A short visit to Canberra. Australia’s Capital.

When you think of Australia, you think of Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane. So it surprises a lot of people to find out the capital is actually little Canberra.

Located between Victoria and New South Wales, it’s a relatively new City with building commencing in 1913. It was built due to a disagreement over which existing City should become the Capital of a united Australia.

We were visiting as a little stop off point between Melbourne and Sydney. It’s a 9 hour drive between these two, and Canberra sits around 6 hours from Melbourne.

We arrived late in the evening after an eventful drive, stopping off to see a giant Ned Kelly, a submarine and a dog on a tucker box. It was a pleasant drive until we hit the smoke from the NSW fires.

We stayed at the QT Canberra, which is a lovely hotel set within walking distance of the parliament and museum area.

We woke up early and crossed lake Burley Griffin, a huge man made lake set right in the centre of the City. You can hike around the whole thing which would be fun. Unfortunately the huge fountain located in the lake wasn’t on when we walked over.

We stopped along the opposite bank and followed the Australian of the year walkway before passing the national library.

Next up was the old parliament, a classic looking white building which was superseded by the new parliament built up on Capitol hill.

So off we trekked up the hill, and the new building is definitely well thought out architecturally. The best part is that you can wander around inside with no tour guide or security following you.

So we visited the senate room and the house of representatives. Although parliament wasn’t on session, it was still interesting to learn more about Australian politics.

The great hall was beautiful, with a great tapestry on the wall, but the best part was heading to the roof and seeing the 266ft flagpole. The views from here were also amazing, albeit ruined by the bushfire smoke a little, but hey, that’s the least of Australia’s problems with the fires.

We headed back to the hotel and checked out. Then drove over to the ANZAC parade. This was really interesting with memorials lining the parade to every war Australia has fought in.

There was also a memorial for army nurses which I loved, but the most interesting were the Boer and Vietnamese war memorials. Lots of history and information.

I really love the quote from Atatรผrk after the battle of Gallipoli.

We didn’t have time to go inside the actual war museum, instead we drove up to Mount Ainslie lookout. If you had time the hike up there would be brilliant, with a chance to see kangaroos and other interesting Australian animals.

The view was still hazy, but it was still really interesting, with a straight look down ANZAC parade to the lake, and the fountain was now on!

That was the end of our little Canberra journey, it felt like there was still a lot of hiking opportunities we missed because of time constraints, and I’ve heard the art galleries and museums are top class here.

So there’s plenty to see and do to fill at least a couple of days. Lastly, we were on a budget so we didn’t try out any of the restaurants, but Canberra is meant to be a foodies dream!

It was on to Sydney for us, this time we got to see a giant Merino sheep and stopped at the town of Yass! To get a picture with the sign and live our Queer Eye fantasy.

Gozo, Island of Wonders Pt.2

Today we were going into full on exploration mode. After another wonderful breakfast we took the bus over to Victoria also known as Rabat, the capital of Gozo.

The main sight here is the Citadel, it dominates the skyline in Victoria, and it’s just a short walk up from the bus station.

The first fortifications were built here in 1500BC and it’s believed to be the Acropolis of a Roman City called Gaulos. The buildings you see now are from the 15th century.

It once would have served as a defense against pirates, and until 1637 the Gozitan settlers had to stay within the walls at night by law.

A 5 Euro ticket gets you access to the main citadel, a few museums and a prison. It starts with an amazing digital show charting the history of the place.

From there you’re free to wander at your own leisure, the size of the place is amazing and we started by following along the huge outer walls.

From here we climbed up into the depths of the Citadel, and found ourselves in front of the magnificent Cathedral of Gozo. Unfortunately you have to pay to go inside so we just enjoyed the lovely square and baroque architecture.

We checked out some of the museums, they’re only small but the nature museum was pretty interesting, and the prison was cool.

One of the best parts was wandering the little side streets, there were a few nice shops around and the views from the Citadel walkway were unreal. You could see the Gozitan countryside for miles around, and it was such a beautiful day.

Once we had exhausted the sights inside the Citadel, it was time to explore the main town. It’s full of charming alleyways, hidden squares and lots of nice little restaurants and bars.

We tried the local pastizzi, a pastry stuffed with ricotta cheese which was delicious. After this little snack we stopped for lunch on St George’s square.

We shared a traditional platter, filled with everything I love about Mediterranean food. Washed down with a couple of cold beers.

You can also try Capitan Spriss for something more modern and for some good wine and cake.

