My friend and fellow travel companion Kirstie at vengavalevamos.com is an experienced travel blogger who’s lived and traveled in many countries all throughout the world.
After working together as auxliares de conversación in Madrid a few years ago, we shared an epic Balkans trip together in summer 2013 and she was nice enough to answer a few questions about her experience living and traveling in Europe here!
1. Where is the best meal you’ve ever eaten in Europe?
Too hard to pick just one, and I will mention that my limited budget generally meant homemade meals or inexpensive restaurants. One that comes to mind, though, is a meal in Brasov, Romania. I can’t remember the name of the restaurant, but the meatball soup (ciorba de perisoare) in particular was to die for, the main course convinced me for life that Romanian is one of the best cuisines in the world, and we topped it off with complimentary palinka (brandy) shots. Romania was inexpensive enough that we really got to splurge on meals, which made it all the more special!
2. What is your favorite European custom or tradition (i.e. a festival, holiday, etc.) and why?
I love Sevilla’s Feria de Abril, but even better was the spring festival of Moguer, Huelva, Andalucía that I got to experience a few years back, The Romería de Montemayor. Centering around a religious pilgrimage, the festival takes place in the remote countryside and consists of dancing sevillanas (a flamenco-like folk dance), riding horses, and eating and drinking with friends and family in huts made of branches and eucalyptus leaves. I was the only non-local in sight, and it made for one of the best memories in all my travels. You can read more about my experience here.
3. Where is the most picturesque place you’ve been in Europe?
Probably the Alhambra and its surrounding areas in Granada, Spain. Granada is where I first fell in love with travel when I spent a month studying there in high school, so it’s extremely special to me. In addition to that, its fortress/palace, the Alhambra, features intricately detailed Moorish architecture, as well as views over the city and the beautiful Generalife gardens. After visiting, you have to wander the nearby hilly neighborhood, the Albaycín and catch a great view of the Alhambra from the Plaza de San Nicolás on the opposing hill.
4. Which European destination was least like you expected prior to visiting?
Skopje, Macedonia in particular really surprised me. I knew very little about Macedonia before traveling there, aside from the fact that it was formerly part of turbulent Yugoslavia and isn’t a wealthy country. However, its capital, Skopje, has been built up in the past few years, and the city center now features bizarrely bright, clean, and extravagant buildings (I think Wikipedia says it best with “historicist kitsch”) that resemble something you’d see in Las Vegas. It’s oddly beautiful and dreamlike for a developing country.
5. What is your favorite European destination?
So many parts of Europe have captured my heart, but, after living in Spain for three years, it has to be my choice. Everything about it is incredibly vibrant, its complex history is apparent wherever you turn, it’s the perfect mix of traditional and modern, and its cities and landscapes are breathtaking. Madrid, Sevilla, and Granada take the cake for my favorite cities within Spain, but I would highly recommend visiting as many of the country’s diverse regions as you can.
Thanks so much Kirstie! Don’t forget to check out her website!
Featured image of Lake Bled in Slovenia from Kirstie.