Isn’t travel funny? Well not funny haha, but more about what it does to you as a person.
Every year I nearly exhaust myself while trying to decide on a destination to travel to for that year. Sadly I’m not in a position to travel more regularly. Believe me it takes a while to make a decision as I want to go everywhere.
I pour over thousands of photo’s and read hundreds of articles on the internet and decide on what I want to see and do. Yes, for a first time traveler to a particular country it’s always the famous sights that you go for, but when you reflect when you get back it’s always the little things you remember most fondly.
I know people who find the Travel channel quite sufficient to sate their wanderlust. I, for one, am not one of those people, I yearn for the experiences, for the taste of the food and the smiles of the people and the buzz of the big cities.
So here’s my list of some of the things that made a destination memorable for me, besides the usual famous sights of course. And this, right here, is what the Travel channel lacks and what I need like air in my lungs.
- Walking the quiet streets of Burano Island in Venice, Italy. Away from the throngs of tourists that Italy is famous for. The pleasure of hearing Italian spoken by old ladies in their doorways and young children playing in the streets will stay with me forever. Or strolling the quiet, narrow streets of the tiny town of Assisi with a delicious lemon Gelato like only the Italians are able to make.
2. Drinking a giant stein of beer in the famous Hofbrauhaus beer hall in Munich while chatting amicably to an old German gentleman who comes to this rowdy, noisy and very full beer hall every single day for his one stein. For the uninitiated, a stein is 1 litre of beer! You simply join a table full of strangers and enjoy your beer.
3. Eating copious amounts of the most delicious cabbage rolls on a dinner cruise in Budapest, Hungary. Yes the sight of the illuminated Hungarian Parliament building was surely one to behold, but those cabbage rolls will stay with me forever and will always be Budapest.
4. Meeting the most incredibly funny local guide in Prague, Andre, who had me in stitches in this beautiful city. He was such a funny and amiable man that what I remember the most is having the absolute best time walking the streets of Prague and how my visit was enhanced by this man. He had anecdotes and funny stories for everything, I was giggling constantly while in his company. Oh and he gave me extra pork on a cruise of the Vltava river, that’s me done!
5. Trying to get away from the maddening crowds in Salzburg, Austria, I headed in the opposite direction from everyone else. I found the quietest street café and enjoyed the local Stiegl beer. What bliss, watching the world go by, listening to many different dialects and just relaxing and in no hurry. Incredible! I remembering phoning my mom back in South Africa at that time, it was surreal.
5. Meeting this wonderful couple on their honeymoon in Zanzibar, from South Africa too. They had literally been married for like 3 days. We had a really fun day together exploring Stone Town and had lunch on top of a four storey building overlooking the bustling Zanzibar harbor. We had just gotten off a boat, walked up four flights of very narrow wooden stairs and had to wash our feet of sea sand before enjoying a delicious lunch with three local musicians serenading just the three of us!
6. The staff at the Zurich Hotel restaurant in Istanbul, Turkey. They made me feel like family and when I arrived for a meal they would bring me an Efes Turkish beer without me asking. They also always gave me a fruit platter for dessert for free after every meal. Sitting out on the street watching Istanbul pass you by is incredibly memorable. One word of advice, don’t drink Raki (the national aniseed liquor in Turkey) accompanied with wine. Bad idea!
7. After what felt to me like the hottest day of my life, 38 degrees Celsius, to sit by this hotel pool in Pamukkale, Turkey at the end of the day was incredible in so many ways. The gentle breeze coming off the hill behind the hotel, rustling the trees and providing much needed coolness. The absolutely iciest cold beer, even though it was almost three times more expensive that anywhere else in Turkey, really hit the spot.
I have so many of these wonderful memories that will keep me going for years and years, but I still want more. And yes, I do realize that a lot of memories revolve around food. I’m a foodie and eating local food is so much part of the experience for me (as is the beer!).
So, on to the next one. This year I’m off to explore Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Looking forward to making new memories and meeting people from all over the world and the food, oh the food.
Until next time….
“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home” – James Michener