TRAVEL WISHLIST: AMSTERDAM

Pretty much everyone I know has been to Amsterdam, but somehow I missed the boat.
But with the Rijksmuseum finally reopening after ten years, I decided not to wait anymore, so this August I’m finally going for a long weekend in the city!

HOW TO DO IT:

  • Go: There are lots of options for flights, but it only takes 4h40 on the Eurostar, which is more convenient.
  • Stay: Accommodation is not particularly cheap, but there are options for all tastes.
  • Do: for a cultural break, follow the Rijksmuseum with a visit to Anne Frank’s house and the Van Gogh museum.
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The Rijksmuseum (photo from Wikipedia)

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TRIP PLANNING: A WEEK IN EASTERN EUROPE

This trip has been in the cards for a while, but now we’re finally booking flights and accommodation.

THE ITINERARY:

There were lots of options, but we’ve decided to do the following:

  • Flying from London to Dubrovnik (Croatia): there we’ll spend a couple of days;
  • From Dubrovnik we’ll take a day trip to Montenegro, ideally to visit places like Kotor and Budva. Apparently tours can be easily booked when you’re in Croatia, but Amico Tours seems to be a good option if booking in advance.
  • From there we’re getting on a bus to Mostar (Bosnia). Until recently I didn’t even know this place existed, but now I’m obsessed!
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The bridge in Mostar (Photo from Wikipedia)

  • From there we’re getting on a train to Sarajevo, which I’m really looking forward to.
  • Finally, another bus journey and we end our trip in Belgrade (Serbia), where we’re spending two days before coming back to London.

HOW TO DO IT:

Flights:
Many companies fly from London to Dubrovnik, including Norwegian, Easyjet and Monarch.
From Belgrade to London there are less options, Jat Air being the most frequent.Accommodation:
There are lots of options at very affordable prices. We booked everything from Hostelworld.Getting around:
This is the trickiest past of planning this trip as buses are not available for booking online, but timetables can be found in websites such as  www.libertasdubrovnik.com and www.centrolines.ba.
Forums suggest that this shouldn’t be a problem.

How long to go for:
We’re going for nine days in total, which fits well around work.

When to go:
We’re going in April when it should be warm but not too hot. High season is in the summer but temperatures can be too high, especially if travelling by bus.

2013 TRAVELLING: THE YEAR IN REVIEW

In 2013 we decided to visit one European per month. We did it! Here’s a short summary of how it went:

  • Our first trip was to Copenhagen in early February. The city was beautiful and not as expensive as we thought, but the weather definitely made it all a bit difficult.
  • Also in February, we went to Ravenna, Italy. There is not much to it, although the mosaics (on the UNESCO Heritage list) are pretty impressive. The main reason why we ended up there was for family though.
  • In March we spent St Patrick’s Day in Cork. It is a very nice and pretty town, but definitely not as mad as Dublin is supposed to be in March.
  • In April we visited friends in Edinburgh. We were very lucky with the weather so we got the chance to climb Arthur’s seat.
  • In May we went to Budapest. My friend Sophie is a local so we had a great time bar-hopping. The Szechenyi baths were great too.
  • In June we went to Brazil for the Confederations Cup (so technically not Europe). Football and riots.
  • In July we went to Stockholm and had a great time sampling super-expensive beer around Gamla Stan.
  • Then in August we went to Antwerp to see some hockey. There was a nice summer festival on.
  • In September we went to Paris and wandered around the beautiful boulevards. Ron Mueck had an amazing exhibition on at the Cartier Foundation, following the success of  his previous show there.
  • In October we went to Venice for the arts biennale. Somehow we still laugh every time we think about the poor tourist who fell straight into a canal!
  • In November we went to Iceland which was amazing! The highlights were the northern lights, but the whole summary of the trip is here.
  • In December we boarded a plane to Ljubljana not really knowing what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised!

opera house

DECEMBER: 2 DAYS IN LJUBLJANA

Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia, and we decided to go ‘because it’s there‘. We didn’t know much about it, so it was a very pleasant surprise to discover how nice it was!

You get the most amazing view of the Julian Alps from the plane:
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The city is small, and everything is within walking distance.
The city centre is very pretty, and in December there is a nice Christmas market which keeps the town busy despite the cold.

CHRISTMAS MARKET:

The Christmas Market is not a large as its counterparts in Germany, but it was still very nice. You get a glass of mulled wine for about €2, and the same for roasted chestnuts.The city is also nicely decorated with Christmas lights.

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LJUBLJANA CASTLE:

The castle has nice views of the city, which is the main reason to visit. It also has a ‘virtual tour’ which tells the story of the castle, and other activities.Entrance at €8, including funicular transfer.

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TIPS

  • Drinking: Union lager, a local beer, was okay but nothing exceptional.
  • EatingFoculus Pizza is a nice pizzeria with lots of options, and the menu is helpfully split to show veggie options. Dinner for two with a drink costs around €25.
  • Nightlife: Tabor is an up-and-coming area, where you will find Metelkova Mesto, a squat with six clubs. The area is also full of nice graffiti.
  • Stay: We stayed at the nice Sax Hostel, which we found through Hostelworld. The hostess was very nice and helpful, and the accommodation was good and close to the city centre. There is also a Pub downstairs.
  • Money: The currency is the euro, which makes things easy. Prices are cheaper than London, but comparable to other European countries.
  • Taxis: are easily available, but booking in advance is a good option as you get significant discounts.
  • Airport transfer: buses to the city centre a few and far in between (once every one or two hours), so if you have the option the best thing would be to book a taxi in advance.
  • Language: English and Italian are widely spoken.
  • Weather: it’s very cold in the winter, so it’s probably a good idea to visit when it’s warmer (although summer can be too hot). This would also be the best time to visit other cities in Slovenia, such as Bled.
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