Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Locked up in Lublijana

We are in Lublijana, the tiny capital in tiny Slovenia. Already, Slovenia has had much to offer us. Piran was on the coast and then off to Lake Bled in the Julian Alps. Today the big city and tomorrow one of the worlds largest cave networks.

I think that the lady at the infomation center in Bled is a good example of how I feel about Slovenia. When we walked in she was speaking German, the next person she helped in French and then Slovenian and then us, in English. Diverse, friendly and helpful.

From a Canadian perspective, you could say, that Lake Bled is Slovenia attempting to be Lake Louise in Alberta. Patriotism aside, Bled is beautiful. It has all the same ingredients as Lake Louise...except one. Where it does have a glowing lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains, accompanied by a large hotel-resort, it has forgotten the best part: a Georgian-trained Chef!

Wandering Lublijanas cobble-stones this afternoon, we stumbled upon a large outdoor market. It sold fruit, vegetables, clothing, glass, shoes, honey and flowers! How long does it take for two people to eat a half kilo of strawberries, you are wondering? Two minutes, approximately.

Odds are you will have to wait until Belfast or home to experience the magic that is Photography by Kristen.

p.s. Somebody find out if we have Twinings Voyage Brazilian Baia tea at home...its delicious!

p.p.s. we are writing this from prison (it is now converted into a hostel, though)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Dalmatian Coast to Slovenia

So.. lets catch you up to speed. We are now in Slovenia. Just. We are just a few kms north of Croatia and a few south of Italy. Slovenia only has 29 kms or so of coastline..but here we are. In Piran. Eastern Europe, so far, isnt quite as eastern as we expected. Really its more like central Europe. Its just as developed (in most senses) as Western Europe, only with a slavic accent. Its ealtively easy to get around (minus super long bus rides) and almost everyone speaks english. Its funny though when people talk about how long it will take to get a distance. For example, Plitvitce National Park was 50km to Karlvac, then another 80km to Rijeka, then 100km to Rovinj. This, as we Canadians know, is not alot of kms. BUT, here that trip took more than 6 hours!! I kept thinking, man, I would NEVER go to the cottage if it took that long to go 300 kms!

So, after Hvar we took a ferry to Split (I think Im allergic. I felt sick as the ferry docked). But then, we were on the road to Zadar, which is the major city in Northern Dalmatia. We stayed there for a night, mostly to break up the bus ride. It was uneventful.

Then we went to Plitvitce National Park, which was BEAUTIFUL! There are 16 lakes all connected by waterfalls.. so you can imagine the beating my camera took! They had walks all around the park, around and behind the waterfalls! Then, the Park had it all worked out so there were free connecting shuttle busses and boats so you could keep walking, or whimp out, and mostly walk all the way through the the nice stuff, then fall onto the bus, exhausted, and they take you back to where you started! I wish I knew how many kms we hiked that day at Plitvitce. It was probably a record or some sort!

We went for a delicious (and kinda expensive) meal at the park restaurant. (One of the many benfits of being employed..we dont have to eat bread and cheese every day!) It was called Lichka Kucha, and it was great! We had local beer (Karlovacko) and then bread came out with some sort of cheese spread. I had a turkey fillet with buttered vegetables, and let me tell you, they were BUTTERED! Jonathan had various side dishes, such as baked potatoes under a bell. They were SO good, but completely coated in oil...which is actually probably why they were so good! They came out with bacon bits (bc everrything here is garnished with meat) and JOnathan even ate around the meat! YAA Jonathan!!

So then it was onto Rovinj (pronounced ro-VEEN), a fishing village on Coratians Istrian peninsula. This area is known for its truffles, and not the chocolate ones I was dissapointed to find out. It was very picturesque. The village looked like it was being pulled out of the sea by the giant church bell tower. The buildings were crumbling and colourful and the alleyways were twisty, narrow and cobblestoned. Every window had shutters! I love shutters! The village actually used to be an island, but they filled it in to make trading easier or something... I have taken more than 1000 pictures this week already! We watched the sun set with a "Favorit" beer...not a favourite.

