It has been nearly a month since I last set foot in Grand Rapids, Michigan. While commons lawn looks familiarly covered in snow, I am to a degree different. A lot has happened since I left on the second of January. I have been to 5 (or 6 depending on how you count) different countries and over 20 European cities. That is a lot seeing as I had previously never set foot on the European continent.
All in all, it was a wonderful trip and I feel extremely blessed to have been able to be part of it! In retrospect, I am especially thankful for the careful planning that went into it beforehand as well as the unique blend of people that were a part of it. It was a luxury to be able to simply get on the bus and not have to think about where we were going next. I could rest in the fact that I was in good hands. The historian/tour guide, that also drove our bus, named Joop single handedly made the trip for me. He never ceased to pull insightful details and interesting historical narratives out of his memory when we arrived at a new city.
I can hardly believe all of the places I went to. A few highlights include: the rambunctious amalgamation of a city called Amsterdam, the gingerbread-esque village of Brugge in Belgium, the city of unprecedented scale/size in Paris, the cobble-stoned city of Prague and the not so divided city of Berlin.
I learned a number of things on the trip. For starters, I learned a ton of history. Perhaps my favorite historical site was the museum Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, Germany. The museum told the story of countless individuals that engineered ways of escape out of Eastern Germany. My favorite story was that of a man who refused to let the Berlin wall separate him from his wife.
As the first component of his escape he created a wet-suite from a couple of old motorcycle jackets. Then he created and attached a sail to an inflatable kayak which I presume he also constructed. He then launched and sailed his kayak through the blind spot of two of East Berlin’s watch towers. He sailed into the night and straight into a ferocious storm. After battling 10ft waves and bailing out his nearly submerged kayak 9 times, he was rescued by a cruise ship, brought to safety on the West side, and promptly reunited with his wife.
This is just one story of the many I learned on the trip. It is incredible to me that so much history has happened in Europe without me knowing about it! This trip, or if you prefer experience, has helped me realize how much of the world I do not know. The reality is, this world is neither majority white nor western. All in all, I am blessed to have been part of the trip and I believe it has helped me better understand my place in the world.
Cheers to increased understanding,