As a former immigrant who has lived and worked in the EU, I have made my personal opinions about Brexit very clear. However, this post isn’t going to be a political tirade. As much as I want to Bremoan about today’s triggering of Article 50, I’m looking for a silver lining.
We all know there’s a lot of crap happening in the world at the moment. And it’s making everyone very, very angry (myself included). I’m not going to give in to complacency, neither am I going to rile against democracy, nor am I going to pretend that it’s all OK.
Instead, I’m going to go looking for the Europe I want to be a part of.
You give me a countdown of two years until my home country will leave the EU? That sounds like a challenge to me. A challenge to see every country in the EU while I can still travel there visa-free and as a proud EU citizen.
A last chance to meet the people and places that we’re leaving behind, and bid them farewell before… well, before everything changes (and we still don’t exactly know how it will change, do we?).
So, I say to you, Article 50, challenge accepted! Now, let’s get started planning the itinerary.
Who’s with me?
This place means nothing to me. Ohhhhh, except Vienna!
I visited Austria roughly 17 years ago. I fondly remember playing in the snow, falling on my arse a lot learning to ski and drinking a crazy amount of hot chocolate.
Let’s gaze up at the Alps, the stunning Baroque architecture of The Belvedere in Vienna and contemplate at the still waters of Lake Constance.
Of course, no pre-Brexit EU road trip would be complete without a trip to the EU headquarters in Brussels. I’ve actually been to Belgium twice already, once with family and once with school. Although, the land of beer and chocolate is one I am very happy to return to.
Growing up with Great Uncle Bulgaria from The Wombles and watching the Child Catcher snatch kids in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang‘s homonymous Vulgaria, it took a long time to convince myself that Bulgaria is a real place.
However, now I’m a little more geographically aware, I desperately want to visit Sofia, Varna, the Black Sea and the blue Danube. Plus, Bulgaria is also known as one of the cheapest destinations in Europe and that’s good news for someone who wants to squeeze 28 countries into two years.
I’ve been pining after the picturesque coastal cities and gorgeous beaches of Croatia for a long time now. I stupidly turned down the chance of a trip there last September (however, I chose to stay in Italy for an extra week instead, so it was still a win).
I just love the names of the cities: Dubrovnik, Zagreb, Hvar, Split. Oh, OK, maybe not Split. That name is just unfortunate.
As beautiful as Aiya Napa looks, I may have to bypass it in case I bump into the cast of Geordie Shore. But I wouldn’t want to miss the rest of the beautiful island. Let’s mix up perfect beach days with archaeological exploration in the ruins of ancient tombs and palaces.
6. Czech Republic
Ornate castles, excellent beer and an epic history. Czech Republic, I’m there. And I’m not going until I take a selfie in front of Prague’s iconic Astronomical Clock. Then I’m going to make a game of dodging all the stag party groups visiting the city.
We have to go to Copenhagen and see the statue of Han Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. I also want to learn me some Viking history and finally understand the hype behind hygge – the ‘Danish way of living’ that everyone keeps talking about.
Yes, some more forests, lakes, churches, castles, hilltop fortresses and general prettiness, please. I feel like this is less of a pre-Brexit road trip and more of a delve into the world of fairy tale. I look at photos of Tallinn like, is this from an Enid Blyton book?
Finland , Finland , Finland,
The country where I want to be,
Pony trekking or camping or just watching TV.
Aside from having an excuse to crack out this corker of a tune by Monty Python, I also just really want to visit Finland. A place where Santa would happily live, where you can see the Northern Lights and really, just escape into natural beauty.
You’re so near to Russia,
so far away from Japan,
Quite a long way from Cairo,
lots of miles from Vietnam.
Disclaimer: I’ve been to Paris and I didn’t like it. Far from the romantic ‘City of Lights’ or bohemian ‘Moulin Rouge’ aesthetic I expected, Paris was dirty and that includes the men (I was groped on two separate occasions over two days). Hardly the city of love.
However, Nice was nice and j’adore parler en francais (badly), so let’s go to Versailles, Cannes, Bordeaux, Champagne, Loire Valley… (am I just naming wines? Woops!).
Those who know me know how much I talk about how I want to live in Berlin, even though I’ve never even been to Germany. So much history, so much natural wonder, so much delicious Bavarian food! Ich bin ein Berliner!
Does my visit to Greece count if I only went to Corfu and did nothing but eat feta cheese and olives? On my next trip to Greece, I won’t leave until I’ve seen the Acropolis, the Parthenon and Santorini. And eaten some more feta because that was delicious.
