MUNICH, GERMANY – Memorability Rating: 3
Munich probably deserves a bit higher rating (if only for the delish food!) but suffice, likely a smidge of jet lag combined with abysmal wifi at a pricey hotel the first night colored my initial take on Germany. Also, I must say – after living amid the supremely warm/friendly culture of Latin America these past near three years now – I couldn’t help but detect a decidedly more stand-offishness among the folks in Munich than I’m used to here in Ecuador. Far more nuance to share in a separate Munich TL post, but for now, let’s just say that I love the Bavarian food and (more memorable if sobering) I’m grateful for the chance to finally pay my respects at the Dachau WWII concentration camp memorial.
HALLSTATT, AUSTRIA – Memorability Rating: 4
Truly magical. Took no less than a bus + train + ferry ride to get there from Salzburg, but trust that I shan’t soon forget the bliss of peering at that uber-charming village as we ferried across the lake at dusk. Unfortunately, my (foolish) lack of pre-booked accommodation proved a pricey mistake ($150 for the LAST room within 25 miles of Hallstatt!), plus by day 2 the village seemed a tad Disneylandish to me. Indeed, more in a future TL post on the plethora of Asian tourists that abounded there – due no doubt to the fact that China is so rabidly enamored with Hallstatt, they apparently have built an exact replica of it – in CHINA!
SALZBURG, AUSTRIA – Memorability Rating: 3
Granted, but a single night/day there, so was able to skim only the thinnest veneer of a no doubt grand European city. It was also about this time (after Munich) that I became convinced that “cities” per se aren’t my favorite cuppa tea in my travels (they all seem to be similar but for a few outstanding sights) and are especially challenging to navigate with but a night or two to explore. As it was, I was enchanted with two things in Salzburg: the bountiful “locks” bridge (I added my own!) plus an incredible dessert “cremeschnitte” that I savored in a tiny pastry shop. Mozart? Um, notsomuch.
LAKE BLED, SLOVENIA – Memorability Rating: 4
Though sadly my photos didn’t turn out quite as well as the many beauties on Flickr, in reality, it truly is a gem of a tranquil spot on the globe. Better yet, I spent a full 3 nights/4 days there in my own tiny apartment with rooftop terrace just a short stroll to the lake.
LJUBLJANNA, SLOVENIA – Memorability Rating: 5+++!
Just 2 nights/3 days there (and one of them, the only day in 44 that it rained) and yet – I fell utterly in LOVE with Slovenia and Ljubljanna in particular. The warmest people, the town, enchanting. Oh my yes, I could definitely see myself teaching EFL in Slovenia for a spell.
MOTOVUN, CROATIA – Memorability Rating: 5+++!
Goodness but Motovun might even deserve an extra “+” or two. This tiny haven (an ancient walled-village with a population of less than 600 perched high on a hilltop) not only offers amazing views over the surrounding Istrian countryside (dotted with vineyards and woods filled with TRUFFLES), but its narrow cobbled lanes are verily oozing Old World charm. That I was also able to actually take part in a truffle hunt with 3 incredible truffle-sniffing dogs – oh my, it truly doesn’t get much better than that for a traveler!
PLITVICE LAKES, CROATIA – Memorability Rating: 4
Somewhat surprisingly, not a 5 but a solid 4. No doubt about it, definitely a most uniquely beautiful spot and worth a visit on any Croatia itinerary (I can still recall the perpetual trickling sound of a bazillion large and small waterfalls). But… what can I say? Personally, I can’t give it a 5 given that I’m lucky enough to be from the (U.S.) Pacific Northwest – where waterfalls are ubiquitous.
ZADAR, CROATIA – Memorability Rating: 4
Though I never would have expected Zadar to equate in memorability with the legendary Plitvice Lakes, this little corner of Croatia surprised me. I honestly wasn’t expecting much here save for the legendary “Sea Organ” and the “Sun Salutation” (both of which are truly amazing!) But more so – Zadar turned out to be among my favorite places on my Croatia itinerary. Not only was the waterfront a pure delight (and I found two geocaches there), but I rendezvoused with a lad from Cuenca (one of my EFL students, now teaching French in a small town near Zegreb, the capital of Croatia), and the hostel we stayed at turned out to be one of the most remarkable ever.
SPLIT, CROATIA – Memorability Rating: 1
Um yep, Split gets but a 1 in my memorable book. Granted I spent just a single night there, but on the surface, that seemed more than plenty. While (as some websites claim) Split is allegedly “known for its beaches and the fortress-like complex at its center, Diocletian’s Palace…” – my hostel was within steps of the latter palace and… suffice unfortunately, both the waterfront and the entry into the Diocletian complex are verily BURIED in a plethora of trash and tacky souvenir shops. In short, I snapped a bunch of pics of the palace, then high-tailed it out of there early the next morning and headed by bus to…
MOSTAR, BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA – Memorability Rating: 3.5
Definitely worth the side-trip from Split, even if the border crossing (both out of Croatia and into Bosnia) took more than an hour each – both ways. My hostel there proved especially comfy, the famous “Stari Most” bridge truly photogenic, and I had one of my favorite dinners (of all traditional eats) there for less than $9.
