20 jahre mauerfall

9 11 2009

As the world celebrates the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, that momentous event in history that spurred the collapse of communism and the demise of the Cold War, I can’t help but reminisce on the few days that I spent in Berlin during this summer. I’ve been staring at my photos all day…

Walking around the Brandenburg Gate, the East Side Gallery, or Checkpoint Charlie, I remember trying to imagine what it must have felt like to live during those times. Picturing this massive wall just running all throughout the city…it was surreal and as hard as I tried, I just couldn’t fathom it.

A couple of my friends and I took a trip down to the Checkpoint Charlie Museum and we spent half the day just reading all these clippings and staring at these old artifacts and photos depicting the times and how people tried so hard to escape. I’ll never forget this one plan where a West German man attached two or three suitcases together in which his East German girlfriend would hide as he tried to smuggle her across the border. I remember standing there thinking, “are you for real?!”…to think that someone would even have to think of something like that  is just beyond me.

Then there was the time we were walking on the East German side of the Brandenburg Gate and there was this little area.. I forget what it’s called now, but it was a little kind of memorial for the many people who tried to cross the borders but failed. A bunch of white crosses lined up one after another with the names of so many ill-fated young East Germans.

At the East Side Gallery, Sylwia (who you see below) and I walked the 1.3 km strip of the remaining wall staring at the artwork of the many artists who painted it after it had fallen. So many symbols of peace and hope and change. So much color and life and optimism…I couldn’t help but think, “how many people died here?..at this very spot where a rosy painting of the world lies? Who was shot here? What guard stood in the way of his fellow man?”. I remember being overtaken by this overwhelming  feeling of disbelief that I was standing in front of the Iron Curtain…unable to fully know or even understand what went on during that time but still incredibly moved by it all…

I was born in October 1989, a month before the fall. I grew up in Canada for the majority of my life, the True North strong and free. I’ve never known communism or division or oppression. I’ve never had to go through the struggles and sufferings of that day. I’ve never known fear…never had so great a longing to escape something or somewhere. And so I look at these photos of the people who have lived through it all and I listen to their stories, and I’m just filled with so much awe and I am simply moved by all that they have endured…

Brandenburg Gate

Brandenburg Gate

Berlin Wall's East Side Gallery

Berlin Wall's East Side Gallery



23 08 2009

Snapshots of Europe keep randomly appearing in my mind and when it happens, I’m shaken. The feeling is gripping and a whole wave of emotions comes over me. I’m sad but grateful…and there’s this huge yearning inside of me. This longing to go back and to relive each moment again. I never thought that this trip would have such an effect on me. Yes, I knew it’d be an “experience of a lifetime”…that it’d be like nothing I’ve ever experienced before…but prior to takeoff, those were all just abstract words people kept repeating to me. And yes, I knew I’d be different…that everything would be different. But this? This is something else. The feeling is profound. It’s like I’m in this sort of limbo right now. I’ve experienced greatness and I know that there’s still more to come and yet, right now…there’s this kind of lull. And this feeling of restlessness grips me to the point of paralysis…

questions on travel

14 07 2009

“Think of the long trip home
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
Where should we be today?
Is it right to be watching strangers in a play
in this strangest of theatres?
What childishness is it that while there’s a breath of life
in our bodies, we are determined to rush
to see the sun the other way around?
The tiniest green hummingbird in the world?
To stare at some inexplicable old stonework,
inexplicable and impenetrable,
at any view,
instantly seen and always, always delightful?
Oh, must we dream our dreams
and have them, too?
And have we room
for one more folded sunset, still quite warm?”

