A Travellerspoint blog

A quick Wiener schnitzel stop before breathtaking Bled

So the journey continues and this time by bus, Busabout to be exact! After travelling by train in Spain which is fast and comfortable starting our first leg of 5 by bus didn’t have me overly excited! But our destination was Vienna so I couldn’t really complain. Two nights and one day in Vienna –a short but sweet stay as is my summary of it!
• There were a few elements that made us feel like we were at home
1. Wombats hostel – the name says it all
2. Meeting up with Prue and Enrico (who were on the way home from their holiday). Was so nice to see them again, they looked so happy. I can’t believe it had been 9 weeks since I was in Salzburg!
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• We go from being a dynamic duo to tantalizing trio when Bec joins us. Bec and I were on the boat together in Croatia and she had a free week to fill in so she decided to join us for a few days. Although I had only known Bec for a week she was one of those people that you felt you have always known (and after a day of meeting Myra felt the same!)
• A day of leisurely walking around the beautiful city in the sun! For once we weren’t too worried about seeing all the tourist sites and just enjoyed a slower pace day. Looks so different to when Dad and I were there in winter! (Dad we did manage to walk past the building…that we spent ages looking for last time)
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• Not deciding where to eat dinner! We left Enrico in charge to find us somewhere to have a traditional Wiener schnitzel and apple strudel. He did an excellent job, the food was amazing and I think we were the only English speaking people there!
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• The highlight by far was having a ride on the swing carousel ‘Prater Turm.’ Its 117m tall (world record) and gives you a perfect view of the city and a small adrenaline rush!!
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And then off to Bled we go! So many people had given Lake Bled an amazing review so it had a lot to live up to. But from the moment we arrived in Slovenia I knew I would love this place. I remember Georgie telling me she was a metropolitan girl. She loves the city and would always want to live there. A perfect weekend is staying in Melbourne wining/dining/going out and enjoying all that the city can offer. I knew that this wasn’t me, I like living in the city now but the country side is for me. This was overwhelming confirmed when we arrived in Lake Bled. I have spent so much time in so many amazing cities over the past 8 weeks however very few I felt I could live in. Seeing the amazing country side in Slovenia although very different from Australia I felt much more at home here! We were blessed by the weather gods and loved the place so much we decided to stay an extra night (bad luck Venice)
The reasons why Slovenia and Lake Bled took my breath away
1. Amazing people! From our taxi driver to the owner of the hostel we were shocked by how friendly people were. Jani the hostel owner went out of his way to make our stay memorable. When we decided to extend our stay by an extra night he rearranged things so we were able to have a 6 bed dorm to ourselves! He impressed us that much we even popped our Tripadvisor review cherry (we use religiously but had never reviewed a place)
2. The Lake. It’s just too hard to explain how good it is, you will just have to go visit it for you self! I did love my morning runs around it and we hired bikes one day when we spent the morning riding from one swim spot to the next!
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3. Getting in touch with our adventurous side – Rafting and canyonning day! I decided this would be a fun day out as I have always wanted to go canyonning. I don’t think the other 2 really knew what it was which turned out to be a good thing because I don’t know if they would have done it otherwise. Rafting was a little bit tame as the rapids weren’t big but we had fun, jumped off rocks and met some nice English kids who we went out with that night. And they finish it off with some delicious local liqueur to ‘warm you up.’ Canyonning was in the afternoon so after a massive lunch where some creepy local guy bought us some shots and told us that canyonning wasn’t adventurous, joining him in his spa was, we were ready! We decided that they must not have a big issue with public liability in Slovenia because we didn’t write our names anywhere or sign anything. We were just given our wetsuit, helmet, booties and harness and then started the 20min sweat fest walk uphill to the start of the canyon. I loved the whole thing, jumping into pools, sliding on natural rock slides, abseiling. The first jump was the biggest, 5m into a tiny pool, Myra and Bec were petrified and ended up having to sit down and slide after being given a big push. But they soon had a smile on their face too, especially when the guide who had an eye for Myra was making some inappropriate jokes. It would have been better if there was a little more water (it had been a hot summer) but I am definitely hooked and going to make it a part of my next holiday!
4. Vintgar Gorge. Our walk to and through the Gorge was breath takingly beautiful. The water was so unbelievable clear and the colours were amazing. It’s times like these you wished you were a good photographer, my camera just didn’t do it justice
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5. Girl’s dinner and drinks. The people you share you experiences with also make the experiences. The 3 of us got on so well and had so much fun including a couple of nights out having dinner and very cheap drinks (5.20 euro bought a round of vodkas)! On our last night we even had a girlie date for 3, dinner by the lake watching the colourful water fountain display and being serenaded by a brilliant violinist, we had to laugh at how romantic it was ;-)IMG_1152.jpg
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We had such an amazing 3 days in Bled, the best decision we made was to stay the extra night. No one was happy to be leaving Lake Bled and to rub salt into the wound the train ride to Venice was in a sweltering hot box of a train, which arrived around 10.30pm and then involved 20min trek through the mazed streets of Venice to find our accommodation, which also proved to be a little hot box. The joys of travelling :-)
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Posted by katea_b 12:49 Archived in Slovenia Comments (0)

