So You’re Going To Kosovo…

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During the 90’s and early 00’s, Kosovo was pretty much a no go destination for most holidaymakers. The civil unrest and ethnic cleansing under dictator Slobodan Milosevic meant that international visitors were discouraged from entering the country. Whilst the northern part of the country is still advised against travelling to, the majority of Kosovo, including the capital Pristina or Prishtina, are starting to welcome more and more international visitors. I’ve put together a list of general tips and advice on how to make the most of your trip to Europe’s hidden gem.gračanica monastery

Where to Stay

Most travellers head straight to the capital Pristina when they come to Kosovo. As well as being the birthplace of chart topper and recently announced X Factor judge Rita Ora it’s also where you’ll find the majority of the countries museums, restaurants and accommodation, making it a safe bet for first timers or those who prefer to base themselves in one location and do day trips. Other popular destinations include the cities of Peja, Gjakova and Prizren. It’s no secret that one of Kosovo’s lures is it’s cheap prices. This means even the most luxurious hotels in Kosovo are attainable. If you’re looking to stay somewhere special, look no further than the Swiss Diamond Hotel Prishtina. This five star hotel boasts regal rooms and spa complete with hammam. For those of you looking for a more ‘authentic’ experience however, there are a number of excellent backpacker style hostels, including Hostel Han in the center of Pristina. As well as a fantastic location, the hostel offers spacious communal areas and balconies offering great views across the city from the 4th floor. Pristina, Kosovo, March 2015

When to Go

There’s no bad time of year to visit Kosovo, but the seasons may have some impact on your activities during your stay. It might not be on the map as a skiing destination but visitors to Kosovo in winter should consider hitting the slopes at Brezovica in the Šar Mountain range. During the summer, the mountains also become a popular hiking destination with the option of organized tours. Although it remains unspoiled by mass tourism, the area is known for its good selection of local restaurants. Many tourists like to coincide their trip with local festivities. Independence Day is celebrated on February 17th, and no matter where you’re staying in the country, you can expect parades and street parties. In autumn, there are a number of cultural events, including the Pristina Film Festival, Art Festival and Jazz Festival. Horserider at Šar mountains (Шар-планина, Malet e Sharrit); Mt. Papka in the middle

What to Do

The Ethnographic Museum

Located in a former family home in Pristina, the museum is a good introduction to Kosovo culture and it’s people. The exhibitions include displays of traditional clothing and textiles, pottery and Albanian weaponry.

Sinan Pasha Mosque

Dating back to the 17th century, this Ottoman mosque is the jewel of the historic city of Prizren. Other nearby highlights include the Kalaja Fortress, which offers spectacular views and the nearby Šar Mountains.The Stone Bridge and Sinan Pasha Mosque

Germia Park

Most frequented for its outdoor swimming pool, this tranquil park located just outside Pristina is mountainous woodland frequented by both ramblers and bird watchers. Among the animal species found here are the golden eagle and European tree frog.

What to Eat and Drink

Turkish Coffee – You’ll find many nods towards Turkish cuisine in the Kosovo diet. Visitors can enjoy the sweet caffeine drink at cafes throughout the country.

Ajvar – A vegetarian relish typically made with red bell peppers and garlic. This tasty spread is commonly served with bread during breakfast.

Šar cheese – Available as both a hard or soft cheese, Šar cheese is made in the Šar Mountains using a mixture of sheep and cows milk. Try it with traditional pita bread.

Burek – The Kosovo equivalent of the Cornish pasty, a burek is a baked meat or vegetable filled phyllo pastry topped with sesame seeds.Talaş BöreğiRakia – The flagship alcoholic drink of Kosovo made with wild fruits including grapes.

Already been to Kosovo? Let us know your tips and advice in the comments below.

Photo Credit: All images used via Flickr’s Creative Commons License: (1) Gracanica Monastery by Johannes Zielcke; (2) Pristina by Hectorlo; (3) Sar Mountains by MyBukit; (4) Sinan Pasha Mosque by aljabak85; (5) Burek by *BetüL*
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European Bucket List Destinations for your consideration

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For most of us, it’s an unfortunate reality that unless you’re willing to give up your 9 to 5 and make a full-time job of traveling the world, you’re going to have to prioritize if you want to see it all. This is especially true for those with just three or four weeks of vacation a year or small children in tow. So, if you have decided to seize the day and lock down your travel aspirations with one, ruthlessly stripped back bucket list, turn your gaze to Europe, and let us make the argument for the inclusion of these three cities…Barcelona beach at sunset


You could book Barcelona city breaks for every month of the year, and still be stumbling upon new bucket list experiences every time you arrive in the city. And it’s all about the stumble; Barcelona is better experienced than planned. One day you might find yourself swaying to the impeccable improv in vaulted jazz enclave Jamboree, the next crunching into greasy, sugary churros outside the Sagrada. You might stop for a moment to watch a heated game of table tennis in the Parc de la Ciutadella, then turn a corner to discover the breathtaking Cascada fountain. Barcelona defies organization, which makes it the perfect live-for-the-moment getaway.Barcelona gaudi park guell


