Berlin: Things to know before you go

1 week, 2 months, 3 months, a month, architecture, backpack, backpacker, backpcker, couples travel, destination, europe, holiday, home, itineraries, itinerary, long weekend, return, review, shock, travel, volunteering

Getting in:

Flying into Berlin is a pain free, quick, and easy process that is truly reflective of that good old stereotypical German efficiency .

Shame about the train stations… The train stations that baffle and bewilder many a tourist ruin the efficiency illusion in an instant and, if you don’t speak German, will have you wishing that you had listened more in German class (if you even had the option to learn it).

Unless you have arranged a pickup, I strongly recommend that you research the route to your chosen destination BEFORE you get on the plane. If you are staying in Berlin then you will probably find that the S Bahn is your best option. Type your route into google maps and print it before you leave home. Google maps has a tendency to be rather incredible without shoving your stupidness in your face.

blue sky clouds Germany

 

When to go:

Berlin is a city that can be visited all year round with no real limitations to activities due to weather conditions. Just bare in mind that if you want to climb a tall building (because there are so many here) to get a great view, this is not going to happen when it’s poring with rain or foggy outside.

Remember that Sunday afternoons and public holidays can be quieter, with many museums and shops being closed.

Money:

The currency is Euro. Berlin can be expensive in and around popular tourist sites. Despite this, it is easy enough to find cheap food if you venture into the suburbs. Kebab shops, burger stops and chippies are never more than a five minute pace away.

Getting around:

The Sbhan is the easiest way around the city. If underground trains aren’t for you then grab a map and explore on foot. Many attractions are close to each other so you shouldn’t have to walk too far between sights. Typical to most European cities, Berlin’s inhabitants do fall prey to telling tourists that “it’s too far to walk” and that they should “take the train because it’s faster and easier”. At least once I challenge you to ignore the nice citizen and go on foot to see if it really is too far. And if come back and it was too far… Well, I’m sorry and I’m sure you made memories that made it worth it anyway right!?

Things to do:

Reichstag dome – Tickets must be purchased online in advance of your visit or you will be refused entry. Allow 15-20 minutes to get through the quick security checks before you enter. Upon entering through the mini airport security you will be transported by an elevator up into the huge dome that sits on top of the reichstag. Audio guides are free and automatically feed you information as you scale higher and higher into the sky. If you are scared of heights you may want to think twice as the majority of the dome is glass, so not looking down is not really an option! germany architecture berlij

Brandenburg Gate & Around – The gate is situated near some of Berlin’s other main sights and is usually tourist heavy. Before heading here have a walk through the Jewish Monument situated a ten minute walk away. Both the gate and the monument make a big impression at night when the lights come on.

History:

It is almost impossible to go to Berlin and not learn a little about the history it possesses. Going down to see the remaining wall is an interesting visit along with Checkpoint Charlie (be warned that it gets very crowded with tourists), and free museums such as the Topographie des Terror (a highlight of our trip).

Not so central – Venturing out of the centre is highly recommended. Just in the train and explore outer Berlin for some spectacular sights and entertaining things to do. Parks, museums, and more are easy to find.

olympic rings outside berlin stadium

A place to stay:

If you are looking for a decent place to stay then Plus Berlin Hostel is great. The hostel is by far the biggest hostel I’ve ever stayed in, and with a swimming pool, family friendly rooms, common rooms, restaurant, gardens and even its own art exhibition,it’s as though this hostel made love to a hotel and produced this huge beast. Staying in a dorm here was strange. The rooms were cleaned daily with cute chocolate pieces left on your pillow. Fresh towels were on the foot of the bed when you came back from a days adventures ( see! Just like a hotel right). The pool was a great addition. On one of the days when it was raining we opted for a swimming session which was totally worth it. The food was reasonable for dinner, and the all you can eat breakfast buffet was delicious. Every smart traveller knows – get up a little later and make the buffet a brunch instead of a breakfast for optimum money saving.

plus berlin hostel in central berlin

Extras:

 

Vibes- The general vibe in Berlin is a friendly yet equally standoffish vibe. Kind of like London but with less rushing and more chit chatting. An example of the humour and lightheartedness of Berlin was when I asked a guy if he would take a photo of us. He joked saying that he could not… I didn’t get the joke and stood apologising for even asking, embarrassed. My boyfriend, the comedian, and his friend found it hilarious and laughed at my expression.

