From Pasties to Pierogi/Maria Sliva

This past Friday, March 28th I embarked on the infamous “eurotour” – a 17-day jaunt across some of the most beautiful places in Europe, if not the world – with all but two of the exchange students in Poland. So far, we have ventured to Amsterdam, Brussels, and various regions of France. We are traveling by charter bus, which is convenient, but makes for some long hours spent driving. Two hours ago, we crossed the French/Spanish border on our way to Barcelona.

The past five days have been filled with equal amounts of wonder, adventure, and confusion as the surrounding cultural atmosphere is constantly changing as we move from country to country and in some cases region to region.

In Amsterdam we walked the streets of the Red Light District with a hilarious elderly dutch woman as our tour guide. There we walked along Amsterdam’s historic canals, ducking into flower stalls, and sending curious glances at the multitude of shops selling various controlled substances and the “ladies in the windows.” Later, we took a quick trip to Madame Tussaud’s, which proved to be equally fascinating and creepy.

Our visit to Brussels was rather short, starting with a morning trip to the Atomium, an iconic Belgian structure of a fusion of science and modern art that for some reason gets far less hype than many of Europe’s other monuments. After several photo ops, we made our way to the old city, where we gazed at several famous statues including the “little peeing boy” (which is far smaller than I had ever imagined) and sampled Belgium’s exquisite chocolate and waffles. That afternoon, we hopped back in the bus and drove to Paris, making it in time to see the Eiffel Tower do its nightly five minute “sparkle.”

The next day was spent exploring the Louvre and climbing the Eiffel Tower – which is no easy feat, as well as extensive shopping and the consumption of macarons. The next morning we left to spend the next two days exploring some of France’s vast array of castles and palaces.

In Spain, we will spend two days exploring everything from football stadiums to the beautiful Sagrada Familia. After Spain, we will return briefly to France and then head to Monaco followed by Italy, where we will stay for the remainder of our trip.

Throughout our trip, I was and am constantly reminded of the immense beauty the world has to offer in a multitude of forms. Repeatedly, we are exposed to such wonderful scenery, amazing feats of art and architecture, and cultures so vibrant and alive that each one seems like its own organism, growing and changing and slowly evolving, developing new traits and losing some of the less useful ones, yet still retaining a familiar shape.

The past seven months and the past five days have only strengthened my love of the world and my curiosity to explore it and at this rate, I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Editor’s note:?Maria Sliva is a member of the Houghton Rotary student exchange program.