RTW Budget Update: Europe

We’ve shared our RTW budget previously and now that we’re a few months in, it’s time to check-in. I’ll spare you the heartburn if you’re curious about the end result – we went over budget. But that’s okay. I’ve got explanations (or excuses) on why we went over budget. Learn from our mistakes and plan accordingly.

Part 1: Major Transportation

  • Estimated Expense: $1,400
  • Actual Expense: $1,002
  • Variance (+Better / -Worse): +$398

Good news! Transportation in Europe is all it’s cracked up to be. Comfortable, clean, fast, efficient, and relatively affordable. We’ve faired much better than expected due to the great decision not to purchase a rail pass. I’ve mentioned before that we were on the fence on purchasing a Eurail pass and I’m glad we didn’t. Here’s how it would have worked out for our route (all prices quoted for 2 people):

  • Cost of Travel with Eurail Pass: $2,170
    • London to Paris via Eurostar (not covered on Eurail): $132
    • Paris to Florence to Cinque Terre to Bologna to Venice to Ljubljana to Budapest: $1616 (the cost of a 10-day saver pass for 2 people)
    • Budapest to Istanbul via Wizz Air: $277
    • Istanbul to Cappadocia and back via Pegasus Airlines: $145
  • Cost of Travel without Eurail Pass: $1,002
    • London to Paris via Eurostar: $132
    • Paris to Florence to Cinque Terre to Bologna to Venice to Ljubljana to Budapest: $448 (the cost of point to point train and bus tickets for 2 people)
    • Budapest to Istanbul via Wizz Air: $277
    • Istanbul to Cappadocia and back via Pegasus Airlines: $145

Part 2: In-Country Costs

So we started our analysis on a high note. And now to the bad news. I’m breaking it up between Western Europe and Central / Eastern Europe due to the large differences in costs.

Western Europe

  • Estimated Expense: $2,520 (14 days at $90 / day / person)
  • Actual Expense: $3,957
  • Variance (+Better / -Worse):  -$1,437

Whoa! That number looks bad. We must have spent all our time blowing dough along the Champs-Élysées in Paris or sipping wine at 5-star resorts in Tuscany. But no. We didn’t do those things. There is a simpler explanation. We spent more time in Western Europe than we had originally planned. Our original budget called for just 14 days (2 weeks), but in reality we spent 21 days (3 weeks).

So – because all things numbers can be fudged around to make things seem better or worse if you want them to, I’m going to do just that. With an adjustment to the budget based on our actual time spent.

  • Adjusted Estimated Expense: $3,780 (21 days at $90 / day / person)
  • Actual Expense: $3,957
  • Adjusted Variance (+Better / -Worse): -$177

So what happened? Even if I try to mess around with the numbers, I can’t fix them. We overspent. We spent too much on cozy apartments in Paris and Bologna, we visited tourist hot spots like Cinque Terre and Venice, and we had far too many apertivos, bowls of pasta, and gelato in our near two weeks in Italy. But that’s okay. We were comfortable. We ate well. And we’d say it was well worth it.

True Cost for Western Europe: $94 / day / person

View from our apartment in Paris booked from Airbnb
View from our apartment in Paris booked from Airbnb

Central / Eastern Europe

  • Estimated Expense: $2,520 (21 days at $60 / day / person)
  • Actual Expense: $2,766
  • Variance (+Better / -Worse): -$246

But of course, I need to mess with the numbers again. This time it’s going to work against me though, as we fell a few days short of the originally planned 21 days in Eastern Europe.

  • Adjusted Estimated Expense: $2,160 (18 days at $60 / day / person)
  • Actual Expense: $2,766
  • Adjusted Variance (+Better / -Worse): -$606

With the $450 we dropped on the hot air balloon in Cappadocia, good eats in Ljubljana, and free flowing beer in Budapest, we overspent just a bit. Woops.

