Tuesday, June 17, 2014



It's been a few weeks now since our return from beautiful Eastern Europe, and it's a good time for reflection. The cities we were able to visit were full of so much history! Personally, it gave a very surreal feeling. I felt as though I weren't in an actual medieval city but a theme park instead (the abundance of tourists probably added to this feeling significantly). I must add how thankful I am that our adventure was blessed with so many wonderful people, great weather, and terrific guides. I couldn't ask for a better experience for my first trip overseas. Here are a few things I picked up through Germany, Czech Rep., Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary that I was unaware or unprepared for.


Our arrival in Berlin had left everyone exhausted. Yes the flight over the pond was a mere 7 1/2 hours (I think, I was able to sleep most of the way), but the connecting flights, layovers, and jet lag had us dragging feet for the immediate walking tour waiting for us. Our stay and tour of Berlin was mainly in the East side or along the wall and what was left of it. Justin Davis and I studied Eastern Europe in Communism before we left the States so the vast difference of landscape between the East and West was expected, but it was quite unsettling to see it in person. West Berlin was disappointing in a way. I don't exactly know what I was expecting, but it reminded of any other city in the Midwest. The people looked American, dressed American, and spoke English for the most part. The East was similar, but more rundown, the economy of the communist bloc is still in the toddler stages of recovery. However, Berlin is still working on renovations of its Cold War deterioration as well as it's historical buildings.


This was basically the story for the rest of the cities we visited. Every Eastern apartment building was virtually identical. The farther East we moved, the less "Western" the social climate was. This also meant even less English speakers, but I never thought communication to be a a hurdle or sufficient language barrier. Worst case scenario we could always point and mumble to things we wanted. One conversation -if you can call it that- involved Mr. Davis and I with an elderly woman in the Budapest market place. She didn't speak a lick of English, but communicated very well regardless. We were interested in a lock box she was selling and different varieties of the box worked different ways. It was engineered as a "secret box" where one would flip and slide different pieces of the boxes to reveal a key which would unlock the lid component. We were both speaking our respective languages and using hand gestures to each other. Although we couldn't understand the words, we understood the meanings, quite a bizarre experience to someone from a country with (essentially) one language.


In all it was a fun-filled, educational, and eye-opening excursion. The guided tours were filled with knowledgeable, experienced, but entertaining guides. Marta from Krakow is even recommended by the author of Dr. Kessel's Eastern Europe guide text. The free days we were allotted gave us a great opportunity to explore the locations separate from the large group and pursue various interests. I have to say that Prague was my personal favorite among these amazing cities. I can't wait for another opportunity to travel abroad with such a great group!

See you around!

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