So to start with, Italy was pretty amazing.
In Rome, I was lucky to visit my friend who was studying there. I got to tag along to one of her walking history of art classes, eat really amazing food, explore her favourite areas, and see really amazing things that were off the typical tourist track.
Also, we ate way too much gelato and it was perfect.
Only spent a couple of days in Florence. The view from the top of the Duomo is still incredible.
I was kind of surprised by how much I loved Siena. It was so much smaller and cozier than Rome or Florence, and I really loved getting lost in its streets. (Getting lost and wandering for hours is one of my favourite ways to see new places.) So beautiful.
Europe has an awful lot of cathedrals. After a while I lost track of how many I visited.
It’s interesting: I’m not religious at all, but I absolutely love cathedrals. Maybe it’s the history major in me that’s intrigued by how much of Western history was driven by the powerhouse that was Christianity, or maybe it’s just that the spaces are really aesthetically interesting. I think it’s mostly to do with the feeling you get in them, so peaceful and intense, and the marvel of human ingenuity.
Also, saints’ relics are super fascinating and also super gross.
I loved Prague so very, very much, to the extent that I kind of want to live there at some point in my life. It was such a beautiful, colorful city, where the most bizarre and lovely situations happened to us and all we could do was laugh hysterically and chalk it up to where we were. We spent a lot of time wandering around the different areas, and felt quite at home in each one. We also made up stories for the people we saw, and invented our perfect life scenarios. In Prague none of our speculations seemed all that far-fetched.
We spent a whole day visiting the Jewish Quarter, which was both fascinating and hugely emotionally exhausting. But one of the most wonderful places we saw was the old Jewish cemetery. My friend and I are both big fans of cemeteries in general, and this one was so packed with lopsided graves that we both fell in love. This tiny plot of land was the only place where Jews were allowed to bury their dead for centuries, so new layers of earth were added every so often to give them more room to put the bodies; many of the gravestones were sharing space, or had been buried entirely.
And then we saw Tosca at the Czech National Theatre for under three dollars.
One day we took a train ride to Kutna Hora to see the Ossuary. This church was decorated by 40,000 human skeletons. It was completely fascinating, and not as gross as you might think, though the teeth were by far the most difficult to look at (much too human). Our love of stories made us think about how many once belonged to those human remains, and how time both distances and obliterates personal histories. The church was supposed to make its visitors contemplate the eternal nature of God, but we found ourselves focusing instead on its temporary people.
My companions and I ate very, very well on our trips.
Italy was obviously fantastic; my friend took us to her favourite fancy restaurant, and I found a gourmet store in Siena where I bought a tiny jar of truffle sauce, which pleased me greatly.
I think Prague may have been my favourite, simply because everything (everything!) was affordable. We found an absolutely beautiful breakfast room called Cafe Louvre where I had a glass of champagne and smoked salmon on herb pancakes. We tried absinthe ice cream. We went to a hip restaurant under a design studio where we split caviar and steak with apples and cream.
Amsterdam was pricier, but we still found some great lunch spots (though, alas, were not really fans of herring), and treated ourselves to one fancy dinner, which was so unbelievably magical for so many reasons that it will require its own post…
Spain: tapas and sangria. Need I say more?