Monday, December 23, 2013

Berlin, Germany

I swear—I can’t keep up with these things. (This was what I wrote while traveling.. haha I wasn’t kidding !) We arrived in Berlin after a 5 hour train ride. (I should calculate how many hours we spent on the trains.) I was just happy. I got off into this huge train station. It had everything you would need and it was clean!! What is better than that?? It made you feel comfortable and excited for Berlin.

Berlin is huge. We went to check into our hostel. We got there by the S-Baun. It was free with our Eurail passes. Awesome. The bottom of our hostel or lobby I should say was a really fun looking bar. The rooms were really nice with privacy curtains, outlets, nice place for your belongings that locks up, and a personal light.  Ahhh.. this hostel was a dream. We went and saw the Berlin wall that night.

The next morning we shoved our faces with one of the best free breakfasts yet. Then we toured sachsenhausen; a concentration camp. George (our tour guide—who reminded me of Ben Sojka. He was really knowledgeable and passionate, scruffy, and about the same size.) He was an American, and from Missouri! Anyway, George really wanted you to understand the difference between concentration camp and a death camp. In concentration camps people were killed, yes. However they were labor camps so they worked them to death. The death toll of sachsenhausen is unknown. Low estimates of 35,000 and upward estimates of 55,000—for this particular concentration camp. Death camps like Aushwites  was where they took people for extermination. We were going to tour Aushvitzes in Poland (had our tickets booked and everything), but then found out Poland isn’t included in our Eurail passess. We had already spent so much on our Eurail passes that we didn’t splurge to go to Poland. I was bummed.

The time above is the exact time of liberation. 
"Work makes you free"

I was still happy that we got to go see a concentration camp. Maybe happy is the wrong word??? I just learned so much, and I was so interested in learning about the Holocaust in school. I think most of all I was going to see if I could get some answers or some reasoning to the questions we all have. Why. Our tour guide George did help shed some light on some of these questions. How didn’t the Germans know or why didn’t other people help/rebel? Why did people participate when they knew it was wrong?
George gave some explains like this:
--The kids were trained from young ages what to believe in schools, so now at older ages that had been somewhat brainwashed.
--Lots of propaganda
--People were given a choice.. go fight in the miserable freezing cold war or have a house given to them to stay in with their family and work for the SS. And whether or not you choose to go fight or stay there was going to be enough people that picked to stay 
--Repeatedly told or reminded people that this Jew has a job (or whatever it may be) and you don’t. How does that make you feel??

The concentration camp was silent. George talked of course, but people just listened and I think we were just taking it all in.
After the war Germany started destroying some of the camp sights. To try to hide the evidence sort of thing… George told us, but I forgot what made them stop. It is apart of history and they should be able to just destroy everything and act like nothing happened. They did apologize for their doings. I don’t really have any words—unbelievable. 

After the concentration camp we went and saw the Holocaust memorials. There were multiple memorials for the different groups that were targeted. The couple that we saw were for the Jews, Gypsies, and Homosexuals.

Gypsies memorial. It was really peaceful. 

Jew memorial.

The homosexual memorial. In that box was a video playing of homosexuals kissing. 

A cemented slab covered in gum. Lots and lots of gum. 

Jess and Sophie looking wonderful.


That night we grabbed a beer and burger at our hostel. It was the greatest burger that I have eaten since I have left Iowa. (and like the 2nd or 3rd time I had eaten meat on this Eurail trip. I actually am starting to miss meat) If that wasn’t a pick me up, I don’t know what would be!! It was a kraut burger with German kraut and mustard.

