A Travellerspoint blog

Ahhhhh im Bleeding

two days in Bled, Slovenia

Besides the ferry from Italy to Croatia we only had one really long travel to do, this was between Dubrovnik (at the bottom of Croatia) and Slovenia. At first we weren’t going to stop in Slovenia, the rough plan was to train straight through to Austria. But we decided we had a few extra days to kill and we were knida sick of cities and keen to spend a few days in a laid back little town. So a quick look in our lonely planet and we found a little passage on a place called Bled. It fit all the critera; on the train line to Austria, small town, by a lake and near some mountains.

But to get there we first had to do a 4 hr bus ride from Dubrovnik to Split (where the train lines started), skewing into Bosnia for a quick stop to by some buns. We had 6 hrs to kill in Split before our night train to Zagreeb so we had a look round the city, not really expecting much. Splits a pretty cool place, another Venetian old town with the ruins of a Roman palace that one of the Cesar’s had built as a retirement home.

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There seemed to be a real mix of old and new design styles here with the modern costal boulevard melding into the Venetian old town and Roman ruins. This was also shown in the catacombs of the Roman Palace (which we got into for free after a quick chat with the guy on the door) where a modern sculpture exhibition was.

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Eventually we got on our night train to Zagreeb (7hrs), had a quick kip and woke up in northern Croatia. Not much to say about Zagreeb as we hopped on the first train to Ljubljana (Slovenia’s capital), arriving in a little over 2 hrs. Another 2 hr layover in Ljubljana, which was taken up by talking, or being talked to by one of the local drunks. Everything with him was very ‘comprehensive’ (his favorite word which he would add in anywhere he could), and after repeated attempts to explain Slovenia national pride, philosophy and convince us we were yuppies we had to leave to get on the train (what a shame).

Anyway we finally arrived at our destination, Bled. And it was a pretty impressive place, reminded us a bit of the Queenstown / Wanaka areas. Really nice lake with an island monastery in the middle, cliffs on one side with a castle precariously perched on the top and ringed by the julian alps.

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This is supposed to be Europe’s answer to the NZ adventure scene and in the summer you can do everything from caving, canyoning, mtb and white water rafting to skiing in the winter. We were in between seasons (just as well as rach was starting to get pretty sick) so had no temptation to partake in any of the sports. Although the Biathlon (cross country skiing and shooting) World Cup was on while we were there, lot of athletes doing training runs round the lake in lycra………. brrrrrrr.

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We spent our time relaxing and walking round the lake, eating out (what no pizza, we’re not in Italy anymore) and just taking time to soak up the mountain atmosphere. This is also where the trip started to take a nose dive in temperature, if you weren’t in the sun then it was freezing (not helping with rach’s cold). So on our last night we went to one of the lake side resorts and spent a good few hours soaking in their spas and hot pools.

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pam, you should never come here the swans are massive, you'd just freak out

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This was also where our camera finally gave up the ghost (hence the lack of photos). It’d been going for a good 5 years and we were wanting it to last the trip but secretly hopping it’d break so we could get a new fancy one.

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So Bled……… fairytale castles, resort hotels and awesome scenery.
Onto Austria to find a beer hall

Posted by jamienrach 04:09 Archived in Slovenia Comments (0)

Christmas and New Years 07-08

Glasgow, Edinburgh Hogmany and Ice Skating

So now for all of you who have been asking how our xmas and new years was this is for you. I know it’s a bit out of order (there is still 2 weeks of our European trip to go) but I thought I’d slip this in anyway.

Christmas was pretty low key, just me and Rach at home with our little tree. A leg of lamb and bottle of red for me and ample roast veggies for Rach.

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On the 29th James F had come to stay with us for the new years break mainly in anticipation of the Edinburgh hogmany festival and since it was more of a holiday for him he wanted to go and see Glasgow for a day as well. Sweet I thought, we haven’t been there yet, what a good idea James. Well if you ever have the privilege of going to a city with Mr. Fletcher then ask him this question first. “James why do you want to go to ‘place x’ is it a) you want to walk around the city and see the sights (which I assumed) or b) do you want to go for a bit of a shopping trip. When we arrived I found out it was more of answer b). Ah well after a good few hours of James and Rach (who was loving the shopping trip) dragging me around different shops I put my foot down and made us walk out to the Glasgow Necropolis and all of the overindulgent graves and tombstones of the old Glaswegians.

