My trip to Central Europe was very eye opening experience. I got to see many different cultures in the three different countries I traveled to and got to meet all kinds of people. We traveled all over from Amsterdam, Netherlands to three different cities in Germany, Hamburg, Berlin, and Munich, and lastly to Brussels, Belgium. Each city had interesting qualities that each more unique than the others.
I started off my trip in Amsterdam where the city infrastructure is nothing like here in the United States. The biggest difference is while there are streets for cars to drive on, most residents ride bikes from place to place or use the subway to get around the city. Bikes seemed to be the biggest mode of transportation as everywhere you looked, people were riding bikes on the roads. This not only gives people more exercise throughout the day, but it is also a cleaner mode of transportation than the car. To supply Dutch people with space to put their bikes, there were even parking garages for bikes! These garages were much smaller than car parking lots as bikes take up much less room so the Dutch can utilize their space even more. Another interesting feature to Amsterdam was the geography of the city. The city of Amsterdam is actually made up of a bunch of canals so the majority of roads in Amsterdam follow each individual canal while intersecting roads must have bridges built over each canal to get across. This makes the city have a Venice feel to it as the majority of your trip is along canals and many Dutch people have boats on the water.
After staying in Amsterdam for two days, my group moved on to a four day trip through Germany. We hit three major cities along the way, each being different than the other. The first city we visited was Hamburg which is located in Northern Germany on the mouth of the North Sea. Hamburg is more of a shipping town than a tourist attraction as Hamburg as the city sits at the mouth of the Elbe River which runs through most of Germany and part the Czech Republic. In Hamburg, deep-water ships have to transfer their cargo to smaller ships that can navigate the shallower Elbe River. I saw many comparisons in city design to New Orleans which makes sense as both cities serve similar roles to their respective rivers. Despite the name, Hamburg is actually known for their fish so for dinner I had some North Sea Cod which was very delicious.
After Hamburg we moved on to Berlin, which is the capital of Germany. Berlin had many cool attractions to see such as still standing part of the Berlin Wall, Brandenburg Gate, and Tiergarten (Berlin’s “Central Park”). It was very cool to see and even be able to touch parts of the free standing wall that was such a big part of history. We also visited the Jewish Memorial in and it was crazy to see just how many people died in the concentration camps during World War II. As you expect, Berlin was very modern and looked very similar to a big city in the United States. What was interesting to me was that of the eight cities I’ve visited in Europe, Berlin definitely relied on the car the most. This could be a byproduct of having large mass market car companies in Germany such as Audi and Volkswagen like the US having Ford, GM, and Chrysler.
The next city I visited was Munich. Munich is a southern German city near the Bavarian Alps and is also home to the original Hofbrauhaus. It was very cool to be in the original Hofbrauhaus as they still use the original building and being a part of that atmosphere was crazy. We didn’t stay long in Munich because our group also wanted to see Neuschwanstein castle, the castle that inspired the Disney castle, which was a quick train ride from Munich. The castle was very cool and they even built a bridge overpassing two mountains where there is a great view of the castle. Our group also was able to hike up some of the mountains in the area which rewarded us with some breathtaking views.
The last city we visited was Brussels, Belgium. Belgium is known for their waffles and I can say that their waffles are quite good. We explored the city for most of the day before having to head back to the airport to go back to the United States.
One of the coolest parts about the trip was the chance to actually interact with the locals. I took German in high school and I brushed up on it as the trip got closer. My preparation paid off a bit as I was able to order many of my meals in German which was really satisfying. Usually they would ask me a follow up question like “what would you like on the side” and I would not be able to understand which was disappointing. If I were to return in the future I would definitely look to improve my listening so that I could respond to their questions. Overall the trip was eye opening to the different cultures around the world and I would love to be able to go back to Europe and explore even more cities!