Sea, Sun, and Schnapps in Split

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Split, Croatia is a tourist hot-spot for travellers who enjoy spending their holidays relaxing, shopping, and eating next to stunning views of the sea. The scenic drive from Zagreb to Split offers stunning views of immaculate scenery, through which I mostly slept.

I met a group of Norweiagns and Americans on the bus, whose love for liquor brought them together on a wild romantic holiday that every backpacker dreams of. We spent three days indulging in wine, seafood, and endless shouts of “schnapps it!” alongside Croatia’s flawless coastline.

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Split’s Old Town is the most stunning I’ve seen in Eastern Europe. The Old Town is called Diocletian’s Palace – because that’s exactly what it is: a crumbling, beautiful ruin from the 1400’s. The ancient palace walls and corridors have been transformed into skinny streets and boutique shops that offer stunning views of the Adriatic Sea down every side street. Free wifi streams throughout the walls of Old Town. Once I became accustomed to the currency conversion rate, it was easy to bypass the expensive cafes for cheap (and relatively good) street food. (My personal favourite? The lukewarm pizza with spinach and feta.)

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Snag some fruit samples that are aggressively handed out at the main market, but watch your purse as you browse the stalls of cheap junk. To the north of Old Town is a picturesque antique market, selling everything from scuffed silver rings to black-and-white war photographs.

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Split’s main beach is small and grey, leaving something to be desired for the high expectations that accompany a coastal resort town (as did the nightlife – in mid-May, the clubs were about as lively as afternoon tea. Less, even). Instead of wasting a day along the packed promenade, hike up the leafy paths through Marjan and dive in at one of several secret swimming spots. A few fellow backpackers and I found our own private cove with glass-like water and streaming rays of sunshine
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There aren’t many hostels within the City Center, so it’s important to book accommodation early. I stayed right inside the Palace – you can read about my experience here. If I had more time in Croatia, I would’ve explored the Game of Thrones filming locations in Dubrovnik and relaxed along the islands. Unfortunately, after three days, it was time for me to split.

Top Ten Berlin

After exploring Europe’s most notorious party city for 4 weeks straight, I’ve compiled a list of my favourite experiences. I spent the majority of my time working on a travel guide project through CityTravelReview (read more about my experience here).

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When I wasn’t reviewing the main sights, I was searching for hidden gems and local hangouts. I tried (and failed) to get into Berghain, shopped far too much at Swedish outlets in Potzdamer Platz, and spent blissful afternoons by the river that streams around Museum Island. I explored abandoned buildings that require some breaking into and luscious parks where alcohol is not only permitted, but expected. I smoked shisha in an underground Turkish bar, busked on the streets with locals, and ate way too many donairs.

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Whether you have 10 days or 2 years in Berlin City, these ten spots are my must-see’s:

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  1. Spreepark: an old, overgrown amusement park, the owners of which went broke and left it eerily as was—today the lingering Ferris Wheel still spins and creaks, rotten tracks hold a graffitied roller coaster, and large swans sit in a moss-filled swamp. Push through or hop over the barbed wire fence, but don’t get caught by the security guard, who is based around the spinning tea cups.
  2. Kreuzberg: just past the East Side Gallery is the most artsy, liberal area of the city. Boutiques and clubs are masked in graffiti while brave buskers line the bridge. This area is best explored at dusk, while partiers begin to cue for entrance to clubs such as Watergate and Arena.
  3. Alternative Berlin Tours: whether you splurge for the Street Art Tour or stick with tipping on the free one, these guides offer insightful walking tours of Berlin’s best street art – one of our guides was a tagger himself. Bonus: if you fork over the 15 euros, you get to make your own spray-paint art to take home!
  4. Summer Open Airs: These outdoor parties occur all across Berlin in the summertime in large fields, parks, or beach bars. Posters advertising the time & place are plastered all over the city.
  5. The US Spy Tower: Located on the highest mountain in the Teufelsberg forest, this tall, starch-white abandoned spy tower is not so inconspicuous. Squatters have graffitied the large 8-floor walls. They demand a 7 euro entrance fee for a “tour,” through which they basically babysit you to ensure their living quarters aren’t disturbed – or discovered.10297666_717069385017125_78353640429791925_n
  6. Hermannplatz Markt: Skip the atrocious line at Mustafas Gemuse and grab a fresh falafel or flavoured latte for backpacker prices in this quaint square. Down the street is the perfect park to sunbathe and inhale your grub.
  7. Mauerpark Flea Market: Open only on Sundays, this isn’t your regular junk-no-one-else-wants market. Invest in a unique printed tee, a vintage handbag, or some used Vans while listening to the atrocious karaoke singers belt it across the park.
  8. Teufelsberg Mountain: While the most interesting attraction lies on the higher hill (see above), the flat-top man-made hill just below is the perfect escape from the noise of the city. It is ideal for picnics, long runs, and watching the sunset.
  9. Tiergarten: A massive, green, lake-filled expanse smack in the middle of the city – originally the late Tsar’s hunting grounds. Take a full, sunny day to appreciate this park of lakes and biergartens – have a pick-up game of footie, bring a disposable BBQ, or rent a rowboat with your sweetie.
  10. Badeschiff: Translating to Bathing Ship, this beach bar includes a turquoise pool plopped directly on the Spree River that runs through Berlin’s downtown. Badeschiff is full of buff Australian men and girls in teeny bikinis, sipping pricey cocktails and dancing to an all-day DJ.

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To read more about Berlin, download the backpacker guide I helped compile for CAD$1.99 @ lulu.com

For photos of all above attractions, check out my Facebook photos (click here!)

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