Saturday, May 12, 2012

May 11-12

May 11:
 After our first night in our home stays of Boizenberg, we traveled to Lubeck for another day of sightseeing. Lubeck, like many cities of Germany, has new and old parts of town. People spent the day walking and seeing the sights of Lubeck, which include many churches, shops of all kinds, and Marzipan. Marzipan is famous to Lubeck and finding a store that sells it was recommended by some of the host families. It is a candy that oftentimes comes filled inside chocolate and has a very different texture than most other fillings. Some like it, others don't.

 We drove back to Boizenberg to prepare for our concert that night. We were all excited because we had been able to get to know the people that would be in the audience. They were also excited, and their enthusiasm made the concert amazing! We sang our set list and even did an encore. It felt so awesome to see people we had met just the day before so thankful and appreciative of the music we were sharing. After the concert we had a potluck style dinner with the families. Because it was a potluck, we had authentic dishes from the people we were staying with. When we were all filled with delicious food, we headed back home to spending another night getting to know our host families more. Sme students went out on the town and others were tired from the day and went to bed. As the other home stays, everyone had different experiences, so it was interesting to hear about them all.

 May 12:
 The morning was an early, but beautiful one! Boizenberg is one of the smaller towns we have visited on this tour, so the scenery is very different than what we have seen so far. Driving to and from home stays we were able to see the expanse of farmland and fields of Rape. Rape is a bright yellow plant that is used to make oil. It only blooms for a short time, so we were lucky to see it in its prime! "They are like sunshine," one host mom said. She was right too! When we first drove by them on the way to Boizenberg, every one was surprised and had out their cameras to capture these amazing plants.

Back to our morning departure... We loaded the bus, and Pastor Dino from the church gave us a blessing for the rest of our tour. Then, as we left, the line of host families stood waving to us as we pulled away from the church. We were all so touched by this and knew that this town and experience would be hard to top. The people and town were so welcoming, it will be a highlight for many! Our bus drive took us to Berlin. There we stopped at Checkpoint Charlie- the checkpoint where citizens in Germany would cross the border between east and west Germany. A part of it was a great museum that gave a lot of information about that time in Germany's history! We boarded the bus again and drove to Leipzig, Germany. We will stay here for two nights and perform at the St. Nicholai Kirche- the church Bach was a part of. It will be an early morning tomorrow for the church service, but getting to perform in such an amazing church will be a fantastic experience!

Fun in Lübeck!


Berlin Wall

Rape fields on the way to Boizenberg.

Boizenberg church and banner for us.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

May 9 & 10

On May 9, we spent the day in Copenhagen, which was neat for me since that's where part of my family comes from. As a group, we went on a canal tour of the city. It was wonderful to be able to look at the architecture and history from the water; it turned out to be a great overview of the city. In the afternoon, many of us walked around Copenhagen, went shopping, and ate delicious food. Later in the day, Tiffany, Caroline, Emily, Emma, and I went on a long walk to see the little mermaid statue. It rained sporadically during our walk, but it made for a great adventure with a swan family, handmade ice cream, a shank of lamb, a palace, and great conversation. Many of us hung out in the hostel this night, and Chris wound up having a great time performing with a band in a club down the street.

We travelled to Boizenburg, Germany on May 10. Much of our time on the bus was spent sleeping, played games, talking to friends, journaling, and writing a small comparison paper for class. Last year on the Wartburg Choir tour, we also went to Boizenburg. Walking into the church brought back many fond memories for me; I couldn’t help but smile. Unfortunately, I could not get set back up to live with the same host family I lived with last year, but it wound up working out alright. I got to see my old host mother when we were dropped off at the church today, and she was so excited to see me. She held my face in her hands and beamed with happiness and disbelief. This stay, she is housing three castle singer boys at her house, so I am interested to hear how their stay went. Many of the people in Boizenburg do not speak much English, partly because it was part of the former East Germany. During supper with our host mother, it was clear that we were going to struggle in the communication department, so we used Google Translate and Facebook to discover the basics about each others lives and families.
Life is good so far on the trip. We are trying many new types of food, learning about different cultures, people are really enjoying the concerts, the homestays are amazing, and we are having a blast. It all kind of feels like a dream; there is no doubt that this is a trip of a lifetime. I cannot believe we only have two weeks left! --Haley Flores

Monday, May 7, 2012

May 4-7

It's been a few days, but here's what we've been up to!

