Breathtaking places in Norway

Lately I have been very interested in following all the trips and events as well as people who live in Scandinavia. But I am always thrilled to find someone from my own country who has decided to trade in our lovely beaches for a slightly colder climate, an active holiday that includes walking, hiking and incredible nature so much farther north from us. Because, in all honesty, that would have been my first choice too.

Bergen / Norway - houses - Project We Travel

I have been following Simona Marić on Instagram for some time now. Her travels, the way she expresses herself through photography, her - I dare say - playful smile in the pictures and her easy going spirit immediately spoke to me and kept me drawn to her profile. Social networks are constantly trying to sell us something, which is getting quite tiresome, but Simona seems to be having great fun in this world where reality meets virtuality and that really comes across

Scandinvian home - Project We Travel

It was in the middle of July that the first photos from Norway appeared on her profile. In those pictures the Sun was peeking in, like it usually does in Scandinavia, but the first thing that caught my eye were a drizzle and fog from the first daytrip and Simona trekking with her boyfriend on some place in Norway that I didn't recognize. I even felt the cold seeping through the cell phone screen while she was smiling and describing how she has just embarked on her journey of a lifetime. It took only two or three pictures for me to realize that I wanted Simona to be a guest on my blog.

Trolltunga - Norway - Project: We Travel

I wanted her to inspire us with her story, to take us all away from our homes for a moment and show us a Norway less travelled.


Why did you decide to spend your summer precisely in Norway?

I started planning a trip to Norway about four or five years ago (at that time with my two best travel buddies), but since it was a plan to go there in the summer (due to mild weather and the possibility to hike) and every year we either felt bad to miss the classic Croatian summer on the coast or we spontaneously travelled somewhere else, this year I really felt like going there (especially to avoid the heatwave in the Mediterranean :) I told my boyfriend it was now or never (while he maybe had something else in mind for the summer) so he really didn't have a choice. In the end, while we were coming down from Kjerag, he told me that while only I could be that crazy and plan three hikes in Norway during summer holidays, it was the best trip he ever had.

Simona Maric - Norway - Project: We Travel

How did you choose those particular spots you visited?

As always, I found my inspiration on the internet, and while Norway is a really big and wild country, I narrowed my exploring only on the fjord region. We wanted to go more north as well to see midnight sun and Lofoten islands but didn't want to be there just a few days and then feel bad for not having more time to explore the region, so we left it out and promised ourselves to come again for a couple of weeks more. While I usually tend to have everything planned and booked before going to a new country, this was the first time we planned our stay, hotels and routes as days passed by.

Norway served us a whole palette of different weather conditions that made every spot even more magical!
— Simona Maric
Hordaland - Norway - Project: We Travel

To what extent did Norwegian weather affect your hiking tours?

Weather in Norway is unpredictable and while I always use their weather forecast, there was the first time it wasn't that accurate (only in the morning you could tell what is the day going to be like).  Our first hike was Preikestolen and it was the least demanding of all three hikes, but for us it was a bit challenging. When we got to the start of the hike there was a "heavy rain" warning but we still decided to go, hoping the rain and the fog would let us see the mountain. When we got the the top we were already soaking wet and couldn't see a thing as the mountain was wrapped in fog.

It is also wonderful to experience Preikestolen from the fjord, either from a sightseeing boat or from a car ferry going from Lauvvik, Oanes, Stavanger.
— Visit Norway

As this was our first day in Norway, we were a bit disappointed not seeing a thing and afraid it would happen again at Trolltunga and Kjeragbolten, but in the end it turns out Norway served us a whole palette of different weather conditions that made every spot even more magical!

Preikestolen - Norway - Project: We Travel
Preikestolen - hiking Project: We Travel

How physically fit do you have to be to go on hiking tours to Trolltunga or Kjeragbolten, like you did?

All three hikes were different and therefore required different effort to do them. Preikestolen is not that challenging (but for us rain and wind made it a bit harder), Trolltunga was a 25 km long hike (my favourite!) and it took us less to get there than we expected (7 hours to get there and back). Both of us work out at least five times a week so we knew we could do it but still, our legs were shivering and we were exhausted after Kjeragbolten, as it was most demanding for us.

Kjeragbolten was tough since it is very steep at some parts and could be slippery (I can't imagine doing it in rainy conditions) and we did it in 7 hours total on a very hot windy day.

Hiking in Norway - Svandalsfossen - Project We Travel

What is the best way to gear up for those tours?

I would say that all hikes we did require hiking boots, light pants, waterproof jacket and a backpack to pack some food (mainly nuts for us), water (while the water in the mountains is mainly drinkable and you can refill anytime) and some dry clothes for later.

