I think I'm supposed to write a post about my travels?
Other, hipper, bloggers would have a cool travel guide post with hidden gems, exciting stories, and artful photographs. I feel not nearly cool enough for that, so instead I'll share some random notes and observations along with a string of clichéd Euro-Pics.
|Obligatory Cathedral Picture. (Cologne)|
I always forget when I go to Europe that instead of seeing holidays as an opportunity for capitalism, they actually respect days off. As a human person, I admire their commitment to giving employees high-quality lives. As a traveller, I am not so generous of spirit. We happened to be travelling through Germany and Belgium over Easter weekend, and that meant that a looooot of stuff was closed, including restaurants.
So remember: while planning a trip over a holiday might seem like a good idea because you miss less work, you may have less options of things to do. At the very least, research a bit more in advance if you're travelling over a holiday and plan to see a natural wonder over that time, not an urban romp.
Speaking of research, what are the mystical search phrases these hip bloggers use to find their sweet restaurants and events? I spent long hours with Google and still somehow missed the Puppet Passion Play happening over Easter, the theatre museum in Brussels, and the circus that was swinging through town while I was in Brussels! The CIRCUS! COME ON!
|Obligatory Old Building Picture. (Belgrade)|
One of the greatest joys in life for a Canadian traveling to Europe is the cheese. THE CHEESE! It's so plentiful, high quality, and cheap! JOY!
Just so you know, if you're in Germany and want a gouda cheese sandwich, it's spelled exactly the same, but they pronounce it "gowda." The waiter may be completely dumbfounded by you pronouncing it "gouda".
Speaking of languages, I felt both relief and a bit of Dominant-Culture Guilt that people generally spoke English everywhere I went, making my token efforts of learning "hello", "please", and "thank you" in their languages sufficient for communication.
Every once in a while, though, we would run into someone who spoke not a word of English, and that's where the fun began! I feel like I'm cheating at travelling if I don't have to deal with a language barrier at some point.
In retrospect, as much fun as it was to try to pantomime that I wanted a personal-sized Margarita pizza and wind up with a ham and cheese, next time I would use technology to my advantage and just take a picture of the menu posted on the street to point out what I wanted.
|Obligatory Cool Graffiti Picture. (Brussels)|
In some countries, vegetarianism isn't really a thing. Serbia is one of those countries. When we were out with our Serbian hostess, she could communicate with servers on my behalf to explain my bizarre dietary choice (met with confused "it's your funeral" looks), but it seams saying "no meat" translated to "meat is fine", and I got to learn the art of acceptance by relaxing my vegetarian standards a bit.
The aforementioned ham and cheese pizza? I gave the nice vendor my money and then carefully picked the ham off of it. It was an unideal situation, but nobody died. Except the pig. The pig was dead.
Trains are all the rage in Europe, for good reason, but if you're traveling on a budget, take a bus. They are only slightly less comfortable and way cheaper. Flixbus has wifi.
|Obligatory Public Art Picture. (Frankfurt)|
Okay, I can give a FEW suggestions:
Frankfurt: We flew into Frankfurt and had a few hours before our bus to Dusseldorf. We walked along the Main River and it was really pretty! There are a bunch of museums on the riverbank, some of which have art installations outside the buildings. Wander!
Dusseldorf: The old town and river are pretty. The pubs are genuine (I could tell because we walked in and they were full of old German men.)
Cologne: There are Roman Ruins in Cologne that are definitely worth checking out. You can climb Cologne Cathedral's tower, and it's only sort of worth it (all the safety mechanisms really ruin the view).
Brussels: The Natural History Museum is amazing, and there are about a thousand art galleries. The Musée des Fine Arts is wonderful, and the Bozar has changing exhibitions regularly. And yes, go see the Mannequin Pis, mostly because everyone will get mad at you if you don't. Eat all the street waffles. The Bois de la Cambre is a gorgeous park with a lake and some natural woods. Also, look up Agenda for things to do - they have event listings in English, French, and Dutch.
Belgrade: The Fortress is their main tourist site and it's totally awesome. The National Theatre is gorgeous and cheap. Totally worth seeing a show, even if you don't speak Serbian. Downtown Belgrade is a pedestrian-only area full of both regular and tourist shops, right next to the fortress. Drink lots of rakija. Note that the Nikola Tesla Museum has English tours, but only if you call in advance, and there's not a lot to look at without the tour guide.
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