Since arriving in London January 10th, I have been lucky to be able to travel all the places I have so far. My first trip, in early February, was to Copenhagen. Slowly after more experiences across the continent, I have been able to gain a better understanding of life in Europe. Here is where I got to go on Spring Break:
Our first stop on Spring Break, Berlin was as interesting as it was historical. My roommates and I had booked tickets to the old East German airport (they were much cheaper) and elected to take the high speed train into town. After arriving to one of the larger train stations I’ve ever been to, we took a local train towards our hostel. This rail line was above ground and went overtop the Spree River, providing some beautiful sights. Shortly after entering the railcar, a man entered with a dog and a boombox blaring noisy, harsh German heavy metal music. Also everyone was openly drinking beer on the public transportation and in the streets.
After hopping off the public transportation we began our mile walk to the hostel. The hostel we booked was along the Spree River on the old East Berlin side, and parts of the Berlin Wall remained along the water, now serving as public murals and a testimony to the City’s past. The hostel was welcoming and gave us a great view of the industrial wasteland that is East Berlin.
In general, the German people were pretty apprehensive to us while we were there, but there were a few very kind people who helped us when we were lost. During our time there we got to see the Brandenburg Gates, the top of the Reichstag, and the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, just outside of Berlin in Oranienburg. Getting to see in person the grounds of a concentration camp and experience part of the history was both parts sombering and eye opening. You can read about these places in history books but it doesn’t do justice to the kind of systematic evil that was occurring at these places.
The next stop on our trip was Prague, which might be the best place we visited so far in Europe. A beautiful city nestled on the Vltava River in-between the mountains. The architecture is incredibly easy on the eyes, with vibrant-colored houses and rooftops. Prague reminded me very much of Pittsburgh with its landscape.
In Prague our first trip was a 4 mile hike to the top of the mountain above the river. We lucked out and got some great weather, which provided for a great afternoon. After crossing the river we made our way up the mountain, which reminded me a lot of some Appalachian trails near Pine Grove Furnace/Mt. Holly PA. At the top of the mountain was a TV tower that we climbed to the top of. The view from this was incredible, and if my computer wasn’t completely void of memory I would upload the picture right here.
Some other must-see spots in Prague: The Charles Bridge, John Lennon Wall
The last stop of our trip, Vienna was one of the more “different” cities I’ve been to. First, pretty much every restaurant was cash only, which can be a nuisance when you’re traveling. Second, most of these restaurants were still smoking-friendly. Everywhere I went to eat I ended up reeking of cigs afterwards. After asking a girl I met about it, she told me that a large number of people start smoking around 16, and that it’s part of the culture there.
Vienna is home to many incredible museums, which are in the Museumplatz area of the city. I spent two afternoons inside the different museums and would highly suggest doing this if you’re ever there. Vienna is also home to some great pastries… try all the strudel you can get your hands on.
The AirBnB we had booked was along the Augarten, a famous park in the city. The park is famous in part because there are still large German Anti-Aircraft fortresses on its grounds, remanent from World War 2. While traveling through this part of Europe, it is hard to escape the influence that this war had on the area.
This trip throughout central Europe was as enjoyable as it was affordable (compared to Copenhagen, London and Amsterdam). The landscape reminded me of Pennsylvania. It was almost like I got to go home for the break.