A two-week Easter vacation plus six European cities

Kelly Byer

Where did you go during spring break? Florida, maybe Cancun. That’s nice. Me? Oh, I traveled around Europe.

My Easter vacation consisted of Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre and Venice, Italy, as well as Vienna, Austria, and Munich, Germany. Roman ruins, Michelangelo’s famous work, castles and cathedrals filled my days.

I dined on gelato, pesto and wiener schnitzel. But most importantly, I met interesting people and had some unforgettable experiences.

The night my friends and I arrived, we were introduced to Rome when a taxi driver told us to close our eyes, opening them when he told us to. Upon opening them, the Coliseum stood before us, spotlights illuminating the impressive structure.

Walking around Rome, we also happened upon a communist rally. Seeing balloons and hearing music from a crowd of people, my initial thought was of a festival. “Why not check it out?” I thought.

Once we got nearer, however, it was noticeable that the color red was everywhere. And while the signs people held were in another language, flags with the communist symbol explained their purpose.

Then there was the day in Venice my friends and I spent wandering around. We were unable to find any sites and ended up asking at least a bazillion people how to get back to the train station. It was found after a kind person let us follow him back to the general area, pointing us in the right direction before departing.

But once we reached the city of our hostel, we continued the day’s trend by asking more people, some of whom didn’t speak English, for directions because ours didn’t do the job. When passing people eating on a patio for the second time, going the opposite direction, we received funny looks. One man even pointed as he made a comment to the woman beside him, who was trying to push his hand down.

Eventually, we did find the Venice hostel. And as we were led around the back to our rooms, we passed through a gate marked with a dentistry sign. Meanwhile, the friendly clerk was advising us on what to do if the hot water didn’t work, which it didn’t.

The other hostels throughout the journey provided their share of interesting experiences as well. In Rome’s hostel, the wooden planks supporting my bed decided to fall out. With no open beds and no one to repair it on short notice, I ended up camping out on the floor with my mattress.

In Vienna, the hostel was surprisingly pleasant. There was only the surprise of having desk clerks look up, saying, “Hi, how can I help you?” in almost perfect English, immediately after they had been conversing in German.

I also realized what a small world it really is. Over the course of my travels, I met Americans almost everywhere, Italians in Germany and people from Northern Ireland at the Vienna hostel. One guy from Northern Ireland said he’d actually be attending the University of Ulster in Coleraine next year, which is where I am studying now.

In Cinque Terre, five small towns on the western coast of Italy, there was a girl wearing an Ohio State T-shirt. One of my friends approached her as she got on a train with us and asked if she went to Ohio State. After finding out that she did, we informed her that we were from Ohio, too.

As we continued talking about how odd it was that people from two Ohio colleges were in the same Italian city at the same time, some people sitting behind us turned around, asking if we were from Kent State. “We’re from Akron,” they replied. Imagine, traveling halfway across the world to find yourself sitting next to people from the same state and a neighboring university.

But before I knew it, the trip was over. I was on a plane heading “home.” I had to say goodbye to my new friends and return to the familiarity of Northern Ireland. But I brought with me a bag full of souvenirs and memories of a trip that won’t easily be forgotten.

Kelly Byer is a sophomore newspaper journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater.Contact her at [email protected].