Visiting new cities like making new friends

Five years ago this past week, I was in Germany on a school trip, taking on Europe for the first time but, hopefully, not the last.

The memories started showing up on my phone, and, each year around this time, I always scroll through the countless photographs from the trip, trying to remember what it felt like to be there.

Without fail, I’m still amazed by the things we saw.

With any place in the world, there is always so much history to learn, beauty to be seen, and stories to be told. How I truly wish I could see it all.

On day one of the trip, in downtown Frankfurt, the buildings were a mix of architectural styles, so bright and colorful, almost like various people, each with a bubbling personality.

We climbed 328 stairs to the viewing platform of St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral that day, and, though it was a difficult trek after a nine-hour flight, the view was worth every step. From above, you can see the Gothic and Renaissance-like buildings in the old town that seemingly travel in time, leading toward the modern skyscrapers afar.

The next morning, we visited Mainz and saw more cathedrals and buildings that had me standing in awe, questioning the process of each chiseled statue and the scaffolding that painters must’ve called home based on the detail of each painted panel.

Each place had a specific essence, practically telling you how to feel in that moment.

Later that day, we hopped on a train to Rudesheim am Rhein, where we transferred to a boat that took us to the first castle of the trip: Rheinstein Castle, built in the 14th century and home to several families until it officially became a museum in the 1980s.

And, though I love to explore those types of places, it’s hard to believe they were once people’s homes, now handed over to the public and, over time, turned into nothing but a quiet path to walk through.

Castle number two of the trip was visited the following day in my favorite city we visited: Heidelberg.

As an important Renaissance structure, the Heidelberg Castle ruins tell a unique story. Formerly attacked in wars and destroyed by weather, the structure still lets you imagine what it was once upon a time.

But it was the people in Heidelberg who made it feel so special to me. Everyone was out and about, sitting along the edges of fountains, on the patios of restaurants, strolling through stacks in bookstores, chatting with tourists to sell anything with “Heidelberg” printed on it, serving gelato and crepes at various stands with colorful umbrellas.

And the miscellaneous sounds added to the experience, with the chatter of patrons in all the stores and restaurants and street performers around every corner. The city was buzzing and welcoming you with open arms.

We boarded another train the next day to visit Salzburg, Austria, to see the cold salt mines in the city whose name translates to salt castle.

While there, we walked through streets of polite vendors and over bridges filled with padlocks that filled the air with love.

On the final day of our trip, we took a bike tour through the streets of Munich, taking in more exquisite cathedrals full of perfectly made sculptures and stained glass windows each telling a tale of time and filling the room with vibrant character.

Before the bike tour, we saw a more solemn piece of history as we visited the concentration camp Dachau. I still find it hard to put into words that experience and what it felt like to be there.

There were rooms and buildings I couldn’t stomach walking through or seeing face-to-face. Images were plastered on the walls mirroring the very rooms I stood in and portraying the hurt looks of the people in the pictures.

It felt pained, like talking to a friend who you know is hurting yet being unable to do anything about it.

Each place on that trip had a personality, one that can’t be felt through images but needs to be visited to comprehend, and everything had a backstory, similar to how we as people all have a past.

Between the culture of the people, the history of the places, and the architecture of the buildings, it felt like getting to know a person — like making a friend.

And, should cities and places continue to reflect unique personalities, I will forever want to meet them and listen to the stories they tell.

Torianna Marasco can be reached at 989-358-5686 or tmarasco@TheAlpenaNews.com.


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