Top 5 Mediterranean Moments

DCIM101GOPRO

Quick update on life in Berlin first. Its been an exciting week, I finally have a visa to stay in Germany until October 2015! Happy Days! Its only took numerous visits to the Aliens Office, getting up at 4:30am and a 4 hour wait but it was worth it in the end thank god. We just need to get Daniel’s now and we’ll be living easy (oh and the small matter I still need a job.. any one want to hire me?? I promise to be awesome). It also suddenly got really cold here, its like we glossed over Fall for about 2 weeks and now its just all just flying into winter. We took a day trip to Potsdam again this week to ride bikes around the town and see all of its famous castles and buildings. It was fun… but also miserable. I was so cold by the end of the day I actually felt like crying haha. Poor Daniel was a saint putting up with my complaining. I am not going to survive winter.

Ok so onto my top 5 moments from my month of travels in the Mediterranean in August. I thought it would be easy to pick 5. Nope, definitely not. There was more like 15. I managed to narrow it down to 5 and will be posting on more on each and the other 15+ in the upcoming weeks. Its about time I posted about this trip but for now here is a taster of my time in the Med.

1. Riding a Vespa around the island of Vis, Croatia

One of my favourite days from Yacht Week was when we rented scooters/vespas and rode all over the gorgeous island of Vis. I had never ridden any sort of motorbike or motorised scooter before but figured how hard could it be?? Surely I’ll just pick it up. Our skipper told the guy we rented them from we knew how to drive them, I think the guy quickly realised it was a lie when I couldn’t even switch it on and then almost burst forward into a pole. We finally got going, two per scooter so I had my bestie Cassie on the back. This just made it so much more terrifying, I had images of us crashing and ripping all our skin off. Not nice. AFter about half an hour of puttering along and barely making it around corners we finally got the hang of it and had an amazing afternoon zipping around the gorgeous island. That was probably my favourite day of the entire trip.

scooter Vis Croatia Scooter Selfie Vis Vis, Croatia

2. Partying at Yacht Week

Yacht Week. The ultimate party. I think the pictures speak for themselves but really it just doesn’t get better than yacht week party. From giant cocktail jugs, to extended straws into other peoples cocktail jugs, dancing on walls to dancing on boats, bottles of Moet being shaken and sprayed over the crowd to buying 6L bottles of Belvedere complete with a light inside. It was crazy. Needless to say we all need some serious recovery time and detoxing afterward! But it was oh so worth it.

Yacht Week Belvedere Carpe Diem Hvar

Carpe Diem Party at Hvar… Appropriately named

Hula Bar Hvar

Linking giant straws together to steal drinks, stay classy

Hula Bar Hvar Yacht Week Party

Sunset Party @ Hula Bar in Hvar

 

3. Walking the Wall around Old Town Dubrovnik

Any Game of Thrones fans will probably recognise this town as Kings Landing. I loved Old Town Dubrovnik and its classic charm. The rustic stone buildings, the stone roads that were now shiny from being walked on for so many years. But the best part of Old Town and a must do if you go is walking around the top of the wall that encloses the city. The views of the city and surrounding Dubrovnik are breathtaking. It is the best way to truly see the city and all of its little alleyways and narrow winding streets. You get a true picture of how crowded in the buildings are and of how well fortified the town is by the wall itself (some parts are 12m thick!).

Old Town Dubrovnik On top of wall Old Town Dubrovnik View out of window of Old Town Dubrovnik

4. White Water Rafting Tara River Canyon, Montenegro

What do you do in Montengro? White Water raft of course. Wait you’d never heard of that? Yeh me neither but it was amazing. The Tara River Canyon is the second largest canyon in the world ranked just behind the Grand Canyon and is truly stunning. It looked like a cross between Yosemite National Park and the Grand Canyon with the most spectacularly blue, crystal clear, snow melt water you have have ever seen. The white water rafting itself was… lets just say interesting. It was more like paddling for 65km, I think we went down maybe 3 ‘rapids’ if you can even call them that? Unfortunately we went at the end of the season and the water levels were unseasonably low. The experience of also spending the night in the middle of nowhere at accomodation that looked like it was straight out of a horror movie certainly added a different element. Seriously, it was so creepy. There was no electricity so the old caretaker stood in the shadows and shone a flash light down the hall so you could kind of see the way to your room. Also the fact that it was just us 5 girls and 5 Serbian men who had pretty much fought to be the ‘lucky’ ones to be our guides in remote wilderness added to the creepy feeling. But the views made up for it and the story unforgettable. That one time in Montenegro…

