Has it really been nine months now? Where does the time go? We’re not sure, but here’s where it went over the last 30 days…
Month 9 Stats:
- Countries visited: 5
- Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine, and Romania
- City-to-City transport segments: 17
- Trains: 7
- Boats: 0
- Busses: 10
- Miles traveled: 1,734
- Beds slept in: 16
- Breweries visited: 15
- UNESCO World Heritage sites visited: 7
Month 9 Recap:
During our last update, we wrote from beautiful Prague, Czech Republic where we had a great time visiting the old town, seeing the zoo and perhaps enjoying a few Czech pilsners too.
We then ventured over to Poland and had a nice time touring Krakow. This city has rich history, particularly when it comes to WWII. It was interesting though sometimes saddening to learn about events that have taken place here.
With all these European city stops, we had to get back to nature. So we journeyed south to the Carpathian Mountains and stayed in the town of Zakopane for a few days where we were able to pop over into neighboring Slovakia on occasion. A highlight for us in this area was gliding through the magnificent Dunajec River Gorge on a wooden raft.
We were initially planning to continue on through Slovakia and onto Romania but instead decided to venture into conflict-torn Ukraine. We are so glad we did. It was a most interesting 17 days for us. I won’t go into much detail within this update because you can read all about it in some posts I managed to publish over the last few weeks:
- Part 1: Why we went to Ukraine and arriving there
- Part 2: Is travel safe in Ukraine?
- Part 3: Why traveling to Ukraine is awesome and highlights of where we went
- Bonus: The Strangest Restaurant in the World
We finally exited Ukraine crossing over into Romania, where we’ve been roaming around the spooky and historic Transylvania region. The college town of Cluj-Napoca was our first stop, where we admired its old baroque city center, charming cafes and lovely botanical gardens.
Our stay there was short lived as we soon moved on to the fortified city of Sibiu where we strolled through its cobblestoned pedestrian streets, atop its ancient city walls and across its many open squares.
We continued on to UNESCO protected Sighişoara where we appreciated its well preserved medieval city center and did some mountain biking to the countryside to check out the fortified churches in the area.
Finally we now write to you from the wonderful town of Brasov. All of Romania has been great but each city we go to seems to get progressively better and better. Which means that Brasov may be our favorite Romanian city yet!
Month #9 Superlatives:
Favorite Large City: Prague, Czeck Republic
There’s great beer, great value, and a stunning old town. What’s not to love?
Favorite Medium City: Brasov, Romania
This very livable city in the Carpathians is as beautiful as it is clean as it is historic.
Favorite Adventure: Mountain biking through Carpathian foothills (Ukraine)
Pedaling along side the Prut River, crossing rickety bridges, through rural farmland, past barking dogs, and whizzing down fantastic single track embankments was definitely our favorite adventure of the past month.
Favorite UNESCO Site: The historic city center of Sighişoara
Favorite drink: Ukrainian vodka, straight
Although we usually regretted it the day after.
Favorite local beer: Ciechan Grand Prix IPA (Poland)
This may be one of the best IPA’s I’ve had while traveling and what a surprise to find such a treat in Poland. This India Pale Ale is made with six different hops and clocks in at 80 IBUs and 5.4% ABV. It was very well balanced with a citrusy hop kick.
John’s favorite local dish: Pierogi (Polish dumplings stuffed with cheese, meat, cabbage, or mushrooms)
I just couldn’t get enough and had at least one plateful for each day we were in Poland in which I’d lop on the sour cream and dig in.
Heather’s favorite local dish: Mushroom Nalysnyky (Ukranian stuffed pancakes)
This was a discovery by unknowingly pointing to unreadable text on a menu and accepting whatever dish arrived. In this case it was a clear winner with its locally foraged sautéed mushrooms.
Favorite local snack/appetizer: Cesnaková Polievka
This Slovakian garlic soup was like French onion soup with its croutons and cheese but sub the onion for loads of garlic! Your breath reeks for days but it’s so worth it!
Where to next (short term)?
We’ll be pausing our travels for a bit in Bucharest, Romania to recharge our batteries and to get caught up on some work we do while traveling. (Hey, someone’s gotta pay for all these travel expenses!) From there we’re off to Istanbul and we look forward to roaming around exotic Turkey for a few weeks. By our ten-month update in mid-October we are hoping to begin sailing around the Greek islands for a few days en route to Athens, where we’ll see the main sites, gorge ourselves full of Greek food and stop to attend a conference we’ve planned to go to.
Where to next (long term)?
From Greece, we’ve been at a huge crossroads. During the past several months we’ve been debating about what is “next” after Europe. And these past few weeks we’ve just been tormenting ourselves with a decision on where to go after Greece. But we’ve finally made up our minds. You see, originally our tentative plan was to roam around the world an entire year and try to make it back to the States for the holidays. The rough itinerary was to go through Central America to Colombia to Morocco to Europe to the Middle East to India to Southeast Asia to Oceania and then return home. But since we’ll still be in Greece by the end of October, that only leaves two months for the Middle East, India, Southeast Asia and Oceania. That is just ridiculous for a two-month sprint around half the globe. Two months in any one of those regions is simply not enough time.
We’ve always been prepared to lengthen or cut short our trip depending on a number of different factors (money, fun-factor, life events, etc.). Well, it was finally time to make such a decision. Perhaps we should stop traveling and save those regions for another time in our lives. Perhaps we should make a push to continue on to the Middle East and India over the holidays and wrap things up by Spring 2015. But neither of those options seemed particularly appealing to us.
Meanwhile we were invited to celebrate the marriage of some good friends of ours back in the States in November. Of course we’d love to be there, yet flights were just too expensive and it would reduce our forward momentum of making it around the world. Plus we’ve already committed to attending the conference in Athens, which ends exactly 13 days before the wedding. That means our proven travel trick of catching a repositioning cruise wouldn’t work because they typically take 14 days to cross the Atlantic, stopping along the way.
But then we saw it. It was an inexpensive 13-day sailing from Barcelona leaving the day after our conference and arriving to Florida the morning of the wedding. Bingo! So we now plan to set sail on the Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas as a fun and affordable means of transportation across the Atlantic with timing that couldn’t be more perfect. We’re excited to be stopping by the Canary Islands too along the way! We found this incredible bargain using the tactics we outlined in an earlier post on how to score such a deal.
So then we’re back in the U-S-of-A. After spending more than ten months abroad, it will really be nice to enjoy some time with friends & family and partake in some of our American indulgences like attending a football game, devouring a basket of buffalo wings (hey, don’t judge!) and seeing what delicious new craft beers have sprouted up during 2014.
So will that be the end of us roaming around the world? Hardly. It’s just the end of our prolonged second leg of this journey (our first leg, being through Central America). We won’t be staying put in the States for long. It’s just a little stopover on our continued expedition around the world. So where to next exactly? We’re still working on all those logistics but let’s just say we’re looking forward to heading west to avoid the jet lag that has plagued us periodically during our eastbound routes. And perhaps this time we’ll actually make it ‘around the world.’ 😉 Stay tuned!
-John & Heather