I recently explored Europe in about 10 days through a travel group called Bus2Alps. This trip was properly named The Northern Loop, in honor of the five countries we traveled to. From late Thursday night of April 6th through the late afternoon of Easter Sunday, I ate, admired, and adventured my way through Prague, Berlin, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Paris.
Day One: Prague, Czech Republic
We arrived in Prague in the early morning after a nine-hour bus ride from Florence, Italy. After czech-ing (see, what I did there?) into our accommodation, we enjoyed a free walking tour with our hilarious tour guide, Isaac. He had a personality similar to Seth Rogan, which definitely kept the tour pretty lively. Isaac was kind enough to give us the need-to-knows about Prague. We also saw the oldest clock tower in the world, which displays the movement of the sun, as well as the days and months of the year. That night, our tour guides took a group of us out on the town, where we ended the night at a club that was themed by the decade.
Day Two: Prague, continued
We saw the famous John Lennon Wall. Fun fact: John had never actually visited the wall, but because his music and messages were so peaceful during the Vietnam War, the college students who made it named it after him. The wall was filled with various colors, messages, and artwork. I fell in love with all the creativity, so I had to add my own mark. I spray painted the phrase “Make Love Not War” on the wall, and other visitors liked it so much that they took pictures with my contribution. It just goes to show how our words can really bring us all together.
We then crossed over the Charles Bridge and went to a traditional Czech restaurant, where I happily consumed potato soup and dumplings. After a great meal, we went over to the Easter Market of Prague where I consumed the thing that would give any person, young or old, a cavity: a Trdelník. It was similar to a churro that had sugar, cinnamon, and almonds on the outside and ice cream of your choice in the inside. Amazing! Hands down, I wanted to eat three or more of them but had to have some self-control. After all, it was only day two of our trip!
Day Three: Berlin, Germany
We departed from Prague early in the morning, arriving arrived in Berlin early Sunday afternoon. After grabbing some food, our tour guides took us to a market that is only open on Sundays. If markets like this existed in America, they could consume all of my money almost like this one did. There were stands that had random items for 1 Euro and denim jackets for less than 30 Euro. I was like a kid in a candy store, but I actually only bought things for friends and family.
Day Four: Berlin, Continued
The next day we went on a free walking tour of Berlin, which really opened my eyes to Germany’s history. My original prediction of what Berlin would look like was that it would be very bland and industrial, but it was not. It was more than that. Since the end of WWII, Berlin has really tried to be better than what Hitler made the country look like. We learned that it’s actually rare to see a German flag hung from a person’s home or apartment. Our tour guide really showed us how Berlin is rebuilding itself and growing.
Through the rest of the tour I saw the remains of the Berlin Wall that separated East and West Berlin, Checkpoint Charlie, and a few other attractions. Once we wrapped up, we ventured back to the hostel to prepare for the rest of the evening, where we visited a famous beer hall in and enjoyed a traditional meal. By midnight we were off to our next destination, Amsterdam.
Day Five: Amsterdam, Netherlands
I will end up moving to or living in Amsterdam at some point in my life. I fell in love with it because of the diversity and that everyone was on the same page. No one believes that they are better than another based on their race or wealth, people are just living their lives. Our tour guide for the day really exemplified how great Amsterdam really is.
After our tour, we traveled about 45 minutes outside of the city to explore the largest tulip garden in the world – and when I say it was the largest, I mean it. Everywhere your eyes landed they met a new patch of tulips. The weather was beautiful. I definitely recommend this if you take a trip to Amsterdam! After we grabbed dinner and went to a carnival that was happening right down the road from our hostel.
Day Six: Amsterdam, Continued
This was my favorite day of our trip to Amsterdam (and is also my Dad’s birthday!). We started off by going to the famous “I am Amsterdam” sign and I got my various photos on the letters. Let me tell you, this was not the easiest thing for me to get up on.
After experiencing a new avocado bar in town, I went to the Heineken Experience Museum. This was my favorite thing I did in Amsterdam. Every minute was full of activities with chances to try beer straight from its homeland. I also learned that New Jersey was the first state in the US where Heineken was first delivered.
I then ventured out on my own to visit the Anne Frank House. For those of you who don’t know the history, Anne and her family were victims of the Holocaust. Her diary was found, detailing her life from before the war to the near end of her life. You can only imagine what it was like to actually go through that and see where it all began and ended for Anne. I was thankful to have gotten into the museum, as it happened to be Holocaust Remembrance Week. Tickets had been sold out for months, but I was lucky enough to wait on line to find that I could enter. I definitely was happy to say that I did it myself and I met some cool people along the way.
Day 7: The road to Paris, but not without stopping in Brussels, Belgium first!
Brussels was a quick stop, but I got what I wanted and then some! We were only there for three hours, but during that time we grabbed a quick bite to eat and tried some Belgian chocolate. Then after purchasing some postcards, I checked off yet another bucket list item: enjoying a Belgian waffle!
Shannon, Bethanne and I checked out the castle that was just at the top of the hill from where we were. It was just as gorgeous as the many postcards I saw! We then walked through a beautiful park that was just across the street from the castle.
Before we knew it, we were back on the bus and on our way to our last stop, Paris!
Day 8: Paris, France
After arriving in Paris late, I decided to sleep in later than the group. That day I was going to see my cousin who lives in Paris, Kobi! He met me outside and we began our adventure. Kobi, having lived in this vast city for almost five years, became my tour guide as he took me to the Louvre and areas where you could see almost all of Paris! I even tried a crepe for the first time! Next we saw Notre Dame and sat by the Seine River to catch up some more. Later that evening we had dinner and drinks at one of his favorite local establishments.
Day 9: Paris, Continued
I purposely planned to stay an extra day in Paris while the group headed back to
Florence, so I checked out of the hostel and met up with Kobi near the Eiffel Tower, where the Airbnb I was staying at was also conveniently located. The Eiffel Tower is so beautiful; I can’t truly describe the feelings that went through my mind as I approached it. After seeing it in all its glory, Kobi took me to the famous love-lock bridge, which is now lock-less since they were weighing the bridge down.
We met up with one of my friends from URI who is studying abroad in Paris, Bekka! Although it was a quick meet-up, we grabbed drinks together and walked away learning new things about each others lives since being abroad! It was awesome getting to catch up with an old friend in a new city.
Shortly after, Kobi and I got Kebabs and headed over to see the Eiffel Tower at night. This was, once again, an experience that words cannot describe.
Day 10: Headed back to Florence, Italy
After a wild and amazing two days in Paris, I traveled back to Florence. In my 10 days of traveling, I saw 5 countries, met new and saw old friends and family, ate my weight in new foods, and have memories that will last forever. I know that I will be back to these places and who knows who will join me the next time, but I am excited to see what life will bring.
Special shout out to Papa Opong-Wadeer for being the greatest dad ever and paying for this trip for me, and to Kobi for hosting me for two days in Paris! I know no matter where I go or what I do you both will be cheering me on!