There are never enough vacation days, so packing three European countries in a single trip seemed logical. Not to mention, my travel experience was further enriched by going during the holiday season in December. I visited Italy, Switzerland and Russia. Just being in other corners of the world in the winter, warming up with friends and making new friends was a memorable way to spend the holiday. In each of these countries, the decorations and holiday lights were welcoming.
I’ll never forget traveling through Italy’s cities, mornings until evenings, with a heightened sensory awareness. We moved from northern Italy in Milan to central Italy in Rome, and stopped through Venice, Florence and Cinque Terre. Each place had its own allure, but Venice and Florence simply dazzled me. Both of them had the combination of Old World charm and romanticism. A couple of issues with the train ride led us to get off at Monterosso, one of the five villages in Cinque Terre. Arriving here in the evening with nothing open for business due to the off-season was a bit disappointing; nevertheless, we explored the desolate town. I was uplifted by the Christmas lights that hung from above, casting soft shadows along the narrow alleyways. I felt at peace in this village. We eventually found a place to spend the night at an affordable price.
After Italy, we were off to see another mutual friend living in Switzerland. Zurich was filled with the holiday spirit of Christmas carols and markets buzzing with people. The glimmering holiday lights hung like strings right above our heads along the streets, appearing magical with their warm glow. Another city in Switzerland, Lucerne, was equally as special, with the boats gracefully gliding across the lake against the backdrop of the Alps. It was picture perfect.
In Russia, Moscow’s Red Square had the largest adorned Christmas trees I’ve ever seen. Their shopping mall, GUM, was quite a spectacle. It was like walking into a gift-wrapped present. Ribbons of colors strung from ceilings, including confetti and overblown candies. Although, St. Basil’s Cathedral knocked my socks off with its beauty at night. St. Petersburg also had ornate Christmas trees towering over their main streets, which made me feel as if I was in a Nutcracker ballet.
As a matter of fact, I did feel like I was in a dreamy dance at the closing of 2008. I was joyfully mingling with an expanse of characters in different cultures. It all ended quickly like a dream, but the memories in these three European countries are everlasting and real.