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Published: November 29th 2009
Yes, I am incredibly lazy. Its been a while I know, and while I would like to say that I haven't really been anywhere or had time to write but the truth of the matter is, I am simply lazy!
There is an art to packing lightly. An art that I believe I have mastered. After travelling through Ireland with my HUGE backpack I decided that I would no longer travel with that pack unless completely necessary and since then I have been taking less and less each time I boarded a plane for a trip away. When I went to Norway, all I took was my zip off day pack and a sleeping bag, on my recent trip to the Czech Republic and Germany I left the sleeping bag in England. Travelling like this makes life so much easier, unfortunately by the time I figured this out, I have to brave the giant pack again, for today, I leave the UK to begin my conclusion in Asia with Mark.
But before I leave I am going to mention something that I have learnt about myself from my travels. This lesson came when I journeyed to the Czech Republic.
Prague is a beautiful city and like so many cities in Europe, comes with a wealth of history. One of the first things I did was find myself a walking tour, one of the tipping variety, so you can walk around the city, get a feel for the place, with a guide, generally a young student of sorts, and then pay with a tip at the end. Brilliant! The best thing about these tours is you walk through a fair amount of cities history without necessarily going into all the places to see, so you can go back at your own leisure, do the tourist thing and take some happy snaps. Anyway, while we were on the tour the guide pointed in the direction of the large castle that overlooks the city, creatively named, Prague Castle. It was big, looked kinda nice; it was a castle so I popped that in my mental notebook, for where there is a castle of course one must visit.
The following morning, up I got and like any good tourist, began my trek to the castle. The walk was awesome. Over the Charles Bridge that was built to last an eternity, lined with
religious statues and beautiful views of the river and city, up a rather steep cobbled road past restaurants and cafes and little tourist nick knack shops until I finally arrived. The view from the Castle was AMAZING and the grounds of the castle were beautiful aswell, aside from some particularly disturbing statues of some men being stabbed and beaten. The trek was definitely worth it, however, it was when I went to line up to go inside the castle that I realised something. Now, the queue was long. It was about 5 people deep and wrapped around the side of the building like a snake, I let out a sigh and started walking to the end when I suddenly realised I didn't care! I don't give a shit what the inside of Prague Castle looks like so why in gods name was I willing to line up for over an hour just to get inside, think "well that's nice" and then leave without ever giving the damn thing another thought. It’s just crazy!
I contemplated for a moment what my next move was, after all I had just spent over an hour walking to the Castle, possibly my only
chance to ever go into Prague Castle and I was going to turn around and walk back... nope still didn't care... it was then I realised what my favorite thing to do in any city or town that I have been to. Get lost. I walked the streets, watching people, taking no notice of where I was going, taking photos and just generally getting lost. I spent the rest of the day doing this, stopping when I was tired in a little park or on a bench, just smiling and looking. There is a place for structured tours definitely, but I think to discover the magic of a city, you have to get lost in it.
Which brings me to Berlin, WOW what a city! I had four days in Berlin and it simply was not enough time. I have a feeling you could spend four weeks there and it still would leave you with a thirst for more. The thing I liked so much about Berlin compared to other cities I have been to, was its history. And I know I keep banging on about the history of these places I have been to, but you really do
learn a lot when you visit. The thing that was different about the history of Berlin, compared to Prague or Barcelona, was the relevance of it in the context of the world. Yes, both the Czech's and the Spanish fought in civil wars and how they came to be is incredibly interesting, but things that happened in Berlin really changed the history of the modern world. It was weird standing in the place where Hitler was rose to power and then a ten minute walk from that spot was where his power came to a crumbling end, and then walking through the Jewish memorial, a testament to what evil can really achieve.
I was in Berlin just a week before the 20th Anniversary of the fall of the wall and it is amazing to think that just a short time ago people of this city were imprisoned in their own city. I went to the wall; two large sections of it remain intact, and must admit I was expecting something so much bigger than it was. The ironic part is that the wall is now protected with a fence to stop the destruction of it mainly by opportunists selling
it off to tourists. The largest section of the wall that remains is now commissioned to artists who have painted multiple murals on it, some completely irrelevant to the history of the wall, but most were reflective of what the wall is representative of. I guess the people of Berlin are not ready to forget just yet.
Our tour guide said "Berlin does memorials really well, it’s just a shame they have to have so many". He was right though and there is a lot of memorials and symbolism scattered through the city. But its not just its past that makes Berlin so interesting, the city is a mix of the old and the new with such a range of architecture and art where east and west are fused to create a city unlike any other. Berlin is not particularly pretty but the street art combined with café’s and galleries create and electric vibe and made it my favorite city to get lost in. I would return there in a heartbeat.
Its sad leaving the UK, although my experience in England hasn’t really been what I expected or wanted it to be. I came here with a purpose
and that was to travel, and I can safely say that I have achieved what I set out to do, even if the list of places I want to visit has now doubled!! I was thinking about a week ago that when I leave that I wouldn’t really be leaving anyone behind that I would miss that much, but the last week of saying goodbye has made me realise how untrue that really is. Whilst in the UK I have been so focused on my work that I didn’t realise some of the relationships that I was establishing here and how important they are to me. While I am looking forward to seeing everyone at home, a part of me wishes I had just a little more time.
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