Brian Messing, Editor-in-Chief
An old friend once told me that the best way to watch a movie is to watch it twice. The theory is that the first time is for learning about the plot and characters, and the second time is so that you can truly understand the meaning of the film. I think that the same principle applies to travel. This summer, I traveled to Europe for a second time, the previous time being the summer before, to many of the same destinations and ultimately for the same reason as my last trip: study abroad.
Saint Martin’s is blessed with a wonderful array of study abroad opportunities. This year I traveled through a company that partners with Saint Martin’s called Cultural Experiences Abroad (CEA). CEA has many programs across the globe, but the one I chose was a German language program in Berlin at Humboldt University. Foreign language has always been a difficult subject for me. However, studying foreign language in a country where it is spoken made the process a lot smoother.
Before going to Berlin, I booked a short side trip to Scotland to visit some cousins and the country that my great-grandmother came from. In Scotland, I was busy. On my first full day there I explored Glasgow and walked over 39,000 steps, which felt particularly good after spending so much time on airplanes and at airports. Glasgow features some of the best museums in Scotland, ranging from topics such as history to art. On my second day, I took a train to Edinburgh and attended First Minister’s Questions, the parliamentary questioning period at the Scottish Parliament. As a political nerd, this was the highlight of my six-week trip. On my last full day in Scotland, I traveled to the beautiful seaside town of St. Andrews, the birthplace of golf.
After a few days in Scotland, I boarded a plane for Germany. I had only spent four days in Berlin the previous summer, so spending four weeks there allowed me to learn a lot more about one of Europe’s most historic cities. Last year I had stayed on the western side of where the wall used to be, but this year I stayed on the eastern side. I knew that the two sides of the city still retained their own character; however, being able to stay for an extended period of time helped me appreciate this even more.
One of my favorite activities in Berlin was to wander around the streets and appreciate the architecture of the buildings from various time periods, and the history that both created them and left them in their current state. Berlin as a city has been divided and conquered on multiple occasions. This is reflected throughout its streets and in its buildings. It is amazing to be able to walk down a street and see modern buildings next to buildings that survived the bombings during World War Two.
Berlin has an amazing number of museums that are worth visiting. My favorites were the German Spy Museum, the DDR Museum (dedicated to the history of East Germany), and the Topography of Terror (covering the history of the SS and Gestapo).
The parks in Berlin are breathtaking and walking through them is an event itself. The main park in Berlin is known as Tiergarten. Tiergarten literally means “Animal garden” in German, because Prussian kings used it as their private hunting grounds during the 18th century. Today, it is akin to Central Park for Berlin, and boasts many trails, trees, and lakes.
One of the more perplexing things about Berlin is the food. Despite being the capital of Germany, there is very little German food in Berlin. It actually took some work at first for me to find places that served traditional German cuisine. But what Berlin lacks in German food, it makes up for in international food. Doner, the Turkish version of the Greek gyro, is an amazing dish. Cooked on bread and mixed with meat, lettuce, onions, and some sort of sauce, it is the perfect meal for lunch and only costs about 4 euros. Additionally, Berlin has an excellent variety of restaurants ranging from Italian to Indian.
On weekends, and at the end of my trip, I traveled throughout other European cities. I returned to London and Paris, and completed many of the activities that I did not have time to do on my first trip. I also spent a weekend in the small seaside resort town of Brighton, England, on the coast of the English Channel.
I will never forget the amazing experiences that I had on my trip to Europe. Being able to take classes, travel on the weekends, and see new and historic places was an excellent way for me to spend my summer. I feel that now I am at least starting to understand what the meaning of Europe is. I look forward to all of the adventures that lie ahead of me.