Travels and technology

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Accessing technology is a very simple function in our daily lives. However, when traveling to other countries, it can be a challenge. Sometimes it even seems that gaining access to the internet can be as challenging as the Laocoon trying to escape the grasp of the serpent. Patience, and the mind set of accepting the disconnect from the high-speed world of the internet, is important when traveling abroad and can be calming. Yet, as soon as a connection is established, we flock to the world of information technology like animals feeding on their only meal of the day.

While posting images and activities on a travel blog keeps family members updated on the progress of a trip, we are at the mercy of the internet connection provided by hotels on our travels. With this said, this blog has be quiet for most of our group travels because of our limitations on internet connection. Therefore, our group’s progress will be posted after the fact but with a sense of reality as if it happened that day. Stay tuned!!

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London Calling

Our group made it safely to London, a diverse city in culture but solid in history and a landscape as diverse as it residents. A history deep in tradition, London’s cultural and architectural landscape has changed over the years to accommodate growth and globalization. A city of diverse people that collaborate to make it a great city.


Our group found it comforting to start in a country that spoke the same language (although with an accent). The red double decker buses, the red phone booths and the red mail boxes provide color to formal tradition that is evident everywhere. Stepping outside the city to explore Greenwich and partake in afternoon tea was a nice break from the hectic life of a bustling city.

On to Paris, another great city!

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On the road again

In its fifth year, IDMU Abroad will be visiting the cities of London, Paris, Rome, Florence, Barcelona and Amsterdam for this year’s travel study.

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Amsterdam…..bikes, canals and red lights….oh my!

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A bit exhausted from our learning adventure, the group arrived in Amsterdam ready to relax a little before the long flight home but the learning was not quite done yet. We started our stay in Amsterdam with a wonderful welcome dinner at Lempicka cafe located around the corner from our hotel, The Bridge Hotel. The hotel was a collection of Dutch buildings connected together to form a wonderful maze of rooms located on the canal next to the famous “Skinny Bridge” and next to the famous Carre (King’s) Theatre….the location was perfect.

Afer an in-depth and extensive tour of Amsterdam, which covered areas of the city that have recently been developed, it is apparent that Amsterdam is growing. New developments to the North attracts young families with contemporary architecture and affordable housing. The city is building new public transportation systems to help commuters navigate the water that separates the new Northern part of the city from central Amsterdam. The new developments are a sharp contrast from central Amsterdam and traditional Dutch architecture. Amsterdam has made its mark in the contemporary architecture and design field with innovative and eco-friendly building designs that stand alone, yet compliment, the city’s traditions.

In keeping with the sustainability theme of our trip, our group visited the Forbo manufacturing plant in Krommenie. Forbo manufactures Linoleum flooring, the ingredients are flax seed, wood pulp, resin and natural pigments. The tour took us through the various processes that creates Forbo’s marmoleum sheet products….one that is very popular in eco-friendly design. There is a natural process that happens in the curing of the resin which becomes the binding agent for the pigment and sheet product. All materials used to produce the end product are grown and harvested with the lowest impact possible and based on the Cradle-to-Cradle rating system. Forbo has received Gold level Cradle-to-Cradle certification for their product and process.

The last day in Amsterdam was left open for the group to explore this vibrant city. The bikes speed by pedestrians yet work in harmony with the vehicles. The trams add a distinctive sound and transportation for the walking weary. The canals add tranquil areas to escape the hustle of the city. The alternative culture of the red light district adds novelty and every curious visitor seems drawn to this area just to view what has been a long tradition. The museums expose the Dutch Masters of the art world in a subtle and simplitic way. Amsterdam has something for everyone.

After 17 days, 5 cities, planes, trains and a ferry ride, it was time to head back the U.S. The group was both exhausted and exhilirated by the experiences encountered in this amazing short-term travel study program. It will take a while to decompress and reflect on all the wonderful experiences encountered in the wonderful cities visited on this tour.

