It all started because my younger sister Christine was graduating from a French grande école school of engineering. As she would return to Malaysia for good, we came up with a plan – a backpacking trip across Europe!
I had to apply for work leave and seek extensions to my Master’s project deadlines, so the trip ended up being much shorter than it should have been. But thanks to Christine’s ingenious planning, it was still incredible.
I landed in Paris and stayed at her apartment in Lille, the fifth largest city in France. The next day, we took an early bus to Charleroi, Belgium, and then flew to Rome.
In Rome, we visited the Colosseum, reputedly the largest amphitheatre ever built. We also entered the Vatican City, a city-state surrounded by Rome, the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. Due to the overwhelming crowd, we only managed to tour inside St Peter’s Basilica.
Although we did not indulge in fancy Italian cuisine, outside of the typical pasta and pizza, I had the best chocolate milkshake in the world – a blend of full cream milk and pure Belgian chocolate gelato!
After staying in Rome for two nights, we flew off to Stockholm, the capital of Sweden.
I exchanged around €25 (RM116) for Swedish krona prior to the flight, thinking that it would suffice for our late night dinner in Stockholm upon arrival. Who knew that it was not enough to even get us two Burger King set meals in this expensive city!
So we resorted to kebabs. Kebab shops are commonplace throughout most of the European continent. Luckily, water is free and refreshingly drinkable throughout Stockholm, even if it is from the toilet sink!
In Stockholm, we went to Gamla Stan, known as the Old Town, and my craving for Swedish meatballs was satisfied in Meatballs for the People, which claims to be Sweden’s first and only dedicated meatballeria. At night, we went around the artsy subway stations in Stockholm, said to be the world’s longest art exhibit, decorated with sculptures, mosaics, paintings, installations, engravings and reliefs.
From that day onwards, we flew daily – first to Copenhagen, capital of Denmark, and then to Berlin, capital of Germany. With Christine’s amazing planning skills, we managed to travel to many of the tourist spots, such as Amalienborg Palace, The King’s Garden and Nyhavn in Copenhagen, as well as the Berlin Wall, Berliner Dom and Reichstag observation deck in Berlin.
Knowing that we would be worn out by then, she included a five day/four night breather in Salzburg, an Austrian city on the German border, with views of the Eastern Alps. Salzburg was the highlight of our trip. Being the birthplace of Mozart and the setting for the film The Sound Of Music, the place was nothing short of inspirational.
We hiked along the 1,778ft (542m) Festungsberg Mountain, took selfies around the “Do-Re-Mi” gardens of Mirabell Palace, explored the pretty little World Heritage Site of Hallstatt village, and climbed over 1,400 steps inside Eisriesenwelt in Werfen, the world’s largest natural limestone ice cave.
If those were not bucket list-worthy enough, we spent four nights in a dorm-style room in Meininger Hotel, which my sister booked online, with eight other travellers in the same room, with a shared bathroom. Since we also utilised the common kitchen to prepare our own food, we shared conversations with people from many nationalities and backgrounds – from British to Korean; from students who were on their gap year to young entrepreneurs on their business-cum-leisure trip.
The day we left Salzburg was incredibly exhausting. We had our breakfast, took a low-cost flight to London, had a quick fast-food lunch in Victoria station, and rode on a six-hour Eurolines bus, passing through the Channel Tunnel, which is beneath the English Channel connecting Britain and France, back to Lille that night itself.
We are talking about three countries in a day! Interestingly, during this trip, my passport was only stamped when we transited in London, as all the other cities are within the European Union (I think this should be practised in Asean countries too).
The following day, we went to the Charles de Gaulle Airport to welcome my dad, older sister and her family who arrived that morning, and I spent my three remaining days in Europe with my family, in the city of love.
The views expressed are entirely the reader’s own.
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