Oktoberfest Pilgrimage

Hello anyone still out there. Its been a while, but I am alive and well (and still living in Berlin, it’s been over a year now!). I’m not going to  bother making excuses. What can I say life got in the way. But it turns out I miss this here blog so I decided to give it another crack!

So much has happened over the last 6 months I’m not even going to try to break it down. Many more travels from a small Island on the Baltic, to California, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Munich, Prague! Wow writing it down I makes me realise how much we did!

I don’t even know where to start so lets start with Oktoberfest just because it was pretty much the most awesome weekend ever.

oktoberfest traditional clothing couple

I swear half the fun was the outfits. We splurged and bought traditional ones, best souvenir we’ll ever buy.

We decided last minute we just had to make Oktoberfest happen so booked a rare decently priced hotel hotel and car and made the 6hr drive Friday night after work. We could not have lived in Germany for over a year and not made it to Oktoberfest. Australian’s and American’s plan their Europe trips to include Oktoberfest. Nobody would ever let us live it down.

Oktoberfest is exactly like you imagine, except bigger. We got there at 9am and managed to not only make it in one of the main tents, the Hacker-Feltzet Tent, but also squeeze on a groups table! They had been there since 7:30am so we felt pretty fortunate to get a spot.

Oktoberfest Hacker- Festzelt munich

How magical is it?! Like all of your Oktoberfest dreams come true

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Giant pretzels for breakfast on the way in. Big mistake, always eat a proper breakfast before a day of heavy drinking.

Oktoberfest outside dirndl

Oktoberfest leiderhosen traditional

Isn’t he handsome?? You could say he felt pretty awesome in his leather leiderhosen

From there the day went in typical Oktoberfest form. Start drinking at 9am, drinking games, more pretzels. Every so often someone would stand up on the table and down a beer while the entire crowd cheered them on (or booed if they failed).

beer couple Oktoberfest leiderhosen Oktoberfest food inside tent

When the band started playing at midday thats when the festivities really took off! Everybody stood up on their benches and started singing and dancing. We barely sat down again for the rest of the afternoon. As people became looser so did the once exclusive tables, suddenly everyone is friends wrapping their arms around each other singing ‘Ein Prosit’.

Oktoberfest friends fun beer oktoberfest fun beer girl munich oktoberfest beer tent munichlowenbrau oktoberfest munich

It is truly the biggest high to be a part of the festivities. You look around and everyone is smiling and cheering. Of course a lot of beer consumption helps to. And boy are they strong.

3 very large beers later and we were done. We took ourselves home around 5pm and crashed for a couple hours before rounding off the night with some all curing schnitzel.Oktoberfest crowds leiderhosen dirndl

giant schnitzel munich leiderhosen

Giant schnitzel truly is the way to a man’s heart

Sunday we had a more low key day and enjoyed exploring the festival grounds. It was less crowded so we managed to get into almost every tent to check out different atmospheres and decor. By the end of the day the grounds were filling up with Germans dressed in the fanciest, traditional outfits ready for the final night.

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It was one of the best weekends, even if we did get a speeding ticket on the autobahn. Who knew that was even possible?!

Nuremberg- Castle Road pt 1

Nuremberg-Germany

Well its official, I suck at consistently blogging. Turns out it’s much harder to find motivation to blog when you’re staring at a computer screen 8+ hours a day, not to mention we’re lucky to get home before 8pm. From there the night just seems to disappear. But enough excuses! Here, finally, is the first part of our Easter Long Weekend Bavarian Road trip!

If you missed (or forgot since it’s been so long) we planned our Easter long weekend trip literally a week out, so we bought mystery flights as they were the only affordable option. Low and behold we ended up going to Nuremberg. We weren’t super psyched until we discovered there is this great road trip called ‘Castle Road’. Stretching from Nuremberg to Heidelberg it stops off at all of these old castles and medieval towns.

First stop Nuremberg! It was so much prettier than we expected. We just had a day in Nuremberg, but really this was the perfect amount of time to explore and wander the entire city (I’m so glad we discovered castle road instead of spending 4 days in Nuremberg!). Like so many European cities Nuremberg has an old town surrounded by the modern day city. The old town though is so picturesque, its like stepping back in time. Surrounded by stone buildings, Tudor style houses, canals, cobbled streets and many little intricate designs all over the place if you look closely enough. Of course like any old European city it also has a castle with fortified walls that reach out like arms to surround the old town.

