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samantha rundell’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 24 Oct 2006

Location: Melbourne, Australia

MapHi everyone !

Upon returning to you all here in Melbourne following my massive three & a half months cavorting around Europe I have found that you all want to know the answer to one coveted question : what was my most favourite place ??

Guys !! That's such a hard question to answer !!

I can only imagine that the way I feel about answering this question is similar to how a parent feels when they are asked which child is their favourite.

One of the beautiful things about exploring Europe is that each place is a unique entity in itself - the culture, food, language, accents, clothing, coffee - even the gelato (!) - is different depending on which city or town you happen to find yourself in.

Because everything is so incomparably different - sometimes after only an hour or so of travelling on the train (that still trips me out) - & each place is also uniquely beautiful, it makes it a near impossible task to select an outright favourite.

And so, in order to save myself from plunging into inner turmoil everytime someone asks me "so ... what was your favourite ??", I have created a "Best Of" list to reflect the many eclectic places I have been & to reminisce about the fantastic experiences I have had.

After spending countless hours scouring my travel diary & wistfully daydreaming about so many moments of my Euro-trip, I have finally narrowed down my finalists for my European Academy Awards night.

The panel at this prestigious Academy consists of well ... me ... & you should all recall that my qualifications for these categories are : Greece & the Greek Islands (Cyclades), Italy, France, Monaco, Spain, Portugal, London, Amsterdam, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland & Leichtenstein.

Without further ado, the winners are ...

* Best Night Life : Ios - Greek Islands. I have one word for that place : Madness.
* Best Food : A photo finish between tapas in Granada (southern Spain) & home made pastas in Northern Italy (Firenze & Cinque Terra)
* Craziest Drivers : definitely the mental taxi drivers in the Greek Islands - these guys would give Schumacher a run for his money
* Grumpiest Locals : Czech Republic. It fascinated me how they managed to get such a concentrate of angry angry people into such a relatively small space of land (although, just quietly ... I'd be feeling pretty pissed off if I'd lived the last 50 years of my life under forced communist rule too)
* Best Beer : need I say it ? ... Oktoberfest !
* Best Shopping : London (I believe I may have experienced pure nirvana on Oxford Street)
* Hardest to Navigate : Venice, Italy
* Most Beautiful : Switzerland is a real-life postcard - snow capped mountains, blue lakes & cows grazing in green grassy paddocks with bells tinkling around their necks - just stunning !
* Biggest Night : probably my infamous ejection from the Hofbrauhaus for drunk & disorderly behaviour at Oktoberfest
* Best History & Culture : pazzo Roma is just about unbeatable
* Best Art : Paris * * * sigh * * *
* The Dark Horse (city / town that I didn't expect to be much & ended up falling in love with) : I mistakenly expected to be able to casually stroll through Berlin over a couple of days & was stunned at how much I was able to take away from this dynamic city, which is still evolving from it's role as centrepiece to the biggest events of the 20th century. Berlin is truly incredible.
* Most Bizarre Experience : sky-diving in Interlaken (Switzerland) was pretty unreal !!
* Most Expensive City : London is nuts !! I didn't bother to convert back to the Aussie dollar in the end because it caused my heart too much pain
* Cheapest : anywhere in the Czech Republic (though don't expect your service with a smile)
* Place Most Likely to Live : If my life was a fairytale & I magically began to speak perfect French & was impossibly rich & gorgeous then I would love to live in my spiritual home - Paris. However, my French completely sucks arse, so earning the pound in London may be for me !
* Place I Never Want To See Again In My Life : Narbonne (please refer to the post early August where I was stranded in a random provincial French town)
* Worst Accommodation : Coral Rooms - Paros, Greek Islands. Do not UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES stay here !!!

& finally,

* if the world was ending in one day, I would spend it in ... maybe the secret archives of the Vatican ?? or shopping the Champs Elysees & wearing genuine Chanel for the first & last time ?? or maybe working on my tan & sipping absurdly priced cocktails on one of the private beaches on the Amalfi Coast ??

I can't decide !!