Heiko and Franz have been traveling for around 6 years now and have been walking across Europe on foot and without money. They traveled to each country at least once and covered a total of almost 40.000 km. During this time they were able to get to know very different places and regions. In the five categories of hospitality, cultural highlights, hiking countries, natural paradises and sedentary countries life adventurer each selected their top 3 highlights for European travel!
WWe have seen Europe's capitals of culture, as well as the loneliest areas of Scandinavia. We stayed in Scottish castles and were guests of Sinti and Roma families who lived in a small hut in Bulgaria. After all this time, Tatjana asked us to review our experiences and reflect on our favorite places in Europe. Where did we like it best? Where were we most warmly received? Where was the most beautiful place to hike? Where have we seen the most exciting things?
With all these questions in our heads and a cup of tea in hand, we traveled backwards in spirit to our start on 01.01.2014/XNUMX/XNUMX. A clear list of favorite places has emerged very quickly, which we would like to introduce to you here. In order to do justice to all places, we looked at Europe from different perspectives and selected our three favorite places for each category.
Our favorite country in terms of hospitality
As travelers who travel without money and on foot, we were always particularly dependent on the hospitality of the people. A country could be so beautiful, if the people who lived there were not friendly and helpful, it was simply a nice experience for us. Therefore, in our first category we first evaluated the basic mentality of the locals based on where we felt most comfortable and welcome. Don't get me wrong: We met friendly, warm and helpful people all over Europe, but there were some regions where the basic mentality was so pleasant and welcomingthat they dwarfed everything else.
In our eyes, France is number 3 in terms of hospitality.
We have always come to this country and even if people are often accused of being rather cool and distant, we have rarely met more warm people. What is special about France is that, unlike in most other European countries, the issues of family, enjoyment and wellbeing are still very much in the foreground. There are many older gentlemen whose children are out of the house and who therefore live in large houses with many guest rooms. When you meet them on the street, it often takes only a few words and you are not only invited, but practically adopted.
Before you know it, you sit in a cozy, rustic living room with a cup of hot tea, wear fluffy fur slippers and listen to the crackle in the fireplace. However, the best thing is to eat together, because this is still a real tent fry in France, which can easily take two to three hours with several courses. The highlight in which it culminates is usually a selection of the country's most exquisite cheeses, which you can eat together with a little fresh baguette as a delicacy.
Second place in this category for us Hungarians.
This was also surprising for us at first, because after everything we had heard about the country we were initially unsure whether it was smart to travel here at all. But after only a few hours it became clear that there was an unusual kindness and openness between the people among themselves and also towards strange strangers like us. Helping each other is a matter of course here as you hardly know it anymore. Usually it was enough to speak to someone on the street and after a short time everything we needed to stay the night was organized.
Our personal highlights include an ice cream parlor, the owner of which for over two hours called every contact he knew to find an overnight stay for us. We ourselves would have given up long ago and moved on to the next place, but he had made it his personal task and could no longer be dissuaded from it. So that we didn't get bored we got all-you-can-eat ice cream as long as we had to wait. You can say that there are definitely worse ways to spend an afternoon.
No. 1 in terms of hospitality, however, is without a doubt the small country of Slovenia.
Here there is a completely different attitude towards strangers than we know from Central Europe. As I said, you will find friendly, helpful people everywhere, but usually you have to overcome a certain skepticism and a reservation before you are recognized and accepted as a friend. In Slovenia, however, we had to make a real effort to be able to continue hiking. When you saw us somewhere, we were almost immediately invited for breakfast, lunch, a cup of coffee, or at least a home-made schnapps. The latter should be rejected as a hiker if you do not want to become an alcoholic, because once you have started it is almost impossible to stop the host again.
The big difference, however, is that when a stranger wants something from you, it is not considered a burden or a favor, but an honor. We were often thanked for choosing this house to ask for something to eat here, not the neighbors. In fact, after some time, we found that this hospitality had nothing to do with us or our way of traveling, but was a general attitude. Because Slovenia was also one of the few places where we took a vacation from the trip and shared a holiday home with Heiko's parents for a week. During this time, too, we were repeatedly invited by our neighbors, be it to try their freshly baked bread or to relax on their patio swing for a while.
Our cultural highlights for European travel
3rd place: Germany.
