I recently spent a week in Bavaria (Munich + Salzburg) and Bohemia (mostly Prague) with Nick to celebrate both our 30th birthdays. I haven't been able to stop thinking about the conversations we had there. It seems like just a moment ago we were sitting in the Hemingway Bar enjoying phenomenal absinthe cocktails chatting about our goals for this new decade of life (start businesses, make cash monies, get more involved in church). I love how travel forces you to slow down and be present. My favorite memories are always made while traveling — every trip is special for different reasons, and our week in Bavaria and Bohemia was no different.
It was cold while we were there, often dropping below freezing, yet still sunny and gorgeous. We caught trains, booked last minute 14th century Airbnbs that looked like castles, ate schnitzels and drank wine. Our favorite spots were Hallstatt, Austria — the oldest salt mining town in the world — and the bone ossuary an hour outside of Prague decorated with 70,000 human skeletons (creepier than the bones was the sketchy train ride there). You can find my detailed guide on the whole trip up on the Teva blog here, but I decided to jot out a few tips to keep in mind when planning your next European escape:
1. Go In The Off Season
Prices are obviously going to be far cheaper in the off season (aka anytime but summer) but perhaps more importantly, you'll miss the crowds. Think: better views, shorter lines, longer tours. It's the best.
2. Wear Layers
If you're anything like me, packing before a big trip is the. most. stressful. But it doesn't have to be! Plan out your outfits ahead of time, reusing accessories and jeans. I wore leggings and tights under my pants every day so I could stay warm while still looking fly. A solid pair of black gloves is a must, and you probably won't wear as much jewelry as you think. Bring a purse you can wear and don't have to hold so your hands are free for ice cream cones or beer... or maybe that's just me.
3. Document, But Don't Over-Document
When traveling, I only shoot on my Sony A6300 — if you're looking for the perfect travel camera, I highly recommend checking out out the Sony Alpha series! It's small and lightweight enough that I actually bring it everywhere and am able to capture those special moments. The key is to not over-shoot as that just means more photos to go through later. I was in Europe for 7 days and came away with around 500 amazing photos, which is about 70 photos a day. Don't be shy about asking strangers to take your picture, either!
4. Keep The Maps App Open
Obviously while traveling, if you don't have an international plan you'll have to keep your phone on airplane mode throughout the duration of your trip. Connecting to Wifi in your hotel room and various cafés is be a great way to keep in touch with the outside world, but how do you navigate through 12th century cobblestone streets and dimly lit bars? Here's a trick: know where you're going ahead of time, and keep your Maps app open on your phone when you leave Wifi. Even if you're on airplane mode, the app will still track where you're going. This has been a lifesaver for me on recent trips! Of course, you can always carry a paper map too, but that doesn't beat having your phone track your location.
5. Embrace The Local Culture
There's definitely something to be said for visiting the most touristed spots — after all, there has to be a good reason they became famous in the first place — but finding the authentic modern culture of wherever you're visiting can be just as fascinating as learning about the ancient culture. This includes trying the local beer and food, but also includes learning a few words in a new language. It's okay to ask locals if they speak English, but don't be afraid to try and communicate in their tongue first!
Bratwurst and coffee, skeleton keys and tulips, mountains and castles... here's my photo story of some favorite images from our magical escape to Bavaria and Bohemia:
Do you have plans to visit Europe this year? If so, where? Let me know in a comment below!