And then the Grand Tour finally came to a conclusion. 31 days, 5 flights, 14 countries, 21 cities, 26 trains, and more than 3000 miles / 5000 kilometers traversed without counting air travel. (Click here to see the final railpass at the end of the journey.) It was the trip of a lifetime and a deserving inclusion as the modern version of the old aristocratic Grand Tour. Packing so much sightseeing into a month's worth of travel was a physically grueling exercise that took a real toll on my body. I was awake before 6:00 am most mornings to catch early trains and didn't stop to rest until about 8:00 pm most nights. That's tough to do for a single day and nothing short of murderous when following the same scheduling for weeks at a time, especially when sleeping in a different location almost every night. I lost a significant amount of weight on this trip from all of the hiking with a heavy backpack, and I finally realized after about ten days that I had to slow down somewhat or I was going to ruin my health. Fortunately the rewards for traveling were worth the hardships, as I was able to visit innumerable places that I had read about in my many years of history classes. I saw most of the major cities contained within the former Holy Roman Empire and the Habsburg domains, then concluded by visiting the western half of Scandinavia. Having Liz along with me for the last ten days made the trip so much more fun, and I'm glad that we were able to share the experience together.
I'm going to close out this section with a series of selfies taken along the way that I sent back to my family as I traveled. If you've read through all of the other sections up to this point - and if you have, I'm seriously impressed - you'll recognize many of these stops along the way. Think of it as a way of looking back and remembering a few of the best stops along the journey.
At Dulles National Airport in Washington DC before taking off.
In the basement of St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral, Brussels Belgium.
The deserted Grand Place in Brussels at 6:00 am.
The historic canals of Delft in The Netherlands. I'm already starting to look tired.
The Oude Kerk in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. One of my favorite churches on this trip.
The library of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Liz pointed out that I looked like I was sad in these selfies and I needed to do a better job of smiling. This was the first time that I managed to avoid looking depressed.
The top of Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom) high above the city.
Atop the cliffs in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg.
The waterfront of Strasbourg, France.
The view from Bern, Switzerland on an absolutely perfect day.
Hiking up towards the Matterhorn in Zermatt, Switzerland. This was the day that took the worst physical toll on me and the pictures reflected the increasing exhaustion I felt.
The Grossmünster in Zurich, Switzerland. This was the day where I realized that I needed to rest and took the afternoon off from sightseeing. I look 20 years older here than in the first picture.
The city hall (Neues Rathaus) in Munich, Germany before it started raining...
...and the Antiquarium in the Residenz palace after getting soaked in Munich.
The Prunksaal in Vienna, Austria. This was another one of my favorite stops along this trip.
Versailles Schönbrunn palace gardens outside Vienna.
At the Dohány Street Synagogue in Budapest, Hungary with the head covering they provided to visitors.
The Hungarian Parliament building (Országház) in Budapest.
The restored Royal Chapel in Buda Castle, Budapest. My single favorite church on this trip, quiet and serene with the sound of rain falling outside.
The view from Bratislava Castle (Bratislavský hrad) in Slovenia.
The Astronomical Clock (Pražský orloj) in Prague, Czechia.
Heading across Charles Bridge (Karluv most) in Prague.
Not exactly a selfie, this picture was taken by Liz in Copenhagen, Denmark in front of a replica of Michaelangelo's David. I didn't quite get the pose correct.
Here we are crossing a stream on a forest trail outside Lillehammer, Norway. Taking a picture of me taking a picture - very meta.
On the tour boat outside Bergen, Norway. I'm happy with how I look given that we were working off of three hours of sleep.
Finally, the two of us on the plane coming home together.
That's the last of the pictures that I have to share from this trip. The writeup for this journey was one of the most ambitious that I've ever undertaken, and all of the webpages combined add up to almost 100,000 words, practically a small novel unto itself. For anyone who might have read through this travel account, whether it might be family or friends or simply a random Internet wanderer, I hope these stories have helped to entertain and inspire. There's a whole world out there waiting to be explored and only one lifetime in which to do it. I hope that you have the chance to do some traveling and carry out your own grand tour.
- Michael Soracoe, December 2017