As COVID-19 continues to decimate so many aspects of our lives, reflection and prioritizing become a more prominent part of our psychological health. Perhaps if there was a bright side to all of this, it is the rebooting of our sense of appreciation. It is a chance to clean out all the temp files and cookies from our cluttered souls. (not the chocolate chip kind… they can stay there)
Recently I took a solitary bike ride from my home in Lier, Belgium to the wonderful city of Leuven and back. Yes, it is not technically staying home and I acknowledge some feeling of guilt, despite the fact that I was never within 1.5 meters of anybody. There were many cyclists, joggers, mothers with strollers, never more than two people together unless they were parents and kids. But nevertheless I couldn’t help but get a sense that everyone collectively was out pushing the limits of acceptable quarantine, trying to stay healthy and take advantage of an incredibly rare, long string of sunny days in Belgium. But it all felt rebellious in a way, nonetheless.
At one point, I passed one of my favorite fietscafes, Cafe Maritime, which I mention in Beer & Bike: Antwerp to Leuven. It’s closed up shutters and empty terrace were symbolic of all of the travel sacrifices that we have to make, not to mention the livelihoods of all of the people depending on the income from sunny days such as this one. Normally I would have stopped to have a Leuvense Tripel and perhaps a croque monsieur. This got me thinking about my next Lockdown Rant. On my way back from Leuven, I was trying to distract myself from the frustrating wind in my face and the growing sensation that my quadriceps were about to snap into confetti streamers. So I started to make a mental list of the places or travel experiences that will have the highest priority for me when all of this is over. Isn’t that what we are all doing right now? Like a bunch of starving sailors who are stranded on a desert island listing the foods they will eat when they get back to civilization. Maybe some people are doing that too.
Most of these are places I have already been but I feel I have never experienced them in the itsabrewtifulworld way. This blog has been in existence only since the Summer of 2016 and has evolved over time. For many of my early posts, I was lucky enough to have enough supporting photographs for the types of posts I wanted to create. As I have developed my itsabrewtifulworld themes and tried to create my own niche in this over-saturated blogging world, I know that for me to write about several of the places I have already been, I would need to go back. Here is my Top Ten, in no particular order.
I really love Salzburg. I would estimate that I have been to Salzburg five times. I have done the Sound of Music tour, done dinner concerts in the Hohensalzburg Fortress and the St. Peter’s Stiftskeller, biked the Salzach river to Hallein, biked all over the Monchsberg and even been to the Christmas Market twice. But I still feel like I am missing the essentials for a blog post. I hope this is the year I can bring you Dionysian Salzburg.
Edinburgh & Scotland
Like Salzburg, Edinburgh remains untapped for me for its blog potential. The same goes for the rest of Scotland where I want to do a proper road trip to visit as many distilleries and breweries as possible while mixing in some hikes. Isle of Skye, Glen Coe, Cairngorms, and Islay top the list. I practically began this blog on a trip to Scotland in 2016. The differences in my content and writing style between then and today is quite evident. Bonnie Prince Charlie, Scotland, and The Holiest Pilgrimage.
Krakow very well could be the best beer city on this list. I have been once and witnessed its potential — again, before the blog came along. The city is one of the most beautiful and perhaps underappreciated in Europe. Poland has a thriving beer culture and I have high expectations.
Chimay / Rochefort / Orval Beer & Bike
Back before itsabrewtifulworld, I organized weekend getaways for friends which included bike rides to two of Belgium’s famous Trappist beer monasteries, Chimay & Rochefort. Orval has been on the back-burner for a couple years now. I have been itching to redo (or in the case of Orval…do) these rides, all of which are in the scenic Wallonian region of Belgium.
Luxembourg’s Mullerthal Trails
While making the trip to Luxembourg last December that would result in my Battle of the Bulge post, I discovered that Luxembourg has one of the richest hiking regions in all of Europe, as rated by the European Rambler’s Association. Located in what is called Little Switzerland, the Mullerthal Trails consist of three main loops and some extra sections totalling 112km. The heart and main waypoint in the region is the city of Echternach.
I have already done two trips to Normandy, from Honfleur to Mont St. Michel and everywhere in-between. I think this is a place that will forever keep calling me back every few years. It seriously needs some brewery and cidery exploration. Besides the World War II sites, it is an area rich with sites related to one of my favorite historical figures, William the Conqueror. So between Will, WWII, beer, and cider, there should be enough research material there for a couple of blog posts.
Franconian Beer & Hike/Bike
The Franconian region of Bavaria, Germany has quickly become one of my favorite regions in Europe over the last year or two thanks to it’s combination of brewery density and scenery. There seem to be endless possibilities to create amazing bike rides and hikes, while drinking mug after ceramic mug of the local tasty kellerbiers. For other featured posts on this topic, check out Bamberg, Bamberg Brauereien Weg, Fünf Seidla Stieg, and Eggolsheim-Hallerndorf-Buttenheim
Dublin & Ireland
Like Edinburgh & Scotland, Dublin & Ireland are just begging to be explored the itsabrewtifulworld way — breweries, distilleries, hikes, and scenic drives. I have done bits here and there, such as Dingle, County Meath, and Slieve Donard. But now it is time for some more serious exploration, including Ireland’s tallest mountain Carrauntoohil, Connemara, Galway and the Aran Islands, Kilkenny, Kerry Way, and Skellig Michael to name a few.
It should come to no surprise to visitors of this blog that I would want to go back to Switzerland. To be specific the Jungfrau Region. I have been going there every year for about five years running. I have some new hikes planned for this summer (virus eradication willing), but it may surprise visitors that I am contemplating this to be the last season for the Jungfrau. I think I have almost exhausted the big hikes around Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald and perhaps it is time to start exploring another region. I am currently pondering either another part of Switzerland or moving over to the Austrian Alps. The number of blog posts related to this topic are too numerous to add here. Probably my two favorites so far are Schynige-Faulhorn-First and Uf Spitzen. The only other time I tried a different Swiss region was in 2018 with a visit to the Matterhorn Glacier Trail.
- Oktoberfest 2020 — why in God’s Name is this in the honorable mentions? Mainly because I think it will be cancelled this year or be limited to a certain number of people (e.g. locals and other Germans). When they announce the fate in June, this could immediately shoot to #1.
- London — another city that desperately needs a good pub crawl and Dionysian post. Dublin and Edinburgh just have a higher priority at the moment.
- Italy — Italy has a reknowned craft beer culture going on. I have been to Italy many times but never with my itsabrewtifulworld hat on. It is time to add some beer (and wine) culture to the Colosseums, Cathedrals, and Art. Can you say Drunken Masterpieces: Uffizi Gallery? Yes, please.
- Istanbul — Prior to my trip to Bangkok, this had been the best food city I had ever been. I long to go back and drink a few more Efes beers the itsabrewtifulworld way and wash them down with the best köfte anywhere… or vice versa.
- The places I have never been:
- Sevilla and Granada
- Channel Islands
- Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania
- Moscow and St. Petersburg
My apologies to all the other regions around the world, but when I get out of this lockdown, I want to stay relatively close to home and enjoy Europe. You realize when something is taken away just how short life is and how much we should appreciate the things that we are passionate about. I wonder how traveling will change when it is finally acceptable to do so again. I suppose it will be best to start with the nature spots and save the cities for after the mad rush of travel-hungry tourists descend on them like the Pamplona bulls. Thank you for taking the time to visit and wherever you are, please stay safe. I welcome any comments letting me know what you think of my list and also to add your own top place or places you want to visit first.