When I first moved to Munich, I had no idea how long I would be here. It could have been two years, it could have been just one. Come to think of it, I didn’t even know when I would next return to Europe. And so, I decided to spend my year as if it were be my only one in Munich, and as if it would be my last in Europe.
In January, I put together a list of all the places I wanted to visit. Some were cities, some as vague as entire countries. From memory, the list went something like this: Stockholm, Copenhagen, Norway, Istanbul, Barcelona, Croatia, Poland, Lisbon, Berlin, Switzerland, Vienna, Marrakech, Budapest and Verona. Every chance I got to tick a place off the list, I took it. A long weekend, a trip with friends, a special on Skyscanner...
I have just sat down and done a tally. In the last 12 months I have visited 14 countries and 19 cities; of the 14 places on my list, I ticked off nine. (Fast fact: if you include my trip back to Australia this December, I will have travelled to four continents).
So, bragging aside, there is a point to my story. This year, my attitude towards travel has been to never let an opportunity pass me by. As you can imagine, by this stage of the year, I only have enough leave left to go home for 2 weeks over Christmas (actually, the real mystery is the fact that I can travel to 19 cities and still have any leave left at all – and to this I owe everything to Germany and its overindulgent labour laws, which entitle me to six weeks of leave a year and 13 public holidays) (Fast fact #2 – ugh, I’m really lacking focus today, sorry – Colombia is the country with the most public holidays, at 18 a year).
Our time spent in Lisbon was completely in keeping with my travel attitude for the year. We made a point of not planning a thing (in fact, I didn’t even print out my boarding pass or look up directions to the hostel). Instead we decided to just sit back and watch the weekend unfold… and unfold it did with an uncanny sense of symmetry.
To give a brief overview, the walking tour from the hostel left without us, but we ended up at the flea market it was headed towards anyway. We joked about going for a drive in one of the cute little tuk tuks that overran the city as we walked past a tuk tuk stand, and then a lone tuk tuk seemed to be waiting for us at the end of the market (oh yes, we did ride around Lisbon for an hour and half in a tuk tuk – and it only cost 45€).
The tuk tuk driver dropped us off at the most amazing market hall for lunch, and the owner of whole-in-the-wall foodstall where we ate gave us the card of its sister restaurant in the city. That night, it started to rain as we were looking for somewhere to eat. We raced down a side street to take cover from the rain and saw a sign leading towards the Pharmacy museum where the sister restaurant was housed (Fast Fact #3 – this was the best restaurant I have ever been to in Europe, and probably the nicest dessert I have ever had in my life). At the end of the meal, completely unprompted, the waiter recommended we check out his favourite bar in the Old Town. We took down the address and ended up at the pink street we had seen earlier from the tuk tuk – which we would certainly never have found on our own.
Sleeping – My Lisbon Home
One of the best hostels I have ever stayed in. Clean and modern rooms, comfortable beds and really exceptional service. There was also some really great communal spaces with a good vibe. Very centrally located.
Eating – Pharmacia
Like I said, this was probably the best restaurant I have ever been to in Europe. Not only was it perched on top of a hill with an expansive view of the city, it was housed in an old Pharmacy museum and had the quirky décor (novelty size pill boxes in glass cabinets, waiters wearing stethoscopes) to match. For 28€ each we shared 4 courses (they even adapted to a pescatarian menu for my benefit) including THE BEST dessert – a crunchy almond mousse – I have ever had in MY LIFE.
This bar was recommended to us by our hot waiter at Pharmacia, so technically we were predisposed to like it, but it was actually really cool. A hipster bar with mismatched shabby chic furniture that wouldn’t have been out of place in Brunswick, it was located on Lisbon’s pink street – the centre of its’ nightlife. I ordered a basil sour cocktail, which was amazing. Carolyn ordered a gin and tonic, paid 10€ and got 10.50€ change. Note: we can’t guarantee the same will happen to you, but it is well worth having a drink in this cool place even if you aren’t paid to drink it.
Yes, Portugese tarts is a category, and yes, if you are in Lisbon you absolutely have to eat here, despite the queues (they are there for a reason people!). Just head towards the very back of the café and wait to be seated (it is quicker than lining up for takeaway we were told). And don’t make the same rookie error and only order one tart… those babies are so delicious you will end up buying more anyway (I can say that from experience).
So I'm already working on a list for next year, which no doubt I will share with you shortly. But what do you think? Which cities in Europe do you think I still need to see?