Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Berlin and Back Again

Well hello there!

It's been what, five years since I last posted anything? Hopefully you haven't all forgotten about me while I was absent, but I'm going to go ahead and write this regardless. Just as soon as I dust off the spider webs from the keyboard, that is. Well, not really, but hey, it's almost Halloween! Speaking of which, people in Europe don't celebrate pagan holidays, so I'm a bit sad. I'll survive though, and my dear family even sent me some chocolate to tide me over.

Trick-or-treating aside, what to say, what to say? The last time I posted was a month ago, so it goes without saying that about a months worth of stuff has happened since then. Life's continued, my Dutch has gotten better though is nowhere near perfect, I auditioned for an orchestra, got in, and my second rehearsal's Sunday. I need to practice for it as I have 40 pages of music to learn.

I had autumn vacation last week, like spring break but in the autumn. It was nice to be off school but at the same time it seems like a kind of stupid concept since you've really only been in school for a few weeks when you have it- I'd prefer a longer winter break or something. That would be a difference between Dutch and American cultures though. Anyways, I got a week off, and I went to Berlin with AFS for the second half.

Berlin was.. so many things. Amazing, exhausting, busy, exhausting, fun, tiring, and exhausting. We bused there Thursday night, got there Friday morning, and immediately started touring the city. It was quite a bit colder than here, so that wasn't so great, but not raining, which was an upside. Friday we saw so much it would be hard to summarize within the time I have now, but we went to literally every single touristy thing in the center of the city: the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Parliament, Pariser Platz, the list goes on and on. The Holocaust Memorial was really interesting, from the outside it looks like tons of low stone rectangular prisms of varying heights, but if you walk in it it slopes down  so the stones end up towering above you and you can't really tell where you are or what's around the corner.

Some time around nine o'clock at night we got to our hostel after having walked for thirteen plus hours, so you'd think that everyone would have wanted to crawl into our (bunk)beds and fall asleep. Instead everyone went to the bar area and hung out, which was fun but I was still exhausted (and yes, I drank ginger ale, don't worry). Anyways, it ended up being a pretty late night especially given that it was six people per room, and everyone wanted to take showers after having slept on a bus and then walked around all day, but this was after everything else, mind you.

Saturday started early, and we got to stand outside in the cold waiting for everyone so we could get on our bus (which was double decker, I'll have you know). So after freezing our butts off once more (this was a common occurrence as we were in a big group), we went to Sachsenhausen, a concentration camp outside of Berlin. While this was by no means a pleasant affair, it was nonetheless interesting and certainly an important thing to see. Walking around inside it it was really difficult to grasp how much death the ground you stood on had seen, how much cruelty and inhumanity. Walking down the path to the gate, with sun shining in the cold, to realize that you were walking in the footsteps of people who most likely were walking to their deaths was something I couldn't really grasp despite the continuous reminders. We stayed at the camp, which is also a museum of sorts, for the whole morning, and in the afternoon went back into Berlin.

Saturday afternoon and night was mostly free time- we went to a big shopping street based off of the Champs-Élysées in Paris, which was fun but I didn't buy anything except a lint brush and food. (I'm such an exciting shopper!). They had five H&Ms though. Five. It was like the number of coffee shops in Seattle or something. And when I say coffee shops I mean the sort that sells actual coffee, not the sort here (hint, it involves burning the dried flowers and leaves of a particular plant).

Anyways, there were a lot of H&Ms. And after all of that, we went back to the hotel after some point, and were told to find food. One of the other Americans, Kelsey, who is highly awesome and from Montana, and I found an Italian place and got pizza, which was tasty. We hung out there for an hour or so, then returned to the hostel, where everyone else was partying in the aforementioned bar area. Then went to bed, or at least attempted to.

Sunday morning dawned far to early for my sleep deprived mind, but I somehow woke up and did hygienic things such as brushing my teeth blah blah blah, then we all went to the Berlin Jewish Museum. I originally was too tired to really look forward to this, but we ended up having an amazing tour, which I think lasted a few hours but I can't really tell you because a) it was really interesting so I didn't notice and b) I was very, very tired. The museum, which you should wikipedia, has really interesting architecture that reflects the German Jewish history. The tour guide did a very good job of explaining it in only a few minutes whereas I would end up taking an hour, but wikipedia does an okay job I think, so you should do that. Or at least I think it does, I glanced at the page and saw lots of pictures but was too lazy to read all the text.

Where were we? Ah yes, the museum. Which was interesting, and after there (and waiting forever to find everyone in our group), we had free time in another touristy area. Because it was Sunday none of the shops were open, which wasn't so fun, but Kelsey and I wandered around, located a Starbucks where I got tea because it was freezing out, and utilized their toilets because Berlin/Germany/The Netherlands has no public toilets, and most of the time you have to pay to pee everywhere, à la Urinetown, but minus the singing. This also means no rest stops on the highways. This kind of confuses me given the amount of taxes people pay here, but moving on.

We were at Starbucks, yes? Which is as always overpriced, hence the tea. After some more wandering we (Kelsey and I) ran into the AFS volunteers, bless their souls, and we wandered with them, got some food for the bus ride back, and went to a hotel which had a viewing deck on the 45th floor (well, we took the elevator up to the 37th then climbed more stairs, so I'm not sure how high it was, but high). So we went to the viewing deck, where you could see the entire city, which was cool. They also had something like bungy jumping but slower you could do from there, but it was 70 euros so I refrained, and instead planked on the railing, as demonstrated in my profile picture on facebook. You can't tell in the picture, but there was actually another platform out beyond the one I was on, so it wasn't just that net holding me in place, I'm not that stupid!

Free time over, we walked back to the bus in the cold, got on the bus, at which point I pretty much promptly fell asleep despite the uncomfortable accommodation. I got to Amersfoort at five in the morning, then took the train to where I am, which took until 8ish, then got to walk home. Then fell asleep until 5 pm, woke up, ate, took a shower, then went to bed at 8 something, then woke up the next morning and went to school.

Two days of school later I'm here, and am looking forward to the weekend. I should go do things like homework and violin now, as this has taken far too long. Not even going to bother proofreading this!

Love to you all!


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