Find out what we were doing 11 months ago up until now. #terriblebloggers
27.10.2014 - 22.08.2015
During the October break, in addition to going to London, Juli went on a trip to Turkey with Jill, a new friend and colleague from Frankfurt. It was a kind of a “Turkey for Tourists” trip but it was amazing to see some of the huge destinations and the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Perhaps we were a little over-excited booking and organising our trip because we crammed a lot into the 5 day break which resulted in travelling long distances, sleeping on busses and trains as well as arriving in ’the wrong’ location.
We arrived in Cappadocia around midnight and were exhausted. Cappadocia has a really surreal landscape and is probably best known for its ‘fairy chimney’ rock formations. The landscape of Cappadocia is incredibly unique and it is difficult to comprehend that such rock formations could exist naturally. We had decided to start our first day with a hot air balloon ride and in a funny way is almost seems futile to provide a worded description because you really need to see the photos to understand the scenery. It was an unforgettable area to visit and a definite highlight of our trip to Turkey. The views were certainly worth the 3:45am wake up (only 4 hours sleep).
After our hot air ballooning we walked around Cappadocia and the open air churches of Gorme from the 10th-12th centuries.
That afternoon we took an overnight bus to Pamukkale (pronounced Pamookully) which is another really unique and interesting place in Turkey. Pamukkale means 'cotton castle' and the terraces you can see in the photos form when the water from hot springs flow down the slopes leaving deposits of limestone. Visitors to this World Heritage Site climb up the white calcium cascades barefoot so they don't damage the deposits.
We walked up the calcified terraces and paddled slash posed in the therapeutic water. (We were at this point over tired and going on a couple of days without showers or much sleep). From here we continued all the way up the calcified slope to the to the huge amphitheatre in Hierapolis which was built around 200BC and housed some 20,000 people. Originally built by the Greeks and later added onto by the Romans.
That afternoon we travelled to Izmir and ended up staying in a dodgy hostel. We didn’t end up in the best part of town and the hostel was located down a strange alley. At no point did we feel unsafe but nothing in the hostel felt very clean and there only seemed to be men working/staying in our accommodation. Needless to say we left there after one night.
Next Jill and I travelled to Istanbul from Izmir starting on an overnight sleeper train which had toilets that were well below par and I guess this really set us up for this leg of the journey. Our train (finally) arrived in Istanbul but it wasn’t what we expected. Turns out that Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey and covers some 5, 343 square kilometres and we were at the south end when we wanted to be up north. This then naturally resulted in a bit of a problem but luckily we met a super friendly woman who was happy to take us close to where we needed to go. The journey from Izmir to Istanbul took some 36 hours in travel time and included 3 trains, a bus, a ferry (did I mention that Jill gets sea-sick?), a tram ride and quite a decent walk. Needless to say we crashed and burned leaving us that night and the next day to explore ‘our area’ in Istanbul.
We were staying within walking distance from ’The Blue Mosque’ and the Grand Bizarre which were both incredible. It was really cool to wake up in the morning to the ‘call to prayer’ which is such a different experience to what we are used to at home or in Germany. The next day two weary travellers returned to Frankfurt and slept like logs.
Slipping into December brought wonderful things to Frankfurt including Christmas markets (along with that Juli’s new favourite winter drink Feuerzangenbowle), snow in the city and most exciting of all the arrival of family.
First things first, the Christmas markets were beautiful. The Frankfurt Christmas Market can be traced back to 1393 which for us seems almost unfathomable (Australia was still a long way off being colonised). Point being the stalls at the markets are cosy and you get a real feel for the tradition, from what we can gather the same people run the stalls year after year and go back to the same spot as the year before. We took many opportunities to partake in the ’traditions of German culture' during this time - namely Feuerzangenbowle (an amazing drink which is heated spiced wine with sugar and rum - it is just as heavenly as it sounds) which goes perfectly with candied nuts and of course sausages in bread while meandering through these special markets.
