By Ammi T

I'm extremely curious about the world around me. After living in Australia for nearly four years, I moved back to Finland where I'm from originally. At the moment, I enjoy exploring Europe, occasionally venturing to other continents as well. My mission is to see fascinating places and meet interesting people. Along the way, I want to enjoy the best vegetarian food I can find.

Iceland, the land of fairytales

Whoa, it’s so cool.
Whoa, it’s so amazing.
Whoa, it’s so magnificent. Incredible. Breathtaking. Unbelievable.

I ran out of adjectives trying to describe the sights of Iceland. Sometimes when you travel, you become numb to the sights. Meh, another waterfall. I’ve seen plenty of those. But in Iceland, I was blown away every single day.

But whoa, it’s also so expensive.

I had this vision of me hitchhiking and camping around Iceland, living extremely cheaply. But then I came to the conclusion that I’m actually not that kind of person. I need human interaction and a certain level of comfort.

But what about going on a road trip with four strangers from around the world? Hell yeah, I’m that kind of person!

I got in contact with my travel companions through Couchsurfing. They had arrived in Reykjavik before me and were already waiting for me with the rental car when I arrived from the airport to the city centre. All I had to do was to rent a sleeping bag from Iceland Camping Equipment Rental and we were off!

There is only one highway in Iceland, Route 1. It’s also called the Ring Road as it travels around Iceland. Our route was counter clockwise along the Ring Road, occasionally taking smaller roads to see some sights.

I have to admit I was a bit worried how five strangers would get along in a cramped car and two tents. But these people were so easygoing, I felt I had made four new friends the moment I met them. Couldn’t have asked for better road trip companions!

Ready to hit the road!
Ready to hit the road!
Already within a few minutes from the nation's capital we started seeing amazing sights.
Already within a few minutes from the nation’s capital we started seeing amazing sights.
The water unbeliavably clear.
The water was unbelievably clear.
Many of the sights, including this wall, were featured in some show called Game of Thrones...
Many of the sights, including this wall, were featured in some show called Game of Thrones… :)
We walked back to the car on this pathway.
We walked back to the car on this pathway.
The Silfra fissure, located in Þingvellir National Park, is a rift between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.
The Silfra fissure, located in Þingvellir National Park, is a rift between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.
Silfra has been said to have the clearest water on Earth and is therefore a popular place for divers. Plus you can literally swim between two continents!
Silfra has been said to have the clearest water on Earth and is therefore a popular place for divers. Plus you can literally swim between two continents!
The geothermal area of Haukadalur is the home of several geysers, mud pots and hot springs.
The geothermal area of Haukadalur is the home of several geysers, mud pots and hot springs.
Litli Geysir (The Little Geyser) in Haukadalur geothermal area.
Litli Geysir (The Little Geyser) in Haukadalur geothermal area.
Lupines where brought to Iceland from Alaska to combat soil erosion. The plant spreads like a wildfire and has actually become a bit of a problem since it's taking over natural vegetation's soil.
Lupines where brought to Iceland from Alaska to combat soil erosion. The plant spreads like a wildfire and has actually become a bit of a problem since it’s taking over natural vegetation’s soil.
Even in rugged areas, you can see lupines growing everywhere.
Even in rugged areas, you can see lupines growing everywhere.
The steaming waters of Haukadalur.
The steaming waters of Haukadalur.
Our last stop of the first day was Gullfoss. This waterfall is one of Iceland's most famous tourist attractions.
Our last stop of the first day was Gullfoss. This waterfall is one of Iceland’s most famous tourist attractions.

We spent the night camping near Seljalandsfoss, one of the best known waterfalls of Iceland. The following morning we explored the waterfall and its surroundings.

The first waterfall we saw was inside a cave — magnificient!
The first waterfall we saw was inside a cave — magnificient!
Upon exciting the cave we explored the nearby area, home of gorgeous mountains and waterfalls.
Upon exciting the cave we explored the nearby area, home of gorgeous mountains and waterfalls.
Sheep run freely all over Iceland and these sheep almost ran us over while we were climbing the mountain!
Sheep run freely all over Iceland and these sheep almost ran us over while we were climbing the mountain!
The area on top of the mountain is quite flat.
The area on top of the mountain is quite flat, making it easy to walk around and admire the views.
And what views they were!
And what views they were!
Spectacular views...
Spectacular views…
...and great company! Couldn't have asked for more.
…and great company! Couldn’t have asked for more.
The water from the top of the mountain runs over the cliff creating a waterfall called Seljalandsfoss.
The water from the top of the mountain runs over the cliff creating a waterfall called Seljalandsfoss.
The waterfall was huge.
The waterfall was huge.
You can walk behind Seljalandsfoss waterfall, thus seeing it from all possible angles!
You can walk behind Seljalandsfoss waterfall, thus seeing it from all possible angles!
The 65 meter waterfall is one of Iceland's most popular tourist attractions for a reason. The sun creates beautiful rainbows around the majestic waterfall.
The 65 meter waterfall is one of Iceland’s most popular tourist attractions for a reason. The sun creates beautiful rainbows around the majestic waterfall.
The best thing about traveling around Iceland is that you don't really need a map or a guide book. Everywhere you look you can see amazing landscapes. And the sights are so varied!
The best thing about traveling around Iceland is that you don’t really need a map or a guide book. Everywhere you look you can see amazing landscapes. And the sights are so varied!

 

First you climb a glacier…

…next, you visit a black sand beach…

…and then you’re surrounded by lupines again.

While driving, we stumbled upon a massive area covered in moss. The place had an eerie feel to it. No people around, no animals, just moss as far as the eye could see. In that moment I realized why most of the locals believe in fairies and trolls.
You’re just waiting for a troll to appear!
One more glacier for the day. Do you understand why I ran out of adjectives?
One more glacier for the day. Do you understand why I ran out of adjectives?
I can warmly recommend camping in Iceland. Waking up to fresh air and magnificent views made me feel grateful every single morning.
I can warmly recommend camping in Iceland. Waking up to fresh air and magnificent views made me feel grateful every single morning.
We started the next day by visiting Icelands deepest lake, Jökulsárlón. The lake has formed from melted glaciers. The blue icebergs in the middle are much bigger than what they appear in the photo.
We started the next day by visiting Icelands deepest lake, Jökulsárlón. The lake has formed from melted glaciers. The blue icebergs in the middle of the lake are much bigger than what they appear in the photo.
We stopped at one of the beautiful black sand beaches.
We stopped at one of the beautiful black sand beaches.
So many colourful rocks!
So many colourful rocks!
Perfect for throwing into the ocean!
Perfect for throwing into the ocean!
The obligatory band photo.
The obligatory band photo.

Again, another gorgeous waterfall we just stumbled upon without needing any map whatsoever.
Again, another gorgeous waterfall we just stumbled upon without needing any map whatsoever.

 

 

We continued our trip north towards Lake Mývatn. Our first stop was Námaskarð, a geothermal area known for its sulphuric soil and mud pools. The colourful minerals in the Earth make you feel like you’re on Mars.

After sitting in a car and sleeping in a tent for nearly a week, going to Myvatn Nature Baths felt like such luxury! Entry is 3500-4300 ISK per person depending on the season. Not only are you surrounded by majestic mountains, you can also order snacks and drinks right into the pools!

