Travel break #1 and #2: Fantasy vs. Reality
I know I know! It’s been forever since I’ve last written, but I kid you not…this has by far been the absolute busiest 4 months of my life. When I’m not traveling, it’s back to the homework, paper, and project grind and vice versa. However, I am finally back in Copenhagen for good, or at least the next four weeks, until I leave this new life to head back home! And since I haven’t documented any of my travels, and just arrived back from my second and last travel break, I thought I’d delve into one of the best parts of this semester: traveling Europe 🙂
Travel Break Round 1: Fantasy
This was my first trip back in October where my roommate from school Laura, a new friend from DIS Lauren, and I headed down south to travel along the beeeautiful golden coast of Italy and Spain. Our first stop was Florence. The best and most accurate way I can describe it is straight out of a storybook. The city was saturated with historical beauty through it’s winding cobblestone streets, romantic architecture, and charming cafes and people. And when I say historically beautiful, I’m talking stops you in your tracks and takes your breath away kind of beautiful (yes, that actually happened when I turned the corner and first sited the Santa Maria Novella and Duomo in the distance…which literally looks like a pop-up). We can’t forget the food!! Which was by far the best Italian food I had ever tasted. Homemade pastas, ridiculously flavorful gelatos, freshly baked bread, fantastic CHEAP wine! Let’s just say that as much as I do love Olive Garden, it will never, ever compare.
Next stop was Cinque Terre, which is an ancient collection of five rainbow villages nestled into the Italian coastline. We stayed at Montaresso, the most commercialized of the five villages that had a small boardwalk, beach, and it’s own little adorable town. As we ventured out onto the rocks jetting out from our beach we could see each little village burrowed into the side of the mountain about a mile up from one another. We decided that visiting at least one of these was an absolute must, and so the next day we took a train to the neighboring village (each village is only reachable by boat, train, or hiking) called Riomagiorre. What fascinated me the most about Cinque Terre was the amount of color. SO MUCH COLOR. It was love at first sight. When I described it as “rainbow” villages…that is no exaggeration. These towns are hundreds of years old but more vibrant and unique than anything I had ever seen. Cinque Terre is somewhere I absolutely hands down must visit again in the future.
After taking an overnight train (which was quite the experience) we finally hit our last destination- Barcelonaaaaa! Finally, a place where I sorta kinda knew what people were saying around me! And to my surprise, the Spanish I thought I had lost from high school actually came in handy! Overall, Barcelona was a dream. We took full advantage of the absolute perfect weather by squeezing in beach time everyday (something desperately needed as the sun rarely shines in Copenhagen). We visited magnificent sites like La Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell, ate lots of tapas, drank delicious sangria, and visited some of the coolest bars and clubs I had ever been to. And did I mention that in both Florence and Barcelona we met up with numerous friends from Elon? Not only did we have a trip of a lifetime, but we even got a piece of home in the mix. Bliss.
Travel break round 2: Reality
A couple days ago, I arrived back from my second travel break. This break was amazing as well, but in a completely different way. For starters, it began on quite the rough note. After getting off the metro to venture out on our very first day in Paris, I went to grab something from purse and had a sheer moment of panic as I realized my wallet had been stolen. Yes, within the 5 minutes on the metro with my two friends FACING me in a crowded morning rush, someone had snagged basically…my life. It was a rough day, but thank God for my two best friends who got me through. Shout out to Devon Reilly who spoke fluent French effortlessly to the French police. If it wasn’t for you, I would’ve been screwed! But like I said, that was the very first day of the trip and there was so much more to look forward to! We made sure to see the Eiffel Tower at night, during the day, and even from the water. And it was a breathtaking view each time 🙂 Paris was huge! But it was romantic and housed elegant bridges and architecture. We made visits to Luxembourg Gardens, the Louvre, and Notre Dame. I also had a nutella, cinnamon, and butter crepe that I will dream about for the rest of my life.
Next stop was Berlin. Which can be summed up in a few words: hipster, metropolitan, full of history, COOL. I absolutely must go back. The beer is unreal and the food (sausage, potatoes, sauerkraut, weiner schnitzel, kebab doner) is sooo deliciously traditional. I think the thing I loved most about Berlin was the abundance of history. So much history!!! We went on a four hour walking tour that fascinated me the whole way through. We visited the trendy side of town called Kreuzberg and ventured to East Side Gallery, the part of the Berlin Wall still standing that encompasses an abundance of unique graffiti and street art making it incredibly picturesque. We even visited a Concentration Camp. By far one of the most moving experiences of my life. We all read and learn about Nazi Germany in school, but to actually stand where the horrific events took place while listening to a tour guide depict details was pretty emotional. It makes all that history seem so incredibly real.
After sadly having to depart from Berlin, our last visit was to Amsterdam. This part of the trip was a little different because it was a school trip rather than independent travel. I chose to participate in the academic trip because of the classes I’m taking (human trafficking, sex and gender) and the intriguing appeal of seeing aspects of Amsterdam such as the infamous red light district in an academic light. Boy am I glad I did!! We got a tour of the red light district from a past sex-worker, went through the Anne Frank House, and visited a nonprofit anti-trafficking organization called Not For Sale. The academic twist on the trip was really beneficial in that it offered a variety of opinions I had never considered on the legal prostitution. Amsterdam itself was stunning. It reminded me of Copenhagen but with numerous bridges and canals running through the city that were strung with twinkling lights at night time. All the restaurants we visited were delicious and that Saturday our class even had a special set menu for a Thanksgiving lunch 🙂 Although this travel break a bit more of an eye-opener than my first blissful vaca, it shocked me with real world experiences that will stick with me for the rest of my life.