The perfect destination for old romantics, Paris is a fine place to contemplate one’s transience, preferably in a pretentious and overpriced cafe in the Latin Quarter, while scribbling into a battered journal, puffing Gauloises. There are so many iconic cafes in which to sultrily sip espresso, and so little time. For those who prefer to shun cliché, there is always the back-up plan: a whistle-stop tour of such tourist-thronged wonders as the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Notre Dame and Versailles. You will queue half your life away, of course, but it will be worth louvre


A laid back attitude is what continues to charm visitors to Amsterdam, though its inclusion in recent teen-angst blockbuster The Fault in our Stars should prove further testimony to its bucket-list viability. Fortunately, remembering to ride a bike is just that; and winding your way along canal banks and seventeenth century buildings will make you feel like a local. Vermeer, Rembrant and Van Gogh will lure you to spend hours in gentle contemplation of their artistry, as will the bartenders dishing out excellent, frothing pints of Heineken and craft beer.Beer TastingOf course, this barely scrapes the surface. Who could elide the continent-straddling Istanbul, the majesty of Vienna, or the pounding techno clubs of Berlin? The seven hills of Rome beg attention, as do the rainbow buildings of Copenhagen’s harbour. Bucket lists aside, every adventure should be enjoyed as if it’s your last. Make this your travel philosophy, and you’ll go far.Berlin Brandenburg Gate


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The Seven Canary Islands: Great Holiday Getaways

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Thousands of tourists flock to the seven Canary Islands archipelago every year to enjoy the sun, sea and sand. Here’s what each island has to offer.


Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands with almost guaranteed year round sunshine and a diverse terrain of dramatic mountains and beautiful beaches. Las Cañadas del Teide, a natural crater, is a National Park that lies 2,000m above sea level and north of the crater stands El Pico del Teide, a 3,718m mountain, is the highest peak in Spain. Most families and couples travel to the resort of Playa de las Americas while surfers prefer the resort of El Médano. Flights to Tenerife, including national and international, fly to Tenerife South Airport and Tenerife North, so finding a flight should be a breeze.

Tenerife by POTIER Jean-Louis on

La Palma

Small in size but big on beauty, La Palma is also known as La Isla Bonita or ‘The Pretty Island’At the bottom of the island you will find Fuencaliente, where there are two volcanoes – Volcán San Antonio and Volcán Teneguía. The Fuencaliente Volcano Route offers different options for all levels of walkers. If you’re a wine lover, don’t miss Malvasia, the white dessert wine from the south of La Palma.


The three thousand hours of sunshine a year and the endless stretches of untouched beaches of white sand are found on the second smallest Canary Island. Fuerteventura is also well-known as a waterspouts paradise! Surfers, windsurfers and kitesurfers come here to glide out on a surf board or windsurf and take advantage of the wind and waters.

- Dunes -Fuerteventura
Fuerteventura by Xavler on


A holiday favourite, Lanzarote is the fourth largest island of the Canary Islands. Lanzarote has many alluring white beaches such as Papagayo and Playa Blanca. One stunning feature of Lanzarote is Atlantida Tunnel, the longest volcanic tunnel in the world Another tourist attraction is the sculptures and architecture designed by the internationally renowned artist, architect and environmentalist César Manrique. Some of his unique public arts include Jameos del Agua, the César Manrique Foundation, Mirador del Rio and Cactus Garden.

Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria is rich in nature and biodiversity, with the island being awarded the Biosphere Reserve label by UNESCO for its effort in supporting the conservation of the diverse archipelago. The coastline is home to the loggerhead turtle, the bottlenose dolphin and Risso’s dolphin. The fine weather, strong wind and stunning coastline make it an excellent place for kitesurfing and windsurfing.

Valley/Valle Agaete Gran Canaria
Valley/Valle Agaete Gran Canaria by Dunas on

El Hierro

Measuring less than 50km from one end to the other, El Hierro is the smallest of the seven Canary Islands. El Hierro has more than 800 volcanoes, making it the Canary Island with the densest concentration of volcanoes! El Hierro also has an outstanding biodiversity, with almost 100km of rugged, cliff-lined coastline and coves and lagoons. Lovers of diving and snorkeling go there for the clear, deep waters.

La Gomera

About 50km south-west of El Hierro is La Gomera, also known to many as the Canary Island’s “magical island”.  The Garajonay National Park, a vast unspoilt rainforest, was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986. Go within the dense vegetation of laurisilva tree to watch the sea of clouds (horizontal rain!), an atmospheric phenomenon caused by winds blowing in from the sea. The beaches and coves in La Gomera are blessed with black sands and crystal clear water.

El sol llegando a La Gomera - The sun coming to La Gomera
Sunrise in La Gomera by perlaroques on

The seven different and unique Canary Islands are the best places to enjoy an amazing holiday at any time of the year.