— Elizabeth Bishop


…so I’ve kind of neglected this little blog of mine while on my European adventure, which I promised I told myself I would not do, but as usual, life got in the way. I thought I’d have all the time in the world to update this and reflect on my travels but I was too busy living it and actually experiencing it all to sit in my room and write. I wanted to soak up every second and be in the moment every moment. I didn’t want to miss anything…

…so two months later, I feel like my life has changed completely. I know, I know, that sounds so cliché but hey, it’s a cliché for a reason. “What a difference a day made…twenty four little hours”, says María Grever. Well, try forty-nine days, one thousand one hundred and seventy six hours. Think of the difference that’s been made since the time I left and the time I’ve returned. So many things have happened and there are so many stories to tell. It’s funny for me to even think of where I was in my personal life before leaving…now I’m so far from where I started, so far from where I used to be, used to know. A whole world has opened up to me…a world that only vaguely and abstractly existed in my mind. It’s a wonder, really how much perspective I’ve gained, how many sights my eyes have beheld, how many different people and different characters I’ve encountered, how many friendships I’ve gained, how much I’ve learned about the world, about relationships, and about myself.

Who knew?  Two months ago, who could have known how much I would grow up during this trip? I’ve learned so much about myself, it’s unbelievable! Shocking, even. Being alone in a foreign country with what were initially strangers? I’ve surprised myself with what I’m actually capable of. My first time ever traveling by myself without the parentals…might not seem like a big deal to some of you but for me? A spoiled princess living the safe, sheltered life of the good ol’ Markham suburbia? It’s pretty effin’ epic. I’ve explored the streets of Central Europe on my own, struggled with maps trying to learn all the various transit systems…such simple things that I don’t usually do back here at home. The feeling is amazing though…to know that you can do these things on your own? Liberating. Empowering, really. Independence like I’ve never felt before…

…and the friendships I’ve made? Solid. Untouchable. I’ve made friends that will truly last me a lifetime because the things we went through and the experiences we shared is unlike any other. We explored foreign lands together. Lived and breathed each other’s presence 24/7 for five weeks. It’s like we share this secret that no one else can ever know or even come close to understanding. No matter how hard I try to explain to friends back home all the things I’ve done, seen, and experienced, there isn’t the same appreciation. Only the friends that I’ve made on this trip can truly understand what I’m talking about. Like I said…it’s like we share this intimate secret that only we can know.  That’s probably the one thing I’ll treasure the most…the friendships made…because the journey would not have been the same without them…

Of course, there’s also the sights. The views. The culture. The history. After all, that is the main reason why I chose to go on this trip. It’s crazy to think that I’ve seen all these significant places where so much of human history unfolded…Wenceslas Square, Auschwitz, Schönbrunn Palace, the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, Hitler’s Bunker and seen all these epic monuments…the Eiffel Tower, the Chain Bridge, the Charles Bridge, the Fisherman’s Bastion, Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame, Rudas Bath…all these things that I only dreamed of! While I was standing in Wenceslas Square and Auschwitz or staring at the Berlin Wall’s East Side Gallery or taking a dip in Rudas Bath, there was such an overwhelming feeling of humility. Like I’m standing here where thousands of people marched for their freedom, for emancipation– at the spot where millions upon millions of innocents were brutally murdered, stripped of their dignity– at a wall that divided our world, our common humanity, into two spheres–at a bath erected nearly four centuries ago by the Ottomans.  I’ve done all this and seen all this at the age of nineteen! How lucky am I? How much more blessed can a person be? My life is so much richer now having seen, lived, and breathed all that I did…

So what more can I say? It was an epic two months that I wouldn’t trade for the world. Everything’s different now. I’m different now and like I said, this whole new world has opened up to me and to think, I’ve only scratched the surface…

lost and found

24 05 2009

Hurray! It’s been one week since we arrived here in Brno and already so many crazy and wacky stories to share. A fireworks competition is being held down here for the next week or so, called Ignis Brunensis…so we’ve been in on some scenic treats for the past couple of evenings. Last night we all went to down by Brno Lake to check out the festivities, which is about 45 minutes away from where our residence is. The place was crazy packed!! All of Brno must have been there that night…and of course, I had to get lost and lose track of where the rest of the group is. Thank God, I wasn’t alone though…that would’ve been a nightmare! So took a couple of trams, a taxi, and did a lot of walking and tadah! …found our way back to good ol’ 50 Kounicova. Getting lost in a foreign place with no one who speaks your language? Awesome. And being able to find your way back? Double awesome.

