During this blog post we are going to flashback to the time when Kiera and I, “backpacked” through Germany and Amsterdam, and got the experience of a lifetime. Now I say backpack, because while we didn’t only have our backpacks, we also each had a small carry-on. We originally started in Frankfurt, Germany, just to meet up, and then we went straight to Amsterdam. After Amsterdam, we visited Dusseldorf, Germany; Cologne, Germany and ended in Frankfurt, Germany. This all came to fruition, because Kiera was living in Germany for a fellowship, at the time, and I, of course, thought it’d be a good time to visit her. We were originally just going to go to stay in Frankfurt, but due to some miscommunication, our plans changed for the better.
This journey starts in NYC, as I am on my way to take flight and meet Kiera in Germany. Now, this is my very first time in Germany and if there’s one thing I know about Germany, it’s the Holocaust and having that as an impression of Germany as a black woman, even though it happened years ago, made me nervous about my journey. You don’t know how people are going to react to you, but I didn’t let that bother me, because it was my very first time in Germany. I had an overnight flight, so by the time I reached Frankfurt, it was morning time. Kiera was waiting for me within the airport and from there, we went straight to Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof (Frankfurt Main Station). If you’ve used the German railway system then you know how easy and affordable it is to move through Germany, as well as the EU, without breaking your back or selling your soul. And so we began our backpack journey.
When we first reached Amsterdam, it was still early and our hotel was right near the train station, so the trek from train station to hotel was literally like a 5-10 minute walk. Personally, Amsterdam is one of my favorite locations to visit for the sole fact that the vibe you get there is just one of a kind. It’s a very tolerant city, and as a result it has a lot of attractions you won’t typically find elsewhere and is taboo in other destinations. For example: the oldest church in Amsterdam is within the red light district, with those red windows right across from it. In my opinion, the uniqueness is what attracts so many different people from so many different places. However, aside from the tolerance you get when visiting Amsterdam, the architecture is just memorizing. So many unique buildings, canals, walkways and paths. For an architecture lover, Amsterdam is absolute heaven. There are several opportunities to take in the views of the city, whether it be by walking, biking or/and taking a canal tour. We choose to explore the city with the help of the 48h Amsterdam city card, which was definitely convenient. We ended up at the Heineken Experience, which was a perfect opportunity to learn how Heineken is made and have a few drinks. After that we took a canal tour around Amsterdam, which I think is a must-do while in Amsterdam, especially on a nice day. We pretty much walked around, tried different foods, took pictures, visited coffee shops and took in Amsterdam. Another very cool thing about Amsterdam, is that it has such a unique history, which can be witnessed through the city as a whole. And one place where you’d get a taste of that history and is a must visit, is the Anne Frank House. I suggest booking beforehand, because the line is usually wrapped around the corner, but it is without a doubt worth the experience. We didn’t get to go this trip, but I went 3 years prior, when I studied abroad. That’s just one of the many dope things about Amsterdam.
NOW, lemme tell yall about Amsterdam’s party life. When Kiera and I were in Amsterdam we signed up to do a pub crawl. It was THE BEST DECISION we ever made. So basically we bought the ticket off of Expedia and it offered you entry to all the venues plus free shots on entry. It came out to $44 for two people, so it wasn’t bad. We meet everyone at the Players Bar and went from there. To be honest, that whole night was somewhat of a blur, because everyone in our group was drunk. I remember meeting tons of new people, having a great time, not feeling unsafe and genuinely happy. We walked as a group to all the venues, everyone we met was friendly and down to party, there was no bad vibes and it was just a great time. When the night was winding down, we ended up leaving the party a bit early, which I think we regretted once we left. We were trying to find another spot to go to, since the one we left was our last spot. Unfortunately, pretty much everything was closing or closed, so we just walked back to our hotel. And I’ll say this again, even though it was late night, I didn’t feel unsafe walking back, especially as two ladies. But that’s not to say let your guard down and not be cautious. Lastly, if going to a pub crawl isn’t your thing, there are also plenty of chill spots, bars, lounges, coffeeshops, where you can just be and enjoy yourself. Amsterdam is definitely a place to visit.
