Around The Continent In 17 Days

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Are you like me? Do you long to explore far-away places on this vast globe? I can only imagine the joy Phileas Fogg felt traveling the entire world in just 80 days. While I could not wander the whole world, I spent seventeen days exploring the history and culture of Europe.

Traveling brings me great personal pleasure; it’s a chance to experience other cultures. But traveling has a more socially significant purpose—it can build bridges among the global community by celebrating our commonalities and differences.

My journey began in the “City of Royals”—big red buses and a real big clock. Learning about the destruction of London due to the fire and its evolution to a fully developed modern city was fascinating. St Paul’s Cathedral, The Tower of London, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, and West minister Abbey told intriguing tales of the past. River Thames, decorated with The Tower Bridge and the London Bridge were true marvels of nature and engineering. The infrastructure was as complex as the ones I see in Dubai but there were older buildings too which had been maintained to preserve their age-old beauty.

Belgium was but a brief interlude. My walk to the stoned streets of Brussels, the famous Town Square and the Manneken Pis was magical …. as was my first bite of Belgian waffles. In Amsterdam, the towering windmills, the wooden clogs and the simple lives of those who work on the cheese farms in the suburbs was a contrast to the crowded and loud city streets.

I greeted Switzerland with wide smiles and jumpy insides. Switzerland was like a painting. The green lands, the beautiful lakes which from a distance look as though they were painted turquoise or, more aptly, the color of copper sulphate. Even the cows seemed perfect—the patches of black on their white skin never looked out of place. Church bells and the faint echo of cow bells from somewhere in the icy mountains were my alarm clock in the morning. Austria, my next stop, was splendid. I wished I had more time to explore its riches, so similar to Switzerland. These hilly locations were so different from the plains I reside in back home.

I cruised the Rhine in Germany. Italy was a blur of sites: the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Colloseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Gates of Paradise in Florence, a gondola ride in Venice. Italy reminded me of events I had learnt on the unification of the European states in a History lesson last year.

My 17-day excursion ended in France. I spent the last night of my journey in Paris, the “City of Lights.” Like all the places I visited, Paris is alive with history: the Louvre Museum, the Arc de Triumph, Notre Dam Cathedral and The Eifel Tower, which was stunning at night.

My journey was educational and enjoyable. Traveling taught me how to adapt to every culture with open arms. Did Phileas Fogg learn at least a little of the language spoken in every country he visited? Did his experiences remain with him for as long as he lived? Did his experiences help open people’s eyes and minds to the richness of the world beyond ones doorstep? Did he, like I, have dreams about his travels well after he returned home—dreams that someday the world’s peoples will be open to each other’s differences because we dared to journey into each other’s lives?





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