My Short and Sweet Vacation in Europe


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By Cindy Koller           e-mail:  ckoller@andrew.cmu.edu

Note:  In the last issue of the magazine, you would have observed a few typos and other errors. That is because Cindy Koller, our copyeditor, was vacationing in Europe with her daughter.  Here she shares with readers her travel experience and observations.

I went on a great adventure early June to Europe. My daughter Allison, a research specialist at the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Emergency Medicine, was presenting a paper in a symposium at the Skane University Hospital in beautiful Lund, Sweden. And she needed a traveling companion! We took advantage of this travel opportunity and sandwiched the conference between our visits to Copenhagen, Denmark and Paris, France.

Since we were working on a budget, Allison spent hours finalizing flights, hotels, and sightseeing. Fortuitously, WOW Air, an Icelandic budget airline, had begun trans-Atlantic flights from Baltimore to Europe just in time for us. The airline flies to several European and US destinations. Through their hub in Reykjavik, we reached Copenhagen.

Horned Helmets.

Horned Helmets.

Copenhagen, Denmark was our first ‘adventure.’  Our hotel, the Copenhagen Star, was centrally located, a short walk from the Copenhagen Central Station and Tivoli Gardens, the famous amusement park. Summer arrives in Copenhagen only in July.  So, the weather was cold, and somewhat rainy, but the people were warm and friendly.

Copenhagen is incredibly easy to see on foot and we used every minute to see all the sites. In travel across Europe, people speak of ‘ABC’s — another blasted church, another blasted castle — exactly what we were looking for.

While in Copenhagen we toured the incredible Rosenborg Castle, which houses the Danish Crown Jewels and Danish Crown Regalia; Amalienborg Palace, the winter home of the Danish Royal family; and Christiansborg Palace, the seat of the Danish Parliament; many churches and parks; the National Museum, home of the Huldremose bog woman, Danish horned helmets and the Dr. Seuss-like lur

Mermaid at Langelinje Pier.

Mermaid at Langelinje Pier.

horns. And of course, the statue of the Little Mermaid at Langelinje Pier, a popular tourist attraction.

Then, we took the train to cross the Oresund Bridge to reach the university town of Lund, Sweden.  While Allison was in the conference I explored the town on foot. In the heart of town is the Lund Cathedral (Lunds Domkyrkan), a magnificent Romanesque edifice, the oldest cathedral in Scandinavia.

It houses the Astronomical Clock, which puts on a ‘show’ every day at noon and 3 pm. Two knights atop the clock mark the hour by jousting. Then, below the clock face, trumpeters raise their horns and blow a medieval fanfare and the organ

The Astronomical Clock

The Astronomical Clock

plays “In Dulci Jubilo” as the Magi emerge, parading past the Blessed Virgin and Christ Child, pausing to stop and bow their heads as they present their gifts to him.

We were in Lund on June 6, the National Day of Sweden. Most shops and stores were closed or had abbreviated hours. We were given free admission to Kulturen, an open-air museum filled with historic buildings and gardens where one can experience life in the Swedish city and countryside from the Middle Ages to the 1930s.  There was a whole slate of activities to celebrate this holiday from concerts to speeches and the air was festive and fun.

Next stop: Paris, France!   After the calm, friendly and beautiful Scandinavia, we were thrust into the hustle and bustle of Paris. Alli-son had pined to visit “the City of Love” since her high school days. Our accommodations were in the heart of the Moulin Rouge, at the base of the Montmartre arrondissement. As in New York, to successfully navigate Paris one must learn to use the Metro, the local trains.

The Catacomb in Paris

The Catacomb in Paris

On Day 1, we thought we could accomplish all we desired to see and do on foot, and ended up walking for 14 miles in 11 hours!  But we can claim to have walked the length of the Champs Elysees and seen Paris almost end to end.

Although we saw many of the “touristy” things one does in Paris – l’Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, etc. – we did have two outstanding adventures.

The first was the tour of the Catacombs that run underneath the city, reportedly the largest ossuary, or depository of human bones in Europe, housing the remains of about 6 million people.  Simultaneously eerie and fascinating, we found the Catacombs one of the most interesting experiences we have ever shared.

We also had the good fortune to tour Sainte-Chappelle and experience the beauty and the brilliance of this medieval Gothic chapel. Sainte-Chappelle was built to house Louis IX’s collection of relics of Christ. The most famous features of the chapel are the fifteen 15-meter high stained glass windows depicting the biblical stories from Genesis to Revelation. With sunlight streaming through in the early afternoon, they are breathtakingly beautiful! For us, this was the highlight of the Parisian leg of our trip.

It was a whirlwind two weeks of beautiful sights and sounds. On a limited budget and with limited time we were able to see and do just enough to leave us hungry for more!

 

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