For our second month in Austria, we spent our time in Graz. The city of 300,000 people is actually Austria’s second largest, despite being only 15% the size of Vienna. Until the mid 1800s it was spelled Gratz, which is how it’s still pronounced even though the spelling has changed. The name means “little castle”. The castle no longer exists, but the great viewpoint on the hill above town still does. There is a large student population, mostly from the University of Graz which has over 30,000 enrollees. It’s a diverse town that mixes old school charm with a young vibe.
If I had to use one word to describe Vienna, it would be fancy. With few exceptions, the art museums, buildings, churches, and shopping districts are all dressed up. It’s not enough to just have great art, it must be displayed in a palace. Most apartment and commercial buildings have gorgeous detailed facades. There are horse-drawn carriages clip clopping around giving tourists an expensive glimpse of old Vienna. And the downtown pedestrian area is filled with upscale shopping and antique stores.
Zagreb is a lively place for a city of fewer than a million people. Not just a stopover for those trying to get to the beach, Croatia’s capital offers numerous attractions. The downtown pedestrian zones were busy with shoppers, strolling tourists, and cafe goers of all sorts. We enjoyed the large daily farmers market, detailed architecture, multiple parks, and sweeping views from the hills above the city.
After a month in Belgrade, I can confidently say that Serbia’s capital is a great stop. I expected it would be a busy, dirty city full of ugly buildings. Instead, what we found was a very livable place filled with friendly people and dotted with beautiful parks. While exploring, we walked down numerous shaded streets lined with cute cafes. There were spring flowers planted everywhere. We even got our “pet fix” from the neighborhood cats, many of whom were happy to be on the receiving end of our love.
Novi Sad is a friendly city strategically placed on the mighty Danube. It has a long history, with records showing that people have inhabited this spot for 7000 years. Today, the city is Serbia’s second largest, with a population tallying a little under 300,000 people. It’s quite pleasant to explore, with dedicated car-free pedestrian zones and many separated bike lanes. It’s also one of the current European Capitals of Culture, so naturally Katie and I had to see what that was all about.
We just finished a great 3 month stay in Budapest. The city is quite charming and has many of the things we look for in a place to live. There is lots of green space, plenty of museums, interesting architecture, and street art galore. Even the day-to-day living costs were much lower than we expected. Budapest is an easy city to fall in love with.
2021 was our second full year as retired nomads, and much like the previous one, COVID made things challenging. Our travels took us to just two countries. We lived for months next to a Vietnamese beach that we weren’t allowed to visit. In the US, we crashed in spare bedrooms and slept outside in a tent for 30 days. Many of our plans revolved around avoiding people, receiving three doses of the new vaccine, and staying healthy. All were successful in that regard. We also managed to spend very little money again, albeit not without the generosity of our family and friends.
Katie and I just finished a refreshing two and a half week camping trip. We spent our time in what’s colloquially known to Midwesterners as Up North. In this case, I’m referring to Northern Wisconsin and Northern Michigan. We did a lot of hiking and bird watching while enjoying the fresh air and plentiful stars. And since we made it before the snow started falling, we could do so in a tent.
Anywhere you go in the world, ways of life are unique. Sometimes the variance is large while other times it’s only minor lifestyle differences. The act of travel reveals that there’s always something noticeable. That’s one of the fun parts of it. Katie and I just returned from spending two years in SE Asia and during that time many of the differences in lifestyle became normalized to us. After being back in the States for a few weeks, I distinctly notice a number of the things that you probably take for granted. It’s the benefit of having a fresh basis of comparison.
Danang represents all of the good things about living abroad. It’s a modern city showcasing a beautiful, clean beach with soft sand that stretches for miles and miles. The city is big enough that it’s easy to find most modern amenities, but small enough that there’s no overwhelming traffic issues. It’s also walkable with low pollution by SE Asian standards. This package comes with a surprisingly low price tag too. Overall, Danang is quite pleasant and I hope to never return.