Travel highlights of 2012

2012 brought some exciting new adventures, that fulfilled some of my dreams. And so, as I look back on my travel highlights of 2012, I relive them at the same time. I visited some Medieval European cities, a Middle Eastern gem, a Caribbean paradise, as well as some New England cities. Last end of the year had me in Europe. With a short stop in Munich for Christmas, I went on visiting Brasov and the infamous Dracula’s Castle, while ringing in the New Year in my hometown Bucharest.

1. MUNICH – Glühwein and sausages for Weinechten in Munich, Germany

I explored the stretch from Marienplatz to Karlsplatz, admired the Rathaus (City Hall) and made my way around the Christmas markets, all but short on German goodies: ginger sweets, Glühwein and plenty of food stalls selling German meats with sauerkraut.

Marienplatz Munich Germany

2. BRASOV – Brasov: A medieval town in Transylvania

Abundant with gothic, baroque and renaissance architecture, Brașov is one of the top attractions in Romania, in the midst of the mythical region of Transylvania. A stunning medieval city surrounded by the Southern Carpathian mountains, it’s where my grandfather was born. Invigorating with crisp mountain air, Brasov is also home to the Brancovenesc style, of wide round arches, featured not only in residences, but in many Orthodox churches.

Brasov medieval city TransylvaniaPiata Sfatului Brasov Transylvania

3. BRAN – A chilling haunted Halloween: Dracula, between myth and reality

It’s not exactly the most idyllic castle you’ll find in Eastern Europe; however, somewhere between the myth and legend and pure reality, there is no doubt Bran Castle, commonly known as Dracula’s Castle, is world known and perhaps Romania’s main tourist attraction.

Dracula's Castle Transylvania

4. ISTANBUL – From Europe to Asia: a photo story into mystical Istanbul

Istanbul was my biggest travel highlight in 2012. I had previously been to Turkey, but not to Istanbul. Although my trip was short, I managed to visit all major attractions, I hunted for Turkish delights in Istanbul’s bazaars and followed into the Sultan’s steps at Topkapi Palace. I loved every minute of it, and am looking forward to going back.

Sultanahmet Blue Mosque Black & WhiteHanging lanterns Istanbul

5. TURKS & CAICOS – The colors of Turks & Caicos

Turks & Caicos was my second travel highlight of 2012. A secluded paradise in the middle of the Caribbean, it was evident from minute one why Grace Bay Beach in Providenciales has been voted as the world’s #1 beach by Trip Advisor. A tropical gem of clear blue waters and pure white sands, it was sheer bliss to spend a few days on the island. Most fun was conquering my fears by kayaking for the first time above waters filled with baby sharks.

Grace Bay Beach Turks & CaicosKayaking in Turks & Caicos

6. NEW YORK CITY

New York City is such a big part of my life, I have never stopped being a tourist. Seven years in, and I still find myself visiting new attractions. This year came with a monumental visit from both my parents, which meant the world to me. My mother had previously visited me, but never did I think my father could ever have fun in NYC. I anxiously waited for them at the airport, I cooked for them, I guided them through the city, and I became a tourist along with them. It was priceless! Together, we visited the 9/11 Memorial for the first time, we strolled through Princeton University, and we explored the liveliness of New York City outdoors. We walked all the way from downtown and its hip Meatpacking District to the Upper East Side and its undeniable elegance.

My parents at the Statue of LibertySightseeing in NYC with my parentsCruising the Hudson River NYC

After their departure, I went to New York Fashion Week, I got Carrie-ed away on the Sex and the City Tour, I paid homage to the 1960s in Brooklyn and Coney Island, and as the winter approached, I played dress up by the beach, right before ruthless Sandy hit. Somewhere in between, I went hiking in Cold Spring. 2012 has been a rough year for the city, but it has emerged stronger, more resilient and with a greater love for its fellow man.

7. PHILADELPHIA – Philadelphia: the good, the bad, the unexpected

For Thanksgiving weekend, I went on a short trip to Philadelphia, which has surprised me to no end. A city of rich history, beautiful landmarks and artsy neighborhoods, it was incredibly pleasant to admire its cool mirrored skyscrapers as well as learning more about America’s birthplace.

Elfreth's Alley Old City Philadelphia

As 2012 is coming to an end, I am already making plans for 2013. Looking back, 2012 has been a year of great challenges, but also a year of self-discovery and enrichment. I learnt a lot, and have undergone several transformations: both professionally and academically. 2013, in my vision, is the year I will reap all the results, the year I will become all that I can be. I will grow tremendously, and I will break all frontiers. The rush that the last few months of 2012 has brought will continue on in 2013, for bigger better adventures. As always, I dream of travel. I dream of the Middle East, of South-East Asia and of South America. What were your travel highlights of 2012?

May you all have a happy New Year!

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