A new era – Introducing ‘Bandtees and Backpacks’

Hello there, it’s been a while.

Some of you may have noticed the lack of posts over the past 18 months, which to be honest was both a welcomed break (aka the perfect cover up for my procrastination) but also due to the world being flipped on it’s arse due to Coronavirus.

Blogging about travel during this time I felt was insensitive and irresponsible, after all, why would I put myself on blast for encouraging such activities, so naturally I bowed out.

With isolation, came much thought and with that I felt that something fresh was needed. The world was changing, so why not mix up the one thing I felt I could control, my blog. So with that in mind, it felt fitting to refresh my presence online too.

This was down to many other reasons too,

a) I no longer feel that my page should solely be a travel blog

b) The name of my blog doesn’t reflect me anymore

c) I’m restricting myself to solely European content and let’s be honest, given the shit show that is Brexit, I plan to escape this plague island and venture to South America and lastly

d) I just feel that most travel blogs are beginning to look the same.

So with this in mind, I’ve decided to get more personal and re-introduce my blog and incorporate other aspects of my life such as art, music and alternative lifestyle into the pot. Maybe I’ll even throw in some style… who knows.

I’m proud of how far my blog has grown, but now it’s time to reflect my growth too. Which is why I will no longer be going by the name of ‘Girl About Europe’. (Nor am I a girl)

And introducing ☆ Bandtees and Backpacks ☆ a name which certainly feels more suitable for the type of content and new direction in which I would like to take my blog.

Of course I will still write about travel, I love it, but there’s just so many other fun topics I’d love to deep dive into also. So let’s give it a shot.

As always, thankyou for your support and stay tuned for more updates. I will shortly be updating and merging content over the coming weeks and bringing you a whole new look.

….and content.

But until then, happy travels xo

Why I’m taking a break from travel.

Do you ever just sit and scroll endlessly through multiple social media platforms, gawping at photos of sandy beaches and sunsets from atop mountain ranges?

Or do you ever feel green with envy that folks are able to whip up several blog posts in the time it takes you to brew a coffee?

Welcome to the club!!!

I often feel deflated at the fact that I can’t quite measure up to the success of others I see on the daily.

Beating myself up about how I’ll never be as good a writer or photographer. Wasting copious amounts of time pining over the fact that I can’t travel full time or even afford a weekend break – then suddenly this got me thinking about my behaviours not just as a traveller but as a blogger too.

The internet has brought much richness to my life, such as the ability to connect with people all around the world, to access an endless supply of information at the click of a mouse and of course to share my own corner of the internet through blogging; but from time to time the negativities of social media also rears its ugly head and in enters jealousy and competition.

To some my life may look pretty exciting, but like many of us this simply isn’t the case and we’re all at least a little bit guilty of highlighting only our best moments.

Solo travel female in the USA
Aren’t we all guilty of sharing only our highlights?

This is why I wanted to write this post and challenge this mentality.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love the travel blogging community, the talent and creativity out there is unbelievable but at the same time I must pause and ask…

When did figures become such a thing?
Or why is it that all I’m seeing are sales pitches lately? When did this become more important than genuine engagement?

How many of you reading this are absolutely bamboozled with the thought of figuring out how social media marketing even works, or setting up a SEO plan?… jeez, how many of us even struggle to find just the motivation to create, pin and even write blog content?
I know I certainly do, daily.

I’d reached a point where all the joy of writing was being sucked out of me – because I was worried about how well ‘liked’ my content would be, or whether it would grab the attention of some fancy company, then stressing about trying to come up with edgy unique content.

Whilst in Slovenia I took a moment to ask myself whether I was actually there to enjoy the city or just to take photos for the Gram.
The fact I even had to ask myself this question said it all.
Travel and the community was becoming a chore.
It changed me.

I think in one way or another we’ve all been a little guilty of this, which is why I think it’s important to stop and ask ourselves just how honest are we about our travel and blogging motives?

Reflexion about my travels
Taking a moment to reflect.

So why am I taking a break from travel?

The simple answer – To get back to my roots.

To go back to a time when I found writing enjoyable and adapt a much healthier and creative approach to my work.
To stray away from the negative influences of online jealousy, competition and most importantly comparison.

Instead I plan to focus my efforts other aspects of my life, like honing in on other skills and interests such as art, languages and photography to name a few.

Secondly to branch out in other topics on my blog and add a ‘Journal’ section, to include other thoughts.

To take a Staycation.
Having spent so much time and energy trying to get away from the UK, I’ve realised I’ve taken for granted and neglected so much about where I’m from.
This year I want to dive into more UK based learning and exploration.

So what other factors have influenced this decision?

Money

I’m broke…. like all the time and haven’t spent wisely. Choosing travel over rent. Not a good idea.

This time around I’ve decided to put away a decently substantial amount of savings over the next few years (or to the best of my ability) for a more long term venture in the future.

Like most of us here, I too dream of being able to pack up and travel for a year, or even longer, however at the same time, I’ve decided not to make money be the primary focus. So I felt that this was the right time to cut down my work hours and use this to benefit my mental health.

Lastly to focus on other hobbies which cost little to no money such as going to the gym and painting.

