I haven’t travelled to many wild and wonderful destinations in my lifetime and there are so many places I plan on visiting. However, if there’s one travel experience I will never forget and one that I will cherish in my heart till I’m an old, dying woman (or young, dying woman because you never know) it will be the two months I spent in Germany as an exchange student in 2014.
I was in Germany from November 2014 to January 2015 and lived in a town roughly the same size as Windhoek called Halle (Saale). I lived about 200km away from Berlin (just to give you a vague idea of location) with an incredibly welcoming and accommodating family. They fed me lots of chocolate and bread and I gained a substantial amount of weight during those two months but I was happy. I was so damn happy.
During my stay in Germany, I did quite a number of things and visited a number of cities. I also had the absolute privilege of visiting Paris for a few days with my French exchange and it was glorious.
Today I would like to share with you some snippets of the time I was living my best life in a foreign country that I felt so at home in. This post will consist mostly of photographs cause you know, pictures are worth 1000 words or whatever but I might add a few words to the moments that touched my heart to the very core.
Not all the photos shown today will be of the greatest camera quality. Some of these were taken on my iPod in poor lighting. Please deal with it.
Home to the Halloren Chocolate Factory and my physical home away from home. A small and quaint town. I spent most of my time in this city going to school and you know, living a normal German life. I didn’t take too many pictures because it was home and one easily forgets to see the beauty in things they see every day but here are a few highlights.
The closest large city from Halle and a place I only did 3 things in; watch football, go to the zoo, and almost get a tattoo.
Can we just talk about this football match for a second? It was a league 2 match and the stadium was perhaps only 1/3 full but my good gawd was the atmosphere electric! It was incredible. I was overwhelmed by the passion and energy that was exuding from every single element in that stadium including the infrastructure itself. It was so beautiful I could have cried. I almost did cry and I ain’t even a fan! I didn’t even know these teams existed before that moment. It made me realise that the day I watch an Arsenal match at the Emirates I will actually cry. I’ll probably shed many tears of joy during that moment because, wow, football is breathtaking. This was by far one of the best if not the best experience I had in that country. I am so grateful to my exchange family for giving me the opportunity to watch a league football match. Thank you!
My good friend Charné came to visit me in Halle for a few days and we spent the day in Leipzig. First stop: the zoo. That was the first time I had been in the same building as a real life sloth and my heart exploded. I didn’t even see it fully because it was asleep in a tree but I could feel its presence and it touched my heart to the absolute core. I had a deep spiritual moment with that sleeping sloth and I’ll never forget it. I honestly felt honoured to be in the presence of a sloth. I almost felt as if I did not deserve to be near such greatness. You may think I’m weird for adoring sloths so much but they are my everything. Sloths are life. Later that night we almost got our first tattoos. Unfortunately, the nearest tattoo parlour according to google was closed for the day and was a dodgy bar that bikers would go to and start a fight with you if you looked at them funny by night. We got looks. It was intimidating. We then went for drinks at another place and had a wonderful time with our waiter who was a foreigner just like us. It was on that day we rediscovered what “abenteuer” meant to us.
I actually ended up visiting Berlin twice during my stay. Once, to visit a friend and the second time to visit the city. Both times I was engulfed by an energy so akin to the energy of my own heart that both times I was too busy taking it all in to actually take any meaningful photographs. I fell in love with this great city and vowed that one day I will call this city my home. My two visits to Berlin only touched the surface of the depth and magnificence the city holds and I really wish I could’ve explored more of the place.
Phantasialand and Haribos. My heart.
If you don’t know what Phantasialand is it’s basically the German version of Disney World. It’s pretty damn incredible.
What a beautiful and magical city. Frankfurt was our arrival destination and as far as first impressions go, this was one of the best.
What a city Paris is. Yes, it’s not very clean and no, you can’t see the Eiffel Tower wherever you go but it is magical. It’s geared towards the tourist trade and you’ll find people selling you hundreds of the very same souvenirs your family member or friend bought you when they visited Paris years ago. At first, you’ll be annoyed because you’ll realise that your present wasn’t nearly as special as you thought but you’ll soon stop feeling bad because who cares!? You’re in Paris! Nothing else really matters.
Although I wasn’t actually able to climb up the tower, looking at it was enough for me. I climbed up enough buildings to get a panoramic view of the city so I don’t think I missed out on much.
What’s sad, though, is that the likelihood of my lock still being there is slim.
There was an exhibition at the National Museum of Modern Art where you could write or draw anything on the walls of this room. At the time I didn’t think too much about the artistic and deep meaning behind the exhibit, I just saw it as an opportunity to reveal my true identity. Looking back it was actually a really good piece.
Okay guys, we need to get real for two seconds here. During my two months in Europe, I ate a lot of incredibly delicious food. Food worth mentioning is Princess Cake at Ikea, Döner Kebab (best one was in my city, hands down), Dürüm (which is just a döner in wrap form), Berlin curry wurst (the epitome of street food), churros at Phantasialand, A liege waffle on the streets of Paris (the best type of waffle in the world), and a Pain au Chocolat from Starbucks at the Louvre. However, the creme de la creme, the piece de resistance was by far, hands down, Ladurée Macarons in Paris.
Just a quick back story if you have no idea what I’m talking about. Macarons are cute, delicious, chewy yet crunchy, French biscuits sandwiched between a sweet filling and made up of meringue and almond flour. It is an absolute treat and delight to eat. Ladurée macarons are world famous and are basically the best in the world. Some might argue that better macarons exist but according to my taste buds, Ladurée takes the cake. I don’t want to get into too much detail because I could literally write a 1000 word ode to the Ladurée macarons that I had in Paris but all I will say is that eating food has never made me so euphorically jovial in the way those macarons did. I only bought three because they’re crazy expensive and I decided to stick to the basics because I feel the best way to judge a food establishment is by how they serve the basics and also I just love vanilla. I must say that although I love vanilla with all my heart and soul, it is an incredibly basic flavour. However, the vanilla Ladurée macaron was a type of vanilla I have never tasted before in my life. It sang of vanilla, it was bright and potent and full of flavour. It kicked you in the face with pure, genuine, natural vanilla yet it wasn’t overbearing in the slightest. It was subtle yet strong and completely balanced. It was… perfection. True and utter perfection. I had never experienced perfection until l ate that cookie. I could go on about the other two flavours; raspberry, and chocolate but it would make this side track longer than it already is so I’ll tell you that they were just as divine, especially the raspberry but vanilla was and always will be my favourite.
To make a long story short, those macarons changed my life. Thank you, Paris.
You know when you go shopping for something like a jacket and you’re not exactly sure how it should look but you’ll know when you find it? You’re looking through racks and racks of different types of jackets and they’re all alright, you know, they’re okay but nothing’s calling your name. Then all of a sudden you find it, the one you’ve been searching for your whole life. It’s love at first sight and you’re head over heels in love. You don’t care how expensive or cheap it might be because you know it’s the one and you’ll do whatever it takes to buy it because you feel like you simply can’t live without it. You try it on and it’s the perfect fit. You look incredible and you feel like the hottest thing since Nandos extra hot peri peri sauce. You’re so obsessed with this jacket you need it in your life. You believe that jacket was made for you. Its sole purpose is to be worn by you. And so you buy it. Do you know what feeling I’m talking about?
That’s the feeling I had when I was in Germany. That’s the feeling I have for Berlin. So many people ask me, “Why Berlin?” after I tell them or they read about where I see myself in 10 years and it’s because of this. That is how Berlin makes me feel. I feel like Berlin is perfect for me. And this is why my trip to Germany was the best travel experience I’ve had. Because of that feeling.
I felt at home.