought I missed since I arrived at the market near closing time. The karaoke drew in huge crowds and it was fun to hear people’s interpretations of famous songs. IMG_2547 —-Thats Justin singing!

I was about to leave when I suddenly heard a voice that sounded familiar.  I thought,”No, that couldn’t be Justin, how did he get selected out of the hundreds of people here to sing?”,but it was Justin! He had wiggled his way to the front and somehow got chosen to sing. He sang “Can’t take my Eyes off of You” by Frank Valli ,and the crowd adored him. I was freaking out about it and everyone around me kept saying “you know him? Make sure to tell him he is good!”. It was insane;I was so happy for Justin.

It was a great way to end the trip. I am so thankful for all the opportunities this trip gave us. We were able learn academically ,while growing as people simultaneously. Of course, there were the ups and downs,but what adventure is complete without them? I would do this trip over again in a heart beat;i cannot believe it’s over. I don’t think I will ever be able to thank everyone who helped set up this trip and supported my efforts to get here.

Pigeons in War

IMG_1841We are about a week into our program in Europe, and we have already seen so many incredible sites and artifacts relating to World War II. Honestly, it is kind of overwhelming. There is so much to take in and absorb. Simply stepping foot on the locations that we have been particularly focusing on this past semester is incredible. I could go on and on about how interesting it is to be in a city that was so critical to World War II and experienced so much hardship yet still persevered, but I am going to have to limit myself to just one occasion that I found exceptionally intriguing.

For me, this was Bletchley Park. I will admit that I had never heard of Bletchley Park until I saw the Imitation Game this past summer. The movie did a good job at conveying how difficult breaking the Enigma code was, but the exhibits at Bletchley really helped me grasp the full extent of the secretive and complicated actions that took place at Bletchley.

I really enjoyed the interactive features at the main visitors center. They simplified the code breaking process down so that even I could understand the complex nature of it. Even if I was given all the time and resources in the world, I know I could have never solve any of the codes used by the Axis powers in World War II. The fact that some Japanese codes were broken is so impressive to me, because Japanese is such a different language than English. The code breakers had to teach themselves Japanese on top of everything else they were already doing. I tried to listen to a Morse code message myself and I did not catch a single word – embarrassing…but maybe I would do better if I had more practice? Or that’s what I’d like to think ….haha.



Example of a message rolled up and concealed in a feather.

My favorite part about Bletchley was the pigeon exhibit. While this may seem trivial compared to the rich history at Beltchely, this small one room display struck me. I’ve never been a huge fans of pigeons-I don’t think many people are (besides Josie haha)-but after viewing this exhibit I have a newfound respect for pigeons and will never look at them the same. I had no idea that carrier pigeons were even used in World War II. I thought our military forces just relied on telegraphs, letters, or radios to communicate. It seemed logical to me that carrier pigeons would become completely obsolete in light of such technological advantage but boy, was I wrong. I saw all the techniques that people used to sneak messages across enemy lines. Sometimes people would pluck out a pigeon’s feather and then roll a message into the feather and then glue it back on the pigeon (see picture). Another method of transmitting information across vast areas of land would to be to strap mini backpacks onto the pigeons. I even discovered that there is a specific medal given to animals to honor their valiant service. It is called the Dickisns medal and is equilvelant to the Medal of Honor in America. One of the 32 pigeons to receive this medal for their service in World War II was William of Orange. He carried information that ended up saving at least 2000 lives. He flew 240 miles in just 4 hours, so that means he was going 60 mph! That’s insane! Many other pigeon stories were features,but William of Orange’s tale is what I remember most. My only qualm is that the exhibit did not go into great detail about how the birds were trained. I am definitely going to research how this process works once I get more reliable WIFI.

Carrier Pigeon message containers aka backpacks

Carrier Pigeon message containers aka backpacks

So far, I am having a great time on this adventure and I am excited for what is in store in the future.



These past days in Bayeux, France have been incredible. I have been able to experience life in a small, rural (ish) town with 18 of my good friends. I have been fortunate enough to have already seen some of the places we have visited during this program such as the American Cemetery at Normandy, Omaha Beach, and Mont St. Michael. It has been a few years, and I now have a much better understanding of the history and the significance of these sites.  The two most poignant sites for me were the British and American cemeteries. It was fascinating comparing how these two countries chose to honor their fallen soldiers.

