Betsy’s Berlin FAQ

It’s hard to believe that I really just spent the last six weeks of my life living and learning in Germany, all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, and now I’m back sitting in Grand Rapids, almost like it never happened.

But of course, it did, and the excited questions are pouring in, so here is a brief summary of my experience in Germany in the form of frequently asked questions:

What was your favorite part about the trip?

I loved really living in Berlin, not just vacationing there.  St. Michael’s Heim became like my third home, and we quickly settled into a daily routine of going to class, going to the grocery store, picking up dinner at a Currywurst stand, doing laundry, and exploring the city.  I loved knowing where to get the best fries and the cheapest gelato.

What was your favorite city other than Berlin?

During the free week, a group of us traveled to Freiburg in the Black Forest, and that was really beautiful.  We took a gondola up one of the mountains and spent four hours hiking back down, and then the next day we had a picnic along another hiking trail.  I also loved Prague (although it’s in the Czech Republic, not Germany.)  Our youth hostel was basically next door to the Prague Castle, and the part of the city we were in was all so beautiful and old.  Most of the cities we visited in Germany were an interesting mix of buildings that were hundreds of years old and modern buildings, but the central part of Prague was all historic.

What was most surprising to you about Germany?

The most surprising thing for me was how much English we saw around, especially in Berlin.  You would be reading an advertisement, and suddenly it would dawn on you that you completely understand it because it’s in English.  Some things would be in German and English, like menus or signs, but other things, like ads, were sometimes only in English, like it was a stylistic thing, and the Germans were just expected to be able to understand it.  I was also surprised, and honestly a bit disappointed, by the lack of traditional German food.  We certainly ate considerable amounts of meat and potatoes, but there was a distinct lack of sauerkraut and red cabbage.  The latter I managed to procure only once during my adventure through a pork knuckle (a story for another time, unfortunately.)

What was the craziest thing that happened?

My group also visited München, or Munich, during our free week.  We were walking towards the central part of the city when we happened upon a shrine to Michael Jackson on a random statue.  According to the avid Michael Jackson enthusiast there, Michael Jackson had stayed several times in the hotel across from the statue.  We ended up talking to this man for a while, and it was quite the surprising encounter, ending with him and the woman with him running off to avoid getting a ticket for parking their car illegally.

What are you going to miss the most?

I’m going to miss the little things about living in Germany, like taking a bus and two U-Bahn’s to the university every day and eating Brötchen and Nutella for breakfast.  I’m going to miss speaking German all the time.  There are now some things that I can articulate better in German than in English, like asking for the check at a restaurant.  I’m also going to miss all the people on the trip, as cheesy as that sounds, but for six weeks they were the people I talked to the most, and they are the people I relied on in this completely new environment.

Altogether it was a fantastic trip, and I am super excited to visit Germany again in the future!

I started this blog…well really I ended my first blog post…with a quotation from Bilbo Baggins, and so I find it appropriate to end the same way:

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.

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