After 2 days, several drinks, several new friends, and a lot of great vibes, Amsterdam had come to an end. We were heading back to the train station to hop on the train and head to Dusseldorf, Germany. Aside from landing in Frankfurt, this was my very first time in Germany, so I didn’t know what to expect honestly. I figured people would look at me crazy, because we were black women in Germany. Or not even interact with us at all. When we got to Dusseldorf, we immediately went to our hotel to settled down and put our bags away, so we could start exploring. We stayed near Konigsallee, because it was a popular area in Dusseldorf. You could tell Dusseldorf is a city of people who like luxurious things, takes care of their appearance and has the best of the best. While walking, every second we’d see a luxury car driving past or just parked on the street. Konigsallee, a boulevard in Dusseldorf, known for its canal and stops, is where you see this luxury on display. It’s equivalent to New York City’s Fifth Avenue. As soon as we started walking along Konigsallee, I’d get memories of being in New York walking along Fifth Ave. The streets were lined with shops like Cartier, Burberry, Gucci, etc. To go along with this luxury, was probably some of the best looking people, Kiera and I noticed on this trip. Young or old, it just seemed like everyone in Dusseldorf, or atleast walking along Konigsallee, were simply attractive and well dressed. At first we thought it was just us, but the more we walked the more good looking people we seen. And we certainly weren’t mad at it.
After our walk along Konigsallee, we decided to just walk and see where we’d end up. Our walk took us to the River Rhine Promenade. It was a little cold out, but it was nice walking along the promenade. As far as I can remember, there were a few bars and restaurants along the promenade, where you could sit and enjoy the scenery. We ended up at a restaurant that had heating and blankets for it’s patrons and plenty of beer. I must say, the beer in Germany is THE BOMB and they take that foam to drink ratio, as well as size, very serious. All of my beer glasses were probably as big as my head, and it always came from the tap, not like the excuse for beer we have in the States. After guzzling down as many beers as we could, we decided to take the bus to Rheinturm, which is a telecommunications tower, that has a restaurant and observation deck at the top. At 240.5 metres tall, Rheinturm is the tallest building in Dusseldorf. The restaurant is 172.5 meters in the air, and that’s where we had chosen to eat. Did I forget to mention that it’s a revolving restaurant, on top of that. Aside from being afraid of heights, I had fun at Rheinturm. I had a very good margherita pizza, a few or maybe a lot of drinks, and made friend with our bartenders. We even took pictures laying against the slanted glass inside the restaurant. So basically you’re looking down to street level at 172.5 meters in the air. But it was an experience. With only one day spent in Dusseldorf, I think we tackled it decently. Before arriving to Dusseldorf, I, of course, had no idea what would be expected, but I was certainly pleased with what I got. As a black woman, being in Dusseldorf, honestly didn’t make me feel uncomfortable or out of place. There were far more stares in Dusseldorf, than in Amsterdam, but it wasn’t something that made me not want to return. Like we mentioned in The Stare piece, I believe most of the stares were out of curiosity rather than blatant racism, although some may have been, but I’m sure there were several people wondering what these two unapologetically black girls with braids and faux locs, were doing there. But we were there and we were living life!
Day 4 and we were headed to Cologne, Germany better known as Koln, Germany. This trip took under 30 minutes and I believe it was no more than $20, but I can’t 100% remember the price. In my opinion, Cologne was just different from Dusseldorf. It wasn’t as luxurious and didn’t have the modern upper class vibe I got from Dusseldorf. It was more historic in appearance, with beautiful architecture and it was apparent that they cherished the old. Our hotel, again, was literally right across the street from the train station, as well as the Koln Cathedral. When we arrived in our hotel, the first thing we noticed was that the hotel vending machine was stocked with alcoholic drinks. This is unheard of in NYC, at least to me. However, after being memorized by our alcohol filled vending machine we decided to tour the Cologne Cathedral. The Koln Cathedral was without a doubt one of the highlights of the trip. It was just perfection and beauty inside and out and I’d recommend it to anyone visiting Cologne. I wish I could describe it more, but my words won’t do it justice, it’s something you have to see in person. A good thing about our locations, at least for us, was that fact that it was a tourist location, so they had a lot of shops with little souvenirs, trinkets and plenty of tourist things to do even if it was just walking around taking in the sights. The one souvenir shop we stopped in was just amazing, there were so many handmade intricate souvenirs that were authentic to Cologne. In a way, the souvenirs strongly resembled the architecture of the city and the overall historic vibe you get from being there. For the most part, we explored the surrounding area of the Cologne Cathedral and had lunch at this amazing steak restaurant. For our night time kicks, we stayed in at our hotel bar, since we weren’t sure if there was anything going on. All in all, Cologne was a good stop. Not as eventful as Amsterdam or Dusseldorf, but definitely worth a visit.
