I successfully made it to Bremen, Hamburg, Berlin and Paris and back alive despite travel warnings! So, here’s the run down of the trip, which was great.
Sunday morning, I got up early to walk to the train station. It was raining. Really raining. So I got the the train station (after a 45 minute walk) and dried off in the bathroom with the hand dryer. I hopped on the train, had a quick stop in Drammen, got to Oslo Torp, and got on the plane to Bremen. I got into Bremen around 8:30 PM and took a cab to my hotel, which was pretty sweet. I was starving (I didn’t eat in Norway because I knew it’d be cheaper once I got o Germany,) so I asked the hotel desk guy where I could find food. He said, “You’ll find lots of food at the train station,” which was not even a five minute walk. The first thing I ate in Germany was a bratwurst. It was awesome… and cheap. I was still hungry (or I just felt like I could spend more money because it was so much cheaper than Norway,) so I had döner kebab… in burrito form. I’m pretty sure it was specifically called rollo döner, but whatever. I think I tasted heaven that night. After the guy had all the stuff inside (lamb, cabbage, spices, sauces,) he put it inside to warm up… so the soft shell that it was in was all warm and crispy. I got back to the hotel, laid in bed and watched some BBC (it was the only English channel – and I hadn’t watched TV in about two months.) I also watched the Dark Knight in German… not as bad as you would think.
I got up early Monday and hopped on the train to Hamburg to meet Alex. After looking for each other for about 45 minutes, we had some breakfast (which was really lunch because it was about noon by then.) I had schnitzel, and it was really good. Then we walked around Hamburg for a bit and met up with one of Alex’s friends who was pretty much my tour guide. He did an awesome job. We went to the top of an old church and had a great view of the city. We went to a bar later that night- four Euro cocktails! That’s pretty much a bargain.
Tuesday, we got up super early (I think I was up at 6:30) to catch the train to Berlin. The first thing I saw once we got out of the train station was a mini-Statue of Liberty dressed up in a blue and white (Oktoberfest colors) robe thing. It made me happy. We started walking around the city and ended up in a park where were randomly found a statue with three composers on it. The statue was really banged up from WWII- it had bullet holes and scratches on it. Randomly finding something like that was really cool. We found Brandenburg Gate, the old gate to enter Berlin, which was also used a symbol for the Nazis and served as a checkpoint between East and West Berlin. From there, we got a city map and sat down for breakfast and planned out the day. We saw a lot of cool old buildings and pieces of the Berlin Wall (I got my passport stamped for East Berlin, kinda cool… very touristy.) Then along a stretch of the Berlin Wall is the Topography of Terror museum. The museum stands where the headquarters of the Gestapo and SS was. It has a huge time line out front of Nazi history and inside even has more detail. It was so interesting, and everyone was dead quiet as they stood there and read and looked at pictures. From there, we went to Checkpoint Charlie and then to Olympic Stadium where the 1936 Olympics were held. It was weird thinking Hitler was there and the stadium was once filled with Nazis. The best part was, though, that we saw pictures of the Olympic Stadium at the Topography of Terror… and then we went there. After that, we walked around Berlin a bit more and saw a church that was bombed during WWII that they left standing as a reminder of war. It was so weird to see a bombed out church with a collapsed steeple standing in the middle of the city where people were shopping. We found a place to have supper, and I had currywurst- sausage with sauce and curry on top. Sooo delicious. It was dark after that, so we walked around the city some more. The Victory Column was covered up unfortunately, but we walked up the Straße des 17. Juni (17th of June Street,) which runs back up to Brandenburg Gate. It’s totally straight, and it’s where Nazi parades were held. It was a good way to end the day.
We slept in on Wednesday and had a late breakfast at a cafe right down the street. I got to see the “alternative” side of Hamburg, which was great. We went to the Reeperbahn, where the party is at night. It’s also filled with sex shops and has a red light district where only men are allowed. The Beatles also hung out here back in the day. I liked it a lot. We went to another area of Hamburg where college students hung out, then I packed up, said goodbye, and hopped on the night train to Paris.
