Croatia Part 1

Day 46: April 27, 2018

Early wake up for us (6:00 am) to head to Croatia. My nose has been running like crazy and stopping me from sleeping.

We packed up the rest of our stuff and Marta arrived at 7:00 am. She made us tea, eggs with sausages, juice, bread and a heart-shaped cake. She took a picture of us with the cake and then in front of the house. Her place wasn’t the best and her food was okay, but she did everything we love. It made our stay very special. We gave her hugs before we left and drove to Ljubljana.

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Cake from Marta

We returned the rental car right beside the bus station in Ljubljana. Our bus arrived a bit late, but we weren’t in a big rush. I was able to catch some z’s on the ride. At the border we had to get off the bus twice to get our passports stamped: Slovenia and Croatia.

The bus took us to Zagreb bus terminal and from there we took an Uber to the car rental office. They always try to up sell you on everything there. I’m glad that Danny handles it. Our new car is a Renault Clio. The first thing Danny does when he gets in a new car is touch the dash and doors to see the quality. Then the first twenty minutes of driving he gives a full assessment. I think he watches too many “Regular Car Reviews” on YouTube.

We found a parking garage in the downtown and went out to check some things off our to-do list. I found a book store and bought a new journal and fiction book. Around 3:10 pm we found a barber that could cut Danny’s hair at 4:00 pm which gave us time to buy groceries for the next couple of days. We returned to the barber and when she looked at the back of Danny’s hair she was shocked. Remember the chunk of hair I had zipped away. His hair looks much better now. It’s one of the best hair cuts he’s ever had.

We walked back to the car and headed out of Zagreb. Traffic was awful and I was feeling worse and worse. I couldn’t breathe out of my nose or my mouth because I was so stuffed up. We drove about three hours to our Airbnb in Starigrad, north of Zadar. We hadn’t heard back from the host so we weren’t sure about check-in. It turns out she lives downstairs so it wasn’t a big deal. She didn’t speak much English, but showed us in. We sat on the balcony and had supper with a view out to the bay.

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View from our balcony in Starigrad
Day 47: April 28, 2018

Danny made me breakfast in bed. I still wasn’t feeling well. I stayed in bed while Danny walked up the road to the store looking for some juice and popsicles for me. He returned with apple juice and pudding. I guess popsicles aren’t a thing here. We ate salad for lunch and did some planning. Danny made fish for supper. I Googled the type of fish and it turns out it was a small shark. It was very tasty. I went to bed fairly early and Danny stayed up a bit.

Day 48: April 29, 2018

I slept in again. I think I was feeling worse than the day before. My nose wasn’t running as much, but I had the start of a cough and my throat was sore. Danny really wanted to go and do things, but I was just too sleepy. He brought me yogurt for breakfast and I went back to sleep until noon. We had salad for lunch then decided to head into Zadar at 2:00 pm. He had been pacing all morning and really needed a walk.

We parked just outside the old town and walked in through the Land Gate into Five Wells Square.

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Five Wells Square, Zadar

We walked around to the market, but it was closed because it was a Sunday. We saw the Sea Gate then had some ice cream. It was another super hot day in Croatia. We went on to see St. Anastasia and St. Donatus churches and the Roman Forum. We walked along the water to the Sea Organ which didn’t sound as pretty as I imagined, but the idea was pretty cool. They also have “The Greeting to the Sun”, but it’s only cool at night I believe.

We walked back into the streets and found somewhere to eat. We ordered olives to start. I love olives and they are so fresh here. Danny had sea bass with sautéed Swiss chard and I had pašticada which is a slow roasted beef with gnocchi in a red wine gravy. It was very tender and delicious.

From there, we walked back to the car through the gardens. We decided to drive to Vir, an island just north of Zadar. We went right out to the point and pulled the car over. The quiet was amazing and the view was gorgeous. You could see out into the Adriatic. The water and the sky blended together.

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Adriatic Sea looking north from Vir

We sat on the rocks and stuck our feet in the water. The rocks were quite sharp and the cray fish kept tickling our feet. After our bums started getting numb, we drove back home and went to sleep. Danny was thinking we had an extra day here, but I think our day in Zagreb and my sick day messed it up. Tomorrow we head south in Croatia.

Day 49: April 30, 2018

We woke up, had breakfast and packed up. I broke a glass while washing it last night, but the lady said not to worry about it. It seems most Airbnb hosts understand that things do break. We drove to Krka National Park. We tried to drive in, but were stopped and told we had to park and walk in or drive back a bit and take the boat. Both were the same price, 110 Kuna per person. We walked the 4 km along the lake. It wasn’t very scenic and it was very hot.

We arrived to the main area of Skradinski buk waterfall and it was super busy. It was a long weekend so that could have added to the number of people. We did the walking loop around the falls, but didn’t enjoy it that much. There were people everywhere. The view would have been very pretty with all of the little waterfalls, but we were just annoyed.

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Walking around Krka National Park

We had planned to go in the water, but were debating not because there were so many people. We thought we would regret it if we didn’t so we stripped to our bathing suits and climbed in. It was rocky until you went out deeper so we kept our flip flops on. The rocks were not very sharp. The view with the falls in the background was beautiful.

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Danny swimming in front of Skradinski buk waterfall

We exited the water and walked to wait for the boat which was leaving in fifteen minutes. We arrived back in town another fifteen minutes later. There was a huge line up of people waiting to get on the boat to go out to the park. The walk back to the car took about ten minutes.

We drove on to Split, mostly so that I could see Froggyland. It hosts a set of 507 taxidermy frogs set up to represent the lives of our ancestors. It was created between 1910 and 1920. Some of scenes include a school, a circus and a blacksmith shop. Honestly, I was a bit disappointed. I don’t know if I expected them to be bigger. It was cool, but I wouldn’t say it was a must see.

We walked around Split a bit and saw the sea side. From there we went through a market beneath Diocletian’s Palace and then to the outside. The palace was gorgeous. We also saw a statue of Gregory of Nin who introduced the Croatian language to religious services. Previously, services were held only in Latin.

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Statue of Gregory of Nin, Split

We walked back to the car and drove the coastal road to our Airbnb in Tučepi. It took us awhile to find the place. We came up and unloaded our things. Danny was in a grumpy mood which doesn’t happen very often. He was disappointed that we didn’t get to see much around Zadar and mad at himself for not venturing to the National Park up the road from us on my sick day. I try to preach all the things I’ve been learning recently about it being human to make mistakes. After talking about it, Danny felt much better.

Danny had our leftovers for supper and I had some salad. I ate two buns at lunch and it was just too heavy for the heat. We couldn’t get the wifi working and realized that we forgot the travel adapter at the last place (another reason for Danny’s bad mood). We will have to buy a new one, even though the one we had was amazing.

Day 50: May 1, 2018

Danny booked the ferry to the island of Brač the night before. We weren’t sure how far in advance we needed to show up. We went to the dock around 7:30 am for the 9:00 am ferry. There was no real indication of where to go so we ended up driving around a bit. We found the booth where you buy tickets, but it didn’t open until 8:00 am. We decided to go to a couple of grocery stores to look for a SIM card. The reloading of the Slovenian one didn’t seem to work. The grocery stores didn’t have them, but we found them at a newspaper stand. I figured out the install fairly easily. Luckily the instructions were in English because it was a tourist SIM card.