One of the nicest things about Nuremberg was the relaxed, almost slow motion, time there. It was so relaxing. It felt like time had just been paused and we had endless time to wander the winding lanes and sip coffee by the canal. It might have also helped that it was Good Friday so none of the usual retail stores were open, but it made for feeling like you had entered an older world.

But really what I loved about Nuremberg was that it reminded us that Germany, unlike Berlin, can be beautiful. Berlin on a whole is an ugly not an attractive city. It is so unlike the rest of Germany in so many ways, so it’s nice sometimes to be reminded of just how beautiful the rest of Germany is.

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We had breakfast at that little cafe right next to the canal

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They had these adorable grass thatched Easter Bunnies everywhere!

They had these adorable grass thatched Easter Bunnies everywhere!

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Smokey Bacon flavoured, it doesn't get more manly than that!

Smokey Bacon flavoured, it doesn’t get more manly than that!

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One of the strangest things we noticed about Nuremberg though were their creepy statues and figurines all over the place! Sorry about the slightly disturbing pics below but seriously this was a statue in the middle of a square with children playing around , so creepy! The gnomes below were a kind of disturbing window display. We couldn’t help but stare and laugh!!

 

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Spontaneous Mystery Flight

Over Easter we finally had the chance to do what we really came to Europe for, travel! Up until now we have barely been able to get out of Berlin, let alone Germany. We just couldn’t afford to take the risk without steady income coming in yet. Luckily the Easter long weekend came just at the right time… about a week after our first paychecks (yay for having money again)!

Of course since it was only a week until the long weekend all the prices were sky high. The cheapest flight we could find anywhere was around 150 Euros and to like Poland or something. Not quite what we had in mind. At this point Spring hadnt really showed its lazy face yet so after 6 months of winter you could say we were pretty keen for a lil bit o’ this

hawaii poolside hyatt resort lounge beach

Flashback to one of the best vacations ever a couple years ago with my bestie! Seriously craving some Hawaii recently!!

 

Thats when we remembered this awesome ticketing option German Wings does, blind booking! Its a really unique deal where you put in your departure destination, days you want to go BUT you don’t select where you are going…

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I know it seems a bit crazy, but considering we didn’t really know where we wanted to go besides getting the hell outta Berlin and the fact tickets are only 66 Euro return it was a no brainer. So they do a fabulous job of selling it, they give you this mix of possible destinations you could end up. Italy, France, Croatia and more wonderful sounding places with a couple of German cities thrown in. So we go through the motions, click pay and confirm and sit there anxiously awaiting our Easter European vacation destination. We were just praying “please not Germany, please not Germany”, somewhere warm! Anywhere but Germany! I was literally like this

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‘Nuremberg’!

 

 

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Yep. Nuremberg. I was like ok, no lets be positive, Nuremberg might be cool! Nuremberg… that sounds familiar… lets google it! Yep. Anyone who is more familiar than  with Nuremberg than us will know exactly what Nuremberg is known for and lets just say its not what I was looking for over Easter. (For those as clueless as me, its the Nuremberg war-crime trials guys).

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A couple days out though we did some research on the area and discovered there is a fairly famous road trip from Nuremberg to Mannheim (near the Rheine) called Castle Road. Basically you drive past a bazillion castles. We LOVE road trips, in fact Easter last year we were road tripping around New Zealand, we’ve decided its a tradition now, so this was perfect. Could it get more European than spending the weekend exploring castles and medieval towns??

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More on our spontaneous Bavarian Road Trip to come!

Budvegas- Budva, Montenegro

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Things as you might have heard have been a little hectic here what with working 12 hour days and crossing other expat milestones so I still haven’t finished recapping my travels from when I first arrived in Europe a whole 4 months ago! I can’t believe how fast time has gone, especially the last month.

So we if you’re new here or can’t remember where we were up to in that amazing first month in Croatia and the Greek Island we last left with the scariest jeep ride ever from white water rafting in the Tara River Canyon, Montenegro to one of the Adriatic’s oldest cities, Budva.

After crazy few weeks of non-stop partying and activity at Yacht Week and white water rafting we were in serious need of some R & R. Budva was the perfect place for it. Its quite cheap and besides visiting their Old Town and many bars there isn’t really that much to do besides go to the beach and chill out. Couple that with the fact its still outside the schengen zone (European visa area you can only be in for 90 days). Its a great way to extend your European vacation and relax. Not to mention is was super hot!

A big thing Budva is none for is its clubbing scene. There are all sorts of bars and clubs (fairly trashy of course) on just about every street, hence we dubbed it Budvegas.

