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.

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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?

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!

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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.

Top 5 Mediterranean Moments

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

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

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

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

scooter Vis Croatia Scooter Selfie Vis Vis, Croatia

2. Partying at Yacht Week

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

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Carpe Diem Party at Hvar… Appropriately named

Hula Bar Hvar

Linking giant straws together to steal drinks, stay classy

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Sunset Party @ Hula Bar in Hvar

 

3. Walking the Wall around Old Town Dubrovnik

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

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4. White Water Rafting Tara River Canyon, Montenegro

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

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Check out that water

Check out that water

Tara River Canyon Montenegro

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Clearly it was rough

5. Exploring Santorini By Quadbike

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

Santorini Quad Bike Selfie

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

 

Croatia, Greek Islands, Montenegro, Berlin

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

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

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

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

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

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

reunited Zurich

Finally reunited in Zurich