Why I lost my heart in Rab

From Rovinj we drove the meandering coastal roads back to Rijeka. On the way we decided to spend some time exploring Velebit (the largest, but not the highest mountains in Croatia). We took a stunning drive as high as we could go and then proceeded to hike to the top. The view from the top is absolutely breathtaking! and you can actually see the islands off the coast of Croatia in the distance.

From Velebit we proceeded to take the ferry across the Adriatic Sea to the island of Rab, where the Gypsy’s mother and Grandmother live. The main town is beautiful and old and charming. Most of the town is not accessible by car, the homes are ancient and most of the town is protected by the National Heritage Council (i.e. if you want to do any home renovations or maintenance you have to get their permission first).

The island is mostly known for the old town of the same name, encircled by ancient walls. The town’s 4 church bell towers include the tower at the Cathedral Svete Marije (St. Mary) and the tower at the ruins of Sveti Ivan Church (St. John the Evangelist). The monastery at the 16th-century Church of St. Justine (Crkva Svete Justine) is now a museum of sacral objects.

The Adriatic sea does not have beaches like the ones we know in SA. There is no sand, but rather a variety of rocks and cement walkways. There are no waves and it’s much like swimming in a gigantic pool for the most part:) I also found the water to be extremely salty and as a result you can quite literally just kinda float around without even trying. It’s quite heavenly really and honestly I prefer this to our sandy beaches and brain scrambling waves when it comes to swimming.

 

While on Rab we explored several other areas on the island including Frkanj, which was probably my favourite. The area is marked by small, private beaches, beautiful rock formations and forests. We spent a good few days of our time on Rab exploring different areas along Frankj.

The Gypsy had been visiting nearly every year and shyly took me to a tree where he had carved our initials the previous year, shortly after we had started dating. He already knew at that point that it was forever….this guy though <3.

IMG_7392

We also visited Lopar, which actually has sandy beaches. To my knowledge these are however man-made.

On one of the days we decided to cycle through the reserve on Rab. We rented bicycles from the hotel in Rab and cycled a total of 25km (12.5 each way). It was probably one of the most beautiful cycling trips in my entire life and we were rewarded with incredible views and a swim in the sea at the halfway mark.

IMG_7546

I was also introduced to a lovely old man called Bogdan, who doesn’t speak a word of english, but is loosely related to the Gypsy’s family. This old man honestly put us all to shame. He’s well over 80 years old, still dives to more than 12m without any gear to catch octopus, fish and to collect shells and stones for his artwork and swims at least 5km each morning. He was kind enough to take us out deeper into the sea away from all the people to go swim and relax a few times and gifted us with a beautiful watercolour painting inspired by the island (which is now proudly hanging in our home).

Rab has quite a unique charm and, apart from the fact that our family lives there, we will definitely be returning this year because it’s simply one of the most beautiful places on earth. The people are amazing and friendly, the roman ruins are incredible and there are views for days no matter where you go.

After a stunning week and a half of relaxing, exploring, swimming and sunbathing we hit the road in our trusty little rental back to Belgrade. It was a long drive, but the border post is lovely…it’s quite literally like going through a drive through or a toll gate in SA. You waste the minimum amount of time and the immigration officers are super friendly. Then it was time to fly back to SA and as usual it’s always great to be home:) And who knew that less than 6 months later we’d be engaged and married six months after that?! It’s been a rollercoaster, but it’s been amazing and I look forward going back there with my husband this year:)

Exploring Rovinj

After visiting Fruška Gora we returned to Belgrade for a few days to explore a bit more, do laundry and pack for our trip to Croatia. We then hit the long road traveling through Zagreb and Rijeka until we finally got to Rovinj.

Rovinj is a Croatian fishing port and truly the most charming little town. The old town stands on a headland, with houses tightly crowded down to the seafront. A tangle of cobbled streets leads to the hilltop church of St. Euphemia, whose towering steeple dominates the skyline. It is a breathtaking view (especially at sunset) and you can’t help but feel romantic and sentimental and relaxed and happy all at the same time.

We spent hours exploring the old town and made our way to the hilltop to St. Euphemia at sunset. It was BEAUTIFUL to say the least. There were a number of visitors, but I think my favourite thing was the casual musician entertaining us with soft guitar music as the sun gently set over the water.

We managed to enjoy an amazing dinner in a little restaurant over the water and the food was quite spectacular. As always…fish is served including heads and scales and everything (a new experience on this trip for this little South African) but it was spectacularly prepared and worth the “eeeeuw”-factor. Also…piiiiiizzzzzaaaa and lemon beer were a firm favourite!

During our stay we also ventured a visit to a charming nearby town called Pula. Pula is a seafront city on the tip of Croatia’s Peninsula and is known for its protected harbor, beach-lined coast and Roman ruins. The Roman ruins being one of the main reasons we decided to visit this quiet little town. Did you know that amongst these ruins is a Colosseum?! Much smaller of course than the one in Rome, but impressive nonetheless and definitely worth a visit! And of course we consumed our bodyweight in Burek and Lemon beer to fight the hunger and heat.

