By: Emma Krupp
When I was little, one of my biggest dreams was to get the chance to travel to Europe before or while I was in college. Luckily for me, my wish came true this past spring break for my 16th birthday. My parents planned a vacation to Paris for my whole family and then surprised me for my birthday with a trip to Amsterdam. These were two cities I had always wanted to visit and I was ecstatic when I found out I would be traveling there. Before this, I had only been out of the country to visit the Bahamas. Not only was I eager to get my passport stamped, but more so to be immersed in cultures that were much different than our own.
I arrived in Paris at 6:30 in the morning after a seven hour plane flight and was immediately astonished when we drove into the city. At first glance, the architecture is absolutely stunning and unlike any city I had ever seen. It was also crazy to see there were no lines dictating traffic on the road! Parisians drove just as courageously as New Yorkers as they swerved in and out of traffic circles. When we got to exploring the city, I found that my favorite adventure was climbing to the top of the Notre Dame Cathedral. Even though the stained glass inside the church was breathtaking, the 400 step climb up the tower to the overlooking view of Paris was more so. You could see the skyline as far as it goes and the Eiffel Tower is in the distance. I had never seen anything so beautiful in my whole life. The food in Paris was a whole other story. The French food as an amazing and allowed flavors to dance across your tongues; my favorite being the chocolate croissants.
Amsterdam, although very different, was still a wonder in its own way. A heat wave struck the city when we arrived, so my days along the endless canals were at a high temperature of 85℉. However, the most beautiful thing about Amsterdam was their tulip gardens that were located about half an hour outside the main city. I was lucky enough that my trip fell right in the middle of the prime tulip blooming season. In the garden there were 8 million tulips of 13 million different varieties, which was amazing to look at. At one viewing spot, you could look out over the countryside and see it completely colored in different waves of flowers. It was extraordinary to see how the different individual tulips came together to form the garden that 300,000 people visit every April.
Overall, my trip to Europe was one that I will never forget. The most life changing part of the experience was being immersed in different cultures. Especially in France, little English was used, so it was up to me to learn basic bits of French so I could communicate with others. It was also interesting to see how the lifestyles were different of those in America. In Amsterdam, there are almost no cars on the roads; everyone gets around by bikes. One day our canal tour guide told us there are more bikes than people in Amsterdam, and looking around the city you get to see how true this statement is! Rain or shine, old or young, absolutely everyone is riding their bikes (and they are aggressive on the roads). Getting the chance to visit these other countries as a high school student is an experience I will hold for me forever because it opened my eyes to what Europe is like.