A holiday from the travelling life!

and then back on the bandwagon with Myra

Initially when I started to organise my trip the week after Sail Croatia was unplanned – it was the gap between GD leaving and Myra meeting me in Athens. I thought I would try make my way down through the Bulkans from Croatia to Greece however after talking to a few people I was put off travelling through here as a solo female (however after being in Croatia I changed my mind on this again). On my tour of Scotland I met Kelly who was going to be in Santorini for this week so I decided I would join her! This was the best decision I could have made for two reasons
1. Santorini/Greek Islands are an amazing place with some of the most unique scenery I have ever seen and Kelly is a really fun girl who I get on with really well
2. After ‘travelling’ for 7 weeks I was well and truly ready for a ‘holiday!’ It was so nice to be in the one place for 5 days – unpack the bag and have a few days with some down time! Who would have thought you need to take a holiday from holidaying!!!
So after one week on Santorini, a few nights in Athens and Prague I have a learnt a few lessons and have few highlights report!

Santorini
• Croatia may be close to Greece but getting a direct flight isn’t that easy. A travel day starting to 10am to travel from Split to Zagreb to Dubrovnik and finally to Athens ended at 10pm. A long day for what could have been 1.5hr direct flight!
• Staying in Perissa was the perfect little holiday – cute little hotel within 50m of the famous black beach! And these stones appeared to work very well for exfoliation if you roll around in them!
• Takes a little while to get use to not flushing the toilet paper! (may have made this mistake a few times)
• If visiting the Greek Islands take copious amount of moisturiser – hot and windy is an understatement!
• Hiring a 50cc Quad bike for the day to explore the little treats of the island was amazing. Tips for next time 1. A 50cc bike with two people one it struggles big time when on the hilly island roads. 2. Riding for 5 hours straight in the middle of the day may lead to slight heat stroke and the last 2 hours aren’t nearly as fun as the first 2!
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• Again we found a gem of a restaurant – Tranquello! It was a nice change from the heavy food on the boat. I have noticed a pattern in the theme of my favourite places in Europe - vegetarian hippy places (not being a cheese lover doesn’t work well).
• Absolute highlight of Santorini was the 12km walk from Fira to Oia right on sunset along the clifff tops. Kelly was a little uncertain of this at first but I ‘eagerly’ encouraged her and by the end of it she was so proud of her self and the view was unbelievable! We put this off for a few days due to exhaustion from the Old Port stair walk and sun stroke but eventually we made it…enjoy the photos!
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Athens
• Came as a pleasant surprise because so many people had given it a bad rapt!
• Nice to meet up with my new travelling buddy Myra who has slotted in to travel life like a trooper. No jet lag at all and I had her out walking for hours from day dot!
• Of course we visited the usually sights of the Pathenon, Acropolis, Olympic stadium. And of course I eyed of the highest point in the city and scaled this, Mt Lycabettus. (there was a funicular which Myra didn’t know about until we reached the top, she didn’t understand why we didn’t take it)
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• We ate our fair share of gyros, kebab and my personal favourite frozen greek yoghurt!
• Stayed in a nice hotel however they made you pay for wifi! Only place in Europe
• A small group of 6 on the walking tour enabled us to talk a little bit more about the financial crisis in Greece. Was sad to learn that Greece has over taken Spain in the under 24 unemployment statistics - around 60%!
• The city seemed so empty compared to everywhere else I have been. The locals escape the city in summer and so the only people there are tourists. It’s a very strange feeling

