While the South-West of Western Australia in the summer is undeniably amazing, with no shortage of white sandy beaches to stretch out on and trails to explore, there is also something attractive about jumping in the car and heading down south in the cooler months. Lush green landscapes, clear cool days and red wine by the fire make for a fine weekend away, and that’s exactly what Ollie and I jumped in the car to experience this winter. Our destination of choice was Denmark, a small town resplendent with natural beauty right in the middle of WA’s rainbow coast.
After a short stop in the Czech Republic, there we were jumping on a train to what would be our last country on our trip – Germany. We had a couple of weeks here though, and a number of exciting things planned out for our time including birthday celebrations, a football game in the famed Dortmund stadium and of course, the largest celebration of beer in the entire world – Oktoberfest! I had also heard a lot of good things about the Berlin food scene so I was looking forward to eating my way around the city. With so many events, so many people to see and so much good food expected in Germany, we arrived with our game faces on ready to knock the next couple of weeks right out of the park. Continue reading
So we had finished up with our trip around Austria, dropped the car back with a small sigh of relief that we hadn’t crashed it and made our way up to the Czech Republic for the second last country of our Euro adventure. Although it was a relatively short stop, there was one big reason I was looking forward to the Czech Republic – beer. Nicknamed the liquid bread of the nation, the Czechs are great fans of the stuff, and rank amongst the top nations for consumption per capita (as if I hadn’t drunk enough on this trip already!). Beer wasn’t the only exciting thing about the country though, the Czech Republic promised a number of cultural gems from the UNESCO listed Cesky Krumlov to the capital Prague so read on – I promise it’s not all about the amber liquid!
Austria. The country of Mozart, of the Sound of Music, of spectacular mountains, rolling hills, of jaw dropping buildings in the capital and beyond. We arrived in Vienna on a Monday afternoon, a bit worse for wear after our last minute dash to the train at the other end of the line in Budapest. With only the challenge of navigating yet another public transport system standing between us and a shower and a change of clothes, we jumped off the train and joined the crowds of people heading towards the U-Bahn and managed to get to our air BnB apartment with minimal fuss. After freshening up, we were ready for the start of our Austrian adventure which was going to involve some time in the cities, some time driving on the autobahn and hopefully a lot of alpine scenery, schnitzels and sausages.
We arrived in Budapest off the overnight train, greeting a chilly, drizzly Hungarian morning with tired eyes but excited souls, ready for the country that is home to thermal baths, ruin bars and some of the most beautiful panoramas that I have ever had the opportunity to lay my eyes on. Another reason I was super excited to be arriving was that because from Budapest we were going on an overnight trip to a small town called Eger which has about four dozen wineries specialising in a dry red wine called Bikaver (or ‘Bulls Blood’ in english) in an area called ‘The Valley of the Beautiful Women’. With a lot planned for, and expected from, Hungary I had my fingers and toes crossed that the weather would clear up and we would be able to get out and explore without seeking cover from the pouring rain or searing sun every 5 minutes. Continue reading
Time rolls on, and now we are out of Russia and into Poland, a country that is a bit of an unknown with a history of being overshadowed and bossed around by their neighbours on either side. A fine country though, and we enjoyed our time there despite Mother Nature trying her hardest to make sure we didn’t – when we arrived in Kraków it was 35 degrees, and the heat was stifling. This was made all the more painful by the fact I woke up on the second day with a blocked nose and sore throat having finally caught the cold that I had avoided all year! The heat didn’t last too long though, on the third day that we were there the skies slowly darkened as some foreboding clouds moved over the city and at about 2pm the heavens opened, and it rained for the next two days. Not much to do about that though, other than to get on with things and seek cover whenever possible – although in hindsight, shelling out some zloty for an umbrella would have been a good idea!
So, we’ve moved on in our travels from the liberal city of Amsterdam to a country which is perhaps the polar opposite in its tolerance of certain hedonistic pleasures. Russia, the proud empire that stands at the Far East of Europe and spreads itself across the Asian continent, has lived up to certain expectations in some aspects, but in many other ways has been more wondrous than I ever imagined it might be. Starting with the pretty pastel buildings in the bustling St Petersburg at Russia’s border, to the candy coloured swirls at St Basil’s Cathedral n the heart of the country, read on to find out more about how this country surprised me with all it had to offer.