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Category Archives:Europe

10 ways to get off the beaten track

There is an ever-present, yet largely unspoken discussion that goes on with travellers. It’s the traveller vs. tourist mentality where a tourist is there to tick a box, read the guide book and follow other tourists, and the traveller is more up for adventurous, serendipitous experiences.

While these two types of people definitely exist, I think it’s a little pretentious to think one is better than the other (and I’m definitely talking to past me in this instance). Different people are just up for different types of experiences. Regardless, if you want to get away from the crowds and create your own unique experiences, let these ideas inspire your creativity.

Hop on an early train. Return late at night.

Trains are a great way to explore. Not only is the window a gateway to a countryside you might not otherwise see, it’s an easy way to make a day trip outside of a city. I know in England, trains are not only a great way get around the island nation, but there are sooooo many little villages you could explore just by picking a stop at random. And when I spent a weekend in Copenhagen, one of those days I caught a train to Sweden. I visited 3 little towns with no plan and had a fantastic time.

Lake District hike near Windemere, UK
Lake District hike near Windemere

Ask a local like your barista or bartender where they like to hang out

When I travel I love finding cool places for coffee in the morning, and unique places for beer…later that morning. When it comes to finding places only locals know about, why not go straight to the source? Ask your order taker where they like to goof off and I have no doubt they’ll give you more than one.

Follow a local

I mean, be inconspicuous; don’t be weird about it. Just find someone that looks interesting, might be going somewhere interesting, and see where they end up.

And you know, if you really do want to up the ante, you can always still be weird about it.

Sleep in the suburbs

When you stay in a city, chances are that you won’t actually leave the city for exploration purposes unless there’s a specific reason. If you stay in the suburbs, not only will it be a bit cheaper, but you’ll likely experience the local transportation system and see a part of town you otherwise wouldn’t.

A perfect example is when I visited Amsterdam for about 4 days. I stayed about a 30-minute train ride from the city at (in my opinion) the best hostel in the world. It was set on a property near a lake which was fun to explore, and a short bike ride away was a town called Abcoude, quiet and quaint just waiting for me to explore.

Street in Abcoude, near Amsterdam, The Netherlands
A highlight of my time in Amsterdam was actually the day I didn’t even see Amsterdam

Couchsurf

I’ve personally never done this but I love the idea of it. No one is going to help you find awesome places better than a local who understands the traveller mindset. It’ll be an adventure in and of itself. You can find a couch in over 200 destinations, so even if you’re looking for a hotel in Mumbai, you have the opportunity of linking up with a local.

Hire a bike

Public transportation can be clunky and predictable, while walking can be too slow. But hiring a bike can give you the best balance between mobility and speed. We hired bikes in Miami Beach and had a blast exploring the beautiful art deco district. However, at one point we were forced to trek across sand…that wasn’t ideal.

Kynie on a bike in Miami Beach-sm

Get off a train at a station you’ve never heard of

I mentioned it briefly, but if you don’t have a plan, why not keep it that way? Go where the wind takes you. Just remember what station it what so you know where to get back?

Throw out your map and guide book

I mean, maybe don’t physically throw it out, just maybe leave it in the hotel one day and hope for the best. I still read up on places I’m visiting and maps are definitely handy, but one sure-fire way to end up somewhere you didn’t plan is to not plan to end up anywhere.

Backstreets of Copenhagen Denmark
Backstreets of Copenhagen

Eat somewhere that looks like super dodgy

Risk the food poisoning for a good story. When it’s meal time the last thing I want is hawkers trying to get me into their restaurant to have lunch. I’ve eaten my fair share of questionable foods but there was one time I actually listened to hawker. It was in Negril, Jamaica. We’d spent 2 days looking at and walking along 7 Mile Beach so this time we walked along the road behind the resorts.

As we crossed back to the beach we passed through what looked like someone’s backyard and approached a small shack with cognac bottles strewn everywhere and a few locals looking a little worse for wear. Some guy asked is we were hungry and if we wanted lunch. I was really hungry so we just said “whatever” and sat down at a wooden table. The menu was verbal only and consisted of fish, beef or chicken, which was another red flag. But it actually ended up being the best meal I had on the island.

Negril Sun Restaurant hut Jamaica-3

Travel alone

It definitely takes a certain type of person to travel on their own for an extended period of time. I spend 4 days in Copenhagen on my own and while I saw so much more than if I was with someone, I was in dire need of a conversation by the end of it because I don’t tend to meet people particularly well.

It’s also much easier to do something random when you don’t have to consider someone else’s agenda. It’ll make you more inclined to meet other people and learn from their experiences and local knowledge. This was the tale of when I became stranded in Brussels due to the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull Volcano. I met a couple of girls on a day trip to Luxembourg, I met a guy who took me around the red light district for some reason (maybe I just looked really lonely), and when the sky didn’t clear so I took a random train to Amsterdam until it did, where I met a bunch of crazy strangers at Lucky Lake Hostel.