Prague
• Such a cute and colourful city with a fascinating history which was explained brilliantly by the guides on the Old town tour and Castle tour! We witnessed the famous clock tower do its thing (initially we didn’t understand what the huge crowd of people forming in the square were doing!)
• Trailed some local Czech cuisine, can’t say Goulash and dumplings is what you feel like eating on a hot summers day!
• Loved my run exploring there gardens, although it was a little hilly for my liking!
• Saw every breed of dog you could ever imagine – Czechs appear to love dogs!
• Amazing sweet pastry cooked around what looks like a metal rolling pin cooked over hot flames and then rolled in cinnamon sugar filled with nutella had me lining up 2 days in a row!
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• Pub crawl on the last night which finished in a 5 storey club, apparently the largest in central Europe was the perfect end to our 3 day visit. Having to get up at 6am for an 8hour bus ride to Vienna the next day was not looked upon with the same Enthusiasm!
• Prague is such a visual stimulating city therefore it’s only fitting for the pictures to do the talking!
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Posted by katea_b 10:07 Archived in Greece Tagged prague greece Comments (0)

Croatia by boat


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After two amazing but very full on weeks in Spain it was time for some boating in Croatia. Our travels to Dubrovnik were drama free and we had a nice hotel. This came as a relief as it was only 3 weeks prior that we realised we had book flights and accommodation to Split however out Sail Croatia trip was starting in Dubrovnik! Can’t say GD and I were overly impressed with STA. we had one day to kill in Dubrovnik before our sailing started. Dubrovnik has many interesting historical sights to visit (e.g. the wall around the Old Town) but today we couldn’t face being travellers and opted for some sun baking, reading (50 Shades of Grey – as are all females in Europe) and a dip in the sea. It was bliss! Our hotel recommended an amazing little restaurant for dinner and we ended up going there twice. So now we thought we were ready for Sail Croatia, little did we know…
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• Initial shock of arriving on the boat, primitive conditions. Our cabin was tiny, it consisted of bunk beds and enough room for one person to stand. GD had to sleep with her bag on her bed because there wasn’t any room for it. The bathroom was a humid box with a toilet and shower head above it!
• After a few hours of ‘sailing’ (we used the motor the whole time, never saw a sail) we were docked in a small village and had a Captains dinner as the sun went down, they do sunsets well on the Dalmatian coast
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• Food on the boat was pretty good, we were survived breakfast and then one many meal a day. Don’t think I have every consumed so much salt in my life!
• Our tour guide, Mate, the only local Busabout guide impressed us to begin with. He had a keen interest in war history and the European economy (we study economics and mathematics), so over the first two days he gave us a few interesting history listens and gave his point of view on Croatia joining the EU and the crisis in Spain/Italy/Greece. And also explained why Croatians/Eastern Europeans can come across as rude when speaking English, basically they don’t use please/thankyou/excuse me etc.. in their language, they simply say what they want! But after the second night he was useless. He staged dived off the bar and only his feet were caught, his head hit the ground with such a noise that everyone stopped and looked! He must have had a severe concussion because he slept the whole next day. For the rest of the week he gave us no information about the islands, what to do when we got there etc…
• Sea legs kicked in on day two – horrible feeling to be swaying when you are on land. GD had a rough time with this
• Sleeping on the roof under the stars to escape the heat of the cabin and the noise of people as they walk past our room (the boats dock and tie together so people must walk through your boat to reach land)
• We had some amazing nights out in very unique locations. Where ever we went the towns were bustling with people all night long! They don’t sleep for July and August
o Korcula: Massimo rooftop cocktail bar for sunset
o Hvar: Tequila boom booms – smash a shot glass on your head a Kiva bar
o Makarska: Cave party and then via the amazing pizza place on the way home!
o Omis pirate party
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• GD and I had our daily walking/running adventures and I even managed to hire a bike for a few hours. My favourites were a
o 3hour walk in Mljet national park
o Afternoon ride with Bec through the winery region of Stan Grad
o Trek up to the fortress in Omis – this was the one thing Mate lead us on – it was much harder then we thought but the views were spectacular
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• People! Of 23 on the boat we had one token American and the rest were Aussies. There was a real mix of people, from 3 cashed up tradies from Melbourne who were here to party (and had terrible taste in music), to a couple on their honeymoon, to a couple of 19 year old girls travelling. Met some amazing people that I got along really well with. So glad I am travelling at this age and not any younger, the younger girls cared too much about what other people thought of them and what they were doing (like being back at school)!
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• Swimming and relaxing! We spent a fair bit of time on the boat which was nice to begin with but becomes boring after a while if you have ants in your pants! The swim stops were incredible as the water is so blue! It’s also very salty which makes floating a breeze (salinity of the Adriatic sea – 38-39g of salt dissolved in 1kg of water
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Over all I had amazing week on Sail Croatia. Yes we were roughing it, yes we were sleep deprived and dirty the entire time and yes we were all very sick by the end of it but it’s all part of the experience!

