Since getting back from Europe I cant help but look at the pictures a begin planning a few little trips. We went from Brussels to Brussels in a loop visiting, Paris, Avignon, Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome, Bari, Athens, Hanioti, Istanbul, Sofia, Bucharest, Budapest, Salzberg, Vienna, Munich, Prague, Krakow, Berlin and Amsterdam along the way. I had such an incredible time and have some really great memories and stories to tell. I just wanted to share a few pictures and stories as I will forever be talking about this trip and so a little background info will not go a miss.
This was possibly the most ridiculous trip to Paris. We had just been to Brussels and were on our way to Avignon in the south of France but had about 6 or 7 hours between our trains as we had to change in Paris. So we decided to make the most of it and had a whistle stop tour of Paris. After a hours trek to put our bags in the other train station we headed for the Eiffel tower for a bit of tourist action. I decided that as it was Andy's first time in Paris the tower would not do and that we must go and climb the Sacre-Coeur and see the whole of Paris. Armed with a tube map and the general direction I was surprised to find the right place. Andy was in no mood to hike up a bunch of stairs in the heat but I made him and it was worth it. This is me taking in our 5 minutes at the top before our rush for the train to the south.
The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul
No trip to Turkey is complete without a bit of haggling for 'Junk you don't need' as one man put it, in the bazaars. The grand bazaar was actually amazing we ended up spending all of our money on bits a bobs. It was so much fun bartering for random treasures and some of the lines they pulled were hilarious, 'Chicken and chips....I mean fish a chips' what an opening line. I bought a shesha pipe, a recorder, a Gypsy lamp, a bunch of t-shits, some scarfs and soo much more. Got a ridiculous amount of bargains but didn't actually think about the fact we would have to carry them the rest of the way around Europe. Also didn't think about the fact then when I got home my lamp would have a European adapter.
Lykavittos Hill and The Chapel of Agious Giorgious
Athens was one of my favourite places on the trip but it was by far the hottest. We had managed to get delayed on our ferry from Italy due to bad planning and a national holiday so to fit everything in we had to use all of our time effectively. This meant hiking up to the top of the acropolis in midday heat (and nearly dying in the process) and then racing up the Lykavittos Hill to try and catch the sunset and get an amazing view over Athens (in flip flops and with no drink because of our amazing organisational skills). This was the view when we did make it to the top and it was amazing. There is a beautiful white church on the top of the hill and at night it lights up and looks like heaven from the streets below. This was one of my favourite city views on the whole trip and definitely worth the thirsty flip flop hike!
After Athens we wanted to go a visit a friend who was working out in Hanioti at a resort. We got a train to Thessonaliki and then after about an hour of searching boarded a random bus and then a further bus and hoped for the best. Amazingly enough we managed to get off in the right town an hour later but with only our hotel name and our backpacks had to try and find out where to go. Luckily a lady we found spoke amazing English and pointed us in the right direction. When we got there, the hotel was really nice and there was lots of families on holiday (we must of looked a mess rocking up in travel clothes with massive backpacks) but it was a fun expedition. We met our friend later that night for a beach party which was really cool. This is me in my big backpack hiking in the Greece wilderness to our 'Hilltop' hotel. I genuinely hated this hill hike ha ha.
Lunch in Istanbul
How cute is this?! We wanted to grab a cheap bit of lunch in Istanbul and came across this cute little place. Carpets on the walls, seats on the floor and this wonderful Turkish woman making yummy crepes. Mine was filled with cheese and tasted soo good. I loved the culture of the places that we visited, and eating with the locals was all part of the experiences. Later this night we partied Turkish style!
So we took a number of overnight trains on this trip to save travelling the days but they always ended up to be a complete adventure/nightmare. The first one we took from Thessonaliki to Istanbul we got turfed off the train in our pyjamas at silly o'clock in the morning to clamber across train tracks and buy visas to enter while our passports were held ransom. We genuinely did not know what was going on as it was shack in the middle of nowhere with a little man wearing a stripey top selling the visas. It turned out to be genuine but it was a little freaky at the time (especially with all the stray dogs around agghh) The second one from Istanbul to Sofia wasn't so bad but again early morning boarder controls were jokes and Andy possibly experienced temporary brain damage as a bed fell down onto his head (It was pure comedy and one of many injuries he picked up along the way). The final one was probably the best though. We were going from Bucharest to Budapest and were put in a cabin with 4 Romanians and one had a child (a very big child). Only one of them could speak broken English. There was no air con and it was possibly one of the hottest days of the trip. We ended up spending most of the night in the cabin next door with an equally random group of people. There was a Greek man who was in his 70's, a Turkish/Iranian man in his 70's, a guy from Peru in his 30's an American girl in her 20's and me and my boyfriend. We drank beer, ate sandwiches and spoke all night. Random trip but sums up my travelling experience.
I have so many photos and so many stories that I could continue this post forever but I will stop now, and post more at another time. People in England seriously underestimate Europe and always dream about far away holidays, but I honestly can say its my favourite place ever. You don't have to go far to see soo many different cultures and the continent is just steeped in history. If you ever get the chance to go backpacking here, take it and love it, because it is the most amazing thing I have ever done.