Europe on Eurail
by Gilbert Joven
Our Tour of Europe was a promise to my wife Camille 5 years ago that when our son Julian turns 10 years old that I would bring my wife and son to Europe. Now that Julian is 10 and true to my promise, we embarked on our European tour on April 8, 2017, visiting 8 countries and 14 cities in 24 days. Planning for our trip took several months back. Camille had to do all the hotel bookings, get our Schengen visas, arranged for a 22-day Eurail global pass with seat reservations on the train. We booked our flights with Turkish Airlines going from Manila to Istanbul to Amsterdam. It took 16 hours to reach Amsterdam.
The sequence of our tour of Europe in 8 countries and 14 cities is as follows:
1. Netherlands: Amsterdam, Utretch.
2. Belgium: Bruges.
3. France: Paris.
4. Switzerland: Basel, Fribourg, Zermatt, Lucerne.
5. Austria: Innsbruck, Salzburg, Vienna.
6. Hungary: Budapest.
7. Czech Republic: Prague.
8. Germany: Frankfurt.
Our first city is Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands. To me there are three major sites to see in the city: the Amsterdam Central, the Red District and the world famous Keukenhof Tulip Gardens.
The statue of the woman beside me is Major Bosshardt, the public face and officer of the Salvation Army in the Netherlands.
She started the work of the army in 1948, helping the homeless with food and caring, even in the Red Light District.
Keukenhof, also known as the Garden of Europe, is one of the world's largest flower gardens. Approximately 7 million flower bulbs are planted annually in a 32-hectare park. It's like paradise on earth.
Utrecht is a city in central Netherlands with a medieval old town, canals, the iconic Domtoren, a 14th century bell tower, Christian monuments and a venerable university. It is also where the Philippine Gov't. Peace Panel and the CCP-NDP are holding their Peace negotiations.
Bruges is distinguished by its canals, cobbled streets and medieval buildings. In the city's center's Burg Square, the 14th-century Stadhius (City Hall) is located. The Basilica of the Holy Blood is also in Bruges, houses a venerated relic of the Holy Blood allegedly collected by Joseph of Arimathea and brought from the Holy Land by Thierry of Alsace, Count of Flanders. Built between 1134 and 1157, it became a Basilica in 1923.
A short visit to Paris brought us to see the iconic landmarks of The Louvre and Eiffle Tower.
The Swiss city nearest to France is Basel. So, coming from Paris, the first city we visited in Switzerland was Basel. Basel is proud to produce the world tennis superstar Roger Federer who was born, raised and trained in the city. Basel's medieval old town is dominated by the 16th century Red-sandstone Town Hall.
Fribourg is a canton of Switzerland, located in the west side of the country. In the medieval old city above the Sarine River, the Gothic Fribourg Cathedral contains some fascinating religious artifacts. It's a good walk around the Sarine River below and going up to the city riding the funiculaire.
On our train ride to Zermatt, it's nice to see the Swiss Aps hovering over Lac Leman. We stayed in Alpen Hotel at Tasch, a town near Zermatt. Zermatt is a popular ski resort city where the world famous Matterhorn is located. The Matterhorn looks majestic and it can be reached using cable cars or by train.
Enjoying Beautiful Lucerne, a compact city in Switzerland known for its preserved architecture, sits amid snowcapped mountains on Lake Lucerne. It's colorful Old Town contains the Church of St. Leodegar, a Roman Catholic Church built in 1633 to 1639. Lucerne also features the iconic Dying Lion of Lucerne which is dedicated to the Swiss mercenaries who died defending King Louie XIV during the French Revolution. Some were even guillotined. If ever we go back to Europe, we will include Lucerne again in our tour.
Innsbruck, our first city in Austria is situated at the bottom of the great Austrian Alps. Innsbruck is also where the St James Cathedral with it's beautiful and inspiring interiors can be found. St. James Cathedral is similar in some ways to our St. James The Great Parish Church in Ayala Alabang Village.
On our short visit to Salzburg, we went straight to Old Town where the house of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is located, visited the St. Vincent Cathedral and climbed the stairs at the grounds of Salzburg Universidad to get a roof top view of the city.
Budapest is the capital of Hungary, bisected by the beautiful River Danube. It's 19th century Chain Bridge connects the two sides of Budapest, the more hilly Buda and Pest which is more flat. My friend from our village recommended a river cruise over the River Danube in the evening to see the beautiful lights along the river banks. But we were so tired going around the Pest area that we just retired early. We left the following day for Vienna.
Visiting Vienna after 26 years since my last visit is still as exciting as ever. Going up the train stop at Stephenplatz, we were met by the imposing and beautiful St. Stephen Cathedral. The interior of the Cathedral is also very impressive.
We visited the St. Peter's Catholic Church in Stephenplatz and we were amazed by the magnificent interior of the church. Very conducive to prayers and meditation.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague, capital city of the Czech Republic, is nicknamed the "City of a Hundred Spires". It is known for its Old Town Square, the heart of its historic core with colorful barogue buildings, Gothic churches and the Medieval Astronomical Clock. The Prague Castle with its gothic architecture towers over the city. Prague also boasts of its historic Charles Bridge where hundreds of tourist cross everyday. Several street performers on the Old Town Square contribute to the festive mood of the place.
The Miraculous Infant Jesus of Prague is located at the
Discalced Carmelite Church of Our Lady Victorious in Prague.
The priest from India blest the religious items we bought from the Carmelite Church.
Dioramas of Czech old rural life attached to the big gate of the Prague Castle.
We arrived at Frankfurt late afternoon coming from Prague. We only saw a few sites before retiring in our hotel. Frankfurt also has an Old Town and it contains some notable buildings like the Imperial Hall, the 14th century Gothic Church of St. Leonhard and the St. Nicholas Church with its notable carillon. We left the following day for a night in Amsterdam before going back home.
We're back in Amsterdam on our last day in Europe. We stayed in a Best Western Hotel near Schipol Airport. We again visited Amsterdam Central and bought gifts and their famous Amsterdam cheese to bring home. We immensely enjoyed our trip and using the Eurail was the best transport in going around Europe. We vowed to go back to Europe in 2020.
"We shall return - in 2020!!"
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