We pretty much our few days in Budvegas eating cheap seafood feasts, and drinking cheap cocktails, catching up on sleep and lazing at the beach.

Old town Budva Montenegro Budva Montenegro beach DCIM101GOPRO DCIM101GOPRO Budva Montenegro seafood Budva Montenegro seafood waterfront

About a half hour taxi ride is the town of Tivat. Even though its only a short distance from Budva its like you’ve stepped into a completely different world (and a much more expensive world). Its mostly made of up a very large super yacht marina with an outdoor mall of designer stores and fancy restaurants. All very beautiful and classy, unlike the rest of Budvegas. But also unlike Budva, it almost a complete ghost town! It might have been because it was the middle of the day and so it was very hot outside or perhaps because we were there at the tail end of the high season. It was a great place to get away from the semi-chaos of Budva for the afternoon and spend it sipping on delicious cocktails and lounging by the giant harbour.

Budva Montenegro harbour swim

please ignore my terrible cankles, my feet and lower legs were soo swollen for weeks after yacht week. They just couldn’t handle the serious heat, alcohol and lots of walking

Budva Montenegro Budva Montenegro Budva Montenegro superyacht Budva Montenegro cafe Budva Montenegro mall budva-montenegro-harbour

After a few days of detox and recovery we decided to one of Budva’s most famous attractions, Top Hill. Top Hill is a 5000 person nightclub on top of a hill (creative naming) that overlooks the whole city of Budva. After watching some youtube videos of it we had high expectations. Well like any night with expectations it turned out fairly crap. I don’t think I have ever been more bored on a night out. The club wasn’t even close to full so had virtually no atmosphere. Plus if you had a table (which everyone did, like a standing table) you could only order from a waiter which not only cost more of course but he was also never around! It might be better in the middle of high season, but it was not worth the taxi ride that night thats for sure.

Budva Montenegro top hill

All in all I wouldn’t call Budva a must see destination by any means, but if you need to extend your time in Europe by getting out of the Schengen zone or are looking for a cheap beach destination to chill out and save some money for a few days Budvegas is not a bad place for it.

 

 

A Day Trip to Dresden: Christmas Markets

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Am I the only one who can’t believe the holidays have been and gone already? Post holiday blues have certainly set in and I’ve only been back at work 1 day. As a remedy and since I refuse to admit the holiday period is over here is a recap of a day trip we took to Dresden (about 3 hours from Berlin) to visit their Christmas Markets. Don’t judge me, its cold and dreary here I need some joy.

We went to Dresden the Sunday before Christmas. It was our first time leaving Berlin since we arrived in September and it was so needed. Dresden is home to the Oldest Christmas Market in Germany. If you’re looking for a way to really get in the Christmas spirit look no further!! It was like Christmas exploded all over the square. It was the Christmas Market to end all Christmas Markets. We spent the whole afternoon exploring these markets and were sufficiently Christmased out by the time it was time to catch our bus back to Berlin.

Like any good Christmas market adventure we made the rounds trying all the free samples of stollen, drank some of the best gluhwein we’ve tried and had the most amazing marzipan melted chocolate hot chocolate I have ever had. Ah-fricking-mazing.

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The Best Ever New Year’s Eve Celebration: Leipzig, Germany

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I’ve said it before and I’ll said it again, those German’s know how to party!! This year was hands down the BEST New Years Eve celebration I’ve ever experienced. We rang in the New Year not in Berlin but in a city 2.5 hours away called Leipzig. One of my good friends from Sydney, Emily, was in Germany visiting her German boyfriend and brother and invited us to spend New Years with them. We couldn’t have asked for a better New Years Eve celebration and fun couple of days. From a snow filled first day, to a sushi making dinner party, checking out Leipzig and its crazy residents congregated in the square watching classical music in the rain… on a screen (we still don’t understand why) to the craziest New Years Eve celebration Leipzig did not disappoint. Of course a lot had to do with the great company we had, I swear the 2 days were just filled with endless jokes and laughs from people falling off chairs to learning new fun German phrases (my new fave is Geil it means epic/awesome/sick… but also horny, those crazy Germans) I think its safe to say a good time was had by all!

I’ve had some pretty amazing New Years eve celebrations over the years from Sydney, to New York, to Paris to Byron Bay. But this year takes the cake. Here are 5 reasons why this was our best New Years eve in Leipzig Germany.

