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Tag "Traveling"
on the Bard College Berlin Student Blog

(Credit: Anna Zakelj)

Before the storm of tests and papers that is finals week at BCB, in the lull of spring break, a friend and I made our way to Prague. The trip was an adventure. We didn’t plan much, didn’t have much money to spend, and I forgot my passport at home, adding an air of excitement to the journey that was accentuated by my whiteness and US citizenship. The trip was filled with encounters with odd and wonderful people. In transit, in a subway station in Prague, loaded down with backpacks and sleeping bags, we were approached by an old man. He exited the train going the other direction and walked up to where we stood waiting for ours to come. “You traveling?” He asked in a loud, goofy voice. “Where are you from?”

“Slovakia and the US,” we responded respectively.“The US! We’re neighbors. I’m Canadian. I’ve been living here a long time, though. I came over when I was young, just a little older than you two. I used to travel a lot. One summer some friends and I took a long bike trip through a few different countries and one guy died.” My friend Veronika and I looked at each other, confused. Was this the punchline to some strange joke? Should we be laughing? “We drank beers for lunch before cycling,” he continues. “We weren’t thinking about the consequences, forgot about the alcohol. He swerved and got hit by a car. He was young. 30 something. But that’s another story. What’s past is past.” Before we could really respond, our train came and he left, flashing a peace sign with a toothy smile and an emphatic “Bring back the hippies!” The whole interaction lasted less than five minutes. Let’s use this as a learning experience. As we part ways and go adventuring during the summerbreak, let us always bring our passports, be willing to talk to interesting strangers, and remember to never drink and cycle!

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Die Glühbirne: the lightbulb, literally the “glowpear”

Die Glühbirne: the lightbulb, literally the “glowpear”

After about four months of classes and 5 months in Germany,  I find myself in German A2, well aware that German — with its random articles and various cases, not to mention the seemingly impossible sound that lingers in the gap between ‘sh’ and ‘ch’ — is a difficult language to learn. But there is good to be found in the language learning process. German relies heavily on compound words, which anyone can invent and use whenever they so desire, while still remaining grammatically correct. This allows for amazing specificity and has resulted in many odd, whimsical sounding names for various objects and ideas.

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Prague covered in fog prepares for a rainy day

Prague covered in fog prepares for a rainy day

Prague – the city of dreamers, travelers and adventure seekers. There is so much that could be said about the capital of the Czech Republic: from its breathtaking architecture infused with history, to its rich café culture that brings together the old and the new – both in generations and spirit. Prague is a city for those who wish to get away from everyday concerns and troubles of day-to-day life by losing themselves among medieval Gothic cathedrals or walks along Vltava, followed by a coffee or brunch in one of Prague’s old-style coffee shops. Yet, even in those moments of “being away” from our Berlin home, the phantoms of old life recur. I would like to focus on the latter, and talk about how traveling to a new place, especially one as contemplative and imaginative as the city of Prague, made me think and re-think in new ways about life and myself.

[read more to see the photo gallery]
Hitch-hiking in progress

Hitch-hiking in progress

Rome, Paris, Barcelona, Prague… A 10-day spring break in the beginning of April gave ECLA of Bard students the time to explore the nearby European capitals. I could only sigh as I jealously observed some of my friends booking tickets and checking the attractions: due to my lack of advanced planning and some outstanding tasks, I was supposed to stay in Berlin during the break and look at the April snowfall through the library window, accompanied by cups of tea, German books and romantic TV series on laptop. These decadent plans went awry due to a random message from a distant online friend, who suggested participating in a hitchhiking competition to Marburg. Within ten minutes I was already seeking out my backpack in the depths of the wardrobe, painting Easter eggs and getting ready to seriously hit the road.

How can you compete in hitchhiking?

The Easter-Hitchhiking-Days I was invited to were organized by the HitchhikingHub – an international hitchhiking community created on a voluntary basis in 2008. Since then it has transformed into a bigger community, with regular events and a charitable component (the annual long race helps raise funds for water sanitation projects). Every year the rules for short and long races change: previously, the participants had to hitchhike in funny costumes or make the longest possible round trip in 60 hours. Since the race I was invited to was dedicated to Easter, participants and teams were supposed to start with an apple and an egg, and later try to trade them for something weird/ridiculous/funny from the drivers they had a ride with. My teammate Lars and I decided to complicate the journey and go to Marburg through… Amsterdam. According to the rules, we were not supposed to use public transportation or pay for the rides, though travelling for free in Germany (the European country with the biggest carpooling infrastructure – Mitfahrgelegenheit) first seemed impossible. In any case, there was no way to back off: the challenge had been accepted and our previous years’ experiences instilled hope that this time around the trip would also be successful.

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