Where The River Goes

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Exploring one of the three Ksamil Islands

I’m afraid the internet has been pretty horrendous along the Albanian coast so I’m only getting a moment to update now. We managed to drive 40 minutes from our place in Dhermi to find a working ATM. The next issue was then finding a place that served food! Most were only selling drinks as it seems eating out isn’t popular with the locals and there aren’t any tourists around! Being the only tourists around definitely did have its perks, though.

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It’s been quite surreal at times, partly because half the buildings appear to have been abandonned mid construction and are now ‘shitet’ (a sign which kept popping up repeatedly all over the place and we now think means ‘for sale’). Another surreal feature of the landscape is the bunkers scattered about in the most bizarre places, ranging from the middle of town to cliffs on the coast and fields in the countryside. Apparently they’re remnants from a ‘bunkerisation’ initiative led by Enver Hoxha’s communist government in the latter half of the 20th century. He wanted the entire country prepped and ready for attack from all sides and a wide range of potential enemies, installing around 750,000  of the things all over the country!  No wonder we saw so many. Kids were trained from the age of 12, apparently, to man the bunkers in an attempt to militarize civilians and be constantly vigilant against intruders. Talk about paranoia! All, of course, abandonned with the fall of communism in the 90s. If you’re interested, check out some of David Galjaard’s bunker photography collection: http://www.slate.com/blogs/behold/2014/01/24/david_galjaard_photographs_albanian_bunkers_in_his_photo_book_concresco.html

I think the best way to summarise our exploring will be through providing some highlights, in case anyone’s looking for any tips or recommendations for Albania trips.

1. Ksamil – just south of Sarandë. This little village has some incredibly beautiful little beaches facing out to three little islands (within swimming distance!) Corfu gets very close at this point of the coast so it looks like mountains in the sea.

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2. Blue Eye – East of Sarandë. This was a rather unexpected gem. You pay (equivalent of around £1) to enter the area and follow a river to it’s magical source: a deep and incredibly clear spring aptly named the ‘Blue eye’ of the river. The surrounding hiking trails are beautiful this time of year. Well worth heading out to if you’re anywhere near Sarandë.

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3. Gjupi beach and Livadhi beach. A couple of examples of the options available along the lengthy coast! The colour of the clear water is just jaw dropping. Bear in mind that these photos are straight from my phone therefore not edited, believe it or not!

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Gjupe

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4. Butrint – another hidden treasure, the ruins if the ancient city of Butrint span across an incredible time period, dating back to the Hellenstic era (Greek influence). Legends say that the city was founded by Helenus and Andromache fleeing the destruction of Troy, but it appears it was inhabited long before -right back to prehistoric times. It was later taken over by the Romans in 228 BC before being swept up in the Byzantine Empire. The Venetians put their stamp on it when they purchased the land in 1386 before it was taken over by the Ottoman Empire in 1799! It’s been through a lot! Relics and remnants from all these eras remain at the site. Really interesting – and we were the only people there bar one or two fellow tourists.

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5. The coastal drive between Vlores and Sarandë. The roads themselves were stunning, carving through the mountains which drop down to the sea. There were so many great little spots to stop at along the way.

Dhermi beach

Dhermi beach

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Fun little restaurant built over a waterfall – Ujivara

Porto Palermo castle

Porto Palermo Castle 

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And finally, here’s a delicious trileche pud in Sarandë that I must try to make once we’re back!

