Ranking the Destinations

The following is a non-scientific ranking of all my destinations during my six weeks in Europe.  The rankings are strictly relative to the other places they are ranked against.  It is strictly my opinion.  But as you’ve all come to know, I’m always right.  From worst (relatively) to first.

11. Venice– With apologies to Mara, Venice was my least favorite destination.  Its a truly unique place with its canals and bridges but the charm was lost with the herds of tourist around every turn.

Worst: the overcrowded Piazza San Marco
Best: the view from the bell tower of San Georgio

10. Bergamo– There wasn’t anything necessarily bad about this hill-top city but there wasn’t really much to do.  Its location perched above the surrounding area afford great views, but not much more.

Worst: theres little to do
Best: wine I selected at dinner and second best gelato on entire trip

09. Milan– Milan’s downfall is that fact I spent nearly two weeks there.  Between the Last Supper, the Duomo, and the Castle, Milan is a three day city at most.  But our colleagues at the Politecnico made it all worthwhile.

Worst: walk to subway from accomodations
Best: best gelato on the entire trip (Dark Chocolate/Raspberry double scoop from Chocolat)

08. Rome– All roads lead to Rome.  And the bus loads (times a million) of tourist follow the signs right to the doorstep.  The archaeological/historic sites are quite impressive but something is lost with the hordes of people.

Worst: bus loads of old tourists and Campidoglio
Best: St. Peter’s and all the Vatican had to offer

(From this point forward there’s not much negative about any of the destinations, just how they rank relative to the rest)

07. Berlin-Dresden– The offering of contemporary architecture was a treat.  After four weeks in Italy, it was nice to see 20th century technology at work.  I loved the eglectic mix of old/new and Allied/Axis.  Let it be known I will never have a hair style cool enough for this city.

Worst: Dresden day trip (nearly totally destroyed during the final weeks of WWII, the city has a major identity/memory crisis)
Best: Reichstag and Jewish Museum

06. Como– If there is ever a place to have a vacation home, Como is probably the place.  My experience was probably enhanced thanks having a local as guide (thanks Marco!).  Located on Lake Como and within a stones throw of the mountains, its perfect.

Worst: only spent a day there
Best: lunch and dinner, both recommendations of Marco

05. Munich-Stuttgart–  For some reason I don’t think the fact Munich was celebrating its 851st birthday changed how the people enjoy their weekend.  When I think of traditional German town, I think Munich.  Boy do they know how to drink and have a good time.

Worst: emotional toll of Dachau
Best: 2 litres of beer 3/4 the way through the free bike tour of the city

04. Verona– Talk about coming out of left field.  Paired up with Venice on the Republic Day holiday weekend, Verona blew Venice out of the water.  For a city of its size it offered a full weekend of things to do.

Worst: I missed the Killers perform in the Ancient Roman arena by a few days
Best: the Castlevecchio by Carlo Scarpa

(I’m splitting hairs at this point)

03. Prague– Having been spared destruction during WWII, Prague offers a unique experience.  There is old stuff, but not like Italian OLD stuff.  There is a good mix of arts, culture, and religion to create a vibrant city.

Worst: the rain on day two made exploring the Castle less than fun
Best: collection of (regular) historic buildings

02. Budapest– I had no idea what to expect from this Hungarian capital.  What it offered was some of the best architecture and just places to be of any of my destinations.  The collection of different bridges criss-crossing the Danube was a delight.  The views from Buda down on Pest were amazing (especially at night).

Worst: climbing to the top of Buda for night shots after my day began at 4AM with my flight into town
Best: so many…Basilica of St. Christoper

01. Florence– I had more than the slighest inkling heading into all of this that Florence would be my favorite stop.  It did not disappoint.  It had everything you’d expect from the heart and soul of the Renaissance.  Truly a delight for those architecturally or artistically inclined.

Worst: leaving
Best: where to start…Duomo

And now some things I’ll miss…
– Italian gelato, specifically the addicting variety made by Chocolat
– Walkable cities at a human scale (4 to 6 story building heights with wide streets, for the most part)
– Reliable public transporation for when it isn’t quite walkable
– The laid back, relaxed atmosphere (they fake it pretty well if thats not really the situation)
– Real Italian food and wine (fuck Olive Garden, Fazzoli’s, etc)

And the things I won’t miss…
– Ridiculously overpriced Coca Cola.  For a guy that requires roughly 48 ounces of Coca Cola a day, paying at minimum $4 for a tiny ass Coca Cola doesn’t work.  (Warning, rant follows!)  What the fuck’s the deal?  Do they load the Coca Cola in a tiny boat and have one guy row his way over here?  Is that why it cost so much?  Someone explain this to me.  American candy bars aren’t marked up that much?  What’s going on?  And it doesn’t even taste the same as American Coca Cola.
– Paying for 1) water, 2) WC, 3) refills.  Ever heard of tap water?
– Not quite really understanding whats going on because I don’t know the language (I know this is strictly my fault, but I don’t care for it much)
– Roundabouts.

So as six weeks in Europe comes to a close, the real adventures are just begining.  Between now and July 13 I have to find a place to live in Chicago and get moved in.  Oh the joy.  I’m quite excited about what the future holds.

There may be a few wrap up posts in the next few days, so be sure to check back.

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