If you follow me on insta you’ve probably seen this hashtag on all my recent pics. So I shall provide a short snapshot of the trip along with the pics i took from my iphone (the dslr pics are gonna take some time).
I just got back from one of the best trips of my life! My mom, sister, cousins and I backpacked across Europe during the month of August, We traveled via train and planes between 11 countries and explored 9 (Netherlands and England count cause I stepped foot outside k) we ate tons of gelato, had the most amazing food, saw the sights we had read and dreamed about, made memories, and bonds so deep, lost shoes, walked and walked with aching feet, annoyed each other and above all cherished every minute. A lot of people said we had taken on too much and it would be hard to manage, but we did it, somehow, though it did get tiring towards the end, it was perfect, and though it rained in every single country we went to, it was still perfect.
Train life -
From France to Spain, countless train connections and learning the art of train travel the hard way we finally made it to Andalusia, which by far was a favorite during the trip. From there we went to Barcelona.
From Spain to Switzerland, oh my god don’t even ask. We got there, that’s that…next time, we’re flying.
From Switzerland to Czech, at one point we were all at the verge of hysteria - “just get me to Prague” beyond exhaustion we made it finally, and took it slow.
From Czech to Austria - piece of cake, like the back of our hand now :P
From Austria to Italy - made new friends with bunk mates, and by now, even my lil sis was pro at running after trains and getting on and off :D
Italy to Greece we flew - 6am flights are a BAD BAD idea when you’re on vacation.
Greece to Turkey - see previous point.
Paris, Je t’aime. You rained on us the entire time we were there and it could not have been more perfect, when I was little I had always dreamed of seeing Paris in rain, I guess God took that wish to heart and made sure it would happen. I saw the entire Europe in rain :P also, sis, she had stars in her eyes all 4 days.
Seville - Ah, speechless, Seville brought me back to Lahore, it felt like Lahore, it was beyond beautiful. It was love.
Granada - oh dear God, Granada was breathtaking, of all of Spain I enjoyed Granada the most, we aimlessly got lost on the streets, tried new food, people watched and saw the Alhambra, which was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.
Cordoba - few hour side trip, but of so worth it. I don’t know why but Cordoba reminded me of my Nana ji (maternal grandfather) maybe it has to do with the fact that when we were at a museum in Pakistan he had pointed out a picture of Allama Iqbal praying in the Cordoba Mezquita and I had immediately identified it and he had been so taken aback that i knew of the place, and the look in his eyes stayed with me as i marveled at the arches and columns in the great Mezquita.
Barcelona - it rained here. everyone in my family loved Barcelona, but I wasn’t really a fan, I loved Gaudi’s work but overall the city felt like an anticlimax after Andalusia. But, the Sagrada Familia still took my breath away.
Interlaken/Murren/Lauterbrunned - HOLY. You know when you finally see a place you had been dreaming about for soooo long with your own eyes? You dare not blink in case you’d miss it, you have to pinch yourself countless times, you can’t wipe that godforsaken smile off your face and you just radiate happiness? That skip in your step, that sudden energy, that adrenaline rush - this was just that. I could have spent forever in that tiny village of Murren overlooking the valley, the air, the smell, everything was just, I can’t even describe it. It was the best, I had turned to my mom and said, that I dont know how I will ever thank her for this, it brought me to tears, lets just leave it at that.
Prague - I have to go back. 4 days that had become 2 due to transit issues were not enough, yet meeting my great uncle and aunt was the best thing that happened during the trip. Meeting them after 17 years and feeling as if we had met just a few months ago, seeing my great uncle talk to us and feeling like Nana ji was right there with us. Seeing him bond with my cousins and seeing the love between him and his wife, ah MashaAllah, Prague would not have been so perfect without them. Wish we had had more days with them.
Vienna - My nana’s favorite city in Europe, we only put it on the itinerary because of him and goodness is it beautiful! The palaces and the cathedrals and then the rain, oh my god the rain - it poured, and we didnt know it would rain so we only had one umbrella on us - that my sis hogged - so we were all pretty much drenched in a minute.
Venice - the dream! You think italy and you think venice, I was expecting horrible smells and whatnot and frankly there were none. We walked, we rode the water bus, we sat in a gondola, we listened to music in st. marks square and saw that it was far too romantic for us :P Venice was the first city where i wandered off alone without a map, and it was perfect, those few hours before our train to Florence, I explored hidden streets and walked and walked and walked, and for that Venice holds a very special place in this trip for me.
Florence - if I were to ever live in Italy, i’d live here. Florence was so refreshing, it was beautiful, we had the best gelato and pizza of our lives here, i’m not exaggerating one bit, it was AMAZING.
Pisa - there’s a tower and it’s leaning, nothing big. but that look on my sister’s face when i finally opened the blinds in our room, ah my heart. She was excited about 3 things on this trip - the Eiffel tower, Notre Dame and the Leaning Tower of Pisa which she calls Pisa Tower, so after she saw the tower she was like - i’m done I want to go home now. oi vey that was hard.
Cinque Terre - AHHHHHHH this was like Interlaken for me. Each town had its own charm, but I loved Manarola and Vernazza the most, it was a particularly rough sea day so the sound of waves crashing was amazing, the food was delicious, the people were nice, the gelato, OMG THE GELATO. (if you haven’t figured it out yet, all we ate was gelato, also my family and I are big foodies.)
Rome - all roads lead to Rome? I felt like all roads led to the Colosseum when I got there. The history, the the places, the sights and just everything about Rome was love. Except some minor instances about elevators and automatic doors and hotel staff and taxi driver fights and everything closed for restoration (gah, the worst was when we rounded the corner to see the Trevi fountain and my cousin is like watch it be closed and i was like don’t you dare, and we turn and it is and i nearly just sat there and cried.) Yeah we’re going back to Rome.
Perissa/Oia - HOLY. again, oh goodness, I couldnt believe was there! we walked for hours on end in Oia, stopped at every shop or gallery that took our fancy, met a fisherman who had been to Karachi, he gave us a trinket so we would always remember him. Sat by the viewpoint for so long watching the sun inch towards the horizon and just relaxed, people in Greece are so nice! Our hotel staff was beyond love, the breakfast, the location, everything!
Athens - too hot, we lasted 2 hours at the acropolis and went to the museum and crashed back at our hotel by the afternoon, remember what i said about 6am flights? BAD. (the history buff in me was super happy here btw)
Istanbul - our longest stay in any city. It felt like coming home. As we drove to our hotel, there was this feeling in my heart, it was the same I had had when I was going to Lahore for the first time. It was very bittersweet, it was love and it almost broke my heart. Istanbul was very special, we had 5.5 days there and though had tons on our list to do, we did about half, and it was amazing. We knew that we would be back so we took it slow, we stayed in 4 hotels here (don’t ask) and met so many amazing people. Everyone loved my sis here, seriously it was weird, yet so endearing. Turkish hospitality is the best. Memories from Istanbul, and my feelings about it are a bit too personal to share on such a public forum, but lets just say I fell in love again, Istanbul woke the old me. I think the azaan helped :)
K, this was too long, there shall be part 2,3…8,9 later, Individual photo posts from each city with less writing I promise :)