My First Eurotrip: Part 1

Since the film Eurotrip came out in 2004, I’d always wanted to spend a summer travelling around Europe. That dream finally come true in July of 2019. In the end, I visited 6 different countries and a bunch of different towns/cities. It was the best trip of my life so far.

I’ve reflected in my mind about each place, but haven’t written those thoughts down yet, so I figured this would be a good chance to do just that. Some cities I enjoyed more than others, but now that some time has passed, I appreciate each city that I visited in a different way. I think I’d return to most of the places I visited on my trip, but I also have a bunch of new ones I’d like to go to first.

My next Eurotrip will likely come next Summer and I’ll eventually make a list of which countries I want to visit on that trip.

Dublin/Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

My family history includes a brewery in the town of Revelstoke, B.C.. It was the first one to exist there. It’d be hard not to connect the art of beer brewing to my Irish ancestry. The Irish love their beer, and it’s easy to see why if you make a visit to Ireland. The days I spent in Dublin reminded me very much of Victoria back home. A mix of the architecture and the style of pubs might be the reason for that. The pub culture in Dublin, where a stop off for a pint of Guinness after a day of the office seems like a ritual enjoyed by Dubliners both young and old, makes it hard come up with an excuse not to grab one yourself. I don’t remember exactly how many pints I had there, but it must have been quite a few.

I arrived late to Dublin one night. The next day I woke up early and the day on a bus operated by Paddywagon Tours, which brought us on a journey to the Cliffs of Moher. The cost was 45 euros, and it was well worth the price. The buses have WiFi, but I spent most of the journey listening to the tour guide/driver and looking out as we weaved our way through the Irish countryside. We stopped in a typical Irish village called Doolin Village along the way, where I grabbed an Irish lunch and a pint, then continued onward to the Cliffs. The Cliffs are truly a must see if you visit Ireland. They’re 66% the height of the Empire State building in New York, and make up part of the edge of Western Europe. If you take a tour bus, you sadly only get to spend 90 minutes there, which didn’t feel like enough time. It’s a long journey to and from the Cliffs, but it was definitely memorable.

I spent the next day in Dublin on foot, walking around the city and checking out some attractions. Trinity College, founded in 1592, is the oldest university in Ireland. Oscar Wilde is probably one of the most well known alumni of the college. My favorite quote of his is, “Keep love in your heart, a life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.” He has some other great quotes about the relationship between men and women.

St. Stephen’s Green is a nice park in the city centre. I walked through it in what must have been lunch hour. The park was filled with men in suits and women in business attire, who understandably grasped the opportunity to escape from the office and eat their lunch while they sat on a bench or on the grass.

I walked by St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which is the national cathedral of the Church of Ireland. The evening ended in the local tourist trap, Temple Bar, which is a fixture in the neighborhood of the same name. The pubs are crowded, the beer is overpriced, but it’s a necessary stop on a visit to Dublin. I had a couple of pints and listened to a nice cover of Castle on the Hill by Ed Sheeran. I loved Ireland and can’t wait to return.

Edinburgh, Scotland

I’ve never been in a more beautiful city in my life. Being in Edinburgh almost feels like jumping into a storybook. In some way you can attribute that to J.K. Rowling, who wrote the Harry Potter books while living in the Scottish capital. You can see scenery all over the city that was likely used as inspiration for the visuals you see in the films. There are lists all over the internet of attractions for Harry Potter fans, and stores and tours cater to Potter fanatics. I really can’t compare it with any other city I’ve been to.

I arrived by train into the city centre, where the AirBnB host kindly took took my luggage so I could explore the city. Edinburgh Castle highlights the skyline of the city centre. The castle sits on a rock (known as Castle Rock) that is an extinct volcano. Castle Rock been occupied by a royal castle since the 12th century. An interesting fact about Edinburgh Castle is that it’s been attacked more than any other castle in the world, including during the Wars of Scottish Independence. Aside from being a popular tourist attraction, its now used as a military base. “The Defender of the Nation,” they call it. I don’t remember how much time I spent walking on the first day, definitely hours, but it felt like I walked the entire city.

