On the 3rd of June, I joined the other inbound Rotary Youth Exchange students in the Netherlands and we embarked on the trip we’d all been looking forward to – Eurotour!
We began in the Dutch city of Lelystad, sleeping over for a night with host families and then gathering together to board a bus which would become very familiar to us for the next two weeks.
Our first stop on the trip was Berlin, capital of Germany. After travelling to the city we spent our first full day with a bus tour of the city, particularly focusing on the city’s divided history. We were dropped off for free time in the city around midday and a big group of us chose to head in the direction of the East Side Gallery, the largest section of the Berlin Wall which still stands today.
I travelled with a smaller group of friends back through the city for lunch, and then visited the Holocaust Memorial.
In the afternoon we all met together for a tour of the Reichstag, the German parliament.
On the 5th of June, we left Berlin and headed for Kraków, Poland. The city is amazing and our first walk through the city to get dinner that night was way better than Berlin. The city feels far more full of life and colour than the grey urban sprawl of Berlin.
We had a free morning in Kraków, which I spent in the main square of the city, before meeting up to visit the Auschwitz Concentration Camp Memorial.
We were given a guided tour which was confronting, to say the least, but definitely worth it. Our guide took us through various buildings, including the barracks and punishment block and gas chambers, which now also contain various exhibits, such as photos of thousands of those murdered there and piles of their belongings.
We had a second full day in Kraków, with tours of the amazing castle in the city centre, an art gallery, and plenty of free time. In the evening we took the bus for a tour of the old salt mines outside the city, which were awesome to see, and full of lakes, sculptures, an underground church, and some very salty walls.
From Kraków, we travelled to Vienna. We only spent one day in the city but the beautiful city became one of my favourite places. We enjoyed a bike tour of the city with an awesome guide and a free afternoon.
During the night we visited the Prator theme park. I might have thrown up on one of the rides, which was kinda terrible timing as that night we drove through Austria to Italy and had to sleep on the bus.
We arrived in Lido di Jesolo, a beach town outside of Venice in the morning and had a whole day of free time at the beach! It was an awesome day just relaxing together.
Our second day in Italy began with our visit to Venice. The city was amazing although it was a super hot day and the whole place is packed with tourists. We enjoyed most of the day as free time, where we explored the city and ate gelato, and experienced a gondola tour in the afternoon.
The following day we travelled from Venice, across Italy, to Chamonix in France, a town in the French Alps at the base of Europe’s highest mountain, Mont Blanc.
Our full day in Chamonix was spent in the mountains. During the morning we hiked as a group and, after lunch, we visited the Mont Blanc glacier. I ventured down with a group of friends into the glacier, which was full of ice caves.
After our stay in Chamonix, we headed to our final destination, Paris. We stayed in a hotel outside of Disneyland, and the first of our two days was spent having an awesome time in the theme park.
Our second day in Paris was in the city proper, we had a bus tour and a picnic in the park before we were let go to explore the city.
(That’s Notre-Dame and I’m hunching over)
After dinner, we walked to the Eiffel Tower for a river cruise through the city and spent our last night of the tour laying in front of the illuminated tower.
On our last day, we travelled through Belgium back to the Netherlands and said goodbye to everyone who had made the trip so special.
Most of the students were finishing their exchange and heading home soon for the start of the Northern Hemisphere school year. The 7 of us from the Southern Hemisphere still have six months longer to stay, and soon we’ll be getting our own newbies.
I can’t believe I’ve been living here for 6 months and I already have to say goodbye to so many of these awesome people.