After soaking in the hot waters until we were more wrinkly than 100-year-olds, we continued our trip towards Akureyri, Iceland’s second biggest city.
My road trip ended in Akureyri, the city with heart-shaped traffic lights, while my travel companions continued back to Reykjavik.

Iceland easily became one of my favorite countries in Europe. Everything truly is like from a fairytale: the nature is diverse, the history is interesting and the culture is rich. Even their language sounds like something fairies might speak!

Seeing a puffin was one of my goals and on my last day in Iceland, I joined an expensive cruise that took me next to an island where these birds live. Look closely, it’s there. I saw the puffin!

Iceland is a cold country, even in summer. It was between 10 and 15 degrees when I visited in June. Summer might be the best time to visit since the nature is more diverse (in winter you’ll only see snow)  unless you want to try your luck hunting the Northern Lights!

And yes, Iceland is expensive, but as with everything, budget travel is always possible.

A one way flight from Helsinki to Reykjavik with SAS cost me 116 €. And since we were five people traveling together, we could divide the cost of car rental, gas and food. Ultimately, the total cost of our road trip was approximately 40 € / day per person.

And I did end up hitchhiking. I had heard that Iceland is one of the best places to do it and if I can base my opinion on the sole experience I had, I agree. After Couchsurfing in Akureyri a couple of nights, I just walked from my accommodation to the edge of a large road. After four minutes I was picked up by another traveler who drove me all the way back to Reykjavik.

Of course you’ll use a lot of money in Iceland, compared to many other countries in the world, but it’s worth every penny. Travel always is.

How yoga ruined my life

How could yoga possibly change someone’s life? I know the whole yoga-practicing, green-juice-drinking, positive-attitude yoga hippie is such a stereotype, but somehow this practice, that usually starts as a new hobby, can slowly start affecting your diet, relationships and outlook on life. This is the story of how yoga allowed me to go from just existing to actually living.

A few years back, I was in a relationship where I saw my significant other about once a month. I was living in a city where I didn’t feel welcome. Every morning, on my way to a soul crushing job, I wondered if I should board the train or jump under it. Then I found yoga.

I had previously attended trial classes and weekend courses for beginners, but yoga had never become a part of my life. I decided to try yoga again and was so lucky that the first class I attended was Geoff’s. At a time when nothing in my life made sense, his classes had me going back to the yoga studio every single Wednesday.

The workplace bullying, loneliness and unhappiness had started to deteriorate both my body and my mind. But for that one hour a week, I felt like I was good enough. After a while, I started going to other classes as well and nothing filled me with more excitement than rolling out a mat on the studio floor. Without even realizing it, a shift was slowly happening inside of me.

Instead of feeling like a victim of circumstances, I became the hero of my own life. I was sick of feeling sorry for myself. I realized, I don’t have to live here or work there. I can do whatever the hell I want. While yoga doesn’t remove problems, it helps me deal with any challenges life brings.

But yoga also ruined many things for me.

Yoga ruined my diet, because I’d much rather eat a bowl of lentil soup than a juicy steak.

Yoga ruined my career, because I’d rather practice handstands than learn how to use Excel.

Yoga ruined dinner parties, because sitting in a chair for extended amounts of time feels completely unnatural.

Yoga ruined my social life, because on a Friday night, I’d much rather attend a yoga class than go out to a club.

Yoga ruined my romantic life, because I’d rather do sun salutations than go on a date.

Yoga ruined my fashion sense, because I’d much rather wear yoga tights than skinny jeans.

Yoga ruined awkward moments, because long hugs and direct eye contact has become the norm.

Yoga ruined small talk, because I’d rather talk about feelings than the weather.

Yoga ruined excessive gossiping, because judging people is no fun anymore.

Yoga ruined limited beliefs, because I’ve witnessed that anything is possible.

Yoga ruined staying inside my comfort zone, because the more I step outside of it, the better life gets.

Yoga ruined worrying about the future, because I’ve learnt to focus on the present moment.

Yoga ruined my life. And I’m so happy it did. Because without it, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have one.

Tomorrow I start yoga teacher training.

© Sheri Lennon
© Sheri Lennon

From a crazy city to the blue city

The three day Sahara tour dropped us off at our hostel in Fez. We stayed in Hostel Funky Fes close to the medina.

The Fez medina is the biggest one in the world. And it was crazy.

It seemed like and endless maze. Donkeys were walking beside you, chicken and geese were being sold alive, cats were eating rotten food in the corner, there were loud sounds and intense smells. And you couldn’t ask for directions because everyone was saying a different thing.

“This way, my friend!”

“Where are you going, my brother?”

“I can help you!”

It felt like being in a fantasy movie with witches trying to lure innocent children into their boiling cauldron.

I was ready to lose it. Then suddenly, after walking for what seemed like hours, we turned a corner and saw the restaurant that the hostel staff had recommended to us.

After dinner, we made sure to ask the restaurant staff for directions back to the hostel. “Just walk straight.” But in the medina, there is no such thing. After getting lost again, just minutes after leaving the restaurant, we decided to walk back to the restaurant and grab a taxi to the hostel. For 20 dirham, I say we should have done it straight away.

From Fez we continued north with local bus company CTM.

After a three hour journey, the bus dropped us off at Chefchaouen, a town situated in the Rif mountains. Often called Chaouen by locals, the town used to attract many hippies with its easy-going lifestyle, and still does to some degree. Stepping out of the bus, a strong scent of marijuana immediately floated into my nostrils. Besides weed, Chefchaouen is famous for its blue buildings.

Climbing up towards our hostel we spotted many people wearing straw hats traditional to this area.
Climbing up towards our hostel, Riad Baraka, we spotted many people wearing straw hats and clothing traditional to the area.
Riad Baraka is situated right at the Rif Mountains. Its terrace is a great place for 360 degree views over the town.
Riad Baraka is situated right at the Rif Mountains. Its terrace is a great place for 360 degree views over the town.

So how can a town with nothing but blue buildings be so fascinating?

Well, first of all, every single door is different.

Just like in the rest of Morocco, there are cats everywhere.

In contrast to the blue buildings, locals wear colourful outfits.

 

And walk their goats.

The streets of Chefchaouen feature cute details that make a photographer enthusiastic.

Unfortunately the hygiene standards in Morocco are nonexistent, so on the final day of our trip, I got a gut-wrenching stomach bug that lasted for weeks after the trip. No matter how careful you are, avoiding a stomach bug in Morocco is not easy, but luckily the bug didn’t hit until my final day in Morocco, which allowed me to enjoy every single day of my trip.

Shukran Morocco!

Camels, tajine and sand everywhere

“Are there sand dunes in your country, too?”

A Berber man named Sair asking me this made me feel like the luckiest person on Earth.

All this man had ever seen was sand, sand and more sand. How could he possibly understand what the rest of the world looks like?

It was humbling getting asked this question. It reminded me how blessed I am to be born in a Northern European country. How blessed I am to have time, money and courage to explore different corners of the world.

We had slept for the night in our hostel after an interesting day in Marrakech. The following morning at 5.30 am, the call to prayer sounded around the city and woke us up.

