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lancashire countryside has been created

By Thomas Mann Translation by H. T. Lowe-Porter THE FIGHT BETWEEN JAPPE AND DO ESCOBAR I WAS very much taken aback when Johnny Bishop told me that Jappe and Do Escobar were going to fight each other and that we must go and watch them do it. It was in the summer holidays at Travemünde, on a sultry day was a slight land breeze and a flat sea ever so far away across the sands. We had been some three-quarters of an hour in the water and were lying on the hard sand under the props of the bathing- cabins——we two and Jürgen Brattström the shipowner's son. Johnny and Brattström were lying on their backs entirely naked; I felt more comfortable with my towel wrapped round my hips. Brattström asked me why I did it and I could not think of any sensible answer; so Johnny said with his winning smile that I was probably too big now to lie naked. I really was larger and more developed than Johnny and Brattström; also a little older, about thirteen; so I accepted Johnny's explanation in silence, although with a certain feeling of mortification. For in Johnny Bishop's presence you actually felt rather out of it if you were any less small, fine, and physically childlike than he, who was all these things in such a very high degree. He knew how to look up at you with his pretty, friendly blue eyes, which had a certain mock- ing smile in them too, with an expression that said: "What a great, gawky thing you are, to be sure!" The ideal of manliness and long trousers had no validity in his presence——and that at a time, not long after the war, when strength, courage, and every hardy virtue stood very high among us youth and all sorts of conduct were banned as effeminate. But Johnny, as a foreigner—or half- foreigner——was exempt from this atmosphere. He was a little like a woman who preserves her youth and looks down on other women who are less successful at the feat. Besides he was far and away the best-dressed boy in town, distinctly aristocratic and elegant in his real English sailor suit with the linen collar, sailor's knot, laces, a silver whistle in his pocket, and an anchor on the sleeve that narrowed round his wrists. Anyone else would have been laughed at for that sort of thing——it would have been jeered at as "girls' clothes." But he wore them with such a disarming and confident air that he never suffered in the least. He looked rather like a thin little cupid as he lay there, with his pretty, soft blond curls and his arms up over the narrow English head that rested on the sand. His father had been a German busi- ness man who had been naturalized in England and died some years since. His mother was English by blood, a long-featured lady with quiet, gentle ways, who had settled in our town with her two children, Johnny and a mischievous little girl just as pretty as he. She still wore black for her husband, and she was probably honouring his last wishes when she brought the children to grow up in Germany. Obviously they were in easy circum- stances. She owned a spacious house outside the city and a villa at the sea and from time to time she travelled with Johnny and Sissie to more distant resorts. She did not move in society, although it would have been open to her. Whether on account of her mourn- ing or perhaps because the horizon of our best families was too narrow for her, she herself led a retired life, but she managed that her children should have social intercourse. She incited other children to play with them and sent them to dancing and to deport- ment lessons, thus quietly arranging that Johnny and Sissie should associate exclusively with the children of well-to-do families—— of course not in pursuance of any well-defined principle, but just as a matter of course. Mrs. Bishop contributed, remotely, to my own education: it was from her I learned that to be well thought of by others no more is needed than to think well of yourself. Though deprived of its male head the little family showed none of the marks of neglect or disruption which often in such cases make people fight shy. Without further family connection, with- out title, tradition, influence, or public office, and living a life apart, Mrs. Bishop by no means lacked social security or preten- sions. She was definitely accepted at her own valuation and the friendship of her children was much sought after by their young contemporaries. As for Jürgen Brattström, I may say in passing that his father had made his own money, achieved public office, and built for himself and his family the red sandstone house on the Burgfeld, next to Mrs. Bishop's. And that lady had quietly accepted his son as Johnny's playmate and let the two go to school together. Jürgen was a decent, phlegmatic, short-legged lad without any prominent characteristics. He had begun to do a little private business in licorice sticks. As I said, I was extremely shocked when Johnny told me about the impending meeting between Jappe and Do Escobar which was to take place at twelve o'clock that day on the Leuch- tenfeld. It was dead earnest——might have a serious outcome, for Jappe and Do Escobar were both stout and reckless fellows and had strong feelings about knightly honour. The issue might well be frightful. In my memory they still seem as tall and manly as they did then, though they could not have been more than fifteen at the time. Jappe came from the middle class of the city; he was not much looked after at home, he was already almost his own master, a combination of loafer and man-about-town. Do Escobar was an exotic and bohemian foreigner, who did not even come regularly to school but only attended lectures now and then——an irregular but paradisial existence! He lived en pension with some middle-class people and rejoiced in complete independence. Both were people who went late to bed, visited public-houses, strolled of evenings in the Broad Street, followed girls about, performed crazy "stunts"——in short, were regular blades. Although they did not live in the Kurhotel at Travemünde——where they would scarcely have been acceptable——but somewhere in the village, they frequented the Kurhaus and garden and were at home there as cosmopolitans. In the evening, especially on a Sunday, when I has long since been in my bed in one of the chalets and gone off to sleep to the pleasant sound of the Kurhaus band, they, and other members of the young generation——as I was aware——still sauntered up and down in the stream of tourists and guests, loitered in front of the long awning of the café, and sought and found grown-up entertainment. And here they had come to blows, good- ness knows how and why. It is possible that they had only brushed against each other in passing and in the sensitiveness of their knightly honour had made a fighting matter of the en- counter. Johnny, who of course had been long since in bed too and was instructed only by hearsay in what happened, expressed himself in his pleasant, slightly husky childish voice, that the quarrel was probably about some "gal"——an easy assumption, considering Jappe's and Do Escobar's precocity and boldness. In short, they had made no scene among the guests, but in few and biting words agreed upon hour and place and witnesses for the satisfaction of their honour. The next day, at twelve, rendezvous at such and such a spot on the Leuchtenfeld. Good evening.—— Ballet-master Knaak from Hamburg, master of ceremonies and leader of the Kurhaus cotillions, had been on the scene and prom- ised his presence at the appointed hour and place. Johnny rejoiced wholeheartedly in the fray——I think that neither he nor Brattström would have shared my apprehensions. Johnny repeatedly assured me, forming the r far forward on his palate, with his pretty enunciation, that they were both "in dead eahnest" and certainly meant business. Complacently and with a rather ironic objectivity he weighed the chances of victory for each. They were both frightfully strong, he grinned; both of them great fighters——it would be fun to have it settled which of them was the greater. Jappe, Johnny thought, had a broad chest and capital arm and leg muscles, he could tell that from seeing him swimming. But Do Escobar was uncommonly wiry and savage—— hard to tell beforehand who would get the upper hand. It was strange to hear Johnny discourse so sovereignly upon Jappe's and Do Escobar's qualifications, looking at his childish arms, which could never have given or warded off a blow. As for me, I was indeed far from absenting myself from the spectacle. That would have been absurd and moreover the proceedings had a great fasci- nation for me. Of course I must go, I must see it all, now that I knew about it. I felt a certain sense of duty, along with other and conflicting emotions: a great shyness and shame, all unwarlike as I was, and not at all minded to trust myself upon the scene of manly exploits. I had a nervous dread of the shock which the sight of a duel à outrance, a fight for life and death, as it were, would give me. I was cowardly enough to ask myself whether, once on the field, I might not be caught up in the struggle and have to expose my own person to a proof of valour which I knew in my inmost heart I was far from being able or willing to give. On the other hand I kept putting myself in Jappe's and Do Esco- bar's place and feeling consuming sensations which I assumed to be what they were feeling. I visualized the scene of the insult and the challenge, summoned my sense of good form and with Jappe and Do Escobar resisted the impulse to fall to there and then. I experienced the agony of an overwrought passion for justice, the flaring, shattering hatred, the attacks of raving impatience for revenge, in which they must have passed the night. Arrived at the last ditch, lost to all sense of fear, I fought myself blind and bloody with an adversary just as inhuman, drove my fist into his hated jaw with all the strength of my being, so that all his teeth were broken, received in exchange a brutal kick in the stomach and went under in a sea of blood. After which I woke in my bed with ice-bags, quieted nerves, and a chorus of mild reproaches from my family. In short, when it was half past twelve and we got up to dress I was half worn out with my apprehensions. In the cabin and afterwards when we were dressed and went outdoors, my heart throbbed exactly as though it was I myself who was to fight with Jappe or Do Escobar, in public and with all the rigours of the game. I still remember how we took the narrow wooden bridge which ran diagonally up from the beach to the cabins. Of course we jumped, in order to make it sway as much as possible, so that we bounced as though on a spring-board. But once below we did not follow the board walk which led along the beach past the tents and the basket chairs; but held inland in the general direction of the Kurhaus but rather more leftwards. The sun brooded over the dunes and sucked a dry, hot odour from the sparse and withered vegetation, the reeds and thistles that stuck into our leg. There was no sound but the ceaseless humming of the blue-bottle flies which hung apparently motionless in the heavy warmth, sud- denly to shift to another spot and begin afresh their sharp, mo- notonous whine. The cooling effect of the bath was long since spent. Brattström and I kept lifting our hats, he his Swedish sailor cap with the oilcloth visor, I my round Heligoland woollen bon- net——the so-called tam-o'-shanter——to wipe our brows. Johnny suffered little from heat, thanks to his slightness and also because his clothing was more elegantly adapted than ours to the summer day. In his light and comfortable sailor suit of striped washing material which left bare his throat and legs, the blue, short- ribboned cap with English lettering on his pretty little head, the long slender feet in fine, almost heelless white leather shoes, he walked with mounting strides and somewhat bent knees between Brattström and me and sang with his charming accent "Little Fisher Maiden"——a ditty which was then the rage. He sang it with some vulgar variation in the words, such as boys like to in- vent. Curiously enough, in all his childishness he knew a good deal about various matters and was not at all too prudish to take them in his mouth. But always he would make a sanctimonious little face and say: "Fie! Who would sing such dirty songs?"—— as though Brattström and I had been the ones to make indecent advances to the little fisher maiden. I did not feel at all like singing, we were too near the fatal spot. The prickly grass of the dunes had changed to the sand and sea moss of a barren meadow; this was the Leuchtenfeld, so called after the yellow lighthouse towering up in the far distance. We soon found ourselves at our goal. It was a warm, peaceful spot, where almost nobody ever came: protected from view by scrubby willow trees. On the free space among the bushes a crowd of youths lay or sat in a circle. They were almost all older than we and from various strata of society. We seemed to be the last spectators to arrive. Everybody was waiting for Knaak the dancing-master, who was needed in the capacity of neutral and umpire. Both Jappe and Do Escobar were there——I saw them at once. They were sitting far apart in the circle and pretending not to see each other. We greeted a few acquaintances with silent nods and squatted in our turn on the sun- warmed ground. Some of the group were smoking. Both Jappe and Do Escobar held cigarettes in the corners of their mouths. Each kept one eye shut against the smoke and I instantly felt and knew that they were aware how grand it was to sit there and smoke before entering the ring. They were both dressed in grown-up clothes, but Do Escobar's were more gentlemanly that Jappe's. He wore yellowed shoes with pointed toes, a light-grey summer suit, a rose- coloured shirt with cuffs, a coloured silk cravat, and a round, nar- row-brimmed straw hat sitting far back on his head, so that his mop of shining black hair showed on one side beneath it, in a big hummock. He kept raising his right hand to shake back the silver bangle he wore under his cuff. Jappe's appearance was distinctly less pretentious. His legs were encased in tight trousers of a lighter colour than his coat and waistcoat and fastened with straps under his waxed black boots. A checked cap covered his curly blond hair; in contrast to Do Escobar's jaunty headgear he wore it pulled down over his forehead. He sat with his arms clasped round one knee; you could see that he had on loose cuffs over his shirt-sleeves, also that his finger-nails were either cut too short or else that he indulged in the vice of biting them. Despite the smoking and the assumed nonchalance, the whole circle was serious and silent, restraint was in the air. The only one to make head against it was Do Escobar, who talked without stopping to his neighbours, in a loud, strained voice, rolling his r's and blow- ing smoke out of his nose. I was rather put off by his volubility; it inclined me, despite the bitten finger-nails, to side with Jappe, who at most addressed a word or two over his shoulder to his neighbour and for the rest gazed in apparent composure at the smoke of his cigarette. Then came Herr Knaak——I can still see him, in his blue striped flannel morning suit, coming with winged tread from the direc- tion of the Kurhaus and lifting his hat as he paused outside the circle. That he wanted to come I do not believe; I am convinced rather that he had made a virtue of necessity when he honoured the fight with his presence. And the necessity, the