One of the countless perks of living in Europe is being able to visit new places relatively easily during reading week. My latest adventure whisked me away to Germany; it was absolutely fantastic. I’ve only seen a glimpse of the country, but it’s hooked me on it’s beauty.
My trip began after a wicked busy and stressful few weeks of midterms and the trip was one of the biggest things that motivated me to get through midterm season. Early Saturday morning we took off from Middelburg, and 8 hours, four trains, and the help of a friend from my class who was heading home to Berlin, we arrived. I was a little bit nervous about traveling to a brand new country and city, in addition to the fact that I was staying with people who were basically complete strangers.
I stayed with a lovely Canadian family that we met while in Amsterdam. They made me feel at home immediately. We started to explore the beautiful city of Berlin together on Sunday. We started with a fantastic free tour. The guide took us around to all the main sites of the city. Our guide, Theo, was engaging, and entertaining, sharing the stories of Berlin that you wouldn’t get if you just wandered around the city. It was incredible to legitimately stand where some of the most influential events of the twentieth century occurred – the reign of the Nazi Party, the Berlin Wall, and of course, where Michael Jackson held his son, Blanket, over the balcony at the Adlon Hotel.
World War Two history has always been the part of twentieth century history that has drawn me in. We learn about the Holocaust in school, in books, in movies; there have been countless times where I have felt sick thinking about how a group of people could feel such systematic hatred towards another group of people. On my second day in Berlin, I visited the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Memorial on a tour run by the same company as the day before.
Overwhelmed would be the best way I could describe my overall feeling throughout the day. The former camp was one of the first to be open to the public, and you did not need to be on a tour to visit it. There was an eerie quiet that surrounded the area although there were many people on the tour, and other individuals visiting. As our tour guide, Steve, recounted the stories of the daily life at Sachsenhausen, I felt like I was in a constant state of unease. We saw where the prisoners lived, learned about their daily life, and saw the remains of the experimental extermination locations. Even after much reflection on the experience, it’s difficult to put words to my thoughts and feelings, but it was one that I will not forget.
I also had the chance to visit The Holocaust Memorial designed by Peter Eisenman and Buro Happold, located inside the city, close to the Brandenburg Gate, as well as the museum underneath it. The design of the monument has never been explicitly explained by the designers, so the interpretation of meaning is personal to each individual. Walking through, the blocks become bigger as you approach the centre, and I experienced a sense of claustrophobia and slight panic as I lost sight of the outside. The museum shared some history, but focused stories of individuals, and families by showcasing letters, family history, and photographs of victims and survivors of the Holocaust.
The second half of my trip took me to Frankfurt; well, just outside of Frankfurt in a little town called Bad Nauhaim. My cousin is working there right now, and I figured that it would be really nice to see her during the break! The train ride was ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS! I mean Canada has some breathtaking views, but I was absolutely captivated by the magic of the German landscape; it’s easy to understand how so many fairytales are of German origin. This meant that I didn’t read as much of the book I had with me as I would have liked, but with the view, combined with the podcast I listen to (Adventures in Roommating – Meghan and Keith), I managed not to fall asleep. I wish I had pictures, but the train was moving too quickly.
The second part of the week was more relaxing (three out of the four days included falling asleep on the couch watching Netflix). I took a day trip to Frankfurt and took a tour around the city. It was immensely different from Berlin; I learned a lot about the history of the city, and it’s importance to Germany.
Bad Nauhaim is a very cute little town surrounded by nature. My cousin lives about a 20 minute walk from the train station (omg, so far, right?) and I was missing my bike as a convenient mode of transportation; then I remembered that there are hills… everywhere (Middelburg’s biggest hills are speed bumps). During the week, we took a walk up one of the “mountains” to see the ruins of a Roman settlement. From the top, we could see all of Bad Nauhaim, and even all the way to Frankfurt. On Saturday, we went to visit a town called Marburg and we VISITED A CASTLE!!!! We walked up a massive hill to get to the castle, and the view from up there was incredible! Before we went back to Bad Nauhaim to get ready for Halloween, we had schnitzel and beer on the terrace because the weather was so nice!
My trip to Germany was an amazing experience. It was a really good “first trip” because I wasn’t traveling completely alone, but I was still pushing myself out of my comfort zone, as whenever I travel, it’s with my parents and my little sister. I had a strange, but good feeling as I approached Middelburg on the train; it was the feeling of coming home. I’ve lived in Middelburg for almost three months now, long enough to give it an affectionate nickname (Middz), but it was a new experience to call it home. The usual feeling of coming home is when we exit the highway, and go up the ramp, even if I’m sleeping, there’s a part of me that knows I’m home. The same kind of feeling happened when we passed the stations just before Middelburg, during the walk home, and laying down on my bed when I got back to residence (life hack: clean your room before you leave for a trip, you’ll be happy you did).
Song of the Week: Lady of the Sea – Michael Adamant
While I was in Frankfurt, I heard this guy playing I See Fire, and he was doing a beautiful job, so I stuck around for his whole set, and ended up buying his CD. Check it out 😀