With 10 free days to travel Europe, we embarked on trains, planes, and ferries to get a glimpse into places we had only seen in photos. While there is undeniable knowledge and pride in being a local, the marvel of being a tourist cannot be replicated. Fortunate for my experiences and empathetic to the troubles of travelers, this trip will always exist in my mind in fleeting snapshots.
- My first time staying in a hostel:
- We were pleasantly surprised by the hospitality and modern decor. There were simple bunk beds, lockers, and unfortunately no soap. As odd as it was to sleep in a room with four strangers, it reminded me of college dorms. In all, it was a convenient place to get rest before a day of sightseeing and travel.
- Walking off the metro and immediately seeing the Duomo:
It looked as grand as it did in pictures. There was an equal amount of birds to people who traveled to see the church. With Milan being known for fashion, people were dressed well, posing in front of the scene.
- The Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle:
The extravagance of this mall was undeniable. Each view had a beautiful ceiling to which many onlookers gazed.
- My favorite food:
You can't go wrong with pasta, especially in Italy. This was at an Italian restaurant close to the Duomo. The tops of these containers were graters so you could grate your cheese right on to your dish!
- Rushing for gelato:
Right before we left for the airport, we grabbed some delicious gelato. I got a scoop of stracciatella which tasted like cookies & cream and a scoop of lemon.
- The first meal:
- We went to a Greek restaurant located close to our airbnb. We took the opportunity to indulge in true Greek cuisine and devoured the traditional appetizer, meat platter, and baklava. While we certainly felt out of place as the only Americans in the area, we enjoyed the local meal.
- The graffiti:
- When I thought of Greece, I pictured white walls, vibrant seas, blossoming flowers, and ancient ruins. Athens bears resemblance to a normal city, clad in graffiti. Unfortunately, this part of the city resulted in us moving airbnbs in order to be in a better area with more living space for the six of us.
- The rulers:
The first day we explored the touristy part of Athens, we noticed it was ruled by cats. They roamed all the streets and gained exclusive access to the ruins. Tourists interacted with them and for the most part they were friendly, but other times fought with others of their kind.
- The view of the city:
We walked through the colorful city center to reach this outlook with the flag of Greece. In this direction, you can see Lycabettus Hill.
- Getting lost:
We went through the National Forest and stumbled along many beautiful landscapes while it was sunset. It was a calm stroll in woods that seemed a little out of place in the city. However, it soon became dark and we took a wrong turn home. Fortunately, a Greek stopowner helped us find our way (everyone here was geniunely nice!) and we made it back to the airbnb after a long day of walking.
- Being among the ancient ruins:
Standing where people had for centuries, it was genuinely difficult to comprehend the history written in this place. The ruins were breathtaking, even when covered in scaffolding, and I felt grateful to witness a still of time.
- Trying other Greek delicacies:
While we struck out on our search for hummus, I thoroughly enjoyed tasting some other Greek foods. My favorite was the Tzatziki which is a dip made of yogurt, olive oil, and cucumbers. It had a distinct taste and was served with almost every meal. We went to a famous shop called Lukumades to try Loukoumades, a Greek dessert that consists of a ball of fried dough traditionally covered in honey and cinnamon. They were the right balance of sweet. We also tried Greek coffee which was shockingly strong and satisfied my urge for iced coffee. Finally, the gyro was what I was most excited to try and did not disappoint. A big surprise was how often the meals incorporated french fries!
- The second time at Mars Hill:
This not only shows a great panorama of the city, but is also believed to be where St. Paul famously preached. The rocks were slippery up to the top, but the risk was worth it both times. If I had to pick, this would be my favorite spot in Athens.
- Going to a Greek island:
We took a day trip to Aegina, resulting in one of the best days of my study abroad experience. We explored the town, ate more delicious food, and swam in the sea. The weather was beautiful and the sea and the mountains made the perfect backdrop.
We walked distances across the city from Pest to Buda in order to discover the famous spots. We went to the top of St. Stephen's Basilica, sat at the Hungarian Parliament, and checked out the Fisherman's Bastion.
Our most anticipated event was going to the thermal baths. We went to the Széchenyi Thermal Bath and felt relaxed after the experience. However, we registered that a building full of baths seemed a little odd to us.
- The last meal:
For the last dinner of the trip, we decided to go to a nice Hungarian restaurant. We tried the goulash and had a delicious entrée of chicken in a parmesan sauce and potatoes.
I know I will always remember these snapshots. With that said, travel is more than highlights and there are definitely challenges to each trip. They are all learning experiences and I am thankfully for the opportunity to have them.
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<p>My name is Emma Desjardin and I'm traveling to Nice, France, but my French last name is spelled wrong. Desjardins translates to "of the gardens" but somewhere in the past I lost the "s" and my green thumb. I love language and am excited to write about my experiences. I hope that in my adventures abroad I can find myself and learn a little bit about where that "s'" went.</p>