I never planned to go to Krakow, only Warsaw. The flight to Warsaw was cheaper, the hostels were cheaper, and it was on my path north to the Baltics. As Poland started growing closer and closer, people I met along the way telling me that no trip to Poland is complete without a visit to Krakow. They were so right. I haven’t been to any other city that size that balances the hip and the historic as well as Krakow does.
Bordeaux city is the central hub of the wine region of Bordeaux and France’s sixth largest city. The region is packed with thousands of vineyards of all different sizes and production levels. The city itself offers a chance to dive into the wine culture and sample selections from wineries throughout the region in one of the many wine bars. The city is centered around wine, but there are still plenty of non-wine related activities. I didn’t do any of them, but I’m sure they’re great.
The Chartreuse mountain region of France during the winter is the definition of a wonderland. It’s one of those places where you take a picture and then you keep taking pictures because every angle is stunning, but you can never capture the beauty. It’s a great area for skiing and hiking, but if like me, you’re not so athletically inclined, it’s a great place relax, enjoy the holiday spirit, and of course, sip on some Chartreuse.
The best thing about the Balkans is the people. I have yet to meet someone who isn’t incredibly welcoming with a genuine desire to show me the best of their country. In the Balkans, a lot that welcome revolves around sampling “the best beer in the world.” Every country has its own “best beer in the world.” The States beer market is quite large so there may be more debate on what exactly is “the best beer in the world,” (it’s Free State Brewing Yakamaniac IPA). Balkan countries have a smaller beer market, therefore there is usually a pretty strong consensus on the “best beer in the world.” I didn’t expect every Balkan country to have its own beer as the countries histories are all so intertwined. It surprised me that each country has its unique beer, but it didn’t surprise me that every light lager tasted approximately the same.
Bulgaria is a gem that remains undiscovered by many Americans. The mountains offer prime skiing conditions and the beaches of the Black Sea are the perfect place to relax. The best part about Bulgaria is that it is still relatively cheap compared to the rest of Europe. I only stopped in the capital city, Sofia, and it left me hungry for more. (Quite literally as the food was incredible).
Belgrade rests at the former border between the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires. Thanks to its position, it changed hands regularly and is heavily influenced by both empires. Serbia’s history can be divisive and I will admit I still do not fully understand the Yugoslav wars. I did not learn about the wars in school, only through first hand accounts in my travels. History changes based on who is telling it, and I heard many different variations. In Bosnia, the Serbs were making a land grab. In Kosovo they wanted independence. In Serbia, no one talked about anything but the NATO bombing of 1999. Although the history is hard to get a grasp on, the city itself is not. Belgrade is a very welcoming and friendly city despite its tumultuous past. It is one of those cities where you go for the sites and end up staying for the nightlife.
Sarajevo: the city where World War I began, the city where the 1984 Winter Olympics were held, and the city under siege longer than any other capital city. Walking through the streets you can still see every piece of Sarajevo’s history.