Hiking up Arthur’s Seat is a must if you ever make it to Edinburgh. It’s an easy climb and you end up about 250 meters above the city and get an excellent panoramic view of both the city and the coast. Like Castle Rock, Arthur’s Seat was also formed on an extinct volcano system. It’s mainly a hike through hills. When I went up it was very windy upon reaching the peak and my jacket almost blew away over the edge of the summit.

If you’re into exploring cemeteries, Edinburgh would intrigue you. Greyfriars Kirkyard, which dates back to the 16th century, is a popular one. If you believe in ghosts, go for a yee wander.

The weather of Edinburgh, and Scotland in general, is what I’m used to from growing up on Vancouver Island. Wet and windy. I was blessed by two beautiful sunsets over the ocean. It’s a sweater city, meaning you should bring one for when the sun goes down. Edinburgh is a city I would definitely return to again.

Jungfrauregion, Switzerland

I come from British Columbia, Canada. If you asked me last year, I would have told you that it’s the most beautiful place in the world, with the Pacific Ocean always at reach, an abundance of wildlife, snow-capped mountains and dense forests. After visiting the Jungfrauregion of Switzerland, which is home to the towns of Wengen, Lauterbrunnen, Interlaken and several other small villages, my answer is now different.

The train journey from Paris into Switzerland via train is something I’ll never forget. My eyes lit up as we passed by turquoise lakes and rivers, towering mountains and green fields. The first stop was Interlaken, which is a well known tourist destination in the region and the main transportation hub to popular lakes and mountains in the area. It became a tourist destination in the beginning of the 19th century thanks to its representation in paintings by Swiss landscape artists. By the end of the 19th century, it had luxury hotels and railway systems that connected it to the large city of Bern, and to other smaller towns. It has a population of less than 6000, though that number surely rises in the summer months. The native tongue of the locals is Alemanic Swiss German (I don’t know how much different it is to standard German). Anyone involved in the tourism or service industry understands and speaks English, though.

The next train was from Interlaken onward to Lauterbrunnen, one of, if not the most, photogenic towns I’ve ever been in. Lauterbrunnen has a population of just over 2200 and is named for its numerous waterfalls. Staubbach Fall is the most well known, as it can be seen throughout the Lauterbrunnen Valley and even from up above it in Wengen. It’s one of the highest unbroken falls in all of Europe. The main language of Lauterbrunnen in German, though in restaurants English was spoken. One surprise was that in one restaurant we went to, they didn’t accept credit cards, only cash.

The last train transfer was to Wengen, which is nestled along the Swiss Alps and overlooks Lauterbrunnen Valley. Wengen has 1,300 year-round residents, and sees its population grow to 5,000 in the summer, and then balloon to 10,000 in the winter, as it’s a popular skiing destination. The hotel we stayed at felt more like a lodge. The bathrooms were separate from the rooms, which felt very much like rooms you’d find in a cabin. The room had a nice view of the church and mountains and I got a nice photo of a sunset there. There aren’t really any roads in Wengen as it’s a car-free town, so it’s extremely quiet and chilled out. The restaurant selection is small, but I got a discount at one of them as it was owned by the hotel. One funny thing that happened was when I asked for a plate for the pizza I ordered. The waiter basically told me he’d have to charge me extra because they don’t like washing dishes. I think he noticed I thought he was joking and decided to give me it anyway.

The best part of the stop, though, was taking the five minute lift up to Männlichen from Wengen. When you get up there, you’re surrounded by mountains and are able to watch waterfalls pouring from the melting snow. You can walk in complete isolation among the cattle that are lucky enough to feed on the grass that grows there. The way I’d sum it up is that you can get lost for hours and completely disconnect. It’s a hard feeling to explain, being lost and knowing you’re right where you’re supposed to be at the same time. When the path was finally rediscovered, thunder could be heard in the distance. You don’t want to get stuck in a high up valley when there’s a lightning storm. I slowly made my way back to the hotel, and five minutes after arriving, watched one of the biggest downpours of rain I’ve ever seen. It was a lucky day.

In this world, it’s hard to find places that flirt with perfection. The Jungfrauregion of Switzerland is one of those places.

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