True Cost for Central / Eastern Europe: $77 / day / person

Getting ready to fly with Butterfly Balloons in Cappadocia
Getting ready to fly with Butterfly Balloons in Cappadocia

Random Acts of Kindness: Turkey Edition

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Turkey was the first destination we’ve hit on our trip that felt even slightly unfamiliar. The rest of Europe was comfortable- not too chaotic, similar foods, and similar looking people. Stepping off the ferry in Istanbul made me think for the first time, “Now this is when it’s going to get interesting.” To the Turkish people, we must have looked a little bit out of our element, because in those first three days, they went out of their way to help us. And not for money or to scam us as it may have seemed in the beginning, but simply for the sake of it. The people of Turkey want you to experience Turkey. Yes, some people have misaligned intentions, but those are few and far between the smiling, friendly people we encountered. While these stories are not over the top, you must put yourself in our shoes to appreciate what they meant to us. It may be trite, but it’s the little things that make the biggest difference.

Here’s a recap of the random acts of kindness that occurred.

Number 1: It took a while to get through passport control at the airport so once we arrived to the baggage carousel, there were only a few bags left. I found mine circling around, but Kris’ and Steph’s were nowhere to be found. Obviously looking a little concerned, a young man approach and said there was a pile of bags from this flight sitting over in lost and found. We found their bags easily and were happy that someone pointed it out so quickly.

Number 2: As we were spinning in circles in the arrival terminal trying to figure out which way to go to find an IstanbulKart, a man came to our rescue and told us it was at a stand, just outside.

Number 3: There’s a private bus company that shuttles people from the city to the airport and back on the cheap. It’s supposed to leave every half hour, but there seemed to be no sense of schedule going on. Steph had run inside to use the restroom and so I tried to ask the driver when the bus was leaving, not wanting to get on and leave her stranded. The driver spoke no English, but another guy, already halfway boarded in front us, overheard the breakdown in communication. He jumped back off and interpreted for us. “The bus will leave when it is full.”

Number 4: We knew what direction we needed to be going when we entered the tram stop- east toward Sultanhamet. A first tram across the tracks showed up heading west and we figured we were on the correct side. But then a few minutes later, on our side of the tracks another tram showed up heading west. Not being able to make sense of the situation, some random guy leaning up against gate asked, “Sultanhamet?” He told us this was the tram to get on and sure enough, it was. But how could know where we were going? We later learned that it’s because every foreigner is going to Sultanhamet.

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Number 5: The Grand Bazaar is a huge. The shops go on forever. The streets inside the bizarre are actually named. As lunch time approached we decided to look for a kebab shop we had heard about, but the map was confusing and we had lost all sense of direction. Watching us looking this way and that, one shop owner helped to point us in the right direction.

Number 6: We learned in Thailand that Steph has a thing for dolls. As luck would have it (for Steph), there just so happened to be a doll shop at the Grand Bazaar so Kristin and Steph wandered in while I meandered around outside. Fifteen minutes later when I returned, tired of looking at the carpet and jewelry shops nearby, I find Kristin sipping some green tea that the shop owner bought for her. Apparently, she had been sniffling a little bit and the shop owner graciously offered his common cold cure.

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Number 7: Some kebab hopped off the pita onto Steph’s sleeve one day. What a mess. So as she was in the bathroom washing her hands, a lady noticed the remnants of lamb and yogurt sauce and offered to help her clean up. “Madam, madam, let me help!”

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Number 8: I think Steph left something at a restaurant at least four times on our trip. On the only occasion she didn’t notice, the server from the restaurant chased us down the street to return her hat to her. Good thing, because our next jaunt to Cappadocia was chilly to say the least.

Number 9: Public restrooms in Istanbul require you to pay per use, much like many places across the rest of Europe. Some have attendants to offer you change, but some don’t and require you to come prepared. As Steph walked into one, she didn’t have exact change, but the gentleman in front of her offered to give her one lyra- the entrance fee.