Bears, green men, and red women-

If you really pay attention to your surroundings you will notice things that people often miss. Sadly for the unobservant (and I’ve asked around) many people return from Berlin having not seen a single bear statue. Considering its significance here it is sad that they have not one photo or memory of seeing one. Sadly, these same people also have no idea what I’m taking about when I ask them what they thought of the traffic light people. They stare at me blankly… “There are entire shops dedicated to the little people inside the traffic lights! How could you miss them?!” It turns out they just weren’t looking hard enough. Therefore, my recommendation is to pay close attention.

Overall thoughts:

Berlin for me is a standard city of art, culture, history, business and pleasure. Personal preference sways me to feel no real urge to return. A controversial feeling I am aware. Personally, having seen Potsdam, Dresden and Bonn I find that I prefer these smaller jewels for reasons of which I’m not quite sure. But why does it matter? Make up your own mind and get to travelling! berlin map on the berlin wall british and german

Croatia, Dubrovnik: Seeing It All – 4 day Itinerary

architecture, backpack, backpacker, beaches, croatia, destination, europe, holiday, itineraries, itinerary, long weekend, travel, Uncategorized

Dubrovnik, Croatia:

A practical blog with practical advice.

Scroll down for the itinerary.

But first… The practical stuff –

Getting in: Arriving in Croatia was a complicated mess of passport control, unoccupied help desks and tourists eager to get into the country before the other tourists. Luckily the airport is small and getting lost in it would require considerable effort on your part. If you are staying in or near the Old Town then work your way (unaided by no one other than equally baffled tourists) to the bus ticket shop.

The shuttle bus takes you down the beautiful coastline from a great height. Eventually after fretting over your drivers ability to drive on the edge of a cliff you will gain an incredible view of (cue Game of Thrones music) King’s Landing!!!! – I mean, The Old Town. At 40 croation kuna for a one way ticket this is the best way to head into town from the airport.

When to go: April was a strange time of year. With not many tourists around it was great to be able to walk round without having thousands of people pushing you out of the way or photobombing every shot. In the evenings however the atmosphere in Lapad, Gruz and other surrounding areas was non existent. The locals were all at home and, the tourists seemed to have gone to bed. Perhaps summer is the better time to experience night life.

Jemma Reid standing in the middle of the rocks of Lokrum Island in Croatia. You can see the sea in the background with more islands behind that where Croatia lie.

Money: Anything within the walls of the Old Town is expensive so we ventured a little outside of the vicinity for cheaper goods. Most places accepted Kuna and Euro. When paying with Euro we learnt to expect to receive change in a well calculated (yet highly confusing) mix of Euro and Kuna.

Getting around: Bus tickets can be purchased on the bus for 15kuna or at a ticket shop. We were tipped off that if you buy the ticket from a shop the price is 12kuna. Score! Money saved!!

The transport staff were notably miserable I’m sorry to say. We found no word of politeness from any transport staff. Whilst we knew that they owed us nothing, it was still a shock to be grunted at every time we jumped on the bus.

If you were slow entering or exiting the bus you would be either left behind or shut in the bus doors ( I was shut in the doors no fewer than two times ).

Fun Activities and things to do:

Walk the walls – If stairs are your thing then head for the walls and keep walking up. You will need to pay to do this and your fitness will need to be at a good level to get up the never ending steps. If you don’t fancy climbing your way into an asthma attack then opt for staying at ground level and following the wall around from the lower levels.

Cable Car

Why you should use the cable car in Dubrovnik. Information about the cable dar in Croatia and it's service information

How Long: Fast and Furious – If you intend to take day trips to Montenegro or Bosnia ( p.s. 1 day in Bosnia is not enough) then consider 5-6 days. If you are just intending to stay in Dubrovnik then 4 days in perfect.

Slow and Steady – If you tend to spend an hour or two a day people watching, or drinking a bottle of wine at dinner then you may want to add a day onto the fast and furious itinerary.

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4 Day ITINERARY

Lokrum Island is full of rocks and beautiful game of thrones artifacts this is a panoramic view of the edge of the island where the sea crashed against the rocks in Dubrovnik Croatia

Day 1. Arrive midday to see the old town lit up. Find somewhere on the Main Street for dinner before heading to your hotel. The further away from the main street, the cheaper the food – is a good general rule to go by.

Day 2. Grab a bus to Pile gate, walk around the back of the fortress and jump aboard the cable car. You can spend a good few hours exploring up here. Have breakfast in the restaurant before looking around the museum taking selfies and staring into the distance. Head back down before lunch and walk to the old town. You can spend the entire afternoon and evening here trekking in and out of the hidden alleys. Gasp at the Game of Thrones locations, walk the walls and marvel at the curious items in the museums. In the evening you can stay in the old town or head to Lapad for a quiet meander and a drink.

