In about 2 weeks, I’ll be off to Europe again on another solo adventure.
This time I’ll be visiting 7 countries in just under 3 weeks. While I never thought I’d be back in Europe so quickly, since I was just there 5 months ago and will be returning later on this year, for a travel bloggers event in Costa Brava, Spain. I did, however fish around for a good place to celebrate New Years, since every year I love to do New Years BIG and picked Amsterdam.
My first choice would have been to celebrate it in Sydney, since I’ve made so many friends with people from Australia through my travels. But sadly enough, most of them will be working and won’t have as much time to spend with me. So I decided to save that trip for a different time and go with my second choice of celebrating New Years in Amsterdam! After much debate on my second choice, of picking between Amsterdam or Scotland’s amazing Hogmanay festival. I decided Amsterdam would be the right choice. I have been curious about Amsterdam for a while, since I’ve been hearing such amazing things about it throughout the years.
But this trip was also originally inspired by Iceland. From the moment I discovered the Northern Lights, I have had a serious obsession with it. It’s always been very high up on my bucket list and so has the Blue Lagoon in Iceland. While the Northern Lights aren’t something you can necessarily plan, as it comes and goes, as it pleases. I have been doing my research and found that January is the best time to see it. Although anywhere between November and January, is a great time to see it. So I cross my fingers that I will be lucky enough to spot the Northern Lights dancing before my very own eyes. (Wish me luck*!)
Figuring out the rest of the countries to see on a euro-trip isn’t a difficult task for most. In fact, you have so many countries and places to choose from. But for me, it’s a different story…
I have made 3 trips out to Europe in the past two and a half years, this being my fourth, yet I’ve always had difficulties picking the countries. Being Jewish and born in Israel, since the first grade I have learned about the holocaust. Israel has always taken World War II very seriously and on the memorial day, that is held annually, the entire country mourns. The radio only plays slow sad songs, almost every channel on TV is showing documentaries on the holocaust and there are memorial ceremonies all over the country. We even have a siren throughout the entire country for a moment of silence. No matter what it is that you’re doing, you stop and show your respects the moment the sirens go off. That includes driving.
Let’s start with the fact that I am an extremist, so that you better understand my point of view on the matter.
Traveling solo doesn’t scare me, but holocaust concentration camps do.
I have always taken the holocaust very dear to my heart, since I was a kid. Generally, anything that has to do with a massacre of killing innocent people, I’ve always taken so personally and have a hard time coping with such cruelty. Let’s face it, the 40’s weren’t THAT long ago and while most people would argue, that it happened a long time ago and things are different. I’ve always found it extremely difficult to get past this part of history.
A few years ago, I made the decision of visiting, Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem. It’s the world’s largest Holocaust museum and I wanted to go alone, to be fully engaged. Looking back at it, I’m still not sure if it was the smartest decision I made, knowing myself and how personally I’ve always taken the holocaust and death. But I heard its a must do and most world leaders that visit Israel, always go there.
I took a 4 hour bus ride to Jerusalem at 6am, to make sure I will have enough time to see everything there was to see. After watching all the videos, listening to the audio explanations, reading and seeing the exhibits in the museum. I felt as if I had time traveled into the 1940’s. I had spent 8 hours through the museum all by myself, at a complete loss of words.
You never know how things can affect you, until you’re away from them. For months I couldn’t fall asleep with images, I dare not to describe. Traumatized, can be a word to easily describe my experience there.
After that experience and growing up hearing horrific stories of the holocaust. I find it very difficult and disturbing, to visit countries that once held concentration camps and killed millions of innocent people in the worst ways possible. Many people don’t realize this, as I have recently discovered myself, but many of the concentration camps are indeed in the heart of many famous city capitals in Europe.
In the past few years, I’ve had many friends that live in Germany ask me to come visit. I know that Germany is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe, but I have made a promise to myself many years ago, to not visit that country. I have given up many Europe trips with friends and other, cheaper organized trips over this. I also know that I can never visit Poland for the same reason, as it is the country with the highest death toll of World War II. I completely, feel the same way about visiting Ground Zero, in New York. I know it may seem crazy and a bit extreme to some. But it’s all about following your heart and what you believe in, at the end of it all.
I am of course, very aware that World War II took place all over Europe and I can’t completely run away from that fact.
So choosing my countries for this trip have been difficult. I have decided to visit London, France, Amsterdam, Iceland, Budapest, Vienna and Prague.
I most recently became aware of the fact that there is/was a concentration camp in the heart of Budapest and in Prague and of course, the Anna Frank story did take place in Amsterdam. The thought of being anywhere near a concentration camp, horrifies me. I find it very hard to face this fear and be anywhere near these places. I’m not quite sure how I’ll handle it, being that I am traveling solo, I know your mind does tend to run wild and I know it will be hard to ignore. I have gone out of my way to book hotels far from these locations. Again, paying an extra fee to protect my fears.
Maybe sometimes it’s better not to know certain things and research them too much, as they might create too much fear. But I’ve always been one that wants to know everything I possibly can, and generally speaking I’m a pretty fearless soul.
I am extremely excited for this trip to Europe! After this trip, I know I’ve visited almost all the places in Europe that I’ve really wanted to, with an exception of visiting: Ireland, Scotland, Norway, Finland, Ibiza, Madrid, Lisbon, Cannes, Monaco, Switzerland and more of Turkey. Which I probably will be visiting some more in April when I go to Costa Brava. I’m excited that after this trip, I will finally venture off to other continents in the world with the satisfaction that I have done Europe right.
Stay tuned for my Europe trip updates. You can also follow me on my Instagram & Twitter @hofitkimcohen and by following Vanilla Sky Dreaming on Facebook, for daily updates and photos of my adventures.