Wherever I read about hiking in Norway, I was advised not to wear jeans, sneakers (and while I would say this is a form of common sense, we were still very surprised how many people hiked in light summer sneakers and even sandals (!)

Another thing, if it's only a bit sunny, wear sunscreen! Norwegian sun is tricky, especially in the mountains; you are not aware of it but you see it later on your skin. During Kjerag hike it was sunny but at the same time really windy so we thought we didn't need any sunscreen but ended up badly sunburnt. So we are currently taking our T-shirt and shorts on our bodies with us everywhere :)

Norway - views - Project We Travel

What did you think about while you were walking along those routes?

While hiking all three routes (as well as while driving) we were "wow"-ing every 5 minutes; nature there feels like you're on another planet, especially when it's foggy (why we were eventually glad we did Preikestolen in foggy and rainy weather) so it becomes more mystical and dreamy.

Preikestolen - Norway - Project We Travel

We had all those hours to get to the top and yet it never felt dull and boring, so we were very glad to have that time just for ourselves just to walk, share some thoughts and be surrounded by all that beautiful scenery. That's why I love hiking (even though I can't say I'm an experienced hiker), it connects you and your hiking partner on some other level (you're a team) and gives you a great feeling of freedom but still makes you feel so tiny and respectful of the nature.

How important is it to have a guide?

We did not have a guide on any of our trips/hikes because we wanted to experience Norway our way, be spontaneous and have the possibility to change plans along the way and see how would the plan and all of the places that I've been ticking on my Norway map turn out and it turned out great! You're good doing all those hikes without a guide in the summer season, but advised (some even obliged) to do them with a guide when it's not summer since it gets dark earlier in the day. I must admit it would be pretty scary hiking Kjerag or Trolltunga in autumn or winter (though I've seen some snowy winter photos and it looked even more beautiful).

This time next year, I will be here!
— Simona Maric

What made you decide to go to Trolltunga?

When I first saw Trolltunga (Troll's tongue), I was at work doing some boring paperwork, daydreaming and trying to find inspiring places to go to. I started googling fjord-Norway region and bumped into a photo so amazing that I immediately put it as my desktop background and said to my colleague: "This time next year, I will be here!", pointing at the top of Trolltunga. That was the time I started exploring hiking in Norway and planning the routes we should drive. Three years passed since and I was there and as I posted my photo of Trolltunga on Instagram my colleague said to me: "There, you did it! Now you have your own desktop background!" :D 

Trolltunga - Norway - Project We Travel

Is there any way you and your boyfriend could have been even better prepared for all those places you visited in Norway?

I don't think we could have been more or better prepared for that trip because there are no ideal conditions, and I think the best travel memories always come from unexpected situations and travel is what we make of it.

Trolltunga - Norway - Project We Travel

And yes, if you were wondering, Norway really is an expensive country, we've spent a lot, ate frozen pizza in Airbnb plus (so you win some, you lose some :D), drank most expensive drinks ever, then ate sandwiches during our hikes (but never felt more gifted and amazed just being there), didn't go to restaurants and typical touristy places, and yet it was the best holiday ever!

What else would you recommend to people who intend to take this trip?

What I would definitely recommend is renting a car and just drive across the whole country. We drove a couple of scenic routes: Ryfylke from Oanes to Sauda, Jaeren from Ogna to Bore and Hardanger route partially. In just a day you can see fjords, mountains, beaches, sheep crossing the road, cows on the beach, waterfalls, greenest grass or drive through subsea tunnels.

Animals - Norway - Project We Travel
Rogaland - Norway - Project We Travel

Seafood in Norway is delicious, if you're in Bergen, try something at Fisketorget. And if you like streetfood but not really into fish, try a sausage at Trekroneren, so good!

Sea food Norway - Project We Travel
The best travel memories always come from unexpected situations and travel is what we make of it.
— Simona Maric

Is it possible to get that wonderful summer feeling of the sea, beaches and sunsets in Norway too?

Of course! While driving somewhere along Jaeren, make sure to stop anywhere and just chill by the North sea (and take a dip, it's not that cold :)

North Sea - Norway - Project We Travel
North sea - Norway - Project We Travel

We spent two days at their endless sandy beaches (one day we found a beach just for ourselves) and waited for the sunset at about 11:00 PM; they were one of the greatest sunsets I've ever seen (pinky orange tender pastel sunsets, so dreamy!).

Sunset - Norway - Project We Travel

What is a must for those who are planning where to stay in Norway?

