This past week was spring break (and somehow, unbelievably, the midpoint to the semester). Outside of a weekend trip to Paris about a month ago, this was my first time to several other European countries including Italy, Vatican City, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. Here’s a breakdown of how this awesome week unfolded:
After a bit of a bumpy descent, my flight from Gatwick to Naples landed me in Italy for the first time. I got to explore much of the city (and its delicious food), including the Cappella Sansevero (home of the famous Veiled Christ statue), Piazza del Plebiscito, Castel Nuovo, and a trip to Pompeii.
I also planned to do a hike to the edge of Mount Vesuvius, but the mountain was closed due to high winds. It was also rather challenging to get to Pompeii from Naples’s central train station. I think challenges like these are best faced by keeping an open mind and an optimistic attitude (and also make sure to plan every leg of your travel before you go).
Rome brought with it many of the more tourist-y sites of my trip, and plenty more delicious Italian food. I visited inside the Colosseum, the Roman Forums, and Palatine Hill; as well as sites inside Vatican City including St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel.
The most difficult part about visiting Rome is avoiding “tourist traps” and scammers. While the city is beautiful and the locals very friendly, maneuvering around people trying to take advantage of you can become quite a nuisance, so I would advise staying keenly alert to your surroundings when visiting places that attract a lot of sightseers.
My time in Switzerland was primarily dedicated to a trip atop Jungfrau, the so-called “Top of Europe” in the Swiss alps. A relaxed day that included a scenic bus tour of the Swiss countryside, a brief stop in Interlaken, and a surreal train ride up to one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen was well worth the stop.
Though I stayed in Zurich, I didn’t get to see as much as the city as I would have liked. To be fair, the Swiss franc is rather unkind to tourists on a budget. If ever considering a trip to Switzerland, do plan accordingly.
My trip wrapped up in Holland’s famous (or infamous) capital city, Amsterdam. I visited the famous Van Gogh Museum and the Heineken Experience at the Dutch beer company’s old brewery. I wanted to visit the Anne Frank Museum as well, but tickets were sold out well in advance (alas, more poor planning on my part).
I believe I would be wasting my word count to list all of the possible pitfalls of Amsterdam, so I’ll just say as with travel in any new city, be sure to plan wisely and use your best judgment.
Overall, I think I made a great use of my time over break and got to see a lot of Europe I had been dying to since I came here. While there’s still a lot left to do on the list, I’m glad I was able to experience and overcome the challenges on this trip that I did.