THE SOUTH'S BEST KEPT SECRET

Home to the nation’s largest golf tournament, and perhaps more importantly James friggin’ Brown, Augusta is a mid-sized town on the Savannah River and South Carolina border. In fact, I accidentally drove to South Carolina to buy a battery for my camera during our stay there because it’s that darn close and the town is called North Augusta making things just plain confusing. Along historic Broad Street are some of the most unique restaurants including a 100% vegan restaurant/art gallery where we shamelessly photographed every corner of the eclectic space. But for whatever reason, outside of the month of April when every one in pastel colored shorts and high white socks flocks to the golf courses of Augusta, the town is relatively unknown as a travel destination. Hopefully these photos will change that, at least for the few people who read this blog post…

авось in the Motherland

авось

One of many untranslatable Russian words, Wikipedia's explanation for it is as follows: "a philosophy of behavior, or attitude, of a person who ignores possible problems or hassles and, at the same time, expects or hopes for no negative results or consequences. It is an attitude that treats life as unpredictable and holds that the best one can do is count on luck." 

Never have I found my life philosophy so well summarized in a single word before, so while I may curse the Russian language for its complicated grammar and impossible pronunciation, here I must actually tip my hat and say a big Спасибо. 

So, now onto the actual travel stuff!

Obninsk

Home to the world's first nuclear power plant that generated electricity for a power grid, the city of Obninsk grew outwards from the plant's location and is known today as one of Russia's science-cities. It also has an eternal flame memorial to those who contributed to the efforts of the second world war, and many dachas for families to gather on the weekends for home-grown and home-cooked meals.

Crimea

Sometimes it's important to turn off whatever news channel you're watching (especially if it's Fox News, in that case please just turn it off altogether) and develop an opinion about a place by visiting and interacting with the people there. Here are some moments I captured while doing just that. 

Moscow

Russia's largest and capital city, Moscow is a strange blend of European facets with the bigness of American metropolitans. Every subway station is as architecturally impressive as historic buildings around the city, the lone photo attached to this post was merely the one closest to our hotel we would take each morning to get to the city center, but there are some you'd mistake for cathedrals. Until you actually visit the cathedrals, that is, and their beauty takes your breath away even more. 

If there's one thing I took away from my three weeks in Russia, it's that Russian and American cultures and citizens aren't that different from each other. My hope is that others (political leaders especially) can soon realize the same. 

From Russia, with love, 

The Queen of the Sabakas 

ICELANDIC ADVENTURE

Reykjavik 

The chance to visit Reykjavik, or Iceland in general really, was never one that had ever crossed my mind. But now after experiencing it for a mere four days, I cannot wait to return and explore its beauty in more depth. Even the 7°C temperature became enjoyable with the friendly Icelandic folk and never-setting sun (which as a self-proclaimed moon child is hard for me to admit).  

Secret Solstice Festival 

The festival coincides with the Midnight Sun, a natural phenomenon which occurs in certain parts of the world during the summer months when the sun remains visible at the local midnight, and closer to the summer solstice on June 21, for nearly all 24 hours of the day. Paired with the breathtaking Icelandic landscapes, and a diverse line-up of international hip-hop, electronic and indie bands, Secret Solstice has been called “one of the most unique events in the world”.

These photos were also published as part of a photo-review on KALTBLUT Magazine

BISSL BAYERISCH

Part of the IPS program includes taking a trip to our representative's Wahlkreis (electoral district). For me, that meant flying to Salzburg. While not actually part of my representative's Wahlkreis (obviously, since it's in Austria), it was closer than flying into Munich – that's how deep into the south of Germany this town is.

At first I dreaded hearing the local dialect Bayerisch for an entire week, purely out of fear of not understanding it. Grüß Gott, ein bissl, Semmel... it truly is almost an entirely different language, and it's such an odd feeling not being able to automatically understand someone in German, because it's been that way for me nearly five years now. But luckily my coworkers were understanding and helpful and made an effort to teach me or speak in Hochdeutsch as much as possible, and the landscape definitely helped calm my fears... 

