• Alexandra Wendt

Berlin, Edinburgh, and Inverness


I took another solo trip for almost two weeks. I never used to imagine that I could travel alone, that I could muster up the courage and confidence and trust in myself to do so, yet here I am.

BERLIN

I've wanted to visit Germany for a while, since my dad's family was originally from there. Specifically, what was once Prussia. So I thought hey, why not go to Berlin for a few days? I'd heard great things about the city.

Those great things were true. It is very different from most places I've sought during my travels around Europe. I didn't go there for medieval art history (though I did discover the Gemäldegalerie, which is fantastic.) I didn't go there to see any particular monument or tourist attraction. I went because, simply, why not?

I did a walking tour of the city my first day, which I highly recommend. My tour guide was great, seamlessly incorporating centuries worth of history into each of our stops. I think the most memorable part of that tour was walking through the Jewish memorial. It's such a powerful, emotive place, and I like that the artist leaves it up to your interpretation. As a group, we talked about how quickly it encloses you when you walk through it, and our tour guide made a very poignant comment: "How fortunate we are to be able to walk out."

Image credit: Alexandra Wendt.

Another highlight included getting to see two friends I hadn't seen in quite a few years. One since high school graduation, and another since she was an exchange student at my high school back in tenth grade.

Other than that, I did some exploring on my own and successfully navigated the public transportation system all by myself!

Image credit: Alexandra Wendt.

Image credit: Alexandra Wendt.

EDINBURGH

I've been to Scotland before, and I came back to visit the University of Edinburgh, where I'm applying to graduate school. But, really, that was just an excuse to come back. I was here last during my study abroad, with two friends I met in my program, and it was easily one of THE highlights of my entire study abroad. We had one of those Absolutely Amazing, Stories I Will Tell On My Deathbed, kind of experiences.

I'm going to be totally honest and say it was harder to return than I thought it would be. I managed to return to Siena, where I studied abroad, and be totally happy and fine there. But Scotland was different. I was ecstatic, standing on top of the world, my first night in Edinburgh. Then when I had my first full day in the city, after my tour of the Highlands, I felt "off" all day. I was a little sad and just felt weird about it all, and it took me too long to admit that it was because it wasn't the same without those two friends.

Well, of course it wasn't the same. It couldn't be, and I knew that. But sometimes no matter how much you think you mentally prepare yourself for something, it's not enough. When I was last here I had two great friends, and I was querying a novel partially set in Edinburgh. DREAM COME TRUE! This time, those friends weren't there and that novel had since been shelved. The city looked exactly the same, but I had changed.

Not to say my experience the second time was bad. Far from it. It's still my favorite city. You have the feel and the amenities of a large city, but when you get off of Princes Street or the Royal Mile, it's actually pretty calm. For people who like cities but get overwhelmed by the crowds, I think Edinburgh is the perfect place.

Image credit: Alexandra Wendt.

INVERNESS AND THE HIGHLANDS

When I was last here with aforementioned friends, we did a three-day tour of the Highlands, ending at the Isle of Skye, with Rabbie's. (I highly, highly recommend them.) Since I had plenty of time, I thought I might as well check out other Highland tours they offered, and ended up doing a two-day one around Inverness and Loch Ness.

I didn't find a monster, but I did befriend a fellow solo traveler on the tour. She and I hung out during our night in Inverness, and met some friendly Scottish people. (Can I take a moment to say that I find Scottish people to be INCREDIBLY friendly? Seriously. Everyone is so nice and willing to chat with you in this country. I love it.) One guy went off to me on how sick he is of hearing bagpipes everywhere. Another couldn't fathom why this other girl and I wanted to visit the Highlands. When I told him it's the most beautiful place I've ever seen, he blinked and said, "Really?"

I wish we had had more time to explore Inverness, because it looked like a really cute place. As for the countryside, it was just as beautiful as I remembered. I stand by my first impression of it being totally unlike anything I've ever seen.

I also got to walk around Culloden Battlefield, which was just...unbelievable. It was eerie. That's the only way I can describe it. Too quiet, with just the wind to keep you company. At the same time, it was stunningly beautiful. Far too beautiful to have witnessed such horrors.

Culloden Battlefield. Image credit: Alexandra Wendt.

Inverness. Image credit: Alexandra Wendt.

Image credit: Alexandra Wendt.

I learned a lot more about myself during those two weeks traveling alone. I learned that this Midwesterner who's used to driving herself everywhere can figure out public transportation without having her hand held. I've learned that I'm totally comfortable eating alone in restaurants--so long as I have plenty of data and battery life on my phone--and maybe a book. And I've learned the fine art of chatting up strangers and becoming Facebook friends by the end of the night.

It's been incredible, and I don't regret a second of it. People think that if you love to travel it's because the experiences are all rainbows and sunshine. That's not true. Even the most seasoned, passionate traveler has flight delays, cancelled trains, or other scary moments.

There are two things you need in order to travel: acceptance and courage. Accept the things you can't change. Have the courage to take the initial leap. I'm still learning, but making the effort is better than nothing.

I promise you it's worth it.

~Alex

#travel #berlin #edinburgh #germany #scotland #livingabroad #studyabroad #writerabroad

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