Juli's mum and brother (Annie and Keith) arrived in Frankfurt in late December, just shy of a year of us leaving Australia. We celebrated our first cold Christmas with our friend Jo who also also had her Australian family visiting during this time. Christmas was a fusion of European and Australian - complete with family, snow, roasts and mulled-wine. Juli loved having her family visit - she was able to show them all of her favourite places in Frankfurt (namely the Christmas Markets) and more importantly, just being around very important loved ones was very special. To make the most of being all together and in Europe the four of us went to Rome for a few days and even saw in the new year there. Rome is such an amazing city with so much history and amazing architecture. The four of us visited the main sites (including Vatican city, the Pantheon as well as the Colosseum) and climbed the Spanish Steps for a great view of the city. The pizza was delicious, the wine smooth and the tiramisu the best we had ever had.
On the day Juli's family left to travel some of the UK, Josh's mum (Olga) arrived in Frankfurt. Josh's sister Kate was also due to join us in January but an unfortunate accident meant that she had to delay her visit to Frankfurt and subsequent relocation to Scotland. Juli had to return to work now that the Christmas holidays were over but Josh and Olga were able to spend a lot of time together and even meet up with Dieter and Annetta who are family friends living in Frankfurt . They went on a few day-trips to quaint little German towns outside of Frankfurt including Heidelberg and Wiesbaden, as well as a short trip to Hamburg.
In April, Jules went on a girls getaway for some sun in Majorca, Spain with Jill and Katie - two lovely friends from work. It had honestly felt at this point that it had been winter for 6 months and we were keen to be on the coast and in the sun. The three of us spent a few nights in St. Elm which is a quiet and less-touristy town of Majorca. We had a very relaxing time in the warm sun with beautiful sunsets and fresh seafood. Next up we headed to Palma and did a bit of exploring and beaching there.
In May we hit a little string of long weekends in Germany and we made the most of them - visiting beautiful cities in Slovenia and Spain within a 3 week period.
First up we visited Lublijana, the capital city of Slovenia. Despite being a quite small city (it takes less than 15 minutes to walk from the city centre to anywhere else in the city) there was quite a lot to see and experience. The two of us enjoyed exploring the city and drinking craft beer.
Ljublijana also has quite an artist scene with many locals selling their handmade wares in pokey little shops and at markets. The two of us really enjoyed peeping on people painting/drawing around the city too.
Just across the river from the Old Town in Ljublijana lies Metelkova - which is a main place for Ljublijana's alternative and cultural scene. Metelkova is actually an abandoned barracks and is considered to be one of Europe's largest squats at some 12 500 square metres. Impressively enough, from what we have been able to gather, this squat holds over 1000 events every year catering to a wide range of groups including; theatre performances, disability workshops and music concerts. Walking into Metelkova is really interesting, the walls are all covered - in graffiti, cracked tile mosaics, painted picture frames, rusty metal and sculptures. To us it didn't really look like a squat at all.
Slovenia is known as a outdoor-lovers paradise and we didn't want to miss out on an opportunity to get out and do some hiking. Our first thought was to go to Lake Bled but after chatting with a Slovenian hiker at our hostel we decided to go past Bled to Lake Bohinj. This lake is incredible and is also Slovenia's largest glacial lake at 4.2km long, 1km wide and 45 metres deep.
Barcelona was the second city we went to and it was great. There is certainly a lot more to discover and soak in from this wonderful city and we are keen to travel back there at some point soon. It was really balmy while we were visiting but luckily our little hostel had given us a list of places to try sangria that were scattered around the city - so whenever we got too hot or needed a break we were never very far from a recommended jug of refreshing goodness.
