Opening Ceremony

Sunday was the first official day and it was great to see everybody and meet so many more people from so many different countries. Unfortunately, the way Saturday night ended, was pretty much how it started again. It was raining really bad… and our plan to go see the Acropolis and the Panathenaic stadium had to be cancelled. Instead we did a bus tour through Athens and went to the Acropolis Museum.

We were out and about in Athens City until approximately 2pm. We then had lunch and some time to rest and get ready for the big opening ceremony on the beautiful Hill of the Pnyx.

We were incredibly lucky as the opening ceremony was outside and the sun started showing. We had a short walk up to the hill where we had an incredible view on the Acropolis. It was a great opening ceremony with speakers such as the President of the International Olympic Academy Mr Michael Fysentzidis, IOC Honorary Member Lambis V. Nikolaou, the President of the Hellenic Olympic Committee Mr Spyros Capralos and the Deputy Minister of Culture and Sports Mr Georgios Vasileiadis. Additionally to the speakers, we had musical intervals and a little concert at the end.

It was a beautiful ceremony and an even more beautiful place to be holding such a ceremony. Once the IOA session has been declared open, we walked back to the buses where we received a police escort (!!!) all the way back to the hotel.

A gala dinner was awaiting us at the hotel where all the participants were split onto different tables of 10s to get to know each other better. It was a fantastic evening, so much eating and talking and eventually dancing until the early morning hour.

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This was our last day/night in Athens before we will move to Olympia on Monday morning…

xo

Florence

International Olympic Academy

Hi everyone,

So I am currently in Athens with the International Olympic Academy (IOA) at the 57th International Session for Young Participants. A lot of people have asked me what that is and what I am doing there, so here comes the answer. 🙂

What is the IOA? The IOA is the main international educational and cultural organization that aimes to promote the Olympic Spirit and develops the Olympic Education. Every National Olympic Committees is able to send up to 3 people from their country to the IOA session which takes place every summer in Athens and the ancient Olympia archaeological site. Swiss Olympic offered two positions for this trip to Greece, thus I applied for this session. As you can guess, I am very interested in the Olympic Spirit and Movement and everything about the Olympics in general, therefore I did not want to miss this chance. It is important to know that it is not just athletes or olympians that can participate here. Everyone has a different background and different connection to the Olympic movement.

I, along with Severin, got picked to represent Switzerland at the two week long IOA session. We received a backpack full with Swiss Olympic giveaways to give to all the other participants and a lot of information about the values of Swiss Olympic that we follow, such as EXCELLENCE, FRIENDSHIP and RESPECT.

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Additionally, throughout the session, there are multiple social evenings, where every country has to present their country, through singing, dancing or a culinary speciality. Basically just show something that is famous from your country. Can you guess what Severin and me planned?

On Saturday at 1pm we left Zurich in direction of Athens, where we met a bunch of other participants once we landed at the airport. When we got to the hotel, we did not know who our roommates are going to be, so it was exciting when opening the door and see who was in there. I am rooming with Unge, who is from Lithuania.

The same group of people that I met at the airport, decided to go outside and check out what is around our hotel, so we ended up going to the Public library and the opera house that was right across the street from our hotel. The weather was cloudy but nice but unfortunately just as we made our way back to the hotel it started to rain really heavy.

We then had dinner, where we met a couple more people that have arrived either earlier or later than us. It is very nice to meet so many new people from different countries and different backgrounds so I am very much looking forward to the upcoming 2 weeks and all the activities and lectures we are going to have.

I will try to post every day for the next 2 weeks, so you can all follow my journey with the International Olympic Academy!

xo

Florence

 

 

Iceland

OMG what a beautiful and extraordinary country! Never have I thought about Iceland so much in my travel destinations, but living in Sweden right now, Iceland is so close that it definitely became a travel goal. A goal that I was able to finally realize!