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A truly Kafkaesque quest: tracing the writer’s steps in Prague

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Today’s guest post takes us to Prague, one of our favorite cities in Eastern Europe! We haven’t been there in many years but after reading this article, we’re ready to return to Prague and to explore neighborhoods and sights we haven’t visited yet – particularly focusing on Kafka, one of the most remarkable German-language writers of the 20th century. Our guest writer Olivia Herriot shares with us some of Prague’s Kafkaesque sights. Olivia is based in the UK and spends her time juggling a part-time office job with freelance travel writing. She is currently planning a working trip around Russia.

Born in Prague, Austria-Hungary in 1883, Franz Kafka went on to become one of the most influential authors of the 20th Century. His existentialist themes have inspired a number of great writers, from Camus to Borges, Jean-Paul Sartre to J.D. Salinger, and it’s pretty much impossible to talk about any dystopian literature without throwing around the term ‘Kafkaesque’. For fans of Kafka’s work, one of the best ways to understand the man behind the words is to tour the old haunts around his native Prague.

City breaks to Prague tend to follow a typical pattern: touring Old Town, marvelling at the beautiful cathedrals, walking around the Castle District and seeing an opera or symphony performance in the evening. However, if you’re in the mood for something a bit different for your Prague trip, a Kafkaesque tour of the city won’t disappoint. Here are the top Kafka-related attractions in Prague:

Panorama of Prague Old Town from the river. Subtle HDR
Panorama of Prague Old Town from the river

Kafka’s Birthplace

Visit the house where Franz Kafka was born. The site, called Náměstí Franze Kafky, is situated in the city’s Old Town, at Ul. Radnice 5. Although the doorway is the only remaining part of the original building where Kafka was born, there’s a unique monument standing outside (the ultimate photo-op for Kafka fans).

Kafka Museum

Get to know more about the brilliant author in this museum, dedicated to sharing his fascinating life story. With photos, original letters, early publications and newspaper clippings from Kafka’s time in Prague, the museum paints a vivid picture of Franz Kafka and the city he called home.

Kafka's childhood. House at the Minute, Prague
Kafka’s childhood. House at the Minute, Prague

Old-New Synagogue

Kafka’s heritage as a German-speaking Jew living in Prague undoubtedly influenced his writings. For further insight into Kafka’s life, visit the Old-New Synagogue where he had his bar mitzvah. Built in 1270, the gothic structure is also the oldest active synagogue in Europe.

New Jewish Cemetery

Situated outside the tourist area of Prague, the New Jewish Cemetery is the site of Kafka’s final resting place. Whilst it’s possible to visit Kafka’s grave during any time of the year, the most popular time to pay respects is on 3 June, the anniversary of his death.

Tribute to Kafka
Tribute to Kafka

Wenceslas Square

Out of Prague’s main, central city squares, Wenceslas Square was where Kafka worked from 1906 to 1907. It was in a building on the corner of Jindřišská that Kafka took up the role of an office clerk for an insurance company. The square, which is named after the patron saint of Bohemia, St. Wenceslas, continues to be one of the city’s main business districts.

Prague: Charles Bridge in the Mist (Explored)
Prague: Charles Bridge in the Mist

Café Louvre

Kafka wasn’t the only famous face to have been seen enjoying a meal in this Old Town cafe. Albert Einstein is also known to have visited it on occasion. The cafe was first opened in 1902 and, after its reopening in 1992, it continues to be a popular local hangout.

For fans of Franz Kafka, or literature in general, touring Kafka’s Prague is a particularly interesting way to view the city. Rather than picking up a generic guidebook, why not let the city’s most famous ‘local’ be your tour guide?

Images by Jan Fidler, Pablo Sanchez, Sébastien Bertrand and Roman Boed used under creative commons license.

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The best ways to explore Turkey’s Turquoise Coast

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While most people only visit Istanbul, Ephesus, Pamukkale and Capadoccia when traveling through Turkey, the region that deserves a whole 2-week vacation on its own is Lycia, the westernmost section of Turkey’s Mediterranean coast line.

Inland, Lycia’s pine tree covered mountains and forests are a hikers paradise, but the coastline of Lycia is the true star here. The region is also known as the Turquoise Coast, due to the crystal clear turquoise water of this stretch of the Mediterranean.

This area is also known for the ancient Lycian civilization, whose remnants can be seen throughout the U-shaped peninsula in the form of rock tombs and city ruins.

Xanthos Ancient Theater - Lycia, Anatolia, Turkey
Xanthos Ancient Theater via Uğur ÇALDAŞ on

What makes Lycia so attractive in addition to its natural beauty and extraordinary coastline is the fact that it is a place that doesn’t cater only to all-inclusive tourists, but also to independent travelers. Of course you can still book vacation packages which include your flight to Dalaman (the regional airport), transport to the town of your choice and your hotel. But if you want to give independent travel a try in Turkey, you can easily arrange your own vacation. There are plenty of locally-run guesthouses, not just all-inclusive resorts.

