One of the highlights of visiting Big Berry is getting a real taste of the Slovenian lifestyle against the incredible backdrop of the untouched countryside that lies just beyond the camp gates. My week was spent there visiting several local producers of beer, gin, oil and chocolate amid visits to viewpoints, hidden lakes and abandoned mills. We took breaks for delicious meals made from local ingredients including some of the best trout and carp I have ever eaten, fresh from the river that runs through the camp itself. I even had the opportunity to take a peek into the past when I visited an old fashioned Slovenian home to see how the people of years gone by would have lived, and the crafts and memories that remain.It hit me when I was there, just how hard it is these days to find a landscape that is actually untouched and undamaged by commercialisation. There are few places left in this world you can truly escape the modern world and step back in time into a completely natural landscape where green forests and clear rivers stretch as far as the eye can see, and eagles soar across the sky. It sounds like something out of a movie because we just don't get a chance to see this very often without a fast food restaurant or some kind of brand getting in the way. But Eastern Europe is a very different matter, the Balkan countries just seem to have escaped the commercialisation that has dominated so many other places in Europe. There are still so many wide open areas you can get lost in and that makes them very precious to the modern day traveler.When it comes to local producers, Primostek and the nearby villages are a wealth of smaller companies that pack a punch with top quality products that kept me fed and watered throughout my stay. Everything from fruit, cheese and bread, to gin, wine and beer. There's plenty to keep your stomach full and a smile on your face knowing your stay is supporting the local companies, plus you get a chance to see the process behind the products. All of the companies allow for tours to see how their food, drink and even body products are made during your stay, which is a great way to meet the local people and see another side to Slovenia.My favourite tours had to be Berryshka - the liqueur and chocolate makers - and Vizir Pivovarna - the beer producers. The owners of both were so welcoming and took the time to talk us through the whole process of creating the products as they took us on a tour of the factory/brewery, before enjoying a tasting of the products. For me, the highlight of Berryshka was tasting the unusual lavender chocolate, a new product, and tasting their liqueurs served in a chocolate cup. Just delicious. Vizir Pivovarna had a great range of beers and were happy to explain the differences to a non-beer drinker, my favourite ones were definitely the dark beer and the stronger 10% beer they produce. Another huge highlight was getting to eat at the home of the delicious apple juice producers, Lamut, where we enjoyed a home cooked feast of fresh carp and trout washed down with apple juice, wine and a lot of Rakea.During the visit we also took the time to walk around local vineyards and taken some stunning views from the mills and local beauty spots. It was great being shown around by the team who knew all the best places to see and best things to do. If you're staying at Big Berry, I would recommend getting out and exploring the local producers and seeing more than just the camp, get a real taste of this part of Slovenia and you'll fall for the beautiful location just like I did. I mustn't forget my favourite activity, on the last day we went rafting down the river and I don't even have the words to describe how much fun and just how breathtaking the views were.
Have you been to Slovenia - what was your favourite part? Does the wide open landscape appeal to you? Have you visited local producers on other trips?
Eastern Europe has been on my must-see list for several years, there's something about it's wild, untouched beauty that really appeals to me especially when so many places in Europe are so overcrowded with tourists. I've long since wanted to travel to Romania but haven't yet had the opportunity after travel plans changed this summer and I found myself meeting friends in Bulgaria instead - more to come on that in a later post! But when I was invited to Slovenia on my first travel blogger press trip, I was beyond excited to experience the country for myself and at the hands of those who know the local area best. I was invited to stay at Big Berry, a new luxury glamping lifestyle camp on the banks of the river Kolpa in Primostek and the first of its kind in the country. Big Berry embraces the concept of enjoying total luxury for the whole family while getting back to grass roots and really experiencing the Slovenian countryside.I was lucky enough to be staying in a gorgeous mobile home which has been specially designed to satisfy every need and want - the design was sleek and absolutely beautiful offering complete luxury and the opportunity to enjoy self-catering if wanted. Sleeping six, the cabin gave me plenty of room to myself and I even had my own private jacuzzi - total luxury after staying in hostels for the week beforehand. Waking up in the morning, I could step into a stunning rain shower before heading to the terrace for breakfast which was hand-delivered each morning. Filled with local produce, from fruit and yoghurt to eggs, milk and bread, it was a perfect way to start the day as the sun shone over the Kolpa river. Just across the water was the Croatian border, giving you ample opportunity to swim between the two in the cleanest, purest