After breakfast, Sair picked us up from our hostel for a tour to the Sahara! We had booked a tour with Morocco Excursions, who offer various day trips as well as longer tours. A three night Sahara tour starting in Marrakech and ending in Fez costs 290 € per person. The price includes a car with a private driver, all activities, accommodation, breakfasts and dinners. Only lunches and drinks are payed separately.

The tour includes thousands of kilometres of driving, but luckily there are many interesting stops along the way.

 

Argan trees grow in this part of the world, so we got to visit an argan oil factory, where nuts are still crushed mechanically by Berber women. Argan oil is mostly used in skin and hair care, but it can also be consumed as food.
Argan trees grow in this part of the world, so we got to visit an argan oil factory, where nuts are still crushed mechanically by Berber women. Argan oil is mostly used in skin and hair care, but it can also be consumed as food.
Our journey continued towards Aït Benhaddou, a fortified clay city, where movies such as Gladiator and Babel were filmed.
Our journey continued towards Aït Benhaddou, a fortified clay city, where movies such as Gladiator and Babel were filmed.

Most locals live outside of the city, but there are still a couple of families living in the area, making a living mainly from tourism.
Most locals live outside of the city, but there are still a couple of families living in the area, making a living mainly from tourism.

It seemed like a white sheet of paper at first, but over the flame, an image of the desert slowly started appearing before our eyes. The man had painted the artwork with saffron.
It seemed like a white sheet of paper at first, but over the flame, an image of the desert slowly started appearing before our eyes. The man had painted the artwork with saffron.
 This woman was living in a humble clay hut with just goats and cats as her company.

This woman was living in a humble clay hut with just goats and cats as her company.

We continued to Ouarzazate, a city famous for its film studios. CLA Studios has an expensive entry fee, so instead Sair took us to the Cinema Museum.
We continued to Ouarzazate, a city famous for its film studios. CLA Studios has an expensive entry fee, so instead Sair took us to the Cinema Museum.
The Cinema Museum was quite small and completely random! There were things like this throne, an A4 print of Nicolas Cage, plastic horses and X-files music playing in the background. An interesting experience to say the least!
The Cinema Museum was quite small and completely random! There were things like this throne, an A4 print of Nicolas Cage, plastic horses and X-files music playing in the background. An interesting experience to say the least!

We slept the night in Ouarzazate, continuing our journey the next morning, stopping in a few of the local towns only to snap photos and to buy water.

After a pit stop to fuel the car, we continued further into the Sahara desert.

Our next stop was the Todgha Gorge in the Atlas Mountains. The tall cliff walls beautifully frame the stream running through the gorge. The path next to the stream is well paved, so it’s easy to walk around the area and admire the majestic gorge.

After stretching our legs around the gorge for a while, we sat back into the car to continue our journey towards a shop where a Berber family sold mats made out of camel hair.

We got served mint tea everywhere we went. Morocco being a Muslim country, alcohol is not consumed, but instead the locals enjoy mint tea, also known as Berber whiskey.
A Berber woman spinning thread on the shop floor.
A Berber woman spinning thread on the shop floor.
The hospitality in Morocco was incredible. Our driver, Sair, even drove us to his house, where we got served mint tea again. The mint tea has to be poured from high above the cup to create "the turban" — a layer of foam on top of the drink. The mint tea is often sweetened with a massive block of sugar.
The hospitality in Morocco was incredible. Our driver, Sair, even drove us to his house, where we got served mint tea again. The mint tea has to be poured from high above the cup to create “the turban” — a layer of foam on top of the drink. The mint tea is often sweetened with a massive block of sugar.
Sair's wife drew a beautiful henna tattoo on my hand.
Sair’s wife drew a beautiful henna tattoo on my hand.

Once we reached Ouarzazate, we only had time to drop our bags at the hotel before getting on our camels! A Berber man waded through the fine sand in his sandals while leading our camels through the desert.

 

My backside was hurting from the coarse blanket placed on the camel, and sand was prickling my skin. But the tears in my eyes did not stem from this. It was the peaceful feeling, the swaying walk of the camel and only sand as far as the eye can see. After walking for a while, we stopped to watch the sun set over the Sahara. It was one of the most surreal, beautiful and overwhelming experiences of my life.

We continued a bit further in the darkness until we reached a Berber camp.

We had a chance to try sand boarding. For someone who has never even snowboarded, I found it surprisingly easy. And so much fun!
We had a chance to try sand boarding. For someone who has never even snowboarded, I found it surprisingly easy. And so much fun!
After settling down at the camp, we were served delicious tajine, a traditional Berber dish.
After settling down at the camp, we were served delicious tajine, a traditional Berber dish.
Then it was time for Berber disco! We learnt to drum, sing and do a pretty funky camel dance.
Then it was time for Berber disco! We learnt to drum, sing and do a pretty funky camel dance.
We slept outside under the stars. No light pollution in the Sahara, so you can just imagine the brightness of the starry sky. We could see the entire Milky Way from here.
We slept outside under the stars. No light pollution in the Sahara, so you can just imagine the brightness of the starry sky. We could see the entire Milky Way from here.
No dangerous animals in the Sahara — just cute kittens everywhere!
No dangerous animals in the Sahara — just cute kittens everywhere!

The camel ride in the sunset and spending the night in the Sahara desert was definitely the highlight of the tour. The following morning we got up at 6 am and boarded our camels in the darkness.

The sun rose beautifully behind our back…
…before we returned back to the hotel where we descended our camels and picked up our things from our hotel room.

After riding in the sunrise back to the hotel, the day ahead consisted of a tour around the region with a four wheel drive.

