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As a kid, my parents took me on vacation every year.
My favorite vacations were abroad. Hearing a different language was one of the things that gave me a proper holiday feeling. Fortunately, an hour's drive east from my hometown takes me to Germany, and an hour and a half south brings me to Belgium.
We always rented privately owned houses through a Dutch holiday rental organization like Airbnb. Usually, these houses were minimal, but that was part of the fun. The best thing was meeting the owners and chatting with them.
Vacations were always a break from daily life — a couple of stress-free weeks, exploring famous landmarks, and savoring life to the fullest.
In 2010, we visited Normandy, France — an infamous place in European history. The site where the Allies entered mainland Europe to fight the Nazis, marking the beginning of the end of World War II.
I have always been interested in World War II. I cannot get enough of the movies, and seeing these locations in real life was surreal. Walking over the landing beaches, trying to comprehend the events that unfolded here, is simply unfathomable.
Another of my best memories was our vacation in Güntersberge, a small town near Quedlinburg in the Harz Region in Germany. You can find a lot of medieval castles in this area, and needless to say, a lot of history.
This part of the Harz used to be in East Germany, making it an interesting topic for conversations with the locals. We learned that nothing has changed since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
While there is no longer a physical border physically dividing Germany into West and East, a mental border — a sense of division — persists among the people.
We spent only one week here, which proved insufficient. Planning to return the following year, we opted to book the same house directly from the owners. This not only saved us money but also proved more profitable for the owners.
When we came back a year later, they greeted us as friends. They even wanted to invite us to join a barbeque with their neighbors, but unfortunately, we were out for dinner in Quedlinburg.
Our vacations have always been active, and we always explored as much as possible. I guess this has shaped my interest in traveling because I am still enjoying this all these years later.
I mean, I don't drive 1000 kilometers to sit at a beach or a pool for two weeks — I can do that in my hometown. I travel to see things and experience things.
I'm an explorer by heart, feeling restless when I'm indoors for too long. On city trips, no matter how comfy the hotel room is, I can't resist the urge to go outside and explore.
During my visit to Copenhagen in 2023, arriving early at my hotel, I was eager to drop off my luggage and hit the streets. Thankfully, my hotel room was ready for an early check-in.
I quickly dropped my luggage before diving into the city. That day was such a good day!
Some places you should visit in your life — the once-in-a-lifetime places, like Paris, Berlin, and Amsterdam.
The Eiffel Tower, Brandenburg Gate, and the countless canals in Amsterdam are just a few famous landmarks worth visiting.
But I've been there, and done that, but none of these cities really captivate me.
They are filled with tourist traps, and the overwhelming presence of tourists and expats leaves little room to experience genuine local culture.
During the vacations with my parents, I always enjoyed the smaller towns more than the bustling cities. The smaller towns where nobody is in a hurry. You can really feel the local culture here.
At one point in life, I believed I was more interested in nature than anything else.
I still love hiking through beautiful landscapes, but they have to offer something interesting — waterfalls, caves, and gorges excite me. Unfortunately, these are rare in my country.
Walking through nature, especially when it is breathtaking, takes me to a different world—a world away from people and bustling cities. It's a world where I can be myself and find peace.
But thinking back about all my hikes through nature, I was always happy to return to civilization.
I have already talked about my interest in World War II.
But my interest in history goes far beyond that.
As a little kid, I was fascinated by medieval castles.
The first castle I have ever visited was Vianden in Luxembourg. I was 4 or 5 years old and was fascinated by the knights' armor and medieval weaponry.
Since then, my parents have taken me to numerous castles throughout Europe.
Many years later, I still enjoy visiting medieval castles but from a historical perspective. I enjoy imagining how people lived in these castles and discovering how the history of specific castles has influenced Europe both culturally and politically.
In 2023, my trip through the Baltics significantly deepened my passion for culture.
In Tallinn, I had my first encounter with the post-Soviet world. It fascinated me. Seeing the typical Estonian culture with some traces of Soviet history, I made it my mission to experience as much history as possible and turn my trip into one big history lesson.
In Riga, I got myself immersed in Latvian history. I visited the Latvian War Museum, the House of the Blackheads, and the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia. These are three fascinating museums to immerse yourself in the history of Latvia.
While immersing myself in Latvian history, I got fascinated by the captivating Latvian culture and how it survived, despite 50 years of Soviet occupation. The same goes for Estonia and Lithuania.
Throughout the Soviet era, the celebration of local holidays and the use of native languages were forbidden. It is astonishing to see how these cultures not only endured but feel so much stronger than many other countries I have visited. The determination of the people to preserve their heritage and values is amazing.
In Riga, I got so obsessed with history and culture that this is now my main focus when picking the next destination to visit.
It took a while for me to figure out why I enjoy traveling so much, but writing all this down makes it very obvious.
I have always been interested in history — except at school, but I had very uninspiring teachers. I was only interested in certain historical periods, like World War II.
But while traveling, I came to realize that history, as a subject, is so fascinating — you just need to discover the aspects that trigger your curiosity.
When I was younger, it was always medieval castles. I was not interested in anything else.
But that all changed when I visited the Baltic States and delved into the rich history of these countries. Since then, I cannot get enough of history.
But the thing that fascinates me the most is culture, particularly European culture. It is a small part of the world, but so diverse. The multitude of languages, unique celebrations, rich culinary traditions, and distinct customs make exploring European culture an endlessly intriguing journey.
So, back to the traveler type thing. After writing this article I can say that I am definitely a Cultural Traveler.
Culture fascinates me.