Berlin, Germany

Oh, Berlin, you were lovely. We were *still* a little bit sick when we arrived, but we were so excited to experience the city and meet up with our friend that we hardly even noticed.
 
We were staying at our friend's charming apartment in Mitte, which was very central and in a beautiful, quiet neighbourhood. The train system in Berlin deserves its reputation of being fantastic – they are clean, efficient, and the main S Bahn line has all these wonderful, high-ceilinged station platforms. We quickly mastered the system, and spent the rest of the week taking advantage of the fast, great trains.
 
One thing we noticed a lot: the food in Berlin was really great quality. Even in the subway stations, you'd have little cafe storefronts serving fresh sandwiches and salads. And outside of the metro too, the street food and restaurants we went to were all top notch. Our first night we made a trek (we switched trains 3 times..even with German efficiency that was a bit much) and ended up in the most beautiful neighbourhood, in search of a highly rated restaurant that we found on TripAdvisor. After two weeks of Croatian food we both had a hankering for something Asian, so we tried this Vietnamese place. The owner was so friendly, joking around and sitting down with us at the table to advise us on the best fresh juice and appetizers. It was a really delicious meal that we enjoyed on the bustling sidewalk terrace as the sun went down. It was so great.
 
While in Berlin, we did a lot of touring and I guess you could say paying homage to the history of Berlin. One of the things that I find so interesting and amazing about the city is how much it is in touch with its past. Our guide for our first tour explained that many Germans are extremely aware of their history and the image that other countries have about them. He said that Germany truly believes that expression: “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.” The city is rich with memorials and museums (almost all of which are completely free) and I think that's one of the things that makes it so amazing.
 
We wound up going on a tour to the Sachenhausen Concentration Camp. That trip was very, very surreal. It was almost impossible to wrap your head around where you were standing, and the atrocities that happened there. Our tour was very informative, and more importantly, very respectful. It was a powerful day, and a completely beautiful one, weather-wise, which made the experience even stranger for me. I couldn't bring myself to take a single photo that day, even though many members of our tour group were taking many. I guess I felt that taking photos makes it into a “tourist attraction”, which, I personally feel, cheapens the suffering of the people who were trapped and killed there.
 
But Berlin has a lot to offer in terms of the present day as well. We ate well, sat in beautiful parks at dusk, drank grapefruit (?!) beer, toured the absolutely stunning architecture, visited the famous Pergamon museum and saw parts of the Babylon Gates (I was blown away), visited beer gardens (delicious food, great beer, and very cheap), went for walks, lay with our heads together on the stelae (concrete slabs) of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and discussed the really powerful museum we'd just experienced (you can do anything but stand on top of the stelae), cooked a yummy homemade dinner, and explored the cool East Berlin. Berlin reminded me somewhat of Montreal (although with grander architecture), and I felt happy and calm in the city.
 
Favourites:
  • Sandemann's New Europe Tours: we used this program both for their free tour and for the Sachenhausen tour, and both were really great. The guides are all really passionate about history, friendly, and respectful when it counts.
  • Saigon and more..Das Original restaurant: the Vietnamese place with the very friendly owner. We loved the food and the service. Their bathroom is very cool too, completely stocked with anything you might need (and I mean anything) all for free.
  • East Side Gallery: a section of the Berlin Wall that was left standing and has been painted by various artists. The art is wonderful and it's such a cool outdoor exhibit.
  • Ritter Sport shop: where you can make your own chocolate bar. Enough said, yes?
  • Berliner Dom: a wonderful cathedral. We climbed ALL the stairs up the very top lookout and the views were amazing. The inner church is totally stunning as well.

Hvar, Croatia

Our time in Hvar was wonderful. Our apartment was so centrally located and our hosts were so helpful with their recommendations – all of which were completely amazing. Hvar is a beautiful city, on a beautiful island, but I was unprepared for just how much of a backpacker/party destination it was. I guess I should have known, what with the famous Carpe Diem club being there and all, but I didn't realize Yacht Week was such a big part of the culture there (it's a program that is in essence a big party on a boat that stops in at different cities to party) – the boats would come in almost every afternoon to drop off a big group of very drunk people, some of whom, as one local told us, “don't know how to behave”.
 
