2016 has been a whirlwind year. First off, we had already done some continental exploring on our first European adventure together even before taking up residence just across the channel. Just before finding out we’d be moving to the UK, we hit up 4 metropolitan cities (Barcelona, Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam) plus a number of smaller towns…and came out the other side engaged! In almost serendipitous fashion, this allowed us to get multiple bigger, touristy cities in Europe off our list and has opened up our travel plans now that we live a short flight from many other great adventures.
Here is a glimpse at 5 of the European cities–not all a part of your average European itinerary–that we plan on visiting this year. If you have some other great destinations in mind on your own wish list, let us know!
1. Prague, Czech Republic
Prague’s medieval beauty remains as it was relatively unscathed by the ravages of WWII, especially compared to many of Europe’s other great cities, The city’s pristine charm allures any architectural history nerd like us. Plus, a (British!) friend told us that a very fun weekend in Prague can easily cost USD $100. Cheap beer and sausages? Yes please! (Reg Note: Get ready for a posh birthday weekend, Nick!)
Did you know? One thing to keep in mind is that, much like our British hosts, The Czech Republic has not joined the Euro and maintains its own currency, the Koruna.
2. Vilnius, Lithuania
Lithuania is one of those former members of the USSR that tends to be forgotten about until the last 30 seconds of the Sporcle World Map quiz. This trip is more of a ‘(personal) business’ trip rather than ‘leisure’. Reg has begun to look into obtaining Lithuanian citizenship through descent. When her mom came to visit in January, she learned that her great grandparents were born in Lithuania–not Cuba as she had thought. Because they fled due to the war, Reg is eligible for Lithuanian citizenship. Part of that though is dusting off old birth certificates, passports, and marriage licenses in the Lithuanian archives. When a flight to Vilnius is only £50, why not uncover your family’s history firsthand versus hiring a citizenship consulting agency?
Did you know? Due to it’s Jewish influence until the 20th century, Napoleon named Vilnius “The Jerusalem of the North”.
3. Lyon, France (Eastern French wine country)
If you have ever hung out with us, you know we are always game for a good bottle of wine, maybe moreso if it’s French! Perhaps it was our college’s (ahem, we mean uni’s) wine courses that started this appreciation, or our stop in Bordeaux during our trip last year, but we cannot wait to go back to the vineyards and start sipping.
Did you know? Beaujolais is the largest producer of wine in the Burgundy region, and the Côtes du Rhône appellation lies just south of Burgundy.
4. Kraków, Poland
This wasn’t originally on our list, but many of our well-traveled friends in both the US and UK have raved about Kraków! So much so we couldn’t ignore it–it has shot up our list of must-see destinations. More importantly, eating some authentic pirogies is very high on our foodie list.
Did you know? Kraków is absolutely swimming in young folks with 28 universities and over 200,000 students? No wonder it’s a hot destination for the younger crowd!
5. Athens, Greece (and beyond!)
And I (Reg) thought Athens was so passé…isn’t this year all about traveling the Baltic region?! Wrong. Athens showed up as part of the NY Times prestigious 2017 Places To Go roundup. Having visited Northern Italy in December, and Central Italy in February, it’s time to round out our history tour with Greece. While Athens will be the highlight (the Parthenon specifically although we’ve already seen a good deal of it in the British Museum), we hope to explore the romantic (and also perhaps a bit cliché) city of Santorini.
Did you know? …It’s really hard to pick out a fun fact about one of the oldest and most studies cities in the world? People have been living in Athens for over 7,000 years! So here’s a favorite story of ancient Greece: Legend has it that Chrysippus of Soli, a stoic philosopher who lived in Athens, saw a donkey eating so figs and found this so humorous he died of laughter!
Those are the top 5, but hope to add on many more (here’s looking at you, Ryanair sales!) We plan on making use of summer weekends and bank holidays to continue exploring the U.K. as well as other quick trips to the continent whenever we can spare the time and money. Everything from the Cotswolds to Cologne are on the list, and we’re excited to share more stories! Cheers to 2017!