compulsion, was due to his equivocal position in the eyes of the martially- and mascu- linely-minded youth. Dark-skinned and comely, plump, particu- larly in the region of the hips, he gave us dancing and deportment lessons in the wintertime——private, family lessons as well as pub- lic classes in the Casino; and in the summer he acted as bathing- master and social manager at Travemünde. He rocked on his hips and weaved in his walk, turning out his toes very much and setting them first on the ground as he stepped. His eye had a vain ex- pression, his speech was pleasant but affected, and his way of entering a room as though it were a stage, his extraordinary and fastidious mannerisms charmed all the female sex, while the mascu- line world, and especially critical youth, viewed him with sus- picion. I have often pondered over the position of François Knaak in life and always have I found it strange and fantastic. He was of humble origins, his parents were poor, and his taste for the social graces left him as it were hanging in the air——not a member of society, yet paid by it as a guardian and instructor of its con- ventions. Jappe and Do Escobar were his pupils too; not in pri- vate lessons, like Johnny, Brattström, and me, but in the public classes in the Casino. It was in these that Herr Knaak's character and position were most sharply criticized. We of the private classes were less austere. A fellow who taught you the proper de- portment towards little girls, who was thrillingly reported to wear a corset, who picked up the edge of his frock-coat with his finger- tips, curtsied, cut capers, leaped suddenly into the air, where he twirled his toes before he came down again——what sort of chap was he, after all? These were the suspicions harboured by militant youth on the score of Herr Knaak's character and mode of life, and his exaggerated airs did nothing to allay them. Of course, he was a grown-up man (he was even, comically enough, said to have a wife and children in Hamburg); and his advantage in years and the fact that he was never seen except officially and in the dance-hall, prevented him from being convicted and unmasked. Could he do gymnastics? Had he ever been able to? Had he courage? Had he parts? In short, could one accept him as an equal? He was never in a position to display the soldier char- acteristics which might have balanced his salon arts and made him a decent chap. So there were youths who made no bones of call- ing him straight out a coward and a jackanapes. All this he knew and therefore he was here today to manifest his interest in a good stand-up fight and to put himself on terms with the young, though in his official position he should not have countenanced such goings-on. I am convinced, however, that he was not comfortable ——he knew he was treading on thin ice. Some of the audience looked coldly at him and he himself gazed uneasily round to see if anybody was coming. He politely excused his late arrival, saying that he had been kept by a consultation with the management of the Kurhaus about the next Sunday's ball. "Are the combatants present?" he next inquired in official tones. "Then we can begin." Leaning on his stick with his feet crossed he gnawed his soft brown mous- tache with his under lip and made owl eyes to look like a con- noisseur. Jappe and Do Escobar stood up, threw away their cigarettes, and began to prepare for the fray. Do Escobar did it in a hurry, with impressive speed. He threw hat, coat, and waistcoat on the ground, unfastened tie, collar, and braces and added them to the pile. He even drew his rose-coloured shirt out of his trousers, pulled his arms briskly out of the sleeves, and stood up in a red and white striped undershirt which exposed the larger part of his yellow arms, already covered with a thick black fell. "At you service, sir," he said, with a rolling r, stepping into the middle of the ring, expanding his chest and throwing back his shoulders. He still wore the silver bangle. Jappe was not ready yet. He turned his head, elevated his brows, and looked at Do Escobar's feet a moment with narrowed eyes——as much as to say: "Wait a bit——I'll get there too, even if I don't swagger so much." He was broader in the shoulder; but as he took his place beside Do Escobar he seemed nowhere near so fit or athletic. His legs in the tight strapped boots inclined to be knock-kneed and his fit-out was not impressive——grey braces over a yellowed white shirt with loose buttoned sleeves. By con- trast Do Escbar's striped tricot and the black hair on his arms looked uncommonly grim and businesslike. Both were pale but it showed more in Jappe as he was otherwise blond and red-cheeked, with jolly, not-too-refined features including a rather turned-up nose with a saddle of freckles. Do Escobar's nose was short, straight, and drooping and there was a downy black growth on his full upper lip. They stood with hanging arms almost breast to breast, and looked at one another darkly and haughtily in the region of the stomach. They obviously did not know how to begin——and how well I could understand that! A night and half a day had inter- vened since the unpleasantness. They had wanted to fly at each other's throats and had only been held in check by the rules of the game. But they had had time to cool off. To do to order, as it were, before an audience, by appointment, in cold blood, what they had wanted to do yesterday when the fit was on them——it was not the same thing at all. After all, they were not gladiators. They were civilized young men. And in possession of one's senses one has a certain reluctance to smash a sound human body with one's fists. So I thought, and so, very likely, it was. But something had to be done, that honour might be satisfied, so each began to work the other up by hitting him contemptu- ously with the finger-tips on the breast, as though that would be enough to finish him off. And, indeed, Jappe's face began to be distorted with anger—but just at that moment Do Escobar broke off the skirmish. "Pardon," said he, taking two steps backwards and turning aside. He had to tighten the buckle at the back of his trousers, for he was narrow-hipped and in the absence of braces they had begun to slip. He took his position again almost at once, throwing out his chest and saying something in guttural and rattling Spanish, probably to the effect that he was again at Jappe's service. It was clear that he was inordinately vain. The skirmishing with shoulders and buffeting with palms began again. Then unexpectedly there ensued a blind and raging hand- to-hand scuffle with the fists, which lasted three seconds and broke off without notice. "Now they are warming up," said Johnny, sitting next to me with a dry grass in his mouth. "I'll wager Jappe beats him. Look how he keeps squinting over at us——Jappe keeps his mind on his job. Will you bet he won't give him a good hiding?" They had now recoiled and stood, fists on hips, their chests heaving. Both had doubtless taken some punishment, for they both looked angry, sticking out their lips furiously as much as to say: "What do you mean by hurting me like that?" Jappe was red- eyed and Do Escobar showed his white teeth as they fell to again. They were hitting out now with all their strength on shoulders, forearms, and breasts by turns and in quick succession. "That's nothing," Johnny said, with his charming accent. "They won't get anywhere that way, either of them. They must go at it under the chin, with an uppercut to the jaw. That does it." But mean- while Do Escobar had caught both Jappe's arms with his left arm, pressed them as in a vise against his chest, and with his right went on pummelling Jappe's flanks. There was great excitement. "No clinching!" several voices cried out, and people jumped up. Herr Knaak hastened between the combatants, in horror. "You are holding him fast, my dear friend. That is against all the rules." He separated them and again instructed Do Escobar in the regulations. Then he withdrew once more outside the ring. Jappe was obviously in a fury. He was quite white, rubbing his side and looking at Do Escobar with a slow nod that boded no good. When the next round began, his face looked so grim that everybody expected him to deliver a decisive blow. And actually as soon as contact had been renewed Jappe carried out a coup——he practised a feint which he had probably planned beforehand. A thrust with his left caused Do Escobar to protect his head; but as he did so Jappe's right hit him so hard in the stomach that he crumpled forwards and his face took on the colour of yellow wax. "That went home," said Johnny. "That's where it hurts. Maybe now he will pull himself together and take things seri- ously, so as to pay it back." But the blow to the stomach had been too telling, Do Escobar's nerve was visibly shaken. It was clear he could not even clench his fists properly, and his eyes took on a glazed look. However, finding his muscles thus affected, his vanity counselled him to play the agile southron, dancing round the German bear and rendering him desperate by his own dex- terity. He took tiny steps and made all sorts of useless passes, moving round Jappe in little circles and trying to assume an arro- gant smile——which in his reduced condition struck me as really heroic. But it did not upset Jappe at all——he simply turned round on his heel and got in many a good blow with his right while with his left he warded off Do Escobar's feeble attack. But what sealed Do Escobar's fate was that his trousers kept slipping. His tricot shirt even came outside and rucked up, showing a little strip of his bare yellow skin——some of the audience sniggered. But why had he taken off his braces? He would have done better to leave æsthetic considerations on one side. For now his trousers bothered him, they had bothered him during the whole fight. He kept wanting to pull them up and stuff in his shirt, for however much he was punished he could bear it better than the thought that he might be cutting a ridiculous figure. In the end he was fighting with one hand while with the other he tried to put him- self to rights; and thus Jappe was able to land such a blow on his nose that to this day I do not understand why it was not broken. But the blood poured out, and Do Escobar turned and went apart from Jappe, trying with his right hand to stop the bleeding and with his left making an eloquent gesture behind him as he went. Jappe stood there with his knock-kneed legs spread out and waited for Do Escobar to come back. But Do Escobar was finished with the business. If I interpret him aright he was the more civilized of the two and felt that it was high time to call a halt: Jappe would beyond doubt have fought on with his nose bleed- ing; but almost as certainly Do Escobar would equally have re- fused to go on, and he did so with even more conviction in that it was himself that bled. They had made the claret run out of his nose——in his view things should never have been allowed to go so far, devil take it! The blood ran between his fingers onto his clothes, it soiled his light trousers and dripped on his yellow shoes. It was beastly and nothing but beastly——and under such circum- stances he declined to take part in more fighting. It would be inhuman. And his attitude was accepted by the majority of the spec- tators. Herr Knaak came into the ring and declared that the fight was over. Both sides had behaved with distinction. You could see how relieved he felt that the affair had gone off so smoothly. "But neither of them was brought to a fall," said Johnny, surprised and disappointed. However, even Jappe was quite satis- fied to consider the affair as settled. Drawing a long breath he went to fetch his clothes. Everybody generally accepted Herr Knaak's delicate fiction that the issue was a draw. Jappe was con- gratulated, but only surreptitiously; on the other hand some peo- ple lent Do Escobar their handkerchiefs, as his own was soon drenched. And now the cry was for more. Let two other fellows fight. That was the sense of the meeting; Jappe's and Do Escobar's business had taken so little time, hardly ten minutes; since they were all there and it was still quite early something more ought to come. Another pair must enter the arena——whoever wanted to show that he deserved being called a lad of parts. Nobody offered. But why at this summons did my heart begin to beat like a little drum? What I had feared had come to pass: the challenge had become general. Why did I feel as though I had all the time been awaiting this very moment with shivers of delicious anticipation and now when it had come why was I plunged into a whirl of conflicting emotions? I looked at Johnny. Perfectly calm and detached he sat beside me, turned his straw about in his mouth and looked about the ring with a frankly curious air, to see whether a couple of stout chaps would not be found to let their noses be broken for his amusement. Why was it that I had to feel personally challenged to conquer my nervous timidity, to make an unnatural effort and draw all eyes upon my- self by heroically stepping into the ring? In an access of self- consciousness mingled with vanity I was about to raise my hand and offer myself for combat when somewhere in the circle the shout arose: "Herr Knaak ought to fight!" All eyes fastened themselves upon Herr Knaak. I have said that he was walking upon slippery ice in exposing himself to the dan- ger of such a test of his kidney. But he simply answered: "No, thanks, very much——I had enough beatings when I was young." He was safe. He had slipped like an eel out of the trap. How astute of him, to bring in his superiority in years, to imply that at our age he would not have avoided an honourable fight——and that without boasting at all, even making his own words carry irre- sistible conviction by admitting with a disarming laugh at himself that he too had taken beatings in his time. They let him alone. They perceived that it was hard, if not impossible, to bring him to book. "Then somebody must wrestle!" was the next cry. This sug- gestion was not taken up either; but in the midst of the discussion over it (and I shall never forget the painful impression it made) Do Escobar said in his hoarse Spanish voice from behind his gory handkerchief: "Wrestling is for cowards. Only Germans wrestle." It was an unheard of piece of tactlessness, coming from him, and got its reward at once in the capital retort made by Herr Knaak: "Possible," said he. "But it looks as though the Germans know how to give pretty good beatings sometimes too!" He was rewarded by shouts of approving laughter; his whole position was improved, and Do Escobar definitely put down for the day. But it was the general opinion that wrestling was a good deal of a bore, and so various athletic feats were resorted to instead: leap-frog, standing on one's head, handsprings and so on, to fill in the time. "Come on, let's go," said Johnny to Brattström and me, and got up. That was Johnny Bishop for you. He had come to see something real, with the possibility of a bloody issue. But the thing had petered out and so he left. He gave me my first impression of the peculiar superiority of the English character, which later on I came so greatly to admire. 1911 
From Thomas Mann: Stories of Three Decades, Translated from the German by H. T. Lowe-Porter. Copyright, 1930, 1931, 1934, 1935, 1936, by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. The Modern Library edition, Random House, Inc. pp. 328—339.
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25 Best Places to Visit in Europe

