A review of Europe, Letterman-style

I could go on and on about things in Europe. But as the New York Times Bestselling Advice Books list shows, people just want lists. Fine with me! Here are a few I came up with:

First, all the places I went, in chronological order, with approximate durations:
- St. Anton, Austria, 4 days
- Maastricht, the Netherlands
- Paris, 2 days
- Amsterdam, 2 days
- Brussels and Bruges, Belgium, 1 day each
- Cologne, 1 day (for Carnival)
- Verbier, Switzerland, 3 days
- Rotterdam, 2 days
- Berlin, 3 days
- Freiburg, Germany, 2 days (to see the Black Forest)
- Antwerp, Belgium, 1 day
- Cologne, the Rhine River, the Mosel River, Trier, Luxembourg, Amsterdam, Leiden, the Keukenhof gardens, Delft, 7 days (with my family)
- London, 4 days
- Amsterdam, 1 day (for Queensday)
- Budapest, 3 days
- Amsterdam, 1 day (class trip to see museums)
- Marrakesh and Essaouira, Morocco, 3 days
- the Hoge Veluwe National Park, the Netherlands, 1 day (another class trip)
- Gerona and Barcelona, Spain, 4 days
- Seville, Granada, Alcala de Henares, and Madrid, 7 days
- Bratislava, Slovakia, 2 days

So if you’d like to know anything about these places, let me know! Except Paris. I didn’t really even see that at all; can’t help you there.

Okay, now, even better: ordered lists. Let’s do this in a top-N style. If I don’t list something, it’s not because I didn’t see it. It just didn’t make the list.

Top N trips I went on, out of the above trips
1. Morocco. It was really something different. And I got a lot of good stories out of it.
2. London. Hanging out with Erik was a lot of fun. Plus, I actually got to see the city, not just the tourist sights, I think.
3. Bratislava. The pretentious-indie-fuck in me just loves to find The Next Big Thing. Plus, Vic was the best guide ever.
4. St. Anton. First taste of Europe, traveling alone, and the Alps, all in one. Fun, lonely, expensive, and exhilarating.

Top N tourist attractions, where a “tourist attraction” is kinda just something to see. Markets, museums, and restaurants will have their own separate lists.
1. Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
2. Alhambra, Granada
3. Gellert baths, Budapest (not these baths in particular, although they were nice. I guess all the baths are nice though.)
4. Roman Amphitheater, Trier
5. Devin Castle, Slovakia
6. Real Alcazar, Seville
7. Grand Place, Brussels
8. Marksburg Castle, on the Rhine River, near Koblenz, Germany
9. Cologne Cathedral/Seville Cathedral (they both kinda get the nod because they are not the prettiest cathedrals ever, but they sure are big.)

Top N Museums
1. Tate Modern, London (aka just “the Tate.” It’s free!)
2. Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam (This museum convinced me that I do, actually, like art.)
3. Comic Book Museum, Belgium (if you’ve ever read any Belgian comics, or if you can speak French or Dutch, it’s probably even better. If not, you might find it kinda alienating.)
4. Reina Sofia, Madrid (I was really tired going through this. But there’s some good stuff: Dali and the surrealists, and Picasso’s Guernica)
5. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (Even after three visits, it’s kinda nice. It might help to have some background in Dutch art, so you know why it’s cool. Or you can just go look at the dollhouses and the Night Watch, and say, wow that’s big.)
6. Pergamon Museum, Berlin
7. Zwack Unicum Museum, Hungary (not much to look at, but there is a tasting included)

Top N Markets
1. Djemaa el Fna, Marrakesh (This market is not just stores; it’s performances, singing, dancing, a local hangout, shit fucking good food, snake charmers who will take your money, mosques calling you to prayer, and the world’s best orange juice)
2. Borough Market, London (coolest array of food I’ve seen. Only downside, and reason it’s not #1 for a food lover like me: it’s expensive)
3. Camden Market, London (everything but food. I wish I were trying to decorate a house in London, or that I had a huge suitcase.)
4. Freiburg Market (this little town of 200,000 puts on this awesome food/crafts/toys market every day of the week)
5. Boqueria, Barcelona (it’s so colorful! if I lived here and could buy food from here, this would go up in the ranks)
6. Grand Market Hall, Budapest (cool building, but too tourist-oriented)
7. Maastricht Friday Market (I bought all my food from here, and got to know some of the people. Downside: about half the market just sells underwear and fabric.)
8. Haeckescher Market, Berlin
9. Market Hall, Bratislava
10. Queensday, Amsterdam (the city turns into a big flea market. Crummy stuff, but a lot of it!)
11. Coin, Stamp, and Bottle Cap Collector’s Market, Barcelona (I just stumbled across this. Lucky, eh?)

