Chapter 11: Eastern Europe Overview

Trip Start May 10, 2006
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Trip End Dec 17, 2006


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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

So my Eastern Europe holiday has come to an end. :( I'm definately sad to be leaving as it was a great experience. I met lots of wonderful people and saw some cool places. Almost all the countries were affected by communism and several had been through recent wars with the break-up of Yugoslavia. It was interesting to see how things have changed post-communism and how countries were moving on post-war. Sarajevo was probably the best example. You can read the previous entries if you want more details.

My favorite things about Eastern Europe would have to be the cheap prices and the beautiful women (I could go on for ages about how pretty they are...and there are so many!). People were nice to me almost everywhere. Some cool old town areas as well. My least favorite thing would probably be the food. There's so much greasey, fatty stuff. Well, at least when you're trying to eat cheaply (I could eat healthy if I paid more). The only saving grace was the shobska salad (tomatoes, cucumber, feta cheese, onion, peppers). Oh, and the Europeans smoke too much. Blecgh!

From the beginning of my trip in the Greek Islands I met quite a few fun people to hang out with. The trend continued for several weeks through Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania. Usually I just meet some cool people now and then, but I was fortunate to be meeting good folks at nearly every stop. It's so much better traveling and having people to hang out with (especially in the evenings for dinner and/or drinks). Once into Macedonia things went back to the usual, mostly due to there not being hostels to stay in (renting a room in someone's house doesn't allow you to meet fellow travellers). It was when I found places with good hostels that I met fun new people (Budva, Sarajevo, Revfulop, Krakow, Slovenia, Split). The problem is that I meet these people, become friends then have to say goodbye. I was happy to get to visit a few of the people I met (Johanna, Penny & Alex, Charley) in their hometowns. I wish I had a teleporter so I could instantly transport myself anywhere in the world and visit everyone. It would be nice to live somewhere and have all my friends there. As it is, I don't know when (or if) I'll see many of the people again. :(

OK, on to some of my favorite places from the trip. I don't know if I should categorize or just blab. I'll just try to go in chronological order and mention places that were good.
- Santorini is picturesque and just what most people envision when they think of the Greek Islands (white buildings with blue ocean). The beaches tended to be rocky, but the rocks were small enough that it wasn't bad. The island has an alright nightlife when you went into town.
- Ios has nice beaches and a party atmosphere in town.
- Ephesus is amazing for well preserved (or restored) Greek ruins.
- Olympos on the south coast of Turkey is probably one of the highlights of the whole trip. I'm sure that was as much to do with the place itself as having a good group of people to hang out with there. Great place to chill-out on the beach by day and party at night. Cheap too.
- The scenery of Cappadocia in central Turkey is simply amazing. A surreal place that has to be seen. Staying in rooms carved into rocks was cool too (literally).
- Sozopol on the Black Sea in Bulgaria is a nice beach town, if a bit touristy. Cool bars on the beach and cheap drinks!
- Transylvania and Brasov are cool. All of Transylvania is hilly and scenic. Brasov has a really cute old town area. Friendly people running the hostel there made it a good experience, plus met some other nice folks.
- I liked Plovdiv, Bulgaria, a lot but that was probably more due to the people there than the town itself. The couple running the hostel were some of the nicest anywhere and I met some good travelers.
- Budva was probably also a highlight due to the people I met there. The beach is nice but was way overcrowded. The city has a well-preseved old town. Nearby Kotor is quite cool as well.
- Sarajevo has an amazing vibe to the town. After all it's been through recently, the people are still positive and looking to the future. A great place to hang out for a few days. It really should be experienced.
- Budapest is pretty. Some great architecture there. Reminds me a bit of Prague.
- Vienna is like architecture paradise. There's so much history there. Also good to catch up with my friend, Johanna.
- Prague....beautiful, but too touristy. It gets a mention 'cuz of the great architecture.
- Cesky Krumlov is a great place to chill-out and has a good nightlife. Luckily, Josh and I got a day of good weather for canoeing on the river.
- Krakow is another really cool place. A pretty central square, lots of churches, somewhat recent history (WWII), good nightlife, lots of pretty girls.
- The Julian Alps in Slovenia have some of the prettiest outdoor scenery I've ever seen. Beautiful mountains, lakes and rivers. Lovely and not too expensive.
- All over Croatia were some cool old towns: Zadar, Split, Dubrovnik. Split gets extra honors for being a good place to go out and I met fun people there as well. Plitvice Nat'l Park in Croatia was also very pretty.

One of the questions I get asked the most is how do I afford to travel for so long. It's called working for 7 years and saving. It's really not too expensive traveling around Eastern Europe. Considering at home I'd be paying about $25/day in rent plus whatever for eating, it might almost be close to my cost while traveling (not counting transport). Problem is I have no positive income. Damn. Gotta figure out some way to make this work...

Well, there you have it. Europe is still my favorite continent. I'd love to be able to live and work there, though probably in Western Europe. Somewhere along the Mediterranean - like southern France or Spain. Though it would kind of suck to move somewhere and not know anyone. UK's appeal would be having friends there, speaking the language and cheap flights all over Europe. It's drawbacks are crappy weather, expense and a culture not so different from the US. Eh, I'll see what happens in Australia first. Perhaps living in Europe is a possibility for the future.

"there is freedom within, there is freedom without
try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
there's a battle ahead, many battles are lost
but you'll never see the end of the road
while you're traveling with me
hey now, hey now
don't dream it's over"

--- "don't dream it's over", Crowded House
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