It was a Friday. I woke up early, around 8 AM. I jumped up and got in the shower; I was so proud to be getting ready before Maria even woke up. I got out of the shower and made a french press coffee. I was sipping my coffee when Maria came in around 9.

“Good morning,” she said.

“Good morning!”

I felt so comfortable and happy to be there, at Maria’s flat in Berlin. Beevus the pit bull came into the kitchen shortly after Maria and laid his head on my leg. I scratched his head as I read my book and continued drinking my hot coffee.

An hour later, we were on our way out the door. I started to feel sad that this would be the last time we left the house together. As we walked down the stairs, we talked about how much fun we had the last few days. How many places we went, how much food we ate, all the soy chai lattes we drank. How much I wanted to move to Berlin and stay there forever.

We got on the underground at Seestrasse. We sat next to each other on the train and looked out the windows.

When we got to the restaurant, we ordered soy chai lattes and filled our plates with tofu scramble, toast, hummus, fruit salads, bulgur salad, and lots of dipping sauces. We ate slowly and talked about me moving to Berlin. Maria told me that there were flats for vegans. I wondered about what my life could be like in Berlin, living in a flat with a couple of vegans, working and taking the underground and drinking matcha lattes in vegan cafes in my free time. I could write and take pictures and make videos. I could learn German and say tchusse and hallo and teach people english. I could talk to people who feel the same way as I do and I could talk to people who feel completely different than me. I could eat vegan food at restaurants and drink green juices and I could become a part of this culture. I wanted it so bad.

We got on a tram after eating and went to a place that I can only describe as a magical community place of giving. There is a collection of trees, which have shelves carved into them, and plastic flaps over the shelves. People place books into the shelves that they are finished reading, and then you choose a book to take. There are no rules – you can take books without leaving books, you can leave books without taking books. Maria and I each took two books (she left a few and I left one), and brought them home. When we got back to her house, I made another french press coffee and Maria made a soy chai latte.

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We talked for hours. I didn’t want to leave. Maria gave me directions on how to get to the bus stop. When the time came, I picked up my backpack, hugged her good bye, and made her promise to come to California. We had planned out our California road trip already. We were going to rent a convertible and drive from my house to San Diego. I wanted it to happen now.

I patted Beevus on the head and headed out the door. As I was walking downstairs, I felt so sad. It is so hard to say goodbye to people that I have become close with. I love traveling so much; I am so happy that I have the opportunities to meet the people that I do. The people I have met have enriched my life and made me a better person. They have taught me to be happy, to be grateful, and to feel free again.

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Berlin has such an incredible energy to it. The people are bustling around, but everyone is so friendly. The city is filled with happy people. It feels safe and creative and inspiring.

I spent my time in Berlin mostly in vegan cafes, stores, and restaurants. My purpose of going to Berlin was not to be a tourist, but to explore the vegan cafes and restaurants.

I did go to the Holocaust museum, which was a little hard to handle. I wandered through the museum, reading stories about the families killed in the Holocaust. I felt so terrified and sad and mad and upset. After I left the museum, I meandered my way to the information center. There was an older couple in there asking about a cathedral. I followed them to the “cathedral,” which turned out to be a room of silence. I sat in the room of silence for about an hour. It was so incredible to be in a room of complete silence, and be able to think and not think. I worked on clearing my mind. I had just watched “Eat, Pray, Love” the night before, so I had been thinking about meditation. If you meditate, please leave me some tips in the comments!!

The next day, I headed to the Berlin wall. The East Side Gallery is the largest intact portion of the Berlin wall that is still standing, and the city asked artists to create murals on the wall. The art was incredible and beautiful.

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Berlin is an incredible city, and I hope to spend more time here someday soon!

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After a short, two-hour bus ride from Frankfurt, I arrived in Cologne. By the time I got here, it was dark, so I headed to my adorable Airbnb and settled in for the night.

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Super cute, ja?

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The next day, I woke up, looked out the window, and saw… rain. I’m only in Cologne for a couple of days, so I had to make the best of it. I put on my rain jacket, and headed out toward the Schokoladenmusem. Yes, the CHOCOLATE MUSEUM.

my favourite fountain...

It was so fun to see the history of chocolate. They had the machines actually making the chocolate, which was really cool to watch. My favorite part – the chocolate fountain pictured above. (Image not mine, taken from here.)  I took quite a few pictures, but it was pretty packed in there. Apparently there were a few schools that were on field trips to the museum, and kids were running around everywhere, screaming and yelling. It was nice to look through everything, but I can’t handle crowds, so I took my leave.

