Written by Swati
March 25th 2023
With UNESCO World Heritage sites on every street corner and historic memorabilia in every city, it’s difficult to give everything the attention and care it deserves. Parts of Europe have developed history and culture over centuries, some over thousands of years in the case of empires, with preserved artifacts marking some of humanity’s most groundbreaking accomplishments. Especially in cities in France, Italy, and Germany, dozens of museums populate towns, and I found myself struggling knowing where to put my eyes. Behold: the black door. This black door found in the room next to Michelangelo’s David caught my eyes in Florence. After about a half hour sat in a corner analyzing the realistic curves and features of David, Googling what he means and why people travel across seas and over mountains to see him, I found myself wandering over to the next room: half in awe, half in mental exhaustion. I stumbled upon the door. It was in the least ostentatious corner in the museum that gave me reprise from the lifelike marble and classical instruments throughout the museum. I found myself wondering what secrets lie beyond. Is it an uncovered exhibition? A storage of old masterpieces? More likely than not it’s a room filled with dusty chairs and stanchions to guide lines of people, but the possibility of something exciting kept me there for a moment longer.
Guides and walking tours are great wells of knowledge in new cities, and they have information that many cannot amass during their first visit to new places, but it can often get exhausting trying to follow the routes and stay interested in old fun facts and historical tidbits. Don’t get me wrong, the right tour guides and the right instructors can interest you in just about anything, but we all tire of the same things at some point.
In order to break up the monotony, I signed up for a chocolate making class on a whim after talking to a pair of girls on Spring Break in my Bruges hostel. After a few days of admiring architecture, I started to wonder just what else there is to do in new cities any more. Of course there are the local delights: food, desserts, tourist attractions, but after nearly three months of walking up and down streets, you tire a bit. In my head, one thing never gets old: books and waterways. I find water the most relaxing part of nature, and I think the best when I watch waves lap over each other, but to break up the routine I wanted some new experiences that are specific to a place. The chocolate making class ended up being the most exciting part of my Belgian excursion this past weekend. Two and a half hours of sneaking bites of hardened chocolate and swoops of ganache, I was in heaven. I was in a class of fifteen, including a couple from London and about a dozen Americans studying abroad in different parts of Europe. Our instructor was the perfect amount of informative, encouraging, and hilarious, which encouraged me to sign up for more experiential days on my upcoming trips! I hope you’re looking forward to hearing about the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland and paragliding in Switzerland soon.
I realize now that we are hitting the point of exhaustion. Somewhere along the way, streets blur together and the beauty and excitement of seeing new places wanes. It’s not that travel isn’t the most liberating and exciting thing in the world, it’s that the real world checks back in upon our weekly arrivals in Metz and sooner than later homework turns to exams turn into projects that were assigned weeks in advance. It’s later than I thought, with only 6 weekends left. I thought I would tire of the nearly full-time travel sooner. It must be the spring blooms, welcoming in the sunshine, putting on a parade for her. With the strikes and travel delays, we’re wearing out in transit, and there can be too much of a good thing. Sundays that used to be spent wandering cities, expecting to take the last train back, have turned into getting to the train station first thing in the morning and crossing my fingers that all legs of my journey still exist. But hardships wither in the face of comfort. And updating friends on the wild transit schemes and making it back safely are more things I can look forward to.