We headed back towards the bus station through the narrow streets, stoping to admire flowers cascading down the walls and old wooden doorways.

We were heading over to Dwejra bay, but we had 45 minutes to spare so we walked around the Villa Rundle gardens. These were really pretty, and I loved the little art sculptures like the bees and the rainbow.

We noticed a gelato place opposite the bus station and it’s some of the best ice cream either of us had ever had. It was called Vanilla+ and it was soooo creamy and delicious.

We were soon on our way to Dwejra. Once famous for the Azure Window, a natural arch formation that collapsed in 2017.

Despite this I had heard it was a beautiful spot, with a sea tunnel and some amazing rock formations. Sadly the boats that take you through the tunnel weren’t running that day, but we had great fun exploring the crazy landscape.

The cliffs and rock pools are fun to wander around, and in Summer you can get a better chance to swim apparently. The Azure Window restaurant is also a good place to grab lunch or even just a beer.

The bus journey there is also amazing, you can spot Ta’pinu, the oldest church on the island, legend says that after it was ordered to be demolished, the first hammer blow to it broke the workers arm, so they left it standing!

We also passed golden fields of corn, and even the ruins of an aqueduct! If we’d had more time or a car we definitely would have stopped to explore these places.

After a long day we decided to cook for ourselves to save some money, so we stopped at the Arkadia foodstore. There was so much amazing stuff here, we had to hold back from buying too much!

Finally we arrived home, after eating a lovely little meal we took our wine down to the terrace lookout and watched the sun set on another amazing day in Gozo.

Comino Island and the Blue Lagoon.

Today we were shifting away from Gozo life, and heading out to Comino Island, located between Gozo and Malta, it has a population of 3! It’s named after Cumin seeds but it was formerly known as Ephaestia.

We took the bus down to Mgarr early and got a coupe of prices from the guys at the harbour. It cost us about 10 euro each round trip.

So after waiting for a few more people to sign up off we sped to Comino! It’s famous for the blue lagoon, a shallow stretch of water between Comino and a smaller island called Cominotto.

It only takes about 15-20 minutes, and it was exciting as we got our first views of the lagoon heading into the bay.

There’s a small jetty to disembark and a few food and drink stalks dotted around here. There’s actually not much beach and the little there was already filled with people. This is May, so I can’t imagine what it would be like in the height of Summer.

We walked along the cliffs, this is where most people set up for the day so we found a spot and immediately went for the water. It’s so blue, so clear, we couldn’t believe how beautiful it was.

So we swam over to little Cominotto and had a little explore around the rocks there, just watch out as there were a few jellyfish around.

There were some lovely little snorkelling spots around here and we sat enjoying the sunshine and the gorgeous setting.

Back on Comino, we lounged on the rocks for a while and took another dip. Then decided to go explore more of the island.

We headed South, past the beautiful crystal lagoon, with some private boats dotted about the bays. There were even a few people cliff jumping!

Our wandering took us to St Mary’s Tower, an ancient watchtower with panoramic views of the island from the rooftop. It’s 5E to go in and have a look.

We wandered back as we had been given set times to return and we didn’t want to get back too late. So after enjoying the blue lagoon a bit longer we got a beer at the jetty and sat waiting for our boat.

It’s a bit of carnage at this point with lots of boats and different queues, just relax and you’ll be fine. So off we went, back to Mgarr ready to head over to the Gozo capital Victoria.

I had read about a few nice sounding restaurants on culture trip, but after checking 3 of then out, I realised the article was pretty old, 2 of them were closed down! We did get some lovely late evening views though.

Not to be deterred we took the bus back to In-Nadur and found an amazing place just off the main square called The Fat Rabbit.

The wine was amazing, we got a huge free starter of rice salad, bean salad, cheese and bread!

Then we had pasta to start, which were huge followed by pizza which we couldn’t manage most of. Obviously we finished the night with a brownie to share. The service was really friendly too, and the stroll back to the hotel was lovely on a warm night.

Gozo, Island of Wonders. Pt 1

I was so excited to visit Gozo, it’s the second largest island in Malta and is known for it’s more rural lifestyle and scenic hills. We flew in to Malta airport, and easily found the bus that would take us all the way to the ferry on the North coast.

It took us around 2 hours to get there, the scenery was amazing, and the route travels all along the super pretty coast.Once at the ferry terminal it was an easy 30 minutes to cross over to Gozo and it only cost 5E, we celebrated with a can of Cisk, the local Maltese beer.

