Postcards from Sarajevo

Sunday, 24 November 2019
When you think tourism, you might not think of Bosnia & Herzegovina. I had no real mind block against visiting the country, I think mostly because I'm too young to remember the war. During the summer, I went on the Budapest & The Balkans tour and Sarajevo was the third city on the trip. I had done a lot of research for this trip, and many reviews said that Sarajevo was the real hidden gem so it was probably the place I was looking forward to visiting the most. It did not let me down!

The drive from Belgrade to Sarajevo was the longest bit of travel on the whole trip. We left Belgrade at 7am to avoid rush hour traffic and managed to get to Sarajevo by around 2pm. The journey was very beautiful, passing through beautiful countryside and mountain scenery, but it was very twisty and left us all feeling a bit travel sick. As soon as we got off the bus in Sarajevo, several of us said that we instantly got a feeling that it was going to be a city that we liked a lot (and we were right!). Sarajevo ended up being my favourite city on the whole trip.

After dropping off our bags at our accommodation, we met our local guide Mohammed (of Urban Adventures Sarajevo) for a tour of the city. Mohammed would take us on two tours, this was the introductory orientation tour of the city lasting about an hour and a half. We saw local churches, mosques, markets whilst he told us about the history of the city including the assassination of the Franz Ferdinand, the Olympics and of course, the siege of Sarajevo. Sarajevo has been part of both the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires and so it has really interesting architecture spread out across the city. As our guide put it 'you walk down the street feeling like you are in Istanbul and then all of a sudden you're in Vienna'.

We had agreed to all meet for dinner so after we disbanded from the tour we all had some free time. I ended up walking around the markets with some others from the tour before we went for a drink with them in a place called Tesla Bar that we were attracted to because of the statue outside...

A few Aperol Spritzes later, the group reunited at a diner called Dveri for dinner, which is just off the main market area. I just spent more time than I'd care to admit trying to find that on Google maps. It was the perfect little cosy restaurant with an indoor and outdoor seating area and a fantastic menu. I'm not even slightly exaggerating when I say that I had the best meal of the trip here. It was sooooo good. I ordered the beef goulash with gnocchi and it was the perfect comfort food. On the side, we ordered lots of bread for the table which came in this swirled pattern, which was absolutely perfect for soaking up all the soup with. And don't get me started on the salads, with fresh local produce they were some of the best I've eaten ever. If you go to Sarajevo, you MUST go here for dinner.

The next morning we were up bright and early for another tour from Mohammed. This tour was called 'Tales from a Forgotten City" and focused on the Seige of Sarajevo. As we drove through the city, Mohammed told us the story of how the siege started and pointed out various places that played an important part. The stories were heartbreaking and it was even more hard-hitting from someone who lived through it as a child. But I won't share anything because I think you should take the tour yourself! We then headed to the Tunnel Museum where you can walk a section of the tunnel that was built to smuggle goods and people out of Sarajevo during the siege. A striking experience and the opportunity to learn about everyday people who rose up to face challenges. To finish off the tour we stopped at a local view spot to take in the sight of the city and eat some burek - tasty pastry snacks filled with meat or spinach and cheese that Sarajevo is famous for.

The rest of the afternoon was spent chilling out and walking around the markets. I picked up some jewellery and a little metal dish that I now keep salt in at home. We went for dinner at a place that had fantastic reviews on Trip Advisor. We were on the hunt for cevapi - the national dish of Bosnia & Herzegovina. Little kebabs that come served with flatbreads and salad. A very simple meal but very delicious. We were all incredibly satisfied. We then finished off our last night in Sarajevo by hanging out together and having a few drinks. Despite being a predominantly Muslim city, Sarajevo still has lots of fantastic bars and an impressive nightlife.

The next morning we were up very early to catch a train to Mostar. I was so sad to be leaving Sarajevo and would have been happy to spend a few more days there - though I know I'll return one day!

Twitter @honestlyrussell // Instagram  @honestlyrussell // Pinterest @honestlyrussell

A Day in Edinburgh with Megabus [gifted]

Sunday, 17 November 2019
"I always feel that when I come to Edinburgh, in many ways I am coming home."

- Alan Rickman

Megabus has recently launched new routes connecting Edinburgh to new UK cities. To celebrate, they've challenged me to show you how you can spend one day exploring Edinburgh for £60. I lived in Edinburgh for 4 years during university and grew up nearby - so I reckon I can give some fantastic tips. Edinburgh is a beautiful city and it's quite small, so it's easy to cover a lot of ground in a small space of time. Let's get started! 

On My Plate: 4 Edinburgh Brunch Recommendations

Sunday, 1 September 2019

There's never a shortage of places to go for a good brunch in Edinburgh. With the Fringe winding down and the city getting quiet again, I thought it was the perfect time to share some great brunch spots for those looking for a lazy, autumn weekend treat. I may have moved to Cambridge but whilst I get myself sorted out down here (and by that I mean scouting out the local eateries) I'm going to be working through a backlog of Edinburgh restaurants I've got mouth-watering photos from. 

Just when you thought Edinburgh couldn't get more Edinburgh... then you find out it has an artisan porridge place. I will be the first to admit I was a little judgemental at first - but the more I heard the more I wanted to try it out. Brochan, named after the Gaelic word for porridge, is located in the middle of Marchmont - the perfect location for a lazy weekend breakfast and walk around the meadows. I visited on a Sunday around 12 before the Fringe madness took over the city and whilst it was busy, tables move quite quickly. All the porridge is made with coconut milk so is suitable for vegans too. 

