21 reasons why Dubrovnik is one of the top European cities to visit. If you haven’t been. Go now!

How to visit the Balkans: Introducing Croatia – the dream of Game of Thrones!

It’s proper Springtime!

A few weeks ago, I told you about how we had such a lovely time in Croatia, and all the unique things that we did!

However, we did more than just go to Croatia.

Yep!

We also went to..

Wait for it.

Dubrovnik!

And what a magnificent city. I really can’t hold it in any longer so this week, I’m going to tell you why Dubrovnik is one of the top European cities to visit, and that if you haven’t been, you ought to go now!

21 REASONS WHY DUBROVNIK IS ONE OF THE TOP EUROPEAN CITIES TO VISIT. IF YOU HAVEN’T BEEN. GO NOW!

21 reasons why Dubrovnik is one of the top European citities to visit. If you haven’t been. Go now!
21 reasons why Dubrovnik is one of the top European cities to visit. If you haven’t been. Go now!

If you’re just joining, this is what you missed:

Croatia is the first time that I’ve ever been to the Balkan States, my 62nd country, and the first (1st) new country for 2017!

It was better than I ever hoped.

Whoopa!

LET’S GET A LITTLE HISTORY!

How to visit the Balkans: Introducing Croatia – the dream of Game of Thrones!
How to visit the Balkans: Introducing Croatia – the dream of Game of Thrones!

Dubrovnik , otherwise known as Ragusa, is a Croatian city on the Adriatic Sea, in Dalmatia!

The name Dubrovnik is first recorded in the Charter of Ban Kulin in 1189 and was mostly explained as a Slavic name, meaning an oak grove or oak forest. However, both names Dubrovnik and Ragusa co-existed for several centuries.

Ragusa, recorded – since the 10th century – considered to stem from the Greek word Lausa – remained the official name of the Republic of Dubrovnik until 1808, while Dubrovnik – first recorded in the late 12th century – was in widespread use by the 16th or early 17th century!

The prosperity of the city was historically based on maritime trade, and during the 15th and 16th centuries, became famous not only for it’s wealth, but also for it’s skilled international diplomacy!

Dubrovnik is one of the most prominent tourist destinations in the Mediterranean Sea, a seaport, and the centre of Dubrovnik-Neretva County. It’s population is about 42,461, and is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites!

WHY GO TO DUBROVNIK?

21 reasons why Dubrovnik is one of the top European cities to visit. If you haven’t been. Go now!

Courtesy of the Dubrovnik Tourist Board who issued me with a press pass, and very kindly invited us to a Croatian traditional lunch, and organised a private customised walking tour, we were in fact, able to do quite a lot.

Thanks so much!

What now?

I thought you would never ask…

Welcome to the Old City in Dubrovnik, otherwise known as Grad!

1.  The Dubrovnik Old City & City Wall: Dubrovnik is a museum city crammed with hidden treasures. If you don’t do anything at all, make sure you climb the City Wall! Top tip! You can use the ticket of the City Wall to get into the Lovrijenac Fort – for free – and there is no need to buy another ticket!

2.  It’s a waterfront port city: You know how much I enjoy water destinations. Dubrovnik ticked each, and every box!

3.  History: Dubrovnik is an old city alive full of history and stories, and Dubrovnik like the city of Split, is a flagship heritage attraction, utterly protected by UNESCO, since 1979!

A large part of Kings’ Landing and the Red Keep was filmed in Lovrijenac – the fortress outside the City Wall in Dubrovnik – and just a few minutes away!

4.  Walking Tours: The Dubrovnik Tourist Board very kindly organised a private customised walking tour which was peppered with the history of the old Republic of Dubrovnik, tips about famous Croatians, and the secrets of where Game of Thrones was filmed. A large part of King’s Landing and the Red Keep was filmed in Lovrijenac – the fortress outside Dubrovnik’s City Wall and just a few minutes away! In fact, I’m watching the bestselling cult series again right now, and I’m ecstatic. I must have seen the complete 1 – 6 series American Amazon here, British Amazon here, German Amazon here, at least four (4) times, and I’m watching it all over again!

5.  The port of Dubrovnik is romantic: You can enjoy a very pleasant walk along the river-side or towards the castle and fortress. Or you can simply have a meal or a glass of something bubbly, while basking in the early evening sun!

Take me to the island of Lokrum in Croatia, which is a mere 15 minutes away and a special UNESCO forest vegetation reserve!

6.  You can visit an island: You can take a daytrip to the Elaphiti Islands or to the island of Lokrum, a mere 15 minutes away and a special UNESCO forest vegetation reserve! We really tried hard to get there, but either it was raining and no boats were going out, or we spent a hell of a lot of time on the City Wall!

7.  You can stroll through the very small Old City with nothing to fear but the selfie stick of other tourists!

Me in Dubrovnik – Croatia!

8.  It’s a city of history through the ages: You only have to walk through the City Gates and history is right before your very eyes. Turn here, and you’ll see ancient sailing vessels, turn there, and you’ll hear the whisper of centuries of wealth, power and fame!

