Camping in Karpaz

This week has been a really lovely week. I’ve had adventures galore and it has made me smile so much.

On Tuesday I went to see my friend Doğukan at his house over the other side of Girne. It is a really lovely place to be, he grows all kinds of fruits and vegetables and so we just enjoyed watering all the crops and harvesting what we could. The figs are nearly ready for the first pick which is exciting, but in the meantime we enjoyed some of his home grown honeydew melon. He has an extended cat family that live in his shed. Misty is a Mum who has 4 kittens, I think they are about 8 weeks old. Cezi is also a Mum but only one of her kittens has survived. We called him Lucky, and he’s only about 3 weeks old now. When she first brought him to us he couldn’t even open his eyes! Being a cat lover it’s bloody lovely just watching them all hang out and play. I also got to me Doğukan’s dog, Kucucuk. He is a tiny chihuahua but has loads of personality. We decided that night that we would go on a Karpaz camping adventure and that we’d go the next morning.

Wednesday was the first day of adventures. We headed off to Karpaz in the early afternoon so that it wouldn’t be too hot once we arrived there. The journey there is beautiful, loads of coastline and the sea has so many colours of aquamarine. We got a few supplies in the village so we could cook something for tea! We actually went to a lovely place to get some veggies. It was a families home where they grow loads of vegetables that you can buy. The eldest daughter in the family took us around and let us pick some aubergine, peppers and tomatoes. She recognised Doğukan from earlier trips and didn’t want any money but we insisted! It was such a gorgeous place. They were so kind. To refuel from the journey we stopped at a cafe for a frappe. The owner of the cafe is Greek but it’s a mix of Turkish and Greek people who work there. They were all really smiley and chatty and we bought some lovely dried herbs off of them so we could make some different teas! In the late afternoon we went to the beach of Ayios philon. The water was crystal clear and so warm. We had a nice swim and relaxed in the last of the evening sunshines rays. Afterwards we went and parked the van and set up camp. We had a foam mattress that fit perfectly in the back so we could use it as a bed and we had fold out chairs, crates for a table and a small gas fire that made for a perfect kitchen set up. Doğukan took over the cooking and made some lovely veggie fajitas for us both. We then enjoyed watching the shooting stars and the milky way whilst sipping some lovely chilled Efes.

The next day we got up and slowly but surely got ready to move on. First we had a morning swim and snorkel. From the beach we decided to go for another frappe at the lovely cafe from the day before. Two of Doğukan’s friends turned up there just after us and so we spent the afternoon with them. We enjoyed coffee and chatted about all sorts. After that we started making our way towards the end of the peninsula to find our place to camp for the night. On our way we stopped at a lovely seaside restaurant to have something to eat. We ordered some fresh fish and calamari and got a small meze before hand. The calamari was so lovely and the fish was really tasty too. Luckily Doğukan took over the fish filleting for me, I have no idea how to do it properly! Once we were nice and full we headed back to the van and carried on until we found our place to stop for the night. We came across a lot of the wild donkeys and I fed them some carup fruits we’d picked earlier. We set up our little camp again and enjoyed the last night of camping. We were so full from the fish that we didn’t cook. We just enjoyed some snacks!

The next day we got up and packed up all the camping stuff. We stopped at Apostolos Andreas which is an ancient monastery in Dipkarpaz. We took a look around and even splashed our faces with some of the holy water from the fountain. On our way back we stopped for another Frappe (we couldn’t resist them!!) and then started on our journey back.

It was such a lovely few days and a spontaneous little trip. I really enjoyed it and I don’t think I stopped smiling. I’m now really excited for more adventures to come!

xx

Lucky Lady Linnets.

Blog writing time again. It always comes around so quickly. This week I’ve doing lots of the same really. I’ve been doing lots of PhD work, mainly writing up a paper.

