Travel is a funny thing. It takes us out of our comfort zone and everyday routines and settles us down in the beauty of rediscovering a city. At this point in my life I am returning to many cities that I travelled to when I was younger. Ahead of my trips, I feel as though I know exactly what I am getting myself into; where I want to eat, what I want to see, etc. But from the moment I step foot off of that airplane, it’s as if I’m stepping into a whole new world that I have yet to experience. There is a slight sense of comfort that I feel, knowing that this is a city I have once been to before, yet the reality of it is that there is very little familiarity.
I have just returned from a ten-day trip where I travelled from Florence to Copenhagen to Budapest to Berlin to Amsterdam and back to Florence via Milan. Never before had I been to Copenhagen or Berlin but it was my second time visiting Budapest and Amsterdam. The funny thing is that I was ten times more disoriented in the cities that I had previously visited. It was almost as if I had this preconceived notion that I knew about the city and what it had to offer, yet there was so much I had yet to experience such that it was a very interesting awakening. I had visited Budapest just two years ago with one of my friends and my parents. Yet, I didn’t even know that there were two parts of the city – Buda & Pest. The only part of the city that I saw during my last trip was the castle district in Buda. I never once made it over the river to Pest to see any of the amazing architecture that it has to offer. My two trips to Budapest, although only a couple of years apart, were completely different from each other. It is remarkable to me to see the different possibilities of opportunities that arise from trip to trip.
As I said earlier, I had never been to either Copenhagen or Berlin before this past week. Yet I found myself easily oriented to these cities. Looking back on the trip, Berlin was definitely the city that I got the most out of. Surprisingly at the time I didn’t find it too exciting as a city but the culture and experience that I gained while visiting will stick with me forever. We were staying in Mitte, an up-and-coming foodie section of town not far from the main area of Alexanderplatz in East Berlin. We truly lucked out with our location as it was fully immersed in Berlin culture. I quickly became quite familiar with Berlin and didn’t need a map after our first few hours in the city. There was just something there that clicked with me. Every night we ate at a different restaurant overflowing with locals and with food that was beyond amazing. The only thing better than the food itself were the prices and the atmosphere. In complete contrast though, during the day our sightseeing was filled with buildings still being reconstructed after WWII and the communist regime, museums and churches still covered in black soot from the bombs, and bullet holes through almost every building you saw. It was a real eye opener and reminder of the history that fills this city. Never before had I seen first hand the destruction that war can bring to a city. We read about it in books and think about it as such a thing of the past – but cities are still dealing with the destruction of these events. It truly makes you think about the luxuries we have been afforded in life, that a city in reconstruction like this is one that we have the opportunity to visit and have our eyes opened to the world around us.