In Stavanger we stayed at Old Stavanger in an old wooden white house that made us feel like Norwegians even for a short period so I would definitely recommend staying locally and not in hotels as every hotel feels the same. If I were to go there again, I would rent a cabin somewhere outside bigger cities where I could be by the sea, in the mountains or in the woods. 

Norway - Project We Travel

Can you imagine yourself living in Norway?

While we were there, my boyfriend and I often discussed whether we could live in Norway and stayed indecisive on that matter. What we loved was the way people seemed, they were laid-back, unintrusive, helpful and everyone seemed like they never experienced a stressful situation. You get that overall feeling that government, companies and people work together for future generations' well-being and that they raise responsible young people not dependant on their parents. As far as the weather goes, we experienced it in summer and it was sunny and warm, but I can imagine how harsh and cold could their winters be, especially if you lived somewhere in the north. And the other thing, it rains a lot (i think Bergen is called the rainiest city in the world), so that's definitely not something to look forward to when thinking of moving there. But their connection with the nature is something to look up to and it seems like they are raising happy kids by the motto: "Less is more".

It looks like this: why drive over the speed limit when you can slow down and enjoy beautiful scenery along the way (we haven't heard a honking horn in traffic, not once!), why build massive kids' playgrounds when you can incorporate them in nature for kids to express their imagination and build something on their own; why spend a lot of money painting the insides of tunnels when they can be simple and functional or build massive houses just to appear rich to your neighbours when everyone can be the same and still be content, or why should you drive any other car when you can drive Tesla and save the environment? We haven't seen any litter on the streets or beaches, not once. Everything seemed so simple in Norway, yet so far away from us. I think I would adapt very well but we still have to many cultural differences between our countries not to be missing our brisk, loud and temperament Croatians.

Norway - Project We Travel

What picture comes up in your mind when you think of those incredible moments in Norway?

First photo that comes to my mind when thinking of Norway is me standing on Kjeragbolten (even though I loved Trolltunga the most) because I couldn't remember being more scared and amazed at the same time. Not usually afraid of heights, before I stood on the rock, I looked 1.100,00 metres down the Lysefjord and while it was really windy, couldn't help thinking that if I slipped, I could be dead in a minute. When I got down, I was immensely relieved and happy I'm alive. And that's why I love to travel and be in the nature, that adrenaline that gives us a greater feeling of freedom and accomplishment, from time to time it reminds us we're alive.

Kjeragbolten - Norway - Project We Travel
Kjeragbolten - Norway - Project We Travel
Kjeragbolten - Norway - Project We Travel

What are Norwegian mornings like? How about evenings?

Our Norwegian summer mornings were starting very early, they were beautiful, but if I had to choose, I would pick their nights and late sunsets. It gets dark(er) at about 22:30 (it never really gets dark so when you go to sleep at night it's almost like it's 5:00 in the morning). I loved that because we could be outside longer and seize the day.

Sunset / Norway - Project We Travel

What does Norway have that is still intact and you have put it down on your list?

I would definitely like to go to Norway again, since I have had plans to visit the Lofoten islands, Tromso and drive along Senja. Next to the fjord region on my Norway bucket list was seeing aurora borealis, so apparently we'll see each other soon, Norway!

Let me take you for a tour around the city - Luxembourg

Nataša Pavlović was born in Serbia and she has spent most of her life in Belgrade. After her studies she worked as art director and fashion designer for various international fashion companies before she decided to become a freelancer and move to Luxembourg in 2015 - for love.

In the following dialogue Nataša gives us an insight into what places to visit, her favorite seasons for photographing, best places to take incredible photos and so much more. Owing to this dialogue with Nataša and to her stunning photos, Luxembourg is on my wish list of places to visit and I am sure you will put it on your list too.

I learned to treasure the fact that the entire country has a clear order and that everything is perfectly organized.
— Natasa Pavlovic
Chemin de la Corniche - Luxembourg - Project We Travel

Have you always had such a wonderful relationship with the city that we see on your photos and in the descriptions below?

Well, at first it really was a totally different world I’ve entered. As someone who was used to live in a big metropolitan city with all its positive and negative effects (like having the possibility to go to the grocery store 24/7 or having tons of noisy people on the streets day and night) I felt like moving to the Twilight Zone as after 6 PM it was almost impossible to see a living soul on the streets.

Luxembourg city - Project We Travel

But then I discovered the vibe and rhythm of my new home. I learned to treasure the fact that the entire country has a clear order and that everything is perfectly organized. There are no traffic jams, cars seem not to have a horn and everything is calm and peaceful. Furthermore, we live at the countryside so we’re surrounded by forests, fields and animals. From the first moment the entire country appeared like a scene from a fairy tale. On every step you simply drop over some castles or lakes or another impressive scene. In that environment I’ve finally found my inner peace. 