Trust me though, I'm not complaining. We still had an incredible time. It was just up to us to make our stay in Hvar our own, and we went about it in a slightly different way than those folks. On our hosts' recommendation, we spent most afternoons at the beach on daybeds (when we could get them, they were often reserved!) at the further away and less crowded Falko Bar beach. All the daybeds on all the beaches were technically owned by the individual bars nearest to them, but happily you didn’t have to buy anything to use them.
 
One day, we rented a car, and I drove (eek!!) on the narrowest mountain road with extremely few road barriers (double eek), through narrow tunnels that looked to be simply chiseled from underneath the mountain, along gorgeous cliffs with amazing vistas, all around Hvar island. On a whim I pulled into a driveway off the narrow old road, and found an abandoned old house with colourful beehives alongside. When we were wandering around, we heard a bell ringing and decided to follow it (all the while wondering if we should be creeped out or not..). Eventually we turned a corner, and a donkey came over the hill towards us!!! He was the friendliest. It was such a good omen for the rest of our trip. That day we also bought 1.5L of red wine from a roadside stand for about $5, where the winemaker recommended a beach (Ivan Dolac) to us that was just beautiful. We sang and toured and found fresh figs and abandoned houses. It was a great day.
 
A couple days later, we rented a boat! A tiny little one, which I kept messing up the steering on in our initial (very casual) tutorial (nobody was overly concerned we'd never driven a boat before). Adrienne mastered it though, and we were off to explore the islands! It didn't go very fast, but we were fine to putter around, letting the ginormous yachts pass us. Another good omen – on our way out of Hvar harbour, we passed a little Island with – you guessed it – a donkey on it! Donkeys are the mascot of our trip, we have decided. After touring around a bit, we pulled into a little secluded inlet and went swimming around the boat in the blue blue water. We eventually took off again, with me driving this time (yep, managed to master it!!!) until I felt a bit seasick.. After I sun burned my back and ended up throwing up overboard (whoops!!!), I felt better and we had lunch and dropped anchor at a beautiful little beach (Robinson Beach) where we spent the rest of the afternoon reading and swimming. It was magical. Those two experiences were enough to make me feel like I experienced more of Hvar than just the harbour and nightclubs – though we definitely experienced those too! It was really fun to walk down by the main strip and ogle all the enormous yachts parked right up alongside.
 
Hvar was a mix of adventure and relaxing beach days. We ate some amazing restaurant food but also packed a picnic lunch of snacks most days, since the produce from the daily farmers market in Hvar was amazing. Unfortunately, we both ended up with head colds, which we are still fighting as I write this, a couple days later in Split. They're almost gone though, hopefully with one more good sleep we'll have kicked them!
 

We loved our time in Hvar. We loved walking around the city and soaking it all up.

Favourites:
  • Restaurant Marinero: this is located right around the corner from Kiva Bar, which is a really fun bar (pretty crowded) for dancing – they play great music – and right downstairs from a hostel. But the food is amazing (we went back a second time) and very reasonably priced.
  • Restaurant Luna: literally almost right beside our place, the food here was delicious and the service was excellent.
  • Falko Bar: great vibe, really relaxed. There were always dogs around, and good music. We never tried the food, but it looked great.
What to Pack to Backpack Through Europe >> Life In Limbo

What to Pack to Backpack Through Europe

The Trip: I’m backpacking through Europe for 3 months, spanning the summer and early fall. I’m travelling with a carry-on bag only, and you can read more about why I came to that decision (and find a link to the bag if you’re interested) here. My travels are mainly focused on the more balmy mediterranean countries, but I’ll still be there as it starts to get chilly, so I’ve packed enough layers to see me through different temperatures.

Great Resources: My list of what to pack when backpacking through Europe is inspired by a lot of wonderful lists I found online. OneBag is the mother of all packing lists, with great recommendations and detailed explanations for each item – definitely start there. While I didn’t pack everything he has on his list, Rick Steves knows what he’s talking about when it comes to packing for Europe. I really liked Peanut Butter Fingers’ post for inspiration about what clothes to pack – she’s more my age than some of the other blogs, so it’s a bit more of an accessible post. Her Packing List has a huge resource page for a plethora of different packing lists for all over the world in all seasons. Finally, Never Ending Voyage has a great packing list for carry-on travel.