The first cemetery we stopped at was the American Cemetery.  While wandering the museum, I ran into some great people.  I was decked out in my Ohio State gear and a couple came up to me and told be that they had attended OSU as well. It still shocks me that no matter where I go, even halfway around the world, I can find people that love OSU as much as I do.  Next I saw two men that looked like veterans. I was hesitant to go up to them and ask if they had served, because I know it is a sensitive issue for many vets, but I decided to risk it anyways. My risk paid off. The two men had fought on Sword beach and were meeting up again for the first time in 70 years! I was not able to talk to them long, they were in a rush, but I did get to thank them for their service and one of their wives offered to take a photo of me with them, so I will always have that keepsake.

Two Veterans that fought on Sword Beach meeting up again for the first time in 70 years

Two Veterans that fought on Sword Beach meeting up again for the first time in 70 years

There were some striking differences between the British and American cemeteries. The features that stood out the most for me were the headstones. In the American cemetery, all the headstones were white crosses, except for a few that had the Star of David on them instead. All the headstones in the British cemetery were practically the same shape. Some headstones were slightly different if the person buried was a German or Polish soldier or held a position that wasn’t in the British military. However, each headstone was individualized in the British cemetery. Every British soldier had their name, age, the symbol of the branch/regiment they served in, and a quote. Every grave in the American cemetery had the person’s name, rank, division, the state they were from, and the date that they died. Every grave looked practically the same in the American cemetery. It made it harder for me to realize that these were all individuals that lived extremely varied lives. I felt more removed from the fallen; I could distance myself from them. Quite the opposite happened to me in the British cemetery. I really could get the sense that each of these soldiers had their own unique lives and stories in the British cemetery, because every headstone was different.  The quotes from some of the parents on the tombs made me tear up.


A Headstone from the British Cemetery

A Headstone from the British Cemetery

Headstone from the American Cemetery - A former Buckeye

Headstone from the American Cemetery – A former Buckeye

The American cemetery was a much more sterile place where the individual soldier was not highlighted. I’m not saying that America’s cemetery was not a humbling place, because it most definitely was, but the British cemetery created a much different atmosphere that I liked more. The British cemetery focused more on each soldier’s life rather than just their death. I feel like people could celebrate their lost loved one’s life –laugh, smile, and share stories about the past-while any sort of laughing would be frowned upon at the American cemetery. After comparing both these sites, I am now very interested in how and why the cemeteries were designed the way they were. I have also become more fascinated in how memorials are created and how people decide to commemorate the hurt, the sick, the brave, the dead, etc.

J’adore Paris.

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First, I’d like to start off with an apology: I know my title is incredibly cliché . I can’t help it though! J’adore Paris!-I don’t know how to say how I feel about Paris in any simpler words. I tried for a bit to think of something more witty or powerful but this overused and often printed phrase on touristy t-shirts perfectly sums up my feelings. There is just something about Paris that always makes me want to come back. I cannot exactly pinpoint what it is exactly that draws me to this city. Is it atmosphere? the culture? the food??!! (ok, the food is most definitely a part of it-i’m convinced my body is running solely on nutella and baguettes right now)

**Warning- A bombardment of food pictures are about to appear. Stop reading if you are extremely hungry!


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I don’t think I’ll never know exactly what is that pulls me to Paris (maybe after 40 more trips to Paris I will finally know why…..*hint hint* Who wants to fund me to continue my “research” on this matter?? haha)  Jokes aside though, Paris just has a certain energy to me. I love strolling the winding streets and discovering something new everyday. Everything just seems more relaxed. The meals last hours. You actually sit down and really enjoy your meal and the people you are sharing it with. People really cherish the city.Whether it be having a picnic on the Seine to lounging in one of the many parks, Parisians make time to spend time in their city. I’ll try to clarify myself. I firmly believe you can live in a city without really living in it. I’ll use an example anyone who goes or went to OSU can understand. I can live in Columbus,but if I never venture past campus, can i really say I live in Columbus? There would be so many things I’d be missing out on that are crucial to Columbus’ identity such as the Short North, German Village, the Crew Stadium, North Market, and many other sites. I really would have no feel for the city. The thing I love about Paris is that it is built in a way that makes it easy to feel like you are a part of the city.

1. Practically everywhere is walkable or bike able

2. All the beautiful parks,architecture, statues,monuments,etc just make you want to be outside and really in the heart of the city.

3. The culture of Paris and the slower pace of life really allows one to soak in their surroundings rather than ignoring them like we do in our fast paced,American way of life.

I love that whenever I travel to Paris I don’t just feel like I’m visiting Paris, I feel like I’m living Paris. I’m actually a part of it and to me that is the one of the most essential and best aspects of traveling:Removing yourself from your comfort zone and immersing yourself in new cultures and lifestyles.