Another year of being blessed with travelling allowed me to visit more than nine countries. Taking advantage of free evenings and weekends, enjoy my travel 2019 highlights.
Kicking off with Serbia’s capital I had a brief visit but colleagues very kindly took me on a whirlwind tour of the city. Spending most of the time walking around the Fortress during the cold dark night was wonderful. Although I like to call it the Fortress of lovers, as every corner you turn to young lovers were making out in the dark. For my colleague however I was convinced he just wanted to show me where all the dance rave parties were held. Describing with such exuberance how the solid walls enhanced the sound of techno bass. Nonetheless it was magnificent to learn about the strategic importance of the fortress along the Danube River. Once emerging from the darkness hitting the streets walking along the seemingly never ending Knez Mihailova Street. A fully pedestrianised street enabling you to feel the pulse of the city, whilst still puzzled with the Christmas decorations still up a month after the event. Ending the evening at the trendy Terminal Gastro bar for food, drinks and smoke inside was relaxing but also made me smile with the clientele. Kardashian like crowd walking in with their puppies to enjoy the night. The best however upon leaving, looking back at the venue and seeing the reflection of the beautiful Saint Sava church. With having another fly in visit late last year there was one restaurant that needs to be visited; Lorenzo and Kakalamba, if not for the food but for the decor. Overtly eccentric and kitsch at the same time.
Going back to Kyiv always brought a smile to my face and this year with each visit, I peeled away another layer to make smile again. Be sure to check out my first impressions and city guide to understand what I mean. This year though I managed to sneak in a visit to Odessa. The vibe in Ukraine’s port city was the total opposite to the capital. The smaller yet colourful buildings, the wider roads, hide a different kind of energy. Being quite young city founded in 1974, it still packed with beauty, history and quirkiness. From the famous Potemkin Stairs, to admiring the architecture of the opera house and numerous facades on Derybasivska Street, to trendy eateries there is always something to find and do. Or you can simply get yourself a kebab and sit on the bench in Palais-Royal Garden (which has free WiFi by the way!) and people watch. Nonetheless Odessa is a city I would love to explore more, even if it was just for a coffee shop crawl!
Finally managed to get a visit to the big one, Moscow. Spending less than 48 hours though did not enable me to truly understand this place. At first glance the only word that comes to my mind is… huge. Everything around you is just huge, massive, to give you the feeling you are in the presence of power and might. Ivan Drago style amped up by 100. Yet at the same I felt I was missing something, perhaps soul. Knowing I was not going to have time explore under that layer, I did the most obvious of all, hit the Red Sqaure and visit the most iconic sights the Kremlin. Again colleagues were so awesome to take me around, explain the background and history. It’s hard not to be impressed, even when driving up through Leningradsky Highway which leads directly up to the Red Square via arguably the best street walk through Tsverskya Street. You get neck ache looking up at the massive buildings surrounding you. However the best is when you cross the square marvelling at each of the towers surrounding the area of the Kremlin, peering through one of the arched doorways, you can see the Kremlin in the distance. Great photo shot for sure. Seeing the Kremlin up close does in fact look ice cream cones. Yep sure does look like a bunch of Cornetto’s huddled together. To slowly move away from the political touristy sights, Arbat Street provides a welcome relief of hip and relaxed walking with trendy restaurants and street art abound. Perhaps I will be lucky enough to visit again to explore neighbourhoods I only caught a fleeting glance of. If only to feel some soul of the city. All in all difficult not to be in awe of Moscow.
An impromptu stay to try and enjoy a German city. After being disappointed with the main points of interest in the city; namely the river promenade, decided to seek out eateries and shisha where I could redeem my stay here. After acquiring some cash as this city does not want to acknowledge electronic payments exist in this world, I managed to locate a lovely Lebanese restaurant, cool shisha place, exotic cafe, hidden gem of a place and Japanese restaurant . All of which made me forget where I was and enjoy myself (until I came to pay).
Vienna is just pretty. It’s one of those cities you can spend a weekend alone, with someone special or with friends and enjoy whatever your situation. Being the gateway to Eastern Europe, it’s a great central location to explore neighbouring countries too. Check out my city guide here.
An unusually long layover in Paris prompted me to give Paris a go, however not the usual West Side where the main points of interest are but to the East side. For both practical reasons as it was closer to the airport and wanted to have a more hip urban vibe. Check out my experience here.
Summer vibes were plentiful in Athens when I visited during peak season August and onwards. The history of this place is just fascinating and impossible to ignore wherever you go. From the Acropolis, the various temples in the city, the old neighbourhood of Kastella, port area of Piraeus, the uptown Kolonaki area, the hipster Exarchiea, there is something for everyone. I was lucky enough to stay in each area and even managed to hop on a ferry to the island of Aegina. Away from foreign tourists and staying with local Greek tourists was lovely. Exploring the island way of life and finally doing the beach experience. Beaches are not for me. I don’t get it. Laying there getting roasted, dipping in the salty water, getting sand everywhere… yeah it’s okay for an hour max. However I gave it a go and did enjoy myself. City guide of my experience will be up next year but for now fond memories and will visit again. By the way, I don’t care what anyone says, everything is the same as Turkey in terms of the food and the coffee. Order a gyros and you get a kebab. Oh how I infuriated my colleagues.
The only city in the Nordics I liked. With Oslo visited this year not even worth mentioning as it was a depressing place, Stockholm on the other hand had a mix of modern, tradition and beauty. Learn more here.
My last trip of the year was my favourite and extremely special. I took my son to Venice. The first time I have taken him abroad and the excitement on his face was an amazing way to end the year with. The whole experience was just wonderful and worth more than a summary here. Will get this posted soon and suffice to say already thinking about where to take him next year!
2020 will the be the year of going back to the countries from 2018 and I’ve selected a few places to check out outside of work trips. After travelling so much you know what you like and want, I wrote about that here. Continuing to solo travel and with others is a blessing, and can not wait to keep on exploring, with a smile. Peace&Love.