water you can imagine. If you're after a complete digital detox, this is the perfect place for you and I relished the chance to get away from a screen and to really experience life in the Slovenian town, but it also provides great communal areas perfect for working online which could be well suited for the digital nomads among us.Mornings would start with a workout to get the blood racing - a former Slovenian boxer led the classes out on the grass overlooking the river, a perfect setting. Then later there was plenty of time to explore and relax in the grounds by swimming in the river or reading a book on the comfy sunbeds scattered around. There's also volleyball, bikes and canoes available if you fancy something a bit more active. The team behind Big Berry hope to give visitors an authentic experience of the Bela Krajina region by showing them how the locals live, giving them an insight into the Slovenian past and present with visits to historical houses, beauty spots and local producers to try everything from cheese and wine, to oils, beer and chocolates. There's a packed schedule available to visitors who want to get to know the area and to fully experience local life, or for those who want to just relax and take it in at their own pace, there is total freedom to dine and explore independently.The camp, which will be open from May to September from next year, is perfect suited to families who want to get outside with the kids and explore somewhere new - the camp is very safe for young children with plenty of space for them to run around. It would also be perfect for couples who fancy a romantic weekend away in the countryside - trust me there's nothing more romantic than watching the stars sparkle over the river from the comfort of your own hot tub. At 200 euros a night, it provides you with all the luxury you want while allowing you to get back to basics and to enjoy a simple few days enjoying Slovenia in its purest and most beautiful form. Plus being right on the Croatian border, it gives you a good opportunity to explore two countries in one trip if you're flying into Zagreb like I did. Check out my upcoming posts for more information about the trips available while staying at Big Berry. You can find more information about Big Berry and planning your trip to Slovenia here.
Have you been to Slovenia - what did you think? Does the Big Berry concept appeal to you? Tell me about your favourite luxury getaways.
It's about time I gave you guys a little life update - those of you who follow me on Instagram or Twitter may already know about my plans, but for those who don't I'm sure you can guess they include travel! When I came back from Australia, the first question everyone asked me was 'What next?' - they just knew how incredible my experiences had been and couldn't imagine I could settle back into life at home. At the time, I had no immediate plans but knew I would be returning to Australia in the autumn, this gave me just long enough to spend time with all the people I've missed so much over the last year-and-a-half and to take on some freelance work at the newspaper to earn a few £££ while I was back in the UK. I started out at a relaxed pace with a few days freelance work each week - plenty to pay the bills and save - and plenty of time to work on this blog and catch up with friends. If I had only thought about the kind of person I am, I would have realised there was no way things would remain this chilled.
Instead I've ended up taking on so much extra freelance work that I'm working full time hours across six newspapers lately - this is great money but it has eaten into my time to spend with friends and family. Typical me, especially when you add in that I've been trying to squeeze in as many blog reviews/events and working with as many brands as possible during my time in the UK. I've never been a stand still and let life happen to you kind of gal, I prefer to go out and seize the day in any way I can. While I was away I was contacted with so many amazing opportunities, but they were all based in the UK so I wanted to make the most of them while I was back over here. It's a really exciting time for this blog and I'm so happy to see how it has grown since I first started travel blogging. Some of my most incredible news yet is that I have been invited on my first press trip as a blogger - more to come on that later - and I couldn't be more excited about it! To actually be recognised enough as a travel blogging brand to be approached for a press trip is amazing and more than I could have ever dreamed of at this stage.I've been pretty busy in the last two years despite travelling and, often, working full time along the way. I've worked with some incredible brands during this time including some well-known names such as Durex and The Flight Centre, with plenty more coming up. I hosted an Instagram takeover for Travelex UK and have worked with some amazing travel and technology brands plus I've featured in a lot of articles by brands and bloggers alike. I've recently guest posted on some amazing websites and written pieces for brands including Base Backpackers. I've been invited to some amazing events such as the Blogosphere Magazine Summer Party, and reviewed some incredible restaurants and hotels. I also have one very exciting announcement coming up that cannot be revealed until September, and some very exciting partnerships for later in the year - all very hush-hush at the moment but I can't wait to share them with you. It's safe to say all my hard work is really paying off and I'm so happy to see more people enjoying my content than ever before.
So what is my big news?
