Category Archives: Europe

7 things and places not to miss in Slovenia

7 things and places not to miss in Slovenia

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Slovenia. Most of my friends did not know where it was and why on earth I would choose to go there. Truth was, I was on a trip headed towards Ultra Europe 2015 held in Split, Croatia and Slovenia was just a pre destination prior to what I was considering the highlight of my entire vacation. Little did I know that this beautiful spectacular country caught us totally off guard and we ended up falling in love with it, as much as we did with Croatia! Perhaps even more so!

Here’s the top 7 experiences not to miss when (and I mean when, not if) you go there:

  1. Ljubljana

Slovenia-17Obviously the capital city of Slovenia, Ljubljana (lyoo-blyah-nah) would be one of the first things you would explore when you land. This city is small but clean and the main town area is so pretty! It was scorching hot when I landed in July, albeit being summer- people were strolling around, gulping down gelatos and having their conversations in tiny cafes whilst there was plenty of music from baskers filling the air. The instant things, which hit me, were the clean streets, security and the friendliness of the people.

We stayed at an Airbnb just off the town area, which required about 15 minutes walk through the streets. Our host was extremely friendly and generous. I would definitely recommend staying at Airbnbs in Slovenia if you are worried about accommodation, the people are excellent hosts.

Tip: Take the gondola up the castle for a panaromic view of the whole city.

  1. Hiking in Slovenian Alps
Chasing waterfalls

Chasing waterfalls

Real exciting was a day tour we took with Slotrips (http://www.slovenia-trips.com/), to explore the Slovenian Alps and Soca Valley. I would definitely recommend this company as the best to get in touch with the pristine nature and real Slovenia. Our guide, Domen, was awesome as he took us to several waterfalls and even to local hotspots which tourists would not know about.

62% of land in Slovenia is nature, which would explain why the nation’s top sports are hiking and mountaineering. The locals would hunt for secret tidal pools and waterfalls to jump in and that would make up most of their summer; fantastic in my opinion. Fancy any lake you wish to swim in and do so!

  1. Triglav National Park

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A trip to Slovenia is not complete if you haven’t been to the tallest mountain at 2864 metres, Mt Triglav. It is said amongst the locals that – “No one is a true Slovenian unless he/she has climbed to the summit of Mt Triglav”. Apparently, this was true because every local we talked to after that has either a) climbed to the summit n thus proudly proclaimed a true Slovenian or b) abashedly laughs and said he is not a true Slovenian because he has not reached the tip of Mt Triglav.

Being a small and truly underrated destination for mountaineering and hiking, the trails were not commonly packed in the summer. Plenty of locals were trekking, some major backpackers, happy campers, and even groups of school children. Everywhere you went on whichever trail, the love for hiking is evident on the faces of the Slovenians. It was tremendously pleasant to see people really taking care of their national environment and loving the outdoors.

Tip: If you are an adventurous hiker, definitely spend on a few days camping outdoors in the wilderness of the Julian Alps.

  1. Cliff Jumping

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This is the absolute best thing to do in Slovenia whilst in the summer! Cliff jumping. There are literally numerous places to this, the Soca River being one of them. This was also the highlight of the day trip we did with Slotrips, where we braced a 8m jump into 10degrees water in a gorge in Soca Valley.

8m may not seem like much, especially for people who constantly jump off cliffs or rocks during European summers, but for me a city girl, it was the most terrifying and amazing experience that I had.

It was a day after walking tons of miles on trails in the Triglav National Park, chasing waterfalls and sweating madly in the summer heat. The waters were crazy cold and I kept falling over the slippery rocks, but the experience was unimaginable.

We all survived the jump! It was a big opener to cliff jumping for me, would definitely do it at any opportunity I find now!

  1. Vintgar Gorge

Slovenia-6Another great place for some amazing scenery and undisturbed landscapes would be the Vintgar Gorge, located northwest of Bled. It’s a great place to stop at if you are heading for Bled or Bohinj.

This gorge is 1.6km and it winds through the rocks and hills, contained with the Radnova River. This place is pretty touristy, and its hard to see why. I didn’t particularly liked the crowds but when you turn every corner and see emerald colours like this, its impossible not to fall in love with this natural feature.

Its not nearly a hike, as it is a walk through manmade wooden path winding round the hillside. Make sure you walk all the way towards the end, where you can actually see a huge waterfall and locals jumping off smaller rocks into the water (of course), making you cringe in envy.

