Archives for September 2011

Perpetual postcard.

Picture perfect.

Can you see the park we swam at beneath the castle?

One of the many appeals of Slovenia is the opportunity for outdoor adventures. The area around Bled in particular offers visitors plenty of opportunities to get outside. With only a limited amount of time in the area, we decided to take the classic hike: around the lake with a stop at the Velika Osojnica viewpoint.

Family/friends from home, can you read my shirt?

Walking along the water was more of a stroll than a hike. We passed a few sweet old Slovenian women beginning their day by bathing in the lake. We also got a closer view of the famous island. This little island and the church upon it are what make Bled the romantic and picturesque destination that it is. You’ll be seeing plenty of photos.

The Church of the Assumption plays an important role in town. On weekends you can spot grooms carrying their brides up the 99 steps to the church door. We kept our eyes open for a glimpse of the local tradition but I think it was a bit too early in the day for wedding festivities.

The trailhead for the viewpoint took us up up up and up the side of the mountain. I kept thinking the end must be near… but no. There’s even a nice little spot with a bench at the top of a very steep set of stairs that makes you think you’re at the top, but you’re not. Persevering was well worth the effort, the view from the tippy-top was even better.

xo, jill


Be still my heart.

After our day of sightseeing in Ljubljana, we took a bus to our next Slovenian destination: Bled.

I am so in love with this little town. Bled is a very popular tourist destination (you’ll see why in my next post) but we weren’t tripping over tourists. Even with the World Rowing Championships in town, Bled wasn’t very crowded.

photo by Mike

The B&B we stayed in was a giant traditional house with three floors and several rooms. I loved the house but the atmosphere was a bit… unfriendly. We think our host may have been having a bad day (or two).

Just outside we found the proof that Slovenians tend to be religious.

Whatever happened to gnome lawn art?

After settling in to our room, our first order of business was to swim in the gorgeous green lake. Due to the regatta, swimming was forbidden in several areas. We chose to swim at a park located under the local castle. We left our cameras in the room in favor of a worry free afternoon.

In the evening we walked along the water and enjoyed the fresh air. Being outside in pleasant weather feels like a luxury when you know you’re heading back to heat and humidity in just a few short days.

I found a few pretty flowers too.

xo, jill

City of Love


We arrived in Ljubljana after dark. We checked into our hostel, which was actually dormitory housing for the university, and set out to explore the city. Searching for food on an empty stomach is sometimes the most annoying part of travel. I tend to get a little grumpy when I’m hungry. Mike tends to want to find the perfect meal. It rarely goes well. We ended up eating the one food we were hoping to avoid: felafel. (Nothing against it, but when you live where we do you tend to eat it a lot.)

The next morning after breakfast in the dining hall we walked towards the center of the city. We were lucky to catch a free city tour just as it was leaving the square. Free walking tours are one of my favorite things to do in a new city. We were also lucky that our guide was an anthropologist and was very knowledgeable about Ljubljana and Slovenia in general.

To get started with our tour we went past Triple Bridge. There’s a main crossing in the middle and two smaller crossings on the sides. Originally cars were allowed over the main crossing and pedestrians took the outer sides. Now the center of town is a pedestrian only zone and people can cross the bridge any which way they like.

The city also has an unofficial lovers bridge for anyone wanting to lock their love. Slovenians like to refer to Ljubljana as the “City of Love” because the word for “beloved” sounds very similar: “ljubjlena”.

Our guide led us to St. Nicholas’ Cathedral to view the lovely dome. The main door of the cathedral depicts the 1250 years of Christianity in Slovenia and was dedicated to the pope. We were told that traditionally Slovenians are quite religious and we found this to be true later in our trip. (However, I checked out a few stats and it seems things are changing.)

Despite the warm weather, it was very pleasant to walk around the city. The buildings were old but charming and it never hurts to have a river winding through town. By the time our guide explained to us that a university education is essentially free (she paid about 20 euros, she guessed), I was feeling pretty jealous.

This street here will take you up to the castle on the hill…

but I insisted on riding the funicular. It’s not every day you have the opportunity to get your funicular on!

The highlight of the castle was essentially the view. We walked into a chapel briefly and were on our way out when a huuuge tour group was on their way in. It was comical as we waited at the door as a looong train of elderly tourists filed in. I felt a bit trapped.

Later we sat by the river at a cafe and enjoyed being outdoors in a pleasant place.

That night the city was having a festival with live music and street vendors galore. It’s always fun to be in town for a festival but eventually I grew tired of the music that had become “middle aged person jazz.” Mike disagreed but was nice enough to accompany me back for the night.

xo, jill

Crossing borders.

Slowly but surely.The destination Mike and I were most excited for on our trip was Slovenia. As we were preparing to leave Budapest, only 9 hours of train travel stood in our way.

We boarded the train and made ourselves comfortable in our very own little cabin (not sure the proper term for those). Very few people were riding the train that day. Nearly every other cabin was empty. So imagine our surprise when an elderly Hungarian couple made themselves comfortable in our little cabin too! Luckily, they were sweet and adorable. When offering us water the woman put the bottle up against Mike’s leg to help demonstrate that it was cold!

the view

After 4 hours they disembarked and we spent the remaining 5 hours on our own. I was glad for the extra space since the train was HOT and sprawling was really the only comfortable position.

xo, jill

Kiva Loan: September

9 down, 3 to go!

When I checked the balance in my Kiva account today I saw a number that made me very happy! Enough money had been repaid over the last month to entirely fund another loan (with just one penny left to spare). Awesome!

Photo from Nancy’s Kiva listing

September’s loan goes to Nancy. Nancy lives in Kenya and supports her family with her tailoring business. Over the last year Nancy has had enough success to hire one employee. She hopes to expand her business by using the loan to purchase more fabric.

Anyone else experiencing some Kiva success?

xo, jill

Terror, fried bread, and musical fountains.

Wrapping up.
Our last day in Budapest was comprised of an interesting mix of activities. First, we spent a good chunk of time buying our train ticket for the following day. The timings listed on the railway’s website were erroneous and figuring out the proper information involved two different ticket offices in two different locations.Once our tickets were purchased we were ready for some more exploration. Our first stop was at the House of Terror, a museum that details life in Hungary under the fascist Nazi regime and the Soviet controlled communist regime that immediately followed.The museum is located in the very spot that these regimes housed their secret police. Hundreds of people were brought to this building and jailed or executed in the basement. The basement cells have been recreated for visitors and are truly eerie to view. On the upper floors screens plays videos of people detailing the atrocities they lived through under both regimes.

Although many of the displays required reading long paragraphs on copy paper to be understood, the experience was still powerful. The scariest part was realizing that these horrible events happened really not so long ago.

After our somber visit to the House of Terror we walked around a bit searching for our next attraction. For me, that happened to be really tall ice cream.

crooked shades

We also stopped by The Great Synagogue (the largest in Eurasia) and The Great Market Hall.

I was mostly interested in getting a taste of lángos, fried bread with garlic.

That evening we strolled out to a bridge to get a nice capture of the city at golden hour.

click for larger viewing options

Then we continued on to Margaret Island to spend our evening in the park. We enjoyed laying in the grass and listening to the musical fountain. It was so much simpler than the fancy one at Dubai Mall. We both decided we’d take the simple fountain over the lavish one any day.

xo, jill
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