Barcelona is rightfully proud of its famous architect Antoni Gaudi and we made a point of seeing a couple of his works while we were there. The Sagrada Familia is a very famous cathedral which we only saw from the outside due to time restrictions but both of us particularly enjoyed visiting one of his other projects - Casa Batllo - an apartment block turned museum. The place is also known by locals as the "Casa del Drac" (house of the dragon) and when you look at the outside you can see why. The museum itself is amazing with many things alluding to Mother Nature including sky-lights representing turtles, a fireplace shaped like a mushroom as well as wave shaped windows and balconies.
We visited the massive Boqueria Market which had amazing fresh produce, meals and smoothies. Neither of us had been to a food market quite like this one and we went back for a second visit.
In early August, during some of her hard-earned long-service leave, Olga again travelled to Europe. It was lovely to have her with us once more in Frankfurt and we also enjoyed taking her on a road-trip to Berlin. In the nation’s capital we had a great time showing Olga a few of our favourite cafes, restaurants and historical sites. After two short weeks with us in Germany Olga set forth to visit Josh’s sister Kate, who had recently set up home in Inverness, Scotland.
We have just finished two beautiful sunny weeks in Portugal. First up we spent 6 days in the beachy town of Lagos, which is an old city in the south of Portugal and part of the Algarve.
We had lots of fun getting out and being active in Lagos. We loved being on sandy beaches for the first time in over a year and a half, cliff hikes along the stunning coast while eating wild figs, as well as exploring the same cliffs and grottos from a different perspective - in a sea kayak. There were a few hazy days while we were visiting but when the sun snuck out the water was beautiful to look at (and even more so to swim in).
The two of us also took the opportunity to explore the most western part of Europe by hiking along the South-West coast - the biggest highlight of our time in Portugal. The raw beauty and power of Mother Nature was amazing to experience. We loved trekking along the 150m high shale cliffs, feeling the strong gusts of wind and having to put in some good old fashioned work to climb/scramble our way to some great spots to soak it all in.
When we weren't making the most of being back in the coast we ate and drank our way through Lagos. The fruit was gorgeous, the sangria tasty and the fish fresh from the ocean! We were a little late thinking about trying to find Portuguese tarts but more than made up for it
Next up we hopped on a bus to Lisbon. We were only there for a short stop (some 20 hours) but we made the most of it. Lisbon has really cute little trams that run through the city and we saw quite a few as we explored the tiny cobbled streets of the Old Town.
In addition to the trams, the city has quite a collection on Tuk-Tuks and so we flagged down one and it "tuk" (sorry) us to the highest viewpoint of Lisbon so we could watch the sunset. Although it was cloudy the view was quite special because we could see the north, west and east of the city.
Before heading to the bus depot the next day we ensured that we made one very important stop after breakfast. After doing some research and talking to a local we tracked down what she said were "the best Portugese tarts in Lisbon". The tarts themselves can be found everywhere in the city but we were excited to sample the best Lisbon had to offer. Manteigaria is a narrow and long establishment that focuses pretty much solely on creating these stunning custard tarts which taste heavenly. There are no places to sit, but rather customers stand along a thin bench that runs the length of the cafe - which is great because you can see the chefs through the glass walls of the kitchen crafting the tarts of all our dreams . The two of us greedily ate two (each) with cinnamon sprinkled on top (it's a delicious Portugese thing to try) and then took 6 more takeaway (yes a grand total of 10 tarts purchased in one go - at only 1 euro each and tasting so good you would have too). Unfortunately we didn't take any photos for you - we were too wrapped up in it all.
After the quick stop in Lisbon we travelled further north to Baleal to start a surf camp. The camp comprised of 2x2hr surfing lessons a day and we were part of a group with 6 other great people from all over Europe. Both of us improved as the days progressed and by the end of the week we were carving up the waves almost like pro's (see the pics below to get an idea). We even managed to refrain from comments like 'cowabunga' and 'hang ten dude'.
Well we bet you can't believe it - you are finally up to date with our travels! Hope you have enjoyed reading about our last 11 months - here's hoping that it doesn't take this long next time.
Sending lots of love from the Eurozone