Edinburgh, Scotland: Day 2

Day two in Edinburgh started off with more street wanderings. I came across old buildings and statues that doubled as roundabouts on major streets. Since I was traveling alone, I took my time and walked wherever I felt like going. I stayed as close as possible to the Edinburgh Castle area because I had a Scotch Whiskey tour at 11:00 am.

Once 10:15 am rolled around, I made my way to the Scotch Whiskey Experience located near Edinburgh Castle and the tartan weaving mill. My tour was not until 11:00 am, but my booking said to arrive early. I was able to receive a student discount (hooray) so the tour ended up being 14 pounds. I did the Silver Tour, which averages around 50 minutes in length and includes a whiskey “barrel” ride to learn about the history of Scotch (Scottish) Whiskey, some informational sessions with a guide, two samplings of two different Scotch Whiskeys, and a glass from the whiskey tasting. If you are a whiskey lover, there are other tours offered that are longer and allow for more whiskey sampling. For a newbie, the Silver Tour is a perfect choice!

Now, I would have booked my tour for later in the day. However, on Friday night, I decided I would do this tour and 11:00 am was listed as the only time available on the website. As Jimmy Buffet would say: “It’s five o’clock somewhere!” Booking tickets in advance is not necessary because you can walk up and purchase tickets. If you have a particular time in mind, though, I would suggest booking tickets in advance.

I found the whole tour experience really fabulous! The “barrel” ride was quick and not boring, my guide happened to be very knowledgeable and engaging. I enjoyed learning about how different areas of Scotland infuse their whiskeys with different aromas and liked learning about the different malts (single vs. blended.)

The most entertaining part? I walked out of the tour tipsy. You read that correctly, friends. I sampled two different whiskeys and walked out TIPSY! My name is Sydney and I am a lightweight. In my defense, I only ate a muffin for breakfast and I fully acknowledge that I should have eaten more. I cannot say I feel inclined to drink whiskey straight or take a shot of it after my tour, but I loved the history aspect.

After my tour wrapped up around 12:00 pm, I decided to take my tipsy self and wander in some local shops and the Edinburgh museum (free attraction) before walking to the trailhead of Arthur’s Seat. I figured a hike in the Scottish winter air would quickly sober my lightweight self up.

Side note: Edinburgh has some of the cutest small businesses with local items from artisans that I have ever seen! If you have time when visiting, spending a couple of hours ducking in and out just to have a look at the quirky and unique items offered.

Originally, I had planned to hike Arthur’s Seat in the morning at sunrise. However, when my alarm went off and I checked the weather (foggy for the whole day) I decided to leave it for the afternoon and I am glad I did!

I would say a lot of people come to Edinburgh to simply hike Arthur’s Seat because the trek offers a beautiful view of the whole city. The hike in itself is not overly strenuous, but I do think you need to have either sturdy tennis shoes/joggers or hiking boots. I wore my hiking boots and felt relieved that I had done so because the ground was muddy and my ankles were well supported. All in all, I think getting to the top took less than an hour for me and was worth it!

Once I hiked back down from Arthur’s Seat, I popped into the Scottish Parliament. I did not have a tour booked (also free) so I could not go anywhere further than the lobby area. I did have a look at the photography exhibition before moving onto my next destination: the National Monument of Scotland.

Before I reached my final destination for the evening, I found yet another graveyard and decided to stop and have a look around.

Finally, I made it to the area where the National Monument of Scotland was found along with some other attractions and other views of Edinburgh.

By the time I wrapped up taking photos, I was ready to eat. I opted for a small sampling of traditional haggis and a rhubarb soda at a local restaurant. Both were delicious! Asking for a table for one the second time around was much easier!

I ended my evening by wandering through some more local shops and chatting with a mathematician/Ph.D. graduate of Cambridge at my hostel.

The following day I made my way back to the train station and said farewell to Edinburgh, Scotland. No mishaps this time around on the train! When I arrived back to Grantham, I opted to walk the 3.3 miles back to Harlaxton. Nothing beats a view like this one…

Hi, Harlaxton

I implore you to visit Scotland and to visit Edinburgh! You won’t be disappointed. See you back here on Monday!

