Caitlin attends St. Louis University
It has been four weeks since I last posted about our travels to Barcelona. In that time, I have experienced the wonderfully different culture of Morocco, started a language exchange with a student from my English as a second language course I’m teaching with my roommate, been reminded that I am actually here for school through six different exams, and drank more beer than I thought possible in Germany. With it being March in two days some of my friends have begun to panic because our time in Madrid is already going so quickly. I, on the other hand, am just starting to feel comfortable in my home with our señora and in the Spanish culture. A few weeks ago I started counting my daily “Spanish wins.” For example, right now I am in a coffee shop typing this and was able to successfully order a café con leche and converse with the barista with no problems. Spanish win. Though some may be worried our journey here is halfway over, I am not worried because 1. I miss my friends and family a whole heck of a lot, 2. we’ve already done so much, and 3. we still have so much to do! In the less than two months that I have been in Europe I have travelled to Toledo, Segovia, La Granja, Loyola, and Barcelona, Spain, Morocco, and Berlin and Munich, Germany. I have plans to go to Valencia, Paris, England, Ireland, Portugal, and Amsterdam still. Oh and then meet my family in Rome and travel around Europe with those I miss the most. You could say life is pretty good and understand why I’m not that worried. Each day here holds it’s own small blessings which I am trying to appreciate each day.
Update on my recent travels:
Morocco was a very interesting, cultural experience that was unlike any of my other travels around Spain prior to that. We travelled with a tour group full of other college aged study abroad students. That, in itself, was an interesting experience but touring the different cities of Morocco was enlightening in the opportunity to experience Islamic culture. The entire trip felt very touristy to me which I didn’t exactly love because I’m not sure we got the “authentic” Morocco. Either way, we were able to enjoy the beauty of Chefchauen, also known as “The Blue City,” and the coastal African towns. One of my favorite parts of the trip might have been the several hours spent on different bus rides chatting about life with friends.
This past weekend we had a few days off after a stressful week of midterm exams. Last Wednesday, two other friends and I got on a plane to Berlin, Germany with very few plans/expectations in mind. Upon landing in Berlin late that night, we somehow made it to our AirBnB with relatively little struggle. The follow day we began by visiting East Side Gallery, the longest remaining section of the Berlin Wall that has incredible artwork and graffiti that depicts the beauty amongst the struggles.
Despite the rain and the cold, the rest of the day was spent wandering the streets of Berlin trying to find the Holocaust memorial via compass and bad public transportation. Through our wanderings we stumbled upon a fantastic bookstore with a huge vinyl music section and English books section and a restaurant inspired by Peter Pan. We finally made it to the Holocaust Memorial, which was a powerful reminder of the instability of that period of our history.
The following day began slow, as we decided to have “life chats” in our AirBnB until 1 in the afternoon. Once we finally checked out of our AirBnB, we ventured toward the 1936 Olympic stadium, which we discovered was quite closed when we got there. We thought this was a blessing though because we got a sweet picture devoid of all tourists.
Who needs to go inside anyway? After a slight run in with German authorities concerning some confusion with their public transportation system and where/how to buy tickets, we made our way to the bus station for our overnight bus to Munich. Side note: if you think you’ll get a full night’s rest on an overnight bus, you are foolishly mistaken, the two days will simply turn into one. However, after a cappuccino and muffin at the bus station we were ready to conquer another day in Germany. Our first adventure was to journey to the castle that inspired the castle in Cinderella. The two hour train ride to this small German village would have been worth it even if we didn’t see the castle because the German countryside is beautiful.
The castle, nestled in between the surrounding mountains sparkling with snow, was breathtaking. Of course my two travel companions decided to journey up the mountain on the path less travelled, making for quite a scenic adventure. We finished our first day in Munich at Hofbräuhaus, a restaurant in central Munich famous for their ginormous beer steins. These pictures were taken at the request of my Grandma.
We finished our trip to Germany on Sunday by visiting the Dachau concentration camp, a somber reminder of the horrors humans have committed in the past. There are no words to express the human atrocities that were committed in that place however the way it has been memorialized is a powerful reminder for our future. The most powerful image, for me, was the central road of the concentration camp, lined with poplar trees it represented “a symbol of the solidarity amongst the prisoners which developed despite the omnipresent violence.”
I think this speaks volumes to the ever present human desire to connect with others. I found the memorial had a chilling sort of peace that comes from the combination of churches and prayer areas and reminders of the suffering of the victims of the Holocaust.
Overall, I think my past few weeks can be summed up by this quote I found in our hostel in Munich, “A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” Most of my journeys have not been what I expected, but with each new adventure I learn something new about myself and those I travel with. I am blessed with incredible friends that are making my study abroad experience what it is so a special thanks to all of them here with me and my friends back home that I miss dearly who continue to keep in touch.