Unhealthy Competition

To break the cycle of comparing my life to others and getting so caught up in the depression it brought along with it.
I no longer wanted to be in competition but instead support and encourage others to follow what they love.

To remember that numbers aren’t everything and isn’t the be all and end all.

To focus more on content

This year I want to actually take a step back and add more love to my blog, to steer away from the ‘5 Best things to do in Slovenia’ but instead actually approach my blog with a more personal perspective from real experiences.

Of course I didn’t tick off everything on my Ljubljana bucketlist but that doesn’t make what I have to say any less credible.

I find that some bloggers forget this.

So yes, this year is all about focusing on reigniting that that spark within my content, figure out my style. Write from present, past and eventually future experiences.

Incorporate new angles and ideas.

Stressing less about how much or how often I post content and remember that quality over quantity is what matters.

Be more in the moment

When I first started blogging I would be eager to write down as many notes as possible in said place, therefore writing a post within a few days or even the same day.

Then soon enough I began realise I couldn’t remember much… as I was too focused on taking just photographs, rather than actually taking the time to just ‘be in the moment’, fast forward a week (who am I kidding, more like 4 months) and here I am still staring at a blank page when recollecting my thoughts

In future, I will limit the use of technology, enjoying the time spent in a location, maybe write down a few notes.
If I’m feeling particularly creative with the camera, then I plan to only take a select few photos, if any.

Be. More. Present

True vs. false expectations

As much as I love social media, Instagram it the absolute worst.
The overly edited, over saturated photos I see repeatedly throughout my feed.

Content Aggregators who gather and regurgitate other people’s content purely for the sake of followers and likes, many of which do not credit the original owners and their work.

Photos which have been altered to the point they are unrecognisable, therefore leaving us with unrealistic expectations, only to be disappointed when visiting these places for real.

I’m not against a little tweaking here or there, cropping, brightening etc…. but let’s keep it real, keep it ORGANIC.

Lastly….

Reflect
To learn to appreciate the opportunities which have presented themselves and be grateful for the opportunities to be able to travel.

This isn’t a post on why I plan to quit travel… I will again – but why I plan to take a step back for now and focus on creating and getting back to my roots and focusing on my blog with a renewed sense of fun and passion.

Why I began this adventure to begin with.

72 Hours Lost in Lviv

Lviv wasn’t initially on the itinerary but easily one of the best accidental stop over destinations I’m happy to have been stranded in.

The original plan was to head straight to Khmelnitsky for my Language Immersion Programme, however after a 5 hour flight delay (which inevitably resulted in missing my train from Lviv) I decided to ditch the station and look for a hostel instead.

It was dark, my phone battery was dying and I was desperate for a place to stay, so when I spotted availability at Dream Hostel I booked myself in. (I figured if my battery died or I got lost, Rynok square would be an obvious spot that anybody could direct me to)

The morning after I woke to a beautiful sunny day and a bustling hostel, I peered out of the window overlooking the street which leads to Rynok Square and was sold instantly.
Had it been dark and tired upon arrival I hadn’t even noticed how beautiful my surroundings where.
So I got dressed and went to explore.

Of course it was only fair to give Lviv the time it deserved and extended my stay, adding Lviv to my adventures across Ukraine.

Lviv –> Khmelnitsky –> Odessa –> Kiev

I didn’t have much time to plan and see everything I wanted to but what better excuse to return right?

A little about Lviv

Lviv, known as the capital of Western Ukraine and often referred to as the little Paris of the East, is a city steeped in a culturally rich and historical past.

Founded in 1256 by King Danylo Halitsky, he named the city in honour of his son Lev. (Also known as Leo)

Lviv historic centre Rynok Square is a UNESCO protected zone and the heart of the city.

Around the city you will find an eclectic collection of Ukrainian architectural styles (known as the Hutsul Secession) which bases its designs around local folk architecture as well as Renaissance and Baroque builds which can be found scattered throughout the city.

Nowadays the city is and so known for its plethora of coffee, chocolate and it’s welcoming atmosphere.

My Hostel

I’ve noticed that hostels in Ukraine are quite generous in terms of check-in and checkout times (Or at least from the 4 different hostels I’ve stated in so far in Ukraine)

Whilst in Lviv I stayed at Dream hostel, in central historical district (Krakivska Street) which is situated less than one minute walk away from Rynok square.

The hostel boasts orthopaedic mattresses which in itself are what sold it for me. Other perks include: Location, high quality accommodation at affordable prices, Free WI-FI throughout, a spacious kitchen and lounge area and onsite café.

I will leave a link to the hostel here.

So If like me and you’re just passing through for a couple of days, then here’s what I recommend;

 

Rynok square (Market Square)

Rynok Square is the heart of the historical old town, here you will find a collection of conceptual restaurants, coffee shops and of course the Tourist Information Center.

Walking through the Square will transport you back in time, laid out are the beautifully decorated buildings, cobblestone paths and local produce stalls.
In each corner of the square you will find monuments depicting four Greek Mythological figures, Neptune, Amphitrite, Adonis and Diana.

