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.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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Joe and the girls

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

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

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Cow Crossing!

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Entering the EU, Montenegro!

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

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Our jeep is dwarfed by the sheer size of the canyon

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

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Loading the raft

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We’re ready!

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

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That water guys. I die.

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Clearly it was strenuous

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

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Our accomodation

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

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

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

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Pretty much the only rapids

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The finish

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We made it!

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

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

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

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

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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