So it’s my birthday…again! This time of the year seems to come around faster and faster every year. (It’s freaking me out, but more on that later.) It’s also the third anniversary of this blog, which means it’s time for the annual let’s-stop-and-see-where-my-life-is-at post.
The Big Move. I left my heart behind in my beloved Passau at the start of this year and made the big move back to New Zealand, after being overseas for more than two years. It was a devastating and triumphant homecoming in equal measure. Devastating because I was leaving my other half behind on the other side of the world, and triumphant because I was coming back to do something that I loved, something that I felt was in my very bones.
My bones turned out to be dead on: coming back to study was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and I took to it like a duck to water. The only side effect was that I missed my Passau life so much, much more than I’d ever let on. Passau was where I lived in a place where I didn’t know the language or people and I built up my life there from scratch. I grieved that life for months after coming back, it took a while until I wasn’t crying every other week. But it did get better.
This time last year I was celebrating my birthday in Innsbruck, Austria. What a trip that was! I miss travelling around Europe too, the ease of it, the different countries at your fingertips. But I’m determined to go back very soon! Japan, Taiwan and Australia are on the cards for me this year and I’m especially excited about exploring Taiwan – a new realm for me.
Thank you as always to you, for reading this, for taking an interest and thanks to my family, friends and darling Schnucki for the constant love and support! I am truly blessed to the moon and back to have everyone that I know in my life. Let’s keep striving to be the best that we can be and keep chasing bigger dreams!
Thank you again to everyone that has been following and supporting me so far!
Here’s to another epic year of travels, art and happiness!
One of the best places that I got to see in 2016 was the magical little island of Mykonos in Greece. After staying at an AirBnb mansion in the neighbouring island of Santorini with my high school friends, we thought things couldn’t get any better in Mykonos, but they did. (They really, really did!)
Mykonos island was a short ferry ride away from Santorini (about 2 hours) and it all passed by in a blink of an eye, literally. I’d been getting motion sickness really easily recently from cars or boats (I still don’t know why) and we’d been hearing that it could be a bumpy ferry trip if we had choppy seas, so I wasn’t going to take any chances.
My friend gave us all anti-nausea tablets to take an hour before boarding time – with the only side effect being that it would make us sleepy…really, really sleepy. I was already nodding off in the shuttle bus on the way to Santorini’s port and by the time we got on the ferry and sat down, I was totally gone.
Little did I know that not only were the others also fast asleep beside me, but one friend (the only one awake) took a hilarious selfie of herself with us all lined up in the background deep in the unflattering stages of slumber. (It was probably the best group photo of the trip!)
Once we arrived in Mykonos harbour, the sight was everything that we had been expecting from Santorini, but had never gotten, until now. The white washed geometric houses surrounding the clear blue Aegean waters and yachts bobbing along the wharf – this was what we had been waiting for!
The shuttle that had been waiting for us at the port took us straight to our AirBnb residence. We were trying to keep our expectations low as we thought we had already struck gold with our awesome house in Santorini, but boy, we should have known Mykonos would do it even better with that first impression at the harbour.
The two storey house was mere minutes away from all of the main island action and we could even see the coastline and Greek windmills from our upstairs window. But the best bit by far was our roomy balcony facing the sea, with a huge wooden table and comfy seats that we spent many a night lounging around in – the perfect summer spot!
After settling into the house, we decided to wander the neighbouring streets and get our bearings of the place – but our bearings were nowhere to be found as we were thrown straight into a labyrinth of winding streets and narrow alleyways that all looked exactly like the last.
White washed houses, flagstone paths, doors and stairways in fifty shades of blue and turquoise – this was the signature look of Mykonos and we all fell in love with it.
Around every corner were boutiques, restaurants and cute little cafés and every time we went out, we would find another street that we hadn’t explored before.
We were in Mykonos around the middle of October and it was lucky that we hadn’t booked our trip any later because the locals kept telling us that we were there for the last few days of the season. If we had arrived any later, all of the shops and restaurants of the island would have been boarded up and closed.
But thanks to the fact that we were there for the last few days of the season, there weren’t many other tourists around and we felt like we had the run of the island to ourselves. I think I would have hated it in peak summer season with all of those tiny alleyways crowded with people, so I was glad that we arrived when we did!
