What to do in Prizren, Kosovo

Prizren, Kosovo

It’s the prettiest town in Kosovo, and the centre of Prizren is its Shatërvan square. Its cobbled streets are lined with cafes, snow-tipped mountains send snowmelt rushing down the river through the town’s centre, a Byzantine-era fortress keeps a watchful eye over all: what’s not to love?

If you’re venturing into the Balkans, my advice is to skip staying in little Kosovo’s rather drab, earnest capital, Pristina, and instead make Prizren your base from which to do day trips – to the vineyards, to the mountains, to the capital city.

For more tips and advice, click here to check out my story in the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age newspapers

DISCLAIMER: I travelled as a guest of Intrepid Travel.

Travels in the land of honey and blood

Albania

The Balkans are literally the land of honey and blood, named by Turks who netted the peninsula – from Slovenia to Albania – into the Ottoman Empire, where it remained ensnared for five centuries until 1912. In Turkish, “bal” is honey, “kan” is blood. And as they learned, the riches are sweet, but come at a price.

This summer, I spent a couple of weeks on a tour with Intrepid Travel, from the Albanian capital of Tirana through to Kosovo and on to Macedonia, before returning back to Albania.

It was my first time in the western Balkans, though I’ve skirted around the region, in Greece, Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria, at different times of my travelling life.

So some things were familiar – using bears as novelty drawcards at restaurants, the Cyrillic alphabet – but there was plenty of new ground – seeing little red-roofed villages, the symbol of Middle Europe, clustered around a mosque, instead of a church, or the sheer beauty of the Accursed Mountains.

Beautiful and blissfully ignored by the mass tourism that pervades such European cities as Barcelona or Paris,  I almost don’t want to share them, to preserve their purity.

My story was published in the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne’s The Age newspapers, and you can read it here .

Behold Germany’s answer to the Sydney Opera House

It’s
been dubbed the project of the decade and also the new Sydney Opera
House. Finally, the Elbphilharmonie​, in Hamburg, Germany, has opened to
the public, six years late and 10 times the original budget – but who’s
counting?

Hamburg’s new concert hall (it’s been nicknamed the Elphie – if that makes it easier to remember) has got it all: public
plazas, rooftop views and even a Westin hotel tucked in there, which
seems to have been lost in all the astonishment about its cutting-edge
architecture.


To read more about Hamburg’s applaud-winning concert hall, click here for my piece in the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age newspapers’ Traveller sections.

Six of the best: Stockholm’s family-friendly attractions

Stockholm fun fair Groner Lund.

I’ve visited Stockholm as a freewheeling adult, and also as a parent
toting tots in midwinter (“Why?” I hear you ask. Trust me, I was asking
myself the same question one deep, cold November. But family and the
Northern Lights were calling. Both were in good form.)

Anyway,
should you find yourself in a similar position of travelling in
Stockholm with the brood in tow, there are plenty of fun free and pricey
options, many gathered on the city island of Djurgården, including
Junibacken, which celebrates Nordic writers of children’s fiction
including the beloved Pippi Longstocking, Groner Lund fun park and the
absolutely unmissable Skansen.

I took the 3-year-old to Skansen on
the last visit, and while she slept blissfully in the hired pram, I
spotted rare Arctic animals, chatted about Sami culture with Swedish
guides and watched old-school weaving. When she awoke, she rode fat
ponies and mainlined traditional Christmas pastries. Win-win all round.

You can read my top six Stockholm adventures for kids’ here.

The feature first appeared in the Sun-Herald and Sunday Age newspapers’ Traveller section. Enjoy!

Architecture tourism: The world’s inspiring new architecture

Castles, towers, skyscrapers: all rich pickings for the travelling architecture lover. Why not add a hill of garbage, a modern mosque or the site of the world’s oldest drawings to your travels in 2017?

There’s some crazy, dreamy, ambitious and unexpected architecture projects opening in 2017, from Denmark to Doha. Take a look at my round-up of a handful of the best, published in the Sydney Morning Herald/ The Age newspapers.