There were two nights where I just couldn’t sleep. There were huge thunderstorms right over the mountains. So considering the mountains are behind my house, not much sleep at all! Let’s face it though, there are far worse things to keep you awake. It was quite exciting listening to the build up of thunder and anticipating the next lightning flash. After two days the novelty had slightly worn off so I was glad for a good nights sleep on the third day!

I’ve done a bit of birding this week. Well, one easy one was a kingfisher I heard from my lounge. It must be taking advantage of the newly flowing ravine near the house. I also scouted out Karsiyaka headland one morning. Unfortunately because of all the water, the field was impassable, so I couldn’t make it all the way. Instead I parked up and had a wander down to the shore and saw a few stonechat, Sardinian warbler, crested lark and a couple of black redstart. It was a really lovely little cove I’d found. It had a wall of washed up sea grass nearly a metre tall at the wash line which was quite cool to see. It also had some lovely historic character. There were some old steps leading up from the beach covered by an arching oak tree, and on the wall below, there was an old, cracked, painted TRNC flag. It was a lovely, peaceful place and the sea air was nice on my cheeks.

Today I had a trip to Sadrazamköy, a piece of headland right at the far wester tip of the north coast. It’s only 40 minutes or so from home and the drive is bloody lovely. The route takes you on a winding coastal road, hardly anyone is on it, so all the flowering plants, the birds and the horizon feel like your own. Gosh it put a smile on my face. Just looking out at the flat calm sea would have been enough. But then you catch a glimpse of a perched stonechat or see a lovely cloud formation and it’s like heaven. I reached the fresh-water pool and stopped for a little bit to look for some birds. There were lots of goldfinch flitting about, many stonechats, a couple of black redstart and a gorgeous, melodic group of linnets. I stood and watched one male Linnet singing for ages. He had a lovely song. If I was a lady Linnet I would choose him to partner up with!! The site is a lot wetter than when I last went and so the frogs are taking full advantage. I spotted a few with my binoculars. One was ribbeting away, his cheeks all puffed out, he was clearly in the mood to impress his Mrs. It was lovely to spot them all peaking out of the water. Spring is coming and love is in the air!!

I’ve felt slightly cabin-fever-ish this week, so getting out this weekend has been so nice. It’s amazing what nature can do for your wellbeing. This morning, I sent my mum a morning selfie and she said it didn’t look like me because I wasn’t smiling through my eyes. If I wasn’t smiling with my eyes this morning then I certainly am now.

That’s all for now.

Xx

Europe 2018: Hungary and Slovenia

I’ve just returned back to the U.K. after the most amazing adventure. Me and my gorgeous little sister spent two weeks travelling through Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia. There is too much to write about in one post and so on this one I’ll tell you all about the Hungarian hysterics and Slovenian sites!

…BUDAPEST…

We left Liverpool airport very excited to arrive in Budapest. We arrived really late at night, about 11:30. We then had to get a bus, the 100E, across the city to the centre where our hostel was. We were very excited…Our first Hungarian bus! Hostel 1 Basilica was easy to find and slap bang in the middle of the city. Even though it was about 1:30 by the time we arrived, the city was buzzing and full of life. We checked in and found a bunk to sleep on. We were sharing a mixed dorm with 8 other people but they were all out partying apart from one Brazilian girl. She was leaving the next day but told us about the good places to go!

