July 5th, 2014

I am writing from my home away from home in Upper Michigan where I will be for the next two weeks and I thought everyone deserved a little update. I finished my adventures in Rome almost two months ago, and my adventures in Europe just a few weeks ago. I have bounced between places, rooting and uprooting myself from everywhere I went, not realizing how deep my own roots had grown, and how hard it got each successive time to find a way to dislodge myself without damage. Whenever I travel I try to get to know a place, which makes it all the harder to leave in the end.

I am a deep rooted person and because of that, every time I drag myself from the bottom out to a new place, I know that there is always something I leave behind of myself. It makes travel somewhat painful, but it also makes it so much more beautiful. To feel the pain of missing something is a discomfort I have come to enjoy in my travels because it means I cared enough, felt deep enough, about a place or the people in it to truly miss it when it is gone. I choose to cherish the fact that I was able to build these strong connections instead of dwelling on the pain of missing them.

I have come to understand now that the older we grow, the more homes we accumulate. As little children collect doll houses, which they fill with all the pieces they think makes up a house and home, I have seen people as they grow older collect homes. However, instead of physical houses gathering dust in the corner, I have found that certain places leave images of themselves behind in my heart that cannot be uprooted, no matter how hard I try. I am 21 years old, I have collected four homes so far in my life:

  1. Santa Cruz, California: My first and everlasting home filled with the sound of wind blowing through trees and waves crashing on the beach. Filled with childhood memories of me and my family. If you put your ear close to my heart, you can hear Santa Cruz continually ringing like a conch shell murmuring of the ocean it once belonged to.
  2. Bootjack, Michigan: A home the color of crystal water, and sunsets like none I have ever seen elsewhere. It rings like thunder rolling deep across the lake as rain hangs like a curtain over the things I love. It is filled with my most cherished family memories that have made my heart so full of family I could never let them go. The welcome mat in front of my home reads out to all who peer inside my heart, Just Another Beautiful Day in Bootjack.
  3. Berkeley, California: This home is filled to the walls with books, ones I both love and hate. The walls are covered in words of the things I have collected from professors, peers, and some life long friends. This home is ever changing as I enter my final year of physically living here, but this place houses all of my wisdom, my hard work and dedication. It is in this home I have watched dreams become reality.
  4. Rome, Italy: My newest home full of memories like a live-wire bringing new things to life in me. A home the color of perpetual dawn like the buildings painted to never loose the colors of each wonderful day. A home filled with reconstructed ruins, where rubble is the remnant and reminder of how grand life can be. A home that stole my heart quite forcefully, rooting deep and fast making it the most painful to leave.

All of this to say, I have been bouncing between all four of these homes for the last couple of months, leaving Rome to return to Santa Cruz, leaving Santa Cruz to see Berkeley, and Leaving Santa Cruz again to come where I am now, my home away from home in Michigan. I hope to share some memories and experiences of my most current home as I have been doing for my others so recently.

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June 30th, 2014

While in England I took a series of day trips to spread my knowledge’s reach to other parts of England beyond London. Branching out on the train lines I set out to adventure in England beginning with York where I stayed for two glorious days. With just my purse and my camera packed away I trekked across London to the King’s Cross Station, which is a big impressive station, next to the even bigger and more impressive station in my opinion, the St. Pancras Station. I had a bit of a long wait for my train so in the meanwhile I explored the area surrounding the station, and even watched a Lays commercial being made with a blind taste test where people kept burning their mouths on hot food.

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Then I explored the interior of the station and realized that King’s Cross has Harry Potter’s Platform nine and three quarters and in the actual station they have this whole elaborate set up now for tourists looking to follow the Harry Potter things in London. It was a baggage cart cut in half next to wall with even an owl stuffed animal on it, and people had lined up, zigzagging through the station to take a photo with it pretending to be going through the wall. Not being a huge Harry Potter fan and finding the fanaticism funny, I sat on a nearby staircase watching the insane antics knowing if I had been with my friends we would have been one of those groups waiting in line since all of my friends are pretty die hard when it comes to Harry Potter. So I sat back and watched, laughing for almost an hour, watching the line snake its way forward endlessly.IMG_3342

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Finally my train arrived and I was really surprised by how nice the trains where, especially after having used Trenitalia all semester in Italy which is pretty bare bones on the regional trains. The seats where plush and each one either had a chess/checkers table or a monopoly table for playing games. I had a really nice seat all to myself and a nice big window to watch the countryside roll by.IMG_3361

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The two hour ride from London to York was wonderful, we essentially crossed all of England, almost to Scotland and the countryside was beautiful. Rolling hills of mustard grass and buttercups coloring the hills like a sea of yellow. Cows and cute towns speckled the landscape, the occasional river and undulating little hills with the fields of cows or sheep passing by the speeding train. I loved the ride and was almost sad when it ended, but even more excited to see what York had to behold.

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I rather liked the little train station and once outside in the sunny, slightly muggy air I made directly for one of the towns most famous aspects, the ancient walls that still enclose the city. IMG_3377

I have thus far neglected to mention an important part of this little solo adventure to York, the fact that I was couch surfing with a total stranger. My housing for York fell through and I had to last minute find random housing and a 66 year old woman named Heather was kind enough to accommodate me. This was the first time I had ever done this and I was a little worried. But I had a few hours to kill my first day in York before I was supposed to meet her at the house. So I began with the wall.

