Old Town Dubrovnik | The Ultimate Way to See the City

Old-town-dubrovnik

Dubrovnik has become one of my favourite European cities. Before going there I had no idea how spectacular it was. Between the amazing harbour that looks like a painting, the quaint feel of Old Town Dubrovnik and the to-die-for seafood, there was nothing not to love.

I adored the entire city but the highlight was certainly Old Town Dubrovnik (aka King’s Landing for all you Game of Thrones fans). The endless narrow stone lane ways were lined with boutique shop fronts and brimming with restaurants and cafes just begging you to spend the afternoon there people watching whilst feasting on fresh caught seafood platters. There are all sorts of things you can do here and tour operators like First Choice list all sorts of great ideas like walking tours or taking a cable-car up above the city (not to mention resort style accommodation for those necessary relaxation days)!

But if you really want the ultimate experience of this city then you have to see it from two unique perspectives; below by kayak and then above from the top of the wall.

main-square-old-town-DubrovnikOld-Town-Dubrovnik-Collage

We started our day with a sea kayak tour around the outside of the city and the island of Lokrum located just 600m off shore. You know, because we didn’t have enough boating time on yacht week. The tour starts from a little bay on the right of Old Town surrounded by the cliff like walls of the city on one side and the fortress on the other. After navigating the slippery underwater pebbles that line the bay and successfully climbing aboard our sea kayaks we set off around some rocks jutting out from under the base of the wall and around the corner where we were greeted by the most impressive view of the fortified wall of Old Town Dubrovnik.

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It was not until seeing it from this side that I really grasped the true magnitude of the wall itself. Not only did we get a great visual of the wall from our sea kayaks, we also learnt a bit about the history and structure of the wall. Fun fact: the wall is 12m thick at its thickest point!! Talk about fortification! From here we kayaked out and all the way around Lokrum island which was once the holiday home of Austrian Archduke Maximillian and now a days has the ruins of the 11th century Benedictine monastery. After we kayaked all the way around the island, I think we built some serious arm muscles. My arms were dying by the end.

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After working up quite an appetite we kayaked into a water access only cave-like beach for lunch and a swim. Swimming in the amazing aqua blue waters of Croatia never gets old. I could stare at this water all day. It’s very salty though, much more than Australian beaches, which I didn’t expect. You have quite a sticky coating the rest of the day but hey it does wonders for your skin!

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After we returned from sea kayaking it was time for a cold drink (it was so hot!) and to wander the shaded laneways of Old Town to cool down and ride out the main heat and sun of the day. We refueled with a pit stop at an amazing Pirate lolly store with barrels of all sorts of yummy gummies and chocolates before climbing up to the top of the wall. Tip: if you have a student card bring it to buy your wall tickets, they only cost 40 Kuna ($7) instead of 100 ($18.70)! In fact, bring it everywhere with you. Most places have great student discounts.

The view from the wall is nothing short of breathtaking. It varies in height around the city so we got many different perspectives of the buildings below. The ocean side of the wall was my favourite part of the walk as you look down the sheer cliff like wall straight down to the water where you could make out the small colourful dots of other sea kayakers. Its really cool looking down on where we had just been a couple hours earlier viewing the wall from below to now be towering above on top of the wall. Its funny Lokrum doesn’t look that far away from a birds-eye view but my sore arms reminded me otherwise.

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Those tiny yellow specs were us just a few hours before

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We took our time walking the wall and taking in the beautiful views of city. We were rather sloth-like moving since it was so hot up there, but relaxed and slow going is all part of the Croatian culture and we were fully embracing it. Thank god we brought water and sunscreen! Once we finally reached the highest point of the wall overlooking the city we were rewarded for our efforts with the best view of Old Town Dubrovnik and the surrounding city and coastline.  Dubrovnik is one of the most pictureque cities I have ever seen.

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It was crazy to look upon this quite small town and think that during the Croatian War of Independence the city and its people were under siege in there for 7 months! Its lucky the wall is no longer made of wood like it was originally! After returning back down we quickly found the nearest gelato store for a double scoop. Gelato is a must after walking around the wall. Not negotiable.

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Pretty excited about that gelato and what a spot to write a postcard!

