Checking out all the EU countries before BrExit day

Its January 31st 2020, ‘BrExit day’ and at 23:00 (GMT) tonight, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland leaves the European Union club. When the country voted many moons ago, there has been childish scenes in parliament, with the public and the country was behaving as if they were attending a nursery school run by Donald Trump. Now I am not going to tell you how I voted and leave my personal views to myself. I don’t get political. I can’t be bothered sometimes but when I do, it means I am pissed off with the world.

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However when the chimes of Big Ben, the bell inside the Queen Elizabeth Tower in London tonight, it means my country has left the European Union (known as BrExit), but enters the transaction period where laws and undoing laws which were brokered in Bruxelles and Strasbourg has to be un-done and ‘sorted out’ by the end of the year. Why the end of the year? Well, our supreme leader Boris Johnson said so. Then the UK will finally be out of Bruxelles hands. I just hope despite the politics that my country still has a good working relationship with the other twenty-seven countries left in the club (but probably be expanded soon with Serbia, North Macedonia and Bosnia looking to get into the act). I also have many friends in Europe and I am not going to desert them despite the UK not being in the club anymore. To be honest, the way I see it, the public won’t see any difference and the scare mongering by the media would be seen as bollocks in the end.

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Battle of Britain memorial near Dover, UK

I think there will be longer queues at customs for a very short time and if it is, I think an extra ten-fifteen minutes is needed at airports or the ferry ports (unless you’re working with freight). I got a few road trips already booked and I am taking the ferry from Douvres (Dover) to Calais in France to get to mainland Europe. Am I worried about what the press is reporting. Heck no because I have been to countries in the world where it takes longer to get through customs and passports, like my friends over the pond in U.S.A (not Canada, they awesome, they look at me and just let me through). I expect the roads to be clear going into the Port of Dover and check-in as normal. When it comes to traveling, I am ready. If there are changes with the paperwork, bring it on. I just renewed my passport and got it back this week. It’s still the red one, not the blue one (pre-EU club passport), so I was a bit sad about that. But no European Union/BrExit stuff written on it. 

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New Forest, UK

Now I am blabbering on. When BrExit was announced, I set myself a challenge of visiting all the European Union countries before the UK leaves the club. It wasn’t hard as I only had one left to do since 2016 and that was Cyprus. The countries in the European Union are all wonderful places to visit and has their hidden gems. I have made many friends along the way, tried lots of food and beer, learnt a lot about how they tick, their politics, their history, their languages, their troubles, their strengths. There is a lot more to traveling for me than stepping out of the plane and breathing the fresh air of wherever I am and then heading back home. So here I go, this post is all about the countries I have visited in the European Union with a brief point about them. From Saturday, nothing will change my views of these wonderful places and the UK will be that place in the ocean waiting to be ‘Great’ again (which may take a while but I am British and like many, have the Winston Churchill attitude to get the job done and get on with life! – if that makes any sense!). 

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The Roman baths in Bath, UK

Austria – Österreich: Lovely stunning country stuck in the mountains with a bit of flat land to the east. My first experience here was in Bregenz in the west of the country located on the Lake of Constance (Bodensee) and became my hideaway hole, my weekend getaway. Lots of hiking routes here. If I had problems at home in my younger years, I would fly to this region and come here. I have also visited Vienna (Wien), Salzburg, Werfen, Graz, Linz and love you all. However, I hate the Austrian road system with road sticker taxes and private roads tolls. Come on guys, be like your neighbours to the west and keep it simple. Also I love your Tiroler Gröstl. Yummy, fills me up and great to eat after a days hike in the mountains. 

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Belgium – Koninkrijk België – Royaume de Belgique – Königreich Belgien: One of my favourite drinking places in Europe and love meeting locals in the bars of Gent/Gand/Ghent. Brugge/Brugge is the Venice of the north and a beautiful area to start a cycle ride out into the countryside. Brussels/Bruxelles I have never really been a big fan of and my experiences here are not great. However away from the capital, the country is beautiful. I love hiking and driving around the Ardennes to the east. Other Belgium favourites for me was growing up with The Smurfs and Tintin and of course love listening to the dance tracks of Kate Ryan. She is a legend.

Check out my blog post on First World War sites around Ieper, Belgium

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Having a drink to remember the fallen next to the Menin Gate in Ieper/Ypres.

Bulgaria – България: I have only been to this country once (and will be the first country I will visit once the UK are out of the EU), and to be honest I didn’t really enjoy my experience here especially in the tourist trap areas, where there were loads of scammers. Also nearly got involved in a drug smuggling scandal when I was on the coach from Sofia to Skopje, which I didn’t know about at the time. My favourite thing to do was hiking Mountain Vitosha on the outskirts of the city. Hoping for a better experience next time.