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 The wall that runs almost entirely around the city of York is an artifact of ancient times, the preservation of the old city’s fortress walls. Almost entirely intact, today you can go around the city on the winding dragon spine of this town to take in its sights. I got onto the wall and could see York Minster in the background and I started making my way along the wall to see what there was to see. At the end of my first section of wall that dipped at a bridge crossing a river leading to what I assume once was an old guard tower tucked away by the riverside. IMG_3385

Much to my surprise I discovered that this little turret tower was in fact an adorable coffee shop. I knew I had to go in and see what a tower coffee shop looked like, but first I made a stop by the river to look at all the baby geese wandering everywhere in the town. IMG_3389

(Notice in the background of this shop, the super pissed off goose ready to chase me off)IMG_3396

I climbed the stairs to the tower and looked inside to see wooden beams crossing the ceiling and couches filling every inch of the room that wasn’t taken up by the counter. It was really extremely cute, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend my money just yet having just arrived maybe 10 minutes previous to this point in time. However, I wasn’t given much choice by a nice, but bluntly gruff man sitting in the corner whom, upon seeing me standing, gawking in the doorway, hollered at me to step in and get something to drink instead of just staring. He was a hilariously caustic man I came to known was called Shawn. Little did I know that him calling me into the coffee shop against my will and my wallet’s desires would lead to one of my favorite experiences of my entire month of travel after my program. IMG_3403

I shyly shuffled in and still a little cautious of the man who had called me in who was now muttering over his computer, I ordered coffee from the very kind barista. After I ordered I figured I could take a few pictures, so I asked permission first and the man in the corner, Shawn once again pipped in saying he would be very glad to model in the corner. And as I was taking pictures another traveler such as myself wandered in behind me and seeing me taking photos, jumped into my shot just like this. Didn’t have any idea who he was, but I deeply loved the photo. IMG_3404

So laughing I sat down with my delicious coffee and began talking with everyone there, observing the barista and Shawn who obviously where friends ad kept poking fun at each other; Shawn caustically muttering and the barista calling him a grouch and an old man because of his bad behavior. And I got to talking with Ben, the traveler who, like me had just hopped of the train, and we wound up sitting and talking for about 2 or 3 hours. It was a marvelous time, laughing at Shawn bashing every city in England besides York to prove that York was clearly the best city in the UK and the barista teasing him about him just being a silly grumpy person with impossible standards. Ben told me he was traveling from Scotland to meet up with his grandmother whom he loved very much so the two of them could travel together in the UK. I told him all about Italy and the cultural curiosities of the country that most people wouldn’t know. The entire time, any time I would say something he liked he would stop and hunched over his little notebook would write anything he liked that I said in his little journal for later so he could remember the things I said. It was invigorating to have a conversation with a total stranger and realize that my words mean something to him; that even though he would probably forget my name, my words remained in that little black book to be viewed again.

I was very sad when he realized he was late for his train and ran off, neither of us realizing the time that had passed while we were talking. He ran off, and I didn’t even know his last name at the end, it was a saddening end to a wonderful encounter, but my entire time in that coffee shop was so up lifting and had me believing so thoroughly in the goodness of total strangers that when I got back to the wall I was grinning from ear to ear with the possibilities of human interaction, which, coming from an introvert, is not a phrase I say often. I was just so happy and felt so rejuvenated that I wandered down the wall in total awe of people and a new hope for humanity blooming in my heart.

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I walked all the way around the wall, enjoying the views, the flowers, and the warm summer air. IMG_3443

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I got off the wall to go to another ancient site in York, Clifford’s Tower, a lone little circular tower perched high atop a hill overlooking the city. I walked through a field of geese and their little babies just to get to it. IMG_3464

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The tower was very interesting and from there, with more time to wander, I decided to just weave my way through the backstreets of the city to see what there was to discover.IMG_3492

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I found purple doors, with fox door knockers, old churches knee deep in buttercups and dandelions, ancient cemeteries in older churchyards, and crooked streets leading me to crooked buildings.

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Past convents with shining stain glass windows, flowers blooming a deep crimson, old english buildings and back to the river again to hang my feet above the water with a beer in hand.IMG_3602

I took a short break on the water after an interesting encounter over taking pictures of geese that went a little something like this: I was taking pictures of some adorable baby geese, and realized there was an elderly gentleman also taking pictures of them. I thought it was a nice moment to share together, we made eye contact and I opened my mouth to affirm what I thought we both were thinking, how adorable are these baby geese?, when he looked at me, also about to speak but before I could say what I thought he was going to, he just looks at me and whispers, DINNER.  I was so deeply shocked at how wrong I had read the situation that I just started laughing and couldn’t stop until he had left. IMG_3611

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After that encounter, it was time to meet my host for the night, who riding up on a bicycle with bunting covering the straw basket, didn’t even stop before asking me, Do you want to come bird watching in an old Victorian cemetery with me tonight at sunset?

Who says no to that? Easily one of the strangest experiences of my trip, I ran/walked next to her for about thirty minutes outside of York while she rode her bike until we reached the cemetery. IMG_3634

The cemetery was entirely overgrown, a glowing green radiance summoned from the depth of these vine covered graves and deep rooted behemoth trees with branches reaching out like arms to encompass the entire cemetery like a mother raven pulling her children tightly underneath her broad wings. It was beautiful, quiet, peaceful, and despite it being a cemetery was a place full of life and solemn solitude.

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The birdwatching itself was kind of a bust with a majority of the group entirely fine with examining the calls of black birds, desperately craning their necks and squinting their eyes to make out a pigeon in the distance, but the surroundings where astounding and I was very glad I went and got to experience his oddity. IMG_3657

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After leaving the cemetery at dusk and run/walking back into York I broke off again from my kind host and decided to go wander around York at night to maximize my day and time for exploration.

After again sitting on the banks of the river with my feet dangling above the black starry water with a cider in hand, I finally headed home on the crooked cobblestone streets.

While on my journey back to the house, I saw something crossing the street, at first I thought it was a really weird looking rat because I could only see its outline in the dark and its strange waddling stride. I thought it was the strangest looking rat I had ever seen, I mean it didn’t even have a tail, when to my surprise as I wandered closer I realized it was a wild hedgehog. I have always wanted to see one and nearly lost my mind when I realized I had encountered one in the wilderness of York’s streets. IMG_3691

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After doing a little dance of celebration in the street at my luck, I made sure to take a few pictures and then leave the creature to its night wanderings. IMG_3694

I went back to the house grinning once again from ear to ear as I had done when leaving the coffee shop that same morning. My host was gracious enough to give me my own room in the attic of her terrace home. It was adorable, but felt a little haunted or something at night, but still adorable. IMG_3695

So after talking with my host about art, wildlife, her work, my travels, and a huge array of random topics over English tea, we both retired to bed after a long but fulfilling day.