We finished the day with sunset drinks. Apparently he best spot to watch it we were told is Buza Bar which has a small hole in the wall and steps leading down to the rocks by the waters edge, but when you have a balcony with this view I can’t imagine anywhere better.

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Cheese and wine, the only way to end a long day of city exploring

dubrovnik-sunsetWhat’s your ultimate way to see Dubrovnik?

 

Yacht Week | Final Recap

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Ok so you’re probably all a little sick of hearing about the awesomeness of Yacht Week but I couldn’t leave it without the final recap of the best part of the week, Hvar. By the time we reached Hvar we were well and truly into the swing of Yacht Week. We had the awkward boat showers down, knew who would stumble home together around the same time and were eating amazing seafood meals at these fabulous island restaurants thanks to our Skipper who worked out that if he didn’t book us into a restaurant he would probably go hungry (poor guy).

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Hvar

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We had our little crew from the other boats we’d meet up with each night, which made it that much more fun. Remember the ‘ledgends’ from night one? We ended up bumping into/meeting up with them every night as well, though it wasn’t until the third night I realised it was the same people. My bad.

Hvar is the party central island of Croatia and just teeming with clubs spilling out young revellers. The first night of Hvar was the Hula Hula Bar Yacht Week party and probably my favourite night of the whole week. Hula Hula Bar has the most epic location right on the edge of the water. Top that with giant pitchers of cocktails and you have one happy girl. It was an amazing spot to watch the sunset across the water.

It was already packed when we got there but somehow our Skipper seemed to have connections wherever we went and had a little chat to one of the bartenders who got us a waterfront central table in a matter of minutes! Pretty sure he kicked the previous occupants off saying it was reserved, awkward but yay for us! As the club filled up it turned out we had the prime spot in the centre of everyone. so. much. fun. Like any good night it ended with a bit of drama but with giant cocktail jugs things were bound to get a bit cray.

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Hula Hula Bar, Hvar

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Doesn’t get much better

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The second night at Hvar was the infamous Carpe Diem party. This night can pretty much be summed up in a few words, champagne showers over the crowd, dancing in archways above the crowd and 6L bottles of Belvedere. You get the picture.

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Carpe Diem Bar

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6L Belvedere. Seems like a good choice.

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Archway Dancing

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Carpe Diem Party

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Love these girlies

The last day of Yacht Week is the big regatta where all of the yachts sail together in sort of race in costumes. Unfortunately our boat didn’t want to participate but I was lucky enough to be able to jump ship (literally we were already leaving the dock) and join another super fun boat for the day. I’m so glad I did because it was certainly the highlight day of Yacht Week. I also learnt an important lesson, what do you do when your boat runs out of beer? You pirate another boat and trade send over a pretty girl to beg for more.

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Skipper got pranked, had to steer out without using the wheel… after having to retrieve the wheels from underwater

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the fabulous girls that let me be a stow-away for the day!

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Wedding and Baywatch themed!

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By the time the final night of Yacht Week rolled around we were all pretty partied out (shocking I know). But the officials of Yacht Week sure know how to go out with a bang (pun intended).

It took more than a week to recover and detox but the memories will last a lifetime. A week on a yacht sailing from island to island through the spectacularly blue waters of Croatia with your best friends. What more could you want?

Any other great Yacht Week stories?

Life Is Good

Life-Is-Good

Today marks 2 months since we moved to Berlin, and you now what I realised today? Life is good! A lot has happened in the last 2 months. There have been ups like being here for reunification day and the fall of the wall anniversary. There have aslo been downs, mostly associated with the Auslanderbehorde aka aliens office. But now it finally feels like everything is falling into place.

When we first arrived in Berlin everything was new and exciting, currywurst? Yes please! A giant pretzel? why not! Beer in the middle of the day at a festival? Hell Yeh! After a few weeks though the novelty wore off slightly and we found ourselves at a bit of a loss. Without jobs we had endless free time, which sounds good in theory (I would have killed for that a few months ago) but when everyday is the weekend nothing feels special. It’s easy to fall into a rut when you don’t know anyone, don’t speak the language and have no sort of regular routine. We weren’t home, but we weren’t traveling, it’s a very strange feeling. Couple that with the painstaking job searching and visa process it can be quite tough. After having to go to the Alien’s office a total of 7 times!! Each time getting up at 4am and waiting in line for hours with a bunch of wannabe Germans who keep trying to cut the line (seriously I nearly lost it the 7th time, there was some serious elbowing happening I’ll tell you!) all because the front desk lady took an instant disliking to us because we couldn’t speak German. It can be pretty disheartening. I was about ready to pack it in.

