Of the 18 different countries I traveled to while living in London, Germany was definitely a favorite. Berlin was the perfect combination of art, food and history. I spent four days in the city — not nearly enough time to see everything, but just enough to get a taste of Berlin life. I cheered on Germany’s Euro Cup team from a biergarten, walked along the Berlin Wall, and shared my Turkish market finds — roasted pepper and feta spread, large slabs of fresh-baked pita and a box of mangoes (the latter earning me the name “Mango girl” among my new friends). It was hard to imagine that duress had griped this city more than once in the past century. The wall of artistic restraint has fallen; now the city is fertile ground for some of the most prolific innovators of art and culture. Berlin truly has a vibe like no other.
“I think this is when most people give up on their stories. They come out of college wanting to change the world, wanting to get married, wanting to have kids and change the way people buy office supplies. But they get into the middle and discover it was harder than they thought. They can’t see the distant shore anymore and they wonder if their paddling is moving them forward. None of the trees behind them are getting any smaller and none of the trees ahead are getting bigger … and they go looking for an easier story.”
“Once you live a good story, you get a taste for a kind of meaning in life, and you can’t go back to being normal; you can’t go back to meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time.“
–Donald Miller, “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years”
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Amsterdam was the half-way point on my two-week-long backpacking trip. Exhaustion was beginning to set in, which, admittedly, may have colored my view of the city — that and the fact that it rained most of the two days I was there. It wasn’t my favorite stop, but I liked it enough. It’s a city full of graphic artists which you can very much feel in the city’s architecture, and in the ambiance of its independent cafes and shops. Overrated? Maybe. But Amsterdam is definitely a place you’ve gotta stop if you’re traveling through Europe!
This was my first experience using AirBNB so I knew I was in for something new, but nothing could have prepared me for this unique experience. My host Deva — yoga instructor extraordinaire — picked me up from the train station on his motorcycle. Minutes later I found myself straddling this near stranger as we zoomed around town, dismounting at each of the city’s biggest landmarks. After the tour, Deva taught me how to make curry and naan from scratch. Our dinner guests: a shaman and a yogie. My time in Antwerp was one of physical and spiritual growth — being exposed to new things is what travel is all about!
After spending the day in Brussels I took a train to Brugge. The sun didn’t set until nearly 11 pm, meaning I had ample time to explore upon arrival. I walked the canals, toured a Belgian chocolate factory… but my favorite memory of Brugge: a spontaneous 40-mile bike ride from Brugge to the Netherlands. I’d originally planned to cycle a mile or so outside the city. Mesmerized by the countryside, I just kept going… and going! If you’re ever ‘in Brugge’, I’d recommend also taking a jaunt out.
Alas, I am finally to the backpacking portion of my European adventures! In June, I spent two-weeks backpacking on my own. First stop… Brussels! After a very long four days spent covering the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, I packed up and headed out. I took the sunrise train from London, and so began two of the best weeks of my life!
Happy birthday to my step dad, Al! He collects pictures of doors. While I was traveling I took pictures of doors and windows everywhere I went, with the ultimate goal of enlarging some to add to his collection. He’ll have quite a few to choose from…