Leaving the ferry terminal on the other side at Mgarr, we were swarmed by taxi drivers, and the taxis here cost a lot, I think we were quoted about 25euro for a 10 minute journey.

After a quick google I figured out the bus route, and next thing we knew we were in Nadur, our home for the next 5 days. I had found a cute little room with a kitchenette in an old farmhouse called In-Nuffara guest house.

It was nice with a lovely breakfast included every morning but the rooms wasn’t serviced well and it got very damp in the day time. The room wasn’t ready when we arrived so we left our bags and went to explore the local town.

It was ssssooooo pretty! The limestone really gives the buildings a beautiful honey hue, walking up we found the main square, with an amazing church dominating the area. This seemed the liveliest place in a very quiet town, Gozo is very laid back, quiet and peaceful.

After wandering around most of the town, we stopped at the square and got a very cheap beer, I think it was just over a euro! I was very happy with this pricing. It was lovely enjoying the sunshine sat out on the square, we hadn’t eaten much through the day and the lady we were staying with had recommended a bakery called Mekren.

We stopped at a supermarket and picked up the essentials such as wine, cheese and beer and grabbed a pizza from the bakery. The best thing about the apartment was the view from just across the road. There’s a gorgeous terrace overlooking half of Gozo, so we sat with our legs dangling over the wall eating our pizza.

It was still a lovely warm evening so we walked over to Ta’Kenuna Tower, originally built by the British in 1848 as a telegram tower, it is now used as a lighthouse. The views here were stunning, I love the Maltese countryside, all hilltop towns and fields.

We spent the rest of the evening drinking tasty red wine on the terrace watching the sunset, before retiring to our room to snack on cheese and bread. Malta is famous for it’s sheep cheese, particularly ones studded with peppercorns.

The next day we got up early, breakfast was continental with lovely fresh bread delivered to our door, homemade jam and cheese. We were going to rent bikes, the owner had said she’d sort some for us but in the end we were happy she didn’t. It’s a really hilly island and in the heat we think it would get a little annoying after a while.

So off we went to walk around the island, we walked down to Ramla bay a beach that’s covered in red sand, but we were in adventure mode, not beach mode so we climbed up the cliffs on the left hand side to explore an abandoned mansion. There are caves on the right hand side of the beach to explore too.

There’s meant to be some caves up past the mansion too, but they were closed when we walked past, there was a cool natural platform to look out over the bay from though. From here it took us around 45 minutes to walk down into Xaghra, the next town. There are buses that are usually every hour to take you between each town, but we enjoy the walking.

Xaghra is home to Ggantija, one of the world’s oldest monuments, much older than the pyramids! They were built during the Neolithic period and are over 5500 years old. It was pretty amazing that they’re still standing and the buildings themselves were really impressive, it’s a UNESCO world heritage site and there’s a small museum where you can learn a little more.

There’s an old windmill nearby which, although not a must see place was fun to look around and cheap to go in. You can climb up to the top and enjoy the views, and each room has a little info about what life in the 1700s was like in Gozo. We stopped at the square for a slice of cake and a beer while we planned our next move.

Craig wanted to check out St John Baptist Church across the valley in Xewkija, unfortunately we had just missed the bus, so we decided to walk over again, it took just under an hour and we passed some lovely golden corn fields, an interesting cemetery before we got to the church.

It’s one of the largest buildings on the island and it dominates the skyline, the inside was really beautiful with marble floors and gorgeous paintings. You can go right up to the rooftop and even climb the steps up to the bell tower. I got to the top and marvelled at how far I could see, and even the view of the church was wonderful.

After so much walking we were finally ready for beach time, so we jumped on a bus from Xewkija which took us all the way to Ramla bay! We got some tasty orange juice and found a spot on the beach. I had been carrying a little picnic around in a cooler, we demolished the cheese and bread we’d brought.

After a couple of beers and a dip in the beautifully clear but cold waters (it warms up later in the Summer, we visited in May) it was time to leave before the sun set, I got an amazing ice cream from one of the little shops that line the path from the beach. The queue for the bus was quite big but we were one of the first stops, I just imagine in Summer it could be pretty crazy.

Our night was spent in a little bar watching the football, with cheap tasty pizza and even cheaper tasty beer! The people working there were so friendly, making sure the right football was on and moving people if they stood in our way!

We couldn’t wait to explore more of Gozo, and even after two days we were already enamoured with the whole place.

