May - December 2017
  • Day165

    Werkendem, Netherlands

    October 18, 2017 in the Netherlands ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    From Poland to Netherlands, I was picked up by my friend from Africa Lisanne. We lived together with Jacinta in Nanyuki and it was really great when she said I could come and stay at hers for a few days. Werkendem is located an hour south of Amsterdam so again I was treated to Dutch life outside of the main tourist hub. We spent the day at Kinderjilk ???, a UNESCO site where the first windmills were built in the 17th century. I never knew that the millers actually lived inside the windmills but we were able to walk through one in its original state which was very cool to see. A lot of the windmills have even been renovated and modernized for people to live in now! I enjoyed a delicious home cooked meal of chicken and loads of veges which was amazing and spent some time talking with Lisanne’s family, who speak very very little English. I had a day on my own in Werkendem which was really nice as I’ve been feeling exhausted from the constant movement, backpacking and touring. I know it’ll be different when I get to America as I’ll have Nick to share the share journey with but for now, I’m looking forward to finishing this leg of my travels. There’s still a couple of weeks to go and I’m excited to see friends in Belgium and London so plenty to do and I know I’ll be looked after by everyone I’m meeting!Read more

  • Day161

    Zielona Góra, Poland

    October 14, 2017 in Poland ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    After a couple of days in Kraków, I’ve arrived in Zielona Góra, Karina’s hometown. Before coming I’d wished I’d decided to go to Warsaw to see be capital instead but after meeting Karina’s parents, I’m so glad I made the trip to this little town. I don’t think I’ve eaten as much in one day this whole trip as I have while in Zielona Góra! Karina’s Mum is a wizz in the kitchen and made so many different traditional Polish meals for me to try including turkey with plums, pea soup, pancakes and apples, schnitzel and fresh bread. I certainly haven’t felt like a backpacker living off a loaf of bread and 2-minute noodles that’s for sure!! The crazy thing was that both of Karina’s parents aren’t able to speak English so communicating was a little hard but we used google translate a lot and Karina was swapping between Polisha. German and English like it was no big deal. I really loves my time here because although the city wasn’t as big or touristy, I was able to learn about the traditional Polish way of life and talk to Karina’s parents about WWII and communism. I think it’s these sorts of things that regular travelers miss out on when they go to big cities, stay in hostels and do walking tours. I’m so lucky to have had such an authentic Polish experience with a family that are truly remarkable. I was amazed at what great hosts Karina and Konrad have been but I was blown away when I met Karina’s parents - both of them are so lovely with the kindest hearts and made me feel so comfortable and relaxed in their home. I really hope to see them again in the future and it has been a great way to end my week in Poland.Read more

  • Day159

    Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp

    October 12, 2017 in Poland ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    I’m not sure if I can say this visit was a highlight of my trip but it was definitely something I’ve wanted to do for years and I’m so thankful I’ve finally been to one of, if not the most heart wrenching memorial sites in the world. I believe every single person should visit Auschwitz once in their lifetime, if not to pay their respects then to become educated at the very least. Throughout my youth I’ve always enjoyed history, in particular that of World War Two and I can remember practicing for exams, writing essays, watching movies and reading books with Steve who too is fascinated with the events that have occurred. However, there’s only so much that a history teacher, movie recreations and Wikipedia can teach you or can evoke in you. Walking through the gates of Birkenau in particular along the train tracks that delivered hundreds of thousands of people to their deaths was bone chilling. The acres of land are lined with trees and yet not a bird is in sight, some say because the smell of death still lingers. At the end of the train tracks lie the rubble of Crematoriums I and II, demolished by the Nazi’s days before the camp was liberated in an attempt to cover up the truths of the Holocaust. Auschwitz consisted of three camps, Auschwitz I, II and III which was news to me on arrival as I’d assumed it was one large camp - Auschwitz was indeed one large camp, but there were two even bigger ones, Birkenau and Morowitz, that I had no idea of. Auschwitz is now the memorial museum and barracks contain items that are hard to comprehend - rooms full of suitcases, combs, pots, shoes all confiscated from prisoners on arrival, who thought they were moving to a new city, not to an extermination camp. The hardest thing to see in Auschwitz was a room, approximately 30m long, full of hair remains shaved from prisoners once they’d been executed with Zyklon-B gas. The hair was used to make socks, twine, clothing; most things you can think of and sent to Germany. It was the sheer mass amount of hair remains that truly put into perspective just how horrendous the regime was. While visiting Auschwitz, I met three young travelers from London who had made the trip especially to come to Auschwitz. They told me about how they are Jews from Israel, Russia and England, and how important it was for them to visit the concentration camp. This made the visit pretty special as I got to witness these young adults thinking, observing, and feeling numb all while walking through the largest extermination camp wearing the Israel flag. While traveling through Europe and Africa it has amazed me at how old everything is, how much history there is in these countries, hundreds and hundreds of years old which is incredible for little New Zealand that’s not even 200 years old. And yet, it’s almost impossible to comprehend how the Holocaust only happened 77 years ago, so recent in history when you think about things properly. It’s difficult to describe Auschwitz (or any concentration camp) to someone who hasn’t been because it’s the feeling you get as you walk past the gates with “Arbeit Macht Frei” that is unforgettable and something everyone should experience, to ensure history never repeats itself.Read more