Blog post: Read my ‘drug’ experience whilst taking a bus from Sofia to Skopje

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Views from Mountain Vitosha in Bulgaria

Croatia – Hrvatska: One country I am hoping to go back soon as I didn’t spend long on my only visit there, which was to the town of Pula in the north of the country. Love the history in this region and remember the beers were cheap and the locals were friendly. Also remember the passport control girl on girl (as I was traveling into Slovenia) been VERY friendly, bless her. When it comes to football, I just hate it when England have to face Croatia, always our bogey team.

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Roman arena in Pula, Croatia

Cyprus – Κύπρος: The last European Union country I have visited as recently as last September (2019). I traveled the ‘Greek’ side of the island which is in the European Union and had a blast in Paphos. What I saw in my short time is the landscape is beautiful and there is so much to offer on the island. I also hope to visit the ‘Turkish’ side as well (which is not in the European Union) as that does look totally awesome. Locals here are very friendly and had a blast with them. 

Blog post: A one day sightseeing guide to Paphos, Cyprus

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Paphos Lighthouse in Paphos, Cyprus

Czechia (formerly known as Czech Republic) – Česká: I been here a few times and I still want to go back. Another country in Central Europe with beautiful landscape (and it’s cheap with the exchange rates with the British Pound, apart from Prague/Praha as that’s just a tourist trap). Love the capital with its beautiful buildings. Also been to Kunta Hora, Brno and Ostrava, where the locals are very friendly.

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Ostrava castle, Czechia

Denmark – Danmark: The country where the main export is wind! Sorry, a British joke there. However Denmark is known for it’s flat land and wind turbines, Lego and being the happiest place to live in the world. I have been to Aarhus on my first visit where I caught a bug and threw up everywhere in a gas station in the middle of the night. Returned a few years later to Copenhagen where I had a blast, lots of do, locals very friendly but came away with open wallet surgery. Blew my traveling budget big time!

Blog post – combining a trip to Copenhagen and Malmo

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Copenhagen, Denmark

Estonia – EestI: How I love Latvia’s neighbours to the north. Beautiful landscape, buildings and the locals are very friendly. Tallinn is probably the prettiest city in Europe with its medieval buildings, nice view points and cobbled streets. Looks amazing with ten foot of snow as well.

Blog post: Tallinn: prettiest capital city in Europe

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Tallinn, Estonia

Finland – Suomi: Winter wonderland. As well as being the home of the Moomins and Santa Claus, I come to Finland for its natural beauty and Northern Lights during the winter months. I also visited the city of Tampere which is nice with all its hiking trails and the capital of Helsinki I found to be the most boring in the EU club when it came to sightseeing (sorry Finland), however the friendly locals and the food scene made up for that.

Blog post: Chasing the Northern Lights with Aurora Holidays

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Ice fishing in Lapland, Finland

France: the UK’s second closest neighbours by seventeen miles (Northern Ireland Ireland are neighbours also), and there is a lot of history between the nations. It has always been a love-hate relationship since the days of the Royal Families making babies with each other, conquering each other, killing each other etc etc. However in times of needs, we are always there for each other (despite not having the same political views but that has always been the case). Me personally, I am a Francophone, I love all things French apart from eating frog’s legs and snails. I also used to live and work for a very short time in Paris and Lille and learnt to speak the language and embrace the culture. I also know the regions of the north, Alps, Côte d’Azur, Provence very well and still exploring this amazing country which has everything from city breaks, castles, skiing, beach resorts, food scene and the drinking scene. Just don’t mention to the locals that the Brits invented the baguette and champagne (to which we did), that just winds them up. Locals are very friendly and if I return to the country to work, I know that I will have to do a lot of paperwork (along with the 1000 sheets of paper I need to sign just after I have done a doctors appointment there!).

Blog Post: The top sights to see in Paris

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Germany – Deutschland: The underrated country to visit but one which has a lot of hidden gems and I must say, Germany is a MUST to visit. It’s vibrant cities, amazing people and beautiful scenery of the countryside, Baltic Sea coastline and the Alps, they must be explored. I have made so many friends in the land of crazy football fans, excellent beer and techno music scene with great meaty meals! Love you Germany!

