Why I’d have another Helsinki city break

As someone who errs towards a degree of shabby chic when choosing city break destinations, I wasn’t sure how good a match me and Helsinki would be.

I needn’t have worried. Helsinki managed that brilliant trick of balancing “everything just works”, without being glossed and polished to within an inch of its life. Here’s why I would happily return to Helsinki for city break round two!

Helsinki’s urban planning and infrastructure

I’d like to borrow some of Helsinki’s urban planners, please!

OK, so Helsinki doesn’t have the same space restrictions caused by the (rightly) protected higgledy-piggledy ancient architecture of many European towns and cities. However, the Finns have done a brilliant job of making use of the spaces they have. They seemed designed to be used by everyone – and they were!

The car is not king

Helsinki has whole areas designed around pedal- and foot-power instead of cars – bike lanes and footpaths separate from main roads. The result: loads of people of all ages walking and cycling.

A cyclist on a Helsinki city bike goes past some cool street art

A cyclist pedals past some very cool street art on a Helsinki city bike

Helsinki does have cars, it’s just not over-run with them. So much so that when we were walking around during what should’ve been rush hour, I thought it must be a public holiday.

Helsinki street scene with cars and bikes

Cars – yes. Cars everywhere – no 🙂

As well as being healthier, the lack of cars had the added advantage that I could hear myself think. I could have happily heard both sides of a conversation on my phone whilst walking in the city centre. That’s a very unlikely possibility in the UK.

Public transport in Helsinki

I know Helsinki isn’t unique in having integrated public transport and ticketing, but the fact it does makes travelling and journey planning a whole load easier.

We used the Whim app to get public transport tickets (mobile tickets are cheaper), and also to plan our journeys. Not having to spend half an hour figuring out which bus or tram stop we needed was a welcome change from most cities I’ve visited.

Helsinki’s mobile tickets for Zone 1 are €2.20 and for Zone 2 are €4.20. They’re valid for 80 minutes across all public transport.

[box type=”info”]Disclosure: Whim provided us with App travel credit for this trip.[/box]

We used Zone 2 buses (for the airport), trams and the Suomenlinna ferry during our stay. You can also use Whim for the Helsinki city bike scheme, for taxis and for car hire.

Looking back to Helsinki from the Suomenlinna ferry on our Helsinki city break

Looking back to Helsinki from the Suomenlinna ferry

Ticket checks on Helsinki’s public transport seemed irregular, but they do happen so don’t be tempted to cheat the system!

Outside of the city, Helsinki also has several commuter train lines, which we used to get to Lahti for our RedBull 400 ski jump run.

Helsinki has a sense of collective responsibility

The Finns really seemed to care about their environment. And by “their”, I don’t just mean things that just impacted them personally.

Little things I really noticed. Cafes and bars were all self-serve, and everyone tidied up after themselves. If there was a rack for dirty crockery, you could be sure pretty much everyone would use it. Certainly far more than at home.

A more obvious social policy is a bottle deposit scheme, which was easy to use even as a visitor. Simply pay a deposit by default on plastic and glass bottles, then take the empties to a recycling receptacle that spits out a voucher to redeem on your next shop. Simple.

[box type=”info”]We used the Insight Guide to Helsinki for our trip. We also love this foldable coffee cup, to get into the Helsinki spirit of reuse and recycle! Buy through these links to help the site, at no extra cost to you.[/box]

Something else that really struck me was an apparent lack of homelessness in Helsinki – was that really the case or was I just looking through the city with rose-tinted glasses? Intrigued, I did a bit of research when we got home.

It turns out that Finland is the ONLY country in EU where homelessness is decreasing. And they do that by … providing the homeless with a home.

Not exactly radical, but in Finland they’ve figured that homeless people are more likely to access support services when they’ve got a stable environment to live in.

High quality … everything!

The easiest example of quality in Helsinki I can think of is the food. There was not a soggy sandwich in sight. Processed food just didn’t seem to be a thing. (hallelujah!)

Outdoor food stalls - a Helsinki city break

Helsinki has plenty of popular outdoor food stalls. Fresh fish soup, yummy bread and coffee were €10.

In coffee shops, freshly made sandwiches on granary bread and plated salads were the norm. On proper crockery.

The coffee was good too, though we’d expected that, as the Finns are apparently the biggest consumers of coffee per person in the world.