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Edinburgh, Scotland: Day 1

Day 1 in Edinburgh started off at 8:00 am. I felt sleepy, but excited to explore a new city.

Per the suggestion of a Harlaxton staff member, I downloaded the app, CityMaps2Go, for my trip to Edinburgh. This app allows users to download maps for any city to their phone; therefore, you have the ability to use the map without using cellular data. Even without using data, your location is still given on the map in the form of a blue dot. Another cool feature of the app is that museums/attractions/restaurants can be “starred” on the map. I loved this feature because after I visited a landmark, I would unstar it so I knew I had visited there. Please note: only a certain amount of maps can be downloaded for free with the full version of the app costing $9.99 on iTunes. With as much as I used this app in Edinburgh, the full version of the app would be worth the $10.

Anyways, I departed my hostel with my major “to-do” being visiting Edinburgh Castle, which did not open until 10:00 am. I decided to wander up and down streets and stumbled across beautiful buildings, graveyard, and park. In the middle of the park, I saw a teal-colored fountain. What surprised me was the fact that the fountain had water spurting from it. Hello, it’s winter?! I laughed to myself because some of the figures on the fountain had icicles hanging from their faces.

Since I still was killing time, I wandered into a nearby church. This proved to be a great decision when the inside looked like this.

Once I wrapped up at the church, I decided to walk back through the park where the fountain was located. Along the sidewalk, there were different statues/memorials recognizing important Scottsmen whose roles ranged from serving as soldiers to poets.

By the time I wrapped up walking through the park, I made my way to Edinburgh castle. Now, the castle sits upon a dormant volcano. No matter where you are in Edinburgh, you can see the castle overlooking the city. The photo below does not capture the immensity of how spread-out the castle truly is when you walk inside.

Edinburgh Castle

To visit the castle, an entry fee of 18 pounds is assessed. Unfortunately, students discounts are not given. Audio guides can be rented for an additional 3 pounds. I opted for a normal admission so I could visit wherever at my leisure.

Within the castle, there are different areas discussing different parts of Scottish history: early wars, prisoners of war, canons, war memorials, etc. One of the coolest exhibits displays the Scottish crown jewels that were used during Mary Queen of Scots’ coronation (maybe there are some readers out there that have watched the Netflix series…?) I could not take pictures in this exhibit, but I will say the length of the sword was at least my wingspan if not longer…crazy! When I went into the area where prisoner cells were found, I found an informational sign with a breakdown of what inmates were given to eat. “Because the Americans were officially regarded as pirates, they received only 1 pound (560 g) of bread a day.” Haha! All in all, I spent around 2.5 hours at Edinburgh Castle. There was a variety of exhibits and great information. Well worth the money if you ask me!

After wrapping up at the castle, I went to the tartan factory which was a short walk away. There, tartan is woven to make scarves, kilts, hats, and more! I loved seeing the loom in action churning out yards and yards of tartan. Different colors of tartan represent or are exclusive to different groups. For example, there happened to be a large display on the wall discussing the world peace tartan.

I exited the tartan factory and made my way to St. Giles’ Cathedral next. This church I knew nothing about and walked in thinking I would be able to take pictures to my heart’s content. However, a 2-pound fee needed to be paid to have a “camera permit.” Friends, the 2-pound coin I paid…worth it! I wish my photos captured the intensity of the blue pictured on the domed ceilings. An absolutely stunning site to see in person!

Once I deemed I had taken enough photos, I made my way to the National Museum of Scotland. Along the way, I walked past the National Library of Scotland. My inner book nerd could not resist so I popped in for a little bit. There was a fashion exhibit/contest on with the outfits on display made by local college students. The library also had another exhibit called “A Better World? Scotland after the First World War”, which mimicked more of what would be found in a museum. Both exhibits were impressive!

After the library and still on my way to the museum, I passed by this famous cafe…

The Elephant House!

I finally arrived at the National Museum of Scotland. This museum is free with exhibits ranging from wildlife to pottery to fashion. I found myself drawn to the fashion and world cultures exhibits and walked briefly through the others that seemed to be overrun with children and their families.