As Luxembourg really is small the time you need for adapting to the city is extremely short. And as there are so many expats living here you feel like a stranger among other strangers and this simply breaks any connection borders.
— Natasa Pavlovic
Vianden castle - Luxembourg - Project We Travel

What was life like in the Luxembourg at the beginning and what is it like now?

Now most of my days start without an alarm clock, I enjoy a relaxed cup of hot coffee at my living room terrace, watching the neighbor's horses in their riding stables before I dive into my projects. Another big advantage of Luxembourg is its unique location. It’s surrounded by four beautiful countries (most of them are reachable even within just less than an hour). I use this fact to travel to other cities in Germany, Belgium, France or the Netherlands whenever I have the time or I am in the mood.

My life at the beginning was not really different then it is 4 years later. As I changed my working status from employed to freelanced I have the great privilege to work from my home office (often in my PJ-s :) and to structure my days according to my personal rhythm. Of course, I fine-tuned my daily routine over the years and I also have very stressful periods where projects needs to be finished or deadlines have to be respected, but in general I still try to live a life of a modern Bohème.

How can you tell if you have connected with a city?

 Within a very short time I got in touch with the city and I enjoy all things that Luxembourg has to offer. Instagram was of course the perfect tool that helped me to discover and get to know everything I was interested in like visiting and collaborating with various museums and galleries, enjoying good restaurants, taking part in interesting workshops and lectures, going to music concerts and especially meeting like-minded people.

As Luxembourg really is small the time you need for adapting to the city is extremely short. And as there are so many expats living here you feel like a stranger among other strangers and this simply breaks any connection borders.

Luxembourg city - Project We Travel

Where do you have coffee without a care in the world and where do you feel like examining life?

 If it comes to enjoy a good cup of coffee there are a few places I have discovered in Luxembourg city that I find cosy and charming. If I would have to pick one then I would go for the Konrad Café. It’s located in the old part of the city center in a small and narrow alley close to the Duke’s palace (a little trivia, Luxembourg is the only remaining Grand Duchy in the world). What I like the most about this café is that the audience is multicultural and so relaxed (and they have a marvelous carrot-cake I cannot resist each time I’m there).

Konrad cafe - Luxembourg - Project We Travel

If it comes to find inner peace then my favourite place is my home. As I live outside the city at the countryside I try to be in the nature as often as possible (just returned from a 2 hours walk through the woods)! This is the perfect balance to come down after visiting vibrant metropolises and after all my business trips.

Does the city lure you to go out, regardless of the weather or do you prefer thinking about it at home and watching it out of your window?

Absolutely, whenever the city calls, I have to follow no matter the weather (by the way, Luxembourg is not really famous for having a good and stable weather so prepare to be welcomed by clouds and rain even in summer).

So if I am in the mood to visit the city I don’t care a lot if it’s raining or snowing or if the sun is shining. When the weather is bad you can spend quality time at many cafés or museums, if the sun is shining then it’s the perfect time for a walk through the parks (more than 50 % of the city is covered with parks and greenery) or to explore the hidden caves and tunnels from the middle ages.

Green Luxembourg city - Project We Travel

When does Luxembourg photograph the best?

This is a tricky question. I have already mentioned that more than 50 % of Luxembourg city is green, so the city looks charming (especially through the look of a lens) at every season. So it is really hard for me to pick a favourite. However, since the time I live here I learned to love especially the cold seasons of the year. As my favourite season is autumn I love to see the intense play of colours when all the parks in Luxembourg turn red, simply amazing!

Autumn in Luxembourg - Vianden - Project We Travel

But Luxembourg also looks magic when it gets a white winter carpet.

Winter in Luxembourg - Project We Travel

Not to forget the period when spring puts the city in a beautiful colorful dress or the intense play between sunshine and shadows during the summer, the light is very special then and I like the atmosphere so much.

Green Luxembourg - Project We Travel

In the end I can say that Luxembourg looks great in every part of the year.

In this temple of taste and harmony it is a pleasure to spend time getting inspired, chase thoughts or simply meet friends and hang around. There is no weather that can ruin the atmosphere of this building.
— Natasa Pavlovic on Mudam museum & Cafe

Would you say you have become a local in the city? How can you tell either way?

 What does it mean being a local? Being recognized in your favourite pub by the staff? Knowing where to find the cheapest parking spots in the city center? Knowing every corner where to get the perfect picture from the city? Well, then my answer is definitively yes, I feel like a local. Honestly it wasn’t that hard to get this feeling.