At 8:00 am we went back to the ferry booth and found out where to line up. I bought some pastries and we sat on a bench by the dock waiting for the ferry to board. At 8:45 am we loaded onto the ferry. It was fairly small, maybe 30 cars. We sat up top for a bit then went and stood at the front. The ferry took about an hour to get to Brač.

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Arriving to Brač

We drove off the ferry and headed to where the hike for the Dragon Cave started. Danny had read about the Dragon Cave on some travel websites and it seemed really interesting. We asked a local where the trail was, but he didn’t seem to know what we were talking about. We walked up where we heard some English. It turns out the English was coming from four Canadians also looking for the Dragon Cave. They had walked around the hill, but not found it. They said to try the trail through the gate straight up the hill.

We went there and hiked up and up and up. We reached a ruin house and it got very steep and we weren’t sure which way to go. I Googled the cave and someone had written that only one guy has the key to the cave and you have to book a tour. I was a bit frustrated at that point. Danny was fine with just getting out and hiking, but I wanted it to be for something! We did have a nice view to the Adriatic since we were so high up.

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View to the Adriatic Sea from our hike

We slid back down the hill and back to the car. We drove to the beach in Bol. We were expecting a sand beach, but it was rocks/pebbles. There were quite a few people there, but it wasn’t packed. I imagine it would be quite full on a weekend.

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Beach in Bol

We found a spot near the water and stripped to our swim suits. The rocks hurt a bit on the feet and later they were pretty hot. We went into the water right away to wash off the sweat from our hike. The water felt cold, likely because we were sweltering. It was around 30 degrees out. The water was super clear. You could see some fish if you looked down. The ground dropped quite rapidly so you didn’t have to go out far for a swim. There were a bunch of boats anchored fairly close to the shore. We went in and out of the water a couple of times and had our salad lunch.

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Merai swimming in the Adriatic

Danny and I had talked before about going to a nude beach. I didn’t know if I would be able to just strip down and bare it all, but the idea did sound freeing. Seeing the nude beach the other day made me think, “Okay, I could do that”. We read that to the west of the main beach was the naturist beach so we climbed over a couple of rocks and there we were. There were maybe two couples and one lady there when we arrived. We laid down our towels, then we laid down and stripped. We laid there for a bit not feeling ready to stand.

Finally we decided we just had to go into the water as it was so hot. Once in the water it was spectacular. We swam around quite a bit and then walked back out. After that a barrier was broken and we were fine. Some more women showed up and even a grandmother, mother and daughter. No one there cares what you look like and you don’t care what they look like. You’re just humans. It was amazingly liberating. We’ve decided only naturist beaches from now on.

We stayed there a couple of hours going in and out of the water. Around 4:00 pm we decided we should head back to the ferry. There was a momentary freak out on the drive back when I looked up Croatian ferries and it said the last one was at 3:30 pm. I looked at the ferry company’s website and it said 6:00 pm. Whoo.

We drove back and there was already a line up. We were a bit worried we might not get on the last ferry of the day. We parked and walked around the town, but there was really nothing there. We sat back in the car and had some snacks.

At 5:30 pm we started boarding. We were maybe halfway through the line up that got on the boat. We watched as they told the last few cars they weren’t leaving the island today. The purchase of the tickets was a bit misleading because the ticket we bought online said “guaranteed departure”, but if we hadn’t been in line early enough we wouldn’t have gotten on; we would have been sleeping in the car.

We stood at the front of the ferry again. Back in town it was quite busy. We tried to find somewhere that sold adapters, but no luck. We then tried a couple of grocery stores because we had a ramen craving. No luck with that either. We drove back to our place in Tučepi and made pasta with eggplant for supper. We turned on the air conditioning because the night before was so hot and the noise out on the street was too loud with the door open. Danny planned our drive to Mostar then we went to bed. Both of us are looking very red from the beach.

Next up is a road trip through Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. We are a bit nervous as we aren’t sure what to expect. After our road trip we head back to Croatia to visit Dubrovnik. My sick days definitely made us feel that we missed out on some of Croatia. Those times are bound to happen when you are traveling for a year so we are taking it in stride.

M

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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

Budapest

Day 23: April 4, 2018

Budapest has alway been high on my list of places to visit. I honestly didn’t know very much about it other than it was supposed to be a beautiful city. We decided a walking tour would be a great way to start our days in Budapest. We slept in a bit because we could then headed down to Vörösmarty Square for a free walking tour after breakfast. The square had a spring market going on so we looked around before the tour. We took out some smaller bills from an ATM in order to tip for the tour as we still only had large bills from our blunder the other day.

The tour gave a good overview of Budapest. The guide started by talking about how the Hungarians were 7 nomadic tribes from the Urals that came to settle here in 896. St. Stephen introduced them to Christianity and brought them together. The Ottoman Empire overtook bringing coffee, bathhouses and paprika. The Hungarians then looked to the Austrian Hapsburgs to liberate them from the Ottomans. The Austrians ruled until a deal was made to create the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In WWII the Soviets liberated Hungary and ruled them until the Soviet Union collapsed. Hungary obtained independence in 1991. The guide joked that you should always chose the opposite side of Hungary as they are always on the losing side of wars. Their economy is still quite behind so they haven’t been able to switch to the Euro even though they are part of the European Union.

Budapest was originally three cities: Buda, Pest and Old Buda. They were combined to form Budapest in 1873. We saw St. Stephen’s Basilica in Pest then walked over the Chain Bridge to Buda.

Buda is apparently where everyone wants to live. Pest is more the blue collar neighbourhood. We walked up to the palace on Castle Hill on the Buda side. There are only small remains of Buda Castle and the original palace was destroyed.

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Castle Hill, Budapest

We passed the White House where the Hungarian President lives. He is mostly their figurehead so there weren’t many guards. Their Prime Minister has the parliamentary power. We kept walking and saw Matthias Church. King Matthias ruled from 1458 to 1490. He was nicknamed Matthias the Just. In the same square there was also a monument for the plague victims, a statue of St. Stephen and the Fisherman’s Bastion.

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Matthias Church, Budapest

After the tour we walked back to where we started and ate in a café. The service was very slow. We went to some stores searching for some fancier clothing to wear to the opera we booked. I found a dress and Danny bought a button up shirt.

On our way back we went underground to cross the street and somehow were confused about the direction we had to go when we came back up. By the time we got back we were both done with walking.

Day 24: April 5, 2018

We had a simple breakfast then took the train closer to the Central Market. We walked through and bought some sausages to compliment our earlier breakfast then some veggies to make a stir fry for supper. We also bought buns and pepperoni for lunch. Upstairs there were some food places and wares for sale. Danny had his eye on a chess board and I had my eye on a sweet langos (deep fried dough). The langos was covered with vanilla pudding, cinnamon sugar, strawberries, cherries and Nutella. Neither of us regret our purchases.

From there we walked 48 minutes to the City Park, forgetting our hate of walking from the day before. In the park we saw Vajhunyad Castle which holds a museum inside. We do not usually enjoy museums so we skipped it.

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Vajhunyad Castle, Budapest

We also saw the statue of Anonymous, the unknown chronicler at the court of King Béla III who wrote a history of the early Hungarians.