2018 in retrospect

As I sit here and stare back over the year that was 2018 I can hardly believe that all of 12 months have passed. It’s been a crazy whirlwind of a year. It’s been an insane mixture of good and bad and crazy moments stitched together. But we made it! We survived! And while I know that most people had a really hard 2018, mine for the most part, has been good.

  • Firstly, and perhaps the most extraordinary part of this year, was the fact that I married the love of my life. On 30 June 2018 on a beautiful Northern Natal guest farm, we promised each other honestly, love, support and to stick by each other even when things got hard. It was the most perfect day. Literally nothing went wrong, and we were super chilled. I did pretty much everything myself with the help of my family (old and new) and even my dress appealed to the sentimental in me…it was made by my mother dearest. It really was the best day in the history of forever!
  • My brother, SIL and my two gorgeous nephews came for a visit (especially for the wedding) and I got to spend a week with them before the wedding. It was so lovely to have them!
  • We spent an amazing two weeks exploring Italy as part of our honeymoon!

img_0241

  • I obtained my international certification.
  • I spent the first 5 months of the year traveling up and down between SA and Namibia and planned most of my wedding from my hotel room and the hotel’s skybar.

img_9147

  • My husband (yes I still love the sound of that) spent the bulk of the year traveling to Cape Town for a few days each week…let’s just say this got exhausting eventually.
  • After the wedding we moved in together and attempted to merge two completely furnished homes. It was easier than I thought and there were literally no disagreements. We spent ages beforehand discussing which big-ticket items we were keeping and which we will be getting rid of…I honestly believe this helped.
  • Husband attacked a second degree (which he plans to finish in 3 years max despite working full-time) and passed his first year cum laude (ALL THE PRIDE).
  • My parents retired and will be moving away from my hometown early in the new year to start a whole new life as adventurous retirees. So excited for them.

img_1354

  • Saying goodbye to my hometown (I will probably never go back there as there really is no reason to) was harder than I thought it would be and it made me a little sad.
  • There were some health scares in the family. I don’t want to go into this in detail, but it’s been a bit scary and plenty sobering. Every single day is a gift by grace…truly.
  • I said goodbye to friends who moved overseas. I find rather than easier this becomes harder every single time.
  • I became godmother for the second time!

img_8936

All in all it’s been a crazy beautiful year with some unexpected twists and turns. I am grateful for each moment, each lesson, each adventure, each blessing, each memory and each day we receive as a gift by grace.

Bring on 2019!

img_9347

 

Exploring Fruška Gora

Fruška Gora (pronounced Frushka Ghora), more commonly known as the Frankish mountain outside of Serbia, is a beautiful forest-covered mountain in Serbia. A small part of it also extends into Croatia, but mostly it’s a Serbian thing. It’s also referred to as the “jewel of Serbia” due to the amazing landscape.

From Belgrade we traveled by car to a small and picturesque town called Vrdnik, just on the edge of the park. It vaguely reminded me of the small Swiss towns on the edge of the Alps and was filled with lush greenery, sweet little homes and local establishments. Here we rented two apartments for a few nights and I was genuinely impressed with the low cost.

From Vrdnik we proceeded to explore the beauty that is Fruška Gora. There are tons of old Serbian Orthodox monasteries in and around the park which are a delight to visit. The forests are incredibly beautiful and lush and there are hidden treasures everywhere you look. The Gypsy’s family also owns a plot of land inside the park and we had fun finding it and having a look around. Sadly the little cabin had long since suffered massive damage due to disuse and general decay, but we have dreams of building a little cabin on it one day:)

img_7079
This was probably one of my favourite spots. If I had my way i would be getting married right there! Unfortunately things haven’t worked out quite that way…but it is spectacularly beautiful. This spot is just a short walk into the forest behind one of the little monasteries..and boy was it worth every meter walked.
img_7084
More or less where the family plot is…it’s truly beautiful!
img_7093
Just one of the many beautiful Serbian Orthodox Monasteries nestled inside the park we explored.

 

 

img_7094
Inside one of the many churches. Photos couldn’t possibly do the art inside these buildings any justice, and out of respect I did not take close-ups.
img_7095
Another beautifully hidden one. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to go inside as I wasn’t wearing appropriate clothing…neither was the Gypsy as he was wearing a pair of shorts 😉
img_7096
This was probably one of my most favourite signs outside one of the churches. No hand holding No smoking No cameras No make-up No dogs I had to take this picture hiding behind the Gypsy and keeping a wary eye out for the rather stern Nun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

img_7137
All throughout the forest we found these sweet little hearts painted on trees. To this day I still have no idea why they are there or who put them there and none of the locals I was able to converse with could give me a reason, but they did make for some really cool photos:)

img_7083img_7138

img_7163

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of many selfies taken during the course of our trip. This specific one was outside one of the churches where we weren’t allowed to explore the inside due to lack of appropriate dress. In our defense it was really boiling and i was wearing a spaghetti top dress and he was wearing a pair of shorts. Neither were considered appropriate. So we soaked up a bit of sun and explored the outside of the monastery instead.

