Going skiing this winter?

Are you heading to the slopes this winter? Read my top ’10 Things Women Shouldn’t Leave Home Without’ when they head to the Alps for an action-packed and snow-fuelled skiing holiday.

Here’s a quick taster of my article, but read the rest on Pink Pangea – a community website for women who love to travel.

Skiing in the Alps: 10 Things Women Shouldn’t Leave Home Without

The Alps… Spectacular scenery, fresh air, ski pistes and hiking trails – it’s any outdoor enthusiasts dream.

Skiing beneath the dramatic North Face of the Eiger is an image that will forever be captured in my memory – the sheer cliff, the high wall protruding upwards where only snow and ice can safely cling to its surfaces. The Eiger towers above all others in the Jungfrau region – and it’s absolutely breathtaking.

I’ve only ever been to the Alps during the winter months; both the French and the Swiss. The mountains stay snowcapped throughout the year, which always makes for incredible photos. But from November to April the small villages and towns are transformed into winter wonderlands, encased in snow, thriving with activity and showcasing their best and most expensive ski gear.

I look forward to those few weeks every year when I can head back out to these wonderlands – to experience the refreshing mountain air, to hear the echo of the cowbells in the valley, and most importantly, to look forward to some fast and furious skiing on some of Europe’s best ski slopes.

Here’s 10 things you might not want to forget when travelling to the Alps. I have geared this mainly towards skiing, however it can also be adapted to hiking – two of the most popular activities that holidaymakers participate in when they head there.

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1. Sunscreen

Here’s something you may never expect to need during winter – but it’s an absolute necessity. A few years ago I forgot to put sunscreen on my chin, and because of the reflection of the sun on the snow, I came away with horrible sunburn that transformed into massive green blisters. To say it was unpleasant is a complete understatement. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Apply generously every few hours.

2. Chapstick (at least SPF 15)

Chapped lips are a great big ‘no-no’ during the winter months. The cold air makes your skin dry, and especially affects this delicate area. While it’s definitely good to apply lip salve often, it’s vital to make sure your lips are protected against the sun – since burnt and dry lips are even worse.

3. Camera

The Alps is an area of outstanding natural beauty. Wherever you turn your eyes will be graced with phenomenal views of valleys, villages, forests and endless snowcapped peaks. The photo opportunities are never-ending–you’ll come back with a full SD card and still regret not taking more. Whilst skiing I still managed to carry around my DSLR camera on some days when I knew the sky would be clear azure. Sometimes it’s a faff, but it’s always totally worth it.

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… Read the rest of my article here, on Pink Pangea.

The fairy tale beauty of Lake Bled

Bled is a picturesque town that surrounds Lake Bled in the Julian Alps in Northern Slovenia. The tiny central island which houses nothing but a Church is a typical postcard picture that anyone will easily recognise. I pictured glorious blue skies, fantastic clear lake and sun…

…I arrived in the pouring rain. You couldn’t even see the lake.

There are of course pros and cons to travelling out of season:
Pros: Cheaper AND more beds available + less tourists + shorter queues.
Cons: Colder + wetter + shorter days + fewer backpackers to meet (though still plenty).

Travelling in the shoulder season isn’t for everyone – especially if you enjoy the more expensive and jam packed hostels during the summer months – however I never had a problem meeting people and making friends. Granted, there were fewer people around – especially in the smaller places I visited like Zakopane and Lake Bled – but this always came as a welcomed break.

So… Let me tell you about my 2 days in Lake Bled. Yes, it rained. Yes, it was bloomin freezing, but on the whole – I had a great stay.

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After arriving in the rain, my new Korean friend Shine and I walked over to the hostel. Turns out we were the only 2 people staying at Castle Hostel 1004 – which was friggin cold because the young British girl working there couldn’t work out how to control the heating. In my stupidity and eagerness to see the lake, I decided to head out for a quick walk around Bled. Needless to say after half an hour of walking I was completely drenched to my skin – my jeans were displaying the lovely wet line affect from where my coat was keeping my crotch area dry – delightful. I plodded along, still adamant that I would not waste my stay in Bled. But when your hands start to feel like they’re going to drop off whilst attempting to take pictures you know you need to hold up the white flag and go home.

