Saturday, November 6, 2010


I would first like to pose a forewarning that aside from my usual travel blog this particular post will hold a deeper more self discovered section. I will put this section at the end for anyone who would like to resign from that kind of material. However, I feel like with travel there comes a certain obligation to find yourself. The quote "I met a lot of people in Europe. I even encountered myself." - James Baldwin; specifically seems to capture my thoughts of the subject. However, more on that later.

I found Berlin to be fascinating! On my first day I went on one of the free tours provided by Sandeman's New European Tours. It was full of history and amusing stories that not only stick with the listener but give them a duty to share the story to others (as I did upon my return). I find it remarkable that only 21 years ago, if I were to have gone to Berlin I would have had to go through a military checkpoint (lower right picture) and would have had to have the correct paperwork to get in and out, that there were people who were prisoners in their own city and that Germany was two separate countries. For the most part, Berlin is rebuilt and has recovered beautifully from that time. My hostel was in East Berlin and at first I was confused because I thought that East Berlin had been the communist part and probably wouldn't look very nice and would be scary to walk around. I even started to think that maybe it was West Berlin that had been the communist part. You really can't tell a difference between the sides now.
After my tour I went to meet up with a girl who I had gone to college with. She showed me around Berlin at night and we saw the festival of lights. Many of the buildings were lit up with pictures or different colors. It was really neat! The next day we met up in the afternoon and did some more sightseeing. She took me to the East Side Gallery, which is the longest standing part of the wall that is covered in political murals (lower left picture). There are so many reminders around the city of everything that has happened in the past. I really feel like this is something every city should have. Reminders that may help us not to repeat the past and to treat everyone the same.

The next day I went to the Pergamon Museum and saw very interesting items from Greek, Islamic or Turkish history. It was very interesting to me and I really wish I knew more about world history. I think it's something I lacked or showed little interest in during grade school. I wish I had explored it more. Actually traveling has really opened my eyes to so much history and I wish I could delve into it all in more detail.

- Self Discovery Corner

Alright, so for those who wish to continue this is now the "Self-Discovery" section of this blog.

One of the nice things about traveling by yourself is that you don't act any different because of the people you're around. If we are all honest with ourselves we can admit that no matter who we are with (except perhaps family) we act a little different due to our surroundings and who's in them. For example, I act very different when I'm teaching or around kids then I do when I'm with a group of friends. Or even when we're in church or when we're at a pub. What surrounds us has a large part of the decisions we make or what we think we want out of life. However when I went on this trip I was surrounded by places I was unfamiliar with, transportation I needed to figure out and an overwhelming ability to do whatever I'd like with them. This realization made me think about who I really am and what I really like to do.

I discovered that since coming to Switzerland I have changed a great deal, certainly more than in years past. A big part of this is because I've found myself spiritually. Switzerland is beautiful and I am constantly surrounded by God's creation. It's so easy to feel his presence and to see his blessings in my life. I've found a great church family and mentors that have helped my faith grow. Many of my friends here are also believers which plays a big role in my own beliefs as well. I feel that I've grown to care more about people. I've become less selfish and have started to think about others at times before myself. When I look at who I used to be or things I used to think about other people I'm repulsed. I could have made stronger friendships or gotten to know more people if only I hadn't been so shallow and selfish before.

Also, I feel like I'm turning into my parents more each day, and I'm not opposed to the idea. I think most people, especially between the ages of 13 and 22 would say that their biggest fear would be to turn into their parents. I noticed yesterday while I was cooking dinner for the family (something I've grown to like a lot) that Felix seemed bored and I almost suggested he go and practice his guitar or piano. This is something my parents would have done with me. Anytime that we seemed bored they'd suggest something more productive that we could do, usually in the form of homework, practicing an instrument, cleaning our rooms, helping with dinner, ect. This made us retreat to our rooms in hopes of not having other things "recommended" for us to do. I now understand why they did that! Now though I think that if I were bored and went to my parents it would be because I'd want to spend time with them. It's actually something that I really enjoy doing and miss a lot. I could spend all morning talking to my parents on skype if they'd let me. I feel so much closer to them even though I'm so far away. Actually I think we probably talk more now than we did when I lived at home. That's just something I took for granted. I'm so glad that I've gotten to know my parents a little more because of this year away and I'm ok with the idea of turning into them :-)

Another thing I realized is how much I enjoy spending time with myself. I certainly have times when I'm craving social contact or a need to speak to someone who speaks English like I do, but honestly I'm fine spending a few days solo with a book, some tea and time to think. I've never appreciated how thought provoking a walk can be, or how nice it is to have time where I'm not moving a mile a minute. I also realized that I'm not as big a party girl as I thought I was. There are so many things I'd rather do then go clubbing or get trashed in a bar. I could stay home and watch a movie, read a book, go to get coffee, write, make food, play a game, go shopping, ect. All of these I'd rather do, or even stay in and have wine while talking about life. (I've also become a huge fan of wine... who knew?)

So, that's pretty much the culmination of my self discovery thus far. I've only been here for half a year and I feel like a new person. I'm renewed, I have purpose and I feel alive. I have 5 more months exactly today to learn more about myself and life. I'm excited to make new discoveries and to strengthen these ones. I'll keep you informed!

- B

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Copenhagen was one of those places that I had seen a picture of on a poster advertising a hostel and decided I had to go. It was another city with Canals and water with beautiful buildings and parks. This all proved to be true. It’s also where Hans Christian Anderson lived and wrote and where the famous “Little Mermaid” statue is. Unfortunately, she took a year-long vacation to China so I just got to see a screen with a picture on it of her. Oh well.

When I got to Copenhagen I checked into my hostel and then went exploring. I walked through a park and saw some of the city. Then I didn’t know what else to do. I was meeting a friend later in the day but didn’t know what to do with the time so I did the ultimate touristy thing... got on one of the “Hop on Hop off” buses. Eventually I got to a stop that my friend and I had planned to meet so I hoped off. This was the “postcard” perfect place that I had been looking for. It’s funny whenever I go to a new place I always have an idea of what it should look like or what I’ve seen of it before. I then try to find that place to get some pictures. Ex: Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, The corner Canal thing in Bruges, the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Eiffel Tower in Paris ect.

After meeting with my friend we went to a museum. It was pretty neat but afterwards I decided to go back to my hostel and do some rather epic relaxing. The next day nothing special happened. I went on two more bus tours with the ticket I had purchased the previous day and then headed back to my hostel. I was really broke for this trip so I didn’t have much money to do well, anything. So I spent the rest of the evening in my hostel on my computer or reading. It was actually nice just to hang out and be by myself. I will say that this trip was really helping me become comfortable in my own skin.

- B