Week 24: Day 3 & 4 Edinburgh & Stirling Castle

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Since there is still a lot to cover I decided to be all lazy and cover two days in one post :P.

Today we were in the town of Edinburgh where, classmates, Angela, Caterina and Nina gave the class a tour around. Firstly we went to the spectacular Nelson Monument 

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It was a little bit of a trek walking up that hill, however the end was worth every effort. Not only could you see a spectacular view of Edinburgh from above, but the monuments were beautiful. The National Monument of Scotland in particular looked kind of like Greek or Roman architecture. 

image*From the top of the hill we could see a beautiful panoramic view of the city.

image*The National monument of Scotland looks like Roman architecture. 

imageAfter Paying a hefty fee of 4 pounds I went to the top of the Nelson Memorial Tower, where I could take an epic photo from above. The view was excellent.

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 Behind the monument lies the magnificence of Arthurs Seat. 

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Soon after we visited the University of Edinburgh. 

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and then to the Edinburgh Castle. We didn’t spend much time at either spot because of time.

Then to St Giles Cathedral.

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The Overall Path looked a bit like this

That night we had dinner at this restaurant called the "Filling Station" and surely enough, I was pretty filled… I had a cool peanut butter milkshake and an epic Haggis Burger

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imageTwas a good day.

Day 4! Stirling Castle. 

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This castle was in an extremely good condition and the insides were really beautiful. 

*Marina stands like a statue.

The Great Hall.

Flavia & Sarah pretend to be King and Queen. (Peter creeping behind) 

Today, Thomas and Victoria gave us a tour. 

**The Scottish national animal.. The Unicorn

Week 24: St Andrews Day & Isle of May 2 

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Today we went to St Andrews, an almost 2 hour bus ride from Edinburgh. 

The Bus, which is called RENNIES, dropped us off at a church/graveyard place which is St Andrews Cathedral ruins.

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Walking thought he graveyard, I could hear and smell the sea, something I missed for about 6 months. Not being near the sea for a long time was strangely something I felt like I missed. 

The Cathedral ruins were huge and It made me think about what the church would have looked like during its prime. 

The Ruins reminded me of something from Lord of the Rings or Warhammer. imageimageAfter exploring the Ruins, a group of us had lunch at the beach next to the Castle Ruins. 

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There was a couple next to the little water pool and a group of Asian tourists, which we managed to scare away with our loud chatting. 

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The town was quite being a Sunday, however the shops were still open. St Andrews was Chilled. 

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Later that day we took this small ferry which would take us to the Isle of may.

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The first 10 minutes was great on the Ferry. However, huge waves began to crash on the side of the Ferry, rocking the ferry intensely. Water splashed into the boat and people began to feel sick.image

image*The melancholic Sarah looks like the poster from Les Miserables.

As we got closer to the Isle of may, more people began to feel sick, including myself. Sitting among people vomiting just makes one feel sick. Suddenly the boat began to smell and smoke. Due to the waves, one engine broke. That resulted in not being able to land on the Isle of May. Instead we went around the front of the Island. 

Soon after that boat ride we went to a great Fish and Chips restaurant where I had huge eats. It was awarded Fish and Chips shop of the Year!!! 

It was a pretty good second day!

*A pretty picture heavy post this time!

Week 24: Edinburgh Day 1 - Scottish Parliament House

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Today was the first day on my school trip to Edinburgh and the beginning to the end of my time with my awesome Swiss Class. 

Let me take this time to explain…

When I first came to Switzerland, I was put in a class at school which happened to be an Immersion Class, which is the only class in the grade that tries to provide an Immersive Experience in a certain language. Hence they teach lessons in that certain language that the student desires to learn in. I so happened to be put in an English speaking class because that was the only class which had room at the time. This ended up in two consequences. Firstly I was able to make great friends straight away and I was able to integrate perfectly into the class. However the second consequence was that my progression with German was extremely slow and hard. 

However from the end of the Summer Holidays, I would be put in a new class because the Immersion Class would have 4 new students and I would have to drop out into another class. Therefore It was unfortunate for me that I would leave such great friends however it would help greatly with my learning of the German Language. 

Anyhow.. 

The flight was pretty smooth to Edinburgh !! Also I got to use Passbook for the first time with a legitimate use! I was so stoked! #Future

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For the First day, we walked around Edinburgh, then classmates, Marina and Sarah gave us a tour of the Scottish parliament house. 

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Personally I thought that it having the students do tours is a great idea. Not only do we not have to pay for a tour guide, but it is and interesting way to learn both for the people presenting and those who are listening.

Overall I thought they were really well done. (Good on ya guys!!!) 

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Next stop, we rushed to find a place where we could see the soccer!!!

We found a great sports bar under the North Bridge which had an excellent atmosphere.

After the game we looked around for dinner. We walked into a fancy Pub, however they didn’t allow minors.

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So we went to Pizza Express! Great Eats & Great First day !!!

