Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina

My time in Mostar 🙂

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The famous bridge in Mostar

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Walking around Mostar

City: Mostar

How Long: 3 nights

Accommodation:

I stayed at Hostel Miran and it was incredible!! The host, Miran, was an incredibly nice man who was extremely knowledgeable about the history of the region, as he had grown up there and actually lived through and fought in the Bosnian War. I learned so much from him. The hostel had small lockers in each room to store valuables but not big enough to store your whole bag, but I found everyone at the hostel to be very friendly and nice so I wasn’t worried about anyone stealing stuff from my bag. There was free breakfast and often at night Miran would BBQ so there was a free dinner sometimes. They also offered a great tour of the region. Highly recommend this place!!

Where to eat:

This place had free breakfast and sometimes free dinner so I mostly utilized that, BUT the hostel did recommend Hindin Han and I ended up going twice! Once just with Sam, and then once with Sam and three Germans we met on Miran’s tour (more on that in the next section!). Hindin Han was in the middle of the city center overlooking a small stream and was very cheap! Awesome food and alcohol selection.

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Accidentally ordered Rakia, which is a rum made in the Balkans. Ranges from 40% alcohol to 90% alcohol. It was quite strong!

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SO MUCH FOOD

What to do:

Number one thing you should do is go on Miran’s tour! (even if you don’t stay at his hostel I’m pretty sure you can still go on it!) Miran lived through and fought during the Bosnian War and had some incredible stories for us. The tour took us to an abandoned aircraft hanger utilized during communist occupation in Bosnia, two quaint cities (Blagaj & Pochitelj) and lastly, Kravice waterfalls. Each was uniquely beautiful, but the waterfalls were my favorite because we got to swim!! As we made our way back to Mostar, we were told many stories about the realities of living in Mostar during the Bosnian War. The damage from the war is still very visible in Mostar today.

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Entering the abandoned airport hangar

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From the inside

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Blagaj

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Blagaj

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Drinking the fresh water

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Where two rivers meet

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View from the fort of Pochitelj

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Up in the old fort

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Pochitelj

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Kravica Waterfalls

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Our new German friend smoked his pipe and read while the rest of us swam in the water 🙂

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The aftermath of the Bosnian War

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Buildings still in disarray

 

 

The other thing that is fun to see while in Mostar is someone jump off the famous Stari Most bridge which is 24 meters (~78 feet) tall! The professional divers will jump once they have collected enough money from tourists 🙂 If you are a tourist, you pay around 20 euros for an hour-long lesson from the professionals and then you can jump! Only around 2,300 people have done it and Miran said they were mostly Aussie or Kiwi.

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Someone about to jump!

Overall thoughts:

Mostar was such a pleasant surprise. I honestly had such little knowledge about this region and was thrilled to learn all that I did. Highly recommend visiting this richly historic, beautiful city.

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Nighttime views of the bridge

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Vienna (+ Bratislava)

City: Vienna

How Long: 4 nights

Accommodation:

I stayed at Hostel Ruthensteiner Vienna while I was here. The hostel itself is great. Tons of fun people, and there’s a bar within the hostel. There’s a guest kitchen and a 4.5 euro breakfast option. Good security lockers in the room and comfy beds. However, unfortunately it is fairly far from the city center so it takes 40 minutes to get anywhere (walking). I just find that I prefer to be able to walk right from the hostel to where I want to go without using public transit.

Where to Eat:

I ate a delicious traditional Polish dish at a restaurant called Mozart’s Restaurant. It was almost like pasta/dumpling combo with scrambled eggs. Sounds weird, but it was awesome. Otherwise, I chose to buy groceries and cook in the community kitchen with some friends I made.

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While I didn’t eat here, Mozart + Beethoven did! In fact, Mozart’s last performance was here. This place has been opened for over 200 years. Pretty incredible.

What to do:

I visited the Easter markets here as well, but they weren’t as fun as the ones in Krakow I found. I also did a free walking tour with some friends, where we saw some of the old government buildings and some cool churches. I also met two other Americans staying at my hostel and ended up going out on a pub crawl with them which was fun!

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Painted eggs at the Easter Markets!