Neptune Monument is also the meeting spot for local guided tours, which include the half day sightseeing tours, private Lviv Jewish history tours and free guided walking tour, all of which are operated in Ukrainian, Spanish and English.

Rynok square plays an important part in being the center for market for trade, hosting festivals and is the hub of social activity.

Town Hall

Here you will also find Lviv town hall, one of two spots where you can enjoy beautiful panoramic views of the city; all you need is a ticket and the determination to tackle 408 steps on your way up. The views are worth it, I promise.

Entrance to City Hall is free but a ticket to access the stairs/observation deck cost approx 20 Hyrivna.

(Unfortunately my phone started playing up by this point and was unable to snap a photo, so here’s an earlier shot of a Lada instead)

High Castle

Not quite what I expected but well worth the 2km hike from Rynok Square nonetheless.  High Castle is in fact not really a castle but just a few remaining ruins of the historic castle remains.
It is basically a park located on the highest hill in Lviv, just outside the city centre.

The artificial Union of Lublin Mound is located on summit of the hill where the castle used to stand and there is an observation platform with a flying Ukrainian flag on the top of the mound.

The view from the platform is just fantastic and well worth the hike up the hill (approx 30 minutes).

Lviv Theatre of Opera and Ballet

Located in the heart of the city, Lviv Theatre of Opera and Ballet is one of the most distinctive and beautiful buildings in the city.
A neo-classical build combining influences of Baroque and Classicism.
Here you will have the opportunity to watch world-class classical performances or Opera music.

From the outside you can admire the stunning exterior of the building as well as enjoy a stroll up and down what seems to be a small square, equipped with seating areas, beautiful fountains and small craft market stalls.

Also, be sure to come visit at night too, the lighting of this building is truly beautiful.

Yard of Lost Toys

Located in one of Lviv’s oldest neighbourhood you will come across an eerily unusual attraction of lost toys which have been left behind.

The story goes that a local resident living in the area found two lost toys and placed them under a small roof located in the courtyard of 1 Mukachivska apartment block, in hopes that they would be found.

Unfortunately the owner of these lost toys never returned and has since become a little hub for other lost toys and items such as bicycles, instruments, furniture and even a swing, giving these forgotten items a home.

Items in which have been carefully placed to resemble some kind of colourful shrine.

New toys are added, some are retrieved but you can’t help but appreciate the quirkiness (and somewhat creepiness) of hundreds of dolls/clowns peering at you.

Restaurants I loved

Kryivka

For a truly quirky experience let me tell you a little about Kryivka, a restaurant with a secret address.
An underground wartime bunker of Kryivika was once the hidden hiding place of the Ukrainian insurgent army during WWII.

This is a must visit restaurant in Lviv. The fun starts with the guard in the entrance, to enter you may need some help you when you knock on the door.
To enter you must say the password “Slava Ukraini” meaning ‘Glory to Ukraine’, the guard will then pour you a shot of Honey Vodka and direct you downstairs to continue the fun, for example where ordering the wrong dish can see you imprisoned as a suspected Russian spy.
Release is only achieved by singing a Ukrainian song.

The interior of the bunker is dimly lit yet extremely cosy, the food is rustic, delicious and extremely affordable.

Honey Vodka and Borscht…. I ate/drank copious amounts.

Masoch Cafe

One of the more unusual places to visit and certainly not for the faint.
Masoch Cafe, dedicated to the famous writer Leopold Sacher-Masoch, who was born, raised and even crafted his masterpieces in Lviv, today you can still enjoy a coffee or a bite to eat – however this isn’t the only reason this place attracts so much intrigue.

What if I told you this was a BDSM bar too?

Who would have thought that masochism and dining can go together?

As soon as you enter you will be greeted by moody candlelight and BDSM-aesthetics which continually runs throughout the cafe, even down to the wall decor and ‘vagina’ carved seats.
The staff plays in important role too by whipping you as you enter and exit the cafe.

If you’re feeling particularly brave they will even blindfold you and tie you up and whip you more.

I wish I could have taken a few photos but upon reaching out for my phone, I was relentlessly whipped by the waitress.

Giggity.

The 5th Dungeon – 5 Pidzemellya

How could I not include this place?
A restaurant entirely underground and made up of stone chambers and dungeons.

The general feel is incredibly atmospheric! Everything is thought out to the smallest detail, medieval style in everything: the interior, candle lighting, a menu of rustic dishes, craft beers and how cosy everything is.

I mean where else are you going to find a slab of meat with a side of chicken hearts served on a slab of stone right?

Even the service itself was like a theatrical performance made up of servers dressed as monks rushing throughout the halls!

Not forgetting the dozens of amazing photo ops to be taken,  including the sword in the stone.

Honestly I wish I’d had more then 48 hours to explore but given the circumstances of having to attend my language immersion programme, I could have easily stayed here and extra week or so.

However I’ll take 48 hours over nothing, any day.

So here it is.

I hope you enjoyed this short but sweet post about Lviv, my post barely scratches the surface on the absolute amazing things to see, do and eat.
My list could go on.
I’ll be sure to visit again soon and hope this inspires your interest in visiting beautiful Ukraine.

But until then, Happy travels.

XO