So with cups of tea made by the lovely British girl and with Shine cooking us a Korean dinner, I hung my now drenched jeans up to dry and settled on the couch for the night. Honestly, with a duvet wrapped around me and Notting Hill on the TV, it felt like home…

The next day Shine and I decided to head to a beautiful gorge – a few miles walk from Bled. We trudged there in the pouring rain – with Shine in his shoes covered in plastic bags. Not only was it very wet, but we also got lost… By the time we’d managed to find the gorge we were wet, cold and tired. To make matters worse, the gorge was shut because of the high water level. BUT thankfully a lovely Slovenian family who had visited to check out the river – apparently it’s never been that high – offered us a lift back!

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Instead of heading straight back to the hostel to warm up, we hiked up to the top of the castle and found a ledge with a fantastic view over the lake – well worth NOT paying the extortionate fees to go into the castle grounds.

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Here’s a funny story for you – whilst we were walking around the lake, Shine diverted from the road and headed down to the muddy path by the water’s edge. I looked away for a second and heard a splash followed by a loud expletive. Turns out Shine had fallen in, bag covered shoes and all. I was in fits of giggles, but managed to successfully drag him out. Poor Shine was drenched up to his waist – the bags on his only pair of shoes were no longer waterproof, and he squelched with every step.

My few days in Bled were proving to be wet, but hilarious – I was much entertained by this funny boy from South Korea – who later lost his wallet (a string bag round his neck), missed his train and instead successfully hitch hiked from Bled to Munich – an incredibly surprising feat which I severely doubted he’d manage.

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On the final day I was greeted with glorious sunshine, and finally managed to take some great photos of the lake. I packed up my soggy clothes and caught the train to my next destination – Salzburg.

Ljubljana – Europe’s smallest capital

I boarded an overnight train that would take me from Split back up to Zagreb – where I would then change for Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. As I hadn’t had the opportunity to sleep in a bed on a train – I decided that the few extra pounds was well worth it. And plus, I had my own room! It was a rather surreal experience settling down for the night in a bed on a moving vehicle. Sleep was consistently disturbed by the noisiness of the train though, which journeyed incredibly slowly across the mountainous landscape of Croatia to reach the capital. I was sad to miss out on the daytime journey – as apparently the scenery is quite stunning – however, when you’re backpacking, time is always of the essence!

A knock on my door at around 5.30am prepared me for the arrival into Zagreb, and so I emerged bleary eyed and rather sleepy on a dark platform, and had to figure out my connection to Ljubljana amongst the morning rush hour.

The train journey through Northern Croatia and Slovenia was beautiful. I reclined on my chair and watched the scenery fly by outside. Despite the rainy morning, the lush green fields, trees and mountains was mesmerising and even though I wanted to sleep, I couldn’t! Slovenia has an overall population of only 2 million, their capital city, Ljubljana is the smallest capital in Europe, at only 250,000. The Slovenes love the outdoors, and that’s not surprising when you see how vast their countryside is.

By the time I’d arrived in Ljubljana it was still pretty early. I successfully found my way to my hostel, checked in, dumped my bags and headed out for a free walking tour – one of the first things you should do when arriving in a new city.

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Even through the rain, Ljubljana is a beautifully green and compact city. As is common with a lot of European cities, the castle towers high above everything – so you can see it from virtually everywhere. Our tour guide told us all about the history of the city and took us around the important sites – the main square, the dual bridges, the cathedral (which has a very interesting bronze door), the market and the University. To be honest, there isn’t much to Ljubljana, but it’s very pretty and has a relaxing atmosphere.

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The Cathedral doorknob

The food market in the centre of Ljubljana is vibrant with colour and buzzing with activity. Despite the rainy day there were still people everywhere. I love the feel of a market, it’s so alive with people and culture. The tour guide had earlier told us that people of Ljubljana generally went shopping and then stopped by at the plethora of cafes and bakeries that lined the market afterward – despite the rain people were sitting outside sipping their glasses of wine and coffee after a morning of grocery shopping.

