School in Europe does start until around the first of October. So while everyone at Mines was starting school, I was busy backpacking around Europe. My friend from high school and I visited Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest and parts of Croatia. It was an incredible trip. It would take forever to tell you everything, but here are all the highlights!

Kate at her favorite view in Prague

Prague�was my favorite city on the trip. Just walking around the city, it seems so alive, not to mention it’s gorgeous. There are so many different types of architecture, all side by side: Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque, Neoclassical, etc. I don’t even know the differences between all of these, but it’s remarkable to see buildings from different points in time side by side.

The Prague Castle is the biggest castle in the world! Just like the rest of Prague, it is a mosaic of different architecture styles. It represents every style over the last millennium, because it took more than 700 years to build! It havs a room just for jousting tournaments, and on the cathedral are four guys in business suits.

Many of the places we visited on this trip are still recovering from communism, and it is more apparent than ever in Prague. It really hit me just how recent the Cold War was. Listening to our tour guide who�s only a few years older than we are tell personal stories about resisting the Soviets was eye-opening.

Vienna is such an artsy city, and I understand why many people fall in love with it, but not me. If Berlin is a stoic old man, and Prague is a recovering alcoholic, then Vienna is an old Renaissance opera lady, with loads of powder make-up and a fake mole. Despite my analogy, I really enjoyed it. The cafes were my favorite part, with more than 30 types of coffee. Also, the Hunterwasser houses have some of the most interesting architecture I have ever seen.

Budapest was different than I expected and I’m not sure why, but it was surprisingly similar to Prague. Once you get over how unbearably hot and humid it is, Budapest is a wonderful city. Especially at night, everything is so lively. Also, the currency in Budapest is forints one U.S. dollar is about 220 forints so you feel so rich at first, until you spend 250 on a scoop of ice cream.

Up until Croatia we learned incredible amounts of history and saw extraordinary buildings and sites in every city. Croatia was pure vacation; lying in the sun, swimming in the sea, eating lots of ice cream, hiking in the mountains.

Everyone says Croatia is the undiscovered tourist spot. Lies. It’s just as touristy at the rest. But it’s beautiful, with vineyards, mountains and the ocean. Also, they speak a lot of German there. I’m pretty sure I heard more German in Croatia than Croatian. But everyone we met in Croatia was unbelievably nice and welcoming. Before we left out one of our hosts, a little old man did not ask to come have coffee, but told us we were coming with him.

Sunset over the Mediterranean in Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik�was a close second to Prague for Kate’s Favorite Cities on this trip. This city on the southern coast of Croatia was built in the Middle Ages and now is on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. Just walking around the little alleyways, anyone could understand why. It’s delightfully endearing. There is also a small island right off the coast of Dubrovnik, where there are no cars. In addition to swimming in the Mediterranean and lying on the rocks, we went cliff jumping here. The water was so clear and blue, you could easily see 20 feet down.

Kate at the Plitvice Lakes

Pictures are worth a thousand words, and I wish I had a better camera because mine just doesn’t do this trip justice, especially not the lakes. The water at the�Plitvice Lakes�was such an eerie blue, almost unnatural, and the surroundings so gorgeous, green and mountainous.

Reaching the end of my trip in Salzburg, I mostly just walked around for a while and took pictures of all the beautiful views. I watched two old men play giant chess in the middle of a plaza while eating bread from an 800-year-old bakery. In one shop the ladies even let me try on a dirndl. Anyone can easily see that the Sound of Music was filmed here, and now I feel the need to watch it again.

On the way back to Munich from Salzburg, about 10 ladies dressed in dirndl all got on the train and sat around me; 20 minutes later I found myself with these same ladies walking down the street at Herbstfest. Herbsfest is a much smaller Oktoberfest, and it was neat to experience the traditional rides, food and drinks, with these ladies telling me about Bavarian customs.

I’ve come back from this trip with coins of four different currencies, blisters all over my feet, stickers from every town, and absolutely incredible memories. We met so great many people, from dairy farmers to an old lady who had been traveling for three years. Even a ‘person’ we met on a tour in Berlin, we ran into again walking around Prague. I also learned more in a matter of weeks than I did in a whole year of European History in high school. It has been amazing to see so many different cultures in such a short amount of time. I kept flipping back and forth between being astounded by how people so close in proximity can be so different, and realizing that when it really comes down to it, we all are so similar because we have the same wants and needs. Regardless, I learned so much, and truly had the time of my life on this trip.

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