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4 Months Later, I Saw My Country

Took me long enough to get to Berlin and Munich, but they were well worth the wait.

semi-overcast 55 °F

It has been far too long since I have written a post. I’ve done a lot since my last one, yet haven’t had the time to sit down and think and write. You’d imagine that while on a study abroad semester I would be trying to find things to do with my time rather than wishing I had more—not so. Traveling, having a job, and oh yeah, school, all take their toll. And in fact I only have a couple weeks left. Somehow this entire experience has come so quickly and almost gone.

This past weekend we ventured to Munich, and the weekend before that to Berlin. I am combing these trips into one post, not because I am lazy (well I guess I’m pretty lazy sometimes) but because I had very similar, exciting, and definitively German experiences with both. Berlin was a trip I’d been looking forward to for quite some time—it was our big Tauschie trip that was planned for some months prior. A group of about 20 of us exchange students (and one chill local student, shoutout to Thi) fluttered in and out of the city, all on our own schedules. This was part of the reason why it was such a good experience—we all had our own groups and wanted to do own our things, and although sometimes we’d split up or go on our own, most of the time everyone had the same agenda. It was a jam-packed three days, and full of some of the best memories so far. It was impossible not to have an amazing time with these people.

After a super cheap flight on Friday morning, we wasted no time getting to know the city. What better way is there to sightsee than while drinking a beer on a bike? Our “booze bike” held 16 people, all peddling harder and going slower than what it looks like from the outside. We casually enjoyed beer as we cruised up and down the East Side Gallery. This is probably the largest single remnant of the Berlin Wall, and it is covered in beautiful graffiti canvases that I would call more of art. We sung along to music, laughed too much (and got laughed at), saw the artistry along the wall, and had probably the best time a group of 16 people could possibly have. That night I attended my first professional football game at the Berlin Olympic Stadium. Saturday morning we ventured out on foot, seeing everything from the Brandenburg Gate to the Holocaust memorial to the parliament building, the Reichstag. During the afternoon we did a free walking tour (I did not know that was a thing. The lady did an awesome job) and got to explore a bunch of cool, low-key things you would normally not even know about. Before seeing Kygo (one of my all time favorite artists) on Sunday night, I got to spend quality time with my thoughts during the rainy morning as I explored more of the Berlin Wall. I went all the way out to the actual memorial site, where they have reproduced and preserved a section just like it really was in those times. It was truly moving to walk among the ruins and then to see the wall replica exactly how the people of Berlin did until 1989. As ignorant as it may be, until that moment, I had always pictured the wall from the perspective of a tourist. I wondered why so much of the wall had been torn down or vandalized and why it was so difficult to just see the wall as it was, without any obstruction. As I saw more and more of the horrors that went along with the complete division of a city, and really a country, it became clear to me the anger and emotion that the ruins of the wall represent. The people of Germany were divided, and ultimately many of them killed, over that horrible wall and horrible war. If I had not gone alone to the Berlin Wall Memorial, I’m not sure I would have fully understood Berlin as more than just a lively and successful German city. Nor would I have understood how it was to live for almost 30 years with something like that. The weather that morning so adequately reflected the mood: they were dark times, and during dark times you have to fight.

Springfest in München was very memorable. Even though so much went wrong and I spent a lot of the time trying unsuccessfully to find everyone who I had lost in the huge crowds of drunk Bavarians, the trip was well worth it—even if I lost my bag in the train station and wore the same thing all weekend. Saturday morning early I met up with my cousin Justin who had a layover all day on his way to Georgia (the country, everyone). It was truly amazing how this worked out—the one weekend I was going to be in Munich happened to align perfectly with his big trip, and it was a blast. We spent basically the whole day catching up, and then some. I can tell that as our family grows older we will only grow closer. Springfest, however, can only be described as a giant border-line-out-of-control carnival. The beer tents were full of burly women carrying 10 steins at a time to numerous tables of 20 people stuffed elbow to elbow. Thankfully Justin and I found a place that wasn’t in the hot tent, and instead we had a great time just people watching and sipping on weißbier. Sunday was a highlight for me: I rented a car and drove on the driver’s paradise, the autobahn. We took a day trip to Neuschwanstein (Disney) Castle, home of King Ludwig II until he died, and favorite spot for Richard Wagner, a famous German composer that has a special place in my heart. The scenery was beautiful, the company was great, and the 8 hour journey seemed more like a road trip from a movie. My car wouldn’t go faster than 107mph, but honestly it felt like we were going half that speed. It is truly a testament to how to properly build a highway system—force people to drive well and give them good roads, and everything will be okay.

It took me a while to hit these staple German cities, but they were both worth it. I sit here in the airport writing this on my way to Barcelona, so stay tuned for that. Oh yeah, I got my bag back. Thanks DB.


Posted by jbolt 11:28 Archived in Germany Tagged football beer berlin castle wall brandenburg reichstag munich neuschwanstein cousin münchen springfest

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Hey Jonathan, John and Sheri here. So glad that we've been able to keep up with your travels. Great stories. Hope all that yucky stuff in Belgium hasn't put too much of a damper on things. Take care, keep in touch and talk soon.

by John Maklary

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