Eastern Europe Trip: A Comprehensive Review

What happens to the right of the Berlin Wall stays to the right of the Berlin Wall.

Back to Article
Back to Article

Eastern Europe Trip: A Comprehensive Review

Magnet seniors next to a piece of the Berlin Wall.  Also Caroline Hyde.

Magnet seniors next to a piece of the Berlin Wall. Also Caroline Hyde.

Magnet seniors next to a piece of the Berlin Wall. Also Caroline Hyde.

Magnet seniors next to a piece of the Berlin Wall. Also Caroline Hyde.

This past spring break, 19 students and teachers departed for a 10-day trip throughout Eastern Europe.  Travelers included the revered and fabled Judith Peterson and her granddaughter Lillie; freshmen William Hyatt, Jake DuRegger, and John O’Neill; sophomore Rachel Ackerman; junior Caroline Hyde; seniors Natalie Aversano, Baxter Barrett, Sarah Norman, Lyle Johnson, Sidney Simpson, Juno Scheule, Cannon Yarborough, Caroline Young, Rifah Tasnia, and myself; and teachers Mrs. Lankford, Mr. McCormick, and Dr. Altman.

The group at Brandenburg Gate.

Following an overnight 7-hour flight, the group landed in Berlin at 6 am.  We met our eccentric tour guide, Chris, and our bus driver, Sebastian, who Chris hated with a fiery passion.  Throughout our bus rides, Chris and Sebastian could be heard bickering at the front of the bus in Real Housewives style.  Their arguments always ended with Sebastian ignoring her and blasting heavy metal through the bus’s speakers.  Halfway through the trip, he was mysteriously deposed of in the middle of the night.  The next morning, we woke up and had a new bus driver.  In the words of Baxter Barrett, “Sebastien [he spelled his name wrong, fake fan] had kind rosy cheeks and an even kinder heart.  I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

Image result for fat pigeon

Absolute unit.

Now that the juicy drama has been exposed, on to the trip itinerary itself.  As we drove into the city of Berlin, Chris initiated us with a harsh but realistic “Berlin is not a pretty city.  It’s actually pretty ugly.”  In fact, it was strangely reminiscent of North Charleston.  If North Charleston had a population of 4 million.  Our time in Berlin consisted of visiting the wall, Brandenburg Gate, and Checkpoint Charlie in balmy 40 degree (FAHRENHEIT now that we can finally use it again) weather.  At one point, after being in the freezing cold for a few hours and tormented by the notorious German food, we saw a beautiful Five Guys shining in the distance.  Entering the heavenly gates of the Five Guys was a spiritual experience.  In the words of Natalie Aversano, “Five Guys was the safest meal I ate all week.”

After two days, we departed Berlin to head to Prague in the Czech Republic.  On the way, we stopped in Dresden, which any AP Lang alumni will recognize as the city where the novel Slaughterhouse Five took place.  Our tour guide Chris, known for her bluntness, even said that “the bombing actually wasn’t that bad, it was the fire that killed everyone.”  So that’s an interesting historical tidbit in case you were wondering.  However, the city was very quaint, masterfully rebuilt, and many people’s highlight of the trip.  Dresden also had some particularly fat pigeons which gave the entire town a slightly comedic air.

The beautiful scenery of Prague featuring Tyson in panoramic form.

Prague was reminiscent of a slightly smaller and less watery Venice.  Being the former capital of the Holy Roman Empire, it is the perfect central location to launch a coup over the entirety of Europe, if you’re looking for a way to spend your next spring break.  The group toured various historical monuments including the Old Town Square and Charles Bridge.  The highlight of Prague were the chimney cakes, which are similar to funnel cakes but classier because it’s Europe.  Their reign extended across the entirety of the town, as there were chimney cake bakeries about every 20 feet to ensure that American tourists retained their diet abroad.

Krakow, Poland was our next stop.  All of Poland was obsessed with Pope John Paul II.  Everywhere you turned, there was a statue of him.  He was an omnipresent force reminding you of your sins.  One of my Bishop England friends even asked me if I could bring her back some “JP II merch” from Poland.  There were a variety of beautiful cathedrals scattered throughout the city, including Wawel Cathedral and St. Mary’s Church.  Apparently there are also a variety of severed body parts of saints housed in many of the cathedrals, but the group sadly did not witness any because the freshmen would have cried.  The next day in Krakow, the group took a sobering yet very powerful tour of Auschwitz.

Krakow, Poland at night.

On our way out of Poland, we stopped at one final gas station on the border.  It had a shrine to Pope John Paul II inside, naturally, and a farm outback featuring alpacas and various types of deer.  Our local Circle K needs to step up their game.  We had about a five hour bus ride, after a quick pit stop in Slovakia, that was nearly fatal for the students riding in the back because there was no AC.  But we refused to move to the front because the cool kids sit in the back of the bus.  We spent the ride to Budapest fading in and out of consciousness as our organs slowly shut down due to the heat.  At one point, Caroline Hyde seized up out of her nap, screamed, and immediately fell back into unconsciousness.  And this is how we were ushered into the beautiful city of Budapest.

Europeans really don’t like air conditioning.”

— Caroline Hyde

Natalie Aversano, seducing the entire city of Budapest.

Upon arrival, our tour guide Chris said, rather straightforwardly: “The people of Hungary have the highest suicide rate because no one can understand them.”  In fact, Hungarian is a distinct language of its own that’s not related whatsoever to the Slavic languages surrounding it.  Its closest match would be Finnish.  No wonder.  We took a guided tour throughout the timeless city and had free time to shop in the prestigious center of the town.  Unfortunately for me and Rachel Ackerman, we have no sense of direction and neither does Apple Maps when it comes to the winding streets of Budapest, and we ended up getting lost for about a half-hour.  I was imagining the rest of my life as a Hungarian gypsy by the time we finally made it back to the meeting point.  The group then went to the Budapest baths, which look lovely in pictures but were actually reminiscent of a Charleston County waterpark on July 4th, at least to me.  Not to mention, they don’t even put bacteria-killing chemicals, such as chlorine, in the baths so that the water remains “natural.”  If the entire tour group is dead within the month, you’ll know why.

The amenities on the airplane.

The group left for home on the third day in Budapest.  We had a lovely 11 hour flight on Air Canada, which I was expecting to be pretty upscale, but it didn’t even have those tv screens that are a staple of international flights.  We also had a solid 5 mm of legspace, and I spent the entire flight staring at the fabric of the seat in front of me, which was the most riveting thing available.  We had a layover in Toronto, where I went to Tim Horton’s for the first time and experienced the power of God.  If you’ve never had Tim Horton’s, I strongly suggest taking a day-trip to Canada.  Making it back through American customs, however, was a hassle as they targeted me as the weakest link of the group and proceeded to interrogate me to see if I would crack.  Satisfied that we were indeed a group of teenagers coming home from a school trip and not dead-set on compromising national security, we made it through and flew to our last layover in Newark, New Jersey, which is just off-brand New York cleverly disguised with a different name.  We finally made it back home after about 20 hours of travel.

Ultimately, the Eastern Europe trip extremely interesting and traveling to the region is something I would definitely recommend in the future.  It’s often overlooked in comparison to the flashier Western Europe, but has its own unique Bohemian culture that is equally as captivating.