  • Day157

    Kraków, Poland

    October 10, 2017 in Poland ⋅ ⛅ 9 °C

    A quick bus ride that cost me all of $4NZD and three hours later I’m in Kraków! It’d have to be the cheapest bus ride I’ve had and finally I know what people mean by “it’s so cheap to travel within Europe!” Kraków probably has one of my favourite main squares - it’s absolutely huge lined with restaurants all around, a large market hall in the middle, Cathedral off to the side and then every road leading to the main square is full of great eats, bars, shops and doughnuts! I’ve been so surprised at how busy these Polish cities are, especially as its Autumn and tourists aren’t around as much, it appears all the locals are out enjoying their city! I did another free walking tour and learnt about the city legend of the Dragon that ate Virgins, the Macabre who killed people and prevented theft in the city, and how the city has a running feud with the current capital of Poland, Warsaw. I also visited Schindler’s Factory, where Oskar Schindler saved the lives of 1,200 Jews throughout WWII. This was a great museum to visit as it solely focused on the events of the War, how Poland was occupied by Germany and Soviet Union, and how the Jewish Ghetto was created then destroyed. While in Kraków, I enjoyed some delicious Pierogi in a traditional folklore restaurant (spinach and feta my fav), Paczki doughnuts although nowhere near as good as Wrocław and zapikanka. I’ve really enjoyed Kraków and Poland in general! I’ve noticed the locals aren’t friendly at first but once you get talking to them they can be lovely, and the Polish language is one of the hardest I’ve tried to learn, along with Arabic! My hostel was located perfectly outside the Old Town and although I had two nights of almost zero sleep thanks to a horrific snorer, I made a couple of friends out of it so there’s a silver lining in everything right?!Read more

  • Day156

    Wrocław, Poland

    October 9, 2017 in Poland ⋅ ☀️ 13 °C

    I didn’t think it’d get this cold in Autumn but it’s colder here than NZ in the middle of winter!!! Nevertheless, I can easily say that I love Wrocław, cold and all! Karina and I travelled here from Dresden and checked into a hostel close to the city centre. My first impression was of the Main Square at 11pm and although it had a few characters that made me raise an eyebrow, it was simply beautiful. The lights hit the old city buildings perfectly and the square took several turns to a bigger square which made it quite interesting! I had my first Zapikanka from a convenience store and it was quite tasty. The next day Karina and I joined a free walking tour of the Old Town and Jewish Quarter. It was super interesting to hear about how Poland had been held by five different governments - Polish, Germans, Russians, Czechs and Austrians - and it’s not until you come to Poland that you realise how long they’ve had to fight for Independence, outside of WWII. In Wrocław specifically, the City is known as the city of Dwarfs - I had no idea why until it was explained that the dwarf is a symbol of anti-communism and it was really fun walking through the city spotting these little statues all over the place. I enjoyed some of Karina’s favorite traditional Polish cuisine including Periogi (similar to dumplings), bigos (hunters stew), kopytka (potato/gnocchi like dumplings) and white borscht soup (sour but creamy soup - not a fan). The best part of Poland which I didn’t know are their sweets and treats are amazing!! Perfect for my sweet tooth but not my waistline unfortunately... Fresh triangular doughnuts filled with every flavor you can think of line the streets and even the most controlled individual couldn’t say no. I devoured a raspberry flavoured one and it was just as good as you could imagine! They also have mouthwatering chocolates - wafers, fudges and caramel nut bars in particular. I’ve stocked up on a small collection to bring back to NZ, but no guarantees they’ll last the return trip. Another thing I loved about Wrocław was the florist shops that are open 24/7 and apparently they get great business throughout the night, particularly from men buying their wives and girlfriends flowers after a big night out. I wasn’t sure what to think of Wrocław or Poland before I arrived but I can say this is one of my favourite cities (yes I have about 100 favourite cities now) but it’s definitely worth remembering and has so much to offer!Read more

