Europe is a tough continent to travel. Especially visitors from overseas are often surprised and sometimes overwhelmed by Europe’s diversity in cultures and climates and the distances in Europe are only relatively small. Expecting a compact, more or less uniform continent, they find themselves stressed on time and confused by the little differences that can make life on the road difficult when hopping across borders. Europe can be tough on budgets, too, but I already devoted a few posts to this topic – see here.
So what makes Europe such an attractive continent to travel in? First of all, of course, the history and culture. Europe’s museums, galleries and historical cities are like nothing else in the world. It is also a relatively easy and safe place to travel, with police in almost all countries being a reliable, friendly force and excellent public transport throughout most of the continent. Also, the geographic location of Europe and the quality of indoor attractions make Europe attractive in every season.
My Eurotrip is taking me over 10 years already. After I moved to Europe, I’ve travelled quite extensively around Europe. Not that I need to leave the Netherlands for great travelling, as these pictures clearly show:
Of course, living in the Netherlands, with excellent connections to pretty much everywhere, makes it quite easy to travel. But I still haven’t visited even half of Europe’s countries! Not that it is my goal, but I still was surprised when I did the counting. Nevertheless, I consider myself quite a seasoned traveller. Having written about splitting Europe into bite-sized travel regions, I found myself thinking – how would I plan my Eurotrip if I went now, with all the knowledge I gained over the years?
Based on years of experience, I would firstly say that while Europe has a lot to offer in the winter, I’d definitely go in the summer, as May to September have the best weather and travel is just so much more fun when the sun is out. Personally, I’d go in May and June – July and August are rather sweaty and many places can and will get crowded. The water in the seas and lakes is much warmer later in the summer, so if you’re a swimming fan, take it into consideration. September may easily be the best month to travel in Europe, but autumn might take an early turn to the worse – the odds are just so much better in May-June. Also, for a full Eurotrip I’d take at least two full months to explore Europe’s best. To me it makes no sense going all the way from Asia or America for just two or three weeks of quick, unsatisfying dashes across borders and between cities.
So where would I go? If I would be coming from North America, I would surely make a stopover in Iceland first – or, if I plan to be leaving Europe to North America after my Eurotrip, I’d reserve a few days for this beautiful island at the end. Then I’d go to London. The British Empire where the sun never used to set is long gone but its spirit is alive and well in the greatest Imperial Capital in the world. From London its a smooth ride on the Eurostar train to the continent, where I’d take the connecting train from Brussels to Maastricht, to spend some time in the rolling hills of Limburg. If I had the time and money for an extra week, I’d spend it all in Amsterdam (yes, a whole week and its not too long by any standard). Within 2 hours ride from Maastricht are about a dozen airports – one of them will surely have a cheap flight to Barcelona, for a week of R&R in the sun (probably much needed after 3 weeks in North-Western Europe in May). From here, I’d fly out to Switzerland (or, if budget is limited, to Italy or Austria), spend a week in the mountain valley of my choice, and take a train across the Alps to Vienna, from where I’d wind down the Donau, city-hopping the Central European capitals sitting on this great river. I’d end up in Belgrade, and take the spectacular train ride to the coast of Montenegro, to celebrate the summer with the crowds. If I could find a good connection, I would fly out to Georgia and eat my way through the Caucasus, or go back to Belgrade and take the long train journey to Kiev. Of course, if I’d be in Georgia, I’d take the opportunity to board the ferry to Odessa (its only 60 hours). Yes, Ukraine is in an unrest, but hell – this is where European history is being made as you sit on your behind reading this! Finally, tired as I would be from all this travelling, I’d settle in a small Baltic country for a week, allow myself to catch some breath and sort out the amazing pictures I would surely have gathered in these weeks.
The best part is – I have already done most of these things. And so can you. Perhaps not in one summer, but then again why rush? I feel very privileged to have been able to travel that much, and have absolutely no intention to stop. Hope my suggestions can inspire you as well.