Today is my last blog from Europe but it's still going to be a long journey before I'm home.
This morning I woke up at 6am to see Kate off at the bus station in Stockholm. This afternoon I'm taking a train to Malmo, Sweden which is 4 hours, then an overnight train alone (scary!) from Malmo to Berlin (8 hours), then another 3 hour train from Berlin to Frankfurt, oh - and then I have to take one more train to the actual Frankfurt airport. but wait - it's not over. Then I take a plane to Montreal, and I'll spend a night in a hotel there, because my flight to Denver is not until the next morning around 8am.
So really, I have 2 full days left, but it will all be sitting in cramped spaces, and hopefully listening to my ipod if I can find a place to recharge it. I know, you're all saying, you don't feel sorry for me, I've been in Europe for 3 months for God's sake. True!
Well Sweden has been gorgeous, see Kate's page for a quick descrip, but one thing I need to mention to my college roommates: The Swedish fish is not good here (neither the gummy nor the ocean fish). Stick with the 5 cent fishes from Boston. And the famous "Swedish meatballs" totally taste like Chef Boyardee meatballs, oh my gosh, bizarre. Moving on...
Kate and I have both been reflecting a lot this week about the trip and how culture shocked we'll be when we get home. And actually, this was so funny, we took a boat trip through Stockholm's gorgeous foresty archipelago (a series of islands) yesterday, and the survey they gave us to rate the trip, had questions like "Did the trip provide you an opportunity for reflection?" and also "Was the trip inspiring?"- really random (only in Scandinavia!) but it was very fitting!
I think a lot of people will be curious, so here's a few ways that this trip has changed me...
- I have totally un-intentionally become a vegetarian because 95% of the time I'm scared to try the meat in restaurants.
- I tend to eat ice cream like it's going out of style. It's cheap and cold on a hot day, and gelato especially I will dream of for the rest of my life.
- Coffee comes in small doses here, but really good and really strong. The other day I got a Starbucks in Germany and I couldn't believe how huge the smallest size looked! Not sure I can ever go back to watery American coffee. Capuccinos from now on.
- I haven't lost weight but my legs are as muscular as a horse because there's hardly any elevators in Europe and escalators tend to always be broken. At the same time, my knees have become like an old lady, I don't know what the deal is, but they've been bothering me every day since early May. Getting old. : (
- I feel like I can figure out signs in a Metro or Train station regardless of what language they're in - even if they were in Chinese, I can quickly guess which one says Toilet and Exit and Tickets and Tourist Information because of where the words are placed, and the picture next to it.
- When I hear that a city has a Fine Art Museum, I'm like "Sign me up, I'm there" which really was not the case before. I have learned a ton about modern (20th century) art and can recognize the artists and name the styles. Prior to this trip, I had only taken a class in Art History through the 16th century, but on this trip, I have mostly paid attention to modern art (though I hate most Contemporary art... story about that on my photosite)
- I have a newfound respect for foreign tourists visiting our country, since the U.S. doesn't offer menus and signs in their language, unlike Europe which offers most everything in English - however I have a newfound disrespect for American tourists! They are so obnoxious, loud, and instantly recognizable. Kate and I always wanted to pretend we were Canadian or Australian when we sat down near Americans.
- I am always looking out for someone trying to steal my wallet now, because petty theft, though non-violent, is much worse in Europe and you just don't ever carry your wallet in your pockets, it's always gotta be strapped onto you somehow.
- I appreciate how everyplace in the U.S. takes credit cards! Half of our hotels took cash only.
- I will appreciate the multiple choices for salad dressing in an American restaurant.
- I am totally never staying in a youth hostel ever again! Even the good ones sometimes don't provide you with what I consider basic human rights (!), like a pillow, or like soap next to the sink, or paper towels to dry your hands with, or a shower drain that DRAINS, or other little things I take for granted like... a window. They seriously need to increase the standards for European youth hostels.
- I am really disgusted with the fact that most of the U.S. doesn't recycle now! The entire rest of the universe does. Even the tiniest villages have public recepticles for plastic, bottles, and paper here. Even the airports and metro stops do. Collecting the additional recycle bins creates more jobs. The U.S. is completely pathetic on this issue.
- I pretty quickly adapted the habit of having wine or beer with lunch, which is a strange one to take home. Even (or especially) Europeans who are having a business lunch don't think twice about having a glass of wine or two before returning to work. This probably won't be acceptable in the U.S. anytime soon, though!
- I definitely won't take my home for granted, or at least not for a while. I miss Chris, I miss the dog, I miss my car, I miss my clothes, I miss my refrigerator!!!
and that's about as deep as it gets! but really, the 3 months was perfect - perfect timing, perfect weather, perfect extended vacation. Can't wait to come back to some of these (16!) countries in small doses in the future.
see you soon. Lara