Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Rome, Tuscany, Paris, Berlin and Barcelona

Rome - there is nothing like visiting a city with a person who grew up there and loves it. Danilo was my nocturnal guide through the alleys of Rome - a city that is ancient as it is new. The key was to see the city at night when the crowds were not at each and every piazza. My first memory of Rome will always be the demonstration that took place across Rome and especially around the Collosseum to protest against economic inequality and the growing influence of global financial institutions like the IMF - truly historic times.

Tuscany - my favorite city in Italy was Florence - the center of Italian renaissance. With Shiva, we took a road trip through the rolling hills of Tuscany, stopping at Siena and San Gimignano for a day each. We also had the chance to explore a winery in the Montepulciano region further south. Tuscany food was my favorite, only second to Sicilian food. The wild boar stew and the Bistecca Fiorentia are something that one should not miss.

Paris - the Palace of Versailles had the most impact on me. It is a standing proof from history of extreme income inequality, a phenomenon with which we are only too familiar today. Spending time with Shiva was another highlight, exploring some of the districts of Paris.

Berlin - A city that is best enjoyed with friends. Teeming with bars and clubs, this city has life like no other. Exploring it with another fellow traveler was fun to say the least. I was also relieved to realize that Germans are one of the few Europeans that speak English well.

Barcelona - the influence of Gaudi, the architect, over this city is unmistakable. The warm weather in November is a bonus. The city is known for its party hostels, one of the most famous ones being Kabul.

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