It’s true that some of this quality does come at a price. However, Helsinki wasn’t as bank-breaking as we’d anticipated. Prices for food and drinks were around 25% more than in the UK. Coffee shops were self-service, so no tipping required. Oh, and reindeer tastes goooood 🙂

For drinking at home (or in your Airbnb apartment), buy stronger booze like wine and spirits from an Alko off licence. Only beer and cider are sold in supermarkets. Alko stores close on a Sunday; and only open ‘til 6pm on Saturdays (8pm Monday to Friday). Not that we fell foul of this when being quite ready for a night in with a bottle of wine after competing in the RedBull 400. Oh, no, sirree!

If you fancy a tipple when you’re out and about in one of Helsinki’s many green spaces, there are plenty of uber-cool bars where you can quench your thirst.

Even the souvenirs in Helsinki were classy

There was not a dodgy fridge magnet in sight in Helsinki. I mean, how fabulous are these reindeer socks?

Reindeer socks - a quality Helsinki city break souvenir

Reindeer socks, €6 from Helsinki airport

For other lovely craft shopping, the Hakaniemi Market Hall is home to high quality goods as well as the ubiquitous Moomin souvenirs, which are something of a national obsession in Finland. It’s also a rather fine place to have a coffee and watch the world go by.

[box type=”info”]We stayed in an Airbnb apartment in Kallio, Helsinki (££ discount off your first Airbnb stay with this link) and flew to Helsinki with Finnair from Manchester. Book your flights via Skyscanner. Help the site by using these links, at no extra cost to you.[/box]

Take me back!

It’s safe to say my slight worries that Helsinki might be a bit too stale for me were well and truly allayed. This was my first ever trip to Scandinavia, and I’m already asking: when can we go again?

Have you visited Helsinki? What’s made you think “yay” or “nay” to Helsinki as a potential city break destination? Share your views below.

What’s it like to do the Red Bull ski jump run?

“OMG we’ve GOT to do this!” I enthused, simultaneously holding a glass of wine and shoving the screen of my phone in my husband’s direction.

I’d just shown Andrew this … the Red Bull 400.

The Red Bull 400 ski jump run

Red Bull 400. Image by Victor Engström and used with permission from the Red Bull Content Pool.

It may “only” be 400-metres, but the Red Bull 400 involves running UP a ski jump. Yes, you read that right, UP a ski jump.

Oh, and some of the competitors are professional athletes.

At this point, most people would’ve muttered something less polite than, “are you having a laugh?” but not Andrew. To be fair, his infectious enthusiasm for giving things a go is one of the many reasons I married him …

Which Red Bull 400 ski jump should we run up?

As the 2018 dates for the Red Bull 400 were released, we eagerly (nervously) scanned the various European venues, with our all-important “criteria” in mind, namely:

  • Holiday potential – the most important factor, surely?!
  • Ease of getting there for a long weekend – direct flights, not in the middle of nowhere.
  • Relatively low altitude – running up a ski jump would be hard enough without having to battle 3000-metre altitude.

That last point narrowed the options somewhat, what with ski jumps generally being in the mountains 😉 All of which led us to …

Finlanda weekend in Helsinki and a day out to the nearby city of Lahti, home to one rather large ski jump.

How to train for the Red Bull 400

Three months of vigorous training ensued. We even hired a trainer to help us – Gavin of Fitness Framework in York. To say he pushed us hard was an understatement:

Glutes were strengthened, legs lunged, arms pumped and our cores crunched within an inch of their lives.

The Red Bull 400 reality hits home

The weekend finally arrived. Following a direct flight from Manchester and a lovely day or so exploring Helsinki, the Saturday dawned with blazing hot sunshine. After feasting on a carb-and-protein-tastic breakfast of eggs on toast, we crammed some bananas, water and sunscreen into a rucksack, and caught the tram to the station for our one-hour train journey to Lahti.

[box type=”info”]We used the Whim App for city transport within Helsinki itself. An 80 minute Zone 1 journey mobile ticket was 2.20 Euro. Mobile tickets are cheaper than those bought from ticket machines. Disclosure: Whim provided us with App travel credit for this trip.[/box]

The nerves were already kicking in by this point. We knew there were about 700 runners, which meant the chances of us being in the top 160 (80 women and 80 men) to reach the finals were fairly small.

We’d like to say our nerves were steadied after reaching the venue, but … er … they weren’t!

The heats

The heats are 300-metres rather than the full 400. I was in the last of the women’s heats, and Andrew in the first of the men’s, which gave us a chance to watch and see what we were in for!

What we were in for was pain, a whole lot of pain! My speed was pretty good until the steepest part of the hill kicked in; and after then it was a serious but steady scramble to the top.

