“The traveller sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.”
It won’t be an exaggeration when I say that I’ve infused life in the aforementioned quote of Gilbert Chesterton and that I’ve lived it word by word on my student exchange program in Europe. In hindsight, I can aver with great aplomb that the escapades which I, advertently or otherwise, undertook during the last 3 months have shown and taught me what I needed to but didn’t realise so. I’ve seen both overrated and underrated places, met both pleasant and despicable human beings and faced moments of both glee and despair.
All in all, the cumulative experience of my junkets to exactly 17 European countries has helped me reaffirm as well as slash a number of stereotypes prevalent in these 17 countries. I could think of no better way but to personify each of these countries and let them speak my opinions about them:
- France: I recently pipped the UK to become the fifth largest global economy but I still hate globalisation and more so when it comes to linguistics, hence strictly NO ENGLISH! Also, I like to charge people for services provided by other countries for free and that too in a better way.
- Germany: I mean it when I say that I’m the most futuristic European country, I mean look at the Berlin train station – it’s a combo of a station, an airport and a huge mall. When France said that thing about providing services, he was talking about me :P And yes, my countrymen are a bit (read ‘a lot’) rude to the travellers.
- Switzerland: Somehow the landscapes suddenly become amazingly beautiful as soon as one enters my border as if my international borders were drawn keeping particularly that in mind. I have better trains, better towns, better landscapes and better people than those of all my neighbours.
- Spain: I am honestly not the best country to do a road trip with your friends but you know Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara I am also probably not the best place to cherish a scuba dive but you know ZNMD! I, albeit, have the most fantastic medieval towns owing to a rich culture engendered by a fusion of the Islamic and ecclesiastic races.
- Portugal: I am underrated in whatever parameters a traveller has of rating a country. Period.
- Italy: I’m basking in the glory of the relics of my past while dilly-dallying in dealing with a lot of current issues like safety, cleanliness, illicit entry of immigrants and dilapidated trains in the entire country except just the very touristy places like Rome, Florence and Venice.
- Monaco: Cars. Money. I still have a ruling Prince. Glamour. Casinos. Cars. Money. Well, what else?
- Vatican City: I am cocooned well inside Italy but still have a thumping statement of my own, both culturally and architecturally. Not even a single citizen of mine is famous globally except of course the Pope.
- Netherlands: I am the most liveable country in Europe and a fun fact – prostitution and selling of marijuana is illegal in even Amsterdam but I’ve my ways of keeping it going. Switzerland may be the king of computer wallpapers but I’ve my own niche in embracing all the photo-studio backgrounds :P
- Iceland: I have a penchant for superlatives – the most expensive, the most awe-inspiring, the most driver-friendly, the quirkiest and the safest country in not just Europe but the entire world.
- Norway: I am a country with some traces of land masses amidst an infinite number of lakes and backwaters. Sweden and I love each other and have a world of our own – a cold cold world!
- Sweden: Apparently, I have more ice on me than does Iceland Bad trains reach after the scheduled time, good trains reach on time but my trains always reach before time. What’s sad is that the in-train experience is so rewarding that you hate it when you have to de-board the train a bit earlier.
- Czech Republic: Everyone’s astonished to witness the beauty of my underrated capital – Prague. Believe it or not but Bata and Skoda are my homegrown brands. I feel disheartened at the fact that nobody ever knows the name of any of my cities except of course Prague.
- Hungary: Travellers get a pleasant surprise at noticing the extent of inexpensiveness prevalent everywhere once they arrive. I am a great place to cut loose from all the restraints that a traveller might be practising on himself/herself with regards to spending on food.
- Austria: I have landscapes as scenic as that of Switzerland but still I’m known more for being the birthplace of Hitler and Swarovski.
- Belgium: I’m like the President of India – technically the cynosure of power, the headquarters of EU but practically, all the powers lie somewhere else. Also, I have some nomenclature issues; French Fries is an example.
- Croatia: I thank Game of Thrones for choosing Dubrovnik and drawing all the paparazzi towards me but I hate to say that, as a downside, it has led to an underestimation of some far more surreal locations that lie within me.
That’s it folks! I wish I’d visited more countries and had talked to you more but this isn’t my last escapade to this wonderful continent and hence a lot remains to be told later