The Best and Worst

As this is primarily a photographically based commentary on our travels  over the last year or so, and because we have visited such a variety of places each with their own strengths and weaknesses (as viewed from our perspective), I have decided to do a (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) summary of our overall impressions on a number of different aspects that are significant for us and the way that we experience traveling in another country. As a result I have created for my own amusement a completely arbitrary and totally biased list of categories to summarise what did it for us and what didn’t. If you have followed along at all over the last year or so then you will recognise most of these categories as subjects that occur with some regularity in my ramblings on each destination. Some of the photographs included may be repeats while others I may not have shown before and are whimsically intended to illustrate each category, which are not necessarily in any order of importance or significance. So without any further ado …

The most interesting and photogenic country:

This obviously depends entirely on what interests you and the subjects chosen to photograph! With that in mind, Armenia takes the top award here with a good variety of landscapes, culture and architecture. Corsica (France) gets runner up status for the same reasons but more skewed toward the landscape. Honourable mentions go to both England and of course Spain.

Slovakia gets the award for least interesting and most disappointing country that we visited.

The best food:

An extensive subject that I have divided into four subcategories as follows:

The country with the overall best prepared food (from a vegetarian standpoint at least) would probably be Greece, even though there was considerable variation in quality. From the perspective of the quality and variety of ingredients available however, Spain is right up there, as is Corsica and possibly even England. The least appealing food overall was in Slovakia.

The best single dish we have tried is undoubtably zhingyalov hats from Armenia (or more specifically Nagorno Karabakh). So simple and yet a totally delicious standout. There weren’t any particular disappointments as far as prepared food went, nothing that was horrible, but there were plenty of examples of mediocre food compared to similar but better quality dishes even in close proximity to each other, so I won’t single out any one country or dish in that way.

The best fruit goes to those deliciously liqueurish Armenian apricots of course, with some delicious early figs in Portugal as runner up. There wasn’t anywhere that had consistently poor quality fruit in general but Eastern Europe probably had more disappointments than elsewhere.

I’m sure that you couldn’t help but notice that cheese is a topic of some interest to me and sheep or goat’s cheese in particular. The best cheese category is not an easy call to make though, as we have had some real crackers if you can excuse the pun, but it would have to be almost a tie between Corsica (France) and Spain with the former ahead by a whisker. The surprising runner up for us was England which had a good variety of non-cow dairy products, with an honourable mention going to Portugal.  The overly talked up Georgian cheeses take the honours for most disappointing product.

Best church or monastery:

Europe and the Caucasus region both have a plethora of churches and monasteries that reflects its long history, but the Armenian ones had the nicest ambience and were also the most aesthetically pleasing for me. The best of these was probably Geghard for the overall experience we had, but there were so many other standouts throughout Armenia that I couldn’t in all fairness single out only one. Other singular contenders worth mentioning from other countries include Bodbe Monastery in Georgia for its overall design and feel, the church at Jamnik in Slovenia for its setting and Brent Tor church on Dartmoor, England for the location and atmosphere.

Catholic churches are not in any way appealing to me, most especially the over the top gaudiness on the inside, so I’m giving them the award for least appealing church or monastery overall.

The most beautiful landscape:

Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder but there is little doubt in my mind that the Yeghegis valley and up to the Selim Pass in Armenia was the most breathtaking landscape that we passed through. The early morning light and weather, as well as the time of year may have contributed significantly to our experience there, but weather and a landscape are inextricably linked and not two separate things, both influencing each other, so Armenia definitely takes the gong. Runner up status, and not that far behind either, goes to Dartmoor in England, whilst Corsica in general has to get an honourable mention as virtually the whole island is varied yet incredibly beautiful as far as I’m concerned, not to mention being a veritable herb garden. These choices reflect my love of more bleak and wild landscapes which is why the ordered and bucolic landscapes in Slovenia, although lovely, don’t appear here. Many parts of both Georgia and Portugal certainly didn’t live up to those pesky and unreasonable expections we so often had, but overall we found the landscapes of Slovakia to be the most disappointing in general.


This one is a really difficult call to make - but only because it’s such a close call between Corsica, with its delightfully rustic stone beau villages, and Andalucia with its incredibly picturesque pueblos blancos. Let’s call it a tie then, but nowhere else even comes remotely close to these in the village stakes for us. Coming in a distant second, although still just deserving a mention, are a few of those we found in Malta, Greece, England and Romania. In most other countries that we visited the villages were fairly nondescript with a few having very good locations but little else about the actual village that appealed to us.

The people:

Slovenia undoubtably had the best experience with the local people - friendly, helpful and just plain nice in general with more than a few outstanding representative cases. The Greek people overall are also excellent ambassadors for their culture and country, while both Romanians and Armenians had a fairly good vibe too. Corsica gets a special mention for fantastic hospitality when you (get to) know some of the locals as we have done. As a generalisation we found Georgia and Slovakia to be the places where it was hardest to genuinely connect with people, which in the case of Georgia goes against the accepted view but was our experience none the less.

Best hiking/walking:

Because we didn’t consistently go for regular hikes in every country, this category is based upon those walks, both longer and shorter, that we did manage to find and do. Walking is also inseparable from the landscape to a large degree, so it will come as no surprise that Corsica is one of our favourite hiking destinations, but we also did a few really good walks in Malta. For shorter morning walks (less than 1½ hrs), our home base in Spain at Arcos de la Frontera was simply brilliant, with any number of variations and routes to try. The UK, including England, also gets an honourable mention as an excellent destination for walking.

Car rental experience:

I was undecided whether to include this as a category but have decided to as a warning for others in some specific cases.

Spain was problem free in general, being value for money and fair, and from a driving, roads and navigation perspective the most enjoyable. Hiring both the car and driver in Armenia was by far the easiest from a driving and responsibilty viewpoint, particularly considering the road conditions, whilst Corsica and Portugal were also quite reasonable. Slovakia gets a nod here too for inexpensive and hassle free service.

Romania, with the Avis agency in Brasov being singled out as uptight and running a “damage” scam, was definitely the worst car hire experience - avoid this agency at any cost. Interrent in Slovenia wasn’t actually dishonest but still anal, and Green Motion in England would also be on my definitely not recommended list. As far as driving and navigation goes, Romanian drivers and roads were probably the worst, with navigation in Greece (at least using Google maps) being the most frustrating for some reason.

So that just about sums up the mostest, bestest, nicest and leastest, worstest and unpleasantest of our 2018. Given the opportunity to visit any of these places again at this point in time, I would put Spain, Armenia and Corsica inseparable at the top of the heap, followed by the UK and Greece. Interestingly, we had already visited all of these countries before, except for Armenia, which therefore gets the new discovery award for us. For various reasons though, I doubt that we will ever be revisiting any of the other countries as we felt they didn’t offer enough, if anything, to motivate us to return.

For now we are back in Australia and I may well update our travels around our home state, but until then that’s all for now.

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