My calves were burning, and my respiratory system was at full tilt – even drawing breath was difficult. The lactic acid was so bad that when the slope levelled out again, it was practically impossible to move my legs again, never mind run.

My result: 101st out of 205 ladies in the heats, in a time of 4:33.

Then it was Andrew’s turn. Andrew’s heat was straight after mine, which meant I was slowly recovering my breath and coughing my way back down (using a staircase this time!), whilst he was bounding up.

Andrew Hill Red Bull 400 Lahti Finland

Was he screaming all the way up? Image by Victor Engström and used with permission of the Red Bull Content Pool.

Andrew managed an impressive time of 3:29, coming 182nd out of 328 men.

We were both a bit disappointed not to make the finals, although our bodies were pretty happy not to have to do it again!

Resting after the Red Bull 400 ski jump run, Lahti, Finland

After all that, we needed a good lie down

What kind of people win?

We weren’t kidding about the athletic competition: podium winners included the women’s world indoor marathon record holder, a men’s Gold Olympic medalist in cross-country ski-ing and a professional ice hockey player!!

Does the Red Bull 400 hurt?

Er, yes! It’s honestly the hardest my respiratory system has EVER worked, and we had to walk backwards up hills the following day and take more buses, our calves hurt that much. Fortunately our glutes, core and arms came through unscathed, so the training definitely paid off (thanks Gavin!)

The pain was worth it though, as with the help of friends, family and colleagues we raised £600 for The Prince’s Trust, a charity that supports disadvantaged young people in jobs, education and training.

[box type=”info”]We stayed in an Airbnb apartment in the Kallio neighbourhood of Helsinki (££ discount off your first Airbnb stay with this link). Help the site by using this link, at no extra cost to you.[/box]

My top Red Bull 400 tips

  1. Train.
  2. Train some more.
  3. Be proud of your slightly crazy British reverse-Eddie the Eagle endeavours 🙂

Have you ever planned a holiday around a sporting event, a crazy one or otherwise? Share your stories below!

A day trip from Campeche to the Edzna Mayan ruins

I love a good Mayan ruin. If they’re of the lesser-visited variety like Edzná, so much the better. With a few days in the colourful Mexican city of Campeche on the western side of the Yucatán peninsula, a day trip to the Edzná ruins was too big a draw to resist.

Edzna Mayan ruins Campeche main plaza

Look up!

Getting from Campeche to Edzná

Being fans of independent travel and public transport, a tour wasn’t an option for us. However, our outdated Lonely Planet guidebook (note to self: buy the new one – details in the box below) sent us in the direction of a bus stop that clearly hadn’t seen a bus for quite some time. Plan B came into force …

[box type=”info”]Don’t make the mistake we did: Get the up-to-date Lonely Planet Guide to Mexico before you go. Help the site by buying the guide through this link, at no extra cost to you.[/box]

Undeterred, and with the knowledge that Mexico is a country that DOES public transport and that there would be SOME way of getting to Edzná from Campeche, we did the only sensible thing possible: followed the collectivos (combi vans). A short bout of out-of-breath-ness later, this led us to a collective of collectivos all painted in red and white, parked up on Calle Chihuahua near Campeche’s market.

Collectivos are a wonder of Mexican transport, and for me, one of my top tips for travelling in Mexico.

Collectivo drivers are pretty helpful, and a few words of Spanish to explain we were going to the Edzná ruins saw us directed to a Bonfil-bound collectivo for the 55km (approx. 1 hr) journey, departing at 11am.

The ruins are a few hundred metres from the main road, but our driver detoured to drop us right at the entrance once we’d conveyed that’s where we were heading. The journey cost 45 peso per person each way (less than £2).

The Mayan ruins of Edzná

Safely dropped off, we paid the 60 peso per person entrance fee (about £2.50) and began our explorations.

The Mayan city of Edzná was a big deal in its day, particularly between 400 and 1000 AD, when it was the powerful regional capital of the western Yucatán. It was eventually abandoned around 1450 AD.

Its buildings reflect its former grandeur, and we happily hauled ourselves up and down the steep steps to towering platforms for a view over what used to be the main plaza.

Edzná's main plaza, Campeche, Mexico

Edzná’s main plaza

The highest structure is out of bounds for climbing, but the rest were fair game, so we gave our hamstrings a good workout as we posed for photos.

main pyramid, Edzna, Campeche

posing in the foreground of the main pyramid

The early buildings at Edzná are typical of the Petén architectural style (Petén nowadays is a region of northern Guatemala), with later structures showing influences of the Tardíos, Chenes and Puuc. Back in the day, the main limestone structures were often painted dark red. Others had facades adorned with the faces of gods and the mythical animals of the Mayan world. You can read more here on Edzná’s history and architecture here.