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Ljubljana also has a thriving art scene – the Metelkova Mesto District is an area covered completely in graffiti and odd sculptures. Metelkova was once an army barracks and prison, and has now become renowned for being an alternative and political hang out. The buildings have been long abandoned and are decaying – the places that once produced fear and punishment are now covered in a graffiti that not only provides a political stance but professes expressions of pain, loss and hope.

Once a city suppressed in communism, Ljubljana has become a thriving and beautiful place – you simply have to walk the streets to know the pain of its past – but you can see the hope of the future.

Beautifully relaxing Hvar

Hvar is a Croatian island located off the Dalmatian coastline. During the summer months its renowned for being quite a major holiday destination for Croats and backpackers alike. Despite it being November, and very much out of season, Rob (a guy I met in Dubronik and who I stayed with in Split) and I headed to Hvar for a night because we’d tired of Split! Thankfully the weather had also changed so it was beautifully sunny and also rather warm.

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For less than 10EUR each for the night, we stayed in an apartment overlooking the ocean with a brilliant view – in the height of summer it would probably have cost 4 or 5 times as much – that’s when travelling out of season has it’s benefits!

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With the lack of tourists Hvar Town felt like it had been abandoned. Massive hotel complexes were deadly quiet, and there weren’t many people about apart for locals; but this also meant it was a great place to relax for a few hours after the hectic weeks of travel. That evening we enjoyed a beer by the sea and watched the sun set over the ocean – it was beautiful.

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The next day we enjoyed a cooling swim in the clear blue sea and chilled on the decking by the sea for a few hours – with no one around it was like we had the place to ourselves! There aren’t any proper beaches at Hvar Town, it’s mainly built up concrete with decking and permanent sunbeds – it’s all been purposely made for sunbathing and swimming. The harbour is very pretty, there are lots of boats quietly floating on the water – a place for beautiful photographs. It was great to stay out of season and to experience the island the locals see for most of the year – it was just amazing to savour the peace and quiet, and to read my book in the sunshine with nothing but the sound of the lapping sea to accompany me.

Diocletian’s Palace, Split

First impressions of Split weren’t great. It was raining, gloomy and the location of the bus station was in an ugly part of town. There were few backpackers about – luckily I had my pal Rob (who I met in Dubrovnik) for company – we were the only two staying in the hostel.

After hastily dumping our bags, we headed out to explore. The main hub of ‘historic Split’ is basically within the walls of a Roman ruin – ‘Diocletian’s Palace’. Diocletian had the palace built in preparation for his retirement in 305 AD, where he lived until his death in 311 AD. The Mausoleum of Diocletian lies in what is now the Cathedral of St Dominus, next to the main square in the Palace – a bell tower that was constructed in 1100 AD stands adjacent to the Cathedral and dominates the Split skyline. The views from this are quite fantastic – overlooking the rest of the Palace, the mountains and the Dalmatian Coastline. Despite the grey skies, it was still worth the hike up.

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At the top of the tower we met a Serbian who told us how he was afraid to talk in public because he knew he would be the centre of ridicule – his accent easily recognisable as Serbian by the Croats. He mentioned his sadness at the Yugoslavian divide, as he used to be able to come freely to Split, where he holidayed for many years. But now whenever he comes has has to remain silent. He still lives and works in Sarajevo, which he said used to be a beautiful city – he now it’s a shadow of its former self. (I wanted to visit, but sadly couldn’t – maybe another time). I really felt for him, he seemed so forlorn at the whole situation, but also happy to be able to talk to people in peace – where no one else was listening.

Split is quite a strange place. Homes, restaurants and shops have been built into the Palace walls, the streets are tiny and you can easily find yourself getting lost. People have taken parts of statues and columns from the Palace and made them into all kinds of things in their gardens. Our guide the next day agreed that this kind of architectural gem is not being looked after the way it should be – the people living in Split have defaced so much of it so it’s rapidly degrading. It needs to start being cared for properly if it wants to survive another 1,000 years.