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June 25th, 2014

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The novelty of a double decker bus as a regular form of transportation in London was just one of many things that made me really enjoy exploring this world city. Hopping off the train in the morning and getting on a red double decker bus I would always hurry to the second level to secure one of the highly praised ad sought after front seats with the big window looking out over the streets directly in front of it. To see the surrounding sights of London from an elevated viewpoint gives one a sense of power yet separation from the surroundings, making it somewhat of an alien way to experience a new city, but in the best way possible. So camera in hand and my face close to the window in the front seat on top of the bus I watched as London slowly passed me by with a huge smile on my face and my eyes wide open to take in everything I possibly could. I even purposely took a longer route that would wind its way all the way through Westminster into the City of London so I could see everything from my royal seat atop the mighty double decker bus.

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I went into the City of London, now the financial district to meet Emily, my father’s cousin who, along with her husband where kind enough to house me during my adventures, so that we could have lunch together on her lunch break in Spitalfields. First I made a quick stop in the Leadenhall Market that has been featured in the Harry Potter movies and when I visited I could see clearly why. Despite its small size it was really wonderful to behold. Wandering with my face up turned looking at the hanging flags, colorful banners, and glass ceilings stretching like long arms of a cross above the hallways of the market. IMG_3002

Shops to shoe shiners, it was a great little place filled with all sorts of business types making it a fun place to see and I thoroughly enjoyed it. IMG_3028

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I walked from LeadenHall Market to Spitalfields near where Emily works but on the way took a quick peek at a beautiful train station, the Liverpool Street Station that was a wonderful mixture of old brick buildings housing the modern train station as well as being surrounded by some of the most iconic modern architecture there is in London. Hidden amongst glass faced skyscrapers, it was an interesting juxtaposition. IMG_3035

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After lunch Emily showed me around the Old Spitalfields Market area that was really interesting and full of people selling all sorts of knick knacks. IMG_3044

Leaving Spitalfields and Emily to return to her lovely place of work I wandered around and decided to return to St. Paul’s Cathedral and from there go to the South Bank and wander along the river. I made sure to enjoy every street that I wandered down on my way to St. Paul’s. IMG_3056

It was interesting to lay in a nice little field below St. Paul’s and look up at its large dome, thinking of St. Peter’s in Rome, remembering how just a few short weeks prior (that felt like years ago,) that very similar dome had been my beacon signaling me home any where in the eternal city of Rome. I could stand anywhere in Rome and look for the dome of St. Peter’s and know, if I could see the Vatican, I could see home only a few short blocks from it; knowing if it was in sight, I was never far from home. To lay by the way side of St. Paul’s, a beautiful mirage of my now distant home, and think that the dome of St. Peter’s will always mean home to me, even though I will never again be able to look at my wonderful little apartment on Via Cola di Rienzo and call it mine. It was a sad realization, realizing your home is no longer your own, realizing the place that became my safe haven when the noise and clutter of Rome became to much is no longer a place I can return to. I miss Rome dearly, even amidst the splendor of exploration and world travel, I sat in that field knowing, no other city I would encounter could ever be what Rome now is to me. But that will never impede my ability to deeply appreciate the places I visit and the things I see, but it makes it plainly apparent the difference of being a traveler adrift in the endless sea of wonders this world has to offer, and the anchored resident trying to fight the current that tries to whisk you away because you know how important this place is to you now, knowing that if you don’t fight to stay, you will never know what it was to fight for a place you love.

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After letting that realization sink into my heart, I continued on, letting the current of all things new whisk me away from St. Paul’s and the memories of St. Peter’s out onto the very interesting and very modern Millennium Bridge. The dome of St. Paul’s present, but diminishing in the distance as I walked farther and farther out over the bridge surrounded by the metal wings of its structure above the Thames River, cloudy and dark below.IMG_3104

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Continually looking back over my shoulder to take in the view of London as I traveled closer and closer to the South Bank, taking the occasional look out over the river to the surrounding structures, I stood between the two sides of a magnificent city. IMG_3116

On the other side the entire vibe changed, there were musicians playing by the riverside, young people lounging, tanning on green fields below towering museum buildings, and various street performers including a woman dressed in a maids outfit (and not looking particularly happy about it) serving tea on little carts, a trumpet player who teamed up with a Charlie Chaplain look a like, and some break dancers. IMG_3118

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I really loved the South Bank of London and walking along it back towards Westminster, I walked the entire Queen’s Walk, a nice pathway along the river that weaves through tons of museums, wharves, food stalls, and even a skatepark. It was a place so full of relaxed joy and happy activity taking place all around me, it was hard not to walk along the path smiling ear to ear. IMG_3138

Past old boats anchored for eternity, clock towers leaning over wharves, and many a person reading scenically (which I deeply enjoyed and eventually took part in myself) I wandered down the Queen’s Walk feeling like a princess. These two readers where my favorite, the girl perched above the Queen’s Walk sign reading a red book that she had just begun and the man all in white, leaning casually on the banister with all of the City of London in the background. IMG_3183

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It was a warm beautiful day which made everything even nicer and more pleasant. I wandered into a side courtyard full of adorable shops and restaurants that made me want to stop in every single one and buy something, but instead I settled with some pictures. IMG_3141

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After the food stalls and cute restaurants I found the skate park and a little book market where I bought the tiniest copy of Milton I have ever seen, maybe 3 inches tall because when is it more appropriate to buy a book of Milton’s works than in England… especially when it is tiny. IMG_3178

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Finally rounding the corner into Jubilee Park I began to see the super iconic images of London, but this time from the other side. The London Eye, Big Ben, and the Parliament building looming across the river with the sun shining bright behind it, casting the structures’ shadows across the bridge and water. There was even some sort of carnival going on in Jubilee Park that seemed fun but was packed with people so I moved on quietly, enjoying the peace of the river for the clutter of the festival. IMG_3198

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I crossed the river again over Westminster Bridge back to the territory I had tread the previous day, but not after first taking my fair share of pictures.IMG_3207

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I made sure to go back and take a few more pictures of Westminster Abbey as the sun started to descend casting the sky in a deep shade of blue.IMG_3267

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I concluded my day with another scenic bus ride to a tiny little alley way with an adjoining courtyard that I had heard about called Neal’s Yard. Seeing pictures of it online I had to go find it. It was a little difficult because I didn’t know its exact location and didn’t have an iphone to look it up on, so after wandering down as many alleyways I could find, I finally found it and was not disappointed. IMG_3312