The Old Sorceress at Edzná

After the main plaza, we ventured off to the Old Sorceress around a ten-minute walk along a grassy track. But not before having acquired impromptu new hairstyles from the surrounding flora!

Reaching the Old Sorceress was Andrew’s excuse to go full-on Indiana Jones, as he scrambled off up the steep and jungle-covered un-restored pyramid.

Overall, we spent about 2 hours at Edzná, although if you’re less photo-happy than us then an hour-and-a-half would be plenty. Although not completely untouristed, most visitors to Edzná were Mexican, and we spotted a grand total of zero tour groups 🙂

Getting from Edzná back to Campeche

For public transport back from Edzná to Campeche we headed to the main road, and hung out under this road junction sign to flag down a collectivo.

how to get from Edzna to Campeche

you can hang out under this road sign to catch transport back to Campeche

The road isn’t too busy and waiting here meant transport options coming from two directions. We had to wait about 15 minutes for a collectivo coming from Bonfil back to Campeche but you may get an offer of a lift whilst you wait.

[box type=”note”]In our case, a guy in a pick-up truck stopped and offered us a lift back from Edzná to Campeche before the collectivo arrived. From prior research, coupled with my previous experience in this part of Mexico, this didn’t seem out of the ordinary. However, I politely declined as I wanted to make sure the public transport option worked so I could write this article 🙂 On a previous trip to Mexico, after a public transport fail at Uxmal caused by my then sub-par Spanish skills, I gladly accepted the offer of a lift to Mérida, resulting in a very entertaining journey with some delightful Venezuelan puppeteers!

I’m not recommending hitching with strangers. On the rare occasions I have accepted a lift (typically due to a public transport fail!) my hitching safety factors include: travelling with someone, being confident that accepting lifts is fairly “normal” wherever I am, and having a “this is ok” vibe when a vehicle stops for me. Obviously the latter is subjective, but I have turned down lifts when it hasn’t felt right. This is entirely my personal take on hitching. You’ll have your own view as to what’s right for you. If you do take up a lift in this part of Mexico, it’s customary to offer to pay the equivalent of the public transport price.[/box]

Practicalities of visiting the Edzná Mayan ruins

column at Edzna, Campeche, Mexico

silly photo-taking optional 🙂

Location: Around 55km from Campeche

Transport to Edzná: 45 peso collectivo from Calle Chihuahua in Campeche, tour or drive

Entrance fee: 60 peso

Food and drink: There’s no food at Edzná, although there is a vending machine for soft drinks. You can pick up cheap eats at Campeche’s market before or after your journey – we had yummy pork rolls for the grand sum of 20 peso each.

Take with you: Water, sunscreen, insect repellant in the rainy season, change or small notes for the collectivo and entrance fee (avoid 500 notes if you can).

To learn more about Edzná: Check out the museum under the Baluarte de la Soledad and also at the Fuerte de San Miguel in Campeche. Both have archaeological exhibits.

Where to stay: We bedded down at the Hotel Socaire in Campeche, in a room so large you could’ve had a football game in there (we didn’t). It was a fabulous place to stay.

[box type=”info”]Prices, info and exchange rates researched in January 2018. Some links in this post are affiliate links, which means I get a small commission and a big smile if you use them to make a purchase. There’s no extra cost to you for doing so :)[/box]

If you’re in this part of the world, I’d highly recommend the Edzná Mayan ruins as a day trip from Campeche. Have you been, or are you going? Share your experiences below.

A quick march around York’s World War II and Cold War history

You’ve been mesmerised by the Minster, shuffled down the Shambles, and wandered around the walls … you may be forgiven for thinking that York’s history stopped sometime around the time of the Tudors.

You’d be wrong. Andrew and I checked out five of York’s military museums to get under the skin of our city’s World War II and Cold War history. Here’s what we found.

[box type=”note” border=”full”]Disclosure: Many thanks to Visit York, who kindly provided Andrew and I with a York Pass each to cover our entry fees. As ever, all opinions expressed are my own. Prices of individual attractions correct as at October 2017.[/box]

Protecting us from nuclear fallout at the York Cold War Bunker

A couple of miles from the city centre, the York Cold War Bunker was active from 1961 all the way through to 1991. Its purpose? It was one of 29 UK sites designed to notify Britain if it had been the target of a nuclear attack, and measure the fall-out if it had!

This joyous task was the job of the now-disbanded Royal Observer Corps (ROC). If the worst had happened, the ROC had the rather unenviable job of being cooped in this underground bunker for 30 days whilst completing their nuclear fall-out monitoring duties.

York military museum York Cold War Bunker

Monitoring any potential nuclear fallout – as you do!

Fortunately the Cold War didn’t heat up to that extent, and Andrew and I were glad we didn’t have the job of checking radiation levels by “just nipping outside to look at the monitor”, and then “decontaminating” with water. Apparently this was one of the few ways to guarantee getting a shower in the bunker, such was the limited water supply.

Now decommissioned – the York Cold War Bunker is run by English Heritage, with entry through an hour-long guided tour. Adult tickets go for £7.50 + £0.80 gift aid.

[box type=”info”]Many of York’s military history attractions can be visited with a York Pass, which can be a worthwhile investment if you’re also visiting some of York’s pricier attractions over a few days. You can buy a York Pass through this link, at no extra cost to you. By doing so I receive a small commission, which helps to keep The Gap Year Edit website running.[/box]

Preserving 300 years of local military history at York Army Museum

York Army Museum - York military museum

At York Army Museum
– who can resist dressing up?

In the city centre at the base of Clifford’s Tower, near York’s city walls, is the York Army Museum. The Museum focuses on 300 years of history of the Army in Yorkshire. There are some great interactive displays and powerful videos, which bring the realities of war to life. For something a little more light-hearted, we had a lot of fun dressing up in camouflage gear. What’s not to love about that?

The entry fee for adults is £5.

Giving thanks to our Canadian Allies at Beningbrough Hall

Beningbrough Hall sits to the north of York – an easy trip by bike, as we discovered on a previous visit. You can also get there by car, or bus. This beautiful stately home, which now houses part of the National Portrait Gallery collection, was requisitioned during World War II for the war effort.

Lady Chesterfield moved out, and Canadian aircrews stationed at nearby RAF Linton on Ouse moved in. Many of the crew sadly didn’t return from their bombing missions over Germany – the Hall still honours them today with a very moving exhibition in one of the upstairs rooms.

A quick march around York's World War II and Cold War history

Beautiful Beningbrough

On a lighter note, Beningbrough also has some gorgeous gardens, a rather fine tea room, and other stately-home-esque exhibitions.

Entry to Beningbrough Hall costs £11.80 + £1.20 gift aid.

Paying tribute to the Allied Air Forces at the Yorkshire Air Museum

Over to the east of York, The Yorkshire Air Museum is located at what was once RAF Elvington. Elvington, like Linton, was also used in World War II as a base for Allied bomber crews.

As the name suggests, the museum houses some rather fine examples of legendary WWII aircraft – the Halifax, Spitfire, Dakota, Handley Page Victor … they’re all here. Go on a “Thunder Day” to hear their engines roar!

York military museums: The Handley Page Victor at the Yorkshire Air Museum

The Handley Page Victor at the Yorkshire Air Museum. Photo courtesy of Visit York.

Along with the aircraft themselves, you could spend hours wandering around the hangars taking in the varied exhibits – don’t miss the Bomber Command!

The Allied Air Forces Memorial is also on site. The Yorkshire Air Museum is priced at £10.00 for adults.

Imagining life in wartime Britain at Eden Camp

Nowadays, Eden Camp styles itself as a “Modern History Theme Museum” but it was originally built in 1942 as a Prisoner of War Camp. During World War II, Eden Camp housed Italian and, later, German Prisoners of War.

Exhibits are spread out over the site’s 29 huts – wrap up warm if you’re there in Winter, as they’re not heated! It’s a fascinating look into wartime life: for the British, and also for the POWs who lived in the camp.

Eden Camp is located further east of York, and just north of the market town of Malton (a good foodie destination). It costs £8.50 for adults.

If you’re in that neck of the woods in October, don’t miss Pickering’s 1940 Wartime Weekend. Pickering is six miles north of Eden Camp.

[box type=”info”]To help you get the most out of your visit, pick up the Insight Guide to York before you arrive. Help the site by buying the guide through this link, at no extra cost to you.[/box]

Tearfully moving at times, joyous at others, visiting York’s military museums brought home just how big a part the city and its surroundings played during World War II and the Cold War. As an alternative from some of York’s more widely known attractions, we’d highly recommend you quick march to at least one of them, pronto!

Which York military museum sticks in your mind the most? What made it so memorable? Let us know in the comments below.

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4 reasons to visit Timişoara before 2021

Timişoara, Romania, will be European Capital of Culture 2021, but it’s got plenty to offer visitors now. Here’s why you should visit Timişoara before the crowds do. 

Visit Timisoara2010 check out Timisoara sign

Check out Timisoara before the crowds do!

Reason 1: Architecture in Timişoara is fabulous

Its buildings may be less well recognised than those of its Romanian counterparts Sibiu, Sighişoara and Brasov; but Timişoara’s architecture is fabulous. Baroque and Austro-Hungarian influences are everywhere.

After three days in the city, my own architectural highlights were: The Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral on the southern edge of Victoriei Square; and the colourful Porto-esque buildings of Unirii Square.

And not forgetting the shabby chic edifices at various street corners around town. There’s a whole load of renovation going on – no doubt one of two of these will have been transformed into boutique hotels by the time of Timişoara 2021!

With Timişoara’s architecture comes an associated arts and cultural sceneopera at the opera house, open air theatre in the park, and some rather funky sculptures dotted about town.

Visit Timisoara2021 culture heart sculpture

Andrew and I loved this sculpture 😉

Reason 2 to visit Timişoara: the city has a place in history

By December 1989 the Iron Curtain was well and truly buckling. Communism was already on its way out and legislative change on its way in, in countries including Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Romania was next.

The Revolution in Romania started in Timişoara, and you can learn all about it in the worthwhile Museum of the Revolution.

Although clearly underfunded, the museum is well presented, and some English-speaking staff can give you an overview of the different exhibits. Particularly powerful is a 20-minute video (subtitled) showing actual footage from the start of the Romanian Revolution on 16 December 1989 and the days that followed. In some cases it’s pretty brutal – protestors being shot by their own Army as the regime desperately tried to suppress the uprising.

The video, whilst harrowing, made me think about how different my life would’ve been if I’d been a teenager in Timişoara in 1989, instead of in Yorkshire, England.

Around town you can see many of the buildings brought to prominence during the revolution, and there’s also a memorial statue in Victoriei Square.

Reason 3: Timişoara has a lively outdoor café and bar culture

Like much of the rest of the Balkans, stopping for a coffee at a pavement café is one of the best things to do in Timişoara, and indeed in Romania as a whole.

Café’s are plentiful, particularly on Victoriei Square, Unirii Square and the surrounding streets.

visit Timisoara2021 coffee culture

cramming over the Eastern Europe phrasebook with a coffee

For a bit of a change, though, head down to the Bega Canal for some cool bars with extensive beer and cocktail menus. Honestly, it would be rude not to!

visit Timisoara2021 Bega canal bars

browsing the rather extensive cocktail menu at a Bega Canal bar. I went for a mojito 🙂

In September 2017, coffees and beers cost around 4-10 lei (£0.80-£2), cocktails around 15 lei (£3).

[box type=”info”]We stayed in the homely Pension Dinu Residence B&B in Timişoara, which we reserved through booking.com. We also used the Lonely Planet Guide to Romania & Bulgaria for our trip. Help the site by buying through these links, at no extra cost to you.[/box]

Reason 4 to visit Timişoara: it hasn’t been overtaken by tourist hoards

Timişoara has some domestic tourism and isn’t exactly off the beaten track, but there were very few foreign voices to be heard – a smattering of German speakers, a couple (literally one couple) from either the US or Canada, and that was about it! We were there for three days and heard not a single other English voice. It was bliss.

[box type=”info”]Many Romanians working in cafes, bars, restaurants and museums speak some English – anything from a few words to fully fluent. If you do get stuck with the lingo, knowledge of other Latin languages will help – we found French, Spanish and Italian useful when English wasn’t spoken. Romanian has similarities to Italian in particular, which helps when you see it written down. This Lonely Planet Eastern Europe Phrasebook was also handy. Help the site by buying through this link, at no extra cost to you.[/box]

Stop to take a picture in Timişoara and people will wait patiently for you to finish, so as not to not be in the way of your photo. That’s how unused the city is to mass tourism.

As 2021 approaches, word will get out and the world and his dog may well want to visit Timişoara! As the city’s own slogan for 2021 says, “Shine your light – light up your city” … I expect there’ll be many lights shining! My recommendation: visit Timişoara before the crowds do.

Is Timişoara on your wish-list, or have you already visited? Share your experiences in the comments below.