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It has been a very long time since I last wrote so you’ll have to excuse me being a bit rusty with this review style post. I have passed up my long ass, detailed blog posts for something a bit more succinct. Instagram, with all its hashtags, is where it’s at these days! The past 5 years have been extremely turbulent and any and all writing I have done has gone by the wayside.

This weekend I decided to explore my backyard and visit Kiama for a weekend away with a mate of mine. I needed a break. I’ve been working like crazy, (a whole 5 days a week! Life is hard!) uni is starting up again soon and I’ve been playing priestess/therapist/life advisor for every man and his dog. Needless to say, it was time for some “me time”.


Kiama is a beachside town down the south coast of New South Wales about 2 hours drive or 3 hours by train from Sydney. The train stops smack bang in the middle of town so it’s a lot easier to travel there without a car and see Kiama than a lot of coastal towns in New South Wales which makes it ideal for backpackers and those who don’t drive. Everywhere you go in Kiama you are greeted by friendly people who legitimately appear to not mind tourists. This trip down me and my friend Martin decided to stay in the Bellevue Serviced Apartments. It was decidedly mid-range so far as accommodation pricing goes but the value was great. For the same price as a hotel room we had a 1 bedroom serviced apartment with full kitchen about a 5 minute walk from the main road and 15-20 minutes walk from the nearest beaches either side of the town. For such a beachy town 2 of the 3 local beaches that were within easy walking distance did not seem to be crowded even on weekends. Thursday I had the kilometre stretch of Bombo Beach almost entirely to myself, and Surf Beach on Saturday was hardly more populated on Saturday than when I visited Friday. I was a bit concerned/annoyed about the fact that I don’t know the local beaches and wasn’t sure if I could tan topless, but no one said a thing to me when I did despite me being the only topless woman (but by no means the topless person with the largest boobs) on the beach so I’m going to assume as long as you are there minding your own business you should be right.


The local restaurants and pubs provide some local flavour and the local clientele is just as friendly as the staff. The Grand Hotel is the place to go if you are looking for the local dive bar. My first wine of the day was served in a plastic wine glass that still had smudgeable lipstick marks on the glass, causing me to question if they actually wash their glasses at all. Despite the cringeworthy cleanliness of the place, the bar staff was friendly and my accidental drinking buddies made for some good conversation about the upcoming winter Olympics. Expect a friendly bunch of (mostly) blokes to be drinking alongside you when you visit the Grand. Kiama Inn Hotel is the more upscale pub and the food is good but from experience they aren’t willing to change the channel to a sport that isn’t on and the people who go there aren’t as willing to chat with strangers. Quiet lunch where everyone leaves me alone? Kiama Inn. Quiet drink with some friendly banter? Grand Hotel. Take your pick. My favourite thus far has been Blue Diamond Bar at the Sebel though. BEST. CHEESEBOARD. EVER!!!!!! No joke. Have a look at this amazing cheeseboard below. 3 different cheeses and crackers, red and green grapes, dried apricot, figs, strawberries and mixed nuts and probably something else I’ve forgotten. I couldn’t finish this cheeseboard there was so much on it and that has never before happened to me. Amazing. If you eat cheese, get the the cheese board. Oh yeah, and the staff is pretty awesome as well.


Aside from the beaches and exploring the rockpools and the local pubs the highlight of our trip this go around was Illawarra Fly Treetop Zipline Adventure. About 30 minutes drive outside of Kiama is this adventure in Knights Hill. The Zipline is $60 online and $75 if you pay on arrival and includes the canopy walk. It’s fairly short at about 1 hour with 2 suspension bridges and 3 ziplines but it is both fun and informative and the groups are small. I personally think it is well worth the money and really enjoyed it. I have a minor fear of heights but was fine so unless you have a fairly intense fear of heights you should be okay. After the zipline you can do the canopy walk which, oddly enough, I found to be scarier than the zipline. Go figure. The canopy walk is only $25 per person and can last from 30-90 minutes so it is well worth paying the extra online to do the zipline as well. Apparently there is a guided walk as well at 11am everyday, but unfortunately our zipline was at 11am so we missed that. Regardless, the views are beautiful, it is an informative and fun day out and worth the trip outside of Kiama.


Last, but not least, is what Kiama is known for… THE BLOWHOLE! So there are actually 2 blowholes in Kiama. The Big Blowhole is what tends to attract tourists and can shoot water up to 25 metres but the Little Blowhole is a bit more reliable apparently and still cool to watch. When Martin and I went it was a very cloudy, rainy day and we got pissed down on on our way back but it was still a nice walk and a really amazing site regardless!


