This past summer I traveled to Central Europe for 11 days with a group of students from my high school. We were chaperoned by two teachers of mine who, every year, organize an international trip for academically successful students. It is an extremely unique opportunity that most students my age will never experience, and I will be forever grateful for that.
We arrived in Berlin, Germany in the middle of June. After the 10-hour flight, I was extremely exhausted, but still very alert at the same time. There is something about entering a foreign country that causes your body to suddenly forget how badly it wants to sleep. We arrived at our hotel, and I still could not believe that I was actually in Europe—a country I have wanted to travel to for a long time. We attempted to get some rest and prepare for the next day full of tours and sightseeing, but I didn’t even sleep a wink. Even though my body couldn’t bear to stay awake, my mind overpowered my exhaustion because I could not stop thinking about the next few days ahead of me.
The next few days were spent in Berlin, and I was able to see the German Bundestag, Brandenburg Gate, Berlin Cathedral and the remaining pieces of the Berlin Wall. To know how much history occurred on both sides of the wall was so captivating, and I couldn’t believe I was actually standing in such historical, and at one point, illegal territory. After spending time in Berlin, I learned so much about World War II and the Cold War, and I will never forget the feeling of actually being in a place that was so heavily involved in both wars.
The next stop was Prague, Czech Republic, where I was able to enter the ancient Prague Castle, see the famous astrological clock surrounding the city, walk on Charles Bridge and witness the unforgettable gothic architecture and beauty of the St. Vitus Cathedral. We also traveled to a city outside of Prague called Kutna-hora, which is home to the Sedlec Ossuary. The ossuary is a church decorated with the remaining skeletons and bones from those who died during the Black Plague. Not only was this experiencing chilling and a bit frightening, but also it reminded me of how the European countries were able to completely turn around and prosper after such a devastating occurrence.
Our last city was Krakow, Poland. We spent some time in the Krakow salt mines, and were able to tour both the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps. Although it was a devastating experience, I will never forget how much I learned about the Holocaust and the thousands of prisoners who spent their last days in those concentration camps. It is something that you will never learn in textbooks, and it is a sight that all people should witness at some point in their lives. Traveling there is a memory that will never leave me, and I will forever cherish my opportunity to travel there at such a young age.
My trip to Europe not only provided me with endless stories, memories, and knowledge, it also changed me individually and improved me as a person. After traveling to Europe, I realized how important it is to understand different cultures and appreciate different types of people. I truly believe that everyone should travel if they have the chance because it is so different from any other experience that someone can partake in. Since my trip, I have grown to love travelling and hope to travel to other places in the future.
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