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Anonymous Statue, Budapest

We decided to take in the beautiful day and walked over to a dock overlooking the castle for a rest. There was an older lady there with her young grandson. The boy was crawling over her as they sat together on the dock. He settled in to her arms as they watched a dog fetch a stick in the water. She gave him a sweet kiss on the cheek. I was in tears thinking of all the amazing times I had like that with my grandma. I wish I was still that age sitting in my grandma’s lap protected and carefree. You don’t think it will end and then…

We walked to try to find the bath, but ended up near the main road at the Millennium Monument. It was a nice surprise. The entire monument was quite grandiose. In the middle was a statue of the seven Chieftains of Magyar that brought their tribes to Hungary from the Urals. There were also other interesting statues to either side of other Hungarian national leaders.

We walked back the way we had come to get to Széchenyi Thermal Baths. It was built in 1913 and has natural hot spring waters in 15 indoor baths and 3 outdoor pools. There are also saunas and other spa services.

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Széchenyi Thermal Bath (photo courtesy of http://www.szechenyibath.hu/)

We booked a private cabin to change in and store our stuff. They provide bracelets that allow you access into your cabin. We explored the building and became lost very quickly. There were so many pools and finding your way between them was very confusing. To go into the swimming pool, you have to have a swim cap. We bought some and did a couple of laps in the outdoor pool. After we sat in the outdoor hot pool for a bit until we went back inside for our massages.

We felt quite relaxed after that so we went back and chilled in the outdoor hot pool. We watched two older gentlemen finishing a chess match and then sat in the pool. The atmosphere was very chill. Everyone was just hanging out and chatting. People in Budapest can get a doctor’s note to take a day off to go to the baths. I think that would be quite wonderful.

We walked back home and Jordan, our roomie, had made us some pasta for supper. Afterwards we took the train to the Danube river to see Budapest at night. Everything was lit up and beautiful. We saw the Parliament and then walked along the river passed Shoes on the Danube Bank. It is a memorial for those killed by fascist militiamen in Budapest during WWII. They were ordered to take off their shoes and were shot at the edge of the water.

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Shoes on the Danube Bank, Budapest

We walked across the Chain Bridge to the Pest side to wait for the start of our Budapest mystery tour.

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Chain Bridge at night, Budapest

The tour took us up to Buda Castle and we were told about how the Ottoman Empire took over the castle with three men. A man in line for the throne had promised the Turk Sultan that if he became King the Sultan could rule Hungary when he died as he had no heirs. Before his death, however, he had a son who he wanted to become King. When he died, the Sultan arrived and invited the queen and her son to feast in his tents outside the castle. Three of his men went to the castle and asked for entry to do some sightseeing. They were let in and took over the major towers. They put up their flags to make it look like they had taken the castle. The queen admitted defeat and Hungary went to the Ottomans.

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Evening walk up to Buda Castle, Budapest

We walked over to the Fisherman’s Bastion where we were told of Vlad III or Dracula. Transylvania was originally located in Hungarian lands. Apparently Dracula enjoyed watching people impaled: legs spread by two horses and a stake in the obvious place. He became known as Vlad the Impaler. One day two monks found refuge in a castle during a storm. In the morning they went to thank the owner and realized it was Dracula who they had heard terrible stories about. He asked them to come for a walk to see his forest. There they saw a forest of Turkish bodies on stakes. He asked them if they thought he was a Godly man or the devil himself. The first monk praised him and said, “Of course you are a Godly man. These men deserved to die”. The second monk stated, “You are the devil himself”. He impaled the first and let the second go. Apparently Dracula valued honesty.

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Night view of Matthias Church from the Fisherman’s Bastion, Budapest

The tour was interesting, but it started to get a bit boring by the end. The tour ended in Buda so we walked down some back streets to a bus stop. The bus then took us back to our place for some sleep.

Day 25: April 6, 2018

We woke up late and then walked to Hunyadi Park. We are both very much enjoying all of the markets and the one in Hunyadi Park was the closest to us. We bought meat for supper, strawberries, some chive cheese (almost like dry cottage cheese, but in a brick), a cooked sausage and cheese buns. We sat in the park and ate our lunch. We stopped at a grocery store on the way back to get some breakfast food. We caved and bought some desserts that were not as amazing as we wanted them to be.

We rested for a bit then got dressed for the opera. Near the train station we found a fancy place for supper. We shared a tomato and onion salad that had a sweet dressing. Danny had boar and I had venison as our mains. Both were doused in gravy which I found to be too much, but Danny thought was fine.

From there we walked to Erkel Theatre for the opera. We sat in the park and watched some dogs playing.

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Danny and I ready for the opera in Budapest

Mozart’s The Magic Flute which premiered in 1791 started at 7:00 pm in the Erkel Theatre. There were English subtitles on a screen above the stage, but they took away from the show a bit as you had to focus on reading instead of the music. The story had what you would expect of the 1700s: women being temptresses and devoting your life to God will save you. After the show we walked home and went to sleep.

Day 26: April 7, 2018

We were supposed to wake up at 7:00 am, but I was feeling a bit under the weather so we slept another two hours. We had breakfast then took the bus to Gellért Hill. We came walking up the hill the back way through a residential area. We saw the Liberty Statue which commemorates the Soviet liberation of Hungary in WWII.  Behind the statue is the Citadella, a fortress built in 1851 by the Austrians during their occupation.

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Liberty Statue with the Citadella in the back, Budapest

We walked down the front side of the hill and passed Gerard of Csanád Monument. He was the first Bishop of Csanád in the Kingdom of Hungary from 1030 until his death.

From there we walked in the rain back to the Pest side to a ruin pub: Szimpla Kert. Ruin pubs are bars set up in abandoned buildings and Budapest is quite well known for them. We walked in, looked around and Danny stated, “It smells like a bottle depot”. We realized we would not be getting food there as they seemed to only offer drinks. I think the atmosphere would be quite enjoyable at night. We walked across the street to a pizza place. We got pizza and ice cream. Any place that offers both of those is amazing in my books. Danny got a plum and cinnamon ice cream which was surprisingly very good.

We walked back home from there and Danny went for a run while I did some yoga. We had some tea and started to plan the first part of Slovenia. We had supper and then played some cards: 31 and then Newfoundland poker. How Canadian of us! We packed up our stuff and headed to bed.

We are so grateful to Jordan for letting us stay with her while we were in Budapest. It was nice to be somewhere that was homey and chat with someone from back home. We very much enjoyed Budapest, but are looking forward to escaping the city as we move on to Slovenia!

M

Riga and Kiev

Day 20: April 1, 2018

Laying in the airport in Riga I fell asleep for maybe an hour and then a guy with his hat half over his eyes sat next to us. I thought he was on a call because he was talking and laughing. When I sat up he was laid back resting. I decided to go for a walk and I FaceTimed by parents for a bit. I went back and Danny was still sleeping so I laid down again. I woke up another hour later freezing cold. There were more people moving through the outside doors and the metal benches had holes so you were never able to warm up. I went for another walk then Danny finally woke up. I told him I was freezing so we moved to another spot a floor down. We found a spot in the back where it was slightly warm and there were less people. I slept for maybe another 2 hours then walked again to warm up. Danny slept through it all.

I researched Riga for a bit and found some maps near an information booth. Danny finally woke up around 7:00 am. We bought bus tickets at a shop and then went outside. It was quite chilly: 3 degrees. The bus took about half an hour to get to the Old Town.