I won’t be rushing to get back on a boat anytime soon and I was so appreciative of my hostel with air-conditioning and separate clean toilet and bathrooms! But I will definitely be heading back to Croatia, beautiful place!

Posted by katea_b 01:56 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

I asked for summer and Spain delivered


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After 2 weeks of a ‘UK summer’ I was well and truly ready for some sunshine and a chance to swop the rain jacket and jeans for something a little lighter! Spain went above and beyond in this department. Bluebird every single day, even in Bilbao where the weather usually resembles London’s! Train travelled worked a treat and meant we were able to cover a lot of the country in a short period of time

Madrid
I had low expectations for this place because of other people’s reviews however I was pleasantly surprised with what this central city offered.
• Felt like a queen arriving to a hotel room with a private bathroom (after a few weeks of scummy hostels)
• Georgie and I started our epic two weeks of walking throughout Spain – approx. 20-30km per day or 10+ hours!
• Amazing park – Retiro Park. This was a massive park with amazing water features, trees and plenty of walking paths, apparently it rivals Central Park! Perfect way to start the day!
• Free walking tour with a very hungover guide, was interesting to learn about some of their more recent history. We also squeezed in a visit to Queen Sofia Arts Centre to see Picso famous……
• Trip advisor served us well – found a great place for dinner with amazing steak, chicken, squid and salads (tried them all because we went back twice)!
• The start of our corn flake breakfast and tuna salad eating days (it’s not so easy to travel when you are a celiac)
• We had a few sighting of the riots and only once was it a little too close for comfort!
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Granada
This place is something else. Full of so much history and so many step little roads which we of course explored by foot
• Crazy day walking once we arrived (after walking 2km from the train station in the scorching heat with our bags). Climbing up to the highest viewing point in Granada in the scorching dessert sun, we passed very few other people (I wonder why?). But worth the 3 hour walk for the views! Exhausted and extremely thirsty we somehow made it back to the hotel
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• Exploring the Sacromone district, gypsy caves, on our own by foot before we really knew what it was, was an experience!
• Amazing walking tour with a local guide who gave us a brilliant explanation of Granada’s rich history (it was then we found out what the gypsy caves were) and even taught us how to turn a Mosque into a Catholic church
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• Everyone who goes to Granada visits the Alhambra, so this meant an early morning walk to line up for tickets. We thought it was very impressive although we had our express tourist mode on, didn’t quiet spend the ¾ of a day there like people recommend
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• Food – Granada is famous for its free tapas with drinks. We didn’t take advantage of this due to the above mention allergies. Dinners included a random vegan place and then a vegetarian place and it was here that Georgie’s love for kebab salads begun!

