Saturday, 1 June 2013

One Year On - The TRGTALP Review of the Year So Far...

I know I said in my last post that this blog isn't about me writing about all the places I've visited; thus, leaving many readers relying on this site as a cure for insomnia.  Nevertheless, I thought it might be nice to review my year in travel so far and, rather than blather on about all the amazing neoclassical churches I visited or the many sites of Estrucan interest I encountered, I had the idea of picking out why each place provided the makings of some top trips that you too might want to take inspiration from too...

Best Budget Destination...
It has to be a tie between Budapest and Krakow!  The food and drink in these destinations is very good value.  A three course meal in a great restaurant in Krakow with alcoholic drink 9 Euros.  Who can argue with that?!  Plus, the dessert was the best tiramisu I have ever had...and, boy, have I wolfed down some  fine Italian marscarpone sponge desserts!

Fun and frolics in the Market Square in Krakow!

Worst Budget Destination...
This does no way imply I didn't enjoy myself here (see my post 'Hej Sverige - AKA Storming Stockholm with Friends') and I would certainly recommend a trip, but Stockholm provided one of my costlier trips this year.  I was prepared for the high living costs the Swedes have, but on several occassions I was still amazed at some of the prices I saw....and paid!  Prepare your wallet for a shock.

Photo-Bombing the Gamla Stan!

Most Satisfying Tourist Attraction...
The Szechenyi Baths, in Budapest, offer a great half day of fun and frolics in a thermal spa right in the heart of the city.  I loved every minute of sampling the different indoor pools and steam rooms before heading out to bathe in the thermally-heated outdoor pools in the glow of the yellow pastel hues of this amazing building!  The underground train ride to the baths is an event in itself, offering you a train carriage made from what seems like flimsy balsa wood and a network that makes the London Underground look like something out of 'The Jetsons'!

The Szechenyi Baths in Budapest

Best Day Trip...
Horrific as it is, the tour of Auschwitz and Birkenau was just incredible.  We all know the history, but to actually stand in the same place (in gas chambers, on train platforms and in camp accommodation) as the victims of the Holocaust was a truly humbling experience and one that will stay with me for life.

The enormous collection of shoes taken from the victims at Auschwitz

Best Accommodation...
The Budapest Bubble has to take this hands down!  It may not be the flashiest hostel on the scene, but what it lacks in pizzazz, it more than makes up for in charm and a brillianty warm welcome.  Olga and Gabor run a tight ship where fun and laughter rein!  On arrival I was treated to the best welcome I have ever had in a hostel that was fueled with alcohol and some hilarious hour before I made it to my room to drop my bag.  On top of this, Olga, makes sure everyone in the hostel feels welcome (sometimes with a shot of Palinka) and almost always takes her newfound friends out on the town; showing them the best nightspots that Budapest has to offer.  What this girl doesn't know about the bars of Budapest is not worth knowing.  On top of this, she is so lovely, it is like staying with a friend in their apartment!  If you visit this fine city, stay nowhere else.  I insist!  Don't believe me?  Well, then just read the reviews...


Best Travel Experience...
The title has to go Lake Bled in Slovenia.  In one day, I visited the awesome Vintner Gorge, walked to the top of the Ožujsko Viewpoint at the edge of the lake and then swam out to the island in the middle of Lake Bled.  The holy trinity of fantastic experiences!  All of this shared with a great, fun-loving couple from Manchester.  I was their gooseberry for the day, but one very happy gooseberry!

The stunningly beautiful Lake Bled in Slovenia

Best Journey...
I don't think it can get much better than being bussed about Slovenia to Lakes Bled and Bohinj with the stunning Julian Alps as background scenery.  Even the walk back from the Vintner Gorge back to the town of Bled was breathtaking.

The walk from the Vintner Gorge back to the town of Bled...incredibly beautiful!

Biggest Surprises...
The Baltic cities were a real surprise for me.  I did a two centre trip to both Riga in Latvia and Vilnius in Lithuania, last May, and have recently returned from another double-header involving Tallinn in Estonia and Helsinki in Finland.  All of these places were an absolute joy to visit; filled with historical sights, great food, welcoming people and some of the greenest cities I have ever seen.  Flying into Riga I was stunned to find the capital is surrounded by an abundance of forested land as far as the eye can see.  It looked fantastic!  And, as a result, the food from these green and pleasant lands is some of the freshest I've ever tasted.  Although, all very similar, they were all immensely satisfying and offered some pleasant sights and surprises along the way.  One other major bonus of these destinations is that they were not too crowded with tourists; so on several occassions I would find myself sharing tourist attractions with one or two other people or having them all to myself...mwa-ha-ha-ha!

The House of the Blackheads in Riga, Latvia

Vilnius Cathedral in Lithuania

Where next, readers?  Where should my next 'Best Journey' be?  Where will I find the next 'Biggest Surprise' on my travels?  And, where will be my next 'Best Day Trip'?  I would love to hear what you think!


  1. Thats nice of you, you softie...You were our cub scout leader, Mike.

  2. You should go to Gdansk, too. It's a lovely city with an incredible old town. Recommend it for a long summer weekend!

  3. Thanks for your comment! Funny you should mention, Gdansk as I have been looking at it for later this year or next year thanks to the reasonably priced flights from Leeds and Manchester. Really fell for Poland after Krakow! :D