Our access to the Internet was pretty limited in Italy, but we're back in the states now, currently in St. Louis. We are heading back to San Fran tonight.
My in-laws asked -- and we keep asking each other -- what our favorite cities or sights were. I still have to say that maybe my favorite aspect of the whole trip was finally getting to use the German that I studied for so many years in high school and college -- but it also made me wish I knew more! In Prague most people we dealt with spoke English, but it was disconcerting going to Italy where even the hotel clerks didn't know much English. That was a challenge.
The main thing I didn't expect about some of the cities we went to was the amazing throngs of tourists and the accompanying trade of tourist crap. Florence in particular is overrun with guys who spread out a sheet on the ground and display knock-off handbags. They use the sheet as a bag to move to a new spot on a regular basis. There are also the stands selling t-shirts, hats, post cards and other junk (like cheap statues of the David and the ubiquitous boxer shorts with the corresponding parts of the David statue printed on them). At times it almost felt like we were in a Disneyland version of these cities instead of the real thing, since everything seemed geared toward tourists. After a couple days I was able to get used to it and notice but see past the crowds and appreciate the grandeur of the sights we were seeing. Still, our experience in Berlin was different. Though we did touristy things there, I also felt like we experienced some of what Berlin is like for Berliners; I don't think we got that in the other cities.
I'll post some more detailed summaries of what we did in Florence and Rome, drawing from Nathan's updates to our families from when we were there.