Four years ago, when I graduated from high school, my Dad and I took a celebratory trip through four cities in Europe. He had done this with my sister as well when she graduated from high school. They had traveled around India, seeing the Taj Mahal, eating all kinds of spicy foods, and having a great time. When my turn to plan a trip came around, I couldn’t decide on just one place – so we went to multiple!
We started our trip in Vienna for one main reason: the early 20th-century painter Gustav Klimt. I have held a spot for Klimt’s works in my heart for a long time. Seeing the painter’s hometown was something I will never forget. We also got to see one of his most famous works, The Kiss, up close and in person at the Belvedere museum. The Belvedere is full of wonderful architecture and sculptures, as well as paintings from other artists as talented as Klimt. We visited St. Charles Church, or Karlskirche, and got to climb up some (slightly rickety) stairs all the way to the top of the dome. As if that wasn’t high enough, my dad and I also went on Vienna’s giant Ferris wheel. Finally, we did a bike tour, which was our favorite way of seeing the city and visiting the big hits. It also helped orient us into the new metropolis.
After Vienna, my dad and I traveled by train to Prague. Like the tourists we are, my dad and I immediately go to the astronomical clock and the city center that very night. The next day, we went to Prague Castle, which included almost too many steps but a church and museum that were immensely worth it. It was a little hard to locate the exact museum I researched. The whole of the castle is technically a museum, but we were able to find it. We enjoyed gorgeously decorated rooms, including one with swords as decor. We also went to see the Lennon Wall, a barrier covered in graffiti, featuring Beatles lyrics and other inspirational quotes.
In Berlin, my dad and I went to (you guessed it) more museums. Berlin has a whole Museum Island that my dad and I were able to get multiple-day passes to explore as much as possible. Sadly, their main Pergamon museum was closed, but we saw quite a lot nonetheless. That’s always a good reason to schedule a return. Plus, I had just taken AP Art History, and was astounded seeing so much of what I learned in person. The pictures I took and the postcards I purchased also helped me two years later when I took a German Art History course in college. I wish I could have seen these works after I had learned more about them. But it was still amazing to see them. Berlin is also where we hit history harder — visiting pieces of the Berlin Wall, the Holocaust Memorial, and the Brandenburg Gate.
Our last in our trip to four cities in Europe was Amsterdam, where, as a special twist, we stayed in an AirBnB houseboat! While it sounds fun, the motion of the water isn’t great for sleeping. But we spent our days out and about, so it didn’t matter too much. Our first stop was, of course, the Rijksmuseum. We saw some beautiful art and got plenty of photographs in the “I AMSTERDAM” statue out front. We also went to the National Holocaust Museum and the Anne Frank Huis, which were stunning learning experiences for both my dad and me. Then we did another bike tour, which was a little scary with all the cobblestones and traffic at times. But it was gorgeous going over the various Amsterdam bridges. Finally, I absolutely loved going to the Van Gogh Museum but I did feel rather special already, having seen his Starry Night at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, only 45 minutes away from where I grew up.
Even though this four cities in Europe trip wasn’t a traditional study abroad, I certainly learned a lot, especially about art and history. This came in handy in college, as I minored in Art History. Now that I’m graduated from college, my dad and I will be going on another celebratory adventure – once the world is open for tourists. The only thing left is to decide where to go next!
Wherever we go, I know I’ll learn even more, and I’m so excited to see more of what’s out there.
by Kate Clark