My Travel Resolution.
discover hidden myths, taste diverse food and sleep below a sky full of shooting stars and galaxies every night
My first trip abroad alone dates back to a study holiday in Europe. It was the turning point between the family vacations of the 90s and the first trips alone. I do not have pictures of that period because I was photographing only in analog. So negatives and albums remained somewhere in my parents' house. One day I will open the Pandora's box and I will have material to write a vintage post for the rest of the life on this blog.

Study Trip through Europe

1. France

But do not imagine my study holiday in one of those huge campuses that you see in the leaflets of language schools, were still in the nineties. The college where we were housed was a French public school with beds in dormitories for out-of-town students in the French countryside. The organization resembled more that of a summer camp, but I was in Europe alone, and the important thing was that.

Part of the epic nature of this study vacation was my first air travel. In practice, it was like traveling alone because I did not know anyone. In any case, during the flight, I was too excited to look out the window than to socialize. I never understood who is afraid of the plane. I immediately could not wait to see the landscape below me become small and capture the clouds!

The first myth to debunk during the study holidays is that one really studies, at least during adolescence. As adults, it is certainly easier to stay focused on studying, especially because it requires a sacrifice of time and money. But before the age of twenty, I think especially the adventure of a trip alone and the multicultural environment. What remains is the sense of freedom and independence rather than grammar.

In my two weeks, I had spoken very little French and the lessons were just a great review of grammar already studied at school. I was tired of listening to romantic songs like Dis Lui Toi Que Je T'aime by Vanessa Paradis that our English teacher, who earlier was teaching in Spain liked so much. Unfortunately, my romanticism was non-existent. Even then I did not feel at all the suffering of the love inherent in the song.

My study holiday was spent between trying to familiarize myself with the other classmates and play ping pong. It is the only sport that at the time I managed quite decently. The best part, however, were the trips to discover France. We were loaded on a bus and taken around Paris, Strasbourg with obligatory stop at the Chateau de Chambord castle in the Loire Valley.

In the following years, I have been several times to Paris. I have also stayed for work, but my first meeting with the city of lights was a coming of age story during this study holiday. Instead of the city sightseeing bus tour, we had taken a ride on our bus, with the guide to show us all the main monuments and bridges in Paris. We have a boat ride on the Seine while having a macaron in France.

After the tour, we had come down to continue the visit to the city watching live the Eiffel Tower, Champs Elysees, Notre Dame, Place de la Concorde, Luxembourg Gardens, and the Louvre. Here I suffered my first tourist disappointment due to the small size of the Mona Lisa.

In front of Notre Dame, I had instead bought a keychain with the words Paris written perfectly. I also buy a series of postcards to send home and to all my pen pals to show that I was really in France and precisely in Paris. In the days before low-cost flights, Paris was only a dream journey for many.

Another beautiful trip, whose footprints I retraced in Reims, was the one at the Champagne sites. The city of Reims is, in fact, famous for its establishments open to the public where it is also possible to book a tasting or a visit to the champagne caves. These are the cellars where the wine is produced and bottled according to a well-established tradition. This visit transmitted the French passion for wine and a love for fine champagne that will hardly disappear over the years.

In Strasbourg instead, we were greeted by the local administration with a party during which the mayor had told us about the history of the city. Unfortunately for him, we were all more interested in refreshments than to follow his speech. I'm still more interested in pastry than in a political discourse. But at least over the years, I've learned to keep a fake-interested expression on formal occasions.

Our stay in Paris
is nearing the end. Our first return flight was canceled. So after a few hours of waiting at the airport, they arranged for us the first available flight. That was how I also felt the thrill of flying with another airline where everything was practically the same except for the colors of the graphics and uniforms of the hostesses. The following year I flew really alone to England, but that's another story.

2. Malta

This island nation is simply magical. It’s like going back in time to the Middle Ages, with its stone walls and structures older than the Egyptian pyramids. Cathedrals, temples and medieval architecture - Malta is an island with many cultural treasures. During the Easter weekend organized parades in Birgu and Qormi takes place, when the Maltese recreate biblical scenes in costumes. Fascinating to see!