Unfortunately the next day it rained and even hailed a bit. I chose to spend the day inside and catch up on reading, writing, and editing some videos. While it was nice to have a relaxing day, it meant that I did not get to see the palace or the gardens which I have heard are amazing.

On my last day in Vienna I did a day trip to Bratislava, which is the capital of Slovakia. I took a 5 euro bus ride there in the morning, early enough to catch the free walking tour. I really enjoyed learning about this tiny country that most American’s probably don’t know much about if they have even heard of it. Bratislava looks like it was torn out of the pages of a fairytale. In fact, the famous fairytale writer from Denmark, Hans Christian Andersen, spent time here. He famously said to the citizens of Bratislava, “If you want a fairy tale, look at your city.”

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View of Bratislava from the Castle

We walked around most of the city in about 2.5 hours, as the city is fairly small. We saw the grand castle (although technically a fortress), a blue Church, and adorable cobblestone streets. I learned that Vienna and Bratislava are the two closest capitals in all of Europe, at just 34 miles apart. After spending just 5 hours in this city, I wish I had spent a few days here instead of staying in Vienna. Definitely don’t skip visiting Bratislava, even if it just for a day from Vienna or Budapest.

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Main square in Bratislava

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The Blue Church!

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Bratislava Castle

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Bratislava Castle

Overall Thoughts:

Vienna did not wow me. I am not exactly sure why, but overall it was not my favorite. The city is huge and I have learned that I tend to prefer more manageable cities. It’s also more expensive than some of the other cities I am visiting right now. I wish I had stayed in Bratislava and done a day trip to Vienna, instead of the other way around. I can certainly see why so many people love Vienna (amazing food, beautiful architecture, top-notch museums) but I just don’t think it’s for me.

 

Rome

CITY: Rome

HOW LONG: 2 NIGHTS

ACCOMMODATION:

I stayed at Hostel Alessandro Downtown and it was not my favorite, but only because it was very big, which means it is difficult to meet people. The kitchen was only available after breakfast. The common room was too big so people ended up sitting alone at different tables instead of all close together. The rooms were big, but the lockers were a little janky. Some worked and some did so I was a little paranoid that it would be easy to break the locks (luckily no one did). Anyway, I wouldn’t stay here again.

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WHERE TO EAT:

I was only in Rome for 2 nights, 1 day so it was quick! I did eat some delicious pasta and pizza, but surprising it is easy to find pasta and pizza 🙂 I did eat some delicious gelato at Venchi!

WHAT TO DO:

Because I only had one day I decided to walk around Rome and see the sights, but not take the time to go inside anything. I know I will be back and hopefully with more money, so it made sense to just visit the outside of all the incredible sites. I started with the Colosseum the first night I arrived because that was the closest to my hostel. I caught it right at sunset and it was incredible!

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Perfect timing!

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My one full day started with a visit to the Vatican, where I managed to see the Pope speak. What a unique experience.

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St. Peter’s Basilica

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The Pope!

After meandering through the smallest country in the world I headed to Castel Sant’ Angelo, Piazza Navona, then the Pantheon.

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Castel Sant’ Angelo

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Piazza Navona

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Pantheon

After a quick gelato break I arrived at the Trevi fountain, where I just sat and watched all the tourists get their selfie/boomerang of them throwing a coin in the water! Pretty funny stuff.

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Next up was the Spanish steps before heading to the ruins. The ruins were probably my favorite part because it made you think about all the people who came before those of us living today, and how they built an entire city. It’s crazy how much is left standing after all these years!

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Spanish Steps

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I’m guessing this is kinda old?

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Walking around Rome

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Streets of Rome

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Ruins

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More Ruins

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EVEN MORE RUINS

Finally after miles and miles of walking I turned back to the hostel to pack up before getting up at 3:45 to catch a flight to Greece!

OVERALL THOUGHTS:

I went in with such low expectations of Rome because I am not into museums or religion… so I wasn’t sure what I would do in Rome, BUT I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed my day exploring the city. However, I wouldn’t say Rome is the best city for solo travelers. Like Paris, I think Rome is better with someone, whether it be a parent, sibling, friend or S.O.

 

Ciao for now 🙂

Vancouver, Canada

CITY: Vancouver

HOW LONG: 2 NIGHTS

ACCOMMODATION:

While in Vancouver, my mom and I stayed at the Hyatt Regency. It was a very nice hotel and the location couldn’t have been better. It was very central and close to the waterfront. Plenty of good restaurants were within a 15 minute walk. Definitely would stay here again.

