An Abandoned Adventure at Brestovac Sanatorium

27th September 2016

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Having visited an abandoned: theme park, listening station and hotel my trip to Zagreb wouldn’t have been complete without visiting an abandoned tuberculosis sanatorium. It’s like abandoned bingo!

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Located just outside Zagreb on the famous Medvednica mountain, it turned out to be a great day trip: from the centre you can take tram 14 to the end station and then tram 16 towards the hill and hike up the Sljeme hill. Your friend Google maps should help you get to Sošićka ul. 23 in about 2-3 hours.

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Up high, hidden in the woods, the remains of Brestovac sanatorium have turned into a ruin turned playground heaven for paintballers but you can still see a bit of the enormous complex that it used to be. And that’s including what once was a porch where patients could do whatever they did back then & chill.

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You should also know the background story of Brestovac: a doctor was in love with his childhood friend who became a famous and beloved theatre actress. He got friendzoned, but as the doctor lived for her he convinced the city founders to build a hospital when she caught tuberculosis. And when the place was opened in 1909 he made sure he was there to help and he stayed there till the actress died in 1913. Anyone want to help me write the script? I’m thinking the trailer would say “He can heal her illness, but he cure a broken heart?”

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I also found out that later they did these experiments in the sanatorium, which included surgery to expand the lungs to allow more oxygen in, removing the ribs or blowing balloons into the chest. Eeeks. And if it wasn’t creepy enough the sanitarium was used as a military hospital in both of the World Wars and depending on the stories either 200 patients or 200 wounded soldiers were executed to make room for others. Pretty harsh, they could have just sat outside in a queue right? The sanitarium has been closed since the late 1960’s and has been abandoned till someone figured it could be a good place for firing balls of paint at each other.

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The first paintballers arrived just as I was leaving (9.30 am on a Saturday), but from what I could see they mainly shot around the main building and there’s plenty more to explore so don’t worry too much. The walk back down should take about 2 hours (that’s with a few breaks).

Would you visit Brestovac or have any abandoned gems you’ve uncovered?

Unlocking London: Keys To The City 2016 Edition

18th September 2016

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It’s that time of the year where a bunch of buildings open their doors in London to let you have a sneak peak without it being weird or illegal. Last year my theme was art deco, but this year it was a mix and mash of something old, something new, something I stumbled upon and something green.

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Crystal Palace Subway is a bit off the beaten track, but if you like stone arches it’s well worth braving south London for. And for such a small space it has a rich history: it opened in 1865 as an elite VIP route for first class passengers to switch stations, but was abandoned when Crystal Palace burned down in 1936. Later it was an air raid shelter in World War II, but again lost its usefulness and closed in 1954. After that it was used as a hang out place for the youngsters and illegal raves. There you have it – now you can fully focus on taking that one award winning shot and you don’t need to listen to the guide.

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The shout out to prettiest glass ceiling goes to 201 Bishopsgate, but in the brochure they kept going on and on about their award-winning Green Rooftop garden that adds biodiversity value to urban areas. But there was no one there to actually tell you what any of this meant or the idea behind it, so that was a missed opportunity. Essentially it was all about the view over east London and beyond.

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Despite it not being open for rooftop views, James Bond fans can get their tuxedos and cocktail vibes from following in Mr Craig’s footsteps, well a few of them, if you remember the Shanghai scene from Skyfall, this was where the skyscraper scenes were shot, including its neon escalators, and for the non-Bond fans there was an art gallery spread over a few floors as well.

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And look at these daredevils abseiling the 33 storey high building. I think this just ended on my London Wanderlist. You find more info on abseiling here.

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Ever since I worked in the area, I’ve always wondered what those cute little town houses around Brick Lane looked like from the inside. So I finally got my chance, and the building in question, 13 Princelet Street, was my highlight of the day. Built in 1719 and restored in 1984, there’s still traces of the original building in the wooden decor. A bit of a magnet for foreigners in the city, it was where French Protestants fleeing religious persecution in their home country lived, who brought their silver smithing and silk weaving skills with them. I also learnt that the place was available to rent, so if you have a £330 per night budget and you want to head back in time (to 1984) it might be for you.