Yes, we could hardly believe it at first, but our own country really came third in terms of culture and sights. Because there is almost no other country in Europe where you always find unexpected places as interesting as in Germany. We have castles, monasteries, castles, preserved old sites, cathedrals and much more. Especially in Bavaria and Baden-Würtemberg there are real metropolitan areas with sights where you can hardly get out of amazement.
In this context, we can highly recommend the Jakobsweg, which runs via Nuremberg and Ulm to Lake Constance. There is something new and exciting to discover on almost every day's stage. Our personal Cultural favorites within Germany are above all Rotenburg ob der Tauber and Monschau. The latter is a small town in the north of the Eifel, the existence of which we had no idea until we accidentally stumbled into it. The special thing is that the city was built into a narrow gorge and almost directly into a waterfall. It is definitely not a place to live, but it is unique to visit.
The southern area of England comes in second place.
However, the reason for this is not so much individual cultural sights, but rather the basic mood of the country as such. With its quaint natural stone churches, the Gothic cemeteries, on which there is hardly a gravestone left, the beautifully maintained thatched roof houses and the many fortresses, castles, palaces and manors, you can feel them here again in the Middle Ages. Or to Middle-earth. Or in another magical world.
In any case, the question of how the author of Harry Potter came up with all the mystical settings, beings and stories answers all by itself. Because you don't need a lot of imagination to still believe in witches, wizards, fairies and trolls. On the contrary! If you wander through the English hinterland for a while with all the small enchanted villages and the huge noble estates, it is hard to believe that these beings should not exist.
Italy remains the undisputed No. 1 in terms of cultural highlights.
It is not for nothing that the country is considered the cradle of Europe, because the Romans left so many inheritance here that modern Italians can still rest on it. Well, not exactly. But an exciting fact is that Roman buildings still exist in Italy, are still in use today and work better than our modern ones. For example, part of Rome is still supplied with drinking water via a Roman aqueduct and there are some sections along the major coastal roads on which the cars drive today on the Roman road surface. Incidentally, bump-free, while most of the asphalt surfaces are a disaster.
But not only the Romans, but also Christianity contributed a lot to the cultural heritage here. Nowhere in Europe can you find more breathtaking cathedrals full of art and splendor than here in Italy. What is an ordinary village church here is celebrated as a unique sight in other regions of Europe. Our special favorite places in Italy include Venice (even if this is not exactly an insider tip), as well as Assisi and Monte Sant Angelo.
Our favorite hiking countries for Europe travel
In terms of the fitness for migration of the individual countries, the choice was the hardest for us. Because many factors come together here. On the one hand, you need a pleasant climate in which hiking is really fun. Then you need well-developed hiking and biking trails or at least a wide network of little-used side streets so that you don't have the traffic noise in your ears all the time. And finally, you need a population density that is high enough to regularly find suitable milestones, but low enough that there is enough space for nature, silence and loneliness.
After some deliberation, Spain comes in third place.
As part of the Way of St. James an extensive infrastructure was created. In addition, the country offers plenty of space to avoid traffic and the big cities and at the same time has enough sights to offer to make the trip interesting. The only catch is that the Camino de Santiago has become so famous that you can hardly go there in peace without constantly treading on the feet of other hikers.
This time our neighboring country Austria made it to the 2nd position
That can come up with countless mountain hiking trails as well as some perfectly developed long-distance hiking and cycling trails. Despite the Alps, it is quite easy to move around the country, for example along the Danube Cycle Path or the Euro Velo No. 7. The latter leads through the middle of the mountains, but uses the route with the lowest gradient like the Brenner motorway.
Our personal 1st place in terms of hiking paradise is the Czech Republic.
This also came as a surprise to us, since we definitely would not have expected that this country has the best developed network of cycling and hiking trails in all of Europe. But that's exactly how it is. Thanks to countless greenways and other paved bike paths, you can reach almost every point in the countrywithout having to use an ordinary road. In addition, most of the paths are cleverly laid out along rivers, forests or nature reserves, so that you can be really enjoyable and relaxed here.
Our favorite nature paradises for European travel
Sweden comes in third place here
Although we had to close our eyes a little. Because although the country is sparsely populated and has huge forest areas, there is unfortunately relatively little real nature. The reason for this is that almost the entire Swedish forest is useful forest. This means that it is felled in a cycle of around 70 years and then reforested. The success is that there are only plantation-like plants in a row, while there is no place for real, wild, rustic nature.
