As a winner of our 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship, Amanda traveled to Europe to write about its history, festivals and individual cultures.
The towering concrete Berlin wall is painted with colorful murals, it’s significance overpowering; a reminder of the past, and hope for the future. Although somewhat desolate, love declarations scribbled hurriedly fill the empty spaces in each section, while love locks, keys discarded in the river nearby, sit locked in defiance of the past. Young tourists take selfies in front of the wall, in spite of its past. There seems to be a reoccurring theme in Berlin: rebirth.
I spent the first part of my day in Florence walking from my hostel (which served the best full breakfast if I ever did see one), to the Piazza del Duomo, to the Uffizi Gallery, to the Ponte Vecchio, and finally, to the Palazzo Pitti. I was voracious by that point, and it had started to rain, so I ducked into a little Trattoria about a quarter mile from Palazza Pitti, called Trattoria la Mangiatoia, for lunch. Before I can say anything, a waitress quickly ushers me upstairs, and I notice I am alone. Fluorescent lighting, classic Italian decorations, and a gelato bar greet me as I take the table nearest to the to the kitchen. The chef is humming along to the Italian music on the radio.
I had about seven hours before I had to be up. I had ten hours left on my bike rental. It wasn’t really a hard decision when you looked at those facts. Stocked with some trail mix and water, I headed out into the night, just as everyone was heading in. At first, I didn’t have a plan. I just went from street to street, with only a general idea of where I was. Copenhagen is pretty massive, but you can cover a lot of mileage on a bike. I kept that in mind as tall buildings gave way to houses. I passed under some sort of expressway, and before I knew it, I was back in the center of town. Hours were spent this way, going from one thing to the next, not knowing. And I loved not knowing. As I rode longer and longer, it transitioned from night to morning. I don’t know when the transition occurred, exactly, but pretty soon, I started to see lights turning on inside of apartments. Cars met me at intersections, and just as I realized it was almost time to leave for the airport, my hostel coincidentally stood not 200 feet away, beckoning me to come inside for a quick shower and pack-up. I obliged, and pretty soon, I was on my way home, flying above the clouds, with not even one wink of sleep from the night before. I’d reluctantly turned in my bike, which had ridden who knows how many miles in the last 48 hours: 50? 100? But I was filled with gratitude, because my last night in Europe just so happened to be my favorite night.