Monday, April 16, 2012

Spring Break: Week Two

I spent the night of April 7 in Barcelona. My host family wasn't there, but they left me something to eat for dinner. It was nice to be home and have a place to relax that wasn't filled with lots of other people.

The next morning, I woke up at 7:15 to go to the airport and catch my flight to Berlin. I got to the airport early and spent some time reading. My flight left at about 10:30 and we landed in Berlin around 1:00. The city was much colder than Italy, and I was glad that I had brought jeans and sweaters. I found my way to the hostel and checked in by 2:30. Then, I asked one of the girls who works there for some advice on how to pass the rest of my day. She suggested that I visit the Eastern Gallery, a free art gallery on what used to be the Berlin Wall. There were tons of cool quotes and pictures. The gallery represents the freedom that people were given after the wall came down in 1989. I was very inspired by some of the quotes and pictures. Others were just funny or interesting to look at. There was one that said "Cold Beer Rules!" This is, indeed, a fact that I can't argue with.

After the wall, I decided to eat a currywurst because I had read about them before I left for Berlin. They are hot dogs that are cut up and served without a bun. They are covered with curry sauce and you eat them with a fork. It was definitely interesting, but I can't say it was the best thing I've eaten in my life. Regardless, it was cool to try some authentic Berlin food. After I ate, I walked back to the hostel because I didn't want to be out at night by myself. The hostel had movies that you could rent, and I rented I am Legend and, inspired by the sign I saw earlier that day, bought a cold beer.

The next morning, I woke up early so that I could go on a free walking tour. I made my way to Brandenburg Gate to meet with the tour guide and the rest of the group. We saw lots of cool things including famous museums and places that were important during World War Two. I think my favorite thing about Berlin was seeing how much the city has changed since the wall came down. I wasn't alive while it was up, but I do know that there was a lot of oppression during this time and also during the second world war. Now, there are many things, such as the Eastern Gallery, in the city which represent freedom and hope. The people in Berlin have clearly gone through a lot, but they are very kind and welcoming.

My last day in Berlin, I went to the Memorial of the Murdered Jews of Europe. I decided to take an audio tour and heard many stories and testimonials of the war. It was very heartbreaking to hear, but I'm glad that I went. The experience helped me to realize that it is important to love all people, regardless of how different I may be from them. It taught me to be tolerant of others as long as they are not doing anything to harm someone else. I have always known to do this, but being at the memorial reminded me of how important it is. I think we could all try to be a little more accepting of others. Everyone has different beliefs and different ways of living, and that is a wonderful thing about life. Regardless of how different people are, there is always something we can learn from each other. Also, regardless of where people come from, I think we all have a basic desire to be accepted and loved.

The next day, I got on a very early flight to leave for Amsterdam, another city that would teach me a lot about tolerance. I do not smoke, and I believe that I live a fairly conservative lifestyle, but I still enjoyed being in Amsterdam. I think one of the reasons I enjoyed the city is because there is weed everywhere, but the natives are not immature about smoking. Weed has been tolerated for their entire lives, so they see no reason to make a big show out of smoking. I appreciated how mature natives of Amsterdam were about smoking. One thing that was sad for me to see, however, was all of the prostitutes in the city. I am glad that they have more rights than the prostitutes in the United States because they are not pimped, but it is also sad to see women giving their bodies to so many random men.

I met with Lauren in Amsterdam, and we went to the Anne Frank House. I read her diary when I was in seventh grade, and I had always wanted to see where it was written. When we got to her room, I started to cry. I saw all of the things from magazines that she had hung on the walls. It reminded me of how real of a person she was. Not only that, but it also reminded me that she was a thirteen year old girl. It was heartbreaking to think about the horrible things that the Jewish people of the time had to go through. It was difficult to be at her house, but it was a worthwhile experience.

We also went on a free tour of Amsterdam where we saw the skinniest house in the city, the red light district, canals, churches, and the Jewish ghetto. We also got to sample some goat cheese from a local store. Our tour guide, Mark, was extremely friendly and knew a lot about the city. He had a funny orange pom-pom attached to his hat. I think that is the best way to describe him.

Our last stop for spring break was Prague. I was excited to see the city because it is my sister's favorite. I went two tours while I was there. The first tour was of the entire city. We saw things like the oldest astronomical clock in Europe and a famous concert house. The second tour was of the castles in Prague. We saw places where movies such as XXX and Eurotrip were filmed. We walked a little over four miles that day, and I was exhausted by 10:00 pm. I went to bed early. When I woke up the next day, it was time to go to the airport and head back to Barcelona.

When I finally arrived home, I was greeted by my host family and two of their friends that I had met before. I got to tell them all about all of the places that I had been. Then, when I went into my room, I found a note and a picture that my youngest host sister, Nora, had drawn me. She told me that she has loved living with me and that she hopes I have enjoyed my time in Barcelona. I really love my host family and am grateful to be living with such wonderful people.

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