Once exiting the museum, I pulled up CityMaps2Go to figure out where to go to next. I realized I happened to be near Greyfrair’s Kirk. Now, this graveyard is famous for two different reasons:

  1. There is a terrier that remained and protected his ower’s grave for 14 years until his own death. A statue of the dog is near the graveyard and people rub his nose for good luck.
  2. J.K. Rowling drew inspiration for some of the Harry Potter characters from gravestones located in the cemetery. Hence the church had to put up some barriers to prevent tourists from getting too close to certain stones.

By the time I finished up at the cemetery, my legs had become tired from the walking and my stomach hungry. I opted for some Kurdish food, which turned out to be delicious, ginormous, and filling.

Going into a restaurant by myself proved to be the HARDEST part of this solo trip. Nothing is weirder than going inside a place to eat that is not a cafe or fast food and telling the hostess “table for one.” I feel awkward and I can tell the hostess is questioning what I am doing by myself. However, once you get past that feeling and sit down to enjoy your food, all is well in the world and with your stomach.

Kurdish food

Day 2 in Edinburgh will be up tomorrow. I hope you will stop back to read!

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Edinburgh, Scotland: Traveling by Train

Last Thursday after my last class concluded, an introduction to supply chain and logistics in case you are curious, I hopped on the Harlaxton shuttle to the train station.

Now, I want to start by saying my first travel weekend I decided to do a solo adventure to Edinburgh, Scotland, by train. For a person who has limited experience with public transport, I am not afraid to admit I felt EXTREMELY nervous and doubted whether or not I would get to Scotland by the estimated 8:00 pm time on my train e-ticket. I questioned whether or not I should go to Edinburgh, Scotland, by myself when the majority of other Harlaxton students were heading to London. For a first weekend abroad, should I venture to a new country and city by myself? Do I have enough know-how to get from point A to point B?

If you know me personally, an adjective you may use to describe me is independent. I frequently choose “the road less traveled by” in the words of Robert Frost. By selecting the path others elect not to take or forging a completely new path, my life has immensely benefited whether through personal growth, friendships, or opportunities. With this mentality and self-reflection, I felt at peace with my decision to travel alone to Edinburgh as I entered my credit card number to reserve my train tickets and hostel on Sunday evening.

When I went to bed Wednesday evening, I tossed and turned all night long. All I could think about was the fact I had less than 10 minutes to switch trains by myself and had never done such a thing by myself. Throughout Thursday morning, I felt extremely anxious. I took the Harlaxton shuttle town after breakfast hoping I would be able to get my phone switched over to a UK SIM card. This proved to be an unsuccessful endeavor. On the way back to the manor, I chatted with the shuttle driver. I told him this afternoon I would be traveling to Edinburgh, Scotland, alone and about switching trains with less than 10 minutes to spare. He assured me the limited switch time was doable. With the driver’s reassurance, my nerves mellowed out.

I managed to find my platform easily at the Grantham train station and boarded my first train without any issues. As the train continued to stop and passengers exited and boarded, I continued to look at my phone to monitor how close the train was to York.

Eventually, the train arrived at York train station. I exited the train quickly and went to look at the departures/arrivals board. I could not find a train with my departure time to Edinburgh. As the minutes ticked by, I started to panic. The intercom clicked on and the voice announced my train departing from a nearby platform. I SPRINTED to the platform where the train was parked and leaped on as the door to the train started to close.

Friends, it is memories like these that make adventures, well, adventurous. My backpack happened to get wedged in the doors when I boarded the train. Let me say that again. MY BACKPACK GOT WEDGED IN THE TRAIN DOORS AND WAS HANGING OUTSIDE! I found myself facing a woman whose job happened to be collecting the rubbish on the train. She reprimanded me for jumping on the train as the doors were closing. The woman eventually hit the button to the train doors and I was able to get in (thankfully.) As the door opened, a man on the platform asked me if I was okay. I believe the stranger had been trying to push my bag through the door. With wide-eyes, I replied ‘yes.’ After this mishap, I really questioned if I should be traveling alone.