A Trip to Toledo.

Toledo is a City in Spain about a 45minute train journey South of the countries capital, Madrid. One of it’s earliest mentions is from 193BC by a Roman general, so it’s pretty old! It’s also a UNESCO world heritage site and has cultural influences from Christians, Jews, and Muslims as well as Roman and Visigoth.

Although Madrid is a cool City, we wanted a bit of medieval history and I thought Toledo looked like a great place to take a day trip to. So after having Breakfast at Plenti, a cute little place not far from our hotel.

We walked over to the train station and got our tickets. It was a little pricey as we were taking the tourist train. I’ve since heard you can get the tickets for much cheaper, especially if you plan ahead. Make sure you check out the lovely tropical garden in the oldest part of the station.

The train journey was pleasant as we passed through the dry Spanish countryside, and as soon as we arrived I knew we were going to love it in Toledo! The station opened in 1920 and was designed to imitate the architecture of the City, it was gorgeous and the tiling inside was so pretty.

The walk up to the walled City isn’t too taxing, and the first sight you get is magnificent, Toledo has a river running alongside it, so you see the bridge over to this walled Citadel and a huge palace sat at the top.

After taking a few pictures we ran up to the bridge and crossed, passing underneath a gatehouse. It’s a little bit of a steep walk up but you can stop and take a look back from a huge terrace halfway up.

We carried on and after passing a statue of a very dapper looking gent, we found ourselves on Zocodover plaza, we picked one of the many streets ahead of us and started our exploration.

The shops are filled with medieval antiques, classic spanish food and wine and a lot of souvenirs. Our favourite street was Calle Comercio because of the view down to the cathedral.

Along the way we even found a shop that had roman ruins in it’s basement that you could look at for free beneath a glass floor! The walled area of Toledo isn’t too big so it’s easy to wander without fear of getting lost, which is exactly what we did.

We soon found ourselves at the Monastery of Santo Domingo Real, built and run by Nuns since 1364. It’s a beautiful building with the interior to match.

Our only problem so far was that every church or monastery wanted to charge a pretty large fee to enter, we wanted to climb up the belltower of one church but it was over 10E, I don’t mind donations but charging to enter a church is a bit much.

After reaching the Puerta del Sol or ‘South Gate’ we turned back to stay inside the City walls, following a street along to more panoramic views of the countryside and the river.

Turning into the City we decided to head towards the huge tower that is Toledo Cathedral. Work on the cathedral began in 1226 and it wasn’t completed until 1493! It’s a huge building and very grand with it’s gothic architecture.

It’s so big you almost can’t get it all in to one picture it’s said to be this size to cover the sacred space that the old mosque held before it. It was nice to sit and gawk at it in the square at the front, with it’s majestic stained glass windows and 146ft height! It was early afternoon at this point and we were hungry.

So we found a cute little restaurant off the main streets in a small plaza. We shared a beautiful vegetable paella, olives and a a couple of glasses of Spanish Rioja, the sun was shining and it was a perfect lunch. Obviously we had to finish it off with some churros, the famous spanish elongated donuts with choc sauce.

Once we were finished it was time to check out the Alcazar of Toledo, built up on the highest part of Toledo you can see it from miles around. There was originally a Roman fortification built here in the 3rd century but much of the Alcazar was destroyed in the Spanish Civil war and had to be rebuilt between 1939 and 1957.

The Alcazar is impressive, but we loved the little park just beneath it, where you can stand on the turrets and look out across the valley to the military academy on the opposite hill.

Honestly the views are incredible and it was sad to say goodbye to them, but we didn’t want to get back into Madrid too late as we were checking out one of the art galleries it’s famous for.

On our way back down we noticed a cute little marzipan shop and decided to have a look inside. The lady that worked there was wonderful and let us try a few things, they were so delicious we had to buy some sweets and marzipan ice cream, yum! Once we reached the other side of the river we realised we still had 40 minutes or so till our train, so we took a little stroll along the river bank.

It was nice to get another angle of the City, and there was a cool abandoned building on bank which looked like an old mill house. We slowly wandered back under the bridge and down to the station, on our way we found a fun Toledo sign to take a pic of.

I’m sure there are a few things we missed out on seeing in Toledo, but half the fun is exploring without using a guide or map and seeing what you discover.

It’s so old, Craig loved it as there aren’t any buildings like those in Australia. The train back was nice and relaxing after a full day of walking and we both ended up having a little power nap before arriving back in Madrid.