We walked to the Central Market that opened at 8:00 am. The first building was meats and the smell of sausages was very enticing. The next building had breads. We bought a pizza looking thing, but it had some sort of odd cheese on it. It didn’t taste much like pizza. We bought a spinach roll that had a sweeter dough than I expected and a poppyseed crunch pastry which I very much enjoyed. The next building was fruits and vegetables. We picked up some carrots and apples. The last building was fish which was very smelly. We went back to the meat building and got some sausages. All the food we picked up ended up being only about 5 euros. Not many of the merchants spoke English, but we were able to work it out.

We walked into the Old Town and the streets were dead. It was Easter Sunday so it wasn’t too surprising. We walked around pretty aimlessly checking out all the streets.

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Streets of Riga

The place I most wanted to visit after my hours of studying in the airport was the Cat House which has two black cats on the turrets. The homeowner was declined membership into the Great Guild so the owner turned the cats so that their tails faced the house of the Great Guild.

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Cat House, Riga

Riga’s Old Town was very pretty: lots of churches, Old Town walls, and a statue of Death.

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Statue of Death, Riga

We stopped at a café. I had a chai latte with a bunny in cinnamon on top.

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Easter Bunny Chai

We people watched for a while then went out to see what everyone was taking pictures of. It was the House of the Blackheads a 14th century guild of unmarried German merchants.

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House of the Blackheads, Riga

We walked to St. Peter’s Church and there was already a small crowd for the free walking tour. It was approximately a two hour tour. We learned about the origins of Riga and Bishop Albert who brought Christianity to the Latvian pagans. It was owned by Germany, Poland, Sweden and Russia. The major industry during the German period was trade as it had a good central location between Germany, Russia and the Nordic countries. It’s first independence was obtained in 1918 then again in 1991. The guide talked about how during the Soviet rule they banned religion so the churches were repurposed. One in Riga was a disco and one in Estonia was a museum of Atheism. The major industries in Latvia now are forestry and pharmaceuticals. Latvia’s major sport is hockey. How much of that did you know about Latvia?

On the walking tour we walked past the house of the Great Guild. They were merchants that would have had political control of the town as well. To be in the guild you had to be a wealthy, German male.

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House of the Great Guild, Riga

We also saw the Three Brothers a famous Riga site. The buildings show the different architecture of the time. From left to right they are from the 18th, 17th and 15th centruries.

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Three Brothers, Riga

After the tour we walked back to the bus stop to go back to the airport. We very much enjoyed our stop over in Latvia as we really knew nothing about it. We ate our lunch in the airport and my teeth started chattering from being so cold. We had to walk around for a bit for me to warm up.

Through security we bought a chocolate Easter bunny to celebrate Easter. Easter is always one of my favourite holidays. First of all chocolate, but for my family it was always a really fun day. My parents still put out Easter eggs so that I can do a hunt. We colour Easter eggs and have a big meal. The snow is usually starting to melt and it’s relatively warm (it sounds like this was not the case this year). That combination means it is the best time for puddle jumping as well. I felt very sad to have missed it this year. We are having a ton of new experiences here, but there are also those things we are missing back home.

We had some ramen for supper then boarded our flight to Kiev. I was able to sleep on the plane probably from exhaustion. The SIM card we bought in the UK didn’t seem to work in Kiev which was a bit frustrating. We connected to the airport wifi and found the address for the Airbnb. I booked an Uber, but we had trouble connecting properly. We got the license plate and headed out to look for it. We saw him pass and walked to the parking lot where he was talking to the police regarding where he was parked.

We arrived at the Airbnb and then didn’t know how to contact the host. We got her phone number right before Danny’s phone died. Luckily she had an iPhone and there was free wifi in the restaurant we were standing outside. I messaged her and she scolded us for not messaging her from the airport. Oops. We had to wait about 30 minutes for her friend to arrive with the keys. It was quite windy, but not super cold. We were glad when we got inside and were able to sleep in an actual bed.

Day 21: April 2, 2018

We woke up at 6:00 am to scrounge up some breakfast and get to the train station for our tour to Chernobyl. We took an Uber to a McDonald’s near the train station and had some Egg McMuffins there. We walked up the street and checked into the tour. We were in smaller tour vans with fourteen other people.

For those who don’t know, on April 25, 1986 Reactor 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded. During a simulation of a station blackout, uncontrolled reaction conditions occurred. A fire resulted and radioactive material was released into the atmosphere.

On the hour and a half drive north to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone we wanted a Discovery Channel documentary called “Battle of Chernobyl”. It was really interesting, but I fell asleep. I will have to watch it again. From the parts I was awake for they had Gorbachev interviewed and he claimed to not know the extent of the issue until Sweden started asking about radiation levels they were seeing in their country. It is hard to know if he was lying or if his subordinates were too scared to tell him. The film also talked about how the Soviets asked for help from other countries to build robots to get the situation under control, but they didn’t provide accurate radiation levels. This resulted in many of the first robots not working at all. The helicopter pilots that flew over the site dropping sand bags would do 25-30 passes a day over the site accumulating fatal levels of radiation. The Soviets claimed that only 27 people died as a result of the explosion. However, they did not keep statistics on the after effects so it is unknown how many people actually died.

We arrived at the 30 km zone and had to have our passports checked. To go into the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone you must go with a tour. They obtain the permission required for you to enter.

We continued to our first stop: a village called Zalissya that was evacuated following the Chernobyl disaster. We were able to walk into some of the houses and a store.

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Abandoned house in Zalissya

All that was remaining was mostly papers and some furniture. Looters had been there following the explosion and then the government decided to clear out as much as they could.

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Inside an abandoned home, Zalissya

We drove on to the town of Chernobyl which is now the base for the workers in the exclusion zone. The village part was abandoned and the city part is occupied by the workers. They work on 15 day shifts to limit their radiation exposure. Approximately 3,000 people live inside the exclusion zone.

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Danny standing on the streets of Chernobyl

We saw some of the robots that were used during the disaster to put out fires and move debris.

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Robot used to clear debris at the site

We also saw a memorial built by the firefighters for the first responders.

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Memorial for the first responders

From there, we went to an old Soviet army base called Radar Dugar-1. The base was labelled on maps as an abandoned children’s summer camp. There were approximately 1,800 people on the base during the 1970s. The radar system was built to detect missiles from the USA within 5 minutes, allowing them 25 minutes to respond. It was believed to be only 30% accurate making it unusable. The radar was massive and built in 1975. Due to the noise it made it was named the Russian Woodpecker.

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Radar Dugar-1

Next we stopped at Kopachi which was an abandoned town that became a burial ground for radioactive waste. We were able to walk through a Kindergarten. Off to the side of the sidewalk was a hot spot. The Geiger counter was placed next to it and the level just kept going up.

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Kindergarten in Kopachi

Next we got a panoramic view to the reactor site. To the left, you could see Reactors 1, 2, 3 and then 4 was covered by an arch. Across the cooling pond you could see where they were building Reactors 5 and 6. The cranes are still paused there.

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View towards Reactors 1-4 over the cooling pond

We stopped for lunch at the worker’s canteen for a Soviet lunch. There was no colour to the food. Basic noodles, breaded chicken, soup, bread and coleslaw. It wasn’t as bad as it looked.

We got a closer look at the site after lunch and were able to see that arch that was built over Reactor 4. An original shelter was built over Reactor 4 following the disaster in 1986 by the Soviets. When the Soviet Union collapsed Ukraine was left to handle the site. The original cover was meant to last 30 years, but upon further inspection it needed to be replaced much sooner. The international community helped to donated money to a fund for the new arch. The other reactors were actually operational following the disaster with the last one being shut down in 2000.

