The End of a Journey ….& Restless Stirrings for the Next

Sing me a song of a lass that is gone

oh say, could that lass be I?

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It’s a very weird, almost indescribable sensation to be “at home” when your mind remembers being in a completely different country, and continent, a mere week before. I spoke to a traveller I met and described the experience of reality as a huge “thump” smacking you in all parts of the mind. I know some will groan, say big deal, say, “its life” – but it does hit some of us more than others. Think how hard it is to go down south for a week and come back to a Canadian -30C winter. That’s shock. But imagine travelling for a few years, a year, or even two months (my case), and coming home – that’s shock. In no way do I regret choosing to travel… far from it. I wish I were more responsible. The truth is I came home with basically no savings, and by the grace of my family, am going to spend it at home for a bit until I find a place again. As I turned 26 before our trip, I become increasingly aware that I need to start working towards becoming an ‘adult’… Finish paying off my student loan, build an actual savings account, be smart with money. According to my father, the only wise choice is to be meeting somebody and building a stable life. At times I want this wholeheartedly…at other times, I live in a fantastical world, still wanting to go abroad and explore. Maybe this is shirking responsibility. Maybe this is fear of getting old. Either way, it has’t died. Gotten stronger, in fact. But for now, I suppose I should finish the last leg of our tale, and remain buoyantly nostalgic for a bit…

Where were we? After the debacle at Cast Away in Hvar, we managed to get a taxi to Starigrad and the next ferry to Split. We waited for the next bus to take us onwards to Plitvice Lakes National Park. I shared with some that it was a beautiful, if wet experience. We arrived in Mukinje (the small town nearby) at around 1:30 am and had a short walk in the dark to our hostel. Madyson had smartly contacted our guesthouse owner to let them know we’d be late, so our room, key-in-lock, was waiting and ready. When you travel, you develop a great appreciation for the small things. Our room was akin to what I’d picture of log cabins in the Swiss Alps, all wood, simplicity, and coziness. I lay on the bed…. that bed… and those pillows… I told M to drop her things and we just lay there, basking in the comfort which we hadn’t felt much in weeks. We had a very good sleep that night. The sad part came the next morning when I felt the beginnings of a cold. It seemed drole because the night before I had exclaimed how lucky we were to not have been sick the whole trip. I jinxed myself. Still, we braved the drizzly day and set off for the park. There are a few options how you start your path, and there are boats and trains to take you between points. It truly is a beautiful place, full of waterfalls, log walkways, fish, birds, and intense greenery. When the afternoon drizzle turned to downpour, this was when my mood changed. I worried for my bag – not waterproof ..my lack of umbrella (stupid)… my whole-ridden, ruined Toms (doubly stupid) and my electronics/documents which were no doubt getting wet (hello passport…chargers..phone..camera) and this changed my experience considerably. M dealt with my early evening grumblings until we managed our way to the Mukinje pizzeria where I ordered myself a whisky. Much deserved, I wager. I’ve been speaking to a Glaswegian who says a dram of whisky makes the Scottish weather more tolerable. After watching Outlander, I believe it.

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The day after our hike, we had a full day of waiting around until our bus to Zagreb, so we spent it at Poljana, the restaurant in Plitvice Park. I highly recommend it. The food lines your stomach, but its good. Not expensive either. By 5 pm we were on a bus to Zagreb. We had a 4 hour layover, then took our bus onto Munich for our final country, Germany. We managed an hour or two of sleep and made our way to our CS host Tobias. I knew immediately he was kind. He showed us our room while he popped out to grab us a ‘Bavarian breakfast’ – a salted pretzel. I laughed, but he assured me it was a typical start to a Bavarian day. We hopped into his car and he whisked us to the goal of the day- Neuschwanstein castle. We had been too late to book tickets to visit inside, but we were not discouraged. Once we got within viewing distance, I could understand why it was considered the fairy tale castle, the Disney castle, the stuff of dreams. It was breath-taking. We saved money and still enjoyed a nice walk up to the castle limits, and also got to see Hohenschwangau. It was a marvelous morning, and one I’ll not soon forget.

