My Christmas trip to South America and one special traveler inspired me to stop wasting time and explore the world while I still have time. My family thinks I should not rush to live, but I was thinking a lot and realised that now is the best time. I’m not obligated to settle for job, engaged in some serious relationship. I don’t have kids to take care of or mortgage to pay for. Additionally, this South American example showed me the power of organisation. You would not imagine how much you can see in just a few weeks. How many different places you can visit. How many people you can meet. You would not imagine how just a few weeks can make such a huge difference in your life. Develop your mind. Enhance your personality.
So there I was - a nineteen year old with a hunger for adventures, independency and passion for travel. I got myself a scholarship from last-year exams and decided to spend it wise. I bought tickets for six different cities in Europe. I figured this was a continent yet to explore. Have you ever considered how different it is? Have you ever compared the East side with West? The North one with South. Fascinating, isn’t it?
I began my journey with my dear friend from Serbia taking a train from England to France, from London to Paris. We lived on a private street, just on the side of the Arc de Triumph, with my friend’s family from Serbia. Three very different but individually special children, a Chocolate Lady, a sweet-hearted grandmother with a serious passion for cooking and a very hard-working husband. The house has a very interesting architecture. It contains of 4 square floors, basement with a kitchen and dinning hall, ground floor with lounge areas and the entrance and first and second floors with separate bedrooms with private showers. I met even more Serbians in this party organised by my friend’s nephew, same age as us by the way. Serbian people, music, food and blood only. A very very interesting experience, I should say.
Lets talk about urban features. The first thing which amazed me about Paris was large boulevards. So much air, so much space. Everything what a Gemini (horoscope sign and part of Air) needs. Furthermore, the architecture is just spectacular. Every house is built in thorough detail. If you look up, you will also notice amazing rooftops. The best place to chill? Canal Saint Martin. Peaceful, quite, but has some character. Marais surprised me by unexpected inside yards where I found interesting antiques and vintage clothes market. What about the food? Well, it is truly amazing. French bakery on every corner. Delicious pastry and soft croissants, as well as melting chocolate and specialised macaroons.
What about the people? Oh well, the French are extremely rude. I spoke with some local guitarists on the Montmartre staircase and they told me the French are reserved, quite and do not enjoy foreign company. They also said it was hard to make friends in Paris. Oh well, it might be true. If you asked about the staff in restaurants, I would say they fit the description. Nobody is interested in client’s experience. They hold their pride and do not enjoy serving others.
Destination No 2 was Belgium. I took a train from Paris to Brussels which took around two hours. Gare du Nord wasn’t the pleasantest place to wait around. There were several aggressive homeless and a number of gipsy mothers asking for drugs money. In contrast Brussels Midi was clean and safe. Metro was very modern and nice as well. The man I was living with in Brussels met me at Maalbeek. He was someone who hosted me out of goodness of the heart, without even knowing me. Worked in one of the European Union programmes situated there in Brussels. First thing which surprised me at his house was in particularly wide flat. Kitchen and living room were on one side, bedroom on the other side and bathroom underneath the host’s room, it looked almost as a very interesting and bright basement. The man I was living with informed me that once the government issued a tax to restrict the height so the people started making wider apartments.
I have started my day visiting on the parks. Very green and fresh, with a lot of memorial sculptures and arc on the entrance. I noticed the trends at other parks as well. Lets talk about the buildings. Every one of them was handled with care. I loved how they manage to balance different heights, widenesses, structures, patterns, doors, windows or bricks and merge it into one large line of buildings. Additionally, the city is hilly, which gives an advantage to observe beautiful panoramas and spreads the sunlights along cosy streets. One more feature which caught my eye was the art of including cartoon characters and funny signs on the side of serious-looking buildings.
The last country I visited during those intensively exciting two weeks was Italy. I caught a plane from Brussels to Milan. The flight was short, but the countries are truly diverse. Italy greats you with disorganisation and difficult task to find someone speaking English. Then I arrived to Duomo and took a tram to Ripamonti area where my host was living, I felt completely lost. You are not able to hear any stop names since they are outspoken in dead silence, not to mention: Italian only. Late at night, I finally met my English friend who lived in Milan at the time. First thing which caught my eye was apartment, once again. Now, I was living in a huge lofty flat with high celling, tall and wide windows looking at an inner-garden. Bedrooms are huge, however they do lack in light.
Milan has a sense of lost empire. Then one walks around the city, he see, touch and feel buildings which used to be city’s pride. Now most of the residential houses turned out to be drained: grey and dirty. Social prides such as Duomo and other churches are taken care of, of course. Even though some buildings appear to be “outdated” the food remain the freshest in Europe, not to mention very high standards. For instance: if a fruit expires in just a few days, it will immediately be reduced to a very low cost. The best place to relax might be a large park Sempione with plenty of trees, flowers, puddles, arcs and… outdoor night clubs. Additionally, once to finish your walk, go on and chill at one of the happy hour cafes offering buffei and wonderful aperitivos such as Aperol Spritz (my favourite).
Italians are a very special culture people indeed. They might get nervous quite quickly and express their emotions without any trouble. A waiter feels free to laugh if you order a late instead of cafe (a shot of espresso) after the meal. They surely do not spoil the foreigners but that is what is wonderful about them. The people are in-love with their identity and the society which belongs there. You can feel close relationship with the staff and someone who comes to have his morning coffee at a local coffee shop. Talking about organisation skills, I must mention they do have area for improvement. I got a feeling they assume everything should be clear without explanations. You should now all the stops the train makes on the way to some destination in the South, for example. Or you should also be aware of tram stop names (they are not spoken out loud).
That sums up my short but very culturally rich trip. Friends often ask me: which country did you like the most? There is no answer to that. Every one of them has their own strong points. I would love to be living in a French house, enjoy Belg company and be eating Italian food (of course). Europe is different that is why it is unique and that is why I love living here.
Belgs are the friendliest people so far I have met in Europe. They would always stop leading to cross the street, no matter what light was on: red or green. The drivers are very polite and understanding. Local businesses such as small coffee shops treat visitors with high respect. The owner would be interested in the purpose of your visit and will recommend best places to visit.