Maybe Trips to Tiny Nations
I’ve got a really long list of places I want to go, but some of the smaller nations around Europe are high up on that list. I’ve been fascinated by these little countries since I first learned they existed back in sixth grade. Perhaps it has something to do with coming from a giant state in a giant country, but the idea of an entire country that you could feasibly walk across in a day, or even a few hours (depending on the country), really intrigues me.
I remember our trip to Italy, back in 2007 (?), when my mom and I took an afternoon to see the Vatican City. Literally an afternoon, because that’s all the time you need to see the teeny tiny country that is only 0.2 square miles. As I’ve been thinking about trips to take this semester, I’ve been thinking about Malta. How cool would that be, to take a trip to a beautiful island in the Mediterranean that is its own country? And just this morning, I took the Buzzfeed quiz: What European Country Do You Actually Belong In? (Side note: even I am not immune to these stupid things. For example, I have recently learned that my hidden talent is science, complete with a description of myself as “half perfectionist, half spaz.”) Apparently, I should be in Monaco, the second-smallest country in Europe and in the world. And I’ve often thought about taking a trip to Andorra. Not quite as small as the others, it would still make for an awesome trip – hiking, anyone? Or I could go hiking in and around San Marino, equally fascinating and also squished inside a giant neighbor.
I think my fascination with these micro-nations is that I have short vacations while I’m here. When you’ve only got a three-day weekend to go on vacation, you can’t pretend to see the entire country of Germany or France. Hell, you can’t even pretend to see their entire capital cities. But a tiny city-state, one which is smaller than the city I live in back in the bay, could be reasonably explored in a single weekend. My favorite thing to do while on vacation is just to wander. I love taking my keys and my camera and a little bit of money, tucking my map in my back pocket, and getting lost. Only when you put the map away and wander without a purpose that you can find the best adventures. You wander into truly residential areas, passing kids playing on the porch (Istanbul) and random but gorgeous doors (Krakow).
You can get coffee where the locals get coffee and you get to see a more “normal,” less “touristy” part of the city. The problem with this is that it is hard to both wander the city and see what you’re “supposed” to see. This happened to me in Berlin, when I spent every day wondering what I should do – what I “should” do, or what I wanted to do (wander).
I’ve got a list of potential destinations for the rest of this semester that stretches from here to Timbuktu. Not literally, since all my potential destinations are in Europe, but it could happen, right?
I want to visit Ostrava and Plzen.
Leaving the Czech Republic, I want to visit Vienna, Austria and Bratislava, Slovakia.
All of these are potentially day trips, or two day trips. Obviously, I can’t really get to know the culture of any of these cities in a day or two, but I really wanted to get to know Czech culture, hence I live in Prague.
And I want to go further! See more! Travel all around Europe and see as much of the continent as I possibly can!
I want to visit “traditional” European places I haven’t seen yet – Paris or Barcelona.
But I also want to see smaller, less obvious destinations, like a weekend to Florence with a day trip to Siena to visit a friend.
I want to see the glory of spring time in the Tunnel of Love in Ukraine and the Tulip Fields in Amsterdam.
I really want to go to Croatia, to Plitvice National Park, and spent a night outdoors.
I want to visit Andorra and Malta and Monaco and San Marino.
But there’s that pesky little thing called a calendar. And those frustrating things called classes. And all those realities that limit me. I’ve got slightly less than three months left (let’s not talk about that…). Three weekends for my class in Prague, one weekend already booked with a ski trip to Slovakia. That leaves me with six weekends that could potentially be used for travel, and my last weekend to stay for sure in the city.
This is where you come in. I’d be happy with literally any destination on this list, and any combination thereof. So I need you to help me out. I think I want to travel for four of the six weekends left, so you have four votes. No promises I follow your suggestions (for example, I will not go to Paris, Barcelona, AND Florence – I will probably only go to one. Similarly, I won’t travel to Amsterdam if it costs ten times as much as Croatia, nor visa versa.) But I do promise to take the final poll suggestions into account. You have three days; I’ll publish the results of the poll and start planning my trip(s) on Friday, but you’ll have to keep checking back to find out where I end up.
The results are in: By popular demand, my four trips should be Malta, Florence, Vienna, and Paris. No promises that those are the places I actually end up, but if you want to find out, you’ll have to come back, I suppose. I will admit, however, to three of these places being at the top of my personal list, so I think it is safe to say that these are probable destinations!