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The next day was hugely contrasting. The sun was out, the sky was blue, and it was actually rather hot! We enjoyed a penny tour of the Palace – which was intriguing – and sat for a relaxing coffee overlooking the harbour before catching the ferry to Hvar. Bliss.

A day trip to Mostar

An early start was in order for a trip to Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The drive was very scenic and interesting – we drove up the coast line of Croatia, briefly along the short 8km coastline of Bosnia and Herzegovina, back into Croatia, on towards the ‘main’ ramshackle border, and eventually through the beautiful but devastated Bosnian countryside.

I’d seen bullet holed houses whilst driving through Northern Croatia, however this was something else. The full effects of the recent war could be seen everywhere, houses looked old and run down, and the place had a general feel of being in a third world country – poverty seemed rife. Our tour guide told us that there is a 47% unemployment rate in Bosnia and Herzegovina, apparently most families rely on relatives abroad for their income. We drove past one house that looked half built, the outside was simply orange breeze blocks without any outer covering (as seems to be the norm across countries in this region), the upstairs was completely open to the elements, save for two side walls and a roof. I saw a little boy standing at the opening, behind him was a washing line and other pieces of furniture – it looked like a family lived in this makeshift shelter in a half-built house. It was completely mind numbing and I still can’t seem to forget this image.

We stopped off en route at a small Muslim village, with a mosque as the central feature. There were a few old women attempting to sell fruit, nuts and other touristy items on the road side – clearly all tours stop here. We walked up to the mosque and continued on to an old look out point, this gave us wonderful views of the surrounding countryside and a fantastic view of the village – I felt like I was back in Morocco. Some of the buildings have domed roof tops, and the Mosque sticks out above it all – there are visible signs of the war here also, as some of the buildings are now ruins and the ones remaining have the tell-tale marks of war.

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I’m not sure I was quite prepared for arriving in Mostar. Houses covered in bullet holes and graffiti and policemen huddled in groups; our tour guide told us not to stand around in this area for too long, and to run across fast when we cross the roads – apparently cars don’t always abide by the red lights… It’s quiet, grey and a little eery.

Walking down the narrow cobbled streets with many shops either side selling an abundance of tourist goods, it feels totally separate to the world we’ve left behind. There are more people, the atmosphere feels safer, and there is chatter and noise – although granted, this is probably all down to the tourists who flock here to see the famous Mostar bridge that divides the town.

The bridge is quite phenomenal, it’s incredibly high and very iconic – it was a shame that we didn’t see any jumpers, I guess there weren’t enough people about as it was quite out of season. The day was a little overcast, but luckily wasn’t raining so there were still some fantastic views of the bridge and I managed to get some great photos.

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 On the other side of the bridge there’s a gift shop where you can watch a video of the destruction that came to Mostar in 1993. It almost brings you to tears – watching the continuous shooting at the bridge which results in numerous bullet holes and the eventual fall. ‘Stari Most’ was an iconic symbol of Mostar, which connected the Christian and Muslim sides of the town. The bridge you see now is a carefully reconstructed version of the original that stood in the same spot for 427 years. It’s a sad testament to the destruction that happened as a result of the Croat-Bosniak War, which can still be seen on the outskirts of the central tourist hub.

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After our gift shopping and sight seeing, Julie and I stopped for a traditional lunch of ćevapčići – grilled minced meat with flatbread and onions – it’s considered the national dish of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was a filling and delicious lunch and cost a pittance!

It was eventually time for us to say goodbye to the unique Bosnian town of Mostar. Today had been an eye-opener. Bosnia and Herzegovina still suffers greatly from the effects of the War that took place 20 years ago. It feels completely different to Croatia, and yet is still fascinating and beautiful. I’d love to return to spend more time here someday.

Step back in time and enjoy delightful Dubrovnik

It’s a wonderful feeling stepping through the gates of Dubrovnik and going back in time by a couple of hundred years. If I go back again it will still impress. It was 11 o’clock by the time I arrived, there weren’t many people about, the Main Street was quiet, and the orange lights were reflecting on the shiny white floor. I’d never experienced anything like it and I was completely and utterly astounded.

