Thursday, September 10, 2015

My top 12

Hey guys!

Sorry for another long period of silence; since my last post I've started college, which has been great so far, but I've been pretty busy.
I'll hopefully have another post with updates of what I did over the summer and college up soon, but for now I thought it might be nice to finally release this post that I've had dormant in my drafts for a great many months into the blogosphere at long last.
My idea was originally to write a post about the top-ten countries which I have not yet visited that I would most like to, but I've decided that, since I like to go one step beyond, I'd do 11. Then I finally decided on 12, since that's my lucky number. :P

So, without further ado, here's a list of the twelve countries I'd most like to visit, a few reasons why, and some pictures, courtesy of Google Images (as I sadly have not yet visited these wonderful places and therefore have no pictures of my own to show). Let's gooooooo.

  1. Suomi - Finland:
    I've really wanted to visit Finland ever since I was about twelve years old. Something about the country is enchanting to me - the beautiful nature (lakes, forests, etc), the modern architecture, the interesting and open-minded society that has a very rich tradition of education and innovation, and of course, the crazy, mysterious, beautiful language. It's a very unique country with a very unique culture, and something about it is very alluring to me; I feel something there that I'd love to connect with, and want to check it out. :) I'm interested, in particular, to exploring the capital city of Helsinki, the beauty of smaller cities like Turku, Oulu, Tampere, Rovaniemi, and Savonlinna, the natural beauty of the Lake Country and the Far North, the immense splendor and cultural quirkiness of the mainly Swedish-speaking but politically Finnish Åland Islands, and so on. 
    The flag
    Helsinki, the capital
    An example of the exquisite nature
  2. Ísland - Iceland:
    Iceland is a country that I've become interested in more recently, for much the same reasons as I'm interested in Finland. The nature that Iceland offers is truly unparalleled, in the form of geysers, lakes, islands, volcanoes, waterfalls, and other various delights. The country seems to have an extremely dynamic and rich society in spite of its small population. And, once more, I'm once again drawn by the Iceland's own crazy, mysterious, and beautiful language. I'd love to visit the small but dynamic capital of Reykjavík, the immense natural beauty of the Blue Lagoon, Gulfoss, Lake Mývatn, Þingvellir, and so on, plus perhaps the smaller city of Akureyri. It also seems that Iceland overall does not feel as small as it is, with a wide abundance of interesting cultural events and activities for a country with a population three times the size of my hometown of 100,000. 
    The flag
    The capital, Reykjavik
    An example of Iceland's stunning nature, this one being Lake Myvatn
  3. 한국 - (SOUTH) Korea
    Korea is another place that I've become interested in pretty recently, mainly as a result of being involved in the Everyone's Free Organization at my school, which helps to save North Korean refugees. As I mentioned before, my main motivation for changing my second choice for NSLI-Y from Russian to Korean was that I more or less fell in love with Korea, Korean, and Korean culture after attending a number of festivals and events representing Everyone's Free. I wrote in my journal a while back, right after I made the switch that, "...everything about it - the language, the culture, the food, the people, the traditions, the architecture, is new and mysterious to me. Getting to experience a place so far away and different from anything I know [would be amazing]." Now, a good year and a half after writing that journal entry, that statement has only gotten truer. I very much want to see the dynamic, bustling metropolis of Seoul, the quaint and romantic waterfalls and beaches of Jeju-do (a beautiful island off the southern coast known for its reputation as a popular honeymoon destination), the historic city of Gwanju, the cities of Daegu and Busan, the beautiful western provinces, and just explore the country. 
    The flag
    Seoul, the capital
    Some of the incredible nature on the island of Jeju-do
  4. Sverige - Sweden:
    I've been interested in traveling to Sweden since I was quite young for heritage reasons, as my American grandmother's family originated there. I'm greatly interested in Sweden's abundant and gorgeous nature, beautiful cities with interesting mixes of older and more modern architecture, and progressive, open-minded culture and society. Most of all, I'd love to visit Stockholm, which looks like an absolutely amazing city. But I'm also plenty interested in visiting Malmö, Göteborg, the island of Gotland, and just exploring the whole country. 
    The flag
    Visby, the main town on the small island of Gotland
  5. Brasil - Brazil: Brazil is another country that I've been wanting to visit for quite a few years now. I suppose the first time I became familiar with Brazil would be through two families in our local Italian community here in Ann Arbor who lived there for long periods of time. It's just always seemed like an amazing and beautiful place to visit, especially the Amazon Rainforest, which I've wanted to see since I was hugely passionate about animals as a little kid. :) In addition, I find myself drawn to the beautiful cities, the fascinatingly blended, multicultural society, and the natural scenery (rainforest, beaches, and so on). Not to mention, I also love the language - I've always thought Brazilian Portuguese is absolutely gorgeous. 
    The flag
    Rio de Janeiro 
    The Amazon
  6. Magyarország - Hungary:
    Hungary is another country that I've been interested in traveling to for much for my life for heritage reasons. My American grandfather, who unfortunately passed away about a year and a half ago, was of Hungarian descent - both of his parents emigrated to the United States as teenagers, and he grew up speaking Hungarian at home. Sadly, the language was not passed on to my father or any of his siblings, and though a number of my relatives have been to Hungary before, I myself have not. Therefore my interest in Hungary stems from my curiosity and desire to see and reconnect with my roots that I am unfamiliar with, to discover a very rich and unexplored part of my roots and heritage. I would love to visit, in particular, the capital of Budapest, the natural beauty of Lake Balaton, the Danube, Lake Hévíz (the second-largest thermal lake in the world), and the Puszta (poo-stah, or the Hungarian Steppe), particularly in the Hortobágy National park, and the cities of Szeged, Debrecen, and Pécs (pronounced paych), among other places. 
    The flag
    Lake Balaton
    South Africa: 
