Slovenia Part 1

Day 27: April 8, 2018

We had to drag ourselves out of bed at 5:00 am to head to the Budapest bus terminal We finished packing, ate breakfast and I tried to search for an Uber. Sadly, it didn’t seem Budapest used Uber so we had to re-plan. I looked up the transit which seemed pretty quick. We took the train from Keleti and then had to change to another, but it wasn’t running. Up we went to the street level to try to find the replacement bus going the correct way. Eventually we found the right stop. We arrived early to catch our bus which was scheduled to leave just after 7:00 am. As we boarded the bus, the driver was upset because no one had their passports out for him to check. The drivers had gone to get a coffee and then were in a rush to get everyone loaded on the bus.

We crossed the border to Slovenia and a border guard came on to check our passports. Two men sitting at the back of the bus were pulled out and their bags were searched. They eventually got back on the bus and we continued. About an hour later the bus was pulled over by the police. All of our passports were collected this time and one of the same men was asked to step off the bus. About ten minutes later we were all back on the bus and on our way.

We arrived in Ljubljana and waited an hour for the bus to the airport. While we were waiting in the bus terminal two different people were staring at us. We aren’t sure if we were sitting in the wrong spot or why they were looking so curiously at us. The ride to the airport took about 45 minutes. We picked up our rental car there: a Volkswagen Up! (the exclamation point is included in the name).

We stopped at the first petrol station to pick up a toll road vignette for 30 euros that will sustain us for a month. We drove into Kranj for groceries. All the stores had closed at 3:00 pm because it was a Sunday. We stopped at a different petrol station and picked up enough food for supper and breakfast. We drove to our Airbnb located in Möste, which is just northwest of Bled. It is an upstairs apartment that is quite beautiful and exceptionally clean. The hosts had a huge binder of things to do, places to visit and food to eat. It was definitely a Monica or Merai binder. The apartment also had a large balcony where we ate our pasta for supper with a mountain view.

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Danny sitting on the balcony of our Airbnb in Möste
Day 28: April 9, 2018

We slept in a bit as I was feeling a bit under the weather. We had breakfast then drove to the grocery store in Bled. It didn’t have a lot of things on our list so we had to make do. We drove around Lake Bled to Zara campground where we started the hike to Ojstrica. The trail description online listed the hike as easy, but I would definitely disagree. It was a short hike to the viewpoint, but it was steep the entire way. The viewpoint gave a gorgeous view of Lake Bled and Bled Island with the church. We continued walking to Mala Osojnica, which was also very beautiful.

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View of Lake Bled from Malta Osojnica

The hike down was very steep. There was a steel staircase that was almost a ladder. When we reached the bottom we walked around the lake to find a place to rent a rowboat. After a 15 minute walk we found a place with a boat to rent for 15 euro. Danny rowed us out to the island and did a much better job than I would have. When I rowed with my friends on Pyramid Lake I could not get the arm movement down.

We walked around the island which did not take long as there was not much to see. We paddled back around the island and returned to the dock.

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Bled Island

We walked back to the car and ate some sandwiches for lunch. From there we drove up to Bled Castle. We had to pay 5 euro to park and then 11 euro each to get in. They were doing a lot of reconstruction so there really wasn’t much to see, especially for that price. There were pictures of the castle in ruins and then how it looks now. A lot of money has obviously been put into restoring it. I felt that the restoration made it lose the charm and sense of history that comes with a ruin castle.

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Bled Castle

We drove back down and stopped at another grocery store just outside of Bled for some things we missed from our morning grocery stop. We arrived back at our place and I watched some Netflix while Danny went for a run. I ended up laying down after that and slept until morning missing Danny’s delicious taco salad for supper.

Day 29: April 10, 2018

We slept in this morning. I was feeling a bit better, but my head was still hurting. We had breakfast and then watched a couple of episodes of Outlander. I had leftover taco salad for lunch. We did some planning and researched Russian visa applications some more. Danny planned some of Croatia and I booked transport to Croatia and Greece. By the end we were both feeling frustrated. Planning is a lot of work. It is much more fun just to do the activities. Danny went for another run while I uploaded pictures to Dropbox. We had salmon for supper and then went to bed. Overall it was a very nice rest day.

Day 30: April 11, 2018

We awoke fairly early for a quick breakfast and then drove an hour to Vogel Ski Centre. We parked in a mostly empty lot and took the next gondola up at 8:30 am. The rental place at the top didn’t open until 8:45 am so we checked out what lifts were open this late in the season. There was one magic carpet, one small chair lift and one T-bar.

