Tuesday, August 9, 2016

All the Emotions of Leaving Europe

I'm back in the United States and the culture shock and adjustment of being back is in full effect. The second half of my semester was crazy busy, full of travel, visits from home, and intense language practice. I can definitely say that this entire experience was MORE than worth it. I met more people than I could have ever imagined, made some really long-lasting friendships, forced myself out of my comfort zone by backpacking alone for 3 weeks and with a friend from home for another 3, and really enjoyed my time. This was one of the greatest moves I have made in life.

I left Paris on May 16th, both happy and utterly heartbroken as I embarked on the next adventure - 6 solid weeks of backpacking throughout Europe. I had a plan of the first 17 days going to Lyon, Strasbourg, Fussen, Innsbruck, Salzburg, Munich, Dresden and Berlin. My long-time friend Heather from California was meeting me in Berlin to do 24 days throughout Eastern Europe; Prague, Budapest, Zagreb, Mostar, Dubrovnik, Split, Plitvic, Ljubljana, Bled, and Zurich. Although I was nervous to be on my own for the first part of the trip, I immediately made new friends in Lyon, as I was staying with a friend from Paris' family that offered their home to me. It was amazing to be able to integrate into Lyon's lifestyle with locals for a few days. Lyon remains one of my favorite cities - hence why  I visited twice in my time abroad. Backpacking by myself forced me to be comfortable on my own instead of relying on anybody. I made so many connections in the hostels - some I traveled with for a couple days, while some I just spent an afternoon with. Each of these new faces brought a different perspective to my travels and greatly impacted me. I loved being able to broaden my views and take in a wide range of ideas from all over the world. In my time alone, I hiked one of the Alps, drove on the Autoban, visited Mozart's home, went to the original castle that Disney modeled theirs after, ate apfelstrudel and spatzle, spent time in the oldest concentration camp from WWII, watched surfers go at it in the park river in Munich, and climbed more stairs that I can count.

When I arrived in Berlin I couldn't wait for my friend Heather to come. I was a little exhausted, my phone had been having issues, and I was ready for some comfort of home. She ended up missing her connecting flight in Turkey and was delayed 15 hours, but finally arrived (newly-sprained ankle and all). While the mobility was a bit of an issue and we ran into problems here and there, our trip was absolutely fantastic. Eastern Europe is less traversed than the western portion, making it less crowded and cheaper. Heather and I explored the cities on our own, venturing off the beaten path, and discovered a whole new world that we loved. My top favorite place was by far Mostar, Bosnia. The people we came across were incredibly friendly, the food was good, and the scenery was breathtaking. There is a vast contrast between Western and Eastern Mostar due to the Bosnian War of the early 1990s and wreckage is still present with bombed-out buildings and bullet casings found throughout the city. Very few people seemed to be visiting here, so the peaceful aura of the city was very different to what I had experienced in places like Paris and Berlin. This trip together included getting tattoos in Prague (sorry Mom!), relaxing at the thermal baths of Budapest, jumping into a freezing lake/waterfall in Bosnia, meeting a friend I had met on a previous stop in Bern, Switzerland, seeing famous graffiti walls, and bonding with one of my best friends.

Everyone should backpack - and do it alone at least for some time. It sounds crazy and people told me I was out of my mind, and I'll admit that I was scared. But was it worth it? COMPLETELY. I can't stress enough how much I grew in this whole experience - both from studying abroad and from traveling afterwards. This world is huge and there is so much to see, but there is also so many people to cross your path that will open your eyes in a way you didn't know could happen.

I'm already planning my return to these incredible places.

Fussen, Germany. Neuschwanstein Castle.
Fussen, Germany

The most picturesque little city, Strasbourg, France.

One of the best things about backpacking is meeting new people that become lifelong friends.

Munich, Germany

Dresden, Germany

Filbling, Austria, outside of Salzburg. Hiking in The Alps!

In the Astronomical Clock Tower in Prague, Czech Republic

My right hand companion on the second half of this trip - Heather

The Berlin Wall, Berlin, Germany

Waterfalls outside of Mostar, Bosnia

The Shoes - Holocaust Memorial in Budapest, Hungary

View from our hostel in Bled, Slovenia just before dusk

View from our hostel in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Bern, Switzerland. I was lucky enough to have a friend I met previously in Nice from here to show us around.

Hanging on the edge in Bled, Slovenia

Our last day - Zurich, Switzerland

The famous Plitvic Lakes Park in Croatia

No comments:

Post a Comment