All in all, Kiama is a worthy weekend trip, whether you just want to get away to the beach or just need a weekend away when the weather is crap. I took the weekend to disable all my social media and messenger apps and it was an amazingly rejuvenating weekend. So far as weekends away exploring your own backyard goes Kiama is definitely a 4/5 star weekend.


And for your amusement, I leave you with a final video of me and Martin getting drenched.


So as I previously mentioned, my friend’s family very kindly took me under their wing while I was in Belgrade. I ended up not being able to travel the rest of Serbia and I didn’t get to visit everything I wanted to see in Belgrade, but it gave me the chance to meet and hang out with a bunch of really awesome people and I ended up seeing and doing things I wouldn’t have even thought of doing. Life is full of little trade-offs.

So the first day I arrived in Belgrade I was completely exhausted. I slept an hour or so on the bus from some random border town to Belgrade and arrived at the ridiculous hour of about 8am where I was picked up by Ilija and Goga. When Ilija took me back to their apartment I crashed for a couple more hours since I was exhausted. I think Ilija was glad of that because he’s not exactly a morning person either! When I finally managed to drag myself up to join the world he told me we were going to meet up with his mate and then go check out Kalemegden Fortress, which is basically a giant ruin complex thing. Within the old city fortress walls is a couple of bars, a zoo, an art walk and a giant park. Apparently there is also a military museum, but we missed that. We spent ages just having a drink (I think I met the only Eastern Europeans in the world who aren’t very big drinkers) and walking around, checking out the fortress, the views and walking along the art walk exhibition while the boys pointed out different parts of the city, told me their names and why things were called what they were (like the River Sava, named after a very important saint who was martyred in Beograd).

After the fortress we walked around a little bit more in Old Belgrade, but didn’t do a lot of sightseeing as it was beginning to get dark and I was still exhausted from the mornings travel. Instead we went back home where we decided to go get another drink at a hotel within walking distance of the flat so that Ilija didn’t have to drive. It seemed to be a hotel mainly for business people because it was a bit out of the way but they had a lovely rooftop bar where you could see an almost 360 degree view of the city. That was made a touch more exciting by the fact that we seemed to have caught the eye of some random drunk Croatian guy. He decided to join our table while Dimitrija (Ilija’s friend) was in the loo and kept asking us what we were doing in Belgrade in either English or Croatian pending on whatever his sodden mind fancied I suppose. Dimitrija and Ilija kept responding ‘We live here’ (I didn’t speak at all) and he would nod his head and say “And how long have you been visiting for?” Eventually a waiter came and told him to go back to his room, but it made for an interesting first day in Belgrade nonetheless.

During the rest of my time in Belgrade we visited the old town and just walked around, we walked through the ‘Bohemian Quarter’ which very largely caters to tourists now. Though it did look to be a fun and happening place regardless, we walked all over places I probably never would have walked on my own (I would have gotten so lost), I had my first taste of kaymak (a cheese-like spread that is heaven on a sandwich) saw their parliament building and we walked all the way to Sveti Sava, which is the Orthodox Cathedral I mentioned earlier. It is INSANELY huge, the largest Eastern Christian cathedral in the world and one of the 10 largest church buildings in the world. And it’s still a shell. The outside of it is beautiful though. You would look at the outside and never guess that it wasn’t finished on the inside. I walked inside and was very much reminded of the Hagia Sofia in size and shape, though I think the dome may actually be higher here than the Hagia Sofia. It’s a construction zone with no massive iconoclast yet (partly finished), though you can find pictures of religious figures littered throughout which many a worshipper stops at to pray.

One of the reasons it is taking so long to finish is because it took them a good quarter of a century to agree on plans in the first place (if not longer). After they finally agreed, wars and what not kept it from happening. Once they were recommitted to building, World War II came about and Hitler’s regime put a stop to the building of an Orthodox Church so they could use it as a car park. It has only really been worked on regularly for the last 28 years, is entirely funded by donations and they don’t have the benefit of unlimited slave labour like Emperor Justinian did. After a long day of walking we were all pretty exhausted and ready to head home. Only problem was that we had to walk ALL THE WAY BACK to the car. Oh well, it’s good for me I reckon.