Top N Beers
1. Chimay (blond or Triple; I didn’t like the Double so much)
2. Duvel
3. Brugse Zot (after De Halve Maan brewery tour in Bruges. Really hit the proverbial spot.)
4. Palm (best beer you can buy by the case)
5. Zlaty Bazant (Slovak)
6. Korenwolf (wheat beer from Gulpen, near Maastricht. Also, it has a picture of a hamster on it.)
7. Cantillon Lambic (tastes and looks like Champagne)
8. Bellevue Kriek (beer with cherries?! Tastes like soda!)

Top N other drinks
1. Mint tea, Morocco
2. Gluhwein, Germany and Switzerland
3. Unicum, Hungary
4. Riesling wine, Germany
5. Chocolate, Spain
6. Cinnamon tea, Morocco

10439836784. Homemade Absinthe (and by that I mean, cheap vodka with wormwood soaking in it for a week. Supposedly makes the absinthe effect. Doesn’t actually. Actually tastes awful.)

Top N Restaurants/Meals (keeping in mind that the restaurants I visited were mostly pretty cheap, and mostly the kind of place that one person could sit down at without anyone giving him dirty looks. Giving equal weight to the food and the restaurant.)
1. Vietnamese dish that I can’t even remember except that it was really good, Monsieur Vuong, Berlin (awesome Vietnamese, and cheap!)
2. Steak with Morel mushrooms and kohlrabi, Zum Weißen Schwanen, Braubach, Germany (cozy little restaurant/hotel, and not cheap, butith the family!)
3. Vegetarian rijsttafel, Gadjah Mas, Maastricht (A rijsttafel is a great thing: 10 or 12 or 18 or so different dishes, in small portions, so you try a little of everything and you have a good meal.)
4. Lamb with some sort of peanut sauce, Waka Moon, Brussels (the atmosphere of this tiny joint is awesome, and the Congolese (I think) food was great too)
5. Bryndzové halušky, 1 Slovak Pub, Bratislava (A great authentic place, despite the name, and the meal cost about $3.)
6. Fish and chips, Rock and Sole Place, London (the best!)
7. Stuffed cabbage and fruit soup, Poszonyi Vendeglo, Budapest (little corner restaurant. This tasty meaty dish kept me full all day!)
8. Pintxos, bar whose name I cannot remember, Gerona (open-face sandwiches with fish or something else tasty and visually pleasing, with toothpicks in them)
9. Vegetarian stuff, Neal’s Yard, London (more for the atmosphere than the too-salty food)
10. Flammkuche, restaurant whose name I forget, Freiburg (crispy Alsatian pizza, very German restaurant)
11. Goulash and dumplingy noodles (could be halusky, even, who knows?), Mensa, Budapest (the place looked like an old Communist-era cafeteria, except cool.)
12. Falafel, Maoz, Amsterdam (I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite European fast food. Well, tied with kebabs I guess. But the neverending salad bar at Maoz is really nice.)

Top N hostels
1. Rambutan Guesthouse, Granada. The way people talk about it on hostel website reviews, you’d think that everyone there participated in a massive cult worship service or something. Nope- It’s just the friendliest, nicest hostel I’ve seen, with the coolest array of people and activities, that might make even a tightly-wound traveler like me kick back a bit and actually enjoy a few days! Imagine that!
2. The Bunker, Verbier. Or rather, I’m glad I stayed there once; I’m not sure if I would want to again. It deserves a mention, though, for being in Switzerland and being at least sort of affordable. It’s really bare-bones though. Great for ski bums. I’m not one.
3. Backpack Guesthouse, Budapest. I guess. Too hippie/party oriented for me. But still friendly, and a lot of resources, and easy to meet people.

Top N ethnic foods (this one’s unordered, because it’s too big for me to pick)
Everywhere: muesli, kebabs, milk that lasts a long time
Austria: pate, leberwurst, blutwurst, currywurst
Benelux: Belgian waffles, herrings, kwark, stroopwafels, rijsttafel
Germany: wursts, spaetzle
Switzerland: horse
England: fish and chips, English breakfast
Hungary: goulash, langos
Morocco: couscous, tagine, snails, sheep’s head, that honey cake
Spain: queso manchego, jamon Iberico, chorizo, salchichon, churros
Slovakia: palacinky, forinelli, horalcky, richman, bryndzove halusky

And, after 9 lists, more than half of which were about food and drink, it’s bed time.

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