Sunday, 13 September 2015

10 Cures for the Post-Holiday Blues

I've mentioned before that the latter half of the year is my favourite, and I always look forward to fireworks, casserole and glittery dresses season. I won't be mourning the passing of summer at all, but I am still finding it difficult to come back down to Earth after our holiday in Croatia last month. Planning that week away consumed my life for months and the countdown distracted me from the banality of daily routine, sweaty commutes and long, stressful days at work. I've felt a bit lost since coming home and I'm struggling to find my drive and focus again. I'm sure I'll find my way again soon, but in the mean time here are some of the things I've been doing to banish those post-holiday blues.

001. Eat 'Friday tea' on a school night. Because what Wednesday night can't be improved by McCain Smiley Faces and beans or a big plate of fajitas?

002. Read a book so good you don't realise that a whole Sunday has passed you by. Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum helped cure my holiday hangover - I couldn't wait to get on the tram and start reading it before work. 

003. Make a list of all the things you're looking forward to in the next few months. I'll start you off with pumpkin carving, cardigan wearing and Christmas markets. My list of things to do this autumn might give you a little inspiration. 

004. Buy some flowers to brighten up the room. It won't be long before the colourful petals make way for bare branches. 

005. Go out for breakfast this weekend and banish all thoughts of the work for a few hours. 

006. Book a day off work mid-week and go out exploring for the day. 

007. Buy your fruit and veg from a local market. It's fresher, you're supporting the local community and it's way better for your bank balance than shopping in Tesco.  

008. Do something tourist-y in your own town, whether it's an art gallery, a museum or just a fancy new restaurant. We might be nose diving into autumn now, but some of the suggestions in my ways to cure wanderlust post are still very valid. 

009. Make something. Anything! A cake, your favourite meal, something for the home...

010. Borrow some travel guides from the library and start planning your next one, obvs!

How do you shake the holiday blues?

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Wednesday, 9 September 2015

5 Dark Tourism Destinations in Europe

Over the years I've realised that when it comes to cities, I like 'em gritty. I couldn't bring myself to fall for Paris, but the tree-lined boulevards of Bucharest captured my heart. Munich's pristine Bavarian architecture does nothing for me, yet Berlin's graffiti-sprawled East Side Gallery is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. And Manchester? Well London might be the UK's beating heart, but Manchester's where you'll find its soul. So it probably comes as no surprise to hear that some of my favourite attractions have been an ex-Soviet Prison in Tallinn, a radiation bunker in Berlin and the appropriately-named House of Terror in Budapest. If it looks a bit bleak, you can bet any money I'll be there.

Here are five still on my bucket list:

Pripyat Post office

Pripyat, Ukraine

Part of me feels terrible that I want to visit Pripyat because it's such a desperately sad place, but abandoned places always stir up a sort of morbid fascination. Pripyat lies in the Chernobyl exclusion zone and since being evacuated has been left exactly how it was in the days before the disaster. Even the Ferris wheel from a nearby funfair is still standing.

Greece | Crete - Spinalonga Spinalonga, Greece

It seems strange to include Spinalonga not just because Crete really isn't a place you'd ever associate with dark tourism, but because it actually seems like a really beautiful place. Originally used as a fortress during Venetian and Ottoman rule, the island was used to imprison leprosy sufferers during the first half of the twentieth century. It was one of the last active leprosy colonies in Europe until the last inhabitant left in the 1960s.

Solheimasandur plane wreck
Sólheimasandur, Iceland

You'd think that as someone who isn't entirely comfortable with the idea of flying and as someone whose brother watched a LOT of Air Crash Investigation as a teenager that visiting the site of a plane crash would probably be something to avoid. Thankfully nobody was killed in the crash so I don't feel quite so bad for saying that it looks like a great place to take pictures.

Face to Face with Josef Stalin Grūtas Park, Lithuania

One of my biggest regrets visiting Lithuania a few years ago was that we didn't get time to visit Grūtas Park. I'm really interested in the history of the Soviet Union, so naturally a park filled with statues of Stalin, recreations of gulags and a Soviet-themed cafeteria was always going to be top of my list of things to do. We did manage to get our fill of Soviet relics when we hopped across the border to explore the black market of Riga though. 

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Sarajevo Bobsleigh Track, Bosnia and Herzegovina 

I'm hoping that Bosnia and Herzegovina will be the next place we visit in Europe and while we're there I'd love to walk around the abandoned bobsleigh track in Sarajevo. The track was built for the 1984 Winter Olympics but was abandoned after the start of the Yugoslav Wars when the city was besieged. Nowadays it stands covered in graffiti and overgrown weeds, and you can still see scars from the war in the form of weaponry holes into the sides of the track.

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