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Reactor 4 covered with the new arch

We drove on to the closest city to the site: Prypiat. It was built to be a model Soviet city. It rewarded the citizens that worked hard for their country at the nuclear power site. It had state of the art buildings, a swimming pool, a modern grocery store, a hotel, a stadium and a hospital. There was also an amusement park that was scheduled to open 4 days after the evacuation.

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Hotel, Prypiat
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Supermarket, Prypiat
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Amusement Park, Prypiat

We were able to walk around and even saw a moose. Since 2011 no one is allowed inside the buildings in Prypiat due to the structural integrity. The guide had pictures showing how the city used to look.

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Guide showing how the Main Street through Prypiat used to look

From there we drove back and had our radiation levels checked by machines. You placed your hands on the sides of the machine and it told you if you were okay to go or not. The Geiger counters were reviewed to see our exposure levels. We had about 3.0 mSv of irradiation which is less than having an X-ray taken.

We drove back to Kiev and found a nearby place to eat. It was the most delicious Georgian food. We had a salad, a pizza thing and Khachapuri (a cheesy bread, ours had stewed vegetables in the middle). It was all amazing.

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Khachapuri

We took an Uber back from there and went to sleep.

Day 22: April 3, 2018

We woke up fairly early to take in Kiev. We saw the Princess Olga Monument and St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery very close to our Airbnb.

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St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery, Kiev

We then walked passed The Wall of the People’s Memory of the Victims of Ukraine 2014-2017. I was actually a bit shocked with the number of people listed. The wall shows the names, photographs and background of 2,896 Ukrainians who were killed or died during the period from March 17, 2014 to February 19, 2016.

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The Wall of the People’s Memory of the Victims of Ukraine 2014-2017, Kiev

 

We then walked passed the Canadian Embassy on the way down to Independence Square. We saw the Founders of Kyiv Monument. We looked out at the square and imagined it filled with people.

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Independence Square, Kiev

After we visited I found this set of pictures comparing the before and after of Kiev’s Independence Square during the Russian-Ukrainian war: Before and After Pictures Independence Squre

We walked back up from Independence Square looking for somewhere to eat breakfast. We passed St. Sophia’s Cathedral and Bohdan Khmelnystky Monument. He led an uprising against the Commonwealth in 1648-1654 that resulted in the creation of a state led by the Cossacks of Ukraine.

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St. Sophia’s Cathedral, Kiev

We ended up back at our Airbnb and ate breakfast in a cafe just outside. I had dumplings that were like perogies and Danny had potato pancakes. They definitely weren’t as amazing as the Georgian food the night before. We went to a different cafe nearby and had some gelato. We then took an Uber to the airport and flew to Budapest. We definitely did not do Kiev or the Ukraine justice with our short visit.

We arrived in Budapest and the weather was so much warmer! We caught a bus to the city centre and then transferred to Keleti train station. We had taken cash out at the airport, but what we thought was $50 was actually $300. Our math to do the conversion was not very good. The denominations are quite confusing: 1,000 Hungarian Forint = 5 Canadian Dollar. We tried to buy train tickets with a 10,000 ft not realizing it was $50 CAD so the machine wouldn’t take it. We then tried to split the bill by buying 2 croissants and the lady was very unhappy when we showed her our 10,000 ft. Now we understand why.

From Keleti train station it was a short walk to where we stayed. A friend from Danny’s work has a daughter going to school in Budapest and she was kind enough to let us stay in her spare room. She was waiting outside to greet us. Her place was very spacious and it was nice to be staying somewhere homey again. She had a foster cat who Danny and I both fell in love with. We chatted for a bit and then we went up the street for some supper. We had goulash soup and a plate with chicken, fries, sausage and salad.

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Supper in Budapest

Grocery shopping was next! The produce had to be put on a scale to be weighed, then you enter the code and it prints a tag. When we got to the till with our one onion the lady said something to us in Hungarian and Danny dolefully said, “Sorry”. She then put the onion on a chair behind her and continued. We never got the onion.

We are looking forward to our next couple of days in Budapest!

M

Scotland Part 2

Day 15: March 27, 2018

We slept until 6:00 am then got up and ate a quick breakfast. I’ve been having some weird dreams recently. Last night we were driving across rivers and then we had to go in a spiral through all these rivers. It was all very odd, but was likely a reflection of the ford experience in Wales.

We booked the ferry the day before to Orkney Islands. It was quite expensive for us to get there with a car so we hoped it would be worth it. We arrived early and checked in the car then waited for about an hour and a half to be loaded onto the ferry from Scrabster to Stromness. We went to the upper deck and sat in some comfy chairs. It was not very busy and the ferry was quite fancy by our standards. We explored the restaurant and gift shop. We ate some snacks and then we arrived in Stromness. We drove straight off the ferry to Skara Brae. In 1850 a severe storm uncovered a stone-built Neolithic or New Stone Age settlement at Skara Brae dated between 3100-2500 BC. We got out and were almost blown over by the wind. We went to the visitor center and watched a short film. Then we walked through an exhibition explaining what they had found at the site.

Outside into the rain we went! We started in a replica of one of the homes found at Skara Brae. It was very interesting to walk through. There was a dresser at the back wall made of stone, beds set up with stone partitions, a hearth in the middle, shelves built into the stone wall and holes in the ground for food storage.

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Inside the replica house at Skara Brae.

From there we walked out to the actual houses. They had little stones along the walk with the years of historic events. We passed Stonehenge, and the Egyptian pyramids back until 3100 BC with the houses at Skara Brae. We were able to walk around above and look in.

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Inside the actual home from 5,000 years ago.

The houses were interconnected through hallways that were covered. There were no roofs on them except for hut 7 which had a glass roof placed on to protect it in the 1970s, but it actually created an environment that was destroying the stones. In 2005, it was decided to cover the glass roof with grass. The conditions in that location were quite harsh as we were experiencing.

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The outside of the homes.

There was a small shed there showing pictures of how the settlement may have looked. A very knowledgeable guide gave us some interesting facts. The roofs were likely covered with the previous year’s crops rather than being stone. The walls were not thick enough to support a stone roof. It is unknown how many people would have lived in this settlement.

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Depiction of what the settlement may have looked like 5,000 years ago.

Many of the houses had small rooms behind the dresser which you could only enter from the left. There is believed to be some significance as all the homes had this, but it is unknown the purpose.

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Room that could only be entered from the left.

From there, we drove to the Ring of Brodgar which was a bit of a walk from the car. It probably wasn’t too far, but it seemed to be a very long walk because it was so rainy and windy. The Ring of Brodgar is believed to have been a ceremonial meeting place 4,000-4,500 years ago. There was a fence around it for reconstruction so the view wasn’t that great and it was very muddy.

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The best picture I took of Ring of Brodgar.

We went back to the car and had cheese, sausage and crackers for lunch. Then on to the Standing Rocks of Stenness which is a stone circle raised about 5,000 years ago. It is assumed to be for ceremony and ritual. We were able to walk right up to them. They were sitting in a field with some sheep.

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Standing Rocks of Stenness

From there we went to Maeshowe which can only be visited with a guided tour. We booked a tour in the visitor centre, but had to wait 45 minutes for the next one. We dried off and had a tea. We were the only ones on the 2:00 tour. There was a short bus ride to the site and then about a five minute walk to Maeshowe.

