So, Inna and I have been lying a little about our trip. We’re calling it an around the world trip, but technically we aren’t going around the world, we’re going most of the way around and then turning back. Specifically, out trip starts on the northwest side of the Pacific (Los Angeles) and from there we’ll travel all the way to the southeast side of the Pacific (New Zealand). But we won’t cross the Pacific, instead after New Zealand we are going back to Europe.
There are lots of reasons why we want to head back to Europe to end our trip. One, we love Europe. Two, there’s so much we missed on our first leg here. Three, by this point our Schengen days will be expiring, giving us more time to explore the Schengen area. Four, spring is coming, which means Europe will be warm again. And five, Eastern Europe, which is where we are headed this time, is really inexpensive. This last point is particularly important, since we don’t know how much money we’ll have left at this point in our trip, especially after the pricy Australia and New Zealand.
Other than Prague, which is as far west as Eastern Europe goes, Inna has never been to Eastern Europe (this doesn’t count the first six years of her life, when she lived in Ukraine). And my Eastern Europe experience is limited to Krakow. Therefore, for both Inna and myself, Eastern Europe offers tons of new opportunities. The ones we are most excited about (and the ones we planned this portion of our trip around) are: Greece, Budapest, Bulgaria, Romania, and Albania.
Planning this portion of our trip was interesting. This was one of the areas I knew least about, but after doing my research, it has become one of our most anticipated portions of our trip. There is so much to see and do in this part of the world, a lot of it not touristy and off the beaten path. And it is cheap! So cheap; we should be able to spend a lot of time on not too much money here.
To further expand on just how much there is to do here, first note just how many countries there are. Some are here because Yugoslavia broke up into several countries, others are here just because the countries in this area aren’t too big here. As a result, there are a lot of capitols here (Vienna, Bratislava, Ljubljana, Budapest, Zagreb, Sarajevo, Bucharest, Sofia, Herceg Novi, Tirana, and Athens), and capitol cities are almost always interesting.
Secondly, this area was one of the most significant historical areas in the world. And not just because of the Roman Empire and Greece. This area was (and still is) the main connector between Europe and the Middle East, and the only Asia-Europe connector not through of Russia. Because of this, many trade routes cut through these lands (Romania and Bulgaria in particular), resulting in numerous historical sites, landmarks, and other relics.
Third, most of these countries are either on the Mediterranean, Adriatic, or Black Seas, which means lots of beach and coastal communities.
Alright, no more explaining, lets get to the specs for this portion of our trip: ~4200 miles, eleven countries, four of the hundred most visited cities in the world, one New7Wonders of the World finalist, 20(!)+ UNESCO World Heritage Sites, lots of national parks (including arguably the most renowned one in Europe), and several churches, castles, palaces, and monasteries.
I should mention that this portion of our trip is already undergoing significant revision. My friends who’ve been to Croatia have advised against spending too much time in Dubrovnik (touristy) and Zagreb (meh) and instead spending more time in Split, a city I originally skipped in order to travel through Bosnia. Also, I have a friend who just visited Albania and he tells me that while the country is amazing, Tirana isn’t so great. So we’ll probably look for a different place to stay when we are there. Lastly, something I already changed but would love to change back, we’d love to do a day (or multi-day) trip to Istanbul. Only if it is safe though, we’ll se how things are next year.
Before I end this post I want to mention Russia and Ukraine, two Eastern European destinations Inna and I want to visit but probably won’t on this trip. I would love to visit Odessa, home to the greatest movie scene in history (or maybe second greatest, after Psycho’s shower scene), and Inna was born in Kiev, so it would be great to see her birthplace as well. And the Red Square, specifically Saint Basil’s Cathedral, just seems like one of the most amazing places in the world. Unfortunately, US citizens must obtain a visa ($200 per person) to enter Russia, so we axed that country from out list. As for Ukraine, Ukraine and Russia are having all sorts of problems right now, so we’re not sure we want to visit that country either (this applies to Russia as well; we probably wouldn’t want to visit Russia even if they didn’t have their visa requirement).
That being said, Russia is hosting the 2018 World Cup, and that should hopefully make the country safe to visit. Inna and I would love to go to then, see the sites, cheer on USA, and swing by Ukraine (any maybe Belarus, Moldova, Latvia, Lithuania, ahhh there is so much!) on our way back.
Anyway, this marks the end of the last leg of our trip, at least what we’ve planned so far. From Albania, we’ll figure out how much money we have and what to do next. If you have any suggestions, about this or any other part of out trip, send us a message! We’d love to hear it!
Up next, our actual trip!