As my heart rate returned to normal, I went in search of my assigned seat only to find it occupied. Looking back on this moment, I am wondering if I happened to mix up the numbers in my head from the still pumping adrenaline. I found a nearby empty seat and made myself comfortable. At this time, I started to become panicked (yet again) because I thought I had boarded the wrong train. Above seats on trains in Europe, there is a little screen with the words: “reserved to (insert city).” I did not see ANY trains reserved to Edinburgh, only to Glasgow. After thinking to myself the worse case scenario being I could buy a train ticket from Glasgow back to Edinburgh, I calmed down. Eventually, I started looking at other nearby screens and found seats “reserved to Edinburgh.” *Insert massive SIGH of relief!*

Eventually, my train arrived at Waverly Train Station in Edinburgh. I disembarked and navigated my way to my hostel. If anyone happened to be out and about and looking at me, I am sure they probably thought I looked crazy. My face beaming with wonder, intrigue, and accomplishment at arriving in a new city and country BY MYSELF.

I managed to get to my hostel with no issues in case you were wondering.

Victoria Street: Edinburgh, Scotland

Stop back tomorrow for a recap on my first day in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Culture Trip: Stamford, England

Nearly every week on a Wednesday afternoon, students have the opportunity to sign up for free culture trips. The school provides transport to nearby English towns/cities and students have the opportunity to wander around.

Last Wednesday, the culture trip was to Stamford, England. Stamford is about a 30-minute drive from Harlaxton and I believe to be your quintessential English town. As you will see, there are cobblestone streets, historic buildings, parks, and overall has a quaint atmosphere. At 1 o’clock, I boarded a charter bus bound for Stamford along with the majority of other Harlaxton students and some of the professors.

Upon arrival to Stanford, I had planned to wander around the city by myself. However, my friend Irene asked to tag along with me so we ended up exploring the streets of Stamford together.

Our first stop happened to be a church (no surprise!) The inside had some beautiful stained glass and old gravestones outside.

After finishing up at the church, Irene and I randomly decided to go down different streets in Stamford. We stumbled across more churches, cute local shops, two hospitals, and a red telephone booth that contained a portable AED instead of a telephone.

Though the weather happened to be stereotypical dreary, English weather, Irene and I made the most of our time in Stamford. We had hoped to be able to see the outside of the Burghley House which is nearby, but there simply was not enough time to walked to the Elizabethan manor located outside of town. Even if we would have made it to the house, we would not have been able to see the interior as the house is closed to tours this time of year.

Around 5 o’clock, we hopped back on the bus to head back to Harlaxton.

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Grantham, England: Hello, Harlaxton

On Thursday, January 17th, I boarded my plane in Hamburg at 7:00 am to head back to London, England. At my gate, I met a wonderful woman named Gretel: a third-generation German who lives in Guatemala. We spoke a bit in Spanish and when I say “a bit” I mean a few sentences. Gretel told me about Guatemala and about Costa Rica — I will be studying there September 7th – December 14th of this year. We also discussed her journey to Germany and her stay in the country as well. I loved listening to her talk about Guatemala and how she teaches the children in her Kindergarten class. Hopefully, I will be able to visit Guatemala and see the volcanoes Gretel spoke about!

Once arriving back to England, I passed through Border Control and switched terminals to check in with the Harlaxton welcome committee. I stayed at the airport with other Harlaxton students until we boarded a charter bus to take us to the manor. My friend, Miriam, and I talked the whole 2.5 hour bus ride to the manor, while everyone slept. Pretty soon, the announcement that we were approaching the manor was given and this is what I saw from my window seat.

Oh hello there, Harlaxton!

Our bus made its way up the drive and we students entered the manor. The whole experience felt surreal (and still does!) I sat in on a brief “welcome session” and then had the opportunity to head to my room to get settled.

Prior to arriving to the manor, I had no idea who my roommate(s) were or where I would be living. At Harlaxton, students either live in the manor or the carriage house, which is a building detached from the manor and a short walk away.

I found out I would be living in the carriage house and only had one roommate (score!) Some students here have 3-4 roommates. Though my room is smaller than any dorm room I have lived in, I am happy to be only living with one other person!

After finding my room and unpacking, I set about exploring the exterior and interior of the manor. Its very overwhelming trying to find your way around the building, however, that is also the most exciting part too about finding great study nooks and seeing the architecture.

For the rest of Thursday, I attended orientation sessions and just relaxed. Since I had arrived earlier, I did not have a jetlag issue like my peers (score!)

