People all throughout time have found passion and desire that come with international travel. Discovering new cultures, languages, food and sights has become one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever known. Not including vacations to the Caribbean with my family, most of the exploring I’ve done was in Germany. Connecting with my Western European roots and being on my own as a teenager was mesmerizing and now in my 20s, want nothing more than to continue on the road less traveled.
My grandmother grew up in a very small house in an East-Berlin neighborhood. Her cousins lived down the street and they grew up with ration cards and limited garden space. My great grandma (we called her Oma) was the OG of single moms. How many women do you know that raised 2 kids on her own in post-WWII Germany? Probably not that many. Not to mention, the East side of the wall was not the place to be after the war. That part of the city has changed drastically since then. My grandma has been back, my mom has been back, and so have I. There are car dealerships, grocery stores, parks and boutiques. But the original cobblestones are still laying in the Straßen (streets) and you can still walk down to the Rewe to get groceries.
I knew exactly how I wanted to spend my life—exploration. Let’s be real, it’s 2013 and airlines love to charge the equivalent of a down payment on a new car to get one person across the world. Ain’t nobody got time (or money) for that. So naturally, I joined the Air Force. Little did I know, I ended up with a job that has the longest training and after more than a year, I have yet to see the world—with the exception of San Antonio and Monterey.
These are the confessions of my guilty pleasures.
Dillenburg & Schloss Sanssouci are two of my favorite spots in the entire country to walk around. Hundreds of miles apart and completely different styles of buildings, I can appreciate the beauty in both. Dillenburg (top picture) is a very classic Prussian style castle. There are hidden passageways, winding stairs and rooms that were dedicated to crown jewels. Schloss Sanssouci (bottom picture) was obviously heavily influenced by the Italians. It literally feels like you leave Berlin and step into Sicily.
Being in two places at once
As weird as this sounds, it is such a cool feeling. An iron and brick laden track runs throughout the city of Berlin to indicate where the wall used to stand. I always love to stand with one foot in each sector, no matter how old I get. The Berlin Wall separated Germany’s capitol for almost 30 years and it’s insane to me how different both sides of the city used to be, while currently being unidentifiable.
I don’t know why this particular dish is such a big deal to me. Maybe because it’s not something I can buy or make while at home in America? It tastes just like every other ice cream sundae—yet somehow it isn’t. Compiled of vanilla ice cream “noodles”, strawberry compode “marinara sauce” and white chocolate “shaved parmesan”, adults and kids fawn over this stuff; and for good reason.
If you’re German, you’re either Catholic or Lutheran (or a Turk who’s family moved here from Istanbul and are a practicing Muslim, which is totally cool too). The gothic architecture of the southern parts of Germany are completely different from the romantic buildings of the North; both equally as beautiful. I can’t get enough. The Köln and Berliner Dom are definitely my favorites.
Okay, obviously I think this is the best part because I’m not old enough to drink in America—but it’s not even to go out and get drunk. Having the ability to go out to dinner with friends and family and ordering a vintage wine, local stout or handcrafted cocktail is what I enjoy. I have a better nose for drinks than most people my age (outside of raspberry Smirnoff and lukewarm PBR). And let’s take a minute to appreciate Sky Bar that sits atop the 18th floor of one of the city’s skyscrapers and has panoramic windows for sightseeing. I did so while sipping a strawberry & balsamic martini—yum.
My parents have been divorced since I was in the first grade and we spent most of my childhood moving around. Until my brothers, mom and I settled in WA State, we hadn’t lived around family for a long time. When I’m in Berlin, so much of my family is within walking distance (or a short S-bahn ride). My Uncle Berndt owns a restaurant 3 blocks away from his house (where I usually stay with him and my Tante Hannelore) and I could stay there and drink beer late into the night just chatting; and I have. Plus, they have so many stories to tell and always have coffee and kuchen ready for me, how could I not love being around them?
I’m sporty. I like to watch sports, play sports, and read about them. Granted, Germany hasn’t had the best luck with hosting the Olympic Games. In the 30s, the Nazi regime held back colored athletes. In the 70s, there was a terrorist attack and athletes were kidnapped. But standing at the doors of some of the world’s most talented athletes is overwhelming. The structure of the building and vibe it gives off is just plain awesome.
When you think of traveling to Europe, not everyone’s first thought is going to catch some rays. But everyone forgets the Baltic Sea; I like to call it the hidden treasure. Germany has an equivalent to Jersey Shore where 20-somethings go to Rostock and party 24/7. I spent some time at Warnemünde and day dream about going back all the time. Drinking beer and napping in the sand; it doesn’t get much better.
I had literally never once picked up a racket until I went back to Germany last summer. My grandma’s cousin Gerde and her husband Peter (the most adorable elderly couple in existence) have been part of the Berlin Tennis Club longer than I’ve been alive. They both have a killer serve and my Uncle Peter spent 4 hours last summer giving me some basic lessons.
Go out and experience things for yourself. These are some of my favorite spots, but don’t limit yourself. I have so many countries that I want to visit once I have the time.