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Imagine a place filled with 70s style chairs and couches, orange retro lights and surreal curved transparent plastic walls…Nope, it’s not a film set for spin-off of Mad Men:Ten Years Later, but it’s Second Home, a place I didn’t plan to go but thankfully stumbled across. The garment house turned carpet factory turned into an absolute open plan office paradise every East London start-up and freelancer dreams of. And I have to say that I’ve been to a lot of ‘creative’ offices in London but none of them can compete with the green spaces, amazing chairs and the Dr. Strangelove style table at this one. I like to think I’ll get to work here one day, and maybe stumble across a Don Draper…

Which London building would you love to see from the inside?

Answering Your FAQs about Vienna International Airport

14th September 2016

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Waiting at the airport for the flight back home after a trip is the wurst (yeah, first world problems I know…) and it’s even more crappy when the airport you have to spend some time doesn’t sing, dance and feed you with wonderful food to send you off into the sky.

So does Vienna’s flying building entertain you and make you wish you never have to leave like Tom Hanks in The Terminal? Well, I’ll let you know as I answer some Frequently Asked Questions about Vienna International Airport.

My exclusive tour itinerary included wandering around Terminal 1 on a Sunday afternoon between 13.30 and 15.30, stopping off near the D gate area, with a special exclusive stroll to the G area. Sadly, despite my surname, I missed out on getting detained by security – now that’s the real VIP treatment I’ve heard, they give you a special massage and body rub, plus they interview you in detail wanting to know about all the cool places you’ve blogged about and been.

What’s the most important thing to know?  This airport is one where you don’t go through security until the gates. So first you scan your ticket at a machine, and then there’s passport control, and then you are stuck in your gate area until the security/luggage scanning before you board.

Now for an easy one … How much for a bottle of water? It’s a shame you can’t find a nearby small lake, babbling brook or well to satiate your thirst, so plastic-encased h2O is the only thing on the menu. Cheapest I could find was €1.90 (that’s £1.62 / $2.15) and after you go through security you can get it from a vending machine for €2.00 (that’s £1.70 / $2.25).

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And can I get my Big Mac or a grande triple chocolate soya mocha shot at the airport? Of Course, this is the 21st century after all. You can stuff that chain store food / drinks in your mouth at the arrival gates. And you might want to stock up on that early as the food at gate D wasn’t too great and ridiculously expensive. See the photo above? This piece of cardboard, with bits of cheese, a slice of tomato, a bit of mozzarella and a bottle of Evian cost me €10 (that’s £8.50 / $11.25). Have I inspired you? I really hope the answer is no, but if not, check out the delights of restaurant eating here.

Whatever. What about the real essentials? Is there Wi-Fi? Yes! All you have to do is sign in and say you agree and you all globally connected and ready to experience FOMO and all that. It’s relatively quick and there wasn’t a time limit.

I know enough. Can I charge my phone, tablet and laptop while waiting? At the end of each seating row there are plugs place where you can charge your phone. And if they’re all full up, you can play the game of guessing who you can disconnect without noticing, or use it as a potential conversation starter (“Is this your plug or are you pleased to see me?”)

vienna-international-airport-1Are the chairs comfortable at all? Could I let’s say nap a bit comfortably when I have long stopover?  As you can see from the image above you even have options! Since there are no armrests between the seats you can even lay down and if you manage to get a spot at the end of the seat you are all set and can charge and your electrics and chill. They always say the best place to waste time is in bed right?

What about the toilets? There were enough toilets throughout the place and they are as good as it gets. You might want to know that the toilet stalls are closed off, so you are all private to do what you will. And the toilet paper is the sandpaper type, but it’s recycled so you get bonus points from Greenpeace, etc. I heard if you get enough you can qualify for a free trip on one of their protest ships…

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Anything cool you saw? The PEZ shop, if you haven’t stocked up on PEZ this is your last chance. I am still amazed how the pez toys open their mouths so much, that’s some snake level mouth/jaw dislocation skills.