We obtained our equipment and did a few runs. You had to put the T-bar in place by yourself and I struggled quite a lot. It kept slipping from my hands. Luckily, there weren’t very many people. We stopped around 10:00 am for a snack then went for a few more runs. It got a bit more busy and very slushy as the sun came out. We decided to hand in our rentals and head back down around 11:00 am. It wasn’t the best conditions, but it was nice to get out.

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Skiing at Vogel

We drove up from Vogel to Savica Waterfall. Waterfall in Slovenian is “slap” which I  quite enjoy. The waterfall comes from a karst spring.

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Savica Waterfall

We drove down and stopped at Lake Bohinj. It is much quieter than Lake Bled and far bigger.

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Enjoying the sunshine at Lake Bohinj

From there we drove to Pokljuka Gorge in Triglav National Park for a short hike. The path was slightly covered with rock and debris. We took the trail to the “Galleries” first which is a bridge that was constructed in 1930 across the narrowest part of the gorge to allow passage. We climbed up from the “Galleries” and across a natural bridge over the canyon. As we were walking up we heard rocks falling on the bridge where we had been five minutes previously. We both stared at each other and decided not to mention it to our mothers, who are probably now reading this!

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Danny walking through the “Galleries” at Pokljuka Gorge

We hiked up some more then found the path down. It was quite slippery due to the wet leaves, snow and mud. We descended into an open cavern. There were a couple of little chutes you could easily go through. It was quite an amazing site.

We headed back to the car from there and drove into Bled to Smon Sweets for Bled cream cake. It was light pastry, whipped cream, a light cake and then more pastry. Yum!

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Bled Cream Cake

We walked a bit, but then it started to rain so we headed back home. We are getting a bit frustrated with our Russian visa applications. When we called the visa centre originally they said we couldn’t apply until 90 days before. The Canadian Embassy informed us we could apply six months before! Then we were told we aren’t able to apply when we are not in Canada. Tomorrow we plan to call the Russian Embassy here and see if we can figure it all out.

Day 31: April 12, 2018

We woke up and ate breakfast then started to work calling some embassies. We started with the Russian Embassy in Slovenia. They only do applications for Slovenians. We tried Romania and Austria and were passed to a different number at least once with the final result that they only do applications for their own citizens. We decided to try the Russian Embassy in Canada one more time. Due to the time change, we had to wait until the afternoon for the embassy to be open.

To make the best of the rainy day, we drove to Ljubljana. We parked by the Dragon Bridge and walked around their old town, which does not allow any vehicle traffic. It made the walk very pleasant. Danny just kept saying how much he loved it.

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Rainy day in Ljubljana

For lunch, we stopped at a pizza place. I had a small pizza which ended up being regular sized and Danny had a calzone which was gigantic. We walked back to where a market was held. We purchased strawberries and bananas. They were quite expensive. A sign indicated that the castle was that way so we followed along. Eventually, we found some stairs that seemed to be through a back alley, but they led us to the back side of the castle. We paid entry and then were confused why we paid when you could just walk in. The castle hosts a restaurant, theatre and museums. The ticket we purchased was for entry into the museums. First, we went to the Museum of Puppetry. It was small, but full of old Slovenian puppets. It was definitely my kind of place. We were able to put on puppet shows with some of the different types of puppets.

We entered another museum that played a film with the history of the castle. Settlements in the castle location have been around since 1200 BC. A medieval fortress was built in the 11th century. Most of the current buildings are from the 16th and 17th centuries. In the 19th century it was partially redesigned for use as a prison.

There was a tower to climb, but the very top was closed due to the rain. We also walked through an Exhibition of Slovenian History and the Penitentiary which displayed some of the old cells.

After awhile we started to get bored so we walked back down to the car. It took awhile to get out of Ljubljana. People seem to get off work here at 3:00 pm based on traffic. We stopped for groceries on the way back and then called the Canadian visa agency again. They confirmed again our original plan so all the fuss and worry was about nothing.

Day 32: April 13, 2018

This morning we had breakfast and then drove to the cable car that would take us up to Velika Planina, a pasture on a mountain plateau in the Kamnik Alps. The lady informed us that it was closed until April 23 for maintenance. The hike up to the top from the cable car was three hours. She provided a map that showed another place to park and then hike up about an hour. We decided that would be a better option.

