I got to admit that this trip was one of my best ever. I made tons of friends, had many first-hand experiences, pushed myself as a solo Asian female traveler and managed somehow to arrive home in one piece but having left my heart in Europe.
It was a spontaneous flight to Milan as Lufthansa was having a Flash Sale. So I gamely bought a return ticket for around $700 (SIN-MXP) from March-April 2016. Without any itinerary in mind, I decided to go with the flow and begin my adventure in Italy, one of my favorite countries in Europe.
In summary, my trip covered 21 cities in total. This was my final Itinerary (using a mixture of flights, trains, buses and hitchhiking):
Milan-Venice-Slovenia-Zagreb-Split-Bosnia & Herzegovnia-Dubrovnik-Belgrade-Stuttgart-Ulm-Salzburg-Burghausen-Munich-Finland-Talinn-Riga-Vilnius-Krakow-Bratislava-Vienna-Brussels-Milan
Let me share some highlights and fun things to do in these 2 months of Spontaneous travel in Europe.
1. Milan was stale compared to Venice. It was okay for a daytrip or two but other than the Duomo, museums and streams of fashionably dressed Italians, there wasn’t much to explore. It was just like any other big metropolitan cities. Not really my cup of tea but I did enjoy the people I met.
2. Venice on the other hand, nicknamed the City of Love, was refreshing. I had a private night tour of the water city on a private boat and needless to say, it was romantic and seriously memorable. Driving leisurely through the narrow lanes of luxury houses and looking up to see the moon glistening in her full glory while having the vast endless body of water surrounding you does make you feel small. Don’t forget to visit PIAZZA SAN MARCO AND BASILICA and also to take a gondola ride down the Grand Canal. Conclusion: Venice is much more romantic compared to Paris. Paris is just too crowded all year round.
3.Slovenia (Capital is Ljubljana; pronounce as Lu-bi-a-na) is a gem in itself, famous for its bridges and quaint little towns. The most notable bridges of Ljubljana are the Triple Bridge (Tromostovje), the Trnovo Bridge (Trnovski most), the Dragon Bridge (Zmajski most), the Hradecky Bridge (Slovene: Hradeckega most), and the Butchers’ Bridge (Mesarski most). It is good for a daytrip; just endless wandering around soaking in the air and café hopping plus people watching. Do hop over to Metelkova, a funky neighborhood which was formerly an abandoned Slovenian military barracks turned spunky-political art galore.
Not far from Ljubljana is the popular Lake Bohinj, the largest permanent lake in Slovenia. It is located within the Bohinj Valley of the Julian Alps, in the northwestern Upper Carniola region, and part of Triglav National Park.. I had a kind soul, Stef who drove me around and brought me to many places including the picturesque, Lake Bled. We had fun just blasting music in his car and talking nonsense, taking silly jump shots and enjoying the snow.
4. Zagreb, the capital of Croatia is rich in history and blessed with superb architecture dating back to the 1200s. Zagreb’s numerous museums reflect the history, art and culture not only of Zagreb and Croatia, but also of Europe and the world. Around thirty collections in museums and galleries comprise more than 3.6 million various exhibits, excluding church and private collections. I thoroughly enjoyed the museums and the street art as well. Do not forget to pop by Museum of Broken Relationship cos its one of a kind!
5. Split is well known for its beaches and fortress-like Diocletian’s Palace, erected by the Roman emperor in the 4th century. A town on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, it is very crowded during Summer and party goers litter the beaches drinking and getting high I guess. I stayed at Hotel Luxe and thoroughly enjoyed just waking up to the sound of ferries disembarking from the port. Take a walk down the promenade for a lovely sunset view.
I did a daytrip to Plitvice Lakes while on my way to Bosnia & Herzegovnia. The National Park was one of my favorites ever just because of its sheer size and enormity. Not to mention that it is world-famous for its lakes arranged in cascades. Currently, 16 lakes can be seen from the surface. These lakes are a result of the confluence of several small rivers and subterranean karst rivers. The lakes are all interconnected and follow the water flow. This park is definitely for all nature lovers and photographers alike! Don’t forget to wear more layers during the Winter season because it was freezing cold.
6. Bosnia & Herzegovnia was truly an impromptu trip. I randomly took a look at Google maps and decided to do a daytrip there to see the famous Mostar bridge. It was a very famous and historical bridge before its destruction in 1993 during the war. The elegant bridge spanned the River Neretva and was designed by the Ottoman (Turkish) architect Mimar Hayruddin. It was completed in 1566 after nines years of building and it’s a classic example of a single span, stone arch bridge and was an example of advanced technology in its time. I remembered feeling a tad lost when I reached Mostar city as very few locals could speak English and the area seemed like a ghost town except for the souvenir shops that lined the street to the bridge. One of the more unusual ways the bridge was used was as a magnificent diving or jumping platform.
