Whoa, we just can’t believe another month has already flown by. I remember writing our 7-month update from Paris and not even knowing where in the world we would be 30 days down the road. I now write to you from the Czech Republic with our 8-month update!
Month #8 Stats
Countries visited: 5 (France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic)
Miles traveled: 1,611
City-to-City Transportation Segments: 31
Beds Slept In: 18
Breweries Visited: 33
UNESCO World Heritage Sites visited: 7
8-Month Update on our Travels
We left Paris for Belgium so that we could begin indulging in some beer tourism (its a thing). The lovely town of Poperinge, which lies amidst southern Belgium’s hop fields, was our home base for our first few days in the country. Stop #1 on the agenda was the esteemed Saint Sixtus brewery renown for their Westvleteren 12, which is often cited as the best beer in the world by beer enthusiast sites & aficionados. We continued our search for the best beer in Belgium with a trip to St. Bernardus and other breweries in the area.
Then we had a short stop in beautiful canal-lined city of Bruges before stopping in Ghent, Belgium for an entire week. Our intent was to stay there to catch up on tasks we’d previously neglected and to carefully plan our remaining last few weeks in Europe. Instead there was a party in town. A big party called Ghentse Festen, which is said to be one of the largest festivals in Europe (will post more about this later). So while we still managed to get some items knocked off the to-do list, we were very distracted with revelry that lasted into the wee hours of the morning. This was probably not the best time or place to catch up on things, but we sure did have a good time!
We managed to get out of Ghent alive and move on to Belgium’s capital, Brussels. Here we admired the city’s Grand Place, saw the famous pissing boy statue, indulged in some great meals, and savored a few last Belgian brews.
By this point we only had about three weeks left on our Schengen Visa to see as much of the rest of Europe as possible. This would lead to some quick travel through Germany and beyond, which is unfortunate because we’d really like to spend for time here.
So after our two weeks in Belgium we moved onto Cologne (Köln). You may associate this city with men’s fragrances but we were here to sample the beer in which the city is known for, Kölsch. So after climbing the 533 steps up to the top of the magnificent Gothic cathedral known locally as the Dom, we had our first introduction to German beer halls.
From Cologne we moved on to Koblenz, which was where we embarked on a steamboat down the Rhine River past endless quant villages and majestic castles.
The boat ended in Mainz but we quickly left there so that we could visit the city of Heidelberg to hike and sightsee around town.
From there we then went to Europa Park, the most visited non-Disney theme park in Europe and found it to be a blast. There will be a forthcoming post on our perspective of the differences we noticed from the US theme parks we’re accustomed to. In many ways (mostly good) it was so different!
From Europa Park we spent a day in the college town of Freiburg im Breisgau, which lies on the edge of the Black Forest. Here we flew down what is claimed to be Europe’s longest scooter track and survived this thrilling descent. Freiburg was just one of those towns that really clicked with us and was a place we wished we could have stayed longer to explore more of the Black Forest.
Alas, our time in Freiburg would be cut short to visit Munich for a few days, which was not a bad trade off. Here we toured the city’s historic and cultural sites and visited its famed beer halls. In fact, we visited all 6 beer halls with active breweries in Munich, the city’s largest 3 bier gardens, and a few other beer places of interest in this great city. We took on this arduous task so that we can bring you a forthcoming blog post of Munich’s best beer spots.
With our bellies full of beer and pretzels, we needed to work off all the excess calories so we headed to the Alps and embarked on a number hikes. We based ourselves in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, where we eventually hiked up to the summit of Germany’s highest mountain, Zugspitze. (Err, well, we took cable cars part of the way.) But our climb to the summit past glaciers was a harrowing, technical trek which was a very fun and rewarding experience.
We continued hiking around the Alps but moved on to the Austrian side, first Innsbruck and then Kitzbuhel, before making our way back into Germany to hike around Berchtesgaden, which Hitler had used as a southern headquarters during WWII. Here we began to get rained-out so instead we turned to indoor activities such as touring a salt mine.
We moved on to another rainy day in Salzburg, Austria where we continued to pursue indoor activities. Did you know Red Bull’s Headquarters is around here? Once we discovered this we sought out their Hangar 7, which houses many of their stunt planes and Formula 1 cars. It turned out to be a pretty neat rainy-day attraction!
We had a quick pit stop in the city of Linz, Austria and moved along to our 21st country of this trip, the Czech Republic. Our first stop here was the beautiful cobblestone street-lined and castle-topped medieval city of Cesky Krumlov. It is here we heard about a river-rafting pub-crawl! I couldn’t envision a more suitable activity for us and will provide much more detail about this in an upcoming post.
A few hours north, we write to you from the Czech capital of Prague where we’re enjoying its Old Town, its zoo, and a even few Czech pilsners, of course!
Month #8 Superlatives
Favorite big city: (tied) Munich, Germany and Prague, Czech Republic
Favorite mid-sized city: Ghent, Belgium
Favorite small city: Popringe, Belgium
Favorite adventure: Alpine hiking in the Alps
Favorite UNESCO site: Cesky Krumlov
Favorite drink: Belgian beer
Favorite local food: Heather: Apple Strudel, John: Kasespatzle (its reminded me of good mac & cheese but with spatzle instead of mac)
Where To Next?
After Czech we’re moving on to Krakow, Poland for a quick stay. Then we head to the Tatra mountains, first on the Poland side, then on the Slovakia side where we have some hiking, mountain biking, and rafting planned if the weather cooperates.
Unfortunately we won’t be able to stay long because our Visa is expiring and so we must leave Europe’s Schengen Area. We haven’t quite figured out where we’ll be escaping to but Romania looks like it will be a promising home for us for a few weeks in August and/or September since it is nearby yet outside of the Schengen Area. At the end of October we plan to go to Greece. In between Romania and Greece we have yet to decide where we’re going to go but will likely explore Southeastern Europe and perhaps make our way to Turkey. Our plans are ever evolving so stay-tuned and see where in this crazy world we end up!
Update on the Blog
We have so much to write about yet so little time to write it. Since our last update we managed to finally get one post out about our epic camel trek in Morocco. This is just pathetic, as we yearn to put forth so much more than just a post or two per month. Maybe one of these days we’ll learn to find a good balance between traveling, working (on other projects) and keeping the blog up-to-date.
We’re hoping to stay put somewhere in Romania for a few weeks to take a break from the constant “go-go-go” pace that has been our lives over the past few months. During this time we’re really eager to finally get caught up on the many posts I have penned in my head.
We’re genuinely looking forward to sharing with you the logistics for some of our favorite European experiences such as cycling France’s Loire Valley, cruising down the River Rhine and so much more. We’ve had champagne tastes on a Budweiser budget while traveling throughout Europe and are excited to share some of our luxury-for-less tactics with you. We’re also eager to share with you information on some of the lesser-visited destinations we’ve really enjoyed in hopes of providing some travel inspiration away from the major draws of Europe. And of course you can expect some beer-related posts to come.
There is so much we want to do with this site but we simply haven’t had the time nor Internet connection during this fast pace of travel to act on it. Once we slow down again, we desperately hope to change that. So bare with us and stay tuned.
Until next time, happy travels!
-John & Heather