In August 2015, I decided to leave a comfortable home in Bangkok and embarked on a 3 months journey to Europe, camping and sleeping on people's couches. Within this 3 months, I have seen 4 countries, hiked the Swiss and the French Alps, slept on the floor of a ferry to Corsica, celebrated my birthday with a German rap battle in Dresden, went all hipster in Berlin, got my bag stolen in Cologne, watched a sunset on top of Sacromonte, Spain, and experienced one of the most dramatic time of my life.
Following the success of my Follow me and I'll show you New Zealand post, I have decided to continue this tradition and captured photos of my back throughout Europe. From Spain to Switzerland to France and ended in Germany..
Follow me and I’ll show you Europe
Here is a list of all the places I went. Click the link to jump to that section:
- Madrid Spain
- Seville Spain
- Granada Spain
- Lugano Switzerland
- Lucerne Switzerland
- Bern Switzerland
- Zurich Switzerland
- St Gallen Switzerland
- Appenzell Switzerland
- Swiss National Park Switzerland
- Matterhorn Switzerland
- Lauterbrunnen Switzerland
- Lyon France
- Chamonix France
- Grenoble France
- Corsica France
- Avignon France
- Bordeaux France
- Mont Saint Michel France
- Paris France
- Lorrach Germany
- Stuttgart Germany
- Munich Germany
- Erlangen Germany
- Cologne Germany
- Berlin Germany
- Luneburg Germany
- Leipzig Germany
- Dresden Germany
Madrid - Spain
I landed in Madrid in the early morning, and the first thing I did was to join a free walking tour and explored the city.
Thank god I did that because I did not have a lot of time in Madrid and the walking tour showed me all the attractions in one go.
I really hit the ground running when I arrived in Madrid. That same night, after a 3 hours walking around the city in the heat of mid summer Spain, I joined a pub crawl and went on a drinking spree. Needless to say, I completely wasted the next day.
Seville - Spain
After Madrid, I took a bus to Seville and explored the city by foot. I love European cities. Everything is in walking distance!
This is possibly my favourite place in Seville, the Plaza de Espana. The scale of the palace is just mindblowing.
As I was walking around the palace, it felt almost like I had the whole place to myself. I think due to its open-air corridors and vast space, the place never felt crowded at anytime.
Did you know that Star Wars was shot here? Me neither but don't get too excited though. It was used as one of the scene in the Attack of the Clones prequel, not the new one.
Granada - Spain
Granada is my favourite city in Spain hands down. The laid-back culture, the cheap tapas and the nature will make you want to stay here forever.
As I had found out by experience, the best way to see the city and meet new people in Spain is to join the free walking tour. We hiked up to the caves of Sacromonte and learned how the people living in the caves had come to be.
After a few days exploring the city, it was time to go out and explore the surrounding areas. Me and a couple of friends went out and hiked the waterfall trail in Monachil.
We found a nice refreshing pool of water at the end to chill out and freshen up before making our way back.
The trail is definitely not for people who have acrophobia. One of the person in our group backed out at the last minute because he did not feel comfortable walking along the side of a cliff.
The trail itself was very easy but the terrain can get real rough sometimes. At one point, we had to hang our bodies from the side of a cliff to continue on.
Last day in Granada, me and a couple of friends decided to grab a few beers and went up the Sacromonte again and watched the sunset. This is possibly the best place to experience sunset in all of Spain!
Lugano - Switzerland
From Spain, I flew directly to Zurich to made it in time for my friend's road trip. We took off to Lugano and stayed at my friends place which was 3 steps away from Lake Lugano.
I had never associate Switzerland with hot climate but man, was the sun burning furiously when I was there at the end of August.
We could not go a day without swimming in the lake.
A little morning stroll as we make our way across to Italy on foot.
One of the benefit of having an open border between your neighbouring countries is that you can literally walk to another country. This was me walking from Switzerland to Italy. It only took us 15 minutes.
Lucerne - Switzerland
After 15 years, I was finally back in Lucerne, my childhood favourite city. For some reason, I remember nothing about my childhood travel except Lucerne.
I remembered this bridge vividly when I was here 15 years ago. I even remembered the stories told by our guide about the fire that were supposedly caused by a discarded cigarette.
