Each fall, for the past ten years, I've looked forward to one moment. No, not the leaves falling, not Halloween, not any of that crap.
What could be so important? The premiere of CBS's hit reality show, The Amazing Race (duh)! When I watch that show, I feel the world is OK. Seriously. I don't care how sad that is.
So, needless to say, I felt complete as a human, once again, when I spent Sunday night watching contestants zoom around Shanghai, stopping only to play ping pong and eat frog fallopian tubes (zang!).
Anyway, I considered doing a top 5 list dedicated to my favorite Amazing Race seasons, but then realized all 20 million of them blended into one. I may, one day, do a top 5 favorite teams post, but right now that would require too much thought.
So in honor of the Amazing Race, I decided on a top five list based on my own limited traveling experiences. Here's my TOP FIVE FAVORITE SPOTS IN EUROPE:
5) That walkway along that Stockholm river, which has a nice view of Old Town, and then, like, leads to this park that's pretty, and has lots of trees and docks and shit. (Stockholm, Sweden)
Yes, that's exactly how they explain it in the guidebook. Just go up to any local, repeat the above verbatim, and they'll direct you. Don't forget the "like" and the "shit." That's important. Trust me.
But, seriously, I don't know how to describe the area, and I sincerely doubt it has a name because there's nothing all that denotable about it. But the walk encapsulates everything I love about Stockholm: the waterways, the well-preserved Scandinavian architecture, the cleanliness, and how even the busier parts of the city are only a stone's throw from smaller nooks that make you feel like you're miles away from anything metropolitan. And then along the way, you see things like this:
I strongly feel Stockholm will be an "it" city to visit in the coming years, if it's not becoming one already.
4) San Gimignano (Tuscany, Italy)
If Florence, Siena, and Pisa are the stars of Tuscany, then San Gimignano is the scene stealer. A medieval, walled city known as "The Town Of Fine Towers," San Gimignano's hilltop placement makes for a beautiful, old style skyline that is, hmm, pretty amazing, and probably better suited for a Tolkien novel than, well, real life. Now, there's not a ton to do in this town, other than eat and relax (which is probably worth it alone), and you can traverse the tiny city in like five seconds, but it is truly a step back in time, and one of those places where you can't stop thinking, "I can't believe people LIVE here." Everything about it breathes history. Oh, and they claim to have some of the best gelato in Italy. I can't speak for all the gelato in Italy, but it's pretty good.
3) Walking West Along The Charles Bridge At Night (Prague, Czech Republic)
The only words that come to mind during an evening walk along this historic bridge, into the the mouth of Prague Castle, are "holy," fucking," and "shit." It's true. I dare you to come up with something else. Prague has become one of the trendier cities to visit over the last few years, and it's sites like the above that prove why. And while walking east on the bridge (to Old Town) also provides a nice view, there's something about the west side of the historic monument that's a bit quieter, more peaceful, and prettier. It's a gateway into something special (even if the special is just a steep hill with lots of tourist shops). As for the bridge itself, it's generally bustling with activity, but even the tourist chatter and many vendors somehow add to the experience. This bridge is why romantics come to Europe; there's simply nothing even close to it in the United States.
2) The Midpoint Between Neuschwanstein Castle and Hohenschwangau Castle (Bavaria, Germany)
The first thing you think when entering this area of the Bavarian Countryside is "why don't more people talk about this place." Seriously. Families spend thousands upon thousands on Disney vacations that, more or less, emulate this real thing that sits two hours outside Munich. In fact, Sleeping Beauty's castle in Disneyland was inspired by this ...
By the way, do yourself a favor and Google "Neuschwanstein Castle," because my awful pictures do not do it justice. The depth of this area is so hard to capture on film, but you're in constant awe of the steep mountains and lush green countryside that truly make you feel as if in the middle of a fairy tale. Like it wouldn't shock you if you saw a couple trolls fighting at the base of the castle, or maybe seven dwarves wander out of the forest. Add on the old towns along the Romantic Road, and you're truly in for a unique experience that will most definitely be the highlight of your vacation. Do yourself another favor: spend a couple of nights in this beautiful area, and then gush to your friends (in a blog post, perhaps!)
1) Everywhere in Central Bruges (Bruges, Belgium)
In my limited experience, this town encapsulates Europe. Known as the "Venice of the North," due to its canals, and extremely well preserved medieval architecture, Bruges is a living and breathing museum to Europe's commercial capital of the 13th century. Citizens of Bruges often joke about questions they receive from tourists like, "so what time does Bruges close?", but it's hard not to get the impression that if Disney opened a medieval theme park, it would look as close to Bruges as possible. There's not much in the way of tourist attractions, aside from some museums and the Bell Tower in the town square, but the city itself, with its winding cobblestone streets, amazingly preserved buildings, and thousands of chocolate shops (each one better than the last), will leave an unforgettable imprint. You know that dream lots of Americans have ... Where you go to a European city and stare at beautiful buildings that are all older than Euro-settled America? You fantasize about drinking coffee at an outside cafe, looking up at stars, and saying dumb shit like, "yeah, man" and "the world is so big, yet so small." Then hope to meet a lovely Euro local in one of those unforgettable "love at first sight" moments? I don't know that any of that is possible, but if it is, Bruges is the place where it's most likely to happen.
Next post? My five LEAST favorite spots in Europe!