I have no idea where this semester has flown away to! I have five weeks left over here in this beautiful country and city that I have fallen madly in love with, and there is still so much that I want to do! During this past month I have had the best adventures and experiences of my entire life. I am so lucky and grateful that I have had (and am still having!) this opportunity and am bowled over every single day by the love and excitement I have for this spectacular country. Seriously. I am obsessed with Germany.
I will get the less exciting things out of the way: School Work. My classes really are wonderful and they are contributing to my experience over here in ways that I never imagined. I am loving my Berlin: History, Memory, and Literature class. Everything that we read is about Berlin (obviously) and has enriched my appreciation for the city’s history, culture, and made me a total nerd about the city’s architecture, progress over time, and total destruction. I am also in an Islam and Europe class, which has been an interesting experience. I do not necessarily love the actual class structure, but the material is so poignant considering the huge Turkish population of Berlin. It has been weird to be in a class with such a heavy political edge where not everyone shares the same opinions that I have “grown up with” in Gettysburg. What I love about my program is the conglomeration of American students that have come together who are so different from my home college experience. I am also really enjoying my Pop Culture class because I have been able to understand some of the funny German obsessions (such as “Indians” or Native Americans, Elvis, Black Culture, Jazz, Rap, and Cowboys) and appreciate the influence of imported American culture. My last class is German, which is actually really fun! We adore our professor, Andrea, who is super cool and we have an awesome and hilarious time. I am learning a lot and find myself using my skills, but probably not as much as I should…
At the beginning of October I was very lucky because mom and dad came to visit me for their (belated) anniversary present! They flew into Berlin on Air France, who promptly lost mom’s bag. It was a hilarious mess that was completely solved, and we still had an amazingly full day of all the classic Berlin sights. That night we took a night train to Munich and arrived the next morning to pick up our car. We then drove to Lindau, which is in Lake Constance. We had the most spectacular view of the harbor from our hotel window. Dad had a field day during the whole trip, but this was a rather unbelievable and stunning view that literally took your breath away. It is crazy to think that some things like this exist. After spending the day and next morning there, we drove to the castles Neuschwanstein (the Disney Cinderella castle!!!) and Hohenschwangau near Füssen. These are the castles that Ludwig II and the Wittenberg family lived in. We became a little obsessed with Ludwig and his life story, which was very entertaining. The next day we drove around small Bavarian towns, went to the most unreal Baroque church (Weißkirche), and Linderhoff Palace (Ludwig II’s hunting lodge), which were ripped right out of a storybook. We spent that night near Zugspitze, the highest point in Germany. Travelling up the mountain the next day was, like everything else we did it seems, was amazing and totally beyond words. We got back to Munich that night and spent the next day doing the BMW museum (which was surprisingly really cool and dad was very happy to be there) and the older national gallery with the huge Reubens collection. After another night train, we got to Berlin the next morning and I showed mom and dad my home stay and around parts of Western Berlin. We ended the night with a lovely dinner with my host family, which was really fun! I was much more sad to see mom and dad leave than I had anticipated – I think that it was that little glimpse of letting my guard down for the first time in two months and a small taste of home that I didn’t realize how much I miss. The next two weeks were rough because of the crazy amounts of work I had, but also we were gearing up for our program’s weeklong excursion to Munich and Vienna!!!
Right now I am sitting on a ten-hour train ride. Yes. Ten hours. We are going from Vienna, Austria, home to Berlin. I think we are in the Czech Republic right now. It is the end of my trip with a bunch of my classmates and I had the best time on this trip! We began the trip with a weekend in Munich, which was really fun because I was already a little familiar with the city and knew what I wanted to do with my free time. Our program had a guided tour of the city that specifically focused on the history related to WWI and WWII, which as Berlin students, we are familiar with on the Northern Germany side. My friends and I were able to go all over the city and see amazing sights (the new national art gallery, Olympic stadium/village, Wittenberg family’s palace Residenz) and we spent one evening at the Hofbrauhaus, which was SO much fun because we got to meet a bunch of older German couples and other people from all over the world. The town is so different from Berlin because you feel like you are stepping back in time to a fairytale city. We headed off to Vienna on Monday morning and got there the night of Halloween, which they are starting to celebrate more and more over here! We got onto the U-Bahn and a Grimm Reaper was just standing there at one of the doors – it was absolutely terrifying. That night we walked around the more populated area around St. Stephens Cathedral and had dinner. The next day was our guided tour of the city, which is probably the most beautiful city I have ever been to. I understand why all of these amazing artists, musicians, and intellectuals spent their lives in Vienna. The whole city is just one unbelievable Baroque building after another with beautiful little coffee shops on every corner and wine bars nestled downstairs of main buildings. After our tour on the first full day I went to the Albertina art museum with one of my friends from Gettysburg who is studying in Vienna. Later that night we went to a Strauss and Mozart concert in the Hofburg Palace. It was the most wonderful concert I have been to, I had this huge stupid grin on my face the entire time. Just to hear the music that I love where it was written is a crazy experience that I did not think would affect me as much as it did. The next day we went to Melk, which is an adorable little town outside Vienna right on the Danube River with a huge monastery. Again, words cannot describe the decadence of the Baroque architecture and the beauty of the bright yellow and cream stripes on the outside of the entire massive complex. Thursday we had a tour of the Hofburg Palace where the famous Sissi lived. The rest of that day I went to the Mozart House where he wrote “The Marriage of Figaro.” I got the chills being in the study where he wrote all of these unbelievable pieces. Yesterday I was also able to geek out when I went to the graves of Beethoven, Schubert, Strauss, and Brahms. They were beautiful and the entire cemetery was hauntingly beautiful. I ended my trip with going to the Belvadere Museum to see the Klimt painting “The Kiss.” It is infinitely more beautiful in person than I imagined it could ever be. Basically my whole month of October and the beginning of November has been about my perpetual state of being amazed.
And now I am on the train. I am floating on Cloud Nine, grinning from ear to ear, and absolutely exhausted!