My final weeks abroad flew by. Although, there was plenty of anticipation to return home for Christmas, there was never a moment when I wished that time would hurry up. After a busy couple of weeks preparing for final projects, exams and presentations I was finally able to focus on my next and final trip to Switzerland, Austria and Germany. The trip that was only one day away from my last presentation. Plenty of time to pack/prepare? Debatable, but my roommate and I made it work. We had a packed schedule with work Christmas parties, ballet performances and final market excursions (rough life) and obviously packing was not on our list of priorities. Although, it made for a couple of stressful late nights packing it was totally worth the worrying to spend that last day treating ourselves to some of London’s finest.
One of my best friends I made abroad got her internship at the English National Ballet. Although I loved my internship with TRAID, I couldn’t help but be a little jealous of her. I grew up taking ballet classes and will forever remember my performances in The Nutcracker. Let’s just say that I was born to be a sugar plum fairy. My friend was able to snag free tickets to The Nutcracker so our last night in the city was spent getting dressed up, dining out and hanging out with some celebrities. No joke. The night we attended The Nutcracker was the day after opening and it was the night that all of the celebrities go. The tickets we had put us in the best seats in the house surrounded by actors, actresses and just really, really rich people. The celebrities were given red bags (swag bags) and when we got to our seats we looked around and placed beneath under almost all of the seats were little red bags. I’m pretty sure my heart almost stopped a couple of times but I tried to act cool. That’s what people do around celebrities right? Either you’re that crazy person who gets all googley eyed, nervous and spaztic or you stay calm and collected because they’re just people like you and me, right? I think I was a mix of the two as internally I was itching to whip out my camera and scream like a teeny bopper who runs into Taylor Lautner but on the outside I was able to keep a somewhat normal looking face as I realized that Andy Serkis (Gollum from Lord of The Rings and most recently The Hobbit) sat five seats away from me. I’m positive that my internal struggle was visible on my face but once the ballet started I focus my gaze on the beautiful dancers and not the famous millionaires surrounding me. It was honestly one of the coolest experiences of my life!
The next morning my roommate and I left for our final trip. It was an early start that was made even earlier by our lack of sleep due to packing but once we arrived in Switzerland, the early start was well worth it. We decided to go Zurich although I think I could have spent a month in Switzerland. I *could* have but I would realistically, starving college students and Switzerland do not mix. For the time being, the Swiss Franc fluctuates between 0.9 and 1.1 compared to one US dollar. When I took out money at the airport I got two 50 Swiss Franc bills and when I asked if the teller could change up one of the 50s so that I could have some smaller bills he said that 50s were small bills in Switzerland and that they have bills that go up to 1,000. That’s when I knew I was in trouble. Despite all odds, we survived our two days in Switzerland with our bank accounts intact. Winning!
Our next stop in our Bavarian excursion was Austria. I have to say out of the three countries we traveled to, I would return to Austria. The Alps and the atmosphere were plenty to make me want to stay there for two weeks instead of two days! Regardless, we packed in as much sightseeing and market shopping as humanly possible. We stayed in Innsbruck, a smaller traditional-looking city surrounded by magnificent mountains. It was also much, much cheaper than Switzerland so we were able to explore more museums and galleries. We even made it to the zoo! Overall, the food was stellar and the weather was wintery and perfect.
Next, and finally, we made our way north to Munich, Germany. Now, I have nothing against Germany, I think it’s beautiful and all of the pictures of the countryside make my jaw drop. However, I was not expecting Munich to be so… industrial. The good thing was we had plans to escape the city during the day and then spend the nights at Christmas markets. We traveled to Neuschwanstein Castle, otherwise known as the Disney castle in Fussen. Although it was a foggy day, the castle was magnificent. It took me back to my childhood watching the Disney logo light up in the beginning and the star sailing over the picturesque castle. That castle was now in front of me. Real. Life. Fairytale.
Our next and final day was spent at Dachou Concentration Camp Memorial, about a 20 minute commute from Munich. After doing extensive research on Concentration Camps in my schooling I thought it was extremely important that I visit the Camp regardless of it being a somber way to end my trip. My roommate and I signed up for a tour guide to lead us around the camp, which ended up being incredibly beneficial. The history of the camp was chilling and it made me respect those effected by the Nazis even more when they said to forgive but never forget.
As we flew back to London later that night we couldn’t help but dread the next couple of hours ahead of us. We arrived at 12:30am on the 21st and both of our flights back to the States flew out of London at noon that same day. To say we weren’t ready was an understatement. I was up until 4am packing and repacking my four suitcases. Then I took a catnap for about 2 hours and got up at 6am to pack some more and check out of my housing before our cab ride to the airport at 8am. I think my lack of sleep really did help me in the end as I was way too exhausted and dazed to really worry about the Mayan calendar and the supposed “end of the world” prediction. No matter how out of it I was, I was only able to sleep one hour out of the 9 spent on my flight back to Chicago. After a slight delay, a flight to Central Wisconsin Airport and an hour drive to my home in the woods my trip had finally come to a conclusion.
The jetlag hasn’t been that bad but I have missed my time in London a bit since my return. I know that it hasn’t been one of those, you’ll appreciate it when you’ve gone, kind of experiences because I did appreciate London when I was there. But being removed from something so great always leaves its mark. I know that I’ll return some day and relive some of the memories I’ve made in the magnificent city that is London, England.