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.

Nuremberg-canal-cafe

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

Nuremberg-entrance Nuremberg-catchedral town-square-nuremberg

They had these adorable grass thatched Easter Bunnies everywhere!

They had these adorable grass thatched Easter Bunnies everywhere!

Nuremberg-cage-statue Nuremberg-cathedral tudor-houses-nuremberg corner-wall-statue-nuremberg gold-sign-nurmeberg tudor-gold-house-nuremberg Tudor-street-nurember rooftops-nurembergabove-view-rooftops-nurembergchurch-rooftop-nuremberg castle-entrance-nuremberg castle-grounds-nuremberdaniel-nuremberg tree-canal-nuremberg Nuremberg-canal-under-building canal-mouth-nuremberg arch-bridges-nuremberg corner-wall-statue-nurember

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

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

cathedral-nuremberg Nuremberg-fairylights-tree

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!!

 

Creepy-Nuremberg-statue creepy-gnomes-nuremberg

Spring is (Almost) Here

drive now car convertible berlin berlin-sun-grunewald berlin-grunewald-paulander-beer-picnic berlin-grunewald-picnic

Spring is finally here near. We are starting to have some nicer weather in Berlin. Today is a cold rainy day, but the last few weeks have had majority sunny days and sometime even slightly warmer temperatures! It’s enough to make you think wow, this winter may actually end one day. Ok, ok, maybe a little dramatic, but as we arrived in Berlin mid-September, we’ve pretty much only seen Berlin in the winter. September is technically not winter (not even close) but since their fall weather here is like Sydney’s coldest winter to me it feels like one endless winter, that just got increasingly worse.

I absolutely cannot wait for summer! I have only heard amazing things about Berlin in the summer-time. Apparently people go a bit wild and it’s just like one, big, 3 month long festival filled with outdoor concerts, barbecues and street parties. Bring it on because I’ve had just about enough gloomy grey winter as I can handle. That is why last weekend, when it was finally going to be a beautiful sunny Sunday, we decided to get out of the city for a bit and take a day trip to Grunewald forest on the outskirts of Berlin.

I think the best part of the whole day was the 20min drive there. We signed up for drive-now, a car-sharing service, when we moved and had some minutes we needed to use up, so grabbed a mini convertible and had a joy-ride through the streets of Berlin. Unfortunately we got a little too excited about the sun and forgot that it can still be cold. We spent pretty much the whole day freezing. Oops. But the forest was certainly much prettier with sunshine and it was nice to soak up a little vitamin D, even if it didn’t last long.

When we got home I jumped straight in a hot shower and then curled up under the quilt the rest of the afternoon, trying to warm up. I can’t wait until spring is actually here, but for now I’m just loving the days we get sunshine!

Are We Out of The Woods Yet?

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything, to anyone still out there reading hello! I’m sorry it’s just been crickets around here. Life just got too hard and too busy for the last 6 weeks to find time for sleeping and breathing, let alone blogging. It’s been probably the most trying and tumultuous few weeks of my life but having come out on the other side, it was 100% worth it. You might have a vague idea of what’s been going on if you follow me on instagram but basically it’s been an emotional roller coaster ride of apartments, jobs and visa dramas. It all started getting crazy when we ended up apartment-less but I mean really the craziness started when I began working 12 hour days. So much big news I don’t even know where to begin so I guess I’ll just flash back to the end of January when things started to take a turn for us. As you might know, Daniel had landed a job back at the end of October but hadn’t worked a day yet as he had been waiting 3 months for his work visa to be processed. Good old German efficiency. Well, it turns out his visa had been ready since Mid November, the Alien’s office just lost it. The plus side to the whole situation was that it gave him plenty of time to apply for other jobs (he really didn’t want the other one but had no choice since he needed a visa). Well mid- January a miracle happened and he landed an amazing 1 year contract with an online marketing company. This was right before we needed to find a new apartment since our temporary accommodation was about end. We really wanted to find a long term place so we didn’t have to move a third time in 4 months, however it turns out we way underestimated how hard it is to find an apartment in Berlin. Three days before we had to be out of our apartment we really started to panic.

apartment search desperate berlin

I knew we’d hit rock bottom whenI had to post this in every single Berlin apartment search facebook group, but it worked!

We’d left it too late to even find another AirBnB. By Thursday night (we had to be out Saturday) we booked an emergency hotel a few blocks from our apartment. During this same time, other big things were happening. When Daniel had gone in to his new work to sign his new contract they told him that even though he was one of 5 who had been selected out of 350 applicants they still wanted 5 more people. This is when Daniel learned that they were doing a second round of interviews. So, he told them about me. Long story short, the Friday before we had to be out of our apartment (11am Saturday) I was in a 6 hour intensive interview and testing day at Daniel’s company applying for the same position. We got really lucky and, that afternoon, someone who had seen my desperate facebook ad contacted us. She told us she was going overseas for a month on Saturday so we could rent her place while she was gone. After the long interview day I met Daniel and went straight to her place to secure the apartment. Unfortunately, we couldn’t move in until late Saturday and we had to be out of our apartment early Saturday. So later that night we moved into the hotel… in the snow.