The Silent City of Mdina, Malta

After exploring much of Valletta, we decided to take a trip over to Mdina, a historic fortified City in Malta. Mdina was founded in the 8th century by the Phoenicians, and served as the capital of Malta until 1530. There are only 300 inhabitants inside the city walls, it’s seen Roman, Byzantine and Arab rulers come and go and still stands today.

I had read that the bus system on Malta was really good, so we decided to travel that way.It would take us two buses to get there and after possibly the worst buffet breakfast I’ve ever seen, we were off! We were staying in Sliema just over the water from Valletta and luckily could take a bus from right outside our hotel!

The first bus took us to Tad-Daqqaq, only when we tried to catch the next bus, it was full and drove right past us! Not to be deterred we tried another bus stop and had the same problem and again and again. Luckily we spotted this amazing looking church at the end of the street we were waiting on and decided to go check it out. Lucky we did as it started to pour down with rain!

We just made it and found out the church was the Mosta Rotunda, a beautiful 17th century church set in a lovely square with cute shops and restaurants around it. Upon entering we found out an amazing story of a WW2 bomb that came through the roof of the church but didn’t explode! You can see a replica of the bomb in a small museum at the back of the building.

The inside was really pretty too, and there’s a small air raid shelter you can check out just in front of the main entranceway. After looking around the rain had stopped and the sun started to come out, after waiting for another two buses that were both full we decided to walk to Mdina as it was only an hour away.

The countryside was beautiful to walk through and the roads weren’t very busy so it felt pretty safe, and then Mdina came into view and it was breath taking. Sat up on a plateau, the walls are made of a lovely honey colour brick. It was a bit of a slog up the steep hill to Mdina, but it’s even more spectacular up close.

We entered through Mdina gate and were immediately on architecture and travel heaven. There are cute churches, alleyways and squares to discover, along with amazing old doorways and steps.

The views from the terrace by Fontanella tea rooms are gorgeous. We were going to stop and have a drink there but it was pretty busy. So we carried on wandering and found this amazing place called Coogis.

We were sat in the courtyard, looking around thinking how pretty it was when the waiter came over and asked if we’d rather sit on the rooftop. Of course we jumped at the chance, it was super pretty up there and we enjoyed a nice Cisk, the tasty local lager while we marvelled at the countryside spread out before us. We had some salad and pizza which was really good.

Nice and satisfied we headed outside of the walls and into Rabat, the surrounding town. I had read about some cute churches and the possibility of ancient Roman catacombs and in the parish church of St Pauls we found both! The actual church is a beautiful building and the little old lady working there who showed us to the catacombs was so lovely.

We got to go down there by ourselves and even though it was spooky it was so cool, I think there are larger ones nearby but we were happy with our cute little one. So it was time to leave, it had been so much fun and luckily this time the bus would take us all the way to Valletta. In Valletta we stopped off at one of the many bars that you can find on the stairways and had a drink. Then it was time to say goodbye!

We got the taxi-boat across to Sliema and grabbed a couple of huge slices of pizza, following it up with our daily dose of gelato. We finished the day sat on our little balcony at the bayview hotel, drinking Cisk and reflecting on Malta being the perfect holiday destination.

Bergen and the mountain trolls.

I arrived in Bergen after an amazing few days in Tromso. Which you can also read about if you scroll down here.

Bergen is located in the Southwest of Norway, surrounded by fjords and mountains. It’s the second largest City in Norway behind Oslo, and averages 231 days of rain a year!

I was excited to visit for the hiking, cute wooden houses of Bryggen, and to see some of Norway’s famous fjords.

I took the flybussen into the City, it took 30 mins and cost about ยฃ10. I stayed at the Bergen Budget Hostel which was basic but the cheapest option!

I immediately set off to explore the City, passing some fun troll street art. Norway is famous for trolls, watch Troll Hunter to learn more.

I was heading towards Bryggen, the old centre of Hanseatic leagues empire. It’s full of colourful wooden houses that line the waterfront.

Built in 1702 after a fire had destroyed most of the City, it’s now a UNESCO world heritage site. Make sure you explore the little alleyways between and behind the houses, where you can find shops and restaurants.

If you continue along the waterfront past Bryggen you come to Bergenhus Fortress, some of the buildings here were built in the 1240s and it’s one of the oldest stone castles left in Norway.

