Welcome back for another #yow blog entry. Today I want to write about in my view what are the top 5 European countries. I’ll get to more of that in a second. Right now, I’m currently on a flight to Auckland where I will be spending the next two weeks exploring both north and south island. I know, it’s too short to explore a country like New Zealand, but unfortunately, and oddly enough, time is not on my side. Two weeks was all I could spare for New Zealand. I had to give up going to Tasmania for that. My itinerary for New Zealand is to start in Auckland, then make my way to Rotorua, Taupo, and Wellington for North Island. After that, I’ll be spending a few days in Nelson, Franz Josep, Queenstown, and finally Christchurch before heading back to Australia to go check out Melbourne, Sydney, and Queensland. I’m pretty excited to see Oceania. I’ve heard a lot of good things, so it’s finally about time for me to see it with my own eyes.
With that brief recap out of the way, for today’s #yow entry, I want to discuss what I think are the top 5 European countries. Now, that’s quite vague right? Unlike other rankings, where people seem to ignore the cost of visiting said countries, I will be including the cost of visiting the country as a mark for or against it. Expensive countries like Switzerland, the U.K., and Scandinavia will get negative marks because they’re just so damn expensive to visit, whereas cheaper countries will get positive marks because of how much further your money can go there. With cost of visiting acting as a determinant, there are also five other categories that a country is rated upon: Culture (architecture, history, etc.), Nature (beaches, mountains, etc.), Parties (self-explanatory), Food (nom-nom), and People (Friendliness, rudeness, etc.). In the next blog entry, I’ll redo the ranking when money doesn’t matter. So here we go, my top 5 European countries in no particular order:
Top 5 European Countries #1: Spain
There’s something about Spain that just makes it so romantic. No in the husband-wife way, but more in terms of, spiritually romantic. Maybe it’s the white-washed buildings scattered amongst the villages all over Spain. Maybe it’s the long coast that run all along the Mediterranean. Maybe it’s the people, who, even after so many years of being in an economic depression, still can go out and smile with friends and family. I really don’t know. In terms of parties, you have cities like Barcelona, Ibiza, Cadiz for Carnival. In terms of food, you have such wide varieties from the seafood of Catalonia to everyone’s favorite tapas in Andalucía. And for such an economically developed country, prices are very inexpensive compared to its more eastern neighbor. Maybe the depression had to do with that. Regardless, going out in Spain does not make one feel like mortgaging one’s family, especially when you get free finger food for every beer you order. I must admit, I love Spain. It’s a country that has practically everything for everyone. The architecture is varied and unique. The people are quite interesting themselves. I must admit, I prefer the people in the southern part of Spain compared to the people living in Barcelona (where I lived for a year). The ones down south were just much friendlier, and more open to talk to me in public, whereas the ones in Barcelona were just so…exclusionary. Regardless, Spain is an amazing country that deserves your patronage! Drink a cevezza for me.
Top 5 European Countries: #2 Poland
On my first visit to Poland, I didn’t think much of Warsaw, but fell in love with Krakow. On my second visit, where I was there for 3 months, I fell in love with the country. Here was a country that knows how to survive. The people have been through so much in the last 60 years, and yet they still find the willpower to go forward and build their country. In terms of architecture, the country’s old-town design is quite unique with its center square that contains a center building. You have beautiful Wroclaw with its gorgeous churches and buildings, Torun for its gingerbread and small town charm, and the Tri-Cities for their coastal life. In terms of nature, lakes are abundant everywhere, and although I have not been there, I’ve heard of rumors that Zakopane in the south does not disappoint. The people, if I can describe them in a word, are funny. The women are beautiful and intelligent, if a little conservative at times, while the men are just plain hilarious in personality. For partying, well, here’s a country that loves its vodka. Here’s something for you history buff. Apparently vodka was actually invented in Poland, even though nowadays it’s mainly associated with Russia. How bout that? Food in Poland is all about the potatoes and the meat. There’s also the dumplings, but I think they stole that from China. Look way too similar to be otherwise, and China’s an older country than Poland by a few thousand years. I had way too much fun in Poland, and I’m sure if you visit, you’ll love it as well. I mean, you really cannot beat $1 beers and shots. You really cannot.