It was really quite small but full of so much color and life that it was totally worth it. filled with adorable little restaurants and people sitting under the japanese maple trees drinking wine, smoking, and laughing together. The people there seemed just as colorful and full of life as the walls reaching upward around them. IMG_3301

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Soaking in the color in the fading light as I had soaked up the sun during my wonderful wanderings on the Queen’s Walk I concluded my second day in London and wearily, but happily returned to the station to catch my train home after another tiring day on my sore feet. But the soreness meant nothing knowing that my feet had tread on stones previously unturned in places all over Europe that I had always hoped to visit. IMG_3328

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June 17th, 2014

While in England I stayed with some family outside of London in Carshalton and would take the train into Victoria Station in London for days of adventure and exploration about this world city. My first trip into London began with the British Museum since all museums in London are entirely free, which is a breath of fresh air after the outrageously expensive museum entries I have begrudgingly paid for over the semester.IMG_2550 IMG_2545

With impressive sights like the Rosetta Stone and East Island Tiki Men, it was an interesting museum to walk around. I hadn’t realized going in that the Rosetta Stone was housed here which was particularly exciting to me seeing as it was something I had always wanted to witness.

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The Lion hunting room was also pretty incredible with an entire room lined with these reliefs of people hunting down lions with chariots and bows and arrows. Brutal, but a beautiful exhibit.IMG_2515 IMG_2507 IMG_2522

The world’s oldest chess set was one of my favorite with tiny figurines delicately carved out of what I think was bone. IMG_2540 IMG_2542

After the museum I just set about wandering London by foot, taking in every alley way, courtyard, and building that interested me. Whether they be streets lined with the old fashion telephone booths, or sculptures picturesquely placed amidst green trees, it was a beautiful day of wandering.

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Covent Gardens was the first place I visited because I had a free walking tour with Sandemans schedule for the day that was meeting there. Before the tour I explored the market area that was truly a wonder to behold, it was easily one of my favorite places in London because it is a center for street performers. Performers of all sorts of talents gather at this rather touristy spot to entertain and earn some money. When I first arrived there was a lively string quartet playing down below, dancing with cellos, whirling violinists and instruments that sang out loudly under the covered roofs.

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Our tour began by walking through Covent Gardens, telling us the history of how King Henry the Eighth turned what once were the gardens for West Minster Abbey into public markets. Afterwards we then moved on past St. Martin in the Fields to Trafalgar Square, a central point of sorts in London with the National Gallery, abounding statues (including a giant blue rooster) and a nice fountain.

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From Trafalgar square we wandered for quite a while through London visiting various palaces and buildings of importance finally finding ourselves in front of Buckingham Palace after crossing through lush green gardens. IMG_2631

Sadly the Queen wasn’t in and you cannot visit at the time of year I was there but it was still a pretty cool thing to see. IMG_2634

And no trip to Buckingham Palace is complete without a couple of photos of the famous British guardsmen marching away in their red coats and funny hats. IMG_2648 IMG_2651 IMG_2641

Next they took us through St. James Park with lakes. swans, pelicans and more. IMG_2664 IMG_2654

We came out on the other side of the park and found our way back to the iconic Big Ben and some more wonderful red telephone booths. IMG_2667 IMG_2671 IMG_2675

We ended our tour sitting looking at the incredible British Parliament buildings which are just a wonderful expanse of intricately detailed buildings ending with the towering Big Ben that rings out deep and low like thunder when the time is right. IMG_2684 IMG_2690 IMG_2686 IMG_2693

When the tour was over I went back to Covent Gardens and went back to many of the places we saw on the tour to do them at my pace and enjoy the sights with some more leisurely time. IMG_2707 IMG_2713 IMG_2592

Back at the Covent Gardens I sat and watched a wonderful professional opera singer raise her voice to the rafters of the markets while I ate some delicious paella for dinner. I have never heard such a loud voice ring out of a woman that small, her voice commanded everyone in the market area and you couldn’t help but marvel at the strength of her voice. IMG_2760 IMG_2763

Afterwards I then watched a Charlie Chaplain look a like ride a unicycle on a tightrope (what.) in addition to a man on a really tall unicycle juggle knives. It was pretty interesting to see all these performers in such a small place with such diverse talents. I spent quite a while there just enjoying the warm sunny air, some coffee, good food, and London life revolving around me.IMG_2768 IMG_2771 IMG_2745 IMG_2723 IMG_2782

After my time in Covent Gardens I walked everywhere, letting the sun guide me down streets and people lead me to different sights and impressive spectacles. IMG_2793 IMG_2812

I even found Chinatown where I watched a woman expertly make dumplings from a seat in her restaurant window.

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By the end of the day my feet where deeply exhausted since I had walked so much so I took a break and watched some more street performers for a while. IMG_2853

I decided to end my day in St. James Park since I had enjoyed it so much there when we walked through it briefly on the tour. Wandering through Green Park through green avenues of billowing trees as the sun began to withdraw, the light was fantastic and the heat of the day died off leaving everything perfectly pleasant. IMG_2874 IMG_2868

St. James was full of geese, swans, squirrels, and even some pelicans that had been given to the Queen from Russia. It was a wonderful place to stroll was the last light of day vanished from the sky behind Buckingham Palace.  IMG_2903 IMG_2925

I lay under the trees watching the sun set and it was a fantastic end to my first day in London, I couldn’t wait to go back in and explore even more in the days to come. IMG_2881 IMG_2939

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May 24th, 2014

My last few days in Berlin before I headed off to England where a mixture of wandering the streets, exploring neighborhoods, and trying to get a feel for slow life as it really is in Berlin. Maiya and I explored, she showed me a lot of things she hadn’t done before but also showing me things that were just everday components of life in Berlin.