I turned back here and followed the waterfront round in the opposite direction, keep an eye out for some of the amazing street art pieces that are dotted about the City. For fish lovers there’s a fishmarket on Strandkaien, and the main shopping streets are just up from here.

The streets around Sydneskleiven are really beautiful, and there are some great views from the end of Oysteins Gate and St John’s Church is right by here too. I took a little detour through the university area and walked around the lovely Lille Lungegardsvannet lake.

This only took the morning as I had arrived into Bergen early, so I decided to go hiking! You can take a cable car up to the top of Floyen mountain near Bryggen and once up there you can walk to your hearts content. The views up here of Bergen and out to sea were incredible.

I headed to Granbakken, a little mountain lake first, along lovely little wooden walkways through green forest. It doesn’t take long to get away from the crowds around the cable car spot.

The lake was frozen over which was cool, and there were some awesome places to stop, one where I dangled my legs above the forest below!

From here I decided to walk through the forest to Skredderdalen, and followed the river up to lake Nedrediket. This took me along ridges, with more views of Bergen, and following the raging river up towards the lake was amazing.

I was loving the walk and continued on to a bigger lake called Storevatnet, you couldn’t even see the other side of this one due to some fog.

I noticed some steps going up alongside the lake and thought the views from the top would be amazing. Unfortunately when I got to the top this fog rolled in and I could barely see in front of me.

This led to a rather dicey hike across the tops of the mountain in thick fog, snow and ice. Honestly there was a point where I got a little bit worried, luckily google maps worked the entire time, so I could easily follow the path along to Rundemanen, a little heritage museum that had a proper road heading back down towards the cable car.

Apart from a section of road that was closed due to an avalanche the rest of the walk down was pretty nice, the fog had subsided. It took me around 5 hours in total to hike around the mountains, and I was definitely ready to eat something.

So I stopped off at a pizza place in the City, I was so tired that I went back to the hostel and pretty much passed out.

I wish I had gone around the City at night to see it from a different perspective, but there will always be next time!

Tromso and the Northern Lights

I chose to visit Tromsรธ as I’d heard that there was an almost 100% chance of seeing the Northern Lights! It was a bit of a birthday treat to myself and I was also travelling around Norway a little bit. I arrived from Oslo by plane. The flight was incredible going over the fjords and snow capped mountains.

Tromso is located in Norway up in the Arctic circle, it has the worlds northernmost university, brewery and cathedral. It’s famous as a bit of a party town due to the large student numbers it has. For two months in the summer, there are 24 hours of daylight, and for two months in winter there is so sun, but there is some light in the day, called the blue twilight.

The main airport is located on the opposite side of the island to the main little town, it was a gloriously sunny day when I landed, and I decided to walk over the hills to Tromso rather than get a bus, as I had the whole afternoon to wander. Using google maps to track my way, at first I regretted my decision a little as I walked through residential areas, but soon I was walking through beautiful countryside.

I stopped for a break to enjoy the stunning views, it was the beginning of April and the snow was still really deep, covering the picnic benches that I could spot. There were even people barbequing up there which was really cool.

I started my descent into the town and was greeted by even better views, going across the water to the hills and mountains in the distance. I was staying at the Tromso Activities Hostel which was cute and friendly enough but for the price you’d expect a little more, but Norway is an expensive place.

I dropped my stuff off as usual, and headed out to wander the streets and get a good bearing, I had found a little burger place called Burgr near the hostel so I went there first for a beer and something to eat. It was a little cheaper than other places in Norway and the veggie option was delicious, I loved the retro gaming decor too.

From here I just wandered down Havnegata street, stopping off to look at the quirky shops and admire the reflections at the marina. I ended up near the Tromso Cathedral which is a cute little church in a pleasant park. I walked back down along Gronnegata, the lovely wooden buildings are so nice and I stopped to pick up some snacks and food to cook back at the hostel.

Knowing I was going to be up half the night, I had a nice evening nap, getting up at around 8pm to prepare. I put on about 6 layers of clothing and 4 paris of socks inside my big boots. I had hat, scarf, gloves, and gopro, I was ready to face the cold! I was doing this on a relative budget so instead of going on a tour, I walked down to the Folkeparken on the southern tip of the island which took about 45 minutes to walk there along the road.

I arrived there and wasn’t alone! There were two other groups with fires sat around chatting, so I found a spot a little way from them and parked up. It was freezing cold but the walk had kept me warm, I had my headphones on and just sat and waited….It reached 11pm and I noticed something in the sky, at first I dismissed it as clouds and my fantasizing.

