Alright, a few different trips have happened so I’m going to break it down…
I think every college kid wants to visit Amsterdam for the… lax laws… but I really wanted to visit because of a story about flooding in Holland that I had read freshman year in my Humanities class. The story painted a really eerie and cool picture and I was super curious to see what Holland actually looked like. I went on a bike ride through reclaimed land which was SUPER COOL. Really windy though. Like… I was pedaling but not moving sometimes… Totally worth it. I didn’t go to any of the museums (I know, you all think I should have) but in all honesty, they don’t interest me. I’m sorry that I don’t care about the Anne Frank Museum. I just wanted to ride bikes.
I spent a good amount of time walking too. The B&B was super nice but a little far away from the city center (if you could really call it that, the city is really spread out and there’s not a super “central” feeling anywhere). When I arrived as we were walking up the very small and steep stairs to the room, the host said, “They’re Danish stairs… so not quite a ladder.” which made me crack up.
I did go and see the Red Light District on evening to walk down the street. To be honest it just made me feel uncomfortable. It was packed with (mostly American) tourists being loud and pointing and making crude gestures at the girls in the windows. The girls themselves didn’t really pay attention to the people on the street and were chatting with the other girls or texting. Oh well. I saw it.
The train there was pretty much no hassle, it was overnight. I slept pretty well surprisingly. The way back I had to change trains like four times and I didn’t have a reservation so most of them I had to sit on the ground or stand awkwardly. Oh well. It was an experience.
So I went to Munich with IES for the weekend. It was pretty chill even though it was a ‘school trip.’ We stopped at Meersburg on the way there which is an old castle on Lake Constance. It was a lil boring but…I mean…it was an old castle. At this point in time I was getting through the second Game of Thrones book so it was kinda cool to be like, “People in GoT lived in a castle like this!!!” I’m a very, okay-I’ve-seen-it-let’s-move-on type of person. The one cool thing was a well that was super deep. People in the program wanted to know how deep it is so we dropped a penny, counted the seconds until it hit bottom, and then I worked physics magic and determined that it is 30 meters deep. We learned on our tour a few minutes later that it really was 30 meters deep! Yay physics!
The tour of Munich was a lil long and boring but mostly because I’ve been there a few times already. Hofbrauhaus in the evening was a lot of fun though. You have to pick out a table you want to sit at and then wait for the people eating there to leave and snatch up their spot. It’s basically a free-for-all. Food was nothing special but everything else was awesome!
The next day a bunch of us went to Dachau to see the concentration camp. Being my third concentration came that I’ve seen, I was pretty bored. Besides the general creepy feeling, its just grass, dirt, and an old building which looks strangely similar to the cabins at Girl Scout camp… (KIDDING). I don’t know. If you’re going to visit a concentration camp, don’t really bother with this one.
Later I walked through the English Gardens after it had freshly rained and it was the most beautiful thing ever. The beer garden was deserted but there were about 100 steins just sitting there as if the people just got up and left and forgot about their beer. There is a slight chance that one of those steins made its way home with me… but I wont make a comment either way.
BACK AT SCHOOL
There was a week of midtermy things where I had like 542908572290768 papers and presentations and tests to do but don’t worry, I survived to go to…
I went with a travel buddy to Hersonissos, Crete for five days in May. Despite having a layover in Hamburg (to those who are map-challenged, that’s kinda out of the way) it was super easy to get there and it all worked out perfectly. I guess that’s what happens when you book with a travel company. When we got to the hotel/villa the guy at the reception desk looked at our passports and was like, “Omg you live in Freiburg?!? I lived in Freiburg for two years! Those were the best years of my life! …[reminiscing]… Which room do you want?” Needless to say, he gave us arguably the best room with a view of the pool and the ocean. The villa was basically a HUGE apartment. It was beautiful. There were three balconies and all the windows basically just had shutters so we got fresh air. The air (and everything really) had a faint smell/taste of flowers. I was put off by it at first but gradually got used to it. You really don’t smell the sea like you do when you’re on the Atlantic (the fishy, salty, low-tide smell) which was also just different. I guess the smell of flowers and sunshine is better for a beach vacation.
We went to the beach every day but Saturday when we went on a boat ride. There were five or six families and a few couples but there were a lot of kids which I liked because I had a ton of fun making faces at small Lithuanian children. The boat drivers were very funny and good-humored. They showed us how to take cool pictures pretending to do the Titanic pose at the front of the boat and even getting to steer the boat yourself! We jumped in and swam for a bit with the help of a bunch of floaties and goggles and we stopped at a little village farther down the coast from Hersonissos for an hour so it was fun exploring there. By the end I was sandy, salty, sunburnt, and very happy.
A week of school happened in between Greece and Ireland, but that doesn’t matter. (Side note, I now have real live German friends!)
Just a word of warning, never fly out of Frankfurt Hahn Airport if you don’t have to. It’s a lil bit of a nightmare trying to get there. Ryanair was ever pragmatic though, so once we got to the airport it was easy. There was a bit of a snafu making all our luggage be the right size and weight for their strict luggage rules, but it was worked out.