We got a nice German breakfast at Mokka Bar, which was in an adorable little cafe with beautiful breakfast spreads of fruit, bread, meats, and cheeses. After a lot of luxurious relaxing we wandered about the streets taking in the sights.IMG_2358 IMG_2360 IMG_2361

We also wandered along the canal which had lots of beautiful buildings and green covered walkways below little tree canopies next to the river. IMG_2376 IMG_2371 IMG_2382

We also explored a beautifully green park that had an old bunker up on a hill. But first we enjoyed the outdoors and the wondrous greenery of the place. IMG_2386 IMG_2392 10333319_833581536656691_7993139673201255786_o

Frolicking around under the canopy of a willow tree, climbing hills, and wandering through pond areas with cute little bridges. 10321203_833581489990029_2921933749925878122_o

Awkwardly though, we climbed one hill to be directly faced with a couple very loudly having sex. Embarrassed and shocked at the public display and ran down the hill laughing in surprise. IMG_2401

After that and some cool graffiti we encountered we found a lovely little rose garden without any roses but lots of wisteria. We sat on the railing under the wisteria looking out through its branches onto the beautiful gardens just enjoying a quick moment of sunshine after several days of solid grey.

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Then we scaled upwards to the top of the bunker where we could see most of the city past the green tree tops of the gardens.IMG_2424 IMG_2418 IMG_2417 IMG_2430

The bunker area was very cool and the wind was blowing so strongly we could barely keep ourselves together. Through the mist of rain and the wind we explored the top of the bunker and then returned to where I had gotten coffee the previous day to get a Berlin tradition, curry wurst. 10321127_833581826656662_3951681140522276470_o

This funny tradition of sausage (maybe just a boiled hot dog?) with ketchup mixed with curry powder as well as a generous helping of french fries. IT is a funny dish that most Berliners affectionately say is something you really only get once but we went to one of the best places for it and it wasn’t too bad. Every city has its traditions I suppose, some more well loved than others. IMG_2438 IMG_2435 IMG_2442

The following day I began my day with an outing that was extremely relaxing but possibly  a bit morbid. Maiya told me about a wonderful little cafe, Cafe Strauss that is actually in an old cemetery. It was a lovely brick building with a porch lined with tables right inside of a cemetery. As strange of a setting as it was, it was very peaceful with the silence and stillness of it all only broken by the sound of birds singing. I sat there for a long time wrapped in a blanket, which is something cafes and restaurants in Berlin seems to do is put out blankets for every chair, writing while enjoying the peace.IMG_2445

After a relaxing morning of writing and drinking hot coffee we decided to go out and enjoy a food market extravaganza that was a huge market hall filled with food stands from all over the world. It was truly amazing, there were so many different types of food, so many smells wafting in the smoky air of the market halls high ceilings and after the semester in ITaly with only italian food in sight this was like my carnival. IMG_2448 IMG_2456

It was so hard to choose from all of the different types because everything looked so amazing but I decided to go for Thai food since it is my favorite and it did not disappoint. Also Maiya got some amazing wine mixed with wine saturated strawberries that was divine. I got to meet some of Maiya’s friends from her program and it was really great getting to know them even if it was just for a short little bit.

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This night was my last night in Berlin and it did not disappoint whatsoever. After the food market we went for a walk in the park where we got to see some cool animals, a lot of people enjoying the sunshine and a fair deal of drug dealers trying to sell me some cocaine, besides that and Maiya nearly getting pushed into the street during a sudden street fight near the U-Bahn station our evening was nice.

We then had plans o meet some of Maiya’s other friends who were from California as well at a wine tasting place that was truly wonderful. But before we settled in Maiya and I decided to wait in a little children’s park right next door that was the most amazing park ever. We had so much fun jumping on little trampolines, sitting in swings that were too small for us, and just acting like kids despite both of us being technically seniors in college now. After out dearly beloved trip to the park we went into the wine place that sells you a glass and you can get as many refills of wine as you like and taste as many different types of wine as you please as well. It was quite the concept and I deeply loved it, it reminded me of the Italian aperitivo without the food. So sitting in a luxurious couch in the crowded place we sipped many different kinds of wine and I got to meet Maiya’s friends who were really just wonderful.

It was a great night, full of good conversations and great wine. We took our friends back to the park but this time in the dark and really just had the best time. It was probably my favorite moment in Berlin, sitting under the stars, spinning around on the children’s play ground, singing songs together loudly in the park, and just enjoying life. I deeply loved it, never have I enjoyed a park that much and it made me very sad when I realized it was my final night in Berlin. I wish I had met them sooner because they were so much fun and I was going to miss my Roomie. Six days wasn’t enough. I wanted more but sadly the night had to end and we all piled in a taxi and headed home. I said goodbye to my new friends and went to sleep in Berlin for the last time.

My final morning in Berlin was a blur of packing, panicking, and then some good clean fun in an abandoned airport. Typical travel day.  This old abandoned airport has been transformed into a wonderful free space for everyone to enjoy the sun, the tall grasses, a space to run or bike, or fly kites. It really is a nice space for everyone to share. Maiya and I wandered around enjoying my last morning here and our last morning together for some time to come.IMG_2462 IMG_2464 IMG_2468 IMG_2470

There were even people skateboarding with attached kites and sails to drag them along down the long airport runways.

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It was a good end to my time  in Berlin and I was very pleased overall with the first leg of my journey. I had a new appreciation for Berlin and had enjoyed my time with an old friend. It was a perfect blend of the old and the new, historically and experientially. I was sad to leave but with England next on my list and the Netherlands after that, it was the end of one experience and the beginning of many more.

 

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May 24th, 2014

My third day in Berlin I was flying solo the whole day and decided to just walk my heart out. So from early in the morning I awoke and set out on foot to walk Berlin, guided by some great recommendations from Maiya.

I began by walking from Kreuzberg where I was staying and wandering back to where I had the tour the previous day in Mitte. I passed many people commuting to work, sitting on park benches drinking at 9am, kids playing in parks, and lots of people of bikes. Everyone seemed to be in some great state of motion, going somewhere, talking with someone, and always moving.IMG_1985 IMG_1986

I went by Check Point Charlie again as I passed from old West to old East.IMG_1989

I even found a fun chocolate store that had massively impressive sculptures made entirely from chocolate including the Brandenburg Gate and several other famous Berlin monuments.IMG_1992

Also one of my favorite things about Berlin is the little street crossing sign guy called Ampelmännchen. They are the traditional and somewhat quirky street crossing signs that always make me smile every time I would see them.

