The more of the world you see, the more places you fall in love with. There are places made for having a great time, no matter what. Others stir a certain emotion in you, be that happy, sad or anything in between. And then, some make you feel at home from the moment you arrive.
I’m one of those people who always have difficulty when asked to name a favourite place. While many can go on that list, a special few made me loved them for one reason or another.
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Paris will always be a part of me. It was the first place I travelled to on my own for an adventure and a bit of self-discovery. Even before I got there, Paris had left a mark on my soul. This place has always intrigued me through books, movies and history. Seeing it was like a dream come true, only better.
Paris, much like a pricey courtesan, is naughty, refined and sophisticated. While it will mesmerize you with its charm, history and culture, it has the power to steal your heart, take your money and leave you wanting more. That is why many came here seeking fame and fortune, time and time again. I don’t think you can be bored here. Ever.
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London’s long and seedy past makes this place one of mystery, intrigue and chance. This is where Jack the Ripper terrorized the streets, Henry VIII overturned the country’s religion for the woman he loved, and the Black Plague wiped out almost half the city. It is the home of master sleuth Sherlock Holmes, the workplace of James Bond, a secret agent, and probably one of the most popular settings for historical romances.
I loved everything about London. Visiting the places and streets I’ve read about was almost an unreal experience. Many things about the city felt familiar even though I’d never been here before. Part of that was thanks to movies, another to the dedicated writers that made London come alive in their stories. Even my own time there felt like a chapter of a book, and one that I will hope to write more pages to sometime soon.
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From the myths of Romulus and Remus, and the Trajan hero Aeneas, Rome is a city that has seen it all. It’s a place that has gone through many transformations. While Augustus famously found the city in clay and left it in marble, Nero burnt it down to make space for his vision. Then the church stripped the Roman marble and used it to create symbols of the Catholic fate.
The Romans build their vast empire from this very spot, conquering the world around them. Then came the popes, wielding the Catholic church’s power over Europe from their seats in the Vatican for centuries. There is a reason why they say all the roads lead to Rome. Yours will, too, so why fight it? You’ll discover pieces of history everywhere around you.
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Athens is like a distinguished professor that had her prime in a different lifetime. Once revered for her power, wisdom and influence, she is now a thing of the past. Like the Greek empire’s remnant glory, she stands proudly and stoically, outshined by the popularity of nearby islands.
You need to appreciate her past, understand her role in a different lifetime and accept all that comes with it. When you do that, you’ll see into her soul and glimpse a piece of the past that goes back 7,000 years. Athens will wait till you come to her and be ready for you when you get there.
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Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro is full of contradictions. She doesn’t need you to fix, change or judge her to appreciate her. While she is a lady of a royal lineage, Rio has made her own way in the world, adding layers to her tapestry. Besides her inner struggles, Rio is a breathtaking beauty with views that will make you speechless. The ocean, the mountains and the jungle are all-natural elements that make this place such a powerful fusion.
While reminiscent of her Portuguese past, she is influenced by French architecture and infused with vibrant and varied flavours of Brazil. You will never fully understand Rio. The culture, the divide between the rich and the poor, the violence. These are all parts of an internal struggle. Put that aside, and you will get another side of Rio, which she will choose to share with you.
Iceland is like a quiet, fascinating and alluring neighbour that you have a crush on. Sometimes perceived as remote and mysterious, in reality, it is intriguing and jaw-droppingly beautiful. I’ve been fascinated with Iceland since the moment I saw a very touristy video so many years ago. Something about it called to me, beckoning me to come and discover more.
It was that temptation that brought me there in the first place, and Iceland didn’t disappoint. There are many sides to her, each as different as can be. Sometimes the not-so-obvious things are the ones that are the most fascinating. The more I go, the more I want to go back. Iceland got me. Hook, line and sinker.
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Once the playground of the Medici family, Florence beckons you with art, culture and history. As the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, the city showcases its heritage well. Once a wealthy banking centre, Florentine bankers financed much of the development across Europe, the papacy and many English monarchs. Wealth and power went hand in hand. With that came influence, and Florence played it well.
Today, Florence is still dazzling visitors with galleries, architecture, art and culture. Much like a matronly grand-aunt who can tell stories of the past and show you the treasures she has stored in her attic. I knew I would like Florence. What surprised me was that I loved it immediately.
Munich is steeped in Bavarian tradition. Initially home to the Benedictine monks, it then served as the seat of Bavarian kings for centuries. Here you’ll find gorgeous architecture from centuries past, world-famous beer halls and ties to a dark past. The city was heavily damaged during the war and was rebuilt meticulously, preserving the old city grid. What can I say? I’m a sucker for history.
Munich is a bit like an eccentric cousin whose past isn’t discussed in polite company. Many not-so-secret family secrets are floating about him, but he’s now a reformed man. It plays the role and shows off well, much to the delight of many that flock there each year. Whether you’re there for Oktoberfest or to enjoy the city, beer is an essential part of this experience. So, drink up!
Croatia is like a smooth, sexy and exciting foreign exchange student. Known by many names, speaks numerous languages and has had many masters. You are drawn to the past, charmed by the culture, food and spectacular scenery. After all, who doesn’t like a combination like that?
I haven’t seen as much of Croatia as I would have like to – hello, Split, anyone? – but there is always next time. I’ve walked the medieval walls of Dubrovnik and have enjoyed the laid-back style of Zagreb. Either way, you really can’t go wrong with a place like this. There is so much more to Croatia, and I can’t wait to discover more of its secrets.
Berlin is a survivor. Once battered, scarred and ripped apart, it still stands strong. The scars are there, worn like a badge of honour, ever-present reminders of the past. It’s one of those places that welcomes you and lets you be—a stark contrast to the years gone by.
We had a great time here. There isn’t as much of the old architecture here as in other European cities, but what is left is truly amazing. Today, Berlin seems to be going back to its Weimar Republic’s roots, bringing back its role as the cultural and creative centre of Europe. After all, who doesn’t love a good comeback story?
Bringing it all together
I seem to go to Europe a lot. These places would make a great European itinerary for anyone wanting to go there for an extended time.
There are many places in the world that I enjoy. I mean, let’s be honest, I could write something about each place I’ve been to, but that would be a very long post. I guess that’s the beauty of having a travel blog – there is no shortage of content inspiration. I also can’t wait to visit more places that will make me love them too.