I always kind of wonder how would it be like to have the chance and visit most of the cities of the Europe, at least all those which are famous. But this “idea” started becoming more touchable when a friend of mine told me how there is a NGO in Kosovo (YIHR) that in cooperation with a German foundation (Robert Bosch Siftung), to both of whom I am really grateful, just might make all this possible with their project “Travel to Europe”. So this is a project, that aims to bring youngsters from the Balkans together and give them an opportunity to visit Europe too. For us, Kosovo youngsters, that come from the most isolated state in Europe, this was a really good chance. So as it turned out I got elected to be a part of the group that was going to Travel the Europe.
We started the trip in Germany, Berlin. We were all excited to start this new experience, and Berlin didn’t let us down.
During the very first day, although a bit tired from the flight, we started exploring the city. All the members of the group were chosen randomly, so as we were visiting the city we were getting to know each other also. We got to see a lot of beautiful places in Berlin like a palace that we encountered by accident the Bellevue Palace, in the Pariser square we saw The Brandenburg Gate, we saw also The World Clock at the Aleksander Square which is also the main square. Another beautiful palace was The Charlottenburg Palace, which also had a beautiful and large park in front of it and of course we took the opportunity to take some pictures there. As it turned out we all were kind of “photo freaks”. The days we spent in Berlin were full of activities with all the other youngsters that came all over the Balkans. We all got to share our own, and hear the experiences that the others shared with us.
After Germany we continued our trip in two Benelux countries, in the Netherland and Belgium. We first went to the Netherlands where we got to see three beautiful cities Amsterdam, Bodegraven and The Hague. All these three cities were really beautiful and we got to see a lot of beautiful parts of them, especially in Amsterdam like the Anne Frank’s house, the Dam Square, where the Madame Tussaud museum is and lots of bridges over the Amstel river. But to be honest the one that I liked the most was this small town called Bodegraven. When we left Kosovo, we were told that when we would return, we would be different persons, and what I thought was that “what could possibly change us, are the big cities with extraordinary architectonic marvels”. What was quite interesting in reality, is that none of that makes you really think more on “what to seek from life” or make other drastic changes in you, than this quiet, almost perfect small town. From the Netherlands we went to Belgium. Where we visited two cities, Brussels and Ghent. One extraordinary building that we saw in Brussels was the Palais De Justice, it was a giant, old, beautiful building. On the other hand Ghent was a small city, old, too and lots of places to see. The cathedrals of Ghent were really beautiful and we got to see some of them. One interesting fact was that one of these cathedrals had my name St. Nicolas Cathedral.
The real European majesty was still about to be discovered. From Belgium we went off to France, Paris. I myself think that Rome and Paris are the capital cities of the western Europe. On the first day in Paris we went to visit the Eiffel Tower, for which I was really exited, but to be honest when I saw it, so close in front of my eyes… I didn’t quite like it. After a while I discovered that to be able to see its real beauty was to go a bit far from it, especially at nights, when it was lit with glamorous lights. After the tower we saw a lot of other places, one that I was really looking forward to was a bridge, where a part of the “INCEPTION” was shot, we saw also Porte de Triumph, Notre Dame Cathedral, the University of Paris, Palace of Versailles, Elysee street. One of the best places we visited in Paris was the Louvre museum. If you are still wondering whether it is true that Mona Lisa “cries” and “laughs” at the same time, yes she does. One other place, which is one of the reasons why I wanted to see Paris at all, is Cafe Le Rostand. This is the place where my favorite writer Ismail Kadare drinks his morning cafe. I was really hoping to see him there, but as I heard he was in Albania at that time. No matter the fact that I didn’t see him there, I really enjoyed a sandwich and a beer with a beautiful view of the Luxemburg Palace and Park and a beautiful view of the streets of Paris.
After Paris I separated from the group for a few days and went to Switzerland to some of my relatives. There I visited two cities Bern and Lucerne. I wasn’t really expecting much after I left Paris I thought that no place on earth could be nearly as beautiful. But Switzerland turned out to be a place of surprises, and Bern in particular had a really strong “reply” for Paris. In Bern I saw a few places like the Bundeshaus, Bern Minster, the Zytglogge which was a clock built in the 13th century and is still working. My relatives were like a guide to me, so I got to really know a lot from the history of the city. Near the city center there is a mountain and a Park “Rosengarten”, from where you can see all the city. The view from there is astonishing, especially at sunset. Similarly to Bern, Lucerne was also beautiful. The river that divided the city into two parts was so clear that you could easily count the rocks that were in it. Above this river there were two old bridges. The Kapellbrücke (one of the two bridges) is one of the most famous things built by the hand of men in Switzerland. A very famous place that many tourists throughout the year visit in Lucerne is the Lake. Another very interesting fact about Lucerne is that it is surrounded by alps and if you are lucky enough to be visiting the city when the weather is good you can see them with your own eyes.
From Switzerland I rejoined the group in Italy the state that I was the most excited to see. That’s probably the reason why I stayed there the most. I started my journey in Rome. Rome… it was hard to believe that I was actually there. I arrived way early in the morning, after having some really big problems on the road from Lucerne, I got to sleep just a few hours and then woke up with the others to eat breakfast. There it was, Rome, with all its glory. We ate breakfast at a cafe shop near the Papal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, there was a square too. No better way to start the day.
