I was fortunate enough to be able to join a pre-planned trip with some of the awesome Canadians I’ve met who are also doing their exchanges in Utrecht. They’re almost all journalism students: three are from Ryerson (Toronto), one is from Carleton (Ottawa), one is from Concordia (Montreal) and another is doing business at John Molson School of Business at Concordia. We hit up six cities in 18 days.
Here’s the thing about backpacking Europe: it’s exhausting. And stinky. And I really can’t wait to go home to Utrecht. But it’s also been amazingly rewarding. I’ve really loved all the traveling and photo-taking and eating. I love to eat. Food tourism has been one of the highlights of this trip. But here’s what I’ve been up to:
The WWII history nerd in me was going crazy in Berlin. The city is unbelievable, the architecture is incredible and the history behind everything is mind-blowing. The city is largely rebuilt, and the government has taken great care to pay homage to the events of Berlin’s past by erecting memorials. Highlights: East Side Gallery, the Berlin Wall, eating pizza at night while sitting on a bridge.
I was underwhelmed by Prague. I missed the immensity of Berlin and I definitely missed seeing grass all the time. That being said, Prague is too beautiful for words, and even my photos don’t do it justice. The buildings and the river and the palace are all too epic to describe, and another thing to see here is the John Lennon Wall. Highlights: Charles Bridge, crepes at the Old Town Square, Museum of Communism (above McDonald’s).
I wasn’t expecting to like Budapest. I hadn’t ever really thought about visiting here or visiting Hungary at all. Luckily, Kathryn really wanted to go, so the city was added to our list of stops. Budapest is amazingly beautiful. The Danube river takes your breath away, the churches managed to make me excited (and that’s saying something after all the churches I’ve seen recently) and Parliament was amazing. I spent the second day sick with a horrible fever so I missed the Turkish baths, but I heard they were amazing. Highlights: St. Stephen’s Basilica, St. Michael’s, so much grass and so many parks and trees.
This is the only city where we couldn’t find a free walking tour, but since my closest friends in Utrecht who aren’t Canadian are Austrian, we had some of their friends show us around. Because they were University students, it was really cool to see what they thought was important for us to see and what they loved most about Vienna. I thought Vienna was the most beautiful of all the cities so far, impressive architecture but very modern. Highlights: the University and the University library, weiner schnitzel (!!) and the municipal buildings.
Of all the cities, Munich was exactly what I thought it would be. The buildings looked Bavarian, the beer was everywhere and even in the walking tour, the beer was all we talked about. The gothic architecture was beautiful as well, but the Bavarians could not care less… it’s all about the 6 classic breweries here. Highlights: free bread samples at the market, eating a pretzel at Hofbahnhaus (the world’s oldest and most famous beer hall).
Now I’m off to Brussels… we are having a “Treat Yo Self” Easter, wherein we have as much chocolate and as many waffles as is humanly possible between arriving there at 6am on Saturday and going home at 8am on Monday. Waffles? Treat yo self! Chocolate? Treat yo self! H&M? Treat yo self! Escalators? TREAT YO SELF!