As I sit here in Paris, I have (slightly) less than three weeks of backpacking left. It's crazy to think that the end of not only this leg of my adventure, but my ENTIRE year of traveling, is in sight. When I touch down on June 6, I'll have been away from home for a total of eight months.... And as ridiculous as it sounds, I'm sure in just a few weeks after being back in MN, this whole journey will have felt like a dream. But that's traveling for ya- all about living in the moment and making the most of the present. Because in the future you could be stuck in a dorm room cramming for finals....
But coming back from the above musings, let me update you on how/where I spent the last 12 days.
Sooooo I got stuck in Berlin. Oh, nothing as dramatic as being mugged and left without money or official documents, no- by "stuck" I just mean I couldn't find enough motivation to leave the city for a while. Like, a full week a while.
See I went in thinking I'd stay three, maybe four nights. Because I'd planned to visit Cologne (and actually had already booked a hostel there) for a few days before arriving in Paris on the 14th. But after a few days in Berlin, I realized that 1) the city was too big to see everything in only a few days, 2) my hostel was a great place to hang out and full of cool people, and 3) Berlin was cheap. AND training/bussing it to Cologne and then Paris would have been extremely expensive. AND I really had no reason to go to Cologne except to say hi to a few people for a night. AND I was tired of moving around so fast.
Plus, the hostel had a decent kitchen and I was having a blast actually cooking. A girl can only live off of raw carrots, apples, and the occasional bag of trail mix for so long. Trust me.
All that ^ is to say that I stayed in Berlin the longest of any city on my backpacking adventure so far, and totally loved it. The city is gritty, raw, unrefined, and completely real. Remnants of Berlin's (and Germany's) tumultuous past litter the streets. The people are essentially all hipsters. The atmosphere is extremely laid back. Everything and anything you want to do is available there: parks, art and history museums, shopping districts, cheap hair salons, and tons of great bars/music/clubs. [Actually, such things as 36-hour clubs exist in Berlin- people enter Friday night and don't stumble out until Monday morning. Insane.]
It's interesting how my style of traveling has developed over the past month or so. At the beginning (up until Germany, actually) I was blasting through cities. Two nights, three nights, four only if it was reeeaaaally special. And I enjoyed moving around like that. It kept things fresh and interesting and I got to see a LOT.
...But try doing a month of that, and all the motion starts to get a bit old. And by 'old' I mean exhausting. Right around the time I arrived in Berlin (and if I'm being honest, maybe even a few cities beforehand) I felt in need of a break. A little bit of time where I could just plop my backpack down and not have to pack it right back up in a few days. Where I could buy food and store it in the fridge for more than a night. Where I could actually get to know people for an extended period of time. And Berlin hit the spot. (I think the rest of my visits to cities will last longer from this point on as well.)
I spent the first few days in Berlin doing all my normal touristy activities: sightseeing, taking a walking tour, wandering, museum-going, etc. And then I said a final goodbye to Alec (we'd actually split up before Berlin, anyway), settled into the hostel and a new crew of people, and just chilled. It got to the point where I'd plan one activity for the day (going to the grocery store, for example), and feel successful if I managed to complete it. So in retrospect I probably stayed one or two days too long (as I really don't remember doing anything my last couple of days), but the chill-out time was a great battery recharger. Especially because Paris was next, and I planned on doing nothing but walking the streets for five solid days (in the non-prostitute sense).
My last day in Berlin consisted of contracting major blisters on both my feet, as well as spending a sleepless night on the freezing cold airport floor before my 6am flight to Paris, but it in no way colored my view of the German capital. Berlin's a top-of-the-lister, for sure.
The capital of France, the city of romance, the location symbolized by a large metal tower... what a place! I think I'm in love. Seriously. And it's the kind of affection that really has little solid basis, because as I now try to pinpoint actual reasons I think I could stay here all my life, I'm sort of drawing a blank. The world-famous museums? The impressive monuments? The food? The vibe? The exclusivity the extortionate prices create? The weather? (<-ha, I'm so funny. It's been 60 and rainy/cloudy pretty much my whole stay...) Well, whatever the reasons, I really have enjoyed my time here.
True to my original plan, I did spend my days here just walking the city. I toured the main tourist attractions (though didn't make it up close to the Eiffel Tower/Arc Du Triomphe until my third day here), got a history lesson on the artsy Montmartre area, popped into some nifty shops, soaked up the intermittent sun in parks, and did a handful of the top museums [I did the Louvre last night for free, and after hitting the celebrity pieces like the Mona Lisa and Venus di Milo (who decides which artworks become so famous, anyway?) wandered to the Islamic art area. Where I'd step into a room and literally be the only person there. In the Louvre.... Sometimes the curators were even MIA. Kind of a surreal experience.]. Also hit the small-yet-beautiful Rodin museum. Totally recommend it.
My hostel here isn't the nicest place to hang out, but it was fine as I wasn't planning on cooking, relaxing inside, or (as sad as it sounds) meeting people in Paris. So all in all, even with the iffy weather, I think I may have found my absolute favorite city. Though I still have yet to visit a few others that may give Paris a run for its money.... But for now, it's top.
Now I'm off to really do nothing but read, tan, and stargaze on the beaches of the south of France. And the Cannes film festival. So pumped.
And yes, I'm still trying to snag a ticket to a movie premiere. I'll let you know if I succeed.