Africa and Europe Recap: He Said She Said

Africa & Europe Recap: He Said/She Said

Lynn Travel Africa, Middle East, Europe Leave a Comment

After spending 4 months in Central and South America, the second half our our trip was a breeze. The most notable difference was the ease of communication. We rarely encountered people who spoke no English in Africa and Europe.

We both breathed a sigh of relief that things were so easy on this portion of our trip. Traveling long term can be exhausting and being able to easily communicate made a huge difference in our mental state.

Once we hit Europe our travel pace quickened. This portion of the trip wasn’t planned out and we wanted to see and do as much as possible before heading to Mexico for our friends’ beach wedding.

The Stats

16 countries
33 cities
80 days
36 different accommodations
29 bus rides
12 flights
5 train rides
194 total hours of traveling (equivalent to 8 days)

Highlights by Country

South Africa

Favorite part
Lynn – Being able to communicate with people again! After 4 months of speaking Spanish, having English as the primary language felt amazing.
Andy – The amazing views of the city and ocean from Lion’s Head mountain in Cape Town.

Watching the Sunset from Lion's Head in Cape Town South Africa

Watching the Sunset from Lion’s Head in Cape Town South Africa.

Worst part
Lynn – When we got on the plane to leave. This was the one place on all of our trip that we both agreed we could move to tomorrow and be completely happy.
Andy – The terrible traffic we ran into driving out to wine country and then driving back into the city.

Memory
Lynn – Andy was driving and pulled over to glance at a map to see if we had missed a turn. A man on the other side of the highway pulled over and shouted “is everything ok over there?” We said yes and he took off. That is just one example of the extremely kind South Africans that we met during our travels.
Andy – I just remember how great it felt to be able to communicate so easily with people again.

Kenya

Favorite part
Lynn – Meeting up with my parents. It felt so good to be reunited with people we knew after spending so much time on our own.
Andy – All of the amazing animals we saw on safari!

Big 5 from our 7 Day Safari in Kenya

The Big 5 on Safari

Worst part
Lynn – Spending hours upon hours in the jeep on some pretty bad roads.
Andy – The shop owners following you around waiting for you to buy something. It was frustrating, but looking back it was a walk in the park compared to the shop owners in Egypt.

In Our Jeep with the Top Popped While on Safari in Kenya

In Our Jeep with the Top Popped While on Safari in Kenya

Memory
Lynn – Seeing all of the animals during our safari was pretty amazing but the leopard was the most special since it is very rare. The fact that Andy was able to capture a perfect picture of the leopard was icing on the cake.

Leopard in a Tree at Maasai Mara National Reserve While on Safari in Kenya

Leopard in a Tree at Maasai Mara National Reserve While on Safari in Kenya

Andy – During our second to last day on safari we almost got stuck out in the middle of the park without another jeep in sight. Our driver hit the gas and maneuvered perfectly in order to get us out of this really wet and muddy area. It was great, but it left us and the inside of the jeep splattered with mud.

With Our Muddy Jeep at Maasai Mara National Reserve While on Safari in Kenya

With Our Muddy Jeep at Maasai Mara National Reserve While on Safari in Kenya

Egypt

Favorite part
Lynn – Seeing so many ancient things – from the pyramids to temples and tombs. It was amazing to see things that were so old but had been preserved.
Andy – The amount of historical landmarks and artifacts in Egypt that are being preserved and still discovered to this day are mind-blowing… and pretty awesome.

On Camels In Front of the Pyramids in Giza Egypt

The Four of Us On Camels In Front of the Pyramids in Giza Egypt

Worst part
Lynn – Not being able to walk down the street without someone trying to scam us or sell us something.
Andy – The constant scams.

Memory
Lynn – Sitting in the back of a taxi in Cairo while our driver got in a full on fight through his window.
Andy – The time in Luxor when we hung out at a police checkpoint because our driver for the day left us at one of the tomb sites and we had no clue where he went.

