"I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.”
- Mary Anne Radmacher
Over the last few months, I have travelled outside of Berlin and have seen some incredible nearby cities, including Prague (Czech Republic), Barcelona (Spain), Paris (France), and Rome (Italy). Most of these trips have lasted just a few days, usually taking place over a weekend. However, even within a short amount of time, I have been able to see and do so much around each city. I have gotten to experience the life and culture of these new places, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the experiences I have had so far.
For my first trip in early March, I visited Prague. From Berlin, I hopped onto a bus and rode five hours into the city, getting in very late on a Friday night. After plenty of sleep, I began exploring the city. First, I went to Old Town Square, where I climbed to the top of the Old Town Hall’s tower and looked out as people walked along the pathways. Just below, I stood and watched as the famous Astronomical Clock rang throughout the square. One of my favorite sites, however, was Prague Castle, including the beautiful St. Vitus Cathedral that lies within the castle gates.
Not long after, I flew to Barcelona for a weekend trip. It was a beautiful city, full of gorgeous architecture and bustling streets. Despite a few days with cold and rainy weather, I was able to see some amazing things, including La Sagrada Familia and Casa Battló. On one of the days, I took an hour-long train ride to the mountains of Montserrat and hiked through an area which holds an old monastery. The views were incredible, with mountains as far as the eye could see.
My next trip was to Paris – one of my favorites so far. In Paris, I was able to stay with some of my extended family that currently lives in the area. In the city, I explored the Musée du Louvre and wandered into various cafés and bookstores. I even had the opportunity to climb to the second level of the Eiffel Tower and see the city from above. The food I ate in Paris was also incredible, including fine cheeses and fresh baguettes. Just wandering around the streets in the warm sunshine felt like a dream.
Most recently, I visited Rome for a few days. Here, I saw the Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and so much more. In Vatican City, I saw the Sistine Chapel along with other famous works of art, including Raphael’s School of Athens. Touring the Colosseum was surreal, and as I walked around the stadium, I did my best to fully grasp its historical impact on the ancient roman world. Near the end of the trip, I took an afternoon bike trip along the Appian Way, which was a beautiful way to see some amazing crypts and ruins.
Throughout my international travels, I learned many valuable lessons along the way. First, I discovered how important it is to make early transportation plans for every city I visit. Each city has a unique approach to public transportation, some relying on trains or streetcars, others relying heavily on buses or rideshares. Fortunately, I figured out how to quickly navigate new public transportation systems, making note of key locations near airports, hotels, and central landmarks.
I also learned the value of giving yourself unscheduled time to simply wander around a place and to get lost discovering streets far off the beaten path. In doing this, you will discover parts of the city that very few people have seen, whether a beautiful view, a hidden restaurant, or a sweet small business. Stumbling upon things like those have made for some of my favorite moments abroad so far.
Each of these cities have given me memories that will last a lifetime. The interactions I had with locals, the food I tasted, the sights I visited – all gave me a much broader view of humanity. I have especially loved seeing the artistic influences of each city, learning more about some of the most influential periods in that place’s history, and how each sculpted it to become what it is today. I am so incredibly thankful for all that I have learned because of these trips, and I hope to continue to be a devoted life-long learner.