We went out for brunch and dinner at different places everyday with (a lot) of shopping in between and we all spent far too much money there, (more than we would care to admit) but it was totally worth it!
Mykonos was also an island of cats – we saw them everywhere and far more often than in Santorini. There were even cats in the tiny island airport that we used to fly to Athens a few days later!
One night we ventured to Little Venice, which was a strip of bars and clubs right by the waterfront. Mykonos is well known as an LGBTQ hot spot in terms of bars and nightlife, but the bars were also winding down for the end of season so they were pretty quiet.
They were so quiet that we got persuaded to come inside the bar that we were at (we were sitting outside) so we could get half price drinks and make it look like there were more people in the bar and thus more lively. (Their grand plan didn’t work though, it was still totally dead inside…plus the drinks tasted awful!).
On our last full day, we were eager to check out one of the island’s famous beaches, so we walked to Fabrica to catch a shuttle bus to Super Paradise Beach, which was what the locals told us was one of the best. And the name didn’t disappoint! (Post coming soon).
While we were in Mykonos, I became so obsessed with the Aegean blue colour that was on so many doors and window frames that I kept looking for a jewellery piece that had the same colour, but to no avail. It was only on the plane to Athens that I spotted this beautiful bracelet in the Aegean in-flight magazine that was so perfect that I had to have it!
(It was probably the first and last time that I would ever buy something from the plane magazine…)
Our amazing time in Mykonos went far too quickly of course, but we enjoyed every minute of it. We loved the relaxed atmosphere and beautiful little winding streets, and it was so relaxing that I even quit my awfully stressful job via text while I was over there, but that’s a whole other story!
So, did you love the Mykonos lifestyle as much as we did?
Have you been there or would you like to go there?
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful time with family, friends, amazing food and presents!
After spending a truly stunning Christmas with my family in the Swiss Alps last year, I enjoyed a much quieter celebration in Hamburg with my Schnucki’s family this time around.
We had a feast on Christmas Eve (this is when Germans celebrate Christmas) and we ate German style Raclette, which is where you prepare ingredients like vegetables and cheese and cook them yourself on tiny pans on a table top grill. The portion sizes are so small that you can potentially eat forever without realising how much you’ve actually eaten! (Our bellies afterwards told us otherwise).
To honour my second Christmas in Europe, I wanted to show you my absolute favourite German Christmas market which of course is the one in Passau, where I live at the moment!
The Passau Christmas market is held every year for a month from the 24th November to 24th December. The whole city’s streets are decked out with fairy lights leading up to the event and real Christmas trees are put up on every street corner (and I mean literally every corner!)
Nobody does Christmas like the Germans – they are so good at making a magical atmosphere! Every stall is bursting with handmade wooden crafts, hand knitted scarves, gloves, hats and food…A LOT of food. (Nutella crêpes, German gingerbread and Chinese noodles included!)
And of course there is the Glühwein (hot mulled wine) and alcohol free Kinderpunsch (kid’s punch) in every flavour. My favourite was probably the berry Glühwein, but you can also get white Glühwein (which I still haven’t tried). Every stall has their own signature drink with different variations and spices, and it takes a few goes to find the best ones!
While the Christmas market was on in December, I also had the opportunity to meet and hang out with Adventurous Kate, who is a famous travel blogger on Instagram. She has been travelling the world as her job for over six years now, and she was one of the first travel bloggers to get really popular online and have a big following.
Kate was in Munich for a conference and then visiting Bavarian Christmas markets for German Tourism when she posted a photo of herself at the Passau Christmas market.
I was so surprised at seeing her in Passau (a lot of Germans don’t even know where Passau is, let alone American travel bloggers) that I commented on the photo half jokingly that we should have met up for a Glühwein, since I live in Passau right near St. Stephan’s Cathedral. And lo and behold, she commented back saying that she had free time the next day if we wanted to meet up!
So I met up with her in front of St. Stephan’s the next day (it’s a strange feeling trying to spot someone that you’ve only ever seen in photos) and I took her to my favourite retro style café close by called Schöffberger. Kate was a super friendly and extroverted person, and we chatted about travels, her life in New York and even some American politics over cake and hot drinks.
After afternoon tea, we perused the Christmas market together and Kate bought some souvenirs and Christmas presents for her family and friends. We walked back along the Ludwigstraße and finally had our promised Glühwein together before saying our good byes.
