Wrapping up the 2015 Eurotrip: Evaluating the best, the worst, and all the things I learned


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May 30th 2015
Published: May 30th 2015
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All the places I visited on this tripAll the places I visited on this tripAll the places I visited on this trip

I don't know why the dots are different colors
Back in America, but not quite finished with all my travels yet. I'm visiting my family in south Georgia until Monday, when I'm returning to Athens and my current "home." They picked me up at the Orlando airport on Thursday night, and my first food back in the country was Waffle House! And my first drink was some sweet tea! I don't know if it could get more southern than that, at least for a late night stop. I would also like to add that I can, under no circumstances, recommend flying into the Orlando airport - the first thing you face when coming back into the country (or entering it for the first time) is a massive wall of inefficiency at the passport and border controls. Ugh. It also didn't help that it felt like it was after 3 AM for me.

While I adjust to the new time zone, I'm going over all the places that I visited in my 11 weeks abroad. I've decided to limit all my lists in this blog post to a maximum of 5 items. Whether it's the best or the worst, I'm only going to list 5. Sometimes they will be in
All my "souvenirs"All my "souvenirs"All my "souvenirs"

Except for the pins, which are in the panorama above the blog
order, and sometimes they won't. It's hard to choose in some of these categories. So, without further ado...

Favorite Countries:

1. Slovenia

2. Austria

3. Italy

4. Andorra

5. Hungary

Favorite Cities:

1. Budapest

2. Venice

3. Salzburg

4. Vatican City

5. Prague

Favorite Foods:

1. Bryndza (Slovakia)

2. Döner Boxes

3. Various pizzas

4. Sorrentina

5. Mozart kugel

Favorite Museums:

1. The Uffizi

2. Vatican Museums

3. Museum of Broken Relationships (Zagreb)

4. Jewish Museum (Prague)

5. Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge)

Favorite Castles:

1. Alhambra

2. Sighisoara (Romania)

3. Lewes Castle

4. Castle Rushen (Isle of Man)

5. Ljubljana Castle

Favorite Churches:

1. St. Peter's Basilica (Vatican City)

2. Cordoba Cathedral

3. Matyas Templom (Budapest)

4. The Sistine Chapel (Vatican City)

5. St. Albans Abbey

Best City Views:

1. Zizkov Tower (Prague)

2. Walking Trail above Andorra

3. Castella Hill (Budapest)

4. JenTurm (Jena)

5. Pisa Tower

Favorite Monuments:

1. Vitkov Monument (Prague)

2. Slavin Memorial (Bratislava)

3. Charles Bridge (Prague)

4. Heroes Square (Budapest)

5. Reagan Statue (Budapest)

Favorite Buildings (Not included in the categories above):

1. Grand Hotel Europa (Prague)

2. Hotel Moskva (Belgrade)

3. Russian Orthodox Church of St. Simeon of the Magic Mountain (Dresden)

4. Budapest Parliament

5. Emirates Stadium

Favorite Tours:

1. Punting on the river Cam (Cambridge)

2. Alhambra Tour

3. Lake Bled Tour

4. Hallein Salt Mine (Salzburg)

5. Gläsner Factory (Dresden)

Favorite New People:

1. Aksel (Rome-Oslo flight)

2. Kathy (Granada + Morocco)

2. Roni (Granada + Morocco)

4. Don and wife (Timisoara-Belgrade train)

5. Henrik (Budapest-Vienna train)

Best Hotels:

1. Hotel Moskva (Belgrade)

2. Hotel Escala (Cluj-Napoca)

3. Hotel Meksiko (Ljubljana)

4. Bristol Hotel (Budapest)

5. Hotel Mercure (Leipzig)

Favorite Works of Art (Visual or Musical):

1. Billy Elliot (London)

2. Sistine Chapel ceiling (Vatican City)

3. Boticelli's "The Birth of Venus" (Florence)

4. Puppet Don Giovanni (Prague)

5. Oboe recital at the Mozarteum (Salzburg)

Favorite Nature Experiences:

1. Hiking Cinque Terre

2. Bernina Express (Switzerland)

3. Lake Bled (Slovenia)

4. Hiking above Andorra

5. Walking around the Isle of Man

Top Places to Return:

1. Venice

2. Rome

3. Vienna

4. Budapest

5. Florence

Places I'm Done With:

1. Tangier

2. Gibraltar

3. Cluj-Napoca

4. Monaco

5. Malaga

5 Things I Learned:

I am definitely a mountain person - give me mountains any day over beaches and definitely over flat land.

I hate organized tour groups, especially when I'm travelling solo. They get in the way, and there's little or no freedom to make your own choices.

Just because you go somewhere before the tourist season starts doesn't mean you'll have a better experience.

I'm a big fan of Art Deco and Art Nouveau - who knew?

People will speak English to me, not because they think I'm a dumb American falling into that stereotype, but because they're usually pretty confident that it's the most likely language we have in common.

And one last thing: I apparently make people laugh and feel more open about expressing their true feelings, which I consider good things.

Usually I go to Europe to see new things, to escape the heat of the South, and to convince myself that (a) America is not as insane as I think it is and (b) I really do miss it when I don't have it. While there is certainly something to be said about the familiarity of one's home, I find that this trip did not quell my apprehensions about my native country like I have come to expect. Maybe I was away longer, or maybe I just saw and did more than I normally do when I leave America. Maybe my eyes were opened further, or maybe things really have taken a turn back here in the USA. Is it bad that I'm already brainstorming my next trip? Or should I say, I'm trying to figure out which trip, of the half dozen or so trips that I've already determined to take, will be first?

Not a lot of conclusions, I know. But I guess I won't really have any true conclusions until I'm dead. So I may as well keep on truckin', pushing myself to see new things, explore new possibilities, and never be satisfied with accepting things as they are or certainly not as I see them. I feel like Goethe's Faust, for better or for worse. Here's to the challenge of finding a place where I finally feel satisfied and knowing that I'll never attain that goal.

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