Basilica of Sveti Sava

One night we decided to go down to the river bars. Belgrade has a ton of floating bars and clubs along the river. Apparently, some of them are super popular and expensive (and run by the mafia I am told) and you have to call ahead and book a table and are required to spend a certain amount. None of us really fancied that so we decided to go to a quiet little place called Verde Gato “The Green Cat” which allowed us to relax, have a couple of drinks and just chit chat (without the inflated prices of the more popular clubbing places). I was also forced to order a banana split (before going home to have dinner) and it was the largest banana split I had ever seen in my life. Seriously, it wasn’t served in a bowl or on a plate, it was served on a serving platter! I couldn’t even eat half of it, though Ilija had no problem finishing off what I couldn’t eat (and seemed to still be hungry). I have no idea where he puts it all.

One evening Ilija’s parents took us on a bit of a field trip outside of Belgrade to a place I myself would have never thought to go (but am glad I did). We drove about an hour outside of Belgrade (the long scenic way) until we arrived at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Mt. Avala. It’s a beautiful, scenic area in the hills between the valley Belgrade is in and the mountains in the southern part of the country. We spent some time walking around there and you can still see the bullet wounds on the tomb from the Yugoslav War.

After the memorial we went to Avala tower, a giant radio tower rebuilt after the war with a viewing point and spent a little bit of time checking out the amazing 360 degree view. It was a perfect, clear day so we could see for miles and miles. It wouldn’t have surprised me if I was looking across the Romanian border at one point! Afterwards we went to the grounds where Serbian royalty once lived (apparently during a major European war, WWII I think, they ran away to the UK and have been pretty useless since). The grounds were beautiful and the weather was spectacular. I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t live there at least part of the year, especially considering they had a fairly beautiful vineyard. On top of that we stopped at Serbia’s original parliament and courthouse in the village next to the royal grounds which I was admittedly excited about! They are very well preserved actually.

Afterwards Ilija’s parents took us to a traditional rural Serbian restaurant (they litter the landscape, you really can’t miss them) which was spectacular! There was soooooooo much food and it was delicious. We ended up taking a bunch of it back home with us and eating it for leftovers. If you are driving through rural Serbia and you pass little restaurants with a spit out front and they are roasting whole lamb or pig on it, I highly recommend stopping and eating. Make sure you have an appetite. You could order cuts of meat, you could order any part of the animal you wanted, you could order these delicious breaded chicken stuffed with who knows what (Goga ordered that) that I very willingly finished off when we had them for leftovers. I really should get the name of those.

We also went to Tito’s Mausoleum which also has an ethnographic museum and a museum with changing exhibitions attached. While we went they had an Olympic Exhibition and an exhibition to the development of Serbia from the 40’s or 50’s until today. They had an English translation on everything which was awesome for me. It was a really good museum and I highly recommend going. I very much enjoyed it.

I really wanted to go to the Tesla museum and the Ivo Andrič museum (a Yugoslav author from Bosnia who immigrated to Belgrade). Unfortunately we didn’t have the time to go, but it made for a good trip to Serbia all the same.


I ended up agreeing to go with the guys to Budva, Montenegro which made for a freaking long road trip. We stayed one night in Zlatibor, a national park in Serbia and then spent the entire next day driving to Budva. Montenegro is a beautiful country, and the mountains there are spectacular, but I absolutely hated the beach. It was full of tourists, ridiculously overcrowded (though thankfully not insanely overpriced like the Croatian coastline), the beaches weren’t sand and I find pebble beaches to be an abomination after living in Australia and it was extremely difficult for me to deal with so I spent a large chunk of my time hanging out on the beach reading with the Serbs I was with or drinking on the balcony of my room and contemplating life and all that that implies.

Street poling in Serbia at Zlatibor National Park

Due to the fact that I didn’t do a whole lot in Montenegro I’m not even going to bother posting anything about it. I think if I had gone to the mountains and visited there I would have liked Montenegro a lot more than I did. Next time I go to the area I’ll definitely pay a visit to the mountains and let you all know how it goes.

What I’m reading now: The Little Lady Agency by Hester Browne

What I’m listening to now: The Lord of the Rings – Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R Tolkien

Please vote on my next destination on the poll at the top right hand of the screen!

Pictures from Serbia and Montenegro can be seen by clicking on the country.


So my friend Ivo has some family members who live in Belgrade, Serbia and when they found out that I would be in the area they very graciously offered to host me while I was there. Not being one to pass up living with locals, home cooking and cultural immersion I accepted the offer. This proved to be a wonderful but very challenging experience for me. Ivo’s cousin Ilija is around my age and so it gave me a local to hang out with and chat with and show me around and we also hung out with his friends, which was great fun and led to some fairly hilarious experiences. It was challenging because my time was literally no longer my own and time to myself was at a minimum. For an introvert such as myself that wore me out as I need time alone to recharge my batteries and it also meant that my previously planned schedule for traveling around Serbia was thrown out the window.