Well despite having just returned from two weeks in Santorini, it's just a few days until I'm off again! I've currently waiting for my second year visa for Australia to be approved, so in the meantime I've decided to explore some parts of Europe I haven't yet had the chance to while catching up with some of my travelling friends. I was already planning a trip to Bulgaria for a reunion with some of the best travelling friends I have made - trust me, we have matching tattoos to prove it! The five of us made some serious memories after we all crossed paths back in February last year when we were all exploring Thailand - two amazing weeks spent on Koh Phanang and Koh Tao together. We're talking a lot of partying and the infamous Half Moon Party, boat trips, markets, food, ladyboy shows and a LOT of fun. I can't wait to reunite with the others in a whole new country and explore together, despite having been to Bulgaria years ago I'm looking forward to experiencing a bit more of the local culture.
When we started planning the trip, I had in my mind I would Euro-hop a bit by myself after, not expecting to be invited on a press trip to Slovenia a few days later. In the end, my trip almost planned itself. From Monday, I'll be spending around a month away, starting with just under a week in Bulgaria then a few days in Berlin, heading to Slovenia for the press trip for five days. Then I'll move on to Budapest - a place I have long wanted to visit - before finishing up in the Netherlands, with a few days staying with a friend in Amsterdam followed by a visit up north to see my Melbourne flatmate. It's going to be a pretty amazing trip mixed between catching up with a group of friends, travelling solo, experiencing my first press trip with other bloggers and visiting both friends from home and those I have met around the globe. A perfect combination if you ask me. And I'll round it off nicely with a few days in London which will be spent reviewing hotels and restaurants. It'll be totally different to my previous trip and I'm looking forward to trying something new and experiencing a whole new world. I'm quite excited for the feeling of rocking up in a hostel in a new city and not knowing a soul - after making so many friends in Australia that became hard to do after a while!
Thanks so much to everyone who has offered me a place to stay, a tour guide, recommended places to stay/eat and things to do - you're all getting me so excited! If you have any other suggestions please leave a comment and I'll add them to my list! And of course, I hope you'll join me every step of the journey right here!
Have you traveled Europe - what were your highlights? Any ultimate hostel experiences to share or unusual activities to try?
As the former editor of This Festival Feeling, and an avid festival goer - my mind never strays far from the topic. I've now spent over a year backpacking around Asia and Australia, but haven't yet been to a festival! It seems shocking behaviour for the girl who managed to attend seven festivals in the year before I came backpacking and several more in the years previous to that. I just love festivals, from the amazing music and locations to the creativity and stunning art pieces, to unusual theatre performances and fantastic characters you meet along the way. It's like entering another world where you can be anyone you want to be and everyone is just as welcoming, happy and beautiful as the people you meet when travelling. Perhaps that's why I haven't been too upset at missing festivals so far, because the travelling experience is much like living in a festival every single day, but I have to say, after a year I am getting a bit antsy. It's this time of year, once Christmas is out of the way, my mind always turns straight to festival season and which ones I'm going to be attending. This year is no different, I know that there are many amazing Australian festivals going on while I'm working in the outback which is annoying timing - I've missed the annual Falls Festivals and will be missing Rainbow Serpent in a few weeks. But instead of moping, I'm looking at which ones I will be able to do. Just a week or two after I arrive in Melbourne the St Kilda Festival will be happening which sounds like a fantastic celebration of music, arts and culture - plus it's free!The team at Icelolly.com have asked me to write about my dream holiday destinations of 2016 to be on with a chance of winning £1000 towards the holiday and an Olympus Pen E-PL7 camera which would be the most incredible prize. These cameras are amazing and I've loved the idea of getting one for a while - not always practical for a backpacker who is living on a budget - and the £1000 towards further travel would be an incredible bonus. After reaching my one year anniversary of travelling and making the decision not to return home but to keep travelling and exploring the world around me, I started to think about my next year on the road and where I will end up. Of course all plans are always open to change as a backpacker, we are known for our habit of changing everything at the drop of a hat, but that's one of the luxuries we gain when giving up everything to travel. I love the freedom that comes with this lifestyle. At the moment I have a vague plan that I will be returning home to England in May when my first year Australian visa runs out, it will be perfectly timed so I can spend my 26th birthday with my friends and family at home and I can't wait to see everyone. After spending a couple of months at home catching up with everyone and heading to a few festivals, I will hopefully have a bit of money put aside for a little jaunt round Europe to visit some amazing friends I've met since travelling and see their home countries. Places like Paris, Berlin, parts of Holland and Denmark could all be on the list and I'll