Since it was pouring down rain, I decided it might be nice to get a cup of coffee somewhere. I’ve been trying to go to more local coffee shops, but the only ones I found on my way here were bakeries, which usually have terrible coffee. So I found a Starbucks. Is there any possible way that I could get more touristy than a selfie with a Starbucks cup in front of the Christmas tree? I’m embarrassed.

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I plowed my way through the rain back to the Airbnb, admiring the architecture on the way. The buildings here are so cute.

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I found the biggest Christmas tree in town. It’s all wrapped up!

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It was a short but fun day. It definitely improved after coffee. 🙂

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Things went a little south in Southern Germany – the home that I was supposed to stay in for a week was WAY too eccentric for me. I’m talking about open nudity (of a 60+ year old man that I had just met) and being spoken to mostly in German (I am trying to learn but so far I only know “hello” and “I’d like to order a coffee”). So I took a train up to Frankfurt for a few days! I am excited to see more of Germany than I originally intended. I booked an Airbnb for three nights, and spent some time wandering through a very foggy Frankfurt. The first day started off a little chilly, about 1 degree celsius. I wandered through the neighborhoods toward the city center.

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I stopped in at a bakery for a cup of coffee. The young man working behind the counter asked me a few times if I wanted anything else, but I’d already eaten, so I just got the coffee. He was telling me about how they make the breads and how great they are, and then gave me a little sample of some pizza bites to try out. They were fantastic!

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Next, I strolled past the University of Frankfurt. I only saw the main building, but it was pretty impressive!

PC080054.jpgWhen I got closer to the city center, I came across the stunning opera house. The architecture in Germany just blows my mind. The detailing is incredible.

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I wandered through yet another Christmas market; this one was selling vegan food!

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Through the park and toward the river we go!

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Finally, I arrived at the river. I spotted another swan, and it spotted me, too. He actually seemed to really like me, and he started making his way toward me.

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He got real close! Just call me the animal whisperer.

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After that bought of excitement, it was off to find the tower that I could climb up for panoramic views. The tower is super tall, so it was easy to find, as I could see the top of it from almost anywhere.

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I climbed all 328 steps to get to the top. And then the fog rolled in. Yay! Perfect timing. :/

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I spent the rest of the day looking around the shops, where it was nice and warm. I also stopped in a Starbucks – the Starbucks’ in Europe have vegan options for breakfast and lunch! No wimpy salads either – I got a falafel wrap which was amazing. It is super exciting for me to know of a place that I can find anywhere and get vegan food. 🙂 All in all, a great day in Frankfurt!

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My last day in Hamburg was perfect. I slept in, then Svenja and I had brunch before hitting the town. I had been eating vegan sausages for breakfast every day (weird?), and today was no exception. Vegan sausage + coffee + tangerine = one happy Amanda.

Anyway, we got ready, put on matching hats, took a selfie, then hit the town. Still a little learning to do with the camera.

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Before going into the city, we stopped by the local farmers market. This one vendor was selling apples with little designs on them! She put a sticker on each one, and the sun didn’t brighten the spot where the sticker was. Before she put them out for sale, she took the stickers off. Genius!

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So cool. And, as always, I am obsessed with the flower carts.

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After our walk through, we hopped on the next bus and took off toward the warehouse district. I get most excited about the weirdest things in each city, and in Hamburg I really wanted to find the one building that stands alone in the water. I’d seen it in pictures but I hadn’t been able to find it on my own. Luckily I had my tour guide, Svenja, for the day. Which means we (she) found it, of course.

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Hallelujah!

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I got a nice touristy picture. And then we attempted the selfie mode on the camera again. If anyone knows how to take a selfie using a digital camera without it being blurry, please enlighten me.

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Following the epic stand alone building, we wandered around downtown. We got some coffee, hit up the ice skating park (to watch the kids, not to skate ourselves!), and then wandered down to the touristy shop so I could get a postcard for Jeppe. We walked past a mini castle, and I asked Svenja what it was. I thought it must be some really fancy government thing?

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I was kind of right. It was the police station. A pretty fancy police station, if you ask me. I snapped a quick pic and then we took off, because we were on a mission. One of the things I was most excited to do, go to my first European brewery!

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I got a taster tray, which comes with five little tasters. Luckily I got a couple pictures, because my camera battery died immediately after this picture. I think it was a signal to enjoy the moment!

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The beers were all very good, the IPA was my favorite (no surprise).

It was a great ending to my time in Hamburg!

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