Today we crossed the border into Slovenia. We actually crossed a border too. Cratians checked our passports on export, then just down the road Slovenians checked them again when we entered. So this is what a land border without a bridge looks like. It was very uneventful. I was all ready. Sunglasses off, earphones out, passports ready, Jonathan smiling pleasntly, sitting at attention as I instructed. And... nothing. Barley a look, let alone a stamp. He didnt even look at Jons passport, which was under mine.

Piran is cute and small. It is all crowded onto a pennisula jutting out into the ocean, We mostly wandered today and then sat on a big rock on the pebbly beach and watched jellyfish try to float against the waves and not get washed up onto the beach. One was not so lucy and got stuck between some rocks right near the shore. It was the first time in 5 years that Jonathan hasnt run to the aid of a helpless, needy animal, and it was mostly bc I had him bound and gagged beside me. In hind sight though, I should have let him save the jellyfish. Now THAT would have made for an interesting story!

Tomorrow: Lake Bled

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hanging out in Hvar

Hvar is one of the top 10 most beautiful islands in the world, apparently, and I believe it. Our room has a balcony overlooking the city and the sea. The town is crowned by a huge fortress that I, Kristen, gladly (practically) scaled a mountain for (read: There were nearly as many stairs as in a two-storey house). There were small islands off the coast, popular with the nude bathers. As you can imagine, I could barely keep Jonathan away. Just joking.

We have made so many people in the last couple of days. On the ferry from Split to Hvar we met this cute newly-retired German couple who knew the history of everything. We chatted over expresso. Then we met some Vancouverites on the bus from the ferry to Hvar Town. And, then, a girl from Edmonton who was staying at the same guesthouse as us.

Now I am sitting on my wonderful balcony, eating Milka (delicious chocolate) and watching my underwear sway in the breeze on the clothesline (Jonathan did the laundry). Oh the life...

We barely escaped Bosnia with our lives...

...just kidding. you should go, its great.

Unfortunately, we dont have any pictures from Split, and its all because of the bus. When my bus from NF to TO broke down on the side of the highway, and the door was jammed shut and we were going to be stuck on the bus for all eternity, I thought it was pretty bad. But no, my friends, I had no idea. Allow me to paint you a picture. We are on the bus (the worlds ugliest bus, with mustard yellow and old circly wood) from Mostar to Split, Croatia. It is suppose to take 4 to 4.5 hours. The road, the 401 equivalent is apparently 2 lanes. However, really what this means is that they pave the middle part of the road and have a gravel shoulder on each side which when included in the width would be about as wide as a neighbourhood street. Wide enough for passing...barely. The landscape is beautifully mountainous. Nice to look at, sickening to drive up, down and around on. The road hugs the cliff and guard rails are a novelty. You cannot see around the bend because it is a 90° turn, but when you get there, lo and behold, a transport truck or another bus will be there turning as well. It is a guarantee. We were so close to the driver of the other truck that we can see his pores...TERRIFYING! And, I think I am going to be sick.

About an hour in, the bus stops in the middle of a "town" and everyone gets off. After a "discussion" with the bus driver it seems that the bus is going to the "garaga". Ok. We get off the bus and sit on our luggage to wait. People start to take their bags and leave the bus stop. Where are they going? Then a taxi guy says, "Lady, Split is 4.5 to 5 hours, why dont you take a taxi. I can get you there in 2 or 2.5". Right. No thanks. Wait a minute, does he mean the bus wont be back for another 4.5 hours? I send Jonathan on recon. He comes back and says the bus will return any minute...he thinks...maybe.

The bus returns in about half an hour. Not bad. Unfortunately we have to get back on the road. We only go through Bosnian customs once on our way out as opposed to three times we managed on our way in (p.s. they appear to have stray cats living at the border...interesting).

The twists and turns and ups and downs seem endless. We stop somewhere that I am praying is Split, but isnt and we buy a little pizza. Half way through eating it I notice meat sneakily hiding under the cheese. We get back on the bus again. I actually think I am going to throw up this time. Yup. I do. Good thing, as a result of some random act of God, we have a plastic bag handy. Gross. And the guy behind me is still staring at me. How do I know? I can see his reflection in the onboard tv.

Finally we are in Split and we get off the bus and sit down. I feel disgusting, as you would expect. Then some lady comes over and is trying to sell us some lace. "No". She keeps trying to convince us. "NO". We are a little more stern. Now she is pointing at us an yelling. "Listen, lady, I am going to throw up all over your lace!" A local guy takes pity on me and tells her to leave. I am eternally grateful.