be backpacking the whole way. I'm hoping all this works out and I have enough money to really make this happen.I know my whole life sounds like a holiday but it really will be nice by then to have a break from Australia and to get back to European culture for a little while. One thing I will really love is heading to a few festivals because the UK and Europe really has that amazingly creative and quirky style when it comes to festivals that I really love. After going to Hideout Festival in Croatia a few years ago and having the most amazing time, I was keen to explore some other great festivals in Europe but never had the time/money to do it. If I won the £1000 I would use it to visit two top festivals on my list: EXIT Festival in Serbia leading to the new Sea Dance Festival in Montenegro, followed by Sziget in Budapest, Hungary. Nestled in Eastern Europe, they are countries I've wanted to explore for a while and around the festivals I would use the time to see as much as possible. The multi-award winning EXIT Festival took the title of Best Major European Music Festival at the EU Festival Awards in 2013 and it's easy to see why, held annually at the Petrovaradin Fortress I would argue it has one of the most incredible locations for this huge range of acts to perform. People from around 60 countries around the world flock to the festival grounds each year to watch the magic unfold and that's what I love, the diversity of the people you will meet along the way. I love that EXIT has a unique purpose behind it after starting as a student movement fighting for peace and democracy in Serbia - that is what festivals are all about.By taking part in the EXIT Adventure, you get the opportunity to attend two award-winning festivals across two countries in 10 days. I would get to party in this incredible fortress in Novi Sad followed by the stunning Jaz Beach in Montenegro - last year over 300,000 people attended. The festivals have previously hosted acts including The Arctic Monkeys, The Prodigy, Emile Sande, Andy C, Skrillex, Soul Clap, Bondax and many more - all acts I would love to see live! And the best thing about all of these, is that there would be plenty of time to arrive at the festival beforehand so I would be able to explore the fortress and the catacombs that lay beneath, to find out about the amazing history and the ghosts that lay down there. History lines the streets of this part of Northern Serbia where one building still holds a cannonball jutting from its walls where if was fired back in 1849. For the beach bum in me it would be wrong not to enjoy one of Europe's best Danube beaches before heading to Fisherman's Island for some fish goulash, the local delicacy. And with four daily markets across the city, I wouldn't be able to resist a browse before heading to Laze Telečkog for some local live music. After a busy week exploring Serbia, Jaz Beach will be the perfect place to relax, this underdeveloped area will be great for unwinding and enjoying a whole other set of acts performing in the same place huge acts like the Rolling Stones, Tina Turner, Madonna and Lenny Kravitz have previously played.Then it would be on to a destination that has been on my bucket list for a long time - Budapest, Hungary. With Sziget Festival seen as the Hungarian jewel in Europe's festival crown, it is an event that is often compared to Burning Man - one of my ultimate dreams to attend. Getting to combine one of the countries I most want to visit with a festival is a fantastic opportunity to see the city in two very different lights - first of all a cultural and historical context followed by seeing how they really party. With countless stunning buildings to visit and view from Parliament to the Basilica, I can tell that just walking the streets with be an experience in itself but with plenty of walking tours on offer it will be a great way of learning more about the history that lies right in front of you. There's so many amazing museums to explore and I have to admit, I love a museum, especially the quirky ones that teach you about a history you never knew existed. I love a good trip to the spa and after three festivals I think I'll be in need to some TLC so I'll be heading to Szechenyi Baths and Pool for a visit and a chance to relax. All these amazing activities will take place around the iconic Sziget Festival which will take place on an island in the middle of the Danube river featuring a huge range of acts from hard rock to dance, this year's line-up so far includes Bastille, Bloc Party, Bring Me The Horizon, Chvrches, John Newman and Kodaline. The line-up is amazing but for me the real draw would be the activities on offer and the huge range of art from The Hands of Unity to the Magic Field, the landscape is transformed by these beautiful structures.To say I'm excited talking about a trip like this is an understatement - writing this has made me miss festivals more than ever and I can just imagine the amazing experience that would come with this trip. From the people you would meet and the things you would see, to the culture you would experience along the way. It would be the Eastern European trip of a lifetime and the winner would get an opportunity to capture every single moment with an amazing camera to share it with everyone who came along for the ride. The beautiful thing about blogging is that every single one of you who reads these posts would be there with me experiencing everything along the way, so let's hope I get lucky and win so we can make this trip a reality! I have to nominate another three bloggers to write about their dream trip so I choose: Chelsea of Loving Life in Wellies, Steph of Big World Small Pockets and Nick and Amy of What the Pho Podcast - enjoy guys!
Where would your dream trip take you? Are any European music festivals on your bucket list?