The Lourve by night
We hit off our travels in Paris, renting a 15sqm studio in the center for 5 weeks. We watched the most amazing fireworks on Bastille day, ate a ton of croissants and picnic-ed by the Seine a la Parisienne.
Sunflower fields in Provence
After our stint in Paris, we packed our bags and took a TGV train to Provence to see lavender fields and sunflower fields for my 29th birthday. We spent 10 days driving around France and visited the Alpine villages and cities like Dijon and Lyon. We also had a bit too much fun kayaking down the Ardeche Gorge with a Gopro camera strapped to us.
Château de Chambord in the Loire Valley
Next, we ambitiously tried to cover all the the chateaux in the Loire Valley on 2 wheels and ended up pretty lost on the first day on our cycle tour. In the end we made it and cycled a total of 160km in 4 days and I had some pretty lean thighs and a fine tan to show off for it.
Prague’s baroque architecture
Our next destination was Prague where we ate delicious Vietnamese pho of all things and walked across the Charles bridge, amongst other things.
The Parliament building by night in Budapest
A 7 hour train ride took us to Budapest where we saw one of the most impressive architectures and soaked like kings and queens in the famous Turkish baths.
The streets of Vienna in summer
Vienna totally surprised us and became our favourite city especially after a night out listening to the live sounds of Elektro guzzi with its hip locals.
View of Lake Bled from above
We then hopped on the Austrian OBB train system (the best trains! with free wifi!) to Bled in Slovenia, one of the most breathtaking places we’ve seen. We cycled around Lake Bled, tasted the local specialty of Blejska Kremna Rezina cake and explored the massive Skocjan Caves.
Dubrovnik’s beach and city walls
We finally saw the sea after 2 months and what better place to soak up the sun and sea than in Rovinj, Croatia.
We cruised down the Adriatic coast via ferries and catamarans and found ourselves beached out in the islands and coastal towns of Split, Hvar, Korcula and finally Dubrovnik, where we also saw the top secret filming of The Game of Thrones going on, behind very top security of course.
Mostar’s iconic bridge
Our one night in Mostar, Bosnia blew us away with its recent oppressive history and deserted bullet ridden buildings, yet retaining its beauty all the same. In Sarajevo we met the incredibly friendly Bosnian pro tennis player Jasmina Tinjic who helped us find our way around when we were lost.
The famous sunset over Oia in Santorini
24 hours later we found ourselves on another long ferry ride out to the Greek island, Santorini. As touristy as it was, it is without a doubt the most naturally beautiful places we’ve laid eyes on. We watched the sunset every single night at different spots and each sunset never failed to wow us.
The Acropolis in Athens
Athens was our transit in and out of the Greek islands but we managed to see the Acropolis and eat enough Greek souvlakis to last us a lifetime.
Turkish delights in every flavour sold in Istanbul
From Athens we boarded a low cost carrier to Istanbul where we spent 4 nights taking in the sights and sounds of this bustling city. I got tricked into paying 10Lira for the infamous Turkish ice cream (expensive by my standards), befriended a charming Turkish couple who treated us to the best of Turkish hospitality and heard gunfire in our dodgy neighborhood which left us a bit scarred but unscathed nonetheless.
The travertines or ‘cotton castle’ in Pamukkale
Undeterred by our bumpy introduction to Turkey, we traveled south where we walked amongst the ruins of Ephesus, soaked our feet in the Pamukkale travertines and lazed on the beach in the hippy Butterfly Valley along the coast.
A hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia
We took an overnight bus to the surreal region of Cappadocia to see the fairy chimneys and our imaginations were stretched beyond our human limits. Bizzare and kinky are just some of the words that come close to describing the landscape we saw. We also took our first hot air balloon ride at dawn and it was nothing short of amazing.
Malta’s beautiful sandstone buildings
Malta was a complete change of scenery with the heat, humidity and laidback vibe of its people. The language especially baffled us and sounded like a mix of Italian and Arabic.
Facing Lake Como in the town of Bellagio
From Malta, we flew to Milan so we could gape at the stylish locals strutting the streets in designer ware. After Milan we took a ferry around Lake Como where George Clooney apparently owns a villa.
View of Vernazza from one of our hikes
We arrived in the town of Vernazza of Cinque Terre after dark only to find out that a thunderstorm had cut all power supply to the town and no restaurants were open. We went to bed hungry but Cinque Terre redeemed itself with its natural beauty, quaint fishing villages and outstanding walks.
Cycling in the town of Lucca
The region of Tuscany in Italy was our highlight as we cycled on top of the city walls of Lucca, joined the throng of tourists posing with the leaning tower of Pisa and drove for days in the Tuscan countryside amongst rolling hills, cypress trees and medieval hilltop villages.
Tomatoes of every shape and size in Bologna
We did detour to Bologna in search of the best spaghetti bolognese but instead got captivated by the charming red buildings that this city is known for.
Perugia in Umbria, Italy
Perugia was the only city in the region of Umbria that we visited and it left a good impression on us in spite of the short time we were there.
Positano in the Amalfi Coast
The coast beckoned us again and we made our way further south to the Amalfi coast where we found ourselves clutching onto our seats as the buses did their harrowing hairpin turns at the edge of steep coastal drop offs. No sweat for these experienced bus drivers though and after a few rides we found ourselves relaxed enough to take in the gorgeous views.
All that great weather of the Italian coast and stuffing ourselves with great pasta and gelato got us thinking that too much of a good thing eventually becomes a bad thing so we braced ourselves for the freezing temperatures of Northern Germany and made our way to Hamburg.
St Paulli Fischmarkt in Hamburg
The medieval town of Rothenburg
We toured Rothenburg by night with the town’s night watchman and walked in the most stunning woods in Heidelberg.
Colmar’s half timber buildings
After one too many bratwursts (German fried sausages) we took a break and crossed the border to Strasbourg and Colmar in France where the christmas markets were abuzz and the medieval towns were postcard pretty.
The Stadtbibliotek (library) in Stuttgart
Back in Germany, the Mercedes museum in Stuttgart impressed us with its modern architecture and ease of visit and the BMW showroom in Munich sure matched our expectations of sleek design and price.
The town of Salzburg
Salzburg greeted us with gorgeous sunny weather, as well as a host of Mozart and Sound of Music paraphernalia.
Innsbruck and the Austrian Alps
A short train ride away, Innsbruck was a dreamy picture with dustings of snow on the Austrian mountains towering over its town. It was a gratifying feeling to know that Innsbruck was our last stop before heading to Switzerland to be with family for Christmas, our “reward” for making it.
Our lone travels for the year have come to an end and our lives have been so enriched by our experiences and the people we’ve met. The next leg will be equally if not more exciting as we explore more new places and ways of travel.