Although it is the world’s second-smallest continent, Europe welcomes more than half of all the tourists worldwide.
7 of the ten most visited countries in the world are European nations
. It’s easy to see why a well-preserved cultural heritage, productive history safety and efficient infrastructure makes visiting Europe a breeze. Here’s a look at the best places to visit in Europe.

Vienna

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As the former seat of the Hapsburg Empire Vienna is awash with impressive imperial buildings and palaces which so comprehensively convey the wealth and power of its previous monarchs. Now the capital of Austria the city is a delight to get lost in. Nicknamed “the City of Music” the names of its famous residents roll off the tongue with Mozart Beethoven and Schubert among those who once graced its streets.

Stonehenge

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You have to marvel at the determination of prehistoric man when you look at Stonehenge. Construction started about 3000 BC on what was initially burial grounds. Huge monoliths weighing 25 tons dragged One hundred fifty miles to the site a few hundred years later. It’s not known precisely how many humungous rocks were moved to a field near Amesbury, but there are 13 standing today. It’s also not known why Stonehenge was built, but many believe this significant English landmark is associated with ancient astrology.

Matterhorn

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Egypt may have its pyramids, but Italy and Switzerland have a nature-made pyramid of their own Matterhorn. At 14,692 feet high, this famous mountain is one of the highest in Europe. The mountain has four faces, each equally rugged. The legendary mountain has been popular with climbers since the first ascent in 1865 during the summer 150 people a day try to climb it. Couch potatoes may be just as happy to stay below and gaze in awe at the summit playing hide and seek with the clouds.

Plitvice Lakes

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The Plitvice Lakes are so pretty officials turned them into a national park. Located in central Croatia Plitvice Lakes consists of 16 lakes that attract more than a million visitors a year. Lush forests surround the lakes and connected by waterfalls cascading down from one lake to another. The lakes are dividing into two sections lower and upper because of the difference in elevation. The best way to see the lakes is walking on the route you might even see some wildlife.

Budapest

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Budapest was already an established city when the Hungarians took over in the ninth century. Today Budapest is the country’s capital and largest city. In between these two events, Budapest was ruled by the Mongols and Ottomans among others. Considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe Budapest is home to the Museum of Fine Arts with its collection of more than 100,000 works. Be sure to visit the centrally located Old Town with its many museum’s churches palaces and Parliament building.

Lisbon

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The Portuguese capital of Lisbon lies on the Tagus River along the Atlantic coast. It is this location that encouraged explorers to sail far and wide around the world in the15th 16th and 17th centuries. One of the things you’ll want to see is Belem Tower a 16th-century fortress on the Tagus’ north bank if you’re looking for excellent views of old Lisbon head to Saint George Castle that was built on a hilltop by the Moors.