Italy

Favorite part
Lynn – Taking a day trip to Pisa where we had a great time taking all of the stereotypical pictures at the leaning tower of Pisa.

Lynn Holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Pisa Italy

Holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Pisa Italy

Andy – It wasn’t even planned, but the day we went to see the Pope in Rome we were at the Vatican early so we went back to St. Peter’s Basilica and saw that you could climb to the top of the dome for a spectacular view of the city. The view was great, but my favorite part was the intricate tile work on the inside walls of the dome.

Detail of Mosaic Tile on the Catwalk Inside the Dome of St Peters Basilica in Rome Italy

Detail of Mosaic Tile on the Catwalk Inside the Dome of St Peters Basilica in Rome Italy

Worst part
Lynn – Hearing so many stories of how great the food in Italy was, but not being able to find anything that blew us away. We were extremely frustrated every time we went out to eat and didn’t fall in love with our food.
Andy – The over-priced not-so-great dinner we had in Rome when we decided to spend a little more money in hopes that we would have a great meal in Italy. Fail.

Memory
Lynn – Arriving to Vatican City early so we could stake out a great place to see the Pope. Once he started speaking, the crowd went from extremely loud to dead silent.

Crowd Waiting for the Pope at Vatican Square in Rome Italy

Crowd Waiting for the Pope at Vatican Square in Rome Italy

Andy – I was craving cheese and crackers one night at our hotel in Rome, so I went across the street to the grocery store to buy some goat cheese. When I got back and opened the cheese it did not smell or taste anything like cheese. I ended up tossing the entire thing and went back and bought some cheese puffs.

Greece

Favorite part
Lynn – Spending time in Santorini without many tourists around.
Andy – Everything about the 3 days we spent in Santorini.

Sitting On a Stone Railing in the Village of Oia in Santorini Greece

Sitting On a Stone Railing in the Village of Oia in Santorini Greece

Worst part
Lynn – Even though we were in Athens during off season, there were tons of people at the attractions, especially the Acropolis.
Andy – There was so much restoration work going on in Athens that it was hard to even get a nice picture at some of the historical sites.

Restoration Work on the Parthenon at the Acropolis in Athens Greece

Restoration Work on the Parthenon at the Acropolis in Athens Greece

Memory
Lynn – During our 4 hour hike from Oia to Fira, Andy and I were joking around to pass the time. He started yelling “Arequipa, Arequipa, Arequipa” in the same tone that we heard many times in bus stations throughout Peru. As he was yelling, we turned a corner and ran into some other hikers who were super confused about what he was doing.

Jumping During Our Hike to Fira in Santorini Greece

Jumping During Our Hike to Fira in Santorini Greece

Andy – One evening at our apartment in Santorini, Lynn saw a cat at a house below ours, so she walked down to pet it. A couple minutes later I looked down and she had 3 cats crawling around her craving attention.

Lynn with a Family of Cats Near Our Cave House in Santorini Greece

Lynn with a Family of Cats Near Our Cave House in Santorini Greece

Bulgaria

Favorite part
Lynn – Seeing the Alexander Nevsky Church, arguably the most iconic landmark in Sofia.

In Front of the Cathedral of Alexandar Nevski in Sofia Bulgaria

In Front of the Cathedral of Alexandar Nevski in Sofia Bulgaria

Andy – I loved that the hotel right next to ours was called “Hotel Cheap”. I’m pretty sure we should have stayed there.

Hotel Cheap in Sofia Bulgaria

Hotel Cheap in Sofia Bulgaria

Worst part
Lynn – After spending so much time in warm weather, it was difficult to re-acclimate to the cold weather. We cut our sightseeing short because we were just too cold to have a good time.
Andy – It was so cold. Especially since we had no true winter clothes to wear.

Memory
Lynn – Seeing our bus to Serbia pull into the bus station and laughing when it arrived. The Nis Express was one of the worst buses that we had during our entire trip.