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Bavarian Alps, Germany

Greece – Hellas – Ελλάς: I have only been to Greece a few times and not just to go to the beach resorts, drink the green stuff and soak in the sun. I have been to parts of the mainland and soaked up the history. Amazing country, locals are very friendly and I would like to say sorry to the waiter on my very first visit to the country, in the city of Thessaloniki. I didn’t mean to have a go at you when you kept offering me and my party lots of bottled water and I kept refusing it, telling you to take it back. I didn’t know it was a Greek custom and didn’t mean to be an asshole over it.

Blog post: Agios Gordios – a budget summer destination

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Near Athens in Greece – a week before I relaunched my travel blog ‘Danik the Explorer’

Hungary – Magyarország: Another central European country with a crazy history. Budapest is ok, didn’t fall in love with it, however, I enjoyed my time at Lake Balaton, just chilling out by the campfire and taking in the wonderful views. Not a big fan of train travel here either. If there is a timetable, use it guys, not make it up as you go along (reminds me sometimes of certain UK rail companies!).

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Lake Balaton, Hungary

Ireland – Eire: Been to the island next door a few times. First off, I did Dublin several times but found this is not Ireland, just another international city which reminded me of places in Northern England. The real Ireland is outside the city and oh my god, the scenery is amazing. The towns are fantastic, great food and drink scene, the landscape from rolling hills, rugged coastlines, waterfalls, is stunning. And the history is quite interesting. I learnt so much whilst over there and can’t wait to go back.

Blog post: A road trip on the Ring of Kerry

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Killarney, Ireland

Italy – Italia: every time I visit Italy, I fall more and more in love with the place. First of all, I did a lot of the cities, Milano, Torino, Roma, and the tourist trap city of Venezia. But outside the cities is different. Friendly locals, good food, amazing landscape, what more can I ask for. Even spent my family vacation there last year and I will be doing the same this year. Love you Italy!

Blog post: Road trippin’ through the Nervia Valley

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Burano, Italy
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Pigna, Italy
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Lido di Spina, Italy

Latvia – Latvija: to all my followers who know me, this is my second nation (on par with France). My wife is from here, I spent a lot of time here, embraced the culture of the Latvians (and the Russian speaking community here), and all I can say is, what an amazing country you are. Has one of the best beaches in Europe in Jurmala (just need the hot temperatures in the summer months, mind you), great nightlife, fantastic food, friendly locals, amazing ice hockey team, crap football team and beautiful landscape in Gauja National Park. Latvia is always forever in my heart. 

Blog post: Riga, city break ideas from my second home

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Lithuania – Lietuva: Latvia’s neighbours to the south with similar language, customs etc but a little bit of a different history. A call Lithuania the ‘singing nation’ as a lot of people here love singing. Made many friends here and visitors will get a very warm. Vilnius is a beautiful capital with beautiful walks and like Latvia, beautiful countryside.

Blog post: Vilnius: the gateway to the Baltics

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Trakai Castle, Lithuania
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Vilnius, Lithuania
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Vilnius, Lithuania

Luxembourg – Luxemburg: The small country squashed by Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. You if nick something, like say, £1000000000 in cash from a bank in the capital and drive off, you will be out of the country in five minutes and driving through France to get to Switzerland to bank the cash in! This always has been a question, can Luxembourg police drive into neighbouring countries and play Grand Theft Auto? Anyway, amazing castles and the scenery in the Ardennes is totally amazing. Love the cheap gas prices here.

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Luxembourg

Malta: Love this small island in the sea which comprises of Malta mainland, Comino, Gozo and St Pauls. Lots of wonderful history here and the locals are very friendly. Missing those old ‘Bedford’ buses mind you. And rest in peace Azure Window, I still can’t believe Mother Nature came around and let the sea take you away.

Blog post: Matla – very historic island in the sun

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Malta’s Azure Window before it came down

Netherlands – Nederland: The only country which is below sea level (those Dutch people know how to sort out the water and gain land, I think they also helped us with Norfolk many moons ago), and is the only country in the European Union to have two capital cities, Amsterdam and Den Haag (The Hague). I totally love the country which brings amazing pancakes, Armin Van Buuren and the trance scene and Tulips. But those clogs are awful. I also love cycling here and even cycled from my home town of Stevenage to Amsterdam just to have a drink at the weekend. Cycling pass those windmills of Kinderdijk will always live with me. Amazing people and sure to get a warm welcome from the locals.