9.  Dubrovnik is known as a city on the palm of the hand: The city is so named due to it’s history, it’s beauty, and it’s openness to the world!

In a living city, there are strings of washing strewn across the window or terrace. In some places, with the horror of a pair of damp dangling knickers fluttering, in front of one’s face!

10.  Dubrovnik is an authentic living city: I always felt as if I was in somebody’s backyard, as on practically every corner and side-street, there were stairways and steps, and strings of washing seen strewn across the window or terrace. In some places, with the horror of a pair of damp dangling knickers fluttering, in front of one’s face!

11.  Dubrovnik is international: We saw plenty of American, Korean, Italian and Croatian tourists, dominated by Brits and the Irish! A quick look around and a bit of a natter with other tourists would reveal a bevy of young wealthy Indians. Many of whom actually lived in Germany!

21 reasons why Dubrovnik is one of the top European cities to visit. If you haven’t been. Go now!

12.  Dubrovnik is small: I don’t know how they do it, but Dubrovnik is tinier than Split! And with a population of just 42,461 inhabitants, is perfectly walkable. In fact, no vehicles are allowed into the Old City except for those trolley-like carts!

13.  The nightlife: Dubrovnik has a great nightlife. In pretty much every corner, there’s a bar or a few tables, and in the summer, live music. As this was a family holiday, the party would have to wait however, almost every evening we found a nice little place where we could enjoy a glass of wine or champagne, while the sun set!

We found a natural cave complete with stalagmites and stalactites. It’s known by the locals, but not so much by travellers. It’s the Cave Bar More in Dubrovnik – Croatia!

14.  Secret bars: We found two bars that were not well-known, but were absolute fantastic. We stumbled upon both of them! One was whilst we decided to go cliff walking around Dubrovnik instead. We found a restaurant, but deeper inside it was a natural cave complete with stalagmites and stalactites! It’s known by the locals, but not so much by travellers. It’s called the Cave Bar More where you could have wine and cocktails. Which we did!

The other place we saw whilst we were on the Castle Walls itself. It’s difficult to find as it’s part of the cliff and sort of tucked behind a side street, that leads to the City Wall. There’s no signage, but if you’re determined, you’ll find it! On talking to one of the waiters, he told me that their customers tend to be locals or those “in the know.” It can get a little chilly, and there are no barriers or fencing, so you’ll need to keep a hold of young kids, but it was awesome.

A marvellous place to have a beer and watch the sun go down in front of the Lokrum island. It’s called Zto Bard. Go find it!

Night life in Dubrovnik – Croatia!

15.  Museums & Galleries: I love places that teach you something and give you an impression of the lives of those living there, and Dubrovnik had them in spades. We were only able to make it to the Maritime Museum, which really gave me some insight into the maritime history of Dubrovnik and how important the sea is, but I so desperately wanted to visit the Ethnographic Museum. We managed a quick peek into the Franciscan Monastery which I recognised from Game of Thrones, and a peek into the Cathedral, but we weren’t able to do it properly, and simply had no time at all, for the Dominican Monastery!

The cable car is a unique way to see the height and sights of the city of Dubrovnik!

16.  Dubrovnik Cable Car: What a unique way to see the height and sights of the city of Dubrovnik! In fact, once you’ve taken the cable car, and you’re at the top of the Srđ Hill, there’s a viewing platform where you can see enchanting views of the Old City, the Lapad Bay, and the other nearby islands!

17.  It’s off the beaten path: Croatia, not to talk of Dubrovnik, is still relatively unknown! Perhaps, it was the fact that we had arrived in the low season, but in Zagreb we saw very few tourists except for Americans and local Croatians. In Split, mainly German and Italian.

Most of the Asian and British tourists seemed to be in Dubrovnik!

There was some sort of voluntary cat home under the steps of the Dubrovnik City Wall!

18.  Cats: We saw cats everywhere. They weren’t as feral or as wild as the cats that we saw in Portugal – but quite cute. In fact, there was some sort of voluntary cat home under the steps of the City Wall! You can make a donation or leave tins of cat food, and even play with the cats. If the cats let you!

19.  A budget destination: In comparison to Italy and Austria nearby, prices are lower and the quality just as good!

OMG! The seafood in Croatia is so impressive!

20.  Croatian food: OMG! The seafood was impressive. More about that next week!

21.  Because Game of Thrones!

TAKE ME THERE?

Take me to Dubrovnik right away!

As you all pretty much know by now, I’m a great believer in train travel. However, Croatia is quite far from Germany, so we flew!

Note: There aren’t a lot of inter-city trains. In fact, there’s no train station in Dubrovnik at all!

There actually aren’t a lot of trains in Croatia at all!

If you’re on a tight budget then many bus-coach companies such as MeinFernbus / FlixBus also go to Croatia. But do be aware that the fastest routes are usually only sold in Croatia itself.

We decided to use the coach-bus between Split-Dubrovnik.

Split – Dubrovnik proved problematic, as the coach-bus actually went backwards in the direction of Zagreb, then dropped us in the backwater town of Benkovac, at the Benkovac Busbahnhof!

