Usually I just go home for fall break and relax…this year I decided to do something just a bit more exciting. My three girlfriends from UD and I planned a 9 day trek across Europe, starting in Italy and ending in gorgeous Prague. Our first stop was Pisa- decided partly on behalf of the leaning tower and partly because we scored the last four seats on a 6 euro flight (We later found out WHY it only cost 6 euros when we hit the worst turbulence I have ever experienced and spent almost the whole flight crying and screaming along with everyone else who had gotten this amazing deal. Did I mention the guy directly behind us got sick?).
Once in Pisa though, it really was a beautiful town. We got there too late and shaken up to do anything but go get pizza with our new, Australian hostel friends. The entire next day we hung out in the tower plaza trying to come up with the best touristy pictures holding up the tower and laughing at how funny everyone else looked doing the same. The whole plaza is literally just random people standing in weird poses with strained expressions on their faces, and only to the person standing five feet away holding the camera do they really appear to be holding up the tower. Makes for some entertaining people watching 🙂 It’s true that there isn’t very much to do in Pisa other than see the tower. Although, the Cathedral there is my favorite that we’ve seen so far AND we met a professional Rugby team from Ireland. It might not be Rome, but we made the most of the time we had there!
Next stop was Florence and it ended up being one of my favorite cities that I have ever been to. The way everything worked out, we were only spending about a day and half there but we still wanted to see as many things as possible. On Monday as soon as we got there we sprinted around the city and saw the Duomo and Cathedral, the Ponte Vecchio, and the Medici Palace all in the first day. The Duomo was my favorite because we climbed all the way to the top (it was the first domed structure to be built in Europe, and also the highest point in Florence) and got an amazing view of the city (and our exercise- 463 steps!). The Ponte Vecchio was also really beautiful and is the only bridge in Florence that wasn’t bombed during the second world war. The Medici Palace is actually the second palace built by the Medici family in Florence (first wasn’t big enough) and most of it was closed but we got to see the royal costume gallery and play around in the gardens. The next day we had tickets to see the David and it really was THAT impressive. Lining the hallway up to it were other unfinished Michelangelo statues, which I thought were cool to see because you could really tell how much work went into the David. Then we got gelato from the ACTUAL best gelato place in the world (In my opinion, there is a better one in Granada, but this one was pretty good…). A little souvenir shopping in the open air market by our hostel after that and then we were on to Rome!
Not going to lie, at first I wasn’t that impressed. Maybe it was because we were tired, maybe it was because I loved Florence so much, but at first sight Rome wasn’t what I was expecting at all. For one thing, thanks to Mussolini there is a major highway right through the middle of the ruins of ORIGINAL Rome (knew I liked that guy…) and also everywhere is really crowded and expensive. After we started seeing the sights though, I fell in love and Rome definitely has things to offer that you just cannot get from any other European city. My favorite part about Rome ended up being what I didn’t like in the first place: that everything there is only preserved by time. Nothing is behind glass, nothing is “renovated”, and you can get up close and personal with thousands of years of history. Sure, you have to dodge 21st century traffic to get to the entrance of the 1st century Colosseum, but we danced on the original marble flooring of the first Roman palace built by Romulus himself-you can’t do things like that anywhere else. We also visited the Vatican Museum, which was cool, but unknowingly caught St. Peter’s on a day when the Pope was in town. Pope= a huge line that we did not have the patience for so unfortunately we missed seeing the largest church in the world. It was pretty impressive just from the outside though. We had a flight to Prague to catch anyway!
We definitely saved the best for last. Obviously I would have wanted to stay in any of the four cities we went to for longer, but Prague was really the only one we left feeling like we needed to go back soon. I had no idea how interesting Czech history was and the tour we took in Prague was my favorite of the whole trip. Our guide told us that the astronomical clock that everyone goes to Prague to see is the second most overrated tourist attraction in the world (second to the Mona Lisa) but I even thought that was cool! The architecture and spirit of the Czech people is just so different from anywhere I have ever been. It also has an interesting WWII history because the Jewish quarter of the city “set aside” by Hitler to be a museum after he accomplished all of his disgusting ideals. That idea in itself is appalling to me, but it made seeing the oldest, still active Synagogue in Europe that much more gratifying. Also in the Jewish quarter, they are currently filming Mission Impossible 4 (because 3 weren’t enough). We didn’t see Tom Cruise, but he was apparently there.
Overall, this was probably the best solid week of my life. We had a blast and got to see so many cool things! (As you can tell from this super long post). Minus almost spending the night in a train yard, we didn’t even run into any travel trouble. And coming home to Granada after living out of a very small duffel bag for a week felt so good 🙂