Initial Impressions of Europe

Marpessa, Chelsea and I landed in Dusseldorf but our first stop was Munich. I will never forget the nice old couple from our plane who navigated us to the train from Dusseldorf to Munich. The first time seeing street signs and billboards in another language. Even the ambulance sirens sounded different. We saw an old man rolling his own cigarettes from fresh tobacco on the train (this was a habit I would later pick up to save money).
English Gardens in Munich on a beautiful day
 
I think Munich was love at first sight. If I didn’t believe in love at first sight, I do now. First order of business: bike tour, aka pub crawl on bikes.
With some new friends on the bike tour of Munich
 
We spent a lovely 5 days in Munich, sprawling out in the English Gardens with fresh produce, drinking with the Germans and making friends in the Hofbrauhaus. We visited the Roman Baths and Dachau (a concentration camp that I would return to in the following summer for research). After all these summers of traveling, it still remains my favorite city. What is it about Munich? For the first time in my life, I felt at home somewhere. It’s never been a big secret that I am not a fan of American culture; I don’t identify with the consumerism, fast food, football… In Munich, all I could see was beauty. Beautiful culture, parks, streets, and so much history.
Sadly, our time in Munich ended, but on the bright side it was off to Florence! I had taken an art history class in high school and had therefore created a list of every famous artwork, sculpture, and building I had to see in the city. Marpessa, Chelsea and I joked that we made the perfect traveling trio because I knew what historic sites we had to see during the day, Marpessa would undoubtedly find the best beers, and Chelsea would wrangle in the good-looking local boys by a turn of the head and a bat of the eyelashes.
Beautiful Cathedrals in Florence- Duomo!
 
This is something I posted in an old blog while we were in Florence that basically sums up our time there:
“I saw the Duomo, and Piazza della Signoria, and Cellini's Perseus, and the Gates of Paradise, and Ponte Vecchio, and Palazzo Vecchio, all within 20 minutes in Florence.”
Central plaza in Florence  
 
After Florence, we went through a lot of trouble trying to get to Spain. One train strike and an unintended overnight stay in Montpellier, France later, we made it to Barcelona. In this city we made quite a few friends. Marpessa’s godmother lived there, and she introduced us to her neighbor Lorena. Lorena showed us around and introduced us to Catalan culture: paella, sangria, great music and dancing.
Out with friends in Barcelona 
 
When we left Barcelona we spent one night in Salamanca with our friend from home, Dylan. He took us to a dance party in a historic library. I will never forget dancing to electronic music and looking up to see cathedral spires. This was one of the many nights we came home as the sun was rising. It was also the first time I was introduced to Spanish tapas. It’s not a big mystery as to why I gain ten pounds every summer abroad.
This was the first half of our trip! Two weeks had passed and we had already seen so many things that I had read about in textbooks. We drank beer in the room where Hitler first organized Nazis, saw the tomb of Galileo, and went swimming in the Mediterranean. We also avoided doing laundry like the plague, adapted to sleeping on train platforms, and became shameless in pretending to only speak Dutch to avoid talking to creepers. Hey, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

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