  1. Talk to the locals

A huge reason why Slovenia holds a special place in our hearts now was because of the people. They speak perfect English, perfect grammar, they love to share about their country and their love for the outdoors. I loved the fact that they held the upmost respect for Mt Triglav and pride for their clean undisturbed sceneries. The locals are open-minded, they do not mind tourists and they seem to just be in their own world.

It is certainly one European country where I have not experienced any hustling and bustle of a city, no jostlings or any of that sort. Slovenia is like a fairtytale small European town you would find in Disney movie, surrounded by giants Hungary, Croatia and Austria. Its no wonder why many people overlook it in their rush to get to Italy or cross the sea over to Croatia.

  1. Lake Bohinj

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Our next day after exploring Julian Alps, we headed to Lake Bohinj. This area was sort of completely different from Soca River, in the fact that it reminds one of New Zealand or Scotland instead. The lake itself was surrounded by majestic mountains, in contrast to the packed trees and cliffs environment of the Soca Valley. Unfortunately it was raining heavily when we arrived so we did not manage to get into the waters. I would definitely recommend to rent a kayak and head out though!

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People you met in a day: Friends for Life

Throughout all the tours I’ve been to in my life, whether it be multi day tours or mostly 1 day tours, I’ve never really been very much connected to the other travellers on board.

Recently I’ve been coming across this saying where one meets people on the road just for a day, and they become friends for life. I wonder if that is really possible, considering you split up after a day and go about your own itineraries. That was not till my trip to Slovenia 🙂

Slovenia-50I ended up jumping into crystal clear blue waters of the Soca Valley gorge with the strangers in my fellow tour group and it was wonderful!

The water may not look it but the current was strong, and it was 10 degrees cold. For someone who’s used to tropical weather, may I just ascertain again that that was freezing for me!

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Say hi to my beautiful friends I made when we were all freaking out from just jumping 8 metres, (for most of us our first time jumping from any cliff..ahem yours truly). It was a day after walking tons of miles on trails in the Triglav National Park, chasing waterfalls and sweating madly in the summer heat. The waters were crazy cold and I kept falling over the slippery rocks, but the experience was unimaginable and I suddenly got the understanding why Slovenians practically jump off and swim in any lake possible during the summer 🙂

Me staring into some kind of abyss

Me staring into some kind of abyss

So that was the area we all jumped off from, its definitely not some kind of exhilarating height, but it was enough for me as a first timer! Too awesome that I am definitely looking for jumping opportunities wherever I go now 🙂

It was probably the whole atmosphere of gaining courage, supporting one another and rush of adrenaline which led us to becoming fast friends after that. We ended up with drinks at the end of the night and still keep in touch till this very day x

Horse Riding: Menorca

Horse riding! Of course, one of the best decisions we ever made whilst vacationing in Menorca. We got up on our saddles at the Sa Ferradura Riding Centre. Its by Fornells road, and if you ever wish to ride horses whilst in Menorca, I strongly suggest you do it here!

The horsemasters were friendly and they gave us horses which suited our personalities.

Let the ride begin!

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IMG_1914It was just a morning’s ride but the sun shone and the fields were cast in beautiful light. It was small group of us, about 5, so we were thoroughly able to handle our horses and take in the scenery at the same time (:

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IMG_1904I was, of course very happy to be on horseback, considering its one of my favourite activities to do.

IMG_1895It was a great way to wrap up our short little trip to this island!

Menorca: The lesser known Balearic Island

Menorca, you won’t think of this island as a beach getaway, much less heard of it probably, because of its famous neighbours such as Mallorca, Ibiza and Majorca.

The lowkey island of Menorca. It dwarfs in size compared to neighbours Majorca and Ibiza.

The lowkey island of Menorca. It dwarfs in size compared to neighbours Majorca and Ibiza.

Menorca, situated in Spain, is one of the many Balearic Islands my best friend and I chose to go to during our grad trip after university. Why this island you say? Why not Ibiza, where we could party to our hearts content? Or move further down to Portugal, where Porto and Faro are eagerly waiting?

There was no exact reason why we chose Menorca, other than the fact that we didn’t have enough funds to take us to NYC. We are also fans of visiting more exotic and far flung places, so naturally the thought of crowded Ibiza didn’t sit so well in our minds.

Upon arrival to Menorca, we arrived at the Plaza de la Esplanada in Mahon. The capital, Maó , is situated at the most eastern end of the island. We lived in an airbnb apartment rented out by this friendly incredible woman.

Our apartment in Menorca, absolutely clean, comes with a spacious living area kitchen and balcony!

Our apartment in Menorca, absolutely clean, comes with a spacious living area kitchen and balcony!

It became increasingly obvious that we were practically the only Asians on the island.