Yet! Sweden is a total of around 18 people per square kilometer, with its endless lake plateaus, lonely forest roads and the shallow, yet impressive mountains one of the countries in Europe that have been least destroyed by man. Unlike in Germany, Italy and Great Britain, for example, you can walk forever here without having the sound of a nearby street in your ears.
We personally particularly liked the northern area, where there are still reindeer and where the Sami, the Scandinavian natives live, There are areas the size of Switzerland in which just 0,001 people live per square kilometer and which therefore count statistically as uninhabited. So you can imagine that hiking here means something different than squeezing around 200 people on a square kilometer in front of you, for example in Italy.
Greece follows in second place.
Here, too, it is mainly the north that has done it to us. When you think of Greece, you mostly have barren islands, wide beaches, white houses and ancient temples in mind. However, the northern part of the country looks completely different and mainly consists of a dense, rugged mountain range with deep green forests and small mountain villages. The nice thing here is that this area is so sparsely populated that you can hike comfortably on the main streets without encountering a car there. This makes it easy to get to the most remote corners of the mountains and, in addition to the fascinating mountain panorama, the quaint mountain villages and the many wild springs, you can also admire an almost intact, original nature.
From a political point of view, Greece is a bit problematic and you have to expect to be checked by the police over and over again. In addition, many locals are not too good to speak to our Chancellor and like to associate this displeasure with the new arrivals, if they turn out to be of German origin. It is therefore sometimes helpful to pretend to be Austrian when someone asks.
First place in the “Natural wonder” discipline goes to Montenegro without a doubt.
The small, almost unknown country in the south of the Balkans can boast pretty much anything you can imagine among natural beauties. There are mountains, valleys, forests, rivers, natural meadows and a spectacular cliff. In addition, the Tara Canyon runs through Montenegro, which is the second largest in the world after the Grand Canyon in the United States. However, it does not offer much for nature lovers. It is more of an insider tip for canyoning, rafting, bungee jumping and rock climbing. The smaller canyons in the area and the rocky valley that you can get to if you want to go from the center to the coast are far more beautiful. In this valley there is also the Ostrog Monastery, which was not built, but rather struck directly into the rock face.
Montenegro's main attraction is its originality. Similar to Greece, you can observe animals here every day that are considered extinct or threatened in most other regions of Europe. You can cuddle with turtles, catch legless giant lizards or watch rare birds breeding. There are also badgers, foxes, wolves and bears here, although they rarely show up.
At the same time, Montenegro is one of the most varied countries on our continent in terms of landscape, Within a few kilometers you can get from a barren steppe, which is reminiscent of a prairie from the wild west, into deep forest areas or steep mountain ranges. This country is also only sparsely populated and the majority of the few inhabitants are mostly in the two largest cities. Therefore, you can hike here in peace for days, without being disturbed by civilization noise.
Our favorite places to settle down
We are not planning to, because there are still so many regions in the world that we have not yet visited. But just in case we want to settle down again one day, we always kept our eyes open for a perfect place to stay. Here, too, we have chosen a top 3:
A small mountain range in Greece lands in 3rd place.
There are some places here that are so far away from civilization that you can live here completely on your own. At the same time, however, it is still very easy to get to the next place to get groceries and other consumer goods. The people here are friendly and above all not too pushy and the view is just amazing. In addition, due to the climate, almost everything you can eat can be grown.
The number 2 in this category again belongs to Montenegro.
We have already mentioned the reasons for this. Only the political and economic situation in the country is reason enough for the country not to come first. Just like in Greece, you can also grow pretty much anything you could want. Even if you don't have your own fruit, there are tons of wild figs, plums, mulberries and other fruits that you just have to fish from the tree.
However, the place that we have chosen as the favorite, in case we should settle in Europe and settle down, is the eastern part of the French Midi-Pyrenees.
In a way, everything that you want for a place comes together here. The climate is similar to that in Greece and Montenegro and fertility is the same. In addition, the Pyrenees are one of the most beautiful mountains in France and if you withdraw a little in them, you also have many places here where you are completely undisturbed for yourself. However, you can always get in touch with the locals if you want and there are many small, pleasant villages in the area to supply yourself with what you need.
The best thing is that from here you can be at the sea in a short time, as well as on the flat plain or up in the mountains. You are so central that you can hike in all directions and land again and again. So it is a place that is made for a passionate nomad.
You want more about the two guys from life adventurer experience or support them on their journey? Excellent! What are your highlights for traveling in Europe? Maybe you are also interested in the most beautiful beaches in Europe from travel bloggers!
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