Gates in the Sahara mark the borders between regions.
Gates in the Sahara mark the borders between regions.
We stopped by a market square, where all the vendors were selling dates! There are over 100 varieties of dates growing in Morocco.
We stopped by a market square, where all the vendors were selling dates! There are over 100 varieties of dates growing in Morocco.
Views from the restaurant terrace, where we ate lunch.
Stopping by a small shop to buy water.
After visiting shops, restaurants and markets, we ventured towards an area with just sand. This was Sahara.
After visiting shops, restaurants and markets, we ventured towards an area with just sand. This was Sahara.
A small boy showing us a desert fox, native to the Sahara.
A small boy showing us a desert fox, native to the Sahara.
We visited nomads who had migrated from Eastern Africa all the way to Morocco.
We visited nomads who had migrated from Eastern Africa all the way to Morocco.
They played traditional music and danced for us.
The nomads played traditional music and also danced for us.
Sand literally everywhere.
Sand literally everywhere.
At many of the pit stops, there were berbers selling handcrafts.
At many of the pit stops, there were berbers selling handcrafts.
Nomadic dwellings. Nomads build dwellings in the desert, live there for a few years and keep going.
Nomadic dwellings. Nomads build dwellings in the desert, live there for a few years and keep going.
As a traveller, it was reassuring to see the nomadic dwellings. Some people are just not meant to stay in one place.
As a traveller, it was reassuring to see the nomadic dwellings. Some people are just not meant to stay in one place.
We also got the chance to visit a tiny hut in the Sahara, where we got served mint tea again.
We also got the chance to visit a tiny hut in the Sahara, where we got served mint tea again.
This girl was living in the modest hut with her grandmother.
This girl was living in the modest hut with her grandmother.
A berber cemetery. The position of the stones marks if there is a woman or a man buried in ground.
A berber cemetery. The position of the stones marks if there is a woman or a man buried underground.
There are water wells in the Sahara that nomads use during their travels.
There are water wells in the Sahara that nomads use during their travels.
Boys walk long distances to fetch water for their families.
Boys walk long distances to fetch water for their families.
Surrounded by nothing but sand. It’s in moments like these that I realize how people are like these sand particles: they are all needed to create this vast desert, but on their own, so tiny and insignificant.
Surrounded by nothing but sand. It’s in moments like these that I realize how people are like these sand particles: they are all needed to create this vast desert, but on their own, so tiny and insignificant.
For our final night in the Sahara, we ate delicious stuffed flatbread, also known as berber pizza. The restaurant was cozy but after dinner we hurried back to our hotel as the owner started negotiations about trading me for camels...
For our final night in the Sahara, we ate delicious stuffed flatbread, also known as berber pizza. The restaurant was cozy but after dinner we hurried back to our hotel as the owner started negotiations about trading me for camels…
The next morning we started our long drive towards Fez, where the tour ended. Unfortunately, the very fine sand of Sahara made its way into my camera and broke it, which prompted me to buy a water-proof and shock-proof camera upon my return to Finland.
The next morning we started our long drive towards Fez, where the tour ended. Unfortunately, the very fine sand of Sahara made its way into my camera and broke it, which prompted me to buy a water-proof and shock-proof camera upon my return to Finland.
On the way to Fez, the sand shifted into a more forested area, where we stopped to say hello to wild monkeys.
On the way to Fez, the sand shifted into a more forested area, where we stopped to say hello to wild monkeys.

I have to say, I’m usually not a big fan of organized tours. You run around everywhere, seeing lots of stuff, not really experiencing anything. But the pace with Morocco Excursions was just right! The itinerary was well thought out, with enough pit stops but also time to wind down. We didn’t rush from one sight to the next, but instead spent time with different people. This was great, as people really are the main reason we travel.

A day in magical Marrakech

When I found a one-way flight from Madrid to Marrakech for 40 €, I was super excited. As I was so close to Africa, I realized the opportunity to visit Morocco had come.

But then I got scared. I had never been to Africa, let alone a Muslim country.

Even though the name of this blog is Ammi’s Adventures, I’m not nearly as brave as I’d like to be. I’ve written before how it’s important to face your fears, but at times I find it hard to follow my own advice. Reading travel forums about solo females being hassled in Morocco scared me. And even though many people wrote about the wonderful experiences they had in Morocco, the negative messages stick to your head so much easier.

But usually, honesty pays off. I was scared about the prospect of traveling to Morocco alone, but I wasn’t scared to let people know this. After openly sharing my fears, a male friend traveling in Spain at the same time as me, agreed to join me on my trip.

The Moroccan coastline as seen from the plane — Janne and I are about to land on African soil for the first time in our life!
The Moroccan coastline as seen from the plane — Janne and I are about to land on African soil for the first time in our life!
We stayed at Hostel Rouge in the medina (old town) where we were welcomed with mint tea from the hostel's friendly staff.
We stayed at Hostel Rouge in the medina (old town) where we were welcomed with mint tea from the hostel’s friendly staff.

After dropping our bags at the hostel, we had a look around Marrakech. We were surprised how quiet a Saturday afternoon at the main square, Jamaa el Fna, was. There were almost no people around and the few locals we saw were minding their own business. We were expecting a culture shock but found Marrakech to be relatively calm.

The first sight when arriving to Marrakech were some lonesome horse carriages. The lack of crowds took us by surprise.
The first sight when arriving to Marrakech were some lonesome horse carriages. The lack of crowds took us by surprise.

From the square we continued to the souks — an endless maze of stalls selling herbs, clothes and handicrafts. The shop owners were knitting hats and carving wood in their stalls, from where they sold their items. The colours and smells of the souk really awaken your senses. Women are draped from top to toe, but still look very fashionable, wearing clothes and scarves in all imaginable colours and patterns.

In Morocco, there’s basically two options for lunch: couscous or tajine. Couscous, granules made out of durum wheat, is probably more known in the Western world than tajine. Tajine is a North African dish cooked in a cone-shaped ceramic pot. Both couscous and tajine are usually served with meat. In the vegetarian option the meat is usually just left out, but sometimes the meat is replaced with eggs, olives or chick peas, leaving you with a dish that’s not as bland as just steamed vegetables. Being a vegetarian in Morocco is not easy, being a vegan is almost impossible unless you cook your own food.

Olives and lentils as an entrée, before being served tajine in Marrakech.
Olives and lentils as an entrée, before being served tajine in Marrakech.
The restaurant was on the second floor and it was interesting to look at the souk from above. From up here, you could never imagine all the life going on underneath the shades.
The restaurant was on the second floor and it was interesting to look at the souk from above. From up here, you could never imagine all the life going on underneath the shades.
A random goat was hanging out on one of the roofs.
A random goat was hanging out on one of the roofs.

Sunset came and so did the people! Finally Jamaa el Fna was alive: smoke from the stalls selling food, children running, people laughing, music and performances. It was a stark contrast to the calmness of the square at daytime.

Climb up to a second floor restaurant terrace for a view of the entire Jamaa el Fna!
For 3 dirhams (around 30 cents) you can enjoy a hot bowl of soup at Jamaa el Fna.
You will also enjoyed sitting at a communal table with the locals.

As soon as you leave Jamaa el Fna, the loud sounds of the market square die out and there are not many people around.
Retreating back to our hostel after an exciting day in Marrakech.

So were my fears of solo female travel in Morocco valid? It’s hard to say, since I didn’t experience it. But in Marrakech, I never felt threatened. The locals approached us with curiosity and eagerness, never with aggression. At Jamaa el Fna, the stall owners are trying to get you to eat at their place, but if you decline, they will leave you alone or maybe say a snarky comment. Nobody will touch you or yell at you. Just remember, this is coming from someone who travelled with a male by her side.

I am so grateful that I found a travel companion as my fears might have stopped me from experiencing this intriguing Moroccan city. Once again, travel efficiently removed any prejudice I had about a place I hadn’t visited before.

Stay tuned for a blog post about our trip to the Sahara desert!

Hola Madrid y Toledo

At the beginning of September I headed to the Spanish capital. I only spent one day in Madrid, but somehow, it was enough. Because I lucked out big time with my Couchsurfing host. An avid learner and sharer of knowledge, Nico showed me around Madrid, all in one day. Couchsurfing saves you so much time and energy. You don’t have to read through Tripadvisor or lug Lonely Planet books in your backpack, as you can so easily get the best pieces of advice from a local!

