Reflections: Post Graduation Eurotrip
I just boarded my plane for New York. First of all, let me say that Heathrow Airport puts JFK to shame. I was able to go from my plane to a shuttle bus to a different terminal, go through security, and get my new boarding pass in less than 45 minutes. The staff was amazingly helpful as well.
Well, I think it’s time to look back at the last six weeks and my trip all over Europe. I started out in Dublin where I not only got to see a new city, but met about 15 family members that I don’t remember meeting before. I also saw the towns that my Grandma and Pop-pop grew up in. Then, I headed to London and had dinner with my Dad’s cousin and his wife, David and Joan. The following night, I saw a traditional London play, Blood Brothers. I then hooked up with my first tour, the AESU Graduation Tour, where I met people that I will keep in touch with for the rest of my life (we are already having a mini-reunion in July). Together, we took on London and saw a lot of things that I did not see my first time like the London Eye and the world’s biggest department store, Harrods. From London we went to Paris via train where I had one of the most memorable lunches of my trip, in the upstairs of a cafe overlooking a piazza where an orchestra was playing. We then took the overnight train from Paris to Rome. In Rome, I returned to my second home. I met up with all the administrators from my study abroad program and had drinks with my old Italian roommate and Italian teacher. I also showed a few people around my favorite restaurants and hang outs in Rome. Half of our tour group left us in Rome, but the other half of us continued to Sorrento where we spent one night wandering the town and I tried buffalo meat for the first time. Then, we headed to Pompeii where I saw a part of the ancient city that I did not see last year. After Pompeii, we boarded a bus to head to the port where we caught a mini-cruise ship to Greece. We arrived in Patras, but went by bus and boat to the small island of Poros. After three days of pure relaxation and cruising (and sunburn), we headed to Athens where I climbed to the top of the cliff and saw the world famous Acropolis and Parthenon first hand. In Athens, I bid farewell to my new friends and prepared for a week in Italy on my own. I caught a flight to Reggio di Calabria where I met up with a few of my Italian teachers and classmates from Penn State who were participating in a study abroad program. I was able to walk down the main street with my Italian professor who grew up in Reggio and gained a better understanding for “small town Italy” as he ran into friends from his childhood. Then, I went to Naples which I used as a springboard for the most beautiful part of my trip, the Isle of Capri. I took a boat tour around the island and was able to enter the world famous Blue Grotto. From there, I went to Florence where I met up with one more of my professors from Penn State. Then, I went to another new city for me, Milan, where I saw the famous Duomo and completed my renaissance art tour. In the span of four weeks, I saw the Mona Lisa, Sistine Chapel, Statue of David, and The Last Supper. Then, I flew to Berlin where I met up with my second tour, Contiki‘s Eastern Road, or as I call it, the “Communist” tour. We took a tour of the city that divided and then reunited the world. I also realized how crazy the tour was going to be as the Euro 2012 tournament was getting underway. Then, on our way to Prague we stopped in Dresden, the place that the Protestant religion was started. Prague was as beautiful as I remembered it and I saw the Jewish Museum which had the names of all 67,000 Jews sent to the concentration and death camps from Prague. We then moved onto Vienna with a stop at Kutna Hora on the way to see the famous bone church, St. Barbara’s Church. Vienna reminded me of Disney World with its pristine parks and amazing food, specifically the Sacher Torte. Budapest reminded me a bit of Rome and we sailed down the Danube River for a dinner cruise with the best goulash I’ve ever had. After Budapest, we made a pit stop in a small town of Banská Bystrica, Slovakia where we saw the square where the townspeople prayed they would be saved from the Black Death. Then, we moved onto Kraków where I wandered the streets of the Old Town and visited Oskar Schindler‘s factory. On our way to Warsaw, we made a very somber stop at Auschwitz, something I will remember for the rest of my life. Then, we made one more stop at Częstochowa which is home to the famous pilgrimage site of the Black Madonna. Finally, my tour ended in Warsaw, home of the Euro 2012 tournament.
The total distance I traveled from New York to New York is a 14,856 miles!
It was an amazing trip. I saw things that many people do not see during the course of their whole life. It was definitely the opportunity of a lifetime.
Note: This post was originally published on June 22, 2012 in a blog entitled “Romeing Around Europe…Again” which chronicled my post-graduation trip across Europe.