Tag Archive: travel

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 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!

I loved Romania. Romania has to be one of my favourite countries that I visited in Europe. I loved the gritty rawness of Bucherest. I love the fact that when you are in Bucharest you know you are in eastern Europe. It’s cheap, it’s grimy, it’s wild and the people appreciate enjoying life. Work hard, play hard. I loved the pristine beauty of Braşov. The dainty, clean old town surrounded by old soviet buildings and dodgy looking shops. I loved being back in mountains after the extreme flatness of the rest of Eastern Europe. When you grow up in the mountains you always appreciate the beauty of them and the mountain air that comes with small towns nestled in them. It’s refreshing. I loved the youth and awareness of Timişoara. A small university town near the Serbian border with a lazy Sunday feel (it was Sunday after all) but electricity in the air when a large group gathered to protest something political (not sure what, I don’t speak Romanian).


My first stop after Bucharest was the small town of Braşov, popular with tourists nestled in a valley in the Carpathians. It’s a picturesque town that appears to have lost some of its originality and character at first glance thanks to having so many tourists. The old town is pristine and what can only be described as ‘cute’. It’s in sharp contrast with the rest of the city (which I decided to get lost walking around in, completely by accident). As soon as you left the main tourist areas but before you reached the outskirts where the wealthier families built nice houses you had dirty apartment buildings and small, dingy shops filled with mostly cheap crap. There’s a “Braşov” sign at the top of one of the surrounding mountains that is obviously copying the “Hollywood” sign. It’s all a bit gauche. Overlooking this though, Braşov is full of great little surprises you wouldn’t expect which make for some wonderful people watching.

Welcome to Brasov!


One of the first things you notice about walking through Braşov is that the locals are just not overweight at all. It is actually one of the most (if not the most) active town in Romania. Every park is filled with those exercise machines, there are a ton of sports fields and none of them are ever empty. I sat for a while at one of the track fields I passed and watched people training for sprints, field events and football while reminiscing about my high school days. They also have a massive church (in which I missed visiting hours) and a synagogue (also missed visiting hours) alongside a slew of Romanian Orthodox Christian churches which I read make for an interesting visit. I also walked past “Europe’s narrowest street”, which in my opinion is a pretty big call. I’ve been on some narrow streets, and while there is no doubt that it was the narrowest (barely wide enough for me to walk down without turning sideways) it was never technically a street. It was simply a narrow opening for the fire brigade to pass through in case of fire in that specific area. Should it be called a street? Your call.

Another thing that I loved, loved, loved about Braşov was the food. There’s a restaurant called “Restaurant Transylvania” that serves traditional rural Romanian food (which may or may not have contributed to my excessive weight gain) like, Ciorbă (a traditional Romanian sour soup that you can get in various flavours), Mămăligă (translated into ‘corn mush’ in Moldova and similar to Italian polenta) and tochitură ardelenească (the Transylvanian version of tochitură which is basically pan fried beef and pork). This restaurant (also a wine cellar or something) is so cheap I got a massive meal for all of about $6, including a local beer. You can get local wines and homemade wines for about $2 a litre as well if you really want to. Highly recommended. For afters, there is a crepe restaurant on the main pedestrian drag that does extremely delicious crepes that I at first thought were overpriced until I ordered on and received a crepe the size of my head.

Braşov is also a very popular area with hikers. I would have loved to go hiking while there but I had a limited amount of time and I had to be in Serbia by a certain date so I wasn’t able to. Just watch out for the bears. If you would like more information on hiking in the area, google it because I unfortunately don’t have that information.

The main reason for me going to Braşov? DRACULA’S CASTLE!!! While it is totally awesome saying that you have been to Dracula’s Castle I should probably make a few disclaimers. First of all, the castle isn’t terribly impressive in comparison to some that I have seen. It’s quite small, but it’s still quite nice looking and it’s surrounded by fairly impressive scenery. I also have no idea why it is called “Dracula’s Castle” as Dracula may possibly have visited it once for a night at some point during his life, but he also may not have. Regardless, I’ve been to Dracula’s Castle! It’s actually used as a museum for the families and royalty that did live there and I did enjoy the visit and spent a couple of hours there. There are a ton of little stalls selling extremely kitschy souvenirs, but there’s a bit more variety there than in the town of Braşov and the items are marginally cheaper. If you’re there, might as well pick some up. I’m wishing I had.

It’s amazing I haven’t been arrested yet.


Timisoara was pretty much just a stopover on the way to Serbia as it’s a border town and the trains between Braşov, Timişoara and Belgrade, Serbia don’t really match up very well. Even if they did, the train would probably be late anyway so you wouldn’t get into Timişoara in time to catch the train to Belgrade. I could have got in that night and then caught the 6am train to Belgrade, but in general, bus and train stations are about the dodgiest places you will see while travelling, especially in smaller towns and I didn’t fancy having my shoes stolen while I slept on a concrete floor and then miss my train anyway. So I did what any sensible girl would do when faced with such a dilemma. I booked a hostel for that night, asked to store my luggage and being as reception isn’t open 24 hours at the hostel in Timişoara, hung around in the common room until I had to leave at 4am to walk to the train station (super creepy at that hour). Wearing a backpack at that hour (for a 40 minute walk I might add) when the crazies tend to be out sort of screams “Come over and freak the crap out of my by talking to me, hitting on me or following me.” Lucky for me, the worst I got was a vendor at the station asking if I wanted to buy a sandwich.

Anyway, Timişoara was sending me mixed signals while I was there and it was deeply confusing. At first it appeared to be a sleepy Sunday town where most everything was closed and even most of the café’s didn’t stay open long enough to serve lunch, which made sense considering it was Sunday. I didn’t do a whole lot except visit a church, buy my train ticket for the next day and eat at a restaurant called Restaurant Flora that came highly recommended by lonely planet (also one of the only ones open) but ended up being overpriced and underwhelming. I was not impressed with the food at all or the price I had to pay for it. By Romanian standards it was pretty expensive. I spent a good few hours there regardless getting some work done and when I left I had to walk through the main square. Much to my surprise, Timişoara was no longer the sleepy little town. There were hundreds of people gathered in the square having some sort of political protest or rally. They were against something that was apparently happening in some sort of Romanian politics but I couldn’t tell what as the only word I could understand on the signs was ‘No’ and true to the pragmatist in me, I decided to avoid the rally just in case anything happened and my insurance didn’t cover it. I suppose I shouldn’t be all that surprised considering Timişoara is a university town, but it was quite a 180 flip from what I had seen the entire rest of the day.

What I’m reading now: Nothing My Darling Nothing by H. Manice

What I’m listening to now: Death Cab for Cutie – Narrow Stairs

Photos from Romania can be seen here.