Number 10: Maybe not an act of kindness, but still a pretty cool system in place. We were wandering around the park in front of the Topkapi palace when a smart car with a blue and red siren pulled up towards us. I thought we may have been in a restricted area as there were guards with machine guns manning a gate not 100 meters away. Turns out it was the Istanbul Municipality Metropolitan Tourism Task Force. They handed us maps for public transport, pamphlets on Turkish baths, info on mosques, and everything tourists like us might need. With this kind of service, you don’t even need to bother finding an info center.

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Number 11: We are no hookah experts, but we decided to try out what the locals do. We paid a visit to one of these shisha cafes but soon found we were in a little over our heads as we didn’t know exactly when to turn the coals. Luckily, a friendly local checked up on us every fifteen minutes or so and turned our coals when it was time.

Number 12: Walking out of a restaurant, Steph spilled her water bottle all of the restaurant floor. Any decent manager would tell the customer not to worry about it and to continue on their way. This manager did exactly that, but also offered her another bottle of water to replace what was left soaking under our table. How’s that for hospitality? The cherry on top.

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Something Old-(Jewish), Something Kind of New-(ish)

The old begets the new, at least here. At least in the 7th district. Anything can start from anything else. Sometimes, life takes time to find a new path. Amazingly, if you think about it, ruin pubs were set into motion during World War II. As thousands of Jewish people were deported during the war, the uninhabited buildings of their neighborhood stood there lonely and without upkeep; they began to rot. That neglect brought about skeletons, ruins. For some people, an old abandonded building is just that. For others, though, they are just the beginning.

Enter, the ruin pub.

Mismatched chairs and couches, abstract artwork, really old TVs and patterned wallpaper make up the stuff of ruin pubs. While each one is unique, they share commonalities- the mash up of furniture, the love of art, the openess to all ages, the ever changing-ness of their line-up (some host farmer’s markets, some art shows, some other shows), and, of course, beer. Szimpla Kert was the first ruin pub (and our favorite), but there’s plenty to choose from and the locals bar-hop to four or five a night. So find a ruin pub, grab a beer, raise your glass and say ‘I-think-she-can-drive’ really fast because that’s how you say cheers (phonetically) in Hungarian. And cheers to creativity for turning destruction into something beautiful.

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A Return to Normalcy: Turkish Protests Then & Now

When we first started planning our trip to Turkey is when the unrest started. What started as a peaceful protest against commercial development of a small city park turned into violence and riots around Taksim Square in Istanbul. It hit the news quickly and we watched closely for what was to come. Over the next few months, U.S. media lost interest and turned their heads toward Egypt and Syria. Discovering what was happening in Turkey was hard to see for an outsider looking in.

But travel warnings ended and it seemed that the city was quieting down. So we made our way to Istanbul. One day, I went searching for signs of what occurred just this past spring. I walked up Istiklal Street from our hostel to the square. Along the way Turkish ice cream vendors clanged bells and attracted crowds performing tricks with their ice cream scoops. Groups of young women browsed through the fashionable clothing stores. Stray dogs sniffed strangers and of course kebab vendors sliced piles and piles of meat, the smell of doner all around. No signs of unrest.

I continued to Taksim Square where I was sure I would find damage from explosions, makeshift shelter in the park, and graffiti lining the sidewalk. As I approached the crowds got bigger. People were walking in every direction, criss-crossing their way across the pavement. Going home, to school, to work, or to meet friends, I’m not sure. But people were going along with their everyday lives. I sat in the park- the source of the initial conflict. I watched two little boys roll down the hill as their mother watched along. A few couples and groups of friends sat on the benches talking. And tea vendors walked through chanting “chai?!, chai?!”.

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I drank my turkish tea and people watched, looking for signs of what occurred. I found nothing. Graffiti has been painted over, new street signs put up, new sidewalks and pavement set, and flowers and bushes planted. To an outsider there is no evidence of the voices that were heard from Turkish people this past spring. It felt as though they had been silenced.