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And what is Germany without a man selling pretzels from his bike?IMG_2015

I revisited Museum Island with hopes to go into the Pergamon Museum but after some confusion and a lot of time lost waiting, I gave up on the idea and continued on with my walking.IMG_2019 IMG_2033 IMG_2037

The area with all the Museums on the island is pretty impressive and quite fun to walk around.IMG_2046 After museum island I headed over towards the TV tower in central Mitte ad then continued on to an old market area.

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From there I wandered up the fun street called Rosenthaler Platz which was lined with adorable parks and shops.

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I took a break in a quirky little coffee shop to dodge the rain and sat in the window for quite some time just enjoying the peaceful atmosphere despite an incident with a dropped cup and a resulting scream from the man who dropped it that was possibly the most German shout I have ever heard. I got another chai latte, keeping with my new found love of Chai Lattes that Berlin has made me addicted to alongside a homemade blueberry scone.IMG_2097 IMG_2100

From there I made a long U-Bahn and S-Bahn trip over to the East Side Gallery where the most famous stretch of the Berlin Wall is, covered in art from contributing painters. It was a little odd honestly. This wall, such an intense piece of history carries such weight, but a majority of the art seemed somewhat foolish and more than a little crude with tourists scribbling their names on every inch they can find. Even the beautiful symbolic artwork was covered over with this ugly scriblles of marked territory that screamed disrespect behind my eyes. It made me sad. There is so much room on these walls for political voicing, room to air out the past and discuss matters of oppression, but in many you cannot see that in what the wall has become.

There really is a lot of beautiful art though, these are a few panels that are my favorites.IMG_2115 IMG_2117 IMG_2129 IMG_2132

This panel was by far my favorite, the intricate detail and the vivid colors interwoven in the black and white. Faces stand out around images if you step back and look at the bigger images, but the small images hold their own beauty and magnificence. IMG_2148 IMG_2155

The way color and the human image are lost but also displayed in this impressive piece really caught the eye and made you look closer to see what there really was to see. IMG_2159 IMG_2181

These couple panels with political statements where also some of my favorites and the thumbs up chained into place was a good example of a piece that held up to its symbolic potential. IMG_2202 IMG_2205

I took a quick break from the wall to hang my feet over the Spree and admire the bridge near by and watch the yellow U-Bahn snake across its upper terrace crossing from one side of Berlin to another as if there had never been a wall at all. IMG_2211

The inscription on one of the last panels of the wall did make me really happy though, despite having been graffitied over mostly by tourists that read

I painted over the wall of shame so freedom is ashamed no more. Inferno ruled too many years until the people chose the light. I put my faith in you Berlin, and give to you my colors bright.

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After the wall I wandered into a nearby area that seems to be home of the alternative scene in Berlin. It was pretty interesting, I wandered past the wall, past the graffiti and along the U-Bahn tracks up into the new area I hadn’t seen before.IMG_2233IMG_2235

A gritty but intriguing place full of people with long colored hair gelled up into spikes, or any other sort of interesting look. I really enjoyed wandering through the rain up and down the streets taking in the local color, feeling the trendiness and alternative atmosphere of the area. IMG_2239

Then after my long day of walking I returned to meet Maiya and we decided to go to a rooftop bar above a huge shopping mall that had the most amazing view of the city and the setting sun. IMG_2250IMG_2259

Over the rooftops of Berlin, we sat in the little garden with benches looking out across Berlin. It was a pretty magical place despite the cold. IMG_2261IMG_2272IMG_2281

The flowers in the garden were really amazing to watch the colors of the setting sun play off of as the light slowly diminished.IMG_2285IMG_2288

Drinks in hand we watched the sun go down in a fantastic array of color. IMG_2297IMG_2300IMG_2308

It was such a fun place to explore and definitely one of my favorite things that I did in Berlin.IMG_2340IMG_2346

 

The way the fast moving clouds blurred over the lights of the city as Berlin became the center of night life that it is so well known for made for some beautiful photos. IMG_2347

The moon was out, shining bright and full above the garden and we left sadly because we never wanted to leave it had been such a magical place at such a magical time of day. It is things like this that make me so unbelievably thankful for being able to have this opportunity to sit on rooftops above Berlin, drinking beer with friends, and watching a city transition between day and night, one life to the next.

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I travel to see cities come alive in a way that photographs or postcards cannot quite capture. There is such a beauty in the cities of the world, each is endlessly different and I cannot wait to see more.

 

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May 17th, 2014

After a lazy morning at Cuccuma getting more cake and chai lattes and a brief freak out in a Pretzel Bar wherein I thought something was wrong with my passport, I headed into Mitte, the center of the city for a free tour. With the Sandeman’s free tour of Berlin, we started at the Brandenburg Gate right in the heart of Berlin. IMG_1760

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We wandered through Mitte in the rain, caught somewhere between sunshine and downpour at all times. After the Gate we went to the Memorial for the Murdered Jews that is a somewhat eerie monumentalization of that the tragedy the Jews of Germany and Europe experienced during World War Two. What at first looks like gravestones of differing height and sizes reveals itself to be the embodiment of the feelings Jews went through in Europe during the Holocaust. You stand amidst the rows of high reaching walls, oppressed by the sheer uniformity and immensity of their structures, each wall reduced to a blank slate, like tombs with no names, that despite their orderliness retain individuality despite the conditions in which they find themselves. It is an interesting memorial, very abstract and left widely open to interpretation, which I think makes for an interesting memorial because whether one likes it or not, it gets people thinking about those who were murdered, remembering, feeling, and trying to understand what happened in that dark time.

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Our tour guide was smart to point out that he thought it was really great how the German people do not try to hide what happened during the Holocaust. What they could have tried to ignore or sweep under the rug as a dark past, they choose instead to monumentalize, to memorialize as an expression of their regret, their grief, and ultimately their humility and displaying past wrong actions. Many countries easily chose to hid or at least not bring to the attention of the world the atrocities they were at least in small part responsible for, so monuments such as this one in Berlin are a great show of regret and humility that makes someone such as myself who is Jewish, grateful for this memorial regardless of what I think it stands for.