But we didn’t. Things started to pick up. And you know what the great thing about Berlin is? There is always stuff happening. Berlin really is an amazing city, there have been so many events happening during this short time we have lived here from Oktoberfest to reunification day to the Fall of the wall anniversary. Let me tell you they know how to throw a party! I can’t wait for the Christmas Markets, bring on a month of Gluhwien!! This is not to mention all the amazing markets around the city, the acoustic nights at bars that feel like home, the comedy nights at cozy cafes and so much more. We’ve been so lucky to have already had numerous visitors and more to come!

We are in a really great place now. Daniel starts work soon and we both have some great looking potential job prospects. We have met a few great people. We’ve got our favourite restaurants and cafes as well as lists of weekly events we hit up or plan to check out. Even this blog is starting to take off. Friday we are moving to a new apartment in our favourite area on the other side of the city and we couldn’t be more excited. I’ll miss our first apartment, its so nice and we were spoiled for space, and I love our little park and the hipster cafe with the sofas on stilts. But I can’t say I’ll miss almost getting peed on by a homeless woman, faeces of an unknown species (aka we’re never sure if its dog or human) or getting woken to the sounds of screams that sounds like the Turkish mafia. Neukolln, it’s been real. I’ll try to visit occasionally (maybe).

We still have a little way to go before we are truly settled here, but it’s almost starting to feel just a little bit like home. I cannot wait for the first snow! And Christmas Markets! And Gluhwien! I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.

Tonight we went ice skating 2 blocks from our house, at an uncrowded outdoor rink as the slightest hint of snow swirled in the sky. So yeh, life is pretty damn good.

Here’s a snapshot of our first 2 months in Berlin

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Being Tourists

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Atop the Victory Column

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Berlin’s Oktoberfest

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The Wall

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Sunday Funday at Bear Pit karaoke

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Berlin Reunification Day

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Celebrating Reunification Day like Berliners

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Fall Leaf Love

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Our favourite park around the corner

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Exploring Grunewald Forest

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Parks around Berlin- Potsdam & Grunewald Forest

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Templehof Airport turned park

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Going to miss being a block away from Templehof Airport Park (good thing it will be freezing!)

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The Yacht Week, Croatia | A Recap Pt. 2

So did I convince you last week to sign up for the greatest week of your life?? Crystal clear waters, epic seafood feasts and vespa island explorations Oh My! Well the fun only continued with those crazy bunch of ‘ledgends’

The second half of the week just got better. After an amazing day exploring the Island of Vis by vespa we got to see it from the water as we sailed around to Komiza on the opposite side. Beyond seeing the beauty of the Island and the ocean road we had driven along from the perspective of our boat we also stopped off at a secluded rock cave. The water around the cave was the most strikingly beautiful blue water I have ever seen. We dove off the back of the boat and swam for the cave. Once at the entrance the sheer size of the cave became clear. It was much larger than we had thought and had this one piercing beam of light coming through a small hole into the roof penetrating the black waters of the cave. The light was cool to be able to see just how deep it was in the cave (and what was down there, it was a little creepy swimming in black waters). The only annoying part about this cave was a couple medium sized motor boats with tourists came powering into the cave barely slowing even though everyone was in the water. It felt pretty irresponsible and I was not a fan of having to quickly swim out of the way of the motor! After watching people cliff dive off the roof of the cave we went and checked out a second under water cave by dinghy before continuing on to our port for the night, Komiza.

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4 girls in one tiny boat

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How many people can you fit in one tiny inflatable boat?

