My last trip around Europe was probably the most exciting vacation of my life. It was one of those vacations when you spend a week away and you feel like it has been a month. Unlike your expectations, you get this feeling when you simply do not have time to get bored. Every minute counts and every activity is attractive. I visited four different countries, but I feel like I have not even started yet. Every European country has its own culture and traditions, styles, architecture, attractions and people, so there is always room for a next trip.
I began my venture in Romania. I went through Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia and Greece too. I have only visited specific parts of each of these countries, but it was definitely worth. Macedonia was quite small, so I did not even stop though.
Hanging around Romania
(Photo credits: exceswater)
Romania is not like the countries in western Europe. While it lacks modernity, people respect all kinds of traditions. There is one aspect that puts Romania before other European countries though – luxury cars. I have never seen so many luxury cars in a country, especially a developing one. While I have visited plenty of churches and ruins, Tismana Monastery was the one that seriously convinced me about the beauty of these places.
(Photo credits: Catalin Valeanu)
You take an old unpaved street from the main road, somewhere in southwest, close to Targu-Jiu. It is a dead end, but this is where the monastery is. The parking area is large and can accommodate dozens of cars. From that point on, you go through some large gates, then you have to walk for around 200 yards on a causeway. The monastery is white. It also has some accommodation for tourists and the locals. Everything else around it is colorful, starting with the green lawns and ending with the numerous flowers. You can almost feel the religious pressure in the air. You can find a cemetery on site as well, not to mention about a beautiful yard and a small boutique for souvenirs.
Bulgaria – The land of churches
(Photo credits: Uta Naumann)
Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, surprised me with numerous attractions; there are dozens of churches out there. Once you get to the Monument to 1300 Years of Bulgaria, you end up standing in front of it and just admiring it breathlessly. The monument is close to Sofia, in Shumen. It is erected on a wide plateau. It was established in 1981, 1300 years after the first Bulgarian empire was created. The Cubist style is exquisite, while its size makes it unique in the world. Believe it or not, you can see it from almost 20 miles away.
Serbia – Going back to time
(Photo credits: Ingrid Nelson)
If visiting Belgrade, the Kalemegdan complex is one of the first things you should reach to. There are plenty of old monuments and buildings in there, as well as recreational areas and a lot of history that dates back to the Roman domination. The complex spreads over 50 hectares and includes six areas – Dunavsku Padinu, Savsku Padinu, Donji Grad, Gornji Grad, Mali Kalemegdan and Veliki Kalemegdan. It takes pages to describe this place in words and hours or maybe even days to pay attention to every attraction, but then, it is clearly worth some appreciation.
Greece – Exploring the heaven
My experience in these three European countries was immediately forgotten once I have managed to get to Greece. Everything changes in Greece. You can almost smell the sea, since most of it is surrounded by waters. The roads are smooth, so you can ride any car without worrying that you might leave parts of it in a pothole. I have visited two different places. First, I’ve been to Thessaloniki. This is one of Greece’s largest cities. Its architecture is unique in the world. It looks crowded, but it is not. Almost every building has terraces, since it looks like Greeks do love to relax.
(Photo credits: Charis Avramidis).
All in all, the White Tower is one of the main symbols of this wide city. It was erected half a millennium ago. It was a fort close to the sea, only to become a prison. Today, it hosts a museum, while its top floors provide some views and landscapes that you cannot find elsewhere. No visit to this beautiful city can be complete without setting up the camera to take a picture of you in front of this tower.
(Photo credits: Fan of Greece)
From that point on, I drove around 60 miles to my final destination. I have driven down to Halkidiki, which is a peninsula covered in numerous resorts and places to relax. It is hard to tell what the best attraction on this peninsula is because every small town has a unique style. Just when you believe that nothing else can surprise you, you end up in a completely unique place. So instead of just going to a few major attractions, visit the entire Halkidiki.
Kriopigi is a little new, so the beach is wild. It is covered in stones, as well as plenty of vegetation close to the beach. Kallithea is exquisite and looks just like in those heavenly pictures you find on wallpaper websites. The sand is white and clear, while you can go into the water and walk for 50 yards. The water barely gets to your chest. You swim along with fish, while the water is so clear that you can still see your feet. One mile further, you run into Afitos, which provides some amazing landscapes, narrowed and paved streets. Every municipality is unique, so I do recommend visiting one per day, especially if you spend more days in Halkidiki.