Blog post: my cycle ride for a beer from Stevenage (UK) to Amsterdam via France & Belgium

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Kingsday in Amsterdam, Netherlands
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Kinderdijk, Netherlands

Poland – Polska: What can I say and where do I start? Up and down history with the country nearly been wiped off the map at one point but came back stronger. The locals are very hard working and always warm welcoming. With the country being smaller than what it was in the past, they made up for it in other areas, to show the world that they are totally amazing and have a lot to offer. Most of the cities were rebuilt after the Second World War but some cases, I wouldn’t have known as the exact detail of buildings just looks like the originals. Warsaw comes to mind. The tourist city of Krakow, Lodz, Gdansk are worth hitting up for its beauty and history. However my favourite area is the Tatra Mountains for hiking and having a fantastic meaty meal with local beers at the end of the day. The UK and Poland have a special relationship and I can see that with the Polish people I know, I meet in Poland and also in the UK. A truly amazing country.

Blog post: A beautiful morning around Torun

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Zamosc, Poland
Torun, Poland
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The Tatra Mountains, Poland

Portugal: This country is just simply wonderful. It has a culture which no other country comes close to in Europe, maybe Spain, but no. To me, it can be like the Brazil of Europe. I love the food, the culture, the sights, the landscape, and again, the locals are very friendly. Away from the coastline, this country has a lot of hidden gems and I can’t wait to get back out there and explore.

Blog post: Exciting things to do in Lisbon

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Lisbon, Portugal

Romania – România: The only country in the European Union where I hate the capital city, sorry Romania. I just hate it. I didn’t fall in love with the place. I been there a few times and no. It’s not for me. However outside the capital, wow, what an amazing country. Beautiful mountains and your hiking routes are lovely. Love the way you guys get tourists in by saying Bran Castle is the home of Dracula despite the fact there is no connection. However the castle is stunning. Also got to know the Roma community even more and they are not all bad, especially seeing horse and cart racing down the lanes in the winter months. I am sure some were going faster than cars. Can’t wait to go back and have a blast.

Blog post: A long weekend in Brasov

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Brasov, Romania

Slovakia – Slovensko: Another country where I was not impressed by the capital city, Bratislava, it just reminded me of an industrial wasteland. Sorry Slovakia. And what’s with the ‘War of the World’s’ bridge? Again, the Higher and Lower Tatra mountain ranges are some of my favourite hiking places in Europe and I love the city of Kosice. Locals are very friendly also.

Blog post: Hiking the Sucha Bela Gorge in Slovakia

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Hiking in the Lower Tatra Mountains, Slovakia

Slovenia – Slovenija: Beautiful Balkan country with the small capital of Ljubljana. Great food, great mountains, great hiking, great drinks and a great train links from western to eastern Europe. Locals are very friendly here also.

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Lake Bled, Slovenia

Spain – España: No introduction to British people here, we just love coming to your beach resorts on the southern and eastern coastline, the Balearics and the Canary Islands (to which these islands are NOT part of the European Union). Away from the beaches and drunken bars, the country has amazing culture, landscape, buildings, food, and there are a lot of hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Spain was the first country I checked out with my folks way back in the late 1990s. Despite the politics and royal families between the UK and Spain being a love-hate relationship, the locals here are very friendly and I have made so many friends here. Love you Spain!

Blog post: Valencia, charming city break in Spain

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Gran Canaria, Spain

And last off… Sweden – Sverige. Despite the Viking past and messing up a lot of the Nordic countries as well as my islands, it shaped the way Northern Europe is today. The UK has a lot to owe to this country, the modern day English language came from the vikings, the grammar and some of the words (which in time intermingled with French, Dutch, German and so forth). However I love the Swedes, their sense of humour and I am very thankful they brought over IKEA (my DIY skills suck), ABBA (was brought up with their music), and of course, Cinnamon rolls which came from here and Denmark. I love Stockholm for its nightlife and food and the countryside, simply amazing! Love the locals here, very welcoming, love you Sweden! 

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Stockholm, Sweden

There you have, I have been to all European Union countries and will still go back to many of them as they are all amazing. Forget the politics, forget BrExit, I love Europe. So many backgrounds, history, culture, food, drink, languages, there is SOOOOO much to do over the English Channel/la Manche. And can I say to people outside Euroland who want to visit EVERY country on the mainland, it can’t be done in a week! Just because some countries are the size of a dime on the map doesn’t mean that there is bugger all there. Luxembourg I needed a week to do all I want and I still have unfinished business there! The UK has left the European Union but we are still European, we love Europe and I am sure with time (with the political side), the relationship will be stronger than ever. Who knows now, we might get some points in the Eurovision Song Contest (choose someone who isn’t a regret from the X-Factor BBC!) but we still stand strong over the stance of having bendy bananas (never forget that story that the EU wanted everyone to have straight bananas!). 

For now, it’s not goodbye, it’s au revoir! 

BrExit, BrExit, BrExit, BrExit, BrExit, BrExit,


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