You’ve seen some of my favourite pictures from the last post. Today I’ll actually share with you some words and stories.
The itinerary: Toronto – Genova – Milan – Zürich – Luxembourg City – Köln – Amsterdam – Toronto plus a couple of day-trips from Milan to Turin.
The people: my brother and I for the first week plus Lisa and Alex in Genova, and then solo afterwards only to join forces with L&A again in Köln.
The cost: I’d say around $1,700, all in. Ground travel in Europe is CHEAP and very efficient, guys!
Favourite Christmas Markets: Chrëschtmaart at the Plëss in Luxembourg and Neumarkt in Cologne.
Number of Gluhwein consumed: ~7 cups, which average to basically 1 cup a day in cities where Christmas Markets are the norm.
I loved: Farinata in Genova, Taccas in Milano, Rösti in Zurich, Spaetzle in Luxembourg, Kolsch in Köln, and vino tinto in Amsterdam (Yes, I was having the blues for so I went to a Spanish bar in Amsterdam of all places).
Genova. L&A hosted us and planned our itinerary for the two days we were in Genova. We climbed a mountain, ate delicious foods (bruschetta and spritz!), braved the cold coastal winds, and had all kinds of good and true conversations. If you ever need to see what genuine friendship is like, this is it.
Il Duomo. I’ve been to Milan before, so I thought it wouldn’t wow me as much. Boy, I was so wrong. I was still overcome with awe and wonder as soon as I came up from the Metro. It’s a truly stunning cathedral!
Luxembourg City. During my research, Luxembourg presented itself as a very historical city with lots of museums and the chance to see the casemates, none of which interested me. So, I showed up with very low expectations only to be blown away by everything.
All the sunsets. We saw some pretty spectacular sunsets on this trip, starting from the golden sky in Boccadasse, a small fishing village next to Genova, the rosy pink sky seen from the top of Il Duomo in Milan, and the bright yellow setting sun against the skyline of Köln.
Kölner Dom and December 8th Mass. As Catholics, we celebrate significant feast days throughout the year other than Christmas and Easter. One of these Feast Days occur on December 8th and is known as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. When I was planning the trip, I had no idea when or where I would be on December 8th. It only registered to me when I finished attending Mass the night before in the Kölner-Dom and was told there would be a big celebration the next evening. So, I cleared my evening schedule and made sure I’m back in the cathedral for 6:30 PM. The result? I attended one of the most beautifully celebrated Mass ever, complete with the full organ, a choir, a long row of priests, deacons, and seminarians as well as the bishops and Cardinals. I understood none of the homily but that was the first time I understood what “beauty that moved you to tears” meant.
All the train rides. I loved every single one of them. There is nothing more romantic than sitting by the window watching the world go by. I passed by Lake Como from Milan to Zurich and saw snowy mountain top villages and white evergreens from Luxembourg to Cologne.
Feeling jaded. Is there such thing as too much travel? I wasn’t as excited to go on this trip as I should have been. I felt like I have seen it all and nothing more could impress me. I know. Cry me a river and call me spoiled. But honestly, I am sad that I’m feeling this way. Travel has always been the one thing in my life that is constantly exciting. It’s an inexhaustible well for me and I hope it continues to be one.
Lonely in Zurich. My itinerary was set up such that I was with my friends and brothers for the first 5 days, then I ventured out on my own before Lisa and Alex rejoined me again in Köln. My brother flew home after 1 week because he didn’t have any more vacation days. Frankly, it was a good mix of solo and group travels. But I felt SO alone on my first day in Zürich. It was like I had forgotten how to be on my own again. As a result, I couldn’t enjoy myself as much as I should have. I was being a grouch yet I was in friggin’ Zürich for crying out loud! I can hear Jeff scowling in the background. I’m not a spoiled brat, I can assure you of that, but I think the challenges of solo travel need to be exposed more.
The bus ride from Zürich to Luxembourg City. It was too hot, very nauseating, and generally uncomfortable. Please stop me next time I enthusiastically tell you that I’ll be taking a long-haul bus as a mode of transportation. I think I’ll stick to trains from now on.
Bringing the wrong camera charger. Yea, rookie traveler mistake. I brought the charger for my old Olympus camera which did me no good since I brought my DSLR on this trip. The battery gave out 4 days before I was to fly home, which was a pretty good run, I suppose. Still, I would have liked to have my DSLR for the entire duration of my trip.
Not being able to use my credit card in Köln. I didn’t know this but supposedly Köln isn’t one of those cities where credit cards are widely accepted. I find this shocking because it’s Germany! I fully intended to pay for every single one of my purchase with credit card. Anyways, I had to resort to cash, which I didn’t bring a lot of and got quite stressed out because I thought I would run out of money while on the road (which is basically my WORST nightmare)! Thank goodness Lisa and Alex were there to spot me.
My conclusion to these posts is always the same: Gratefulness. I’m going to repeat myself again because I think there is never enough emphasis placed on being grateful. I’m thankful that I am able to do this, that I have the means, the resources, and the courage to pick up and go. I’m thankful for my work that provides my income and gives approval every time I ask for a time off. I’m thankful for my travel buddies, especially Iben, Lisa, and Alex on this trip. Most importantly, I’m thankful to God for this life I’m living. Cheers!