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.

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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

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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.

 

 

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!

Linking up with:

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5 Budget Friendly Ways to Christmas-fy Your Home Away From Home | A Travellers Guide

hotel christmas decorations on a budget

Away from home from the holidays? Us too. That doesn’t mean your ‘home away from home’, be it a hotel room or temporary apartment like ours, has to be cold and grinch like. It also doesn’t have to cut into your valuable traveling budget.

I know I didn’t think it could be done either, its not often you hear budget and christmas in the same sentence. Its hard with Pinterest absolutely exploding this time of year with stunningly decorated houses full of Christmas cheer. All I desperately want to do is make our apartment look as glorious as them. However since we’re not sure how long we’ll be in Germany and the fact we tend to move apartments every couple of months we didn’t want to invest in a bunch of Christmas decorations and items. We also didn’t want to spend a bunch of money on decorations as we’d much rather spend it on travels and experiences. So we had to get creative.

Here are 5 easy and budget friendly ways to Christmas up your home away from home

1. Candles

Candles are the easiest way to instantly make your home feel warm and cozy. We found Christmas lights didn’t really fit in our budget so candles worked out as a better way to have some lovely twinkling lights around the room. Whether in a line or tea candles in mason jars they make a world of difference. Make sure you have at least one scented one, the red one in the second photo below smells amazinggg, its cinnamon & maple. Straight up smells like cinnamon roll aka heaven. Its a steal too at only 1 Euro from Primark.

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2. Hanging Ornaments

Some cheap ones like these from IKEA won’t break the budget and work great hanging in the window.

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We couldn’t find fishing line to hang these with but I snagged some free string from IKEA (in their packaging section) and then just frayed it to get thinner pieces

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3. Homemade Ornaments

We had a great night filled with Christmas carols, paper ornament making and wine. Must have wine.

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4. Pine Needle Branches

There is a florist selling Pine Needle branches on just about every block here in Berlin, but our apartment block has some pine tree in the courtyard so I sneakily just trimmed off the ends of a few of those branches. They’ve been a great way to make it feel (an smell!) a lot more Chrismasy since we decided not to get a proper tree.

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5. Mini Tree

Speaking of not getting a proper tree we debated over whether or not to get a tree. We went out to a few Christmas tree seller pop-up stands and the local supermarket who sold some too. In the end we opted not to buy one. If we wanted a decent tree it was going to cost at least 30 Euros which was more than we wanted to spend (especially since we’d then need a tree stand which cost around 15 Euros). We’d rather spend that money on a nice Christmas Eve dinner (we’re thinking fondue!). So instead we have this adorable miniature potted tree we bought on whim from IKEA weeks ago for 1.29 Euros. We just added some decorations and bam its christmas ready. I actually love it, its super cute and doesn’t take up precious space in our studio apartment!

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One important thing to do though is buy a special ornament from the country you are in. Daniel’s Dad was kind enough to buy these beautiful (and very German) ornaments for us that will be so special to have each Christmas to remind us of our Christmas in Germany. We hope to continue to add to the collection!

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A cuckoo clock and a gingerbread house, does it get more German than that?

Now the place really feels Christmasy and ready for constant Christmas Carols, Hot Chocolate and snuggly nights in watching Christmas Movies

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What Christmas post would be complete without an ugly Christmas sweater selfie

What DIY Christmas decorations have you made? Any other expats/travellers have any other budget Christmas ideas?

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5 Cozy Cafes to Hideout Berlin’s Winter

Happy Friday everyone! We have an exciting weekend ahead of us with numerous overseas visitors. Daniel’s Dad arrived today after surprising us with this news only a week ago. It’s especially exciting to have him here as tonight I finally got to meet him in person (as opposed to skype)! Also arrived today are a couple of my friends from home so I can’t wait to catch up with them. It’s so exciting to be able to say we have overseas visitors, perks of being an expat!

We have a number of things planned with Daniel’s Dad but since its freezing outside (check out my instagram for my complaining if you don’t believe me) most of them centre around food. And by food I mean coffee and cake, obviously.

