Midterm Break: A week in review

It’s been a week and I’m back from midterm break. Here is where I went and what I saw.

We left here last Monday bright and early. I was up at 03:00 for a 04:10 departure; we got to the airport and though security with no problems. We had to sneak my rolly bag on as it’s technically too big and if they had noticed it would have cost me 60 pounds ($80 CAD). We managed to jam it under the seat. The flight to Berlin was uneventful and smooth. Berlin is a great city: the people are great, it’s clean and advanced, pretty much up to western standards as far as European countries go.

Our hostel was also great: it was clean and had a bathroom in the room. It was the Generator Hostel Berlin Mitte–highly recommended.

The first day we took in the sights, including the Topography of Terror. This gave a history of Germany and how Hitler came to power and the war years, and then the years after the war, pretty much up through the Cold War. The one thing you can say about Germany is they don’t try to hide their dark past, they acknowledge what happened. We also took a boat trip on the river though Berlin and explored the city.

One interesting thing did happen on the second day we were there: we were awoken by an alarm followed by an announcement in German and then English saying that “due to a technical failure the building needed to be evacuated right away and to follow staff instructions.” This was at 08:00 so it would have been time to get up anyway, so I got up and quickly got dressed, then Mark and I headed downstairs. The thing that was odd was there was no sense of urgency. No one was really going around giving instructions, and everything was going on as normal. So out in the courtyard we went, where about 20-30 people had gathered, and still no one was giving instructions. So I went back in to reception; everything seemed normal. So I asked the lady on the desk what was on the go. According to her, whenever anyone takes too hot a shower or uses too much body spray, it sets the fire alarm off. So I said, “We can go back in? Because no one outside knows that.” So she let everyone know. Really they should have gone around and told people because it was a little confusing.

The second day we did some more exploring. We went to the Berlin Wall, and then the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. This was extremely disappointing as the museum was not what we expected.

Overall I give Berlin a 95% rating:

A for the city overall
A for how clean the city is
A+ for the transportation
B+ for the friendliness of the people
A for the hostel


Our stay in Rome was five days long so I’ll give a brief summary of what we saw and did.

We saw the Vatican Museum, St. Peter’s Square and St. Peter’s Basilica. We also attended Mass this past Sunday. I took a few short recordings of the organ because it was so beautiful; I will post it later. We did all the major Rome attractions: the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, the Sistine Chapel, and the Spanish Steps.

Rome is a very crowded city with lots of busy areas, and lots of people selling what appear to be cheap purses, handbags, and wallets (more than likely counterfeit). There are lots of these guys around, along with people selling other random things. My advice: buyer beware. I’ve read signs and warnings about this type of thing.

The last two days we took the hop on-hop off bus so we could visit most of the attractions listed about. Our hostel had a garden out back where we enjoyed sitting and chatting at night after being in the city all day.

Italy and Rome, while a beautiful country and city, still have lots of problems. One of the days we were there, there was a massive protest, and a lot of the city got shut down. There was a very heavy police presence in the days to follow, with police and military police on almost every street corner. They are behind the times and lacking in lots of ways; the government really needs to get its act together.

Rome Rating 80%

B for the city overall
A for how clean the city is
F- for the transportation
C+ for the friendliness of the people
B for the hostel
A+++ food

A side note: Ryan Air charges for everything. I personally think they are nothing but a big corporation out to make money and nothing else, providing minimal services and perks for their passengers. I do appreciate that you get for what you pay for, but I think sometimes something has to give. While the pilots are friendly, the rest of the crew on the flights I’ve been on have been abrasive, rude and impatient. What happened to good customer service?

Pictures coming soon.