And what adds to all the awesomeness is the people that you meet along the way. Already I’ve met so many interesting people from all over the world. Last night while on our trek to find our way back home, we met a couple of backpackers…one from Florida and another from Brazil. They had so many fascinating stories to tell about their travels. I just love listening to what they’ve done and where they’ve been! Also ran into folks from Slovakia, Bulgaria, Britain, Poland…it’s too cool! I’ve never been exposed to so much of the world like this before!  And the different languages everyone speaks and the struggle to communicate with each other….I don’t know…I think it’s beautiful!

Anyway, we’re off to see some castle nearby! Here’s to getting lost…and hopefully finding my way back 😉


Ahoj kamarád!

20 05 2009

view from top

bar below


macocha abysscerna hora brewerygroup shot


Dobry den! Greetings from Brno, Czech Republic!

Finally got the Internet connection in my room working yesterday and as you can see, I’ve finally found the time to give an update on the trip. It’s been pretty kickass so far. Nothing but cheap beer, good people, and gorgeous weather out here! Except we had our first class today and I realized that I, unfortunately, actually have to study out here…it’s gonna be a serious struggle focusing! But anyway…here’s what I’ve been up to the past few days…

Left on a jet plane on Saturday and headed over to London. Met the people in the program at the airport and got to know each other on our 6-7 hour flight. Then from London to Vienna where ladeedah, I met mother dear at the airport’s baggage claim area. You know how we do, just randomly meet up in Vienna whenever. 😉 Anyway, from Vienna, took a bus down to Brno!

Got to Brno, checked into our residence, met up with my roomie, Martyna, who you see above! We have the most gorgeous view from our balcony! I love it! The air is better here and I swear the birds sing better too.  It’s absolutely gorgeous.  We had our welcome dinner that night too and quickly got our education on how to order beer, an absolute must when you’re here in Brno–pivo, proseem (beer, please) !

On Monday, we had a tour Masaryk University and downtown Brno. Had dinner outside in the perfect weather, sipped on some lattes, and had (my staple so far) ice cream (zmrzlina!). In the evening, we went to some super sketch laundromat in Gypsy town. I know what you’re thinking…why the hell did we go to a laundromat on our second night in Brno? Okay so let me explain…down here in Brno, they apparently like to combine their facilities/services. Soooo not only was the place (Clubwash) a laundromat, it was also a bar/movie place/pool/poker place. Yeah, again, sketch!

Tuesday — went to Macocha Abyss, which is a cave down here. Took like a 4 km hike, which no one was prepared for considering we hardly slept the night before! Ummm can’t say much about that cuz I’m not exactly a nature person. Can’t be swooning over some stalagmites and stalactites. It was excruciating exhausting walking up those hills! Martyna and I had practically 3 hrs of sleep the night before…so we were ready to collapse. After the caves, visited the Cerna Hora brewery…saw how they made the beer and taste-tested a bunch of the different kinds. I’m telling you, it’s all about the pivo down here! Hung out at the bar next to our res…so if you’re looking for anyone, basically go to the bar next door and they’re probably there. Mmm I think that’ll be the spot for the next 5 weeks, no?

Wednesday– first day of class today, everyone was practically falling asleep. Um not much to report about there. Went to Tesco, which is like the Wal-Mart equivalent, apparently. Also went grocery shopping…seriously hating the fact that I can’t cook for the life of me. Life would be so much easier! Hmmm, never thought I’d be saying those words. Weather was gorge again today…its all sun and blue skies over here!

Anywho, I’m off to meet up with some friends in a bit. Toodloo!