Maeshowe is a chambered tomb built approximately 5,000 years ago. From the outside it looks like a hilly, grass-covered mound. Inside it was much warmer and drier. Sadly we were unable to take any pictures inside. The walls were 10 feet wide which meant that cement was not needed to hold the structure up. The stones used were also the full length of the tomb which made them very stable. Some people believe the stones were moved using rolling logs, however, there are not many trees on Orkney. Another theory is the use of a bed of seaweed the rock could be slid on. Stone masons still use this technique today. The soil surrounding would have aided with the construction. They would have built the slope as they put on each stone allowing the stones to be slid up the slope and into place.

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The tomb was built to store bones only. Bodies would have been left to have the flesh removed. The middle of the tomb is an open space so it is believed it was used for funerals and visiting ancestors. There were three chambers for bones and then the passage we walked through to get inside. As people started burying bodies, the cairn was no longer used. It was sealed for 3,000 years until 1150 when some Vikings looking for shelter from a storm bashed in the roof to get inside. They threw out the bones so nothing was found inside. They did leave runes etched into the walls in various places. Our guide translated some and they were exactly what you would imagine a Viking would say and also simple things similar to “Merai wuz here”. One had written up the stone and you could tell he was quite tall based on where the writing ends.

Click here for more information:  Maeshowe

The tombs were covered again until the 1870s when archaeologists brought tourists and covered the roof. The walk back to the bus was the worst. You couldn’t look up or the rain would stab your eyes. We had some extra time so we drove out to Yesnaby. We didn’t find the rock from the pictures, but did find a nice coastline. It was still killer windy though.

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Danny getting blown by the wind at Yesnaby.

We drove back to the ferry and had a calm ride back. We stopped for supper in Thurso at Y Not. We had a fancy haggis which kind of tasted like mushy meatloaf, pork belly and tenderloin with apple gravy, a potato and apple mix and blood pudding with mango. It was all very different, but delicious. Back to our place to do laundry and rest.

Day 16: March 28, 2018

Sleep in! We had a nice breakfast and Danny researched train tickets to get to Beaumont Hamel, a monument where his great uncle’s names are inscribed. The cost of the tickets ended up being super expensive. We think it is likely because he would have been travelling on Good Friday.

We drove to Wick for a tour of the Old Pulteney Distillery. It was a rather small distillery. They produce around 2,000 casks a year. They had two stills used like distillation towers to boil the alcohol out.

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Danny in front of a still.

Then the alcohol moves to a condenser: copper pipes with a stream of water cooling them outside. The casks used to store the alcohol were made of oak and were mostly old bourbon casks from the USA. They also had some sherry casks from Spain. We were able to see the warehousing as well. To be a true Scottish whiskey, it must be aged a minimum of three years. We were then able to taste two of their whiskeys. The first one burned, but the second one tasted watery.

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Casks in the warehouse.

We left there and got some ice cream. Our first of the trip! We drove back to our place and had smoked cod, potatoes and cabbage for supper. We re-watched Nailed It on Netflix. If you haven’t watched it yet you should. Danny was almost in tears from laughing a couple of times.

Day 17: March 29, 2018

Up at 6 am for a quick breakfast. We had to throw out some of the spare food we had because we wouldn’t be able to take it on the plane. It feels awful throwing food out. We drove down through Inverness to Loch Ness. We went through the visitor centre where they gave the background on the Loch Ness monster. They showed how the sightings could be mistaken for different things like birds, waves or sticks. I thought it was interesting.

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Loch Ness

We drove a bit further along the lake to Urquhart Castle. We ate leftovers for lunch in the car and then went inside. There was a film explaining the history of the castle. The first defences could date from around AD 580 and the first castle was built in the 1220s.

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View towards Urquhart Castle

In the 1300s, the castle became a strategic fortress in the Wars of Independence. During the 1400s, many of the buildings were destroyed during the 150 years of battle between the MacDonald Lords and the Crown. The Crown finally destroyed most of the castle to prevent the MacDonalds from using it. It definitely was not as impressive as the Welsh castles as it was mostly destroyed.

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Inside Urquhart Castle

We headed back to Inverness airport where we had to wait for a bit to drop our bags. For supper we had nachos and haggis. Not together. I’ve decided I quite like haggis.

We arrived in London and found a bus to the hotel, but we had to go back to the terminal to get some cash for the bus. The hotel was quite basic. Your typical cheaper hotel.

Day 18: March 30, 2018

Danny and I had a full English breakfast in the hotel for a full $45 CAD. We ate as much as we could to try to tide us over until lunch time, but then both felt awful. Danny went for a run and I went to the lobby and typed for this blog. The power in the hotel went out eventually so I gave up and went back to the room. When it was back on we watched an Africa special of Top Gear. Finally we went to the Travelodge next door for supper. We had planned on venturing further, but it was raining quite hard all day. The day was quite boring and I was feeling very annoyed by the end. We had wanted a rest day, but I just felt impatient. Maybe because the hotel wasn’t as homey?

Day 19: March 31, 2018

We went to the Travelodge for breakfast as we found out it was cheaper there. They had croissants and Nutella which we put together and was AMAZING. We started our walk to the airport, which was much easier than Google Maps made it look. Air Baltic check in wasn’t open yet so we sat in the main area. I walked around while Danny played Risk. We played a round of rummy and sat around. A friend FaceTimed me and we chatted for a bit until it was time for Danny and I to go check in. We dropped our bags and went through security. Danny had to put his liquids in a smaller bag and my bag got pulled aside for me not bringing the iPad out of my carry on. Every airport is different so it’s really hard to know what to do.

We went to Nando’s for supper. You had to order at the bar and get your own utensils and beverages. Ir reminded me of Australia with the lack of service. I always find it odd, but it’s just a different way of doing things. We sat in the main area waiting for our gate to show on the board. I was getting really bored. A couple of days of not doing anything and then just sitting in the airport all day was not fun. Our gate finally showed up and we walked to the gate. I slept a bit on the flight to Riga. We hadn’t originally planned to stop in Riga, but the cheapest flight had a 19 hour layover there so we thought: “Why not?”. We went through customs in Riga and then looked for a spot to lay down. Part of the plan with the layover was to get out of paying for a hotel by sleeping in the airport. Good idea, bad in practice. All the comfy benches were taken so we went to metal benches behind the stairs and laid down for the night.

A night and day in Riga, Latvia then on to Kiev, Ukraine.

M

Scotland Part 1

Day 11: March 23, 2018

We woke up for another full day of driving. We had a really good time at Llanfair Clydogau. It was very nice to have our own space that felt homey. The seven hour drive to Fintry, just north of Glasgow, was uneventful. We stopped and ate sandwiches for lunch and got groceries for the next couple of days. Sometimes it feels we spend more time grocery shopping than anything else. We’ve gotten better at planning our meals so that we don’t have to shop as much. Trying to think of easy meals other than sandwiches for lunch has proven a bit difficult.

We had planned a detour up to a castle, but with already a full day of driving we opted out. The roads in Scotland seem to have more potholes than the near perfectly smooth roads of Wales. The fields here don’t have rock walls though which makes observing the landscape much easier.