We drove and reached a point where the road split. We struggled a bit to decide where we were located. We brought out the map, Google Maps and looked at a map on a sign and we finally agreed on our location. We took a gravel road up and found a parking lot. We decided to walk from there. The path went passed a little hut and then up into the trees.

To set the scene, it was raining slightly, the ground was covered in last year’s leaves and I was already in a slightly bad mood. As we were climbing up, my foot slipped off a tree root and I continued sliding until I was laying in the mud. Danny asked, “Are you all right?”. I yelled “No!” and lost it. I picked up the mud with my hands and threw it at the ground. I burst into tears of frustration then sat on the ground for a bit to compose myself. After a very long time I walked up a bit further and the path looked the same: wet leaves, tree roots and mud. I looked back at Danny and said, “I don’t want to do this”. He said, “Okay, we don’t have to”. We got back to the car and to make me feel a bit better Danny bought me ice cream in Bled. We drove back home, watched some Netflix and had leftovers for dinner.

There aren’t any pictures to share of the bad days, but believe me we still have them. Me maybe more than Danny.  We always say that this isn’t really a vacation; there’s more work involved: mentally and emotionally. In the end, the strain is definitely still worth the experiences we are collecting.

Day 33: April 14: 2018

We woke up and drove into Bled to meet for our Black Hole Kayaking adventure. The guide showed up at exactly 8:45 am. We were the only people on the tour from Bled. The guide was very chatty on our way to the mine. We crossed into Austria then back into Slovenia. The mountain pass road was quite steep with many switchbacks.

The mine was in Podzemlje Pece. About 350 years ago it opened as an iron mine. In later years, zinc was also mined once people realized what it looked like. We took an old mine cart train down into the mine. Eight people could fit in each cart. We were closed in for a very bumpy and noisy ride to the 8th level of the mine.

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Mine cart train into Podzemlje Pece mine

From there we climbed many, many stairs down. We were given dry suits with boots and kept our sweaters on not knowing how cold it would be. We were also given gloves and helmets with headlamps. Once we had our gear on we climbed down to the 12th level. The mine had a total of 22 levels. Everything below 12 is currently submerged in water. Pumps used to move the water out when the mine was still operational. At the 12th level the water was up to our knees to start. We walked with the kayaks upstream for a bit which made me understand why Rose struggled so much to get to Jack.

We climbed into the kayaks and were led through the different shoots of the mine. In most places the paddles did little good as the path was too narrow. It was easier to use your hands to grip the wall and pull yourself along. The next day my forearms were hurting from this. There were a couple fo portages where we had to lift the kayaks up and then climb over a barrier. There was even a waterfall we had to float down. In some channels you had to sink down into the kayak in order to fit through.

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Ducking to fit through a tunnel in the mine

Near the end, we were given thirty minutes to explore on our own. The area had all dead ends so we couldn’t get lost. In one cavern alone, we turned off our head lamps and the darkness was complete. It was a bit scary.

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Floating through the mine in our kayak

We arrived back at the start and climbed up to the change room. My legs were shaking by the top from all the stairs. We changed into our clothes and then walked up through a different path. I was very grateful we didn’t have to climb back up all the stairs.

We stopped in a room where the miners would meet in the morning to have their work assigned and then in the evening to ensure they were all back. No one could leave until all the workers were back. Due to the mine being made of limestone, cave-ins were rare, but if your head lamp went out you had to sit and wait until others came to find you.

The mine originally had entire families working: men, women and children. Most were farmers that worked in the mine during the winter. There was a pneumatic hammer there that you could try to lift. It was 20 kg. The miners would drill above their heads allowing the rock to pile below so they could keep climbing up.

We went on to a lunch room where the explosives would have been stored. We ate our lunch while the guide told us of his grandfather who had worked 8 hour shifts, 6 days a week in the mine. He woke up at 4:00 am and walked 1.5 hours to the mine. After work he would go and make bricks to add to a new house he was building. He would then walk back home, sleep for four hours and be up for work the next day. On his day off, he would gather his family to work at a farm that would feed them for their work. He died at 49 years old. What a hard life it must have been.

One of the best jobs at the mine, handed out randomly, was fixing the railroad ties. The worst was drilling samples to find new deposits. The equipment for sampling weighed 70 kg with only one man carrying it or else they would have to split the pay between two people.

