Berlin, Amsterdam, Rome: Places with Friends

Well, I do think I enjoy places more with people I like. Seriously, it makes a huge difference. Traveling alone is lovely too, but it gets lonely, especially for an extrovert; I usually end up talking or singing to myself and looking like a crazy foreigner…which I am, but the public doesn’t need to be over-aware of this.

Early last semester, after I rejoiced over my acceptance to Rome, Christian, a friend, and coworker, started talking about a visit. I was exhilarated by the thought, but honestly assumed it to be a “‘Yeah, yeah I’ll totally come!’ and then it never happens” type situation. By November, Li and Christian had their plane tickets, Mireya and Manuel following their lead, and I felt more loved than ever.

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Work has been a home for me in California; despite my distaste of locals, minor oppositions to my school, and cravings for the east coast, I have found friends and family in my coworkers. Like-minded people, holding common responsibilities, reminded me that not everything out there is bad. Without my job, I’m not sure how bearable my transfer experience would have been. I couldn’t wait to explore my city and new places with them.

They arrived in Rome with two full days but were more interested in food than monuments…my kind of people. We stuffed ourselves with pizza, pasta, and gelato and then packed our bags to travel to Berlin and Amsterdam.

 

Berlin was…gray, literally. Most buildings seemed to lack color and the cloud-cover leant a misty coating to the city. There were abandoned churches, warehouses, and offices scattered throughout and it was cold. I’m not sure what I expected; Berlin supposedly has a great club scene, cool museums and it now a very friendly place.

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(Me struggling to balance with a heavy pack and sandals in 30-degree weather, PC Christian)

We went dancing met people from Dublin and had a great night, ending in a new flavor of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Then we woke up early to see the sites, before heading to yet another country. First stop: the East Side Gallery. All the color missing from Berlin must be painted onto this wall. It was vibrant, fluorescent, funny, tragic; it was beautiful. The gallery is a section of the Berlin Wall now used as mural space for political statements and art. It stands for freedom of speech: a positive repurposing of a bleak past.

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Then we stopped at Checkpoint Charlie, the American border, picked out a million and two postcards and drove to find some Birkenstocks for Mireya. (Birkenstocks are made in Germany so they’re cheaper.)

My high-intensity traveling tendencies started to tire my friends out, along with the 30 some hours they spent on planes between Europe and Los Angeles, but Amsterdam was the perfect place for relaxation. It was rainy and a bit cold but the canal was still beautiful and their collection of art museums was perfect for the overcast weather. VAN GOGH!! One of my favorites has an entire museum there. Pictures weren’t allowed but….

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We stayed in a modern Air BnB with a full Kitchen and having a professional (two-time winning gold medalist) chef as our friend worked in our favor. Mireya made an AMAZINGG dinner, twice!, and I ran out for coffee in the mornings. Amsterdam wasn’t cheap so cooking at home helped the bank.

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I loved the biking culture; save the planet! People were kind., and despite our early flights and tired bodies, it all was wonderful. We finished, their stay with last minute shopping in Rome, and I kissed them goodbye at the airport, only to see my parents walk through the arrival gates an hour later.

Two weeks of Spring break, no classes, just family and friends (and internship applications…pray for me). I’m tired but happy, writing to you on a train back from Verona, the city of love. Look out for future posts.

Also “coocoocool” has officially re-entered my vocabulary

Love,

Bri, the barefoot traveler

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