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It wasn’t until later that day that I began to notice what has been leftover. We walked to dinner and saw two buses of police. As we sat inside the restaurant eating they began to gather in the side street in full riot gear. They stood there the whole time we were eating. And as we walked home, down alleys and small streets were groups of two or three police officers smoking cigarettes and just watching people go by. We asked a local what was going on that night. He said you’ll often see the police gather in crowded areas of the city, ready for any disruption, ready to silence it as quickly as possible with tear gas and rubber bullets. This is what the Turkish citizens were fighting against in the first place- freedom of speech and freedom of press. Something I take for granted, but something others continue to fight for.

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I won’t pretend to understand what is going on in the minds of Turkish people. I don’t know if they think about these issues daily or if they just continue to live their lives with discontent for their government in the same way many in the states feel about theirs. But I do know we encountered many smiling faces while in Turkey- the friendliest people we’ve met so far on our trip. And I hope that the words that they speak are soon heard by their government.

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Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

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Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

72 Hours in Ljubljana

Day 1: Getting to Know Ljubljana

Ljubljana – the beloved city; a city of dragons; a city of swamps; the pint-sized capital of a central european republic. This is home base for any trip to Slovenia. Its city center is less than 4 sq. km making it easy to stroll around to all the sights (correction: there aren’t many major tourist attractions in Ljubljana). But with thinner tourist crowds comes a better chance to understand the city’s history, embrace the culture, and just wander around.

Walking Tour

Before wandering on your own, consider taking the Ljubljana Free Tour. This is part of a larger network of tour operators across Europe that operate on tips and tips alone. The Ljubljana Free Tour is the second one I’ve taken and I 100% recommend it. This specific walking tour will last about 2.5 hours taking you around central Ljubljana discussing the history and culture of the city. Major stops include – Prešeren Square, the Triple Bridge, the Central Market, the Butcher’s Bridge, the Dragon Bridge, Saint Nicholas’ Church, Town Hall, Shoemaker’s Bridge, Congress Square, the National and University Library, and the Crusader’s Monastery.

Lunch

After the walking tour it’s time to refuel. There’s a few quick, cheap lunch options to consider:

Burek: While not a traditional Slovenian dish, Ljubljana is littered with Burek stands (especially the area around the train station). It’s a savory pastry often made with a phyllo-like dough and stuffed with all sorts of goodness. Most stands will offer a few simple options – meat, cheese, spinach, or pizza. Shouldn’t cost you more than €3.

Carniolan Sausage (Kranjska Klobasa): Meat in tube form cannot get any better. This Slovenian sausage is kielbasa, but served in the European form. A standalone sausage, roll, and some mustard or horseradish to dip it in. One of the best places to grab one in Ljubljana is at Klobasarna. Order at the counter and just let them know if you want a half (one sausage) or a pair (two sausages). But it’s so cheap you mine as well grab two. €3,50 for a half and €5,90 for a pair.

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In the fall and winter, little wooden shacks around the city will open up and pull a small circular grill out. And inside are bags and bags of chestnuts that come out for roasting over an open flame. Grab a snack, because you’ll need it for the walk up to the Ljubljana Castle.

At the top on a clear day you can see the snow capped tops of the Alps. Follow the street from behind the Central Market through a short quiet street where you’ll quickly encounter a posted map. A steep series of paved path and steps will lead you to the castle. There’s a guided tour that can be had if you choose, but we took the cheaper option (free) and spent a little time on the viewing terrace.

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Happy Hour

The cafe culture in Europe is something to love and the scene in Ljubljana is no different. Up and down the river are a variety of cafes and bars with patio seating to enjoy a coffee or other beverage of your choice. One popular stop is Kavarna Macek with happy hour Monday to Friday from 4 to 7 that will get you 20% of your tab. A few sips of Slovenian schnapps might warm you up on a chilly autumn evening. Blueberry, honey, and pear are popular varieties.

