Thursday, October 29, 2009

Backpacking through Europe- Part 1

After graduating college, I decided to embark on a self-planned journey around Europe carrying nothing but a backpack. I’ve always wanted to go on a serious traveling trip, seeing and learning everything about a city as possible instead of simply vacationing.

So I visited 13 cities in 21 days. Every city had so much to offer and was so special in its unique way.

I got to experience the charm of Ireland first. Dublin is full of tradition and culture. With classic places like Trinity College and Kilmainham Prison to visit, it’s impossible not to learn about Dublin’s present and powerful past. Kilmainham Prison is a jail rich with stories of rebellions from Irish prisoners of the past. Walking through the prison was such an experience since the eerie ambiance the prison possessed gave me chills.

Cork, Ireland was my next stop. It is a quaint city that is much less metropolitan than Dublin. Right outside Cork is Blarney Castle. Blarney Castle is a must-see since I felt like I was entering a fairy-tale visiting it. The castle grounds have the richest greens and plant life you could find with secret spots to explore. Visiting the castle was truly an adventure. The massive castle with steep and narrow steps to the top was breathtaking. I kissed the Blarney stone and learned the difference between “blarney” and “baloney.” There is a plethora of things to do and Ireland is eager to share its traditions with you.

The next stop was London. London is a metropolis focused around British royalty. It has a unique flair that no other city possesses. Westminster, London Tower and Buckingham Palace are a few of the timeless places to visit. London Tower was historically set up with a trebuchet and other British artillery. The atmosphere provided a sense of the past, while the city itself was extremely sophisticated.

Amsterdam is such a quaint city, rich with historic tales of merchants and business deals. As a city that was built on trade and commerce, there are picturesque canals and cobblestone streets everywhere. Seeing the churches and religious establishments like Oude Kerk and Begjinhof made the history of Protestants and Catholics in Amsterdam fascinating to learn about. Another interestingfact about Amsterdam is that people bike everywhere. Bicycles have the right of way over pedestrians, trains and cars.

Paris was beautiful. The gardens were lustrous and the fruit, cheese and wine were divine. Of course, nothing compared to the art. Paris is full of art and culture. Visiting the Louvre and the Musee D’Orsay are musts. I had one of the most amazing times experiencing the edifying Louvre. The Louvre has a range from ancient to modern art and showcases the traditional, classic art that was welcomed and embraced during the Impressionist period. The Musee D’Orsay showcases the “rejects” of the Impressionist time, who are those we regard as geniuses today. Artists such as Monet, Manet and Courbet are a few who are featured in the Musee D’Orsay. Obviously the Eiffel Tower and Arc Triomph are stunning staples in Paris’ culture as well and must be seen in person.

Barcelona was simply wonderful. It was my favorite city through out the whole trip to visit. The Mediterranean Ocean was gorgeous, the beaches were relaxing and the people were so friendly. The city is an optimum city in Europe to visit because it embraces the best-rounded things to do and see. The people of Barcelona gleamed with nationalism and pride for their city and country. They celebrated life and simply enjoyed living. While walking back from the beach, I passed a huge fountain with fluorescent lights and Spanish music playing. There were street performers and crowds of people gathered around. Everyone came together to celebrate Barcelona culture. It was a remarkable experience to witness the sense of community Barcelona had.

By: Laura Schneebacher

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