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Discovering Europe and its people

I must admit, ashamed as I am, that I stereotyped the Europeans as being people that smelled funny and didn’t shave at all. Before I set out on my long awaited trip to Germany and Austria in June I imagined Europe being a beautiful land filled with people that really didn’t like Americans. I’d heard that the French were rough around the edges (which I must add they are not) especially towards Americans and assumed the rest of Europe would be as well. I also made the mistake of assuming that everything would be extremely expensive and I’d end up spending all of my cash within the first week of my arrival. None of assumptions proved to be correct.

We (my exchange group and teacher) departed from hot sunny Texas at 4:20 p.m. on June 7, 2009. We loaded up our baggage, said good bye to our friends and relatives and headed towards our terminal for our month long stay in Europe. We arrived at our terminal with 30 minutes to spare and we all dispersed in groups throughout the airport finding snacks and various items to read for our 10 hour plane ride that we had ahead of us. Once our time was up we arrived back at our terminal and boarded the plane and commenced our flight. I attempted to watch various movies that were provided for us on our plane but found that I was to excited to watch a movie so I attempted to sleep, this however was impossible as well since the excitement was flowing to rapidly through my body for me to even calm down enough to sleep. I had various conversations with people and classmates sitting around me about what everyone was going to do once we arrived at our destination. Food was served to us twice; dinner and breakfast. Not a bad meal actually, not 5 star quality, but tasty for airplane food.

Around 8 a.m. the next day we arrived in Frankfurt, Germany. As soon as we arrived we had our passports stamped and immediately had to head off to our next flight which would be an hour long. We hopped on to the puddle jumper plane heading to Munich and away we went. Once we had arrived we took a few U-Bahns (basically a subway) to our destination and hauled all of our luggage to our youth hostel (which I recommend staying at, they are cheap and have things to do there). After unpacking Chris, Caleb, Tyler, and I headed out in the small but gorgeous city of Munich. We hopped onto an U-Bahn and away we went! I noticed the Germans sitting in front of us staring at Caleb (a brilliant young man with long brown hair) and they seemed to be talking about him or at least us in general. They started to make a bit of fun of us so I turned to the person whom was speaking the most and said “Ich kann Sie Verstehen” (I can understand you). This stopped the joking around and all of a sudden we were all engaged in conversation. German isn’t a common language for Americans to speak and once they had discovered we knew their language all they wanted to do was talk to us about Obama, Texas (Cowboys mainly), and other political topics. The boys and I got off the train and walked around a bit more. We ended up walking back to the youth hostel and discovering a park where there was a giant chess board and about 30 German men playing chess. We watched a few minutes and their excitement drew us closer and closer towards them. One of them saw us and said “Wollen Sie auch spielen?” (do you want to play also?) we declined politely and headed back to the hostel. Twice we had been spoken to with kindness and enthusiasm. A few more days in Munich were spent and we were greeted with the same generosity and encouraging smiles to join in on German activities.
Thursday we packed up our bags and headed to Salzburg, Austria. We had a 4 hour train ride up to a small city in Austria then a 1 hour bus ride heading to our final destination. I looked for a seat on the train taking us to Austria and found one next to a man with long black hair who was wearing a frown and looking out the window, I asked if I could sit next to him and he gave a simple “ja” (yes) and I plopped down on the train. Looking around I could see most of my classmates were sitting randomly in seats doing their own thing. I decided that this was my chance to strike up a conversation with my neighbor, after all it was a 4 hour ride, I was unsure however how to strike up a conversation with him. I pondered on what to say to him and finally let out a huge sigh out of annoyance, this seemed to get his attention and he looked at me and said “ist alles ok?” (everything alright?).

I glanced at him in shock that he had spoken to me and then told him yes everything was fine I was just bored. Apparently he could hear my American accent and this interested him so we spoke for a few minutes about how long it took me to get to Germany and why I was now going to Austria. We actually ended up speaking for 4 hours straight. I discovered his name was Peter (in German pronounced Pay-ter) and he was from Czechoslovakia. Sadly the train ride ended and we had a bus to catch, we all departed the train Peter grabbing my suit case for me (it was huge and the train didn’t line up with the platform so it was hard to get it off the train). The entire train (filled with about 400 people) headed towards the bus stop. It appeared we’d never get on the bus at this rate! The train personnel decided to send a train to Salzburg since there were so many people, so Herr Shade (our teacher) told us to head to the train and get on. Once myself and 7 other students had boarded the train we found out everyone else had found a seat and all the economy class seats were taken. We were stuck in the hall way. The conductor said to find a seat in first class! As I turned into the first class car and took a left into the first train car I found Peter sitting there. He had ended up not taking the bus either. We talked for the rest of the train ride (which was 2 hours since we had to take the long way around).

I ended up meeting more people in Austria and discoing that people actually do shave in Europe and they don’t smell at all. Well….some do but its rare….people also love to talk to Americans and find out what we think of Obama and everything else in our country. I recommend traveling to Germany and Austria, the cities are beautiful, the people are funny, friendly, and open to talk (and don’t worry if you only speak English they speak it as well). I also learned that you shouldn’t judge people just off of what you here from others, maybe the people you’re talking to just had a bad experience. The best way to discover the world is to do it yourself.




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This article has 8 comments. Post your own!

Master said...
Sept. 5, 2009 at 12:58 pm:
Reading your article brought back a rush of memories from my trip to Europe. Great Article! Thanks for the memories.
 
TheTraveler replied...
Sept. 5, 2009 at 4:23 pm :
Glad you enjoyed it and had a great time in Europe also!
 
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TheTraveler said...
Aug. 11, 2009 at 9:42 pm:
Berliner: Glad you enjoyed the article! :D
As for hearing that Europeans don't shave it's a rumor that floats around here and it's generally pointed twoards the women. Luckily that rumor isn't true :)!
 
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Berliner said...
Aug. 11, 2009 at 6:30 pm:
Actually great and nice, since I am German ;)

Who told you, Europeans don't shave?
 
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mmc428 said...
Aug. 7, 2009 at 1:47 am:
Great Job! Glad you had such a nice experience.
 
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momtoelw said...
Aug. 6, 2009 at 11:54 pm:
Love it!!!!!!!!
 
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wolves1 said...
Aug. 6, 2009 at 11:14 pm:
This was a very informative piece and enjoyed it greatly.I've always been interested in Europe and this was a great peek into what it's like.
 
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Texan said...
Aug. 6, 2009 at 9:10 pm:
Love it!
 
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