Experience of a Lifetime

Author: Meghan Martz

Tags: Europe

As the bus was moving, I felt a slight pang of homesickness, but it passed quickly. How could I be homesick? The trip I was going on, most people only dreamed of. We had just arrived in Frankfurt, Germany and were headed towards the hotel we were staying for a few days. The flight was a horrifying nine hours – but it was worth it in the end. I stared at the scenery passing by – fields of farmland, surrounded by rolling hills of the greenest grass I’d ever seen, with the Andes Mountains in the distance. Everything about this place was so beautiful and clean!

As the bus was moving, I felt a slight pang of homesickness, but it passed quickly. How could I be homesick? The trip I was going on, most people only dreamed of. We had just arrived in Frankfurt, Germany and were headed towards the hotel we were staying for a few days. The flight was a horrifying nine hours – but it was worth it in the end. I stared at the scenery passing by – fields of farmland, surrounded by rolling hills of the greenest grass I’d ever seen, with the Andes Mountains in the distance. Everything about this place was so beautiful and clean!

“Can you believe we’re here?” my best friend asked me. I truly couldn’t. Sure, I’ve been on quite a few vacations, going as far as Hawaii and Mexico, but to be in Europe? It really felt like I was asleep, and would wake at any moment. We arrived at our hotel a few hours later, Hotel Zum Rappen; it was quaint, but nice. After unpacking we took a tour around the city of Rothenburg. All the streets were surrounded by small and colorful buildings. There were few cars – most people were walking, riding bikes, or riding horses. The entire city was surrounded by a huge stone wall, protecting it from enemies. It felt so surreal; this town belonged in a turn-of-the-century novel.

The next day we visited Neuschwanstein castle, which resides in Schwangau, Germany. While riding the bus our tour guide, Vincent, was telling the group facts about the castle, but I could scarcely listen… we were going to a castle! Supposedly it inspired Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle, so I knew it would be fantastic. When we got there, it was huge… we had to walk about five miles to get to it, and it kept getting larger and larger – the king who lived in it, King Ludwig II, even had a childhood castle right next to it! As we toured the castle I couldn’t believe that someone could live so lavishly, and simultaneously, people in poverty could live so poorly.

The next place we visited in Germany was the most important. The most significant; the saddest. We visited the Dachau Concentration Camp in Germany. As we arrived a light rain started, as if to further the dreary mood. Everyone has been taught the horror that Hitler and the Nazis brought upon the world, but to see it firsthand? I felt a dizzying array of emotions from the time we entered the camp, to the time we left: shock, disbelief, anger, sadness, confusion… As I walked through the barracks where people slept; buildings where experiments were performed with no regard to humanity; gas chambers were thousands died for no reason, I felt an intense hatred filling me. I didn’t – and still don’t – understand how the Holocaust happened, and why it continued for so long. It’s hard to describe the experience – it’s not as if we actually saw what the Nazis were doing – but we did see where and how it happened, and we all left the camp with a solemn mood and appreciation for our lives.

Our last week of the trip we visited Switzerland, Italy and France. We took legendary gondola rides in the Venice rivers, went to the very top of the Eiffel Tower, and took 60-degree train rides up the Andes Mountains. We visited the famous Piazza san Marco, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, and much more. The trip taught me more about life, both past and present. It was a life-altering experience, and I hope someday to travel like that again.