Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The A-Z travels of Amanda from Not A Ballerina

There's a great meme doing the rounds of travel blogs at the moment - an A-Z of your travel experience - and I just can't pass up the chance to look back on some of my favourite moments of travel and share them with you - alphabetically! So here goes ...

A: Age at which you first travelled internationally: I was 8 years old when we left Australia for our family trip to Europe. To be quite accurate, I turned 9 two days later, in Hong Kong.

My vision of Hong Kong, aged 9
B: Best (foreign) beer. It's not just out of loyalty to my husband that I will say I like German beer the best of all. Back here in Australia I tend to drink wine rather than beer - Aussie beer just doesn't seem to match my tastes - but in Germany I drank plenty of beer. What I loved there was that mixing it with lemonade to make a Radler wasn't frowned upon at all (here in Australia a "shandy" is really an old people's drink!) and I found it such a refreshing summer combination.

C: Cuisine (favorite). This tough because there are so many foods I love across the world, but if I had to pick one, I would definitely go for Japanese. Before I went to Japan, I saw Japanese cuisine as being basically sushi and teriyaki chicken, but there is SO much more. Including, of course, my beloved okonomiyaki.

D: Destinations (favorite) and why? Least favorite and why? Hmm, these questions are getting harder. For my favourite places, I think I'll let my post on the Trans-Siberian, Tunisia and Finnish Lapland speak for itself; for least favourite, well, there really is nowhere I've travelled that I didn't enjoy. I'm also not the kind of person to ever find a place boring.

Reunification night in Berlin, 1990. Wow!
E: Event you experienced that made you say “wow”. My luck to be in Berlin in 1990 and to be standing at the Brandenburg Gate at midnight when East and West Germany were reunited. That experience as a teenager cemented my (already strong) love of travel and seeing the world and to this day I can remember that evening as though it just happened.

F: Favorite mode of transport. Another easy one: train! For me, there is nothing nicer than spending a night sleeping on a train, being comforted by the clickety-clack of the train's motion, and then spending a day (or a week) watching the world go by outside. Magic.

G: Greatest feeling while travelling? I'm going to be a bit general here and say that so often when I've been travelling (and living abroad) I've had the feeling that really, I can do anything! For me, that's one of the greatest benefits of travel - breaking you out of your routine and your comfort zone and making you feel, to use a terribly cliched word, very empowered!

Karnak Temple
H: Hottest place you’ve ever travelled to? Probably Egypt. I don't know what the temperature was but even our reasonably regular 40C plus days in Australia don't compare to how hot it felt as I stood at Karnak Temple (in summer). The sweat wasn't just dripping, it was pouring off me.

I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where? I think the most impressive service I received may well have been in Vietnam, when I stayed in tiny family-run "hotels" (three or four rooms each), paying ridiculously low amounts like $5 or $10 a night, and being looked after so beautifully.

J: Journey that took you the longest? It's hard to decide when some journeys start and end, but I guess a good answer here would be my journey across Russia on the Trans-Siberian (with stops along the way), which took about three weeks. My longest period of non-stop travel (not stopping to work, that is) would probably have been between Japan and Slovakia, perhaps four months? Scratch that, my parents did better than that with our trip to Europe when I was a kid - that was six months long!

K: Keepsake from your travels? I'm a terrible hoarder and have recently been trying to cut down on the number of souvenirs/tickets/brochures/meaningless scraps of paper that I keep from my travels. Some of my favourites are probably a bag I have from Igoumenitsa in Greece, a photo frame with a golden cherry blossom image from Japan and some of my favourite souvenir T-shirts.

L: Let down sight?  Where and why? I rarely feel particularly let down by a sightseeing spot but I did mention earlier this week that my most recent visit to Stonehenge was a bit underwhelming, mostly because I arrived there just after it had closed.

M: Moment where you fell in love with travel? Good question. I think I just grew up loving travel. I remember plenty of moments where I was reminded how much I love travel, but I think it's something that's always been part of me.

N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in? I'm not one for staying in flash hotels (I'd rather spend the money on more travels) but an exception was made for the Bad Blumau resort in Austria because the hotel itself is like a tourist destination. Love that Hundertwasser design!

O: Obsession. What are you obsessed with taking pictures of? Lots and lots of landscape pictures, and stray cats. I adored the cats I found wandered around Tunisia, for example!