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Convenient Parking

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Ok so there’s a lot of catching up to do (roughly two years) but Dad’s requested an update on current travel situation. This will be my first ever post entirely by phone and in the sad absence of a proper camera.  Expect typos, poor grammar etc, the usual. All photos will be straight from my Samsung phone without any editing so you’ll get the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the poor saturation. In fact the internet’s the worst it’s been since PNG so I’ll be delighted if they load at all.
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We arrived into Ohrid, Macedonia, the night before last and headed out to a local restaurant for food. My large pizza cost less than two pounds :s Everything costs around half the price of what you’d expect elsewhere in Europe – judge for yourself from the photos but I definitely think this city is an untapped resource: Stunning scenery, lovely weather, incredibly friendly people and rock bottom prices.
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IMG_8477The one slightly odd thing is the bizarre way in which the term ‘road’ is used. We were directed down roads in our little hire car where there was less than an inch gap between the side of the car and the houses either side of the crumbly cobbled streets, made worse by the fact that locals had parked willy-nilly along the precipices and stray dogs, poles and rocks popped up in unexpected places. We eventually had to reverse out of the town at 4mph and walk back with our suitcases. No wonder the man at the hire car stall had gone over the car with a magnifying glass to note down every minor scratch.
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Although it’s always fun to complain, that’s about as far as it goes with Ohrid. Just beautiful.
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And the flag’s fun too!

This Easter morning we had the rather more challenging feat of driving across the border to the coast of Albania.
We stopped off en route at St. Naum monastery, another idyllic spot. What made St. Naum particularly special were the fresh water springs surrounding it which feed into the lake.
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IMG_8480IMG_8478Across the border you noticed an immediate difference in terms of road quality and the quantity of half built, abandonned constructions. My favourite new addition to the landscape was the frequent appearance of a man on the roadside, poised as if he’s trying to hitch-hike, but on closer inspection he’s brandishing a large trout. They’d effectively just plucked fish from the water and were wiggling them about in front of drivers in an attempt to scrape a living. Very entertaining, if nothing else. We must have passed about 20 of them.
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Although Google maps is the best improvement to life since air con, it really has absolutely no idea what the hell’s  going on with the roads in Albania. Like a slavic bermuda triangle. We ended up on some ridiculous ‘scenic’ routes with potholes formed in the wake of some sort of nuclear apocalypse. We eventually decided to ignore it and emerged onto the Albanian ‘Riviera’.
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Pretty, but so far it appears that ‘off season’ roughly translates as ‘everything within a 40 mile radius is shut until June’. I’ve given up trying to upload photos now as it’s just too slow. Update on our cashless, foodless situation tomorrow.

When The Sun Goes Down

Grand Bazaar Istanbul

Kitten on cushions istanbul

Istanbul was not at all as I had expected. I was taken aback by the religious fervour of the city; with mosques dotted extravagantly around the city and the ezan (call to prayer) blasting from the minarets five times a day, it is clear to see how devoted Muslims are to their faith. I will not get started here on the shock I felt at witnessing the position of women, as this is a debate which far exceeds my limited experiences. I will say, however, that we barely had the chance to speak to a woman throughout the duration of our stay!

The one exception was our visit to a traditional Hamman – there are many to choose between in the city – we opted for Cemberlitas Hamami as it seemed to be relatively reasonably priced (they’re not cheap!). Essentially, you are paying extravagantly for somebody to wash you. A lady would lather up the most enormous soapy clouds and scrub you with a mitten before dousing you with water from the taps at the edges of the heated marble room. The interior was very unusual, with the entire room made out of marble and the domed roof having holes to let the light in which gave the appearance of stars in the roof. Although it was slightly ridiculous, it would definitely be worth going for the ‘traditional bath’ over just the option to go into the heated room alone – was certainly an unusual experience!

Kittens Istanbul

Blue Mosque

Dervish dancer, spinning and spinning with that unusual 'mushroom' hat.

Dervish dancer, spinning and spinning with that unusual ‘mushroom’ hat.

Blue Mosque

The city was certainly full of character. We were taken with the exceptionally kind way in which the local, apparently stray, cats were treated. Instead of being kicked and spurned they were often fed affectionately! The blue mosque, above, lived up to it’s iconic position as the key tourist attraction. Inside, however, was not quite as I had imagined. I guess in comparison to the beautiful Buddhist and Hindu temples of the far east, I had been a little off mark with my expectations. There was an incredibly intricate Iznik tiled roof (slightly less ‘blue’ than the name would suggest, perhaps), but the mosque itself was very stark inside to provide space for salat (prayer).