Gullfoss

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You probably don’t know too many people who’ve been to Iceland. But it may be worth a trip there to visit the spectacular Gullfoss waterfalls. Located in southern Iceland Gullfoss is one of Iceland’s top tourist attractions. At times it almost appears glacier-like appropriate perhaps since a glacier feeds it. The waterfalls begin just after the Ölfusá River makes a perpendicular turn and then cascades down a three-step staircase into a canyon that is 115 feet deep.

Athens

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Athens, a city that’s been inhabited since the fifth century BC, gave the world the concept of democracy and is the birthplace of Western civilisation. Many of the city’s significant landmarks can found in the old town particularly around the Acropolis. The list includes the temple of Zeus the Theatre of Dionysus where Sophocles works were performed and the Parthenon which sits atop the Acropolis.

Bay of Kotor

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When you’re hungry for breathtaking scenery feast your eyes on Kotor Bay in southwestern Montenegro. This bay off the Adriatic is just downright picturesque hemmed in by mountains with quaint villages sandwiched between the cliffs and the beautiful blue water. Several well-preserved medieval towns ring the bay. People make pilgrimages here not only to take in the scenery but also to visit the many Orthodox, and Christian churches spread among the villages.

Moscow

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For nearly 900 years Moscow has been the capital of Russia. As such, this old city has plenty to offer visitors. Let’s start with the 15th century Red Square since many of the city’s key attractions surround it. A top landmark is the Kremlin a former fortress that houses museums and the president of the Russian federation. Lenin’s Tomb sits in the middle of the square while the iconic onion-domed St.Basil’s Cathedral now a museum is on one side.

Venice

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Venice is for romantics who love gliding through the Grand Canal with a gondolier singing Italian love songs. This is, after all the city that sent Marco Polo off on his journey to China. Start your exploration of Venice at San Marco Square, the city’s most famous square. Here you’ll find the Doge’s Palace the seat of Venetian government and St. Mark’s Basilica the main church in Venice with stunning views from the tower. Venice also is famous for its bridges across the canals.

Monte Carlo

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If you’re into glitz and glamour, look no further than Monte Carlo the major city in the tiny principality of Monaco. Monaco has always for these qualities, which reached new heights when its prince made Grace Kelly his princess. Sitting on the shores of the Mediterranean Monte Carlo is known for fast car races and its elite casino. Take a walk along the harbour to see yachts that belong to the rich and famous.

Alhambra

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The Alhambra is one of the great wonders of Spain. It’s a gorgeous palace-fortress complex that can found in Granada in southern Spain’s Andalusia province. This imposing complex started as a small fortress in the late ninth century though it was built on the ruins of a former Roman fort. Taken over by Christian rulers, it is the site where Columbus got the go-ahead to discover the New World. The blending of architectural styles over the centuries is stunning. You’ll find great art and grand gardens throughout.

Florence

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If it weren’t for Florence, the Renaissance might not have happened. Florence is generally credit with bringing Europe out of the dark ages with great artists like Michelangelo. You can see their works at the Uffizi gallery or the Academia that displays the original David. Eat a gelato while strolling the Ponte Vecchio that bridges the Arno River. Ogle the over-the-top riches of the Medici family at the Pitti Palace.Marvel at the new engineering that created the magnificent Duomo.

London

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English history buffs will have a field day in London. This city on the Thames is chock full of palaces from Buckingham Palace to Hampton Court Palace. More a prison than a castle the Tower of London is home to the crowns jewels. And from Knightsbridge – don’t forget to visit the magnificent food halls at Harrods to Carnaby Street the shopping is fantastic. You can get around London quickly and efficiently by riding the famous Tube.

Neuschwanstein Castle

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“Fairy tale castle” is a phrase that aptly describes Neuschwanstein Castle in the Bavarian Alps. These 19th century Romanesque Revival castles look like it just stepped out of a fairy tale some say Neuschwanstein inspired the castle in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. The castle was built as a retreat for King Ludwig II of Bavaria. Who viewed it as a romanticisation of the Middle Ages The castle was built of brick then covered in rock including the white limestone that is visible from afar.

Amsterdam

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Amsterdam is a pleasant city marked with meandering canals lined with tall narrow row houses. It is the city where Anne Frank kept her famous diary, so visiting the house where she wrote that. Also is a city of great art beginning with the Rijksmuseum home to great European masterpieces Rembrandt’s house and the more modern van Gogh museum. Take a break from sightseeing to tour and sample Holland’s beer at the Heineken Brewery.

Prague

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Prague, with a long history of war and destruction, is considered one of the best places to visit in Europe. Despite the devastation caused by World War II Prague has a charming Old Town that is worth more than a few hours of your time. Prague has many pedestrian zones which making walking a delight as you wander by Prague Castle through the Jewish Quarter and over the Charles Bridge. Wenceslas Square situated in the New Town hums with a vibrant nightlife and entertainment air.

Istanbul

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Istanbul may be on the outer fringes of Europe but well worth a visit when you’re travelling abroad. Turkey’s biggest city is a fascinating place filled with a rich history, colourful markets and mosques. Top attractions include the Bosporus that separates Europe and Asia. The ecumenical Hagia Sophia that’s been a Greek Orthodox Christian basilica then an imperial mosque and now a museum and the 15th century Topkapi Palace also a museum today. Get in a little shopping at the Grand Bazaar that’s been in operation since 1461.

Geirangerfjord

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When the summer heat of Europe gets you down head to Norway with its pretty cool scenery. Geirangerfjord is a 9.3-mile long fjord with crystal blue waters fed by picturesque cascading waterfalls. Take a sightseeing trip on a car ferry through the fjord passing villages on the shores. Look out for the Seven Sisters and Suitor waterfalls so named because legend says he’s trying to court the sisters. Also, look for Bridal Veil – when the light is right, it seems like a thin veil covering the rocks.

Barcelona

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Founded by the Romans Barcelona today is a bustling city on the Mediterranean Sea. As the capital of Catalonia, it is a powerhouse in the region. It is perhaps best known for the unusual buildings designed by the architect Antoni Gaudi. These landmark structures include La Sagrada Familia a church that’s been under construction since 1892. You could build your entire visit around his buildings. But then you’d miss out on other Barcelona delights such as La Rambla a famous pedestrian street in the central part of the city.

Dubrovnik

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As European cities go Dubrovnik isn’t huge but don’t let its size deter you. This little jewel with less than 43,000 people is one of the most visited cities in the Mediterranean. Dubrovnik transports visitors back to a time when the fortified town was a significant maritime power commanding the third-largest navy in the Mediterranean. As you wander the streets, you’ll likely come across sculptures of St. Viaho the city’s patron saint whose life is celebrating every February.

Santorini

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When it’s time to sit back and relax take yourself to Santorini an island in the Aegean. Top travel magazines consider this a prime destination once there you can’t help but agree. The island has picture-postcard villages an active volcano and stunning sunsets. Be sure to visit Fira, a town perched atop a cliff. You’ll also want to sample wines such as the dessert wine Vincent as well as the product that is made sweeter and tastier because of the volcanic ash soil it grows in.

Paris

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Songs laud Paris in the springtime but any time of year is an excellent time to visit this riveting city on the River Seine. It’s a city loaded to the brim with history culture great food and high fashion. The iconic Eiffel Tower is one landmark you won’t want to miss. The Louvre houses one of the most significant art collections in the world. Its great churches include Sacred Heart and Notre Dame. When it comes to opulence, there’s Versailles with its famed Hall of Mirrors.

Rome

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The ancient Romans established outposts as far away as Great Britain. They didn’t ignore their home city; however when it came to building great monuments. One must-see landmark is the Colosseum an arena that could hold up to 80,000 people for gladiator contests. One of the biggest draws is a tiny country inside the city The Vatican City, with its impressive St. Peter’s Basilica with art provided by Michelangelo. Maybe you’ll get a glimpse of the pope at his Wednesday audiences.
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The Weight We Carry Ch 18

