One of my 2018 new year resolutions was to visit 5 new countries this year. I ended up seeing 7 new countries this year. As I reflected on my travels this year, I had infact travelled to 17 countries in total. The 17 countries include USA, China, India, France, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Leichtenstein, Poland, Bangladesh, Italy, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary. Out of this 17, the 7 new countries that I visited are Luxembourg, Leichtenstein, Poland, Bangladesh, Serbia, Bulgaria and Hungary. In this post, I am going to discuss my experiences in these 7 new countries.
Luxembourg: I did a family trip during the kids’ school holidays in the spring. We started in Brussels, then went to Namur and from there, we headed to Luxembourg. We spent a day in Luxembourg and it is a tiny country. What was special was the grand setting of the old quartet of luxembourg city. It is an extraordinary setting with rich history and beyond this, the country has very few things to offer. If you have a day in between your travels to Germany, Belgium and Netherlands, you can make a quick trip here.
Poland: I went to Poland on a business trip and visited Warsaw and Krakow. This is an extraordinary country that transformed itself into a developed country in less than 30 years. The citi are abuzz with energy and they are great for work as well as leisure. The country also has a historical Indian connection through a Maharaja who was revered in Poland. There is so much resentment against communism which was hated by the current generation. There was a restaurant that was themed around mocking communism. The Daft Cafe area is full of startup energy and Poland is home to some of the amazing startups in the world having created world class technology and gaming companies. Krakow was a historical city and the Auschwitz concentration camp near Krakow is a big attraction. Poland is a surprise package and has lots to offer for tourists who want to experience modern as well as historical stories.
Leichtenstein: If you have 2 hours during your travel to Davos or St.Gallen and if you want to add a country to your bucket list, then you can visit Vaduz, the capital of Leichtenstein. This is an unusual ‘Swiss type’ country/city where ‘no noise and distraction’ is the biggest proposition. If you want to read a book or if you want to write, then this is the country to be in.
Bangladesh: The most densely populated country is no wonder full of energy, chaos and traffic jams. I didn’t travel much and most of my travel was in a specific area in Dhaka. The markets are very nice and the people are very friendly. The traffic jams will drive you crazy but you can’t stop admiring the resilience and the will to succeed among the people.
Serbia: I travelled extensively in Serbia starting from Belgrade to Nis to Vranje. Belgrade is a very old city and everthing looks worn out. But the city has some amazing hotspots including the massive cathedral and the huge fortress. But the surprise package was the Nikola Tesla museum which is a worthy visit. Also, they have a very good Indian restaurant in the middle of the city. The fruit market and the shopping district are equally good. Nis is the 3rd biggest city and is easily the pick among Serbian cities. It has a fortress, a nazi concentration camp, a skull tower and a beautiful cathedral. The city is tiny but has a beautiful shopping street with some amazing restaurants. The food here is excellent and everything is super cheap. Vranje is a small town which resembles our villages in India and Srilanka. The country is very cold but the people are very warm. Serbian hospitality is easily one of the best in Europe and even in the whole world.
Bulgaria: I went only to Sofia which is the capital city. I travelled by road from Vranje to Sofia. The country has a rich history. The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is the most beautiful cathedral I have seen in my life. The centrum is abuzz with lot of shops and young people. The restaurant ‘Woktowalk’ is easily the best in town. We went there 5 times in our 3 day stay and it has such a friendly staff who deliver high quality chinese and thai food that can be customized. The city has a good metro system and the tram network is dilapidated. People in the bus and tram stations are rough but the general public are relatively friendly. There are not many places to see in Sofia but Bulgaria has a lot to offer for travellers.
Hungary: I flew from Bucharest in Romania to Budapest in Hungary after doing a 10 day trip across Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania. Romania and Hungary are poles apart. Hungary is modern and very well organized. Everyone offers clear communication and everything is ‘swiss’ like. Buda and Pest are twin cities along the banks of the river Danube. After spending a day and with two more days to go, I was reflecting about this city. Other cities have museums but this city itself is an open air museum. Every step has some magic stamped all over. It has one of the most spectacular settings that any city can offer and it will easily qualify as one of my favorites ever along the likes of Prague, Florence, Venice and Lucerne. There is so much to see and this city will need atleast 7–10 days to say confidently that you have seen the city.
Those are my 7 new countries this year. Hungary is easily and miles ahead of the rest for travellers. Poland is the best for business. Serbia is the best for hospitality. Travel is the best teacher in my life and I have had some amazing moments as well as some nightmarish moments. I am grateful for all the incredible experiences this year across these 17 countries.