DUBROVNIK, CROATIA – Memorability Rating: 3
Why not a 4 or a 5, you may ask? Sorry, but compared to many other spots on the globe that I’ve been lucky enough to visit – imho Dubrovnik is a good bit over-hyped. The city itself, quite attractive, and the views from the famous walls, very pretty. But… what can I say? Perhaps if I’d stuck around and visited some of the islands (though I’m not much of a beach person so that honestly didn’t interest me). Curiously I later met another traveler who felt the same way about Dubrovnik – disappointing. In short, Dubrovnik must be a “YMMV” kind of place.
KOTOR, MONTENEGRO – Memorability Rating: 4
Truly worth a night or two, Kotor is loaded with charm and incredible photo ops. Then again, by day 2, after taking a lovely boat trip to a couple of small islands in Kotor Bay and the nearby village of Perast, suddenly Kotor (even with fewer crowds in the “shoulder” season) seemed so clogged with tourists, it (much like Hallstatt in Austria) felt very Disneylandesque.
LEPETANE, MONTENEGRO – Memorability Rating: 6!!!
Tiny Lepetane breaks my upper “memorable” limit. If I could give it a 7 or an 8 imo, it wouldn’t be too many. In a word: pure B.L.I.S.S. Perhaps not for everyone as there’s precious little to do in this bitty lakeside village. But suffice for this (then) travel-weary-after-nearly-a-month-moving-through-6-countries travelnlass, it was just what the doctor ordered. Many more details to come on why, if you ever find yourself in Montenegro you should head straight to Lepetane.
Note also regarding Montenegro – I originally planned a day trip at most to that fair country. But instead, upon finding the wondrous “Apartments Akuku” – that Montenegro “day trip” turned into *6* nights in that spectacularly beautiful land (1 in Kotor, 4 in Lepetane and 1 in the capital, Podgrica as a launch pad for flying to Istanbul).
ISTANBUL, TURKEY – Memorability Rating: 5+++!
Another resounding uber-5! Indeed, THIS is truly an incredible city and my new bff city on the Planet. Furthermore, I spied many private English schools scattered about Istanbul, and wouldn’t mind at all spending a year teaching EFL there so that I could more earnestly explore such an amazing country.
CAPPADOCIA, TURKEY – Memorability Rating: 5+++!
No surprise that Cappadocia would also be among my outstanding favorites – the fairy chimney landscape is truly like no other on the Planet. And my balloon ride at dawn above them – priceless. Stay tuned for boatloads of pics as well as video from that once-in-a-lifetime experience.
PAMUKKALE, TURKEY – Memorability Rating: 4
Nothing there but those luscious brilliantly aqua and white travertine hot-spring terraces, but definitely worth a 1 night visit. A most unique and beautiful spot on the globe.
EPHESUS, TURKEY – Memorability Rating: 3
Among the most impressive ancient ruins I’ve seen in all my travels (including Mayan, Angkor Wat, etc.). Would be a 4 but I honestly have only a short attention-span when it comes to architecture (both ancient and modern) and much prefer serendipitous stray interactions with the local folk in my travels. Which is why… the highlight of my visit to Ephesus was – departing with a new, adopted FROG! (obviously, full details of how that came to be in a future TL post)
IZMIR, TURKEY – Memorability Rating: 2.5
Izmir was never meant to be anything more than a stop-over on my quest to fly to Athens for my American Airline standby flight homeward. Nonetheless, I made the best of my 2 nights there – discovered a most lovely cafe set along the blue Aegean (with perhaps the best dessert I’ve ever had) plus enjoyed a 2nd Turkish bath experience (can one ever have too many?).
ATHENS, GREECE – Memorability Rating: 2.5
Athens really shouldn’t even be in the ratings as I long ago visited Greece in depth (Athens, Corfu, Santorini, Crete) with my (then) two young (age 8 and 11) daughters, and thus only spent a single night there on this trip before flying homeward. I also was understandably travel-weary by the time I landed there after 40+ days on the Trail. But I must say – my Athens hostel turned out to be among my favorites, and from what little I saw amid the night-time streets of Athens, Greece could well do with an updated explore. Oh and… I managed to once again enjoy a Greek treat that I’ve been dreaming about for decades: thick, Thick, THICK yogurt, smothered in honey!