Seville
Can’t say we were dying to go back to this place. Visiting the south of Spain in July can be a little challenging
• Our lovely travel agent booked us into a hotel a 45min bus ride from the centre, in a housing commission area. Meant we couldn’t enjoy some of the finer dinning that was on offer in Seville
• First day of our walking explorations it reached 46 degree and it was siesta by the time we got into the city. 3 hours and 4 ice poles later we retreated back to the hotel
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• The free walking tour was run by a very enthusiastic Moroccan who told many stories about Christopher Columbus and the importance of Seville as a port to the new world. He also managed to teach us some Flamenco and gave his opinion on the financial/political crisis in Spain. 50% of people under 24 were unemployed!
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• No tuna salad for me here, I had amazing black paella (recommend by Carmen)!!
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Bilbao
This was the once place Georgie said was a must see, to visit the Guggenheim Museum. I had no idea what it was before hand but so glad we went, it’s like no building I have ever seen before!
• A whole days train journey to reach Bilbao gave our feet and legs a much needed break!
• This was the best hotel by far! 4 stars with the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in and an amazing buffet breakfast!
• As per usual we did a walking tour, interesting to note that until 20 years ago Bilbao was purely an industrial city, not overly attractive on the eye
• Guggenheim museum is such an amazing building, it captures you attention from every angle! Surprisingly I also enjoyed the art inside the museum. I was pleasantly surprised, such a large exterior but a relative smaller interior meant we went through it and saw everything in 2 hours (I didn’t have time to get bored)
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• The highlight for me was my afternoon 30 minute Metro trip to Sopelana Beach. GD wanted to stay at the hotel and write FB messages so I went by myself. Got a little lost finding the beach but it was well worth it in the end, just look at the pictures!
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• I loved it so much the next morning I went back and did a run along the cliffs from Sopelana to Getxo, couldn’t wipe the smile off my face, this is how I like to see things!
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Barcelona
Finally our last stop in Spain. Didn’t start on the best foot with our late arrival to ‘Hostel Barcelona.’ Walking down some dodge side streets to find the most expensive accommodation of our trip but by far the worst. GD had a melt down and was talking to Robin and Marcel as she was trying to find somewhere else to stay but at 12am decided to stay here and re-evaluate in the morning. In the end she decided to stay if we spent all day out exploring and only slept here
• Again we were off to find the free walking tours. We were able to do an Old town walking tour and a Gaudi walking tour, both of which were very informative and worthwhile
• Our first day we clocked up 13hours of walking (GD was on a shopping mission), after having dinner down at the beach we literally limped home, our old war wounds (sacrums and planter fascia) were not happy!
• Gaudi park was a definite high light, amazing view of the city, I love the perfect grids. Gaudi’s unique and crazy designs were interesting to see, we will have to go back in 50 years time to see the Sagrada Familia when it is finally finished!
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• Loved the food markets, the vibrant colours and the fruit and lollies was memorising! Libby would have been in heaven with all the lollies on offer
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• Nothing too special about the food we eat apart from the lunch place! A vegetarian falafel salad bar, was always packed with people but we lined up every day, best cauliflower of my life!!

So after 2 weeks of ‘express touristing’, walking, eating and sweeting we were well and truly ready to head to Croatia to relax for a few days! Loved Spain but might not head back down south in the heat of summer!

Posted by katea_b 05:51 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Scottish summer = Melbourne winter

So with a week to kill before George arrive I made a last minute decision to do a 5 day tour in the Scotland highlands with Haggis tours. I arrived in Edinburgh and found my way to St Christopher’s Hostel. This was my first experience of staying in a hostel and really the first time I felt like I was travelling solo. I didn’t really know what to expect but all went well apart from the rain leaking into the room and the lack of sleep (I guess it takes a little time getting use to sleeping in a room with 10 other people)! I met a nice American girl and we went to the Castle together and had dinner that night so I thought I’d done ok. The next morning I woke to the pouring rain of which I had to face with my pack on my back to get to the tour office. This is when I started to think what am I doing here! Luckily the feeling only lasted until I was dry and warm on the bus meeting everyone on the tour, 11 people with an impressive 9 travelling solo!

The Scotish highlands are amazing, loved this place but could never live here due to the lack of sunshine! The pictures say more than I could ever explain
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I was so happy I decided to do the tour, was great to see areas I won’t have otherwise seen and was also great to meet other solo travellers, you learn a lot and can make new friends (much more so then travelling in a group!)
The last thing I want to say about Scotland is how good the free walking tour in Edinburgh was. In the 3.5hrs tour I learnt more about history and gained a greater understanding of religion and its origins/history then I had in my entire life!
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Posted by katea_b 12:55 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

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