As someone who spent his childhood in Europe, I am drawn to this continent. There’s something intangible, ethereal that makes all European countries I go to all alike in a way, and each different from the U.S.

Part of it is the architecture; overwhelming dominance of bauhaus in Eastern Europe and Germany as well as the utilitarian communist blocks that one can see all over the place. But that’s not all: the layouts of towns are unique; dating back to the feudal era (which never existed in the U.S.) with a square in the center (paved with brick, usually), with three-story buildings on all sides of the square. The omnipresent churches–the tallest structures in the towns. There are roundabouts everywhere (the traffic control mechanism of choice for pretty much all of Europe) and the streets are usually pretty hard to navigate (like in Boston, probably the most European of all U.S. cities). Forget about the grid, or about the suburban structure–there are no suburbs in Europe.

I love how Europe is more crowded. The cars are smaller. The city blocks are closer together. I get a sense of warmth emanating from European towns.

Then there is the smell in the air; maybe it’s the continental climate but somehow Europe smells differently. The sky looks different, too (it’s almost always cloudy in the winter which is probably why I tend to dress lighter in the winter than I should–I tend to equate sunny sky with warm temperatures–but the clouds are also of different shapes and the sky is whiter).

It’s the presence of rail and trolley lines, so heavily relied upon in Europe.

It’s the trees. Lots of pine trees. The trees are skinnier, taller.

It’s what people wear. Their dress is more uniform, more gray. It’s the crazy hats.

It’s how everyone seems less rushed.

Somehow hundreds of years of tradition, change, progress (and regression) show in the most subtle of ways.