Sunday, August 20, 2017

EuroTrip Recap

Prior to going into a short recap of my last three weeks, I would like to begin by offering a genuine and heartfelt thank you to my mother and my best friend.  Had it not been for their company at both the beginning and end of this journey, I may very well have cut it short or perhaps never gone at all.  It’s your family and friends that you turn to in rough times and I cannot thank them enough for their support.  I can’t say I always enjoyed myself over the past few weeks, but this has almost certainly been the most rewarding trip of my life.  I am in a drastically better state of mind than when I originally arrived in Europe three weeks ago.  

I think it’s fair to say I encountered a few surprises along the way.  It was a trip designed for two that turned into a predominantly solo affair.  I began with some fantastic photos in Iceland, but ended with only a single photo from Norway and none from Ireland.  And my favorite stop wasn’t even a part of my itinerary until a few days before I arrived.

Below is an updated list ranking all of the countries I have visited from first to worst.  I have provided explanations for the placements of each of the four countries I visited on this trip.  Please see my world recap from a few years ago for a more detailed explanation on some of the other countries.  Also, please note that the countries are ranked based on the specific destinations I visited.  So countries where I’ve spent a lot of time will naturally tend to be ranked higher than countries where I’ve only spent a few days.

  1. Japan
  2. Italy
  3. Norway - An astoundingly beautiful country with some of the best hiking in the world.  It isn’t as well-rounded as the top two entries (its cities and historical sites leave something to be desired), but the natural scenery alone should be enough to put this country near the top of everyone’s must-visit list.  Indonesia probably had more varied landscapes than Norway, but the dilapidated state of the infrastructure in Indonesia is enough of a headache to keep it below this European gem.
  4. Indonesia
  5. New Zealand
  6. United States of America
  7. Australia
  8. China
  9. Chile
  10. Iceland - Iceland presents some of the most unique landscapes to be found anywhere in the world.  The rest of the top entries bring more to the table (better infrastructure, more variety, etc), but Iceland is a pretty solid choice to round out the top ten.  I might have even been tempted to rank it a bit higher if the cost of eating wasn’t so preposterously high.  
  11. Germany
  12. Myanmar (Burma)
  13. Greece
  14. India
  15. Ecuador
  16. Cambodia
  17. Nepal
  18. Peru
  19. England
  20. Turkey
  21. Thailand
  22. Brazil
  23. Argentina
  24. Austria
  25. Vatican City
  26. Canada
  27. United Arab Emirates
  28. France
  29. Denmark - Copenhagen was a fun and interesting city.  However, in doing my research I didn’t see much of a draw for many other parts of the country.  So my ranking basically comes down to how Copenhagen compares with other capital cities and I don’t think I could justify putting it ahead of Paris.
  30. Czech Republic
  31. South Korea
  32. Ireland - I had a great time going out at night in Dublin.  However, there’s little in the way of other significant tourism draws.
  33. Mexico
  34. Bolivia
  35. Malaysia
  36. Uruguay
  37. Philippines
  38. Romania
  39. Taiwan
  40. The Netherlands
  41. Singapore
  42. Vietnam
  43. Hungary
  44. Bulgaria

Returning to Reykjavik - Dublin to Allentown - August 19

Today I finally made my way back to Allentown.  I had a stopover in Reykjavik on the way and when entering the airport it struck me that I was in a considerably better place at this point than when I had originally landed at the same airport just a few weeks prior.  A lot has changed in three weeks and I’m looking forward to returning home and getting back to the real world.

King of the Castle - Malahide - August 18

After spending the day within the city limits yesterday, we decided to take a short trip to Malahide to check out a castle.  The tour of the castle was pretty interesting and the castle is small, but impressive.

At night it was back to the pubs to finish off my last night overseas.

Brilliant! - Dublin - August 17

Today we did a bit of touring around the city.  We stopped at Trinity College to take a look at the Book of Kells, made a couple stops at different churches, and checked out Dublin Castle.

Later in the day we took a tour of the Guinness Brewery, which was a surprisingly extensive look into the history of the world-renowned company that concluded in a bar with a panoramic view of the city.  Later in the night we took a tour of the National Leprechaun Museum, which provided a pleasant diversion.

Destination: Jameson - Oslo to Dublin - August 16

Today I said a sweet goodbye to Norway.  I think this country may end up holding a special place in my heart.  I entered it lost and broken only to emerge out the otherside with a renewed sense of vigor and optimism.  If I was to offer but one piece of travel advice after this latest trip it would be a rather simple one: visit Norway.  There are few places on earth that can match the majesty of these landscapes.  Hike, kayak, cruise, bike, or just rent a car and drive.  No matter what you choose I can almost guarantee you will not be disappointed.

But alas, my time in Norway has now come to an end and I’ve moved onto Dublin.  My first stop was naturally the Jameson Distillery followed by a pub crawl.  A little different from the rest of my trip, but I reckon I could enjoy myself here.

I Scream, You Scream - Oslo - August 15

Today was my main touring day in Oslo.  I managed to get around to most of the places in the downtown area, but the National Gallery and the National Museum of Architecture are where I decided to spend the majority of my time.  The National Gallery puts on an impressive display of work from Norwegian artists as well as other famous painters from around the world.  The main room in the museum is dedicated to the work of Edvard Munch and the centerpiece is, of course, The Scream.  

The National Architecture Museum was a small, but interesting look at Scandinavian architecture over the past century.  Here’s a quote from the museum that I found particularly inspiring: “Drawings, models and texts are manifestations of possibilities.  They are visualizations of worlds that have been, are, might have been, or might yet become.”

Farewell to the Norwegian Mountains - Gjendesheim to Oslo - August 14

I’m all finished up with my Norwegian hiking and today I set off for Oslo.  The drive wasn’t as memorable as some of my other trips, but overall I’ve found driving in Norway goes by incredibly quickly.  A four or five hour drive typically felt like a quick run across town because of the incredible scenery that surrounded me at every turn.

After arriving in Oslo I took some time to stroll along the waterfront, which is home to a very unique opera house (doesn’t quite match Sydney’s, but it’s certainly different).  I then took it easy in the evening and tried to get caught up on all of these blog posts.