We didn’t have any expectations of Kotor; in fact, it wasn’t even on our radar. Our original cruise stop was supposed to be Istanbul, but we were rerouted due to security issues. Natasha didn’t even know it existed and was wondering where we were going and if it would be any good after Mykonos and Santorini. But boy, were we blown away! It’s stunning; old school medieval times – with cats (read on). Just pulling into port while on the Adriatic Sea, we were able to take in the most incredible scenery of the medieval city that is still surrounded by its original fortification walls as it was generations ago. The city only truly began seeing tourism in the 2000s, so its relatively undiscovered. Pictures don’t even do it justice.
Why The 2 Idiots recommend exploring the Amalfi Coast?
Every picture you have ever seen of the Amalfi Coast on Instagram is THAT– the coast looks just like the photos you have seen. It is so stunning and, for Natasha, the highlight of our tour of Southern Italy. For me, Pompeii blew me away – the archaeological site is the most preserved of any site I’ve ever seen and it feels like you are transported back in time and able to visualized what Italy was like centuries ago. When we visited Naples, it was through a Mediterranean cruise – the last stop of one of our favorite cruises we took with our son. Taking a tour that incorporates stops in Sorrento, Pompeii and a drive along windy cliff roads overlooking the sea will be a long day, but for us, a definite you should do when in port in Naples.
Rome is our favorite Italian city. It is basically an open-air museum – it was built so long ago that even if you didn’t rush around to see the sights and just walked around, you are walking through so much history at every tour. But Rome is also a very modern, living, breathing city. Most of the cities we visited in Italy, especially Venice, are 95 percent tourists with the Venetians who live outside the city coming in to earn money from the tourists. In Rome, you have tourists, but you also have a thriving city — the future of Italy is being built in Rome while the other cities were cities of the past. Rome feels authentic.
Why The 2 Idiots recommend exploring Murano and Burano?
Venice is not the only island in the Venice’s Northern Lagoon that you can explore. With inexpensive ferries, island-hopping is a piece of cake, even with children, and the islands of Murano and Burano can be enjoyed with just a few hours of exploration. One island is renowned for its glass. The other? For its colorful buildings and lace. Both are charming and if you are spending more than a day in the Venice area, take one of those days to visit these islands, as we actually found this to be our favorite day when we were in Venice.
Venice is one of those must-visit cities in the world, and certainly one of the most unique cities we visited. Venice is a series of tiny islands that were once inhabited. When refugees escaping persecution from Rome began hide here, they began building the city from the marshes using wooden poles dug deep into the bottom of the lagoon to create foundations that have now stood solid since 421 AD. While it’s a cool city that you should see, it is definitely more touristy than we prefer. It doesn’t feel as if anyone actually lives on the island; it feels like one giant tourist trap. Plus, Natasha found it the water stinky in some places.
Florence is a historic and charming city, with some of the best markets for shopping. However, we found the city was similar to Venice: You’ll walk along the streets and it’s buzzing and exciting but 90 percent of people there are tourists. The only Florentine people were taxi drivers, tour guides and people servicing the tourists. Everyone lives outside of Florence, in the Tuscan countryside.
That said, if you are a history or art lover, you’ll be fascinated by the history and art found at every turn. This is where the Italian Renaissance began, and museums and churches are filled with the works of the Italian Masters: Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Rembrandt. The Medici family, one of the most power rulers of Italian history, owned this city, and the imprint they left is everywhere.
Why The 2 Idiots recommend visiting Slovenia’s Postojna Caves?
We discovered the Postojna Caves simply because we were visiting Croatia and rented a car to drive between PorecandZagreb, Croatia. There are two paths to get there: one that drove through Croatia and the other that took a little longer but went through Slovenia. We took that path because we wanted to visit another country. We had no idea what was out there and luckily discovered these cool caves in the town of Postojna, Slovenia.
There is something so magical about Budapest, which is the capital of Hungary. Natasha knew she wanted to visit the Danube River, but she never thought the city would be as beautiful as this. Although Hungary is a part of Europe, it was occupied by the Mongols in the 13th century, which translates into country’s look and culture being slightly separate from the rest of Europe. Resting on the Danube River, the city was actually two separate cities: Buda and Pest. When they united, they became the full city you can explore today, and the tourism folks like to say you have one city with two personalities.
We cannot rave enough about Shanghai! Actually, we rank Shanghai one of our top five cities in the world to travel with kids. After visiting the more traditional and old-school Beijing, Shanghai was such a change of scenery. The city is very cosmopolitan, like New York City, Mumbai or Tokyo, and incredibly organized. This is a city that wants to be the financial capital of modern Asia and that goal is pretty evident in everything they do.
With a desire to be an international business city comes people from all around the world and from all over China. This means the food in Shanghai is to die for, coming from all the regions of China, as well as around the world! We had some of the best foods we have ever eaten while here. From its beautiful harbor, the energy of the city and its people, the illuminated skyscrapers and, again, the food (we seriously cannot say enough about it), Shanghai should be on everyone’s travel list. This is a city you do not want to miss. Go, now. We mean it!
One of the biggest fears that prevents people from traveling is the fear of not being able to communicate. Visiting a country where English is not widely spoken can definitely be nerve-wracking: How will you find your way? How will you purchase tickets or order a meal? So many “what ifs” may run through your mind, but having visited numerous countries where we couldn’t speak the language, we discovered it’s much easier than you think.