We saw where the water pumps would have sat as well. The mine was closed in 1994 after prices of iron and zinc decreased dramatically. The cost of pumping the water was too much. Prices have since increased, but there is no talk of re-opening the mine. The mine also has deposits of wolframite that was used by the Nazis in WWII to make munitions and tools.

We caught the train back to the daylight. On our ride back to Bled we had some good discussions with our guide. He told us about the mountains and the surrounding areas. He gave some interesting statistics too such as Slovenia having the highest number of tractors per capital. He said that Slovenia claims their pizza is better than Italy’s because their water and flour is better. He also said Slovenians like to eat and drink.

Many of the streams in Slovenia are voted to be the purest in Europe. We stopped at Jezerska Slatina for some mineral water from a spring. In 2013, a pipeline was built to carry the water to this location near the main road. An older couple was there filling bottles in their trunk. We filled our bottles and the taste was not what we expected. It was almost like drinking carbonated water. The water naturally has a high CO2, calcium and manganese content.

We drove on passed a heart shaped lake and up the road into a mountain pass towards Golivrh mountain. There was a house with chickens running around and just quiet. The mountains in front of us were beautiful and the fields in front were peaceful. The area is away from the tourists of Bled and gorgeous.

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Beautiful view into the mountains

We stopped back at the lake: Planšarsko Jezero for some pictures and a bathroom break. Our guide came out with three shots and we all had a delicious drink. I believe it was a blueberry liqueur with blueberries at the bottom – maybe Boroničevec based on my Googling.

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Danny in front of Planšarsko Jezero

We drove back to Bled and the guide suggested a Slovenian restaurant and a petrol station to buy a new SIM card. The one we purchased in the UK was only good for a month and I wasn’t able to re-load it without a UK credit card. The guide’s friend was working at the petrol station and was quite the character. He had a bit of trouble getting the data to work, but eventually got it all sorted out.

We drove up to Gostilna Kurej which the guide suggested. We ordered gnocchi with prosciutto in a tomato sauce as a started. When it arrived it was the size of a full meal. We also had bread and delicious mulled wine. For the mains, Danny had Yugoslav sausages and I had fried chicken and chips. As promised by our guide our plates were full and we were both stuffed by the end.

We drove back, but the road Google Maps wanted us to take had an orange sign with some text in Slovenian. Danny waited while I used Google Translate. “Complete imprisonment” came up so Danny immediately turned around and we found a different way home.

Day 34: April 15, 2018

We had scrambled eggs and sausages for breakfast. The sausages here are amazing. Danny planned Croatia for a bit and then we picked up groceries. It’s always interesting to find what we want. I bought a panna cotta mix so that I can get my baking fix, as well as a brownie mix for Danny’s birthday.

We came back and I researched Greece because Caitlin wanted to discuss our plans. We have only been planning our Airbnbs a week or two ahead of time and then flights two weeks to a month ahead so Greece was still pretty far in the future for us. If we had been planning a single trip though we would have had everything booked months before.

Danny kept planning Croatia then went for a run while I called Caitlin. We made a schedule and talked about going to some islands. We chatted for a couple of hours until we had a better idea about what we will do in Greece.

Day 35: April 16, 2018

Danny left around 6:30 am in the morning to go to Obertauern in Austria for a ski day. I slept in a bit and then worked out. We bought Nutella the other day and it is hella dangerous. I watched some Netflix, updated our expense spreadsheet, edited a blog post and uploaded pictures.

I decided I had to take the opportunity to buy Danny a birthday present while he was away. I walked into Zirovnica. Google Maps wanted me to walk through a field, but I took another way. It was quite steep walking down. I went to the grocery store, but all I found was chocolate and Pringles. I looked at Google Maps to see if there were any other stores in town, but I was out of luck. I walked back home a longer, less steep way and picked some flowers (dandelions and likely other weeds) along the way. I chatted with the host for a little until his daughter called for him. I made the panna cotta mix after I Google Translated the instructions.

Danny arrived home around 5:00 pm and he had lots to tell me about the Porsche Museum in Gmünd he stopped at on the way home from skiing. He very much enjoyed it and learned even more car facts. The skiing was very foggy.

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Inside the Porsche Museum

I called Kaleen and we chatted for a bit. I told her all about my freak out in the mud. Danny and I ate dessert and were very impressed with panna cotta which neither of us had tried before.

Tomorrow we leave our beautiful Airbnb to move south in Slovenia. We loved staying so close to Bled and Triglav National Park, but away from the tourist scene. It will be interesting to see what we find next.

M

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