The program gave us one week to go and do whatever we so desired.
I chose to backpack my way through the more subtle/less romanticized areas of Europe that I otherwise probably would have never had the opportunity to see.
Germany & the Czech Republic. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life.
The flight was an adventure in and of itself, dealing with the super strict packing regulations of such a cheap airline (that being Ryanair). Everyone in our program came back with horror story after horror story of liquids being thrown away, having to pay an exorbitant amount for an extra bag, wearing four layers of pants, etc. I had the good fortune of being paired with a TSA (do they call them that here?) agent that was blonde and in his young twenties. He took me to the side and was like, "okay, here's the deal. Your plastic bag is too big. They were about to throw everything away before I took it so hurry and put it in your bag before they see!!"
I wish I had a phone number to give. I knew right then and there that it was the foreshadowing omen of a good trip.
In our efforts to find something to eat for dinner at eleven at night, we found instead a kareoke bar. Perfect for Mike's birthday. The TERRIBLE male attempt at singing "I Want It That Way" by a german/asian Backstreet Boy meant we couldn't resist going in. And okay.....I guess I wanted the opportunity to show my perfected "Oops I Did It Again" number too. Completed with the music video dance, I'll have you know.
It was crazy to walk through a city that in some ways, still seems to be recovering. Checkpoint Charlie, and the Brandenburg Gate were surreal experiences.
More than anything though, when I think of Berlin, I think of the surprising urban culture. The graffiti art was insane. I wrote my name on the Berlin Wall with the only thing I had-- black nail polish. Actually, I did it twice because it turned out really sloppy the first time around and I couldn't accept that as my debut/legacy. Spring's still looked better than mine.
I kid you not, the prettiest place I've ever been in my entire life. It trumps everything these eyes have ever seen--even Nick Lachey's face. I would be walking on narrow cobblestone roads that would be surrounded by the most intricate, old buildings that would then open up into these gorgeous squares with eclectic covered markets and have my breath taken from me. Literally.
It was untouched/unruined during the wars, which is pretty incredible considering it is surrounded by the key European players of the day.
That night we couch surfed at a stranger's apartment--a new experience for me. His name was Martin. He was about fifty-five and was a Czech research scientist/possible spy. His place was like some place straight out of That 70's Show. He spoke German, English, Dutch, and Czech. He could read Braille. He wore bell-bottoms and old, wool sweaters. He had a blind son. We accidentally came across naked pictures of him as a child in the 1,939,398 photo albums he had kept in the apartment, at our disposal to peruse through. Brenden wore his clothes to dinner.
What would a trip to Germany be without visiting Dachau, a concentration camp.
It was so eery. You couldn't help but feel disgusting, dark, and heavy.
The gas chambers. The cramped beds. The cold! The cremation ovens. I'm literally baffled that people could be so cruel....and that the Jewish people could be so brave and enduring to face it.
We also took a train up into the mountains to see Neuschwanstein Castle--the castle that Disney modeled after! It was King Ludwig's project/obsession....it made him so crazed that he even committed suicide during it's construction. And I was there! And I saw why. I felt like a princess and wanted to climb to the top of the tower and let my hair down.
Like, oh-my-valley-girl yes, it was the best week of my life ever. I can't say enough good things about it, the places, or the people I was with. It made for oodles of lasting memories, not limited to:
-a photo shoot in the futuristic subway systems of Munich.
-the german television we fell asleep to.
-an endless consumption of Haribo candy. (I'm a fan.)
-walking more than I ever have in my life.
-passing out on trains & buses.
-a great, ending-celebratory German feast.
-lots of group cuddling.
-the very confusing Czech koruna.
-the very confusing language barriers in general.
-an attack of gypsies.
-too many bratwurst wieners.
-kofola, the communist rival of coca-cola.
-"NEIN!" to a charging chicken.
-having the back of my heels rubbed raw from inadequate socking.
-wearing the same outfit EVERYDAY.
-being treated to the first nice meal I've had in months, by Mike's family friends. (Thank you!)
-the scary witch dolls that came to life.
-feeling cool by saying "danke", the only German word in my repertoire.
making the switch.
4 years ago