I even remembered where our tour bus parked 15 years ago! It was like a dejavu walking around Lucerne again.
Check out the Church of St. Leodegar's interior.
Bern - Switzerland
After spending half day in Lucerne we decided to spend another half in Bern. We made our way to see the Bern bear to realize that the bear had been moved to some other town.
The weather wasn't so great but that never stop me from taking a photo of my back! :).
Zurich - Switzerland
I couldn't resist passing these mountains without stopping and taking a photo of it. Switzerland really do take your breath away at every turn.
Possibly one of the best lunch spot in Zurich.
St Gallen - Switzerland
Since we had a one day pass, we decided to explore other cities a little bit. In the early morning we went to St Gallen. It was okay, with a bunch of nice churches and streets but what we were looking for was some nature.
Appenzell - Switzerland
We sure found nature in Appenzell! Me and Hayden, a friend I met during the road trip decided to find some hikes to do in the area.
From Appenzell, we took a train to Wasserauen and hiked to Seealpsee lake, beautiful emerald lake located in the valleys in Appenzell.
The hike was not hard per se but very steep. It took us around an hour to reach the lake.
We were very impressed with the trail. We did not expect it to be so quiet and the nature to be so untouched because it was not far from the tourist attraction and the hike was only an hour but we sure got what we asked for.
We found a little wooden church tugged away in the wild forest.
A good hike is defined by the trail and the reward it gives at the end. A good trail always rewarded us with a jaw-dropping scenery at the end. Always.
I can not but feel small and insignificant when standing face-to-face with mother nature.
Even with half the valley covered in fog, it was still beautiful. Can you imagine looking at this valley on a clear day?
Swiss National Park - Switzerland
After a week, living cozily with my Swiss friend, it was time to shake off that fondue weight and do some intense hiking. Me and Hayden bought a 4-day pass and roamed the land freely, looking for an epic hike to do.
We started off at the Swiss National Park,in Zernez. As soon as we arrived, we setup our tent and summited Alp da Munt.
It was a nice day and I did not want it to go to waste because from my experience hiking in New Zealand, a good weather don't last. I'm glad we did it because it was pouring cats and dogs the next day and we ended up exploring Zernez instead.
The next mountain we tackled was the Munt la Schera. The day started out cold and wet but we decided to not waste another day hiding and powered through it.
The trail took us real close to the border. We were only a few cows away from Italy.
It took us 3 - 4 hours to reach the summit of Munt la Schera which stood at 2,378m above sea level. As we approached the top, we met this Swiss woman from Zurich who enthusiastically offered us chocolates and cheered us for reaching the summit together. It's this kind of genuine interaction that made me fall in love with hiking.
It was so windy and cold, we had to hide behind a rock as we ate our energy bars bit by bit like a Squirrel.
This was me conquering the summit of Munt la Schera.
We could not handle the cold any longer so we decided to hike down before another wave of clouds comes.
From the summit onward, the trail was simple and mostly exposed. I was so glad that it did not rain after that.
If you like nature and want to avoid the crowd, Swiss national park is another good option.
Matterhorn - Switzerland
After the Swiss National Park, me and Hayden went to Zermatt to do some hiking around Matterhorn. We were bombarded with throngs and throngs of tourists. It was a shock coming from the Swiss National Park so we decided to get out of the city as fast as we could.
We decided to combine multiple trails together and created a full day hike. We started off at 8 AM in Zermatt and hiked toward Furi.
Me and Hayden were somehow split up. I was following someone who I thought was Hayden but when I realized it was not him, it was too late. Thankfully, we divided our food in half so we were able to continue our hike separately without having one starve to death.
The first 3 hours, I spent hiking from Zermatt to Schwarzsee Paradise. From Schwarzsee Paradise, I continued up toward Matterhorn. I was on the fence about hiking to the Matterhorn base camp (Hörnlihütte mountain hut) at first since it would add another 3 hours to an already long hike (9 hours).
In the end, I said "F*ck it. I'm only here so often. How often do I get a chance to see Matterhorn up close?"
And off I went. In my mind, I was planning to take a cable car back down after the hike and call it a day but that did not happen. As I was climbing, I tried my best to keep my head down because I would have given up already if I saw how far the hut was.