The schedule was pretty busy during the 4 (!!!) days that we were there, it seemed like almost every step that we did was planned out, so that we could manage to see everything we wanted. 🙂

Wednesday

Wednesday was half travel day and half spa day. We arrived at Keflavik airport at 2pm and rented a car to use for the four days. Additionally we rented a portable Wi-Fi device so that we were able to use the maps and the internet on our phones. The first stop was at the bridge between continents (the North American plate and the Eurasian Plate). That was something pretty cool to see, but is done within approximately 5 minutes.

After the bridge, we drove further to the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon was stunning. Seeing such a different nature was absolutely breathtaking. We spend a couple hours at the lagoon, which was a great way to start off the mini-vacation. Especially for my knee, the warm/hot water in the lagoon was great. I felt like a new person after these couple of hours.

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With the time difference we had, we got tired pretty early and knew we still have a bit to drive until Vatnsholt where we stayed at a farm for one night. The farm had horses and sheep, but we did not have much time there as the next day was packed.

Thursday

After a typical Icelandic breakfast, we hit the road down South towards VĂ­k. On the two hour drive down there, there were a couple of sights that we could have checked out, but we decided to do that on our way back up after checking out VĂ­k, except for the plane-crash site in SĂłlheimasandur. We made a stop there with the hope that we won’t have too many other tourists there to take good pictures. The walk from the parking to the site is about 45min one way, and it was terrible. It was rainy, windy and so cold, it was a struggle. It was definitely worth the horrible walk, as it was a magnificent view and a very special atmosphere.

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We then drove down all the way to Vík where we got to see the black sand beach Reynisfjara. As it was still very rainy and very windy, the waves at the beach seemed very aggressive and loud, it was almost intimidating. It was stunning, standing at the Hálsanefishellir and Reynisfjara and looking at the Reynisdrangar, it’s like I can almost not put it into words. We also went to check out the Dyrhólaey as it was on our way back North. It was so worth the drive down to Vík to see this beautiful scenery and also experience this very intimidating atmosphere.

Next stop then was the Sólheimajökull glacier. It was a short walk from the car park until we sighted the glacier and then eventually stood on the glacier. I have seen the Perito-Moreno Glacier in Patagonia which, to me, was a lot more imposing than this one, but it was still a nice and I was happy that we went to look at it.

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There are an incredible amount of waterfalls in Iceland, so we stopped at the two big ones on the way. The first stop was SkĂłgafoss and the second one was Seljalandsfoss waterfall. Both waterfalls were very beautiful and impressive, but yet again, I have been to the Niagara Falls in Canada and the IguazĂş Falls in Argentina. Both falls to me were more extraordinary.

We then also stopped at the Eyjafjallajökull “viewpoint”. There was not much to see, as the clouds were very low and all the streets going closer were closed off. I got quite the goosebumps standing there, knowing that this is an active volcano that erupted only 7 years ago!

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Time was slowly running out and we were way behind schedule as we ended up spending much more time at every sight than we initially planned. We had two more stops planned, the Kerio crater and the Hveragerdi hot springs. The Kero crater was beautiful, the nature was so colorful, it was breathtaking. The colors of the stones, the flowers and the water, it was all just so beautiful. This was actually the first sight we had to pay an entrance fee, it was not much and it was so worth it.

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Last stop before going to ReykjavĂ­k were the Hveragerdi hot springs. We were actually not sure if we ever found the right hot springs, but we did see some nice ones and left it at what we saw. The remaining way to ReykjavĂ­k was fast and we were happy when we finally got to the 101 Guesthouse, it was a long and tiring day.

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Friday

5am wake up! We had another long day ahead of us, so we wanted to get an early start. We decided to do the upper part of the golden circle, which were the Mosfellskirkja, Thingvellir National Part, Geysir and the Gullfoss Waterfall, and we had to be back in ReykjavĂ­k the latest at 4pm for whale watching.

We drove right past the Mosfellskirkja and the Thingvellir National Part as we wanted to start with the Gullfoss Waterfall. That way we were able to time ourselves better on how long we could stay at the different places. The drive to Gullfoss was so pretty and we were lucky as the weather was good that morning. There were no cars on the streets, it was so quiet and peaceful. We were able to stop on the way and take some nice pictures of the scenery along the way as well as Iceland horses. Once we were close to Geysir, we decided that we wanted to make our first stop here and then drive further to the Gullfoss Waterfall.