The List:

Clothes

Clothes 1

  1. Three cardigans (two long-sleeved, one 3/4-sleeves)
  2. Two plain t-shirts (one navy blue, one black)
  3. Three shirts (all short sleeves)
  4. Five tank tops + 1 sleep shirt (not pictured)
  5. Bras, underwear, socks, black tights
  6. One long sleeved striped shirt (not pictured)

*Two Eagle Creek packing cubes

Clothes 2

  1. Two skirts
  2. Black leggings
  3. Five dresses (one not pictured)
  4. Two pairs of pants (one pair of jeans, one pair of khakis) and a belt

Clothes 3

  1. Knee-length running shorts
  2. Long-sleeved running top
  3. Bikini top
  4. One-piece swimsuit
  5. Two bikini bottoms

Clothes 4

  1. Jacket: light weight and water-resistant
  2. Sunglasses
  3. Purse with shoulder strap

DSC_0112

  1. Toms
  2. New Balance Minimus running shoes
  3. Crocs flats: these are completely washable and quick-drying, so I’m planning to use them as shower shoes, water shoes, or flats

*The reason some things aren’t pictured is because I added them at the last minute, post photoshoot!

Toiletries

DSC_0118

Top Row: Headband, bandaids, Advil, earplugs, hair elastics, floss, razor blade, matches, soap flakes

Second Row: L.L. Bean Toiletries Case, headlamp, whistle, USB drive, eye mask, Light My Fire spork, comb, toothbrush, Diva Cup, padlock

Third Row: Dr. Bronner’s Lavender All-Purpose Soap, 2 bottles Clear Care contact solution, sunscreen, Polysporin, toothpaste, Tide-to-Go pen, conditioner, Lafe’s deodorant, contact lens case, Q-tips, razor.

*Not pictured, because I forgot: concealer, blush, and mascara

Technology

Technology - Packing

  1. Chargers for my camera, iPad and phone
  2. Earphones
  3. MicroSD to iPad connector (to upload photos)
  4. European adaptor
  5. Camera remote
  6. ONA Roma Bag: a camera bag insert that fits into my purse and protects my camera
  7. iPad Mini (a graduation gift from my Dad)
  8. Unlocked iPhone 4
  9. Not pictured (because I was using it!): Nikon D90 + 35mm f.18 lens

Miscellaneous

Extras - Packing

  1. Waterproof bag: for carrying phone, keys, wallet while swimming if I’m at the beach on the solo part of my trip
  2. Sea to Summit Silk sleep sack: lightweight travel sheets (doubles as a blanket on trains)
  3. Travel towel
  4. Passport
  5. Travel wallet and change purse
  6. Moneybelt
  7. Pens, washi tape (for anchoring memorabilia into my notebook), and a notebook.
  8. A small beach towel (not pictured)

Details

I am going to be wearing one pair of shoes and packing the third. I’m also going to be wearing my jacket when travelling between cities (or at least carrying it) but if it’s too hot, it fits, folded into the front pocket of the bag. My shirts + running clothes all roll up nicely and fit into my large packing cube. All my other clothes get rolled up and packed in the bottom of the suitcase along with my travel towel and sleep sack. In my purse I’ll carry my camera and other electronics, unless their are flight restrictions in which case I’ll pack everything inside the bag.

DSC_0142It closes like a charm! For most airlines, you’re permitted a carry-on plus a purse or camera bag. I’ve heard that some European budget airlines (Ryanair/Easyjet) are strict about allowing only one piece of luggage. In the event of that happening, I will still have enough space in my bag to pack my purse inside. The water bottle is a Vapur bottle I can also stow away if I have to.

DSC_0149

And there you have it: my home for the next three months! I love how compact it is, and how everything has its proper place inside.

For this trip, I’ve omitted a few things that most long-term travel blogs recommend: a rubber doorstop (I’m staying in multi-person dorms, so it wouldn’t make sense), a travel clothesline, a well-stocked first aid kit, etc.

What are your travel necessities? What have you packed and then later decided was unnecessary? Have you travelled with only carry-on luggage before? Any tips about how to make my trip go more smoothly?

Let me know in the comments below!