So you've been asking and I heard! The latest chapter in The Weight We Carry! I got bit by the writing bug earlier this morning and if my strange writing habits weren't so time consuming I'd have it out sooner. As it is I'm posting this and then going to bed! So if there's any glaring mistakes or horrible things I didn't mean to leave in? Well... shit.
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Highway Y outside Eldon, Former Missouri. 9:21 am local time, December 25th 2034.
“This… isn’t… a very… good… Christmas.” I looked over my shoulder with a smirk as I saw Sergeant Huertas pedaling along at the back of the group. Wobbling a little as he kept riding.
“What’s wrong sergeant? Don’t you get enough PT? This is just a nice little ride into town.” I looked ahead up Highway Y as we kept riding. Thankfully it hadn’t snowed since the trucks came through so the road was clear enough for the rest of us to follow on our bikes. Since the attack on Fort Sierra the trucks and cars were all being used to move around supplies and equipment, along with our wounded. The rest of us. Myself included, had two choices for transport. Foot. Or bike.
“It’s… not that… this… hurts… my dick.” The sergeant replied which made the rest of us start laughing and I shook my head a little at his rather honest answer.
“You’ve got to adjust the seat sergeant. Didn’t anyone ever teach you how to properly ride a bike?” I asked then as I looked back to see him huff and puff, his breath coming out in big plumes thanks to the low temperature.
“When I was a kid! Not… for this… ride so… long… your dick… hurts… shit.” I couldn’t help but laugh once again. “In the… fishing village… where I grew up… we drove places.” I thought that over a moment.
“Fishing village? Aren’t you from LA?” I asked and he nodded as he kept pedaling.
“Like I said… the fishing village. Fuck… I didn’t… join the army… for no… goddamn… tour de… Missouri shit.” I kept chuckling even as I shook my head and kept moving. Leave it to Sergeant Huertas to make a long cold bike ride more amusing.
“Come now sergeant. Bicycle corps have a long and storied military history. Starting in the late 1800s. Used by the first commandos of the modern age. The Dutch in South Africa.” I glanced around the group of bike riders around me then. Lewis was to my right, Felon was to my left, and the rest of Alpha around us. I was plenty well protected in this group of resistance soldiers riding their bikes into old Eldon. Might as well give them a little history lesson while we rode.
“The Dutch? Weren’t they known for smoking a lot of pot and growing tulips?” Lewis asked which made me chuckle again.
“Don’t let their modern history fool you. The Dutch once held a massive trade empire spanning the globe. New York as first New Amsterdam, and Australia was New Holland. Though for some reason the Brits didn’t rename New Zealand… Anyway they actually started a lot of modern military ideas. The first marines were Dutch. They raided the English navy at port once. Burned up a lot of ships up the Thames river which would be like… the Cubans sailing up the Mississippi and burning shit in Saint Louis.”
“The Dutch?” Felon asked and I nodded as we kept pedaling along, Huertas wheezing behind us.
“Yep. Then their king… or prince? The monarch of the Netherlands at some point became the king of England and shit went downhill for the Dutch after that. The Brits conquered most of their colonies and they were never the same… But anyway back to bicycle corps. In the…” I paused and tried to remember my years a bit. “A few centuries ago the Dutch settled in South Africa and later the Brits showed up and drove them inland away from the coast. The Netherlands had to give up the colony and they became the independent… Boers. Before you ask no I have no idea what Boers means or why the name change.”
“They called themselves pigs?” Lewis asked and I laughed before shaking my head.
“B-O-E-R-S.” I spelled out. “Like I said. I don’t know the meaning. Anyway, the Brits weren’t satisfied with the coastal towns when they found out about the resources deeper in South Africa… and all of Africa I guess. So they took over. Then the Boers began a resistance campaign that spawned the first modern commandos. Hit and run raids, early IEDs, all sorts of guerilla tactics. It was a brutal and protracted affair. War crimes for both sides involved honestly. But back then they weren’t called war crimes.” I trailed off as we kept riding until Lewis spoke up again.
“So… the bicycle corps?”
“Right.” I nodded as he reminded me. “So one of the best commandos at the time realized that horses take supplies and are pretty easy to spot, and only certain people could have them since they were expensive. But they also had bikes. So what’s faster and easier than walking 20 miles? Biking 20 miles.”
“It ain’t… fuckin… easy…” Huertas panted from the back which made most of us chuckle again.
“I said easier. Easier doesn’t mean easy. Anyway, that’s Eldon up ahead.” I pointed to the buildings ahead of us a ways. “We’re not far now. But yeah… the Dutch were the first marines, and commandos, and created the first bike corps. They were in limited use for decades. Even in World War 2 the Danish had them and later on the Germans used them as they got pushed back into Germany. In fact the Boer commando who came up with the idea was the great great grandfather of… that one… actress…” My words slowed down as I tried to think of her and glanced over at Felon. “You remember her right?”
He just shrugged as he kept riding. “Colonel I have no idea who might be related to an old Dutch commando.”
I sighed out then and slowly shook my head. “Shit…” Was all I could mutter. “That’s going to bug me.” What was her name? I could picture her… she was in that movie about Australia. Driving that big war truck thing around. Fuck! What was the name of that movie? I was getting too damn old. I let out another sigh and shook my head. “I’ll remember in the middle of the night.” I muttered knowing that it would eventually come to me when it was too late.
“We’re coming up on the junction.” Felon pointed out the slight curve in the road where Highway Y would meet 52. As we got closer I began to slow down without really thinking about it before finally coming to a stop at the intersection and looking to my left for oncoming cars. “Sir are you expecting traffic?” I looked over my shoulder at Felon and then laughed as I started to get riding down the road as we turned right.
“Old habits.” I answered with a shrug. On either side of us snow was piled up around the old abandoned houses. Most of them had Christmas decorations still up from the invasion all those years ago. Up ahead on the right I spotted some of our trucks parked in front of the old dollar store. “You can finally give your dick some rest Huertas.” I called over my shoulder to a wheezing reply.
“Thank Christ!” I chuckled again and looked over to Felon.
“Get them warmed up and fed. I’m heading down the road a bit to the bank across from that… Gas station with the… what was it? Mobster’s pizza?” I was about to continue when I heard Huertas cry out.
“Don’t mention pizza! Fuck! I’d… I’d fuckin… kill… for a big… greasy… pepperoni… fuck.” Felon just shook his head at that.
“With cheese in the crust?”
“Beer! Beer in the crust!” Huertas called back as I frowned.
“How’s the supposed to work?”
“Science! Fuck… I dunno… just… give me… a way… to eat… greasy pizza… and get drunk… at the same time…” He was trying to stand up a bit as he rode now, one hand adjusting his pants as I heard him mutter something about “cojones.”
“Well they won’t have that here.” Felon called back. “Just soy sludge and hot porridge probably. Warm you right up Huertas don’t you worry.” Most of the soldiers pulled off then to stop in the old parking lot of the general store while Lewis and I continued on.
“They used to have a lot of gas stations didn’t they?” Lewis asked as we rode on and I nodded as we past several local places with gas pumps out front. I could see the old sign for McDonalds further down. By now the golden arches had faded to a pale yellow white. There were still some old cars in the parking lot. The snow covering everything but the tops of the windows and their roofs, their paint stripped from years of neglect. Diagonal from the fast food place was the birck building of the bank and there were more of our trucks out front.
Lewis and I rode up onto the sidewalk then and dismounted our bikes, leaning them against the building as we headed inside. Sergeant Jackson nodded to me as we entered and I let out a happy sigh as I saw an oil drum someone had dragged to the middle of the big room and set a fire in. I walked towards it, glancing up at the ceiling to see it was already blackened from the smoke. But without a fireplace or a heater this was simply how we had to keep warm. Rubbing my hands together after removing my gloves I held them up before the fire and looked around.
All the old desks had been removed or shoved to the side and I could see Reed off in the bank’s small vault with a clipboard in hand. We were storing some of our gear and intel around the town until we could get a new camp. The most important stuff would go into bank vaults. Besides Reed there was Jackson and the rest of Bravo scattered around the place. I’m sure some were up on the second floor keeping watch, but only Lewis and I were huddled around the oil drum fire for now. When Reed finally finished with her checklist she walked out of the vault and over to us.
“Sir, have a nice ride through the snow?” She smirked a bit and I gave a snort. Reed was a good officer. I gave her credit for being so professional despite our resistance conditions. I always felt she was a bit too stern and formal with the soldiers though. She was relaxed and casual when it was just me and Lewis but she held very strictly to the old separation of the enlisted from the officers.
“I did, but Sergeant Huertas was having some problems with his seat.” She just shook her head and rolled her eyes before she went on.
“So, we’ve gotten most of our things stashed through the town. You and Alpha were the last to make it down off the mountain. I got word from Piven that the gun bunnies made it to Barnett. His guns are stashed around Rocky Mountain and we’re going to have to hope the aliens don’t find them.” I nodded at that. We barely had time to get out of the Ozarks before the Unity brought in heavy reinforcements so getting the howitzers hooked up and towed would have been nearly impossible.
“What about Hatchet?” I asked and she pointed to a map up on the wall of the area.
“Same as last report. Unity forces are heading northwest from the remains of Fort Sierra to Versailles.” She was about to continue when Lewis spoke up.
“Is that how you say it? I’ve been pronouncing it ver-sails this whole time.” Both Reed and I laughed at that for a moment.
“It’s French.” I informed him and he frowned.
“The French settled there?” He asked and I shook my head. Sometimes I forgot how little history the kids these days knew.
“No it’s just a name. We’ve got a long proud history of stealing names from other places for use here. Like… Paris Texas.”
“West of us is Warsaw.” Reed added. “North up the 87 is California.” I laughed at that.
“Yeah Missouri has Warsaw, Versailles, and California… and… isn’t there a Nevada here too?” I asked and Reed nodded. “Then… Pittsburg?”
“No that’s on the Kansas side.” She mentioned and I nodded.
“Well I know there’s a Moscow Idaho. And Dublin California.” I listed off.
“New York New York Las Vegas Nevada.” Reed added but I just snorted.
“That’s a casino it’s not the same.” She shrugged and then wagged a finger at me.
“But we’ve also got some pretty original names too like Knob Noster.” I laughed as she reminded me about that.
“Oh yes that’s right. Over near Whiteman airforce base… I never did find out what a Noster is or why it has a knob.” I sighed and shook my head slowly before shrugging. “I just hope that it confused the aliens too while they were invading. So back to Hatchet. They’re moving up and away from us even now? Has he been drawing them up?” I asked and Reed shook her head.
“He’s only instigated minor hit and run raids on convoys for supplies but they’ve been scattered all across from 135 to 52.” She pointed at the highways on the map. “And they’re already moving past his position. They’ve got a heavy presence and they’re searching the town itself but they aren’t really stopping for long. Oh and he said you wanted to know about anything unusual? Two nights ago in one of the camps the dogs went… as he phrased it. Nuts.” I arched a brow at that and she handed me the radio transcript.