Our first full day was jam packed! We woke up and quietly got dressed so as not to wake the party goers! All the bunks were now full. All guys and one other girl. Me and Mol set off to get some much needed food. We’d resorted to eating an entire packet of Jammy Dodgers as a very early morning snack! We found a nice place in the centre and had some eggs and orange juice. A good refuel and we were ready for the day! Our first stop was the House of Terror. It’s an old building on the corner of a really nice street in the Jewish Quarter of the city. Overhanging the roof is a huge sign saying TERROR and all along the wall leading to the main door are small portraits of men and women from the Second World War. The house was the site of the old communist head quarters in Budapest and it is now a museum of the acts that occurred during nazi and soviet occupation. Very interesting for me as I am no history buff and so it gave me an insight into Hungarian history. After a sombre start we then left the museum and had a stop off for some ice cream. We couldn’t resist! We headed in the direction of the Danube river and crossed a bridge allowing us to get a great view of the parliament building. And what a magnificent building it is! Right on the edge of the river, it looks very grand. Half way along the bridge we made a quick detour to Margaret Island in the middle of the Danube river. It was busy with fellow tourists and there was a sudden rain shower so we didn’t stay on the island for long. Just walked down the promenade for a short while. Back to the bridge and we could see the Royal Palace with the Liberty Statue further behind on the hill. I wanted to find the Fisherman’s Bastion and Mathius Church and so we wound our way through back streets of Budapest until we happened upon them. We were pretty shattered by that point, we’d already walked about 10km. The Church was worth it though. There was a stone stair case winding its way up to a square that had the church slap bang in the middle. The view of the city was spectacular. We were happy we’d found it! On our way back we had to dodge a rain shower and hid in a doorway. Somehow I ended up spraining my ankle. We hobbled back to the hostel via the Basilica. We’d been looking forward to going out and seeing the night life of Budapest but my ankle was really bad and I could barely walk on it. Luckily for us we got chatting to 3 Brazilian guys who were sharing our room, Matheus, Mario and Rodrigo. We were talking for a couple of hours at least and decided we’d go for breakfast with them in the morning! Lovely!!!!

Morning came and we headed into the city with our new Brazilian friends. Rodrigo’s trip was shorter and so he’d checked out earlier that morning to make his way back to Brazil. We were with the two M’s! We found a lovely cafe where the walls were covered in post it notes! I couldn’t help but get the pancakes! After breakfast we all strolled/ hobbled to the famous synagogue and then did some more wandering. We all had so much to talk about. It’s amazing to talk to people from such different parts of the world! Brazil sounds exciting and I am very jealous of the birds there! Anyway, my foot was hurting and so we found a nice outdoor bar that was sort of squished in between two big buildings. We all had an iced coffee but later had a beer! The boys were leaving Budapest in the afternoon and so on the way back to the hostel we grabbed a Langos to try. They are a sort of flat bread/pastry thing covered in garlic oil! And we had ours with cheese! Such amazing street food, I imagine they’re amazing when you’ve had slightly too many beers! We said our goodbyes to the Brazilian boys and headed to Szeczenyi thermal baths. I am not sure what we expected, but it was a very random place. It was packed full of people and was more like a shallow public swimming baths. We had an idea it would be really relaxing but we were constantly splashed and surrounded by screaming kids. I think at a different time of day it would be lovely, but we didn’t quite get the hype… We headed back to the hostel and couldn’t go out again because of my ankle. There were 2 new additions to the hostel room in the form of two German boys, Lucas and Johan. We chatted to them and realised they didn’t want to party either and so we all huddled up on my bunk and watched the Mr. Bean film! It was so random and so funny. Both the Brazilian and German boys have the correct impression that English people drink a lot of tea. However, Johan then said he has been told that English people put vinegar on all of the food they eat. We certainly don’t do that up North!!

…LAKE BALATON…

Next day and we were up early to eat breakfast at a street side cafe and head to the train station for our next destination, Siofok. Siofok is a town on the edge of Lake Balaton. This lake is the biggest in Europe and is known as the Hungarian sea! We arrived there and realised we’d messed up our accommodation and so rushed and panicked to find somewhere else. Luckily we found a cute hostel a short walk from the station (my ankle was just getting worse by this point!). Our room was in the roof of a converted barn, it was really adorable. We dumped our stuff and went to the “sea side”. It was another strange one for us… We went to the main free beach and it was just a promenade with the lake one side and a grassy field on the other. It was packed with people and so loud. Maybe areas in Hungary involving large bodies of water just don’t suit us? The sea side did have chimney cake though, so we got to try that!! It was delicious! That evening we went for tea near the harbour. It was gorgeous at that time of night. There were lots of swans and house sparrows and the sun was setting at the far end of the lake. We were happier.

