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Russia

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Russia was the last country for me to visit in Europe and it's also the world's biggest country. It covers 1/8 of the populated area of the world so I thought it would be funny to visit it only for a day trip because of this.

My friend Erik and I went on a visa free cruise from Helsinki in Finland to the second largest city in Russia, Saint Petersburg. After a night's sleep on the boat we woke up to a rainy day and it was a sign of how bad the day would start. The cruise line had told us we could take the shuttle bus into town 09.30 and then back at 16.30 but it turned out to be lies, after spending hours waiting to get off the boat and then to get through customs we had more like a total of 4-5 hours to hurry through the city if we wanted to be able to see anything at all.

The first thing we saw when we came into town was a T-shirt of the nations leader Putin (or dictator if you rather call him that) riding a bear and I thought it was so funny that I bought it later on. W…

Belarus

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The last dictatorship of Europe, how can you stop yourself from going to Belarus when you hear those words? Last year the leader Aleksandr Lukashenko finally made it possible to go to Belarus for a couple of days without a visa and my friend Erik and I decided to meet up in the capital Minsk. We took a cab into town and the driver offered us free water bottles that were lying in the taxi, but they seem to have been opened before so we never dared to drink it.

Beforehand this would possibly be the worst country I've ever went to, but they must have put all of their money into the capital because to my surprise it looked nice during the long taxi ride. Not a single one of those gigantic apartment complex looked worn-down, not even in the suburbs. We were beginning to think that all the beautiful women who looked like models, the casually relaxing people in the pedal boats on the cozy river and the heat from the sun must all be an illusion made up by Lukashenko, this can't be for…

Georgia

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I thought Georgia, the country and not the American state, would be heaven on earth since I saw the pictures of the capital Tbilisi. It combined old with modern, and it seemed both cultural and vibrant and everything I love about a city. Maybe I even move there one day I thought, that was until I went there.

When we arrived at 05.00 in the morning without being able to sleep during the night flight, we were welcomed by someone shooting fireworks at the parking lot at the airport. Then we took the bus that would take us into town and we realized that half the bus were homeless people who used the bus as shelter during the night. When we got off the bus I realized how worn down the city was and it reminded me of Chișinău in Moldova, which is the poorest country in Europe. When we got down to the center of the old town it suddenly became what I had seen in the pictures and maybe we had just seen the worst of it on our way down. But it turned for the worse again as quickly as we went into…

Azerbaijan

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I already knew the answer would be no when I asked my friend Andreas if he wanted to go to Georgia, because he's not crazy like me. Instead of saying no he asked if we could go to Azerbaijan too, so he could see the Caspian Sea, so I guess he's the crazy one.

We arrived at the Azerbaijan border in a 1st class cabin on the night train going to the capital Baku from Georgias capital Tbilisi. Custom officers were searching the train with dogs and asked questions like "have you been to Armenia?", the neighbouring country that they don't see eye to eye with. It felt like being in old Soviet Union with officers not showing any emotions accompanied by German shepherds and we had to sit up for hours in our beds to show respect. Officers were lurking outside the train in the dark too if anyone would try to escape. We got called into another room and got photographed and answered some questions while we showed our e-Visa and passport to a guy who had some kind of computer …

Armenia

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My friend Andreas and I had recently been to Azerbaijan when we arrived at the Armenian border from Georgia by car. We knew we would be questioned about our trip to Azerbaijan since Armenia don't see eye to eye with their neighbouring country and even though the war has pretty much ended, you can tell that the conflict isn't solved. The custom brought it up when they saw the stamp from Azerbaijan but it actually went much smoother than I had imagined and soon we were on the way to the first stop on the road trip in the northern parts of the country.
Haghpat is a small village which is notable for Haghpat Monastery, a religious complex founded in the 10th century and included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.



The monastery is a magnificent example of medieval Armenian architecture and the surroundings are beautiful with high mountains and deep valleys.



It's one of the most beautiful places I've ever been too and I had also enjoyed the harsh surroundings on our way the…

Austria

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I had a feeling that my friend Erik, who would go with me to Vienna, wouldn't enjoy my architectural interest in Austria's capital. Most people don't want to go around looking at houses, so I was happy to hear that he had the same interest.



Erik had arrived earlier than me since he was flying from Denmark's capital Copenhagen while I flew from Gothenburg in Sweden. He had already been to some of the museums that I had no interest in when I met him at our hotel. We hit the streets and we went to the Hundertwasserhaus, an apartment house built after the idea and concept of artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who is my favourite Austrian designer. 



The house features undulating floors ("an uneven floor is a divine melody to the feet"), a roof covered with earth and grass, and large trees growing from inside the rooms, with limbs extending from windows. Hundertwasser took no payment for the design of the house, declaring that it was worth it, to prevent somethin…