As this trip is winding down, it is easier to reflect on the journey as a whole. I have started to realize that I have learned so much and grown a lot as a person. While it is nice to reflect on these things, I also felt it was important to stay in the moment as much as possible, and continue to learn and grow until the end of the trip.
When we went to Budapest, Hungary, I tried to pay as much attention as possible to everything, from observing all of the interesting things that were happening, to at all of the Easter markets that surrounded the castles, to learning how to say cheers – “Egeszsegere” – in Hungarian. Everything was incredibly beautiful. It was so interesting to see the differences in the city based on what side of the river you were on. One side of the river was originally for the wealthy, which is why there were massive castles all over the banks. The other side was for the commoners, which is why the only large buildings were churches.
After Budapest, we went to Vienna. Although we stayed outside of the city center, it was still bustling with many restaurants, bars and easy transportation into the main part of the city. We went into the quarter of the city that held most of Vienna’s museums. Even though it was so cold that it was snowing, it was still wonderful to see all of the intense architecture and statues that were all over. The hostel we stayed at was very friendly as well, and we met many other travelers that we could swap stories with.
After leaving Vienna, we headed to Prague, hoping for warmer weather. We did not end up finding much sun, but the city was still remarkable. We took another walking tour, led by a woman who grew up during the communist regime in Czechoslovakia. She was very interesting and had many moving stories from her life. This was a special experience because it was the first time we were learning from someone who actually experienced communism, and wasn’t just a historian who learned about it.
The town was still celebrating Easter, so there was a market right outside of the apartment we stayed in. This was the best place to find warm mulled wine, and trdelník, the traditional Czech dessert that is similar to a chimney cake, but way better.
We had an eventful four days in Prague, going to the ballet, visiting castles with stunning views of the cityscape and eating lots of goulash. We then headed for Berlin.
Berlin was by far the most interesting place we saw, history-wise. Obviously, it has a heavy past, but the city did well handling it, with many memorials and references to its past mistakes. Going between the east and the west, it was surprising how obvious the differences between the two sides still are. The western side was still much more Americanized, with McDonalds and KFC, while the east was much more what someone would picture as typically German.
Berlin, even with its dark history, was still an incredible place to visit. It was so interesting to see how a city could embrace how their past affected them, admit to their mistakes and move on to become a major city that impacts not only the rest of the country, but the rest of the world.