Welcome to part two of the journey across Europe.
In this article, we’ll visit the the East, the West, and the Mediterranean as I reveal the first five countries in my top ten favourite countries in Europe.
If you missed the first part of the countdown then STOP, click here and come back!
10 Malta 🇲🇹
Where? Valletta, and basically the entire island in January 2016.
Malta is a surprise entry in my top ten, of course I knew I had a great time while I was there but it wasn’t until I started to actually think about it and compare it to other places that I realised just how lovely it was. No matter where you go on this island, you’re surrounded by glistening, sparkling blue seas and contrasting sand-coloured buildings. Malta is one of those home-from-home kind of places, with its native English speakers, red telephone boxes, and pints of beer. Simply put, if the United Kingdom was a little smaller, a lot warmer, and filled with a happy-go-lucky population then you’d get Malta.
- Malta, keen to be totally unique in every way, home to the most perfectly bizarre names. During our visit, we met a Clarence, Klinsmann, and numerous Raquel’s.
- There’s a channel on Maltese cable which I am fairly certain just played Keeping Up with the Kardashians 24 hours a day. I think me and Sally probably spent four hours a night watching it.
- Being such a small island with no trains, the bus is king and will take you anywhere you want to go. This isn’t so easy to understand when you’re a tourist though because there are direct buses, normal buses, and buses that seem to just circle the island repeatedly. Going to Valletta took 30 minutes, and coming back somehow took nearly two hours.
- We got the boat over to Gozo with the idea that it would be lovely to see the sunset from Malta’s sister island. Nature had other thoughts and decided that the sun would set extra quickly on this particular evening and after taking the twenty-minute boat ride, it was pitch black.
09 Slovenia 🇸🇮
Where? Ljubljana, Kranj, Bled, and Triglav in October 2015.
I went to Slovenia expecting a typical, laid back, little Balkan country and instead was completely taken aback by it. Slovenia is, by a mile the most stunningly beautiful country in Europe. My super lovely friend Miha, kindly met me in Ljubljana and then took me to all of the hidden treasures of Slovenia. I’m fairly sure that without his tour guiding skills, I wouldn’t have seen even half as much as I did of this delightful country.
- When we got to the top of Triglav National Park, the view was stunning and made even more incredible by the heavy, thick clouds that sat underneath the mountains in the distance. Remarkably, they lifted in an instant to reveal the beautiful, crisp blue lake beneath it.
- Everyone has seen the pictures of Lake Bled with the castle in the distance, and I can 100% guarantee that it’s even more beautiful and magnificent in real life.
- Ljubljana Castle is a wonderful vantage point to take a look over the tiny capital in its entirety.
- The Bled cream cake with its whipped cream, vanilla cream, and butter dough would be the highlight of any other city in the world, but the rather famous Lake puts an end to that idea.
08 The Netherlands 🇳🇱
Where? Amsterdam in October 2008, November 2009, August 2011, April 2013, August 2016, and Maastricht in August 2012.
The Netherlands is my second-most visited country because it’s basically just cool as. Freedom and liberality is in the air in Amsterdam, and you just get the feeling that you can be yourself and everyone will be completely fine with whoever that may be. Me and my friend Sally came here to celebrate my eighteenth birthday back in 2008 and it was basically just five days of alcohol abuse, but we had the most wonderful time. It was so good that I’ve went back numerous times, and what’s even better is that on a windy day the flight from Liverpool takes about 30 minutes.
- I’ve always came across residents of the Scouse Nation at some point during each of my visits to Holland. I’m pretty sure that Amsterdam is the de-facto capital of Liverpool.
- One word: Amsterdamned. Everyone has been there, everyone has got trashed there, and everyone has had a great time there.
- If anybody has been to Amsterdam, or anywhere in The Netherlands for that matter, and not almost been involved in a collision with a bicycle then I’d love to hear from you!
- The fair in Damrak Square in October is just absolutely mental, me and Sally would have a little bit to drink and go on this sort-of spinning pirate ship ride and come off it hammered.