Traunstein

Chiemsee

Part of the Wahlkreis also includes the Chiemsee, with the Herrninsel and Fraueninsel. On the Herrninsel King Ludwig II began building a palace in 1878, but construction never finished as the lovely king went bankrupt. The parts that were completed, though, are breathtaking, but sadly not permitted to photography during the tour.  

Salzburg

Hanging out in the birthplace of Mozart. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday. 

FRENCH AIR

Vincent Van Gogh said, "The French air clears up the brain and does good—a world of good," so it seemed like the appropriate weekend getaway after my first official week as a Bundestag intern. Plus, it was an excuse to cause chaos in a new city with my awesome roommate from last summer who's completing her master's in Paris! 

Since it was my first time ever in la Ville Lumière, she had quite the challenge fitting in all the Sehenwürdigkeiten, but after walking 12.6 miles on Saturday and another 6.3 on Sunday, we managed to see (almost) everything on her list. 

The atmosphere of Paris and Berlin are polar opposites, although I must admit, I quite enjoyed the Parisian lifestyle, their gorgeous architecture, and, of course, the crepes (not pictured here ;D).  

KETCHUP

I've taken so many photos thus far into the program, the other participants have started calling me "paparazzi" .... which actually fits, so es gefällt mir eig.

But, really: so. many. photos. I don't even know where to begin. Trying to do this in the most efficient way possible (because, Deutschland), this is just going to be a total ketchup post, with a few of the best moments from each of our adventures the past two weeks, and ein bisschen background knowledge as well.  

Bad Belzig

Since a major function of this program is pushing us out of our comfort zones and teaching us to interact with people of various cultural and political backgrounds, we took part in a four-day intercultural communication and conflict resolution workshop... which happened to be held in a 1,000-year old castle-turned hotel in a town called Bad Belzig. 

Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung

Germany has six political Stiftungen (foundations), which each align to one of the parties in the German Parliament. Our group attended a three-day seminar at the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung, the foundation affiliated with the Left party, and discussed the importance of Erinnerungskultur (culture of remembrance).

To bolster our discussions, we visited the Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz, where members of the Nazi party met and came to the decision to begin using gas chambers at concentration camps, the Soviet Memorial at Treptower Park, which honors the Soviet soldiers of the Battle of Berlin, and the East Side Gallery, one of the largest open air galleries and freedom memorials in the world. 

Teufelsberg

A man-made hill and former NSA listening tower, Teufelsberg is possibly my favorite place we've visited thus far. Graffiti covers nearly every inch of the abandoned buildings, and you'll find random chairs and bathtubs perfect for chilling just about everywhere, plus if you can brave the five flights of light-less stairs, the view and acoustics from the top radome are astounding.  Also, the name literally translates to "devil's mountain." Fitting, I'd say. 

NEW PLACES, NEW FACES

In the last week I've celebrated International Women's Day, visited the second in our Berlin flea market list, toured the Bundesrat and Bundestag Library, and eaten five falafel im Brots. But I can honestly say my favorite adventure has been learning the names and home countries of my 112 new colleagues.

Everyone thus far has been kind and eager to share stories about their culture and even teach me their language, and though trying to remember a few phrases of six+ languages while also trying to study Russian has proved challenging, I have some pretty wonderful Albanien insults up my sleeve. 

Taking photos of them is has pretty much become my way of studying names, and all these new places and new faces are reigniting my love for portrait photography. Soon enough, though, there will be some concert photography mixed back in here ;) 

BERLIN BEGINNINGS

Today marks two weeks since I've returned the land of beer and bratwurst, and almost one week ago I arrived in die Hauptstadt! So far my days have been anything but ordinary, ranging from hanging out with my host sister at her job as a physical therapist, wandering around Kreuzberg with new international friends, and of course yesterday's adventure at the Bundestag where all 112 International Parliament Scholarship recipients came together for the first time.   

My Nikon D3S (Dee Dee, as I call her) has been helping me capture some of these adventures as well. Here are just a few of the moments so far... 

I can't wait to discover more of this amazing city, which has such an impactful history and prominent music scene. Plus, getting to know some truly incredible people and cultures from 36 different countries is going to be rad!