Nis Express Bus to Nis Serbia

Nis Express Bus to Nis Serbia

Andy – Lynn had our hotel write down the name of the bus we wanted to take from Sofia to Nis, Serbia. When we went to buy our bus tickets the woman asked us a question in Bulgarian and Lynn just handed the piece of paper to her.

Serbia

Favorite part
Lynn – Being pleasantly surprised just how much we liked Serbia as a whole. If we had more time, I would have liked to explore more cities.
Andy – The guy living in the apartment next to ours offered to contact the owner of the apartment for us… then he offered us a couple shots of his homemade liquor.

Worst part
Lynn – Arguably 90% of the adult population smoked. It was hard to find a restaurant that even had a non-smoking area.
Andy – We arrived in the evening and had a really hard time finding our apartment. I walked around for a good 20 minutes before someone was able to point me in the right direction.

Street View of Nis City Center Apartments in Nis Serbia

Street View of Nis City Center Apartments in Nis Serbia

Memory
Lynn – As we were waiting to get into our apartment, we ran into a guy who was staying in the same complex. He offered us homemade schnapps and we told him we would come back after we dropped off our bags. We we never returned as we were terrified it would be disgusting.
Andy – The bus trip to Nis, Serbia was a rough one for me because my stomach was not feeling well the entire trip. I’m pretty sure Lynn thought I might die on the bus. We made it though and I was happy to find a bathroom when we arrived in Nis.

Montenegro

Favorite part
Lynn – Hiking up to the fortress in Kotor where we were rewarded with great views of the bay and city below.
Andy – Views of the bay and the city of Kotor from the castle sitting above old town.

Overlooking the City and Bay in Kotor Montenegro

Overlooking the City and Bay in Kotor Montenegro

Worst part
Lynn – Yelling at the guy at our hotel in Podgorica when he tried to keep our passports unlocked on the front desk all night.
Andy – Definitely our confrontation with the people running the hotel in Podgorica.

Memory
Lynn – Buying 2 liter bottles of beer and celebrating St. Patrick’s Day on our balcony.

St Patrick's Day Beers on the Balcony of Our Apartment in Kotor Montenegro

St Patrick’s Day Beers on the Balcony of Our Apartment in Kotor Montenegro

Andy – As we traveled through the mountains into Montenegro the sides of the road were suddenly covered with a thin layer of snow. It was the first time we had seen fresh snow on our trip.

Croatia

Favorite part
Lynn – Walking around Dubrovnik and feeling like I was transported back into time since everything was so well preserved.
Andy – The old town of Dubrovnik felt like a movie set to me, and it was one of my favorite cities we visited in Europe.

Sitting Above Old Town from the City Walls in Dubrovnik Croatia

Sitting Above Old Town from the City Walls in Dubrovnik Croatia

Worst part
Lynn – Arriving in Split but realizing that the ferries were not yet running for the year so we could not make any trips to the islands.
Andy – Just missing the filming of some scenes for the upcoming Star Wars VIII movie.

Memory
Lynn – Climbing what seemed like hundreds of stairs through the old city to get to our apartment in Dubrovnik with all of our gear on. Luckily, we left in the morning when the weather was much cooler.

Stairs Leading Up to Our Guesthouse in Dubrovnik Croatia

Stairs Leading Up to Our Guesthouse in Dubrovnik Croatia

Andy – We were walking around the old town of Dubrovnik and started to walk up a set of stairs in the middle of the town. Suddenly I realized that they were the same stairs used during the filming of scenes from Game of Thrones.

Andy on the Walk of Shame Stairs from Game of Thrones Season 5 in Dubrovnik Croatia

On the Walk of Shame Stairs from Game of Thrones Season 5 in Dubrovnik Croatia

Slovenia

Favorite part
Lynn – Finding a secret path when we were hiking in Bled. We had a great view of the island in the middle of Lake Bled and got some great pictures.