On Friday, there were more orientation sessions. In the evening, every student attended the opening dinner. This involved formal dress and observing a bagpipe performance. After speeches and music, we headed into the Long Gallery for dinner and found out what our house would be for the semester.

Much like Harry Potter, there are four houses at Harlaxton: Mercia, Pegasus, Gregory, and Newton. Throughout the semester, we have house competitions to compete for points which can be lost or gained. The prize for the winning house is the key to the manor’s front doors and the losing houses end up with a wooden spoon.

My house is Newton, which is the parallel house to Slytherin (insert broken heart for a Griffyndor.) “Known for their war cry, Newton is not a house to be tampered with. With exceptional war strategy and a keen interest in science, Newtonians can muddle through almost any situation. They can be misunderstood, but are highly intelligent.”

The dinner commenced and I drank one glass of the most disgusting wine ever. Remember the 2 Euro bottles of wine Neele and I bought in Germany? That wine tasted a WHOLE lot better than what the school offered. Nonetheless, the food was decent and I had the opportunity to get to know more students.

On Saturday, I turned 21…a bit anticlimactic 21st considering I could drink legally as soon as my plane landed the previous week. I attended more orientation sessions and had the opportunity to go into Grantham to explore and buy necessities. Overall, I felt the love from around the world through text messages from family and friends both near and far. A nice, calm birthday. I am excited to see what adventures my 21st year will bring!

Yesterday, another day filled with orientation sessions and preparations for the first day of classes. The day passed by quickly with me planning my first solo trip. Edinburgh, Scotland, I am coming for you!

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Hamburg, Germany: Days 1 & 2

8 January 2019

I packed up my bags and loaded them into the large European car for the drive back to Hamburg with Neele and Ute as my flight back to London took off at 7:00 am on Thursday.

Once we arrived to Hamburg, we checked into our accommodation, found some lunch, and explored the city.

While exploring, we window-shopped and browsed through stores. Eventually, the three of us hopped onto a train to a different area of the city with more restaurants. Ute, Neele, and I ducked into a pub and each had a drink or two – I had a fruity wine concoction, yum! We sat and socialized for a while until we decided to go in search of a place to eat. For dinner, the consensus was to eat some Turkish food, which happened to be a first for me. The food was fantastic and at the end of the meal, the restaurant offered tea in traditional Turkish glasses.

9 January 2019

The day began with purchasing tickets for a tour of Hamburg’s harbor and river. We each grabbed a quick breakfast at a corner bakery, admired the love locks on the bridge, and hopped onto the boat.

For those interested in traveling to Hamburg to take a boat tour, please keep in mind the English tours are only offered during the spring/summer months. If you speak German or have a translator, you will be able to understand everything perfectly well.

Originally, I started out in the interior of the boat for the tour. As Neele pointed out to me, my pictures were simply not going to turn out so she accompanied me outside to sit in the brisk, winter air as we cruised up the river and through the harbor. The numb fingers and frozen tush were worth the photos! Our early tour also allowed us to go up through Hamburg’s river since the tide happened to be going in the correct direction.

During the tour, I had the opportunity to observe amazing architecture, see Hamburg’s skyline from the harbor, and go alongside HUGE carrier ships. I also saw the 14th largest yacht being built as well as a carrier ship undergoing repairs. I learned yellow plastic barriers are placed onto ropes docking the ships to prevent rats from coming aboard. Lovely, right?

After the boat tour, we walked to the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg. The building is a new architectural marvel for the city and is a sight to behold from both the outside and inside. In the room where the symphony performs, the ceiling has been hand molded/carved so the room is acoustically perfect.

To get to the upper floors, you hop on an extremely long escalator. It was the longest escalator in the world for a brief period of time before a larger one was built in China. After getting to the next floor and taking a shorter escalator, we arrived at an atrium containing a door to go outside on the terrace surrounding the building, a doorway into the connected hotel, and the gift shop. Neele and I walked outside and snapped a few photos of the skyline before heading back inside and browsing the gift shop. Once we concluded there, Ute, Neele, and I went to the cafe and had a snack/lunch of cake and coffee.

After our snack/lunch, we left the building and walked around the city some more. At the cafe, Ute had asked our waitress if she had any local recommendations. To which she suggested checking out an old church.

