German Word of the Day:
v., to travel
I’m really excited to write this post, because the experiences I had last week have become a new highlight of my year.
On New Year’s Day, I woke up early and headed to the train station to start a week-long journey during the last week of school break. I am lucky enough to have a few wonderful long-distance friends scattered throughout Europe, and I finally got to do some visiting!
First Stop: Essen, Germany
Essen is an industrial city in the west of Germany. It’s not the most commonly visited tourist town, but I thought it was pretty in it’s own way. The area around Essen certainly has one very cool attraction: it contains the site of one of the first Roman colonies in Germany, established in A.D. 110.
Part of the Roman city Colonia Ulpia Traiana, such as the temple ruins, is still original, and the rest has been re-created to look as it would have during the time of the Romans. It was mind-boggling to see a place where this culture of legends had been a reality.
Next Stop: Rostock, Germany
After I left Essen, my next destination was Sweden, to visit a friend of mine in the city of Lund. I had one day in between the two visits, so I took a train to Rostock, a port city in northern Germany. That was my first time really traveling by myself, without having anyone to pick me up at the train station, and my first time staying in a hostel. The experience of finding my youth hostel in the dark (in the rain), figuring out how the inner-city public transportation worked, and deciding what to do with my 24 hours there really stretched my problem-solving, German-speaking, and plan-making skills, and it was worth it because Rostock is a delightful city to explore.
Pro tip: those “transportation route maps” at the bus stops are probably supposed to be helpful. However, I think they look more like a diagram of a complex digestive system than anything else. It is definitely worth your time to find a friendly local to explain them to you before you’re trying to get somewhere on a schedule!
Final Destination: Lund, Sweden
On Wednesday I left Germany for the first time in my exchange year! I met up with a friend who is currently studying in Sweden, and together we headed over to the elegant city of Lund. Lund is in the south of Sweden, is not far from Copenhagen, is near the ocean, and, like other cities in Sweden, wasn’t damaged by either world war, all of which makes it a wonderful place to visit.
Sweden seemed to me like the upgraded, luxury version of Germany, which makes it the super-deluxe version of America. A lot of the landscape, architecture, food, and culture may be somewhat similar to the German’s, but just wait till you check out the trains with free Wi-Fi, the blanketed bus-stop benches, and the public water fountains (haven’t seen those since August!). Apparently they pay for it through the nose in taxes, so you can feel better about that if you want.
I learned only two Swedish words while I was in Lund: The first is Tack, which means thank you, please, you’re welcome, and no-problem-I-was-just-on-the-way-to-a-crucially-important-meeting-but-of-course-I’ll-help-you-push-your-car-out-of-a-snow-bank. The second is Fika. Fika is, apparently, an essential Swedish survival skill. It roughly means to stop whatever you’re doing and eat a pastry. “Let’s Fika“, you say, when you’ve been in class for a full 90 minutes and you feel like might not be able to go on without a refreshment. I was pretty okay with that.
Lund is just over the bridge from Copenhagen, and so we made a day trip there to check out the city. It was beautiful, colorful, full of history, freezing cold, and made a pretty fun sight-seeing trip.
Once we got back to Lund it started snowing, and since temperatures were finally staying below freezing, I got the opportunity to try out the traditional Scandinavian sport of long-skating. This was one of the coolest things I’ve done all year. Long skates are a bit like elongated hockey skates, but they strap onto your boots more like skis. They’re designed for covering long distance quickly over frozen lakes or rivers. The ice in Lund was only a few centimeters thick, so we had to be careful where we skied. Luckily no one fell in, and it turned out to be a blast!
And after that it was time for school to start again. I nearly got hopelessly lost trying to take 5 different trains back to Hannover, but miraculously got back home in time to sleep a little before heading to class the next morning. This week I learned that traveling, especially solo travelling, is completely eye-opening and world-view-altering – I will definitely be doing more of it in the coming year. Subscribe to my blog in the menu bar so you don’t miss my next adventure!