Looking Down at the Church on the Island at Lake Bled in Bled Slovenia

Looking Down at the Church on the Island at Lake Bled in Slovenia

Andy – Our day trip to Lake Bled was one of the highlights of our time in Slovenia and it was pretty inexpensive as well.

Pilgrimage Church on the Island at Lake Bled in Bled Slovenia

Pilgrimage Church on the Island at Lake Bled in Slovenia

Worst part
Lynn – Having pretty terrible weather during the majority of our time in Slovenia.
Andy – We rented a car for one of our days so that we could see the countryside and go wine tasting, but it was impossible to find wineries. The whole day ended up costing a lot of money and wasn’t really worth it.

Memory
Lynn – Seeing an ad for a castle on the highway when we were in the rental car. About an hour later we finally arrived and were severely disappointed.

UNESCO Castle in Idrija Slovenia

Disappointing UNESCO Castle in Idrija Slovenia

Andy – The walk from our apartment to the bus station was one of the longest walks we did while carrying our backpacks. We were both very happy when we finally arrived at the bus station.

Austria

Favorite part
Lynn – Having access to a great metro system which had extremely frequent service even though we were in Vienna on Easter Sunday.
Andy – The ease of getting around via public transportation.

Worst part
Lynn – Attempting to visit Schoenbrunn Palace. There were entirely way too many people to have any level of enjoyment. All I wanted to do was get in and out as quick as possible.

In Front of Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna Austria

In Front of Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna Austria

Andy – Every place we went was really crowded because of Easter Sunday.

Memory
Lynn – Skyping with my brother and sister in law and finding out that they were going to have a baby.
Andy – The mother of the host of our Airbnb apartment left us a little basket full of some Easter goodies which was very nice. There were these really colorful decorated eggs in the basket which the woman told us were her daughters favorite. We assumed they were some sort of special egg with a surprise inside or chocolate, but they were just hard boiled eggs.

Easter Candy in Our Airbnb Apartment in Vienna Austria

Easter Candy in Our Airbnb Apartment in Vienna Austria

Slovakia

Favorite part
Lynn – Visiting Kosice, the town where my great grandparents immigrated from.

In front of Jakabov Palace in Kosice Slovakia

In front of Jakabov Palace in Kosice Slovakia

Andy – Enjoying cheap wine and great food at the Slovak Pub “Bartislava” in Bratislava.

Worst part
Lynn – Not having a kitchen at our apartment in Kosice when there were so many great grocery stores nearby.
Andy – The walk we had from the bus station to our hotel in Bratislava… the last part of it was all up hill.

Memory
Lynn – Frequenting the Slovak Pub when we were in Bratislava. We enjoyed the traditional Slovak food and glasses of wine for extremely reasonable prices.
Andy – While at the train station in Bratislava waiting for our train to Kosice, we realized we should have some water with us on the train. Since the prices were expensive at the station I ran down the hill into town (about 3/4 of a mile) to buy water at a cheaper price. When we got on the train they gave us free water.

Poland

Favorite part
Lynn – Exploring Krakow with Andy. I previously visited when I was traveling solo, but the experience felt completely different this time around.
Andy – Being able to explore and enjoy Krakow with Lynn, especially since it was one of her favorite cities from when she visited Europe previously.

In front of the cloth market at Rynek Glowny in Krakow Poland

In front of the cloth market at Rynek Glowny in Krakow Poland

Worst part
Lynn – Waiting at the bus station for our bus but not seeing it listed on the departures board. We asked a few people but nobody seemed to know anything about it. We were worried that we were in the wrong place but a little while after it was due to arrive, it pulled in.
Andy – The lookout point, Kopiec Krakusa, was disappointing, but the worst part was the time we spent to get to it.

Overlooking the city from Kopiec Krakusa in Krakow Poland

Overlooking the city from Kopiec Krakusa in Krakow Poland

Memory
Lynn – Enjoying a beer at the town square which we thought was on special for happy hour. After the bill arrived we realized it was nearly double what we thought it would be.
Andy – The night we went to do our laundry wasn’t supposed to be anything special, but we drank beer, played Jenga, and waited for our laundry to get done. It was almost sad when our laundry finished so fast and we had to head back to our apartment.

