So I've been back from my trip for a few days now and I still can't believe that it's over! I had such an amazing time, wish I could have spent a month or two over there but oh well. It was a great taste of travel.
Aside from the wonders of catching up with my significant other, the trip brought me the most incredible experiences. In two weeks we saw four countries, four entirely separate and unique cities. My wallet was a mess of multiple currencies, my purse stuffed with pamplets and maps but we made it through and navigated through Copenhagen, Prague, Stockholm and Berlin.
I wish I could be back, it was amazing -- opened my eyes to the rest of the world.
Copenhagen was the first city on the tour and it set the standards high. We had the priveledge of seeing the city from the local's point of view as our friend Anders grew up there. We stayed at his designer Ikea apartment right downtown and managed to pack seven of us in there. I felt like the Scandinavian Snow White surrounded by my drunken and lovely boys. After I dropped off my bags at the apartment I quickly freshened up from the sleepless 18 hour travel I had just endured. Nomatter though, we headed straight for the smoky public watering hole down the street. After several beers and terrible shots misleadingly named "Fisherman's Friends" I quickly forgot that I was running on very little sleep. I couldn't wait for Reid to arrive -- his train from Stockholm got in after my flight so he said he'd just meet us at the pub. When the cab arrived -- I ran outside and jumped on him. Not the graceful romantic reunion I had planned but I feel my enthusiasm said it all. I didn't realize how much I had missed that freckled face. Suffice to say, I fell in love all over again and continued to do so throughout the trip. After karoke and scarfing down the best late night pizza I have ever had -- we called it a night and snuggled into bed.
The rest of our stay in Copenhagen was awesome -- went to an incredible party called Sensation White, which I mentioned in my last post. The only downside was that Reid thought his wallet had been stolen and after accusing a group of eyes, blaming the entire Danish population and wanting to head home -- we found his wallet at the bar!! It was such an exciting moment! The rest of the night was awesome, the light show was incredible and the music was awesome. Partying with a group of guys on the prowl for the company of women is quite the experience. Such a great time, a night I won't forget any time soon. If that type of music was more popular over here, I imagine a Vancouver version of Sensation White would be a hit.
We toured the city on foot, by free city bikes and on water but really didn't do anything typically touristy. The weekend in Copenhagen was more for catching up with old friends and living like a local. We did end up checking out Christiania after a massive brunch buffet at a place called Stellas. Christiania is a large hippy commune in the city where nearly 900 people have lived since the 1970s. With its own systems, governance, school systems, this place was a haven for the alternatives of society. What I found most interesting was the logo or symbol of the society -- three perfect horizontal dots :). I felt like I was meant to visit it. Sadly they are strongly opposed to photography so I have few pcitures to remember it by but it was really neat to see. I was sad to have to leave Copenhagen but we had to catch a 5 hour train back to Stockholm as Reid had class to attend that night.
Stockholm was in the midst of fading into winter. The cold whipped at my cheeks and left my nose permanently rosy. Warm wool and toques were needed at all times -- but must coordinate well with one's outfit. Fashion is key in Scandinavia and you'll stick out like a sore thumb if youre not donning the latest trends. I loved every minute of it. Beautiful city -- everything seemed polished from Ahlens magical department store to the blond blue eyed locals who stroll the equally pristine alleys of Gamla Stan. I fell in love with the way that people cared about how they presented themselves to the city -- like they wanted to put their best foot forward. Though I love the laid back lifestyle that the West Coast of Canada offers, I admit I wish that mindset would work its way to our shores. People take themselves seriously there for good reason -- they have a wonderful life. Their social system ensures that people can afford to focus on more important things in life like raising a family, being able to enjoy the weekend with your loved ones, finding that perfect Christmas gift for your loved ones. Gender does not prevent someone from pursuing what they want, money doesn't stop someone from studying their passion and no one is belitted by an unreasonable minumum wage. Sweden is notably different; they have made socialism not only work but thrive. I'd love to return someday...fingers crossed.
