In case you don’t follow my Instagram, I spent last week’s “spring break” in Germany. Now, Germany is not the ideal place for a spring break if your idea of a break is sandy beaches and fields of tulips.
For my trip, it was just my friend Sophia and myself traveling to three major German cities over the course of eight days. With Berlin, Cologne and Munich to hit, there was no way we’d have enough time to experience everything. But we did get to plenty.
We began our journey Saturday morning by trying to catch a 6:30 a.m. train to the airport. However, this train station was a few Tube stops away and by the time we got to the gate, the employees said the train was on the opposite side of the platform and that we probably wouldn’t make it. Naturally, we ran.
As the conductor man blew his whistle at us to signify the departure of the train, we ran harder and jumped on mere seconds before the train pulled out of Victoria Station. That was probably the most dramatic moment of the trip. And we ended up at the airport with two hours to spare.
We arrived in Berlin in the late afternoon to discover our hostel was much more of a large hotel chain. We were also placed in different rooms. Mine consisted of three guys and me. Sharing our little bathroom was awkward.
On our first full day in Berlin, we took advantage of a free walking tour that lasted two and a half hours or so. It was really interesting, but I quickly realized that Berlin is not really a place to take families for a happy vacation, as the majority of the tour (as well as sights in town) revolved around World War II, Hitler, the Holocaust and the Berlin Wall.
Despite all that, the city is beautiful. On day two, Sophia and I traveled 40 minutes to the Berlin Zoo before making our way to the East Side Gallery, a part of the Berlin Wall converted into an outdoor artwork. Unfortunately, we underestimated the size of Berlin and the distance between the two sites. After a two and a half hour walk that included rain, hail, wind and a lot of silence, we finally made it to the gallery. Then we discovered a train station 300 yards away. We took the train back.
Tuesday, we headed to Cologne for a short stopover in which we stayed at the greatest hostel ever. It was warm, friendly, small and was part theater, part café and part bar. Imagine Ragtag with a hostel upstairs.
During our short stay, we made some friends: Angel from Madrid and Tim from London. Both guys were hilarious and added a little variety to our party of two. Unfortunately, we were only there two nights, so our crew of four was short-lived.
On Thursday, Sophia and I took a train to our final stop in Munich. We spent the first day there exploring and found ourselves at an art museum that held my favorite Monet of all time, so that was a pleasant surprise.
On day two, we traveled two hours to the Alps to see the beautiful Neuschwanstein Castle. It was stunning. Most of Germany felt very Americanized; flat, big city, etc. But when we arrived at the castle, everything felt very surreal, much more of what I expected from Germany.
Our final day was spent on a walking tour with the most hilarious Bavarian tour guide and we really got a feel for the city. We also discovered that it’s currently Starkbierfest (i.e., “strong beer fest” with 7-12 percent alcohol per drink), and that drinking a half-liter at 3 p.m. is not conducive to daytime sobriety.
In all, Germany was amazing. I realized how ignorant I’ve been of the world around me. I realized how selfish it is to expect everyone to speak English. I realized that Bavarians do not consider themselves German. I realized that castles aren’t full of handsome princes to whisk you away into the sunset.
But I cannot begin to express my gratitude for having this experience. I’m one of the luckiest girls in the world.