A temporary home in BerlinLocal educator Jim Hesley spends his summers exploring a historic German city.
By: Amber Kispert-Smith, Woodbury Bulletin
[Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series chronicling some of the more interesting plans local teachers’ have planned for their summer break ]
More often than not, European vacations consist of living out of a suitcase, jet-setting from place to place, sleeping on tour buses and not really being able to enjoy the beauty of their surrounding or the chance to immerse themselves in the culture.
It was these fast-paced tours that inspired Lake Junior High guidance counselor Jim Hesley to book a six-week vacation in Berlin, Germany.
“I’ve been on tours where I’ve needed to get up at 7 a.m., get on the bus, get off the bus, have lunch, get back on the bus again — it just wasn’t relaxing enough and the pace was too fast for me,” Hesley said. “This is totally going to be the opposite, it’s not like a rushed vacation, where you have to go here, rent this, get that, I’m just gonna hang out and see what comes up.”
Hesley will be renting an apartment for six-weeks during his stay, but that is the only official plan he has made so far because he truly wants to do everything on his own timeline.
“The thing that I think is really interesting about the trip is that I’m not making many plans,” he said. “I have a place to stay, I found a cyber café, and that’s about it so far.”
Hesley has visited Berlin previously on a two-week tour through Europe, but spent only two days in Berlin.
This time around, he will be able to visit some of the places he only got a taste of last time.
“I got a pretty good base of what I want to visit again and where I want to hang out in,” he said. “It’s just a nice place to hang out, relax, wander around and experience.”
Hesley said he picked Berlin as his destination of choice because of the history and culture that can be found in just about everything.
“I think Berlin’s really special because you don’t even have to go to a museum because the history is on every street corner — it’s just right there, right in your face,” he said. “But, I’ll probably still do some museum hunting.”
Some of the places that Hesley is most looking forward to visiting are a lot of the World War II sites; such as a Holocaust museum and Auschwitz.
Hesley said he is also excited about learning the transportation system in Berlin because it is so complex and there are so many different ways to get around.
Since Hesley won’t be a part of a tourist group, it is up to him to find his way around, and that is the beauty of the Internet.
“The Internet is just fantastic,” he said. “I’ve sort of already got my bearings and have a grid in my mind.”
In addition to being able to spend more time doing and seeing what he wants, this extended stay will also give Hesley the opportunity to immerse himself in the culture and experience things from a German’s perspective.
Hesley said he is looking forward to being able to talk with his neighbors, people watch and generally just experience the differences between cultures.
Whereas some European countries, such as France, don’t think too highly of tourists and dislike having to resort to speaking English, Berlin is the complete opposite.
“They like talking in English because they want to learn it — they enjoy that experience.”
Where some people would be nervous about traveling alone for such an extended period of time, Hesley is thrilled at the prospect.
“I’ve gone on trips by myself, I’ve gone on trips with other people and they both have their advantages and their disadvantages,” he said. “This is kind of a test to see how it goes, I think it’ll be fine, I’m pretty independent.”
Hesley said if this summer’s trip proves to be a success, he may look into doing it again in another country, but rather than make any plans, he is just going to relax and enjoy the ride.
“Rather than being with a tourist group that is running around all the time, I’m just going to relax and really do some exploring on my own timeline.”