Archive for the “Europe” Category

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 five 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. “Five 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’re 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 farther north I went, the fewer travelers I saw. In Ukraine, I only encountered US Peace Corp volunteers and a […]

How to Spend Three Days in Helsinki

Helsinki seems to be off the normal “Scandinavian tourist trail.” Most people I know 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 most people, I […]

The Utterly Amazing Ukraine

As a native English speaker, I hit the traveling jackpot. Wherever I go in the world, I never have a problem communicating with people. English is the lingua franca of the world, and if anything’s ever in a second language, it’s 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 in English, they […]

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’d been to Bran, Transylvania and Bucharest and so far had encountered noth-ing 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’d hoped for. I’d have to settle […]

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’ve 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 hot spot […]

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’re supposedly beautiful and mind-numbingly stunning. Plus the word’s 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 fulfillment of a lifelong dream. […]

Forty Eight Hours in Oslo

Most budget travelers skip Norway be-cause it’s an expensive country to visit. The taxes are high, a lot of things are imported, and the currency is very strong. During my time here, I’ve found very few ways around this fact and have learned “cheap” can be an extremely relative term. However, flight connections can allow for a brief stopover in this incredibly beautiful city. And while Oslo isn’t cheap, you can spend two days here doing a lot without blowing […]