1. Fireworks everywhere

Now if you know anything about the amazing spectacle of fireworks Sydney puts on every year (the best in the world in my humble opinion) then you can imagine why I don’t usually have high expectations of other cities being able to top it. But would you believe Leipzig took it to a whole other level this year. There weren’t any city run public fireworks displays, instead it is the one day a year fireworks are legally sold in Germany and people definitely make the most of it. We could hear the bang of fireworks occasionally being set off all day in the lead up by people who just couldn’t wait but nothing prepared us for the craziness of midnight. The streets were filled with people setting off their own fireworks. And I don’t mean little firecrackers, I’m talking full blown fireworks. It was absolutely insane. Bangs and flares echoing through the streets, the air thick with gunpowder and smoke. People throwing smaller firecrackers out windows onto the streets below. It was complete and total anarchy and it was amazing. My adrenaline was running high as we walked through the streets littered with fireworks. It was overwhelming trying to capture it on camera, I didn’t know which way to turn. It was so exhilarating and the most fun New Years Eve I have ever experienced. It’s one thing to watch fireworks, its another to be in the middle of them. I honestly don’t know how its legal but I am so glad it is!!

 

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not surprising considering the anarchy taking place

2. Setting off my first firework

If you really want to see (and hear!) what New Year’s Eve in Leipzig is like you have to watch this. This was a crazy experience standing in the road (with the occasional car or tram speeding by) while heaps of fireworks are being set of all around me and lighting a full blown, shoot into the air, explosive firework.

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my first firework!

3. Great Friends

Our New Years celebrations wouldn’t have been anywhere near as amazing without all of the wonderful friends new and old we spent it with. We had so much fun with everyone it was hard to leave!

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the boys and their fireworks

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ready to bring in the New Year with a bang!

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The boys and their beer

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Heading to the bus New Years Day, didn’t have time to stop for a group photo so took one while walking, have since decided we should make an album since we already have a cover

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Snow fun!

2. Great food

I swear we spent the majority of our time their eating. We had a great first night making sushi, my expat christmas wish came true! Their were many brunches, coffee and delicious cake at one of Europe’s oldest coffee houses, Coffee Baum, an amazing potluck buffet at the New Years party and a glorious buffet brunch New Years day. We won’t need to eat for a month (which is lucky since I’ve dubbed this month ‘just healthy eating january’ after the blowout of December!)

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homemade sushi, yep we made that

1. The Snow

The days before we left for Leipzig it finally properly snowed in Berlin. We have been waiting for this moment ever since we moved to Germany. It continued to snow the whole bus ride to Leipzig and the rest of that day. Its amazing how the blanket of white makes everything that much prettier. Naturally a spontaneous snow fight broke out (it was the best snowball making snow!!)

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beautiful snow covered leipzig

beautiful snow covered leipzig

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The people of Leipzig watching an orchestra performznce in the square… on a TV… in the Rain. We still don’t know why

A big thanks to Emily, Sebastian and Paul for the BEST New Year’s ever!

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5 German Christmas Market Desserts You Must Eat!

top 5 german christmas market desserts

You may have gathered by now that I live for dessert. Its a constant battle between wanting to eat all the desserts and not wanting to look like a giant dough ball. But right now its Christmas season and I’m in Germany aka land of Christmas and all things Christmas yummy so I say to hell with dieting I’m going to eat all the things! (and then maybe just eat salads all of january to balance it out, thats how it work right??).

When I first was thinking about moving to Germany I read a lot about life in Germany and what to expect, but what got my most excited was the German Christmas Markets. I was just praying we’d get a visa in time so we could stay long enough just to go to the Christmas Markets. Well my wish came true and they have not disappointed! We’ve been to 3 in Berlin alone so far and had a day trip to one in a nearby city, Dresden, this weekend. It was by far the most magical Christmas Markets we’ve seen. It would make even the grinchiest person feel warm and fuzzy.

The hardest part about Christmas Markets is the fact that you are absolutely spoiled for choice on what to eat. So after much trial and error here are my top 5 German Christmas Market desserts you must eat!!

1. Lebkuchen

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Christmas German lebkuchen

We first ‘discovered’ Lebkuchen at Starbucks, we thought the Lebkuchen Latte was what they called eggnog lattes (Daniel has told me about how delish they are so I had to try one even thought they are way overpriced here). After one sip it was clear it was not eggnog. It wasn’t until we then found the real Lebkucken at the Christmas Markets we discovered its actually a giant heart-shaped gingerbread cookie covered in dark chocolate! Lebkuchen is tecnically gingerbread, but we find most common are these heart shaped ones. It is so yummy and perfect for eating on the go at the markets as its not messy and easy to break bits off to share.