I didn’t like Benkovac in Croatia, at all!

Benkovac was yucky!

As soon as I saw the “bus station,” I wanted to get the hell out of there!

It was practically deserted and every “room” was boarded up.

We had a 1 hour stop-over at 10:30, and the next decent place was a bar. So we ran to it and ordered a few (non-alcoholic) drinks there!

It’s 10:30 in the morning remember.

An early morning shot of vodka in many East European countries, is believed to be quite healthy!

Not that it stopped any of the local punters. Ho! Ho!….!

Our journey took 8 hours and 30 minutes, but the bus was 45 minutes late, so make that 9 hours and 15 minutes instead!

We probably should have rented a car, and be done with it!

Cost: Split – Benkovac €12.00. Benkovac – Metkovic €7.35. Benkovac – Dubrovnik €5.65 per person.

IS IT GOING TO BE CROWDED?

Dubrovnik has the potential to be most popular!

Not in April.

But it has the potential to be, as Dubrovnik is most popular!

In fact, most of the tourists were on the City Wall, and many tourist attractions  were still very much empty as it wasn’t yet “the season.” Many a restaurant were looking for punters and luring customers in with 10% discounts, or more!

But in the summer, prepare to gird your loins, and fight your way through!

Plan well.

Book your hotel here!

WHAT IS DUBROVNIK LIKE?

21 reasons why Dubrovnik is one of the top European cities to visit. If you haven’t been. Go now!

Marvellous!

We were only there for 4 days, but we could have stayed for a week, as we had so many things to see, and the weather put a hamper on some of the activities that we wanted to do.

It’s rich in history, is of architectural interest and has a wonderful harbour. There are castles and fortresses galore, the seafood and wine is not to be missed, and the islands nearby are attractive.

If it’s good enough to reflect the main filming location in Game of Thrones as King’s Landing, the capital city of the Seven Kingdoms, it’s good enough for you!

I DON’T SPEAK CROATIAN!

I’m guessing that the parrots don’t speak much Croatian either, although I couldn’t quite understand what they were doing there!

No worries!

It’s amazing how many languages a typical European speaks.

Most speak a minimum of three (3)!

If you speak English, German, Italian or Korean, you’re good to go.

Besides, everyone pretty much speaks English too!

AM I GOING TO LIVE IN A HUT?

You really can’t live on the Dubrovnik City Wall. Even if you want to!

Not at all.

Not unless you want to!

I’M ON A BUDGET. WHAT SHOULD I DO?

This glass of beer was quaffed on our Dubrovnik apartment terrace, and was a gift from our Croatian landlord!

We’ve all been there.

Dubrovnik isn’t cheap-cheap, but if you’re from the UK or the US, it’s as cheap as chips.

If you’re from Germany, prices are the same as in Berlin, and you can eat at gourmet restaurants, at budget prices!

And the seafood is delightful!

We pretty much spent a large amount of time drinking lots of wine, whilst people watching. And a few more!

And on this trip, we decided to book apartments instead of hotels or hostels.

Book your apartment here!

This was our sunny terrace at our Dubrovnik apartment. We were very comfortable!

We had great difficulty with personal space in Madrid last year, as The Tall Young Gentleman has recently turned 15 (OMG!), and is very tall. We decided to either book two (2) hotel rooms, or a large apartment instead.

Prices are low, and the quality and standard of apartments available, is exceedingly high.

Book ahead to get good prices.

Book your apartment or hotel here!

I’M LOOKING FOR SOMETHING A BIT DIFFERENT. ANY IDEAS?

I have plenty of ideas. Just ask me!

Always.

Go ahead and ask me!

WHAT ABOUT TRANSPORT POSSIBILITIES?

Lots of people, walk or take the bus. But you can just as well canoe your way around!

All of Croatia is pretty small, so every city we visited was quite walkable.

Cars are not allowed into the Old City! For the day-to-day, the locals used some sort of cart!

Dubrovnik is pretty small so everywhere is walkable. You can travel around the city by bicycle, boat, cable car, the local bus, or simply walk.

We were lucky to get a private customised city tour courtesy of the Dubrovnik Tourist Board who paired us with the expertise of the PR Department Coordinator!

ANYTHING ELSE?

You need proper shoes in order to navigate Croatia!
You need proper shoes in order to navigate Croatia!

Ditch the heels and expensive leather brogues, and take comfortable walking shoes.

There be steep and cobbled stones!

Oh, and get the Dubrovnik Card. It includes the cost of the City Walls, which more than makes up for itself!

MY VERDICT:

Dubrovnik is a dream!

Dubrovnik is an undisputed dream.

It’s medieval.

It’s appealing.

It’s got history, art and culture, and looks utterly charming.

If you’re looking for one of the top European cities to visit in 2017, that is safe, lively, and ready to be discovered. It’s right there!

WOULD I COME AGAIN?

Because the White Walkers from Game of Thrones, scare me!

Utterly!

Because, Game of Thrones!

Go visit Dubrovnik. Now!

