Blog continuation of Scotland and London….
After week 1 of “spring break” I hopped a ferry over to Europe for the next 2 weeks of break. Our little tour around Europe started in Belgium and ended in France. Here are some high lights from my travels:
We stopped in a city called Ghent in Belgium. It is one of those cities you find on buzz feed articles of “cities you need to visit that you have never heard of before.” Unfortunately while we were there it was pretty gloomy and rainy, but you can’t really let rain get you too down when you’re in a different country for the first time! Belgium was weird because barely any places opened until almost 10am, including cafes and coffee places, which was tragic. While there we took a nice little boat cruise tour to look at some of the interesting architecture. While a sunny day would’ve made it much more enjoyable, it was still a cute little town and it is easy to see why people would enjoy visiting. The main highlight of the city was that I finally got to try an authentic Belgian waffle! It lived up to every expectation of deliciousness. I had mine covered in chocolate sauce and whipped cream and my mouth died of happiness.
The next city I visited was Amsterdam. I have to say I am still confused on wether to say Netherlands or Holland but either way it was awesome. It might be expected that you are about to read a bunch of “The Fault in Stars” fan girl references. Jokes on you because I am one of the only girls in the world who was unimpressed by both the book and movie. Nevertheless, I loved Amsterdam. Pictures of the canals could never do them justice, it is really a city you have to experience and see to believe. Amsterdam culture is unlike any other culture I have ever experienced so I was in awe most of the time. It is a city where you are always worried about getting run over by bikes, people are free as the birds, and Nutella crepes are abundant (and delicious). The biggest advice I have about people going to Amsterdam is to know the difference between a “Coffee Shop” and a “Cafe,” but I’m sure you’ll enjoy both of them either way. I was told once, “What happens in Amsterdam stays in Amsterdam,” so I’ll leave it at that!
For Germany we stopped in a few cities. My top two were Heidelberg and Munich. Heidelberg is supposedly an old college town and is also situated in the Rhine Valley. I spent most of the day we were there exploring the castle. The castle was situated at the top of a hill so it overlooked the whole city and the river, which was a beautiful sight. From there I travelled into Munich. Honestly, I did not have high expectations of Germany for when I was visiting. I guess all my history classes over the years ruined it for me. While Munich did have some beautiful buildings and clock towers in the central city area, it was not one of my favorite cities I have been. Maybe if it hadn’t snowed while we were there and maybe if I liked beer I would have left liking it a bit more. In Munich we spent time exploring the cities and checking out various beer halls. The beer halls were super lively and definitely felt like an authentic German experience. I think I ate more bratwurst in Germany than I have in my whole life. One thing I really enjoyed about Germany was the language. Every city we visited we learned some basic phrases of the area so we could seem less like arrogant American tourists. While we really only learned “Hello” which was “Hallo” (EASY) and phrases like excuse me and do you speak english (I definitely can’t spell those) it was still cool to feel like and pretend that you sort of belonged there.
On a heavier note, while in Germany I visited the Dachau Concentration Camp. I thought I understood what happened during the holocaust over in Germany from my IB history classes, but there is no way to fully comprehend it until you are walking through it, and even then it’s hard to wrap your mind around. Dachau was the first concentration camp opened in Germany and was meant to hold political prisoners. We had a tour guide who took us through the museum which was once where they had “check-ins” and we went through the bunkers and buildings the prisoners were kept in. One of the main things that really stuck with me was when our tour guide spoke of the propaganda used on Germany and other countries. We saw posters and news articles that made it seem like the camp was this lovely place for prisoners to reform, but in reality was hell on Earth. I find it amazing and terrifying how a government can keep something that huge hidden from the public so much so that while thousands are dying and starving, the public might not even be aware. We walked through where the people used to have to sleep, sometimes up to 5 people in a twin sized bed each, we heard how they did roll every day and had to stand perfectly still for hours even in freezing cold weather, and we learned and saw so much more I can’t even begin to describe or do it justice. At one point in the museum part, we watched a brief video of the liberation when the American army arrived. There were images of piles and train carts full of dead frozen bodies. They were so starved that they barely looked as though they were people any more and it was almost too hard to watch at points. One other main thing we saw in the museum was a map of Europe with all the camps marked on it. I had no idea there were so many and so many different types. Without giving a history lesson, I just want to make clear that while thousands and thousands died at the camp I was at, it wasn’t even close to one of the worst ones. There used to be camps that lied to families of the disabled that their loved ones were going to a new therapy place for help and the family member with the disability would be taken away and killed. The family would find out later that their loved one died of health complications during treatment. Like WHAT is wrong with the world? The end of the tour was the absolute worst part of it all. We walked over to the crematorium area. There were two crematoriums that we were able to walk in and see the ovens where thousands of bodies were rid of. Dachau also has a gas chamber, which while there is no proof that it was used, still stands for the mass murders that took place there over the years. As we walked through the chambers and the crematorium, we learned that the ashes of the people were simply scattered around the camp and that we were walking on them currently. As if our hearts weren’t heavy enough, it literally felt as if the lives of all these people were resting heavily on your shoulders. Such an eerie and eye opening day of my life. If you ever get the chance to tour a camp, take it. I think it is so important to truly see what happened and get a better understand of those terrible times that people went through. I wish my words could do the experience justice, but I can’t even come close to explaining it or what the prisoners went through all that time.
From there we went off to Italy which will be in another blog, thanks for reading!