WHERE TO EAT:

After landing in Vancouver, we headed into an area of Vancouver called Kitsilano. It had a hippie-ish vibe and it was very low-key. No towering skyscrapers to be found here. We were hungry and trying to eat healthy so when we found The Naam, it seemed like the perfect match! It was a vegan restaurant and apparently very popular for UBC students as it is open 24 hours. I got sesame-honey fried tofu and it was delicious!

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Looking at downtown Vancouver from Kitsilano

That night we headed to Pacifico pizzeria for dinner. It did not disappoint! My mom had a yummy caesar salad with prawns on it, and I had a butternut squash ravioli dish. The atmosphere was great and this place is centrally located in downtown Vancouver. Definitely recommend this place.

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Mama!

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Enjoying our meal

My favorite restaurant of the trip was Vancouver Urban Winery. One of my good friends from while I was studying in Barcelona lives in Vancouver so he took my mom and me to this restaurant on our last night here. THIS PLACE WAS AWESOME! Great atmosphere. Great open floor plan where the kitchen was exposed. Tons of great alcohol. The food was fantastic. I can’t recommend this place enough.

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The waterfront with Ryan after going to the Vancouver Urban Winery

Our last meal was lunch at Cactus Club right on English Bay Beach. It was a great location and had a really diverse menu, which is great for a group that has varying tastes! I had a yummy frozen cocktail called a Frosé!

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Frosé all day 🙂

WHAT TO DO:

Other than just stroll along the beautiful waterfront pedestrian path, the highlight of our time in Vancouver was renting bikes and exploring Stanley Park. Stanley Park has 27 km of forest trails and a 8.8 km seawall path. THIS PARK WAS INCREDIBLE!! It was such a great place to go for a walk, a run, a bike ride, or just a snooze in the sun. There were beautiful views and play structures for kids. There was something for everyone!

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Vancouver on a beautiful day

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Mom struggling on her bike

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Taken from the bike path around Stanley Park

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OVERALL THOUGHTS:

Vancouver was incredible!! My mom and I were just about ready to move here! The sun was shining the whole time and it was 75 degrees +, however, everyone was all too happy to inform us that we happened upon the best weather they have had in months and it wasn’t normal. The normal weather is gray and rainy– which put a damper in our plan to move here. We just couldn’t get past leaving sunny California. Overall, my mom and I couldn’t get over how awesome Vancouver is. There is a modern, beautiful skyline and bike paths all over the city. Stanley Park offers a nature refuge in the middle of an urban environment. Public transport seemed to be everyone and there were beautiful waterfront walking paths. All in all, Vancouver is a must!!!

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Drinks with Leanne, who I met while I was traveling in Porto, Portugal!

After Vancouver we headed up to Whistler for a night! After dabbling in some hitchhiking in Europe, I made my mom stop for 3 hitchhikers on our way to Whistler. Two Germans and one Italian!

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German, German, American, Italian

CITY: Whistler

HOW LONG: 1 NIGHT

ACCOMMODATION:

We stayed in the Hilton while in Whistler. Again, this was a nice hotel, but what made it super special was its location. You could exit the back of the hotel onto the village stroll, which is the pedestrian street through Whistler village. Definitely would recommend this hotel.

WHERE TO EAT:

The standout meal in Whistler was at La Bocca. We sat outside on a beautiful, warm night and were able to enjoy people watching while enjoying our meal. It was bustling on the Saturday night we were there with plenty of bachelor/bachelorette parties along with families, couples and groups of friends. The food was delicious and I had a yummy cocktail as well. Would 100% go back here.

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Life is good

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WHAT TO DO:

Our stay in Whistler was short, but we managed to pack a lot in! Our first stop was at Scandinavia Spa, which offers a traditional Scandinavian baths experience in a peaceful and natural environment. We enjoyed the many pools and solariums before our 60 minute massage. Unfortunately there are no phones allowed (although it was great to unplug) so I don’t have any pictures, but this place was magical!!

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The entrance

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Beautiful walk to the spa

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The spa itself (they have done a nice job of keeping it private and integrated into the nature!)

