In 2007 Lisa Wright left a promising career as a UK ecologist catching protected reptiles and amphibians, and kissing frogs, to move to beautiful green Galicia in northwestern Spain. Her new memoir Plum, Courgette & Green Bean Tart is an engaging mix of anecdotes, letters, recipes and stories from the stunningly beautiful area she now calls home.
It’s hot in a face-searing, bone-sapping, migraine-inducing way that they definitely don’t warn you about before they open the plane door – “Welcome to Berlin where the local temperature is WHAAAAAT the…”.
The boat chugs out of Virpazar harbour along a reed-fringed channel backed by stands of willow. Dense thickets line each side, blocking any view. The water is dark, cloudy, murky. Lake Skadar, we’re told, is the largest lake in the Balkans, but as yet there is no actual lake to see.
Stick a geologist in front of the Giant’s Causeway and this is what they’ll say. Sixty million years ago, give or take a week or two, molten lava erupted through the chalk beds of the Irish Channel and formed a huge, bubbling lava field, hundreds of thousands of square kilometres in size.
The leaflet promises ‘Authentic Slovakia’ and while I regard the word ‘authentic’ as suspiciously as the next travel writer, I’m assured by the tourist office assistant that this is the real deal.
What were you doing forty years ago this summer? (I will accept the answer ‘not being born yet grandad’).
Montenegro only has two train lines – to be fair, it’s a small and wildly mountainous country – which makes it all the more remarkable that one of them turns out to be a candidate for Europe’s most thrilling train ride.
The Montenegrin Pompeii, some call it – crumbling houses facing streets that go nowhere; sketchy foundations that refuse to give up their mystery; wild flowers spreading through heaped stones; and empty windows framing isolated walls and distant views.
“You can’t possibly get lost” says the lady in the national park office.
“Did you know there are snakes in Montenegro?” says Elaine.
I am comforted by neither of these statements.
NEW VIDEO! To see Europe’s greatest train ride in under 4 minutes, check out my new video – filmed on the Bernina Express on 30 July 2019. The greatest train ride in Europe starts under the cavernous vaults of Zürich’s main railway station, where the 7.07am to Chur is about to depart. Grab a breakfastContinue reading “The Bernina Express – Europe’s greatest train ride”
Stazione Centrale, Milan – 1,558 miles, and the end of the trip Day 8 of my big summer train trip around Europe finishes in Milan, after a thrilling ride on the Bernina Express train from Zürich that travels right across the roof of the Alps. All I can say is – wow, what a finish!Continue reading “Over & out – Milan, via the Bernina Pass”
Sargans Bahnhof – 1,374 miles into the trip Day 7 of my big European summer train trip means I spent Night 6 on the train. On the face of it, taking the night train from Zagreb to Zürich seems both like an incredibly odd yet romantically adventurous thing to do – pick two random EuropeanContinue reading “In & out – Liechtenstein & Zürich”
Zagreb Glavni Kolodvor – 840 miles into the trip Day 6 of my round-Europe train trip – 9 countries in total, from Germany to Switzerland via a very roundabout route – puts me in Zagreb, capital of Croatia. It’s a lazy two-and-a-half hour trundle along the river from Ljubljana, but I saw precious little ofContinue reading “In & out – Zagreb”
Ljubljana – 754 miles into the trip Day 5 of the summer train trip = Slovenia, which is a new country for me, which means my ‘been’ app has jumped me up to 57% of Europe visited, though obviously I am still smarting over the break-up of Yugoslavia which has basically required me to visitContinue reading “In & out – Ljubljana”
Bratislava-Petrzalka – 520 miles into the trip Day 4 – and, frankly, it’s too hot to blog – too hot to breathe – let alone travel to Bratislava, but needs must when you have promised to cover every station en route from Berlin to Milan. And this blog won’t write itself, so here goes. MindContinue reading “In & out – Bratislava”
Praha Hvalni Nadrazi – 217 miles into the trip Day 2 of my round-Europe summer train trip and it’s Prague, capital of the Czech Republic – half of what used to be Czechoslovakia if you’re reading this in black and white and smoking Soviet-era roll-ups, also Stag Party capital of Europe and purveyor of devilishlyContinue reading “In & out – Prague”
Berlin Hauptbahnhof – 0 miles into the trip Day 1 of In & Out Europe – my Big Summer Train Trip around 9 countries in 9 days – finds me in Berlin and I cannot tell a lie. Believe me, I’d like to. I could distract and dissemble; I could embellish and embroider; I couldContinue reading “In & out – Berlin”
And I’m off – it’s the big summer train trip around Europe and I’m asking you to join me. Could be a lot of fun,