2. Schneeballen

schneeballe christmas market germany

schneeballe christmas germanygerman schneeballen

 

Translated to ‘snowball’ these weird shortbread, filled and coated ball things look like they are some weird concoction of left over pastry all rolled together (they probably are). But don’t let this fool you they are so good! Basically they are strips of short bread all rolled together to make a ball about the size of your palm and then filled with a crazy large variety of flavours from marzipan to champagne white chocolate and then coated in a variety of chocolates and/or sugar. The best part is they keep for up to 8 weeks! So if you have the willpower they are great for taking home or to a Christmas party later.

3. Stollen

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German market stollen dresden

We have been seeing this powdered sugar covered German fruit bread all over the place for weeks, way before any other Christmas food had come out. Everytime we go to the supermarket there have been so many varieties I figured it must ‘be a thing’ and we needed to try it. Well last weekend when we were at some Christmas markets with friends I asked them and they instantly started raving about it. It looks like its going to be a soft, fruit bread/cake like item but its actaully kind of hard and brittle, not really doughy at all! Also way better than we expected. For all you Americans out their who despise fruit cake never fear! This is nothing like fruit cake! I really can’t describe its uniqueness, you just have to try it.

4. Germknödel

 

This was easily the weirdest dessert we have come across. So much so we probably never would have ordered it if our friend hadn’t told us it was her favourite and that we HAD to try it. Its like an asian dumpling crossed with a berliner (cherry jelly filled donut), swimming in vanilla sauce thats been poured over it before being topped with poppyseeds. Sounds crazy right? Well it kind of is to be honest but its actually so good and really satisfying. Very filling though, this was one dessert I didn’t mind sharing with Daniel.

5. Glühwein

gluhwein stall christmas markets dresden

gluhwein christmas markets germany

This might be my favourite…

Ok so Glühwein isn’t technically a dessert but what better way to finish off your dessert testing than with a nice hot, steamy and very alcoholic Glühwein. Opt for the “mit shuss” option for a good time, it translates to ‘with shot’ and they are certainly liberal with their free pouring. Thats one way to beat the cold, warm from the inside out!

I hope this has gotten everyone in the Christmas eating spirit!

This One Time In Montenegro… | A White Water Rafting Adventure

 Montenegro-White-Water-Rafting

Let me set the scene for you. 5 blonde Girls. 8 Serbian Men. A Raft. Overnight at a campsite straight out of a horror movie. And a jeep ride from hell.

The story begins back in Croatia. We needed to stay out of the Schengen visa area (if you’re unfamiliar it covers most European countries and means you can only be in there for max 90 days) so we thought hey, why not Montenegro? What do you do in Montenegro? Go white Water Rafting of course! What you’d never heard of that? Yeah me neither. It turned out to be quite an experience.

We opted for the 3 day tour, which ended up being only 2 actual days of rafting since the whole first day was spent driving there. A driver, Joe, picked us up from our Dubrovnik accommodation and drove us 4hrs to the rafting place. He was this massive beast of a man, who looked like he was straight out of a movie playing a bodyguard for the President of something rolling up in an old school Jeep. 6 foot 5, very large build, shaven bald head and sunglasses and didn’t speak a word of English. But Joe was a gentle giant and hilarious as he tried to communicate with us in Serbian. If we asked a question he’d whip out his Nokia flip phone from his Adidas bum bag to call his boss to translate, it was great.

After stopping off for a beer in Bosnia at the largest man made pool I’ve ever seen we arrived at the white water rafting headquarters in time for dinner of mystery meat goulash (actually really yum) before calling it a night to rest up for what was sure to be 2 hectic days of white water rafting.

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Joe and the girls

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Giant man-made lake. Looked like it was straight out of the 70s and barely used since though some teens were swimming there surprisingly. Its in the middle of nowhere!

The next morning we met our guide and were keen to get rafting. Turns out we had another couple hour drive to get to the start, but it was really amazing getting to drive through the Montenegrin country side scattered with old wooden farms and free roaming cattle amongst some stunning mountain scenery. It felt like we had stepped back in time.

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Cow-crossing-montenegro.

Cow Crossing!

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Entering the EU, Montenegro!