 The cute stop and goes of Berlin 
 Getting on the train as the sun comes up

We got up at 5am to leave. We left on time, got to the train station early and even had time for breakfast. Ahhh, so this is what it feels like. Wow, we are really getting the hang of this (now that we only have a couple train rides left..) Good job guys. We get to the platform and there is a 20 minute delay. Ok, not a big deal. We sit and watch the rest of the sunrise. It was beautiful. The train comes and people start getting on so we follow their lead. I get one of the best seats I’ve had on a train. It reclines a bit, and it was just top notch. Oh my gosh.. these next 5 hours will be me sleeping like a baby. I get all situation and comfy. Headphones in. Eyelids closed….. Tap on shoulder. It was Jess. “Abby, um we are on the wrong train. This isn’t going to Amsterdam.” Hahhahaahaha what??? Nothing surprises me anymore. We truly are the worst backpackers. We get off at the next stop, which is still in Berlin, just a different station. Well we need to get back to the first station so we can get on the later train to Amsterdam—unless… Unless our train will stop here like this one did. Ha! It did! Wow. We are too lucky. Our train stops 10 minutes later and we all double check that this is the correct train. The seats aren’t the same as the last train. Bummer. Hey it reclines a little bit! Upper!

Now, lets just hope we can make it off at the correct stop….

Sunday, November 10, 2013


We wait until 5 am to get on the metro. We were advised that it probably be best that we didn’t walk alone to that hostel at 3 am. Hey, safety first.. I was all about waiting. There were a lot of homeless people sleeping in the train station. I didn’t exactly feel comfortable with all of them staring at us either. 5 am comes and the metro starts running. We arrive safely at our hostel. They were so nice and let us sleep an hour in the common room since our room obviously wasn’t ready yet.

Around 8 am we set off to explore Prague. The little sleep had some effect on my walking. The crosswalk was red. However, when the flashing hand has numbers that’s how much time you have to cross. (Or so I thought.. I think that is how it is elsewhere)… nothing like making assumptions in other countries. Or just taking the time to stop and observe the traffic… Nope… I just start crossing the street with the “hand” principle in mind and cars were in the most literal sense dodging and honking at me. (Yes, I am still walking with my boot and a crutch) Somehow I successfully make it across without getting hit. Once I realized what I did (partly because Jess and Sophie were on the other side of the street flabbergasted) we couldn’t stop laughing. They were yelling at me Abby!! Abby!! Are you crazy?! It was one of those moments when you are so shocked that you can’t even say something to stop them. What the hell Abby. Apparently we need to wake up some more—or just me. So we decided the next best option was to stop at McDonalds for breakfast.

We had some time before our walking tour that we decided we were going to go on. I would suggest if you are curious where to start in a city to ask anyone about the walking tour (because more often than not they have them—and a lot of times they are free) then you can see the city some and decide what you would like to see more from that. This one was free. There is a lot of history in Prague, so we were filled with information. The funniest part about this tour was the beginning. Our tour guide gives us the low down on what we are about to do blah, blah, blah. Then says ok one last thing before we take off—safety. Prague has the highest rate of fatal accidents with pedestrians due to their crosswalk law only began in 2001. A lot of the older people are having a hard time adjusting to it, and so don’t follow it too closely. So be really careful crossing the streets. Oh. My. Gosh. If that didn’t do us about in… well, hello everyone, my name is Abby and I am happy to be alive.

We really need naps. Along with their history Prague also is known for its nightlife. We enjoyed ourselves a bar crawl. And that is all I will say about that. J  

Me, Jess, and Soph!! 

Our friend from Australia 

And the boot of course. 

This morning we grabbed our free breakfast and went to the train station. No running, sweating, or out of breath. We had a nice 5 hour ride to Berlin to look forward to. Prague went by in a flash. It’s been a week since Rome and 4 countries between. Crazy. Crazy. We have 2 nights in Berlin, 2 in Amsterdam and 5 Paris. Our trip is winding down, but so much left. Our bodies hurt. Not only does traveling take a toll on you, but so does packing up and not getting enough sleep.