  7. When I was twelve years old, my mother took me to a Soweto Gospel Choir concert when they were on tour in the United States. I was treated to a night of uplifting, beautiful traditional Zulu and Sotho hymns, and I was mesmerized. I attended this concert at a time that my interest in and passion for foreign cultures and languages was really beginning to take shape, and I can honestly say that that concert greatly sped up the process. My interest also developed due to a book called "The White Giraffe," by Lauren St. John, which I'd read as an eleven-year-old, that takes place mostly in South Africa, and ended up becoming one of my favorite books from my childhood. I'd love to one day visit South Africa, and maybe even see the Soweto Gospel Choir in concert, have a look at the amazing wildlife and natural beauty, marvel at the country's immense linguistic diversity (there are eleven official languages), and check out Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban, and some of the national parks, among other places. 
    The flag
    A panoramic shot of Cape Town
    An example of the nature 
    And here is a link to a video of the Soweto Gospel Choir singing the country's national anthem. 
  8. Aotearoa - New Zealand:
    I was always (and still am, to a certain extent) very passionate about birds as a child, and I remember watching an episode of a documentary series called "The Life of Birds" by British naturalist David Attenborough, which described New Zealand as a place where it was as though birds, rather than mammals, had won the figurative battle for dominance of the world following the extinction of the dinosaurs. Once I heard those words, and I saw some of the astounding variety of New Zealand's avian life throughout the rest of the episode (such as the kiwi, kokako, kakapo, kea, takahe, and the exinct moa and Haast's eagle), I decided I wanted to some day go and see this unparalleled avian diversity and natural beauty for myself. Later on in life, when my intense love for foreign cultures and languages developed, I learned New Zealand had more still to offer, as I learned about the interesting ways in which Maori and pakeha (people of British descent) coexist mostly harmoniously in today's New Zealand. I'm interested in visiting Auckland, Christchurch, and Wellington, among other places. 
    The flag
    A sample of the nature 
    Auckland, one of the largest cities
  9. Česko - the Czech Republic:
    The first time I gained interest in visiting the Czech Republic was when I was about twelve years old, and the second Chronicles of Narnia movie (Prince Caspian) came out, and I read in a book that one of the main scenes, which I remembered being very beautiful in the movie, had been filmed in Prague. It stuck, and now several years later, it continues to be a destination of interest for me, namely in the fairy-tale-like beauty of the capital, Prague, and various other cities, as well as the natural beauty to be found in the countryside. My interest has also been maintained by reading and enjoying a number of the Czech-born author Milan Kundera's novels, particularly The Unbearable Lightness of Being and The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. 
    The flag
    The countryside
  10. འབྲུག་ཡུལ་ - Bhutan:
    Bhutan honestly seems like one of the most interesting, quirky countries in the world to me. It's a big mystery in many ways, as can be seen from its history - it's about as close to Shangri-La as a country could be, largely closed off from the rest of the world until 1974, lacking television until 1999, and rather famously boasting one of the world's highest percentages of "Gross National Happiness" among its population. It's seamlessly preserved a culture that has existed for millennia. It's just so interesting, and unique! I also have never had any particular experiences with it; I've never once met anyone from Bhutan, or had a good listen of Dzongkha, it's main language. Therefore I'd love to familiarize myself a bit - and what better way to do that than go there, and get a load of Thimphu, its capital, lovely Himalayan nature, and fascinating, beautifully preserved ancient culture? :)  
    The gorgeous Tiger's Nest Monastery
    The Himalayan landscape
    A panorama of Thimphu, the capital
  11. عمان - Oman:
    Oman is by far the Arabic-speaking country I am most interested in visiting. From what I've gathered, it seems like a country that is beginning to expand the potential of its tourist industry, while still preserving its extremely interesting traditional culture. Back in the day it apparently had a maritime trade empire of sorts that extended as far as Zanzibar and the Indian Subcontinent, resulting in an interesting diverse twist to its modern-day population. Linguistically, it's a pretty good place to practice Arabic, with a colloquial dialect not too different from the standard. Muscat seems like an absolutely beautiful city, and I'd also love to explore some of its more exotic landscapes the country has to offer as well. 
    The flag
    From the region around the city of Salalah
    Muscat, the capital
  12. Cabo Verde - Cape Verde:
    Cape Verde is a country not many people are familiar with. A far flung archipelago of islands off the coast of Senegal, formerly a Portuguese colony. I learned about it in Italy, where Cape Verde is actually a very popular tourist destination, watching clips on a travel channel advertising low-cost trips to Cape Verde, which at the time I knew little to nothing about. As I learned about it, I decided that I wanted to some day travel there myself, and get up close and personal with its beautiful seas and beaches, wide-open spaces and natural beauty, and the unique cultural character of each individual island in the archipelago. 
    The flag
Mindelo, one of the largest cities
Isla de Sal, one of the most popular destinations (one can see why!)
A few honorable mentions of places I would very much love to visit, but didn't quite make the top twelve, include Denmark, the Netherlands, Sri Lanka, Iran, India, Indonesia, all of the Balkans (particularly Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, and Montenegro), Guatemala, and endless others. A few places I'd like to visit in my own country include the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (which, ironically, I have never visited), Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Seattle, New Orleans, and so on. ^_^

Knowing myself and my rampant wanderlust, this list is truly endless, and I could quite literally go on and on for hours about the places I want to visit, so I'll just leave it at this for now. xP

Honestly, there are few places I wouldn't like to go. But for quite a while I've wanted to share a bit about these places highest on my list, and why they find themselves there. I hope you all enjoyed. :D

Until next time,

(And I'll sign out with a little treat: some Soweto Gospel Choir videos!)

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