Where we stayed: Green Park Apartments – Just €60.00 per night for the whole apartment. Marvellous!

Book your hotel here!

21 REASONS WHY DUBROVNIK IS ONE OF THE TOP EUROPEAN CITIES TO VISIT. IF YOU HAVEN’T BEEN. GO NOW!

21 reasons why Dubrovnik is one of the top European cities to visit. If you haven’t been. Go now!

This article is not sponsored and even though I received a press pass, and a complimentary city tour courtesy of the Dubrovnik Tourist Board, all opinions and the delightful Castle Wall that we sprawled over, are my very own!

In May & June, I’ll be visiting Sweden and Slovenia!

From May 17th – May 20th, I’ll be at the Berlin Music Video Awards.

From June 8th – June 9th, I’ll be at the Berlin Fashion Film Festival.

From July 4th – July 7th, I’ll be at Berlin Fashion Week. It’s going to be so much fun!

I’ll be there. Will you?

If you’re not in Berlin in May, you’re quite mad!

Save the Date!

May & June are going to be pleasing!

Croatian food is most delicious!

Watch this space!

Note! I never travel without insurance as you never know what might happen.

I learnt my lesson in Spain. And obviously, in countries like Qatar, where technically the risk is higher, I can’t imagine going that far beyond, WITHOUT INSURANCE. No siree! You can get yours here, at World Nomads!

Please note that there are now affiliate links (for the very first time) connected to this post. Please consider using the links, because every time some sort of accommodation or travel insurance is booked via my links I get a little percentage, but at no extra cost to yourself!

A win-win for all!

Thanks a million!

21 reasons why Dubrovnik is one of the top European cities to visit. If you haven’t been. Go now!

Have you ever been to Dubrovnic? Any ideas why parrots are in the Old City? Let me know in the comments below!

See you in Berlin.

If you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, look for me on Google+ or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

If you like this post, please Share it! Tweet it! Or like it!

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Shocking news! I’m actually in the Philippines and guess what? The secret Chinese-speaking location I told you about is….Taiwan!

Shocking news! I'm actually in the Philippines and guess what? The secret Chinese-speaking location I told you about is....Taiwan!
Shocking news! I’m actually in the Philippines and guess what? The secret Chinese-speaking location I told you about is….Taiwan!

I’m actually in the Philippines you guys!

And wow!

It’s looking far better than what I ever imagined it would be like!

But first.

The Philippines?

Shocking news! I'm actually in the Philippines and guess what? The secret Chinese-speaking location I told you about is....Taiwan!
Shocking news! I’m actually in the Philippines and guess what? The secret Chinese-speaking location I told you about is….Taiwan!

WHATEVER AM I DOING THERE?

Well boys and girls, a long time ago, in the summer……..I told you that I had astonishing news! That astonishing news was the introduction of my journey to the Philippines for the very first time.

WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO THAT EXOTIC PLACE?

I’m in the Philippines right now, and it’s ridiculously exciting.

I'm in Manila right now! Yeow!
I’m in Manila right now! Yeow!

WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO THERE?

I’m going to:

I'm going to eat the best that Filipino food has to offer!
I’m going to eat the best that Filipino food has to offer!
  • Visit Manila
  • Fly to the island of Bohol
  • See the most famous Chocolate Hills (which aren’t actually made of chocolate…)
  • Stare at the tarsier, otherwise known as the world’s smallest monkey!
  • Go on a river cruise
  • Run around the Bohol Butterfly Sanctuary
  • Explore the southern edge of Bohol’s Panglao Island
  • Search out where the best dives can be found on the Balicasag Island
  • Explore historic Cebu – the Queen City of the South!
  • Sail across and experience a Mactan Island Tour
  • Find out if the Lechon suckling pig dish delicacy really is as good as they say!
  • Eat the best that Filipino food has to offer!
  • And at the end of it all, I’m going to take advantage of the spa and massage moments, because by the end of an exciting but intense time, I’m going to need it!

Book your hotel here!

I'm going to see everything that there is to see all over the Philippines!
I’m going to see everything that there is to see all over the Philippines!

Whew!

BUT WHY AGAIN?

Sigh!

I'm a very happy British lifestyle, expat, travel blogger. Right here in the beautiful city of Berlin - © Pascale Scerbo Sarro
I’m a very happy British lifestyle, expat, travel blogger. Right here in the beautiful city of Berlin –
© Pascale Scerbo Sarro

As you know, I’m a lifestyle expat travel blogger. And part of this lifestyle is spending an awful amount of time writing and spreading the love on social media.

If you don’t get yourself out there, it can be quite lonely.

Thankfully, I’m a bit of a social butterfly and a little bit of a show-off, so meeting other bloggers is always going to be a good thing. One of those ways to get-together is to attend a TBEX conference.

I had originally planned to go to Sweden...!
I had originally planned to go to Sweden…!

I had originally planned to go to the European conference in Sweden, but a window opened up. That window was the fact that I’m taking up a new job!

Yep!

I'll soon be working for Logo Sprachenschule!
I’ll soon be working for Logo Sprachenschule!

