36 days.

Hello world. 

I am immeasurably excited to be writing my first ever Cultural Routes blog. I could not be more grateful for the fact that this summer I will be traveling across Europe with 15 incredible individuals, some whom I am very close to, and others who I cannot wait to grow close to. 

My grandparents in Northern Italy

Traveling abroad to Europe has been a dream of mine for years. My grandparents traveled all over Europe after their retirement and as a child, I would spend hours looking through their scrapbooks to see the beautiful photos they took, people they met, and places they saw. I watched the Sound of Music every single day for a month straight as a kid (literally). The movie is important to me for two reasons – I swear it’s the reason I am a musician, but the story of the von Trapp family also inspired me to place seeing the Swiss Alps at the top of my bucket list. I will get to see Interlaken (a quaint mountain town nestled in the Swiss Alps) this summer, and merely thinking about it makes me want to scream.

Fraulein Maria in the Swiss Alps

Nevertheless, I am HYPE. I am fired up. I am all in – for all of these reasons above, but to be quite frank, I feel like there’s an infinite number of reasons I am thrilled to go on Cultural Routes. I am excited to be in places I have never been before; I am excited to absorb the rich history and culture of things we see; I am excited to live in the moment; I am excited to not worry about itineraries and simply LET GO and LET IT HAPPEN; I am excited for adventure; I am excited for growth; I am excited for vulnerability; I am excited to learn. I am a “planner” kind of person; I view CR as an opportunity to let go of my need to control everything in my life and simply let things be. In fact, this was some of the biggest advice I received from a previous CR traveler – “Let it be.”

Above all else, I am ecstatic to do all of these things alongside 15 other people. I cannot wait for sweet relationships to form and stories to be told and memories to be made. How incredible is it that I will get to share the experience of CR with such awesome people. I still can’t even believe it!

For my first blog post, I was asked to write about Interlaken, Switzerland – which also happens to be one of the places I am most excited to see (as an avid hiker and nature lover). Don’t get me wrong – I am looking forward to every single location we will see during CR, each for unique, different reasons. However, this girl really loves her mountains.

Interlaken is located in the Bernese Alps between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, both fed by the River Aare. “Interlaken” literally means between lakes, and has a population of 5,592. Filled with European style buildings, friendly people, stunning mountains, and many opportunities for adventure, Interlaken is nothing short of magical! The charming town’s beginning takes place a very long time ago. Interlaken started as a Montessori settlement in 1133. Interlaken’s history is relatively uneventful, but in the 1800s the town made its mark on the tourism map because of Unspunnenfest, a celebratory festival of Swiss culture that drew in travelers from near and far. Unspunnenfest still takes place every year in August!

I spoke to a few individuals who attended CR in previous years about Interlaken, and it was commonly described as a huge “exhale.” Before we visit Interlaken, CR will visit Berlin and Munich, two cities rich in culture and history. I cannot wait to “inhale” all of it.

While Interlaken is still rich in history, it has been said that its natural beauty provides a mental break from the dark history we will study in earlier parts of the trip. A CR9er told me that the moment he stepped off of the train, it was “good vibes all around.” I know there is something special, refreshing, and settling about mountain air, and I look forward to breathing it all in. I’ve also been told that the time spent in Interlaken is a time of bonding in the CR group. It provides a chance to reflect on Germany and be present together in Switzerland.

This stop on the trip is also famous for its many adventure sports – skydiving, paragliding, hiking, and canyoning (to name a few). I hear we will have the chance to partake in many of these sports. The thought of jumping out of a plane is equally exhilarating and terrifying.

But after all, aren’t the best things in life described in the same way?

36 days, folks. Let’s do this.

Yours truly,

Madelyn

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