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In great contrast, we then went to the place that now stands above the Fuhrer bunker, the place where Hitler and Ava Brown killed themselves at the end of the war when utter defeat was upon them. Now just a simple parking lot, no signs of what once was is made note of, only a little billboard on the street lets you know what once was. The contrast between the memorial to the Murder Jews and the utter lack of note of the Fuhrer bunker is greatly symbolic and interesting to experience.

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After that we continued on our walk around Berlin visiting various sights that once had Nazi buildings on them that do or do not stand any longer, learning about the history of Berlin.

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We saw a small section of the Berlin Wall within the city and heard some incredible stories about the wall and some escape attempts that either succeeded or failed. One of my favorites was a woman who sewed herself into a car seat and then had a person with proper credentials drive her over the border. The saddest attempt we were told about was when two young men attempted to cross the wall midday by jumping from their work building into the Death Strip (the space between the two walls that was left abandoned and open) but when trying to get over the final wall became tangled in the barbed wire and one was shot there while people in the west desperately tried to save him as he slowly bled to death and slid down onto the East side again to be left to die without aid for trying to escape as people in the West listened to his screams just on the other side of the wall. It was a heartbreaking story and crazy to listen to this while looking at the ruined façade of the wall that held so much history, misery, and pain.

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After that we passed Checkpoint Charlie, one of the major crossing points of the wall from East to West that is a clear example of the Capitalist tendencies on one side and the communist side on the other.

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We then wandered into a square with two really amazing churches and a concert hall that made for an impressive space with beautiful architecture.

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Humboldt University was next with the memorial to the book burning done in front of the university in World War Two. This is the university where Maiya is studying in Berlin and it was a beautiful structure right in the center of Berlin.

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After that our last stop on the tour, which when we finished, some friends that I made on the tour and I decided to continue on to Museum Island. I made some really fun Canadian friends who brought a wine skin along on the tour, which was fun because it meant getting to have wine during the tour. We went to Museum Island where we sat out in the grass enjoying the sun and the view of the Berliner Dom. It was a beautiful space I much enjoyed, sandwiched between museums and beautiful buildings and the Spree running on either side of us.

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I went up into the Berliner Dom and enjoyed a view of Berlin right from the center of the city, which was pretty fun. It wasn’t too high up but we got to hear the bells ring and afterwards I laid out in the grass for a long time just listening to them ringIMG_1915 IMG_1916 IMG_1920 IMG_1922 IMG_1928 IMG_1939 IMG_1943 IMG_1947IMG_1952

 

After my inner city adventure I returned to Kreuzberg, my favorite little neighborhood and we decided to go get Doner at the famous Mustafa’s, which had some really incredible food.

 

 

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We ate our doner while walking around, eventually finding ourselves at Viktoriapark which has an amazing waterfall looking up at the spire like monument in the center of the park.

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We sat there until the sun went down, got some ice cream and returned home after a long successful day of adventuring.

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May 16th, 2014

I went to bed to the sound of rain and woke up to the sound of church bells ringing. Sunday morning, Mother’s day, my first full day in Berlin.

The two elderly women that Maiya lives with had their families over when we woke up since it was Mother’s Day. It was pretty sad not being able to be with my family on Mother’s Day and just one more reminder of how much I miss home. We all sat together at the kitchen table eating breakfast rolls and drinking coffee. I sat attentively listening to everyone speak German as I sat back and watched, trying to gleam anything from the conversation to no avail. It was still nice to see everyone interacting so happily even if I was outside of it all. I just missed my own family.

After breakfast Maiya and I decided to go to Mauerpark, which is a huge park that on Sundays has an even bigger flea market. After a somewhat disorienting U-Bahn ride for me we arrived in a new cute neighborhood that we wandered through to get to the Park. Once we reached the outside we saw a young woman performing on the sidewalk. Her name was Alice Phoebe Lou and she was fantastic. We sat and listened to her soulful singing for a long time just marveling at how such an amazing voice came from such a tiny person. We were hypnotized by her music, her originally songs, and her cover of Nancy Sinatra’s Bang Bang. We bought her CD, which I honestly didn’t like nearly as much as her live singing but still am pretty obsessed with and haven’t stopped listening to yet. After tearing ourselves away form the entrancing voice of Alice Phoebe Lou, we wandered on past other street performers like some really cool break-dancers until we finally entered the market itself. Stall after stall after stall of all sorts of things to mounted antlers, musical instruments, pipes, clothing, antique kitchen wares, to shoes and knick knacks, it was endless. Oh and also some pretty amazing food. IMG_1600 IMG_1603 IMG_1605 IMG_1613IMG_1607IMG_1616IMG_1617IMG_160910321563_829638643717647_7243128432826486201_oIMG_1620

I am a sucker for markets and it instantly made me love Berlin. Between intermittent down pours of rain we dodged through lake like puddles crossed over with planks of wood from stand to stand taking in the sights.

After a brief but horrifying scare in which I thought I had lost my camera only to realize I had just forgotten that I had put it in my bag already, we decided to get some food. We stopped at a food stall that had potatoes that they put through a ringer making one long spiral cut in the potato so it was all one piece still and then skewering it on a stick to then deep fry it. I got one and it was really and truly amazing. It was so nice to eat it on a cold rainy day while wandering through the market. After that little snack we decided to stop for lunch in the market and got Turkish food, which we ate under the smoky awnings of the food tent. It was colorful, full of spices, and delicious. So incredibly different than all of the food I had gotten so accustomed to eating in Italy.

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Our collective purchases at the end of the day: Alice Phoebe Lou’s CD, Maiya’s Ukulele, earrings for me, a ring made from a fork for Maiya, ad lots of yummy food. We left eh market to enter into the park area again where we climbed the hillside to find a huge expanse of the Berlin wall that overlooked the city of Berlin.

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We sat swinging on some swings with the brief moments of sun shining on our faces. Each pump of my legs bringing me one inch closer t the sun, if you close your eyes it feels like you’re flying. I loved those swings dearly. It was quite a contrast, swinging upward my feet stretched out towards the city and the sun, behind with my legs tucked in and going backwards was the Wall shadowed by rainclouds. It felt like swinging between two worlds, one old one new, one bright one dark.. It was an interesting experience and my first time being near the Berlin Wall.

