Paris is as much an idea as it is a city. Ever since I was a child, I wanted to come here, my mind filled with images of shimmering lights and elegant city streets. I was not alone; Paris shall likely always remain one of the most desired destinations for international travel. The romanticized idea of the city is so pervasive that the disappointment many experience when it doesn’t live up to unrealistic expectations is a catalyst for a condition known as Paris Syndrome, an extreme culture shock best described in the New York Times article, “Chinese Tourists Find a Movable Feast Best Left Behind.”
It’s hard to write lightheartedly on the beautiful attractions of Russia’s second largest city given all that’s going on in Ukraine and Crimea, not to mention having just read the touching and troubling obituary of Boris Nemtsov in the Economist. But, for a second, let’s set aside Russia, the place, and Russia, the politics.
It’s simple: St. Petersburg is a beautiful city. It was by far my favorite destination along our Baltic adventure. And though I saved my recollection of Paris for last (because sorting through four days’ worth of photos is really, really hard), I have the fondest memories of this Russian riverfront city.
As I’ll be embarking on another epic European trip this year, it behooves me to share the photos from my previous foray lest I create a backlog. In my previous posts on Iceland, Copenhagen and Berlin, I devoted entire articles on the travel highlights for those Northern European cities. And though I didn’t get to spend nearly as much time in Oslo, Gothenburg, Stockholm, Helsinki and Tallinn, I hope the photos below offer a nice glimpse into the beauty of each worthy destination.
The line for train tickets at Copenhagen’s Kastrup Airport is long and I longingly eye the self-help ticketing machines, cursing the fact that American credit cards are so slow in adopting chip-and-PIN tech. My backpack pulls heavily upon my shoulders until I relinquish it to the ground, doing that awkward shifty walk people do in airport security lines.
When it comes to time travel, they say everybody kills Hitler on their first trip. And why shouldn’t we? That guy ruined a lot of things, to put it simply. But time is a river, and a river always corrects its course. Going back in time to unmake a great wrong only opens up the great paradox of how one could unmake said wrong if said wrong no longer occurred. Events are unchangeable, I once heard in a movie, destined to unfold the way it will no matter how often you feed your DeLorean glowing popsicles. And let’s not create any new dimensional realities; those are messy.
A light mist floats through the air, beads of condensation on the window in the morning. Outside, a rectangular red truck passes slowly down Laugavegur, cleansing Reykjavík’s main street. It looks like a toy and I realize that everything in Iceland, from the accents of the locals to the crazy animals, is adorable. In the distance, Hallgrímskirkja rises above the houses of Iceland’s capital city and I can’t believe I can see it from my apartment. I can’t believe I woke up this early.
More than half the people in Iceland believe in elves and it’s not hard to understand why. The Icelandic landscape practically lends itself to supernatural belief with its vast volcanic plains and tall mountains that appear to harbor something more mystical. In many ways, Iceland is a lot like Hawaii where I grew up. Both volcanic islands of fire and ice (Hawaii has some ice), they each host unique landscapes, a menu of mythologies, incredibly friendly people and unique cuisine. I quickly felt the familiarity of home.