…LJUBLJANA…

We decided to only have one day in Siofok and so the next day we woke up at half 4 in the morning to get an early train back to Budapest, to then get another train from Budapest to Ljubljana, the capitol city of Slovenia. I had woken up with a horrible cold and so coupled with my sprained ankle, I was in the wars a bit! But, the adventure must go on!!! It was our longest and most exhausting day. Constantly on and off trains and buses. It took us about 10 hours to get from Budapest to Ljubljana. By the time we got there we needed beer! We checked in to another hostel, this time just a room of 3 and then we wandered into the centre. Ljubljana is gorgeous, in fact, the whole train journey through Slovenia had been gorgeous! We crossed Dragon Bridge and saw the castle on the hill. It was like walking through a fairy tale city. For a moment we were sleeping beauties! Mol had researched places to eat and so we headed for our favourite choice. We were not disappointed! I had traditional Slovenian dumplings with cheese and a mushroom sauce and of course we got pudding! Whilst we were eating the heavens decided to open and there was a really heavy downpour! We were sat outside under huge umbrellas but after a while they got too sodden and the rain was just seeping through and onto us! It was so funny and so dramatic! Luckily, by the time it came to us leaving there was a break in the rain long enough for a hobble home. We got to meet our new room mate, Christopher from Germany. He was travelling on his own and it was nice to talk to him about his travels so far. I think he was sick and tired of my coughing by the end of the chat though!

The next day came and another busy adventure day was upon us! We fuelled up with a huge breakfast by the river. It was delicious! Then we walked to the bus station to catch a bus to Postojne where a huge series of caves are found. We had a short wait once we had bought our ticket and then we boarded the small cave train to take us 2km into the cave entrance. It was all very magical but also a bit chilly! Once in the cave we had a tour guide lead us a further 2km through the cave system to reach the deepest point of the cave. It was amazing. A fairy grotto! Stalagmites and stalactites. Columns and curtains. It amazes me just how beautiful nature can be! The tour guide told us loads of facts, mine and Molly’s favourite was that it takes 50 years for a stalagmite to grow a single mm!!!!! Wow! She also told us about the little dragons that are one of the 100 or so species living in the cave system! From the caves and Postojne we headed back to the city and onto another bus taking us to Lake Bled. We arrived there and found we had stumbled across even more magic. Lake Bled is a smallish lake, it’s about a 6km walk all the way around (just about do-able on a sprained ankle) and has the bluest water I have ever seen. I used to say that the colour of the sky was my favourite colour, but now I think it’s Bled Blue! We enjoyed walking around the lake and chatting and laughing. There’s a small island in the middle of the lake and so we found a nice view point to walk up to to get a better view. By the end of the route my ankle was pretty much ruined and so we stopped for food. There was a mini festival on and so we got some street food and enjoyed listening to the local music. We were tired by the end of the day, we got the bus back and collapsed into our bunks!

 

…ZADAR…

Up early again….This time to get our shortish train journey to Zagreb, the Capitol city of Croatia. We only had a few hours in Zagreb and we were quite relieved. It didn’t have much charisma for us. Maybe we were just tired and I was slightly delirious from my cold… But we weren’t huge fans. We ate pizza and Molly walked and I limped to the bus station. We got our bus to Zadar, a city on the coast of Croatia. The views from the bus were gorgeous. We arrived in the city and found our apartment. It was rented out by an old Croatian couple who didn’t speak a word of English but they were so so smiley and greeted us with happy vibes. We had a quick freshen up and headed out. There is a famous sea organ at the harbour and a sun salutation. The sea organ is amazing. It’s steps that go down into the sea and when the waves crash against it the air under the steps is pushed out through small blow-holes, creating a mesmerising sound. Unfortunately we didn’t get a good look at the sun salutation. There were so many people trying to look at it. It was a shame really. I’ve been told that it is a sort of solar powered art installation that makes patterns of colour. Would have been lovely to see the full effect, but we just saw some purple lights around the edge. Anyway, by this time we were hungry but even more, we were thirsty and in need of gin. We went to a gorgeous Garden Bar and chilled out to some relaxing music and watched the harbour below us. We then found a place to eat and decided on an early night.

