My passport from 2007 recently expired, so I wanted to take a picture of all the stamps I collected through the years. Between 8th and 11th grade I studied German as my language elective. The summer before my senior year, our class took a month long trip to Europe. Our school had an exchange program with a school in Germany.
We initially flew into Düsseldorf, took a train down into Frankfurt, then a bus to Schneverdingen. For the first two weeks we stayed with a host family and went to school with some of the kids who had visited our small town the year before. While we stayed there, my host family took me up to visit the fish market on the Elbe in Hamburg. I remember how fast we drove on the autobahn compared to here in the US, and yet we were still passed by dozens of cars.
The second half of the trip was a whirlwind of activity. We toured around Berlin for a few days, where we took a bicycle tour of part of the city, as well as visiting some museums and the Berlin Zoo. In Poland we visited the Wieliczka salt mine just outside of Kraków. On the day we visited Auschwitz, the weather turned from blue skies to overcast and rain as soon as we arrived at the gates. After Poland we took an overnight train through Slovakia, and stayed in Budapest, Hungary. Again, we took the train into Austria, where we toured through Vienna and Salzburg before heading back into Germany. There we visited Neuschwanstein Castle and the Olympic Park in Munich. Even though Oktoberfest was three months away, some parts of the city were under construction for the festivities. On the very last day of our trip, the final Harry Potter book was released, and about half of our group picked up the British version to read on the flight home. I read it all in one go, about twelve hours after starting.
I'll never forget the impact the entire trip had on me even if some of the details have faded over the last ten years. In some ways this trip was the birth of my love for adventure and exploration. Soon I'll reapply for another passport, one that I will hopefully collect more than eleven stamps from around the world.