Luxembourg city is not very big (cca. 50 km² large and about 120.000 people living there) so within a short while I felt very comfortable and safe. Furthermore, 50 % of all people living in Luxembourg are expats so the entire atmosphere is open-minded and very international. As Luxembourg is multilingual and has a huge number of foreign population (most of the people speak at least 4 languages) you won’t have any problems getting in touch with interesting people from all over the world. Within a very short time I was able to become a part of the social life and feel like I’ve been living here for ages.

Where would you take me when Luxembourg is grey and gloomy?

 If Luxembourg is grey then there's one place that pops into my mind immediately. It's the Mudam Café, a perfectly designed gastronomical oasis integrated in the MUDAM, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Luxembourg (my happy place).

Mudam cafe - Luxembourg - Project We Travel
Mudam cafe - Luxembourg - Project We Travel

The museum was designed by the famous Ieoh Ming Pei (the same architect who also created the pyramid at the Louvre museum in Paris) and it's a masterpiece in terms of light and design. The café itself was designed by the Bouroullec brothers (my favourite French designers). In this temple of taste and harmony it is a pleasure to spend time getting inspired, chase thoughts or simply meet friends and hang around. There is no weather that can ruin the atmosphere of this building.

Mudam museum - Luxembourg - Project We Travel
Mudam museum - Luxembourg - Project We Travel

What has taken your breath away in the city during the past six months?

 Well, what knocked me off of my feet (literally) in the last six month was the lately visit of my best friend from Belgrade where I had the ambition to show her the entire city within just one day. Knowing Luxembourg city this would be a day full of heavy and exhausting up-hill-down-hill walks. So after one day of hardcore  sightseeing I realized two things:

1. It's possible to visit all must-see places of Luxembourg city within just one day

2. If you want to do that you need to have very comfortable shoes and be in a very good condition

What photo would relate the essence of this city and why?

The scene that never stops kicking me is the view from the Chemin de la Corniche (also called Europe's most beautiful balcony). From this point you have a marvelous view on the districts of the lower part of the city. On the left side there are the Casemates du Bock (a medieval underground tunnel construction carved in solid rock) and the Neumünster Abbey (former monastery and now a place for cultural happenings).

Neumünster Abbey - Luxembourg

On the other side you can see the entire Grund area (my favourite part of the city full of cafés, bars and restaurants). This picture definitely represents the style and mood of this little city in the heart of Europe. 

Grund area - Luxembourg - Project We Travel

Places to have coffee

 Konrad café, Bloom coffee shop, Ready coffee shop

A museum that is a must

 Mudam (Museum of Contemporary Art, extraordinary place)

The best view in town

 Le Chemin de la Corniche, Europe's most beautiful balcony, simply amazing

The best time of day to take photos in spring

 The Golden Hour of course ;)

The song that is just right for walking around town

 Lou Reed „Perfect day“

A street you want to lose yourself in

In Luxembourg it's pretty hard to get lost, despite my Instagram username @LostInLuxembourg :))) If I had to pick one, I would go for the Avenue de la Liberté because it has the charm of Paris and you can spend hours (ok, let's say about one hour ;) strolling around and taking photos.

How to slow down in Cairo?

Dee is a writer and a photographer, currently living in Cairo. On her Vanilla Papers blog, she explores a different Cairo, writes about slowing down and living mindfully. She believes that travelling slow and getting to know other cultures can really change our lives.

Cairo - Project we Travel.jpg
“Slow travel means quality over quantity. It means following your gut, forgetting the notions of what you ‘must see,’ and following your passions. It’s about making even the huge tourist destinations feel immediate and personal.

And it’s about keeping that spirit of discovery alive when you come home.”
— Dee / Vanilla Papers
Photo: Mika Elgendi

Photo: Mika Elgendi

Photo: Mika Elgendi

Photo: Mika Elgendi

We had a talk about Cairo and she gave us incredibly valuable tips for visiting the city.

I love the fact that you write about meaningful slow travel and slow life. Even though people love using these terms, I am sure that most of them don't know what those mean. Can you clarify the term and tell us what the slow travel means to you?

I love how slow travel is becoming more popular and how more people these days want a meaningful and authentic experience that goes beyond a rushed bus tour. There's also a backlash against all those posed Instagram shots of beautiful bloggers in beautiful locations, setting impossible standards as to what travel should look like. People want reality. They want to make connections with local communities, and go home richer in their understanding of the world.

That being said, there's no strict definition of slow travel. It's an offshoot of the slow food movement that began as a protest against the rise of homogenized fast food. But it can be interpreted in a few different ways. For some people, it can mean a slower pace and a looser itinerary. For others, it's more about sustainability or about immersing yourself into local life and taking part in everyday activities.