The other awesome thing we did while in Whistler was take the gondola up and hike on Whistler Mountain. There was so much snow still, it was incredible! After our hike we took the peak-to-peak gondola to Blackcomb before taking the gondola back down to the village! Super fun experience with amazing views!

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On our way up! (Mom was talking to a nice Iranian couple)

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Up and up we go

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Mid mountain views

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CANADA

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The lift up to the peak

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The lift

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Starting our hike!

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Plenty of snow

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!!!!!! SNOW !!!!!!

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Cant’ get over the views

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On our descent towards greenery

OVERALL THOUGHTS:

Whistler was incredible!! We were blown away at how dialed in Whistler was for both winter and summer. They know what they are doing!! Between mountain biking, skiing, hiking, swimming, and all the great restaurants and shops, you will never be bored in Whistler- no matter what season you are in!!

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From the Vancouver Olympics

London + Cambridge

Sadly, this is my last stop on my trip! BUT I made the most of it with a final visit with my favorite British people. (You may remember them because I stayed with them all the way back in June 2016 and then again in February 2017.) Originally I had met them at a hostel in Barcelona in May 2015 and have visited them 4 or 5 times since then. So without further adieu…

CITY: london

HOW LONG: 3 NIGHTS

ACCOMMODATION:

I stayed at Astor Hyde Park while in London for the final time. I booked super late so there weren’t many options left, but I ended up getting one of the last beds at this hostel. This place had large under the bed lockers and an en suite bathroom. There’s a large guest kitchen and two great common areas for socializing. Also the hostel is right next to Hyde Park!! Definitely recommend a stay here.

WHERE TO EAT:

The main thing I did while in England was go to Cambridge for the day with my British friends! To start off the adventure we went to Copper Kettle for a full English breakfast. This was the first time I had one, and while I can’t get on board with beans for breakfast, the rest was delicious!

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Enjoying brunch

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Full English

After a full day of exploring Cambridge, we all went to Bill’s for dinner + drinks. It had a good vibe and could seat all 6 of us. I got a tomato soup because I wasn’t super hungry, but AJ and his gf, Chloe, split a halloumi burger and it looked great!

I went to Nandos, a staple in the UK, for the first time on my last night in Europe. I met Henry and one of his high school friends for dinner. It’s a Portuguese chicken chain and it’s pretty good, although I was surprised by how spicy it was! There are tons of different menu options. Definitely recommend a visit here if you have the time.

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The most perfect hot chocolate I got while Henry and I were waiting for the rest of the crew to show up

WHAT TO DO:

As I mentioned, the main activity of my visit to London was a day trip to Cambridge. Henry and I met up at the train station in London and headed to Cambridge, while AJ & Chloe and Tony met us there as they drove. After getting brunch, we walked around the town before finding a grassy spot to enjoy the sun. Around 2pm we loaded into a boat to go punting, which is very popular in Cambridge.

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Meeting Henry at the train station on our way to Cambridge

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Cambridge

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Enjoying the sun!

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The crew

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Busy day for punting

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Aj, Chloe, Tony, & Henry

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We made it on the boat

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The bridge of sighs

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On the boat!

After punting we again found a grassy spot and just enjoyed the rare sunny day.

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Sitting in a park

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Henry planting a garden on AJ

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My fav’s

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The most exquisite roses I have ever seen

Other than Cambridge, I did spend a day at Hyde Park reading my book. A wonderfully relaxing day.

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Hyde Park

My last day on this wonderful trip I spent hanging at my hostel, meeting some people, and working on my blog 🙂 That night I grabbed dinner with Henry and his friend and we were some of the last people to leave the restaurant.

It was really, really hard to say goodbye to my friends because they ended up being such a big part of this trip!! Each time I visited before, we knew there would be at least one more visit ahead. This time, we knew it would be an indefinite goodbye. HOWEVER, I am trying my hardest to convince them to come to CA to visit me sometime in the future.

OVERALL THOUGHTS:

As always, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in England, and it is has furthered cemented my dream of moving here. I hope to eventually find a path to living in London, even if it’s just for a few years.

See ya soon California! While I will miss Europe with all my heart, I am excited to go home and sleep in my own bed for the first time in a while 🙂