As I watched this white smear slowly spread across the sky I realised it was happening, I was fulfilling a lifelong bucketlist moment! I was so happy I jumped onto the picnic table I was sat on and started dancing around, I must have looked like a lunatic.

I watched these white smears dance around the sky then disappear, I started thinking was that it? It wasn’t like the pictures I had seen at all, so I sat there until about 1:30am, wondering when I would call it a night and go home. Suddenly the white smears returned!

Turning to greens, swirling and spreading above me. It was the most wonderful theatre production I have ever seen, as it was totally performed by nature itself. This time they lasted for a good 45 minutes, leaving me satisfied and ready to head back, by this point my little toes were freezing!

I slept in the next day and then did some sightseeing around the town, there’s really not much to do or see in Tromso apart from tours out to the countryside. I visited the polar museum which was okay for an hour or so, and crossed the Tromsobrua bridge to take a look at the viking-esque Tromsoysund Menighetshus, the Arctic cathedral.

I decided to hike up to the top of Fjellheisen, a mountain on the mainland. You can also take a cable car up there which I took on the way down. The walk up wasn’t too taxing and the incredible scenery at the top was worth it.

You can enjoy the views from nearby the cable car, but I hiked up to the Pa Toppen, this was pretty difficult in the deep snow but once up there I felt like I was in a completely different world of ice and snow.

I took a little picnic up there with me, so I had my late lunch, sat there and just watched the world go by. It was a great way to relax and enjoy the peacefulness. On the way back I stopped at the Polaria, an arctic aquarium but I wasn’t a fan it was small and a the seal show was sad. You can take a look at an old arctic ship next door called the MS Polstjerna which was cool.

That night I was back on the northern light chase, this time I headed up into the hills to Prestvannet, a big lake that freezes over in Winter. This was another recommended dark spot and it was brilliant! The lights came again, this time a little earlier and lasted for a couple of hours, even as I walked back down into the town you could still see them shimmering up above.

The next day I just hiked around the island, there are lots of ski tracks you can follow, I even saw a seal out in the water. The walks are beautiful through the forests and along the water’s edge with little huts and beaches along the way. So many people are out skiing or barbequing it feels like such a relaxed place. I was off to Bergen next, satisfied that I had witnessed something truly magical.

A Kiek in De Kok and Dark Tourism in Tallinn.

So today there were more than a few sore heads this morning, I needed food, so a few of us managed to drag ourselves up and out. I had heard of a pancake place called Kompressor and it did not disappoint!

We ordered potato balls, cheese balls to share and pancakes, check out the menu here. It was delicious, the garlic sauce that came with the snacks was amazing, and the pancakes were soooo tasty, just what we needed! Plus the price was so cheap!

Feeling partly refreshed, we were back on the sightseeing game. It was time to visit Kiek in de Kok, the artillery tower from 1475 with the amazing name. The name comes from early German, due to the ability to see into people’s kitchens from these tall towers. I think we must’ve said the name about 1000 times between us all.

The actual tower is impressive, the walls are 4m thick and you can spot cannon balls dating from 1577 stuck in the outer walls! Inside is a museum with some really cool features, lots of interactive moments including a medieval torture device you can test out! You can do a bit of dress up, and the views from the upper floors are immense, especially out of Toompea hill and the cathedral.

After stopping for a coffee we met up with the final members of the group, there’s a cute little train you can take around the town for those that don’t want to walk too much, very handy for a hangover. We checked out the Kalev Marzipan Museum, a very random shop selling every conceivable item made out of marzipan. It’s worth a little wander around and a fun gift for someone back home. They use molds that are around a hundred years old, and claim that Estonia were the inventors of the sweet candy treat!

Our next destination was quite the opposite of a sweet treat, we were heading to the Museum of Occupations and Freedom, I love learning about a countries history and I think it’s important to know what it’s citizens have been through till this point. It was really interesting learning about the occupation and resistance in Estonia. I will always love the story of the Baltic chain, when 2 million people held hands to form a line from Tallinn all the way to Vilnius in Lithuania as an act of peaceful protest against Soviet rule. Read more about it here.

Our last stop was the old KGB prison cells, at only 5 euros it’s small but very interesting and you really get an understanding of the horrors and suspicions that people faced everyday. It had a pretty creepy vibe too, it’s a top destination to visit for dark tourism, and I always find places like this really eye opening.