You could even spend a walking vacation here, following the ancient Lycian Way, a 510 kilometers long footpath which goes from Ölüdeniz (a small town near the region’s largest city Fethiye) to Hisarcandir (about 20 kilometers from Antalya). Just choose the section of the path that sounds most interesting to you and stop to sleep in one of the gorgeous coastal towns along the way for the night, before continuing your journey the next morning.

The Turquoise Coast
The Turquoise Coast by Peter Dean on

Another way to explore Lycia’s magnificent coast is by yacht. The Turquoise Coast is famous for its Blue Voyage (Mavi Yolculuk), a two-week cruise on a gullet, the region’s typical two-masted wooden boats, during which you will sail from cove to cove along the coast. Choosing the Blue Voyage allows you to just jump into the warm Mediterranean waters wherever your boat drops anchor. Nothing beats seeing the sun rise and set from the boat, with the pine-covered mountains as a backdrop, and stopping for pleasant strolls in the fishing villages along the way. Good starting points for the Blue Voyage are Fethiye, Kas, or even Bodrum, in the Aegean Region.

If you prefer solid ground under your feet, choose from the many little towns along the coast which one suits you best. Some of your options are:

Fethiye: The biggest city in the region, with stunning Lycian ruins, a pretty old town and a gorgeous coastline.

Marmaris: Along with Fethiye the biggest and most touristy town in the region (with lots of nice resorts).

Kalkan: Another coastal town, famous for its whitewashed Mediterranean houses.

Kalkan by the Harbour
Kalkan via Jack Hargreaves on

Kas: Coastal town with beautiful traditional architecture.

Ölüdeniz: Located in the Blue Lagoon of the Turquoise Coast, with fantastic beaches.

Olympos: The hippie and backpacker destination of the region.

Göcek: Located on a tip of a bay with many secluded coves and islands, this is a paradise for yachters.

How to get to Lycia

The easiest way to get to any of the cities in Lycia is to fly into Dalaman airport, which is close to all of the above mentioned towns.

When to go

Summer is packed with European tourists, so you could opt to visit in May or early June to have the coast almost to yourself, though the water is not warm enough to swim yet. That’s why a September or early October visit, just before most guesthouses close down for the winter, is best: you’ll be able to enjoy the warm water of the Mediterranean, less tourists and off-season prices on hotels or the Blue Voyage yachts.

The Turquoise Coast by Basil & Tracy Brooks on
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Please don’t go to…Berlin

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That’s right. We said it. You really shouldn’t go to Berlin.

Why would you? The Germans themselves will tell you Berlin is dirty, crowded, infested with foreigners and low-life unemployed lazies leeching off the social system the rest of the country pays for.

BerlinAnd believe us, the locals don’t want you there either. Talk of neighborhood gentrification and skyrocketing rental prices is what you’ll hear them talk about.

The funny this is, if locals are having a conversation, it is most likely taking place in English, not German. ‘Locals’ are just the hodge podge mix of expats who got here before you from around the world. We heard English everywhere.

berlin love on berlin wallExpats and foreigners of all kinds have always felt at home in Berlin. After WWII, Turkish immigrants came to West Berlin as extra labor to help construct the wall, while East Berlin welcomed their fellow communist Vietnamese comrades to work. Today, those two communities are very large and integrated into Berlin’s fabric.

The German capital has always been a haven for creatives from across Europe and beyond. When the war ended, West Berliners were exempt from otherwise mandatory military service. This drew Social activists, pacifists, anarchists, musicians and artists in droves – the latter two even received state subsidies to support their projects. The post-war culture laid the groundwork for what has easily become the least German German city.

There is a state of controlled chaos in Berlin, yet it is a chaos so controlled it could only exist in Germany.

berlin wall
Remaining parts of the wall can be seen throughout the city

At first glance, or even after five weeks, it would appear that half the city is unemployed.

This is judging by the number of people sipping coffee at sidewalk cafes all afternoon long or spending the day grilling in the park or drinking wine well past sunset on riverbanks and other green spaces around town. Berlin is, in fact, one of the greenest cities we have ever spent time in.

berlin treptower parkAnd yet nothing ever seems to get out of control with all this free time and even more free space despite the fact that many locals walk around in some degree of altered state.

It is a mystery why things stay on such an even keel, especially since there is hardly ever a police officer in sight.

The German capital moved to Bonn after the war, leaving much of Berlin leveled. Lack of development and investment in the city throughout the following decades is what kept it so green. Upon re-unification, Berlin regained capital status in 1991, though offices only really moved back in 1999. Still today, many government officials work from offices in Bonn. This explains how in the capital of one of the world’s mightiest economies, you’d have to really search for someone wearing a suit.

Berlin Reichstag
The Reichstag, home of the German parliament, therefore a rare ‘buttoned up’ place in Berlin.

The lack of investment met with limited major industry is partially what has kept much of the population underemployed and created some of the characteristic Berlin grit. Now, this is grit by German standards, of course.

Compared to New York or Bangkok, Berlin is downright tidy. And with food, drinks and over cost of living expenses so low, we often did compare Berlin to Bangkok.

