Archive for the “Europe” Category

How to Conquer the City of Berlin

Berlin is a gigantic city. I knew it was big, but until I decided to explore it by foot, I never knew just how big. I came here for 5 days with the idea that I’d see all the major sites, some of the not-so-major sites, and get a feel for the city. I didn’t get a chance to see much of Germany’s capital the first time, and I was hoping this visit would correct that. But, despite my intentions, […]

How to Survive Oktoberfest

“How many days are you at the Wiesn (Oktoberfest) for?” asked the German girl wearing her Bavarian dirndl across the table from me. “We’re here for 5 days,” I replied, putting down my stein of beer. As she heard this, her facial expression (and that of her friend) became a mix of shock, disbelief, and horror. “5 days! That is crazy! You’re a bit insane huh?” she said jokingly. “I hope you survive.” And she was right. My friends and […]

The Cost of Traveling Far Eastern Europe

Over the summer, I left the popular European tourist trail and saw three of Europe’s lesser-visited countries: Bulgaria, Romania, and Ukraine. They are located on Europe’s far eastern border and see few tourists. While Bulgaria sees a few more tourists because of its proximity to the Balkans and acts as a stop on the overland route from Turkey to Budapest, the further north I went, the fewer travelers I saw. In Ukraine, I only encountered US Peace Corp volunteers and a […]

How to Spend 3 Days in Helsinki

Helsinki seems to be off the normal “Scandinavian tourist trail.” Most people I know always seem to make it to Copenhagen or Stockholm (or sometimes Oslo if they can afford it), but they stop there. Helsinki never seems to be on the travel radar of most budget travelers I know. I’m not sure why. I guess Helsinki just doesn’t get the raving press that other places do. Which is a shame, because Helsinki was a pleasant surprise for me. Like […]

The Utterly Amazing Ukraine

As a native English speaker, I hit the traveling jackpot. Wherever I go anywhere in the world, I never have a problem communicating with people. English is the lingua franca of the world, and if anything is ever in a second language, it is always English. In hostels, people from around the world converse with each other in English, which means I can always find a conversation to join. I’m never limited by language. And, even if people aren’t fluent […]

Finding More than Dracula in Romania

As I wandered around Sighisoara, searching for coffins, bats, vampires and human blood, I realized Romania wasn’t going to give me what I wanted – lots of cheesy Dracula tourism. I had been to Bran, Transylvania, and Bucharest and so far had encountered nothing about vampires. It was odd. The Romanians just haven’t decided to get in on the vampire trend that’s spreading throughout the world. I admitted defeat. I simply wasn’t going to get what I had hoped for. […]

I Despise Sunny Beach

There aren’t many places in the world I despise. Places that fill me with disgust. One of those places is Ko Phi Phi, Thailand. I have never understood the hype about it or why people like it so much. Other than being a place to buy expensive drinks, it really has no redeeming qualities. Just like Sunny Beach, Bulgaria. For some reason, Ko Phi Phi has remained “the” place to go in Thailand, much like Sunny Beach is the hotspot […]

A Day at the Rila Monastery

Located about 110 km outside of Sofia, Bulgaria is the Rila Monastery. It was the highlight of my trip to Sofia and made an otherwise dull visit quite exciting. The monastery was founded by the hermit St. Ivan of Rila and was built by his students while he lived in a cave. The original Rila Monastery was destroyed but re-erected at its present place during the 14th century. The oldest buildings are the Tower of Hrelyu (1334) and a small […]

My Big Fat Greek Festival

I didn’t break any dishes or use Windex to clear up a pimple, but it was the closest I’ve ever gotten to living a real-life version of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” It was the festival of St. John, and I was surrounded by little Greek ladies in black shawls with wooden canes, people doing traditional dances, kids running around, lots of wine, and cooked wild goat being shoved in my face. “Eat, it’s like deer.” The owner of my […]

The Fjords of Norway

I’ve always wanted to see fjords. They are supposedly beautiful and mind numbingly stunning. Plus the word is cool. I mean just pronounce that word — f j o r d. It sounds so cool. I just like saying it. Fjord. Fjord. Fjord. And when I was planning my trip to Norway, the only thing I made the tourism board promise me was that my trip would include lots of time in the fjord area. Seeing the fjords was the […]