May 4:
After having a night to ourselves, we woke for another day filled with activities.  We had breakfast at the hostel and then made our way back to Tallinn.  There we were able to spend more time walking the streets of the old town and doing the souvenir shopping.  There were lots of cafes and restaurants to eat at; they all offered different atmospheres of what the city had to offer.  After lunch, we met up with the whole group to tour the Kadriorg Palace, which is an art museum and palace.  It was filled with paintings, art, and architecture that reflected a lot of the Russian influence that Estonia has.  While the tour was interesting, by its end we were all ready to head to the dock of the overnight ferry to Stockholm.  We were excited to spend a night all together on the ferry boat having fun and bonding!

The ferry wasn't much of a ferry that most people think of.  It was more of a small cruise ship with live entertainment, dance lessons, and bingo.  We all had dinner together in the dining room and then were free to roam the ship and discover what it had to offer.  We found latin dance lessons, lounges to relax and chat in, bingo, and even a disco!  One of the highlights of the time on the boat was the disco.  Much of the choir met there and danced and laughed the night away.

May 5: 
We disembarked around 10am and went straight to the Vasa Museum in Stockholm.  The Vasa Museum is a museum of the Swedish war ship that had a somewhat similar story to that of the Titanic.  The Vasa ship was one of four new warships Sweden wanted to make in order to increase the strength of their Navy.  It was the biggest and grandest of any of the Swedish ships that had been made.  However, its first voyage turned out to be its last.  Due to the large size and high center of gravity, gusty winds overtook the Vasa only 20 minutes after leaving the harbor.  While it is was extremely unfortunate at the time, if the Vasa had not sunk, we would not know as much about Sweden and that wartime as we do today.  After the Vasa Museum, the choir was allowed to separate and go their separate ways in the great town of Stockholm.  While many people did many things- shopping, boat tours, eating- a main point was the walking.  Walking, walking, walking.  No matter, the day was enjoyed by all and finished with more bonding in the evening at the hotel.

May 6:
The 6th brought a fairly calm, traveling day and our first homestay.  We started at 7am with breakfast and proceeded to drive around 6 hours to the city of Halmstad, Sweden.  On the way we stopped at a picturesque town named Gränna for lunch.  It really looked like a town out of an old movie.  When we reached Halmstad, we set up our concert equipment, rehearsed, then performed.  After our performance we were introduced to our first homestays!  We were all anxious for the experience of living in a home with a family from the congregation for a night.  The boys and two girls all got to stay at the Parsonage next to the church, and the rest of the girls went in singles and pairs to homes throughout the city.  This experience is incredible!  It was so amazing to see how Swedish people and their culture are similar and different to our own in the U.S.  Homes and cars are generally smaller, the food includes different vegetables, and the toilets all flush very differently.  All the homes brought different stories and experiences, but not one came back with a negative report.

May 7:
After having breakfast and saying goodbye to our homestay families, we drove across town to Hallandsgården, an open-air museum with houses that represent what Sweden was like in the 16-17th centuries.  It was neat to see how simple families and villages lived.  The houses were very small and usually held 5-8 people and the village usually used one windmill to grind the flour to make bread and feed the animals.  Also a part of the tour was the school house where the children went to school.  It was one classroom for all ages in one half of the building and an apartment for the teacher, his wife and five children in the other.  When the tour was finished we walked to downtown Halmstad and had lunch and the afternoon on our own to sightsee as we pleased.  There was a town square with a market and shops, great restaurants and cafes, a river with a boardwalk, a new public library, and if you walked far enough, a beach complete with a lighthouse and seashells.  When our afternoon was over, we drove just over an our to Helsingborg, Sweden to meet our second host family.  Tomorrow we will have a concert in another beautiful church and get to have dinner there afterwards.  Thanks for keeping posted!!

