11 April 2015 – 14 April 2015
Vienna – Berlin
Finally, another post! Boy, am I lazy. I’ve been meaning to write this all week, but every day I’ve put it off longer and longer. No more! I have a midterm on Monday to study for, which is just the motivation I need to write a blog instead. I’m also getting to the point where all the days are starting to blend together, so I need to finish this before I forget all the fine details.
The morning after our day trip to Bratislava, Carlo got up early to head to the Vienna airport to finally fly back to Johannesburg, as his spring break wasn’t as long as mine. I had planned on getting somewhat up to see him off, but I was too groggy to do anything besides wish him well on his flight. In case anyone is curious, he also has a blog where he’s been writing about his stay in South Africa:
I’d even go as far to say that it’s the second best Wesleyan study abroad blog! In any case, while Carlo had to go back to school, I still had another week of vacation to travel around! To that end, I was going to meet a friend from my German course, and the two of us would head up to Berlin together to meet up with a friend of hers, and then we’d spend the week in Berlin together. However, our bus didn’t leave until the day after Carlo left, so I had nearly two days to myself to explore Vienna!
I had breakfast in my hostel, and then set off through the market in front of our hostel towards some interesting looking buildings that I had seen the previous days. Turns out I am a much less driven explorer when I’m by myself. Carlo and I would usually have a vague plan of what we wanted to do, or stuff we wanted to stop at, but I really just wandered around aimlessly looking at the buildings and people. I really enjoyed Vienna though. Our hostel was fairly close to the museum section of the city, so I spent most of the day looking around there. I also found the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, which is the Austrian equivalent of the Library of Congress. I would’ve loved to have gone in, but admission was something like €40, so I decided against that plan. Interestingly, however, was that the square outside of the library was filled with tents and people setting up some event. I eventually found out that the Vienna Marathon was going to start around the time I would be in the city, and I think I might have even stumbled upon the finish line. I waited around to see if it was going to start soon, but I think they were still setting up, so I ended up leaving. The whole area was filled with museums of various sorts, and I eventually came across a small square (the name of which I can’t remember for the life of me) where lots of people were lying on blue benches in the sun. I lounged around there for a little bit, until the weather got a bit cloudy and decided to slowly make my way back to the hostel. However, I ended up completely daydreaming while walking and got myself completely lost. I saw a bunch of cool parks and buildings trying to find my way back, but didn’t take many pictures. I spent that evening relaxing in the hostel, enjoying the time between traveling. Remember when I said I was in Vienna writing Part 1? Well we’ve caught up to that part of the story! How exciting.
For those of you keeping track, the next day was a Sunday, and you know what that means! I had to check out of my hostel by 10 AM, and then I didn’t have much else to do, as literally nothing is open on Sundays, and I didn’t want to have to lug around my stupid giant luggage all day. Brief side note: When people say that they were ‘backpacking in Europe’ I thought they actually meant proper backpacking, with trails and tents and the whole shebang. Turns out this isn’t at all true, they just mean doing normal traveling by trains and buses, staying in hostels and the like, just like I was. Understanding this now, I really wish that I had brought my proper backpack, instead of lugging around my wheelie luggage. It was fine for my initial trip from America, but actually taking it with me as I traveled on metros and buses was not a fun time. I’m one of the few people who actually owns a nice backpack, but I didn’t think to bring it with me to Europe. In any case, stuck with my wheelie luggage and nowhere to go, I camped out in a corner of the hostel lobby and pretended to still be a paying customer until it was time to leave and meet up with my next traveling companion.