Lynn planning her next Jenga move at a laundry bar in Krakow Poland

Lynn planning her next Jenga move at a laundry bar in Krakow Poland

Czech Republic

Favorite part
Lynn – Inexpensive beers at every bar in town. It was easy to find .5 liter beers for only $1.
Andy – The coffee ice cream I had downtown in Brno was surprisingly good, which I wasn’t really expecting.

Andy with Ice Cream in Brno Czech Republic

Ice Cream in Brno Czech Republic

Worst part
Lynn – Suffering extreme travel fatigue and wanting to sit around doing nothing. We forced ourselves to get out but the weather was not ideal.
Andy – It rained pretty much the entire time we were there.

Memory
Lynn – Riding the tram around town without paying since we never had exact coins to purchase tickets. Luckily we didn’t get caught.
Andy – The morning we left, we had quite a few dollars in Czech money that we needed to spend, so we went to the grocery store. I ran around grabbing snacks and adding up the total on my phone in order to use up as much of our Czech money as possible.

Hungary

Favorite part
Lynn – Being able to see the Parliament building in person. It was just as ornate and large as I imagined that it would be.

Colorful Landscaping Outside Parliament in Budapest Hungary

Colorful Landscaping Outside Parliament in Budapest Hungary

Andy – The ease of getting around Budapest via public transportation put the city pretty high on my list. It didn’t make my top 3, but it was close.

Worst part
Lynn – It was nearly impossible to get through the crowds of people at the central market since nobody seemed to realize that they might be in somebody’s way.

Inside the Central Market Hall in Budapest Hungary

Inside the Central Market Hall in Budapest Hungary

Andy – Not being able to get a picture of us by the wooden Budapest sculpture because of all the tourists climbing on and around it.

Budapest Sign at Heroes Square in Budapest Hungary

People crowded around the Budapest Sign at Heroes Square in Budapest Hungary

Memory
Lynn – Having so much fun riding the escalators to the metro. They were so fast and fun to take!
Andy – I still remember the first time we stepped on the escalator to leave the underground metro. If only all escalators were that fast…

Long Escalator at a Metro Station in Budapest Hungary

Long (But Fast!) Escalator at a Metro Station in Budapest Hungary

Turkey

Favorite part
Lynn – Seeing all the cats all over the city. They were great subjects for our photos.

White cat sitting in front of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

White cat sitting in front of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

Andy – The great weather we had in Istanbul, which allowed us to walk around the city in order to see and do so much.

On the bench in front of all the flowers at Gulhane Park in Istanbul

On the bench in front of all the flowers at Gulhane Park in Istanbul

Worst part
Lynn – The nervousness that Andy and I had when we were corralled in a security checkpoint to enter the airport. We wanted to get out of an area that had a mass of people since it made a great target for terrorists. Several months after we left the country, there was an attack in the exact place that we were worried about.
Andy – The terrible fish sandwiches at the pier. I still don’t get why there were so many people there.

Andy with his crappy fish sandwich at the pier in Istanbul

Andy with his crappy fish sandwich at the pier in Istanbul

Memory
Lynn – Being excited to try the local fish sandwiches that we had read about and instantly regretted our decision after the first bite.

Lynn with her crappy fish sandwich at the pier in Istanbul

Lynn with her crappy fish sandwich at the pier in Istanbul

Andy – Another failed TripAdvisor restaurant story… We walked quite a ways to find this highly rated restaurant with authentic turkish food. Unfortunately, it was not where the map said it would be. We walked around for about 30 minutes before choosing a different place to eat.

Our Favorites

Country

Lynn – South Africa – the people were friendly, the scenery was breathtaking and everything was inexpensive
Andy – South Africa – The country was just beautiful and had a lot of things to see and do. It also was exactly what I needed after 4 months in South America.

