Colin Crilly | Paris, France & Munich, Germany | Post 1

Colin Crilly | Paris, France & Munich, Germany | Post 1


Hi, everyone!

My name is Colin Crilly and I’m a junior Biology major (with a possible Political Science correlate). This semester, I’ll be studying at University College London. It’s kind of like Vassar College…except that it’s the complete opposite of Vassar College—large, public, in the middle of a bustling metropolis, and without a fire-spinning circus group on campus (not officially, anyway).

Interestingly enough, UCL works on a trimester system, which means that classes don’t start for another week. But instead of spending September at home in California, I decided to use my summer stipend money to take an eleven–day trip through Paris, Munich, Cologne, and Hamburg before heading to London.


I’m actually still in the middle of my trip, currently writing this post in a small hostel in Köln surrounded by snoring tourists. But after exploring Paris and Munich mostly on my own, I already feel that I’ve experienced more in the last six days than I have in the past year.

To begin with, I’ve lived on both sides of the hostel spectrum in terms of quality. The first hostel I stayed at was in Paris, called St. Christopher’s Inn, located next to a major train station, and only ten minutes away from most Parisian landmarks. I opted to stay in a more expensive hostel because most others provided no wifi and an increased risk of both bed bugs and mice. The rooms at St. Christopher’s were clean, the hostel had its own café and bar, and almost all of the residents I met were college students taking a couple of weeks to explore Europe.


Quite different from St. Christopher’s, the hostel I stayed in Munich—titled The Tent—was literally just a tent.


Combine 100 mattresses, some lockers, and a few mediocre decorations, and bam! You have the cheapest hostel in Munich.5

Obviously, such a basic living situation wouldn’t appeal to a lot of potential travelers. I’ll admit that by day three, I was pretty sick of the flimsy mattresses, lack of heating, and random alarms that would start sounding at about 6:00 a.m. But in terms of social experience, I actually much preferred The Tent to St. Christopher’s. Every night, there was a group of talkative tent-dwellers crowded around a campfire, each with unique backgrounds and stories. There were the typical traveling college students, but there was also one girl from Galveston, Texas who had married at sixteen, moved to Mexico City, divorced her husband five months later due to domestic abuse, and saved up her money for four years with her new boyfriend so that they could explore Europe and eventually live in Thailand for as long as they possibly could. It was really moving to see how liberating international travel could be for people. Between the two hostel extremes, I would say that St. Christopher’s was much more comfortable, but The Tent was much more memorable.

I also explored two historic and striking European cities. Since I only had a few days to visit each city, I planned my trip as extensively as possible. Walking around with a copy of Rick Steves’ Paris may have been the most touristy thing that I’ve ever done, but it also meant that in one day I saw Notre Dame…


…a memorial for French citizens killed during the Holocaust…


…the prison that housed those awaiting the guillotine during the French Revolution…


…the Mona Lisa at the Louvre…


…(along with some strange, mildly uncomfortable Italian paintings)…



…Napoleon’s Tomb…


…and the Eiffel Tower…


…all before dinner. Granted, after dinner my nine-hour sleeping deficit finally caught up with me and I completely passed out. The point is, though, that with only three days in a major city and a bare-bones budget, planning ahead was very valuable.

While seeing the cities themselves has been incredible, I’ve also visited sites just outside the metropoli. Doing so was surprisingly easy since the public transit system in Europe is both cheap and extensive.

From Paris, I took a train to Versailles, where I visited King Louis XIV’s extravagant palace and garden. My favorite part of the palace was the outdoor area designed by Marie Antoinette, which was stunning, serene, and showcasing of how incredibly out of touch with reality she was.


Above, you can see one of numerous quaint, faux-peasant houses that Marie Antoinette had built in her “backyard” so that she could experience the romantic life of a village commoner herself…without actually doing any work. She mostly just wore white clothing and watched her servants toil in a delusional dream-slum.

I was far more impacted by the trip I took to Munich, during which I visited the first Nazi concentration camp in Dachau. After reading literature about the Holocaust, discussing it in numerous classes, and even meeting a survivor of Dachau, it felt unreal to walk in the bunkers and barracks that entrapped the victims. To stand in the middle of a gas chamber and then proceed to the crematorium was mind-numbing; anyone even remotely interested in the Holocaust should experience this chilling sight at least once, if possible.


Though careful planning definitely benefitted me, I developed some of my favorite memories of this trip by straying from my strict schedule. One Parisian afternoon, I was walking to the Pompidou museum with a friend of mine when we saw a building across the street with this unique facade:


We decided to go look inside and ended up spending an hour exploring the 59 Rivoli Aftersquat, a six-story set of art studios used as a workspace as well as a display of amazing artwork by the residents themselves. I honestly enjoyed some of the artwork there more than what I saw at the Pompidou.



Finally, I have learned what it is like to travel both alone and with a friend. Although I enjoyed traveling on my own and exploring different sights at my own pace, having a companion meant having a support system when I was trying to order a sandwich in French. It is also much less uncomfortable to eat in a restaurant or drink a half-litre of the local brew at a beer garden with a friend than alone. Best of all, I didn’t have to resort to selfies to take pictures of myself in Germany…


…like so.

In my next post: Cologne, Hamburg, and then actually going to school!

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