As I mentioned, for this final leg of the trip, I would be meeting up with Lauren, an American study abroad student from North Carolina who was in my German class. Together, we would catch a bus to Berlin, where we would meet Berk, a friend of Lauren’s, who was a Turkish foreign exchange student in Graz. Lauren had spent the previous two weeks in Greece, and Berk had been in Italy and Spain, so none of us were strangers to traveling at this point. I made my way back to the shady bus station that Carlo and I had used to go to Slovakia, where I met up with Lauren. We still had a few hours to kill before our bus, so we wandered around the neighborhood before we stopped at a pizza joint and got dinner. We chatted and hung out there before walking back to the bus station, where we boarded our bus at 9 PM to travel to Berlin. We had decided to get an overnight bus, so we wouldn’t get to Germany until about 6 AM, so we would have to try to sleep on the bus. Bus sleeping is not a good time. I am a tall person, so I usually don’t have enough room to sit in the bus seats, let alone sleep. It was more eventful than most of my bus journeys, as at about 3 in the morning, we got pulled over by the German (?) police, who boarded the bus and looked at everyone’s IDs. Thank goodness I had finally gotten my visa! The other passengers seemed rather annoyed at the bus driver for this, and started complaining to him in German. We started driving again, and not 30 minutes later, got pulled over a second time. This time, when the police came on board, the other passengers argued with them, and they left without checking our ID, apparently just from being told that we had already been checked not 30 minutes prior. In any case, we made it to Berlin on time, where we found the metro and took it to the opposite side of the city to our hostel.
Some of you cleverer folk might have thought of this, but our hostel was not accepting incoming reservations that early in the morning, crushing our dreams of a nice shower and nap. They did let us store our luggage, however, so we dropped our stuff off and decided to wander around the city until it was time to meet up with Berk. I’m going to be honest here, I was quite tired at this point, and we did a lot, so some of this stuff might be out of order, but I think everything should be here in the end. We made our way towards what we later found out was ‘Museum Island’, where a number of notable galleries and museums are located. On the way, we stopped by the Berlin TV tower (I can’t remember the actual name), which is a giant spire that had a glass sphere at the top that serves as a tourist spot. I really wanted to go up it (and Lauren really didn’t), but sadly the tower was closed for renovations that day, which ended that debate. Our first big site was the Berliner Dom, which is a large cathedral right on the river. We decided against paying to go inside, but we walked around the entirety before moving on to look at the other nearby buildings. The whole area was really cool, with a lot of picturesque places to choose from. However, our choices were made easier as many of the galleries aren’t open on Monday (come on Europe…). We eventually stopped for a bit outside of the Deutsches Historisches Museum (German Historical Museum) while we collected our thoughts and decided what to do before Berk arrived. We both really wanted to go into the Historical Museum, but we couldn’t find the entrance, so we instead settled on the East Germany museum located nearby. The museum covered what life was like inside East German, and had a bunch of stuff from the Eastern bloc during the late 20th century. I’ve always found it a little bizarre going to museums that feature stuff as recent as my parent’s time, but it was a cool museum. They also showed some propaganda documentaries made by the East German government, and let me tell you, socialism looks great! I don’t know why we all aren’t socialist, everybody looks so happy and not staged. After going through the exhibits, we arranged to meet up with Berk at the Historical Museum, which was in fact open and we were just too stupid to find the entrance. We then went through our second museum of the day, which began with the rise of Nazism in Germany and continued to about the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was super interesting, Berlin has been through an amazing amount in only about 70 years. Following the museum, we went back to our hostel and checked in before heading out again.
Don’t hate me. I’m spitting this post into two again. I did a lot in Berlin, alright! I just finished writing it, and it was 3500 words, which was the length of the Munich post before I cut it in half as well. Maybe I’m mistaken, but I don’t think many people want to sit and read the length of a 10 page paper in one go, so I’m really doing you all a favor. I’m like George R. R. Martin, except in no other regard at all. However, I do have the entire ending finished, so I can actually plan on having that part out in a decent time. How does Sunday sound? 12 o’clock sharp CST on Sunday, there you go. That’s not too long to wait, and this part ended up being about 2000 words anyway, so you’re not being cheated that much. I honestly don’t know if anyone cares that I’m stretching it out, but I like to imagine you are all crowding by your computer, eagerly awaiting the next installment. That’s what I tell myself anyway. Come back next time for the more interesting half of my trip to Berlin, and the final end to my trip! Until then!