Blue Mosque roof

The best places to get views of the mosque and, indeed, the city itself, are the roof top bars and restaurants. We tried out the ‘Blue House Hotel’ and ‘Panoramic’ restaurant. Both had incredible views over the city and we went up to these spots to wait around for the sunsets each night. The lengthy call to prayer at the moment that the sun falls below the horizon helped to create an all-encompassing dramatic atmosphere

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Baklava and turkish dessert selection whilst we waited for the sun on top of the Blue House Hotel

Baklava and Turkish dessert selection whilst we waited for the sun on top of the Blue House Hotel

Blue Mosque at night

The Hagia Sofia museum, neighbouring the blue mosque, is also worth a visit, although don’t expect a typical ‘museum’: it is, essentially, the interior of the building as it was when it was an imperial mosque. It didn’t take us too long to look around so this visit could easily fit into any day.

Interior of Hagia Sofia Museum

Interior of Hagia Sofia Museum

Of course, the Grand Bazaar is certainly worth a visit. Yet again though, it did not live up to my expectations. I was picturing a scene similar to the souks in Marrakech. The Grand Bazaar seemed rather more ‘up-market’. The individual stalls were shops rather than the kind of stalls you would expect in a traditional market. Unfortunately haggling was also significantly more difficult than we had expected! Due to the huge number of tourists crowded around the market it is difficult to try and push the price down significantly as there are so many alternative buyers flocking around! We did eventually find ourselves a few trinkets to take home as mementos. I personally preferred the Spice Bazaar: it was just as colourful yet much less busy and we happily wandered around the Turkish Delight stalls sampling the different flavours!

A display of Turkish Delights in the Spice Bazaar.

A display of Turkish Delights in the Spice Bazaar.

Mosque outside the spice bazaar where we were given free copies of the Quran

Mosque outside the spice bazaar where we were given free copies of the Quran

Traditional Turkish tea

Traditional Turkish tea

Spice Bazaar Istanbul

The food, in general was very interesting. To end on a funny note, we were very confused when presented with the following at a restaurant:

Turkish Bread

We’d placed our order and were swiftly given this along with the comment ‘enjoy your meal’. Anna thought they might have taken our order wrong. I thought our meal might be inside this enormous thing…like a weird pie. It turns out it was merely a dramatic air-filled flat bread and that the ‘enjoy your meal’ comment was merely a misunderstood English phrase which we were showered with after each dish was delivered.

For You Blue

Blue Lagoon Malta

‘There is no blue without yellow and without orange’ – Vincent Van Gogh

Malta, for me, was all about the colours. The sandy buildings in the ancient cities contrasted perfectly with the vivid blues of the sea. Spring was the perfect time to visit as the temperature was ideal and the landscape hadn’t yet been stripped of its flora. The transport system was absolutely fantastic. We paid under 2 euros for a whole day’s pass on the local bus network which took us around the island. Definitely not worth shelling out for taxis! Given Malta’s size, there is a surprisingly large amount to see and do! I’ll run through our highlights briefly:

1. Blue Lagoon, Comino – accessed via a ferry from the north of the Island. Pretty busy in the heat of the day though so time your visit carefully to avoid the crowds! Definitely must be done though. Hopefully the pictures speak for themselves but, in case they don’t, it boasted the clearest, bluest water that I have seen in a very long time – perhaps not since the Maldives!

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2. Mdina – a spectacular, ancient fortified city which served as the country’s capital until 1530. We arrived as the light was fading so could experience the city being lit up by lanterns. A fantastically authentic experience.

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The lavish Maltese coffee speciality

The lavish Maltese coffee speciality

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3. The hiking path for the west coast beaches down from Golden Bay.

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Slightly further north up the west coast you bump into ‘Popeye village’ in Anchor bay, the film set for the film which has been perfectly preserved and turned into a tourist attraction. We didn’t go into the village itself as we arrived quite late in the evening, but was great fun just to get a peek!

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4. The ‘three cities’ and the capital, Valetta. Think ‘Game of Thrones’. Very eye-catching and dramatic scenes!

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Thought I'd finish on this rather enthusiastic not-so-medieval carriage driver!

Thought I’d finish on this rather enthusiastic not-so-medieval carriage driver!