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After the touring, we stopped off at a Bier Garten in the country for lunch. We had a filling, traditional meal, then set off on a road trip through the beautiful area between Bavaria and Austria. I regret not having time for Austria because in the mere two hours we wandered through its roads, I can appreciate how magnificent it must be. We stopped at a beach in an hour south of Zurich for a break, got some groceries, then headed home. A very busy and fun-filled day.

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The next day, we took our standard Sandemans walking tour through Munich and enjoyed it greatly. We had stayed up very late hanging out, so we didn`t accomplish much more than this. We tried to go see a beer garden but we ended up getting rained on and gave up, retreating back to Tobias` apartment. We did see Hofbrauhaus, and both M and I agreed Munich is a place to which we must return. We gathered our gear and hopped on Meinfernbus to Berlin, our last stop of the trip.

By this point, the looming Wednesday, day of departure, was heavy in our hearts. We were thankful to finish our grand tour with a Canadian host, Michael from Edmonton. He was an amazing guy – funny, intelligent, easy to talk to. We made it in by 8 am and had a good chat with him before he headed off to work. He even trusted us with his apartment key, something which happens sometimes, but not often, in the world of CS. Mady and I were happy to see the rain from overnight clearing, and we went on a walking tour of Berlin. We visited the Holocaust memorial to the Jews, which had an eerie sense of making you feel confused and lost.

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We also stood on the site of Hitler`s bunker, visited the remains of the Berlin wall, and learned about Germany`s history. I’ve really come to enjoy learning the history of the places we visited, and I think I will continue even after our trip is done. After the tour, we were a bit unsure what to do with ourselves, but wandered the different neighbourhoods of Berlin. We ended up finding a nice beer garden to hang out in, and came home to hang out with our host. The second day was very emotional. I will not post pictures out of respect, but we made the decision to go visit Sachsenhausen, a working concentration camp an hour outside of Germany. It seemed like something one must do, both to learn and also to remember the atrocities that humans have committed in our not-so-recent past. I can’t describe the chills that I got upon entering certain places, seeing certain things, or hearing the stories our guide had to tell. I could never say it was a ‘good’ experience… it was, however, an experience I’ll never forget. The people running the memorial have done a very good job of keeping everything up to date and well maintained. If you have the chance, I urge you to go.

To lighten our mood, Michael took us on an evening walk around East Berlin. We stopped at cool bar and viewed some of the interesting art lining parts of the old wall. Very interesting graffiti. Berlin has this mixture of history, culture, change, grunge, music, art… it’s hard to describe, and definitely not something I could get a full sense of in a mere two days. Germany is definitely a place I need to revisit. I found it funny that every country seems to have its part which considers itself separate, or independent from the rest…France, Basque country…Spain, Catalunya, Germany, Bavaria, UK, Scotland. Even Quebec is our own version in Canada. We learned so much on this trip and I now have a desire to delve further into the history of the places we have visited.

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As stated previously, we came home six days ago, and it`s been an odd time to say the least. I`m happy to see my parents, but already find it difficult to relinquish my freedom. I need to get into the daily grind soon, and I hope I will find the spirit to pore myself into teaching again. Before we had even set foot on home soil, I was already planning my next adventure. Perhaps my thoughts are unrealistic and fantastical, but I think back to how even half a lifetime ago, I set foot on Scottish soil for the first time. I was 14, sitting in the Scottish highlands, listening to Celtic music and writing poetry while my mother relaxed in the Clachaig Inn pub. Something connected with me there, on the train through the rolling hills, and it connected with me again when we returned all this time later. Edinburgh is a gorgeous city, as many would agree, and I feel compelled to go back. I would love to see if I could supply teach there for a few months, and live in Scotland for a bit. I know I need to think about settling down, but for now, some part of me still feels restless, and that there is more to do before then. Life can take us on a path we do not choose or foresee, but I’ll keep this thought close to my heart. I do know that when I have truly set my mind on a dream, I have followed through, and I don’t see why this one should be any different. It will be interesting to look back on this post a year from now, and see where the journey has taken me.

Well, one adventure has ended. Thank you for following me, if you have. The posts will now lessen, and may speak of lesser, daily adventures…. but adventures all the same.

Safe travels,

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