Noho Marae Weekend.

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AUT organizes an International Noho Marae weekend twice a year for study abroad and exchange students. I was on the waitlist but one day before I got an email where it said that I could go. We learned about Maori culture, and sang and danced a lot. On the picture below you see what is called a poi which we had to make ourselves. It is used in one of the dances.

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Saturday night we had dinner at AUT because it was the 30th Noho Marae. The Noho Marae weekend has existed for 15 years. We performed the songs and dances we had learned that day.

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I should have taken more photos but I was experiencing so much that I forgot, plus I was sick so I didn’t really have the energy. But here are a few more.

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Hobbiton movie set.

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Before coming to New Zealand I had never seen any of The Lord Of The Rings or the Hobbit movies. I would wish that I could say that I have seen them all now, but that would not be true, because I have only seen the first half of the first Hobbit Movie. I watched it the day before going to the Hobbiton Movie Set to get an idea of why my uni friend really wanted to go there.

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Beach day.

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In the morning, I went to uni to sort out some stuff and sign up for the Noho Marae weekend. It’s a trip where you learn about the traditional Maori culture. I am on the waiting list now. After that, I went shopping with two friends from uni. We had heard of a clearance sale on Ponsonby Road and since I needed summer clothes we decided to go. Ponsonby Road is a long road with a lot of cute cafés, restaurants and shops. I really like that part of Auckland. I would even go that far to say that it’s my favourite street (so far).

We headed to Mission Bay Beach, had fish’n’chips and enjoyed the sun the rest of the day.

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Rangitoto Island.

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I am lucky I already met some nice girls at orientation because one of them had the great idea to go to Rangitoto Island in the weekend. We were a group of four meeting up downtown at the harbour to go there with the ferry. The sun was shining and the weather was perfect for a hike.

Rangitoto Island is a vulkano island not far from the coast. There are different paths to hike depending on your level. First, we hiked to the vulkano caves. Some paths takes you inside of the caves where you can see light coming in from above.

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Afterwards, we walked up to the summit. The 360 degree view was amazing, and you could see Auckland City in the far distance.

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The last ferry went back at 5 pm so we had to catch that one otherwise we would be stranded. We planned the hike well so that we would definitely make it back to the wharf in time. But somewhere along the way we missed a path. We realised it when we came to a crossroad and a sign said 1,5 hours until the wharf. As the time was 3.30 pm we kind of panicked and started to walk faster. We were already discussing what to do if we didn’t make it. There would be other people on the island because there were a camping area somewhere but we had almost no food and water left. There were no shops on the island. The ferry staff had already warned everybody to bring enough food and water. Luckily, we made the 1,5 hour walk in 1 hour and made it to the wharf in time. We must have walked fast.

In total we hiked for five hours. It was great, but the sun was strong and we ended up with a sunburn. I was an amazing day.

International orientation day.

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Last Friday was orientation day. I didn’t know exactly where the university was or how long it would take to get there so I went early just in case I would get lost. With google maps open on my phone I managed to get there way before 9 am. I live really close, a 10-15 minutes walk if not less.

The university is called Auckland University of Technology, AUT. It’s a huge university with 19.500 full-time students. 2.660 of them are international students making the university very multicultural. It’s very modern and has a great study environment, social activities, sports teams, and an on campus gym.

It was a fun day with a lot of information. Three AUT employees sang for us because it’s a Maori tradition. We had to give a back massage to the persons sitting next to us in the auditorium, which was… strange? But Kiwi people are fun and seems to joke a lot, even the two police woman who did a small presentation about safety in Auckland City.

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I got my Student ID, and I can’t wait to start my studies next Monday.

More than 30 hours.

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I will just take a breath … These past weeks have been hectic. I have had so many ‘goodbye and see you’ appointments with friends that I am going to miss very much. A lot of points have been crossed off of my to do list in a short period of time. My last day at my internship was Friday, and Saturday I moved out of my apartment. In my life, I have never been on a trip this long. 30 hours from departing from Hamburg, Germany, until arriving in Auckland, New Zealand. And that’s even without the train ride from Denmark to Germany, the waiting at the airport, and the transportation time from Auckland Airport to the flat, where I am living now. 45 hours in total, I guess.

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Actually, the flights were well planned; I was flying from Hamburg in the evening, which meant I could sleep before arriving in Dubai in the morning. In theory at least. I am not good at sleeping in planes so most of the time I was watching movies. In Dubai, I had some hours before the next plane, which arrived in Brisbane, Australia, the next morning. Finally, I arrived in Auckland in the middle of the day meaning I didn’t have to stay up for too long before getting a good nights sleep.

I didn’t see much of Auckland yet, only the road from the airport to the flat, and a Chinese super market nearby that my flatmate showed me yesterday.

Exchange.

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Today, there are only 9 days until I on my way to New Zealand. YES, you heard it right. I am spending my sixth semester as an exchange student in New Zealand. More specifically in Auckland. I know very little about New Zealand and the culture but I am excited to find out. I like the Australian culture so I am happy if the New Zealand culture is more or less the same, or similar.

It has been a long application and preparation process, but finally, I am reaching the end of my list of things I need to do before I am leaving Denmark. Scholarship, visa, airplane tickets, insurance, choice of papers, accommodation and lots of other stuff are now taken care of. The rest of my free time before leaving, I will spend with my friends and family.

I will be away for 4,5 month. From my experience, this is the perfect amount of time to be away.

Istanbul, Turkey.

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I spent the autumn break in Istanbul with my mom. We arrived in the middle of the night and drove with the taxi to our hotel in Sultanahmet, the old city of Istanbul. On one hand Istanbul is a very modern city and one the other hand very traditional. Istanbul is located both in Asia and Europe seperated by the Bosphorus Strait, and actually I felt like it was literally a mix between Southern Europe and Asia decorated with alot of mosques. 

