Western Wall & Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem

Jerusalem: A Religious Experience?

Slowly, my eyes adjusted to the dim lighting. The scent of incense filled the air, while candles flickered in the breeze from the doorway. Soot-darkened frescoes and rich fabrics lined the walls, seemingly held together with the dirt and grime of the ages, while bright icons and lamps reflected in the dim light.

Just beyond the entrance, a group of pilgrims knelt on the floor, whispering silent prayers and lamenting quietly beneath a line of eight ornate lamps. Others rubbed their clothes, mobile phones and other items across the surface of a large stone slab set in the floor beneath.

I hesitated, feeling a little like an intruder yet fascinated to witness such devotion. But then this was no ordinary church. I was in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, which is, for many Christians, the holiest place on earth.

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Wadi Qelt, Judean Desert

Wild Israel: Untamed Landscapes and Intriguing Israeli Wildlife

Stepping from the cool air-conditioned car, the heat engulfed me. I gulped from my bottle, grateful as the cool water trickled down my throat. The landscape was almost entirely devoid of colour, except for the parked cars and a blanket strewn across the back of a camel, resting in its uncomfortable-looking squat while waiting for a paying rider.

Squinting into the distance, the undulating curves of hills and mountains stretched endlessly, their beigeness broken only by occasional patches of scrub. It was a hostile, dry, hot landscape. We were heading into the Israeli desert.

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Lake Bled & Bled Island

A Flying Visit to Lake Bled

A common theme arose every time I mentioned I was heading to Slovenia last summer:

‘Oh, you must visit Lake Bled.’

I’ll admit, the more people trotted out this line, the more wary I was of visiting. Because I’m not a fan of overcrowded tourist spots, regardless of how beautiful they are. Plus, there’s nothing worse than building a place up in your mind, then arriving and feeling a little… meh.

But at the same time I was curious. Because dammit, I’d seen those pictures. And I’m a sucker for a good view.

Although Slovenia is a fairly small country, I’d put off visiting while I was in Maribor. Money was tight after having three weeks off during the summer to dance on a beach in the South of France and get my travel blogging head on in Stockholm. So I couldn’t really afford an overnight stay in Bled when I’d paid for two months accommodation elsewhere.

But when friends decided to visit me in Slovenia at the end of my stay, I was determined to mastermind a trip to Bled. We met in Ljubljana but managed to slip away to see Slovenia’s most famous landmark, where we had less than 24 hours to explore.

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The world's oldest vine in Maribor, Slovenia

My Maribor Wine Adventures (Part 1)

If you follow my Instagram account, you may have noticed the two months I spent in Maribor this summer were fairly, um, boozy!

I didn’t plan it that way.

I can’t really explain what drew me to Maribor – I knew I wanted to visit Slovenia so I was browsing Airbnb for accommodation. I’d left my booking late (as usual!) so I couldn’t find anything affordable at the coast, which was my original intention. Then I stumbled upon a flat in Maribor and it sung to me. I looked up Maribor on several travel sites – it was described as a place of quiet charm, surrounded by vineyards, with Pohorje, its majestic ski mountain, a hiker’s paradise in summer.

Turns out my intuition did me some favours – Maribor wine is renowned in Slovenia and my Airbnb accommodation was run by Marko, one of the Find Eat Local team, a Slovenian startup that promotes and lists local food and wine places. So we teamed up for a few tastings…

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