On our way from our old home in Thailand to our new home in Norway, Dan and I traveled through twenty countries. I guess you could say we took the scenic route. Ah ha ha. Yes, there were many (more) bad jokes made, bad travel days suffered, bad food eaten, and bad games played.
Like “Cat,” a journey-long competition in which we would win a point each time we spotted and called a new cat, which far too often happened when we were hanging out with other people and we’d have to explain why we had just shouted “cat” and then awkwardly ignore their sympathetic looks as they realized that, wow, we had clearly been spending way too much time together and must be so bored.
I was actually very rarely bored, and the bad experiences never threatened to outweigh the good ones. So much so, that when Dan and I tried to narrow down a list of our favorite countries it was really hard! But if high school taught me anything it’s that superlatives lists are super important, so we tried our best.
D: 1. Myanmar 2. Serbia 3. China
S: 1. China 2. Serbia 3. Myanmar
All I can say is it’s a good thing I left the Burmese NGO world, because if I lived in Burma I would for sure overeat everyday. I mean, that and I’m not a lawyer and can’t do any NGO job that wouldn’t be better given to a local.
D: 1. Poland 2. Albania 3. Romania
S: 1. Poland 2. Kosovo 3. Siberia (I can’t say all of Russia, because Moscow)
I should really know by now not to believe stereotypes, but I was still so surprised by how friendly and helpful everyone in Siberia was!
Dan and I agree on this one: 1. Montenegro 2. Hungary 3. Poland.
Bonus: the worst was Ukraine – hitchhiking there was very nearly impossible.
Place We Would Most Want to Live
D: Tomsk (Russia), Belgrade (Serbia), Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
S: Belgrade, Poland, Tirana (Albania)
Dan is still obsessed with the idea of moving to Tomsk. Like, I’m crossing my fingers really hard that Norway will work out for us, because otherwise it looks like I’ll be moving to Siberia.
Place We Most Want to Return to
D: 1. Bulgaria (because of this) 2. Russia 3. Albania
S: I’m going to cheat because this is my blog and I can: 1. All of the Balkans with a car 2. Russia 3. Ukraine
We agree on this one: 1. Ukraine 2. Albania 3. Russia
D: 1. Romania 2. Bosnia (who knew it was so beautiful?) 3. Russia (who knew Siberia isn’t just empty ice land?)
S: 1. Bulgaria (I no longer hate it) 2. Romania 3. Kosovo (I didn’t expect to fall in love!)
I think we both had the idea that Romania would seem really old-fashioned with lots of horse pulled carts in the streets, while in fact in turned out to be incredibly modern, with some of the nicest roads in Eastern Europe! Um, Dan might also have been under the mistaken impression that Romani people are from Romania, so he was really confused when we barely saw any there.
And because no superlatives list would be complete without these last two:
Dan surprisingly doesn’t have an opinion here, but I would say
1. Russia 2. Serbia 3. Mongolia
I’ve never really understood Russian fashion – it sort of looks like it got stuck somewhere in the mid-90s – but I had never before seen Russians in cold climates. Suddenly it made sense, and oh my goodness, how glamorous everyone looked in their (maybe faux, probably not) fur coats and high-heeled boots. It was enough to get me to start wearing lipstick.
Mongolia was also a bit of a surprise, and earned its spot on this list from the gorgeous leather and fur boots alone. Alicia bought a pair when we were in Ulaanbaatar and I’m so jealous!
D: 1. Bosnia 2.Albania 3.Slovakia
S: 1. Slovakia 2. Russia 3. Mongolia (because who doesn’t love a photo of a yurt?)
I think my top ten favorite photos from our trip are all from the High Tatras in Slovakia. My goodness, those mountains!
I just realized that the only countries missing from this list are the Baltics, Croatia, and Macedonia. We only spent a night in Macedonia this time, but from previous experience I’d vote it in for best hitchhiking or best value.
As for the rest, if this were a yearbook they would probably end up with one of the sad random awards like “Best Eyes” or “Best Smile.” Come to think of it, Lithuania did have a great smile.
And if you’re wondering, I wasn’t voted anything in my senior yearbook because I was away on exchange in Germany. Instead of having my favorite quote under my class photo the yearbook staff just wrote “Bon voyage.”
Because yearbooks know.