Now you all know that I presently work for a British / American company doing corporate teaching in industrial, business and governmental establishments. Well, from November 2016, I’ll be working for a German company as the Vice-School Principal. And get this. I’ll be responsible for their English-speaking business AND their Social Media Management!

It’s a small business and will be focused on international languages. The company is called LOGO Sprachenschule, and is based in my gentrified hipster neighbourhood of Prenzlauerberg. In the best place in the world – Berlin!

As usual, I’m an advocate for smart travelling, so I’m not quitting either my travels or my job anytime soon, thanks very much!

and then We Were Three. In Wales!
and then We Were Three.
In Wales!

Anyhoo!

Oh yes. I didn’t go to the conference in Sweden, so I decided to go to the TBEX Asia-Pacific 2016 conference in the Philippines instead!

Gosh, you’re a busy girl Victoria!

WHAT IS TBEX ALL ABOUT?

I'm at TBEX - Travel Blog Exchange Asia Pacific 2016 - The future of travel Media!
I’m at TBEX – Travel Blog Exchange Asia-Pacific 2016 – The future of travel Media!

Well, TBEX is the holy grail of the travel blogging world and stands for Travel Blog Exchange.

It’s the world’s largest conference and networking event for travel bloggers, writers, online travel journalists, new media content creators, travel brands and social-media-savvy travel industry professionals. There are three (3) conferences held annually in North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific, attracting 600-1000 delegates from all over the world!

The organisation used to be located in North America and Europe but for the first time in 2015, was based not only in “the West” but in Asia too, and on a cruise-ship in the middle of the sea!

Me on the beach at Lloret de Mar, Spain for TBEX.
Me on the beach at Lloret de Mar, Spain for TBEX.

It’s also a medium for the creative minds of the travel industry to come together, to network, to learn, to negotiate with the travel industry, and for those who are so inclined, to take the business of blogging to the next level.

How exciting!

I had heard a lot of good and sometimes controversial things about TBEX, but I decided to attend the conference for myself and make up my own mind.

Last year, I went to the TBEX conference for the very first time.

Eeek!

Shocking news! I'm actually in the Philippines and guess what? The secret Chinese-speaking location I told you about is....Taiwan!
Shocking news! I’m actually in the Philippines and guess what? The secret Chinese-speaking location I told you about is….Taiwan!

Every year, TBEX partners with fantastic destinations so that bloggers and media people get the opportunity to meet potential business partners or sponsors, meet influential bloggers, get new strategies and tips, network with each other, discover new destinations, share a new experience and well, be entertained and paaaaaaaarty like it’s 1999!

Oh alright then. Paaaaaarty like it’s 2016!

Party like it's 2016 at TBEX in Manila! ©Vicki Winters
Party like it’s 2016 at TBEX in Manila!
©Vicki Winters

There.

Happy now!

I love the Asian continent, and I’ve been to Asia many, many times, but I’ve never been to the Philippines!

THE PHILIPPINES

Turtles in the Philippines!
Turtles in the Philippines!

The Philippines officially known as the Republic of the Philippines, is a sovereign island country in Southeast Asia, situated in the western Pacific Ocean!

It consists of:

I can't wait to run across the many sandy white tropical beaches such as this, in Bohol!
I can’t wait to run across the many sandy white tropical beaches such as this, in Bohol!
  • A population of 101 million people!
  • 36,289 kilometres of coastline
  • 10,000 feet of mountain ranges
  • 7,107 tropical islands
  • 6,000 endemic plant species
  • 5,000 species of clams
  • 2,000 species of fish
  • 900 species of seaweed
  • 600 species of birds
  • 500 animal species
  • 400 species of coral
  • 176 languages and local dialects
  • 100 indigenous ethnic groups
  • 22 species of whales and dolphins
  • countless beaches
  • and the capital city – Manila

Book your hotel here!

Just me and my horse in Manila!
Just me and my horse in Manila!

Golly!

While I’m in this part of Asia, I decided to visit another new country in the vicinity.

I picked Taaaaaaaaaaaiwan!

TAIWAN

Taiwan, otherwise known as, the Republic of China (ROC).
Taiwan, otherwise known as, the Republic of China (ROC).

Taiwan, otherwise known as, the Republic of China (ROC), is a state in East Asia.

Neighbors include the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to the west, Japan to the northeast, and the Philippines to the south. Taiwan is the most populous non-UN state and the largest economy outside the UN.

The history of Taiwan dates back tens of thousands of years although it’s believed that the appearance of a culture based on agriculture around 3000 BC, reflects the arrival of the ancestors of today’s Taiwanese aborigines.

Taiwan was initially colonised by the Dutch in the 17th century, followed by an influx of Han Chinese including Hakka immigrants from the Fujian and Guangdong areas of mainland China, across the Taiwan Strait.

The Spanish built a settlement in the north for a brief period, but were driven out by the Dutch in 1642.

Taiwan, otherwise known as, the Republic of China (ROC).
Taiwan, otherwise known as, the Republic of China (ROC).

