October 21-29, 2011
We had wrapped up the printing of our boarding passes a mere 4 hours before our train to Pisa was scheduled to leave the station. None of us had much trip planning experience, let alone for excursions to other countries with different languages and completely foreign looking money. How the five of us even managed to get corresponding plane tickets purchased still baffles me. But in the end, I truly have to hand it to us. We weaved in and out of days and major cities as easily as we hopped on and off the metro lines. No obstacle that presented itself was too much for the five of us to deal with, even if we did have to endure the situation with a sizeable grain of salt.
Piling on our bulkiest articles of clothing as to keep our bags light, we set off, with one last check for our respective backpack and passport. From that point on, the next 9 days were somewhat of a whirlwind. The days were packed with new sights, smells, people, experiences, distinguished art and lots of laughter.
In our travels to Paris, Amsterdam and Prague we had no solid plans prior to departure. This fact alone would be enough to drive any sane trip-goer into a fit of anxiety. When we landed in Paris, noting abruptly that the moon was still up and the air was bitter cold, we were hit with the realization that we had no knowledge of how to get to the city center, our hostel, or even the Eiffel Tower. After a moment of quiet panic, we breathed in, out and got to work. Let’s just say that a few handfuls of maps, signs and generous bystanders aided us in transforming from over-ambitious and naive twenty-somethings into comfortable European travelers.
Each day became easier and I actually began to see the demeanor of the group shift. We were nervous and unknowing at times, but to see and feel the excitement of successfully navigating through the new and unfamiliar streets made the whole venture that much more significant. There were moments where we stopped to appreciate the manner in which all of the pieces began to fall together, working to strengthen the group’s camaraderie.
Stays in hostels were new to me, and I was delighted to find that they completely resemble comfortable and welcoming hotels for kids and travelers of many sorts. Our accommodations in both Amsterdam and Prague, run by the same company, provided for almost an elegant stay, as we all agreed that we could envision ourselves staying in these rooms for much longer than a few days.
The combination of the “major sights” and the unexpected experiences of traveling left us all with a feeling that we had genuinely dug into the three diverse cultures. Whether it was the delectable and cheap hot wine of Prague, Kate, the enthusiastic tour guide who refused to allow a downpour stifle her teachings, an eclectically bustling St. Charles bridge, the actual enormity of The Louvre or the unnerving Red Light District and it’s nightly pedestrians, we managed to only scratch the surface, leaving us content but excitedly yearning for more.
Nights were concluded with sleep deprived delirium, inducing hysterical laughing fits and thoughtful overviews of the day and it’s offerings. Although detailed itineraries are often helpful in order to get the best use out of your time, the five of us can agree that the openness and flexibility of our schedule led us to many vivid, although sometimes a bit unconventional, memories of a successful Fall break.