Tiptoe Through The Tulips/ Trampled Underfoot

Tulips Keukenhof

Unfortunately I’ve dropped the ball in terms of keeping up to date – this trip to Holland to celebrate mum’s birthday took place in the middle of April. I’ve let exams (and further trips) keep me weighed down so there’s a fair bit of catching up to do! Also, as I’ve previously mentioned, it is far more difficult to keep up to date when I’m in (good) company! I’ve been fortunate enough to head out on three little adventures since my last post which all merit attention but, first things first, Holland in tulip season.

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We arranged to stay in yet another Airbnb apartment. This one, however, was a little different! The five of us (the family together with the exception of my little brother) headed out to the outskirts of Amsterdam where a beautiful barge was waiting for us. The stay definitely expanded my ‘Airbnb’ horizons as I’d not considered that such ‘alternative’ options would be so readily available. After acclimatising to the gentle rocking it was a fantastically exciting place to stay, with swans popping up at the windows in the evenings and friendly ducks resting on our decking in the morning.

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Amsterdam itself seemed to me like a hybrid of Copenhagen and Berlin. Beautiful canals and those iconic narrow buildings yet slightly more dampened, in terms of the colour pallet, when compared directly to Copenhagen. Those looking for the famous ‘cafés’ would not be disappointed – the smell of Cannabis seems just around every corner. The red light district similarly lives up to its ‘no holds barred’ reputation! Wouldn’t recommend for families with small children but for anyone who is remotely curious – I’ve never seen anything like it! For slightly less risqué adventures – try exploring the quaint delft shops dotted about the city. There are also many notable museums and art galleries – My highlight was the tragic but fascinating Van Gogh museum.

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Now, the main reason we had opted for Holland at this time of year was, of course, the tulips. We arranged a trip to the world famous Keukenhof gardens and were completely taken aback by the ridiculous queues to get onto the public transport. By ‘ridiculous’ I mean a lady working there told us the queue we were looking at couldn’t possibly be for Keukenhof as the buses went from round the corner of the next building. 100 additions to the queue later we established that it was, indeed, our queue. It was over an hour shuffling, penguin fashion, before we caught sight of these gold-dust buses.

And that was just the beginning.

The gardens themselves were quite possibly the busiest tourist attraction I have been to in my life. The only experience that comes close is being cow-herded through the Vatican. I tried my best to capture pictures of the stunning gardens with as few people in as possible but this was only achievable if you were within 20cm of the actual flowers. Luckily it did quieten down a little later in the evening as it drew towards closing time.

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The tulip fields surrounding the gardens, in my opinion, were equally stunning. Yet unfortunately the crowds had begun to spill out into them as well!

The tulip fields surrounding the gardens, in my opinion, were equally stunning. Yet unfortunately the crowds had begun to spill out into them as well!

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The magical moment when the crowds had dissipated before closing time.

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Overall, yes the gardens were unquestionably beautiful, but do not go imagining the gardens to be the idyllic peaceful masterpieces you see in the brochures. I’d definitely recommend timing your visit to as close towards closing time as possible!

City Of Black & White

Museum Island

Museum Island

Bubble blower

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We were a little taken aback, on arriving into Germany for the first time, to find the most inefficient train station I’ve seen in quite a while. No clear signs or indication of which train is on which platform at all! Heading into central Berlin, things didn’t immediately improve as there seemed to be nobody there. Perhaps this due to the fact that at 10/11 in the morning the tourists and party-lovers are either still out or are crashing… anyway, having got up at 3 to catch a cheap early flight a little ‘crash’ was a necessary detour before heading out. Airbnb in Mitte – again very easy and very good value.

First stop – the nearest shop in sight to get warmer clothes inc. hat/gloves which I had ridiculously left behind.

Take two – now layered up like the Michelin man it felt safe to venture out into the city.

Brandenburg Gate

Brandenburg Gate

Reichstag Building - historical edifice built for the Imperial Diet of the German Empire.

Reichstag Building – historical edifice built for the Imperial Diet of the German Empire.

