Lynda Takoudes prepared for a return trip to Paris with extra cardio and leg-strengthening exercises at her gym.
The training paid off on her climb to the second platform of the Eiffel Tower. If visitors could take the stairs any higher than those 674 steps, Takoudes would have climbed those, too.
She was determined to make this Paris trip memorable, and it was.
“It was such fun, because I went to museums I hadn’t been to before,” Takoudes, of Warwick, R.I., said. Her first visit to Paris had been with a tour group on the trail of impressionist painters.
This time, she took a boat ride on the Seine River and strolled the neighborhood near her hotel, enjoying the narrow stone streets, tall stone buildings and small cafes.
From France, she flew to Berlin for a 13-day group tour of central and Eastern Europe that included Berlin, Prague and Vienna, as well as Budapest, Krakow and Warsaw.
“You’re moving fast and spending a lot of time on the bus, but at the same time, you’re getting a little taste of everything,” Takoudes said. But a two-day stint in Prague only whetted her appetite for more. “I’m probably going back,” she said. “You could spend five or six days there easily.”
Poland, particularly Warsaw, was impressive, too. “They have beautiful parks with lakes and water features,” she said. “People are out enjoying their park – and they’re just sitting, they’re not on the phone. It was just so relaxing.”
The tour also took her to somber places. She learned that many people of the region are still recovering from the atrocities of World War II. Visiting the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, where more than a million people died at the hands of the Nazi regime, was powerful, Takoudes said.
“Birkenau really got me because you could see the train tracks,” she said, adding that entering the crematorium was particularly haunting. “You could feel the pain in the voices of some of our guides. You could see the evidence.”
The experience moved her to learn more about the period and its ties to her late husband, who grew up in “Hitler’s Greece,” a book she read earlier this year.
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