While I’ve arrived safely in Oxford and am having an amazing time, I’m going to hold off on writing about that for my next blog post. For now I’m going to focus on the three weeks I spent traveling prior to my program!
My first stop on my European backpacking trip was Berlin, Germany. Here I stayed with my friend Sam in her home stay. I fought the jet lag with exorbitant amounts of caffeine and a walk around beautiful Tiergarten. The home stay was about 40 minutes outside of the city, so in addition to seeing the urban side of Berlin, I got the chance to experience life in a more suburban German area as well! I’m fascinated by the Cold War (it’s what I’m studying at Oxford) so I dragged Sam along for a 5-hour Cold War-themed bike tour. Berlin is such an interesting city with such rich recent history, but after 4 days I was ready to escape the urban jungle and head to Interlaken, a small mountain town in the Swiss Alps.
Interlaken, officially the most beautiful place I have ever seen, is home to some of the best hiking in the world, so I decided to give it a go. First, I hiked a smaller mountain in the town of Interlaken and eventually advanced to a more intense trail in Lauterbrunnen, another town a few miles away. This steeper trail, in addition to the cold weather and snow that accompanied my ascent, made things a bit more difficult, but the view from the mountain was incredible and made the hike well worth the effort.
From Interlaken, I made my way to Amsterdam for a few days, and then to Paris, where I stayed with some friends from college. Paris is home to the most intricate, beautiful architecture I’ve seen, and I was content wandering around the city and admiring these works of art in the perfect autumn weather. From Paris, I headed to Prague and then to Munich to celebrate Oktoberfest with about 15 of my friends who are also abroad. It was really great to see familiar faces, especially considering I’d been traveling solo and spending copious amounts of time alone. Finally, I flew to Dublin–by far my favorite city I’ve been to–and then to London, where I began orientation for Oxford!
Between my lack of proficiency in foreign languages, close train connections (more than a few of which I missed), and the fact that I was lugging a huge 50-pound suitcase around Europe, I had a couple of extremely high-stress days. Despite these moments, I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to see such so much of the world in three short weeks. Seeing these incredible cities truly expanded my view of the world, and made me wish I paid better attention to my European History class in high school!
Side note: If it seems like my travel itinerary makes absolutely no sense and was the most inefficient way to travel around Europe, that is correct. Thanks to my trusty Eurail pass, I had the flexibility to more or less hop on a train and go wherever in Europe I wanted relatively cheaply. While, in theory, randomly pointing to a place on a map and deciding to travel there sounds spontaneous and fun, the 9-hour train rides and last-minute hostel bookings were anything but.