Anything else I need to know? I’m not a fan, but there are smoking cabins around the airport and once you go through security and arrive at your departure gates if it is busy then it is difficult to find a seat. So make sure to go in on time to puff to your heart’s content.

Have you visited the airport? What was your experience and do you have any tips?

STAMP THIS! TRAVEL BLOGGERS’ PASSPORT STAMP STORIES PART V

6th September 2016

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While some are trying to catch all 150 Pokemon (this is going to be SOOOOO outdated in a bit), others love to gather up passport stamps and since I love hearing the magic tales behind people’s favourite passport stamp/visa I asked travelbloggers to share the story behind their favourite bits of ink and these are the glorious results…

01 Wanderlust in the MidwestWanderlust in the Midwest | Chloe
My favorite stamp is so controversial that this country no longer marks one’s passport. My first visit to Israel was in May 2012, when I went on a 10-day Birthright trip. Imprinted with fresh ink, this stamp is the easiest to read–and one of the most prominent–in my passport. And it is this stamp that prevents me from visiting countries such as Lebanon and Kuwait, but at the same time gives me pride of my heritage.

The second time I visited Israel was a mere year later, and I was shocked to learn that, within that short time frame, stamps had become a thing of the past. Now, Israel gives you entry and exit cards (which they create by scanning your passport) as proof of your time in Israel; they stamp the entry card on the way in, and your boarding pass on the way out. So in a way, my passport contains a little piece of history.

02 World of a WandererWorld of a Wanderer | Colby
Passport stamps are a novelty that I hope never fades, given all things electronic these days. It’s just something about hearing that thrompthromp, ink pad to passport, sound when going through immigration, or the memories that flood over me when I’m feeling nostalgic and flipping through my passport, that just never gets old. Each stamp holds a memory. Each one takes me back to a time and place. My favorite passport stamp is a stamp I recently acquired in Indonesia.

Bali has been at the top of my list for ages! It was the ONE place I was determined to visit during my year of teaching in South Korea. It has been the only place I’ve fallen in love with before even visiting. Bali was a big deal. I’d planned on going this summer during summer vacation, but due to time and financial constraints I couldn’t make it happen. I was seriously bummed about it.

I guess the universe decided to be ever so gracious because a few weeks before I was set to take summer vacation I received a message saying I’d won a trip to Bali through a giveaway I’d entered! Talk about fate! Not only was this a free trip, but it was also a workcation for creatives and digital nomads to work with other like-minded individuals through a series of workshops. It was perfect!

I met so many incredible people on this trip. I experienced Bali in a way I never would have experienced it, if I had visited on my own. It was everything I thought it would be and more, and I plan to move there someday. So, this stamp is definitely my favorite of them all.

03 The Thought CardThe Thought Card | Danielle
My favorite passport stamp is actually one of the easiest that I’ve ever gotten. Iceland was my most anticipated destination of the year and I had big plans. I wanted to visit Vik (the black sand beach in the South Coast), snorkel Silfra and take in 360 degree views of Reykjavik from the top of Hallgrimskirkja Church.

But before I could do any of these, I had to pass through immigration first. Usually immigration asks a ton of questions but surprisingly this didn’t happen in Iceland. I handed my passport, got it stamped and I was on my merry way – no questions asked! Looking back at my favorite stamp from Keflavik Airport reminds me of the recurring theme of my trip – carefree is the way to be.

04 The Red Box TravelsThe Red Phone Box Travels | Tanja
Until 2013 wherever I went I received a stamp in my passport. I have two old passports full of stamps but since Croatia joined the EU three years ago my passport does not get stamped anymore. I need to travel somewhere outside Europe to get a new passport stamp nowadays. What would be my favourite passport stamp? Without much thinking I have to say a visa/work permit for the UK. I visited London for the first time in 2006 and this year I travelled to London for the eleventh time! If you read my blog you know how much I love London. But I have also spent a couple of months living & working in England eight years ago.