Our rent for five weeks was only $200 more than what we paid in Thailand and our average meal was $6 a plate.

Berlin Cheap Eats
Lunch is usually around €5. The special on the right includes soup, bread, rice, salad and a main course for €4.90.

So Berlin is green, and cheap, and populated with bon vivants. But there is a serious, sad side to the city that is impossible to overlook.

Every single cobblestone you stumble on is connected to history, starting quite literally, with the Stolpersteine, or ‘stumble stones’ – 5,000 gold plated memorial stones on sidewalks in front of homes of Jewish and other people who lost their lives in concentration camps. There are 38,000 of these now all around Europe, but Berlin is home to one of the largest concentrations of them.

berlin stolpersteine
‘Stolpersteine’ have the name of the person, when they were deported, and when and where they were killed.

Look closely at some buildings on either side of what was the Berlin Wall, and you’ll see plaques marking where escape tunnels were dug under the Wall over the years. There is a constant feeling in Berlin that you are somewhere that really matters, a major player in world history. Just imagine what the streets of the city have witnessed from the city’s founding in the 12th Century through to today.

Berlin wall plaques
The plaque on top marks where the wall was located, the one on the bottom left where a person was arrested in the attempt to escape over the wall, the one on the bottom right marks the successful escape of three men.

The Berlin Wall itself is an ever-present feature of the city. Individuals slabs are found throughout the city as memorials, but the largest concentration of remaining wall can be found at the East Side Gallery, the longest remaining piece of the wall.

However, in true Berlin form, the East Side Gallery isn’t just a sad memorial of concrete slabs. Each individual slab is a canvas used to express and communicate message related to the wall, the war, hope, freedom, intercultural understanding or simply incredible graffiti art.

Berlin Wall MuralsThe heavy irony was not lost on us as we cycled back and forth between the east and west sides of Berlin everyday. We did so freely and yet, as a child in the former DDR, Dani would not have even been allowed into West Germany (she could have been shot for it) let alone would she have been cycling back and forth across it with her American girlfriend one day.

east side gallery dani and jessAnd did we ever cycle!

Berlin is such an amazing city for cycling, with countless miles of bike lanes that crisscross through neighborhoods and lead to lakes and parks far out of town, too.

We cycled 20km almost every day, past major sights like Alexandarplatz and the TV tower, through the Brandenburg Gate, along along the Wall, and through Checkpoint Charlie on our way to visit friends, test out as many international restaurants as possible or have drinks at beach bars or beer gardens.

Cycling fun in BerlinSome days we stayed in our own ‘hood, Kreuzberg, which is where Turkish immigrants stayed and settled. Today it is a bustling international area where rebel youth and Turkish grandmas co-exist, often lined up at the same shops for ethnic food, or shopping at the same Turkish market on Tuesdays and Fridays. We went here very week to stock up on fruit, veg, cheeses, breads and olives.

Maybachufer Market Berlin Kreuzberg
Maybachufer Turkish Market in Berlin Kreuzberg

Our other favorite neighborhood is Prenzlauer Berg.

This is one of those places locals love to have the gentrification conversation. Just go on a walk, and you’ll hear how ‘this was an abandoned building two years ago,’ ‘the buildings on this street were all an ugly gray until last year,’ or ‘Rents here have gone up so much since last year.’ We were just swooned by the tree-lined streets, imaginative cafes and weekly food and craft markets set up throughout P-Berg.

Berlin Prenzlauer BergEach neighborhood is distinct, with its own feel and a specific type of resident – older hippies and young families in Schöneberg, shopping in Ku’Damm, poor folk and punks in Neukölln…

Most noticeable though is how you immediately know that you have crossed from East to West Berlin – the architecture, the little green and red men on the traffic lights and the tram that exists only on the east side.

alexanderplatz at night
Alexanderplatz and the TV Tower: Iconic East Berlin. The TV Tower can be seen from almost anywhere in the city.

Public transportation options abound in this city. The summer should strictly be for cycling, but in the winter, you can choose between that tram (east only) the elevated S-bahn network, the underground U-Bahn,buses, trains, taxis and there has even been a major boom in services similar to Zipcar. Over 10 companies allow you to rent cars by the hour or for the day – all for extremely low rates.

berlin subway station
Old-fashioned subway station in Berlin

So why do Germans think it is so awful?

Maybe it’s the party and club culture that takes place all night long? Clubs are open so late, you would think you are in Spain, not Germany. Some clubs never even close at all.

And let’s say that sounds appealing to you – good luck getting in. Berlin has been up-and-coming for long enough that there is a very careful curation of cool in most of them. Odds are, you’re not getting past the doorman.

Clubs post very specific signs such as ‘No American Hipsters Allowed’ out front to make sure you know where you’re not wanted.

berlin rockboot
Berlin’s Rockboot party boat

Don’t worry though – it’s not like there is nowhere else to hang out. This is a city where brunch is a meal celebrated seven days a week, and is available until 4pm so you don’t even have to get up before noon.