inside the Kadriorg Palace

outside the Kadriorg Palace

the Vasa ship in the museum


school house at Hallandsgården


Thursday, May 3, 2012

May 3: Audru, Estonia

As there have been, and will continue to be, today we had a "first." We had our first concert in the quaint town of Audru, Estonia. This morning we loaded the bus and drove just under 2 hours through the tree-filled, tranquil landscape. We were greeted with warm smiles and an exciting schedule that had been planned for the day. The 15-20 eleventh grade students at the school had planned three different "workshops" for the Castle Singes to participate in- dance lessons, a lesson about Estonia, and also making a craft. In the dance lesson, we were taught two different folk dances of Estonia. They were simple, yet tricky enough that we all shared a lot of laughs trying to figure them out. The students that were teaching us were upbeat and willing to take th time needed to help us figure out our questions. Four if the students also showed us the Estonian national dance. It was so great to see these high school age kids so in touch with their country and willing to share it with the Castle Singers. The lesson over Estonia was much like a lesson one would have in a normal class. There was a prepared slide-show, and one student presented many facts and interesting information about Estonia. We learned that Estonia has between four and five-hundred thousand inhabitants. 70% of its inhabitants are Estonian and the others are mainly Russian other Europeans and Northern Africans. It's capital is Tallinn(where we traveled yesterday and will again tomorrow.) Also, we learned that Estonia is very important in the technology business. Those parents that have been communicating with their children via Skype? Estonians are to thank for that service. The making of a bracelet was our final workshop for the day. It was tricky to figure out, but we all had fun making(or trying to make) them. Some of our students were even helping the Estonian students figure it out. It is nice to have something small, but meaningful to bring home. Along with these three stops, everyone got a tour of the school. The school houses grades 1-12 currently but next year will only go to the ninth grade due to education reforms that have occurred in the country. A push for more basic education is the reason behind this. There were three main levls to the school; the first floor was for the oldest kids, the second was for 5th-9th grade, and the third was for the elementary age kids. The school was quite old, but had many of the "normalities" one would find in a school- a gumnasium, a track and soccer field, computer lab, art rooms, and cafeteria. After we were finished with the tour and workshops, we had lunch in the cafeteria. It was served "family style" with the food in large bowls and plates to be passed around. We all agreed that the food they were serving was more than a normal school lunch we were used to. Golden potatoes and gravy with meat, cucumber, red pepper, and cabbage salad with dressing, rolls, and yogurt that you drank out of a glass. All delicious! In the evening we had our concert at a small church nearby the school. It was great to perform for some of the local people and the high schoolers that had showed us around earlier in the day. We sang a variety of songs ranging from our ballad to the Jazz Mass we had commissioned to Route 66. What was amazing to see was the reaction of the audience. I'm not sure how many of them even spoke English, but they moved and grooved to the music regardless! The main thing that stood out during the performance was the temperature! The church was quite old and seemed to hoard the cold air. Their was a significant drop in temperature right when you walked through the door. During our whole set list our breath could be seen occasionally and some hands were held to keep warm. Luckily this didn't ruining any of the excitement and fun of performing in such a friendly and welcoming town. We got back to our hostel around 8-8:30pm and then had the evening free. People went their separate ways, but from what I can't tell now just before going to bed, everyone had and enjoyable night spent walking the streets or just staying in and bonding more with friends. A great quote from today: Q: "So we're you cold during the performance?" A: "Nah... The spirit of jazz kept me warm."

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

May 1-2: flights and arrival

First group picture just before leaving Wartburg.

We are on solid ground in our first "final" destination! After lots of driving, waiting, and flying, we made it. Luckily the bus to the hotel has Internet so you all can be updated in as "real time" as possible. One slight flight delay from Stockholm to Tallinn slowed us down a little bit, but we are back on track. It is currently 3pm here in Tallinn, and this afternoon we will be going on a walking tour of Old Town Tallinn. Then,, we will return to our hotel for dinner and to try out the sound equipment we will be renting for the month. Also, I think we are all ready for a shower and bed. Lots of new culture to take in. Can't wait!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

11 days.  That is what stands between 33 anxious college students and a trip of their lifetime.  For the Castle Singers Jazz Choir from Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, the month of May will be spent traveling six countries of Europe, singing at various churches and schools, and experiencing adventures that will be anything but forgettable.  The students will spend this coming week before their departure at home packing and readying themselves for what is coming.  Classes have just finished for the semester, so all the stress and angst about tests and projects has dissipated and made way for that expectant feeling.  It has them waiting for the excitement that sits just out of arms reach.

This blog will be filled by various choir members throughout the trip.  They will give a variety of perspectives and experiences that will share this incredible opportunity with all who want to be a part of it!  Enjoy!