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Geysir was insane. I had no idea what to expect, I have seen videos and pictures before, but it was way more insane being there in person. The way the water is moving, the clearness of the water and the excitement until the boiling water erupts, is so special. I think we spend over an hour there just watching the water moving and waiting for it to erupt. Very very very special!

On to the Gullfoss Waterfall, yet again, it was very beautiful but not as impressive as other waterfalls I have seen before. At that time, the weather turned bad again and it was quite rainy and windy again. We did not spend too much time there, we took it all in, but could not take many pictures as the rain would cover the lens of our camera and thus destroy the pictures.

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Therefore, we were on our way back to ReykjavĂ­k where we made a stop at the Thingvellir UNESCO National Park where we went to look at the Silfra fissure, which was formed by the divergent tectonic North American and Eurasian plates. Unfortunately we did not go for a dive there, but regretted it immediately after. If I ever go back, this is definitely something that I would want to do then.

Time started to run out again and we knew we would have to leave so that we will see the Mosfellskirkja and then be back in time for whale watching. This church turned out to not be something too special, so we took a picture and continued. Since we now had a bit more time, we ended up going into a shopping mall for a bit and then went down to the port for whale watching.

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I was super excited for whale watching, although I have done it before when I lived in Boston. Unfortunately this was a waste of time and money (money that we could have instead spent for the diving at the Silfra fissure). We did not see any whales close by, only whale backs that were so far away, you can’t even identify it on a picture. We saw a lot of birds and I really mean a loooooot of birds! It was very disappointing and I was very upset that we did not even get the money back.

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Once we came back from the whale watching, we went to eat dinner right by the port at the Kopar restaurant. It was delicious and such a great service. Unfortunately we were very tired again and did not stay for too long before we went back to the Guesthouse.

Saturday

5am wake up! Again! Yes, another busy day ahead, so we got up early again to explore sleeping ReykjavĂ­k, where we went to the see the HallgrĂ­mskirkja (that was unfortunately under construction), the Perlan, the Harpa house and the sun voyager. ReykjavĂ­k is such a beautiful city, so much to see and so much fun spray designs against the house walls. It is indeed a unique city.

The last sight of our Iceland trip was an excursion inside a volcano. This was probably the one thing I was most excited about when we were planning the trip. This was the only organized trip that we participated in during the whole vacation. We were picked up by a bus right by our Guesthouse and drove to the parking lot at the three peaks crater. From there we were walking for 1 hour through 3 different lava fields until we reached the base camp close to the volcano. At the base camp, we received all further instructions and then were equipped with helmets and climbing harnesses. I am scared of heights, so I did not know how this will go for me, after all, we were going down 120 meters into a volcano with an elevator.

It was an experience of a lifetime! I was so nervous when I was in that elevator going down, but it was so worth it. The different colors that we were able to see in the stones of the volcano; the enormousness; the uniqueness of being in a volcano was absolutely breathtaking and stunning. The time flew by, and it seemed we did not have enough time to take it all in, but unfortunately we could not stay longer.

Once we came out of the volcano again, we went back to base camp where we received a soup before we walked back to the carpark for another hour. The bus trip back to the city was very quiet; everybody seemed to be processing the experience inside the volcano. It was our last night in Iceland, so we went downtown for dinner and drinks and were just walking around in the city a bit more until we were tired and went to sleep.

Sunday

3am wake up! Our plane was leaving Keflavík airport at 6:30am and we still had to drive there and bring back the rental car and do all the check in. Good thing we were able to get a bit more sleep on the plane back to Stockholm…

It was an unforgettable trip! I wish we could have stayed there longer, to have more time at every sight and also see the entire country and not just the ReykjavĂ­k, the golden circle and VĂ­k, but I am more sure than ever that I will go back to Iceland at one point in my life. I can only recommend it to everyone!

Can you guess what country I am going to next? It’s just a couple days away until my next trip!

Xo

Florence