We were on another train heading to another city. Back to Frankfurt we were! I’m quite shameful of our stay in Frankfurt, because we were so tired and out of it, we didn’t do nearly the amount of things we were suppose to. We left Cologne early in the morning and once we arrived to our hotel room, which was, again, right across the street from the train station, we immediately laid in bed. Around evening ish, we started to get hungry and ate at this small restaurant near our hotel. Frankfurt is where we got THE MOST STARES EVER. Aside from us being black women, we were black women without an African accent. It seemed that most black people Germans encountered had just emigrated from Africa. So upon meeting, Kiera and I, who spoke broken NYC/VA English, they were surprised. The stares weren’t outrageous or made me uncomfortable, you pretty much just feel eyes on you at all times. It was more noticeably and aggressive, coming from the man on the street in that area. And I say that area, because apparently we were in Frankfurt’s “red light district”. You wouldn’t even notice until it was night and all the red signs lit up, directing you where to go. But it seemed the men in this neighborhood, upon seeing us, thought we’d be interested in them or were working gals. Not to frightened anyone, because it wasn’t like they were in our face, being aggressive, it was more so loud catcalling. So just beware, if you are staying near Frankfurt hauptbahnhof, it’s kinda a little “red light district” for Frankfurt lol.
Our last day in Frankfurt was much better, because we were able to explore more, since a street fair was going on. We ended up walking down to the street fair to enjoy some curry bratwurst. Bratwurst, which is basically German sausage, is served several different ways. We had curry bratwurst with a side of ketchup and it was delicious. After visiting the street fair, we decided to explore the neighborhood. We ended up in one of their lush bakeries, a sex store and a couple little stores in the area. Kiera had a friend out there, luckily, so we decided to meet up later that night and go out to a bar. While out, we made friends with this guy who had just moved to Frankfurt. Upon meeting us, he automatically assumed we were African, but was surprised when we told him where we were from. If you remember in “The Stares” article, I encountered a guy who had so many misconceptions about black women, this was him. He said the only black women he knew or seen, were always African, so he’d say things that were a bit stereotypical or out there and Kiera and I would have to educate him on certain things. But the good thing is that he was receptive to what we were saying, so it made the conversation that much more interesting. All in all, it was a good night and we hung out with some really great people.
Overall, this was one of the best trips I’ve been on, because I got to take in 4 different cities, with 4 different vibes all in a week. Being my first time in Germany, I’m so glad we chose to explore here, because it isn’t always a popular destination amongst travelers. And if it wasn’t for Kiera living there, it probably wouldn’t have come up so soon. With its history, some black travelers may be deterred from going there, but I say, Germany is a must visit. Just look at Kiera’s post on the reasons she loved living in Germany. Between the good food, endless scenery and beautiful castles, it’s worth the visit. Before traveling, I knew we’d love Amsterdam, but Germany definitely opened my eyes, and I’m counting down the days till I’m back. Hopefully for OktoberFest 2019 for the endless beers. However, If I learned anything, I probably wouldn’t have taken a suitcase on this backpack trip, because there were times when the suitcase was such an inconvenience. But it wasn’t anything that ruined the trip. Another thing was how convenient the German rail system is, or at-least the EU rail system. Travel between each destination was seamless and affordable, and it was only made better by the fact that we were able to find close hotels in each locations. And all of hotels were up to standard, although I will say Europeans do look smoking rooms. For the minute, I stepped off the plane in Frankfurt, to the minute it was time to return to the States, I had the, absolute, time of my life.