Dinner

In a traditional gostilna in Slovenia, grandma will cheerfully serve you rustic, hearty dishes with a beer to go along with it. There seems to be one on every other street corner. We took a little bit of a different route for dinner- little hipper, a little younger, but still kinda a gostilna. Gostilnica XXI can still warm your stomach with classic Slovenian dishes, but there’s some more modern dishes as well.

It was all delicious – we had liver pate, horse steak, and a shellfish pasta.

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Day 2: Daytrippin’

Any edge of Slovenia can be reached within two hours by car, making day trips a good option for a little change in scenery. While heading east towards Maribor might be a good option for some, I’m proposing two options in the western portions of Slovenia. If you have a car, you should be able to fit these packed itineraries into one day. If you’re using public transportation, plan on being more selective about your stops along the way.

Lakes and Mountains

Option 1 takes you into the highlands of the Julian Alps for a few walks around its pristine lakes.

Bled

Start off with the ~55 km ride from the center of Ljubljana to Bled, Slovenia’s most well known destination. Buses leave for Bled nearly every hour and will put you back €6,30 one-way. Take a walk around Lake Bled (about six km if you go around the whole thing) and stop to admire the castle…

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Or check out the swans… or grab a Lasko or Kremsnita and coffee…

Or climb to the castle for a better view of the lake.

Vintgar Gorge

If you’re driving yourself, a quick stop at Vintgar Gorge is a short ten minutes past the north size of Lake Bled. Stop there for a short walk of the gorge before moving on to Bohinj.

Lake Bohinj

Some would say that Lake Bohinj is more picturesque than Slovenia’s more well-known Bled. I say you should definitely see both and be the judge for yourself. Bohinj is sleepier, but larger where you’ll find plenty of quiet spots along the walking trails to enjoy a nice picnic. And if you’re feeling more adventurous you can visit Alpinsport right outside the Bohinj Jezero bus stop to rent bikes, a kayak or canoe, go mini-rafting, canyoning, or hang-gliding.

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Other Stops

We slept in a little bit on our trip to the lakes so we only had time to stop at Bled and Bohinj, but if you plan ahead a little bit you may consider a stop somewhere else in the area. The two other popular stops include:

  • Vogel Ski Resort – we’ve heard it offers beautiful views even outside of ski season. A cable car on the west side of Bohinj Lake will take you up to the resort. To get to the cable car you can walk ~6km from Bohinj Jezero bus stop or you can get off at the Bohinj Zlatorog stop and the cable car lift is close by from there).
  • Radovljica – a small town with a medieval city center located in between Ljubljana and Bled. The bus stops here making it any easy drop off for an hour or two.

Caves and Coast

Down Below

There are over 10,000 known caves in Slovenia that get hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

The closest from Ljubljana and most popular in Slovenia is the Postojna Cave. Some say it’s a natural wonder turned into Disneyland, with the Predjama Castle out front and a toy train to take you down below. A true spelunker would have none of it. But half a million visitors see it each year and it’s arguably the best system set up for a quick trip to the underground.

A little past the Postojna Cave near the town of Divaca is the Skocjan Caves. A UNESCO heritage site and a little closer to the heart of an enthusiast, this cave system takes 144m down for a three km walk through a smaller, but arguably more impressive underground canyon.

To the Sea

Cramped between the Italian and Croatian coast, a few small Slovenian towns dot the seaside. Piran is the most popular due to it’s medieval architecture but the towns of Koper, Izola, Portoroz are also close by. Have your pick and wanter around the narrow streets and compact town squares.

Day 3: Acting Like a Local

Central Market and Plečnik’s Covered Market

You may find the Ljubljana Central Market similar to others around the continent, but there’s a few fun finds worth checking out.

In the outdoor market you’ll find a few stands selling fresh sauerkraut. Straight from the fermentation barrel, order by weight and try some cabbage or turnip sauerkraut. Make an easy salad for lunch by chopping up some garlic and tossing it with the sauerkraut, some olive oil, and salt and pepper. Or save it for dinner and eat with nothing else but sausage and potatoes of course.

