Well that’s a wrap on Europe. We are now off to Africa to experience some of the most amazing wildlife on earth. Camping on the vast Serengeti, scuba diving off the coast of Zanzibar, roaming Chobe Park, taking in Victoria Falls, and hiking Table Mountain in Cape Town to name a few. If we are lucky, we may get to experience the great wildebeest migration on the way. We spent the last fifty-two days exploring some of the known and unknown parts of Europe. From Iceland to Romania, we visited six countries across the continent. Below we discuss the best and worst parts of our travels in this continent, along with some of what we learned along the way.
There is a place where the buildings are brightly painted, cobblestones line the streets, and grape vines grown in every yard. The place is a little town called Sighișoara, found deep in the middle of Romania. The town claims the birth place of Vlad Tepes Dracul, better known as Vlad the Impaler or Dracula.
Transylvania is a region known to all as the home of Dracula but visited by few. The city of Brașov is set in the heart of this region in Romania and surrounded by the Carpathian Mountain range. It is a gorgeous town off the beaten path and one of our most enjoyable visits within Europe.
Prague. Who hasn’t dreamed of visiting this magical city? A place where modern life meets castles, basilicas, and stone bridges. A place with a seemingly infinite sea of terra-cotta roofs and cobblestones streets. A walk through the alleys of Prague is a walk through the Middle Ages. Prague has the allure of Paris with a touch of Eastern Europe. The Czech history has taken different paths than Western Europe, creating a contrasting feel from other well traveled areas.
Some places are worth visiting for the natural wonders, some for the culture, others for the culinary delights. Český Krumlov has a different type of appeal. It is a town where you can step back in time almost 800 years and take a walk through history. The streets are impeccably preserved to maintain the look and feel of its medieval roots.
Our third stop in Hungary took us through rolling farmland to the city of Pécs, an area has been inhabited for 6,000 years. The land has held Celts, been ruled by the Romans, conquered by the Ottomans, and the city has been shaped by its history over the millennia.
Eger is the land of Hungarian wine. Or more accurately, one of the many lands of Hungarian wine. The town is home to the famous wine blend, Egrí Bikavér, or Bulls Blood. The name originates from a siege on Eger by the Turkish army in the 16th century. The Hungarian army defeated the Turks after being fed local food and wine, including red wine from the local vineyards. The dark red blend was rumored to be mixed with bulls blood which gave the small Hungarian army the strength to defeat the much larger group of invaders. Of all of our visits to Europe, Eger has been among the most enjoyable areas.
Hungary is one of those countries with a level of mystique to conjure up a distinct image, but just obscure enough to keep it from making it on many people’s list of top destinations. It is a country with a rich history spanning over 1000 years, with invasions by the Mongols in the the 13th century, conquering by the Turks in the 16th century, allying with the Germans in both World Wars, followed by domination from the Soviet communists until 1989. The country has since become an amazing place to visit, and is certainly one of our favorite places in Europe.
I don’t know what it is. The sun and summer air, the feel of a city with options, trains to take you anywhere on demand, or possibly the affordable food. Whatever it is, mainland Europe feels amazing after spending two weeks in Iceland.
Our thirteen night itinerary in the land of fire and ice was full of breathtaking natural wonders around every corner. From lava fields to glaciers, mountains to sea, we experienced all that Iceland has to offer. This incredible island has a wide variety of landscapes and should be on every travelers list.
A recent study shows that everyone loves Iceland*. As Megan stated several days into our trip, “this whole country is a natural wonder”. It is a country which was shaped by fire and ice. Lava fields cover glacial valleys surrounded by rugged peaks, and volcano cones dot the moraine covered landscape. These fields are covered layer after layer with more recent lava flows, with older formations coated in thick moss. Glaciers drape between mountains and actively change the landscape, grinding lava into the black sand found on most beaches. *This study was conducted by surveying both of us as we drove to the airport after our Iceland trip.