Backroad in Brussels, belgium
A Backstreet in Brussels, Belgium

It can be really easy to stick to what we read about in books, blogs and brochures, and keep to where we are comfortable, but building unique experiences through serendipitous travel are what have created some of my best memories to date. It’s not always how I travel, but it’s always fun when I do.

What have you discovered from leaving logic behind? Let me know in the comments below.

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Walking Tours of a White Copenhagen – a photo essay

When visiting a new city alone your only friend is a map. Though a map is not great at conversation. I learnt this the embarrassing way. There are plenty of sights to see in Copenhagen in winter, which could be comfortably seen in 3 or 4 days.

But I learnt that when you have no one to bounce ideas off, or tell you when breaks are needed, you will just seem to walk all day, see everything at double speed, then be absolutely rooted by 6pm.

I ended up in Copenhagen because I had just began my semester abroad in Leeds and planned to see as much of Europe as possible in the process. After getting settled I distinctly remember saying  to my housemate who had come over from Australia within the first few days: “So, where do you want to go this weekend?”

Frederiks Church Copenhagen, Denmark
Frederiks Church

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11 Extreme examples of Expensive European Architecture

Crazy King Ludwig spent millions on a castle that he never saw finished.

It seemed like a requirement that the Hofburgs of Austria needed to one-up their ancestors when building their residence.

And the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is still being built to this day, 132 years after its inception.

I visited a lot of incredible buildings in Europe and their beauty is only matched by the amount of money these would have cost. I am not going to speculate on how much, but I’ve collated some of my favourite palaces, churches and castles that have made the shift from active use to tourist attraction.

York Minster, York

Half an hour train ride from where I used to live, in a town of only 200,000 is a marvellous example of Gothic architecture and was one of the biggest I saw across Europe. So large it was difficult to fit the whole thing in one frame due to surrounding buildings.

York Minster Abbey

Sacre Coeur, Paris

Located just out of central Paris in Montmarte is the imposing figure of the Sacre Coeur, named after the “Sacred Heart” of Jesus Christ. An exquisite church made all the more so by the imposing location up on the hill.

Sacre Ceour Paris

Il Vittoriano, Rome

Also known as the Altare Della Patrio, or in English the “Alter of the Fatherland”, the Vittoriano is a mighty building. Maybe it’s the symmetry, maybe it’s that it’s so dominant and looks down on you, but the Vittoriano was actually a standout attraction of Rome for me. Just a beautiful building

Altare Della Patrio, Il Vittoriano

Buckingham Palace, London

Home to one of the wealthiest families in the world, the House of Windsor, Buckingham Palace attracts thousands of visitors every day just to watch their guards change shift. One of the few in this list that is still a residence and not a memorial or museum.

Buckingham Palace London

St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin

In stark contrast to some cathedrals in Europe, St Patrick’s in Dublin is built on acres of space. It’s a beautiful spot within the city limits to wander the grounds or just have a rest by the fountain with a great view of the bell tower.

St Patrick's Cathedral Dublin

San Marco Basilica, Venice

In unusually tight quarters, St Mark’s Basilica stands out like nothing else. A different perspective to what you might usually see is gained up the nearby tower. Imagine having this on your doorstep?!

San Marco Venice

St Vitus Cathedral, Prague

Now if you want to talk about Cathedrals in areas so built up it’s almost impossible to fit in the entire structure into a frame, let’s talk about St Vitus Cathedral – the climax of any Prague Castle Tour. I am standing in the absolute corner of the courtyard and can only just fit it in the frame.

Prague Castle

See.. from the front, this is as much of the front facade I could fit.

St Vitus Cathedral Prague Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria

Probably the most expensive holiday home in the world, King Ludwig II of Bavaria didn’t even live to see his dream completed. If you notice any similarities to Cinderella’s Castle in Disneyland, that’s because Neuschwanstein was the inspiration for Walt Disney.

Neuschwanstein Castle Bavaria

Berliner Dom, Berlin

If my church’s name was Evangelical Supreme Parish and Collegiate Church in Berlin – I’d probably shorten it to something easy like Berliner Dom as well.

Berliner Dom, Berlin

Brussels Town Hall

The Town Hall of Brussels is a stand out of the impressive Grand Place, the centrepiece of Brussels city centre, and a location you won’t be content with seeing just once.

Brussels Town Hall

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

I couldn’t write a post on Beautiful European Architecture without including my absolute favourite, the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. I think I love this one so much because when I visited after 6 months of seeing Gothic and Renaissance cathedrals throughout Europe – as impressive as they are – I was ready for something a little more unique.

Gaudi was an artistic and architectural genius and the Sagrada Familia is just one place through the city that has his fingerprints. And after 133 years since ground was broken, it was only consecrated only in 2010 and is still being completed!

Sagrada Familia Barcelona

Now obviously I’ve left plenty out, these are just a few of my personal favourites. Which historic building across Europe has stolen your heart? Did it make this list? Let me know in the comments below.

 


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