We started our day walking through Parque Retiro.
We started our day walking through Parque Retiro, one of the largest parks in Madrid.
A statue of the fallen angel, Satan, stands tall in the middle of the park.
A statue of the fallen angel, Satan, stands tall in the middle of the park.
The Monument to King Alfonso XII looks over people rowing in the artificial pond.
The Monument to King Alfonso XII looks over people rowing in the artificial pond.
This guy dropped a feather in front of me.
This guy dropped a feather in front of me.
I put it in my hat.
I put it in my hat.
All this jumping made me hungry so it was time for lunch.
All this jumping made me hungry so it was time for lunch.
At vegetarian restaurant Artemisa, the daily menu costs 11,90 €. It consists of soup or salad for a starter, a main course and your choice of dessert.
At vegetarian restaurant Artemisa, the daily menu costs 11,90 €. It consists of soup or salad for a starter, a main course and your choice of dessert.

After lunch, we walked around the city before visiting two famous museums in Madrid.

I enjoyed looking at colourful houses...
I enjoyed looking at colourful houses…
...and colourful people!
…and colourful people!
Many roads are named after famous people and the street signs feature an image of the person in question.
Many roads are named after famous people and the street signs feature an image of the person in question.
Museo del Prado, with a collection of famous paintings from both Spain and abroad, is one of the most important sights in Madrid. Entry is free the final two hours of the day!
Museo del Prado, with a collection of famous paintings from both Spain and abroad, is one of the most important sights in Madrid. Entry is free the final two hours of the day!
In contrast to the classical paintings on display at Museo del Prado, Museo del Reina is dedicated to modern art. Museo del Reina also allows museum guests to enter for free during the last two hours it's open.
In contrast to the classical paintings on display at Museo del Prado, Museo Reina Sofía is dedicated to modern art. Museo Reina Sofía also allows museum guests to enter for free during the last two hours it’s open.
Our final stop of the day was the Royal Palace, which is lit up at night time.
Our final stop of the day was the Royal Palace, which is lit up at night time.
After walking around for twelve hours, dinner at macrobiotic restaurant La Biotika was very welcome. A three course menu will set you back 14,90 €.
After walking around for twelve hours, dinner at macrobiotic restaurant La Biotika was very welcome. A three course menu will set you back 14,90 €.

As we managed to cram all the main sights of Madrid into one day, I headed to Toledo the next morning. The old Spanish capital is situated approximately 70 km from Madrid. A round trip with the bus costs around 10 €. Trains also run to Toledo but are more expensive. Toledo makes for a good day trip from Madrid.

Besides exploring the small streets of Toledo, I visited the Toledo Cathedral, one of the main sights of the city.
Besides exploring the small streets of Toledo, I visited Toledo Cathedral, one of the main sights of the city.
Madre Tierra is the only one vegetarian restaurant in Toledo. Dishes at this cosy place cost 10-15 €.
Madre Tierra is the only one vegetarian restaurant in Toledo. Dishes at this cosy place cost 10-15 €.
One of Toledo's most famous inhabitants was the painter El Greco. He lived in Toledo over a period of 37 years, and the city frequently appears in his work. In the early 20th century, Marquis de la Vega Inclán purchased a run-down 14th century house in Toledo’s old Jewish Quarter, in the mistaken assumption that he was buying the remains of the painter’s own home.
One of Toledo’s most famous inhabitants was the painter El Greco. He lived in Toledo over a period of 37 years, and the city frequently appears in his work. In the early 20th century, Marquis de la Vega Inclán purchased a run-down 14th century house in Toledo’s old Jewish Quarter, in the mistaken assumption that he was buying the remains of the painter’s own home.
Marquis de la Vega Inclán managed to perfectly re-create some of the rooms, making El Greco’s house a popular sight in Toledo. Entry to the house museum costs 3 €.
Marquis de la Vega Inclán managed to perfectly re-create some of the rooms, making El Greco’s house a popular sight in Toledo. Entry to the house museum costs 3 €.

It was nice to combine a visit to the busy capital of Madrid with a visit to the smaller city of Toledo. Most importantly, my trip to Spain allowed me to practice my Spanish.

¡Hasta la proxima!

Carpooling around Italy

Due to bad weather, I decided to cut my time in Slovenia short and switch the rain for some sunshine by carpooling to Italy.

Ah, Italy. What an incredible feeling it was getting out of the car in Bologna to a warm summer’s evening and hearing the honking vespas, seeing the big hand gestures and smelling the pizza!

I had no idea where I would stay for that night, but I didn’t care. I was just taking in the atmosphere. After wandering around for a while, I sat down for a margarita pizza, connected to WiFi and booked a room through Airbnb. It’s an interesting feeling arriving in a city in the evening — not until you rest for the night and exit your accommodation the next morning, do you see what the place actually looks like. And on an early summer’s morning, Bologna looks something like this:

Being so close to Florence, I decided to move on from Bologna to the Tuscan capital. There are intercity trains that take you from Bologna to Florence in half an hour for 25–40 €. If you take two local trains instead, the trip will take an hour, but the price is only 9 €! Being a frugal traveller, I obviously opted for the local trains. Please remember to validate your ticket! I forgot, and had to pay an extra 5 € on the train (luckily not 65 €, which is the fee for someone who is not a stupid tourist an innocent traveller).

Again, I had no idea where to stay for the night, so I visited a travel agency, where I could use their computers to book accommodation. (Sometimes it’s just so nice to look at a screen bigger than your mobile phone.)

In Florence, I stayed at Emerald Palace for two nights, where a bed in a dorm cost 30 € per night. The clean and comfortable hostel is situated opposite Basilica di San Lorenzo.
In Florence, I stayed at Emerald Palace for two nights, where a bed in a dorm cost 30 € per night. The clean and comfortable hostel is situated opposite Basilica di San Lorenzo.

I had no plans on going to Florence, but I happened to arrive there on the day of San Juan, which meant a 30 minute firework show at 10 pm. As I sat on the bank of Arno river, watching the massive fireworks, surrounded by happy Italian families, I couldn’t help but feel as though my steps had directed me to just where I was meant to be. Another way I knew I was in the right place: I absolutely loved Florence! I think it actually ended up being my favourite place during my visit to Italy.

The firework show is organized every year on the day of San Juan. The fireworks are shot from Piazzale Michelangelo.
The firework show in Florence is organized every year on the day of San Juan. The fireworks are shot from Piazzale Michelangelo.
The following morning I walked up to the square named after the famous statue.
The following morning I walked up to the square named after the famous statue.
Piazzale Michelangelo is a great vantage point for views over the entire city.
Piazzale Michelangelo is a great vantage point for views over the entire city.

From Piazzale Michelangelo I walked back down to have a look around the city. Florence is quite touristy, but you can still get an authentic feel of the city if you know where to look.

Quinoa is a 100% gluten free restaurant in Florence. Unfortunately I can't agree with their tagline.
Quinoa is a 100% gluten free restaurant in Florence. Unfortunately I can’t agree with their tagline.
A better restaurant in Florence is Konnubio. It has the most uncomfortable benches I've ever sat on but the food is pretty good, with plenty of vegetarian options.
A better restaurant in Florence is Konnubio. It has the most uncomfortable benches I’ve ever sat on but the food is pretty good, with plenty of vegetarian options.
With two locations in Florence, Shake Café is a good option for a light lunch after indulging in the Italian cuisine for days on end.
With two locations in Florence, Shake Café is a good option for a light lunch after indulging in the Italian cuisine for days on end.

The main reason tourists flock to Florence, is The Uffizi Gallery, one of the oldest and most famous art museums in the world. Entry is 12 €, or 16 € with a pre-booked time slot for entry. I got to the gallery half an hour before it opened and didn’t have to stand in line or pay extra for a specific entry time.

Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus" is one of the famous paintings on display at the Uffizi gallery. I would devote at least a few hours to explore all the different rooms in this massive museum.
Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” is one of the famous paintings on display at the Uffizi gallery. I would devote at least a few hours to explore all the different rooms in this massive museum.

Utilizing carpooling again, my next destination was Verona. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is mostly known as the setting for Shakespeare’s tragic love story “Romeo and Juliet”. I booked a room through Airbnb and stayed with a woman who only spoke Italian. Despite the language barrier, we got along great. Elena made me breakfast in the morning and even showed me around the city on my first night in Verona.

A balcony was added to this old building in the 1930's in order to attract tourists. The inner courtyard is packed with people photographing "Juliet's Balcony".
A balcony was added to this old building in the 1930’s in order to attract tourists. The inner courtyard is packed with people photographing “Juliet’s Balcony”.
Poor Juliet's right breast is completely faded from people touching her inappropriately in order to take "funny" photos.
Poor Juliet’s right breast is completely faded from people touching her inappropriately in order to take “funny” photos.

Juliet’s House is an underwhelming tourist attraction and I recommend walking around other parts of this historical town, to experience ancient buildings and the Italian ambiance.

Ghiotto is a vegetarian pizzeria serving pizza al taglio (by weight). I love pizza al taglio as it gives you the chance to sit on a park bench and sample different kinds of pizza. The owners of Ghiotto are super friendly, and the pizza — best one I’ve tasted in Italy. I had to walk back to the pizzeria just to tell them how good it was.
Ghiotto is a vegetarian pizzeria in Verona serving pizza al taglio (by weight). I love pizza al taglio as it gives you the chance to sit on a park bench and sample different kinds of pizza. The owners of Ghiotto are super friendly, and the pizza — best one I’ve tasted in Italy. I had to walk back to the pizzeria just to tell them how good it was.
Gelato for dessert. I’m nice and plump now.
Gelato for dessert. I’m nice and plump now.

From Verona I moved on to my final destination, Venice. BlaBlaCar is very popular in Italy, so it was easy to find a ride one last time. Venice is a very expensive city and even a bed in a hostel dorm costs more than 50 €. But as with everything, there are always options. You just have to be willing to do a bit of research.

I ended up booking a two night stay at Residenza Gesuiti, a university residence, where my own room with private bathroom cost 35 € a night.

Seaside view from my 35 € room in Venice.
Seaside view from my 35 € room in Venice.

When I checked in, the staff asked me: “Are you here for the biennale?”. Once again, a special event was happening that I knew nothing about! I didn’t really even know what the biennale is… In a way, I was in Venice for the biennale, I just didn’t know it yet.

The Venice Biennale is organized every year – with an art exhibition every second year and an architecture exhibition every second year. In the year 2015, it was the art exhibition’s turn.

The Biennale runs until 22nd November, so if you’re in Venice before then, I really recommend visiting it! Entry tickets are 25 euros but totally worth it. The ticket allows you to visit the exhibitions in Giardini and Arsenale. You can visit the two venues on different days, and I really recommend doing so. The exhibitions are open from 11 am to 6 pm and I ran out of time trying to see everything in one day! In addition to the art exhibitions displaying things like a self-playing piano and a colourful room full of rubble, different countries have created pavilions representing local art, nature, culture and life.

Venice is such an interesting city. If you get lost, it‘s not like you can just take a turn at a random street corner — because it’s full of water! Venice is best explored by foot (when you finally find a bridge that lets you cross over to the other side). I also bought a 24 hour water taxi pass for 20 €, that gives unlimited travel around Venice as well as the surrounding islands.

Of the many islands surrounding Venice, I only had time to visit Murano. In the words of a Murano local, there are three things to see on the island: glass, glass and more glass. This is definitely true — there are glass blowing factories and galleries all around the island.

Final night in Venice. Nice and plump.
I returned to Venice for a final stroll around the city.
Grazie e buona notte Italia.
Grazie e buona notte Italia.

Couchsurfing and road-tripping in Slovenia

After experiencing incredible hospitality in Croatia, I moved on to its northern neighbor, Slovenia, where I was met with just as much warmness from total strangers. I couchsurfed in Ljubljana with an amazing couple, who provided me with accommodation, food, interesting conversations and good laughs. They even invited me to a party, which was a lot of fun!

Ljubljana is Slovenia’s capital but it’s really small with only 280 000 inhabitants. A day or two is enough to explore the city.

Metelkova brings colour to Ljubljana with its several clubs, art galleries and a hostel. The autonomous area was born in 1993 when activists occupied former army barracks to prevent their demolition. During the following decades, organizations maintaining Metelkova faced a lot of struggles with authorities, but the area is now thriving as a space for cultural activity.

It happened to be the Museum Summer Night on my first day in Ljubljana. The annual event grants visitors free entry to museums all around Slovenia between 6 pm and midnight. I visited three museums near Metelkova:

The Slovene Ethnographic Museum is a museum about cultural heritage, identities and civilization. Until December 2015 they are running an exhibition about doors. Doors! The exhibition was very well done. Who thought doors could be so interesting?

The Museum of Modern Art lives up to its name, displaying things so modern, that you don’t know whether to laugh or to question if it’s art. The museum displays mostly installations — for example a machine that at the push of a button sings you a song and showers you with polystyrene beads.

The National Museum of Slovenia is a good place to start learning about the history of the country through old paintings and ancient items.

On my second day in Ljubljana I participated in the free walking tour that starts in front of the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation every day at 11 am and 3 pm.
On my second day in Ljubljana I participated in the free walking tour that starts in front of the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation every day at 11 am and 3 pm.
The dragon is a symbol of Ljubljana, and can be seen on the city's coat of arms. Four dragons also adorn Ljubljana's most famous landmark, the Dragon Bridge. Legend has it, if a virgin crosses the bridge, the dragons will wag their tails.
The dragon is a symbol of Ljubljana, and can be seen on the city’s coat of arms. Four dragons also adorn Ljubljana’s most famous landmark, the Dragon Bridge. Legend has it, if a virgin crosses the bridge, the dragons will wag their tails.
The free walking tour ended at Križanke Outdoor Theatre, set up in an old monastery.
The free walking tour ended at Križanke Outdoor Theatre, set up in an old monastery.
In contrast to the colourful Metelkova, the rest of Ljubljana looks like a clean and traditional European city.
In contrast to the colourful Metelkova, the rest of Ljubljana looks like a clean and traditional European city.
For some nature, you can head to Castle Hill just south of the city centre.
For some nature, you can head to Castle Hill just south of the city centre.
From Ljubljana Castle complex you have views over the entire city.
From Ljubljana Castle complex, at the top of Castle Hill, you have views over the entire city.
At the tiny all-vegan restaurant Bobenček you can fill your stomach with salads, soups and sandwiches. For a couple of euros I was able to enjoy a large bowl of delicious lentil soup.
At the tiny all-vegan restaurant Bobenček you can fill your stomach with salads, soups and sandwiches. For a couple of euros I was able to enjoy a large bowl of delicious lentil soup.
Around Ljubljana there are vending machines that sell unskimmed raw cow milk. The vending machines are filled daily with fresh milk from nearby farms. The taste? Just like milk.
Around Ljubljana there are vending machines that sell unskimmed raw cow milk. The vending machines are filled daily with fresh milk from nearby farms. The taste? Just like milk.