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right before they dove down through the cave… and absolutely drenched us with water

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We had our first experience of the infamous Yacht Week raft ups (all the boats tie up to one another). This is when you get your first real experience of what Yacht Week is all about. Its one thing to hire your own boat and sail around the Med, its a whole other experience to do it with 45 other boats filled with other young people who just want to have fun. Disclaimer: Do not go on Yacht Week if you want to get a lot of sleep (something I wish some of our crew would have thought of). Whether you stay up until the wee hours or not you will still not get much sleep because how do you think you get from boat to boat… you climb across the decks of other boats (aka you will hear people climbing across your boat all night). My recommendation just embrace it, you’re only there for a week, go hard or GO HOME!

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A little Kings Cup to start the festivities

Unfortunately the weather wasn’t in our favour for the second raft up party so we couldn’t do the infamous circle raft, sad face! But in the end I was just glad we got to raft up at all because we almost ended up in a bay by ourselves because half of our boat decided they’d rather sleep. We spent the afternoon sun baking on ly-los at the front of the boat watching the crazy American guys on the boat next to us use a giant sling-shot to fling water bombs onto unsuspecting boats on the other end of the raft. It was a pretty awesome, stereo-typical feeling Yacht Week afternoon.

Miss this girl!

Miss this girl!

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Not a bad way to spend the afternoon

 

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Just a casual sling shot filled with water balloons

Sunbaking Yacht Week

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the crew

That night we decided we needed to make the most of the raft up party. After hearing the music and shouts from another yacht about 4 boats down from us we realised thats where we needed to be. We quickly grabbed a bottle of vodka as an offering and climbed aboard! Low and behold they were other Australians (typical) but really awesome people let us join their little crew. We ended up meeting up with them each night for the rest of the week. Needless to say things got cray that night. The trip the next day was not enjoyable, thankfully we didn’t have to to travel far.

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The new crew

 Next up the party destination of Croatia, Hvar!

5 Unexpected Items To Pack For Yacht Week

Happy Friday everyone! I’m actually excited for it to be Friday/the weekend because we have some great stuff planned this weekend so it feels more like a weekend and less like every other day (the pains of currently being unemployed). We’re hitting up the Turkish Markets of Kreuzberg this arvo before going to a craft beer brewery with one of those I’m-an-expat-and-I-need-friends groups (we shall see how that goes). Then tomorrow we are trying out this amazing sounding Ethiopian Restaurant where they don’t give utensils so you eat with your hands! Should be an experience.

Ok so everybody knows the standard stuff you’ll want to pack for Yacht Week (bikini, bikini and more bikinis) and there are plenty of packing lists. But there are a few items you wouldn’t think about packing that I assure you will take your experience to the next level and make your yacht the party boat everybody wants to be a part of, which really is the whole point of yacht week isn’t it?

So here are 5 items you’ll be glad you packed (or wish you’d packed) for Yacht Week

1. Hammock

A lightweight easily packable (because trust me the less luggage you bring the better, especially if you’re doing more travel after) hammock will quickly become your favourite spot on the boat. Our skipper brought one and when arrived at port would hang it between the jib (front sail for you non-sailors) and mast (giant pole). It was the perfect spot to chill out in the afternoon with a cider watching the shenanigans of the other boat. But it was also was a great spot to sleep at night when it got too hot in the cabin.

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The flying red and yellow thing was our skippers hammock

REI Eno Double Nest Hammock

Colourful, light weight and for 2! What more could you want? (source)

Something like this ENO Doublenest Hammock from REI would be perfect! (I might need to get one)

Con: you’ll probably have to fight the rest of your boat for time in the hammock

2. Crazy Inflatable

You will definitely want some ind of inflatable for the week like a ring or a li-lo (which also comes in handy for sleeping off those inevitable hangovers outside on deck). But the boats that looked like they were having the most fun and you could see everyone jealously eyeing and working out how to join their party were the ones with some kind of outrageous inflatable. There were donuts, giant pretzels, but the best was a sort of multi-person island inflatable with drink holders and back rests.

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pretzel & Turtle Inflatables!

Urban Outfitters Inflatables

I soo wish I’d had one of these from Urban Outfitters! Next time!! (source)

3. Unique Flag

You must make sure you or your friends bring your countries flag to string up on your boat. Every single boat will have them and often multiple ones depending on how many nationalities are on one boat. But if you want to set yourselves apart from the crowd bring ones that are more unique to you. For example your state flag (soo many California flags), or your university flag, or city flag. Also really helpful for finding your boat when they are all moored together! I really wanted to bring the Australian boxing Kangaroo flag but just didn’t have the space to pack it due to the whole I’m not coming home part.