Though HI:Europa 2012 has come to an end….we look forward to HI:Europa 2013 and new experiences next year!

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Berlin…physically connected yet psychologically separated.

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After a short flight from Copenhagen, we arrived late in the evening in Berlin. Driving through Berlin at night is a dissorienting feeling…not knowing what lies ahead at daybreak in a city rich with historical events brings anticipation.

In the morning, we were greeted by Margrite, our city guide, who proceeded with Peter, our driver, to weave through the streets of Berlin and the city’s history. Immediately, the emmense size of the city unfolded as we moved from one “neighborhood” to another viewing the contrasts between the sections of Berlin. Seeing the areas of the city that were once divided by a wall and now exposed, revealed the invisible barrier that still exists. Seeing the physical growth that has occurred after the various conflicts in Berlin, is one of amazement and encouragement.

Most Berliners are proud of their city and the contributions the city has made to history and culture. Some Berliners have trouble forgetting and are psychologically separated from the new topograpy and culture of the city. As a whole, the city is rich in exposing all aspects of its historical events and the ability to overcome conflicts that has lead to their current world status as a strong nation.

From an architectural history perspective, the city’s neo-classical style is everywhere and strategically placed throughout the city. Modern architecture dots the landscape with impressive design and engineering. From a sustainable perspective, the government building exposes Germany’s efforts in alternative energy and technology. Though the city is gritty and dirty (hello….it is an old city), the recycling efforts are subtle, yet effective in its placement, throughout the city in an effort to control waste in this city of 3.5 million people.

Berlin is truly an amazing city and one worth a “bucket list” item.

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Copenhagen….a bike culture

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We headed to Copehagen by train winding through the beautiful Swedish countryside that allowed us time for some relaxation.  We arrived in Copenhagen on a rainy afternoon.  After searching the train station for our transfer, we arrived at Hotel Christian IV….a wonderful family run hotel in the center of Copehagen.  The staff was welcoming and the hotel was full of charm typical of a small European hotel….a pleasant surprise for all of us.

The group ventured out to explore our surroundings before dinner and it became evident that Copenhagen is a bike culture that puts Portland to shame.  There is more bike traffic on the strees than cars and they are vicious….don’t get in their way.  The Danish people are friendly and very helpful and Copenhagen is a beautiful city on the water.

We had a wonderful prestation by the Green Team at Copenhagen University that addressed their efforts in achieving their 2025 goal of having 50% alternative energy, biomass and wind.  The Green Team is responsible for campaigns in getting the buy in from administration and students in thier efforts towards achieving their goals.  It was a very informative and eye opening session for our group.  The presentation created awarenss in all members of group as to what we can achieve with our individual efforts.

For an eco-friendly city, Copenhagen does not recycle….a question we are all asking ourselves.  We did find out that they do recycle using a different process than we do in the state.

We enjoyed our time in this beautiful city and are heading to Berlin.

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Stockholm and The Natural Step…a natural match.

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We arrived in Stockholm after a wonderful ferry ride from Helsinki.  Weaving through Sweden’s archipalego was a beautiful site early in the morning revealing their appreciation and connection to nature.

Our city tour guide gave the group an introduction to Sweden’s rich history and city sites upon our arrival.  A presentation at our hotel by the Scandic sustainability officer provided information to the group about their companies efforts and process in limiting their impact within a consumer business.  Inger and Kristen from Scandic discussed their efforts in educating their staff and hotel occupants about The Natural Step.

Later in the afternoon, Pars Larshans from MAX Burger presented to the group.  MAX Burger uses The Natural Step framework within their organization….a challenge for another consmer based business.  Yet, MAX Burger has managed to make customers aware of their impact on the enviornment, yet enjoy a delicious meal at the same time.

Both presentations were informative.  The common element in both organizations is making the consumer aware of their impact on the enviornment.  This awareness broadens the net of each company’s efforts which in turn has a ripple effect.  If each of use just contribute a little bit, we all help lessen our impact on this beautiful planet.

Next stop, Copenhagen.

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