A week in Germany - the good, the great, and the goulash.

Isabella Courtenay-Morris
September 30, 2017
A group of students standing in front of the Berlin Wall.

Before flying to Barcelona, I traveled to Germany with friends from UNC-Chapel Hill. I choose Germany as my first destination because a close friend of mine (who is participating in the IES Abroad Madrid Engineering program) has a sister living in Kusel, a town near the western border. We spent the first couple days exploring the German countryside and then caught a train from Kaiserslautern to Berlin with a carriage all to ourselves (Harry Potter style).  

On our first day in Kusel, to prevent the jet-lag from setting in, we decided to take a stroll to the local castle. Casual, I know... Lichtenberg Castle stands atop a steep hill overlooking several small towns in the area. Most of the castle's structure has been recovered, and now houses a hostel and restaurant. Despite my exhaustion, I took time to appreciate the panoramic view of the surrounding area and explored the crumbling castle ruins until sunset.

Our second day, we visited a castle that has been on my “Places to Go” list for years. I’ve seen majestic aerial snaps of the Burg Eltz on social media many times of the the years. Each time I saw photos of the castle on Instagram and Facebook, I took a screenshot and added it to my enormous list. I never imagined I'd get there so soon. We drove to a secluded region of Germany where endless fields of greenery are disrupted by small townships of 50 or so houses. The buildings were simple, monochromatic and packed in tightly but efficiently. It truly blew my mind. After reaching a gravel parking lot tucked away in the woods, we set out to find the famous site. I anticipated a difficult hike to reach Burg Eltz, but after only five minutes of walking, the castle emerged out of nowhere. It was beautiful… honestly everything I’d imagined it to be (sheds one single tear). We explored the sculpted towers and surrounding area before sitting down for the classic German combo - bratwurst and goulash. 

Over the following couple days, we were showered with hospitality and given the local’s version of a region that had yet to fall to the mercy of tourists. I’m so thankful I started off my abroad adventure at a hidden gem. Kusel, you will be missed. 

Berlin was a whole other story… every moment left me in complete awe. I plan to return as soon as possible - to visit or live; I’d be fine with either. Overall, the city is organized and easy to navigate. Every attraction we needed to get to was accessible by train. We stayed in a hostel in Friedrichstein, a spunky, young district home to the Oberbaum Bridge and the East Side Gallery. The assortment of modern architecture and refurbished buildings torn apart during World War II created a unique quilt-like pattern in all the streets. It was aesthetically pleasing that's for sure.

On our first day, we wandered around the neighborhood and stumbled upon remains of the Berlin Wall decorated with politically inspired murals. I remember thinking about all my history lessons that focused on the aftermath of the war, and how shocked I felt standing in such an iconic city. Throughout the three days I spent in Berlin, we visited the Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie, the Berlin Cathedral, the Topography of Terror center, and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Each location we visited evoked varying emotions - sorrow, regret, anger, gratitude, happiness, wonder… the list goes on. I would recommend all of them to anyone looking to have a fun, reflective experience.

The trip was the perfect mix of sight-seeing, cultural immersion, and urban exploration. I wouldn’t change it for the world. That being said… my time in Barcelona has been unbelievable so far. More to come on that soon!

Auf Wiedersehen!

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Isabella Courtenay-Morris

<p>My parents are ski instructors and chased Winter seasons between Australia and the U.S. I was born in Australia, but at six-months-old, I began traveling between each country. I was educated in both countries, transferring between schools in Aspen, Colorado and Port Macquarie, New South Wales every semester. I have been very fortunate to travel to various parts of the world, all while gaining an appreciation for differing cultures and discovered the power of travel as a learning tool.</p>

2017 Fall
Home University:
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
Bonny Hills, Australia and Aspen, Colorado
Global Studies
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