07 Ukraine 🇺🇦
Where? Kyiv and Pripyat in August 2013.
Ukraine is one of the places that I always longed to visit, and after travelling between the Baltic states, I knew I had to make it into Kyiv. It didn’t disappoint. Kyiv itself is a huge city, and I loved that because it meant I could often use the impeccable metro to get around (I have a bit of a metro fetish). Being a self-confessed lover of Soviet architecture, I adored the Mother Motherland statue surrounded by tanks and jets from the ‘Great Patriotic War’, as well as the Ukraine-Russia friendship monument which comes complete with its own light-up rainbow. Granted, I visited before all of the nastiness of the past few years, but I’m intrigued and excited to go back for Eurovision 2017 and see how the city has changed.
- As in all of the former-Soviet countries, metro stations double up underground markets where locals sell all kinds of glorious things. Right by Maidan was an old lady selling the best doughnuts I’ve ever tasted, and I remember them being about 8p each.
- Maidan comes alive when the sun goes down, and families come from all over the city to sit and chat about their days while kids play around and watch the dancing water features. It was lovely to go at night and relax and people watch.
- Making the one hour journey from Kyiv to Pripyat and Chernobyl was absolutely worth it. We all know what happened there, but you don’t realise the scale of the disaster until you get there and are greeted and suspiciously looked at by the army at the barrier.
- The tiny town of Pripyat is still exactly how it looked back in 1986 with children’s toys and schoolbooks on classroom shelves, posters of Lenin on huge metal pillars around town, and houses that look like showhomes completely left intact.
- I found out that the girl who was leading the tour of Chernobyl was a big Eurovision fan, so we sat on the coach back to Kyiv talking about Ani Lorak and Verka Serduchka rather than the disaster zone.
- I felt very lucky to have seen one of the last remaining statues of Lenin in Kyiv, because just four months after my visit it was torn down during the Maidan protests.
- One of the most bizarre things about Kyiv is that it’s university is completely painted red. Seriously, every part of it is red. Google it, I promise.
06 Armenia 🇦🇲
Where? Yerevan, Garni, and Sevan in June 2016.
When I arrived in Yerevan and got welcomed to the country, offered a cigarette, and a rendition of Unchained Melody at full blast by my taxi driver, I knew this was going to be a great place. The pink city, as it’s aptly nicknamed thanks to its architecture was an absolute delight to visit, all while under the watchful guard of Mount Ararat. What makes Armenia even better is that there are so many excursions and places of interest dotted around the country that are easily accessible from the capital – all of which take you on a journey through luscious, bright green mountains and countryside.
- Armenian customer service is either exemplary or disastrous, with no in between, which I found to be absolutely hilarious. After finishing my lunch in a restaurant in the posh-part of town, the waitress came over and told me “you’ve finished now so you can leave.” Brilliant!
- The Armenians have a very strong national identity and are extremely proud of their country and its history – coming from Britain, I always find that extremely refreshing. The red, blue, and orange flag is flown everywhere, and the terrifyingly huge Mother Armenia statue watches over Yerevan from pretty much every point
- Saying Hayastan enthusiastically is also a surefire way to make friends here – I tried it, it works.
- I hired a contracted driver through the hostel to take me to the beautiful Garni and Geghard monasteries just outside Yerevan, and he insisted he take me to Sevanavank and Lake Sevan too. We spent a good ten minutes haggling on the price, and to prove my earlier point, telling him that I loved Hayastan got him to lower the cost. He made me pinky promise that I wouldn’t tell the hostel that he took me to Sevan because his contract with them said he wasn’t allowed to!
- Apricots are life, and they are super, super tasty too.
- Spending 4 days in Armenia is not nearly enough, spending 4 weeks in Armenia also probably isn’t enough. It’s a country of stunning scenery, ancient history, and it’s one of the few remaining countries in Europe that’s off the beaten track.
And that concludes part two, leaving just five countries to go. Come back on Monday for the big reveal – which is the best country in Europe?!
For those of you who just can’t get enough of travel blogging, click here to check out my photo gallery featuring one picture from each of the fifty countries in Europe.