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Dubrovnik is full of steps. On both sides of the main street the slope descends steeply upwards, making the need for steps an absolute necessity. There are many small streets darting off upwards, the buildings on either side are tall and narrow; my hostel was one of these, right at the top – it was painful to walk up with a heavy rucksack – but that’s the price you pay when you want to stay within the old town walls! (Some reviewers of the hostel complained that the rooms were small and there were too many steps… But. That. Is. Dubrovnik. Completely ignorant!) And it was completely worth it – right in with the action, and getting fitter every day with all the hiking up stairs, it was fantastic.

Despite the somewhat questionable weather throughout my stay in Dubrovnik, it didn’t dappen my spirits and I thoroughly enjoyed everything that the delightful place had to offer.

Dubrovnik’s City Walls

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For the first few hours of day one the sun shone stupendously and it was rather hot! I walked along the city walls, enjoying the amazing views over the orange roof tops, the crystal clear sea and the glorious clear blue skies. However, this changed within minutes and the grey clouds descended bringing rain for the rest of my stay. Despite this somewhat miserble weather, as a Brit I tried to not let it dampen my spirits – we’re meant to be used to it! I continued to marvel at the brilliant view over the unique town of Dubrovnik, safely contained within its impressive walls for hundreds of years – it really is astonishing.

Me, famous?

Whilst ambling along enjoying my own company, I was suddenly ambushed by a group of Japanese ladies who were, stereotypically, part of a tour group. They asked me for a photograph and I prepared myself to take their camera and snap a photo, but oh no….they all lined up beside me and their friend took a group photo – with me as the star. It was completely surreal, I felt famous for a few minutes, and they kept wanting more! For the rest of the way round the city walls I couldn’t escape them, they kept talking to me, smiling and asking for more photos… I was quite amused by it all, but it did give me a little insight into the life of a filmstar and OMGoodness it would not be fun at all. I’m hoping it was only because of my ginger hair and not because they mistook me for someone famous or Ron Weasley, my twin. I can just imagine it now – my face plastered all around Tokyo and the headline “Lucky tourists come face to face with their Harry Potter hero, Ron Weasley…”

After finally managing to lose the Japanese tourists, and a few falls on the slippery main street; (it turns out that flip flops ARE NOT appropriate footwear for when it rains in Dubrovnik – it turns into a sort of ice rink, and yes, I DID fall over on my bum. Oh well, at least the Japanese ladies didn’t see and so fortunately didn’t taint my amazing image in front of them. Phew!) I headed for cover and enjoyed a nice hot coffee and some lunch.

A quick dip in the ocean

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In the afternoon I decided to catch the boat to the small island just off the mainland, opposite Dubrovnik. The sun decided to make an appearance just as we were leaving the shore, and it made for fabulous views of the city. On arrival at the island I hopped off and went for a wander around – there’s a botanical garden, the ruins of a fort and an old monastery, apparently Game of Thrones was also filmed here as well as in Dubrovnik (and it’s easy to see why) – it’s a pretty little island, with great places to relax on its shores. I managed to find a secluded spot where I stripped off and headed in for a quick swim (don’t worry, even though I was quite alone I couldn’t bring myself to skinny dip!). It was absolutely glorious; incredibly clear water, still quite warm and no one else around… magical.

Stormy Dubrovnik

For the rest of my stay the weather was rather wet and stormy. But this didn’t dampen my spirits – I still loved the place! I met some fantastic people in my hostel – even though it was out of season, the hostel was rather full and it was brilliant! We headed out for drinks for every evening, it was great to chat, chill and have fun with people from all over the world. I met up with my Canadian friend Julie for a drink whilst watching the amazing sunset from a balcony facing out to sea – it was wonderful. We also shared dinner on another night with two guys – from England and Canada respectively – and this is when I tried my first ever oyster, it took me a while to build up the courage to swallow the thing, but it wasn’t too bad… It was a welcome change from my stay in Budapest to spend time with, and to talk to people over dinner. Rob, the British guy, was holidaying for a week in Croatia, it was great to meet someone British (as most people had been Australian, American or Canadian), and we ended up journeying onwards to Split, and Hvar together – it was great to travel with someone to these places, as it was off season and it seemed like we were the only tourists!
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Despite the rain it was a great feeling just wandering around the tiny Dubrovnik streets and purposefully getting lost amongst them. Rob and I spent our last day in Dubrovnik exploring, getting wet, and drinking lots of coffee. On our last evening we fetched Adam, the Canadian guy from our hostel, grabbed a couple of beers and headed to a perfect spot along the city walls to watch the sunset over the sea. Watching the sky change from blue, to purple, orange, yellow and red, was fabulous; the reflection on the choppy sea and the castle walls looming above us, only added to the amazing spectacle. We managed to take loads of pictures and to experience most of the sunset until the heavens opened and the rain came pouring down. Needless to say, we got absolutely drenched – but it was well and truly worth it.

