Posted by: Kennedy | April 7, 2010

A Patchwork Quilt of Countries

As the Sommersemester looms ahead, I had better take this brief pre-Hausarbeit opportunity to update y’all on my recent activities- namely train, plane, skate, bus, and bike -ing it across Europe!

I booked a 4 Euro plane ticket to Stockholm, Sweden, (thank you, Ryanair!) just in time for….the coldest winter since 1868. The gorgeous, snowy boat tour that I took of Stockholm’s 14 islands included crunching through six inches of ice in the harbor.

Being part Swedish, I thought the trip was definitely worth it, despite the bitter cold. Highlights included eating chocolate mounds filled with cream, visiting the incredible Vasa Museum (where an entire sunken 17th century ship is preserved), walking through snowflakes in Stockholm’s old town, and free ice skating! The last was a find, since Stockholm is VERY expensive. Our hostel lent Kara and I skates, directed us to an outdoor ice rink in a nearby park, and off we went!

Our next stop was Barcelona, Spain, where the warm weather was mesmerizing. As we watched the ground come nearer from the plane window, I just couldn’t get over all the GREEN! Needless to say, we spent as much time outdoors as possible in Barcelona.

We biked through the city and along the beach for two days. We also thoroughly enjoyed touring the Gaudi cathedral, houses, and parks. My favorite activity in Spain, however, was definitely our daily visits to the fresh market on Las Ramblas. Along with every type of fresh fruit, vegetables, cheese, seafood, and bread you could imagine, there were DELICIOUS cups of fresh fruit juice for 1 Euro each, ranging in flavor from blueberry to maracuja coconut.

I also really enjoyed the Picasso Museum, the Gothic Quarter, and a tiny little bead store we found tucked away in a side street… I guess there’s nothing like being able to make your own souvenirs!

My boyfriend, Anthony, and my mother both came to Berlin to spend a week with me. Their visits overlapped, so Anthony and I were able to prepare a nice dinner for my host family, my mom, and Kara. It was a pretty incredible experience to sit down to dinner with eight people from two continents and three US states, all of whom are very important in my life. As my host mom said, that particular table arrangement will probably never happen again!

Anthony, me, Kara, Klaus (my host dad), Barbara (my host mom), Mom

After Anthony left Berlin, Mom and I flew to Florence to enjoy Italian bread, pizza, pasta, and Chianti wine. We fell happily and quickly into the daily rhythm of tourist  activities: church, museum, castle, repeat. My mom loved the pink and green Duomo and the Michelangelo painting in the Uffizi. I loved looking at the Tuscan countryside from the Boboli Gardens of the Pitti Palazzo and the view of Florence’s many bridges when walking along the canal in the evening. We both loved the amazing espresso and the jewelry at a little store called Venice Glass on Via de Calzaiuoli. We also made a quick trip to the little town of Bergamo on our way out of Italy. While we managed to see just about everything the old city had to offer in one evening, the central square, cathedral, and surrounding shops were both beautiful and interesting.

When Mom and I returned to Berlin on Sunday, we just had time to visit Checkpoint Charlie and enjoy a parting dinner at my favorite Indian restaurant, Amrit, before we both needed to repack. Mom left early the next morning for the States. After I dropped her off at the airport, I headed straight to the Hauptbahnhof to join my program on a week-long trip to Weimar.

Waiting to enter Wartburg Castle

Thus began a week crammed full of Goethe, Schiller, Herder, Bauhaus, Stammtisch(es), more churches, more museums, and more castles. We took the train to Jena and Leipzig, visited Wartburg Castle (where Luther translated the New Testament), and made the pilgrimage to Buchenwald concentration camp.

I would highly recommend visiting the collection of German impressionist paintings in the Residenz in Weimar, and the DDR museum in Leipzig. Of course, the trip to Leipzig is incomplete without a meal at Auenbach’s Keller!

When I finally made it back to Berlin to guiltily check my document deadlines for law school, I took a few days for productivity and sleep. Then Anna Gibson, a friend from high school who is studying at Oxford University, stopped by Berlin for a few days. She is also a history major and reveled in Berlin’s rich, yet war-torn, retelling of its history with me. We made the trip to the Reichstag and the Eastside Gallery, but we also ducked into the Ritter Sport store on Französiche Straße for a bit of fun. You can buy oodles of multi-colored, multi-flavored chocolates, or make your own!

I am now settled back in my lovely city and looking forward to classes at the FU starting on Monday. My law school decision is still in progress, but I am fortunate to have some options for the fall. In the meantime, I intend to maximize every opportunity that my remaining four months in Germany allows!

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