Overlooking the Valley at Paarl Rock in Paarl South Africa

Overlooking the Valley at Paarl Rock in Paarl South Africa

Top 3 Cities

Lynn

  1. Cape Town, South Africa
  2. Santorini, Greece
  3. Kotor, Montenegro

Andy

  1. Cape Town, South Africa
  2. Dubrovnik, Croatia
  3. Santorini, Greece

Best Accomodations

Lynn – Elephant Bedroom Camp – Samburu National Reserve, Kenya
Andy – Elephant Bedroom Camp – Samburu National Reserve, Kenya

Tent 8 at Elephant Bedroom Camp in Samburu National Reserve

Tent 8 at Elephant Bedroom Camp in Samburu National Reserve

Best Transportation

Lynn – The buses in Europe were not as luxurious as the buses that we experienced in South America. That being said, we always enjoyed riding the FlixBus as every bus that we were on was new, clean and had safe drivers.
Andy – My best transportation was our flight on Turkish Airlines when we were leaving to fly back to Miami. Sure it was nice to be headed home, but my favorite part was that we were able to relax and watch movies the entire time. I watched 5 movies on our flight home!

Our Least Favorites

Country

Lynn – Bulgaria – it was cold, there wasn’t a lot to see and at times communication was a little challenging.
Andy – Bulgaria – This is a tough one because I hate to give such a negative perception of Bulgaria, but of all the countries we visited it just wasn’t as interesting as the others. To add to that, it was cold and we were only there for a short period of time.

Bottom 3 Cities

Lynn

  1. Sofia, Bulgaria
  2. Brno, Czech Republic
  3. Vienna, Austria

Andy

  1. Sofia, Bulgaria
  2. Brno, Czech Republic
  3. Cairo, Egypt (for one reason only: it was so dirty)

Worst Accommodations

Lynn – El Mesala Hotel in Luxor, Egypt – the owner was extremely annoying, continually tried to sell us tour packages and attempted to rip us off several times.
Andy – Chameleon Youth Hostel in Athens, Greece – First I want to say that the owners of this hostel were super friendly and more than helpful, but when I thought back to when I was most frustrated during this second part of the trip, it was at this hostel. Our room was on the roof and for some reason always felt cold and damp. The shower was the source of all my frustration… it was tiny, you had to hold the shower head in your hand, and part way into my shower the water turned cold. I ended up dropping and breaking the cap on our face wash because of the stupid shower head.

Worst Transportation

Lynn – Our flights on EgyptAir were both terrible. While I am normally not a nervous flyer, I was extremely scared that something bad was going to happen since the security was extremely lax.
Andy – EgyptAir. Worst. Flights. Ever.

Our Final Thoughts

When we originally discussed our world trip, we were only going to travel to Central and South America. When there were still many places that we wanted to visit, we ran the numbers, looked at flights on award miles and decided to extend our trip to Africa and Europe. I’m extremely glad that we made this decision as many of our favorite memories were on this portion of our trip.

One evening over drinks we discussed how we were fortunate to have visited South America first. Had our trip been reversed, we would have started out with everything being easy and at the end when we were most fatigued, it would have been challenging.

While Africa and Europe were much easier, they were not without their own challenges. Everywhere that we seemed to visit was flooded with tourists, things were significantly more expensive and all of our buses were during the day which ate into our sightseeing time.

To be able to go on a trip like this was unbelievable. Going back and writing down these memories makes us remember just how many good times we had and how much of the world that we were able to see.

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About the Author

Lynn

Bitten by the travel bug during a semester abroad in college, Lynn was able to travel around much of Europe on a shoestring budget. Her travel motto is "If I haven't been there yet, it's probably on my list". When she isn't daydreaming about her next trip, you can find her cooking in the kitchen, reading blogs on how to travel the world on points or spending time with her fluffy cat Gingerbread.