I joined an internship programme aimed at Central&Eastern Europe. I had my work permit in my hands and I had my flights booked but my appointment at the British Embassy was scheduled only two weeks before I was supposed to be in England. It was nerve wrecking but everything went well and I got my work visa! I was so happy! I spent a couple of months working in beautiful Suffolk but the experience was not all good. Being in England was a dream come true but I was not prepared for all it entailed and in the end I returned home earlier than I was supposed to. However, it was a great experience and a lesson learned. Nevertheless, that work visa is still my favourite passport stamp.

05 Veera BiancaVeera Bianca | Veera
Passports often hold the most interesting, and the most important stories – especially to ourselves. The one stamp on my passport that I perhaps treasure the most is the one from Taiwan, as it just brings back so many good memories. Back then, I was living in Hong Kong which I’d still say were the best days of my life. I traveled to Taiwan alone and remember the excitement of boarding yet another plane across the globe, far away from home. It was somehow that moment when I knew my life would be dedicated for travel.

And the same stamp reminds me of my funny return to Hong Kong from Taiwan. In general, my style is rather business casual, but Taiwan got me excited about all thinks pink and fluffy, so I ended up buying myself a pink jumper with reindeer and hearts across it (I still don’t know why). I was wearing my jumper and holding onto my new Rilakkuma iPhone cover (also pink) as my boyfriend greeted me at the arrival hall – you should have seen the shock on his face. Unfortunately, him being one of those serious suit-up guys and a fare bit older than me – he didn’t really appreciate my new sense of style.

Thanks so much for sharing your stories. 

What’s the story behind your favourite passport stamp?

Yes, No, Maybe: What (Not) To Do in Sofia

29th August 2016

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So, summer is almost over, and in case you’re suffering from Post-Travel Blues and need a weekend city trip to cure your ills, I’m here to help! But where…?

Want to get away from the cliché European capitals? Well, look not further than Sofia.

Not just a star/dot on a map of Eastern Europe, this place has tons of stuff to do, but the best of it is just about crammable into only a few days. I like to think of Sofia as having an old soul witha modern heart.

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Put on your best sneakers/trainers/shoes for the two-hour free walking tour. I actually came upon Sofia as it was cheaper to fly there then get the bus to Istanbul (my proper destination), but I had time to wander and it was well worth it. It takes you everywhere you need to be to satisfy your eyes and any history cravings. I had no idea on any landmarks, but I turned out one of the main ones, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, I’d seen before in pictures, it’s definitely a memorable vista!

A place for communist-era sculpture and art? Check out go to the Museum of Socialist Art and explore the history of Soviet occupation through art in this quirky-like (I’m saying quirky as it might look like that for West Europeans, but I can imagine people who suffered during the occupation see it as a dark place) museum. Large blocky sculptures fill the garden give you a good impression of the atmosphere at that time.

Dive into the city’s largest market, Jenski Pazar with a bunch of things to stimulate your senses topped off with a wonderfully chaotic atmosphere. Visiting here without feasting on the Bulgarian food should be a crime. Try some Banitsa, drink some wine, and then finish your taste buds off with jam filled cookies.

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Be prepared that some people will try and get the max amount money out of you. As in all tourist areas. Definitely inquire at the airport about other means of transportation, radio taxis or fix a price with the driver before going. Just think of it as a challenge!

Don’t think you can spend a full week exploring the city. If you are staying longer definitely combine your stay with for example Belgrade, you can take the night train at around 20:30, arriving Belgrade around 05:00. Or take the train for a day trip to Plovdiv – the second biggest Bulgarian city where you’ll find lots of Greek influences that has Instagram written all over it.

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I didn’t get to explore the nightlife as much as I wanted, but the place has a good rep for partying. There’s bars/pubs everywhere where tourists and locals get together to share laughs over drinks. Should make for a great story for the people at home.

If you have a hangover the next day the perfect place to visit would be Boyana Church, a gorgeous little spot where you can admire its quite spectacular murals with lots of detailing AND it should be rather quiet.

If the tour raised your curiosity levels and you want to learn more about the Bulgaria’s history, the National History Museum should be the place to head. It specialises in showing you the city’s intricate past, which has been marked by the presence of some of the world’s most powerful empires (if I remember correctly this is what the brochure said).

Have you been to Sofia?