Unfortunately, life during the long break wasn’t all fun and easy…three days after returning from Ireland, I became really ill at about 2:00 AM. And by ill, I mean I was in the most excruciating pain I’d ever experienced, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t move…I didn’t know what was wrong with me. Drew called Jens, who said that we should call a taxi, not an ambulance, because in Germany the ambulances only arrive quickly if someone is bleeding to death or having a heart attack. The taxi was faster. After dragging me outside and into the car, I lied in the back seat, shaking and clutching a plastic bag in case I threw up. I thought it was quite considerate of me. The taxi driver was a big jerk.
“Has she already thrown up?” he asked. “Is she going to?”
And then, after Drew told him to just take us to the hospital and not ask dumb questions, the driver felt the need to comment: “You should have called an ambulance, not me.”

Thanks. Very helpful and kind from a man who was about to earn 20 euros from us. And he took us to the wrong hospital building. Luckily, a nurse quickly got me into a wheelchair and brought me to the emergency room, which was only 50 meters away. It was a good thing that Drew was there, because I pretty much lost my ability to speak any German in the haze of pain and fear. They pumped me up with drugs and did some tests to find that something was wrong with my gallbladder, but nothing so serious that I couldn’t go home after a few hours. I would have to get surgery later. At about 4:30 in the morning, Jens showed up to drive us back.

The experience was quite scary but also very interesting. Unlike a trip to an American ER, everything progressed really smoothly. They simply took me in, asked for my German insurance card, and took care of me. No endless paperwork or filing on the computer or need for identification. No co-pays or billing. The German healthcare system is effective and good.

I’d been looking forward to this 2-month break for a long time, and had also saved up as much money as possible so that I’d be able to spend the time seeing places other than Bremen. My travels continued when I took a solo journey to Munich for 3 days. I’d never really traveled anywhere alone, so this was a big step for me. After a long train ride, I took a tour of the city provided by my hostel. (Below is a photo of Marienplatz).
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It lasted 4 hours and the group was small, so I learned a lot. I also met three guys on the tour and we went out afterwards to further explore the city and eat dinner at a beer hall (an obvious must-do in Munich!). The next day, one of the guys and I went to the former concentration camp of Dachau. I’d already been to Bergen-Belsen, another camp, but that one had been nearly completely destroyed after liberation, whereas Dachau was quite intact. It was very eerie, with harsh winds and snow. The experience was intense but necessary, I think. I didn’t take any pictures…if you want to see what it looks like, use the internet…

Bremen was warm and beautiful when I returned. Flowers were starting to bloom, and spring was definitely coming–finally!

Shortly after my trip to Munich, a large group of us flew to Dublin, Ireland for Saint Patrick’s Day. We walked around, took a tour of the Guinness Brewery, and went to the gorgeous coast in the days before the holiday.
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On St. Paddy’s day, we decked ourselves in green as well as goofy hats and feather boas and spent the day watching the parade, partying in the city streets, and listening to music in pubs. It was a great atmosphere, and there were plenty of real Irish mixed in with all of the tourists. Dublin was great. It helped that the landscape was in full bloom and one could enjoy the outdoors without a jacket! (Below is Drew and I during the festivities).

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The day after we flew back from Vienna, my family arrived in Bremen to visit me. It was quite surreal to watch them get off the train after spending more than 5 months without seeing them at all. But I was incredibly excited to see them, and spent 2 days showing them around this city which was now my home. We then took a train down to Basel, Switzerland, to visit our friends there. All of us went down to Lucerne for one night to witness “Fasnacht,” a festival that is celebrated across Switzerland and Southern Germany. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen before…We woke at 4:00 in the morning to the sounds of people already celebrating. We went outside, where it was very dark and bitterly cold.
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Thousands of people were crammed into the narrow streets, most of them dressed in elaborate and creative costumes. Torches were lit on a barge on the river, which slowly made its way to shore. When it arrived, the festivities truly began. Confetti and music filled the air. The best part were the countless groups of drummers who marched through the alleys in ornate and expensive costumes. There was a group of polar bears, a group of eerie devils with glowing eyes (picture below), witches, vikings, and more fantasy creatures.
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We went into cafes to eat bread and pastries when we got cold, then ventured out again. Day came and there was no pause in the celebration, which continued through the day until the next morning.
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After Switzerland, we flew up to Uppsala, Sweden to visit more friends. There was a lot of snow there, which made me happy since it’s what I am used to. I really liked Sweden. The language was really frustrating, because I could almost read a large part of it (because of its relation to German) but couldn’t quite get the grasp of it in the 3 days we were there. We also visited Stockholm and used traditional ice skates to travel across a massive lake…I think I skated about 7 kilometers. But the skates were strange and I fell a lot and ended up rather bruised.
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I flew back to Bremen before my family left. First I took a train to the middle of nowhere and spent an hour in a deserted town trying to find a taxi to take me to the airport. Then, when I was at the airport, it caught on fire and we all had to leave. Luckily, my flight was delayed. Upon my arrival in Bremen, I forgot that I had a suitcase with me and left the terminal. The grumpy security guard was very unkind and I was lucky to get my luggage back. It was all worth it, though. I’m so thankful that my family came to see me!

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