The Dubrovnik cable car in Croatia

Day 3. Islands are on the itinerary for today. If you want to see a few then opt for the three island tour. A less common (and less rushed idea) is to grab a boat to Lokrum island. Lokrum is a beautiful diverse island full of peacocks and rabbits. Wear your swimming costume under our clothes if you intend to swim in the mini cove on the island. Stroll around the monastery, botanical gardens and park before scrambling through the rock pools. You can also find the Iron Throne which is somewhat of a hidden gem as there is little advertisement to suggest it is even on the island! Following your visit to Lokrum head to the old town to revisit any areas you missed on the previous day.

On the Island of Lokrum sits a beautiful peacock on top of a small piece of ruins in Dubrovnik. It has a long feathered green tail sweeping from its dark blue body

Day 4. If you aren’t planning any onward travel or day trips use today to take the three island tour or a day trip to Cavtat. Enjoy the Game of Thrones Scenery, the crystal blue waters and, the historic fortress. Have an incredible time in Dubrovnik.

Bon Voyage!

Destinations At a Glance: Europe Mini Reviews

1 week, a month, architecture, backpack, backpacker, backpcker, beaches, destination, europe, holiday, home, itineraries, itinerary, return, review, travel, Uncategorized

Hello!

If you’re planning your next holiday or backpacking trip in Europe then take a look at my brief overviews of the places I’ve been.

Some travel advice can be all waffly with more information than you really need.         The whole point is that YOU find your own way and do what YOU want to do.

You can save the images, or you click the location from the list below to read the full blog.

So without further chat, here are the good and the bad about the places I’ve been…

(Updated every time I venture out)

Here you can find the following mini reviews and links to my full reviews:

Bosnia & Herzegovina – Mostar – (Read the Mostar blog)

Belgium – Ypres, Bruges and Brussels full blog

Croatia – Dubrovnik, Lokrum,

England – Windsor & Eton, Oxford

France – Paris,

Germany German Tour’ blog for wider Germany, and Augsburg blog

Hungary – Budapest (Read the Inside Budapest and Outside Budapest blogs)

Italy– Rome,

Poland – Kraków

Portugal – (see separate ‘Portugal, Itinerary‘)

Slovakia – Bratislava

Slovenia (full Slovenia blog here and Horse riding in Bled )

Spain – Majorca

Ypres Belgium review Holiday review of Croatia DubrovnikHoliday review of lokrum Croatia

Kew Gardens review Review of Windsor and ErinReview of oxford in EnglandReview of backpacking in France Paris Hungary Budapest review

Italy Rome reviewKrakow poland reviewBratislava Slovakia reviewMajorca Spain review

Watch this space for more Europe Mini Reviews.

A Tour of Germany: Go my way

1 week, a month, architecture, backpack, backpacker, destination, europe, holiday, itineraries, itinerary, travel, Uncategorized

Beer, nature, history, art, fashion – you name it Germany has it.

In my mind Germany is frequently overlooked as a backpacker destination, with many heading there for nothing more than Oktoberfest or it’s renowned beer gardens.

With oodles to see and do in Germany I’ve created these mini reviews based on my expriences to help you decide where in Germany will be the best fit for you.

Destinations include: Berlin, Bonn, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Potsdam, Dresden, Meißen

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When Travel Goes Wrong: Learn From My Mistakes.

1 week, architecture, backpack, backpacker, beaches, holiday, itineraries, itinerary, travel

The ultimate guide to not being an idiot when travelling. Learn from my mistakes –

1. Do not put your passport in your mouth:

Ok so I wasn’t salivating all over my passport. I promise. I wrapped my lips (not even moist) around the folded edge of my passport in an attempt to juggle two pieces of luggage and my phone. For a split second I put it in my mouth. It was either that or it would have fallen on the floor. As I approached the (not so) lovely Croatian border control I was immediately shouted at. “DON’T PUT PASSPORT IN MOUTH.” He continued … “ITS NOT NORMAL”. I will not be doing that again. In front of him.

2. Don’t joke around with Houston passport control:

“Hi” I said to a (not so) lovely border force man. “GET IN LINE” he replied… I was already in line. This was pretty much the tone of every Houston staff member I encountered there whilst in the way to Nicaragua… both times.