Travel shouldn’t be about where we’ve been, but about what we’ve taken away from the journey.
— Dee / Vanilla Papers
Photo: Mika Elgendi

Photo: Mika Elgendi

What makes a slow traveler different?

There are a few points that slow travelers will often have in common: we like to take our time and get to know a place, we're mindful of our impact on local communities and on the environment, we want real interactions with locals and their culture. But we're all unique and we've got different approaches.
For me slow travel is mostly about the rejection of materialism. With the rise of social media, travel has turned into something aspirational.

It's a status symbol. People count how many countries they've visited, and their Instagrammable photos become trophies that are later displayed online to impress friends.

Travel shouldn't be about where we've been, but about what we've taken away from the journey.

What is your connection with Cairo?

Cairo is a very underrated city. Most visitors come through here as a stop-over on their way to the ancient Egyptian temples. They'll visit the pyramids, the Egyptian Museum and the old bazaar, but their stay in Cairo won't often last longer than a couple of days.

I've lived here for six years as an expat, and I'm still exploring this city and doing walking tours into neighborhoods I've never seen. And that's what I love about Cairo: there's always something to explore, and the culture is rich enough to always keep things interesting.

Mena House - Cairo.jpg

When looking at your Instagram stories and reading your blog, it seems that you enjoy the city very much. What makes you happy about living in Cairo?

I've seen a lot of downtown Cairo, and I love that part of the city and the architecture that blends European and oriental influences. I love the old villas in Garden City, where you'll find narrow streets lined with thick succulents and bougainvillea and where it's quiet enough to hear the birds chirp. I love the art galleries in Zamalek and the small cafes in Maadi for a slow afternoon over beer or coffee.

Cairo - history -walls.jpg

Lot of foreigners are hesitant to try local food in Cairo. Do you love it?

Yes, I do love the food, though the flat bread took me awhile to get used to. It's healthy, and a lot of food is vegetarian and cheap: falafel (also called taameya here), babaganoug with insane amounts of garlic, the pasta-heavy koshary for when you need a quick and filling meal. Cairo has great street food.

If there was a place worth seeing that only locals know about, what it would be?

Narratives on Cairo often revolve around the same kinds of stories and motifs: traffic and noise, a misunderstanding with a taxi driver, a narrow alley in Islamic Cairo with a minaret, tea with mint, a stretch of desert with the pyramids.

Tea - Cairo.jpg

Giza and the Khan el Khalili bazaar are brilliant places to visit, and I'd definitely recommend seeing all of that. But if you want a well-rounded picture of the city then two days here just aren't enough.
If I had a friend visiting, I'd take them to Giza for a day, and maybe end with a cocktail at Mena House overlooking the pyramids. I'd spend half a day (starting early in the morning when the crowds are thin) at the old bazaar at Khan el Khalili, including stops at some historic mosques.

Mena House - Cairo.jpg

Then I'd take them to Zamalek to visit a few art galleries, or do some shopping at the fair trade shop for some authentic souvenirs. Maybe a felucca down the Nile in downtown at night, or a walk through the City of the Dead to see the street art.

City of Dead - Cairo.jpg
slika II-22.jpg
City of Dead - Cairo.jpg

There are cafes here full of shisha smokers, but there are also rooftop bars with great local beer and Arab rap bands. And visitors are often surprised to see another side of Cairo that exists beyond the usual photo opportunities.
People on Instagram sometimes tell me they had no idea there's Starbucks here, or how there are modern skyscrapers or apartment buildings along the Nile.
And the fact they're surprised tells me we still have a long way to go if we ever hope to get over the stereotypes and orientalism, and show this region in a real and human light.

What special place in the region puts a smile on your face?
In the summertime, anywhere with a good A/C or on the Nile corniche with a cold drink.. or outside of Cairo on the Red Sea. During the rest of the year, in Zamalek in one of the cafes on the sidestreets or on a sailboat for a few hours on the Nile.

Port Said.jpg
Lake Qarun - Cairo.jpg

 What makes you sad there?
Poverty is difficult to navigate. I don't believe that the poorer neighborhoods are any more real or authentic than the middle-class districts, but I sometimes see poverty turned into something exotic or nearly spiritual, when it's portrayed as a "simpler life" that's somehow supposed to be purer and happier than our Western money-driven societies. There's nothing romantic about poverty and it's not there to remind us to count our blessings.

It's also heartbreaking to see stray dogs and cats roaming the streets. In the meantime, pet shops sell expensive breeds of kittens and puppies that people often get as pets instead of adopting the street animals who need care.