The hostel (Generator Hostel Dublin) was gorgeous and clean and all that one could ever want in a hostel. Nuff said.
We did different coach bus tours everyday. The first day was the Cliffs of Moher which were beautiful and big and had a lot of “Please don’t kill yourself here” signs. I mean, if you wanted to jump off a cliff to your death, you might as well jump off of the coolest cliffs in the world. On the way there and back we stopped at castles to look at old rocks and saw more sheep than I thought existed in the world. For lunch we ate at a little restaurant in Connemara that was just…magical. I ate stuffed fried chicken, mashed potatoes, fried potatoes, boiled carrots, parsnips, and cabbages, all absolutely smothered in the most delicious gravy you’ve ever eaten. It was hands down one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten.
The second day we went to Belfast and learned about the history there. I’m a super nerd when it comes to Irish history so I found it fascinating but I don’t think the other people who went with me even read the wikipedia page on Ireland and Northern Ireland before we went so they didn’t think it was as interesting. Personally, I feel like if you go someplace to learn about their history and culture than you should probably do a little reading on it beforehand… but that’s just me.
Downtown Belfast and the Troubles area of Belfast were very different. The Troubles area had a lot of graffiti (the Peace Wall eg.) and had a lot of shops with enough Northern Irish pride to made any American approve. (The Northern Irish version of ‘MURICA or something…) Downtown looked like any modern European city with the occasional bullet holes in important buildings. I obviously was interested in when the bullets were fired and who fired them and why, but I think I was the only one. My companions went to Topshop.
On the way home we stopped at a castle which was perfect for climbing (may have bruised a few foot bones jumping out of windows, but it’s all good) and Downpatrick where St. Patrick was buried. I’m not Catholic, nor do I find people who had imaginary-friend-angel visions interesting at all. Sorry, but I think anyone who thinks that they saw someone with wings and a halo fly down from the sky is probably crazy. The history is mildly interesting, the religious mumbo jumbo not so much.
Next was probably my favorite day. We went up to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Giant’s Causeway, and a brief stop in Belfast on the way back. I almost had a panic attack on the rope bridge but I made it without crying so that was pretty good. Giant’s Causeway was awesome to climb around on. I took a bunch of pictures for people and made friends with some Australians who were sweet but knew less to nothing about the country they were visiting. Belfast the second day was cool, I saw some more bullet-holed buildings and strolled through some silly gift shops. That night in Dublin we went to the oldest pub in Dublin (The Brazen Head, est. 1198).
The last day we went to Cork and the Blarney Stone. I was a little overtired and grumpy when we stopped at the Rock of Cashel so I spent about ten minutes there before declaring it, “a boring old church place” and leaving to wander around the surrounding areas for a few minutes and then reading more Game of Thrones (I’ve been reading it this whole blog post).
I would just like to say that there should be a sign saying, “Don’t try to climb up to the Blarney Stone if you’re at all afraid of heights,” because to get there not only do you have to basically scale a building, but once you get there you have to lean backwards over empty space to reach around and kiss it. The stairs up looked like lighthouse stairs and had a rope in the center so you could cling onto it while you tried not to slip on the teeny, slick, stone stairs. I got about halfway up when my feet stopped being able to fit on the stairs and I was holding onto the rope for dear life. I got a panic attack (sobbing, unable to breathe) which triggered an asthma attack (even less able to breathe) so I went down without kissing it. I spent the next half an hour sitting on a bench trying to catch my breath and stop crying. It didn’t help that on the way down a loud American family decided to make fun of me (“oooo looks like we got a panicking one!”, “*sigh* gotta let one down”, “alrighty let’s go, let’s go”) which made me cry even more because my companions had abandoned me so I was all alone.
It didn’t turn out to be such a bad thing that I didn’t go up because it left me time to explore the gardens and lazily eat an egg salad sandwich while people and plant watching.
Then we went to Cork for a few hours which was a really quaint city. It was busy and there were a lot of people in the downtown area but all the buildings were old and the main street was a smooth curved wide avenue aaand the sun decided to shine brighter than it had before so it was an enjoyable two hours. I nibbled on a caramelized onion and goat cheese tart while window shopping.
To wrap it all up, the weather in Ireland was beautiful every day (a little windy doesn’t count). Even though it wasn’t hot out, it wasn’t cold either and the sun shone at least for a while every day and the only time it rained was a mini two minute sprinkle at Giant’s Causeway.
ALL IN ALL
I think I caught the travel bug the past two months but now I’m here to stay. No more trips planned in the future at the moment. My German is definitely improving and I can actually have a conversation now without using a dictionary for every third word.
On a sad note, my perfect Swedish roommate Alex is leaving tomorrow morning and never coming back. I told him that he’s not allowed to go, but I don’t think it made any difference. I’ll super miss him and any other roommate in the future is going to have to live up to him which wont be easy!
Time to settle in and hope that warm weather comes to Freiburg soon! (and maybe do some homework)