Not sure how interested you are in my traveling life. But I recently visited the Spreewald area of Germany, to the East and got to really see what it was like to travel alone. Obviously draw your own conclusions, but one of mine is that traveling alone is something that everyone should do once, twice, even three times in their lives.
Trust me. It’s entirely worth it.
My first thought in coming in Spreewald was: Thank god for Pension Petrick. The woman who welcomed me to her pension, as the first American ever, showed me the whole house without a trace of doubt that I was a danger to her family (not that I was). Not only that, but tutted at me as a mother does a child, and told me she would have picked me up at the train station had I told her I was arriving.
But even after an eventful first night of travel-stress including a 2km walk in the dark, I slept the rest of evening with a book and a comforting cup of tea. (There’s nothing better than that combination)
After a lovely German breakfast, followed by an even lovelier brisk morning walk to the Altstadt – I did what I do best: wandering. So it wasn’t too long before I caught the scent of a lovely Market. Plenty of cucumbers and pickles, the specialty of this small town.
But I can certainly say the highlight of my day was meeting the cat. A skinny tomcat, he was sitting quietly on top of a bench that I also sat down on to rearrange my things. He gave me one look, and after regarding me carefully for a moment – walked over and sat on my lap – clawed. Admittedly, the claws might have been unpleasant, but the friendliness was as surprising as it was welcoming, so much so that I remained with the cat for another half hour – alternating between petting and simply sitting.
I did spend, I suppose, the majority of my time that day otherwise – at the museum. It had a lot more than just history – and for that I was glad. Not only was there inscriptions about clothing styles of the past, there was also a point to talk about the transportation service and how it had changed over the years. Even going so far as to have an original piece of the first railcar stashed among their exhibitions. Quite the show. Let me say also, it was entirely in German, at least I got to practice a bit!
It was about noon, and I retired to a café. Small, it nestled in the corner of an old side street, and after seeing that a coffee was only 1.50, I almost ran inside. Not to mention, who says no to cake? (Hausgemacht Kuchen…)
Completely out of the blue – I decided I wanted to take a Kahnfahren, well, not completely out of the blue – but call an impulse motivated by longing what you would. If you are ever in Spreewald, a trip isn’t complete without taking a trip and proceed to understand about 40% (give or take) of the German he’s racing to speak.
Reference Point: No idea the translation of Kahnfahren in English – but it’s sort of a long canal boat, but country-esque with tables and blankets for when it’s a bit cold.
Befriending some other passengers, I learned, somehow travelers alone attract concern and worry from family types… especially if you’re a girl. Oh well. Probably should have something here about safety and common sense – but who’s bothering with that sort of stuff nowadays. (Joking, do NOT take that literally)
Furthermore I proceed to eat, talk and subsequently befriend a pair of Germans who are from the outskirts of Berlin. And then the same Germans so kindly offered to drive me to the Main train station of Lübbenau, which I took up rather pleasantly. Who misses the opportunity to make friends with strangers after all? Especially when you find out there’s also a mysterious step mother, and she’s goes by the name of “Schwiegermutter”.
As things go, my experience in Spreewald was eyeopening. Not just because I found history, cheap coffee and new friends, but because I found I can, in fact, survive alone. I don’t need to be with my friends to travel and I certainly don’t need help. It’s certainly a different kind of traveling, but it’s one that I really find to be better. To be alone and to travel takes a degree of self-awareness that you have to take care of yourself. There’s no one else and if you get lost, you’re the person who will have to get yourself un-lost. And it’s when you are that alone, that the best parts of traveling occur.