We arrived at our Airbnb in the Fintry and were pretty excited. The outside looked like a fancy estate house, but when we walked in we were pretty disappointed. The whole place just felt dirty and really needs a deep clean. There were splatters on the kitchen cupboards, stains on the living room floor and a drip pan for the grey water on the toilet. It made me feel gross being there. We have stayed at our fair share of gross places, but I was really hoping to avoid them with the Airbnbs. Lesson learned: always look at the cleanliness rating and if it’s not a five star, don’t book it.

Day 12: March 24, 2018

We had a bit of a sleep in and a fancy breakfast of bacon and eggs. Danny had to do the cooking because going into the kitchen made me want to gag. I know I’m a bit OCD about cleanliness, but I can usually handle most places. We packed a lunch and headed into Edinburgh. The drive made Danny pretty stressed out. We had no idea where to park so we had to drive around aimlessly for a bit. We found a place to park and paid for a very expensive hour.

We walked to Stockbridge and then along the Water of Leith to Dean Gardens. We went up to Dean Village, which is a former village northwest of Edinburgh. We didn’t really see much so we walked back down the river and to the car.

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Water of Leith

On the walk we saw a potential parking spot that we wouldn’t have to pay for. We drove there and looked around. We decided we could get away with parking there so walked up to Princes Street Gardens and ate our wraps for lunch.

Lunch Time in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh

We walked up to Edinburgh Castle, but it looked too busy for us to want to go in. We walked down the Royal Mile and looked in the shops at the wool and cashmere wares. We stopped for a chai latte, hot chocolate and some treats at a café.

Edinburgh Castle

We walked up the street to Real Mary King’s Close where we had booked a tour. We were able to go through three different closes (narrow, steep alleyways off the Royal Mile) from the 1600s. The closes were normally named after a memorable occupant of one of the apartments on the close. Mary King was a widow whose husband had given her his right to vote and his title as merchant.

The housing off the Royal Mile was about 10 stories high. When the Town Chambers were built they closed the housing to fill some of the closes with cement to act as a foundation for the new building. The closes are now beneath the buildings, but were never originally underground.

The tour gave you a better idea of how people would have lived during that time and gave examples of actual people who had lived there. One room we walked through would have had fifteen people calling it home. They would have had straw on the ground as mattresses and one communal bucket in the corner that was emptied into the street twice a day by the youngest member of the family. Luckily I was not born in this time as I was the youngest member in my family for a very long time. Cows lived in the closes and all their excrement was also thrown into the street.

We walked into one room that showed a family’s experience with the plague. Pneumonic plague caused you to cough and puke until you had internal bleeding causing external bruising. This is where the term “Black Death” comes from. Bubonic plague resulted in boils that when they popped would leak inside you and infect you internally. Doctors would have to drain the boils then cauterize them with a hot poker. The plague doctors wore long beaked masks and robes thinking the plague was spread by smell. They would stuff the beaks with mosses and spices. While their belief was incorrect, their attire still protected them.

Plague Doctor’s Attire (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plague_doctor_costume)

There was also a room preserved from the 1700s which still had the original plaster. The plaster used horse hairs which you could see poking out on the roof. There was original flower stamping on the walls that would have been used in place of wallpaper which would have been too expensive. We very much enjoyed the tour. We walked back to the car and drove back to Fintry.

Day 13: March 25, 2018

We woke up fairly early to get out of the Airbnb as soon as possible. We drove north to Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. On the drive we listened to the two versions of the song “Loch Lomond” that Danny had on his iPod. This one is my favourite:

We stopped at Luss for a view of the lake. There was no one around and the sun was still coming up. We walked out on the dock, but then it started raining so we headed back to the car.

View of Loch Lomond from Luss

We drove to Firkin Point which was pretty firkin’ boring, but had washrooms. We took a little drive up to Glen Croe which was supposed to have a very nice view, but the rain and clouds hid the view from us. Soldiers inscribed “Rest and Be Thankful” onto a stone here on the military road in the 1740s.

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Rest and Be Thankful

Next we stopped at Falloch Falls which was nice.

Danny and I at Falloch Falls

We drove from Glen Coe to Fort William and stopped a couple of times for some pictures.

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View of Glen Coe

We passed Eilean Donan Castle and got some pictures, but didn’t go inside as it looked busy. You may be sensing the theme that we don’t enjoy crowds.

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Eilean Donan Castle

We crossed the Skye Bridge from Kyle of Lochalsh and drove down the road to Torrin, population of approximately 100. We found our Airbnb and the host came out from drywalling to chat and show us the place. We walked in and I thanked the lord that it was clean. The host had quite a funny personality. He told us a story of how a couple of days before he had to wake up one of the guys staying at his place to help with calving. Apparently the guy was covered by the end. Our host was waiting for the bad review on Airbnb. We told him that it would be quite an experience and to wake us if there was another calf coming.

He suggested some walks around town so off we went up a hill in town through a random field. The view was amazing with mountains behind, town beside and ocean ahead.

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View of Torrin

We headed down and walked along the beach where we were told there was a loop back to our place. We reached a house at the end of the beach so we turned up a field and then ended up having to go back the way we came or we would have walked through people’s yards. We aren’t sure if that is just the way here or if we aren’t good at following paths.

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Beach at Torrin
Day 14: March 26, 2018

We left fairly early so that we could see as much of the Isle of Skye as possible. We drove up the west side of the north coast to Uig. To get to theFairy Glen we had to herd some sheep off the road.

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Sheep on the Road to the Fairy Glen

We walked up a hill and there were more hills with terraces and we took some pictures there.

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Road to the Fairy Glen

We walked up a bit farther and there was a ring of rocks forming a spiral with some coins in the middle.

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Fairy Glen

We walked around and up a ridge with the sun still coming up. We barely spoke as we walked around because it was so much to take in. We both commented that it felt very spiritual there. The place reminded me of a Cree story that I was told. We walked to a little creek and sat down for a bit looking out over the glen.

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Fairy Glen

As most people know, I left my job at the end of last year and took some extra time off. I signed up for some courses as part of an Indigenous Community Relations certificate offered by the Faculty of Extension at the University of Alberta. The courses started with me wanting to learn more about Indigenous culture, but really became a personal journey. I have never considered myself spiritual. I grew up with no organized religion in my life and very much rejected the idea of religion. The first couple of courses the instructors talked about the Indigenous tie to spirituality and the difference between religion and spirituality. As I attended the courses I was able to define spirituality for me. For me, it is not linked to a god or religion, but to my inner self. I recently finished reading The Alchemist which talks about following omens to your Personal Journey. It stresses the importance of listening to your heart or your heart will stop talking to you. As I was sitting there in the Fairy Glen, I thought about the Cree story told to me, the courses I had taken, and The Alchemist and it made me feel like I was on the right path of my Personal Journey wherever that may go.

We drove up to the Duntulm sea viewpoint and ran out to Duntulm Castle, but it was fenced off due to instability.

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Duntulm Castle

Then we drove on to Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls viewpoint. It had a nice view out to the ocean. At this point we both really had to pee. One thing about Wales and Scotland, there are not toilets at the rest stops.

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Mealt Falls

We stopped at Lealt Falls where about four tourist vans stopped and people started flooding out.

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View to the Ocean from Lealt Falls

Then on to Old Man of Storr (Bodach an Stòir) which is a very recognizable Scottish landmark according to Danny. We were a bit disappointed by the amount of people there. We like to feel like we have the place to ourselves when we are hiking. It was a good hike up and the view was quite amazing.

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We found public toilets in Portree on our drive back down and stopped there for lunch as well. Then we got back on the road to Thurso.