In 1662, Koxinga, a loyalist of the Ming dynasty who had lost control of mainland China in 1644, defeated the Dutch and established a base of operations on the island. His forces were also defeated by the Qing dynasty in 1683, and parts of Taiwan became increasingly integrated into the Qing empire. Following the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895, the Qing ceded the island, along with Penghu, to the Empire of Japan.

In 1945, following the end of World War II, the Republic of China (ROC), led by the Kuomintang (KMT), took control of Taiwan.

Taiwan, otherwise known as, the Republic of China (ROC).
Taiwan, otherwise known as, the Republic of China (ROC).

The KMT ruled Taiwan (along with Kinmen, Wuqiu and the Matsu Islands on the opposite side of the Taiwan Strait) as a single-party state for forty years, until democratic reforms in the 1980s.

During the post-war period, Taiwan experienced rapid industrialization and economic growth, and was known as one of the “Four Asian Tigers.”

Wow!

How intriguing!

That’s all for now!

Book your hotel here!

SHOCKING NEWS! I’M ACTUALLY IN THE PHILIPPINES AND GUESS WHAT? THE SECRET CHINESE-SPEAKING LOCATION I TOLD YOU ABOUT IS….TAIWAN!

Street food in the Philippines.
Street food in the Philippines.

Even though I was a member of TBEX, all opinions and the exciting time that I’m currently in the middle of, is my very own!

Right now I’m travelling around the Philippines and Taiwan and you can follow what I’m doing and where I’m going, on Twitter & Facebook.

Come and find me on social media ‘cos you know what, I believe it really is more fun in the Philippines!

In November, I’ll be travelling to Austria and starting a new job!

Save the Date!

October is going to be just delightful!

I’ll be there. Will you?

As usual, you can also follow me via daily tweets and pictures on Twitter & Facebook!

If you’re not in Berlin in October, you’re lost!

Watch this space!

How do I get to Taiwan?
How do I get to Taiwan?

Note! I never travel without insurance as you never know what might happen.

I learnt my lesson in Spain. And obviously, in countries like Qatar, where technically the risk is higher, I can’t imagine going that far beyond, WITHOUT INSURANCE. No siree! You can get yours here, at World Nomads!

Please note that there are now affiliate links (for the very first time) connected to this post. Please consider using the links, because every time some sort of accommodation or travel insurance is booked via my links I get a little percentage, but at no extra cost to yourself!

A win-win for all!

Thanks a million!

Shocking news! I'm in the Philippines and the secret location is Taiwan!
Shocking news! I’m in the Philippines and the secret location is Taiwan!

Have you ever been to the Philippines? Did you guess the secret location would be Taiwan? Any tips? Have your say!

See you in Berlin.

If you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, look for me on Google+ or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

If you like this post, please Share it! Tweet it! Or like it!

11 reasons why you should visit Porto – the city of wine – and why it matters!

Sailing on the Douro River in Porto!
Sailing on the Douro River in Porto!

So last week I wrote all about why I thought Lisbon would be the next top European place to be!

And why?

Because it’s worth it!

And you know what?

After spending three (3) days in the Algarve, and three (3) days in Lisbon, is it any wonder that we wanted to continue travelling around Portugal?

So we did.

We went to the Northern part of Portugal. To a place called Porto.

Porto – Portoooooooogal!

Do you see what I did there?

 PORTO

Porto - Portugal.
Porto – Portugal.

Porto, otherwise known as Oporto, is the second-largest city in Portugal, after Lisbon.

Porto’s combined Celtic-Latin name is known as Portus Cale, and is believed to be the origin of the name “Portugal” meaning “the port”!

Located along the Douro river estuary in Northern Portugal, Porto is one of the oldest European cities in the world and its historical centre was classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996!

Porto’s settlement dates to as far back as when it was an outpost of the Roman Empire, during the Medieval Ages, and to important artifacts found in the 8th century!

Portugal's most internationally famous export - port wine - named after the city of Porto itself!
Portugal’s most internationally famous export – port wine – named after the city of Porto itself!

And of course, one of Portugal’s most internationally famous exports is the port wine, named after the city of Porto itself!

Truth be told, until a year ago, I had never even heard of the city of Porto!

Yes, of course, I’ve had many a glass of port in my time.

Ahem!

But somehow, it didn’t click that the lip-smacking tipple of port, came from an actual place called Porto!

Until last year!

The BBC Travel Show!
The BBC Travel Show!

I was watching the BBC Travel Show when a feature came up on the city of Porto, and on how parts of it had been forgotten, with many of Porto’s oldest houses either abandoned, or at the risk of collapsing.

Porto was once an important global centre of trade and production for many a century, and then just like Bristol, business moved to the capital of the country, and that was that.

The locals moved away into the suburbs of Porto, the city lost it’s populated buzz, business followed suit, and what was left was the emptiness of a harbour, and the quiet husk of a neglected abandoned building.

I was intrigued!

And so, when I planned our Spain & Portugal Spring Break, I decided to add Porto to the core!

AND YET. I HAVEN’T A CLUE!