Except for ONE store which was owned by China people, we did not see any other Asians during our whole vacation. Not that it bothered us much, it just proved that this was an island less explored and increased our curiosity.

Naturally, scallops was a must try dish here, amidst the fresh seafood. Coupled with the fact that we don't usually have scallops as part of our diet.

Naturally, scallops was a must try dish here, amidst the fresh seafood. Coupled with the fact that we don’t usually have scallops as part of our diet.

There was one place we heard of that was absolutely stunning, Cala Macarella. It is situated at the western end of the island.

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What a view! The people are so lucky to have these waters to call home.

What a view! The people are so lucky to have these waters to call home.

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After tanning and lounging around on the beach with many other summer tourists, we got back onto the track and decided to walk on the trail to Macaralleta. It was gruelling with the heat but we did manage to stumble upon a really beautiful cove!

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Magical crystalline waters! As clear as the eye could see. I only wished my camera then had a super wide angle lens.

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For your information, Menorca is SO easy to get around, just by buses. The island is scarcely populated and the streets are so clean.

The next few days we decided to visit the other places of Ciutadella and Es Castell.

Ciutadella is the next well known town in Menorca, besides Mahon.

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The streets of the Ciutadella.

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We found the town of Es Castell, located on the extreme opposite end of Ciutadella on the eastern side of the island very spacious and clean. It was so quiet and peaceful, it felt unreal that people actually lived in this little town.

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We kept walking on and arrived at what seemed to be the end of the island, by which the waters were a beautiful blue, and the sunshine illuminated everything in sight.

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The pier was quiet, and so we stopped for a drink, whilst admiring the view.IMG_1946

This little island caught us by surprise and we were both delighted at its simplistic beauty and charm. Have you been to any Balearic Islands? Drop me a note!

Also, stay tuned for my next post about horse riding in Menorca!

The Colour Green: Breathtakingly Beautiful

I think its time I took a little time in talking about the beautiful Lake District in the United Kingdom. Its every bit panaromic and peaceful as the sites say it is. It is also one of the first few destinations my  mum travelled to and since she is such a special person, this is a special place.

During summer break of uni, my mum and dear aunt took a trip up to come see me and we got into a car and drove into the countryside of England.

 

My mum is secretly English on the inside. She loves the sun and greenery.

My mum is secretly English on the inside. She loves the sun and greenery.

Being with her on a car ride was like taking a kid to CandyLand. Every bit of flat grasslands and hilltops excited her and it equally enthralled me. You know how they say company entices your travel journeys? My mum definitely opens my eyes to the beautiful countryside.

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You cant anything as spectacular as this! I wished I remembered the exact road

You cant get anything as spectacular as this! I wished I remembered the exact road

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I just wish to share every pretty picture of this area as I can. The Lake District is a national park located within the region of North West England. If I am not wrong, we were headed to the location of Grasmere.

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The hotel of Lodore falls have this for a view!

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Been to other parts of the Lake District National Park? Drop me a recommendation!

Paragliding: A Four Dimensional TV Experience

My first time paragliding took place in the intensely stunning and clean city of Salzburg, Austria. It is one of my favourite cities of all time in Europe and the city took my breath away instantly.

The moment when we were on the streets looking for our hostel, when I first spotted the Salzach river.

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Salzburg will be the topic of another post. My main focus of this post would be the view of the alps and of this particular city at sunset I had experienced, whilst tied to a man and seated in a comfortable chair, gliding over the skies, after having just ran off a mountain like a dog.

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We started off our run at the top of a mountain, with the view of the Bavarian Alps.

My savvy travel partner. Doesn't he look suave?

My savvy travel partner. Doesn’t he look suave?

My pal was the first one to run off the mountain, in deep snow. and i mean DEEP. It was up to mid calves for me and every step i took was incredibly slow because i had to lift my whole leg up before setting it down and sinking another few centimetres before becoming stable. My shoes also became soaked in snow so my feet were completely numb from the cold.

So naturally, I failed at my run off.

What you do in paragliding: make sure everything is buckled, get prepped in a position whilst your tandem instructor is behind you watching the wind flag. Wind direction is paramount in paragliding, because it will determine if you are able to actually glide into the sky or just fall flat on your face with the parachute covering you as you try not to roll down to your death.

Think of it simply of flying a kite, without wind, without proper wind direction, the kite would not be able to take off, much less it does but whacks you in the face because of sudden wind change.

I failed because of two things, poor wind direction and the fact that I could not run fast and hard enough to actually gain momentum to fly. I will be honest and admit that the latter reason was the main one for my failure.