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Look at all those flags!

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Our flags (see kind of boring)

4. Outrageous Outfit

The last day of Yacht Week is a regatta where all of the boats dress up in costumes and all sail along together. There were some great costumes like Baywatch and the boat I was on (our boat didn’t want to participate so I jumped ship for the day to participate on a different boat. best decision.) were all statues of liberty, simple but so effective. But beyond the final regatta you want some fun statement outfits/pieces to stand out from the crowd. There were some guys on another boat who had the most outrageous multi-coloured suits (they wore open without a shirt of course, gotta show off the goods) they certainly knew how to draw attention (especially when they sprayed champagne over the crowd).

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Statues of Liberty!

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Baywatch, Red, white & Blue and Wedding!

5. GoPro

I know its a bit $$ but trust me you’ll be so glad you made the investment. It was constantly attached to my wrist and I wouldn’t have been able to capture half the stuff I did without the fish eye lens and the fact its waterproof so you can take it anywhere and not worry (not to mention its small enough to shove in your purse). I have the GoPro Hero 3+ which I’m so glad because it captures more than the older models with its lens but has less of an obvious fish-eye effect (I can only imagine how great the new GoPro Hero 4 must be now). It also captures amazing quality photos even when shooting into the light, seriously it was my number 1 possession that week. I also kind of like the fact you can’t see what the shot was like but its almost guaranteed to turn out good (and you can always check it on your phone with the GoPro own built-in wifi).

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Some of my fave pics I wouldn’t have captured without my GoPro

 

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The Yacht Week, Croatia | A Recap Pt. 1

Yacht Week, also known as one of the greatest weeks of my life. How could it not be when you’re sailing through brilliantly blue waters from island to stunning island then partying into the night with all your new yacht week mates. I had been looking forward to Yacht Week since the day I booked it, all the way back in December though it felt like so much longer with all the build up. It did not dissappoint.yacht-week-flags

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Our Yacht! A Hanse 45, trust me that’s a fancy boat for a bunch of 20-somethings to party on

We started in Split, Croatia with the first of many amazing sensational fresh caught seafood dinners at an alfresco restuarant in the midst of the winding alleys and laneways of the Old town. We’re talking a feast of prawns, calamari, whole fish, mussels and for about a quarter of the price you’d pay for it in Sydney. Followed up by drinks in the square, thats when it really began to sink in how lucky we were to be there, I mean its quite a cocktail location. Talk about a map moment. From there we hit up the opening party where people were letting loose, and getting high… I mean literally they were climbing anything they could find. There we made our first friends of Yacht Week, I mean when you see a guy with this written on his arm you have to join the party amiright??

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The next morning we set sail to our first island port destination, Vis. It was not all smooth sailing. Not a pun. The first day almost everyone was seasick. I was so thankful to have grown up on boats to be able to handle it better but even I was getting to be a little queasy by the time we reached the island of Vis.

All problems were quickly forgotten as we entered the stunning port town. Vis was hands down my favourite destination of Yacht Week (even above Hvar!). It just had this authentic, classic sea town charm to it that made you feel instantly relaxed but at the same time desperate to explore its secrets. Luckily for us our skipper jumped ashore as soon as we arrived and reserved the few remaining scooters (vespas, motorbikes, whatever you want to call them). I highly recommend this, it was the ultimate way to see the island with the wind through your hair and sun on your back.

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We had a bit of a rocky start, I hadn’t actually driven any sort of vespa/scooter thing before. I thought, how hard can it be?? Yeh quite hard it turns out, especially with a second person balancing on the back! Our skipper had to tell the guy we rented them from we had all driven one before. I think the man realised this was a lie when I couldn’t even start it (he even questioned it, I was all like “of course, its just, umm, been a little while). After a quick practice down the street, almost crashing into the wall (but I made it!) Cassie nervously hopped on the back and we were off!

