Cities are humanity. They are where we grab great dinners, check out storied art, meet other "cool" people, and stroll around while connecting dots and curiously peering in windows. When "we" travel, especially in Europe, it seems the city is the institution that we visit. Sure, the countryside races by on rolling train rides between Europe's great centers, but it is the city that grabs the traveler. Paris, Barcelona, London, Prague - the city is the reward and destination, the places we write home about. But to know the whole story of any country, one must read passed the opening chapter. One must travel beyond the city walls.
The edge of the city does not announce itself, and through years of travel, I have grown appreciative of the subtleties of reaching open space, which is both dramatic in relativism and quiet in introduction. After days of bathing in humanity and the shuffle of urban life, I find myself looking longingly at maps for quaint places that I have never heard of, picturing peace, simplicity, and adventure. Rivers look curious, lakes have a sort of splendid solidarity, and national parks invite the traveler with a promise of wild edges and marooned corners of ecological decadence too wild to birth civilization.