All in all it was a very spontaneous meeting, but a really fun one! It was great to hear about Kate’s amazing travels and what it’s really like to live a nomadic lifestyle. She also wrote a Bavarian Christmas Market post on her blog about the markets she visited, including the Passau one!
One of the most famous Christmas market eats might just be the half metre Bratwurst, which is as you guessed, a 50cm long sausage in a bun lathered in mustard or tomato sauce. You may not want to get one of these when it’s really crowded though, because you’ll be prone to hitting someone with it! (Get your mind out of the gutter please).
Another famous treat of the Christmas markets are the unique Glühwein mugs that have different shapes and designs in every town and city. You pay an extra Pfand (bond) whenever you buy a Glühwein or Kinderpunsch (usually 2 Euros) and you get the money back if you return the mug to the stall, or you can keep the mug and forgo the coins.
I’ve collected the different coloured designs of the Passau mugs over the last two years and I have six in total so far!
I’m always sad to see the Christmas markets go once we hit the new year, but I know that they’ll be back again before we know it!
So, did you love the Passau Christmas market as much as I did?
What are the Christmas markets like in your country?
I went to Greece to reunite with my high school friends and what an epic reunion it was! Our first stop in the Greek Islands was Santorini, and we were blessed with blue skies and beautiful weather for the duration of our short stay.
My friends from high school in New Zealand were all doing their individual trips around Europe for different lengths of time and we all managed to plan ahead and meet up in Santorini on the same day. We stayed in an awesome AirBnb house (more like mansion!) in Fira, which was the main town located more or less in the centre of the island.
On the taxi drive from the tiny one-room airport to Fira town, I was surprised at how barren and deserted some parts of the island were. With sporadically placed houses and not much green vegetation in sight, it was a far cry from the endless online photos of sprawling white stone towns. But in reality this was to be expected, as Santorini itself is an old volcano and volcanic rock and soil is not the best foundation for plants to grow – it was a landscape that reminded me a lot of Rangitoto Island in New Zealand.
The price tag for the 15 minute drive from the airport to Fira was also a surprise at 28 Euros, since my friends told me that theirs was 20!
Although it was technically autumn in northern parts of Europe, we would have called the balmy island temperatures there positively summery. The locals told us it was too windy to hit the beaches, but we were determined to go sunbathing, so our taxi driver dropped us off at Koloumpos Beach.
It wasn’t the prettiest beach of the island with its stony sand, but we were perfectly happy to chill there for a few hours waiting until it was near sunset.
Another sight we weren’t expecting to see were the number of stray dogs and cats, with kittens even roaming around on the beach. They all looked quite healthy though, not skinny and mangy with matted fur like you might expect. I hoped that somebody was feeding them regularly.
After the beach we were stranded on the side of the road for a while, waiting for a bus that our taxi driver had insisted would come every half hour – but we soon found out that he was talking about peak season, not this time of the year where there were only one or two buses daily.
We subsequently tried to wave down cars or tour buses that passed by, but to no avail. We were losing hope until a friendly Frenchman pulled over and offered us a ride, exclaiming: “Don’t worry, I’m gay!”, as we all gratefully piled into his car.
The lovely Frenchman dropped us off at Oia, which is the picture perfect town you see in almost all Santorini photos on the internet. With white washed houses, winding alleys full of boutiques and the gorgeous view onto the Aegean sea, this was what we had come for.
This was also the town where all of the island tourists flocked to. The narrow streets were bustling with people shopping, taking photos and heading towards the tip of the island like we were.
Since we were there after peak season, we had gotten used to not seeing other tourists around as much, but being in Oia was like getting a taste of what it must be like in midsummer.
The Santorini towns were built on points high above the sea, like Oia which was built more than 100 metres above sea level. A lot of the houses were built into the sheer cliff face, with the magnificent view of the Aegean and caldera spreading out below them.
Around 6.30pm we headed towards the very tip of Oia along with every other tourist on the island to witness the famous sunset. Tourists were crowding along the streets, rooftops and rocks to secure a good view, with some even in boats on the water below.
At 6.45 the blazing golden sun dipped slowly below the horizon, and in a matter of minutes it was gone but the moments leading up to it were pure magic. I can’t remember the last time I watched a sunset, let alone a sunset as spectacular as that!