After this we went for dinner at a bad curry house, but sometimes you make wrong choices hungover! Everyone was up early the next day to travel onwards so after a little night time walk around Snelli park it was time to chill in the apartment together. Snelli park was actually really pretty, the water was all frozen over and couples were taking romantic walks along the banks. Plus the sight of the old castle and buildings up on Toompea was amazing, unfortunately my phone battery had died so I couldn’t take any pics.

The next day I was taking the star ferry over to Helsinki to spend a few days there, while everyone else took the bus to Riga to fly home. The report back that I got of the bus was really positive! Comfy seats, air con and in-seat entertainment for free! The ferry was really easy too, I bought my ticket at the terminal on the day and it was amazing travelling across the Tallinn bay and the gulf of Finland with ice blocks floating past. Apparently the Blatic has a really low salinity so it freezes over much more than other bodies of saltwater.

A Winter Wonderland in Tallinn.

Tallinn had always been high on my list of places to visit. Somehow I had made it to the other Baltic nations of Latvia and Lithuania first, mainly because they were both easier to get to.

It’s is the capital of Estonia, it’s located on the North coast directly across the gulf of Finland from Helsinki. It has a rich history, and was occupied between 1940-1991 by the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany and then the Soviet Union again!

52% of the country is covered in forest, and it has one of the lowest populations in Europe at 1.325million.

To reach Estonia we took a flight to Riga and then on to Tallinn from there. It was actually pretty easy and fun because we met up with our friend Amy in Riga airport. It was January so we were hoping for snow and we weren’t disappointed.

We arrived quite late and took a taxi to our cute apartment located right by the old walls of the City. I used Booking.com and we used daily apartments for 7 of us. It was a beautiful space and great location. After a quick change we headed out for dinner.

We ate at a traditional Estonian place where I tried Elk for the first time! It was pretty good and we had a couple of local beers to wash it down, after another beer or two at a nearby pub we walked through the winter wonderland that was the town square with a huge Christmas tree in the center and everything was covered in snow. There’s a big Irish bar situated here and we took the opportunity to try Vana Tallinn, the Cities own personal liquer!

The next day we got up and headed out to explore properly. It’s such a pretty place and the whole old town is UNESCO heritage, we wandered along the old town walls and through a lovely big park at Tower’s square. We stopped at some cute shops along the way and emerged into the town square again.

The town hall is so cute, it was completed in 1404 and is the oldest in the Baltic/Scandinavian region. I loved all the Gothic and Hanseatic architecture, it feels like you’ve gone back in time hundreds of years.

We walked down Viru Tanav which is pretty touristy but not overly busy. It ends at Viru gate, two big towers guarding the way in and out. For โ‚ฌ3 you can climb the walls and explore, the views from here of the tiled rooftops covered in snow was amazing.

Tallinn is a great place to wander the little streets and get lost, and that’s just what we did. It felt like a really safe place too. We somehow ended up back in the main square and stopped at another traditional restaurant for lunch, it was pretty expensive so do some research before you go.

Once we were all filled up we decided to head up Toompea hill. It’s a large tableland piece of limestone that sits right in the middle of the City. It’s believed to be the resting place of King Kalev, an important figure in Estonian culture and folklore. Now it holds Toompea castle and the awesome Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, it also houses the Estonian Parliament.

It’s a fun walk up the hill and not too taxing, and once you’re at the top the Cathedral takes centre stage, big and imposing it feels like it sits right in the middle of the hill. It was starting to get dark already due to the time of year and the temperature dropped a bit, luckily we found someone selling mulled wine which was delicious.

There are some gorgeous buildings here, but the main event for me was thge Kohtuotsa viewing platform. This looks out over the whole of the old town, and as night fell twinkling lights began to appear in front of us and it began to snow. It was an amazing spectacle to witness.

We followed a different path down into the town and passed Kiek De Kok which we’d be heading to tomorrow, and freedom square. Freedom square is a big open space which has the cross of liberty as part of Estonia’s memorial to the war of independence.

After a lot of sightseeing we stopped at a bar we noticed along the way, it was called Labor Baar and was totally science themed, you could order test tube shots and cocktails in science beakers and the whole placed was decked out to the max. We stopped to have some food and then walked up to a fun bar that was completely dedicated to Depeche Mode.

After a few beers we realised we didn’t know as many songs as we thought, so off we went to Satumaa karaoke bar! It was a lot of fun and everyone was pretty crazy there, we sang a few songs and somehow managed to wander back to our apartment feeling pretty tipsy.