7. Dubrovnik deserves a special mention just cos it is a popular filming location for the fictional city of King’s Landing in Games of Thrones. A feature of Dubrovnik is its walls that run almost 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) around the city. Just find accommodation within the old city and you are good to go. Take a hike up instead of the cable cars and you get to discover an awesome aerial view of the old city and tone your thighs and butt at the same time!
8. Belgrade is another diamond in the rough with plenty of undiscovered gems hidden in the nooks and corners of town. Belgrade was the capital of Yugoslavia from its creation in 1918 to 2006. The historic areas and buildings of Belgrade are among the city’s premier attractions. My favourite was the Church of Saint Sava.
9. Stuttgart is well known as a manufacturing hub. Mercedes-Benz and Porsche have headquarters and museums here. Also it houses the RITTER SPORT chocolate factory too! I didn’t managed to visit but I didn’t forget to buy tons of chocolate with many exotic flavours from the local supermarket. In the evening, I had hot chocolate up in the Fernsehturm Stuttgart (a TV tower) and had my face blown with cold icy wind. Luckily, I had someone with me to warm me up. On another day, I met up with a friend and she brought me to The Stadtbibliothek, known for its symmetry and designed within a perfect white(ish) cube placed directly to compass points.
10. Ulm was another planned spontaneous trip because I had a friend inviting me over for a couple of days. The most memorable thing was climbing up the 768 steps to Ulm Minster, primarily known for being the Gothic church with the tallest steeple in the world (161.53 m). It is also famously known as the birthplace of Albert Einstein. Certainly worth a daytrip or two!
11. Salzburg, home of Mozart and the Sound of Music. Apt city for music lovers like myself and also tons of museums and things to see and explore. I had a mix of activities including hiking, concerts, beer tasting and people watching. Also the Baroque architecture is a major draw to photographers who appreciate form, light and shadow, and dramatic intensity in the design of the buildings. Easily one of my favorite cities from this trip!
12. Burghausen was not in my initial plan but another friend kindly invited me. Its famous Castle is the longest castle complex in the world at 1051 m. We visited this gothic castle which has a main castle with the inner courtyard and five outer courtyards. The town is pretty small and cozy with amenities all closed by. There’s something unique that you can find here which is the Jazz Walk of Fame. Worth a visit for something unique and refreshing.
14. Munich is a bustling metropolitan and its most famous landmark is the Marienplatz. Mary’s Square, i.e. St. Mary, Our Lady’s Square is a central square in the city centre since 1158. This was my 2nd time visiting Munich so I just did a coffee break and ice cream date and head off to my next destination.
15. FINLAND! Well, where should I start. It has always been my dream to catch the Northern Lights aka Aurora Borealis in its full glory. And this was my chance. Right here in the land of Santa Claus and Angry Birds and the most saunas per Capita, it is also the most sparsely populated country in the EU. Finland is certainly one of the highlights of this Euro trip because…
- I DID SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS unexpectedly, the feeling is unreal
- I met a fake Santa Claus at Santa Claus Village; saw him having a smoke break in his shorts -_- (he was REAL TO MOST KIDS anyway)
- I skied for the very first time at Levi Ski Resort and survived without breaking any bones.
- I stayed in an Snow Hotel and Glass Igloos and ate Elk meat (was delish btw!)
- I met some interesting characters along the way and made me realized that everyone is facing their own battles (its kinda true what they say about crap weather affecting one’s mental health)
I just loved the cold and snow and everything icy and white. One of my favourite countries to explore I must admit. Enjoy the pictures 🙂
These 3 countries are underrated as well because they are so affordable as well as full of character. Honestly, I had a little case of travelers fatigue kicking in so all I did was to join Free walking tours and meeting up with the locals for drinks. Didn’t quite remember the names and stuff that I did but let the pictures do the talking! These cities are small and easy to navigate. Not to mention the Instagram worthy pictures one can take. Amazing architecture and atmosphere!
*Pictures Spam warning!* with no captions cos I’m too lazy
19. Krakow was not on my initial plan but it was along the way so why not? A very charming old city with its own special whims and fancy. A historic and visual gem, I spent 3 days in this lovely town just exploring the medieval buildings in the old town. Again, join a walking tour and get lost in the history and beauty of dragons and empires.
Also, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCAK) didn’t disappoint! Many avant garde pieces and mind provoking artists works were displayed there.
20. Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia was another eye-opener. It is one of the youngest Capitals of the world and its population is also very young. The modern metropolis is becoming very popular as proved by the increasing number of tourists. Being a small city, I had clear views of the Bratislava Castle from my bedroom window every morning. The other place to have a bird’s eye view of the city is on top of the UFO. Yes, Google it. It’s apparently quite famous.
21. Brussels!! It’s my 2nd time here so it was just a stopover for some Belgium waffles and chocolates 😉 After this was back to Milan for my flight home!
I’ll be back in Europe soon!