How can someone prepare themselves for the trip to trip to Egypt/Cairo?

There are a ton of tour groups that will show you the highlights around Cairo, Luxor and Aswan. But if you want to get off the beaten path and have a more authentic experience, it requires a lot more research and planning.

Abdeen Palace - Cairo.jpg

There isn't much online that will tell you about navigating Cairo beyond the obvious tourist attractions.

My advice is: do your research. Read blogs, browse the local websites and see what's going on in the city and what real people are doing for fun, find a nice Airbnb with a host who'll give you pointers on where to go. There's a ton to see here beyond Giza and the bazaar, and lots to discover beyond the clichés.

Wadi El Rayan - Cairo.jpg
Wadi El Rayan-Cairo.jpg

Let's talk about hotels!

Tihana used to work at the reception of the hotel in which my husband and I stayed seven years ago with our son who was only a baby at the time. We had a strange experience with the restaurant staff, which I felt compelled to comment on my blog's Facebook page. Although I did not say which hotel restaurant it was, Tihana realized it was the one where she worked. She took the initiative and e-mailed me to apologize on behalf of her employer even though she didn't have anything to do with it directly. I was amazed by the sense of responsibility this young person had shown and was really wowed by her. After that I kept in touch with Tihana through Instagram and her culinary blog that I followed closely, reading about her departure to Stuttgart and a new job, about her trips and her wedding, and I was really pleased that it was all coming together for her.

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/  @cojanbanjuga

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/ @cojanbanjuga

 What was it like when you were first starting out in hospitality industry?

First I was working at the reception. The job at reception had everything I wanted at that time. Speaking foreign languages, meeting new people on a daily basis and dealing with exciting aspects of tourism and hospitality business. So I worked as a receptionist (in 3 shifts - yes, night shifts also) for almost seven years and it wasn't always easy. After the recession in 2009 the job and salary market in Croatia collapsed and I worked without pay for almost 6 months. Those were probably the worst six months of my career. After those six months I quit and took some time off to clear my head. 

 What happened then? Did you start working in tourism soon after that or did you look for a different job?

Since I always saw myself in this business and had a lot of experience, I naturally went there again. To be precise, to one of the best workplaces I have ever had - LifeClass Terme Sveti Martin in Međimurje County. There I worked my way up from reception to telephone sales, as a sales manager for the Croatian market, and to my final position there as a sales manager for the German and Croatian market. This job lead me to the life I have now and I am eternally grateful to my former boss - Mr. Dan Vidošević - who believed in me and gave me the freedom to become what I am today. He also supported my decision to move to Stuttgart and accept an offer I really couldn't refuse. 

Tihana was always a valuable member of my team, always the creative one, ready to go the extra mile. I always knew I could rely on her to get things done and all our clients could confirm their positive experience. Her eye for detail was perfect which she took advantage of when enjoying her hobby of making cupcakes in to little masterpiece deserts.
— Dan Vidosevic, Tihana's former boss
Photography: Bojan Canjuga/  @cojanbanjuga

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/ @cojanbanjuga

 Have you ever thought about living abroad before that?

 My husband and I always dreamed of living in a foreign country and our dream came true. My main quote about life is:

You can’t get anywhere in life without taking risks.
— Esme Bianco
Photography: Bojan Canjuga/  @cojanbanjuga

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/ @cojanbanjuga

… and so in 2015 my husband and I packed our bags in the small Suzuki and moved 800 km away from home - to Stuttgart. Here I accepted assistant manager job in a small family-run hotel and restaurant. Owing to my past experience and my entire CV, I got not only a job, but also an apartment and was entrusted with running a hotel and restaurant with over 30 employees. It was very challenging since I was in a foreign country, with new laws and rules and I had to learn all of it in a very short time. In just 3 months I got my first raise and was promoted to manager. 

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/  @cojanbanjuga

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/ @cojanbanjuga

 What is your perception of hotels, now that you have worked in your fair share of them? Do you secretly resent certain things and admire others?

Wow, that is really a question that I need to think about. I really love traveling and staying in hotels - and I am picky. I really care about two things when I come to a hotel - the staff and the cleanliness. A hotel can be old and not furnished well, but these are the things you can see when you book it. But when you arrive, the main thing is how the staff treats you and how clean the rooms are.  Not that long ago I had a really bad hotel experience in my hometown. I knew in advance that the hotel was older, but that doesn't mean that you don't clean the rooms before your guests arrive - and you know they are coming because they have booked months in advance. There is no excuse for not cleaning properly. 

What did you do in that situation? What should any guest actually do?

