Wednesday, September 29, 2010

In Your Eyes

I’m an Army Brat, meaning I have been traveling to Europe since I was 18 months old. The first time I saw Paris I was nine. The first time I traveled to England I was ten. Weekend trips to Austria, Switzerland and around Germany were part of our normal routine. Later, as an adult for both work and pleasure I’ve added much of the rest of Western Europe to that list of places that are often dreamt about as once-in-a-lifetime. I and my family are going back in 2011 and while there I want to explore a different part of Europe never before seen by this pair of eyes.

Before “Braveheart” few people outside of Scotland had heard of or remembered William Wallace. Somehow his story was discovered and turned in to a major film release, for a while sparking international interest in travel to Stirling at the center of the land between Glasgow and Edinburgh. I’d like to discover something like that; something few outside the local village have heard about; something National Geographic might cover if even they have caught wind of the story. And I’d like you to tell me where to go!

In Europe, that is.

Here are the options:
Norway Sweden Finland Estonia Latvia Lithuania
Portugal Hungary Romania Bulgaria Moldova Croatia
Slovenia Slovakia Macedonia Albania Malta Serbia
Bosnia Herzegovina Montenegro Belarus Ukraine Luxembourg

Having been to Europe so many times including having lived there I believe in the power of wonder and discovery through a fresh set of eyes. I don't mind the major highlights, like the fjords of Norway but the little known (by American standards) is what I'm after. How many Americans have enjoyed a Finnish sauna above the Arctic Circle, reindeer steaks and all for after? Patton is buried in Luxembourg but most Americans, if they go at all, might stop in at Normandy instead. So far the most appealing thing I've found are the Plitvice Lakes in central Croatia, terraced reservoirs of blue water laced together by waterfalls and surrounded by mountains.

At this writing the trip will take place over two weeks in June, 2011 so please consider the following when helping me choose a destination. Essentially, it cannot take too long to get to or require a lot of red tape to pass through. I’m looking for something compelling in terms of the human or personal experience as well, from an ancestral birthplace to the location of the Yalta Conference.

Here are the conditions:
1. Does not require a visa for entry
2. Can be reasonably explored within one week
3. Offers reasonable travel logistics (easy to get to/from and around)
4. Offers compelling well-known as well as long-forgotten history
5. Includes unique art, architecture, geography and gastronomy (food!)
6. Is not under a travel advisory issued by the Department of State

The survey will run until April 30, 2011. That will allow time for planning (and saving) along with one other thing I’d like to propose.

Join me! In the meantime, starting with the next post spend a month with me in Greece.

Gotta go.

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