SWITZERLAND – I got the wonderful opportunity to visit Europe with my family for the first time over the summer, going on a two-week tour of Switzerland and Italy that culminated with my cousin’s Indian wedding at Prague, Czech Republic.
I experienced traditional European cuisine and culture, took in breathtaking historical sights and captured photos all along the way.
The tour kicked off at Zurich. After dropping our luggage at the hotel, we roamed the city and the Zurich Main Station, one of the busiest train stations in the world. We saw the Rhine Falls, largest waterfall in Europe.
After a long day of traveling under the hot sun, we returned to our hotel just to realize that it had no air conditioning, something that we had to adjust to for the next couple of nights. It’s the little things like AC that make you realize how much you take for granted at home!
We took an excursion to Jungfrau, the self-declared “Top of Europe,” over the next two days, traveling on a cogwheel train to the peak and Mt. Titlis, which we reached by 360° rotating cable car. The heat wasn’t much of a problem here, as we viewed the snowcapped crests of the Alps from an observation terrace and explored glacier caves.
From there, we headed to Lucerne, a strikingly beautiful town with rolling meadows and the flower-wrapped Luzern-chapel Bridge overlooking a serene turquoise lake. We looked around at the shops selling luxury brands and designer watches, a leading industry of the Swiss, before going to the main attraction: the Lion Monument, which honors the fallen Swiss Guards of the Tuileries Palace, who were slain during the French Revolution.
The Lion Monument is famous around the world for being one of saddest memorials ever built, and the somber environment I felt there certainly reflected that.
After saying farewell to Switzerland, we went to Venice, Italy, another extremely popular tourist destination. As the city is built on many different islands and canals, our tour bus couldn’t navigate it, so we walked to many of the sights, including the stunning Bridge of Sighs. We also witnessed Venetian artisans at the Murano Glass Showroom handcrafting stained glassware.
As the end of the day neared, we were all getting tired. We rented a gondola, something no trip to Venice would be complete without. Although the lurching of the water almost made me seasick, it was a great experience that I will relish until I return to Venice.
Pisa, home to one of the Seven Wonders of the World and also the birthplace of the astronomer Galileo, was next on the itinerary. The world-renowned Leaning Tower stands tilted in the Field of Miracles, where the local police are constantly yelling at tourists to stop posing on the trimmed grass. (Whether or not I was one of those tourists, I can’t say.) For refreshments, we stopped at a small Italian restaurant for pasta and gelato.
It was in Pisa that we realized we had to start carrying spare currency with us at all times, as using the public restrooms cost money. Although the sun kept glaring down on us, Pisa was thoroughly enjoyable – especially the gelato.
The next day, we went to Vatican City, the smallest country in the world by far, and the home of Pope Francis. Most of the country consists of the Vatican Museum, a vast collection of Catholic art and culture, including the famous Sistine Chapel, which was painted by the great Renaissance artist Michelangelo. From there, we went to St. Peter’s Basilica, one of the largest churches in the world.
Next, we headed to the heart of Rome, where we saw ancient structures such as the Arch of Constantine, Circus Maximus, Trevi Fountain, and, of course, the Coliseum, which we had to see from the outside because of the time crunch. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and as we found out, it definitely can’t be toured in a day, either.
After an exhilarating but also exhausting week, we checked out of our hotel and boarded our flight to Prague, Czech Republic, where my whole extended family would be meeting for my cousin’s wedding. When we landed, we went straight to our rooms and crashed. It felt good to be able to take a break, and not be on a tight schedule. We were able to relax a bit over the next two days, sleeping in and staying out late. We casually explored the nightlife and shopped on the roadside.
Finally, when all members of both the groom and the bride’s family arrived, it was time for the wedding, which took place over a course of three days in the traditional Indian format. The mehndi, or henna application party, and religious ceremonies called vidhi took place on the first and second days. The wedding ceremony and reception were held on the third day.
It was great to see the customs of one culture present in a whole other continent, and the great lengths taken to make the whole experience as authentic as possible. All in all, it was the perfect end to one of the most memorable and exciting vacations of my life, one that I will cherish for years to come.
Yash Patel is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.