Or, better known to some as “Brenna Conquers Western Europe.”
Celebrate the end with my classmates and fantastically strange, incredibly intelligent professors. Pack my shit. Get on a night train bound for Switzerland. All great escapes should start like this, I think. Switzerland is, after all, the best refuge.
Make a bleary-eyed train transfer in Spiez (near Bern) in the wee hours and spend the next several hours staring out the window at Germany as it flies by. I’m so hoping for snow. So so so hoping for snow. Arrive in Berlin in the early afternoon.
My hostel is right in the middle of the mitte district (ha), the district that sits closest to the east-west divide, but on the eastern side. It’s close to the Kreuzberg district, which is supposed to be a neighborhood with a high Turkish population and a lot of young, creative energy.
There will be touristy things that will need to be done, a lot of modern art to be seen, and quite a lot of intense wandering around (…biking around?) to follow. The other cheesy goal is to find a great old bookshop and a dusty copy of “Faust.” I might go and see the Berlin Philharmoniker while I’m there, too. I think Mahler 3 under Mehta’s baton is what’s on the calendar that weekend.
I leave Berlin on the morning of the 23rd and get into Dublin sometime in the early afternoon. My hotel looks gorgeous and is tucked a little farther out of the way, though not too far from St. Stephen’s green. This should be a quiet few days since most things will be closed starting in the late afternoon on the 24th and certainly on the 25th.
Paris. Paris fresh after Christmas. Paris, full of skeletal trees along the Seine, silhouetted against the grey sky and hanging mist. Paris, full of croissants in the early morning. Paris, full of… Charlie Allen? Well, maybe. There’s a potential run-in scheduled for the 26th, but our schedules might not match up. Beyond that, I have a lot to do in Paris.
On the night of the 28th I’m taking the Artesia night train (the fastest train in Europe! – I’m must admit, I’m quite excited about that part) back to Florence. I’ll get in to Florence early the next morning, stumble out of the Santa Maria Novella Stazione and try and find caffe e dolci as quickly as is humanly possible. Plans for that day include fetching my HUGE suitcases from my host family (oh my GOD taxis are expensive), poking around in the standard outdoor markets, visiting my favorite cioccolateria (the best in Florence — and, by God, I’d say the best in the entire world) to pick up sweet things for home, visiting my favorite places, and being generally sentimental. The next morning I have to get up at some disgusting hour, take a cab to Florence’s tiny, tiny airport, and get out of town. After that, I’ll pass through Amsterdam and Minneapolis (whinewhinewhine) and customs. The plan is to survive the longest day ever and (hopefully) slip right by any bad winter weather and onslaughts of other holiday travelers.
With a pinch of luck I should be back in Portland’s loving arms on the evening on the 30th, just in time to catch some shuteye before ringing in the New Year.
But for now I have other things to do. I have a paper to start tonight. And at this time tomorrow Leslie and I will be on another night train, hurtling toward Wien. WIEN! Even though we’ll be missing Immacolata here in Italy, we’ll be just in time to celebrate St. Nicolaus’ Tag with old men roaming around in saintly costumes, kicking off the official start to Christmas in Germanic style. We’ll find Krampus and growl back at him, eat Sacher torte and famed midnight doughnuts made by 90-year old legends, and perhaps stand in a line for nosebleed tickets at the Wiener Staatsoper. Then there’s Salzburg and quieter times to be had — we’ll visit the Dom and the huge, human-sized chessboard, and maybe even the shop we visited on choir tour that’s full of hand-painted blown eggs — yes, just blown eggs. Eggs hanging from fake trees and piled in huge barrels — and the shop even continues across the street in its annex. Yes, the egg shop has an annex. And THEN — we’ll be in München for two days. Sentiments will range from intensely sobered to not-so as we visit Dachau on day 1, then the Hofbräuhaus and a famed, super old billiard museum on day 2. Then we catch a night train back to Florence, stumbling through the station at 6 in the morning (6 IN THE MORNING), just in time to drink a lot of coffee and get our bums to class. What world-traveling badasses we are.