In that situation I would first inform the reception and try to get hold of the manager and talk to him about it. Depending on the answer, I would go one step further and write the online review as it was. I always write my reviews and that is really important - I also take pictures and post them online so people can see the real deal. 

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/  @cojanbanjuga

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/ @cojanbanjuga

 What are you like as a hotel guest?   
I as a guest? I am a very simple guest if you are nice to me and the rooms are clean. I sympathize with the staff since I have been in their shoes for a very long time and I know how hard the shifts can be. But again, that doesn't mean that you can't be nice. What I learned early on was that if you have private problems, you should leave them at home and try to be professional with guests.

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/  @cojanbanjuga

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/ @cojanbanjuga

What kind of guests do you like? 

As every hotel employee would say - uncomplicated guests! :) It often depends on the guests and the day they had. If they had a bad day, almost everything bothers them - even if everything is as it is supposed to be. I also like "normal" people who understand that we all are only employees and most of the time we are not in charge nor can we change some major things. Like the fact that the architect made the rooms as they are and things like that. 

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/  @cojanbanjuga

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/ @cojanbanjuga

 What annoys guests the most?            

Probably the fact that you lose their reservation or that the room is not that what they imagined it would be. Over the course of many years it has also happened to me and that is human - we all make mistakes. 

 How would you sum up the life of a hotel employee?

Here I would just put a quote:

My momma always said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” -
— Forrest Gump

….that is the life of a hotel employee. Each day is different and brings different problems, but you feel accomplished after you receive good feedback from guests. 

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/  @cojanbanjuga

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/ @cojanbanjuga

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/  @cojanbanjuga

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/ @cojanbanjuga

 Would you say that working in a hotel is all-around business education, where you learn all about marketing, client relations, HR-u, bookkeeping... 

If you work as a hotel manager, you really learn new things every day. Especially if you are in charge of employees, their contracts, payments, working plans and the fact that the laws are always changing and you have to follow them. But what you learn the most is how people behave! After so many years in this business, I have to say I have a hunch that tells me if someone will be a good or a bad guest. It has rarely failed me. 

 What kind of accommodation do you prefer when you travel?

Now that I look back, at my former job as a sales manager I traveled a lot and always booked hotels - since there were comfy beds and good breakfasts - all you need before a big day of meetings and traveling. Now I also book smaller private rooms and apartments that have a story. Like the one in which we stayed in the Dolomites, Italy, where we slept on a hill, in 500-year old beds that were amazingly comfy. 

 Which hotel did you find enchanting?

From the bigger hotels I stayed at, we really loved The Connacht Hotel in Galway, Ireland - amazing rooms, close to the city, free parking and an amazing breakfast. Just a few weeks ago we visited a small hotel in Austria, Der WILDe EDER and were amazed by the traditional but modern rooms and by a star worthy five course dinner.  

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/  @cojanbanjuga

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/ @cojanbanjuga

Do you prefer smaller hotels or big chains? 

I would always book smaller hotels with a story and a background - but since I travel to lots of big cities, we often stay in some hotel chains. I really love the Motel One Chain - I visited many of them in Germany and was never disappointed. 

  “If you're passionate about travel and hospitality, the hotel industry is a lifelong career path. You'll meet interesting people – team members, guests, vendors, media – that open your eyes to the world and help you clarify your own goals. Getting to ‘talk story’ with guests is a highlight of the day. You have connections around the world." One hotel manager said that, how much truth is in those words?

This is very true. I meet so many interesting people, from business people who have been in my hometown 50 years ago, to celebrities. People with amazing life stories that inspire you and make you happy that you choose this path. 

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/  @cojanbanjuga

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/ @cojanbanjuga

 This whole time Tihana kept working on her food blog Just Cake The Cupcake and back in the early days of blogging, she became the first Croatian ambassador for the KitchenAid. This year she decided to launch her own business enterprise that would tie in everything she has done so far with her passion for cooking and creating. I feel pretty certain that she will succeed in anything; just remember the girl from the beginning of this story: someone who is a natural people person with a strong sense of responsibility rates very highly nowadays.

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/  @cojanbanjuga

Photography: Bojan Canjuga/ @cojanbanjuga

A Perfect day in Istanbul with Belkis

A Perfect day in Istanbul with Belkis

I met Belkis over Instagram and immediately fell in love with her photos and the atmosphere of her feed. I knew that it wouldn't be long before I ask her to be my guest on the Project: We Travel blog because I wanted to gain insight into her hometown Istanbul through her eyes and her camera lens. I haven’t been to Istanbul so far but I was sure that she would find a way to take me there. And she really did!