2014: MY YEAR OF TRAVEL

Twelve months ago travel was pretty much at the bottom of my 2014 agenda. Twelve countries later, this turned out to be the most travel-intensive year of my life. Some of the journeys were for work, some for fun, and some were undertaken on a whim. By the end of the year I have crossed off a few spots on my “must see” list, flew to places that weren’t even on my radar a few weeks earlierΒ  and revisited some old faves. Here’s a look back at all the adventure:

FEBRUARY

Saint Petersburg, Russia

I kicked off the year’s travel roster relatively close to home. It’s been more than two decades since the last time I’ve been to Saint Petersburg and I enjoyed rediscovering “Russia’s northern capital” as an adult. I took in a ballet performance at the Mariinsky Theater, spent hours at the Hermitage and wandered the endless embankments of the half-frozen Neva River.

Saint Petersburg 1APRIL

Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA

I traded in New York for Florida on my annual American pilgrimage. While Moscow was still slowly thawing out, I was enjoying the sun and Bud Lights on the beach — just 30 steps away from my ocean-view room.

FloridaJUNE

Crimea

I think I was the only Russian who has never been to Crimea when it was still part of the Soviet Union or Ukraine — and when most of the world’s population couldn’t place it on a map. The two and a half weeks I spent on this headline-grabbing peninsula were high on adventure — horseback riding in the mountains! forbidden beaches! magical waterfalls! lion safari! fishing with pirates! — and low on controversy and WiFi. Just what a proper vacation should be.

Sunset in Novy SvetJULY

Brussels and Antwerp, Belgium

Work took me to Brussels, which I was eager to revisit since my study-abroad days, and without the constraints of a student budget.Β  As a bonus I met the amazing Annie, and explored Antwerp with her for the very first time.

Groenplaats square by the Our Lady Cathedral in AntwerpAmsterdam, The Netherlands

The most intense day trip of a lifetime had me running around trying to see all of Amsterdam in just six hours. It still amazes me just how much I got to do (boat tour of the canals!), see (flower market! Van Gogh Museum!), and, most importantly, eat (cheese! Heineken! pancakes! Indonesian! pickled herring!) in such a short time.

Amsterdam canalsSEPTEMBER

Riga, Latvia

Linda lured me to Latvia with promises of bar-hopping adventures and endless supply of Janises. I actually did not meet a single Janis in Riga, but the bar-hopping was indeed legendary, and a nice way to break up architectural tours and “Russia is evil” speeches.

Riga Old TownTallinn & the countryside, Estonia

Possibly the biggest travel surprise of the year, Tallinn overwhelmed with its medieval whimsy and amazing food. And meeting a Nice German (and divine weather) gave me a chance to enjoy some of the most beautiful landscapes in northern Europe on an impromptu mini road-trip.

Lake in EstoniaOCTOBER

London, United Kingdom

My first trip to the UK, back in 2011, was somewhat of a mixed bag for personal reasons. Still, I got to see most of the city’s major attractions, from The Victoria & Albert Museum to the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London. This time around could spend my free-from-work time thoroughly exploring the city’s different neighborhoods, particularly Hampstead, Camden and Westminster. Also, I tested out my new super-cool DSLR camera with 105 mm zoom, whatever that means.

Camden LondonBelgrade, Serbia

Drive ten minutes through the center of this city and you’ll see everything from imposing neoclassical palaces to medieval fortress to bomb-torn buildings to shiny night clubs. And everyone loved the Russian!

Belgrade Castle SerbiaOrasje, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Where I learned to drive a stick shift on my birthday (kinda) and ate a whole roasted pig (kinda).

Bosnia HerzegovinaBudapest, Hungary

Love at first sight! Budapest delighted and impressed me so much, I cannot wait to go back and explore every nook and cranny at a more leisurely pace, especially now that I’ve checked off most of the main sights, from the castle and hills of Buda to the Art Nouveau architecture and breathtaking Hungarian Parliament building on the Pest side of the city. This was my favorite travel spot of the year.

Budapest HungaryZagreb, Trakoscan, Vinkovci, Vukovar and Osijek, Croatia

Thanks to the Nice German I got to see parts of Croatia that few tourists ever visit, from the castles nestled in the mountains nearΒ  Slovenia’s border to the war-ravaged villages in the eastern part of the country. And very randomly, I got to go shopping at a Croatian outlet mall when the temperatures dropped 20C overnight!

Zagreb CroatiaNOVEMBER

Prague, Czech Republic

I don’t know what it is about Prague, but while most people leave the city completely charmed, I left it wanting more — for the second time! Still, I used my non-working time to fill in the blanks left over from the first trip in 2009. I went to Frank Ghery’s Dancing House, improvised an Art Nouveau tour, drank at the famous Hemingway Bar and visited the Sex Toys museum, which left me… confused.

Prague viewNOVEMBER / DECEMBER

Back to London, United Kingdom

The plan was to go on a walking food tour of the East End; instead I ended up in Hogwarts! Plus I binged on Thai, Chinese, Japanese and Bengali cuisine, experienced my first European Christmas Market and shopped till I dropped — well, till the stores closed!

Hogwarts in Leavesden Studios, LondonComing up in 2015: The travel highs the lows of the year past, and recaps of everything post-Baltics. See you in the New Year!

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29 thoughts on “2014: MY YEAR OF TRAVEL

  1. Sounds like you had a great year! I am quite jealous, hope I can make it to Riga and Tallinn soon too. And thanks to you, now I have added Crimea on my wishlist.

    Where are you heading in 2015? Hope you’ll have an awesome year! πŸ˜€

    • Well, the ruble has crashed so I actually dont think I am going anywhere this year, except for the US (NYC, New Jersey, New England) in September, and perhaps Crimea again in June. I think 2015 will be The Year of Dacha & Russian countryside. Or at least so I hope!
      Happy New Year to you!

  2. You had such a crazy, amazing year! I didn’t realize it had been twelve countries! Reading this, I thought back to you semi-live-blog texts over WhatsApp while you were in those places, and I remember being so jealous! I love all my souvenirs πŸ™‚ 2015 here you come!

  3. …San Francisco. πŸ˜‰

    gosh! these photos are stunnnnning. “105 mm zoom, whatever that means.” hehe I didn’t know you got a new cam! so exciting. what an amazing year. I’m so happy to have been a part of it!! still dreaming of our crazy day in Antwerp!

  4. Happy New Year Anna! You’ve had a really fantastic year which has been amazing. πŸ™‚ Wow! You been to so many countries, practically once a month. That’s admirable and what a combination! I like it. So much so that I’m going to go to some of those places too, but shhh. It’s a secret for now LOL! Oh, and I’ve just got back from a weekend in Amsterdam. Yay!

    • Tell me tell me tell me where are you going!!! I have tips! So many thoughts!
      Btw, I am on holiday break till next monday and I CANNOT bring myself to start blogging the rest of 2014 travels. Instead I am on a Persons of Interest marathon πŸ˜›

  5. Saint Petersburg is a place I heard so many nice things about and Budapest has impressed me too!
    I almost had the chance to visit Tallinn when I was in Finland several years ago… Haven’t been to Latvia or Lithuania either. Both Riga and Vilnius are great.

    • I havent been to Lithuania but Vilnus looked the least whimsical of the 3 Baltic capitals, so I went to Tallinn πŸ™‚ I cannot wait to return to Budapest – I didnt get NEARLY enough time there!

  6. Pingback: Travel Photo Challenge: EXPLORE THE ELEMENTS | Home & Away

  7. Pingback: 2016: MY YEAR OF ACCIDENTAL TRAVEL | Home & Away

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