I eventually arrived at the base camp at 1 pm, tired but still energetic enough to inspect the Matterhorn up close.
The hut stood at 3,260m above sea level and to think that I just climbed from Zermatt which was 1,620m high in 5 hours was extraordinary.
After half an hour at the hut, I came down and instead of going back the same way, I decided to tackle the Glacier trail which took me down to the glacier. It was a hell of a view from down here.
After 3 hours walking along the Glacier trail, I finally reached the stop that I was suppose to take the cable car down. Somehow the adventure found me again as I realized that the cable car was already close, just 10 minutes before I arrived. The situation did not look any better as the sun started to set.
I quickly scanned the area and found a trail that goes directly to Zermatt BUT it would take another 3 hours! I was running out of food and water and I was losing daylight every minute and so I decided to bite the bullet and ran down as fast as I could. After a 9 hours hike, running is usually not what I would do but I had no choice. I arrived back in Zermatt at 8PM and found Hayden waiting for me. I was gone for so long he almost reported me missing to the police.
Lauterbrunnen - Switzerland
After a crazy day in Zermatt, we decided to take it slow this time and went on a little stroll in Lauterbrunnen.
The valleys in Lauterbrunen are perfect for base jumping and as we made our way to the Staubbach Falls we saw a couple of base jumpers free falling from the cliff. One of them, I couldn't for the life of me find where he/she went!
Another day, another hike. This time, we went with a 2 hours hike to the small uphill town, Wegnen. After about an hour, it rained on us hard and we had to abort the hiking mission and go back to the hostel. The next day, we bid farewell as I have to meet my friends in Basel and so we went separate ways.
Lorrach - Germany
After Lauterbrunen, I decided to make my way toward France and in between that I stopped at Basel and crossed the border to Lorrach in Germany to meet my friends, Julia and Jannis.
We all met in Vietnam on a train to Ninh Binh and now we met again in Germany. Oh, the randomness of traveling!
Lyon - France
After 2 weeks in Switzerland, I decided that it was time to move on to my next country, France. I took a train from Basel to Lyon and couch-surfed at my good friend house, Aurelie whom I met in Australia 2 years ago.
This was her showing my around the Ancient Roman Theatre near the hilltop Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière.
There's nothing like having a local to show you around. You got to see how they live and all the hidden gems only the city dwellers know.
There are hundreds of hidden passages weave through the old quarter of Lyon. These were a few of them.
I spent almost a week living like a local in Lyon before heading to my next destination, Chamonix.
Chamonix - France
I was finally back in the mountain, exactly where I belonged. After a week in a city, it was great to be back in nature again.
The weather was clear so I decided to make use of that day to the max and combined 2 trails to create a one full day hike. I combined the Grand Balcon trail and the Lac Brac trail together creating an 8 hours hike in total.
The problem was I was there at the beginning of the low season and so all the cable cars were closed and I had to walk the entire length of the cable car which added 3 - 4 hours to the hike.
Since I was there at the beginning of Autumn, the colors were extra vivid in the mountains. I have never hike during Autumn before so this was a nice surprise.
I kinda like the French Alps more. The mountains here are more epic for some reason.
But Mont Blanc is not as iconic as Matterhorn. Mont Blanc looks like a little blob being carried by other mountains whereas Matterhorn is its own beast.
The Grand Balcon is definitely one of the trail I recommend you to do if you are short on time. It will give you an unmatched view of the whole mountain range as you see in the photos.
It's not all roses and sunshine though especially when hiking with me. This was the moment I stepped on an massive ant nest! Hundreds of ants were crawling on my right foot at the moment the photo was taken.
From the end of the Grand Balcon trail comes the Lac Branc or White Lake in English. This is one of the most photogenic location around this area. The lake, when there's no wind, creates the perfect reflection of the mountain range.
It was so calm and peaceful, I could stay there for days. In fact, I stayed there for hours which costed me greatly as you will learn about it in the next photo.
