The Travels

The Travels, Pt. 2

Berlin. In a word, amazing. I did more in Berlin than I could easily describe in this post, so I’ll hit the highlights here. Attending a concert by the Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester at Konzerthaus Berlin, one of the best concert halls in the world (according to Business Insider), was probably the highlight of my stay. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience (one that was rather more expensive than I would’ve liked), and was made even better since I hadn’t been able to see a concert in well over a year. In second, the incredible pastries. If Berlin had nothing else (and they certainly had more than just this), they had great, and I mean great, baked goods. Certainly the most unique sweet I had while in Berlin were vegan donuts (S/o to Brammibal’s donuts). Yes, they were fantastic. And in third, the view of Berlin at sunset from the Victory Tower was the best view I got the entire weekend (which can be seen on the background of the website). It overlooked the Tiergarten towards the Brandenburger Tor and the TV tower; it was quintessentially Berlin.

The thing that has stuck with me about Berlin, more than any of the great experiences, was its identity. The effects of the 20th century, particularly the impact of WW2 and the division of Berlin between east and west, can be seen and felt everywhere. There are solemn, contemplative monuments to the victims of Nazi aggression, a clear and frequent recognition of the crimes of the past. The monuments themselves are not what stick in my memory; rather, it’s the mindset that seems to result from them. Berlin refuses to be defined by its past. At the memorials to the Berlin Wall, the focus is on the efforts to rebuild and reunify Berlin. The memorials to the victims of Nazi terror facilitate remembrance, while acting as to forge a new path, one separate from that of the past. Berlin as a city looks towards the future more than the past; the city is a testament to the capacity of a nation to rebuild their society into something new and different from the past. The city seems hopeful and inspiring. I can say that visiting Berlin has been the most enjoyable trip of my European tour yet.

The Travels

The Travels, Pt. 1

A lot of stuff has changed for me in the last month; but most importantly, I’ve actually started exploring Europe – and I’ve loved every second of it. Europe is just undeniably cool, and there’s cool stuff everywhere. Since I can’t talk about everything I’ve seen in the last month, I’ll just hit some of the highpoints here: I’ve seen (depending on the ranking) the third and fifth largest cathedrals in the world (the Seville Cathedral and the Milan Cathedral, respectively). The Milan Duomo is awe-inspiring – it stands in the middle of a piazza – a monolithic testament to the power of hard work and dedication. I got to visit CERN (The European Organization for Nuclear Research), a potentially once-in-a-lifetime experience. The trip definitely brought my (not-so-inner) science nerd out – I can tell you that. That same weekend, I visited Bern, the capital of Switzerland and currently my favorite city in Europe. It’s just an amazing city – it’s surrounded by the Swiss Alps, it’s clean, has great views and great food; there’s nothing not to love (except for the price of drinks – I feel like I spent a whole paycheck on those). My favorite experience of my last month, however, has to be the moment I realized how amazing it was to travel. It hit me when I visited Pisa (this was prior to the other trips I’ve talked about); to see, and then actually walk to the top of, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, to experience the baptistery and cathedral, was transformative. And now, just to close things out, some pictures of my experiences from the last month:

Objectively the best picture I’ve taken while in Europe
I’ve seen a lot of churches, and this one is still by far my favorite.
Getting to see this place was awesome — it’s just gargantuan.
I don’t know why I like this picture so much, but it’s one of my favorites from Pisa.
While in Arezzo

All the Small Things

It’s surprising, sometimes, to think back on just how important small things are in your life. This summer, when I was taking classes in Norman, one of those small things was eating at Qdoba, one, two, three times a week. Unsurprisingly, food remains a important (and arguably not so small) component of my daily life. There are some great sandwich shops in Arezzo, Dal Moro and Dietro le Quinte being the most noteworthy. The sandwiches are amazing, but there’s something else that’s even better: Gelato. I freely confess that I have become a bit of a gelato snob – there’s just something about it, especially at Sunflower here in Arezzo, that’s just amazing. I think I’d have to say it’s the best ice cream (and really it’s not ice cream – it’s gelato) that I’ve ever had.

Another small thing that I’ve really come to love is walking everywhere. I’ll grant you, sometimes it takes a while to get somewhere, but the very experience of walking is incredible. It’s calming and you experience so much more of the city that you’re in. I’ll miss not being able to walk everywhere when I get back to the states (although the climate will probably make me appreciate the benefits of having a bike or a car).

To finish off this post, being able to go to the gym is essential for me. It gives me a sense of security – the one thing that I’ve done consistently for the last six years of my life (excepting homework, which doesn’t really count), is helps me appreciate this whole experience even more. When I’m out here, I don’t feel like I’m a tourist in Arezzo, I actually feel like I belong. The gym is just one example of this – but it’s the clearest one in my mind.

Long story short here – I’ve really fallen in love with Arezzo. It’s an amazing city; it’s just the right size, not too big, not too small. There’s everything I could want: great food, a gym, and even great weather. It’s about as good as it gets.