Near the walls of the covered market, we found something that seemed a little peculiar. The MLEKOmat dispenses fresh from the pasture raw milk 24/7 at the push of the button. We didn’t try it ourselves, but I found one stamp of approval claiming it’s the “richest, creamiest, loveliest, and most delicious surprise” they’ve ever had.

Lunch

Tivoli Park, in the northwestern outskirts of city center, is stunning in the fall. Its back portion opens to the forest, covered in leaves changing color and fresh air. Take a stroll around lunch time with a fresh picnic packed from the market and sit atop Roznik Hill. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, hit up Hot Horse. These burgers are massive. Unfortunately I didn’t know that. I ordered a burger, fries, and a beer to go with it; a full feast. Did I mention this place is true to it’s name? The burgers are 100% horse meat. A least they are up front about it.

But if horse burgers aren’t your thing, I would understand. I ate alone on this occasion as I couldn’t convince anyone (Kristin) to come with me. Instead, head to the older part of town to find some cozy, comforting, and a little more upscale traditional-ish dishes. During the week, Pri Skofu offers a fixed lunch menu for just €8. We went on the hunt for this on a Saturday unfortunately. When we asked about it, the server seemed a little distressed and ran back to the kitchen. She came back and spat off what she could offer at a fixed price of €10. They make what they buy at the market each day. No menus. Just whatever the kitchen decides to offer.

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Dessert!

Nobody says you can’t have dessert in the middle of the day. And after lunch, you’ll probably need an afternoon pick me up of sugar and a coffee to go with it. Zvesda has some of the best cakes in town and a few traditional dessert options as well. If you go traditional you’ll have a few options:

  • Zavitek Iz Vlecenega Testa (Strudel) – Filo pastry with different fillings ranging from curd cheese or cherries to a mix of apples, cream, and peaches.
  • Gibanica – The richest of all Slovenian desserts combines four different fillings: poppy seeds, curd cheese, walnuts, and apples separated by thin layers of filo pastry.
  • Ljubljanski Strukelj – Cooked roll made of layered yeast-leavened dough with apricot jam, candied orange peel and almonds.
  • Kremna Rezina (Cream Slice) – This layered pastry consists of a puff pastry base, custard, whipped cream, and a puff pastry upper layer sprinkled with powdered sugar.
  • Domaca Potica – Grandma’s potica roll is a must during every Slovenian holiday. Available with walnut, tarragon, and almond fillings.

Venice: Same S***, Different Way

Venice is otherworldly. The canals, the lagoons, the arched bridges, the eroded front steps- lapped endlessly by the waves. It is something out of fantasy come to life. But if you take a closer look, the ordinary still exists in this extraordinary place. If there’s one continuous ribbon that runs through every civilization it is that of work. Buying, selling, fixing, building, meeting- working. These activities are everywhere, but in Venice the difference lies in the how. It is all out in the open air, laid bare in the water- not boxed up in semis screaming down the freeway. It’s puttering around in the waves, being muscled down the sidewalks, carried through alleys to its final destination. It’s in your face. Venice allowed me to discover its nuts and bolts and reminded me that no matter where you are, people make their homes, routines take shape, and life goes on.

Here, business happens on boats. Invoices are written from the rocking boat to a man on dry land. Boats full of kegs and wine cases, docked up, their contents then trolleyed down the winding alleys. Boats full of bags of concrete with shovels and wheelbarrows- headed for repair. Boats full of luggage headed to the airport, maybe, or maybe it’s lost luggage drifting at sea. Garbage men have garbage boats. There’s produce boats going to market and refrigerated boats; even boats that deliver furniture waterside to expectant owners. Taxi boats, bus boats. Boats tugging at their ropes and anchors telling their captains to hurry on up now, it’s time to go. The winding and unwinding of ropes and knots. The undercurrent of a whole city community, left exposed.