We started the Rome adventure at the Colosseum, and the remains of the old city (the city before 2000 years). From there we went to see the Viktor Emanuel monument, that big, white, beautiful, monument that you would see every day, no matter where you were going. We also visited lots of Squares filled with fountains, all those fountains were really helpful, especially to the tourists since the most of them had cold drinkable water, and they were in every corner of the city. Two most beautiful squares with fountains were Piazza Navona, and Piazza di Trevi. Fontana di Trevi for me is one of the most beautiful art pieces that I have ever seen. To add even more the beauty of it was the people who stayed there, admiring it, while throwing coins in the fountain. As the legend says if you wish something and throw a coin in the fountain, that wish will be fulfilled.
Very close to the Trevi Fountain it is a palace, very important especially to us Albanians. It’s the place where our national hero Gergj Kastrioti had his residence in Rome, when he used to come to visit The Pope at the time. In front of this palace it is also a square with the name “Scanderbeg”. So our national hero had a residence in the capital city of the western culture, and this alone shows once more the real connection between the Albanian and the western culture.
The most divine places, in every meaning possible, in Rome of course it is The City of Vatican.
I visited the three most important parts, the museum, the Sistine Chapel, and Basilica San Pietro.
In the museum you could see art pieces that came from all over the world, and from all civilizations. From the Egypt, from Babylonia, from ancient Greece and from ancient Rome. Important fact about this museum is that it is the first museum ever.
After the museum I got in the Sistine Chapel. A marvel made by one of the most famous artists of all times, Michelangelo. The paintings are divided into two parts. In the ceiling, where it is painted “The Genesis” (I suppose almost everyone knows “The creation of Adam”, a part of The Genesis, this one only had enough to “give” making the whole trip worth it). The other part is in the front wall, called “The last Judgment”. From the Chapel I went into the Basilica, the main church. And that was the place where my mind was blown away. Every inch of the walls, every inch of the ceiling, and every inch of the floor was built, painted, carved in such forms that it was almost impossible to believe. Masterpieces of the best artists of all time in every corner. One of these masterpieces was “Pieta” of Michelangelo, which for me, together with “Mona Lisa” of Leonardo da Vinci, are the best art pieces ever made from human kind.
On the last day in Rome the other members of the group continued their trip in Switzerland and I continued with other cities of Italy. I went to Florence, Siena, Pisa, Trieste and Venice.
Florence, the city of art. This is not such a big city (compared to other really big cities) and it had so many museums and historical places to visit. For most of their art fortune, the citizens of Florence should be grateful to the Medici family. They were some kind of royal family that ruled Florence for almost 300 years. At the time (during the Renaissance) the Republic of Florence was as rich as the whole Great Britain. The art collections of this family were big, as in number, as in their value. Their last successor, Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici, left all those art pieces to the people of Florence. Florence is also the birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci, and the place where most of the Italian artists lived at the time. So thanks to the Medici family and to all these Artists Florence have now been one of the most touristic cities in the world. There is one square in Florence, Piazza Michelangelo that is kind of up on a hill near the city, from there you get the best seat to see the whole city. The view that you get from up there it is 10 times more beautiful during the sunset (tip, just google “Florence” and the photos that you get where you can see the whole city are taken from that square). During the time that I stayed in Florence I made day trips to Siena and Pisa. Both of them not so big. The day that I was in Siena there was a traditional event happening there, Palio di Siena, it was a horse race which took place in the center of the city. The race has been just the main thing, but I found more interesting the fact that the whole city was partying. People in groups singing non-stop, playing traditional games, parades, all over the city and in the evening a dinner for the whole city. Unfortunately, I had to leave early to turn back to Florence. Pisa in the other hand was a really small place. To be honest, I went there for the sole purpose of seeing the Leaning tower of Pisa. I kind of imagined it before in my mind, but I would have never really believed that it would be leaning THAT MUCH (like it’s really leaning).
As the last days of the trip came nearer, I went in Trieste, to some other relatives of mine. I stayed at a port of yachts near Trieste, Porto San Rocco in Muggia. This was a nice, quiet, perfect for families, place. You had a lot of things that you could do there, there were a few bars that organized cool parties every night. During the day you could go to the pool, or even better at the sea, or just walk around and enjoy the view.
On the last day of the trip I went to visit Venice. Unfortunately, I only got to stay there for a couple of hours. I went with a boat from the beginning of the city to the Piazza San Marco, which is the main square in Venice (where I only stayed for like half of an hour) and then back. Nevertheless, I really got to see a pretty good part of the city. I saw the canals, the Gondolas, the bridges and also the main square where it was also the church with the same name.
On this piece of text I tried to tell the story of my trip. But I had to shorten it so much because it would have been a lot more longer (even though it still is kind of long). The biggest part that I didn’t mention was the people that I got to meet during this trip. Starting from the members of our Kosovar group, groups that came from other Balkan states, and people that I got to meet from all over the world. I can easily say that as much as I enjoyed seeing all these marvels, I also enjoyed getting to know so many people and hear so many stories… And that’s how my trip turned out to be a lot more than I expected!