For starters, we waited for AGES after my friend flew off, to get the proper wind. My poor instructor stared at the flag like as if his life depended on it and everytime it got close, it was off in a split second and he heaved a sigh. I was crouching in the snow, barely breathing, well aware I was supposed to take off like a racehorse the split second he yelled GO, with a massive amount of weight on my back.

For your information, the turtle shell at our butts was really uncomfortable as it dug into your butt cheeks when you are standing. And, it is actually pretty heavy, especially for a petite Asian girl like me. I was grateful for it in the air, but pre-gliding, it felt like huge stuck to my ass, weighing me down as I tried to run.

For your information, the turtle shell at our butts was really uncomfortable as it dug into your butt cheeks when you are standing. And, it is actually pretty heavy, especially for a petite Asian girl like me.
I was grateful for it in the air, but pre-gliding, it felt like huge stuck to my ass, weighing me down as I tried to run.

Why i failed at running? The snow got the better of me and my skinny legs and I just couldn’t push myself hard enough to run faster. I collapsed in the snow in my gear, trying not to face the reality that I could actually roll down the mountain if a mini avalanche were to break out; all this whilst my instructor was running around trying to scoop up the sinking parachute and yelling ITS OKAY ITS OKAAAY, ARE YOU ALRIGHT?!?!?!?

For me I was just trying to breathe, gone past caring about my near frozen feet.

If you’d imagine it this would be spectacularly funny for someone watching it through a movie, but believe me I was so upset there and then I wanted to burst into tears. DID I GET A SECOND CHANCE?!?!?!

Thankfully, I did. He eventually packed everything and said Come, lets go. We proceeded to the other side of the mountain, which did not have any snow and was fully soil and grass (why in God’s name did we not come here earlier?!).

This time I was beyond ready for my ‘race’. I glided into the air like a dove and once I was safely in the arms of the wind, I hauled myself into my little butt seat and looked at what my efforts got me into.

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It doesn’t look like much and unfortunately Ive only got this one photo of the whole city, no photos of the alps in front of me because I was busy videoing the rest of the ride. It was truly unforgettable. It may not be the whole adrenaline pumping skydiving material, but at that moment it was pure ecstasy for me and I was really happy to be finally in the air.

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Me in my mini Barney suit. Looking like a chubby idiot. Happiness (:

Me in my mini Barney suit. Looking like a chubby idiot. Happiness (:

If you haven’t done paragliding before, I suggest you should (: It could be a pre step to skydiving,if you are terribly afraid of heights or one of those people who dislikes having their hearts fall out.

The overall experience felt like watching TV. In a seat. With the wind blowing in your face, and the scenery changes in front of your face.

Whatever it is, it really strengthened my love for Salzburg and I could not bare to leave it out of my mind since that day.

Let me know if you have had gone paragliding, and where!

Charles Bridge: The Most Magical Bridge on Earth

Nearing Christmas in my second year of uni, I unknowingly stepped onto the most magical place for Christmas markets, and a location which would become my top favourite cities in Europe.

Say hello to Charles Bridge in Prague!

Say hello to Charles Bridge in Prague!

This bridge is simply beautiful!

Let me quote some background from Wikipedia:  “The Charles Bridge is a famous historic bridge that crosses the Vlatva river in Prague, Czech Republic. Its construction started in 1357 under the auspices of King Charles IV, and finished in the beginning of the 15th century. As the only means of crossing the river Vltava (Moldau) until 1841, the Charles Bridge was the most important connection between Prague Castle and the city’s Old Town and adjacent areas. This “solid-land” connection made Prague important as a trade route between Eastern and Western Europe.”

I love the Baroque statues erected along the bridge (621m long), depicting various saints and patron saints.

I loved the fact that there was a band of 6 elderly men , playing joyously in freezing weather, much to our delight, we stood for an hour and a half on that bridge just enjoying the music, I didn’t even notice cold wind biting at my face.

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At this juncture, I would like to point out that my pictures of the Charles Bridge are not the typical spectacular foggy or dawn versions you probably would have seen elsewhere. We didn’t plan on getting up at dawn before anyone arrived to take photos, so I do apologise for the ordinary day time photos, which includes fifty other people on the bridge.

Superbly contented on this bridge !

Superbly contented on this bridge !

View from the bridge of the Vltava river; view of the Old Town.

View from the bridge of the Vltava river; view of the Old Town.

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I do not know why for certain this bridge is so beautiful for me but I believe the people, culture, food and architecture all played a part in particularly enticing me into this bridge. It is truly very magical for me in my heart and I can’t wait for my return trip.

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