The cats of Tunisia
P: Passport stamps. How many and from where? Oh my goodness, I couldn't count them. During my five and a half years travelling and working abroad, I filled one passport completely and made a good start on another (of course, working and residence visas took up quite a few pages). Let's just say - numerous.

Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited? Quirky, hey? Well, I would've thought I'd been to all manner of quirky place but none really spring to mind as the quirkiest. A few parks full of old Soviet era statues and monuments were pretty quirky; anything designed by Hundertwasser probably counts as quirky.

 R: Recommended sight, event or experience? I only get to recommend one? Well, I think for all non-snow-dwellers, or families with young children, a Christmas trip to Finnish Lapland is an amazing experience.

S: Splurge! Something you don’t mind forking over for while travelling? I'm pretty much the opposite of extravagant even when I'm travelling, but what I'll pay for more than anything is a unique experience. Stuff like ice fishing or reindeer sleigh driving in northern Finland, for example.

T: Touristy thing you’ve done. Plenty! Although I like to avoid large packs of tourists and you will very rarely see me on any kind of organised tour, I don't shy away from the big tourist attractions - there's a reason there's called "attractions"! If you're looking for the tourist cliche, I did get engaged at the top of the Eiffel Tower - happy?!

U:  Unforgettable travel memory. I have so many. The train pulling out of Vladivostok as I began my Trans-Siberian ride; riding a camel in the Sahara Desert in Tunisia.

V: Visas. How many of them and for where? See passport stamps above! I have working visas for Japan, Czech Republic (long story - not for Slovakia where I actually worked!) and Germany; and tourist visas for many countries including Russia, Vietnam, Hungary and Poland. I was just a couple of years too early because these days Australians no longer require visas for countries like Hungary and Poland.

My old working visa for Germany
W: Wine. Best glass of wine had while travelling and where? I'm going to have to say Germany again - I never really liked Rosé wine until I reached Germany and then I discovered a lovely cold glass of it was perfect on a summer evening.

X: eXcellent views and from where? A tough one as I'm a big landscape fan so have made my way to some gorgeous views over the years - I think I'll have to go with views over the Plitvice Lakes in Croatia, one of my most favourite spots in the world.

Y: Years spent travelling? Hmm, interesting. If I add up all the major trips I can think of and include my five and a half years of travelling and working abroad, I guess it's about eight years of my life? Which is a bit less than a quarter, I'm pretty happy with that.

Z: Zealous sports fan and where? I don't have an absolutely favourite sport but I do get really excited when the Olympics come around. And so I have happily explored many Olympic venues around the world, including places like Nagano, Seoul, Barcelona and Sydney.


  1. What a lovely A-Z of your travel experiences.
    We left Germany the day before the wall came down, we were on a plane when the Captain announced it and everyone clapped with excitement, I can still picture the moment as well! Lucky you to be right there at the Brandenburg gate!

  2. Sami, yes the moment when the wall fell is one of those memorable occasions for many people - I love your memory of it in the plane!

  3. I reckon that notebook shows that you were a travel writer in the making! Interesting list. I always wish I'd gone to Eastern Europe when communism ended. I wasn't travel writing then, but I should have gone anyhow. And I'm with you on the German beer.

    Reindeer sleigh driving sounds fun. I'd pay for driving a skidooo, I have a tremendous weakness for them.

    1. Ooh yes Jenny, maybe you're right, travel writing was my destiny!!! Agree fully re eastern Europe - even during my various visits there I have seen the communism leftovers disappearing so fast, something you can't go back to see unless you have a time travel machine. But of course it's easy to say so in hindsight.

  4. What a wonderful travel A-Z.

    1. Thanks Spencer! So much fun to put together.

  5. Wow, to have been in Berlin on that day!!! My best effort was to have been in both parts of germany before and after the wall came down.

    I love this list and am going to give it a crack on my own blog.

    1. Yes Andrea, I was super-lucky to end up there that day - not planned at all, just very lucky.
      This is such a fun list to write so enjoy doing it!

  6. I think I might have to do this! I definitely have some moments like that, and something like this would make a good (extended) intro to my blog.

    1. So true Amanda, it would make a great part of an About page too. It's a lot of fun to think about all those memories, too.


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