For more quintessential Berlin spots, there are three places that encapsulate the Berlin vibe.

The first is the Badeschiff.

There is no swimming allowed in the Spree river, so some creative types took an old wooden boat, hollowed it out and made it a pool. A pool, in a river, in the middle of the city and it’s surrounded by a beach and a bar. Entry is only 5 Euros to spend the day there, too.

badeschiff berlinThe second is Sunday Karaoke in Mauerpark, where thousands of people gather in amphitheater seating to listen to the few brave souls willing to get up and sing karaoke songs in front of the massive audience.

When you mess up, forget the words, or act awkward, the crowd doesn’t boo or hiss – they encourage you, applaud and cheer you on.

mauerpark karaoke berlinThe third is Tempelhof Airport, a pre-WWII airport closed for good in 2008.

Rather than develop this space with condos (though the fight for this was intense) the massive landspace was left as is and in 2010 officially became a city park. Today, thousands of Berliners sprawl in the fields, jog, cycle, skate or kite-board down the 5km landing strip, play mini-golf, pick vegetables at communal farm-shares or jam at concerts near the terminal buildings.

That locals would seize it and make it their own is not surprising. The fact that condo developers were kept at bay makes us think that some government officials might actually be throwing on their skinny jeans and kite-boarding, too, while their colleagues frequent the city’s opera houses or theaters, spend the night listening to the philharmonic, stroll through contemporary art museums or watch independent international films at art house cinemas.

tempelhofer freiheit berlinLet’s be clear that Berlin is as high brow as it is punk. Hell – you might even find a bar called High Brow Punk somewhere in Neukölln.

It is a city where Spanish hipsters rub elbows with pram-pushing yuppie mommies at Vietnamese restaurants, and the German busker on the corner might suddenly find himself singing a duet with the original British rockstar, out for a walk with his dog.

berlinThe city demands that you add your own flavor, not to conform to what’s already there. Speak your own language, build your own life, make it your own.

berlin kreuzberg turkish ladiesLook. If you go to Berlin, you’re going to change it. You’ll visit, pick your favorite neighborhood, and pay higher rent for an apartment for a month. Then you’ll start telling people all about how awesome Berlin is…then they’ll come, too.

It’ll be anarchy! Wait…Berlin thrives on anarchy.

berlin buildingsOkay, so you might come to Berlin.

And we can’t stop you.

We just hope that Berlin doesn’t lose the state of controlled chaos. We love it the way it is now, and the fact that we want to dissuade you makes us feel like locals already. Berlin’s not perfect. It’s gritty and green, international and easy-to-maneuver. It’s just right for our taste (except there could be an ocean…).

So if you do go to Berlin, which you really should, it’s such an awesome city – look out for us. We might just be there, too. We’ll meet in the afternoon for brunch…

berlin spree sunset

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A profile of France: From vineyards and ski slopes to the bustling streets of Paris

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France is an often romanticized but truly amazing country, and the sheer volume of activities it has for visitors is nearly unparalleled. From skiing and snowboarding on fresh white snow, visits through the wine country, shopping, eating and drinking, and learning more about the long and interesting history of this beautiful country, you will not be disappointed you decided to make the trip.


You almost have to start in Paris. You’ll most likely by flying into the French capital anyway, so why not spend some time exploring this interesting and beautiful city? History appeals to those of us from relatively new countries, and you won’t be disappointed here. Not only is Paris the backdrop to some of history’s most important events, but it’s also home to some of the most unique and famous art in the world. The Eiffel Tower, Louvre and Moulin Rouge must be on your list, but do some research and you’ll find some amazing off-the-beaten-path activities that you’ll remember forever. Although it’s a bit of a cliché, Paris truly has something for everyone.

paris sacre coeur
Sacre Coeur Church in Paris

Central France

Make your way towards the South East of Paris and you’ll find yourself in beautiful Burgundy, or Bourgogne, home of delicious red wine and Dijon mustard. Between Dijon, Beaune, and Auxerre you’ll find a range of wine related activities, great shopping, and some stunning, old French architecture. The Hospices de Beaune is probably the most stunning example of Burgundian roofing, which is really distinct as it uses a number of different colors in tiles geometrically arranged. This region is fairly expensive, though, so I’d make sure that you’re very keen on wine and architecture if you’re going to visit.


A bit further south is Lyon, a beautiful city full of culture and things to do. This is a must-see if you’re fond of eating your way through a place as it’s considered the capital of French gastronomy. They also have a leading football team if you enjoy a bit of sports, and this combined with a stunning Basilica, some beautiful winding lanes and the remains of a Roman amphitheater.

Lyon by Guerrin on

South of France

I probably don’t need to convince you to visit the south of France. The epicenter of glamor, movie stars, and quintessential continental luxury! Again, there are parts of this region that are very expensive, like Cannes and Antibes, but you’ll be able to enjoy the beaches, heat and culture of this area in some neighboring towns, like Nice or a bit further west in Aix-en-Provence.