  • Day153

    Dresden, Germany

    October 6, 2017 in Germany ⋅ ⛅ 11 °C

    I flew from the summer temperatures of Majorca to the chilly winter of Leipzig and seriously wondered why I’d left the sunshine!! The best thing was Karina and Konrad were waiting for me at the airport when I arrived and it was so nice to see familiar faces, but crazy to think how quickly time has passed since we were making plans to meet in January! They’ve been amazing hosts treating my like royalty since I arrived while showing me everywhere and everything their city has to offer. One of my favourite things about Germany is the breakfasts they have here - seriously it’s the best breakfast spread with everything you can think of and of course Karina and Konrad have done this every morning for me. From Leipzig we’ve visited Jena, Erfurt, Weimar and Dresden, meeting Konrad’s sister in law and cousin along the way. The weather hasn’t been the best with temperatures sitting at 9 degrees and on and off rain however that hasn’t stopped us and I’ve seen some wonderful towns with something different to offer in each one.Read more

  • Day151

    Majorca, Spain

    October 4, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    I’ve spent the last 3.5 months living in a bikini soaking up the summer rays and it’s a bit surreal to think I’m now in Majorca enjoying my last day of sunbathing until I return to New Zealand. Majorca was never part of the plan but after the coach tour, I knew I’d enjoy some serious alone time to reset before the last two months of my travels. Having talked with Steph Mackie about the island, I hired a rental car for my three nights which meant I could get around the island easily. Thank goodness I did because I’ve been able to explore ends of the island that would of otherwise been far too difficult to get to! My first night here I went to a cheap thai restaurant and shared a table with Suzana from Ljubljana who I got to know over dinner and then we grabbed a drink after. It’s these sorts of moments that I love the most - meeting people unexpectedly in the most random places and just clicking like you’ve known then forever! My first day of exploring I set off to Sant Elm after recommendations from Suzana and climbed the cliff to Sa Trapas which was stunning!! It was a slightly challenging walk, mainly because I’m so unfit compared to normal, but so rewarding once at the top and the views of La Dragoneta surrounded by blue waters were gorgeous. I then sunbathed in the afternoon at the beach before heading back to my hostel. My second day I spent at Cala Agulla, a white sand beach along the East coast of Majorca. It took 1.5hours to get here from my hostel but it was a very cool drive with lots to look at and good jams on the local radio station! While it’s been good having a car, parking has been a nightmare and caused a few stressful moments but I can’t really complain when that’s all I’ve got to worry about! I caught up with Suzana again and we had authentic Spanish tapas and sangria. It was great to finally have real tapas as I haven’t had the Spanish cuisine much on my travels. Fair to say the octopus wasn’t a fave however the ham and spinach croquettes were delish! Suzana and I chatted the night away and its friendships like these that make me so happy - completely out of the blue, unexpected and random at the best of times but genuine, authentic and someone I’ll keep in touch with for sure!Read more

  • Day149

    Madrid, Spain

    October 2, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    We first visited Madrid after Valencia to join our CostSave Trafalgar tour however Nana was stuck with food poisoning, we think from the rabbit in the paella, so our two days here were spent in our hotel room, ordering UBEReats for dinner and sleeping. At the end of our tour, we finished back in Madrid and had a chance to see the capital city of Spain. We explored the Gran Via and Plaza Mayor on arrival before saying our last goodbyes to the new friends we’d made on the bus. Although I was the youngest on the coach tour it was super fun and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know everyone from around the world. They say age is just a number and it couldn’t be more true!! The past two weeks have a been a different style of travel, living in luxurious 4 star hotels with buffet breakfasts and dinners, but the things we’ve seen, places we’ve visited, and people we’ve met have been the highlights for sure. On our last day in Madrid, we visited the Royal Palace which blew our minds. It would have to be one of the most beautiful palaces we’ve seen, possibly even better than the Palace of Versailles! We weren’t allowed to take photos inside the palace so there’s no evidence but it was truly incredible. We also visited the cathedral which was lackluster after the palace and attended a bullfight that night. I lasted no more than five minutes before leaving the venue disgusted at how inhumane the “sport” is. Nana was quick to follow and we both had to remove the sites from our memory not to tarnish our time in Spain altogether! Our last day in Madrid was also our last day together with Nana starting her long journey back home. It’s been so special to share the past seven weeks with her and I’ve loved watching her excitement for the smallest things, her confidence grow in social settings, her indulging in all the food and drinks that make her feel uncomfortable at home, and most of all watching her grow younger as a result of this trip of a lifetime. It definitely wasn’t easy at first having been alone for so long to having a constant travel companion that I questioned how I’d get through the next seven weeks, and I could have killed her some nights with her snoring that sounded like a volcanic eruption but all it took was a little adjusting, a few pillows in the face and a good sense of humor! She’s been incredible this whole time, never once held me back from doing things I wanted to, and regularly put herself out of her comfort zone which made me so proud! I count my lucky stars that I’ve been able to experience the world with my Nana and know these special memories will be a part of us for the rest of our lives!Read more

