“Who Goes There?” You Asked, I Answered: Five Not-So-Popular Travel Destinations

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“Who Goes There?” You Asked, I Answered: Five Not-So-Popular Travel Destinations

Albany NY Empire State Building

Albany NY Empire State Building

 

Albany, NY

 

“Who goes to Albany?” people commented on my Facebook.

Well, I did.

The famous cities in the States are not the capitals of each state. I fond that quite odd. I thought Philadelphia was PA’s, Los Angeles (or at least San Francisco) was CA’s, and NYC was NY’s. I was wrong, wrong, and wrong again.

I got to know Albany because it is Stephen’s mom’s hometown. When Stephen and I embarked our New England Road Trip back in 2011, we set Albany as one of the first stops.

We had an amazing three days. Late evening outdoor musical ‘Producers’ in the Washington Park was quite something, except we totally forgot where we parked and spent 20 minutes searching, but other than that. One day we went on a day trip to Saratoga Springs, to drink some natural spring water, and bet on racing horses.

I liked the atmosphere of Albany. Good restaurants and brew pubs, cafes, good looking buildings, and the view of Hudson River, I liked it all.

 

Must visit:

The Empire State Plaza

The State Building

Corning Tower Observation Deck

Visitor’s Center to meet Owney the Postal Dog

 

 

Figueres, Spain

 

“What were you doing in Figures?” everyone asked me, especially from the people who’s from there. I stayed in Figures for three days before attending TBEX Girona, Spain. Figures seemed like a quiet town to relax for a bit before meeting hundreds of people at the event. For three days, I indulged a nice hotel room that I booked with a gift certificate, enjoyed sunny weather, and went out for lunch special every day. The wide selection of lunch made me quite happy.

Besides Dali museum and a monument in the square, Figures just a small town in Catalonia. But did you know there’s a castle in Figures? That’s right, a castle. It has a great view of the sea and town.

 

Must visit:

Dali Museum (if you like art)

Dali Monument

Lunch special at local restaurants

 

Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali

Český Těšín, Czech Republic/ Cieszyn, Poland

 

Cieszyn (Český Těšín) is a boarder town between Poland and Czech Republic, in the heart of Silesia. You can easily reachable by a bus from Katowice, Poland. The town was divided to two in 1920 (to Poland and Czechoslovakia). You can see bilingual signs (Polish and Czech), and the border between two countries on the bridge over the Olza River. Now it is a vibrant university town with many restaurants and bars. A glass of cold Czech beer in the square was a refreshing moment on a long travel day.

 

Must visit:

The Rotunda of St. Nicholas (appeared in 20 Polish zloty bank note)

The border

The Rotunda of St. Nicholas

The Rotunda of St. Nicholas

Zilina, Slovakia

 

After extensive travel in Poland, and with a hangover from Krupnik, we wanted to have some quiet time in small Slovakian town. The easiest way to cross the border from Myslowice was to go Zilina through Cieszyn. We took a bus from Katowice to Cieszyn, crossed the border on foot to Český Těšín, and took a train to Zilina from there. It was a long day of travel, but pretty easy process.

 

One mistake about our decision to visit Zilina was, it was a small town as we wanted, but it was an industrial town with no international travel information. All the information was in Slovakian, and we couldn’t find any place to stay. With the help of auto mechanics we stumbled on the road, we found a small guesthouse. Surprisingly, we managed to stay in Zilina about four days, at a simple youth hostel where school kids would stay in their school trip.

But as we all know, travel is not all about going to famous places, it’s about the daily experience. We met two kolache makers in town, and their kolache was the most delicious and juicy pastry I’ve ever had. I made a short video with them (you can see from here).

None of my travel friends knew where Zilina was, but friends who were working at KIA Motors, who never travel, knew, because their factory is here. Ah, irony.

 

Must visit:

Andrej Hlinka Square

Church of the Holy Trinity

Angel’s Kolache

koláče (Kolache)

koláče (Kolache) makers

Arles-sur-tech, France

 

The journey to Arles-sur-Tech was quite difficult that I expected. We took a bus from Girona to Perpignan, and it was supposed to drop us at Arles-sur-Tech. It is the first town cross the border from Spanish Catalonia. We were on our way to Can Rigall, an eco-lodge up in the French Pyrenees.

The bus stopped right after the tollgate, and the driver told us to get off. It was pretty close to a middle of nowhere, and cars were running fast in the empty highway. Apparently, they didn’t go into the actual town, just passing through by the highway. I guess it was indicated in the fine print. We got off with out big bags, and try to hitchhike to the nearest town. I have to mention, it was the scariest hitchhiking experience in my life. The first guy who took us in was on some kind of drug, a little kid was passed out in the back with McDonald wrapper next to him, but we were too grateful to not take his offer.

With two kind drivers’ help, we safely arrived in Arles-sur-Tech. The town was small, and not much to see, really, but I enjoyed the look on townspeople when I showed up at one of the local café. Nearly no one spoke English, and they were quite amused by me speaking English. This was the ‘real’ southern France, as the locals said.

 

Must visit:

Can Rigall

French Pyrenees

 

Pyrenees Panorama

*click here to see the bigger photo of French Pyrenees.

Juno Kim
Juno Kim
Juno Kim, a happiness-seeking storyteller. Photographer, writer, and trained mechanical engineer. Life-long nerd. I left the cubic farm to follow my true love: the world. A firm believer of serendipity, astronomy enthusiaster, and living by passion and love in life. Currently, on a quest to discover stories and find the place where I can call 'home'. Follow my journey through @RunawayJuno and Google+ .

12 Comments

  1. Anwar says:

    I remember going to Albany as a kid 🙂 Yes you are right often state capitals are not the city you expect them to be. The other places sound interesting. I should check them out..!

  2. Jenny says:

    Great post! I visited Albany many, many years ago but had a wonderful time there!
    Hope to visit some of These unknown gems in the future!

  3. Beth says:

    I’ve never understood the capital cities in the US either…. Chicago isn’t for Illinois, St. Louis isn’t for Missouri and Milwaukee isn’t for Wisconsin? Doesn’t make sense to me!

    I’ve never been to any of these places on your list, but they sound pretty interesting!

  4. Julia says:

    I love Dali, so interested to hear about the museum. I also always find myself in random towns! I’m currently in Haarlem, Netherlands. Sometimes the smaller towns are the best because they’re not overrun.

  5. kami says:

    I’m actually going to Cieszyn next weekend and I’m really looking forward to that as I finally want to see the city properly, I’ve been there couple of times but only on a brief visit on my way to Czech Republic. I must admit your last year’s visit there was one of the reasons why I’ve decided to visit this town! (and well, the Polish part os much more interesting but the Czech has an awesome beer so they’re equally worth visiting;))

  6. Your post makes us realize that indeed this are the places you haven’t heard before. It will awake your interest to know these places and of course visit them if you’ve given a chance.

  7. Agata says:

    Great choice! I found these off the beaten path destinations inspiring!
    Thanks for sharing.

  8. Ruzhi says:

    Nice! Gotta love rare places, nothing beats going to a place that doesn’t appear in a guidebook and discovering it like a pioneer 😉 the Rotunda looks interesting..

  9. Al says:

    I would recommend Trencin, Slovakia also (or just about any town there) if your near the South Eastern area of Czech Republic. The whole country falls under the “Not So Popular” banner, but is full of great places and people.

  10. Off the beaten path locations are always fantastic for getting to know the locals and getting some peace and quiet. We’re going to- quite literally- the middle of nowhere in iceland for a few nights as we just need some couple’s downtime, quiet and nature. Great post!

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