Sportsman’s European Vacation

Don't go to Europe for sightseeing

By Andrew Court, FE Lifestyle Editor

European summer travel can really suck.

In 2022 COVID policies are still a big problem. The continent is a clusterfuck of nasal swabs, querty codes, and rules more complicated than an Ivy league diversity guidebook. Many countries require boosters to be considered vaccinated for entry. You’d be forgiven for saying thanks but no thanks.

Besides COVID, most typical euro travel options are so overdone they’ve become silly cliches.

Anyone on social media is constantly force fed a stream of stark white Greek hobbit dwellings and oceanside spaghetti plates. This summer especially, with a weak Euro, Americans are taking over. One hears more English in Santorini than in Miami.

The thing is though, once you move past the obvious stuff, there are tons of reasons to board that transatlantic flight. Adventure awaits in under the radar destinations. The best part: all my recommendations are 100-percent COVID bullshit free.

Hungary is a great place to start. It has a long and storied tradition of big game hunting and a culture that values tradition. Since the 18th century, Hungarian Emperors and aristocrats have enjoyed driven boar hunts. Head to a shooting estate west of Budapest to live out that Hapsburg fantasy. Sure, most boar hunting happens in December and January, but just like in Texas, plenty of hog hunting’ happens in the summer if you find the right outfitter.

FE PRO TIP: Leave the Mrs. in Budapest for a few spa days. The city has 118 natural thermal springs that deliver 70 million liters of therapeutic water. Since the days of Ottoman rule the city has had one one of the world’s great spa cultures. 

If you’re a motorcycle guy, Iceland has some of the most badass riding in the world. 

This lost land near the top of the world feels like something out of Game of Thrones. In the summer midnight sun you can take in glaciers, tundra, lava fields, hot springs and geysers. 

Motorcycles are a great way to see all of it. For a mostly paved experience take the 823 mile ring road which circles the island nation. If you’ve got the off road chops, there are tons of gravel trails going through the center of the country. Celebrate your survival with a dip in the hotspring and a few cold beers. 

Bikes and logistics are super simple. There are plenty of direct flights to the capital Reykjavík and multiple companies do motorcycle rentals. Be warned, this ain’t cheap, expect the price on everything to be around double what you’re used to (assuming you don’t live in Geneva or Hong Kong). 

For the Eastern European version of A River Runs Through It go fly fishing in the Soča Valley in Slovenia.

Getting there, a three hour drive through the Julian Alps from Venice, is half the fun.You’ll pass the headwaters of the Soča River in Triglav National Park. Ernest Hemingway wrote about these mountains in A Farewell to Arms.

When you get to the river it’s time to catch a marble trout, a rare Salmanoid found in the Adriatic basin. Its incredibly distinct markings sit somewhere between an Amazonian jaguar and a Keith Haring mural. The largest genetically pure population lives in the Soča Valley. This is classic dry fly fishing at its best in turquoise water that could almost be brought in from the Bahamas. 

Now if you really feel compelled to do the Euro beachside table dancing bottle service thing, try Turkey.

I get it, it’s not technically Europe, but when you’re paying in inflation-addled Lira instead of Euros, you won’t mind. Along with cheaper prices you get a seaside free from the American hordes who only want a picture for their #lifestylegoals IG post. 

The coast is prettier in Turkey anyway and will make plenty of people jealous back home. 

Bodrum is the country’s classic seaside resort. Lounge along the scenic waterfront and eat at trendy Mediterranean restaurants, definitely romantic trip material. From there you can book a gulet, the classic wooden Turkish sailing yacht, to search out hidden beaches and inlets. Otherwise just stay put, get tan, and throw back booze. And speaking of booze, this is perhaps Turkey’s biggest drawback. The country is predominately Muslim, and the government taxes the hell out of alcohol, so don’t expect to whip into a 7/11 for cheap booze anytime you want. Indeed, this is the time to visit the duty-free shop at the airport and pack it with you.

To get really wild go to Marmaris. They have a street literally called Bar Street where the closing time is 5am with clubs, foam parties, and jello shots that are about as much trashy fun as you can have outside Cancun. Marmaris is popular with Scandinavians and Germans so I hope you like blondes. 

To be honest there are too many options to list. My goal is to show you that with a little research you can escape both crowds and COVID rules to have a great Euro summer trip.