3. Don’t get off the bus to Bosnia during a rest stop … EVER:

Two hours into the bus journey across the border from Croatia and into Bosnia. “Ten minute break” explains the driver. So off I jump to the toilet which is a 5 second walk away. I leave my passport on the bus with my bags, assured that they are in safe hands with trusted company and assured that I don’t need my possessions to pee. I walked into the available cubicle and attempted to pee whilst trying to hold the door closed with my foot and grab the toilet roll with my hand. I exit the toilet 2 minutes later. The bus has disappeared. Long story short. After a lot of swearing (and unanticipated sprinting) I make it to the bus. If it weren’t for the screaming of “STOP THE BUS” I’d probably still be Bosnia selling my clothes to get enough cash to bribe border control to let me across.

4. Don’t queue for the bus in Croatia:

As a British person I just LOVE to queue. It’s basically part of my DNA. A word of wisdom. Unless you enjoy being shut in a moving vehicles door, don’t queue. Push the pensioners and the children out of the way. Don’t feel rude because they sure as hell don’t. You have places to be.

5. Never ask the person selling the ping pong show what a ping pong show is:

In my defence, this one wasn’t my mistake. I knew exactly what a ping pong show was. My boyfriend however did not. After aimlessly walking the streets of Phuket in Thailand he turned to me and asked (in the cutest most naïve fashion) “why is everyone so obsessed with table tennis here”. HA! Bless him. I, being the supportive loving girlfriend that I am, told him to ask the next lady that offered us a show. The results. Hours of laughter on my part and on his part, embarrassment.

6. Don’t tell a City person that you hate cities – unless you’re ready for a debate;

Working in London sparks the question “so …( because everyone starts the question with the presumptuous word SO) when are you moving to the city”. If you don’t have a well prepared answer for this question that declines the offer whilst also showing your love for the city then don’t bother responding.

7. When the guy renting you a bike tells you it’s too far, believe him, and don’t Rent a bike without having ridden a bike in years for a long journey:

Yea this happened. We just wanted to go to the beach for cheaps. A mile and a half in, during what felt like the hottest summer South East Asia has ever experienced, we were regretting the bike decision. We just ended up spending what could have been a short taxi drive’s money on bottles and bottles of water.

8. Don’t say yes to a tour your not interested in / not going to understand:

Whilst in Poland my mum and I decided that the Salt Mines were a must see attraction. Eager to get on a tour we stupidly agreed to joining a Germany group rather than shopping around. Whilst the tour was interesting we spent the entire time being referred to as “ENGLISH” as we fell behind trying to work out what the heck was going on. If tours are not available in your language then maybe just book in advance or go back another time.

9. Never assume that the perfectly perched Vietnamese man is going to let you get away with taking his picture and wandering off:

Ok ok I admit, this was terrible rude tourism on my part. In my defence, despite the language barrier I did point to my camera and charade style ask him if it was ok. He nodded and I proceeded to hop off of the bike and snap away. As we tried (emphasis on tried) to walk away he grabbed my boyfriends arm. “Now ride”. Excuse me? He wanted us to ride that thing. Did I mention he was sat on an animal? Before we had a chance to decline we were lifted up into its back and parades down the field before being promptly thrown off and asked for money. What a rookie mistake.

10. Never assume that people want to learn your mother tongue or that your language is more universal than it is:

I am proud to say that I do not fall into this category. I have however witnessed one too many fellow backpackers that assume or expect others to speak their language. This is not true. Whilst in Tanzania this couldn’t have been more true. Of the many people I met nit many actually found the idea of learning English appealing. And why should they? Unless it’s going to benefit them then what is the point?

11. Don’t jump off the surfboard in shallow water:

Cling onto that board for dear life or suffer the consequences of a broken toe like I did. If the water looks rocky, then it probably is.

Close Up shot of a girl in a bright blue hoodie on the cliffs of dartmoor with the rocks and lush green hills rolling behind her

Dear backpacker,

Travel wisely and stay safe.

Use your brain.

Don’t be stupid

Portugal, From Bottom To Top: 1 week Itinerary

1 week, architecture, backpack, backpcker, beaches, destination, holiday, itineraries, itinerary, travel, Uncategorized

Portugal is as it has always been.  Interesting, fun and friendly. From North to South, East to West there is a never ending stream of activities and sights to keep your wanderlust fulfilled.

This 1 week itinerary I have put together is based on the time we spent exploring the western edge of Portugal. This itinerary is a no nonsense GET IT DONE itinerary with room for the smallest amount of chill time.

You can easily switch the plan around, ending where we started or, starting where we ended. If you do think that you will need more “chill time” then extend your trip by a few more days where recommended.

Side accommodation note: Whilst staying in Lisbon I highly recommend staying at Sunset Destination Hostel. They have 3 hostels around the area and you can enter any of them whenever you fancy a nap or a new chill out spot.