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Burano: The Land of Make Believe

Atomic tangerine, aquamarine, Caribbean green. Purple pizzazz, razzle dazzle rose, razzmatazz. Pink flamingo, laser lemon, mango tango. Shamrock, shocking pink, and of course robin’s egg blue. These colors, unbelievably, all exist in real life- in the real life land of make believe- Burano, Italy. A tiny island situated north of Venice in the Venetian lagoon, it’s playful and quiet like your best friend from elementary school.

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Check Out Them (Door) Knockers, Florence!

We went to Florence in late September. I was expecting it to be quiet, busy season dying down, mostly locals. Boy was I wrong. Tourists everywhere- snapping pictures, gawking at buildings, “oohs” and “ahs” and lines out the wazoo, waiting for entrance to museums, churches, anything- and I didn’t want any of it. To escape the claustrophobia and the dilution of beauty that tourists bring, Nick and I decided to follow something with less known history compared to the Michelangelos and Leonardos and went in search of door-knockers. There is not much known about these door adornments other than they’re intricate, have been replaced by the doorbell, and although I was too afraid to try one, I’m assuming quite loud. Evoking power and wealth and everything else intimidating, these beautiful creations of artistic functionality allude to what’s on the other side of the door. Taking you on a winding tour all over the city, they may just hold the essence of the richness of Florence.

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London: A Lifelong Souvenir

In the midst of some research regarding the first stop on our trip, I found myself at the site for the School of Life in London. Offering classes from improvisation to having better conversations, I decided to look to see if anything interesting was happening while I was going to be there and signed up for a class called decoding the city. This was a night class. Meeting at the 1 New Change, a huge outdoor mall, at seven PM and going on a three hour long walking class of the city with Leo Hollis as our guide, this was not your typical class. Filled with a lot of history and some new perspective it opened the door to further learning and I realized again that it’s really up to you how much you want out to get out of your experiences. So with that, I decided to continue my learning from that class by picking up his new book and taking a gander.

Called Cities are Good for You, that, plainly, is his angle. As someone who is on the fence between living in a city and missing the natural countryside a lot, this book definitely made me think harder about what it means to be part of a city community. He goes through many things including problems with slums, traffic jams, pollution, but I think what resonated with me most was that cities offer creativity. Hollis says, ‘the city offers diversity and competition, the best forcing grounds for turning seeds into blossoming success. . . Competition forces innovation.’ In addition to that I think the city or lack there of can really take an industry to the next level, particularly mine- the restaurant industry. Growing up in small town Ohio, restaurants weren’t a thing. You didn’t aspire to work in or own them or at least I didn’t. They weren’t big or exciting and least of all they didn’t seem to offer any kind of challenge or environment to learn about business. I think in the little towns they’re viewed as a job to make ends meet but not a means to make something of yourself. But it’s a different opportunity that you find in the city.

Enter Chicago. One of the biggest foodie towns in America, the competition and creativity oozing out of its restaurants is ridiculous, extreme, and relentless. Consistently pumping out the next generation of amazing food, cocktails, dessert, it’s endless. And it’s a way of life. Something that grows on you and you grow into, something you start to understand and appreciate only by being a part of it. I think that’s why I felt a little embarrassed telling my parents (after getting my Master’s) that, ‘I’m working in a restaurant and I’ve stopped looking for work for what I went to school for,’ whatever that was supposed to be. But I’ve found that the people in cities, the people that I work with especially, have pushed me far beyond my comfort zone into a place where I feel comfortable going out on a limb to learn something new or try out a new idea. They push me to be creative, going back to Hollis’ point, and that’s something I never thought I would get from working in a restaurant. People in cities are so much more interested in out of the box, taking chances on ideas and people, rather than looking at credentials on a resume. Considering I really had no experience before that in a restaurant or in the ‘real world,’ these people of the city took a chance on me. They gave me an opportunity to see what I could do and in the process I saw what I could do. And while the city helped define me and allowed me to understand by potential more fully, it is really the people of the city who effected me the most. So I guess no matter where I end up- town or country- the city has been good for me.