It was 5pm when I started to make my way down from Lac Branc. I thought I would be back in Argentiere in time to catch the last train back to Chamonix. Don't get me wrong, I was at the train station right on time. I waited and the train never came. As it turned out, only the bus runs that day (for some reasons) and I ended up missing the bus because I was waiting at the train station! In the end, I had to walk 2 hours back in the dark on the side of the mountainous road. It was so dangerous, I'm glad I survived to tell about it. I almost collapse when I arrived in Chamonix. It was 10pm and I found the nearest bar, ordered a steak and devoured the hell out of it while watching the Rugby World Cup. It was a great day!
I decided to extend my stay in Chamonix to rest and to get on to a cable car to the top of Aiguille du midi and see the Mont Blanc up close. It was magnificent!
Grenoble - France
With great friends, come great opportunities. I surfed another couch in Grenoble, this time with my friend Delphine who works as a guide in Grotte de Choranche, one of the most unique cave in France displaying one of the thinnest stalactites I have ever seen!
So delicate.. so fragile.
I took this opportunity to tagged along with her to work as she personally showed me around the cave. What an awesome job she has!
After the personal tour, I went on my own and hike the canyons to Pont en Royans, another small town with buildings hanging out off a cliff.
Corsica - France
I took a ferry from Toulon to Ajaccio, Corsica after Grenoble. It was an overnight ferry and the cabin would cost me 90 Euros extra. I did not want to spend that much money for a night in the ferry so I decided to rough it and slept on the floor. I had a great night sleep!
I had heard about this ruin in the west coast of Corsica called Tour de la Parata and so the next day, I decided to go to the ruin.. by foot.
It was a long hike (at least in mind) and the scenery were kinda cool at first but then it got boring real fast. The weather was also pretty bad which fuelled my negativity towards the hike even more.
At the end, the ruin was great. It is surrounded by beautiful coasts and colourful vegetation.
I was on the fence about whether to stay in Corsica or go back to the main land since it was raining constantly everyday. I decided to leave because the weather forecast did not look good. Thank god I did, because right after I left, a storm hit the south of France which killed several people. Yikes!
Avignon - France
I paid a price dearly for sleeping on the floor of a ferry because on my way back, I caught bedbugs from the carpet. I found hundreds of bites afterward and it was itchy as hell. It took me weeks to heal and I was traveling in paranoia from then. Not. Worth. It.
After a painful night, I decided to make use of my time in Avignon a bit more and went to L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. The town is famous for its ancient watermills scattered around the city which were still functioning after all these years
Except for the market, it was kinda boring in L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and so I hopped on the next bus to the Fontaine de Vaucluse and stay in nature for a little while before heading back.
The next day I went to Arles, a small town full of history and photogenic streets. This is my favourite town in Avignon. All the streets and ancient ruins including the colosseum made me feel like I was walking through history.
The inside of the Church of St. Trophime in Arles. I'm getting a bit of a Game of Throne vibe here for some reason.
Isn't the street so beautiful? There were hundreds of these streets, all of them colourful and unique in its own way.
After a few days traveling around Avignon, it was time to explore Avignon itself.
Beautful door in Arles and a hole in a church in Avignon.
Goodbye Avignon. Thank you for giving me so much to do while I healed my bedbug wounds.
Bordeaux - France
Bordeaux is one of the city in Europe I could see myself living in. I love a spacious city with a good mixed of history and architecture and this city has it all.
I can never get enough of Place de la Bourse. The thin sheet of water mirror in front created a perfect symmetrical reflection of the building and you guys know how much I love symmetry.
Mont Saint Michel - France
I had to see Mont Saint Michel with my own eyes. It's one of those bucket list thing I must do. Although, it would have looked better if I was there during the high tide, but it was beautiful nonetheless.
An fortified island like this could be a great base for when a zombie apocalypse happens. I call dibs.
Paris - France
Of course, you can not go to France without going through Paris. I had my own agenda for Paris though which was to visit the locations used in one of my most favourite film of all time, Before Sunset.
This was an elevated park built on an abandoned railway track that stretched 5km across Paris
And of course, the Notre Dame cathedral. I did not bother going in though. I kinda like to appreciate things from a distance.
I did not even go near the Eiffel tower because I know how touristy it is so I simply enjoyed it from the top of the Arc de Triomphe instead.
I usually hate lining up to go see an attraction but I made an exception for this. Lined up for 2 hours to go into the catacomb, a vast maze of skulls and bones buried beneath the city of light.