To travel to Malta is to delve into the history of Baroque Europe. The first of the cities you will find if you travel to Cottonera from Valletta is Senglea. Go through the main street, Settembru, until you reach the end where is the Forti San Mikel, a fortification built between 1551 and 1565 that offers an impressive beauty. In addition, from there you can see magnificent views of the city of Senglea, Valletta and Vittoriosa.

Triq It Tarzna borders the sea. Visit Forti Sant 'Anglu and the Inquisitor's Palace. The latter, built in 1530, is one of the oldest and most interesting buildings to see in Malta. Go to the Forti Rikazoli. This impressive fort has been the scene of numerous films like Gladiator or Troy.

Insider Tip: Cospicua, also known as Bormla, is the largest of the three. Take a Maltese gondola that takes you to navigate the Mediterranean to see from another perspective the spectacle offered by the three cities.

3. Hungary

Hungary is an amazing country and needs no introduction! Go beyond the capital Budapest! Eger is a beautiful town in Hungary with some amazing winery! Hungary has always been the object of a dispute between great powers, and its monuments show this. One of the most beautiful countries in the world for sure! The ottomans history and the communist history is across to be observed and seen!

It was the border between the western world and the Ottoman Empire and, in more recent times, between Western and Eastern Europe. its turbulent history has endowed the country with a very important cultural heritage.

Hungary also has a tourist destination of great importance in Europe. One of the characteristics of Budapest is its crowd of Ruin Pubs. They have become a symbol of the Hungarian capital and a full-fledged tourist attraction, as well as being the cornerstone of the nightlife in the city. The name is due to the poor state of the buildings in which these bars are located.

The building is not officially in ruins (since it would be totally illegal to set up any kind of business here). It's just old, disheveled, with chipped walls, retro furniture and screaming for reform. But that is the essence of all this. Many times the whole building works as a bar. In other cases it is only a part, but in general there are usually many rooms and nooks or hiding places with tables and chairs reused, old and different from each other.

There are furniture and vintage and retro objects, and decorative objects that range from bicycles, computer cathode monitors, bathtubs and even Trabants. The first Ruin Pub was the Szimpla, the most famous of all Budapest, so famous that most of its visitors are tourists, in fact many just go to take the photo and take a tour of the bar without consuming anything.

The tourist boom has pushed up prices a lot and the usual clientele has almost disappeared and marched to the new Ruin Pubs that have sprung up in the capital like mushrooms after the rain, and which are cheaper and less saturated. In spite of everything, Szimpla Kert in the Jewish Quarter in Erzsébetváros is a must on a trip to Budapest, and it is still advisable to have a beer, a shot of Palinka (the typical Hungarian brandy), or a cappuccino.

The city offers spectacular views of the Danube River and good opportunities for lovers of opera, museums and spas. The rest of the country is full of castles, baroque cities and small charming towns. Hotels are cheap in Hungary but, outside of Budapest, they do not offer all the amenities that would be desirable. Winters are freezing and not very suitable for sightseeing.

Insider Tip: Another of the most famous ruin bar is the Kőleves Kert. Very near there is Anker't , in the VI district, also well known in the Hungarian night. Instant, on the festive Király Street, is another famous Ruin Pub, so is Fogas ház, on Akácfa Street. As I said, in recent years they have multiplied, and not only in Budapest, other Hungarian cities such as Szeged or Pécs also have their ruinbars.

4. Poland

Well, if you haven't, then you should be. The ninth-largest country in Europe, its name is derived from the name of the tribe Polanie, meaning people living in open fields. This is the home of Bolesławiec pottery, the world's largest castle, and of Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie. This is a land of lush forests, sparkling waters, and awe-inspiring mountains.

This is a nation with an intense history, stunning architecture, and the friendliest of locals. This is a place that you cannot leave off of your travel bucket list.

