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Europe in the Rear-View September 9, 2013

Posted by kennethmarino in Travel Log.
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For my last post, I’d like to finish my discussion of Europe and highlight some of the places I haven’t mentioned by making my own best-of list.

Best Museum: Vatican Museums

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In my three months in Europe, I visited many museums. The instruments museum in Brussels, a Hapsburg museum in Salzburg and of course the Louvre, once the seat of power of the French Monarchy. But by far the best museum was the Vatican museums. Over the many centuries of its prominence on the world stage, the Roman Catholic Church collected works of art and antiquity. This grew into one of the largest collections anywhere. In 1973, Pope John IV opened the collection up to the world allowing for the world to see what was once only seen by the Pope and high church officials. The museums many parts have everything from Renaissance art to Roman antiquities. Where it beats out the Louvre is its great variety of exhibits. My personal favorite was the exhibit of the carriages and automobiles used by the Popes over the centuries.

Best Cathedral: La Sagrada Familia

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Besides museums, the thing that Europe is most known for is its cathedrals. There is Notre Dame in Paris, and Notre Dame in Brussels, and Notre Dame in Lyon (my personal favorite of the Notre Dames). Also the odd Castle-Cathedral in Prague with its Baroque stonework and Renaissance domes, and the small wooden churches of Interlaken. I was very temped to choose St Peter’s Basillica — truly a masterpiece of the Renaissance with its majestic columns and colored marble. But I had to give the distinction to the still uncompleted La Sacrada Familia in Barcelona. It was designed primarily by Antoni Gaudi in the late 19th century. Construction began in 1882 but was delayed by the Spanish Civil War. The interior and exterior are both magnificent. The outside contains detailed stonework depicting the major events in the life of Jesus including his birth and the Resurrection. The inside is made to look like a forest with the stem-like columns, the leaf-like roof, and the clever use of light that makes it look as though we are seeing the light poking in from the Heavens. The future plans will only make the outside more magnificent. The entry fee was steep, but as the funds go primarily to construction, I was more than happy to pay.

Best Food: Ristorante del Pallaro

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I am not one of those people who takes pictures of his food, so enjoy this random picture from Google. I might be biased on this one — I love Italian food. If I could eat anywhere at anytime, I would eat Italian. Ironically, my runner up is the pasta I had in Prague: basically a local take on Italian cuisine with a spicy beef sauce. What made this restaurant stand out, even to the other ones in Italy, was the quantity as well as quality of the food. It was several courses with lentils, tomatoes, and other starters as a first course, pasta dishes included rigatoni carbonara as a second course, veal as a third course and a custard and a sweet strawberry drink for dessert. It also included a cravat of excellent white wine. Don’t worry reader: I was 21 years old at the time.

Most Overrated Attraction: Mannequin Pis

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This one had some stiff competition. There is the Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris, the clock tower in Prague, and the Gazebo in Salzburg from the Sound of Music. None of these, however, are as pointless yet inexplicably popular as Mannequin Pis is Brussels. The statue is stuck in a seemingly random street corner in Brussels. It is quite small and unremarkable artistically. And yet, the street was absurdly crowded as dozens of people (the author included) tried to get a picture of this fountain. Maybe its popular just because everyone shows up to see what the big deal is. We may never know.

Most Beautiful Scenery: Interlaken Switzerland

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There are lots of beautiful places in Europe, but the Swiss alps in Interlaken were among the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. Rather than try to explain this one, I’m just going to post a bunch of the photos I took so you will understand why this one gets the prize.

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Enough said (or not said).

Best Overall City: Rome

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Finally, my favorite city. This one was hard to choose with all of the fantastic places I visited. I still had to give the slight edge to Rome. Rome has the awe inspiring ancient architectures and one of the best museum collections in the world. The cuisine is superb and the people are extremely friendly. Rome scored consistently well in every category I thought of for judging the best city. As both ancestrally Italian and Catholic, the city was also important to me personally. It is the center of the Catholic world and contains the remnants of one of the most powerful and influential empires in history. If I could just visit one city again it would have to be this one. Well, I did throw a coin in the Trevi fountain.

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With that, goodbye, and thank you for reading.

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