Is it possible to go to Hungary and not make a joke about being hungry? I’m willing to make the trip just to find out! Before Budapest was George Ezra’s hidden treasure chest, I wanted to visit the city, dip in the thermal baths and see the beautiful Danube river.
Also, I hear they have really good food. Just the thought of it is making me really… stop it.
My one and only trip over to Ireland was a relaxing lake stay in Galway, complete with Irish cooking classes (aka eating all the bread). However, I can put to rest the rumours that Ed Sheeran’s song about his Galway Girl is sadly not about me, contrary to social media hype.
Let’s drink a Guinness in Dublin, take in the epic Cliffs of Moher, kiss the Blarney Stone and wrap our tongues around a few words of Irish, or perhaps a cheeky limerick.
So, I may have spent a little bit of time in Italy already (I total it up to just under a year), but, mio dio, I just keep coming back for more. Rolling my Rs over the passionate Italian language or simply drooling all over the counter at a gelateria, Italia has a piece of my heart. I will never be able to get enough of this country.
Oh, and this is a picture of my dream Vespa. Her name is Rizzo. Just saying.
I have to admit that Latvia is one of those countries that I only remember exists once a year when the Eurovision Song Contest is on. I’ve no idea really what’s there. However, my Googling tells me that I should really find out! Sea, lakes, woods and a stunning capital city, Riga. There’s a good start.
Another Baltic state that I tend to get mixed up with the others and enjoy pronouncing in a mock-Eurovision-presenter’s accent (sorry!) is Lithuania. What is here, Internet? The city of Vilnius, the Curonian Spit National Park? Thank you, Wikipedia, I needed that nudge in the right direction. All the more reason to explore and learn.
Oh my god, it’s so tiny, isn’t it adorable? And even more of an excuse to get lost in another European fairy tale: medieval castles, dramatic natural scenery, hills blanketed in evergreen forest and most importantly, wine.
Did you know that Luxembourg is ranked as a global leader in wine consumption? Sounds like my kind of place.
I curse myself for living in Sicily for three months and not hopping over to Malta while I was there. This stunning little island has some spectacular sunset views. Beaches, villages and laid-back people make Malta sound like a great place to come and unwind.
20. The Netherlands
You may remember my trip to the Netherlands last Christmas, where I stayed in the Hague and visited Amsterdam, but managed to see nothing. Well, I think it’s high time I went back and did it properly! I just won’t make the mistake of innocently walking into a ‘coffee shop’ actually looking for coffee.
Krakow, Warsaw, Gdansk. These places have been on my list for years. Visitors tell me their expectations are exceeded every time they go there. The local history is important, the towns and cities are beautiful and the food is super-cheap and super-tasty.
Porto’s riverside ambiance, historic Sintra-Vila and those cute yellow trams that glide over the cobbled streets of Lisbon. Yep, Portugal is firmly on my list of places to visit asap.
Go and Google “Romania Landscapes” right now. Do it and you won’t be disappointed. The city of Bucharest, more castles, the beautiful painted monasteries and wildlife watching around the Danube delta. Yes, please.
Don’t judge me, but I tend to get Slovakia and Slovenia confused. Which one has Lake Bled? Not Slovakia, OK. Then Slovakia must be home to Bratislava, the High Tatrus, stunning national parks and endless rolling valleys.
So, Slovenia is the one with Lake Bled, am I right? Yay! Of course, it’s also home to much more. Burrows of caverns and caves to explore, capital city Ljubljana (and I say that how?), mountains and a whole load of places to try out adventure sports.
Where to begin? Barcelona, Madrid, the Alhambra, La Sagrada Familia, Valencia, Cordoba, Seville… to be honest I just like saying the words. Let’s crack out the Enrique Iglesias and perfect our Spanish lisps over a few bowls of tapas, per favor.
The harbour city of Stockholm, more access to the Northern Lights, the festive reindeer of Lapland and even more Viking stuff for me to geek over. Camping, hiking (or, more likely, sauna in a cabin). Plus, I hear they have really good taste in furniture.
28. The United Kingdom
Of course, the trip has to begin and end somewhere. So where better to explore and learn about than what lies on home soil? The triggering of article 50 affects a lot more than just England and London.
Now is the time to see Scotland (you know, just in case they become independent while we’re away on our trip), Wales and Northern Ireland. Perhaps then we’d get a better understanding of why we think so differently in different parts of the country and appreciate what we have.
Article 50 and Brexit
Like it or not, we’re going to need each other these next two years to come up with a Brexit plan (yes, how is that plan going, by the way?) and execute it well. Then, we’ll need to work together to help the UK prosper post-Brexit.
That’s the kind of Europe I want to be a part of.