The University of Iowa

From stitches to a sunrise

September 23rd, 2014

By Maddie Welter

I am back to Freiburg after a whirlwind week of travel.

As I mentioned last time, part of my program involves exploring various European cities and attending talks about various aspects of history and foreign policy. For our first trip, we went to Berlin and Prague. 

Maddie and some friends shortly after their arrival in Berlin.

However, two days prior to our trip, I had an unexpected adventure in Freiburg. One evening, I managed to slice my knee open on a sharp metal railing at a friend’s apartment. All of you who know my tendency to accidentally get injured are probably rolling your eyes right now. Long story short, it was a bloody mess, and I got to take a ride in an ambulance to a German hospital. After figuring out the insurance and filling out some forms, I got six stitches, a bonus tetanus shot, and I was back home within two hours of the original injury.

All in all, it was a very efficient process, and the doctors who treated me were very nice. Luckily, my knee didn’t bother me at all during the trip. I’d like to take this moment to give a special shout-out to the friends who I’d known for less than two weeks who helped me out during the whole ordeal.

After that excitement, we lugged our suitcases over cobblestone streets very early Monday morning to the Freiburg Hauptbahnhof. After a long train ride, we arrived in Berlin.

We went on a two hour city tour, which not only involved looking at the beautiful architecture and famous sights, but also learning about Berlin’s long and complex history. History is very important to Germany, and that is incredibly clear in Berlin.

One of Maddie's favorite sections of the Berlin Wall.

It’s not immediately obvious, but a lot of the older looking buildings aren’t actually that old. Many of the grand fixtures from the days of the Kingdom of Prussia, the original German Reich, and other important epochs were destroyed during the World Wars and completely rebuilt later in the twentieth century. However, many of them have pieces of the original, often battered with bullet holes.

Maddie on Charles Bridge in Prague.

Similarly, in the German Bundestag, where the German parliament meets, the architect included some pieces of the old parliament building, which was taken over by Soviet soldiers at the end of WWII.

These old pieces of the wall are covered in charcoal inscriptions with the names of the Soviet soldiers. These are only a few of many physical pieces of history throughout Berlin meant to serve as a reminder of where Germany has been. Additionally, one of my favorite parts of Berlin was the East Side Gallery, which holds a section of the original Berlin Wall. It has since been turned into a colorful kilometer of street art.

On Thursday morning, we went to Prague. I was in love from the point that I saw the sign for “Praha” at the train station. Our tour of Prague was super sunny, so all of the gold details in the architecture were glowing, and everything was stunning. Then we found a beer garden on top of a hill (this is the second time I’ve gone to a hilltop beer garden in Europe. They’re becoming one of my favorite things.)

As the sun set, we were greeted by a wide, colorful view of the city. After that introduction, it’s only fitting that one of my last memories of Prague was a sunrise. My friends and I stayed up all night dancing and laughing in order to catch Saturday’s sunrise.  The chilly but tranquil morning was well worth the sleepiness that came later. I really wish we had more than 48 hours to spend in Prague. It will be probably be one of my favorite places that I go to this semester.

A beautiful view of Prague from the top of a hill.

A lot of people told me before I left that travel is addicting. I'm really starting to understand what they mean. The sensation of wandering around in a brand new city and just taking it all in is exhilarating. Sure, there have been a lot of moments where I’ve only been about ten percent sure that I’m getting on the right tram or walking in the right direction, but it is surprisingly refreshing to step out of my comfort zone. I’ve been abroad for almost three weeks now. It’s clichéd, but there are still moments where I feel like I’m dreaming.

Classes start this week, so I’m about to face a reality check. But October will bring travel to another multitude of new cities and new adventures. And I promise that this month, those adventures will not involve the hospital. :)

Maddie is a senior from St. Charles, Illinois, majoring in International Relations at the University of Iowa. She is currently studying abroad on the IES European Union program in Freiburg, Germany.