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Week 23: Farewell Parade & Art Basel

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This Saturday, we had the Farewell Parade for all the August inbound exchange students form district 1990.

It was most definitely a joyful but sad occasion, to have to depart close friends from around the world. I was able to make a video about, “what you would miss on exchange”. Check it out below!  

Week 23: August Inbounds Farewell Parade - “What are we going to miss on exchange” from Vincent Tsang on Vimeo.

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Being able to meet up with all the exchange students with our blazers for the last time was a great and fun experience. Meeting at Basel Station at 930 in the morning, it was definitely eyecatching for the public to see a bunch of students walking around with flags and strange blazers covered in pins. 

imageAfter the formal parade ceremony where we paraded though a hall with our country flags, we were given a tour around Basel. 

Surprisingly the tour guide too us though the back alleyways of Basel which I had never seen before, introducing to us the hidden gems of Basel. 

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*I seriously would not have seen this awesome building without the tour guide.

imageAt the end we gathered in the Basel Parliament House for one final photo.

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Later that same day, I went to the all mighty and awesome Art Basel, Art exhibition that only runs for 4 days. 

Held at the magnificent Messe Basel, the venue felt super high class and almost futuristic like.

Artworks ranged from large sculptures to video projections as well as other  Avant-garde works that i’m yet able to understand…

Also managed to find Takeshi Murakami’s work for sale.

Week 21: Rust & Milano

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On Wednesday, I went to Europa Park, the largest amusement park in Germany. Why on a wednesday? My violin teacher invited me to help perform with his students in his music school orchestra. The performance was held at Europa Park as part of the music festival held at the amusement. An offer I could not refuse. 

Europa Park is located in Rust Germany. 

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The way Europa Park was set out was that each pavilion would be in the theme of a country in the European Union. 

Entering Europa Park, a lot was reminiscent of Disney Land, from the epic orchestral music at the front gates to the very original, mascot which happens to be the Europa Park Mouse. 

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Not to mention the Epoct ball ripoff.. 

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The music festival was an awesome idea. Unfortunately it wasn’t the greatest of weather that day. However for a wednesday, there were surprisingly a lot of people. We performed in a small theatre that was outside the garden of a restaurant. 

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After the concert, We were free to roam the park and to go on as many rides as we wanted. I started slow starting with the little kids ride (*because there wasn’t a queue).

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The central part of Europa Park was venice which was really beautiful.

Walking around I could smell the awesome sweet scent of Waffles. I really regret not getting one. 

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After several softcore rides, I was finally game enough to go on some of the more hardcore roller coasters. I went on the most famous one, the “silverstar” which had a 15 minute waiting time. The ride, sponsored by Mercedes had displays of the new SLS AMG GT which helped make waiting in the line more interesting. 

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imageOverall, Europa Park was pretty awesome.

On Saturday which was just also equally as awesome was that a group of exchange student friends and I went to Milano for a day. I woke up at 5 in the morning to get on the 5.45 train to Zurich.image

 This 5hr trip with the company of a good conversation wasn’t very long.

Once we got of at the Milan Centrale station, everything felt extremely big. The station was huge, and so were all the other buildings.

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We decided to take a 20 minute walk to the Duomo, a colossal gothic church. Walking though streets of Milan, It contrasted from dirty grungy buildings to extreme luxury. 

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Before reaching the Duomo, we took a detour though the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II which had a huge glass dome sealing. 

Straight out of the Galleria we could see the majestic Duomo in all its glory.

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Soon after we went around to have a look at shops. The main street that led to the Duomo had heaps of flags for the Milano Expo.

Casually a Lamborghini parked on the side of the road. 

That day, I got home at about 12.30. I definitely want to go back to Milan for another day trip!

Week 20: Thun & Zurich

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Week 20! This week all over Switzerland was a public holiday on Thursday and Friday. Having 4 days off school was a godsend.

On Friday, My host brother was extremely kind and generous to drive to Thun where we went to see Thun Castle. The architecture reminded me a lot of Bern with many bare motifs on buildings and in fountains. That was because Thun was part of Kanton Bern and Bern was only a 20 minute drive.

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The Old bridge that was on the lake was similar to the old bridge in Lucerne.

Walking along the city streets we came across a narrow staircase which lead to the castle. 

This medieval castle was pretty interesting with a 4 floors of history on the castle. 

On Saturday, I met my friend Hannah who took me on a personal tour around Zurich. 

We went to this amazing coffee shop and then we went to the Zurich zoo.

The biggest difference between the Zurich Zoo and the Basel Zoo is that Zurich has this huge bad ass green house. As you enter the greenhouse there are two hand dryers next to the entrance door, not for your hands but for your glasses because it gets up to 35 degrees in the greenhouse. (thats hardcore for swiss standards)

Overall I had a great day! Shout outs to Hannah !! 

Week 19: Tessin Weekend

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The Tessin weekend was organised by the Rotary as the final “non serious” gathering of all the Rotary Exchange students before the August inbounds would go home. 

