Through a bit of peer and parental pressure and a bit of enthusiasm on her part, my sister decided to join me for my last three weeks in Europe.
After talking about meeting her for a week I realized it was suddenly only two days until I would see her in Prague.
Prague is many peoples favourite city: it’s beautiful, cultural and cheap. Also, it appeared to be close to Slovenia. Kind of. It doesn’t feel close when you have to catch a six hour train to Vienna then another from there to arrive in Prague at four-thirty in the am. Mmm.
It’s kind of super strange traveling with someone else. Almost as strange realizing I now have a piece of my family next to me again.
We’ve been dividing our time between our interests which led to a trip to the Prague zoo on her second day here. Luckily we both like eating tasty food and I introduced her to kofola (better then cola)
best looking birds
great quotes on the Lenin wall
some traditional pastry and craft coffee (sister had the chocolatiest hot chocolate)
After Bled I went back to Ljubljana for a few more days. There was still some coffee to be tried, more gelato to be eaten and apparently Slovenia is famous for some caves a bit southwest of the capital.
The super touristy postojna were not that appealing (despite the child clearly screaming for joy riding the cave train on the front of the brochure).
Instead myself and Jake embarked on what we wrongfully presumed would be a straightforward journey to the Škocjan caves.
We caught the bus into the nearest town ready for a bit of a walk easily shown to us by the tourist office in the nearby train station. Non of these things existed. Some rambling around and eventually we ended up at a cafe using the wifi to google how to get there.
Long story short made it! Looked at a lot of really old rocks. The caves were amazing. It was really freaky imagining what it must have been like for the early explorers in the cave. Even for the later explorers… There were a lot of narrow stairs and skinny bridges.
After a decade long bus ride supplemented by a bottle of wine and some great views of Slovenian nature we got back to Ljubljana.
Home of the milk vending machine- can’t remember what I’ve said previously but, RAW MILK vending machine!
Another “adventure” of trying to find some music that evening eventually led me and a Belgian girl to a jazz jam session at a popular student bar. Beat boxing base player. Night was made. Also- random street art I found- I think it’s been multiplying as school semester draws neigh.
Lake Bled- the place so endlessly raved about I made it a mission to come to Slovenia to make it there.
It has everything you’d want in a peaceful lake gettaway: sun (despite all weather forecasts), great swimming, a castle on a hilltop and a church on a floating island. Being a backpacker here I got completely spoiled. Firstly I was lucky enough to travel with some friends i’d met in Ljubljana and, although we stayed at different hostels that didn’t make much difference since 5 hostels were within sight distance from each other. 5 minutes walking to lake to lake. breakfast or emergency wine run meant crossing the street to Mercator. I’m pretty sure i went to buy things 4 times one day.
First walk around the lake we found another backpacker met in Ljubljana (this lady-one cool cat)
A few minutes later another friend wanders past. No one has been up to the castle so we make plans for sunset. and wine. because Slovenian wine is 3 euros, I mean, we have to try all the different kinds.
We find the highest rock to climb overlooking the lake-fears of heights put on the back burner.
after some music and a perfect evening we walk in the dark down the path back to the hostel. The giant group of Brazilian orthodontic students (studying in Hungary) are in the common room-otherwise known as the kitchen. everyone hangs around for a while but when the majority decides to go to the bar I bail. I’ve learned i’m good with one or two nights out a week and feel zero remorse in excluding myself. And, with plans to drag myself out of bed in the morning to watch the sunrise with a few others more sleep is not a bad idea.
(k, so it’s a bit hard to see the sun through the mountains)
The next few days were pretty relaxing..which was actually my plan for Slovenia. strange when things work out. time spent away from the lake was going to Triglav national park to walk through the gorge. beyond anything i dreamed.
Then 7 of us rented paddle boards, 1 kayak and 1 rowboat to travel out to church island. The misty wind meant it wasn’t the warmest standing on a board-although it did make swimming very inviting. And i discovered i’m a natural rowboater. nice to know i have some skills besides getting lost.
One last thing you do in Bled is try the famous(?) cream cake. It’s pretty good- then again when is cake not good?
(This city’s guardian is a dragon)
One very long and sweaty bus ride got me from Venice to the capital of Slovenia. A city I’ve never heard of and only figured out how to pronounce upon arrival. Another art nouveau city! Thank you perfectly timed massive earthquake.
My first evening I walked around mouth agape at some of the beautiful architecture
then walked towards metelkova- the local squat/alternative arts hub based in some old military barracks.
I wasn’t scared walking through the area as it was getting dark, I just felt a little out of place. Clusters of friends were already comfortably drinking beer around the adult jungle gym and there I am just wandering through… Oh hey just a tourist here.
What a cool place full of freaky graffiti.