We ran into a bit of trouble finding the Airbnb as we thought it was closer to Thurso. We both got a bit frustrated. We got a call back from the host who clarified the directions for us. We had an entire house that was quite old, but clean. Yay.

More Scotland to come. Orkney Islands!

M

Wales Part 2

Day 7: March 19, 2018

Early morning drive up to Snowdonia National Park. We had planned to do the Titan zip line, but it was canceled due to the weather. Instead we booked the Slate Caverns zip line. There was about an hour training to teach us how to use clickets and the trolley. The clickets used a magnet to open and close. We were then released into the course by ourselves. You got to crawl along the cavern walls, cross rope bridges and walk a tight rope. It took about 2.5 hours in total, which put us a bit behind our schedule for getting home before it was dark.

Danny in the Slate Caverns

We drove through the mountains in Snowdonia and stopped a couple of times to get some good pictures.

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Snowdonia National Park

We then drove across to the island of Anglesey to Beaumaris. We went to the castle there which was built in 1295 and would have cost about $12.5 million CAD in today’s money. King Edward I built this castle along with quite a few other in Wales to cement his conquest there. Beaumaris was the last of a ring of castles, but was never completed due to the need for money for the war in Scotland.

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Beaumaris Castle

We got some nice views of Snowdonia across the Menai Strait as we were leaving Beaumaris. We drove down to Caernarfon Castle which was built in 1283 again by Edward I. It was also never completely finished.

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Caernarfon Castle

There were some interesting stories about Edward I and how he tried to have the Welsh accept him as their ruler. He used the Welsh legend of Macsen and Elen. Macsen was a Roman governor who dreamed of a beautiful maiden in a far-off land. He eventually travelled to Wales where he meets Elen, the daughter of a Caernarfon chieftain. Macsen marries Elen and he rules the land. Edward uses this legend to relate to himself, a foreign ruler who is accepted by the people.

Edward I also had a fascination with King Arthur. He had around table as was used by King Arthur. Geoffrey of Monmouth, a Welsh writer, wrote the first major biography of King Arthur so Edward tried to use this to his advantage. The legends stated that King Arthur would rise again to rule which Edward didn’t like. He had Arthur and Guinevere buried to show they were not coming back and that he was the true ruler.

We were a bit late leaving and ended up driving back in the dark. The i10 does not have the best headlights and the curvy roads didn’t make it a very fun drive. We stopped in Aberystwyth for fish and chips and then picked up some groceries. We headed back home and got in quite late.

Day 8: March 20, 2018

Sleep in day! Eggs and gammon for breakfast and then drove to Cardiff. We started the day at St. Fagans which was suggested by a friend from Cardiff. It was a village with historical buildings that you could walk around (similar to the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village outside of Edmonton). We very much enjoyed seeing all the different places. There was a farmstead from the Iron Age that you could walk into. It was very spacious inside.

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Roundhouse from the Iron Age

A set of buildings that I really enjoyed was the Houses through the Decades. They were row houses that were built for mine workers styled in furnishings from 1805, 1855, 1925, 1955 and 1985.

We went to the second level above a set of shops and found a tea room playing some enchanting music from the 1920s. I got very excited about this. That is the time period I believe I was meant for! We started to leave and I told Danny we had to go back and have tea there. We got the Welsh brew which was delicious and toast with rarebit (a sauce of melted cheese). I was not a fan of the rarebit.

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Tea time

We made our way back to the car and drove to our friend’s place. She was gracious enough to let us park in her drive while we walked around Cardiff. We walked to Cardiff Castle and browsed around there. One of the most interesting parts was “The Keep” which was built by Norman invaders around 1081. It was originally wooden, but replaced by the present stone version in the 1130s.

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The Keep of Cardiff Castle

From there we headed for Cardiff Bay. Along the way we passed some vendors, one of whom was selling Welsh cake and shortbread. I had previously smelled a candle that was Welsh cake scented. It smelled delicious so I was looking forward to tasting it. It was very yummy!

We walked around the bay for a bit and then walked back along the river. We sat in the playground across from our friend’s until she got home. She fed us some delicious lemon cake and then we chatted. Another friend arrived and we went down the street to a very lush Thai place. It did not disappoint. We enjoyed catching up with them, discussing travel plans and reminiscing about our trip to Africa. We drove back home for the night and went to sleep right away.

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Supper with friends

Day 9: March 21, 2018

The plan was to drive up to Snowdonia again to see more castles, but after two long days with lots of driving we decided to take another rest day. I think all the castles were starting to blur together too. We had some breakfast and then started planning. I worked on Scotland and Danny worked on Slovenia. The internet was not working very well so we were getting a bit frustrated. We decided to have some lunch and then go for a drive. We went up the hill we had mistakenly gone to our first day in Wales. We were hoping to hike to get a better view, but there were fences blocking us in every direction. We did find a sign that indicated a burial site beside where we were parked. It was from 2300-800 BC. We walked up the hill and there was a rock with a circular ditch around. There seems to be so much history around.

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Burial Site near Llanfair Clydogau

We drove back down to Lampeter and sat in a coffee shop to get some better wifi. We finished our planning and then I updated our expenses spreadsheet. We’ve been spending less on food than we had assumed because we’ve been cooking ourselves. The car was more expensive than we were planning and I can’t remember if I had included the cost of gas. Oops.

Day 10: March 22, 2018

Another early morning drive up to Snowdonia. Our Airbnb host had lent us a map and showed us exactly where to park to do the hike up to Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales. It was very windy when we arrived at the car park. We took the Miner’s Trail up that was supposed to be a bit easier, but an extra kilometre.

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Danny on the hike up to Snowdon

It was a nice easy walk around two lakes then we weren’t sure where to go. There was no real visible trail. Two other sets of people were also trying to figure it out. We all eventually just started climbing and found the trail. It was very steep going up and very windy. Gusts would come up and if you were off balance you could easily trip. We reached a point with some snow and stopped for a break. We went up a bit farther, but the snow was covering the path. The snow was very slippery and the wind made it even more scary. We decided that it was time to turn back.

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View down from the highest point we reached at Snowdon

We took the Pyg Track back which was a bit more steep, but there was a nice view into the valley below.

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View into the valley from the Pyg Track

We made it back to the car two hours early because we didn’t climb all the way to the summit. Finally ahead of schedule! We decided we had time to do one more castle.

After eating our lunch of sandwiches we drove to Harlech Castle. It was built in 1283 again by Edward I. At peak there were 950 men working on the castle: 227 masons, 115 quarries, 30 smiths, 22 carpenters and 546 labourers. Walking through the castle we had the place to ourselves. We walked up some of the towers and you could see out to the coast.

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Harlech Castle

In one of the rooms there were stone cannonballs that were from a previous siege on the castle.

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Danny stealing cannonballs

When we left the castle we decided to drive up a 20% grade road to get a better view of the castle. The road didn’t have many places to turn around and the road kept narrowing. We met a car coming down and had to roll down into this little drive for them to get passed. We finally were able to turn around and drive back down. There was no view of the castle from there due to the high stone walls so our scary experience did not pan out.

The rolling hills, narrow roads, stone houses, fields of sheep and enchanting castles of Wales did not disappoint. The Welsh we met were very proud of their heritage and they have made their language a priority. We heard lots of people speaking Welsh, although we were told only about 20% actually speak it. Their road signs do show both Welsh and English.

Scotland is next!

M