Where I Have Been Map

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The "Hoff's" Hometown

After the extremely long and uncomfortable plane ride, we were finally ready to explore Europe. We started our adventure in the home country of David Hasselhoff... Germany. Of course, David Hasselhoff is not at all the most important thing about Germany, however Germans seem to love bragging to tourists about him. In fact, one of the first nights, my sister and I found a huge portrait of him inside the most popular hostel in Berlin. Under the picture was a brass plate that simply stated "The Hoff".

We stayed in Berlin for most of our time in Germany, and Munich for only one day. Germany has such a unique culture, landscape, climate, and especially history. Walking on the streets of Berlin, one of the most well known cities in the world, is nothing like I would have expected. This large city had no deafening noise of traffic, no mobs of people crowding the sidewalks, and no real fear of danger from pickpocketers. Berlin was in face the calmest big city I have ever visited. The atmosphere was relaxing, and the unique warm climate only added to the relaxtation.

The first day we were there we went on a free 3-hour walking tour. The history of Berlin and how it was torn apart by the Berlin Wall, only to unite itself once again was truly inspirational. It also impressed me how Germany remembers the Holocaust. In the center of Berlin, there is a huge monument dedicated to the Jewish poeple who lost their lives. The place where Hitler died became an abaondoned parking lot. Although they could have made a significant amount of money by opening the spot where he died and his underground embassy as a tourist attraction, they decided that doing so would attract the wrong kind of attention from tourists.

This is the Jewish Memorial in the heart of the Berlin. The artist never explained his work, so people intrprete these hundreds of rows on an uneven floor that hold unlevel blocks as many different things. One artist interpreteted this memorial as a problem that strated out like waves that start out small, but eventually the waves grow larger and overcome the people as you walk to the center of the memorial.

Another place well worth visitng in Berlin is the Charlottenbour sloss Palace, which only costs 9 Euros. At first site, the palace does not look extremely impressive, but once inside i became amazed by the grand rooms filled with intricate gold designs that covered and brightened teh walls. On the ceilings of the rooms were breathtaking paintings of gods and the heavens, as well as delicate life size statues of goddesses that bring the paintings and statues together, really bringing the room to life. However, if that does not sound impressive enough, the gardens make up for any doubt of this palace's charm. Stepping into the gardens made me feel as if I was in the middle of a Disney Princess movie. The bright colors of the various flowers planted in artistic patters, the clear ponds which were complete with elegant swams, and the castle towering in the background cannot be explained by anything but fairy tale like. At one point while we were walking in the gardens, a bird actually flew into my open hand! If that's not something straight from Cinderella I don't know what is.

It didn't take more than one day to realize that Munich was quite the opposite of Berlin. There was much more traffic in the streets, many more crowds, and extemely touristy. All this together, however, made Munich a traditional city where the Old German culture was very apparent.

When we got into town, we were immediately greeted by towering cathedrals and clocktowers. The shops on the side of the streets sold lederhosens and enormous beer mugs. On the hour, all the clocktowers would go off simultaneously and we would be greeted with the sounds of the glockenspiel as statues came out of the clock and danced around.

Here is a typical clothing shop, Lederhosens are the big sale this week! And every week!

The city displayed the carefree and lively cutlure of Germany, and I was sad to have to leave so soon. However, the next stop in the PEE '08 adventure was Rome, and it was quite the city of adventure.

Clocktower in Munich

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Quick "Pace" Preparation

Traveling overseas is something that people dream of doing, but put aside for later in life. The problem comes when "later" turns into "never". At the age of 18 years old, I had saved up as much money as I could, working with 60-year-old women in a mall customer service, for a European backpacking trip with my sister.

We decided to call our summer adventure PEE '08, not only because it is fun to say, but also because it stands for Pace European Extravaganza 2008! Two of my cousins who live in London backpacked with us, and since all our last names were conveniently Pace, the name stuck.

Deciding where to visit was the first thing we did. On the website Student Travel we found a 5-stop package for Eurail tickets. The Eurail is the most common form of travel in Europe. This train system travels to almost every country in Europe, and reminds me the train Harry Potter takes to Hogwarts. This picture was taken on the Eurail, my cousin Barnaby can play the part of Harry Potter.

The route we decided to take began in London and stopped at Germany, Italy, Poland, Austria, and Czech Republic. With the student discount, the cost for both airfare and the Eurail pass was around $1,800.

After we got the tickets, the next step was researching the countries we were going to visit. We came across a book that came to be known to us as our "Backpacking Bible". This book told us everything we needed to know about sights, cheap food, and safe Hostels. Hostels are cheaper hotels just for young people traveling. The age limit makes staying at these places really interesting, because you get to meet people your age from all over the world who are also traveling. We figured out which hostels we would be staying at before we left on the trip and based it by safety first, then overall rating. The last hostel, however, I got to pick... and I chose it purely by it's name... Tutti Frutti Hostel in Krakow, Poland.

The week before we left as intense. We got together our passports, notified our banks for overseas spending in the next month, and began packing. We found a student discount for backpacks at our University Rec Center. Packing was very light considering we would have to carry what we packed on our backs for the entire trip.

They day of the flight went as smoothly as planned. I did not sleep much during the flight because I was fearful of my sister, Cindy, repeating her all too well known motion sickness episodes. The last time she flew, she did not make it to the bathroom in time. Let's just say neither the first class nor the air flight attendants were her best friends that day. However, thanks to Cindy's new best friend, Dramamine, she was sound asleep during the entire trip.

After what felt like an eternity, the plane started to descent. I looked out the window and could make out a tiny Big Ben rising above the houses and buildings. The turbulence started to build as we got closer to the runway, a loud rumble let us know the wheels had touched ground, and we were finally in Europe.