by Chris Jackson (in an e-mail to friends upon returning)
As some of you know, I have returned to NJ after 6 short weeks in Europe.
For those of you who just want the short version, I had a blast. I was more or less traveling alone (I did see one friend, Kai, in Barcelona and in Nice for almost a week in the middle of the trip, and then for 4 days in Paris right before I left). Met a lot of people, some good; some annoying (young Americans); almost all very nice and friendly.
Now for those of you who want the long story, the following are the places I was and the sights I saw in chronological order.
London and area (5 days): Westminster Abbey, Parliament (Big Ben), Covent Garden, London Bridge, Tower Bridge, Tower of London, Sherlock Holmes Museum (221b Baker Street), St. Paul's Cathedral, Thames River Cruise, Warwick Castle, Camden Market, Buckingham Palace (Changing of Guard, Horse Guards), Jack the Ripper Tour, Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus, Kensington Park (Kensington Palace), Bath (town), Stonehenge, Pubs (black currant).
Amsterdam and area (3 days): Dirty Canals, Coffee Shops, Red Light District, Anne Frank House, Van Gogh Museum, Flowers, Windmills.
Cologne (1 day): Cathedral (dom), walk through the torrential downpour to the Chocolate Museum, which is closed by the time I get there.
Rhine River tour from Koblenz to Mainz (1 day): (part of eurorail coverage) countless Castles , Cliffs of Lorely, vineyards.
Romantic Road trip from Wurzburg to Munich (1 day): passed through quaint little castle towns via rolling green hills and forests.
Munich (2 days): Palace, Olympic Park, Science Museum, English Garden (topless sunbathers), Freedom Angel, Glockenspiel, Beer Gardens (Hoftbrauhous).
Salzburg and area (2 days): Police in Riot gear for Globalization Demonstration, Mozart's Birthplace and Studio, Dinner and Classical Music Concert in Fortress, Eagle's Nest, Berchtesgarden (another quaint little town where two beautiful blue green rivers meet), Salt Mine Tour.
Vienna (2 days): Cemetery with Graves (sometimes honorary) of Brahms, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and Schonberg; Museumplatz, Karlsplatz, Parliament building, Volksplatz, Rauthaus (town hall and where Film Festival was going on), Schobrunn Palace, Toy and Doll Museum, Clock Museum, Danube Tower, Sigmund Freud Museum.
Geneva (2 days): United Nations, Red Cross Museum, Jet d'Eau (Fountain), Chess in the Park, Fondue.
Barcelona (4 days): La Rambla, Beaches, Bullfight, Sagrada Cathedral (100+ year cathedral, still not done), Park Guell, Montjuic, Sitting in the cafes watching the people go by, being tranquillo.
Figueres (1 day): Dali Museum.
Avignon (1 1/2 days): Avignon Festival (Music and Theater with throngs of street performances of all kinds), Palace of Popes, Bridge of Avignon.
Nice (1 1/2 days): Rocky Beaches, Bastille Day.
Cinque Terre (1 day): 5 little Mountain Towns on the Sea – absolutely Beautiful
Pisa (1/2 day): Leaning Tower
Florence (1 1/2 days): Gardens of Boboli, Saints Plaza (free ballet dance), Academia (Michelangelo's David- FANTASTIC), Palatina Gallery, Duomo, Michelangelo Park (good view), Chianti Wine, ice Cream (supposedly the best in the world, but ice cream is ice cream- it's all good), Ponte Vecchio (bridge).
Rome (3 days): Coliseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, Pantheon, Jason the architecture student tour guide from iowa, Vatican (Vatican Museum, St. Peter's, Sistine Chapel, Popes' Tombs), Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Capuchin Crypt, Piazza Navona (Jonathan's Angels Bar), Capitoline Museums, Eternal Flame, McDonalds.
Florence (1/2 day): Uffizi Gallery (not worth it – even though I bypassed the 4 hour wait by reserving ahead).
Sienna (1 sleepless night, not by choice)
Venice (1 1/2 days): Canals, Narrow and windy sidewalks with no cars or even bikes, Piazza San Marco (free classical music), Doge's Palace (Bridge of Sighs and prisons), Gugenheim Museum.
Prague (2 1/2 days): Cheap Everything, Old Town Hall (astronomical clock), Charles Bridge, Prague Castle (Palace, Church, Tower), Jewish Cemetery (10 feet above ground level).
Paris (3 1/2 days): Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, Louvre (whatever), Museum D'Orsay (much better), Champs-Elysees, Arc de Triomphe, Bastille, Latin Quarter, Opera House, Place de la Concorde, Montmartre.
London (1/2 day): Fortnum and Mason, Monument.
Some overall impressions of cities and countries:
From the trains I doubt that I could really get a full grasp of the native beauty of the land, but my impressions of what I did see:
In Holland, Amsterdam was very dirty (I remind you that I am used to NYC), but on the brighter side Heineken actually tasted good. It was my first experience with canals and mass bike riding.
In Munich, the people would not cross the street unless the green walk sign was lit, even if there were no cars in sight.
Austria's countryside was really beautiful, it really looked like scenes from “The Sound of Music.”
Vienna was just like an American city, except for a 4 block square area which was really nice.
Switzerland's Alps were not all that impressive after seeing the Rockies last summer.
The area of Spain that I saw (northwest) was very rugged.
Had the best calzone of my life in Florence – I could taste how fresh the ingredients were. Chickened out on getting an itialian leather jacket in Florence, just couldn't be sure of the quality.
Paris, in my mind, is a major European city, but to see all the stores closing for the whole month of August seemed like a page out of “Northern Exposure.” Not to mention how the (very expansive) metro shuts down around midnight which leaves the people in hour long waits for cabs at the few designated pickup stops, or cramping into already crowded buses. That to me, makes Paris a disaster, as public transportation is important.
London was a fantastic city. It had a big city feel (no problems like in Paris), and it also was able to hold on to it's long history.
After recently seeing Amsterdam, Venice wasn't as dirty as I thought it would be.
Didn't know that sunflowers were such a huge crop.
I saw too many classical art museums – just how many pictures of Jesus on a cross can you see? On the plus side, though, I did see quite a few pieces that were absolutely phenomenal.
Stay away from a beer called Devil's Kiss – I drank quite a bit of it with a tour guide after a tour in Rome, forgot my bag at the bar (thank you very much to the bartender that picked it up, and refused a reward), and had a terrible hangover the next morning.
Alot of people said that the people in Europe smoked a lot, but I didn't even notice it coming from NYC.
I was so busy that I skipped quite a few meals, and considering that I was walking on my feet for at least 12 hours each day, I was surprised to find myself not very hungry. Apparently sitting around – doing basically next to nothing works up a bigger appetite that being active.
Young Americans can be loud and stupid which is why we have a bad reputation over there, but on the good side they were all genuinely friendly.
Europeans really like their dogs. Let's just leave it at that.
Some tours were good, some were bad. The bike tours were usually bad because they did not cover as much of the city as they should have (usually because we spent an hour eating at a questionable establishment, where I'm sure the company had some deal going).
(Young) Women are thinner there – probably because the servings are smaller and they walk all over because Europe is not as dependant on the car as America. Although it was a bit disturbing to see that the older women looked really bad. I guess that at some age they all of a sudden just fall apart.
The Welch have some fantastic phrases.