Exploring

Sometimes its good to have no plan. We knew which tourist attractions we wanted to see before the end of the trip, but just discovering the neighbourhood is an experience itself. As our hotel was so centrally located and we love to walk, we actually passed many exiting places.

DSC02019First we went to see a small mosque near our hotel and afterwards we passed the Little Hagia Sophia Mosque, which you can see in the picture below.  DSC02022We went all the way down to the river, The Golden Horn, where the fishermen stood side by side. We ended at the Galata Bridge and passed the Spice Bazaar (Egyptian Bazaar) on our way back to the hotel.  DSC02029

Sultan Ahmet and Ayasofya

The day we went to see The Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii) and Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya) was very sunny. The Blue Mosque was built from 1609 to 1616, and Hagia Sophia was constructed in 537 and was first a church, then a mosque and today a museum. Alot of history in one place. As we stood there in front of the Hagia Sophia the call to prayers began and you could hear the many mosques around town. This happens many times a day and its a part of Istanbuls charm. 

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The blue mosque:
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View of Istanbul

We also walked over the Galata Bridge to the other side of the Golden Horn (Still the European side of Istanbul) to go up in the Galata Tower where you have a 360-degree view of Istanbul. While we were up there is was getting darker and darker, also visible in the pictures. DSC02087 DSC02094

The Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar is located in the Sultanahmet District. It has many small alleys and you can easily find yourself lost between the thousand of colorful lamps and beautiful painted bowls. DSC02107 DSC02108 DSC02110

Dolmabahçe Palace

The Palace and its garden are huge and from 1856 to 1922 it served as the main administrative center of the Ottoman Empire until the abolition of the Caliphate in 1924. From 1924, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey, used the palace as a presidential residence during the summers. He died in the palace in 1938. You can get a tour inside the palace where you can see all the apartments, and also the room in which he died. 
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Other great attractions

I would recommend people to also visit the Basilica Cistern that lies beneath the city. Its an underground chamber supported by a  336 marble columns, each 9 metres high.

The Miniatürk park is worth a visit if you have many days to spend in Istanbul. It’s a park with miniature models of famous buildings around Turkey and Istanbul.

The area around the Arasta Bazaar is also great and is located next to the Blue Mosque and the Mosaic Museum.

Last but not least, you should definitely go to the Asian side of Istanbul too. The only capital of the world on two continents.

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Vacation booked.

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I AM SO HAPPY! I am going to Istanbul for my semester break in October. I have never been to Turkey before, but I have many friends of Turkish origin, born and raised in Denmark. I know a lot about the culture already, and I have been to several Turkish weddings before, which included dancing halay (folk dance) for hours. The Turkish people definitely knows how to celebrate. I am looking forward to experience the culture and discover Istanbul first-hand.

I borrowed the amazing picture above from the blog:

http://makingmagique.com/travel/postcards-from-istanbul/

The picture shows a view of Istanbul and the famous Bosphorus Strait, with Asia on one side and Europe on the other. It’s  a fantastic blog, and the way the girl writes and describes the places she visits is worth reading. I like to plan my trip by reading travel blogs and recommendations, because if the writers have a huge knowledge about the specific place, or are locals, they often recommend cool, and to tourists, unknown places worth visiting.

I am very interested in hearing about some less touristy must do/must see places, restaurant, markets etc. in Istanbul. If you know any good places, I would appreciate it, if you are willing to share them with me by commenting on this post.

Madeira, Portugal.

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In the Easter Holiday, I went to Madeira. An Island in the Atlantic Ocean belonging to Portugal, but actually closer to Africa. The weather was above 20 degrees and the sun made the city and island look gorgeous from the windows of the plane. It was windy though and with a short runway, we almost couldn’t land.

Madeira has no white sand beaches but there are many huge hotels with swimming pools right down to the sea. This was not where I lived, but anyway I didn’t spend much time at the hotel. Funchal, the main city on the Island is very cozy and relaxed with many small streets, mostly very steep. Everywhere you want to go is either up or down.

DSC01092On the way to the city centre.

DSC01098Fresh fish at the market.

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DSC01123Funchal City.

Madeira is a destination for adventure and exploring. Many people trek in the mountains or walk along the Levadas. The Levadas are build water channels that transport water from the mountains to the city, Funchal. I did one of those walks on one of the really sunny days, and I had a nice clear view of the sea and city.

DSC01126 Levada walk.

DSC01129Resting and enjoying the view.

DSC01135View of Funchal City.

I also went to a viewpoint where I could see down to a valley called the Nuns Valley, which was a small town enclosed by mountains. We were up very high and could see the skies move slowly into the valley. I also made the to the most Eastern point of the Island.

DSC01183 The Nuns Valley.

DSC01184Walking path to the viewpoint.

DSC01188Up in the skies. The weather changed really fast in this Valley.

DSC01247The most Eastern point of Madeira.

Another amazing experience was driving up to one of the highest points on Madeira. It was a cloudy day but as soon as we came above the skies the sun was shining and the skies looked like pillows.

DSC01208This great feeling.

DSC01210It was possible to walk the last km to the peak.

The local drink on Madeira is called Poncha. Poncha is a drink made of alcohol made from sugar cane juice, honey, sugar, and with different fruit juices according to the version of Poncha, but traditionally lemon juice is used. It’s very stong.

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DSC01223If you have more than three of these you can speak fluent Portuguese, our guide told us.

Madeira is known for their Espada Fish which is traditionally served with bananas. The Espada fish only lives in the sea around Madeira and Japan.

DSC01234Espada fish with veggies, rice, and a local soft drink.