DCIM101GOPRO

Check out that water

Check out that water

Tara River Canyon Montenegro

White Water Rafting Montenegro

Clearly it was rough

5. Exploring Santorini By Quadbike

In Santorini we rented quad bikes (ATVs) for the day and explored the entire island from top to bottom. Such a unique Island we couldn’t get over it, just brown dirt and volcanic ash everywhere but then these stark white houses and buildings in contrast, right up tot the edge of the island that looks like it could just crumble away into the sea. If you go to Santorini do not even bother with a car, you won’t get anywhere and you certainly won’t be able to park. Santorini was made for quad biking and seriously its way more fun than just driving a car, even if we did have to roll start ours a couple times.

Santorini Quad Bike Selfie

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5 things that I’ve found surprising in Berlin

Brandenburger Tor German Unity Day festivities
Sometimes I forget that I’m living in a completely foreign city with a different language and culture. Thats the problem with living in cities, they tend to all be very similar. But then you will see things or experience differences that snap you back to the reality that you are living almost exactly on the other side of the world. One of Daniel’s friends explained to us recently he calls these ‘Map Moments’. Moments that make you stop and realise that you are in a place you had only previously looked at on a map and dreamed. With international travel being so easy, you just hop on a plane and within a matter of hours (ok so try 30 from Australia) you can be in a completely different part of the world. Its so simple you sometimes forget just how far away you are. I think if we still had to travel months by ship we’d have a greater appreciation.
So here are 5 things I’ve found surprising in Berlin

1. They still fix and replace cobble stones.

It just looks like so much effort it amazes me they still maintain this tradition and don’t just concrete or asphalt instead. Don’t et me wrong though I’m so glad they do because they are so cute and classic European but I watched them dig them all up to the replace the pipes outside our apartment and then have to replace them all and I swear it took forever and looked so tedious.
Cobble Stone Repairs

This has been the state of our street the entire time we’ve been here

2. Everybody speaks English.

From young to old, business men to the crazed homeless dude who wanted to recite us poetry and switched to perfect English when he realized we didn’t speaks german (lucky us). That is everyone except the employees at the Alien’s office, because that wouldn’t make any sense would it.

3. History is everywhere they just seem to accept it and get on with it.

There is a carpark built on the site where Hitler’s bunker was and then surrounded by apartments that look onto it. The holocaust memorial has people sitting on it and playing around it (though they may be tourists). The picture at the top was taken at the big city festival for German Unity Day. I just found it fascinating the contrast of people on a ride right next to one of Berlin’s most iconic symbols of the Cold War, the Brandenburger Tor (though it is now the symbol of a reunified Berlin).

4. The weather is completely bipolar.

One minute it’s sunny with blue skies, you go into a store come out and it will be pouring with rain. We learnt very fast to always bring a jacket (I swear the Germans just pull one out of no where when the weather changes)

5. Sushi is everywhere but is so expensive.

We’re talking €6 euros for 4 bite size pieces. That’s like $9 when you convert it too! I just can’t bring myself to get it even though I miss it so much, I’m sure I’ll cave one day. On the topic of surprising food we found an amazing authentic mexican restaurant Daniel loves called Santa Maria. This is big coming from him because he is the biggest mexican food snob out and had previously refused to eat Mexican in Berlin as how could it possibly be any good being so far away from California Mexico. Of course it was pretty much full of other Americans, but their burritos are delish, not to mention the 4 Euro happy hour hibiscus margaritas. Ah-mazing.

Anyone know any scrumptious, well priced sushi joints in Berlin?

Berliner Bureaucracy

Oh the joys of bureaucracy. It’s been a difficult week. We are currently in the process of trying to work out and lodge visas. It is not something they make straightforward or give you much information on.
I’m currently sitting in a waiting room filled with crazed people desperate to just be given a waiting number. Daniel’s currently standing in a queue if you can call it that. It’s a semi organised formation of people all trying to elbow each other out. There’s a lot of suspicious eye movement, making sure no one pushes in front of them. The tension is palpable to say the least.

Daniel Berlin Immigration line*

The scene right now

There are conversations about visas that have already expired but they can’t get an appointment to see anyone, others who have come here at 5:30am 3 days in a row, people who waited 6hours the day before only to be handed an appointment for 6 weeks time.