Around 3:00 pm, Ute, Neele, and I hopped onto a different boat for another tour of Hamburg. This time, the tour involved looking at the historic/old houses of Hamburg where the wealthy live. These houses when they go up for sale start at $15 million Euros. Additionally, any renovations of the houses must be approved to ensure the historical features are still preserved. All of the houses were absolutely stunning!

Once our tour wrapped up, we stopped by a grocery store and went back to the apartment for an hour before our dinner reservation at 6:00 pm at a nice restaurant. We drank some orange/vodka/fruity drink concoctions and opted for the mystery three-course dinner. The food was delicious!

As we wrapped up dinner, Neele and Ute gifted me a Germany Pandora charm for my bracelet to remember my time with them and our adventures.

We ended up having an early night as I had to be at the airport bright and early.

Germany, you are an amazing country filled with wonderful people, food, history, and architecture. I cannot wait to return.

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Hannover, Germany: Wrapping Up

Friends! Hello! It’s been a few days! I assure you I am alive and well. For my last few days in Germany, I wanted to soak up everything and took the time off from blogging, I am back now and am recapping my last couple of days in Hannover.

6 January 2019

Neele and I said farewell to Berlin and took the train back to Hannover where her mom, Ute, picked us up. For the duration of the afternoon, Neele and I relaxed and I did some laundry. We shared with Dirk and Ute our adventures and my photographs. At this point, I was on day three of having no voice so Dirk teased me and told me “I left my voice in Berlin.”

In the evening, myself, Neele, and her parents went out to dinner at a Spanish restaurant. The Lange’s Spanish friend was going to join us, however, a family matter came up so I was unable to meet him. Next time! We chatted, ate tapas for dinner, and I drank my first German beer! I will not fool you though, my drink was a traditional half and half concoction of beer and sprite. Neele suggested I order this drink because German beer has a distinct taste that most likely the non-drinking American would not enjoy. I am glad I have Neele watching out for me. She suggests all of the good German food and drinks (not lying!) The half and half concoction was delicious and I highly recommend ordering it if you are not a huge beer drinker.

Spanish food featuring Sydney’s first German “beer”

7 January 2019

Another morning of relaxing, laundry, and catching up on sleep!

After a lunch of kebab, Neele, Ute, and I drove to see Oma (Ute’s mother, Neele’s grandmother) at her apartment retirement community.

Once we arrived, Oma greeted me with a firm handshake, huge smile, and a ‘Hallo!’ Neele played translator between everyone, since Oma does not speak any English. I was given a tour of the apartment and saw the CUTEST pictures of a toddler-size Neele. Oma beamed with pride and happiness when she showed me photos of her grandchildren. We then sat down to have some afternoon coffee and cake. Oma had the table set with the blue and white china, matching paper blue napkins, and dessert forks. We ate cake, chatted, and smiled. When we wrapped up our tea and cake, Oma presented me with a gift. I was so touched by the gesture. She gave me German chocolate and a pair of knitted sock/slippers (I have since coined the term “sloppers” for them: a fusion of slippers + socks.) I will forever wear my sloppers with pride, Oma!

What I found so beautiful about the whole afternoon is that communication can still occur despite a language barrier. Gratitude, happiness, compassion, and more can be conveyed through gestures, smiling, and touch. To me, interactions where neither persons know what are going on are profound and powerful because you come to the realization that all humans are the same. Skin color, language, socioeconomic status, body type, and nationality are merely labels and characteristics. Despite appearance, upbringing, and education, all of humanity wants to be loved and respected both of which can be conveyed without words. We, meaning the world and its people, all smile in the same language. Never forget that, friends!

Ute, Neele, and I headed back to Hannover. We dropped Ute off at home and Neele and I went to the grocery store to buy wine and cigarettes for a get-together with Neele’s friend, Nadine. I learned wine is very inexpensive at the grocery store and that cigarettes are dispensed through a dispenser at the checkout. Above the checkout belt is a metal cabinet with the different types of cigarettes. You simply press the button for the type you would like and they slide down a little chute onto the conveyor belt. No attendant needed like in the United States.