A southern Polish city located near the Czech border, Kraków is undoubtedly one of the loveliest cities on earth. Spending a weekend in the heart of Kraków, Poland is the perfect way to unwind and enjoy the rich culture that Eastern Europe has to offer.

As with many cities around the world, history and legends converge in Krakow among the Polish tourist attractions. This city of Central Europe located on the banks of the Vistula River, is for many the heart of Poland and offers tourists many attractions for its historic buildings, its museums and beautiful scenery.

A tour of the Historic Quarter will take you back to the Middle Ages, when the Main Square was the largest in Europe and overflowing with merchants and customers. You will see that the legendary castles, mysterious dragon caves, old churches and cobblestone streets coexist harmoniously with modern restaurants, bars and shops.

Krakow is also a destination for religious tourism, for the amount of churches and synagogues that we will find there, and the proximity of the Jasna Góra sanctuary of Czestochowa. And it is also a city that experienced the horrors of World War II, as you can see in a visit to the nearby Auschwitz concentration camp.

The Historic Quarter of Krakow, a World Heritage Site, is divided into three areas of the mythical Wawel Hill, the Medieval City and the center of Kazimierz, also medieval. In the Medieval City of Krakow you can find the 13th-century Rynek Główny Square, considered the largest in Europe. Near Krakow is located one of the oldest salt mines in Europe, the Wieliczka salt mine.

But while tourists are impossible to miss in Old Town Square and Wawel Castle, walk into a museum like the Bishop’s Palace, or into most of the spectacular churches around town, and you might be one of five people ogling that beauty. The Bishop’s Palace is an incredible art museum, with some of the funkiest paintings.

If you have Warsaw among your next destinations, you might be interested in these tips for traveling to Warsaw. MDM is the Soviet neighborhood, of large and sober buildings with a clear style of socialist realism. Jewish Ghetto was one of the largest ghettos in Europe, but entirely destroyed. Nowadays there is still a piece of the wall that delimited it.

Europe's largest water park, Suntago Waterworld, opens in Poland in spring 2020? It is located 50 km southwest of Warsaw, with Europe's longest water slide at 320 meters, 18 swimming pools and 40 000 square meters of tropical gardens and palm trees.

Gdansk is an attractive city to include within a trip through Poland or in the summer holidays. The area of ​​the Three Cities consisting of Gdansk, the Sopot spa and the modern port of Gdynia has a thousand years of maritime history, glorious Hanseatic architecture and a modern Baltic atmosphere. The thriving Dluga Street, with shops, bars, restaurants and street performers, stretches from the Golden Gate to the town hall.

Walbrzych: There is a stunning castle (Książ) not far away and that should be your destination when traveling to this area.

Insider Tip: Poland is increasingly popular as a travel destination in Europe and places worth to see is Miedzyzdroje and the hiking trails are the best in Wolinski National Park. Plan your weekend at the coast of Baltic Sea!

5. Bulgaria

Bulgaria is not completely devoid of infrastructure. Visit the Rila Monastery or take a walk through the Bulgarian capital of Sofia. It’s capital, Sofia feels as developed as any large European capital, complete with trams and subway systems. Bulgaria's capital is famous for its many picnic friendly parks.

Mineral water sources surrounding the city and flows into the beautiful fountains. Klek shops are a special sight here, a kind of basement shop where you bend down to buy everything from beer to candy.

The Tzarevets or Tsarevets fortress is one of the great symbols of the city and possibly of Bulgaria. The street that leads to the Varosha district is possibly a good dividing line between what is the modern part of Veliko Tarvono and the old town and Sveta Gora. The Maika Bulgaria Monument, located in the center of the city is next to the Marno pole park.

It’s second largest city Plovdiv is calmer. The mountainous town of Veliko Tărnovo is a nice getaway to quaint city life even within Bulgaria itself while Rila monastery, a UNESCO world heritage site where entry is free, gives established religious sites like Mont St Michel in France, a run for their money.