His face pretty much sums it up. I wish I could say that was all our stuff, but no this was one of 3 trips. The best was when we had a clothes drying rack perched on a suitcase with a dish drying rack attached. A very classy moment. I"m pretty sure everyone thought we were homeless. I guess we were at that point.

His face pretty much sums it up. I wish I could say that was all our stuff, but no this was one of 3 trips. The best was when we had a clothes drying rack perched on a suitcase with a dish drying rack attached. A very classy moment. I”m pretty sure everyone thought we were homeless. I guess we were at that point.

That weekend we moved twice. First to the hotel Friday night/Saturday morning then to the temporary place Saturday evening/Sunday morning. We had accumulated quite a lot of stuff by this point as the apartment didn’t have everything, so it took us 3 trips back and forth to move all of our stuff in suitcases and plastic bags on the public transport system. I think it’s safe to say it was one of the worst weekends of my life.

The next few weeks were just one giant sleep deprived blur. Daniel was super lucky and his new company helped him resubmit his visa with an agency so it all went through in a couple weeks, with only the slight hiccup of him almost getting deported when his extension visa ran out before his work visa had come through. My lunch times were spent either going to different governmental offices to get all the necessary paperwork to apply to apartments or continuing to interview at Daniel’s company. One of the biggest decisions but also the most exciting I had to make was when I got offered a permanent position to stay on with my company and become a manager or to take the new position at Daniel’s company I managed to secure! After a lot of consideration and back and forth I took the new job! I am now working at the same amazing online marketing company as Daniel in the Social Media Marketing team and having now been there a week and a half it was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve ever made! It was a gamble because I was already well established at my old company and I was on a fast-track management path but in the long run I will be much better off with my new company. Not to mention I no longer work 12 hour days! The environment at the new place is just so perfect, it is so much more than we knew when we took the jobs and we are so excited to be there.

We also got really lucky and after viewing and applying to so many different apartments and getting nothing (not even a response) we managed to land an apartment a thousand times better than I ever thought we’d end up with. We are in the exact area we wanted, one of the nicest in Berlin, surrounded by cafes and bars, 5 min walk to a shopping centre, main train station and 15min tram ride to work. But the best part is that we are on the top floor! We get a lot of sunlight (which is rare in Berlin) and we have an amazing view from our balcony. It was a struggle to get a place but we couldn’t be more happy with where we ended up.

We are obsessed with the view from our balcony, can"t believe how lucky we got.

We are obsessed with the view from our balcony, can”t believe how lucky we got.

Apartment-view-berlin

Best part is we get sunshine, a rarity here in Berlin.

Best part is we get sunshine, a rarity here in Berlin.

All in all it’s been a complete emotional roller coaster and a real struggle. Yes we got lucky, but in the end we worked really really hard for this and I feel like we are finally truly settled and set-up for an amazing life in Berlin for however long we decide. Next step, it’s time to travel Europe on the weekends.

And if you made it to the end of this crazy long story, thanks for following along. Everyone’s support has meant so much to us (and I swear next time won’t be a crazy long monologue!). Here’s to finally being stable in Berlin.

German Efficiency- Fact or Fiction?

We all know the stereotype that Germans are known for their efficiency…. well guess what, its a big fat lie. Germany has to be the most inefficient country I have ever been to, or at least any of the governmental systems. It’s like it’s some great big sham that’s really quite impressive how far it’s gone, I mean the whole world knows about German efficiency. They had some good marketers I’ll tell you that!

I have had numerous Germans comment “that’s German efficiency for you” and roll their eyes! It’s a complete and total farce and they are all well aware of it.

Everything you do goes through multiple people/departments, is full of paper work and will take weeks months.

The Germans looove their paper work and they love their lines. Everything you do involves getting there early, to get in the line then waiting at least an hour before it opens then probably another half hour to get a waiting number to then wait at least another hour to be seen.

beetle juice waiting room gif

source

Now you might be thinking ‘come on Hannah you’ve only lived there 4 months’ how can you possibly know about German efficiency. Well if you really want to see how a country functions become an expat and move there. I have never had to jump through so many bureaucratic hoops or deal with so many different facets of governmental institutions. I mean, obviously I wouldn’t need to in Australia being a citizen and all but I seriously doubt it involves as much as Germany. I mean when Daniel moved to Sydney he got a one year working holiday visa…before he went… Online.