img_7144

The bee population in the park is doing exceptionally well:) All across the park there are thousands upon thousands of multi-coloured beehives and if you asked me what sound i would associate with the park it would definitely be the sound of bees. In some cases old trucks or buses had been converted to house these hives in order to move them around more easily. The bees are MASSIVE and slightly scary looking. Those smudges in the pic are due to bees buzzing outside the car window:)

img_7090

 

This is probably one of my favourite signs in the whole wide world. Literally every town has them. “You are now entering a town”, “You are now exiting a town”. Hours of entertainment during our long drives at spotting them…..because sometimes it doesn’t exactly LOOK like a town….

 

 

On one of the days we traveled to the City of Novi Sad, explored the old fortress and the old part of town and had an amazing meal on the banks of the Danube.

img_7105
With The Gypsy’s parents on top of the wall of the old fort in Novi Sad
img_7110
“Old Town” Novi Sad with just a dash of the modern city on the left hand side.

img_7119Lunch started with fish soup….which to be honest I wasn’t sure i’d like. I’ve never been a fan. but it was delicious! Served with a bowl small pieces of raw dough, cheese and bacon pieces which you add to your hot soup (the finely chopped pieces of dough quickly cooks through) it was SUPER delicious and I could easily have eaten only that! This was followed by fresh fish…now let me tell you…in SA we are spoiled. Fish is processed and provided to you sans head and fins and STUFF. Not here. As you can see the Smooch is quite literally cooked as is with head and tail and fins and EVERYTHING. It freaked me out a bit at first, but it was delicious and I enjoyed every single bite (once I stopped looking at what i was eating:P )

img_7121

All in all Fruška Gora is a spectacular place and if you ever find yourself in Serbia or even just in the general area I would SERIOUSLY recommend a visit. VERY affordable, absolutely beautiful and a place that will steal your heart over and over and over again:)

Dear Belgrade, Serbia

As promised, I am finally getting around to writing about our amazing holiday earlier this year. I posted a ton of photos on instagram and twitter (#RAGISAC) and tried to send a message to my family at the end of each day with a little summary of what we did and a few photos to show them.

We traveled from Jozitown to Belgrade, Serbia via Abu Dhabi, explored Serbia and then proceeded to drive to Croatia. We spent the first few days in Rovinj and then took a ferry through to the island of Rab, where The Gypsy’s mother lives. In this post I’ll be focusing on my experience of Belgrade.

img_7002
On the plane and on our way! #RAGISAC

We arrived in Belgrade on a Saturday morning and was greeted at the airport by The Gypsy’s parents as a surprise. We were only supposed to meet up with them a bit later in the day, but they took a bus to the airport to surprise us instead. His father awaited me with a bunch of flowers and a big bear hug and his mom wouldn’t let me touch my own suitcase once we showed our faces in arrivals. And this behaviour continued throughout our trip. Whenever we spent any time with them we were spoiled rotten! And it was glorious:)

Belgrade is an incredible city. We spent a day or so exploring before heading off to Fruška Gora (more on this in another post) and then did some more exploring in-between returning from Fruška Gora and heading off to Croatia. It is a city of absolute contradictions. In one block you will see the most beautiful houses right next to a building that looks like something that should be condemned. But even the buildings that are falling apart are beautiful in their own way. It was later explained to me that in some cases the people let the buildings deteriorate on the outside in order to avoid paying property taxes, but i was assured that on the inside they are quite beautiful. In addition, due to the suspicious nature of the people, you may be labelled as an associate of the “mafioso” if you flaunt any sort of money, and not beautifying the homes on the outside is one way of avoiding such flaunting. I have no idea if this is true or one of those “jokes with a hint of truth” or complete fabrication, but honestly it kind of makes sense.

img_7186

I’m not sure what I was expecting exactly, considering that they were in civil war like only 20 years ago, but let’s just say Belgrade won my heart. The little shops hidden away in holes in the wall (literally), the friendly (yet slightly suspicious) people and the food was an amazing experience and i would definitely recommend people to visit.

 

img_7016
On the bus tour with The Gypsy’s parentals

On the day of our arrival we decided to do a hop-on-hop-off bus tour of the city and then proceeded to explore the forts, city wall and the spot where the Sava and the Danube rivers meet. It is SPECTACULARLY beautiful! Most of the city has recovered from the bombings but there are still a few buildings that carry the scars of a civil war less than two decades ago.

We discovered the cutest little pub, lemon beer (which, let’s face it, is the best thing in that heat) and the most amazing food…seriously…the food! Three of my absolute favourite food related Serbian things are Börek (The cheese one to be specific), kajmak (it’s a cheese) and Cevapi.

It’s hard to only choose a few random shots as there were so many amazing things, but if i had to post ALL my photos this post would be miles long. So instead I’ve picked a few pictures below which I think sums up most of the highlights of this spectacular city:)