The economically prosperous southern side of Germany is also a land of the internationally well know German stereotypes: big men wearing Lederhosen, historical beer halls where rivers of genuine and tempting craft beer flow unceasingly, never ending lanes of colourful houses that seem to come out of a Hänse-and-Gretel fairy tale and the heaviest Baroque style churches you may find out on earth.
Greece is a spectacular country that balances perfectly its rich past and difficult present in its everyday’s life. Greeks are truly social beings. During my 15-day trip, I saw Greeks living and enjoying life to the fullest almost everywhere, even at the most difficult of times. They are passionate and their passion continues to drive their society forward despite the last sad economic turmoil.
I started my journey in Santorini, one of the most iconic Greek islands. Santorini is adorned with spectacular volcanic cliffs soaring over 300m from a sea-drowned caldera which offer some great views and spectacular landscapes. Spent a few days in Oia, a tiny hilltop white village contrasting with the indigo Aegean sea below.
Then I flew to the Greek capital. Bustling and somehow chaotic, Athens is a heady mix of ancient and modern with its city centre truly like an open-air museum dominated by the impressive and breathless Acropolis. Despite the last sad financial issues, I found Athens be a live, sophisticated, cosmopolitan and somehow stylish city.
My first trip to Prague was at the end of summer 1995. At that time, the “Velvet Revolution” and the end of the Iron Curtain freshly delivered the Czech capital back to Western Europe but you could still notice some reminiscences of the recent Communist past: the cobblestone streets near the Old Town Square were still peppered with marketplaces selling old soviet memorabilia, many historic buildings were still blackened by carbon air pollution, you could still spot a fairly good amount of automotive socialist icons like Trabant or old Skoda cars in the streets and not so many tourists yet around.
Incredibly blessed by an unusual warm sunny weather, my 6-day journey through Belgium let me fully enjoy its vibrant capital and its two most known tourist destinations: Ghent and Bruges. Though definitely highly multicultural, I found Brussels also unexpectedly shabby if not even dirty through most of the places and streets I have been to. Its gorgeous Grand Place, the Brussels’ historic centrepiece and one of the most impressive squares in the old continent, was another story anyway.
I spent two full days in Switzerland riding both famous Bernina Express and Albula red trains up and down through the amazing frozen and snowy landscapes of Upper Engadine, valley. The small red trains cross some beautiful narrow valleys, dramatic old stone railway viaducts, tiny small alpine villages, amazing glaciers and silent forests in a long and harmonious journey through this wonderland named Switzerland. I started the train journey in St. Moritz, queen of the Swiss ski resorts. St. Moritz is an incredibly expensive town (almost 4 euros for a single espresso just to give you an idea!) that has been luring celebrities plus moneyed people since the 19th century.