And yet. I haven't a clue!
And yet.
I haven’t a clue!
  1. Porto is a lovely city-break destination:

And yet.

Most people have never heard of it! Up until last year, even I had never heard of it!

  1. Porto is an important city steeped in history and river-side glamour:

And yet.

Porto seems to be dying. A little over 220,000 people live in Porto with 1.5 million living in the suburbs! As a result, 18.8% of residential buildings in Porto are empty, with many more abandoned and neglected.  A very untypical story.

Porto is a city of wine!
Porto is a city of wine!
  1. Porto is a city of wine:

And yet.

When most people think of Port, they don’t think of Portugal, but of England, and English companies such as Taylor, Fladgate & Yeatman!

  1. Shopping:

Who doesn’t like to buy a souvenir to take home? Portugal has a reputation of high quality, standard goods.

And yet.

Some shops were raking it in, but many shops and buildings were boarded up, becoming quite the eyesore, not only uncomfortable to see, but also with a hint of “is-it-safe-for-me-to-walk-through-this-street?” feel.

"is-it-safe-for-me-to-walk-through-this-street" in Porto?
“is-it-safe-for-me-to-walk-through-this-street” in Porto?
  1. Bookshops:

On almost every street, you’ll find some sort of bookshop.

And yet.

Outside of the pretty historical few, when was the last time you patronised a bookshop? A real bookshop. Of brick and mortar. Come to that, when was the last time that you even purchased, and paid for a book?

Exactly!

  1. Cats:

I love cats. In fact, we have two lovely twin cats at home and we love them dearly.

And yet.

There were cats literally everywhere! Under cars. On roofs. On walls. In doorways. Everywhere. I can’t imagine that they’re all domestic, looking as skinny and scrawny as they did. Certainly not the type of animal that you would think of stroking.

Or touching, come to that.

There were cats literally everywhere, in Porto!
There were cats literally everywhere, in Porto!
  1. Blue and white tiles:

Lovely, pretty mosaic tiles with pictures of historical or religious images, donned the walls of various buildings.

And yet.

You only have to turn around a corner or a side-street, and you would find a building that was derelict, covered with broken red brick, over-grown with weeds, strewn with old newspapers, bottles and rags, or half-built derelict buildings.

11 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT PORTO AND WHY IT MATTERS!

The Douro River is famously important, in Porto!
The Douro River is famously important, in Porto!

As always, my number one piece of advice is not to shy away but to visit.

And here’s why!

  1. It’s a river-side city: Porto, like Lisbon, is a city that owes much to the sea. The D’Ouro – meaning gold – is where the river flows into the sea where you can have lunch or dinner on the river side, go fishing or simply sail on a gentle boat or cruise, while taking photographic selfies as you cascade along the rivers and shores of history!
  2. A weekend destination: Porto is a great destination for a short-term stay as most people are young, it’s cheap and with most tourists coming from Spain, from France, Brazil, or Portugal itself, it hasn’t yet attained a reputation of a lager-lout hub!
  3. The architecture: Wow! What amazing colours that you see splashed across the city. Where some cities look dull or have no personality, Porto has a colourful enthusiasm. In spades!
  4. Porto is utterly charming: It has narrow streets and a young, vibrant, cosmopolitan centre.
  5. The wine: Wine fans will want to be in the Douro wine region. We tried to go on a wine cellar tour but we couldn’t find it, and ended up buying a huge amount of port an hour before we had to leave for the airport! Luckily, on every corner and in every shop, a bottle of port can be found in a multitude of forms and sensations such as ruby, tawny, white, rosé, and vintage! Phew!!
  6. Little shops and galleries: A lot of the shops have retained their old style traditional appearance, so that visitors can imagine what things were like in times gone by. In fact, antique dealers and art galleries make a roaring trade!
  7. Antiquarian booksellers: On almost every street, you’ll find some sort of bookshop. The most famous one of all being the Livraria Lello neo-Gothic beauty which was built in 1906, and which many say was the inspiration of the Grand Staircase, or the Hogwarts Stairway in the Harry Potter series, as well as the Flourish and Blotts Diagon Alley bookshop! But be warned, the bookshop has become so over-run with over-excited tourists, that the shop has begun to charge €3.00 for entrance, which you are reimbursed, with purchases made in the bookshop!
  8. Porto is tiny: The city is even smaller than Lisbon with a population of slightly over 220,000 inhabitants, and charmingly walkable, cobbled stones, and hilly steeps!
  9. The train station: Wow! The Estação de São Bento or the São Bento Railway Station looks pretty sexy! Built between 1905-1916, it’s famously known for its tile (azulejo) panels that depict scenes and historical events concerning the History of Portugal. What with its alluring magnificent blue and white tile panels, that reach to up to 20,000, helpful staff, wide-open spaces, and the shell of a Benedictine monastery! It’s no wonder that other train stations just look dull and functional, in comparison!
  10. Historical buildings and artistic monuments: You know how I love a good old building. Well, Porto didn’t disappoint with artistic creations such as the 13th century St. Francis of Assisi Church, the Stock Exchange Palace, the beautiful Porto Cathedral, the Torre dos Clérigos, or the Tower of Clerics, leading to a breathtaking view of the city, the Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis or the Soares dos Reis National Museum and the Serralves Foundation – a cultural institution – making it Porto’s high point of art-deco architecture, and one of the most relevant museums on the contemporary European art circuit!
  11. Because Harry Potter: J. K. Rowling lived in Porto for a little while and so the influence and inspiration of Harry Potter world is right there. Under your nose! Think Salazar Slytherin – an acronym for the authoritarian Portuguese president – António de Oliveira Salazar! Think the Grand Staircase, or the Hogwarts Stairway  – an acronym for the upstairs cafe of the Livraria Lello Bokshop! Think Flourish and Blotts – which is said to be inspired by the Livraria Lello Bokshop too! Think the Hogwart school uniform gown – an acronym for the gowns related to the Praxe Académica worn by the students of Oporto University, and a tradition stemmed from a century ago. Having said that, we have academic gowns in the UK too, but perhaps no longer on a daily basis….!

