Hello from a very uncharacteristically warm UK! In fact, news channels have been declaring that we’re in the midst of a heat wave (or at least we were last week when I drafted this post). As always, it’s good to return to The Island for our annual summer visit, but future travels are never far from our minds. So, what are our plans for the rest of the year?
The sun is shining, the sky is blue and our cupboards are full of festive goodies. When we started 2016 we certainly didn’t expect to end the year back in Asia but here we are, spending Christmas in Chiang Mai after a year of intense highs and lows and many amazing travel experiences. Here’s our 2016 travel roundup and a look at the highlights from what turned out to be a rocky, yet transformative year.
After two days of exploring Bratislava, Slovakia’s Little Big City, we had some time on our hands. A quick map check revealed that we were just a hop, skip and a jump away from a brand new country: Austria. In fact, the capital Vienna lay just 60km away and would take only an hour to reach by bus. We couldn’t resist the temptation to get a taste of a new city, so we set off the very next day on our Viennese Whirl.
Our eight-week trip through Eastern Europe was one of my travel highlights of the year. Although we were on an extremely tight budget, we managed to save a lot of money by travelling by bus. This allowed us to visit five countries, eat loads of delicious food, and go crazy with sightseeing.
This summer we got our first taste of travel in Eastern Europe. Although we barely scratched the surface of the region during the eight-week trip, we crammed as much culture, history and delicious food into our adventure as we could. Our journey took us through UNESCO towns and turquoise seas in Croatia to sedate Slovakia and the heaving capital cities of Budapest and Prague. So, how much did our Eastern Europe trip cost us?
Prague. The word conjures up images of spiky gothic buildings, ancient stone bridges, towers, quirky statues and cobbled squares. I remember the cacophony of music that followed us around during our trip to Prague, as well as the screech of trams and the taste of cinnamon chimney cakes. My lasting memory is of the sun setting over the river with Prague’s hilltop castle glowing softly in the distance. How much did I love Prague? Let me count the ways.
Imagine a church decorated with the bones of up to 70,000 people. Picture ivory-coloured towers and artfully arranged skulls, delicate bone necklaces strung across the ceiling and shaped into elaborate coats of arms and chalices. This is what we discovered during an eerie yet beautiful visit to the Bone Church, located in the tiny town of Kutna Hora in the Czech countryside.
Bratislava certainly lives up to its title as the Little Big City. Wandering around the compact centre it feels more like you’re in a small market town rather than Slovakia’s Capital City. Still, we found lots to like while visiting Bratislava, from castles and churches to palaces and clock towers.
Florence in July: crowds, sweltering heat and theme-park-style queues. The best decision we made was to book ourselves onto a night walking tour so we could explore the city’s treasures in the relative cool and quiet of the evening. We also got to learn about the darker side of Florence; the medieval tales of feuds and scandals, deceit and mystery, with a taste of delicious gelato thrown in for good measure.
“Shall we take a short tour of the city?” asked our Airbnb host Tibor, who’d come to pick us up from the bus station in Budapest, Hungary. Agreeing, we soon found ourselves driving alongside the River Danube, which separates the now unified Buda and Pest districts of the city; grand bridges stretched over the murky water and boats trundled along beneath in the gathering darkness. On the riverbank lights began to blink on in the Hogwarts-esque Parliament building and across the brown water on a grassy hillside, the spiky spires and turrets of the castle district rose into the twilight.