Taking a break from all the real issues, I’ve decided to recount my first backpacking trip and some of my favorite parts. I also do want to use this blog as a travel diary, especially for when we can travel again. For now, let’s take a trip down memory lane. I always make a point to try as much local food as I can when I’m visiting a place, but unfortunately I can’t remember all the food off the top of my head. Read about how I packed for this trip here.
I cut it real close by booking a flight 3 hours after my last final, so there was some residual stress by the time I landed in Sweden. My first/only night in Stockholm, I took the $60 (600 SEK) express train into the city and only went to one museum. It was a fairly uneventful evening, but a lovely museum.
The second time around was a bit more adventurous. My flight from Berlin got in at 11 pm, and I was supposed to leave the next morning for LA. My flight ended up getting delayed 27 hours, and I snuck back through border security illegally and past some guards who later questioned me. I snuck back through because I didn’t want to pay for a hotel and figured sleeping on the ground airside would be safer than landside. I also scored an impromptu photoshoot thanks to LG’s voice activated camera and some clever phone positioning (in case you were wondering how I got these photos.)
Certain cities evoke a strange sense of appreciation from me. My sister did not like Prague, but I found comfort there. Walking around during the various tours, learning about the history and customs, and visiting the Christmas markets left me with an overall positive impression of the city. That being said, I don’t know if there’d be much interest in a second trip without some amazing sights that I missed the first time around. I did make a side trip to Kutna Hora to see the church of bones (Sedlec Ossuary), which was both awesome and disturbing.
Perhaps an unpopular opinion: I don’t care for London. At the time of writing, I’ve been to London thrice, once for pleasure and twice for work. I find it expensive, dirty, and incomprehensible with the variability of English accents (and pronunciation of things like the Thames and Southwark.) Thank God the GBP was relatively weak to the USD when I went, because otherwise that city would have wiped me out.
I also had a super strange encounter in my hostel with an odd British fellow who took an interest in my feet. Yes, you read that correctly, and this was my first evening in London. Naturally, I had quite a few drinks after that incident. After working for a British company, I can confidently say that not all of the blokes are weird, but definitely enough of them are.
Thankfully, the free museums provided a lot of entertainment and information. Say what you will about imperialism, but damn is it convenient to be able to see all of these stolen artifacts in one convenient place. After touring the Globe theater, I even got to watch a play, “Romantics Anonymous,” which was both cute and poignant.
Spending Christmas in Amsterdam was very nice, mostly because I spent a lot of time intoxicated. In fact, I recommend taking all the legal drugs you can while you’re there. Get to know yourself and the city a little bit better, and meet some kind—if not interesting—people in the coffeeshops. Plus the Dutch are friendly in general, and by far have the most understandable and prevalent English of all the cities I visited.
Museum tickets are hard to come by without booking ahead, so definitely plan your days around them. I still managed to get into the Museum of Prostitution and the Stedelijk, both of which provided surprising insight on human nature and the timeless concepts of prostitution and depression (respectively, mostly.) I can’t say that I feel cheated by missing the priceless fine art because quite frankly I don’t care for it. Mixed mediums are way cooler, plus fine art looks better in pictures (hot take, I know.)
Hungary was a place I needed to go to for some closure with an old Hungarian friend. It was a weird experience from start to finish with some odd dates and a NYE boat party that ended up being the last time I ever got drunk. And BOY was I intoxicated. I was informed afterwards that what I thought was speaking in a British accent is actually just slurring my words. Also, the British drink alcohol like it’s water. Every time I watch the videos from that night, I cringe—why do drunk people talk so loud?
As for activities, I did a war-torn bar crawl, took loads of fun pictures at the 3D gallery, and recovered from a hangover at the Gellert Spa and sweated my hair out in the process. I had a local guy show me around and help me avoid an interaction with the police (bless his heart.) During the walking tour I learned that Buda and Pest were actually two different cities that were combined to make the Budapest we know and love today. All in all, it was a city that evoked a lot of grief, but was fun in the end.
Poor but sexy, Berlin is my dream city to live in. Honestly, the only downside would be the older architecture (I do enjoy my 21st century apartment amenities.) I enjoyed yet another travel fling, clubbed at Kater-Blau (another night to forget), and traipsed the city with two other backpackers. There was also the visit to the Museum of Espionage, where I not only learned about espionage but also got to live out my dream of being a spy navigating a room of lasers.
It’s admirable how seriously the Germans take the Holocaust. Many countries do not own up to their own atrocities, even those committed within their own borders (UK, Japan, US, etc.) There are so many monuments and little symbols that memorialize those who were targeted and the value of the contributions from Jewish communities. It’s somewhat commonplace—if not, at least not unheard of—to make associations of people to Nazis in America (i.e. grammar nazi), which is definitely a practice I would avoid in Europe. It’s basically a different N-word with the weight that it holds.
I took it relatively easy in Berlin, given that I had been traveling for weeks at that point, but still remember the city fondly. Germans are a bit of an odd bunch, but they’re efficient and respectful, which is good enough for me! My goal is to move to Germany (or really anywhere in northern/western Europe) before my 26th birthday, which gives me about 1.5 years.