From Ljubljana I continued northwest. I met a local man who drove me all the way to Bled and even took small roads instead of the highway so I could see some other towns as well. Anyone ever tell you not to get in a stranger’s car? I say do. It might be hard to believe for someone living a conservative life, but trusting people opens up a whole new world of opportunities.

Somewhere in Slovenia with a private driver. Awesome!
Somewhere in Slovenia with a private driver. Awesome!
Škofja Loka, an old town in Western Slovenia.
Škofja Loka, a medieval town in northwestern Slovenia.
Bled is known for Lake Bled, and the small church perched on an island in the middle of the lake.
Bled is known for Lake Bled, and the small church perched on an island in the middle of the lake.

Bled is quite touristy so I took a bus to Bohinj where I stayed for one night. There is a lot of accommodation in the area, so after stepping out of the bus, I went to the tourist office where they booked me a room in a nearby villa. A private room cost 20 €.

Bohinj, with clear waters, fresh air and big mountains, is popular among hikers.
Bohinj, with clear waters, fresh air and large mountains, is popular among hikers.
Structures in Bohinj for drying grains. And for looking at the world upside down, obviously.
Structures in Bohinj for drying grains. And for looking at the world upside down, obviously.

Rain was pouring down the following day so unfortunately a hike up the mountain was out of question. I had gotten a Couchsurfing invite from someone who lives in the nearby town of Tolmin so I decided to go there. I was supposed to take a bus to the local station to catch my train, but the driver forgot to stop there, so I decided to skip the rainy countryside and ride the bus all the way back to Ljubljana instead.

I didn't feel sad about escaping the rain to Ljubljana, because it gave me the chance to visit Loving Hut, which had been under renovation the previous two days.
I didn’t feel sad about escaping the rain to Ljubljana, because it gave me the chance to visit vegan restaurant Loving Hut, which had been under renovation the previous two days.

Sitting down for lunch at Loving Hut also gave me a chance to connect to Wi-Fi. I logged on to BlaBlaCar and searched for all rides leaving Ljubljana that afternoon. One couple were on their way to Bologna a few hours later, so that’s where I went!

I love not having set plans while traveling. Things don't usually turn out as planned in life, so the less plans you have, the less disappointed you'll feel. One of my favorite quotes is Relax, nothing is under control.
I love not having set plans while traveling. Things don’t usually turn out as planned in life, so the less plans you have, the less disappointed you’ll feel. One of my favorite quotes is Relax, nothing is under control.

Asanas in Istria

Yoga retreats are a convenient way to combine my two main interests: yoga and travel. They’re also a great way to meet like-minded people. And the food! It’s usually so tasty that you don’t only stretch your muscles but also your belly.

Even though my travel style is quite budget orientated, I don’t mind paying more for yoga retreats. The money is deposited to the best bank possible — my wellbeing.

I have been to a budget yoga retreat before. For 30 € a night I got one class of yoga and a big breakfast. The rest of the meals I cooked myself and accommodation was in tents. While the experience was absolutely amazing and I would gladly go again, I like trying new things. And sometimes it’s nice to pamper yourself instead of worrying about money.

As I found a retreat that coincided with my travel dates, I decided to go there after exploring other parts of Croatia.

In May I experienced an intense three day retreat in Finland — this time I opted for something a bit more relaxing. The seven day retreat was held on the Istrian peninsula, in a tiny village called Orihi. A typical day consisted of a two hour vinyasa flow class in the morning, followed by brunch. In the late afternoon we were pampered with a one hour restorative class and a three course dinner!

A big villa complex was exclusively in our use during the retreat.
A big villa complex was exclusively in our use during the retreat.
Classes were held in the patio turned into an outdoor yoga shala.
Classes were held in the patio turned into an outdoor yoga shala.
The outdoor area was decorated with colourful flags and fabrics, which added a lovely atmosphere to the classes taught by Nina Vukas.
The outdoor area was decorated with colourful flags and fabrics, which added a lovely atmosphere to the classes taught by Nina Vukas.
The interior of the villa was also super cozy.
The interior of the villa was also super cozy.
In between classes there was free time which was usually spent swimming, reading, talking or napping.
In between classes there was free time which was usually spent swimming, reading, talking or napping.
Nina's dog was also enjoying the sun.
Nina’s dog also enjoyed the sun.
Seeta, named after the hindu goddess, became everyone's friend.
Seeta, named after the hindu goddess, became everyone’s friend.
Professional chef Maja Kefecek worked hard every day to serve us healthy and delicious vegetarian food.
Professional chef Maja Kefeček worked hard every day to serve us healthy and delicious vegetarian food.
Brunch was huge, with a selection of bread, cheese, omelettes, pastries, salads, soups, vegetables, yogurt, granola, smoothies, tea — just to name a few.
Brunch was huge, with a selection of bread, cheese, omelettes, pastries, salads, soups, vegetables, yogurt, granola, smoothies, tea — just to name a few.

For 700 €, I got an entire week of yoga, food, excursions and a bed in a three person room. I think it’s funny how the cheaper option (not getting a private room) is almost always more fun! There wouldn’t have been as much laughter if it wasn’t for my roommates.

There were also different treatments on offer and I went for the one hour abdominal massage. Like I said, I like trying new things, and even though an abdominal massage sounded pretty intense, it ended up being a really relaxing experience and something I definitely want to do again.

Walking through the tiny village of Orihi takes about five minutes.
Walking through the tiny village of Orihi takes about five minutes.
One of the village locals.
One of the village locals.
One afternoon some of us made an excursion to the medieval town of Motovun.
One afternoon some of us made an excursion to the medieval town of Motovun.
Motovun is located on a hill 270 meters above sea level.
Motovun is located on a hill 270 meters above sea level.

Beautiful Monja, who in addition to being my roommate, definitely became a soulmate.
Beautiful Monja, who in addition to being my roommate, definitely became a soulmate.
Halfway through the retreat we visited an olive farm where we learnt about the harvesting process and got a chance to buy olive oil so tasty that you could eat it with anything (I have to try it with vanilla ice cream, as recommended by the farmer)!
Halfway through the retreat we visited an olive farm where we learnt about the harvesting process and got a chance to buy olive oil so tasty that you could eat it with anything (I have to try it with vanilla ice cream, as recommended by the farmer)!
On the second last night of the retreat, we visited Rovinj, and old city on the western coast of Istria. We went on a tour with a boat that was conducted by a Finnish man! He told me the story of how he works the summers on the boat in Croatia and the winters in a resort in Lapland.
On the second last night of the retreat, we visited Rovinj, and old city on the western coast of Istria.
We went on a tour with a boat that was conducted by a Finnish man. He told me the story of how he works the summers on the boat in Croatia and the winters in a ski resort in Lapland.
We went on a tour with a boat that was conducted by a Finnish man. He told me the story of how he works the summers on the boat in Croatia and the winters in a ski resort in Lapland.
Afterwards we walked around the old town.
After the boat trip we walked around the old town.

