It is hard to believe but our 5 months of back packing through Europe has finally come to the end! We’ve seen all four seasons, across 16 different countries, in one fantastic continent, and quite unbelievably, we’ve done it on budget by the skin of our teeth. The infamous spread sheet is finally at peace!
The Four Seasons – France, Albania, Poland and Austria
As we cracked open our second bottle of wine on our last day of the trip, we decided to summarize the best and worst of the trip by setting up different categories.
So, here we go…
Germany wins best transport by far. Always on time, clean, spacious, and choc full of features. The coaches had plugs for my laptop, free WIFI, free films to watch and a steward serving snacks and even beers!
BEST VALUE ACCOMMODATION
The apartment we rented in Skopje in Macedonia was easily the best value for money. For just 10 pounds a night each, we had a massive flat in the city centre, modern finishings, a comfortable bed and it was well kitted out with everything we needed to make it a temporary home.
This was a toughy, as we had great food almost everywhere, but Italy wins this one for us. Great comfort food, different variations based on the region and history, easy to cook, tasty, and the cuisine that seems to have penetrated every other country we visited. Plus we got to make our own pasta which was definitely a highlight!
The super friendly Albanian people won us over straight away. It was so refreshing for so many people to go out of their way to help us, without having any hidden agenda. I asked for directions and the guy didn’t know the answer, so he called his friend up on his phone to ask him, whilst his friend helped with the translation. Amazing!
With all the fiery emotion, dancing and the good weather, it is easy to see how the Spanish language has formed over the years and won this category hands down for us. It just sounds sexy!
Another tick for the Spanish as we finally agreed on Barcelona as the best city. It has great food, dancing, music, architecture, beaches, boats, art, culture and good weather. Something for everyone!
The little town of Skradin in Croatia won our hearts for best town. With ample tasty restaurants to choose from, where I had probably one of the best meals of the trip, a beautiful harbour and day trips out to some fantastic waterfalls and nature parks, it is town hard to beat.
And the Spanish have hit the hatrick with our joint vote for best country. A tough choice, but we agreed due to Spain having a sexy language, amazing food, awesome weather, a great balance between drinking and napping and overall, excellent value for money for holiday goers.
COUNTRY WHERE YOU COULD LIVE
After much deliberation, and having to remember to take into consideration things like job prospects and language barriers, we rounded on Austria. It offers lakes in the Summer for swimming, mountains in the Winter for skiing, and a language that can be fairly easily learned. It also has a good economy for finding work, nice national dishes, and even produces its own wine. Winner, or should I say “Wiener” (get it!) 🙂
BEST VALUE FOR MONEY
Value for money is ultimately summed up by comparing quality vs quantity and we found that Poland had stacks of both. From great value accommodation, delicious and cheap food and efficient and well priced long distance buses, Poland was the clear winner.
BEST FOR A COUPLES LONG WEEKEND
We had to think back to places where we instantly wanted to recommend a place to our friends and their partners. Whilst Brasov in Romania was a lovely town, it wasn’t quite a couple’s retreat. We chose Lake Ohrid in Macedonia as it has a beautiful lake to walk around, forest trails, nice restaurants, a town where you can do shopping, an old and a new quarter, plenty of history and everywhere we stayed had stunning views.
WHERE WE WOULD RETURN TO
A bit of a theme occurring here with Spain, but we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Costa De La Luz that had beautiful beaches, good surf, friendly locals and quaint restaurants.
Too many to pick from really but a few of the highlights include:
Staying on Rob’s boat in Barcelona
Cycling Around Italy – Even the 40km Ride in the Thunderstorm!
Driving Gorges Du Verdon with the Crazy French Motorists
And Last but not Least, Learning how to Ski in Austria!
Albanina was by far the worst transport with little to no timetables, available information, or well connected routes. Every trip was taken with baited breath and about 3 contingency plans in case something went wrong along the way. But to be fair, it was dirt cheap!
Although the hosts were super, super nice to us, the box room we stayed in Montenegro was just dire. It wouldn’t have been so bad, but it was just false advertising from the get go with the list of features that weren’t there, including the private bathroom, that was in fact, sharing the bathroom in their house. Awkward. And don’t get me started on the jumble sale decor…
For the most part we enjoyed the food everywhere we went, but felt that Bulgaria really didn’t have a true national dish, it seems to have just stolen inspiration from surrounding countries.
Funily enough, the worst people we encountered on during the 5 month trip was… the English. Worst kind of tourist, drunk, loud, rude, disrespectful and ignorant. Way to go England!
Worst is probably the wrong adjective here, but a category is a category… Purely because we couldn’t make heads nor tail of it or even try to guess at it, Cyrillic across several of the countries like Bulgaria made us choose it for worst language.
Again, we struggled to be fair here, as some places we weren’t in long enough to really see them, or didn’t have the money to spend to get the most out of them. We felt that Sofia in Bulgaria was a bit of a low point for us and felt it didn’t have much to do, and in many ways it felt too Western for what we were expecting, which lost it some points from us. Probably an unfair call, but we had to pick somewhere! It did have a few nice buildings to be fair…
Livorno in Italy was pretty average we decided as it didn’t have a whole lot to do, the drive to the beach was awful (full of shipping containers) there were beggars everywhere, and the beach was dirty and crowded. It was the most soulless place we visited in Italy. Don’t be fooled by the picture. It was the only picture I took in three days there!
WHERE YOU WOULDN’T WANT TO LIVE
Again, we had to think about getting a job, language barriers etc, and the Cyrillic issue made us choose Bulgaria. That being said, there is both a beach area and a place to ski, so some positives for life style, just I’d easier learn Chinese than Cyrillic!
WORST VALUE FOR MONEY
Without blinking we both simultaneously said “Denmark“. I appreciate they have a strong tax system that benefits the Danish people, but for a holiday destination, everything rips Euros out your pocket far too quickly. We got charged 38 Euros to do a load of laundry. I nearly cried when they gave me the bill 🙁
WORST FOR A COUPLES LONG WEEKEND
Maybe it was our low funds, maybe it was the shit weather we had, or maybe it was the awful traffic, but we were really unimpressed with what Marseille in France had to offer compared to the rest of France that we enjoyed.
WOULDN’T RETURN TO
To the shock of many, we have zero interest in ever returning to Rome in Italy. It was too busy, dirty and far too ram packed with tourists. Everything that was supposed to be amazing had the joy sucked out of it by the pushy, pushy crowds.
I am not sure what is worse. The body crippling food poising we caught in Albania, or the fact that it completely ruined our last days of summer on this beautiful beach resort! What a waste, especially as it took us forever to get there on crap buses!
So there we have it! I hope you’ve enjoyed the journal entries – now off to New Zealand for more adventures!