Europe can be so many different things depending on where you're standing at the moment. I thought about what it means to me...and that's when I was transported to an outdoor summer lounger at the family dacha back in good ol' Ukraine circa 1986. The only way I could sustain myself during the most boring hour of the day, after lunch when all the adults and my cousins snoozed, was with a good adventure book full of pirates, sword fights, castles and elaborate princess dresses. This is the hour I spent in the company of gentlemen such as Robert Luis Stevenson, Alexandre Dumas and Jules Verne. I dreamed to visit the world they described one day. A bit silly of course since events in these books took place a few centuries earlier...
Fast forward to current day. I now live in Europe (after about 18 years in the US) and have been enthusiastically fulfilling my travel dreams connected with this continent. I have roamed the streets of London, sat in cafes in Paris and went castle hopping in the Loire Valley... While I found it all extremely impressive and beyond beautiful I had yet to visit the Europe I read about in my adventure books. Alas, it must not exist, I thought. Until last summer when we went to the Scottish Highlands. At once I was precisely in the places described by Robert Louis Stevenson in one of my favorite novels "Kidnapped". I was smelling the same salty breathe, seeing the same castle ruins as young David had a couple of hundred years ago. Scotland delivered the mystery, the stillness and the landscapes that I have imagined as a child. Somehow there were never hordes of tourists and many times we'd have the sites all to ourselves. The nature was so abundant that you forgot that you're in the over populated Europe. The lonely old castles perched on the rocks right at the sea, the empty stretches of north sea beaches with turquoise waters and white sand, the tiny villages with stone cottages. It does exist, and I have finally found the magical, mysterious Europe of my dreams. Don't you just love happy endings?
Where have you traveled that surprised you the most? Have you visited a new place and found it just as you always imagined?
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