Two Weeks, Three Countries: A Travel Experience

Caitlyn Parkes

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A two-week European vacation is not a common experience for the typical teenager. However, in the Pascack Hills community, many are lucky enough to travel and explore the lands that are discussed in history class. Yet, few are able to experience the local life of these foreign nations. 

With Winter break fast approaching, here are my travel reflections from my Euro trip.

August 12, 2019:  I sat in the airport, mentally preparing myself for the longest (not to mention furthest) flight I’ve ever taken. The excitement and nerves took over as I boarded the plane for an 8 hour excursion to Europe. For some, this may be an absolute nightmare, but here are some tips to making a trip a little bit easier: 

  1. Take as late a flight as possible, and try to sleep on the plane. 
  2. Remember to bring your favorite snacks.
  3. Stand up and walk around. 
  4. Drink plenty of water. 
  5. Make sure you bring gum to pop your ears.
  6. Remember a sweatshirt because it gets cold on the plane.
  7. Take advantage of all the free movies.

After eight grueling hours, we landed in Dublin, Ireland and boarded our second flight to Munich, Germany. My dad is in a band in Germany, so he has been traveling there for years now. Thanks to him, I was lucky enough to experience Europe in a different way than most.

The first stop of our two-week trip was Ingolstadt, Germany. After arriving at the Torel-Stube hotel, where they treated us with the utmost hospitality, the owners let me borrow their bikes so that we can fully immerse ourselves in the culture. The town was filled with cobblestone streets, rows of shops and houses, big open fields, two castles, and the famous Danube River.        

                                     Photo: Caity Parkes

 

Pascack Hills junior Jared Mitovich experienced something similar on his teen tour in Europe. Mitovich visited a small ski town in the French Alps called Tignes. He describes his experience as being one “more intimate than a big city like Paris because it felt secluded and more like home. We stayed in a locally owned hotel, and, on top of that, the town was beautiful and everything was within walking distance. It was one of the most memorable places I’ve ever been.”

       Photo: Jared Mitovich 

 

Although my time in Ingolstadt was breathtaking, the most interesting part of my trip was traveling on the road with my dad and his band for two of their shows. With the backstage pass I was given, I was able to taste many delicious sweets and foods such as schnitzel and apfelstrudel. 

In the middle of our small-town explorations in Germany, we headed to a big city in Austria for a day. As Hills senior Avery Paulen put it, “I learned about art and history in large cities, but in small towns, I get to experience…the true diversity and authentic lifestyle of every country I visit.” I wished to not only explore the small-town life of these places I visited, but to see the popular attractions and learn the history, as Paulen mentioned. 

 

We visited Salzburg, Austria for a day. Taking the train to the city, we spent the day exploring the city. In Salzburg, we climbed a mountain and visited the house where Mozart grew up and the garden from The Sound of Music. We also ate lunch in the mesmerizing Fortress Hohensalzburg that overlooked the entire landscape of the city. 

      

Photo: Caity Parkes

As our stay in Germany and Austria came to an end, we were off to Ireland. We stayed with my dad’s fiance’s family and experienced life in Ballina, Ireland. There were sheep on farms, free-roaming horses, and we were able to explore the sights of Ballina. We even traveled an hour to the Cliffs of Moher.            

  Photo: Caity Parkes 

Before flying home, we took a road trip back to Dublin. We visited the library at Trinity College, ate some delicious food, and walked around to view all of the amazing sights. It was the perfect way to end such a remarkable trip.

Despite the fact that my two-week European exploration was over, I was beyond happy to be back home with my friends and family. I thought it would take a few years to recuperate from the jetlag, but I know it would be worth it just to experience it all again. 

Anyone can have a more “local” experience in foreign nations. The key is to try looking online for smaller towns, though there may be more of a language barrier in some. My favorite part of the trip was definitely exploring the small towns in both Ireland and Germany where there were very few tourists. Though it was weird walking the streets of a place where people live, and speak a different language entirely, it was an experience that allowed me to learn something unique about the culture of the countries I visited. As Paulen agreed, “I think the best part [of visiting small towns] is experiencing firsthand how people live in other countries. It definitely broadens your perspective on life and gives you experiences no one else can say they had.” 

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