Let me tell you something about traveling with architects. I have never met a group of people more inclined to walk into a building and immediately begin diagramming roof structures. Or argue about window placement. The Architects are super observant, likely to point out street drains that match building designs, and they’re smart, drawing on an extensive knowledge of buildings in order to make intelligent comparisons on reflecting pools and curtain walls. What’s more – the Architects are artsy. Brilliant photographers, all of them, and good at sketching. They have tattoos, of course, but the tattoos are about architecture. Geometric houses, Frank Lloyd Wright quotes, Mondrian paintings, the window of a childhood home, the negative space of the letter A, for ‘architecture’.
They’re passionate. Very passionate.
Our study tour through Switzerland, Germany, and Austria was an architect’s dream come true. We flew to Basel and took day trips to see the Vitra Design Campus and Freiburg, Germany. We walked through buildings by Hadid, Ando, and Gehry – and made a pilgrimage to get cheese fondue. I found out that “passive house” doesn’t mean having neighbor hippies, and we saw a real-life Popeye.
On Thursday, we left Basel and spent a night at Therme Vals, a beautiful spa built into the Swiss mountainside. It was wonderful. (And very different from my last spa experience, in Morocco.) I didn’t want to leave the Vals – but I got back on the bus and traveled with the group up through Germany.
And now, I have to tell you a story. I have a confession to make.
Our last day of the trip (Sunday) was mostly spent on the bus driving back to Denmark. But we did make one stop: a huge, beautiful park in Potsdam, Germany. We got off the bus to sketch some of the historic buildings on site, and our plan was to grab lunch and get back on the bus by noon.
Anddddddddd I got lost. I got separated from the group. Not in a funny way, or in a “this-is-fun-let’s-explore” kinda way. In a very scary way. I didn’t have my wallet or my phone and I was lost for almost two hours, walking around this park-thing, getting sweaty and missing lunch and looking stupid. No one knew what I was talking about when I asked if they’d seen my group (if they even spoke English to begin with). I felt a huge surge of hope when I remembered that I had the address for the restaurant, but when I went to the restaurant no one was there. The address was wrong. When I decided to skip lunch and go back to where the bus dropped us off, the bus wasn’t there. Everywhere I checked they weren’t there and nobody could help me contact them because most of the park didn’t have internet. I very obviously cried in the middle of the visitor’s center at the information desk in front of all these strangers because I thought the group had left me in Germany by myself. (The DIS policy is to leave people who don’t make the bus. It was my tour leader who decided to stay and find me.) When my group realized I was missing (and without my phone), and they called the DIS Emergency Line and sent out a search party. It was pretty humiliating.
They found me and there were hugs. Everyone clapped when I got on the bus because I’d been missing for an hour and a half, and my classmates gave me all of the Nutella they’d stolen from the hotel breakfast buffets. I felt really terrible. Really terrible. And I made the group so late that we missed our ferry to get from Germany to Denmark. We didn’t get back here in the city until 10PM (instead of the planned 7:15PM) and I cost DIS an extra 250 euro because (since we were so late) they had to buy everyone dinner.
Just a story to let you know that I made a huge mistake while abroad and it could have gone really badly. (Although I did find out later that my friends from the LLC had a back-up plan, if they couldn’t find me before the bus left, to stay in Potsdam with my passport and take me to Berlin before coming back to Copenhagen.)
I think everyone is doomed to a couple bad days per semester, but my bad days abroad feel exponentially worse than bad days at Wofford. I’ve never been so happy to see a tour bus in my life.