Hatchet reported that the trained dogs in the camp began acting strangely shortly after sunset. They would growl at the woods but wouldn’t bark and often would try to pull their handlers away from the edge of the camp and closer to the center. In fact all the dogs formed a ring at the center of the camp that night and didn’t sleep but kept an alert and vigilant pose as he put it. Several combat patrols were made that night but no contact was made and no trace of Unity hostiles were found. I shook my head as he described their behavior just like Reed said, as nuts. “That was two nights ago? Nothing since?” She shook her head as I rubbed my chin.
“We haven’t had time to properly interrogate the pilot either. We’ve got her down the street in the Hardee’s freezer.” I glanced up at Reed then and frowned trying to place the name.
“Is that… the Arby’s out here?” I asked and it was Reed’s turn to frown before she realized what I meant and shook her head.
“No, Arby’s is just Arby’s. You’re thinking of Carl’s Junior. I forget sometimes you’re from the west coast.” I just groaned a little and sighed.
“Well damn. Earlier Huertas was talking about greasy pepperoni pizza and now I just made myself think of a big fat ham and cheese sandwich. I guess I’m just hungry. Was Carl’s Junior… Hardee’s the one that had that special that was just a big pile of french fries covered in cheese and bacon?” I asked and heard Lewis groan a little.
“Would you stop with the food? I’m hungry too.” Reed smirked then.
“I can help you two with that problem. Even get you a ham and cheese.” She nodded at me before looking over at Jackson. “Sergeant Jackson. Go get some sandwiches from upstairs.” The Sergeant nodded and headed into the back of the bank to get upstairs as she explained. “We’ve been picking up some goodies from the farms around Jeff. Including ham and cheese.”
I was feeling greedy and couldn’t stop myself before asking. “What kind of bread?”
“Rye I think.” I got my hopes up for a moment. “Just the light one. Not marbled.” I let out a disappointed grunt and shrugged.
“I really shouldn’t get my hopes up. But one day. One day I swear I will have a Reuben again.” Reed chuckled as I said that.
“For a west coast boy you always go on about Reubens. You sure you’re not from New York?” I scoffed as she asked that.
“You act like marbled rye and pastrami is somehow exclusive to the east coast, when they got it from eastern Europe so really you’re just denying yourself the culinary splendor that makes up America.” She smirked at that. “Anyway it’s about where you find it. We moved around a lot when I was a kid but I always could find a Jewish or Russian deli with good rye bread. It was so much more flavorful than that enriched white bread crap in the stores.” I thought it over for a moment then and shrugged. “But I guess now all bread has to be pretty fresh. Not like I can just walk into a supermarket and pick up a loaf of Wonder bread.”
“The Unity provisioning centers usually have some form of bread.” Lewis mentioned. “But… I don’t think I ever got anything that wasn’t a few days old and pretty stale.
“Well you’re in for a treat today.” Reed mentioned as Jackson came back out with a brown paper bag. He opened it up and handed me a hot sandwich wrapped in deli paper and I couldn’t help but let out a soft groan.
“Oh it’s hot… Just what I needed after riding 10 miles uphill through the snow.” I started to unwrap my sandwich as Lewis chimed in.
“Sir, it was actually more like 5 miles downhill.” I just glanced over at him while he unwrapped his own sandwich until I caught his attention and he looked at me.
“Lewis, would you like to go back outside in the cold Missouri winter and ride 5 miles uphill and then 5 miles back down? Or would you like to just agree with your commanding officer and eat a hot ham and cheese sandwich?” He stared back at me for a few seconds before quickly raising his sandwich to take a large bite, as if I was about to take it from him. “That’s what I thought.” Was all I said and looked down at my meal. It was warm but not really toasted. Not like I cared. Light rye, thick slabs of ham, and also thick slices of what looked like very pale yellow cheddar. Without mass production and consumer demand cheese had stopped being orange.
As I took a bite I kept it small, not wanting to eat too fast or choke on a big chunk. But I nearly went back on that idea as I could taste how damn fresh it all was. One of the benefits of getting supplies from the local farms.Which made me pause for a moment. But I kept chewing and swallowed before speaking. “How did they get fresh rye at this time of year? It’s late December and there’s no crops growing.” I looked at Reed who frowned and then shrugged.
“I’m… not sure? I’m sure they had some stored away for the bread.” I thought that over for a moment as I looked at my sandwich.
I glanced at Lewis who was still chomping down big mouthfulls of sandwich, then Jackson past him. “Did you have one?” He nodded.
“Yes, sir. Why?”
I looked back to Reed. “Did anyone get sick?” She looked confused and shook her head. “No? Is this a trustworthy farm?” Switching back over I saw Jackson who seemed to catch on.
“Yes, sir it is. They’ve always been good about providing supplies for the resistance. I know the rye crop is over but it’s just a grain. I’m sure they had some stored away for bread like this.” I nodded slowly and then shrugged before dismissing that thought.
“Just an old man being paranoid I guess. Lord knows I’m no farmer.” I sighed as I realized that a life of being a spy master had corrupted me permanently and this was just one of the more minor ways. I went back to taking small manageable bites of my sandwich and then had to keep from spitting some out when I looked over to see Lewis with his cheeks bulging. I choked down my current bite and spoke. “I had no idea you were this hungry Lewis.”
When he looked at me he just tried to say something but all I could hear was a muffled collection of sounds that meant nothing to me. “Well try not to choke to death. I’d hate to train a new orderly.” I looked past Jackson and nodded at him. “More in the bag?”
“Yes, sir. I was warming them up to take over to the guards at the Hardees. Got a thermos of hot soy sludge in there too.” I reached out for the bag then which he handed over.
“I’ll take it over. I need to talk to the prisoner anyway.” Jackson nodded and began to head for the door when I spoke again. “I didn’t ask for an escort sergeant.” He looked back at me then seeming surprised.
“You should have an escort sir. We’re not in a secure camp.” I snorted at that.
“The nearest Unity forces are supposed to be miles away. And we’re in the center of Eldon. We have sentinels on all the roads. You think I’m in danger walking… what, 200 feet?” The Sergeant shrugged.
“I still think you should have an escort sir.” I glanced over at Reed who shrugged so I then copied the movement and shrugged as well.
“Doesn’t hurt I guess. I must really be showing my age for a young man to offer and help me cross the road.” I smiled and he did as well but the lack of laughter cut a bit deeper than I’d figured it would. We headed outside and I shivered a little at the change in temperature once we were outside. “Did you want to talk to me in private? Is that why you felt the need to escort me?” I asked but the sergeant just glanced over and shook his head. Was I really looking that old and feeble these days? I just rode a bike five miles through snowy roads… I shrugged it off then and kept walking.
The old fast food place was ahead of us past yet another gas station. The once bright and colorful signs faded and worn. I could barely make out a sign about some sort of new hamburger with ham on it and snorted a little. One of Jackson’s men nodded to us from the window as we walked around the structure to the entrance. Inside it was still pretty cold, but not nearly as bad as outside. One of them had a fire going inside one of the ovens.
“Brought you guys some chow.” I mentioned and the soldiers approached, thanking me as I handed out the still warm sandwiches followed by the thermos. I took another few bites of my sandwich as I waited for them each to get a cup full of hot soy sludge and then took the thermos as they handed it back. “The prisoner talkative?”
“Lizzie? She answers questions. Doesn’t venture much on her own except complaints.” One of the soldiers answered me. A corporal based on the smiley face patches on his gear. Just how did that start again? I wish I could remember. How much could I not remember today? I frowned a little and tried to clear my head as something caught up with my brain.
“Lizzie? You guys named her Lizzie? As in… Lizzie the lizard?” I asked and they chuckled.
“That’s her name. It’s on her documents.” Jackson informed me.
“She named herself Lizzie?” I asked then and he shrugged.
“Someone named her Lizzie. That’s all I know for sure.” That made me think for a minute as I just shifted and shook my head.
“See this is why I don’t trust the Isoren. Bregnan have names that sound like you’re coughing up phlegm. The Rekanta don’t even have real names that I can tell. They just have their rank and then a number. But Isoren? They have suspiciously human names. I don’t like it.” I shrugged then and headed to the back of the restaurant. The freezer was pretty easy to spot, as was the icepick they were using to keep it locked shut. I removed the ice pick from the handle and opened it up.
Inside was our captured alien pilot. The reptile was bundled up in thermals and a parka, and ski pants and was still shivering visibly when I saw her. She was just standing in the middle of the room shivering and clutching herself in the cold. “Oh hell you look like a popsicle. Come out here.” I waved her forward and the alien quickly stepped out and then feeling the heat from the oven stood in front of it close enough that I thought she might burn herself on it but clearly the alien wanted the heat.
I stepped into the freezer then and noticed it was about as cold as the outside. “Ah right even without power it’s insulated. Probably kept all the heat from the oven out. Sorry about that. I’m the one who told my men to keep you someplace secure. But that’s not necessary now.” I mentioned and closed the freezer door. I glanced over at Jackson and his men clustered around the old counter as I waved them away to give me and the alien some space.
Jackson nodded and motioned for his men to head closer to the front of the seating area. I handed the thermos to Lizzie then. “Soy sludge.” I said simply and she unfastened the cap so quick I thought she might have just ripped it off before she tilted her head back and started to chug it down. I was about to reach out and try to stop her as I saw the steam coming off the dark liquid but even as I heard her whimper she kept drinking until it was all gone. After that she was shivering less but handed the thermos back, her tongue hanging out a bit as she looked to be in pain.
“Burn your tongue?” She nodded at my question and I just sighed. “Wait here.” I set the sandwich bag on the counter along with my own sandwich and walked outside, scooping up a bit of what looked to be clean snow and walked back inside to press it into her hand. “Suck on some of this.”
The alien looked at the snow as if she’d never dealt with it before. Perhaps she hadn’t. Then she put some in her mouth and we stood there in silence as she seemed to work it around before nodding. “Maybe not burn… just felt very hot.”
“Well I’m sure with how you were shivering in there it’s a hell of a temperature difference to suddenly chug hot sludge like that. Are you hungry?” She nodded then and I was about to tear my sandwich in half when I paused. “Can you eat cheese? Dairy?”
She nodded to that as well. “Given treatment after conquest. Is good source for fat. Need more fat. Cold planet.” I smirked a bit at that and finished tearing my sandwich apart to hand her half. She glanced at it, then me and I took a bite of mine before she began to eat what I’d given her. Once more we just stood there, but now we quietly ate our sandwiches. She finished hers first and waited for me to finish before speaking again. “You said needed to be keep secure. No longer?”
“Well, you’re still our prisoner. But your friends didn’t come looking for you like I thought they would. Hell they didn’t even slow down. They just raced off chasing that Chimera of yours.” She eyed me carefully and I knew she didn’t want to talk about that stuff but I was no longer interested in the fast and sloppy route. “Still hungry?” I asked and she looked a bit confused but nodded once more.
I walked back to the counter for the sandwich bag, just one left so I pulled it out and crumpled up the paper bag they’d been in. I tore it in half just like the other and then reached out with half in either hand. “Which one?” I asked and she hesitantly reached for the one in my left. So she favored her right. I was curious if aliens were lefties or righties and so far I’d seen they were mostly righties. The Bregnan at any rate. I wondered if that meant anything.