TAKE ME THERE?

 A type of single carriage diesel railcar used by the Portuguese Railways - Comboios de Portugal.
A type of single carriage diesel railcar used by the Portuguese Railways – Comboios de Portugal.

Getting from Lisbon to Porto was enormously smooth.

This time we took the train. Again, I can’t remember the exact details, but the train the company was called Comboios de Portugal and we bought our ticket just 24 hours previously. It pays to do so a little earlier, as the cheaper tickets went pretty quickly! The cost was something like €25.00 for adults and 25% off for “youths!”

The Portuguese train was clean, smooth and efficient. Some trains are also “quiet” carriages, but it shouldn’t be an issue unless you’re planning to party your way along the aisle lol!

The journey from Lisbon to Porto was roughly 3 hours.

If you’re flying from the UK then Ryanair is virtual proof of the pudding. If you’re on the Continent, then Easyjet and any other airline residing in France, in Belgium or Switzerland, is probably your best bet. If you’re coming from the Americas, then you’d probably need to fly to Lisbon or any other European hub, first.

IS IT GOING TO BE CROWDED?

Is it going to be crowded in Porto?
Is it going to be crowded in Porto?

Nope!

With a population of just 220,000 people, you’ve got the place to yourself!

WHAT IS PORTO LIKE?

We were only there for three (3) days but Porto is on the one hand charmingly young, and on the other, historically old!

I DON’T SPEAK PORTUGUESE 

He doesn't speak Portuguese either! He's a scary water-spout gargoyle in Lisbon!
He doesn’t speak Portuguese either! He’s a scary water-spout gargoyle in Lisbon!

Ho! Ho!

Who does?

English is widely spoken, but there’s nothing wrong with learning a few basic words of Portuguese as a measure of respect!

AM I GOING TO LIVE IN A HUT?

Well no.

Things haven’t quite come to that!

I’M ON A BUDGET, BUT I’M LOOKING FOR A BIT MORE LUXURY AS I DON’T WANT TO ROUGH IT! WHAT SHOULD I DO?

The trendy art Gallery Hostel!
The trendy art Gallery Hostel!

Just like in Lisbon, we stayed at another rather adorable contemporary styled boutique hostel located in the trendy Art Quarter of Miguel Bombarda.

The Gallery Hostel characterizes the new concept of a luxury hostel, and is based in an impressive 1906 building house, blended with a modern décor, infusing neutral and earthy tones, with unique textures and furnishings.

Phew!

We chose this hostel not only because it was family-friendly and family-owned, but because it has it’s own art gallery!

An Art Gallery!

I mean.

An. Art. Gallery!

Yippee!

I like the little luxuries in life, just as much as the next girl!
I like the little luxuries in life, just as much as the next girl!

I’m not going to lie.

I like my luxuries, pampering, and exclusive service.

And let me tell you, when I’m in Asia or Eastern Europe, that is exactly what I go for.

And why?

Simply because I can!

Sometimes, I go for Art Design Hotels and sometimes, I go for a Quirky Bed & Breakfast.

And sometimes, I target luxury boutique hostels.

Just like the Gallery Hostel.

See you next week!

Porto in the sunlight!
Porto in the sunlight!

This article is part-sponsored by the lovely boutique Gallery Hostel, but all opinions, and the delightful glasses of port that we sipped whilst on the riverside quay, are my very own!

Next week, I’ll be focusing on food!

From June 2nd – June 3rd, I’ll be at the Berlin Fashion Film Festival.

From June 28th – July 2nd, I’ll be at Berlin Fashion Week.

Save the Date!

June is going to be fabulous!

I’ll be there. Will you?

As usual, you can also follow me via daily tweets and pictures on Twitter & Facebook!

If you’re not in Berlin in June, you’re going to miss out on everything!

Watch this space!

11 reasons why you should visit Porto - the city of wine - and why it matters!
11 reasons why you should visit Porto – the city of wine – and why it matters!

Have you ever been to Porto? What’s your tipple of choice – Wine, Whisky, Sherry or Port?

See you in Berlin.

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