I actually slept really, really well on the train and only woke up once in the night because the train randomly stopped. I woke up in the morning at 8:30, and my train was supposed to arrive at 9:20, so I had some time to wake up and get my things together. Aside from the lady who kept trying to speak to me in French (even though I asked her in French if she spoke English-then told her I’m sorry in English,) the train ride went really well. I met Michael at the train station, Gare de l’Est (East station) and got a crash course in using the Metro. We headed back to his host family’s apartment so I could drop off my bag. Michael then had class, so he dumped me off in a random park close to where his classes are, which was nice. I walked around the area a bit and got a really good donut, which was filled with caramel. I also watched some people play bocce ball. Michael came back for me, and we went to Notre Dame. It wasn’t as big as I thought it would be- it’s really tall, but definitely not as wide as I thought. It was so neat, though, and going inside was really cool. All I could think about was the Disney Hunchback of Notre Dame movie (in a good way.) Then we walked to the Louvre, sat on the steps out front, and drank a beer. It was a great way to relax and enjoy the city. We then walked through the gardens out in front of the Louvre and then caught the Metro back “home” for dinner with his host family (an old couple- the husband spoke broken English and his wife spoke no English, so it was interesting.) After dinner, we got on the Metro to go to to Sacré-Cœur, an old church on top of pretty much the only hill in Paris. I almost lost Michael- he hopped on the Metro without me, and I was phoneless… but we found each other at the next stop, and it was all good. When we got there, we had a really nice view of the city at night and saw the Eiffel Tower and lit up and pretty. On the way back, we stopped off so I could see the Moulin Rouge. It was all lit up, and even though it really has no connection to the movie Moulin Rouge, it was awesome.
On Friday, Michael had no class, and one of his friends who is also studying abroad this semester was coming in to visit for the weekend. So, we got up kind of early to meet him at the same train station I came into. We were early, so we walked around the area a bit and found an old church, the Church of Saint-Laurent. It’s super old and built on an old Roman road, which I think is awesome. We headed back to the train station, met his friend, then headed back to the apartment so he could drop some stuff off. From there, we headed to a car show. I don’t know how I ended up going to a car show (new, fancy, nice cars) in Paris, but it wasn’t so bad. The highlight was definitely a giant ice cube in the Audi section because it was so dang hot in all the buildings. After that, we went to the Eiffel Tower (where my camera battery died) and walked up to the second balcony/walking area of it, which was about 43 flights of stairs. We had a great view of the city (and the sun was setting-so it was pretty much perfect.) We headed back to the apartment quick to get some stuff together (and I got to charge my camera quick) and then went out to dinner. I tried foie gras (fatty liver), and it was really good. I would describe the flavor as… caramely. Then we hung out with some of Michael’s friends and walked back to the apartment.
Michael was busy Saturday morning, so I had to venture to Charles de Gaulle alone. I said goodbye to his host family who said I was welcome back anytime, and they gave me a jar of homemade mirabelle (kind of like a yellow plum) jelly. Even though he left me really, really good directions, the way I was supposed to go was closed for some reason. So, I had to figure out the Metro myself and find the quickest route to the airport. It all turned out good- I only had to ask for help once, and I never got lost. I got to the airport at the perfect time and had a long journey back to Kristiansand (Paris – Stockholm – Copenhagen – Kristiansand.) There is something worth mentioning about the journey back, though. I got an open face sandwich in Stockholm, and being an American, I ate it with my hands because it’s a sandwich. One of the guys working in the airport saw me doing that, and in English he said “We have forks and knives” and laughed at me. I got up to grab them, but he had already gotten them for me. It kind of made my day.
My week long adventure was definitely great. I saw so much, and I was really surprised by Paris. Back home, I’d heard a lot of negative things about Paris- it smells bad, the people are rude, it’s dirty, etc. I didn’t think it was smelly at all, everyone was really nice whenever I made an effort to speak French, and it was beautiful. I can’t wait to go back. I’d also love to go to Berlin again and be there longer than a day.