After a very slightly hair raising drive along narrow roads, going very fast around blind corners with sheer cliffs on the otherside and absolutely no safety features in a jeep that two of us had to sit in the boot we finally arrived at the stunningly blue river of the Tara River Canyon. The UNESCO listed Tara River Canyon is one of the most naturally beautiful places I have ever seen. With almost sheer cliffs, scatters of trees and amazingly blue snow-melt water it unlike anything else. Its the 2nd largest canyon in the world just behind the Grand Canyon in the USA. I’ve been to the Grand Canyon and what I loved about the Tara River canyon was that it was completely different, I mean for one it wasn’t in the dessert but also it was a much more narrow sheer canyon which felt much more severe.

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Our jeep is dwarfed by the sheer size of the canyon

Now when you picture white water rafting in the 2nd largest canyon in the world you imagine some big rapids, lots of holding on for dear life just trying to staying in the boat right? Wrong, it was more like paddling for 65km (6 hours each day!). We started off not really paddling just chilling waiting for the rapids until we asked our guide if we should be paddling or not and he’s like its up to you, you’re the engine, I steer. We’re like ok well we’ll just keep chilling maybe paddle a bit until he casually mentions we may want to paddle if we want to get the before dark! It was a looong day. 65km of paddling is a really long way. We were dying by the end. I think we were also driving our guide a little mad constantly asking how much further. But in our defense I’m not exaggerating when I say we had to paddle the whole way, the river was barely flowing most of the time. It was not quite what we imagined. On the plus side we had plenty of time to take in (and capture) the absolutely breathtaking nature we were flowing through.

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Loading the raft

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We’re ready!

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Don’t be fooled by the smiles, that water was freezing!

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That water guys. I die.

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Clearly it was strenuous

Finally we arrived at our accomodation for the night. Straight up I’d felt like I’d stepped into a scene from a horror movie. Now I’m not a prissy ‘ew I am NOT staying there’ type of girls but this place was seriously creepy. It was like an old school camp building straight out of the 70s that looked like it had been reclaimed after being abandoned for years. It was in the middle of nowhere and had no electricity to this old Serbian man with gnarly teeth would emerg from the shadows when you went to walk to your room and would shine a dim torch down the creaky hallway to help you see where you were going, but it barely did anything and once in your room there was minimal light coming though the window. I also felt a little creeped out that it was just us 5 girls and now 8 Serbian men (especially after our guide told us all the guides had competed to be the ones to take us, flattering I guess). Luckily another group arrived so I felt much better. We had a delicious dinner made for us by our drivers cousin of fresh caught whole fish, Bass I think, potatoes, traditional homemade cheese, the most powerful cured meat, potatoes and more. Then there was the Rhaki, pretty much Serbia’s moonshine. We were all poured a shot and very much encourgaed to drink it as it is not polite to leave it. It was the strongest, most potent acohol I’ve ever encountered and only a drop touched my tongue (the rest we sutbly managed to tip out). After 3 fish each and many ‘pretend’ shots later we managed to escape to our rooms and collapse ready for a another day of paddling.

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Our accomodation

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Filling from our accommodations’ only drinking water, fresh from a stream!

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There’s something especially spiritual about small town church on the side of a cliff surrounded by sheer mountains

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The next day was cold and rainy and unfortunately we didn’t have rain jackets, so we wore plastic garbage bags. We looked hilarious, our guide couldn’t stop laughing he said we looked like we were wearing giant condoms, but hey they were warm and we had 6 hours of paddling ahead of us! And another long day it was. This time there were a couple of medium rapids at best but we enjoyed them for all they were worth. We finally made it to the end and were more than ready to get the hell out of that raft! Our guide though, he was a trooper, as we left he was like “ah so you girls more like umm… shopping and things yeah?”. Poor guy. But really we’re not uptight princesses or anything. I think anyone would have been like us, we signed up for white water rafting, not 65kms of endless paddling!

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Pretty much the only rapids

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The finish

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We made it!

The scariest part of the trip was not the rapids but the 2 hour drive to our next destination with our driver who had been up the entire night drinking rakia. We literally had to sing, buy him redbulls (and insist he drink them) and legit poke him to keep him from closing his eyes and us making it there alive.

All in all it was quite and experience and I feel lucky to have been able to seem somewhere so stunningly beautiful and remote. I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about the whole thing. On the one hand I loved it and it was amazing went well, but on the other I feel like we were lucky and things could really have gone the other way. But they didn’t and it sure made for some great ‘this one time in Montenegro…’ stories so we’ll call it a win!

Old Town Dubrovnik | The Ultimate Way to See the City

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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.

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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?