In our quest to find authentic Santorini souvenirs (not just the tacky ones mass produced and sold in every island shop) we hit up a lot of the local places looking for something unique. We eventually stumbled upon a gem of a shop at the very point where we went to watch the sunset.
This shop was full of hand made jewellery, paintings and these stunning turquoise and blue bowls. We all fell in love with these bowls and bought a few each, with one of my friends even caving in to buy a magnificent plate on the wall of the same design.
The shop owner told us that her grandfather made these by hand on the island, and no bowl or plate of his had the same design. It was a perfect Santorini souvenir!
The next morning it was time for us to leave on the ferry to our next island adventure, but we all agreed that we would have liked to have spent more time here, or in Oia at least.
One of our favourite places to eat in Santorini was a place called Pelican, which served huge fluffy breakfast waffles and amazing fruit bowls drizzled in island honey. The tables outside were under grape vines and the atmosphere was just lovely – we ended up going there more than once!
So our time in Santorini and our first taste of Greek island life was coming to an end, but we were also looking forward to the next one and what we would find there. We were going to miss our AirBnb mansion, but little did we know that the best was yet to come…
So, did you like the look of Santorini? Would you go there?
Click the button below for our next Greek Island hopping adventure in Mykonos!
Last weekend we went on a road trip to the magnificent city of Salzburg in Austria. It only took two hours to drive there from Passau and it turned out to be an amazing day trip. Salzburg literally means ‘salt fortress’ and it is the fourth largest city in Austria.
Salzburg is famous for a lot of things, and one of them is the Hohensalzburg Fortress. It is located on a small hill (called Festungsberg) overlooking the city and it is one of the largest and best preserved medieval castles left in Europe.
You can walk up the hill to the fortress (like we did) or you can take the Festungsbahn cable car right up into the castle. The castle is also known for its private Reisszug line, which was a primitive cable railway built around the 1500’s to provide freight access to the castle – the first of its kind in the world.
It cost 8 Euros to get in and it was almost like a small town inside the castle walls. There were a lot of lookout points in the fortress and the view of the city from up there was breathtaking.
The money we paid at the gate also included the admission fee for the museum and viewing the Prince-Archbishop’s residence inside the castle. The Archbishop’s residence had three beautifully preserved rooms and my favourite was The Golden Chamber which was richly decorated with rosettes, golden foliage and animals.
There was also a part of the castle where you were given a headset to listen to an audio tour in your own language while you looked at various rooms (like the torture chamber). From there the spiral staircase lead up to the 360 degree view of Salzburg from one of the high towers. It was a brilliant experience!
After descending the fortress hill, we walked to the Salzburg Cathedral or Salzburger Dom.
The cathedral is a Baroque style Catholic church and the interior, especially the dome, was stunning. It was a kaleidoscope of colours, paintings and intricate engravings!
Next to the cathedral was the Residenzplatz, which featured the largest Baroque style fountain in middle Europe, which was made of marble and known as Residenzbrunnen.
There was a lot of imagery of horses throughout Salzburg, from the fountains, to engravings and paintings on buildings to real live horse carriages traveling on the roads.
From the Residenzplatz, we meandered through the Salzburg Altstadt or ‘old town’ which is known for its well-preserved Baroque architecture and it is marked as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
18th-century composer Mozart was born in Salzburg and his childhood home was located in the altstadt, which is now a popular tourist destination. The admission fee was 10 Euros so we decided to skip this particular attraction, but you could also visit the Mozart Wohnhaus where he lived later on in his life.
Salzburg is also famous as being the main setting of the 1965 musical film The Sound of Music. My mum loves this film and I watched it with her a lot when I was younger, so she was pretty excited when I told her I was visiting Salzburg!
As anyone who has seen the film would instantly recognise, the Mirabell Palace gardens were used as a setting for the song sequence of ‘Do-re-mi’.
The von Trapp children skip and sing around the pegasus fountain (above) and use the garden steps like a scale as they sing (below). The view of the fortress and cathedral from the gardens was also spectacular.
All in all, I really enjoyed Salzburg – a day trip really wasn’t enough to see everything. There is so much history and awe-inspiring sights here that it’s a treasure trove of wonders just waiting to be explored further. I would love to go back and show my mum around (and maybe even take The Sound of Music tour together)!