North of France

Although quite sleepy, in the North of France you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the charm of the region as a whole. As the site of the D-Day invasions, you’ll find numerous Second World War graveyards and monuments. This area is fairly inexpensive and does have a large number of markets, old buildings and small museums tucked away, and it’s one of my favorite parts of the country. Rouen, Caen, and Dieppe are particularly nice, and if you take the train, they’re all really easy to get to. Don’t forget to make a stop at Mont Saint-Michel, which is a giant fortified monastery on an Island.

Mont Saint Michel
Mont Saint Michel by Jesper Krogh on


If you love skiing, you absolutely must visit the French Alps once in your life, at least! Hugely popular with Brits and other Europeans, as well as other world travelers keen to experience the slopes in another part of the world, the range (no pun intended) of locations and mountains to explore means that whether you’re just starting to ski or you’re at an advanced level there is resort that will be just what you need. Look for a ticket to the Rhône-Alpes region in South East France, near the borders of Switzerland to the North and Italy to the East. Val d’Isère offers a range of on and off piste skiing and is well suited for advanced skiers, but will be a great experience for new or intermediate skiers as well. Another classic example of a French skiing wonderland for the experienced is Chamonix, a brilliant (but expensive) example of a French ski town. For beginners, heading for Courchevel or Morzine is a good idea as both offer intermediate terrain.

When to Go:

Depending on which cities and towns you plan to visit, some times of the year are better than others. For instance, Paris is lovely all year round but visit in the spring for a particularly special time. The summer is when they have an influx of tourists and this can make popular destinations like museums and sights really crowded. Tours of wine country are beautiful in the fall when the leaves are changing, and skiing is best in winter of course. The summer is a great time to explore the legendary beaches of Cannes, Marseille and Nice, or island of Corsica.

Getting Around:

It is so easy to get around France. The train system operates in what seems like two parts, with the TGV and the TER operating throughout the country. The TGV is the high-speed service operating all over the country, meaning you can get from one place to the next fairly quickly and easily. The TER is rail service run by the regional councils, and offers shorter services between towns. This is a cheap and brilliant way to get from one small town to another, and one of my favorite ways to discover the charm and character of the small towns and cities of France.

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Dani & Jess with a high-speed train in France


When I was in France, I didn’t feel unsafe. I was extremely careful, however, and didn’t venture out too far into the suburbs or away from main streets after dark. Like any other large, tourist friendly city, there are pick pockets in popular areas and on public transport, so stay vigilant and keep your things close to you. The French police are a visible presence in most locations like train stations, which does make you feel a bit more comfortable, but again, particularly if you’re traveling alone, avoid small lanes and dark areas at night or take a taxi, which you can find at a ‘station de taxi’, or hail.

This article was written by Rachel Gardner, a travel writer who spent six months living in France.

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Three day trips from Malaga

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Summer trips to Spain inspire ideas of sun and sand, but jet down to Malaga and you will not only be in one of the Costa del Sol’s top resorts, but also in a convenient position to go on some amazing day trips.

Flights from anywhere in Europe are quick and cheap, and when we hopped on a flight to Malaga, we discovered that although Malaga itself is a rather large city with plenty to see and do for an extended period of time, what makes this sunny city such a great destination is how much you can do just outside the city limits, within an easy day trip.

Here are three quick trips recommended during a summer vacation in Malaga.

Spain Beach


Spain as a whole has a reputation for being chic, but if you want to take a day trip to somewhere really luxurious and suave, head to Marbella. Situated about an hour’s drive to the west of Malaga, this coastal resort has long been popular among celebrities, like Hollywood actress Eva Longoria, so you could well end up rubbing shoulders with some high-profile names when relaxing on one of Marbella’s golden beaches.

You might be inspired by all the shoulder-rubbing and decide to stroll the Prince Alfonso Hohenlohe Boulevard for a spot of window-shopping, as this main drag is perfect for picking up (or just admiring) designer clothing and gorgeous jewelry.

Church in Marbella
Church in Marbella via Karen Bryan on Flickr


For those who like basking in the famous Spanish sunshine, Nerja is a key day trip destination worth checking out. This western Costa del Sol resort lies about an hour away from Malaga and contains a great variety of beaches ideal for laying out, working out or checking out beautiful beach bodies. Among these is Burriana, a lovely 700 m expanse of golden sand, though El Salon, Calahonda and La Torrecilla are also good places to relax.

For those interested in more than relaxation, head to the Nerja cave. Only discovered in 1959, this underground complex features a wide range of ancient rock formations, including stalagmites and stalactites, that have been sculpted over the course of thousands of years.

Nerja via Airon Zone on Flickr


Admittedly, many of those who visit the Costa del Sol will stick to the region’s coastal towns and resorts, which is why heading inland offers a fairly unique and culturally interesting day or overnight trip. Explore Ronda, a historic town that lies on both sides of the Tajo del Ronda gorge.

A wealth of period architecture can be seen here, including the 13th century Almocabar Gate and the Santa Maria la Mayor. The latter was originally a mosque, though it would later be converted into a church when Ronda fell under Christian rule. This transformation has resulted in the structure containing a blend of architectural styles and features, including a mihrab arch and a Baroque-style interior.

