For a girl from Sioux Falls, South Dakota seeing the world seemed like a distant dream. South Dakota is my home but I knew I needed to see more than rolling plains and Mount Rushmore. My oldest brother, Brooks, lived in Romania for a year straight out of high school and he inspired me to step out of my comfort zone. I made a promise to myself that I was going to study abroad someday…but when was that someday going to be? I came across a quote by Mark Twain, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” I knew that it was time for me to sail away from my safe harbor and here I am now having traveled to six different countries in two months.
When in Rome…
Right away I noticed Italy’s outgoing culture was a complete 360 from Prague’s reserved and quiet way of life. The traffic jams and crowded tourist attractions overwhelmed me with exhaustion. Aside from the chaos of the city, Rome’s famous attractions were stunning. The beauty of the Colosseum lit up at night was captivating. I tossed my coin and made my wish into the romantic Trevi Fountain (I would share but then my wish wouldn’t come true…). I people-watched on the Spanish Steps and saw the Pantheon. I was constantly harassed by street vendors but ignored them while I ate my delicious chocolate truffle gelato. It was hard to comprehend the ancient history as I walked through the Roman ruins. But it was the small side street cafes and homemade gnocchi that reminded what I truly enjoyed about Italy.
The highlight of my trip was being able to see my Aunt Jennifer and Uncle Kerry from Minneapolis. A dose of family is just what the doctor ordered to cure a little homesickness. They were staying at a fabulous hotel in a much more relaxing area that overlooked the entire city. Jennifer and I were catching up by the pool and she informed me that Penelope Cruz was staying at her hotel because she was filming a movie in Rome. Of course I could hardly sit still because I was on the look out for her but no sign. The sun was going down so we decided to take a walk around the garden and then who do we see… Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem! I was star struck and “OMG”s were flying out of my mouth like a middle school girl. I know we will have many stories about our celebrity spotting at holidays.
On the last day we went to the Vatican and there was a crowd of thousands of people standing with flags and signs. We had no clue what was going on. After asking around, we found out everyone was waiting to see Pope Benedict XVI. Turns out we made it just in time because he came out and blessed the crowd in over six languages. It was an experience that I will always remember.
Rome is a mix of predictable and unexpected. A beautiful city caught in a mess of traffic and Vespas. Rome’s history is thousand of years old but I only got a small taste.
Attempting to describe Berlin in one word is impossible. It is a city full of surprises, a blend of youth and old age. An edgy city with a dark past filled with imperfect beauty. We had less than 24hours to explore Berlin; a city that could take years to figure out. We visited Checkpoint Charlie and the East Side Gallery. Parts of the wall still stand separating the East Berlin and West Berlin from each other but now they are covered in inspiring art. I ate like a German and had the currywurst and doner kebab, yum. After taking three years of German language in school, I did my best to use as much as I could remember. I was a bit rusty but could communicate fairly well. It really makes me eager to continue with a second language. I am thankful to have already been to Berlin twice (once when I was 15) but I love would to go back for a third time. There is just something about Berlin that pulls me in.
U Flecku Brewery
Today we toured the U Flecku Brewery in Prague. We had the chance to taste the dark lager beer, which is only brewed and sold at U Flecku. Five men carefully make the beer and the brewery has been around for ages. We had a tour from an older man who told us, “I should be retired but I enjoy making beer too much.” He also told us a story that in 1915 there was a money reform in Prague and the money that people were in possession of would only be valid until midnight. Thousands of people were at U Flecku buying lots of beer with money they had saved for new cars, furniture, etc. Can you imagine? It was a really fun tour and I would definitely recommend visiting here if you visit Prague.
Traveling can be both lonely and exciting and it has given me a new found confidence as if I can do anything. I have challenged myself in ways I never thought possible because I stepped out of my comfort zone. I will travel many places but no matter where I go South Dakota will always be my home.