Razlog, a neighbor of Bansko, is the largest city in the interior Pirin. It is located in an open valley, at the foot of high mountains. Razlog is at the same distance from the summits of Rila, Pirin and Ródope. It is right in the center of the crossroads. You decide which mountain massif you want to go and, in twenty minutes, the mountain is yours.

The center of Razlog is very lively, green and super nice. The central esplanade invites to walk. The market and the stores attract attention. It is a pleasant city, with very lively traditions and cradle of folklore. Many people come during their festivities. See during the New Year's carnival, when Kukeris (men disguised as spirits) are protagonists of a pagan ritual.

The Razlog parade is reputed to be the best in the country! The city is also home to the Pirin Pee Folklore Festival. Razlog is often overlooked in favor of its more prestigious neighbor: Bansko, the tourist capital of the Pirin, with a ski resort.

Bansko is not just a ski trip. It has a natural privileged enclave practically virgin, with dense forests of trees over 40 meters high that make up an idyllic landscape for nature lovers. The skiing is varied and for all levels, the snow comes through the storms that come from Russia so it is guaranteed almost since the beginning of December. It has hosted several World Championship events.

Besides enjoying good wine in one of its castle cellars, you can also enjoy the gastronomy in its more than 300 Mexanas (typical Bulgarian tavern) some of them centenary old.

Varna, one of the most affordable resort cities on the Black Sea Coast boasts with culture and places for entertainment. The centre and the sea coastal alley are full of amazing bars, restaurants and cafes that you can visit any time of the day. The drinks are cheap - 3-4 euro for a cocktail and even less for a coffee or a glass of delicious local wine.

Insider Tip: Veliko Tarvono, the most beautiful city in Bulgaria or at least that was thought by several media outlets when, years ago, it was awarded this award and was even named capital of cultural tourism in the Balkans. Veliko Tarnovo is also considered as the capital of the medieval tsars of Bulgaria, between wooded hills and divided by the river Yantra, a true medieval city that today has lively nightlife.

6. Romania

Werewolves, vampires, undead, the history of humanity is also the story of their fears. Fears that fill books and movies, which pass from grandparents to grandchildren. In Transylvania, some of these horror characters have been born and on our journey we have begun to discover them. This is how our days have been in Sighisoara, Sibiu and the Transfagarasan highway.

It is one of the most spectacular roads in the world that crosses an unforgettable natural landscape: the Fagaras Mountains, the highest in the southern Romanian Carpathians. Today I tell you in detail what to see on the Transfagarasan road. The ideal thing is to look for accommodation in the vicinity of Lake Balea, the most beautiful part of the route.

Start from the beautiful town of Sibiu and head for the Transfagarasan road. The ascent begins at the first town in Cârţişoara. This opens us to a long climb up the famous road. From here, it's time to enjoy the views and stop at the sidings to melt the memory of the camera. The first obligatory stop is the Balea Waterfall, a very high waterfall that can be reached by a short and simple hiking route (approximately one hour round trip).

It is very easy to distinguish the access point. In a tight corner see dozens of cars parked in the gutter and a lot of food stalls that take advantage of the pull of this place. In addition, it is just this place from where a cable car that some use to reach the top of Lake Balea. In winter and with snow it may be the only way to crown the port.

The highest point of the Transfagarasan road coincides with one of the essential places of the route and a trip through Romania. It is the beautiful Balea lake of glacial origin. Despite being at the foot of the road and with several buildings around it, it does not take away even a hint of beauty. In the surroundings of the lake you will not get bored. There are a lot of stalls with a wide variety of Romanian cuisine on sale.

But the most curious thing is that near the parking lot they have mounted a long zip line for the enjoyment of children and not so small. Find another one of the essential ones: the Vidraru lake. Go to the Poineari castle. It is the real castle of Vlad Tepes, character on which the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker was based.

Right at the beginning of the road from its south access find the Curtea de Argeș Cathedral. End the route and go to Bucharest. Brasov is located southeast of the historic region of Transylvania, in the center of Romania, about 166 km from Bucharest, at the point where the Brasov Depression meets the Carpathian Mountains.