Not in Germany!! Nothing happens online, it all involves face to face with lots of waiting in lines and lots of paper work (and usually people who don’t speak English, even though literally everyone else including homeless beggars can).

Fortunately I recently discovered the best way to get what you need when they don’t speak english and refuse to help… keep looking confused and asking the same question over and over again… oh and look like you might cry at any second.

sad glee gif

source

You want a tax ID required for work? You’re going to have to wait in line for that.  You want to register your address? You’re going to have to wait in line for that.You want to apply for a visa? You’re going to have to wait in line for that. 7 times if you’re us, a record so far, we’re yet to meet anyone who took over 3 visits to lodge their visa application. I tell you by the 7th time of waking up at 4am to wait 4 hours all bets are off and social decency/being lady-like goes out the window. When the doors opened I ran up the stairs elbowing people out of the way… I’d do it again not my best moment.

she's the man gif

source

Oh yeh, did I forget to mention you have to register your address every time you move? Yeh every time. Even if you’re living in a hotel, because anything else you want to do requires that precious piece of paper.

The magic rule for calculating how long anything will take, times it by three.

They say the line will take an hour? It will take 3.
You order something to be mailed to you they estimate to take a week? It will take 3.
You apply for your visa and they estimate the processing time to be a month? It will take 3.

tina Fey gif

source

The only area they are efficient is in the supermarket checkout. You feel like you’re on a game show where the slowest bagging shopper gets eliminated. The cashier will have swiped your stuff, taken your money and started swiping the next customers things into your pile before you’ve even managed to open the bag.

how  its feels bagging your own groceries

source

One things for sure, after tackling all of these obstacles you feel pretty darn good about yourself.

emma stone all i do is win gif

source

Disclaimer: This may all be because we live in Berlin, aka East Germany. I have been told the West is nothing like this, but these opinions are purely based on my personal experiences.

Budvegas- Budva, Montenegro

budva tivat montenegro

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 Week of Expat Milestones

The first week of 2015 was a big one for us. It was probably our busiest and most exhausting week since we arrived in Berlin. But some big expat milestones were crossed last week!

I got a German Bank account

Finally after living here almost 4 months I have a German bank account! I finally had to get it asap on Friday so work could pay me this week, talk about incentive. I cannot wait for my EC debit card since almost no shop (including grocery stores) will accept my visa or mastercards.

I got a German tax file number

Also needed to get paid but I’m an official worker in Germany now! It was another fun experience with German bureaucracy. The first lady said she couldn’t help so I took another number and tried the next person. She didn’t want to help me either but I have recently discovered if I just keep begging and looking confused and like I might cry they end up deciding it will just be easier for them to do it for me to get rid of me. The key to German bureaucracy!

Berlin Snow expat excited

Daniel got an amazing job offer

So Daniel got a job a while back but hasn’t been able to work a day there yet because we are STILL waiting for his visa to come through. But in the meantime he has been applying to other jobs that are more what he’s looking for and he managed to score an amazing traineeship with a really impressive company. They had the most intense interview process ever narrowing the applicants from 350 to 35 before inviting the remaining to come to an all day interview and testing day, we’re talking 12 on 1 interviews! But he made it through and couldn’t be happier. We’re just praying his visa doesn’t mess it up for him.

Daniel made it on a water polo team

This is probably the biggest news. In case you’re a new reader, one of the main reasons we came to Berlin was so Daniel could pursue professional water polo. It’s a hard sport to get into as you really need to know someone as it’s very hard to find information. By some miracle a few weeks ago our lovely friend invited us for dinner with her flat mates and would you believe it they have a friend who plays on the team. What are the odds?! So they put Daniel in touch with him last Monday and by Tuesday he was already training 4 days a week with them. It’s been a very trying week for him as he’s been out of the pool so now he’s not in top form but he’s giving it his absolute all to get back into it

waterpolo strike UNC

This is from his old team but I can’t wait to see him do this again. Can you believe I’ve never actually seen him play?!

Daniel played in his first professional water polo tournament!

That’s right after less than 4 days on the team Daniel played his first ever pro water polo tournament! Poor guy had to play 5 games over this weekend which is pretty rough when he hasn’t played in months. But I think to be able to say he had a pro game versing prague on the weekend makes up for it.

It’s been a long road but it’s exciting seeing things coming together more and more. It’s nice not to be stuck in limbo between being tourists and belonging. I feel like we can officially say we live here. It’s a pretty nice feeling.

potsdam berlin germany selfie expat

Other expats what were your significant milestones?

