The Start of a Remarkable Journey

Today concludes the first week of my Easter Break adventure.  Tonight I take the overnight train to Prague and arrive at the Art Hole Hostel on Easter Sunday morning.

This week has gone by stunningly fast.  I started off my trip by taking a train to Venice, Italy.

I stayed at Ca' Venezia for only two nights.  It certainly wasn't bad, but I probably would not recommend it or stay there again.  There were no complimentary towels or even towels for renting, and no where to lock up my stuff, even though I'd brought my own lock.

Venice itself was beautiful.  Everything there is on the expensive side, sadly, due to the fact that it is a city mainly populated by tourists - the main island, at least.  I walked around a lot, keeping my Google Maps handy, but otherwise allowing myself to wander down the various side streets, bumping into sites like the Rialto Bridge, the Bridge of Sighs, and the Torre dell'Orolorgio as I went along.  In the end, I was glad that my visit was a brief one, because although Venice was a great place to paint, with watercolors especially, it had very little to offer on a backpacker's budget.

Next I took the train to Milan, and checked in at the New Urban hostel on a sweltering day.  My first day, I went for a walk around my neighborhood, surrounding the Piola metro stop, and got some really good pizza at a ristorante down the road.  The next day, I made my way towards the city center, making a bee line for the Duomo.

It was probably one of the most beautiful churches I've visited while in Italy.  I hung around that area most of the day, window shopping.  I came across the Castello Sforzesco and its park.  I wandered around its museum for a few minutes before happening upon the massive park behind it, and had a bit of a "Lord of the Rings" moment when I saw the Arco della Pace for the first time.

As the sun was going down, I headed back to the hostel and got some gelato as I was coming from the metro station.

The next day, I waited around in Milano Centrale until my train to Zurich came in.  Although the wait was gruelingly long, it was probably one of the most amazing train rides of my life.

The picture I snapped on my phone does not do the Swiss Alps justice, but I took lots of footage on my DSLR that I'll be editing later into a vlog, so stay tuned.  The mountains were gorgeous and snow-capped, and towards the end of the journey, as we came out of a long tunnel, we emerged into the thick of a small snow storm.  I was strangely glad to have had at least one winter storm, despite having narrowly escaped all the horrible winter weather back in New York.

I arrived in Zurich late, and checked in at Langstars, a hostel that is situated above a cafe/bar.  They have live music and one free drink every night, which is cool if you're a night owl.  Unfortunately, it can get pretty rowdy past midnight.

My first day in Zurich was overtaken by an ugly rainstorm that lasted the entire day.  I braved the cold anyway, wandering around a bit of Zurich's Olde Town, stopping by a book store, buying an Easter pastry at Springli, and lastly stopping at one of Zurich's renowned sweet shops for a warm hot chocolate.  The next day was blessedly sunny, so I went for a walk to the National Swiss Museum, and learned about just what it took to become a naturalized Swiss citizen.  They had a great exhibition of paper cut art there.  After, I headed to Rietberg Museum, but opted instead to spend the rest of the evening writing and sketching at Rietpark, with an amazing view of the lake and the Alps.

I headed back to Langstars cafe to get some work done as the sun was setting.  Today, the weather has taken another bad turn, and it looks as though I will be spending most of my time waiting for my evening train by getting work done in cafes, or eating at restaurants near the train station.

With my final destination finally within sight, it strikes me just how quickly this journey went by, and how much easier it was than I had been anticipating.  I'm looking forward to having lots of time to spend in Prague, checking out used bookshops and little cafes, or trying Prague's infamous Czech beer.  I have to say that, strangely, the parts of the trip I enjoyed most so far have been sitting on the trains themselves.  There is something very comforting and also exciting about being able to sit and relax, while the sights and experiences of a new places almost seem to come to you, rolling past your window, without having to worry about where you're going or how you'll get there - because you are already going.

It's the fourth day of Camp NaNoWriMo, and my 10k headstart has served as a bit of a buffer against the procrastination I find myself still falling into.  It is a good thing Prague, like Zurich, has more of a coffee nursing "cafe culture", which will allow me to enjoy the experience of living in Prague while still getting done my personal and school work.

I'm prepared for this last week to go by just as quickly, but I'm sure that, just like this past one, it will be full of amazing and unforgettable memories.

Shai Cotten