Well, it's small, but also a good base to visit other places like Bran Castle, the one that is associated with Dracula. Go to Sfatului square.

From there, Mount Tampa greets you with great lyrics that remind you where you are, in true Hollywood style. It's not the last poster you'll see in Transylvania. With the corresponding name, of course in Sibiu, Sighisoara, Bran, Rasnov. At the other end of the historic center, just opposite the current Brasov City Hall is the Modarom building in the Soviet style.

Poiana Brasov is praised not only for hotels on the slopes that offer quality services, but also because ski lessons are cheap.

Undoubtedly one of the obligatory places of obligatory visit for all good travelers who cross through Cluj Napoca are the Salt Mines of Turda. You can access them by public transport from Cluj itself, and from Turda to the entrance of the salt mine there are a couple of kilometers.

Piata Victoriei or Victory Square is one of the biggest attractions of Timisoara. This square connects the Maghiar Theater with the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral. In the center of this park stands the statue of the Lupa Capitolina, in homage to the legend of Romulus and Remus, the brothers who founded Rome and who supposedly were nursed by a she-wolf.

Maramures is the region with crazy delicious watermelons, bee hives in trucks, markets appearing under your windows over night, stunning nature, the cat of my life and, most importantly, super friendly and generous people who are so great in treasuring their traditions in everyday life!

7. Lithuania

Lithuania is a country full of natural and artificial surprises, with a history forged by the fusion of pagan roots with Catholic fervor. The Hill of Crosses is a mountain where, since the 19th century, the population has placed crosses as an offering or to ask for a favor. It survived the Soviet era and it is estimated that, to date, there are more than 50,000 crosses in the place.

If when you are traveling you want to take a break and give yourself a thermal bath, those of Lithuania are unparalleled. You have to go to Druskininkai, the spa is located next to Lake Druskonis, surrounded by woods, in a beautiful spot. Bathed by the rivers Neris and Vilnia, the beauty of Vilnius is complemented by its wooded hills.

The resplendent Vilnius Cathedral stands proudly in the central square of the old city. It resembles a classical Greek temple more than a Christian church. Near the Castle of Gediminas rises a hill crowned by three crosses. In addition to the Europa Park, from Vilnius you can go to Gruto Parkas, a very original theme park, full of statues from the Soviet era. You will see mostly Lenin or Stalin carvings.

Another peculiarity of Vilnius is that within the city itself there is a bohemian zone that is self-styled as the Independent Republic of Uzupis, with its own constitution. The best time to visit Vilnius is in summer. In contrast, in winter, temperatures are freezing, almost always below zero degrees, and there are very few hours of light. Before each meal, you can taste the typical Lithuanian soup.

For dessert, the Lithuanians have mostly the sakotis, a pie in the form of spruce, as well as the honey donuts. To drink, the typical Lithuanian beers are the Utenos and the Kalnapilis. After lunch, try the midus liqueur, which can be drunk in the coffee. Whatever your taste, in Vilnius you can choose from design bars, casinos, discos, more traditional bars and dance halls. In summer there are many outdoor terraces in the center, especially on Pilies and Vokieciu streets.

Insider Tip: The Lithuanian coast is made up of immense beaches. The best ones are near Klaipeda, in the narrow strip of sand that forms the Curonian Spit. Trakai is the place to which everyone who visits Lithuania ends up going. A large lake in the center of which is an island and a medieval castle that currently hosts concerts and exhibitions.

8. Kosovo

In Prishtina, you don't just go out for dinner, eat, and leave the place, but usually, you stay for a while and have some more drinks.

HOME Restaurant, in the center of Prishtina has the best filet mignon, not only in Kosovo but in the whole region! The staff is super friendly and all the dishes are good. It’s especially nice in summer when you can sit outside and have some beers or wine.

Ponte Vecchio also have excellent pizza. The chief has worked in Germany before and therefore, it’s one of the few places where you get a decent vegetarian dish. Nice staff, especially the owner's daughter who is the most charming and beautiful person. And the prices are really low, you get a good dish for about 4 Euro.