  • Day145

    Lisbon, Portugal

    September 28, 2017 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    We travelled from Morocco to Lisbon via two nights in Seville however I was sick with a tummy bug so didn’t do much here except spend the day in the hotel room! The bug hung around for a while but I was well enough to travel to Portugal and I wish we had longer than two nights in this beautiful country. We arrived early afternoon so Nana and I were able to explore the city and get a bit of shopping in which was highly unnecessary but lots of fun of course! The next day we had a city sightseeing tour with the bus which drove us around all the main sites including Belém where the famous Portuguese custard tarts are supposedly the best in the country. I wasn’t able to try one from the bakery that Belinda recommended however we were lucky enough to have our tour guide buy a box of them for everyone and they were bloody AMAZING!! So so delicious, freshly baked and full of goodness. The afternoon we spent exploring the golden triangle of Sintra, Cascais and Oeiras which was beautiful. The coastlines are never-ending and the little villages are cool places to stop and have a wander. That evening we went to a Fado singing song, the traditional style of Portuguese singing and it was really special to hear such incredible voices. We loved it so much that our bus ride on the way home was full of singing, to the point each country had to sing their national song - lucky for me, Nana and I were the only Kiwis on board and I knew she wasn’t going to sing acapella in front of 48 people (I never thought I would either) but I belted out “Tutira Mai” without a care in the world! This is definitely a trip full of firsts for me!! On our way out of Portugal we stopped in Fátima and explored the Catholic Church and I learnt all about the three children - Lúcia, Francisco and Jacinta who sighted Fátima or the Virgin Mary in 1917. I had never heard about it before but all the oldies had so it was interesting to hear about it. Another great country full of lovely people, sunny coastlines, delicious food (those Bélem tarts are to die for) and beautiful language - I’ll be back for sure!Read more

  • Day141

    Marrakech, Morocco

    September 24, 2017 in Morocco ⋅ ☀️ 37 °C

    I love Marrakesh!! In comparison to Fes, it is a lot newer and more suited to tourists. There are parts that remind me of Dubai, and other parts that remind me of the slums in Kenya so it was nice to see a bit of everything. On our drive to Marrakech, we stopped at a local restaurant in the middle of the road and had a delicious meal full of Moroccan tagines, salads and desserts! For 11€ per person, it was the best buffet meal we’d had Our CostSaver tour offered a few optional excursions for the group in Marrakech but I’d decided we didn’t need to do them as we’re so used to doing things on our own without 50 other people around. We visited the famous Jamaa El Fna Square on our first night and were amazed at the hundreds of people that were there. No wonder it’s one one the most famous squares in the world!! There are stalls set up with games for kids, roulette style gambling, food markets and then a whole world of markets through small passage ways. Nana definitely didn’t enjoy the haggling from shop owners to buy their products and every time she showed a bit of interest in something they pounced on her! I’d been on the look out to buy a beaded cloth to hang on my wall at home and managed to find this beautiful blue one that will look so cool - one more heavy thing for Nana to take home in her suitcase! The next day the our group went on their excursion to a local village and we were left to our own devices. I knew I wanted to learn how to cook Moroccan food and found a cooking class in town that offered a variety of lessons. Originally I wanted to do the three hour class where you’d learn how to make tea, bread, salad, tagine main and dessert however it was fully booked so instead, I booked a one hour class and was able to chose the meal we cooked. When I told Nana what we were doing she was a bit skeptical and unexcited about the whole thing, mainly because we’d had a late night before and she was tired, but I wasn’t going to let that stop us. We arrived at the hotel and were taken upstairs to the most amazing kitchen I’ve ever seen for cooking classes! It was brightly colored with Moroccan crockery, individual cooking stations and tv screens to watch the chef. It was probably the most hygienic and clean place we’d been since arriving in Morocco. Surprisingly, there was only Nana and I there with the chef and assistant so we got to have 1-1 teaching which was really cool. We cooked a delicious chicken tagine with caramelized apricots and the best part was seeing how easy it is to cook with natural herbs and spices. The chef gave us our own mini tagines (terra-cotta cooking pot) to take home which was so sweet and unexpected because the price we paid for the class definitely didn’t include a take home tagine! We enjoyed our self made meal, probably the best Moroccan meal I’ve had, and couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces. It wasn’t long after the class that we were off again as I’d booked a sunset camel ride for eight of us! This wasn’t something our tour offered but I knew I wanted to do it and some of the others in our tour wanted to as well. We got dressed up in turbans and kaftans and rode the camels for an hour as the sun set in the distance. Nana never thought it was something she’d do but it was pretty awesome (and hilarious) watching her get on and off the camel, and another thing she can say she’s done! It was also in Marrakech that Nana was offered her second and third dowery of 100,000 camels and half of Marrakech in exchange for me - both offers a substantial increase from the 10 carpets in Fes but I’m happily not for sale!Read more