Western Europe in a Nutshell

By Julie Zeitz, Editor

What’s backpacking through Europe without a camera? A bunch of memories with no photographic evidence, that’s what. My most basic piece of advice for anyone going abroad: bring a camera. I don’t care if it’s a point-and-shoot, your iPhone, or a Nikon D5000 Digital SLR Camera, just snap some pictures.

I’m a visual kind of person, so my goal from this post is to get you abroad through my pictures. During my 5 months abroad I made it to 10 countries and 28 cities, a statistic I’m quite proud of. (Read the posts Flying and Lodging (Cheaply) in Europe on how to travel inexpensively!) Below is the list of the countries I went to with a picture and anecdote from each country.

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Edinburgh, Scotland: The beautiful, the green, the friendly, and the cold. This is a picture of George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh, the private school my family friends go to. (Fun fact, JK Rowling’s daughters went there also.) And yes, this is a school, not a castle. Think about how fun learning would be, stuffing your brain with knowledge in a place like this! This picture is classic Scotland: green grass, overcast skies and old buildings. Love love love.

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Manarola, Italy. This picture was taken in Manarola, one of the five towns of Cinque Terre (literally translated as “five lands”). When I think of Italy, this is what I think of: small and colorful buildings all stacked and squished together on a beautiful, breathtaking view of the coast. This statue is the “Goddess of Grapes,” aptly named given her current location (the country famous for their wine) and what she’s holding.

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Interlaken, Switzerland: Interlaken is a sports town filled with incredibly friendly, happy to be alive French-German-English speakers. Whether you ski on the Swiss Alps, skydive looking down at the Swiss Alps, or go canyon jumping one of the two places it’s offered in the world (check), you’re bound to have some good stories. Switzerland is also known for their incredibly pure tap water, fabulous chocolate and overpriced food (I paid $20 for a burger, beer and fries). I love this picture because it encapsulates the town perfectly: beautiful, white, a few roads, all wedged between looming, illustrious mountains.

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Prague, Czech Republic: By far the most unique, historic, breathtaking city I have ever seen. To put it simply, Prague is a magical place. My spunky friend and roommate, Jessica, was studying abroad in Prague when I visited the city, making it an eventful and unforgettable weekend. This is the view from the top of the Clock Tower, located in the center of Prague. Apparently it’s super touristy (a few of Jessica’s Czech friends living in Prague had never been to the top!), but it’s breathtaking nonetheless. Anything you do, see, drink, or eat in this city will be incredible, I can guarantee.

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London, England: I’d been living in Italy for a few months at this point, and although Italy has the most incredible coffee you’ll ever drink, there was no Starbucks. No Starbucks, you say?!! Yeah, I said it. The Italians are far too proud to indulge themselves in the largest coffee franchise in the world. Anyways, back to London – I love this picture because it’s just perfect. With the Tower of London on the right, the Old London Castle on the left and the elegant Starbucks mermaid in the center, this about sums up London: historic, beautiful, overcast, and commercialized.

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Versailles, France: My friends and I stayed in Paris, which by the way, is incredible. From the start of our trip, I was determined to dislike Paris. I mean, it’s Paris, you know? Everyone and their dog/cat/mother/pet fish loves Paris because it’s a “magical place” or whatever. I hate to break it to you non-believers, but it’s true. Paris is so cool. Another cool part about Paris? The Palace of Versailles (where this picture is taken) is a quick train ride away! I’ve never seen so much gold in my life, King Louis XIV  wasn’t joking around when he built this thing. If you go to Paris (which you should), it’s incredibly easy to hop on a train to Versailles for the day.

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Amsterdam, Netherlands: I’m originally from Austin, Texas, where the city slogan is “Keep Austin Weird,” so by default I felt right at home in Amsterdam. One of my most vivid memories from abroad was the train ride departing Amsterdam; I thought to myself, “How can I get back here?” I fell in love with this eccentric, crazy city, and I’m almost certain you will too. All I knew about Amsterdam upon arrival was that a) marijuana was legal (which is in fact false) and b) they have a red light district. My friends and I took a walking tour of the city (no reservations, there were flyers for tours everywhere); this tour instilled my love for Amsterdam. Take a tour, learn a few things.

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Heidelberg, Germany: Probably my favorite country. It’s the country of my ancestors, a country of great food (and better beer), a country of friendly faces, a country of history. Heidelberg is a small city filled with young adults at Uni (Europeans word for college), but still much bigger than Clemson. I went to Heidelberg for a weekend in April with three friends; we asked Daniel, the guy who worked at the front desk of the hostel we stayed (Steffi’s Hostel), what he recommended we do for the weekend. His response was, “Well, I’m going to Springfest in Stuttgart, Germany with a few of my friends today, you guys should tag along!” So of course, we did. This is just one small example of how friendly the Germans are.

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Barcelona, Spain: Home of Antoni Gaudí, the renowned Spanish Catalan architect. If you’re ever in Barcelona and find yourself asking, “Wow, what’s with all the strange looking buildings?” you can bet it was designed by Gaudí. This picture was taken in Park Güell, a massive park and garden complex mixed with eclectic architecture, resembling a large and modern looking gingerbread house (google images for Park Güell, I dare you). Barcelona is a vibrant city with an electric night life, a pretty killer combination. Go and see for yourself!

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Lisbon, Portugal: A city with so much history and tradition. I love this picture more than I love most things, and no, I’m not ashamed to admit that. The Lisboa locals were putting on a “cultural showing” in the park, singing and dancing to songs loaded with tradition. I’m not sure whether this girl was a local or a tourist, but either way, she was dancing her little heart out. Meredith, my travel buddy and I walked out of the Lisbon Cathedral and stumbled upon this public cultural display; if (or when) you go abroad, you’ll find that the most memorable experiences are the ones not planned.

So that’s my trip, throughout a chunk of Western Europe, in a nutshell. See you all in Europa, friends!

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