So far I have traveled every single weekend, except for the first weekend we were here. Two weekends ago I went to Dortmund and Cologne, which I wrote about in my previous blogpost. This past weekend, I traveled to Venice. This coming weekend, I will be traveling to Rome with a large group of people from our program. The following weekend, I might be going to Nuremberg for Germany’s World Cup Qualifying match versus San Marino. The first thing I will say is travel that is very draining and time consuming. Whether it is next weekend or the weekend after that, I definitely need to make sure I take a break and stay locally for at least one weekend before I start traveling again. Maybe I can try and visit a local town within an hour or so of Berlin to keep things as exciting as possible, but I definitely do not want to travel far during my “break weekend.” That being said, traveling long distances is also incredibly fun and worthwhile!
Last weekend I visited my girlfriend in Venice. She was doing a Pitt study abroad program in Florence and Venice was only about a two-hour train ride away from where she was studying. Venice is one of those places I have always wanted to see. It is so unique and full of history. Moreover, my grandfather was an artist and painted many paintings of Venice, including a two-story tall mural in my mother’s childhood house. Unfortunately, he died long before I was born, so I never had the chance to meet him. Whenever I have the opportunity to see a famous place that he painted or learn something new about him, I try my best to take it. Given that, this trip had some deeply rooted personal implications for me as well. It is also apparently going to sink in a couple hundred years due to global warming, so I wanted to see it before it was no longer accessible.
I traveled on my own and made all of transportation the arrangements on my own as well. Getting to Berlin Schönefeld Airport took quite a while. In fact, Schönefeld is not even technically within the Berlin city limits, but rather, it is apart of the state of Brandenburg. It would have been more convenient to fly out of Berlin Tegel Airport, but the prices for flights are generally more expensive there. That leg of my journey was honestly the easiest part though. I have become pretty familiar with the Berlin train system and find it relatively easy to use. I also know enough German to barely get by in most situations, so that helps a lot too. When I finally got to Venice, I was lost like a chicken without a head. I do not understand any Italian, except for the most basic terms. Luckily, enough people in Venice speak English to help clueless Americans like myself. I finally made my way to our Airbnb after taking a bus and a ferry. Things got a lot easier once I met up with my girlfriend and her friend who also came along to Venice. Three heads are definitely better than one in these kinds of situations. The rest of the weekend went really well and I had an amazing time! Coming back at the end of the trip was also a very real experience for me. I had to catch a very early flight on Monday morning and went straight to work from the airport on little sleep. It was also emotionally draining, as I had to part ways with my girlfriend, and I will not see her again until early August.
As for my internship country, it also has some major implications for me and my background. First and foremost, I took German for three and a half years at the university level, so I wanted to come here to improve my German language skills. My last name is also of German origin and that has long fascinated me. I have only been able to trace my heritage back about 5-7 generations in certain blood lines, and discovered I had a great grandmother who was born in the Austrian Empire, but that is the closest I have come to tracing my roots directly back to Germany. Somebody on my mother’s side of the family was able to trace our roots back to Germany, France, and some other European countries on their own. I also have Jewish heritage and had many ancestors who spoke Yiddish, which is actually a dialect of German. In fact, many of the words and phrases sound very similar and somebody who understands one of the two languages would likely be able to loosely understand the other. My grandfather was able to understand some German as a fluent Yiddish speaker, according to my mother. This was also one of the reasons I chose to study German, as it is the closest mainstream language to Yiddish. Through the various German courses I have taken in college, I learned quite a bit about the culture and knew what to expect to a large extent coming into the program. I admit that I have experienced some culture shocks and certain things were unanticipated, but I had a pretty good understanding of the German people and German culture beforehand.
Anyway, hopefully things continue to trend in this direction for the remainder of this program! Maybe I will also discover the true meaning of “when in Rome” this weekend. Until next time.