I am starting to really want my bed and my flatmates back. England will be nice to get back to.
I tried not to think of home and missing it.  I knew I couldn’t have it for another couple months. People asked if I got homesick. After I hurt my foot and Sophie’s phone stolen it was hard not to get homesick. But it is all a mind game. Home wasn’t an option. I was traveling and then going back to England to take my exams. That was my home. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Vienna, Austria

Vienna. We made it. We walk to our hostel and find the owners to be big, muscular "German" men. They speak German, but they aren't actually German... I guess it sounds better than Austrian. (I'm not even sure what this means)

Funny thing... we get to talking and told them we came from Budapest, and told them our little story. One of the guys was from Hungary and left because he didn't like it! He said that our deal in Budapest most likely would not have been a problem had we been from there. But.. I will say that that is the first time I've been treated badly because I am an American. 

It was getting dark, but they told us it is pretty safe and that we should go explore. We stumble upon a festival. Wine, beer, people, music... fun!! We grabbed a beer and started walking around when these two guys asked us where we were from. (I thought it was a little weird just because I was wondering how we were sticking out so badly from everyone else?? Maybe they had just heard us talking) We stopped to talk to them.. they were early 30s probably. One guy was really into metal music and kept saying "Yeah!" In a deep rocker voice. he said he loved American music, so I asked if he was a Lamb of God fan. (Super heavy metal-screamer music) He was so thrilled that he hugged me and kissed me on the cheek!! Wow. That I wasn't expecting. I've now been kissed on the cheek by a 60 year old Italian man and a 30s Austrian rocker man.  

There were these little cabins set up with bars in them, and one of the ones we walked into were people playing music, climbing in the rafters, screaming and singing. It was kind of interesting that when you buy a beer there you have to pay a little extra and when (if) you bring your glass back you can get your 2 euros back. I had never had that happen in the US, I thought that was kind of interesting. It was a cheap couple souvenirs ;) 

We decided to call it a night. The next day we got up and wondered around all day. The hostel was so great and let us come cook our pasta before our overnight train. Which reminds me that this hostel had an really good breakfast with a few different cereal options etc! Got to love eating something besides a little bread! 

This is our hostel and notice the toilet and how it flattens out and the hole is on the opposite end. 

We leave the hostel with 15-20 minute grace period to have at the train station. We knew exactly where the station and stop was----we thought. We get to where the station should be. We ask a lady just to make sure we were in the right place. She told us that we needed to get on the subway to a stop switch subway lines and it is a couple stops away!! Oh shit. Why are there two metro stops with the train station name in them!?!? Surprise to you yet?? More panic and running. Get on the subway, ok. Switch lines... 7 minute wait. Oh, no. After what seems like forever it gets here. Ok. Sophie we have 2-3 minutes before our train LEAVES (our estimated time from when we arrive at the right stop. You just go. You sprint. Ok, on the subway they stop and go so quickly. Except this one time when we are desperately trying to make our train. We get on the subway and wait. More people are coming and getting on. Why are we still here?!?! Still waiting.... 2-4 minutes now that we have until our train leaves and we are still on the subway. We have the slightest sliver of a chance. This lady hears us talking and she explains exactly what we need to do when we leave the subway doors. Bigger station than we thought. Sophie sprints and i'm tailing behind, but hopefully she can yell wait?? We sprint to the platform and the train is just arriving. Oh. My. Goodness. 

If not for those amazing directions from the nice nice lady we probably wouldn't have made it. Our train literally stopped (you usually have time to walk to your cart number--ya know, just get on) they blow the whistle and we have to jump in a car and go. Jess and I were seated with nice men. They reminded me of my dad. I miss him. I felt safe. Sophie had to sit in a different pod. We were supposed to arrive in Prague at 4:09. I wake up at 3:45 and we are already there. My gosh. So many times, everywhere we travel we are doing this!!! Soft of frantically get off. Our last night train. Pretty happy about that even though they are so cheap. 

Hey, Prague.

Did I mention that our whole time using the metro in Vienna not a single person checked our tickets. Not once.