Europe is one of my most favorite places to travel to! especially in the summertime. And, since I am USA bound this summer and won’t be traveling back, I wanted to dedicate a whole post to the love and appreciation I feel for this continent that I called “home” for most of my life.
I know that I am super biased and I will fully admit to it too (hey, there’s no shame in admitting your weaknesses!). I’ve spent the last 7 years in USA but grew up in Romania. And will forever be grateful for it. My 20s were very well spent in learning and traveling every chance I got around Europe. I also spent one year living in Austria. From early on, even without realizing it, I was culturally immersed in the rich, multifaceted European cultural identity and its lifestyle. This shaped me in more ways than I count and made me appreciate healthy, nourishing foods, cultural and ethnic diversity and nurtured a love for traveling that is still going strong.
You see, Europe is really not that big. To this date, I have visited Hungary, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Croatia, Poland, France, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands, Belgium, UK and Ireland. I have also lived in Romania and Austria.
If you’ve ever considered traveling there, I hope this post is a little nudge to help you make it a priority and seriously consider traveling to Europe.
Sometime. Anytime. It is so worth it!
*would you like me to make a post on traveling to Europe on a budget? comment down below and let me know!
Here are some of the reasons why I love traveling to Europe:
1. The historical, cultural and ethnic diversity.
With 45 countries inhabiting the European continent, some of them being transcontinental (they belong both to Europe and Asia) and over 200 languages spoken, it is easy to see why Europe boasts such a cultural, economical, natural and ethnic diversity. The continent’s formative and turbulent history resulted in the creation of multiple regions within the same countries, which adds more layers to the its complexity and richness.
The continent in itself covers an area of 3,930,000 square miles (10,180,000 sq km). As I am writing this, the European Union (EU) has 28 different member states and there are 24 official languages spoken in it. And here‘s a map for ya.
Languages are being taught in all public school systems starting at the kindergarten level. English, French, German and Spanish are the most common ones which makes the majority of people living in Europe at least bilingual. Great news for you! as a tourist, finding someone that speaks English if you need any kind of help is highly likely, no matter the country you are visiting. And I have found that generally, people are kind, welcoming and helpful.
Hands down, one of the best things for me is the fact that in a couple of hours (if not less) whether by train/car/plane, I can literally be in a totally different country, where they speak a different language and be immersed in a different culture. Different traditions and ways of being are truly only seen and understood if you travel and live in a different country. Even for a short while.
This creates a wonderful opportunity for self-reflection and starting to critically think about your own country and its social and political systems. Because you truly can’t compare and understand your country, until you have something else to compare it to.
I find myself challenged in myriad of ways every time I travel. And there are specific lessons in resourcefulness, frustration and problem solving that are enabled only through traveling.
For the history buffs and lovers of various civilizations and cultures, each country is a gem. And no matter your interests and passions, Europe has something for everyone: hundreds, if not thousand year old buildings, churches and castles, art for the art lovers, civilizations that shaped the modern world, topography for any kind of enthusiast and a cultural diversity that is not easily paralleled.
2. The efficient and safe interconnected system of transportation.
It is incredibly easy to travel around Europe.
With interconnected train systems like Rail Europe for the visitors coming from outside the European Union and the Interrail for those within, traveling from country to country by train is literally a matter of hours. These are train systems that seamlessly connect all the rail systems of different nations in Europe.
*if you’d like me to talk more about this topic (how to use the train system, tickets etc.) comment down below!
And why wouldn’t you go?
From London by train with the Eurostar you could be in Paris in a couple of hours. From Barcelona, again, by train, you could be in lovely Lisbon. And these are just some examples of the mobility within the continent. The European Union had a major role in facilitating this access. And then, of course, there are numerous airlines, many low cost like wizzair, that will take you to all the big and small European cities on a very tiny budget (no frills though but for an hour of traveling, you can make do without them).
You also have access to a plethora of local metros, buses, tramways and bikes that take you around a city and thus facilitating your exploration of different areas and neighborhoods. All European cities that I traveled to are safe and bike friendly if you’d like to explore in this manner.
And then there’s walking. My favorite way since it allows you to stop at will and explore at leisure all the architectural and natural wonders of Europe. Europe’s infrastructures were truly build to facilitate walking and pedestrians (compared to US where the infrastructure is based around cars and driving, excepting only the major cities like NYC where public transport has been integrated in the landscape of the city).
Europe is so walkable which makes it so easy to explore and stay fit without even realizing it. I truly think I miss this aspect the most: the ability to not have to depend on a car/driving to get around. It is better for you, and the environment.
3. Many cuisines, fresh, local produce, coffee and chocolate.
Europe is as culturally diverse, as is its blend of cuisines.
I think there is definitely a culture of good food and slow eating in Europe that has been picked up in US as well in the last decade, where meals cooked from scratch whilst prioritizing fresh and local ingredients are chosen above all else.
The all year round farmer’s markets, 5 to 7 days/week in most cities, filled with locally grown fruits, vegetables and cured meats are a delight to visit and explore.
And have I mentioned pasta? in Italy? hand made and soaked in delicious goodness made with San Marzano tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and fresh basil, with a sprinkle of freshly shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (the authentic parm cheese. Read all about it here). I purchase mine from a local store and its costs an arm and a leg for a small block but man, is it worth it!
Due to the close proximity of its countries and their intermingled histories, local cuisines reflect this diversity as well. For example, “sarmale” (stuffed cabbage rolls) are considered a staple, traditional dish in Romania but they can also be found in the local cuisines of Turkey and Bulgaria. The “schnitzel”, Austrian traditional chicken patty coated in flour, eggs and bread crumbs and then deep fried is another classic example of a dish found in Germany, Switzerland, Hungary, Romania and many other countries. This is another great news for you. You may visit just one country but be able to try dishes from the nearby ones. I always felt that the easiest way to travel, from the comfort of your home, is to make and try a dish from a different country.
And then there’s fresh bread made of simple ingredients like flour, yeast, salt and water, brought home warm out of the oven from the local bakery down the road. Oh, man!
We’ve talked a bit about the dishes and recipes the settlers brought with them from Europe to America in my previous posts, when we visited The Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton, Virginia. So if you’d like a trip down memory lane, make sure to check them out!
My friends and family from Europe are kind enough to always send me coffee and chocolates and thus, at any given time, there is a healthy stock of chocolates and coffees in my cupboards. And if you’ve ever tried European chocolate (especially from Switzerland, Germany or Belgium), you know what I’m talking about!
Naturally, when you do end up traveling around Europe you will stuff your luggage with the best chocolate and coffee that money can buy and that will have been the best use of whatever extra free space you have left in your luggage at the end of your trip. Your friends and fam will thank you too!
My parents came and visited for a month (if you are on Instagram and follow me (my account is public) you can check out some of our adventures (I’ve saved them under “NYC”) and that was my little traveling excursion for the summer.
Are you traveling anywhere? Europe, perhaps? :)
Oh, and please let me know if you have any specific questions and curiosities about living/traveling to and around Europe – I’d love to help! comment down below and let’s start a conversation!