But that’s just this morning, this is not our first German bureaucratic experience. Last week Daniel’s boss sent us to the wrong building. We waited half an hour in line before being told “nein”, handed a piece of paper with a bunch of versions of “please come back with papers written in German and a translator” then promptly made to leave the counter. We decided to try our luck on a another floor just incase we went to the wrong desk and fortunately found a kind woman who spoke a little English who was then the one that informed us we were at the wrong entire place.
So Tuesday we tried again, at the correct place this time, Auslaenderbehoerde, aka the Alien’s Office. Because thats what we are. Aliens. And they don’t let you forget it!

Nein baby meme

We got there just after it opened at 7am, there were people going every which way. We had no idea where to go but I knew we needed to work it out fast because I had read the allotted ‘no appointment’ numbers for the day run out fast. There are a few signs around, but of course all in German. We asked a sort of pseudo info/security desk and managed to get the gist of where to go. When we got to the right spot it became even harder. There is no one to ask, there are a couple signs in German and there are people filling the waiting room and lining up down the hall. Its a nightmare. Luckily a few friendly other Americans (can always count on friendly Americans) told us what to do… Wait in line until someone leaves the room behind that door and then go in to beg get a number. After waiting about 45min in line Daniel finally just went in, luckily because no one was in there. He was kicked out in a matter of seconds and told to come back with a translator, again! We were at the Alien’s office for gods sake!! Homeless people on the street rant to us in English as if the people working in the Alien’s office can’t speak English?!! I mean what are the other poor people in the same waiting room from Sudan and South America supposed to do, they can barely even speak English let alone German!!

Thankfully this nice couple, American wife, German husband, took pity on us and he went in with Daniel to translate. Such a kind man he not only translated he went out of his way to defend Daniel’s case! He told us the lady had wanted to kick Daniel out straight away and he argued with her that it was not right and that Daniel was bringing “prosperous work to the German economy unlike the rest of the ‘so-called’ refugees she was letting just file in and destroy our economy”. He went on that Daniel was educated, skilled and already employed and that she should, well pretty much that she should pull the pole out of her ass. This guy really restored our faith in the people of Germany, he went out of his way to help us and he didn’t even know us AND had his wife and not quite 4 week old baby waiting.

While this was all going on I was chatting with her and the other people in the waiting room, turns out this ridiculousness isn’t unique to us (kind of a relief to know were not just stupid). They told us you need to get to the office at like 5:30am and that they’ve done it in the middle of winter before. This was the third day in a row one a few of them had come, one guy had even had an appointment! They said even for Germans the bureaucracy is a nightmare. So after a bit of solidarity bonding hearing other people’s stories we felt no less frustrated but a little less disheartened to know that this is just what has to be done and that every expat working here has already been through this shit. If it was easy, everyone would do it.

So here are again, third times a charm right?? Right?? I’m waiting in the US waiting room again because the Australian room is already filled up (lucky me the other nations in my section are Iran, Iraq, Afganistan, Jordan, Yemen etc so you can imagine its pretty busy). Daniel went in slightly more prepared this time with pretty much the only German phrase I know ‘Konnte ich bitte eine wartnummern ham’ (I’ve probably totally butchered this)- ‘Can I please have a waiting number?’ At least I hope thats right. Hopefully they’ll see it as a sign of good faith.

Oh wait, he’s back! And what do you know… we have to come back 7am Monday. Let the good times roll.

Anyone have any tips on the visa process in Germany??

5 Northern Hemisphere Fall Bandwagons I’ve Jumped On

Oh hey, Friday! I didn’t even realise it was Friday, this whole not having a job thing is awesome and annoying at the same time. I love the flexibility but having no schedule every day tends to blend into the next. Don’t get me wrong we are constantly out doing things and exploring Berlin but it does feel like everyday is the weekend. This makes Friday a little less special except that today I’m finally joining my first link-up with the fabulous Karli over at September Farm!
Since coming to the Northern Hemisphere in fall and joining the blogging world I’ve discovered this thing they call fall is actually kinda a big deal with certain rights of passages and I’m now obsessed. So here are 5 Northern Hemisphere Bandwagons I’ve jumped on and am holding onto for dear life before what will definitely be my most intense winter ever.