 

By the end of our first week, we had already met so many amazing people and made so many amazing memories. But… we had one more week of adventuring to do. Next, we headed to Split and it’s islands. That needs a whole other post though….

xx

Europe 2018: Croatia and its Islands

And now for the second week of our European adventure. And oh what a week it was!

We woke up in Zadar and had to get ready to get our bus down to Split. The day started bizarrely. The water in our apartment had been shut off and so we had to go to the house next door to use their shower. Luckily the lady who owned said house helped organise the rental apartments in the area and so she was fine with the situation. Whilst Mol showered Merja offered me a coffee and a croissant! She was telling me all about her family and her past travels! She wants to learn Turkish too which is a weird coincidence, I’ve never met anyone else so keen to learn it! She was so lovely! It was my turn to shower and before we left she gave us a handmade necklace each! How amazing! We got to the bus station, got on the bus and drove the hour or so to Split. We were overwhelmed when we arrived. It was very busy at the bus station because it was really near the harbour as well! We stopped for a smoothie and slice of cold pizza and then headed to our air bnb. My ankle was still really bad and so we got a taxi! The apartment was a 10 minute walk from the old town which was perfect! We got our bikinis on and went to the first beach we could find! Unfortunately this beach was Bacvice which is the busiest beach I have ever ever ever been to! It wasn’t enjoyable. We just about found a patch of sand to place our towels down. We went for a swim and on returning to our towels, we discovered they’d been the play area for small children and were covered in sand!! We didn’t stay too long. We resorted to a beer or two at the beach bar! We went home and got showered and changed and met up with Matheus and Mario, our two Brazilian friends we met in Budapest. They had also ended up in Split and so we had to reunite! We found each other in the old city and went to a nice harbour front restaurant to eat and drink lovely Croatian wine. One of my favourite things about Split is the hundreds of swifts that fly around the old city walks at dusk. It’s utterly mesmerising and made me so smiley! Anyway… After food we went to an amazing backpackers bar for more drinks and dancing. Matheus taught me some signature Brazilian dance moves! I was twirling around lots! We had such a fun time with lots of laughing and the alcohol numbed my bad ankle so that was a bonus. We ended up at a beach side club and finished the night paddling in the sea!

The next day we got up at quite a reasonable hour considering the amount of alcohol we’d had! We met the Brazilians for breakfast where they introduced us to açai fruit. We had it with a smoothie and it was just the detox we needed. After the refuel we all went to the harbour and got a ferry to Brač island. It’s about an hour crossing to the island so we just took in the view of the Split coast line. We got to Brač and found a taxi to take us to Bol on the opposite side of the island. We needed to get here to visit the islands most famous beach, golden horn beach. We walked through a forested area to reach the beach and there were so many chaffinches! I don’t think I’ve seen so many all at once! It was gorgeous. Unfortunately, the weather was mixed and we were caught in rain showers a few times. But rain couldn’t stop us! Me and Matheus were the first two to brave the cool waters of the Adriatic Sea. Mario joined us later and Molly opted for a paddle. The afternoon then developed into a stone skimming competition. I was by far the worst! Matheus could do it sitting down and Mario did one with about 10 skims!! It was time to head back to the ferry and so we bartered with a few taxi drivers to get a reasonable price and crossed over the island again. Then we got to Split by ferry and headed home. A quick shower and change and we met the boys again for more food and wine. This was the night me and Molly discovered our favourite restaurant in Split and probably the best pasta we have ever eaten! If you’re ever in Split go to BEPA, you won’t regret it! We tried a different Croatian wine and enjoyed chatting to the waiter about our recent defeat to Croatia in the World Cup! He found it quite funny! After food we went to Kastelet beach and relaxed with wine, chocolate and cheese. A much more civilised night for us! We sat around and all put our favourite music on. It was a lovely evening again.