AJN_HW_Abu_Dhabi_Louvre_04.jpg
The Abu Dhabi Louvre. Photo: Ateliers Jean Nouvel


Places to eat in Vienna, Austria: Six of the best

kipferl
Start the day like a local with an eye-pokingly strong coffee black coffee and a kipferl, forefather of the croissant. Photo: Belinda Jackson

From sausage stand to schnitzel, I give you are six eats you can’t miss in Vienna (even if you are a Michelin-star obsessive).

Road-tested one and all, they range from family heurigers (typical Austrian restaurants) to century-old sandwich bars and the classic Viennese cafes that the city is renowned for.

There’s also the new guard reworking old favourites (think minimalist vienna schnitzel) and Vienna’s first sausage stand. Because you can’t go to Austria and not eat sausage.

 

To see the complete list, read the story in the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald.  

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Beautiful game, beautiful life: Camp Nou, Barcelona

Big thanks to the man about the house for dragging me to Camp Nou, headquarters of Barcelona Football Club, to see his club in action. My story on the passion and the fashion of the beautiful game was published in the Sydney Morning Herald this weekend. (For the record, I did get him to visit Sagrada Familia.)

campnou
Action at Barcelona’s Camp Nou. Photo: Belinda Jackson

Forget Michelin stars, and Gaudi who? There’s only one reason to visit Barcelona.

The message is clear. “I only want to go to Barcelona to see Barcelona Football Club play,” says the husband, shelving any ideals of visiting Sagrada Familia or eating at world-famous restaurants.

We’re staying at one of the best addresses in town – the new suites in the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona – and the entrance is a dramatic catwalk up from street level. The lobby is sleek and hushed, the staff as polished as only five-star staff can be. Yet in Barcelona, football transcends gender and poshness.

In Barcelona, football certainly appeals to shoppers: the city’s new-town grids and old-city lanes conspire to walk me into one of dozens of official FC Barcelona boutiques selling balls and caps, water bottles and pencil cases. A genuine FC Barcelona shirt will set you back €80 ($124), even though it’s a sweaty 100 per cent nylon and manufactured in Vietnam or Bangladesh.

 

To read more about kicking off in Barcelona, click here.

This story was published in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper’s Traveller section.

Save

Save

Places to eat in Vienna, Austria: Six of the best

Start the day like a local with an eye-pokingly strong
black coffee and a  kipferl, the forefather of the
croissant. Photo: Belinda Jackson

From sausage stand to schnitzel, I give you are six eats you can’t miss in Vienna (even if you are a Michelin-star obsessive).

Road-tested one and all, they range from family
heurigers
(typical Austrian restaurants) to century-old sandwich bars and the classic Viennese cafes that the city is renowned for.

There’s also the new guard reworking old favourites (think minimalist vienna schnitzel) and Vienna’s first sausage stand. Because you can’t go to Austria and not eat sausage.

To see the complete list, read the story in the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald.  

Beautiful game, beautiful life: Camp Nou, Barcelona

Action at Barcelona’s Camp Nou.
Photo: Belinda Jackson

Big thanks to the man about the house for dragging me to Camp Nou, headquarters of Barcelona Football Club, to see his club in action. My story on the passion and the fashion of the beautiful game was published in the Sydney Morning Herald this weekend. (For the record, I did get him to visit Sagrada Familia.)

Forget Michelin stars, and Gaudi who? There’s only one reason to visit Barcelona.

The message is clear. “I only want to go to Barcelona to see
Barcelona Football Club play,” says the husband, shelving any ideals of
visiting Sagrada Familia or eating at world-famous restaurants.

We’re
staying at one of the best addresses in town – the new suites in the
Mandarin Oriental Barcelona – and the entrance is a dramatic catwalk up
from street level. The lobby is sleek and hushed, the staff as polished
as only five-star staff can be. Yet in Barcelona, football transcends
gender and poshness.

In Barcelona, football certainly appeals to shoppers: the city’s
new-town grids and old-city lanes conspire to walk me into one of dozens
of official FC Barcelona boutiques selling balls and caps, water
bottles and pencil cases. A genuine FC Barcelona shirt will set you back
€80 ($124), even though it’s a sweaty 100 per cent nylon and
manufactured in Vietnam or Bangladesh. 

Freedom of expression! Catelan activists at Camp Nou.
Photo: Belinda Jackson

To read more about kicking off in Barcelona, click here.

This story was published in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper’s Traveller section.