1. Pumpkin spiced lattes.

I totally get it now. And i can tell you it’s not just Americans obsessed with this heavenly fall party in your mouth drink. When I ordered it the girl handed the cup to the barista  with a swift roll of her eyes and exasperated ‘yet another PSL’ (the barista  made some big hand gestures and ranted in german, I think she was excited). From the caffeine to the whipped cream and the cinnamony sugary hint of pumpkin? What’s not to love?

2. Plaid.

Oh plaid I just can’t get enough of you, and flannel plaid is my number one

3. Apple picking.

I was like a kid in a candy shop, it was the ultimate northern hemisphere fall trend I had been so excited to experience and it did not disappoint. Germany decided to grace us with the most beautiful bluebird sunny skies and the most delicious apples and berries (not to mention the Honig Man)

Apple Picking Potsdam, Berlin Germany

How do you like them apples?

4. Apple Pie (or more accurately galette).

What do you do when you have a bunch of fresh picked apples and no pie tin? Make Apple Galette of course. Omg I could have eaten the entire thing to myself and it was the easiest thing to make. I foresee a lot of galettes and fatness in our future.
Homemade Apple Galette

5. Knee-high Riding boots.

One of the happiest purchased I made within days of arriving here, german made brown leather insulated boots, my feet and calves are going to love me as the temperature/barometer continues to drop. I have been searching for the perfect pair for years but having size 42 feet makes things tricky so when I found them in my size, exactly what I wanted and cheaper than what I found back home it was a no brainer.
Now all I need is to go pick my own pumpkin and then elaborately carve it like the ones all over Pinterest, because Pinterest projects always turn out like the picture. Seems doable.

An Afternoon Apple Picking Adventure

A couple weekends ago we decided we needed to get out of the city and explore some of the German countryside. I’d been seeing all sorts of fall activities trending all over social media that just aren’t a thing in Sydney and got inspired to go apple picking. The ultimate fall activity (right behind pumpkin picking).

After researching various options and finding one where you can actually pick the apples off the tree as opposed to some which were just like farmers markets (check closely!) we decided to go to Neumann’s Erntegarten just outside Potsdam. We woke up to a beautiful bluebird sunny day. I constantly feel like we have the best luck. Our apartment has a bike we have access to so we took it on the train with us to Potsdam which is only about a 30-40min ride away on the S7 train. Everybody clearly had the same idea because the train was packed out with bikes, we were glad we only had one we had to manoeuvre. When we got to Potsdam there was a bike rental place (Rent-a-bike) just 5min walk from the station. It was only 10 Euros to rent a bike for the day (until 7pm) and the guy was super nice and inflated the tyres on our other bike and gave us a map of a tour of Potsdam that he detailed to me. We didn’t have time to do the tour but definitely want to return and check out the castles of Potsdam before winter sets in.

Potsdam, BerlinCafes

Riding through Potsdam was such a breeze. They have proper bike lanes with their own set of traffic lights unlike the ones in Sydney where they just paint a line on an existing narrow road and call it ‘safe’. The hardest part was getting Daniel to pay attention to where he was going and stick on the bike lane because he’d get too distracted by all of the grand buildings! Once we left Potsdam the ride through the countryside was such a needed escape. Just riding in the sun alongside green fields and large trees lining the road swaying in the breeze.

Riding through Potsdam Berlin

That face. I die.

Fields of Potsdam Berlin

We arrived at the orchard almost too soon we were enjoying the ride so much. However Neumann’s did not disappoint, with a classic wooden beamed brick building that smelled like my families lake cabin in Minnesota it was surrounded by crates of apples you could choose and a whole stand of pumpkins. A Fall masterpiece. Inside they sold all sorts of various fresh and cured meats, homemade apple juice, wine, cheese, gherkins and more. After checking out all the yummies we grabbed our wooden bucket and headed out to the orchard.

apple picking at Neumanns Erntegarten Potsdam Berlin German orchard apple picking Apfelsaft Potsdam Berlin Pumpkins

We spent the afternoon getting lost in the rows of apple trees and trying all the different types. I’m pretty sure daniel ate more apples than we picked. Nothing quite compares to a fresh apple you just handpicked from the tree. I nearly lost it when I saw the ladder, it just doesn’t get more cliched picturesque than that and the view across the tops of the trees was more than worth climbing the rickety ladder.picking the highest apples Potsdam Berlin Looking over tops of Apples trees Potsdam Berlin

the face of a rotten apple

the face of a rotten apple

Potsdam Apple Orchard Daniel Jumping picking apples Potsdam Berlin Rotten Plum with Beetle Potsdam Berlin Apple Orchardperfect apples Potsdam Berlin

