Photo of the Day – Croatia

Flashback to my Croatian cruise – Split to Dubrovnik and back in August 2007. Glorious weather, with plenty of sunbaking, swimming and sailing, interspersed with wandering around gorgeous little towns and eating all sorts of Mediterranean / Greek / Adriatic inspired food.

096 Zlatni Rat - one of croatia's most famous beaches

Croatia has to be one of my favourite countries, I had very little knowledge of the country or the specific places I was going to visit before landing in Split on a balmy Tuesday night, around 35 degrees Celsius at 9pm. Sometimes its best when you know little, you then usually have a fantastic experience.

Especially one that starts with climbing 5 storeys to stay in some old lady’s attic with UK Michael and American ‘Reckless Maggie’ who then take you on a 2 km bar hopping adventure, wading in the ocean at 10pm and having drinks with random Croatian strangers…

But that night is a tale for another day!

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Prague, Czech Republic (with some manky dorm occupants)

Prague is a beautiful city, with many sites to see including Charles Bridge with the gargoyles and market stalls, the Astronomical Clock, Prague Castle with the stained glass windows, St Vitus Cathedral, St Wenceslas Square and visiting a theatre for some classical music or ballet.  Stay classy as a backpacker and see a ballet in jeans and thongs!

But, like most European cities, Prague is not nice at 7am on a Sunday in the rain. We had travelled from Poland on an overnight train and arrived in Prague at around 6am. Weary from a night on the train and in need of a hot shower we made our way to our hostel (along with a fellow backpacker who hadn’t booked somewhere yet who shared our cabin on the overnight train). Of course we can’t check in at 7am! Especially in a less than 10 pounds hostel that looked like an office block transformed into some random dorms. So there we were, 3 dirty, hungry backpackers stomping around a dreary, sleepy wet Prague at 7am. Not fun.

Sometimes it pays to be cheap backpackers, sometimes it backfires on you. We managed to find something to eat and spent about 6 hours site seeing (getting more and more weary) before getting to check in around 2pm.

Our beds were in a dorm of ten, a room approx 4m square. I took one look at some of the clothing and expressed ‘we have some manky looking roommates’. My travel buddy didn’t seem to mind, seeing as we didn’t look too good ourselves. She was desperate for a nap, me a shower. I wandered down the office style hall to the communal showers. Afterwards I had that all too familiar task of trying to get dry and dressed in a shower cubicle where every surface is wet. Assuming we had the dorm to ourselves on a Monday at 2pm I decided to sneak back to our room in a towel to dry and get dressed there. You can imagine my surprise when I opened the door to find 4 twenty-something french lads. My travel buddy was sitting up in her bunk, awoken from her nap and looking quite annoyed. I shrieked, closed the door and ran back down to the shower to finish getting dressed. Talk about awkward.

Upon returning to the dorm, where my friend was even more annoyed, I found the French boys rolling the biggest joint I’d ever seen. They were literally about to light the thing when we asked ‘surely you’re not going to smoke that in here?’ They agreed to go and light up in the car park. After they left I did the ‘I told you we had manky roommates’ spiel, to which they then returned, high as the astronomical clock itself and decided to jump on the bunks and throw balls around.

Clearly we weren’t getting anymore nap time.

Disclaimer: I have never desired to be a cheap backpacker, give me a nice hotel any day. But seeing as I was being unpaid for 6 weeks whilst living in London I had no choice but to stretch the funds out while travelling and live on about 20 pounds a day! Oh god, the backpacker/dorm life is not for me!

Naxos, Greek Islands

A travel documentary on television tonight made me reminisce of the fun times I had on Naxos in 2007. Not as infamous as your Santorini, Mykonos or Ios, Naxos is a big island that still has lots of attractions.

We docked our yacht right in town, literally you walked off the gang plank onto the seafront boulevard with shops and restaurants everywhere. For sunset we walked up to the Temple of Apollion ruins. A delicious local taverna served us dinner, then we wandered around the shops looking at lots of gemstones, jewellery and coral, munching on ice creams and baklava.

The next day took us on a whole day adventure riding quad bikes around the  island. We saw ruins, views, villages, local beaches where we stopped for a spot of swimming, dinner in the affectionately named ‘Mama’s kitchen’ – where Mama just serves up a dish for anyone in the village – no menu here! Not even any roads for cars; this village was so old, you just park at the top and walk down. More swimming at little fishing villages, then chasing the sun on the road back to town, for more Greek food and ice cream. What a lovely time!

To buy the featured image, click here

 

Carcassone

Exploring a medieval walled city in 2005. Dam those bus trips and tour guides, no where near enough time spent at the South of France glory that is Carcassone. How can I fit site seeing, photo taking, eating and shopping in 1 hour!

Grabbed the world’s best meringues though. Living the fairy tale I tell you.

Love that the Kate Mosse book ‘Labyrinth’ is set in Carcassone in the 1200s!  It was a great book to read on the 20 hour flight back to Australia from Europe too.

Oh god, just discovered they’ve made a mini series of the book, straight to to the ‘to watch’ list!

Amorgos – Greece

Lesser known of the Greek Islands, but just as stunning as Santorini, Mykonos, Paros and the others. Amorgos is mainly famous for being the setting of the 1988 Movie “The Big Blue” .  Visit a taverna in town and it’s likely to be playing the movie or have retro posters on the walls.

Take a bus trip (precarious, eyes closed) to see the 1200 AD monastery built high into the cliff face. Cool down on one of the pretty pebbly beaches. As Amorgos doesn’t have an airport, the best way to visit is to sail in on a yacht, like I had the pleasure of doing.

Rose Valley – Cappadocia, Turkey

There are memorable days while travelling. The day I hiked through Rose Valley, in the Cappadocia region of Central Turkey was one of them.

In summary:

I awoke at 4am in a cave hotel. By 5am I was in a hot air balloon rising over the valley of rock formations. By 8am I was back at the hotel having breakfast, then by 9am onto a day tour. 10am walking the Rose Valley, through fields, over rocks, between crevices, in caves. Lunchtime climbing a rocky hill full of abandoned cave dwellings and houses. 1pm buying evil eye jewellery. By 2pm descending 9 levels underground in an underground city. 4pm hanging with hashish smoking French Canadians Boys . 5pm riding a motorbike across the valley to see the sun set (with said French Canadians). 6pm crashing said motorbike and injuring leg. 7pm on overnight bus to Istanbul, nursing swollen and bruised injured leg where I meet another solo traveller that I randomly met again and partied with in Berlin 3 months later.

Those are the days you live for. Ahh travel. Double Ahh for solo travel…

Eiffel Tower – Paris, France

The first glimpse from the bus, still a few kilometres out of Paris, was like seeing Santa Claus in the flesh. Excitement isn’t even the word. I’d spent 26 years on the planet, with probably about 20 of them yearning for Paris. The Louvre, Arc De Triomphe, The tower.

I blame a project in year 4, where I painstakingly created red white and blue headings and borders with mini flags and croissants. Cutting pictures of famous sites out of travel brochures.

Then I was there, for a mere 2 days, then gone, vowing to return to my beloved Paris. In 2007, I did. Still swooning when I saw the tower for a second time.