Top 5 European Countries #3: Croatia
Croatia is like a gift that keeps on giving. The coastline has got to be one of the most beautiful coastline in the world. The stretch between Zadar and Split is just beyond amazing. I knew I loved Croatia as soon as I saw Dubrovnik. But interestingly enough, the city was not the highlight of my two weeks in Croatia. Instead, it was the ridiculous old towns and architecture that saturated the coastline from the Italian border down toward the Montenegran border. In terms of food, the country’s very heavily inspired by the Venetian, and as such, pizzas are abound everywhere, and in some places, $5 can get you a 30cm pizza. Ridiculous. In the south, seafood is at its best and again, at an amazingly affordable (4 a’s!) price. Besides Bulgaria, Croatia was the only country in Europe where the people actually asked me if I needed help with direction when I was sitting lost looking at my city map. The Balkan hospitality is real with Croatians. That’s for sure. For nature, besides the beautiful coastline I mentioned, you have the mountainous interior that Plitvice Lake is a part of, and Lake Krka is also quite pretty as well. Partying is just nondescript. Even in the summer, locals and foreigners mix up to party in almost every coastal city. Festivals happen every day during summer, and you will hardly ever find a city that doesn’t have its fair share of revelers out and about every evening. Did I mention the alcohol is ridiculously cheap? Gah I love this country. I want to go back. Let’s go back next summer.
Top 5 European Countries #4: Romania
One word. Transylvania. Visit there, and you will agree as to why I put Romania into my top 5. Romania is a majestic country. The seaside is supposed to be a party magnet during the summer, while Transylvania becomes a ski haven during the winter. Really, Transylvania is just too damn beautiful. Brasov and its surroundings beg at least a week to drive and explore. Sibiu will make your photos look good regardless of how crappy a photographer you are. Sighisoara is orgasmic for the eyes. And Maramures harks back to how Romania was in the olden days. Caught in the crossroad between the Ottomans and the Hungarians and Saxons (Germans), you can see the influences everywhere in Romania. Stone and brick castles, fortified churches, colorful cemeteries, national parks overlooking the cities, Romania has everything a visit can need. Parties are abundant everywhere, and while I didn’t see much craziness, they do get quite friendly. The locals are not shy about inviting you to dance with them. The food is simple and while it’s not mind blowing like that of Southeast Asian food, there are some good dishes that I’ve unfortunately forgotten the name of. But let’s be real here. It’s Eastern Europe. If you come here having high expectation for food that doesn’t include potatoes and meat, you’re in the wrong place.
Top 5 European Countries #5: Greece
Greece is too awesome. I mean, what can I write about Greece that most of you guys don’t already know? The food is considered to be the healthiest in the world, and the souvlaki is just to die for. I wish I had more opportunities to eat other food but I really…really…like the souvlaki. In terms of nature, there are hundreds of beautiful islands that dot the Mediterranean. For parties, Athens and islands like Ios and Mykonos will satisfy your craving. In terms of culture, well, the entire country is culture. My favorite though is Meteora. Such a majestic place. As for the Greek people, for what they’ve had to deal with in the past six years, it is a testament to how bright they shine that they can still be happy and friendly to all those around them, even strangers. The Greeks love to be hospitable. I can say I know that for a fact now. Really though, the people are lovely. I think the sun might help with that, but just like the Spaniards, and thankfully, they have not let their economic situation dampen their inherent personality. And just like Croatia, I would love to go back and visit all the other islands that I missed this past time. Stay awesome Greece.
- YoW Day 247 Etiquettes of Traveling
- YoW Day 281 2015 In Review