I didn’t bother to check out any of the museums Dubrovnik has to offer, instead I preferred to walk around the city and soak up the atmosphere of the place. Maybe the rain was a welcome addition, because it meant that the hundreds of tourists that the huge cruise ships dumped in Dubrovnik everyday, disappeared for the most part. I can imagine that in the height of summer the place must be teeming with annoying tourists – all just wanting to spend a day taking photos and eating ridiculously expensive pizza at ludicrously overpriced and tacky restaurants. Sadly Dubrovnik has become a tourist trap, and it’s not hard to see why – it’s a well preserved medieval city – but despite this, it is fabulous. Once you’ve managed to escape people and got lost amongst its tiny stepped streets, you really get to experience the place and imagine what it must’ve been like for the original inhabitants.

City streets At night Deserted main street

A few words from my last night

I’m sitting on a bench on the city walls overlooking the harbour. There’s no one else here, the tourists from the ships have left and it’s like I’m in a whole other world. Dubrovnik is lit up; I can see the city walls, the church towers and the magnificent houses towering high above the harbour. It’s nothing like I have ever experienced before, I feel like I’ve stepped back in time 500 years. I’m imagining what this would have been like for the citizens of Dubrovnik when it was a thriving city protecting themselves from possible war – it probably looked exactly the same. The same sound of the sea, the wind weaving through the leaves on the tree above me, the tinkling of the boats below me, rustling of the flag on the mast, and the Church bells chiming all over because it’s now 9pm. The fresh sea air, the high white city walls and the reflective marble floor – it’s a treasure trove and I already can’t wait to visit again.

Plitvice Lakes National Park, overly touristy but still pretty

In the summer time Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of those places that gets absolutely packed full of people, to the point of not being able to move. Luckily, I visited on the 1st November so the people had thinned considerably and the ticket price had halved – brilliant!

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I went on a tour organised by my hostel – it also included a tour guide who took us around and told us about the park. It was the easiest option, being out of season when there are fewer buses, and meant I didn’t go by myself. But in hindsite I would have preferred to have made my own way there as we didn’t see much of the park at all, and it was quite slow progress as we stopped a lot. But it was nonetheless an enjoyable day out.

The park wasn’t as impressive as I’d thought, but maybe it was because of the time of year and all of the trees were bare. In the other hand though, the weather was beautiful and it actually got rather warm.

Plitvice Lakes

We spent around 4 hours walking around, marvelling at the huge waterfalls, the crystal clear lakes where we followed the wooden paths, and the beautiful scenery that was bestowed upon us at every turn. There is lake after lake, each incredibly blue and clear, there are many waterfalls – some bigger than others – and a few caves that you can visit. After the first few lakes you reach a resting place with a touristy souvenir shop and cafe, where the boat also leads across a big lake to another walk. We stopped for lunch and took a boat across. We enjoyed a short walk the other side and some nice views then it was all quickly over with another boat ride and a shuttle bus back to the carpark. It was all over far too quickly it seemed. We experienced some fantastic views of the biggest waterfall and lakes on our way out, before being herded back into the van – I was taking a flight to Dubrovnik that evening so did feel partly responsible for the rush!

