Four ports later, I’m jumping back into the blogging game. It’s crazy to think I’ve already been to six new countries…the journey is flying by! It’s been so hectic that I haven’t had much time to write posts, but I have been journaling, so the details aren’t lost yet.
Tonight we had an interesting and sad experience on ship, as we had to say goodbye to the first student to leave. His passport was stolen on a train from Paris, and because he’s from Egypt, he would need a new visa for every country we would visit. That process would take a few months minimum, so very unfortunately, he has to go home. He gave a really beautiful speech saying goodbye, sharing what he’s learned on SAS, and teaching us a bit about his country, culture, and religion. His words definitely reminded me of the true purpose of this trip, as well as how fortunate I am to be here. It also really brought the shipboard community together, though I wish it could have been under better circumstances.
So with that reflection in mind, I’m backtracking to my (unexpectedly) favorite country so far. I had zero clue what to expect when we arrived to Gdansk, Poland, but I could not have enjoyed myself more. During our pre-port information session, a professor on board spoke about his parents experiences in World War II as Jews living in Poland. We learned how utterly destroyed Poland was during the war, which left me with a heavy heart debarking and an uncertainty in regards to what people would be like. After all, their country had been through so much. But everyone we encountered was so friendly, warm and eager to interact with us.
We toured an amber museum, went on another Ferris Wheel (I can never resist), visited many beautiful churches, had DELICIOUS sausage, sauerkraut, smoked salmon and cider, and found a new home in an always empty underground restaurant at the end of the main strip.
We went back there four times in the two days we were there, and made friends with the bartender to the point where it was sad to say goodbye on our last visit there. One morning we came across a farmers’ market with the most delicious, colorful fruits I’ve ever seen. We tried kiwis, strawberries and nectarines…boy were they good. The next afternoon we had hot wine…much better than it sounds, I promise!
The town itself was very quaint and homey, which I welcomed especially after being in a bigger city like St. Petersburg. We had a great dinner the second night with a bunch of new SAS friends, three of whom are international students. It’s so interesting to hear peers’ perspectives on everything from their country’s health care systems to reality TV. We were all very sad to leave Gdansk, its hospitality, and the zloty behind.
Next up was Germany – we only had two days here, and we traveled one of those days, so I don’t feel like I have a great sense of either city. We also had a difficult time finding English speakers, English menus or Wi-Fi, all of which are pretty crucial for in-port days. However, Warnemunde, where we docked, was a really cute little beach town, and Shannon and I were so excited to put our toes in the sand and walk along the water.
We went up to the top of a lighthouse and got a great view of the area, and tried schnitzel for lunch. Then we took a train to Rostock, about 20 minutes away. We didn’t have much knowledge of the area but we wandered around and got dinner at a cool restaurant before going back to Warnemunde for the night, and chatted with university students from the area.
The next day Shan and I went on a day trip to visit a concentration camp, Sachenhausen, and go into Berlin. The camp was a very intense experience, as expected. It was eerie to walk the grounds, and especially heartbreaking to see the shoes and other belongings taken from the victims and look at photos of people whose lives were senselessly taken from them. After the camp, we went to Berlin for a traditional German lunch and stopped at monuments like Checkpoint Charlie, a part of the Berlin Wall, and a Holocaust Memorial. There is SO much cool architecture in Berlin, I wish we had more time to explore but it was great to at least see bits of it on the tour. Berlin is definitely on my list of cities to return to!
In an effort to not have one giant post, I’ll end this one here and post another about Belgium, Amsterdam and France soon. Next stop, Dublin! Thanks for reading!