Once 7 o’clock rolled around, Neele and I trekked through her neighbors’ yards to Nadine’s house. Neele and Nadine cooked Thai chicken curry. While dinner cooked, we drank wine, talked, and listened to German music on Spotify. Neele and I did not leave until 12 am. The evening was relaxed, fun, and a time I will never forget.

View from my window featuring my sloppers from Oma

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Berlin, Germany: Day 3

Saturday started off with me waking up at 8:30 am this morning, which is the best sleep I have had since arriving in Europe. #winning

Neele and I grabbed a bit of breakfast. Then, we hopped on the train to an area of Berlin where the classier shops are (Chanel, Fendi, Tesla, etc.) so Neele could get her hair cut. Since we were early, we walked up and down the street taking in all the shops and buildings.

After the mission “get Neele’s haircut” was complete, we hopped back on the train and then onto a bus to go and see the Berlin Victory Column and the President’s house thereafter. In my opinion, the German President’s house is MUCH more impressive than the White House.

Next, Neele and I hopped on the city bus again and got off at the nearest stop to find the Birkenstock’s store. We happened upon an area of the city we had not yet walked through. At the time, there was a market going with local artisans selling wares such as cashmere scarves, jewelry, and wooden bow ties. As Neele navigated us to the store, we stumbled upon an artsy alleyway containing the coolest murals and graffiti. Its the unexpected discoveries of beautiful city hideaways that make traveling so much fun!

Once we found the Birkenstock store and I made my purchase, we went on a hunt to the nearest Wonder Waffel – a restaurant where you can build the most decadent waffle with ice cream and candy. However, when Neele and I reached the restaurant, the line was obnoxiously long. Since we were both starved, we decided to select different food for lunch. I ended up with the traditional German currywurst with fries. Essentially, a sausage with a ketchup concoction with curry powder. Delicious!


The next item on Neele’s and my agenda did not start until 6:30 pm, so to kill time we just wandered around Berlin looking at shops and the architecture. We walked down a side street and stumbled upon the monument below. The statues are in memoriam of the 2,500 Jews that were buried in the mass grave behind the fence. I was shocked to knowing mere steps away 2,500 bodies were buried in the ground.

Neele and I then walked back up the side street and went to a cafe to grab some caffeine before taking the bus to our final destination: the Reichstag. I learned tipping is customary in Germany but is not based on a percentage. Neele informed me you typically just tack on a few Euros based on the service you received. Valuable information!

After she and I were caffeinated, we hopped on the bus only to find out a protest was occurring and the bus driver could not drive through the area which would take us where we needed to go. As a result, Neele and I hopped off the bus and walked for 30 minutes. The walking was peaceful and allowed us to see more of the city and some of the famous buildings, like the Berlin Cathedral, lit up at night.

Before heading the Reichstag, we walked over to the Holocaust memorial because I wanted to see the area at night. However, I thought the concrete blocks would be lit up, but that was simply not the case. In the picture taken at night, you are able to see the massive number of blocks representing the Jews who never received a proper burial. Unfortunately, the height of blocks is not captured in the photos nor how the ground is purposely made uneven between some rows. Truly, the Berlin Holocaust memorial is a sight to behold in person.

To finish off our evening, Neele and I went into the dome of the Reichstag. In order to do so, you must reserve your spot online and bring a valid ID with you. No entry fee is charged. Essentially, Neele and I were able to go into the building where the German government meets to vote. Any German citizen can sit in on the German voting process at any time because the government views the process as a right of Germans. We took an elevator up to the dome and walked up the spiraling ramp, which provided a fantastic, panoramic view of Berlin. Since there was no voting going on, we were unable to see the voting process occur.

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Berlin, Germany: Day 2

Friends, I am slowly overcoming my jet lag. I managed to sleep in until 5:00 am this morning. What an accomplishment! However, I woke up without a voice as a result of my ongoing cold. I am thankful though that I am getting my sickness out of the way prior to my classes beginning at Harlaxton.

Neele and I started our day off by getting breakfast at 9:30 am at the hotel’s buffet. I was thoroughly impressed with the wide variety of food options: fresh bread, cold meats and cheese, twelve different loose leaf teas, and yogurt with chia seeds. If you head to Berlin, stay at the Mercure hotel.