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In the wake of a snowy winter, all the colour seems to have been sapped from the City. This is particularly evident in the striking Holocaust memorial below.

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It does get a little brighter, however, when it comes to the street art. The East Side Gallery in particular is a must-see! (section of the remaining Berlin Wall covered in ‘grafitti’)

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Topography of Terror - on the site of the old Gestop base you can find a fantastic little summary of Nazi Germany in this small museum.

Topography of Terror – on the site of the old Gestop base you can find a fantastic little summary of Nazi Germany in this small museum.

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Berliner Dom (Cathedral)

Berliner Dom (Cathedral)

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Apple Strudel!

Apple Strudel!

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Overall, I apologize in advance for offending anybody, it was not particularly my cup of tea. Very bleak, stark and sombre. Fascinating in terms of historical content – the scars of past wars are clearly visible and it hosts a phenomenal range of museums. You may consider visiting in the summer, however I felt the stories held by the city seemed to strike even harder in the bitter cold, making it a memorable but fairly solemn experience.

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More Than A Memory

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Finally, I’ve caught up to the present day. Yesterday morning at the bright and early time of 8.30 I arrived back into London after a weekend in Athens. What a fantastic time to visit Greece! The weather was warm and sunny, yet not too hot, and there was barely a tourist in sight (with the slight exception of the acropolis, but you can’t ask for the impossible). The perks of travelling in Europe at this time of year include incredibly reasonable prices. The entirety of this trip, including accommodation and flights, cost less than £100. Incidentally, ‘airbnb‘ is a fantastic site to use when looking places to stay in any of 190+ countries across the world. It basically consists of a variety of houses/flats/studios that the owners are letting out on a temporary basis to tourists. There’s no minimum time period, you can stay for as little as one night. Our flat was an idyllic two bedroomed apartment within 4 minutes walking distance from the Acropolis and with a stunning view across Athens from the balcony window. Use the following link www.airbnb.co.uk/c/sffrenchconstant?s=8 or my personal referral code sffrenchconstant to get a further £17 off your accommodation.

Panorama from the balcony of our airbnb apartment.

Panorama from the balcony of our airbnb apartment.

As the major sights of the city are fairly close together we found it easily manageable to to everything that we’d hoped to achieve at a leisurely pace within two full days. The Acropolis, of course, the temple of Zeus and the national gardens were well worth a visit. Lycabettus hill, the highest point in the city, and Philopappos hill boast spectacular views of the Acropolis and the city as a whole. Don’t shy away from the steep walks up to these points as the walks themselves are a beautiful exploration into the olive groves and natural ‘wilderness’ hidden in the city. Wandering through the city itself, you stumble across one monument and ruin after another. A fascinating city to visit and, in my opinion, a far more pleasant experience than its rival, Rome. Well worth researching the history to whet your appetite before you go.

View from Lycabettus

View from Lycabettus

19th century chapel of St.George atop Lycabettus.

19th century chapel of St.George atop Lycabettus.

Hadiran's library

Hadiran’s library

Classic greek salad in a little balcony overlooking the cobbled street.

Classic greek salad in a little balcony overlooking the cobbled street.

Orange trees are scattered generously across the city. Here's one in the national garden

Orange trees are scattered generously across the city. Here’s one in the national garden

Temple of Zeus

Temple of Zeus

What a great place to stay!! Some ingenious homeless group have tapped into the caves in Lycabettus hill. Fantastic views all day and night!

What a great place to stay!! Some ingenious homeless group have tapped into the caves in Lycabettus hill. Fantastic views all day and night!

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Such a shame that the front of the Parthenon was covered in scaffolding! Ah well, can't have everything!

Such a shame that the front of the Parthenon was covered in scaffolding! Ah well, can’t have everything!

