Hello all! It feels like it has been ages since my last post. You may be wondering why? First off, I was in Florida for a week. I came back for 10 days, then I embarked on the most amazing vacation of my life. My brother and I, along with 38 others from our group, traveled across Europe: 9 countries in 21 days. Holy crap. I can't even begin to explain how AMAZING this vacation was. I literally saw anything and everything. Starting off with historical stuff, I walked by the Anne Frank Haus in Amsterdam, visited Dachau in Germany, and saw actual bullet holes sprayed on buildings in Berlin from the 1940s. My inner history nerd was satisfied beyond measures. Everything was tangible and immersive. I was touching history. But, enough about History, let's talk about food. Surprisingly, I didn't gain any weight or get kidnapped (yes, this is what people predicted). I probably lost all of my muscle mass from eating carbs 3 times a day and gelato (sometimes twice a day), but it's vacation. Isn't the motto to come back poor and fat? I could go on and on and on and on.....literally....about my travels, but I will narrow it down. Plus, there's too much to talk about anyways! Enjoy.
I know that many of you have misconceptions about group tours, but I would 10/10 recommend Contiki. Our group consisted of brothers and sisters, boyfriends and girlfriends, husbands and wives and people who simply wanted to travel alone. Each and every single individual on this tour was pleasant, friendly and adventurous. To top it off, people were from all over the world, Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Slovakia and Great Britain. How amazing! We spent hours on the bus at times, but we also spent hours walking around cities, immersing ourselves in the cultures and food, exploring museums, factories- from cheese, clogs, beer and chocolate. We also spent nights eating fabulous meals and experiencing the nightlife. All together, we got the full experience of being in a country/city in just 2 days.
Highlights from Berlin
One of the most memorable moments in Berlin was eating this crispy piece of pork schnitzel. I wish I was kidding. We spent the entire day doing 2 walking tours, seeing countless sights, like the Brandenburg Gate, monuments, bullet sprayed buildings, Nazi architecture and museums. By the end of the day, I was so famished. The night walking tour ended at a hole-in-the-wall place called Scheers Schnitzel. I was hesitant, but starving. About 15 minutes after our massive group arrived, we were told that the food was almost done cooking. When I went inside to grab a plate, I noticed that there were only a couple of women doing all of the cooking. They were also frying up each individual piece of pork in individual frying pans. There were a variety of garlicky sauces, ketchup, mayo and tartar sauce to smear all over the schnitzel. It was accompanied by homemade potato salad and coleslaw. I'll never forget that crispy piece of meat.
If I were to make an assumption here, I would assume that Munich is as German as German gets. First thing's first: Lederhosen and lots of it. If I ever move to Germany, I am without a doubt going to buy girl lederhosen. People literally wear lederhosen to beer halls, out shopping and strolling the streets. It's a thing. The Haufbräuhaus was authentic and rowdy. This giant beer hall had delicious half chickens and tasty beer, from the Radlers to the wheat beer. It is also necessary to drink steins of beer in Munich. Let's talk about how I ate 3 half chickens in about 36 hours. The best part about Munich was watching the Euro cup game at a beer garden. Germany was playing and it was a once in a lifetime experience to be cheering alongside Germans!
Highlights from Venice
On our way to Venice, we stopped for white water rafting in Austria. How COOL. It was probably one of my favorite experiences from the trip, not many people can say that they went white water rafting in Austria, can they?
Unfortunately, our morning in Venice was quite soggy. I was drenched head to toe on the gondola ride! Regardless of the weather, Venice was very pretty. My favorite part of Venice was our night in Burano. We sailed to a small island about 45 minutes away from venice and had an incredible seafood feast. We started with seafood risotto, then seafood lasagna, baked white fish, fried shrimp, calamari and then dessert. To top off the excellent dinner, the scenery on the island was picturesque.
If I could go back to Florence, I would in a heart beat. We stopped at Chianti in Tuscany and sampled wine, cheese and red pepper jellies. After, we headed into Florence and went out to dinner and had a delicious dinner at a local restaurant before going out to karaoke at the Red Garter. Yes, I sang "Don't Stop Believing". It was the highlight of my trip. Plus, the drinks were delicious at this place, and particularly strong. The next day, we had a walking tour of the city and roamed around. We sat on a rooftop overlooking the entire city and drank lattes. I felt pretty cultured at that point, and extremely lucky to be sitting on that rooftop cafe. Dinner in Florence was the best meal of the entire trip. A 5 course meal in the hills of Florence starting with bruschetta, pasta and then steak. My mouth is watering as I think about this meal. We literally could not stuff anymore food into our mouths. We ended our escapade in Florence by heading to Space, a popular night club in Florence. It was a great ending to an amazing night.
I was sad to leave Italy, but excited to take in the serenity of Switzerland. Lucerne was all about appeal, from the shopping to the views. We took a tram to the top of Mount Rigi to breathe in the views and later in the evening we sailed around Lake Lucerne to feel like ants among the mountains. Lucerne was relaxing, beautiful and serene. My favorite part about Lucerne was the fondue lunch and show. We were lucky enough to experience a traditional swiss show with hornblowers, dancers, yodelers and a cow...yes, a cow. All while eating fondue. It was a blast and a true cultural experience.
France was pleasantly surprising. I had my misconceptions about Paris, dirty, pick pocketers, etc, but it was gorgeous. All of the buildings were neutral, pinky beige. The views from the arc de triomphe were incredible. The macarons are Laduree were pricey, but worth every euro. The shopping in Paris was extravagant an expensive. Lastly, the Moulin Rouge show was a must see! The food was excellent and the show was spectacular. You need to go to the Moulin Rouge when you go to Paris. Versailles was also unique and lavish. Pretty much a house goal.
Ahh, so here's to the memories, the people, and the places I will never forget. I think it is so difficult to put this whole experience into words. Never mind difficult, it's impossible. If you truly want to know what it's like to travel to these places, google images won't tell you, other people's stories won't tell you and neither will travel agents. In order to truly get this experience, you have to travel yourself. This certainly won't be my last time heading back to Europe. Till next time.