So if you are in Berlin and find yourself freezing and needing to head inside (which trust me you will), here are 5 cozy cafes around the city where you can grab a steamy latte macchiato, cake and warm your frost-bitten fingers.

1. Shakespeare and Sons (Prenzlauer Berg)

This one we just discovered the other day only a few blocks from our apartment and it is for sure our new fave. As an english bookstore cross cafe you can sip a delicious (and well priced) cappuccino, sitting in a plush armchair while being surrounded with walls of books. Need I say more? Well yes I do because they also serve bagels with house special cream cheeses (get the fig and avocado!). And if there is one thing I love almost as much as cake, its bagels.

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2. Martins Place (Kreuzberg)

You might have caught my rave about this already but really this place deserves more than one mention. With three quarters of the space dedicated to a kitchen that has walls lined more cake pans than I’ve ever seen you know you’ve stepped into this cake enthusiasts dream. Look no further than the display of amazing cake creations. I say creations because these are no ordinary cakes, these are gourmet cake extravaganzas. Good luck choosing. Keep an eye out for Martin who sometimes pops out of the kitchen with a new cake for the display. Tip: go on a week day if possible as there is not much seating and you will find a long line out the door on weekends.

Photo does not do the cakes justice, but look at all the cake tins hanging in the kitchen!!

Photo does not do the cakes justice, but look at all the cake tins hanging in the kitchen!!

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The line out the door!

Can you tell how happy I am/ just itching to dig into that cake?

3. Leuchtstoff Kaffeebar (Neukölln)

A hipsters delight, this place draws a young coffee drinking crowd with its wonderful cappacinos and home made decor. With mostly bare wood, stripped walls and hanging lightbulbs its rustic interior makes use of its smaller space with couches on stilts of varying levels up the walls. I’m still unsure as to how people manage to get into these couches but don’t worry there are plenty of floor couches for those of us less cool. Their fresh daily, crispy outside, soft, flakey inside croissants are the best.

Leuchtstoff

Apparently they do good brunch, yet to try it here but I don’t doubt it as Sunday brunch is an institution in Berlin.

4. Cafe Moma (Prenzlauer Berg)

What looks like a small place opens out in the back to have a variety of armchairs and lounges. Amazing Latte Macchiatos, carrot cake and fresh made to order toasted baguettes piled with layers of prosciutto and cheese, its a perfect rainy saturday hangout. A super sweet husband and wife duo, she doesn’t speak English but sure makes wonderful sandwiches and a welcoming smile.

Cafe-moma-read

5. Frollein Langner (Neukölln)

A wonderful cafe/bar to spend an afternoon playing one of their many boards games or an evening enjoying the acoustic sounds of an amazing performance by some talented local performers. Numerous rooms to choose from all with a cozy atmosphere and variety of mix and match couches and arm chairs, coffee tables and even a piano and fussball table its like hanging out in an antique store.

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Acoustic night or serious chess game, you choose

What do you think makes the perfect cozy cafe hangout? Any other Berlin cafes we need to try?

 

 

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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.

Yacht Week Belvedere Carpe Diem Hvar

Carpe Diem Party at Hvar… Appropriately named

Hula Bar Hvar

Linking giant straws together to steal drinks, stay classy

Hula Bar Hvar Yacht Week Party

Sunset Party @ Hula Bar in Hvar

 

3. Walking the Wall around Old Town Dubrovnik

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

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

4. White Water Rafting Tara River Canyon, Montenegro

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

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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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5 things that I’ve found surprising in Berlin

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

1. They still fix and replace cobble stones.

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

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

2. Everybody speaks English.

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

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

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

4. The weather is completely bipolar.

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

5. Sushi is everywhere but is so expensive.

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

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

5 Northern Hemisphere Fall Bandwagons I’ve Jumped On

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

1. Pumpkin spiced lattes.

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

2. Plaid.

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

3. Apple picking.

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

Apple Picking Potsdam, Berlin Germany

How do you like them apples?

4. Apple Pie (or more accurately galette).

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

5. Knee-high Riding boots.

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