Me at Plitvice Lakes

The guide was very friendly and chatted a lot, he told us interesting stories and anecdotes about the history of the park and its geology. I would’ve liked to explore much more of the park – we saw very little – and though it is impossible to see all of it in one day, my own progress would have been much quicker and I could’ve seen so much more by myself. However I did enjoy the company and the relief of knowing I had an easy ride back.

All in all I did enjoy the day, but if I go again would prefer to make my own way or stay at the nearby campsite to enjoy more of the beauty of the place. The main tourist path which we took is a little overcrowded, even in November, so I can imagine the summer month’s being a complete nightmare – I would advise you to not visit then! October / November is perfect albeit for the lack of leaves on the trees, but I bet the winter months are beautiful once it’s snowed. It’s worth a visit but don’t look at the google pictures first – they make it look much better than it actually is.

Croatia’s trendy capital, Zagreb

A 6 hour train journey lay in between Budapest and Croatia, despite being a measly 3 hour drive. The train seemed to go incredibly slowly, but it was nice to relax and chat with the others in my compartment – a lovely girl from Croatia and a fellow backpacker from Canada. I spent time updating blogs, relaxing, listening to music and enjoying the scenic route.

We spent quite a while travelling beside an absolutely massive lake – it looked like a popular holiday resort during the summer months. The lake was fabulous, it was so big to the point of seeming like the sea – but we’re inland so it couldn’t be!

The lovely Croatian girl in our carriage directed us towards our hostel. Thankfully Julie, the Canadian girl, and I were staying in the same hostel so we could walk there together. It made a change from feeling totally lost on my first night in Budapest!

The hostel was really cool, receptionist was so friendly and the place had a good vibe. We settled in to our bunks – tiny room but nicely set out and very comfy beds – and headed out for dinner in Zagreb. I also bumped into a couple I’d met in Budapest who had nicely invited me to join them for some of their trip, but I declined as I wanted to comtinue down towards Dubrovnik – but they were so friendly and it was really lovely to see them again.

Zagreb is such a trendy city, I didn’t really know what to expect as it’s not exactly much of a tourist hub, but I really liked it. We enjoyed a deliciously massive salad and a beer each and chatted for quite a while – it was so nice to enjoy some company over dinner as I’d started to feel a little lonely in Budapest.

After a long night’s sleep and a fantastic lie in we headed out for a late breakfast and coffee. After a bit of hunting we stumbled across a stylish cafe which served yummy baguettes and hot coffee. We chilled here for a while and soaked up the atmosphere whilst checking emails and planning the next stages of our respective trips.

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We departed ways for a few hours and I headed off to look around the old town. It’s very compact and full of character. I stopped by the impressive cathedral, wandered around the local market, and meandered along the very steep streets. There is an abundance of cafes and restaurants where many young locals were hanging out and chatting with their friends. I also stumbled across a kind of chapel or shrine that a street went through – most people walking along the road stopped for a second or two to honour God. There were also a few benches and a place to but candles for prayer – it was an odd place.

Next I managed to find what seemed to be the Croation government buildings and a large Church in the middle of the square which had a beautiful coloured roof – with the Croatian crest in pride of place on too. There was no one else around except a few posh cars… It felt a little strange!

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I then decided to check out an odd attraction that I’d heard about – the Museum of Broken Relationships. It has won awards for being such a unique concept, and I understand why. People from all over the world have sent in items that hold some kind of meaning for the relationship that ended in either a break up, divorce or death. Some are incredibly fascinating stories, and others are utterly bizarre. The items range from shoes, clothes and toys; to poems, fakes breasts and photo albums. It’s an eclectic mixture and each has a description detailing the item’s significance. Some go into length, others are very direct. It’s a know intriguing place and definitely worth hunting down if you happen to be in the Zagreb vicinity.

That evening, after booking my last minute flight to Dubrovnik the next day, Julie and I headed out for a delicious last meal in Zagreb. The restaurant we chose was quite highly rated on Trip Advisor but took an age to find and was rather out of the way. It was completely worth the anguish though and we enjoyed a spectacularly delicious dinner that I still dream about now. There were four different meats, lots of fried potatoes and a tonne of yummy roasted vegetables. A fabulous way to end a quick stay in Croatia’s trendy capital.