After the week in Stockholm, we woke up at 3:00am to catch an extremely early flight out of Skavska, a town outside of Stockholm. We were on our way to Berlin! All we wanted to do when we landed in Berlin was have a nap at the hostel but sadly our room wasn't available until later that afternoon. So we made the most of it and ditched our heavy bags in the hostel luggage room and headed to the East side. We grabbed a pizza and ate it on the Berlin Metro on our way to the East side of the city.
Within minutes we found our way to the East Side Gallery, a section of the Berlin Wall preserved for artists to express themselves about life before it fell. I forced Reid to take pictures and we strolled along it for quite some time and found our way to the graffiti adorned communes of the East side. We caught the train further into the city where we stumbled across the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The extermely powerful museum is buried below a crop of grey cement blocks which vary in height and size. Some say it resembles carts on a train taking vicitims to nearby concentration camps. Others see a graveyard. When you walk into the field the ground dips and the concrete blocks grow above you cutting out the noise of the street and the brightness of the day. You feel totally alone but sometimes catch glimpes of other visitors between the spaces of the squares. Seeing just flashes of people before they are gone spoke to me about the environment of the war -- how quickly life was extinguished. Before we even stepped into the museum below, I had goosebumps. Little did we know, only a stones throw away, unmarked, the hidden underground bunker where the man behind the genocide took his life.
Berlin was a blur of history, currywurst and graffiti. It was an amazing city, I already can't wait to return.
Next on the tour was Prague and we nearly missed our train. We hadn't booked tickets for the 5 hour journey yet and the night was growing late. After considering staying another night in Berlin we decided to push on and hustle for the last train. We made it to Berlin Central Station which is a sight to see in itself. It's a layered labrinth of trains and railways zipping people in every direction. We hopped on our train and had a brief stop over and rail change about 2 hours in. At this point Reid and I were getting hungry so I grabbed some cash and quickly darted off the train in search of snacks from the platform. I wasnt sure how much time I had to do this so I hustled. Finally found some decent croissants and hopped in line. I barely remembered to collect my change from the annoyed counter lady -- I took off running back to the train. Ended up on the wrong platform, panicked and sprinted to the correct one. The look of relief on Reid's face when I came back to my seat was priceless --- he was just about ready to take our bags off the train and wait for me, convinced I wasn't going to make it back in time. It would have been horrible, I had no phone on me, I didn't know his number and I wasn't holding my train ticket. Would have been a lonely cold first night in the Czech Republic. Thankfully it all worked out and we chugged along towards Prague.
Of course the last thing I read before the train stopped was that the Prague Central Station was notorious for pickpockets and small violent crimes. The guide suggested we take public transit instead and avoid cab drivers as most will royally rip tourists off. We didn't have change for the metro so we decided to hoof it -- with all our bags, cash, cameras,computers, ipads etc. Suffice to say our heads were on a swivel. But we made it to the hostel and it turned out to be gorgeous hotel/hostel hybrid. To our surprise we were treated with the top floor, massive rooftop patio and views of the entire city. This place was quite the steal. We stayed in and caught up on the latest Euro scandal in Italy. Of course I took full advantage of the gorgeous rainshower and fluffy white bathrobe.
The next day in Prague we went out on another free tour -- we had an amazing experience in Berlin on one and I was hoping this one would be the same. Sadly, it was run by an overly excited Texan whose two hours of terrible jokes fell on deaf ears. With a few beers though, it was tolerable.
That night we stumbled across a great pub and had to decifer the Czech menu for half an hour before our waiter brought us the English version. Super tasty food and unfiltered unpasturized beer -- it was a great night. Ended up jsut strolling the streets and drinking beers -- quite the night.
The next day I dragged Reid to see the castle, the biggest in the world. We toured around for quite some time and enjoyed the views and cathedral ceilings. Then we headed back down and dipped into a riverside restuarant along the Charles Bridge.
After a lack-luster pub crawl that night we woke up and had to head to the airport. Heading back home to Stockholm -- the beginning of the end sadly.