With 2016 being slated as the worst year in the history of time, this is a unique moment of time to reflect on. Of course there are plenty of other historically crap years arguably worse. But, between the conflict in Syria, the Refugee Crisis, ISIS, terror attacks, Brexit, Trump, the Zika virus, police shootings, and what seems like an endless stream of loss and sorrow, 2016 is at least on the shortlist of crap time. 2016 has certainly left me hoping that 2017 will be a year of a million changes, fresh starts, and happiness.
Putting the gloom behind me, I recapping my highlights and favorite places of 2016, because after all we did have some fun. In the past I often traveled with a friend to cities, and there we would get lost together and make our own itinerary of things to see. Usually accomplishing around half of our objectives, but finding that our accidental discoveries were usually our favorite memories. In 2016 I went to opposite end of the spectrum and joined the small group tour bandwagon, while also dabbling in some solo travel. It was different but definitely a good year of travel memories.
WHERE I WENT THIS YEAR
Bosnia and Herzegovina : Sarajevo, Mostar
Croatia : Dubrovnik
Hungary : Budapest
Ireland : Cork, Dublin, Galway
Montenegro : Kotor
Northern Ireland : Belfast, Giant’s Causeway
Serbia : Belgrade
Favorite Travel Memory – The Night Train
Taking the night train from Budapest to Belgrade is one of my favorite memories from my summer trip through the Balkans. Our group stayed up late, crammed in the sleeper car, sharing a luxurious $2 bottle of “train wine”. It wasn’t a stunning view or great accommodation, but it’s my favorite for this year. The toilets on the train were also quite memorable but would be more appropriate on a worst list.
Favorite City – Sarajevo
The scene was set perfectly for me to fall in love with this city as we arrived during a warm and sunny afternoon in mid-summer. Our fantastic tour guide led us to the place where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, as well as markers from the Bosnian War. Sarajevo was overflowing with historical markers from events spanning centuries. All of the interest is topped off with an amazing overlook.
Most Unique – Tito’s Bunker
You may be noticing Bosnia is a recurring face on the superlatives, which is well deserved. Our guide arranged a trip to visit the bunker, built in the former Yugoslavia to withstand a nuclear attack. Entering was not only traveling back in time, but a completely surreal time capsule. I’ve never been anywhere like it.
Best Dining – New York Café, Budapest
I must admit this is solely due to this café being the most beautiful café in the world. It’s actually known as such, and I wholeheartedly agree. The food was great, but the ambiance and presentation are what made this lunch my favorite of 2016.
Quirkiest Experience – Belgrade’s nightclub boats
When one of our travel-mates suggested we check out the night-club boats it sounded like something that would be fun, but packed with tons of tourists. The reality was quite the opposite, and our group of American, Canadian, and British stuck out ridiculously amongst the Serbs. The setting was surreal, and chandeliers swayed form the ceilings as what looked like 16 year old girls and 45 year old men huddled around their tables chain smoking and looking surly. Never has a group of tourists looked more blatantly out of place, but it set the scene for a memorable and fun evening.
Biggest Surprise – Ireland comes last
For the past few years I’ve visited Ireland at least once, choosing to start European travels from Dublin since it’s the easiest and cheapest European city for me to fly into. Over the years I’ve had really good adventures in a lot of fun cities, but usually Ireland ranks at the top when I’m reminiscing about my favorite travel times of the year. To my surprise, Ireland falls at the bottom of the list this year. It’s partially due to the solo travel I just didn’t fall in love with, and partially due to the amazing times I had in other cities. I still love Ireland, and plan to visit in 2017, so I hope that shows just how much I enjoyed the other places I visited. Also the weather.
Checking in on GOALS from 2016…Solo Travel
One of the biggest goals I set for 2016 was to take a solo trip, and I’m pleased to report that I did get out there on my own for the first time. The verdict was what I had expected, good – not great. It’s not for me, but 100% glad I tried it. I do have a few qualms with the many articles I’ve read about how women need to experience solo travel, and that you’ll have a fuller travel experience alone. I didn’t find this to be the case, and if you don’t have an interest in going alone please don’t worry that you are missing out on anything.
GOALS for 2017…Make my everyday life more adventure filled!
I love big trips, but with limited time to travel, I don’t get out there as much as I’d like. This year I’m making a resolution to take the non-travel time more exciting.