Detari. Seafood restaurant near the KFOR headquarters. Fresh fish directly from the shores of nearby Montenegro. They also have very good shrimps. A little bit pricey but worth it.

Central Room. They have a meal du jour which is cheap and always excellent. As the name says, it’s in the city center and it's highly frequented. You’ll have a problem to get a free table at lunchtime. If you go a little later or earlier, however, there’s enough place. After you've eaten at Central, you can go to one of the many bars which are just opposite to it.

Napoli. Best pizza place in town, just opposite the famous NEWBORN monument. It’s one of the few places where people only go to eat and won’t stay around much longer. The prices are okay but you can get pizza much cheaper elsewhere.

Tiffany’s. It’s quite fancy and there are a lot of politicians, so the atmosphere isn't the same as in HOME but the food is perfect. They have some veal in garlic that melts in your mouth. The prices are also above average but still affordable.

Hygiena. Strange name for a restaurant isn’t it? The location is even stranger: it’s on the premises of the University Clinic. It has excellent food and when you sit there, you think you are somewhere in Germany and not in an effing state-run hospital. The best thing is the prices: you can't get quality food cheaper, not even when you prepare it yourself at home. There is also a little eatery on the hospital grounds called Te Pishat, just behind the gynecology clinic where they have excellent pizza.

Etno Kuca. It’s a little outside of Prishtina, in the Serbian enclave of Gracanica. This is a place where you go in the evening and eat and drink until the late night or early morning. Very friendly local (Serbian) staff. Everybody speaks English. The owner whose name is Bata is a very interesting guy who is blind when it comes to people’s ethnicity. He is equally respected by Albanians and Serbs. There are some other nice places in Gracanica, too, especially when you like pork. In summer, many places put a grill in the garden and make a barbecue. The prices are also much lower than in Prishtina.

Gresa. There are two Gresa restaurants, a small one and a big one. Both are good. They have excellent seafood (shrimps) and they aren't stingy when they fill your plate. You won't go out of there hungry. On the downside, there are cheaper places. Near little Gresa, there is a good Thai restaurant which is worth a try and also a decent Italian place called Basilico.

Country House. Almost forgot this one. It’s a little bit outside of the city, to the north, near a place called Bernice. The place serves very good meat. It's nice in summer because it’s in the countryside and they have a big beer garden.

If you like traditional Albanian food and booze (raki), Rennaissance is near the city center. The owner, Ilir, doesn’t have a menu and you just eat what they bring to your table and pay a fixed price per person which includes the booze. It’s about 15 Euro which isn’t too much.

What you never should do when you want to eat out in Prishtina is to rely too much on Tripadvisor (some of their high ranked restaurants in Prishtina are terrible) or other gastro-sites. This is a very dynamic place and a recommendation that has been given only six months ago can be absolutely worthless.

9. Serbia

This country is really beautiful with an amazing capital city! It has abundant cafe houses spread across! The cafe culture is amazing here! This country is a lot cheaper too compare with its European neighbors! But it's a lot rich in history, culture and is a gem of the Balkans! Serbia remains underrated considering the options for nature, events such as the Guca Festival, and Belgrade is more vibrant than you imagine.

Drvengrad is an ethnic village with a small wooden church, a square paved with wooden cubes and surrounded by wooden houses. The wooden houses are authentic, and were brought from various parts of Serbia and Bosnia. There is also a gallery of paintings, a library, a cinema called "Underground", a bakery with homemade biscuits, a national restaurant and a local craft shop.

The Zagaj Hills are a region on the northeast rim of the Deliblato Sands. They cover just over 250 ha. The Zagajicka Brda represent the highest region of the Deliblato Peščara. The Zagaj hills are ancient sand dunes, partly forested and partly covered with steppe vegetation. The highest peak is 256 m above sea level.

The highest point of the Zagajicka Brda is marked by an obelisk built during the Austro-Hungarian period. A tall meteorological pole was also placed next to the obelisk to measure the wind speed. Novi Sad is another city I recommend to visit.
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