After apples we stumbled across rows and rows of ripe juicy raspberries. As we were stuffing our faces bag, this cute little old bee keeper approached, beckoning me to follow him. So Naturally I did, when a traditional German beekeeper invites you to follow you don’t question it (though I know Daniel certainly was). He then gave us those big beekeeper hats and proceeded to open the bee-box hive thing. I was madly trying to roll my sleeves and pants down and he’s waving his hand at me like its fine and saying “mein leibe” (my love) while stroking a bee on his hand. Yeh it was a little weird, but hey the man has passion. Then he led us into this little hut where he showed us how he scrapes the honeycomb and then spins it in this hand worked machine before giving us a test of the most legit honey I’ve ever had. Did I mention all of his descriptions were 100% in German? Yeh we had no idea what he was saying. Of course this was right before he handed us a jar and wanted 5 Euros, we got that part loud and clear. Yep, we got hussled by a honeyman who didn’t even speak English. Best salesman ever. But hey we ended up with amazing honey. We then went back to raspberry picking and watched him hussle some other unsuspecting people into his bee lair.

Honig Man

Honig Man

potsdam berlin bees and honeycomb Bee hat

After picking some of the most amazing strawberries I’ve ever tasted we left. We had about a dozen apples, a bag of raspberries and a bag of strawberries all for 3.20 Euros. Amazing.

Fresh picked Strawberries

It was one of my favourite German days so far and the crepes Daniel made us with the fresh berries the next day were legendary (he’s a keeper)

 

Homemade Crepes with fresh berries

Daniel’s Amazing Homemade chocolate filled Crepes

I can’t wait for another visit to Potsdam

 

2 Months in Europe… and that’s just the beginning

 

Croatia, Greek Islands, Montenegro, Berlin

Yesterday marked officially 2 months since my arrival Europe and what a whirlwind couple of months it has been! From a month of traveling Croatia, and Greek Islands (plus a little bit of Montenegro thrown in for good measure) with a bunch of girlfriends not to mention time spent with wonderful friends in Switzerland my first month in Europe did not disappoint. There was the crazy antics of Yacht Week, riding scooters around the Island of Vis, walking the wall of Old Town Dubrovnik (aka King’s Landing), 2 days white water rafting the Tara River Canyon Montenegro, partying until dawn in Ios, exploring Santorini by quadbikes. Thats just the tip of the iceberg. But the best part was getting to spend it with great friends, the perfect start to the next European chapter of my life, but some of the hardest goodbyes.

One of the happiest hellos though on the trip was finally being reunited with Daniel who I hadn’t seen since New Zealand. Seeing his beaming face walk through the arrivals door was so exciting. 4+ months of long distance was not fun but we made it. Now here we are almost a month into our time in Berlin and things are already falling into place! Daniel has been offered a job! We can’t believe our luck. This means we can now say we are officially staying in Berlin. I am in the middle of interviewing for a position and have another interview for a different position lined up but regardless of whether or not I get them we can stay because I can always get a working holiday visa (whereas he couldn’t).

We are so excited to call this city home and have already fallen in love with its beauty and atmosphere, not to mention vibrant culture. We are constantly exploring somewhere new or going to a different museum or learning more about its history. Beyond the World War history we are all so familiar with, you forget how old this city is and that it had a rich history spanning long before that.

Beginning our time here in Fall has been such a treat. Watching the leaves change to amber from our 4th story apartment windows has been so special and unique compared to the Fall I’m used to in Sydney. We have embraced the season and all its cliches it has to offer like riding bikes through Potsdam, going apple picking at an orchard and drinking beer while eating currywurst at Berlin’s own Oktoberfest. I’ve also jumped on the Northern Hemisphere fall bandwagon and grabbed a Pumpkin Spice Latte the other day. I get it now. It was like a party in my mouth (#PSLlyf yo).

We have started to meet a few people. One guy who moved here a year ago got so excited when he found out we had moved here and weren’t just visiting, with a bunch of flying hand gestures he told me how its the greatest city and a year on he’s still discovering new things. He said the novelty just doesn’t wear off. Right now, I think he might be right.

I have lots of updates and pictures from my month of travels and our time in Berlin to come!

reunited Zurich

Finally reunited in Zurich