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Temple in the ancient grecian Agora

Temple in the ancient grecian Agora

Temple of Athena looking out over athens from the corner of the Acropolis

Temple of Athena looking out over athens from the corner of the Acropolis

Odeum of Herodes Atticus

Odeum of Herodes Atticus

Walking up Philopappus hill

Walking up Philopappus hill

Little wet sparrow

Little wet sparrow

Lycabettus Hill from below

Lycabettus Hill from below

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Theatre of Dionysus

Theatre of Dionysus

Erectheum on the Acropolis

Erectheum on the Acropolis

Time in a Bottle

It’s been an inordinately long time since I last posted. It seems considerably easier to write when I’m travelling by myself. In addition to this I had a fairly major set back at the beginning of the summer of 2014 in Alicante, on the east coast of Spain. So, reflecting on this, here’s a a few pointers on how NOT to take a holiday:

1. Fly Ryan Air (although I must admit ,at this point, that I have done this since. So hard to resist those low prices! Naturally, they are low for a reason.)

2. Pack far more than you really need for the trip. Including vast amounts of valuables and electrics.

3. Proceed to leave all of you belongings in a convenient bundle, fully in sight. To save time, why not place an advertisement at the front of the property:

“passport, phone, laptop, travel money, wallet, ipod, extensive precious jewellery collection, kindle, SLR camera + telephoto lens. – available here at exclusively non-existent prices, simply time your arrival to ensure you can ‘purchase’ these items when the generous donor is absent. (crowbar not included)”

4. Run out for help barefoot in a towel on realising your donation has been accepted.

5. Have faith in the Spanish police

6. Have faith in the British Embassy

7. PANIC.

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However, I do feel that a certain amount of bad luck is inevitable whilst travelling. The key is how you manage it. Of course, it was not just me affected by this burglary, and without the help and assistance of the kind family I was travelling with I’m not sure how I would have managed. I let my guard down, feeling secure in this scenario, but I would have struggled significantly more had I been alone when it happened. I now believe I’d have a little more composure were it to happen again. It also is highly advantageous to have a helpful insurance policy. Swings and roundabouts, silver-linings etc etc

Now, as I had to withdraw from the delightful prospect of a following trip to Menorca, due to lack of passport, my next venture overseas was our family summer-break to Limoges, France. Shiny new passport in tow, we headed to a beautiful reconstructed barn complex where the entire side of my mothers family amassed for general chaos and frivolity (leaning a little more toward the chaos).

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An idyllic, tranquil part of France, with all of the trimmings you’d expect (great weather, food, pastries, markets etc). I’m going to swiftly move on, however, to the end of the summer. As a group of six school friends we headed to Lisbon for around four days to soak up some sun, some culture but more importantly each other’s company.

First thing that I feel needs to be said: be warned with luggage in Lisbon – it is extremely hilly! It is, However, a great little city to get away to for a short break. Very atmospheric and charming (helped, perhaps unfortunately, by the dilapidated state of many of the buildings). I’ll leave the explanation up to a small selection of photos. This post seems to be encroaching upon the ‘overly-long’ side of things so I’ll continue the catch up in a following edition!

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Cool, Calm and Collected

Yoga in Swedist Sunset

“The pursuit, even of the best things, ought to be calm and tranquil.”
 – Marcus Tullius Cicero

I met the Gambill’s at Copenhagen airport and together we hopped on a train to their hometown of Älmhult in the Småland province of Southern Sweden. (Had to get Vendela to write down all the names for me as couldn’t quite get the hang of the letters!) It’s so incredibly special, being completely cut off from stress and technology and surrounded by lakes and forest. There’s very limited internet access and no need for phones. The sun didn’t set until around 9 or later in the evening creating the magical feeling of midsummer. Again one of the first things I noticed was the smell: a really strong omnipresent smell of pines which I must have grown accustomed to pretty quickly as didn’t notice it after the first evening.

Mockeln Smaland

Daisy Chains

Vendela and Paulina making daisy chains in the garden of their Grandpa’s house

Delicious local kanelbullar (cinnamon rolls)

Delicious local kanelbullar (cinnamon rolls)

 

We spent lots of time on the shores of the enourmous Möckeln lake which was perfect for swimming in the scorching sun. It was fantastic to just get back to simple outdoor activities like playing the traditional Swedish game of ‘kubb’ where you essentially knock down pillars in opposing teams with elaborate ‘sticks’. The food was also delicious and simple: we had lots of knäckebröd (crispbread), cheese and tomatoes! Essentially our time was spent relaxing and going for walks along the lake and in the forest – very tranquil!