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Exchange students occupying the majority of the carriage…

The exchange students from Basel traveled to Tessin via Zurich where we would meet up with even more exchange students before arriving. 

It is a tradition within the Rotary Exchange (which makes Rotary Exchange so much better than other programs…) to trade pins/ badges and to display them on ones blazer. Most Exchange Students return home with their Blazer, filled with pins, badges, patches and other memorabilia from their exchange, symbolising the places they had been but more importantly the people they met. For many, the Tessin weekend was one of the final chances to either give or receive these badges. 

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Many of the “Oldies” (August Inbounds) also brought their own Swiss flags to sign on. 

Arriving in Tessin, the temperature was extremely warm and although we could see snow on the peaks of mountains, the vegetation on the ground level were very tropical. In fact Tessin had a very Mediterranean feel as it was close to Italy. 

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We camped in swiss military style tents and the days activities ranged from beach volleyball to swimming in the lake. The weather reminded me a lot of Australia. 

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Many exchange students met each other for the first time…

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The second morning, we went hiking around the mountains of Tessin.

The scenery was intense.

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After returning home from an exhausting weekend, It felt sad to know that some of the people that I just met would be going home in a few weeks. It made me realise to cherish the short amount of time that is a year, and to go to as many places, meet as many people as I can and to ultimately have an amazing life experience. Furthermore, It made me appreciate how great my Senior oldies treated me and in knowing that I would soon have newbies of my own, to treat them well and to integrate them. 

Week 15 & 16: Geneva & Glarus

This week I travelled to Geneva with Hannah and Izzy where we travelled to see the United Nations Headquaters.

The patriotic Hannah stands in front of the United Nations building…

As the weather was overcast it wasn’t a great day for looking at scenery. We bumped into Evan, another exchange student who was visiting Geneva with his family who came from (the country side of) New York. 

Afterwards Hannah, Izzy and I went to the United Nations Headquarters where we took a guided tour. 

Visiting all the conference rooms and learning about its history was pretty awesome. Also there was a conference being held at the time. 

The building had a very distinctive art deco style and every conference room had a different look. 

Glarus was pretty great as well. The day organised by the Rotex group, we witnessed a traditional democratic voting system called the Landsgemeinde. People gathered in a large “ring” where they vote for local issues. 

The mountains which surrounded the ring was a surreal landscape. Moreover, meeting new exchange students was great as well. 

Week 14: Basel Zoo & Frutigen

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This week, I went to the Basel zoo with two exchange friends, Fusae from Japan and Alyx from Canada. 

My favourite part of the zoo was the aquarium, however it made me miss the much better Sydney Aquarium and Torronga Zoo back home.

Sorry Basel…

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Aside from what i said, I really enjoyed the Basel Zoo. Since I recently ordered a year pass, I can go whenever I want for free!!!!

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Later that weekend, I met up with Izzy in the town of Frutigen were we went hiking with her host parents. Getting off the station and being surrounded by mountains was relaxing after a good 3hr train trip. image

In order to begin the Hiking trail, we would have to cross this suspension bridge. standing in the middle was quite a frightening experience.

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Having a casual stroll amongst the amazing Swiss mountains was an extremely satisfying experience. 

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Week 13: Zurich, Bern, Lucerne, Freibourg

This week, was the first week of my spring holidays, and it was hectic. 

On Monday, I went to Zurich where I met Olivia, another exchange student from Australia who kindly took me on a tour around.

We walked the main shopping street. Surrounded by green, it was a nice and casual walk

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After that we went to the Fraummünster and later the Grossmünster, the large church of Zurich. 

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The organ of the Fraumünster.

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The isles of the Grossmünster lead to a door where we could go to the roof of the Grossmünster. After several flights of stares, we reached the roof where we could see all of Zurich.

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The next day, my host mother took me to Bern, the capitol of Switzerland.

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It had a much older look than Zurich, which I liked. There are little doors on the floor which to the untrained eye look like storage basements. However most of there were shops and boutiques, like this one.

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We visited the parliament house, epicness.

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While walking along the streets of Bern, we bumped into Albert Einstein’s apartment, which had become converted into a small museum. 

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That Friday, I met another Australian exchange student, Izzy who took me around Lucerne. It was Good Friday, so all the main shops where closed. However, most of the tourist attractions were still open. 

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The iconic, old bridge looked awesome in real life.

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We visited the majestic lion monument and the park next to it.

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The park had glacier remains which was cool, but much cooler was the mirror maze attraction next to it. 

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After that for some reason, we decided to go to Fribourg, only about an hour train trip away.

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The town had an even older feel to Bern. The Church reminded me of one of the towers from the Lord of the Rings. 

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Inside they were doing the Good Friday Service. 

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We explored the town which had a kind of medieval vibe to it. 

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That was pretty much what happened on my 13th week on exchange. It was intense and I still have a long way to go, it its still going strong.