This time as she ate I spoke. “Do you have any special dietary needs? We take multi-vitamins to make up for certain deficiencies in what food we can get. I can show you what’s in them. I’m not very familiar with Isoren diet.” The alien pilot studied me carefully and shook her head slowly as she chewed, then swallowed before speaking up.
“No… should be fine with human food. Maybe more… mmhhh… plants?”
“Vegetables and fruit?” I ventured which made her nod. “They’re not as easy to come by in the winter. Hence the vitamins. We’ve got lots of those. Before the invasion people were concerned about eating healthy. We had so much food to eat most of it was very tasty but bad for our health in large amounts. But since it tasted so much better we kept eating it.” I chuckled a little but watched the alien to see if there was any reaction.
“This I was told. Seems so strange… before we get too heavy. Too… mmhh.. Fat. They reduce rations. Why did you not simply reduce rations?” That was interesting. So a pilot had rations? The Unity wasn’t starving. Military habit? I’d find out in time.
“We were free to eat what we wanted. We were successful enough to get fruits and vegetables in any season. But… not any more.” I shrugged. “We’ll see if you can take our multi-vitamins.”
She watched me as she ate a bit more of the sandwich and I took a bite of my half, waiting for her to initiate this time. “So… I am prisoner. But you share food with me? You do not bind me?” I nodded at that. “This is… not as I was told.”
“Have you been treated alright?” I asked then.
“Cold… coldest in that… room.” She nodded past me at the freezer. “But past few nights… not hurt. Fed when able… allowed to wear warmth.” She touched the front of her parka with her free hand. “I thought… maybe just waiting until done running. Thought that room was start. A room to freeze me if I did not talk. But you say mistake?” I nodded.
“Just a simple mistake. I told them to keep you secure. And that room is very secure. It’s just… also cold.” I shrugged.
“I thought… punishment. For not answering questions.” I looked over at Jackson and the other three sitting in one of the old booths up front, talking and drinking their cups of soy sludge.
“Did they ask you questions?” When I glanced back at the alien she was shaking her head.
“No.”
“So… why would we be punishing you for not answering questions we didn’t ask you?” The pilot frowned at that and slowly shrugged. I was curious if shrugging like that was natural to them or learned from us. “Well, no more cold rooms. Soon we’ll move to the houses for the day. Not sure how long we’ll be here. If you keep behaving things should go pretty smooth. Then maybe we can send you home when the fighting dies down.” I shrugged and tried to seem non committal but the alien seemed confused.
“Not here now to… barbecue me for information?” I frowned at that and then laughed.
“Grill you? No. No I wanted to make sure you were fed and doing alright. I’ll have questions later. I don’t know much about the Isoren. All the Unity says is you’re faithful servants. Like the Bregnan.” I made sure not to smile when the alien let out a hiss.
“Not like them! They are brutes! No manners! Too aggressive. We are better. More useful. More civilized.” I raised my hands then.
“Hey that’s only what we heard from the Unity. They don’t tell us much.” She got quiet at that and seemed thoughtful. “I’ll talk with you later Lizzie.”
“Wait… that is all? No… questions about Chimera?” She asked and I shook my head.
“Nope. It’s moved on. I’m more interested in you. Your kind. If you need something let them know.” I pointed to the soldiers up front. “If you get cold where they set up for the day tell them. They’ll find you more blankets, or get a fire going. Just tell them.” I nodded and turned to leave, motioning for Jackson who got up from the booth to walk over to me. I stepped outside with him before talking. “You trust your men to watch her?”
He nodded. “Yes sir I do.”
“Good. Tell them to keep a light touch with this one. Treat her well. Be gentle but firm. She can’t just wander off but don’t tie her down. Keep someone up at all times at night to make sure she doesn’t escape but no interrogation, no mistreatment. They’re free to talk to her. But simple questions only. Nothing about Unity forces or their military. Okay?” He nodded once more and I gave his shoulder a pat as he headed back inside to talk to his men.
While he was in there I briefly considered heading back to the bank on my own without him as an escort but figured I’d just wait. Didn’t make sense to possibly annoy him over something so trivial. When he came back outside we went crunching back through the snow towards the bank. “How was the fight for the supermarket crossroads back at Fort Sierra?” I asked then, realizing I hadn’t done much after action work yet since I’d been so busy with the evacuation and then hiding in the woods.
“Surprisingly easy sir. By the time they started to retreat we were well entrenched and Zeus just moved the barrage up along their path. Did we ever get a final count of the hostiles sir?” I shook my head at that.
“No we were moving out of there too quick. Best guess is around a buck twenty.”
“What about our own casualties sir?” That made me sigh softly. Besides hiding out in the woods these last few days I’d also been carving stars into rocks to honor our dead.
“We got off light. Final count was 34 dead. About the same seriously wounded. We caught them by surprise and hit them hard as we could. You know as well as I how poorly the Bregnan do in an ambush. Especially when they’re outnumbered. Their only instinct is to charge. They’re too used to having the upper hand.” He nodded at that. We’d seen them charge head first into kill zones. The Bregnan were not tacticians. They were bred to charge it seemed. So charge they did.
“Sort of sucks to think that even if we always could kill them three to one there might not be enough of us left.” I nodded as he said that. It was a sobering thought. As we approached the bank I saw a third bike stacked next to mine and Lewis’. When we headed inside it wasn’t much of a mystery to see who it belonged to.
“Master Sergeant Felon. Has Sergeant Huertas’ ass managed to recover from his earlier ordeal?” I asked as Felon laughed.
“Yes, sir I do believe he has. At least enough to stop complaining and start eating.” I smirked at that and nodded. “Either way sir I found us a house Lewis, you, and I can camp out in today.” I nodded at that. Felon was more or less my bodyguard when he wasn’t commanding Alpha.
“Alright well let's go take a look then. Major Reed has he told you where we’ll be?” I looked past him at the Major and she nodded.
“It’s down the street a bit. Not too far at all. If I need you or hear anything I’ll send someone down. Plus Lewis has his radio if things require breaking radio silence.” I nodded then and motioned for Lewis who tipped a cup he was holding up to his mouth to quickly gulp the contents before he stepped back outside with Felon and me. Felon got his bike but was just walking it rather than riding it.
“The snow down the street makes it a bit too hard to ride. We didn’t want to drive our trucks further into town in case a Unity patrol rolls down the highway. It’s not too bad though just a few blocks. I’m sure you’ll love it sir. You’ll fit right in.” I frowned as he said that and tried to think about what was down this road.
“You’re not trying to take me to the funeral home are you?” I asked which made him laugh.
“No sir. You’re not dead yet are you?”
“I most certainly am not. Sergeant Jackson thought I looked so old and frail though he did walk me down the street.” I let out a grumpy harumph which made Felon laugh again while we walked our bikes along the old snow covered street. I looked around as we walked along. Past an old church, then a career center, then a fire station, then another church. Looking back I never understood why we had so many churches. Then again why did we have so many gas stations? Everyone liked their own particular brand I guess.
We passed the funeral home and I glanced over at Felon. “We’ve passed a few houses Felon. Where are we going?”
“Just up ahead. Across from that boat.” When he pointed I squinted to see a boat sticking up out of the snow half a block up. It looked like at one point it had been covered in a tarp but the tarp was torn to shreds and the boat itself didn’t look much better. When I saw the house we were approaching I scoffed a little, looking up at it.
“Did you just find the biggest fanciest house in the area?” I asked as I looked up at the big columns out front and the Christmas decorations littered all over the place.
“Yes, Sir I did. I figure the nicer houses are built better. Besides it’s got a fireplace.” He pointed to the chimney.
“They’ve all got fireplaces.” I replied as I waved my arm around the neighborhood. But either way we were soon walking up the path past the little statue in the front yard sticking up out of the snow and up the brick steps to the front door. I knocked and the other two just stared at me for a moment as I sighed. “Old habits.” I repeated again and tried the door which opened with a loud ominous horror movie creak. But inside was dark and quiet.
“Anyone home?” I called out but got no reply so I knocked my boots against the door frame to try and knock most of the snow off and stepped inside. To the right in the corner was the skeletal remains of a Christmas tree. I sighed heavily as I saw the presents arrayed around the bottom. Still wrapped, but now covered in dust and dead Christmas tree.
“You always call that out when we enter an old house like this.” Felon mentioned as he stepped past me. “Has anyone ever answered?”
“Not yet.” I replied with a shrug.
“Look at this one.” Lewis pointed at one of the presents which was very sloppily wrapped. Whoever had covered it looked like they’d used one giant piece and just wrapped the boxy contents in it, folding it at odd angles and using a giant piece of tape to hold it all in place. Felon picked it up.
“Ah shit… it’s just made out to dad.” I shook my head slowly then as I walked further into the house, glancing at the pictures at the walls. The people were smiling and happy. Were any of them still alive?
“Open it.” Lewis was saying behind me.
“What?”
“Open it. They clearly aren’t coming back for it.” I heard the tearing of wrapper paper followed by Felon’s surprised gasp.
“No way!” I looked back and frowned as I tried to see what the box was he had in his hands. “It’s the complete blu-ray set! The original trilogy, the prequels, and the new stuff! Look!” He held the box out towards me. “It’s the one with the unmolested original trilogy at that!” I arched a brow as I tried to piece that together.
“Unmolested?”
“Yeah you know, like it was originally aired! Without all that bullshit CGI stuff they added later. Thanks George.” He muttered that last phrase sarcastically.
“Are the stand alones on there?” I asked but he shook his head.
“Nah just the core.”
“Well it’s still not a bad find.” I replied before seeing Lewis’ confused face. “Wait… you’ve got no idea what we’re talking about do you?” He just shrugged and I began to look around. “Leo see if the power still works. Lets find the TV. Lewis here hasn’t seen this glorious masterpiece of science fantasy before! We need to correct that.” Felon snapped off a salute to that.
“Sir yes sir!” He said before heading deeper into the house, the boxset held tight in his hands as if he was afraid he’d lose it.
“Lewis head back up to the general store and requisition us snacks. Lots and lots of snacks. You’ve got…” I tried to do some mental math. “Somewhere between 18 and 24 hours of movies for us to get through.”
“What?” He stood there looking even more confused at me. “But… aren’t you worried about Unity or… planning our next move or something?” I was about to reply when there was a loud clack from somewhere in the back and the lights flickered to life around us. So I just lifted my hands to the ceiling,
“It’s Christmas Lewis and we’ve just been handed a miracle! So go get some food and prepare yourself for a spectacle of Hollywood entertainment! You’ve missed out on some of our finest cinema! It’s time to correct that and show you some of what we’re fighting for!” He snorted at that.
“Movies? I think fighting for our freedom is pretty damn important sir.”
“It most certainly is. And that includes our freedom to make movies! So get.” I waved him out the door and then went to find Felon and the house’s TV. I knew I was being a bit selfish, especially with Unity forces just a few miles down the road. But if they headed our way Reed would warn me. And I couldn’t remember the last time I’d sat down and just watched a movie. Maybe this Christmas wasn’t going to be so bad.
Next Chapter
submitted by RegalLegalEagle to HFY [link] [comments]