Ronda Bridge
Ronda Bridge via Dean Ayres on Flickr

Between even just these three day trips and explore the city of Malaga, you can easily fill a week of sun, sand and culture without worrying about heading to packed out Barcelona or Valencia in the height of summer season and still feel like you have had a classic Spanish summer experience.

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Make the Most of Your Trip to Croatia

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It’s one of Europe’s best-kept secrets, but with a shoreline nestled in the Adriatic Sea and populated with over 1000 islands, Croatia boasts one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline that the continent has to offer. Many of Croatia’s towns and cities have a fascinating and diverse history and still boast stunning examples of Roman and Venetian influence. Here are some of our favourite Croatian attractions to help you make the most of your trip.

Diocletian’s Palace

The ancient city of Split isn’t short of fascinating historical artefacts, but perhaps the grandest of them all is Diocletian’s Palace. Built by the Roman emperor Diocletian in preparation for his retirement, the palace was abandoned after the Romans abandoned the site and remained uninhabited until residents fled to the walled palace to escape invading barbarians in the 7th century. Today you can find shops, restaurants and even homes within the walls.

Pula Arena

If you ever needed any proof that you don’t have to go to Rome to see some of the Empire’s surviving relics, then Pula is it. Built in the 1st century AD, the amphitheatre is the sixth largest surviving Roman arena and one of the best preserved Roman monuments in Croatia. In its former glory it could seat over 26,000 spectators, and nowadays it is used to host a variety of festivals and performances during the summer.


Steeped in stunning architecture, the walled city of Dubrovnik is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and its beauty has earned it the nickname ‘The Pearl of the Adriatic’. Inside the famous walls you’ll find beautiful churches, monasteries, museums and fountains.

Dubrovnik Old Town
Dubrovnik Old Town By Michael Cavén Via

Plitvice Lakes

As well as beautiful beaches, Croatia also boasts the stunning Plitvice Lakes which are famous for being one of the most beautiful natural destinations in Europe. The Lakes are now a national park and home to a huge variety of plants and animals including the rare European brown bear, wolf, eagle, owl, and lynx. As well as the beautiful greys, azures, greens and blues of the Lakes, you’ll also find some of the most beautiful and majestic waterfalls in the world here.


The island of Hvar (and in particular Hvar Town) is one of Croatia’s most popular attractions and for good reason. Set in a picturesque natural bay, the landscape is lined with olive groves, lavender fields and fruit orchards. There are beautiful villages scattered all over the island, but the oldest village on the island, Starigrad, as well as Jelsa are particularly recommended.  In the summer time, the island is also a popular port for yacht sailing in the Adriatic.

Croatia - Stari Grad
Stari Grad By zsoolt Via

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Winery (de)tour: an unexpected highlight to a traditional European adventure

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Historic castles – check.
Mountains of cheese – check.
Famous artwork – check.
Centuries-old cathedrals – check.
Unique architecture – check.

seville horse carriageThe quintessential European holiday seems to have been covered: Gazing at the Mona Lisa, wandering around grand manors, admiring and imagining living in quaint villages and pretending you’re part of the von Trapp family for a day on the Sound of Music tour.

But have you thought about taking a few days to experience some of Europe’s finest produce right where it’s made? I’m talking, of course, about wine.

A winery tour is an ideal way to experience some of the best wines available. You can delve deep into the culture of local wine producers and their locations, finding out the many fascinating ways historical events and geographical and economic factors have impacted on production of wine over the centuries – with techniques over years of trial and error. Handily, wine destinations are frequently perfectly placed as a stopover between two major destinations: here are a few suggestions of ways to break up your holiday:

lucca wine bottlesFrance

Don’t make the mistake of thinking France is only about Paris. It has many exciting regions – Chablis and Champagne, for instance, are great to stopover from the north to the South of France; Alsace meanwhile is perfectly positioned to break up the journey to the Alps or French Riviera.


A few short hours from Rome lie the Tuscan Hills, famed the world over for its September harvest festivals, glorious sunshine, glittering sea and gorgeous wines. A magnificent expanse of cultural intrigue, spectacular environment and gastronomic adventure, Tuscany should be high on the list of anyone spending some time in Italy.

San Gimignano viewSpain

Known for cities like Barcelona and Madrid, Spain’s countryside sometimes gets overlooked in favor of beaches, but don’t forget that some of its wine regions like La Rioja date back almost a millennium, producing wines that are a worthy companion to the plentiful tapas, paella and other exciting flavors. Try combining Rioja and Ribera del Duero as a perfect stopover on the way to Portugal.

On a trip through Europe, there are plenty of reasons to visit all the major cities, but don’t forget that more rural areas offer many delights, particularly for anyone with a taste for great wine and food. Dual destination holidays combining a wine region and another attraction are very popular choice for European travel.

Vivienne Egan writes for SmoothRed who provide tailor-made wine tours in Europe.

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