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Friendly ducks at Bökhult beach

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Playing kubb in the garden of the Gambill’s summer house in the forest

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We found a little board walk into the lake by the summer house which made an ideal spot for some evening yoga. We noticed the potential for photos though with the silhouettes against the sunset and ended up getting completely carried away! Overall, such a relaxing spot to get away from reality for a few days!

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Sugar Town

Nyhavn Copenhagen

“Everything you look at can become a fairy tale and you can get a story from everything you touch.”
― Hans Christian Andersen

It’s always intimidating to arrive at a hostel in the late evening: the large groups of ‘well-oiled’ young adults from all corners of the globe make you feel like you’ve wandered into some exclusive bar by yourself in the middle of the night.

First impressions of Copenhagen: The air coming off the plane from London seemed ridiculously fresh and clean. It appeared pretty small and manageable, with very picturesque canals and cobbled streets scattered with hundreds of bicycles.

Nyhavn Copenhagen

Nyhavn Copenhagen

Nyhavn Copenhagen

I was a little wobbly with the road system at first: I was wondering why the road was so wide before realising that half of it was a ‘bike road’ which sort of disguises itself as a very wide pavement, a misunderstanding which led to a few close shaves. On the first morning I wandered out to Nyhavn, a famous ‘heritage harbour’ canal waterfront packed with brightly coloured 17th/18th Century town houses which now act as cafés and restaurants. From here I meandered to the little mermaid statue, inspired of course by Hans Christian Anderson’s tale of the mermaid who gives up her aquatic life to gain the love of a prince and a human soul (dying tragically in the original tale, unlike the disney-tainted version which most people are now more familiar with). I’d been advised to not expect much, or even to avoid the site altogether due to the absurd number of tourists who flock to see it. As expected, it was absolutely crammed with people of all origins literally clambering all over it. However, having studied Hans Christian Anderson’s tale this year at university I couldn’t help but love it. In fact I think it depends a lot on the timing. I headed back for the evening light later in the day to see a fraction of the crowds that were there before.

The Little Mermaid Copenhagen

The Little Mermaid Copenhagen

The gardens, fountains and churches dotted about the city are beautifully maintained, seeming almost regimented and square. There are also these bizarre lines of bright orange identical buildings dotted about the place which I assume are for housing.

Rosenburg Castle

Rosenburg Castle

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I was incredibly lucky with the weather – absolutely spotless blue skies. I actually made the mistake of sunbathing in the park on the second day and managed to burn my entire body. I tried out one of the ‘soft ice’ ice creams which apparently is a local favourite, although found it far too sweet and creamy – no way near as good as the similar ones from ‘The Eskimo Hut’ in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

soft ice copenhagen

The food and, well, everything really, is incredibly expensive. Far more so than London, Paris or Tokyo even. Just as an indicator a small bottled juice cost the equivalent of around £5. I splurged on some expensive pastries though which, although undoubtedly fantastic, were again a little too sweet for my tastes.

Bakery Copenhagen

To compensate for the expense of the food (which I lowered by bringing food from home in my luggage) I stuck to free city activities, such as checking out the ‘Statens Museum for Kunst’ (national art gallery) and the national museum which had a fascinating exhibition on ancient Nordic history. The art gallery had a great selection of Matisse and Picasso, and some interesting local Danish art but didn’t take overly long to get through, say in comparison to the national gallery here in London.

Matisse self portrait

Matisse self portrait

Sculpture of Hans Christian Anderson's haunting 'Story of the Mother'. Here death is taking away the young child.

Sculpture of Hans Christian Anderson’s haunting ‘Story of the Mother’. Here death is taking away the young child.

Botanical gardens

Botanical gardens

Strøget - the centre of the shopping district.

Strøget – the centre of the shopping district.

The only site I expended a few Kroner for was the ’round tower’, with a bizarre curving brick walk way leading up to a beautiful view over the city.

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