Idea's for college graduation trips

So I'm about to be a senior in college and I just studied abroad in Australia. I'm already thinking of places I want to go in the summer of 2016 when I graduate college if I don't have a job offer or anything.
Places I went to when I was abroad:
Thailand: LOVED THAILAND. I wasn't a huge fan of Bangkok, but LOVED the Thai New Year Celebrations on Khao San Road. Also went to Ko Samui where I got stung by a stingray and Koh Tao which I fell in love with. I was only there for a week and on a tour, so would definitely go back. I love Thai food and the people were SO nice.
Everywhere else I backpacked and couchsurfered.
Hong Kong: HATED HONG KONG. The people were SO rude. I've been to Paris and honestly Hong Kongers were 10x worse than Parisians. I went to Starbucks at the mall once and people refused to let me even sit next to them when there were plenty of seats open. Don't get me wrong it was pretty, but the people made it un-enjoyable. Some friends at the Hostel went out one night and taxi drivers would pick up locals and drive right past the Americans.. Also thought it was too overcrowded. I ended up having to go the police station to ask for directions. I was told once, "I don't speak English" in a perfect accent. Honestly it was pretty sad given I was so excited to go. And I did go out one night and didn't find the night life very pleasant. Wasn't a fan of the specific expats I encountered either.
Macau- I LOVED MACAU. It took me a while to find my way out of the casino's and onto the Portuguese tourist attractions, but I loved the mix of Portuguese and Cantonese culture. The people were very friendly and went out of their way to help me unlike in HG. Honestly I loved every minute of Macau (besides the Casino's).
Singapore: I really liked Singapore MUCH better than HG. The people were so nice. It was way easier for me to get around with the subway. It was probably too much like America though and after a couple days I got very bored. I thought there was more to do in HG, but I liked the vibe way better here.
Buton, Indonesia: Was supposed to be a day trip from Singapore and I was there a 1-2 hours and hated it. I went back on the ferry to Singapore. The taxi drivers literally overcharged me for everything and I ran out of money. None of the locals spoke much English here so it was hard to get around given the language barrier. I was going to go to Johor Bahru in Malaysia instead, but I was told it wasn't the safest place for a Westerner to go by myself and there were bad traffic jams so didn't want to miss my flight.
Auckland, NZ: LOVED Auckland. Kiwi's were so much nicer than Aussies. They went out of their way to help me. NZ is a much more progressive country IMO. I really loved everything about Auckland especially K Road. I had more intellectual conversations with Kiwi's in one week than I did five months in Australia. Didn't venture outside of Auckland though (had some difficulties) so would love to go to the South Island one day.
In Australia, I lived an hour south of Sydney in Wollongong. So went to Sydney pretty frequently and traveled mostly in NSW. Visited Sunshine Coast but it rained my whole visit, but did end up going to Brisbane to visit Lone Pine which was cool. Brisbane looked nice. Melbourne was okay, but not really into coffee and didn't get that "city vibe" and thought people were too pretentious with the whole hating on Sydney thing.
I've only been to France in Europe when I was 17 (21 now). I hated every minute of it, but that was mostly due to a bad host family experience. Really loved going to Normandy due to the history, Versailles was amazing, and Brittany was gorgeous.
My grandpa was born in Sicily, so I've always wanted to go there and my grandmother's side is from Bari and Calabria, so if I ever went to Italy I'd be more interested in the South and Sicily (although Sardinia and French Corsica are other island I'd love to visit).
I don't really much much desire to go to South America. Brazil would be cool though. The only know a little French from college/high school (not enough to get by), I don't speak any other languages.
So I've thought mainly about going back to Southeast Asia. I love history so Vietnam would be really cool and would be interested in Siem Reap and exploring Thailand some more. Or I've also considered Eastern Europe- Prague, Budapest, & Warsaw for starters. But I have studied the Holocaust before, so would like to visit various sites in Poland. Thought about the Baltic's with that trip: Estonia looks cool and I hear it's not too far if I wanted to go to Finland. Not interested in Russia or any other homophobic/ultra-conservative country. I know Eastern Europe isn't as liberal as Western Europe minus Prague, but I hear some people wouldn't even classify it as "Eastern Europe" to begin with.
I would also obviously love to explore Western Europe: UK, Holland, Belgium, Scandinavia, etc but it's pretty expensive. I will probably be on a backpackers budget. Amsterdam would be cool though given I am a women, gender, and sexuality studies major.
I'm also a theatre major, so I'm into arts. Like I've stated earlier, I like history specifically World War 2 or Vietnam stuff. Really loved going to a Canadian World War 1 park in Picardy, France though where I saw WW1 trenches. I'm not really that outdoorsy, so not into hiking mountains or camping. I do like beaches, but don't want to spend my whole vacation laying on the beach. I am not the relaxing type: I know it sounds bad haha.
I actually thought about teaching English in South Korea when I graduate, but that'd be too expensive for this trip. Iceland looks like it'd be pretty cool, but expensive.
Anyways any suggestions? Sorry for the lengthy post.
submitted by hiddenpalms to travel [link] [comments]

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