My friend ordered the black forest porridge - topped with chocolate almond brownie, oat creme fraiche, cherry almond compote, cacao nibs and toasted flaked almonds. I went for the daily special which was topped with roasted peaches, raspberries, berry coulis and crunchy pumpkin seeds. Both were absolutely delicious. It was by far the smoothest porridge I have ever eaten and not too heavy or stodgy either. I never would have thought of myself as the sort of person who would order porridge off a breakfast menu but I've been totally proven wrong. The portion size was also very generous - but I pushed myself to finish it because it was just so good. If you want a filling, delicious breakfast in Edinburgh - this is the place to go! 

See the menu online here

My Favourite Reads of the Year So Far

Wednesday, 24 July 2019
"Wait is that Hayley writing a blog post?"

Yeah you're just as surprised as I am. My final year of uni was a toughie but I'm now a fully qualified Master of Chemistry (with Environmental and Sustainable Chemistry with Industrial Experience). Now that I'm a graduate with a nice certificate with my name on it (and the longest degree title in the world), I've got free time and really want to get this blog up and running again. You may notice it's even got a new design! I've decided to ease myself in with a little reading wrap up. Instead of including every book I've read since I stopped writing my monthly wrap-ups, I thought I'd include my favourites from what I've read so far this year. 

Almost Love by Louise O'Neill
This harsh contemporary fiction novel follows Sarah. A girl who is so hopeless in love with Matthew. But Matthew is twenty years older than her and treats her like shit. This book isn't necessarily an easy read. Sarah is frustrating. Again and again, she makes decisions that are hard to agree with. Everyone has a friend like Sarah. And at times I'm pretty sure we've all been Sarah. This book presents you with reality, like all of Louise O'Neill's books. It's harsh, raw and beautifully written.

My 2019 New Year's Resolutions

Sunday, 3 February 2019
Long time no blog! The last few months have been very hectic. I've been focusing on my final year of university and the post-grad job hunt so unfortunately, the blog has had to be on the backburner for a few months. Having a little time off over Christmas has really motivated me to do some writing again, so I thought I'd share my new year's resolutions for 2019. And yes, I know it's February, but better late than never?

1. Continue rock climbing. 
2019 will be my third year climbing but it's only over the last few months that I've started to take it more seriously. Now I have my own equipment and some buddies to climb with, I'm really noticing myself improve. Over the next year, I want to carry on climbing frequently and hopefully improve to meet two mini goals: bouldering a V4 route and to climb to the top of a lead climbing route for the first time. 

2. Read 52 books (but not necessarily new ones).
Reading 52 books a year has been my goal for the last few years. A book a week is a good pace for me so whilst it's a goal I know I'll meet, I'd like to be a bit more mindful about how I get my hands on my books. First of all, I've got a few books on my bookshelf that I'd like to reread before donating to the charity shop. I'm trying to downsize my book collection so that it fits onto one bookshelf. And I'd also like to start using the library/my Kindle rather than buying more books. Not that I don't love books, but I'm moving so I've been trying to declutter.

3. Visit 8 new countries.
This sounds like a very ambitious goal but technically it feels like cheating. In January, I visited Dublin to hang out with Becky. I've also booked myself a trip to the Balkans for after my exams which goes through 5 different countries. So at the moment, I already have plans to visit 6 new countries within the first few months of the year. I'd also like to try and visit a new continent - I'm thinking maybe a winter sun trip to Morocco or South East Asia, we'll see. 

4. Eat less meat.
I'm becoming increasingly uneasy about the effects of meat on the environment. Whilst I can't see myself becoming a vegetarian anytime soon, I'd like to try and reduce my meat eating. I'm aiming to only eat meat 4 days of the week. And I'm hoping that once I'm used to eating less meat, it will be easier to eat it even less frequently. Send me your favourite veggie recipes, please.

5. Pass my driving tests.
I started learning to drive in 2015 but stopped after about 20 lessons. Which I really regret. I think that if I throw myself back into it, I can definitely pass both my theory and practical tests this year. Ideally, I'd like to do it either before or just after graduating in July. I feel like it's definitely something I just need to get out of the way before I start my 'adult' life. 

And those are my big goals for the year! I want to wish you all a very happy 2019. I'm hoping to also stay more up to date with this blog but I hope you can appreciate this is just a really busy time for me!

Twitter @honestlyrussell // Instagram  @honestlyrussell // Pinterest @honestlyrussell

Electro Brunch Feast at Gaucho, Edinburgh

Wednesday, 30 January 2019
I love brunch. When living in the States, it was a staple in my calendar. New York is big on bottomless brunches and I've definitely been missing it on returning to Edinburgh. Thankfully, the Argentinian restaurant, Gaucho, is on hand to help with that. Their Electro Brunch Feast is not one to be missed with bottomless food dishes and 4 drinks for £39.95. They recently invited me down to try it out and I was more than happy to oblige.  This is no ordinary brunch menu, with delicious steak and churros. Available on Saturdays between 11am and 4pm it's a fantastic bit of luxury to start the weekend off right.

Gaucho is located in St Andrews Square. This is a fantastic area and very up and coming at the moment. It's close to both the train and bus stations and is also located close to Princes Street if you want to go shopping before/after. On arrival, you'll find yourself in their upstairs bar area. The staff were so welcoming and friendly, offering me drinks whilst I waited up here for my friend. When we were taken downstairs to be seated, it was like stepping down into a tranquil getaway. With wonderful lighting and sleek furniture, the dining room feels instantly calming.