Short city trips are what most of our travels looks like. And we love it. We had a chance to visit many places over the last five years thanks to many different factors. One of which is definitely a central position of Brussels. It’s close to almost anywhere in Europe. In about two hour flight we can get to Oslo or Porto, Edinburgh or Rome, Madrid or Stockholm. And by train we have still plenty of options – Paris, London, Amsterdam, Cologne, Bremen, Lille etc. We visited many of these cities already and we still have a long list of places we would like to visit.
On our most recent city trip we went to Copenhagen, which was the third Scandinavian capital we visited. We’ve been to Oslo few summers ago and we spent a weekend in Stockholm little over a year ago (you can read about it here).
When we first moved to Brussels almost everyone around us was skeptical. They all had their own opinion about the city and those were not optimistic. It didn’t influence us and soon after we settled and started to explore the city we found many things one can love about Brussels. One of them are definitely parks.
You can find a big park in each municipality along with some smaller green areas. If we walk from our apartment for about 30 minutes in any direction, we will arrive to a park. In nice weather the parks are packed with people. In not so nice weather (which is unfortunately more common in Brussels), you’ll still meet lots of people walking, running or biking around.
When I was a child there used to be children’s flea market in our neighborhood. I don’t know who organized it, but once a year a flea market poster appeared on the front door of our apartment building. The flea market took place on a big playground right in front of a building where we lived. We saw it from our balcony, so even if we would forgot it was happening we never actually missed it. Every kid stretched a blanket and displayed all kinds of things for sell – books, toys, hamsters. I think we never actually sold anything, but I’m sure we bought few things at the market.
To this day I’m attracted to all kinds of markets. Here in Brussels you can find a market quite easily. It’s nothing unusually to see a street blocked for cars with people sitting in front of their houses with things for sell in front of them. I never bought anything but I’m always curious to see what people sell and what other people find still useful to buy. You would be surprised by some things you can see on display or by the state in which the things for sale are.
We have been to Porto almost a month ago. Right after our trip to Barcelona. And even though these two cities are in the same part of Europe they are quite different. They look different, they taste different and they sound different. I was very surprised to hear Portuguese. I always imagined it sounds similar to Spanish but they don’t seem to be even close to each other. We couldn’t understand a word. (Not that we speak or understand much of the Spanish.)
As one of our friends said, 48 hours is not enough time to fully experience Barcelona. But it is enough time to feel the spirit and soak the atmosphere of the city. We planned our trip on September knowing that the weather in Barcelona at this time of a year is still nice and sunny, but not too hot.
We took Ryanair flight from Brussels to Barcelona and back, which meant we had 48 hours from landing to the next take off. We arrived in Barcelona in early afternoon, made a quick stop at the apartment we rented through Airbnb and took a metro to the stop closest to the Park Güell. It was one of the things on our Barcelona bucket list.
So many things have changed in Bratislava since we moved out of the city. Every time I come for a visit, there’s something new or different, a new restaurant, nice café or new shop. I tend to notice (and appreciate) more things now than when I’ve lived there. And I’m always happy to find a new place to visit and even happier to get back to my favorite places.
I also noticed that the quality of services got up a lot. And Bratislava finally grew out of a phase when it was trying to mimic the Western countries. The city rediscovered the love for and pride in the local traditions and heritage. Many cafés, street food spots and restaurants have an authentic story, unique vision and noble goal of serving high quality food for reasonable prices.
We work in a relatively small group here in Brussels and almost everyone is from a different country. Naturally, we talk a lot about traveling, places worth a visit and restaurant worth a try. Of course we are talking nicely about Slovakia. So nicely, actually, that our colleague visited Slovakia this past summer. Before he went we prepared a list of places one must see, things one should do and our favorite restaurants and cafés.
I came back from my summer vacation just a few days ago. I always dream about a far location in foreign countries but this time we decided to go back home and we spent our summer vacation in my home town – Bratislava, Slovakia.
It was exactly the kind of vacation I needed. I totally unplugged, I didn’t read the newspaper, I didn’t watch the TV news, I didn’t log in to my Facebook account and I didn’t check my email for over a week. And the list of things I did is even better. I spent hours talking and laughing with my parents and friends. I bought everything I needed in sales without any hustle or crowds. I sipped delicious coffee in cafes in the old town while most of the people was at work. I played tourist in my own city and took lots of pictures of monuments as if I were seeing them for the first time. I enjoyed many traditional Slovak meals I don’t eat here in Brussels. And I slept, rested, walked and soaked up the sun when I had the chance. That’s how I imagine dream vacation.