I. Love. Airports.
3:00 am seemed to be the time my family always woke up for flights, ever since I can remember. Apparently we liked getting to our destinations real early.
I can picture 7 year old me all jittery with anticipation before the sun even rose, while all the people around me looked like they needed the biggest coffee of their life and probably an Advil pm for the plane.
My 20th birthday is just around the corner, and to this day there’s still something about being at the airport that just makes me SO happy. I love the hustle and bustle of all the people leaving a city to go off somewhere else in the world, on a new journey.
Airports have a way of re-energizing my desire to do more, and they provoke my curiosity about those around me: The vast possibilities for why and where they too are traveling. Some may be solo traveling for the first time, headed off to a new job opportunity, visiting their dream destination… who knows, but everyone has an interesting reason for being at the airport.
This time at the airport, I was off traveling to Europe for the first time. I had never been on a flight long enough to serve two meals, and over the duration of 10 hours.
I couldn’t wait to begin the new year, halfway across the world.
NYE - Berlin, Germany
Counting down “5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Happy New Year!” with all my friends and vicariously watching the NYC celebration in Times Square on tv. is typically how I spend most New Year’s Eves.
This year was different. I spent my New Year’s Eve at one of the prime spots in the world to celebrate the occasion, at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
Huge world event with masses of people = huge potential threats of danger and need for security. Of course, major precautions for safety were taken. Though I felt like I was being searched and patted down as if I was a member of a heavily feared terrorist group, in comparison to the people around me.
With hundreds of people waiting to get through security behind me, I was surprised that the security man had taken the time to dump out the entire contents of my purse. He inspected every individual item down to my Chapstick, which I and others around me thought was actually pretty funny.
Groups of people from all over the world congregated for what seemed miles in front of the famous Brandenburg Gate, waiting to ring in the new year.
I found it fascinating to sit in the square and listen to all the languages being spoken around me: German, Spanish, Arabic, and French were all languages I heard coming from different directions, and I’ve never experienced that walking around any other city before. My attention to hearing this around me was probably amplified more as I tried to distract myself from the freezing cold temperature while waiting hours until midnight.
We were literally freezing our booties off.
Huddled together like penguins in the Arctic, we had our heads down, with time moving in what felt like slow motion. Despite this, the energy, fireworks, and excitement for 2020 when midnight came in Berlin of all places was worth bearing a little cold.
In Germany, diets seem to consist of sausage and bread.
Moments after ringing in the new year, my first meal was not a surprise... sausage at an outdoor Berlin Christmas market. Rarely do I remember my first meal of the year, but that has to be one for the books.
My New Year’s Day was spent touring the expansive, historically rich city of Berlin. Throughout the day we were able to see the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, and the Holocaust Memorial, to name a few. This was much easieraccomplished by taking a bus that we hopped on and off of to get around the large industrial city. So if you ever find yourself in Berlin, I would recommend taking the bus around because If we hadn’t done this, we would not have gotten to see all these places in one day.
Train Travel in Germany - The Hustle
If you know me, you know that I can be a big procrastinator and when I get around to completing a task, I usually like to take my sweet time.
Train travel is anything but leisurely.
Attempting to quickly lug around a suitcase that potentially weighed more than half my bodyweight was probably pretty hilarious to the observing, seasoned train travelers watching me.
Running up and down flights of stairs as we realized our train was actually on the other side of the station really had me getting in my cardio for each day, and my heart racing when we’d jump through the train doors seconds before leaving.
That’s the thing about traveling by train: timing is so exact, they always leave right on the minute they were scheduled to depart, and they don’t wait.
Hearing the station announcements in German and trying to read signs in German definitely did not help me at all in speeding up my pace. Doing this process in a group for the first time definitely had me learning fast though.
The rows of signs with various lengthy terms like “der fahrkartenautomat” aka “ticket machine” had my mind scrambled a bit with time being limited, but I started to recognize them after several train trips.
Out of all the time I spent in Germany, the few other terms I added to my previously nonexistent German vocabulary were: einfahrt (entrance), ausfahrt (exit), danke (thank you) and of course the one I remember most and having no use in my travels: frosche (frog), but fun to say.
Banking simple words in my vocabulary like Hello, goodbye, yes, and no, logically should have been more of a priority before jumping ahead to words like frog, especially considering that the majority of the people on the German ICE train only spoke German.
Let me tell you, the fact that “cappuccino” in English is also “cappuccino” in German was a blessing because it seems that I can’t go a day without one.
Bratwurst, Bread & Beer in Munich
The German cuisine: Pretzels, wiener schnitzel, bratwurst, crepes, and rich pastries are signature foods in Germany. Just like the abundance of Starbucks in the U.S., you could easily find places with these foods on almost every corner.
Walking upwards of 20,000 steps per day through Munich, I didn’t mind all of our occasional stops at German pubs to order an apple strudel or a savory crepe. Although I appreciate a good pastry, I was honestly just craving a huge salad after such a bread centered diet. I really don’t know how they do it year round!
The beer in Germany: it’s quite a big deal. The popular Hofbrauhaus had a huge selection and of course with all the hype surrounding it, I had to try some. Yes, it was legal. In fact it’s legal at age 16, so thankfully I wasn’t carded since I’m almost 20 now.
LONDON in less than 48 hours
Queue The Beatles, The Spice Girls, and the 1975. Yes, I created a Spotify playlist of music artists from England. Yes, I listened to it on repeat because I was that excited.
The London part of the trip was not our entire group that came to Germany, just my best friend and I for 48 hours of adventure in the city.
We stayed at the Trafalgar Hilton and I felt like we were living back in the roaring 20s. The perfect way to head into 2020. The lobby with muted blue walls, red velvet couches and vintage framed pictures of actresses in
black and white definitely gave me Great Gatsby vibes. I loved it.
In the heart of Trafalgar square, the five star hotel we stayed at was central to a number of sites to see including Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. We saw each of these places just within the first couple hours of being in London.
Day 2 we walked by the London Bridge, through Hyde Park, over to Harrods, and around the streets of Carnaby. In the midst of all the walking around town, I tried “fish and chips”... a must eat while in London.
53,000 steps later and we made it to a number of landmarks by the end, but I could have spent an entire day in Harrods, which is one of the most famous department stores in the world.
Harrods was practically a city in itself.
From halls of luxury accessories and perfumes to a hall with mouth-watering food from around the world, I didn’t know where to look because there was so much to see. Unsurprisingly, my favorite part of the whole place was the coffee bar. Just looking at the fancy espresso machines,
of course I couldn’t leave without ordering a cappuccino. Not only was it the prettiest cappuccino I had ever seen but the almond milk
was soooo creamy. The best cappuccino ever… and not just because it was at Harrods.
I absolutely adored London. It felt like a totally different world.
The grand architecture, the cartoon-like taxis driving on the left side of the road, transport by the underground tube, and the iconic red telephone booths each make this city unique from all others. My ability to legally order a glass of wine felt pretty special too.
Our travels felt like an accomplishment considering that the two of us seemed to have taken every form of transportation possible... besides a boat.
On the way back from London to Germany again, we began our morning at 4 am taking a taxi to the London-Heathrow Airport and shuttling on a bus to our terminal, then upon arrival to Frankfurt we took a train to Mannheim, hopped off and onto a second train so finally by 12:30 pm we arrived back in Neustadt.
And then we could breathe.
Throughout that process I even managed not to lose my passport after taking it out at least 5 times.
London, I loved you and I’ll definitely be back.