I should have spend more time in Paris but my visa days are running out so I had to continue on to Germany.
Stuttgart - Germany
From Paris, I took a bus to Stuttgart, Germany and again, stayed with my local friend, Steffi. Through her, I had the opportunity to live like a Stuttgarter, socialized with her circle of friends and really got to enjoy Stuttgart like a local.
I had a great time in Stuttgart. The most favorite thing for me was hanging out with Steffi's friends and having a great time at the Contain't event. Contain't event Contain't is a nonprofit project that breathes life into dead places with art, music, performance and festivals in a form of old freight containers, timbers and tents.
Munich - Germany
Munich is where the Bavarian culture shines the most. From 1 litre beer stein to Weißwurst, you get to be full AND drunk at the same time.
On my last day in Munich, I was able to convince my friend, who was studying in the Munich university, to take a break from her study and show me around. We got to try all sorts of weird ice creams from kebab to beer-flavoured. I love them all!
We also went out of the city a bit and visited Nymphenburg Palace. I had experience many new things on this trip and one of them was here at the palace. It was the first time I asked a stranger to take a photo of me and they said no. Really! From my 2 years of traveling, this was the first time a stranger said no to taking a photo for me.
Erlangen - Germany
After departing with my friend Julia in Lorrach, I had the opportunity to visit her again, this time in Erlangen where she is currently studying. It was a brief stop but it was nice to see a familiar face again.
Cologne - Germany
Noticed anything different here? Yes, there's no bag because my bag was stolen at the Cologne train station! Worst of all, my laptop, passport and a hard drive with 2 years of photos and videos were also gone with the bag!
Here is how it happened. I was waiting for my friend to come pick me up at the train station and when I was sitting down, I forgot to wrap my daypack with me. As I was sitting, someone came out of no where poked me and told me that I dropped a coin. They only needed 3 seconds of me turning my head to look at this guy and the bag was gone.. forever.
Berlin - Germany
I got over it in no time though and I bought a new bag the next day, went to Berlin to get my temporary passport sorted and got a new laptop. It was an unnecessary inconvenience but nothing I couldn't handle. I also took the opportunity to slow down a bit and stayed in Berlin for a week.
Luneburg - Germany
I couldn't seem to catch a break. After Berlin, I tried to go to Poland via bus but they rejected my temporary passport citing that there is no valid visa on my passport. Without know what to do, I glance at a bus nearby and saw that it was leaving for Hamburg in 15 minutes. I said to myself "Why the hell not?", booked the ticket online, got on that bus and off I went to Hamburg. Luckily I had a friend in Luneburg who was willing to host me.
Leipzig - Germany
With my temporary passport, I only have 2 options. It was either stay in Germany until by visa days run out or go back to Thailand. I decided to stay and so after Hamburg, my friend hooked me up with another couch in Leipzig and off I went.
I really enjoyed Leipzig. Much less crowded than Hamburg or Berlin and it has a nice history to it.
My favourite place in Leipzig was the first (yeah, try pronouncing that!). The Monument to the Battle of the Nations is a monument erected to commemorates Napoleon's defeat at Leipzig. The monument had the raw, ancient vibe to it. It's like Diablo meets Game of Thrones.
I did not expect to visit Dresden when I first planned my Germany trip. Now I'm glad my bag was stolen because I wouldn't have known how awesome Dresden if it weren't for that thief.
Dresden and its perfect blend between the alternative scene and all the classic architecture and art museums made this city one of the best in Germany.
This was me standing in front of a master piece of painting, the Fürstenzug.
The next day me and Abi whom I met at the hostel took a train out into the wild and explored the Saxon-Switzerland National Park. Yes, it's one of the most amazing nature you could see in this part of Germany, and no, it's NOT in Switzerland. We went and hiked around Bastei, a beautiful rock formation that reminds me of Zhangjiajie in China. This is a must-see attraction and you should not miss it when you are in Dresden.
Do you enjoy this type of photography? Check out other entries to our “Follow Me and I’ll Show You ________” series. If you have any suggestion on what I could improve, do not hesitate to let me know in the comments below or tweet me here: @peachananr
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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