As my plane ascended over the grey sprawl of Berlin, I looked wistfully out over the wing at the European mainland. My trip was at an end. It was then that I realised I wouldn’t be able to return to Europe again for about two years. Which got me kind of down. As the TV tower blurred into the rest of the city I thought about all my trips to the continent that I’ve enjoyed over the past three years. I’ve been contemplating writing this post highlighting my favourite places on the continent from that moment. And im just getting round to it now. I’ve been to 28 countries and numerous cities in Europe, but I wanted to share with you my top 5. I hope you can forgive an old man’s reminiscing…
I was disturbed from my sleep in the early hours. The first orange glimmers of sunrise were forcing themselves through the gaps in the shutters illuminating an 8 bed dorm room. The call to prayer from the nearby Blue Mosque echoed across the Bosphorus and throughout the streets of Istanbul. I was a world away and more than 1600 miles from my hometown and my parents. It was my first time backpacking in Europe and Istanbul was the first stop on an interrail trip from one end of the continent to the other! And what an amazing introduction Istanbul was. It’s culture was as far removed from Britain’s as I’d ever experienced. Great food and shisha, stunning architecture, some of the friendliest locals I’ve ever come across and great views wherever you looked. It was one of those cities that I knew straight away was one of the world’s greatest and one definitely worth revisiting!
The last stop on the aforementioned Interrail trip was the hedonistic capital city of The Netherlands, Amsterdam. Never have I been offered cocaine more times when walking to buy a crepe than in this city, but that’s not quite why I rank it as my 4th favourite. In fact I wasn’t too interested in the liberal laws concerning drugs. I was actually pleasantly surprised to learn how aesthetically incredible the place was. And the day I rented a bike showed how the surrounding countryside was also charming. Despite being the flattest place on earth… modern, progressive, super picturesque and safe, this city was nothing like I expected. And those crepes sure were excellent, if a little pricey…
Huh? Where? That was essentially my opinion of this place before I got there. But when I arrived in the capital of Estonia I couldnt believe how beautiful, safe, lively and cheap it was. And they have Wi-fi everywhere. With a teeny population that has resisted the oppression of the terrifying Nazi and Soviet powers for generations, it’s nothing short of a miracle that this place is still here. I haven’t come across a place that has struggled for their independence more, so as a result I was fascinated to learn about the country’s history and culture. And I had a particularly great experience here because of the Australian and Swedish friends I made whilst visiting. I really can’t recommend Tallinn enough, and don’t believe it will remain such a well kept secret for long…
Not the most original choice, because this city will make Top 10 Lists the world over… but it was impossible to emit. More history than anywhere else in Europe and one of the world’s greatest cultures when food, art, architecture and music is concerned, there’s no way you can’t be swept off your feet by this stunning city. It’s impossible not to feel a thrill when you see that world famous monument with your own eyes… when you realise those ruins are literally thousands of years old… when you taste that home cooked linguine and the exquisite house red, just to realise it only costs €8… oh, take me back!
If you’ve read anything about my recent stay in Berlin, you’ll know that something about the gritty, grimey and grubby German capital really got under my skin. I don’t often visit a city and think “I’ve found a new home here”… but that was certainly the case with this place. There are few architectural masterpieces to be found and traditional German cuisine doesn’t thrill me too much. But the lifestyle that Berliners enjoy here is one I could really imagine myself wallowing in. As Isabel said, “everyone here looks unemployed”. What doesn’t sound great about that???