Archive for the “Europe” Category

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 […]

The Cost of Traveling Sweden

Sweden isn’t the cheapest country in the world to visit. Its high prices keep many people from visiting, which is a shame because this is one of the world’s most beautiful and interesting countries. That’s a bold statement, but I’ve been to Sweden twice before and am constantly amazed at the beautiful landscape and cities. Moreover, the people (besides making the rest of the world look ugly) are incredibly friendly to visitors. I’ve come to realize that while the country […]

Interesting Facts About Sweden

As you know from my last post, I’m starting my last big round-the-world trip, and I’m beginning in Scandinavia, figuring I might as well get the most expensive countries out of the way with first. I’m currently in Stockholm, one of my favorite cities in the world, despite the fact it abuses my wallet. (I’ll be going to Norway next, and that country is even more expensive. Luckily, I have family there I can mooch off of…I mean visit.) If […]