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After sadly leaving behind our swings, ukulele in hand, we wandered out of the park and down the street to a Tea Bar that is known for its Matcha Green Tea where we sat on a balcony above the shop on little Japanese style seating mats overlooking a courtyard full of armchairs. It was a magical little shop and I really enjoyed sitting there watching people come and go.

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After leaving the shop we returned back to the apartment for a quick break and then went to a nearby coffee shop to do some work. I really love all the cafes in Berlin, they are all so cute and hipster and I just love being able to sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee again while working on my laptop. I really dearly missed that. I got a wonderful Chai Latte and a piece of carrot cake and was wonderfully content.

We finished the night by just lying in bed, drinking tea and hot chocolate while watching a movie as it rained outside. It was a good first day, slow, simple, and full of fun discovery of neighborhood life and things that Berliners, like Maiya, get to do every week. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to experience these things, and as different as they are from Rome there is a beauty in the differences that I am so glad I get to experience.

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May 15th, 2014

Leaving a city where the very ground I walked upon was over two thousand years old and every corner I turned held a new ancient wonder to behold for a city built from rubble with sky reaching buildings and a modern sheen. This is a clash of two very different worlds that I have suddenly found myself inhabiting in the span of a few short days. Rome to Berlin, the first leg of my journey. Ancient to Modern, where no longer do I feel the touch of tufa under my fingertips, instead it is the sleek and shiny veneer of glass and a skyscraper’s concrete. Only a few short hours by plane apart, but a world of a difference.

My time in Rome is done. I still cannot quite get over those words, my tongue stumbles and my heart breaks. It is a strange time of transition in which I am done in Rome, but still not going home. I am finding new homes with friends along the way on a mini tour of Europe for a month: Berlin, London, Amsterdam (Utrecht). One month, four countries including Italy, a slow paced exploration of things beyond the boot shaped peninsula I called home for a semester. When I decided to stay in Europe I wanted to do things right. Dedicate a fair amount of time to each place I went to, to try to get a feel of what these places are like beyond the monuments and the famous sights. I hope I can achieve that, but honestly what I feel right now is tired. Tired from the emotional and physically draining experience of saying goodbye to a huge part of my life. This will be a grand adventure of that I am sure, but what it holds I really cannot know.

Berlin: A city that has taught me how to love Chai Lattes, listen to the rain, seek out church bells, and find life in every neighborhood tucked into this great city. Berlin is complicated and in my short time here I by no means whatsoever lay claim to know it, but I have come to enjoy it. I honestly wasn’t sure how I would feel coming to Berlin right after Rome. I wasn’t sure I would like it just by virtue of the fact that it wasn’t Rome, but I am glad to say that is not so. It is so wildly different, I cannot even begin to bring myself to compare them or equate them even though it is interesting to discover their differences.

My first night in Berlin my old college roommate met me in the airport and it felt like we had never left Berkeley in a strange way. Just the two of us in Germany, together. It was disorienting but great, I loved getting to see her as I set foot outside of the airport. I would be staying with her the duration of my stay in Berlin, almost a whole week. Without thinking much of it, because we were so enwrapped in conversation, we took a bus and the U-Bahn to her apartment in Kreuzberg, a lovely neighborhood in Berlin. We went into the U-Bahn with fading light and came out into darkness, my first night in Berlin.

After showing me her adorable apartment, which she shares with two elderly German ladies who do not speak a word of English and another student named Ti. I collected myself from a long day of stressful travel and we went out for a little dinner at a Thai food place where we sat and talked for hours. We talked about cultural differences, our respective study abroad experiences, and just life in general. The Thai food was a huge marvel to me because Italy really only has one type of food offered and it is Italian food, so seeing my favorite type of food and getting to eat it was quite a treat. After finishing we wandered down the adorable streets of her neighborhood lined with colorful restaurants, cafes, and bars all decorated cutely, and settled on an adorably hipster little bar where, like the real adults that we are, got non-alcoholic fruity beverages that were really fantastic. Sitting in a warm corner of the bar on couches and leather armchairs we continued talking well after our drinks were gone.

It was a great first night in Berlin and since I was exhausted from not really having slept in the last two weeks because of finals and then leaving Rome, I went to sleep around midnight. I went to bed with the sound of raining falling just outside our window, wondering what Berlin had to show me next.

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May 15th, 2014

For the official end of the program we all had a big dinner together that was so fun but also so sad because we had to say goodbye to everyone. Luckily I will be able to see some of the people I have become friends with back in the United States but it was sad to have to say goodbye to a period in my life that was so full of adventure and new things.

We had so much fun together at the farewell dinner, we all took funny pictures and ate great Italian food in an underground restaurant.

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We took a couple of pictures of our Advanced/Intermediate Italian class minus Alanna. This group of people stuck out the whole semester together in Rita’s class learning Italian together and becoming really good friends.

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So many new friends, so many smiles.

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One last night of wine and fun with all of these wonderful people.

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I will probably miss Gabriele the most who was one of the Italian Interns from La Sapienza, the main Roman university. He helped us through many an Italian conversation class, took us out to Aperitivos and laughed with us (or at us) throughout the whole semester. He honestly made it such a special semester and I will miss him dearly. 10293668_10152326903682891_8050487323436207639_o 10295277_10152326893372891_603603694900085051_o

We even had little tiny tiramisu in cups :)

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And our last couple of nights as Romies (Rome Roomies)

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And then just some good old fun goofing off together and being strange. IMG_1508 10272511_10152326896942891_6119580309194827332_o 10015118_10152326895842891_872058088323024539_o 1941618_10152326894242891_4569875708876084071_o 887149_10152326897257891_6962843838114961902_o

The whole program all together for one last time.

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After the dinner ended, anyone who wanted to come went out for a night tour of Rome where we wandered the streets until 4am drinking, laughing, reminiscing, and exploring together one last time.

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We stopped by the Colosseum.

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The Trevi Fountain for one last wish.

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The Pantheon.

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And we all said goodbye at Piazza Navona and at 4am parted ways one last time to return to wherever we were going next. It was pretty heartbreaking, especially waking up the next morning and realizing a majority of the people in our program where gone and headed back to America.

I on the other hand am headed off to travel around Europe for a month, going to Germany, England and the Netherlands before returning back to Rome to fly back to the United States of America.

Ciao a Tutti!

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