The next day we had more açai for breakfast, this time in the form of a bowl topped with all sorts of toppings! Gorgeous! We wandered to Kasuni beach and set up for the day. This beach had huge boulders so we found comfy ones and lazed around. I snorkelled with Matheus and saw hundreds of sleeping fish! The boys had to leave early to catch a flight to Barcelona so we said our goodbyes. It was so lovely getting to know them so well. Maybe Brazil for us next year? Anyway… me and Mol didn’t stay much longer as we were pretty hot and fancied getting some food and then chilling out at the apartment. That evening we met up with our cousin Katy and her boyfriend Jack. We ate at a gorgeous wrap takeaway place and laughed a lot! Was so nice to see them both!!

c37b3aa5-e1ce-4e4f-a65a-e7f799cffe6a

Another early start for me and Mol, this time we were heading to Hvar island. This was probably my favourite island of the three we visited. The back streets were tiny and full of character and the harbour front was busy with people. We found a gorgeous place for lunch and sat and enjoyed the Hvar atmosphere. We then found a nice beach to relax for the day. Molly insisted we went on a jet ski and so in the afternoon before we left we managed to have a go. To get to them we had to take a water taxi. Our water taxi had a dog on board that was probably the coolest dog I’ve ever seen. He sat with his bum on the seat and two front paws on the side of the boat. None of the bumpy waves phased him. He was brill! One on the jet ski it took Mol (the driver) a little while to get used to compensating for the waves, but then we loved it! It was a gorgeous way to see the island too! We went back to Split in the evening and then met Katy and Jack for a proper night out. We danced, drank, laughed and ate pizza. Glorious!

 

 

The next day and the partying had gotten to us. We were in bed until early hours of the afternoon. We ventured in to the city for a hangover dinner and sat on a beach for an hour to try and fill our lungs with nice clean fresh air. When did we turn into such wimps? Still a lovely day with my favourite human though!

Up very early for an early ferry to Vis island. Walking to the ferry I spotted a Swift on the floor in distress and so I picked it up and checked him over. We couldn’t keep him with us but I gave him to the port security to look after. They seemed very happy to look after him which was reassuring. I named him Fabio. Anyway…On arrival at Vis we hopped in a quick taxi ride to get to Stiniva beach (Mamma Mia 2 was filmed here!!!). From the taxi we had a steep, slippy, rocky climb down to the beach. It was hilarious and hot, but the views were breath taking! We set up camp and had some food at the beach shack! We just spent the day swimming, cliff jumping and basking. The cove was formed by a fallen in cave and so the entrance from the sea is quite small. It was something from a magical story. We felt very lucky to be there. We headed back to Split in the evening and saw a gorgeous sunset on the ferry home. The had a take away pancake for tea and sat and people watched in the old square. Croatian days are my favourite.

Our last full day in Split and so we went to our favourite restaurant for breakfast and wandered around window shopping. It was a particularly warm day and so we felt pretty exhausted. In the afternoon we saw Katy and Jack again for a couple of beers before there flight home. It was a lovely day actually, nice and relaxed.

f6327ae8-7167-4973-b880-0614f08e319c

So we flew back yesterday and spent our time at the airport chatting about our travels and memories. It’s weird that I won’t be with Mol every day now… I’m away so much in the year that this two weeks has been so special. But now I’m home, my ankle is better, my cough is just about gone and I’m ready to work and prepare for a new adventure.

I can’t be still for too long! I think my family would start to worry!!

Xx