SUPER good fish. Like, Iceland is an island, so they have lots of fish at their disposal. But lunch was awesome (at the time, it actually made me sick later) and we were the only people there, so we had the whole buffet to ourselves. Then we headed home and on the bus to the Blue Lagoon.
The Blue Lagoon is a semi-mandmade hot spring spa resort that Iceland advertises like crazy. It's located 20 minutes from the airport, so lots of people will either spend a layover there, or go spend the day there before their flight. And every single bus company in the country offers trips from your hostel to the lagoon, and to the airport from the lagoon, etc.
As you can tell from my last post, I'm more of a mountains enthusiast than a pampered young lady. So a day at the spa was a first for me. I had paid for a wellness package, which included a bathrobe and massage and other nice things. Everyone has to shower without a swimsuit on before entering the lagoon, so that was a cultural first for me. But once I was squeaky clean, I headed into the water!
I'm pretty sure the Blue Lagoon was originally a natural geothermal hot spot, but since making it into a spa and importing visitors from around the world, they have to help artificially heat the water in order to keep up with the amount of guests they see per day. But it was very nice, the water has silica in it which leaves your skin feeling very nice at first, but you just want to crawl out of it and die while sitting in the airport at 6am and you can't shower until you get into your hotel in Berlin around 10. But it's not like I'm speaking from experience.
My massage was heavenly. They float you in the lagoon on your back on a raft and massage you in the water. It's not a very deep massage, because they can't exactly push into your shoulders or you'll sink, but it's a very relaxing experience. I am pretty sure I fell asleep for a snap during mine, because I remember waking up and thinking, "Did she skip my right leg, or did I just sleep through it...". But I left the lagoon feeling light as air (except for my hair, which felt like a slimy silica-laden mess, which still hasn't all washed out yet).
I made a friend on the bus ride over to the Lagoon, Andre the American from San Diego. He was staying at my hostel, and we bonded on the bus over beers from California. We arranged to meet back up around 8 (my bus to the airport was coming at 10) at an Ice Bar in town, but after walking around for a good half hour, I found out that the Ice Bar melted a year ago. For real, Iceland?! But I ran into Andre as I was walking back, and we went back to the hostel to drink instead. Andre had bought 5 local beers and a Belgian Trappist Quadrupel, so he, his roommate Eric the Swiss Man, Bill the German, Wallace and I all shared beer and carried on as new friends do. We finished our last beer, donned our backpacks, and Wallace and I left to go fly to Berlin.
Flying was GREAT for me, I had a whole row to myself on the 2 hour, 40 minute flight from Reykjavik to Copenhagen. So I got to lie down and sleep. I think yesterday I got a total of 4 hours of sleep, and we jumped straight into school when we got to Berlin, so I was dead last night.
BUT ANYWAY BERLIN.
We met up with our group at 2 in the lobby of the Hotel Bogota, the place where we call home in the city. Our flight got in at 9, so we all had some time to kill.
What up, Berlin.
Wallace and I went out for lunch to meet a cousin of mine, Nina Schaffernoth. My uncle Tom started looking into our family history a few years ago, and found a branch of Schaffernoths over here in Germany. Nina is 33 and an architect in Berlin (funny, there's architecture in the family!) and she agreed to meet me for lunch. She's very nice, and self conscious about her English. But we had a great time, and Wallace and I got to navigate the Berlin Trains on our own. Fun stuff!
Kitty and Nina Schaffernoth
Our study abroad program formally began at 2, where we met up in the lobby of the hotel. Our professor for Berlin/France is Heiner, and he very quickly (and overwhelmingly) went over our schedule for the next six day. I just sat there wide eyed, nodding and not comprehending ANYTHING he was saying. But luckily, none of us did, so we were all in the dark together.
We hit the streets around 3, and stayed out until 8. It was a LONG day, especially considering lots of us had taken red eye flights into the country that day. We spent the day focusing on the Berlin Wall. We went toFriedrichstraße, where there was a whole park dedicated to the wall. Parts of the wall were still up, with vertical corten steel bars continuing the line of the wall, representing the rebar in the concrete wall.
I can't believe the wall came down before I was born. This was never a thing in my life.
What shocked me most about yesterday and today is that Berlin is a relatively new city. The entire downtown area was completely demolished in the war, so the majority of the buildings and architecture here is younger than the war. A lot of famous architects are drawn here to Berlin to work, probably because there's still a need to fill in the gaps left over from the war.
The first visit we made was to a wall memorial museum (forgot the name), designed by some young architects a few years ago. Heiner tossed us into academic mode immediately by asking us what it was made of, what the wall section would look like, what the idea behind the building was. I was completely overwhelmed and just tried walking around to take photos, but even those I wasn't happy with. And I just wanted to sit down and cry after doing my first sketch of the building (first sketch on the trip!)
The whole day was a struggle for me. I was tired, I hadn't eaten fully in days because I didn't want to pay Icelandic prices for food, and I wasn't feeling very well. And I couldn't even draw a building right! I felt like the worst architecture student ever. I really just wanted to sit somewhere and cry and then go home to America. What on earth was I doing here? I couldn't answer Heiner's questions.
Next, we went to visit a chapel built in the memorial park. It was built with the rubble from an old church on the East German side of the wall. The architect wanted the new building to really be part of the location and have something of the old church in it. So they used the rubble from the old church, mixed it with concrete, and made a rammed earth chapel with it.
The chapel is made of two ovals- an outer oval made of wooden slats (completely open to the air and elements) and an inner oval made of the rammed earth. The two ovals were offset.
It was a beautiful space to be in, the chapel and the space in between.
We went to another museum and a memorial as well, and then headed over to the Reichstag building, or the German Parliament building. The dome on top was designed by Normal Foster, and we went up to the top in order to visit it.
There was a contest for the redesign of the parliament building post WWII and fires, and Foster won the competition. However, the judges really liked Santiago Calatrava's submission, so they sneakily asked Foster to make something similar. I thought it was stunning. We also were there at the golden hour, so I got some nice photos.
It's a glass dome, held in tension by the roof transfer beams and in compression by the circulating ramp. I'm really enjoying analyzing the structure of buildings here. I love the bones of architecture.
This is the reflector pillar, which brings natural sunlight into the parliament room below.
Oculus at the top
Wallace went up to a security guard outside to ask where the best bratwursts were, and he directed us a street over to a little kiosk called "Wurst :-)". Nine of us went up and ordered brats and beers, and we completely bought them out. And they loved us! The guy behind the counter wanted to be an American. He gave us little VIP gift cards, brought us a free sample, and even let us into the kiosk for a group photo. Nothing like some wholesome shenanigans to start of the travel program, right?!
I have honestly been very overwhelmed these past few days. I've always been self conscious about my work as an architect, but my insecurities really come to light here. I haven't sketched or drawn in forever, which is becoming apparent as I try to capture the world around me on paper. Everything comes out looking like pen barf and I hate it. Also, I just don't have much of a knowledge base when it comes to architects. I know a few ones, but am usually overwhelmed when Heiner starts firing questions at us. I really don't want to be the worst student on the trip, and I'm going to work very hard to make sure that isn't the case ever.