A Day Trip to Dresden: Christmas Markets

dresden-christmas-markets-day-trip

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.

dresden-christmas-markets Hannah-dresden-christmas-markets dresden-christmas market-above dresden-christmas-markets-above-view dresden-christmas-markets-ferris-wheel Dresden-christmas-market-nutcracker-windmill lane-dresden-christmas-marketsdresden-christmas-market-nativity-scene dresden-christmas-markets-gluhwein-stand dresden-christmas-markets-gluhwein-barrel dresden-christmas-markets-hannah-gluhwein dresden-christmas-market-fooddresden-christmas-markets-maronidresden-christmas-markets-church-towerdresden-christmas-markets-puppet-theatredresden-christmas-markets-merry-go-rounddresden-christmas-markets-gnome-standdresden-christmas-markets-treedresden-christmas-markets-hansel-gretal dresden-christmas-markets-night dresden-christmas-markets-lights

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.

Jeep-selfie-montenegro

Joe and the girls

Bosnia-largest-man-made-lake

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.

drive-countryside-montenegro

Cow-crossing-montenegro.

Cow Crossing!

Entering-EU-montenegro

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.

top-dam-tara-river-canyon. view-top-dam-tara-river-canyon-montenegro on-top-dam-tara-river-canyon-montenegro view-down-tara-river-canyon-montenegro Tara-River-Canyon-Montenegro-collage

jeep-cliff-tara-river-canyon-montenegro

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.

Jeep-raft-montenegro

Loading the raft

jeep-raft-selfie-montenegro

We’re ready!

raft-ready-tara-river-canyon-montenegro

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

Whitewater-rafting-montenegro raft-tara-river-canyon-montenegrosunshine-tara-river-canyon-montenegro

blue-underwater-tara-river-canyon-montenegro

That water guys. I die.

relaxed-rafting-tara-river-canyon-montenegro

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.

snow-melt-water-tara-river-canyon-montenegro.

tara-river-canyon-montenegro-accomodation

Our accomodation

tara-river-canyon-montenegro-mountain

Drinking-water-stream-montenegro

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

mountain-church-tara-river-canyon-montenegro

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

cliff-church-montenegro

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!

DCIM101GOPRO blue-watertara-river-canyon-montenegro

rapids-tara-river-canyon-montenegro

Pretty much the only rapids

bridge-view-raft-tara-river-canyon-montenegro

The finish

tara-river-canyon-montenegro-bridge

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

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.

dubrovnik-from-kayak

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.

Kayak-dubrovnik-Croatia kayak-lokrum-dubrovnikKayak-Cave-dubrovnikcave-kayak-blue-water-dubrovnik Sun-cave-dubrovnik

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!

kayak-secluded-beach-dubrovnik fun-girls-selfie-dubrovnikkayak-fun-dubrovnik dubrovnik-wall-sea sea-kayak-selfie-Dubrovnik sea-kayak-triumph-Dubrovnik

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.

view-down-kayaks-Dubrovnik-wall

Those tiny yellow specs were us just a few hours before

sun-wall-walk-above-old-town-Dubrovnik. old-town-Dubrovnik-harbourview-down-main-square-old-town-Dubrovnikview-dubrovnik-wallTop-of-wall-Old-town-dubrovnikwall-walk-Dubrovniklaneway-wall-view-old-town-dubrovnikold-town-Dubrovnik-view-lokrum

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.

houses-old-town-Dubrovnik church-marina-old-town-dubrovnik sunny-wall-top-Dubrovnik view-over-old-town-Dubrovnik

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.

gelato-postcards-old-town-dubrovnik

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.

sunset-balcony-drinks-Dubrovnik

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

Yacht-week-recap-3

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).

Boats-Hvar-Croatia Hvar-square-Croatia

hvar-croatia

Hvar

Hannah-laneway-Hvar-Croatia

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.

Hula-Hvar-Croatia

Hula Hula Bar, Hvar

edge-hula-Hvar-Croatia

Hula-bar-sunset-Hvar-Croatia

Doesn’t get much better

the-boat-crew yacht-week-hula-party

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.

The-girls-yacht-week

Carpe-diem-yacht-week

Carpe Diem Bar

belvedere-yacht-week-Hvar-Croatia

6L Belvedere. Seems like a good choice.

Carpe-diem-Hvar-Croatia belvedere-stand-Hvar-Croatia

dancing-yacht-week-Hvar-Croatia

Archway Dancing

above-carpe-diem-party

Carpe Diem Party

friend-fun-carpe-diem-Hvar-Croatia

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.

yacht-week-boats-flags

skipper-yacht-week

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

regatta-crew-yacht-week

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

regatta-fun

Yacht-week-regatta-costumes

Wedding and Baywatch themed!

dingy-tow-yacht-week-regatta

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?