After eating, Neele and I headed to the train station to buy our train/bus tickets.

Side note: if you ever happen to come to Germany, I cannot recommend taking public transport enough! For 7 Euros, you are able to take as many trains/buses all day and can easily hop on and off to see the main attractions.

Our first stop of the day was the Holocaust memorial. The memorial is a series of 2,700 concrete blocks. The blocks vary in height and when looking between the rows, the ground is uneven and “hilly.” I found the memorial to be chilling and eerie.

After finishing up at the Holocaust memorial, Neele and I went to check out the World Clock. Then, we decided to start walking and happened upon the Red Town Hall. The exterior and interior of the building was gorgeous. On display in the town hall were pieces of art painted by Syrian refugees living in Jordan. I found myself wholly impressed by the art they had created.

Once we finished perusing the Red Town Hall, Neele and I hopped onto a bus back to the Berlin Cathedral. For 7 Euros, we had the opportunity to go inside the Lutheran church and let me say every cent was worth it! The dome from the inside contained so much detail as well as the alter and massive pipe organ. Below the pipe organ was an additional space that housed ornate caskets for early kings and queens of Germany. Neele and I then hiked up the stairs inside the Berlin Cathedral to see the panoramic view of Berlin.

After concluding at the Berlin Cathedral, Neele and I hopped on a bus and thereafter a train to head to the Berlin Wall East Side Gallery. The gallery is a series of murals on portions of what is preserved of the original Berlin Wall. No two murals were alike and other visitors were pretty respectful of waiting while you took photos. I found myself thinking how history repeats itself as I walked along the wall with the current political climate in the United States. After seeing the remnants of the wall in person and observing firsthand how the east side of Berlin is still trying to recover structurally, I cannot say a wall between two countries seems wholly effective.

Once we reached the end of the East Side Gallery, Neele and I walked for a while taking in more architecture and buildings. A neat feature of Berlin is that graffiti is EVERYWHERE! In some areas, the artistry seems to hurt the existing architecture but overall the graffiti adds so much character to the city.

Neele and I wrapped up our evening by grabbing dinner and just walking around and perusing the Christmas Markets near our hotel.

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Berlin, Germany: Day 1

Around 1:00 pm today, Neele and I hopped on a train from Hannover to Berlin, Germany, for a few days. The train ride was around 1.5 hours, extremely quiet, and included WiFi.

Once we arrived in Berlin, we purchased train tickets to head to our hotel. The immensity of the train station blew my mind! So many people and so much coming and going. I am so thankful that Neele is serving as my guide/translator for my time here in Germany. Otherwise, I would be completely lost!

Berlin train station

Once we found our correct trains, we made our way to the hotel and checked in for the coming weekend. The hotel I found to be artsy and swanky and our room included a beautiful view.

View from our hotel room

After we switched bags, we headed out to explore. Neele took me through the department store next to our hotel, which is the second largest department store in Europe after Harrods in London, England. We went up to the seventh floor and perused through the stationary section. Most of the stores are high-end, luxury stores. On the 7th floor of the mall, visitors can choose what they would like to eat, load up the items on a cart, and checkout by paying for the weight of their food.

After finishing at the department store, we walked down the street and ran into a Christmas market still set up. Neele and I wandered and looked at the different booths. Along the way, Neele pointed out traditional food and drinks that are standard to the markets. Like Hannover, Berlin still had man Christmas lights up, which added so much character to the city.

Once we wrapped up at the Christmas market, Neele and I hopped on a bus to go and see the famous Brandenburg Gate and Reichstag. Near the Brandenburg Gate was the U.S. Embassy and the most expensive hotel in Germany. This is the hotel Neele informed me that Michael Jackson held his son over the balcony.

By the time we finished looking at the Reichstag, Neele and I were hungry so we hopped back on a bus to take us to an Italian restaurant. Before eating, we ended up walking through another newer shopping mall and ran into some Bear-lin bears throughout the city, which the city is known for along with their unique crosswalk lights of a little man. Neele also took me to a grocery store, per my request, because I wanted to see how they differed from the U.S. The most important difference to me was that there was a wider variety of Kinder chocolate…delicious!

Looking forward to another couple of days of exploring Berlin! This city has made a great first impression!

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo