Favorite European Destinations of 2011

I thought that since I am going to be relatively sedate over the next few months state side during these glorious travel months here in the Northern Hemisphere, I will share my favorite destinations over the past year. Perhaps if you are in the same situation you can find yourself some deals on holidays from Travel Soon to keep your lust for travel adventures satisfied. While there are a number of places that are worth mentioning, here are a few that are so near and dear to my heart I will never forget those experiences.

 

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Galway, Ireland

 

Sitting on the Western coast is what is known as the cultural capital of Ireland. Galway's reputation is well deserved. Home to a large and growing number of college age residents theater, musical performances and outdoor festivals during all the times of year are common. However, the best time to enjoy these events, such as the Galway Art Festival are in the summer months.

 

With 50 plus venues for entertainment in a city of only 75000 thousand people there is always something going on.

 

The music, bar and cultural scene in Galway is rich thanks to its young population and history as a center for Irish culture. Traditional Gaelic Irish culture is of special focus in the city. This is kept alive by a unusually high percentage of native Irish speakers, somewhere around 10 percent of the population.

 

If you are a sports fan this is a great place to visit. Galway has most every professional sport imaginable. If you want to experience some authentic traditional Irish sporting events make sure to catch a game of hurling or Gaelic football.

 

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Split, Croatia

 

Split has always been a popular destination for Europeans. Sometimes refereed to as the playground of the Adriatic it is home to Diocletian's Palace.

 

Built by the 4th century Roman Emperor named... you guessed it, Diocletian. This is perhaps the most visited and famous site in Split. Rightly so. A massive structure that was used to house the entirety of the Emperor’s servants, their families and his guards is a sight to view. You can lose yourself in the intricate alleys which are now home to trendy boutique shops, upscale restaurants and private dwellings.

 

The local Split open air market can be found, just outside the eastern gates of the Palace. This is a favorite attraction for tourists where local fresh produce, meats, homemade cheeses and clothes can be found at the booths of local merchants. You will brush elbows with locals and tourists alike in this large and enticing space that bustles through out the first half of the day.

 

The many nearby islands, among them the famous Hvar and Korcula, are within a short ferry ride making them ideal for an overnight getaway.

 

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Istanbul, Turkey

 

Perhaps the most breathtaking in terms of ancient cultural history and amazing architecture there is so much that can be said of this city. From the intricately ornate dome of the Hagia Sophia to the lengthy promenade of Istiklal Street where you can spend hours among the the shops, restaurants and bars. There is more to see here than you could take in spending a few weeks seeing the sites each and every day.

 

The Grand Bazaar itself is a sight to behold. Enormous in size you will find its bustle and complexity overwhelming. If it is not only the vast array of shops and different merchants that astound you, it will certainly be the huge crowds that cram its corridors. If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed why not sit and enjoy some Turkish coffee or a nice cold beer.

 

The Sultanahmet (Old City) is where you will find the oldest and most famous historical paces. This is the location of the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Hippodrome and the Topkapi Palace to name a few. Some of this architecture dates back to the earliest time in the history of the city. Roman, Byzantine and Turkish cultures sit side by side detailing the long, complex history.

 

For me this ancient and complex past is indeed the most fascinating aspect of the city. The Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans have all controlled and influenced the culture and history of Istanbul. These are some of the greatest, culturally rich,technologically advanced and artistically gifted cultures the world has ever known. All of them have have left their mark. If take your time to explore and appreciate the subtle and not so subtle you will find their distinctive yet mixed influence everywhere.

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Post by Kurt Trumble
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Kurt grew up on Long Island in New York. He spends his time learning emerging open source technologies and social media. He runs Travel With Drupal, focused on Drupal webdesign and blogging. (http://www.travelwithdrupal.info). Beatnik literature and The Beatles top his list of interests when not backpacking around.