So I start thinking about what I have eaten. Oh yes. There was that 100g of (what I believe to be) chicken, which hadnt been refrigerated for two days...for breakfast. Maybe not a good idea. But here is what happened. The deli lady in Dubrovnik is not friendly. So I asked for 100g of chicken and she gives it to me. Then I ask for 200g of cheese. She thinks I want more chicken and before I realize she is cutting more chicken than even I can eat. I say, "excuse me, cheese please". She replies, "Ok", and continues to cut the chicken. When all is said and done, I leave the store with 300g of chicken and 200g of cheese.

So after we find a place to sleep, I decide what I need is some gelato. My stomach doesnt seem to agree...and, yup...there I am again puking on a busy public street puking in a garbage can. Then, since there was still some acid left in my stomach, I puked yet again outside the city walls in the grass. Yup, Im a gem.

Dont worry, I feel great now.

p.s. I would like to note that Bosnian people are extremely helpful and friendly.

p.p.s. This computer wont let us load pictures.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Our first view of Bosnia-Hercegovina!

Surprisingly, we have changed our plans last second.. just to keep you on your toes! We decided last minute to come to Mostar, in Bosnia-Hercegovina! It is remarkable, and remarkably shocking. On the bus ride here we met a lady from Sarajevo, eho was telling us about the war and how they could only go out at night, and even then they were risking their lives!

Anyways, there are reminders of the war everywhere, like bullet holes inthe buildings (the ones that arent rubble atleast). Its very unnerving to see it.

Time is running out, so thats all Im going to write, but we have a solution for everyone. We are going to try and remember to take pictures at a low pixel setting so that we are able to post some. The 10 megapixel wouldnt load, SOOOO today we remembered to take one picture.. but tomorrow is another day.

Hvar tomorrow!! (probably...maybe)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Walled-in in Dubrovnik

Its official: we are in Dubrovnik. We flew from Pearson to Frankfurt, Germany. Then we flew to Dubrovnik, Croatia. The plane rides were painless enough. While we pictured arriving in a sun-soaked paradise, Dubrovnik welcomed us with drizzly, overcast weather. Still, it was shockingly perfect.

We are staying in a few steps outside the Old Town, which is surrounded by a 2kilometer long, 15th Century wall. Pretty nice. The view from our bedroom window is a jaw-dropper. And, the big spenders that we are, we even picked a room with a refrigerator!

After we got here, we wandered around the Old town for a while. Within 24 hours, guess who we had met? Bennie! Thats right. Ben missed me so much that he found his way across the ocean to Croatia to beg for some chicken scraps. Guess Dads been cheaping out on the treats. So, seriously. We find this deserted pier over looking the ocean, and out runs our first little stray cat. He looks like a fluffier, scrapier Bennie. After I gave him some of my lunch meat, he crawled up onto the backpack on Jons packpack and tried to break in and steal some more!

We went to bed super early last night, being exhausted from the flight and slept in until 9:30 this morning! A record I think.

We walked all the way around the walls today. It probably takes the average person about an hour, but it took us over three, because Kristen took 150 pictures. Thats literally.

Then we walked to the "new" town and stumbled upon a stone beach, like in Nice. That was fun. There were 5 million dogs there, not surprisingly. It was surprising though, that they almost all had collars on!

Durbovnik is really beautiful. There are cliffs that the waves crash onto (like the ones outside our bedroom window) and cute little alley ways with cafes, and like every single window has shutters!

Tomorrow we are headed to the island of Korcula. We ve decided to cut out Mostar in Bosnia, unfortunately. Edi doesnt think we should go.

We had picked out 9 wonderfully beautiful Kristen-originals to post with this, and put them on the computer and everything. Blogger doesnt seem to want to load them though. Guess we should have bought a laptop.. OH, I have an idea! Why dont all you people who love our pictures gang up and buy us a MAC air for next trip! lol (ps. We cant find the apostrophe, so that is why our grammer is lacking, well one of the reasons!)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Our Eastern Europe Itinerary

In the top left corner of this map is a "+" and a "-". If you click the "+" it will zoom in on the map. If you click the "-" it will zoom out on the map. The arrows above the "+" and "-" will move you around the map. Have fun...we will!

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