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.

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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.

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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:)

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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!

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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!

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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!

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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:)

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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.
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More or less where the family plot is…it’s truly beautiful!
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Just one of the many beautiful Serbian Orthodox Monasteries nestled inside the park we explored.

 

 

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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.
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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 😉
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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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:)

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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.

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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:)

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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.

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With The Gypsy’s parents on top of the wall of the old fort in Novi Sad
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“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 )

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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:)

A little something I learnt

I recently learnt a little something. Truth be told it’s probably something I’ve always known, but being forced to face the reality of it has been good for my soul. The truth is….no one gives a damn.

Let me catch you up. If you follow me on twitter or Instagram, you will be well aware of the fact that I recently went on a long and incredibly beautiful holiday. The trip related blog posts are still a WIP but they will hopefully be up soon enough. We spent a number of days in Serbia and then slowly made our way to Croatia and finally spent the last 2 weeks on an island off the coast of Croatia. It was delightful, and we spent a lot of time soaking up the sun and swimming in the mirror like Adriatic Sea.

While I was packing for this exquisite trip the Gypsy and his mom (who lives on the island!!!!) advised that I pack more than one bathing suit/bikini/whatever tickles my fancy as we will spend a lot of time swimming and sunbathing and sometimes having a second one to change into so that you don’t walk around in wet gear is nice. The swim wear packing caused me a bit of stress and frustration…and here’s why.

I am currently over weight. Don’t get me wrong…I’m not obese…I’m not FAT….i’m not HUGE, but I am over weight in that I have curves, I could definitely stand to lose some weight and I’m probably the biggest I’ve ever been in my life. It’s caused me a lot of frustration of late because I eat healthy, I exercise, I sleep better and I drink a ton of water, yet nothing seems to make a difference. I tried to lose weight in the months preceding our trip, but because I was traveling all the time before we left this wasn’t as easy as I had hoped.

The really funny thing is, even though I could definitely stand to lose some weight I don’t have massive issues about it. Because, while my ex was all about body image and being fit and trim and thin and concerned about what other people think, the Gypsy smothers me in love and attention and tells me how beautiful I look (even when I really don’t…bless his soul). Without realising it he led me to a space in recent months of focusing on being healthy rather than thin and being happy and comfortable in my own skin. It’s been an amazing journey and one I am certainly grateful for. It doesn’t mean that I don’t still aim to lose the weight…it just means I’m not obsessing about it. And that makes me a lot healthier in all aspects.

But back to my original story. The whole point of the above explanation was to make it clear that I am most certainly NOT bikini ready. In addition, I’m extremely self-conscious about the huge scar running all across my diaphragm area as a result of the gangrene related butchery, which has caused me to rather wear tankini tops of late. Not to mention the fact that in my entire adult life (even when I was much thinner) I don’t think ever wore ONLY a bikini. I always wore a pair of swim shorts. It was just the thing to do when you didn’t exactly look like a runway model. Everyone did it that way and quite frankly there are always comments about the less than model like people who dare to walk around in only bikinis.

So I packed two tankinis and a pair of swim shorts. On the day of our departure the Gypsy managed to convince me to pack my bikinis too, stating that I might change my mind and regret not being able to get  a better tan while I was there. I laughed at the thought but shoved two in my suitcase (just in case), mostly to humour him.

When we got to the island and went for our first swim I confidently went out in my tankini and swim shorts…because this is what I always do. But I ended up abandoning the tankini tops within two days and the swim shorts two days later. For the first time in my adult life I was swimming, walking around and sun bathing in a bikini ONLY in PUBLIC! The horror!

But here’s a thing I learnt from the locals about body image. NOBODY CARES! The island was covered in locals walking/swimming/sunbathing in the smallest garments you could possible imagine and sometimes even nude. It didn’t matter if you were small, big or quite frankly huge….you wore whatever you wanted to…and nobody even gave a second glance. There was none of the sniggers and whispers I had grown accustomed to in SA when a really massive middle aged woman started walking around in the tiniest bikini I had ever seen. In fact, no one but me even gave her a second glance.

I’ve learnt that South African are actually pretty damn judgemental. I learnt that the only person truly judging me for how I look is me and the ONLY person causing me to be self-conscious about how I look and what I dress in is me. I learnt to get over myself….and it was an amazing and freeing moment.

It helped that the Gypsy’s only reaction when I finally appeared in a bikini only was to give me a hug and a kiss, gleefully exclaim that he’s so happy that I’m finally completely comfortable and then proceed to tell me that he has no idea what I was on about, because I look fabulous. (this guy…so sweet)

So the lesson I learnt: nobody cares. So embrace who you are! Stop worrying and have fun. Life is too short to worry about other people will think when most of them don’t matter anyway. Life is definitely too short to put off doing things because you don’t look the right way. Live in the moment and embrace where you are. Because NOBODY CARES!

Dear Europe (Day 7)

Yes, it’s been a year since my trip…I realise this….but I’ve already spoken about my lack of blogging in the last year here.  After much consideration I decided to complete my posts on my trip regardless of the time-lapse.  They are lovely to look back on and with so many awesome memories they are definitely worth putting up.  So I’ll steadily be posting the last few days of my holiday last year.

So….Day 7…the day I meet up with my tour group from TopDeck Tours.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous.  Here I was all on my own in a strange country where very few people understood me waiting to join a group of people I didn’t know from a bar of soap.  The group was only scheduled to arrive at 2pm as I was joining up with an already existing group who had been traveling for a week already, so I went for a bit of a walk about in the morning to explore my immediate surroundings.

Rome is AMAZING!  It is the strangest mix of absolutely ancient history and modern buildings all rolled into one.  There is so much to see and the locals LOVE the foreigners…it’s the strangest thing…they just want to chat to you and find out all about you.  I wasn’t brave enough to explore the public transport system yet at this point, but I headed back to the hotel lobby to meet up with my group.  They were slightly late, but when they walked in I was engulfed in a group of loud, all over the world awesomeness.  The group consisted of people from Australia, Canada, America, China, Italy, Japan, Korea (north and south), Nieu-Zeeland and Romania, and of course when I joined South Africa.  I was immediately included and regarded as a friend and some of them I still consider friends:) The tour guide, Micelle, is actually originally from Rome, so we were in for a treat.

Shortly after their arrival we set off on a walking tour of all the major areas of Rome.  Micelle showed us how the public transport system works and gave us a map of the city with all the major touristy things marked and he made sure to indicate to us where our hotel was situated.  The walking tour basically teaches you all about the city and its history without going into all the major touristy places….so we went to the Colosseum but we didn’t go in etc. There would be plenty of that the next day when we were free to roam Rome.  It was during this walkabout that we ate ALL the gelato in Rome…truly, nobody makes it like the real Italians.

A street scene from our walkabout in Rome
A street scene from our walkabout in Rome

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The Trevi Fountain
The Trevi Fountain

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That's our tour guide, Micelle, sitting up top telling us a story...
That’s our tour guide, Micelle, sitting up top telling us a story…

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A mixture of old and new
A mixture of old and new
The Colosseum..it is majestic!
The Colosseum..it is majestic!

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We ended off the day in a quaint little restaurant where we had a choice of all kinds of awesome Italian dishes and wine and where I scored a LOT of free wine due to the fact that I was South African.  I thought Micelle had been joking when he said I will probably find that people in general would be drawn to me because of where I come from..he was not wrong. I even got a tour of the wine cellar:) After dinner we went out for a couple of drinks and then headed back to our hotel…super tired and excited for all the exploring we would do the next day.

Love
Ruby
xxx