Luckily, Ilija has a similar sleep schedule to myself. Stay up late, sleep in until 11. I imagine it would have been slightly nightmarish had he wanted to get up and do stuff at 6am every day. Ilija and friends were super amazing about showing me around and Ilija gave up something like a week of his time to chauffer me around to different sites and things to do in Belgrade from day one. They took me to Kalemegdan fortress, took me out for drinks, showed me the river walk, different sites and museum’s around town, including Tito’s mausoleum, and what will be the world’s largest Orthodox Cathedral, Sveti Sava, when finished and it will be a site to rival the Hagia Sofia in size. Don’t hold your breath though, they’ve been working on it, from planning to the current state of it for over 100 years and it’s still pretty much just a concrete shell. But that will all be for a different post.

It’s always interesting spending a lot of time around locals, especially youth, because it gives one insight into the culture, both traditional and more modern. It also gives a good insight into what they learn growing up. Most people never realise just how biased their education is growing up and will never see it for various reasons. Textbooks are often edited by either the government or interest groups who have a significant amount of sway in what is portrayed in the books and how texts are edited. One example can be seen by a few very radical Southern Christian fundamentalist groups who believe that history books should be changed to give their skewed perspective of American and World History or the many conservatives who believe that Creationism should be taught as a Science under the guise of “Intelligent Design”. Another example is the denial of Armenian genocide in Turkish history books or the very recent introduction of Aboriginal studies in school textbooks in Australia.

Once again, I digress. So the attitude and interesting historical perspective I heard from the Serbians I was hanging out with regarding the rest of the Balkans makes me want to get someone to translate Serbian history textbooks for me to read. It also made me very keen to speak with youth in other Balkan countries about their attitudes towards Serbians.

For anyone who has been living under a rock for the past 20 years, there is an ongoing conflict between Kosova and Serbia. Kosovan’s are of Albanian heritage and generally speaking ethnically Muslim while Serbs are Slavic and ethnically Serbian Orthodox Christian. Serbians claim that Kosova is their’s and have been trying to cleanse the area of Kosovan’s for over 100 years. Under Tito, Kosova was given pretty much free reign to do as they pleased under an autonomous government. When Tito died the government decided it was high time to stage another ethnic cleansing. While I was spending time in Serbia with Ivo’s family they did their best to try to keep me from going to Kosova by saying it was dangerous, the people there attack buses and people coming from Serbia, they hate Serbians, Women travelling alone are frequently attacked, etc.  Needless to say this made me even more keen to visit.

When we were on our way to Montenegro I was asking them why they don’t go to the Croatian coast on their holidays. The response I received was “They hate us there. If they see a car with Serbia plates they vandalise it and they won’t give us good service anywhere.” When I asked more about it they said it wasn’t all Croatians, just the really young nationalists who were generally under the age of 18-20. Speaking with Croatian youth it would seem that there is truth in this. My generation says it’s a stupid conflict, it’s done, it’s in the past and everyone should move on. Plus so many people are of mixed heritage (Ilija himself is half Croatian half Serbian and most of his friends are part something) that they feel it’s ridiculous. It’s apparently a younger generation who was born during the war that seems to have this grudge against Serbians and actually do vandalise the cars and refuse to serve them or provide them with decent service in restaurants, etc.

When I was asking about Montenegro there was more than a hint of Serbian bitterness at the independent little country. Under Tito, Montenegro had an autonomous government. The words in Montenegro tend to be slightly different from those in Serbia, though not as different as those in Croatia. When I asked about this they said that Montenegro wants to separate themselves from Serbia. They definitely weren’t happy about it. They said that Montenegro was ALWAYS a part of Serbia but suddenly they decided to break away and now they are in cahoots with Kosova. I found this interesting as Montenegro was never Slavic. The coast was actually originally settled by the Illyrians and the eastern mountain ranges have large pockets of Albanians. The Slavs didn’t move into the region until later. I found this a rather interesting viewpoint and this is why I’d be interested in reading their history books.

Needless to say, I didn’t ask anything about Bosnia. I decided to wait until I went there to see what their attitude is towards Serbians. If nothing else, it was a very interesting first look into the perspectives of those living in the aftermath of Yugoslavia and I was very interested to travel other Balkan countries to find out their perspectives as well.

What I’m reading now: Lonely Planet Guide to Morocco

What I’m listening to now: The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle by Missy Higgins

Please vote on my poll about where to go next!