It was a slow journey at first as we were so unstable we could barely make the endless hair pin turns up the mountain behind the town but once we got the hang of it and weren’t in mortal fear it was one of the most fun experiences of my whole time in the Mediterranean.

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After driving through vineyards and rows of olive trees we eventually arrived at this secluded cove beach on the other side of the island. Our skipper had told us before we set off ‘maybe don’t wear flip flops’, yeh turns out what he meant by this was ‘wear your most extreme hiking boots because we are going to pretty much mountain climb our way to the beach’. After lunging and sliding on our butts the whole way down to the beach it was fully worth it for this.

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After getting our weeks exercise coming back up we had some well deserved gelato before heading back to the yacht to get ready for that nights yacht week party at the official Yacht Week castle on the mountain. Yacht Week, they do it right.

Are you hooked yet? Seriously go sign up. Right now. You won’t regret it.

The Fall of the Wall | 25th Anniversary

Fall of Berlin Wall 25th Anniversary

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin. I was really glad we got to be here to celebrate such a historic event. Also as we have quickly discovered the city of Berlin knows how to throw a party. To commemorate this occasion a 15km line of illuminated of balloons on poles was erected through the city to symbolise the wall. Then at a special celebration last night they were all released into the night sky.

The balloons were set up all weekend so Berliners could have the chance to walk the ‘wall’. We went and checked it out Friday with friend (thats right we have a friend now…one friend…between two because we’re cool like that). It was a really great way of displaying the wall because it made it so much easier to envision the, almost random at times, separation of the city. There was information along the way with excerpts about certain sections of the wall from bold escapes to tragic deaths to the mass exit of people into West Berlin on Nov 9th. Its hard to truly imagine what it must have been like, the joy and relief they must have felt when it was torn down 25 years ago. The balloons had a fitting eery beauty to them.

wall of balloons 25 year celebration berlin

balloons through berlin 25 year anniversary

ghost figure art berlin wall

We got so caught up in conversation and seeing the balloons we ended up walking about half of the route over 3 hours! As much as I enjoyed it that was more than enough. However it was great to really feel like a part of this city as we not only got to explore more of the city but were constantly surrounded by other Berliners following the line of their history.

The real celebration happened last night with the release of the balloons. It seemed like the entire population of Berlin (and probably more) came out to see it. The trains and stations were so crowded the ones near the main area were closed! We didn’t even realise we weren’t at the right station at first as we just got funnelled out with the masses of people. We managed to make our way to Potsdamer Platz and along the line of balloons until we were within sight of the Brandenburger Tor (the main event). It was a great spot to watch as we could see the line of balloons for blocks and were only a couple meters away from them. The atmosphere was joyous as everybody waited for the moment. Unfortunately we weren’t right at the Brandenburger Tor so couldn’t hear the symphony playing Beethoven’s 9th as the first of the Balloons were released but the cheer of the crowds as they floated into the cloudy night sky well made up for it. They didn’t set them all off at once but in a one-after-another wave formation. This made for some fun moments when a few balloons every so often wouldn’t release and the crowds went wild cheering them on as their releasers battled the balloons.

celebration 25 years fall of berlin wall

fall of berlin wall 25 year celebration

25 years Berlin Wall balloon release

After the release the crowds starting moving forward to now head to the Brandenburg Gate. With the release of the first wall we thought it was done. But we were deceived. There was in fact a second wall, less sturdy then its predecessor but separating people none the less. There was a sudden breach of the wall, we made a dash for freedom! I ducked under the fence made it through. Daniel unfortunately, did not. And thats how we got separated by a wall in Berlin… ok not that dramatic but we certainly enjoyed the irony of the situation.

separated new berlin wall

He looks impressed doesn’t he

We eventually decided to cut our losses and get out of there before the crowd got any rowdier (it was getting a little worrying especially as we were right in trampling territory if a break was to suddenly occur). We ended the night with celebratory quark balls, also known as fried dough balls rolled in sugar and possibly my favourite thing about Berlin, so I’d say a successful evening all round.

I feel really lucky to have been able to be in Berlin a be a part of such historic event. Sometimes what you give up to be an expat can be overwhelming, but moments like these remind you why you’re doing it and make it all worth it in the end.