In Rovinj there are many small shops and galleries selling quirky artwork.
In Rovinj there are many small shops and galleries selling quirky artwork.
With my yoga retreat roommates in Rovinj.
With my yoga retreat roommates in Rovinj.
At the yoga retreat, I met so many amazing women, who provided me with inspiration, support, growth and laughter.
At the yoga retreat, I met so many amazing women, who provided me with inspiration, support, growth and laughter.
Final night at the yoga retreat — last chance to enjoy Maja's cooking.
Final night at the yoga retreat — last chance to enjoy Maja’s spectacular cooking.

Even though this retreat had more laughter than the previous one, a lot of tears were shed on the last night. It feels like we didn’t do that much, but time went so quickly, and true friendships were formed. I will definitely miss everyone I met in Orihi.

Check out Supersoul Yoga for retreats in Croatia and around the world.

The clear waters and friendly people of Croatia

I love Couchsurfing.

I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the best way to travel. You can learn so much in such a short time just by spending time with a local. I love how I can go to a town I know nothing about and have someone tell me the best sights to see, the best places to eat and of course teach me a couple of words in the local language! Usually the experience gives me so much more than I expected.

I started my summer holidays Couchsurfing in Split for two nights. Shortly after settling down at my host’s apartment, he had to go to work and I headed to the city centre.

The sun was shining in Split, the second largest city in Croatia.
The sun was shining in Split, the second largest city in Croatia.
I walked up to Marjan hill where I had great views over Split.
I walked up to Marjan hill where I had great views over Split.

From Marjan hill, I walked back down to the city centre to experience the old alleyways and marketplaces of Split. And also all the tourists and souvenir shops!

As Split is located on the shore of the Adriatic Sea, fish is popular here. I visited Split Fish Market, a lively market square and hall with all the sea food you can imagine. One interesting observation I made: almost every single vendor had a cigarette either in their mouth or in their hand while preparing and selling the fish!

For people not eating animals, there’s really only one vegetarian restaurant in Split. But with Makrovega, one is enough! A big delicious lunch, consisting of a soup and main course, costs less than 10 €.

My Couchsurfing host Mladen had made a joke about the Croatian lifestyle: say one thing, do another and think a third! On my second day in Split I got to experience this on my own. A tour to visit Krka National Park was advertised to leave at 9 am but when I arrived at the travel bureau, the tour had already left at eight! After wandering around Split for a while, I decided to visit the nearby island of Hvar.

The catamaran from Split to Hvar Town takes one hour and costs 60 kuna (approximately 8 €).
The catamaran from Split to Hvar town takes one hour and costs 60 kuna (approximately 8 €).
There's a beautiful panoramic view over Hvar and the Pakleni islands from Hvar fortress.
There’s a beautiful panoramic view over Hvar and the Pakleni islands from the Hvar fortress located on top of a hill.
Tourists taking a rest in Hvar.
Tourists taking a rest in Hvar.

From Hvar town I took a bus to Stari Grad (literally “Old Town”). There is a car ferry back to Split from Stari Grad so you don’t have to return to Hvar town unless you want to take the catamaran back to the mainland. The two hour journey from Stari Grad to Split on the car ferry costs 40 kuna.

I preferred Stari Grad over the touristy Hvar. There were almost no people on its picturesque streets, just lots of animals: dogs, cats and even a rooster!

This spot called for a swim. Mild evening sun, no people around and the clearest water I had ever seen.
This spot called for a swim. Mild evening sun, no people around and the clearest water I had ever seen.

That’s until the following day, when I visited Croatia’s top attraction, Plitvice Lakes, a four hour bus ride from Split. The water was so clear that I almost stepped into the water until I saw the fish swimming in there! Walking a whole day in a national park gives you lots of time to think about things. But with views like the ones below, my main thought was thank you.

As Plitvice Lakes is Croatia's main tourist attraction, there's an abundance of accommodation in the area. I stayed in Villa Lykos in the nearby town of Jezerce, where a private room set me back 38 €.
As Plitvice Lakes is Croatia’s main tourist attraction, there’s an abundance of accommodation in the area. I stayed in Villa Lykos in the nearby town of Jezerce, where a private room set me back 38 €.
After walking next to refreshing waterfalls in Plitvice, I moved on to Croatia's sweltering hot capital, Zagreb.
After walking next to refreshing waterfalls in Plitvice, I moved on to Croatia’s sweltering hot capital, Zagreb.
I had booked a room through Airbnb with a man called Dragan. He not only provided me with comfortable accommodation and interesting conversations, but even prepared me lunch and breakfast! All for the price of 11 €.
I had booked a room through Airbnb with a 65-year-old man called Dragan. Not only did he provide me with comfortable accommodation and interesting conversations, but even prepared me lunch and breakfast! All for the price of 11 €.
A ride on the world's shortest funicular, 66 m in length, costs 4 kuna.
A ride on the world’s shortest funicular, 66 m in length, costs 4 kuna.
As it was such a hot day, I escaped the heat to The Museum of Broken Relationships. The museum consists of artifacts that real people have donated to the museum along with a story related to the item. Displaying everything from an axe used to destroy the ex's furniture to a mother's suicide note, the museum was selected as the European Museum of the Year in 2011 and quite rightfully so. The museum is funny, sad and thought provoking.
As it was such a hot day, I escaped the heat to The Museum of Broken Relationships. The museum consists of artefacts that real people have donated to the museum along with a story related to the item. Displaying everything from an axe used to destroy the ex’s furniture to a mother’s suicide note, the museum was selected as the European Museum of the Year in 2011 and quite rightfully so. The museum is funny, sad and thought provoking.
“I had this big, truly big love, a long-distance relationship, Sarajevo – Zagreb. It lasted for 20 months. Of course, we dreamt of a life together and with that in mind I bought this huge caterpillar. Every time we would see each other we would tear off one leg. When we ran out of legs to tear, that would be the time to start a life together. But, naturally, as is often the case with great loves, the relationship broke and so the caterpillar did not become a complete invalid after all.”
“I had this big, truly big love, a long-distance relationship, Sarajevo – Zagreb. It lasted for 20 months. Of course, we dreamt of a life together and with that in mind I bought this huge caterpillar. Every time we would see each other we would tear off one leg. When we ran out of legs to tear, that would be the time to start a life together. But, naturally, as is often the case with great loves, the relationship broke and so the caterpillar did not become a complete invalid after all.”
The Dance Week Festival is held yearly in Zagreb, with performances around the city. Already in its 32nd year, I had the privilege to witness the captivating performance of Spanish dancer Concha Vidal.
The Dance Week Festival is held yearly in Zagreb, with performances around the city. Already in its 32nd year, I had the privilege to witness the captivating performance of Spanish dancer Concha Vidal.
I had dinner at Zrno Bio Bistro, a vegan restaurant that sources its produce from local organic farmers. Del-ic-ious!
I had dinner at Zrno Bio Bistro, a vegan restaurant that sources its produce from local organic farmers. Del-ic-ious!

Even though I really enjoyed the parks, waterfalls, alleyways, museums and restaurants of Croatia, my fondest memories are of the incredible hospitality and friendliness of the Croatian people.