(One even has a cute little swimming pool and a funk dome bar tent)

a plastic dome tent with a bar and seating inside in Lisbon Portugal on a roof top. It is night time and raining

 

 

Portugal, West Coast Wonders: 1 week Itinerary

DAY 1: Start by arriving in Lisbon. Settle into your accommodation (quickl! There’s much to do!). Put your walking boots on and head for Rossio square. Spend the day here eating, drinking and sight seeing. There’s plenty to do and see here for all ages.

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DAY 2: Belém – Today is a day for exploring. Spend a good half hour looking at Belém Tower, grabbing an ice cream and, wishing your house looked this good. Take a stroll around the area and see if you can find the huge raccoon painting. If you fancy a museum trip, walk over to the navy museum. Don’t leave Belém before you’ve spent a while walking around the family friendly gardens (Jardim de Belém and Jardim da Praça do Imperio) and visiting Jerónimos Monastery. This gothic monastery is enormous and architecturally brilliant. If you like panoramic views then walk up to Padrão dos Descobrimentos before it gets dark. Head back to Rossio Square for the evening to experience the friendly atmosphere at night.

person pretending to eat the mini model of Belem tower in Portugal

DAY 3: Beach Day – You simply can’t go to Portugal and not see the beach. The morning: If you’re looking for a great beach near Lisbon to relax and soak up the sun then Cascais is just one of the bigger sandy beaches you can head to. If you like to surf or just want to give it a try then contact Gota De Agua Surf School. These guys are brilliant teachers and will look after you ( especially if you break your toe like I did!) For lunch why not stay by the beach and sample the delights of the yummy restaurants near by. The afternoon: The afternoon can be well spent in Almada. Take a short ride over to Almada to see the enormous statue of Christ (Santuário Nacional de Cristo Rei) – when we went surfing with Gota de Agua this mini trip to Almada was included in our lessons so ask them and you may get the same trip!(if you love the beach then perhaps add another day here)

one man and two women are on the sand on their surfboarsd. the first man and woman are in a crouching pose facing the camera and gripping the board ready to stand up. The other woman is stood up balancing with her face looking towards her feet.

DAY 4: Sintra – Wake up early, Travel light, wear comfortable shoes and, pack water and snacks! Sintra is an incredible place to spend the day. If you have an extra day in Portugal then Sintra is worth another day. If you’re up for a climb then scale the pathway up to the Castle of the Moors, reward yourself by going inside and admiring the picturesque views and ruins. Trek back down to ground level and explore the area. Pena Palace, Quinta da Regaleira and so much more are waiting for you!

The big hill at Sintra. You can just about see the small forttress at the top. in the foreground you can see some of the buildings in Sintra. One is bright yellow and the others are grey and white

DAY 5: Coimbra – Pack up your bags, it’s time to change base. Jump on the train to Coimbra, the home of Fado music, to spend the next day and a half roaming around the UNESCO World Heritage Site Coimbra University. Entry is cheap and you can either take an organised tour or a self guided one for a small cost. Use the rest of your day for shopping and indulging in sweet treats and souvenirs on the Main Street. Spend the night near the Main Street at a Fado House listening to incredible traditional music. Stay near the Main Street to allow for more adventure and less commuting.

three musicians play on the streets of Portugal. One man in a checkered shirt plays the accordian on the floor. The middle man plays a brass instrument and the final man is playing bass.

DAY 6: Coimbra to Porto – Rise early and continue your exploration of Coimbra. Check out the Convent of Christ for some more gothic architecture. Stroll down the river where you’ll be greeted by an enormous Astro turf bear (Mondego Bear). Give him a hug, take a selfie and then it’s lunch.At lunch time get on the train from Coimbra City to Porto via Coimbra-B station . Your final stop.

A huge bear 4 times a mans average height sits in the park made from astro-turf. In between his legs sits a man in a grey hoodie.

DAY 7: Porto – Make today count. It’s your last day so do whatever will make you say “WOW”. Walk across the Dom Luis Bridge (whether it’s sunny or not) to see the river in its full glory. Then go buy a book from the Harry Potter-esque library Livraria Lello. Stare at the fine detailing on the walls of Church São Fransisco, or tour around the ever so grand Pálacio da Bolsa.

A bronze statue of a man is delivering post into a red post box

Leave Portugal feeling cultured, well informed, walked half to death and, inspired to see more of the wonderful country. If you aren’t ready to go home stay another day.

 

I wish you a wonderful trip!

OBRIGADO.

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