Today I was reading about a group of guys who’d just managed to visit 19 countries in Europe in 24 hours! While I have no ambition to do that, it has inspired me to start blogging about our grand 2014 Europe Road Trip (search for #euroroadtrip on Twitter) and add some posts about the places we visited along the way.
Over six weeks in August and September 2014, we visited more than 20 locations in 14 countries from France to Turkey and back in a tiny 2014 Renault Clio diesel hatch, driving on (for us) the wrong side of the road, dodging the crazy Italian, German and Austrian maniacs in their black BMWs and Mercedes driving at 200 km/hour and generally having a hoot of a time along the way.
This was our very first trip to Europe so we’re able to look at these destinations through fresh eyes. I won’t say we’re any kind of experts in the places we visited, but I’m very happy to share our experiences in the hope of inspiring you to do something similar. Feel free to ask questions here (see comment form below), or on Twitter or Facebook.
Our well-planned itinerary (I worked on it for six months prior to the trip) saw us starting out in France and driving over 4000 km to Turkey via southern Europe, then over 4000 km back to France through central Europe. Along the way we managed to spend time in some fantastic locations including:
- Paris, France – probably the most visited city in Europe if not in the world, but did it live up to the expectations it creates?
- Orleans, France – a superbly beautiful small city with an historic town centre and the home of Joan of Arc.
- Loches, France – a former royal fortress town in the middle of the amazing Loire Valley region and it’s incredible chateaux.
- Lyon, France – the food capital of France, if not Europe, but was it all it was cracked up to be?
- Gavirate, Italy – the beautiful lakes region of northern Italy, fringed by the Italian and Swiss Alps.
- Milan, Italy – the home of Leonardo Da Vinci and the fashion capital of Italy.
- Venice, Italy – the city of canals and romance … and more tourists than you can legally poke a stick at.
- Trieste, Italy – a beautiful port city on the eastern fringe of Italy and the gateway to Croatia and Slovenia.
- Ljubljana, Slovenia – the hidden gem of eastern Europe, a quiet, laid back but beautiful and inspiring city.
- Split, Croatia – the capital of the Dalmatia region and home to the Roman emperor Diocletian’s palace.
- Dubrovnik, Croatia – a magnificent walled city on the stunning Adriatic coast and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina – a tiny historic city but the cultural capital of Bosnia and home to another UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina – the Bosnian capital, fringed by the Dinaric Alps and strangely like a slice of Turkey in eastern Europe.
- Mala Vrbica, Serbia – a tiny village 30 minutes south of Zagreb where we experienced the best hospitality of our entire trip.
- Skopje, Macedonia – claimed as the home of Alexander the Great where we visited the Stobi Winery and an ancient Roman city called Levy.
- Thessaloniki, Greece – a famous port city north-west of Athens where we experienced the best bakery in all of Europe.
- Kavalla, Greece – a very popular Adriatic port and beach destination in eastern Macedonia, gateway to Turkey and the Adriatic islands.
- Gallipoli, Turkey – almost a pilgrimage site for Australians, where we paid our respects at Anzac Cove and Lone Pine Cemetery.
- Troy, Turkey – the fabled home of the Trojan Horse, but also a surprisingly huge Hellenic period historical site with incredible city-scale ruins.
- Selcuk, Turkey – home to the largest Roman period city outside of Rome itself and another UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Istanbul, Turkey – the exotic tourist capital of Turkey where road bridges span Asia and Europe and the Grand Bazaar beckons.
- Veliko Tarnovo – a small university city in northern Bulgaria where we experienced some of the best food and beer on our trip.
- Brasov, Romania – a small city north of the capital, Bucharest, gateway to Transylvania and fabled site of Dracula’s Castle.
- Sighisoara, Romania – the cultural and historic centre of stunning Transylvania, surrounded by Teutonic castles and home to the Saxons.
- Timisoara, Romania – cultural centre of the Banat historical region on the border of Hungary and a vying to be the “new Prague”.
- Budapest, Hungary – once the Celtic capital, divided by the Danube River and one of the most stunningly beautiful cities on our entire trip.
- Prague, Czech Republic – the historic capital of the Bohemia region and home to stunning Gothic and Renaissance architecture.
- Hanau, Germany – a small town where we stayed with friends and explored some of Germany’s quaint historic villages.
- Frankfurt, Germany – supposedly a boring financial centre, but reinventing itself as a tourist attraction by rebuilding its historic town centre.
If we haven’t lost you already, over the next few weeks I’ll be gradually posting about our experiences in each of these places and also blogging about some of the interesting (and in some cases frustrating) things that happened along the way.
You might be interested to hear how I went about planning this trip, researching where to visit and where to stay, developing a 66-page itinerary that read like a major project plan but made our 9000+ km trip so damn simple that we never tired of being “on the road”.
I’ll be blogging about how we managed to hire one car and take it all over Europe (and even outside Europe) without the usual rental car hassles.
I’ll describe some unusual encounters we had along the way like the maniac light salesman in Selcuk, the shoe brush scams in Istanbul and the incredibly bureaucratic border guards in Hungary. And I’ll be introducing you to some of the amazing people we met and stayed with along the way.
So please bookmark this page and follow @asiantraveltips on Twitter so I can notify you as I post more installments about our grand Europe Road Trip 2014.