Brussels, Belgium (Oct. 6-8)
When I was planning all the places I wanted to go to while abroad, I made a list of 16 countries that I wanted to visit (brave of past Anna to think that I would actually make it to 16 different countries). One of the countries that was never on my list was Belgium—but when my friend from CU Boulder asked me to come with her, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity.
Despite not wanting to go in the beginning and a warning from a past teacher who didn’t like Belgium, I ended up loving it. It had been really hot in Italy the past few weeks, and I was starting to get sick of it, but in Belgium, it was finally cool out. The leaves were turning on the trees, and the breeze was perfectly ‘crispy,’ it reminded me of fall in Colorado.
Other than the weather, I also enjoyed exploring the city and seeing all of my friend’s favorite places since she had been to Brussels before. The architecture of the city was different from other European cities I had been to, with more of a mix of old and modern in the city center. We visited a lot of buildings that were associated with my History of European Integration class, and I felt as though I was making my professor proud.
Rome, Italy and Vatican City (Oct. 13-15)
I visited a friend in Bologna and Monteveglio last month while she was living with her family, but she now lives in Rome—meaning that I have another opportunity to visit a new place while also visiting her.
Rome has been my favorite large city in Europe I’ve visited so far. There are so many different parts of the city that it feels like you’re in a completely new place wherever you go. My friend is a master planner, so we had more than a dozen locations to head to during the day, getting in more than 20,000 steps per day. I ate mainly carbonara for every meal and we went on gelato scavenger hunts.
I definitely felt like a tourist going around this city to the big points like the Colosseum or Pantheon, but the architecture and history is so incredible that it makes it completely worth it (no wonder they’re touristy spots!). With ruins scattered around and tiny relic museums in the metro stops, I felt like I was looking back at history first hand.
We also went over to Vatican City, which is the smallest recognized country in the world. Since we went on a Sunday, all of the museums were closed BUT we got to watch part of Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, which was very special and eye opening. Overall, this trip had the perfect amount of going and relaxing, and seeing my friend again made it even more special.
Oslo and the surrounding area, Norway (Oct. 20-24)
Norway has been on the top of my travel list for years. I knew that if I was coming abroad to Europe that I would have to try my absolute hardest to make it up North—and I’m so glad I did. So far, Norway has been my utmost favorite place in Europe that I’ve visited. It also helped that I was visiting another long-distance friend, an international student I met at CU Boulder who had transferred back to Norway after freshman year.
We were quite worried that this trip wasn’t going to happen since there was a national transportation strike in Italy that had canceled more than 75% of the flights the morning we left but we got lucky.
Even though we stayed in the Oslo area for the entirety of the trip, there was still plenty to do. We walked around most of Oslo, ate lots of yummy Norwegian pastries, and traveled to a smaller town called Drøbak to get the full small town feeling. We were there for the first snow, which made the constant freezing temperatures worth it.
Being with a friend who was local to the area was one of the best parts of the trip since we didn’t feel like “tourists.” We went up to her cabin North of Oslo and went sledding one day and even went to the movie theater she worked at to watch a movie with free popcorn. I loved taking walks in her neighborhood surrounded by the changing fall colors and driving through fjords in her car.
Out of all places in the U.S., Norway reminded me most of the Western coast of Washington state (my favorite part of the U.S). I highly recommend for anyone and everyone to make a trip out here if you can, and I definitely plan to come back in the summer to explore more of the fjords.
Stresa, Italy (Oct. 30)
I had been in Stresa previously in September due to a train cancellation going to Switzerland, but I wanted to go again and re-do the experience to make it less horrific. I’ve started to learn that I love small towns by the water, so I thought that Stresa would be the perfect solo day trip to head to a cafe by the lake and get some work done.
Luckily, I was able to accomplish exactly what I came there for. There were hardly any people out and about because it was raining all day, from sprinkling to absolute downpours. This didn’t phase me however, and I still spent a couple hours walking around the entire town and along Stresa’s panoramic walk of Lake Maggiore. I found a great cafe and sat outside for a few hours doing work, eating pastries and drinking plenty of coffee like a ‘true’ Italian.
Overall, I definitely think the trip was successful. The only downside was finding out the hard way that my umbrella had holes in it (yes, I did get soaked), and the fact that my train home was delayed by almost an hour. But hey, at least it wasn’t canceled.
Venice, Italy (Oct. 31)
While everyone was off preparing for their Halloween night, I decided to go on a quick solo trip to Venice. I had heard very mixed reviews about the city from other people, from it being too touristy and crowded to the charm of the city fading quickly.
Because of the timing of the cheap train tickets, I was only in Venice for a total of four hours, but I still feel like I got to see enough. Stepping out of the train station was easily the most shocking part of the trip—seeing buildings just sitting in water while water taxis rushed by was a really cool sight. I also loved all of the small alleyways and swerving streets, even if they were hard to navigate where you wanted to go.
Maybe it was because I went on a random Tuesday, but I didn’t think it was crowded at all. It was hard to distinguish between locals and tourists, and spots like St. Mark’s Church and Palace were very popular, but there were also streets and canals that were completely empty. There wasn’t much that I did other than walk, eat lunch, get gelato, and buy some postcards, but it was a quick and easy trip nonetheless.
Do I think that Venice is slightly overrated? A little. I do think that it’s super interesting, but once you’ve seen one canal, it’s kind of like you’ve seen them all. I did randomly stumble upon a Banksy piece though, so that was a highlight.
This was a very packed month of trips since I was only in Milan for the last weekend, but I would say they were all very worth it. European cities continue to impress me with their beauty and history, and I’m excited to explore more in the last two months that I’m here.
November will be a slow travel month considering school is finally picking up and my parents are coming into town—but Pisa, Florence, and Lugano, Switzerland are on the list.