On the city walking tour I met up with a fellow girl from my hostel. I knew she was a keeper since she was traveling solo for a bit and carrying a book with her all the time.
after the tour we went to the city market to admire the milk vending machine, buy a bag a plums (everything is so cheap!) and my friend failed to fight off her addiction to handmade bags.
we walked up the hill to the castle and walked around its strange complex of new paths overtop old stone.
after walking back through old town we eventually found one of Ljubljana’s many art galleries; this one had an exhibition on art in the digital age including an entire wall of memes.
from there i stopped for tea and a vegetarian sandwich with avocado-eating vegetables is something to celebrate during a life of backpacking, and green tea. I couldn’t resist going inside to smell the teas for sale. oolong smells so good, I am week.
Instead of going out that evening I sat down to a game of cards and some Slovenian red wine. Slovenia makes a lot of good wine. spending 4 euros will mean a really good bottle but, y’know, a two euro bottle is pretty swell too.
i’m positive there’s no better way to spend an evening than spending 3 hours playing presidents and assholes with some new friends
My next day in the city I set out to see at Marc’s basilica from the inside! (Ooooh) A very long line and short wait to enter (maybe the only free thing in the city).
Thought I was done being impressed by church’s, It was probably the cheeses jokes that got me through all the religion unscathed.
A short walk along the water leads to a view of the bridge of sighs. Two things checked off. Time for coffee. I didn’t even notice if the coffee was good in Venice- it was. It was just expected? And it’s all good, any place you go you know you will be drinking a decent cup. Espresso though, brews don’t really exist.
The rest of my day was spent on the Venice ferries island hopping.
Cemetery island first, where I traveled back in time to when Austrians controlled the city, then past soldiers from England killed during the First World War. Something unique to the graves here is on every headstone a all portrait of the deceased was placed next to their name. Surprisingly this did not come out as creepy. Seeing such personal pictures says a lot more about the person than “a loving mother” and looking at the different pictures have a real sense of the time through the style of photograph.
After leaving the island- and it’s many blood sucking insect inhabitants- I squashed onto the boat headed to Murano to look at the famous Murano glass. No photos allowed but believe me, I saw a guy craft a unicorn from the freakishly hot stuff in under 30 seconds. And then bought earrings. Because I’m a sucker.
A longer journey and I arrived at the far more picturesque Burano. Island famous for lace? I skipped past the lace shops (where I suspect all but the tiniest pieces are made in China) and found some gelato-far too delicious gelato.
Ferry card in hand I use my power to catch a ride up the grand canal.
No more energy! Time for dinner at the hostel with the cute mom and daughter Oregonians I met the other day. Hanging out with family travellers is great, it’s like a taste of home.
Venice is canals and bridges, cafés, gondoliers, my favourite drink spritz and yet somehow more then that.
It’s touristy, that’s true but it doesn’t take much more then a random turn into a narrow street to find yourself in silence.
For this I fell in love with the city, just a little.
Venice is full of tourists: every other shop sells leather handbags or postcards or masks (in case you forgot to buy one 8 meters ago) despite this Venice still has something. Cafés where drinking coffee is so much part of the daily routine there is a cheaper price to have your caffeine fix standing at the bar, same for your very important daily breaks with the inclusion of spritz a white wine orange bitters combination and cicchetti; individual fried fish or vegetable snacks.
First morning in the city I started with the free walking tour to learn such important facts as: None of the bridges in Venice used to have railings (eep), where to find the best gelato and also that at one time homosexuals were so common in the city the courtesans were bringing in less money- something the duke didn’t like. Solution? Order the courtesans to show their breasts to passing men.
I thought this was freaking hilarious-along with one other person in the group.
Important information ascertained myself and a great character I met on the tour headed off to complete the venice tourist checklist.
Eventually we found out way to st Marc’s piazza and had to check out the prices at cafe florian: venice a oldest cafe.
We made our way up the tower for views over the city.
Cross a few more canals and we made it to nicos for gianduiotto (only getting mildly lost). gianduiotto is a dense, chocolate hazelnut ice cream served in a cup with heaps of whipped cream. I took a picture of its deliciousness with my mouth. Whoops. I did get a photo of the sunset I saw while eating.
Stockholm is a bunch of islands. Then some more islands where fancy houses and secluded summer homes reside.
I went out on a day trip with some girls I met on the södermalm tour. We spotted a zillion places we’d like to live (only 900,000 gets you a little island) and saw one seal.
After the morning we walked through the old kings’ hunting ground’s to have fika (coffee and pastry) in the gardens at rosendal. That was after our 7/11 lunch and probably my billionth falafel. Maybe next time I’ll travel somewhere not in Europe. If I see one more falafel after this trip I am going to start eating meat.
After an evening tour through old town we found our way back to södermalm- Stockholm’s south/hipster/cheapish area for dinner of some kind. Only 70 krone for a burger meal at a street stand! Best deal you will ever find in Stockholm. And definitely enough money for pick ‘n mix.