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Back in Edinburgh on New Years Eve Jasmine and a flat mate from Birmingham also came to stay for the festivities. This stated with a party at one of our mates places in the east end. I think they were a bit sick of the cold weather as the theme was a beach party, where if you wanted entry you had to dress up in beach attire.

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ohh, nice face rach

From the beach party we headed out to the hogmany festival street party where we were greeted by another 300,000 new years revelers. Princess St was packed and what would have been a quick 5 min stroll to the middle of the st ended up taking 30min, all holding hands so we didn’t get lost in the crowd. It was a bit lame just standing there waiting for the countdown but once it got going and the fireworks started it was pretty cool.

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aparently james forgot that we had left the beach party

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why is james trying to lick me, i just don't know

It hadn’t been all that cold since arriving back in Edinburgh only 1-5 degrees compared to the negatives of central Europe, but after getting over the New Years celebrations the weather decided to take a bit of a turn. But not really in a bad way more of a nice snowy sunny way. So we decided to go for a bit of an ice skate in the festival grounds

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come on james, you have to give up the beach theme, it's snow for heavans sake

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Anyway that was our Xmas / New Years 07-08; low key gullton on the 25th, fooling Jamie into shopping trips in Glasgow, massive parties on new years eve and running about in the snow.

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Posted by jamienrach 07:02 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Dubrovnik

Best so far


View Nov - Dec trip 07 on jamienrach's travel map.

After our hellish ferry from Italy we weren’t really in the mood for finding a place to stay (as we hadn’t booked anything) and when we started to be hawked by potential hoteliers Rach walked away and left me to deal with it. Then just when we thought that we’d have to pay for a proper hotel along came Nikola. He told us that his place was ‘very nice’ and 25 min walk from the old town but that he’d drive us everywhere we wanted to go. Too good to be true right, well not really. The place was really nice; it was pretty new, full kitchen and bathroom, pretty much just a new 1 bed (king size) apartment. And to top it off we’d just txt Nikola from wherever we were and he’d be there in 15 min to taxi us to wherever (so big ups Nikola, highly recommended www.burum-accomodation.com). He even gave us a Happy Xmas/New Years txt the other day.

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Our first full day in Dubrovnik was spent exploring the old town, it reminded me of Venice (funny that considering it was part of the Venetian empire). It was a really nice day and I was even contemplating a swim.

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In one of the ruins left by the Bosnian war we found a mini cat colony

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Then Rachel kicked a dog

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we brought a hat off some old ladies who wereknitting in old town

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That night after reading the many posters advertising a free wine and cheese evening in one of the resort we headed out to see what we could get for free. The answer was everything, it was put on by the Dubrovnik winter tourist board and it was another case of the endless wine glass. The vineyard owners would get up in-between glasses and explain what was so great about there wine (all in Croatian so it was a case of nodding and smiling), apart form the wine there were full plates of cheese and bread with olive oil. Basically we didn’t need to go out for dinner and drinks afterwards.

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The next day we’d planned to catch a quick ferry over to one of the islands for a day of beach walking and picnicking, but the weather had other ideas. I was raining cats and dogs. So we got a pass to see 4 different museums to get out of the rain. Of course we couldn’t find the entrance to the maritime museum and in searching for it ran around the outer wall of the old town only to be drenched head to toe by freak waves that were battering the city walls.

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The last day in Dubrovnik before another big day of travel up to Slovenia was spent doing another of our speed tourist activities. We had missed out on the city wall walk on the first day and our second day was washed out so we had between 10 and 10:45 (as our bus left at 11:00). So we basically ran around the walls looking at all the views and taking a quick succession of pictures.

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Posted by jamienrach 06:52 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

the boat trip from hell

getting from Italy to Coatia

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View Nov - Dec trip 07 on jamienrach's travel map.

So our last experience of Italy was our train trip from Naples to Bari where we caught a ferry to Croatia, but before leaving Naples we had to have one more crappy experience. When we tried to check out of the hotel (and pay) we were told that it was twice as expensive as when we had booked through laterooms. Anyway after a half hour argument in broken Italian and English he eventually caved in and we got to pay the discounted price.

When we got into Bari we discovered it isn’t really a tourist town at all, which was accentuated by the amount of English that the locals knew (although it still had the throngs of Africans trying to sell fake gucci bags). It was a challenge to figure out the washing machines in the local laundromat, but there’s nothing a little bit more volume and hand gestures can’t work out.

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We were pretty tried from the days traveling and although we weren’t supposed to be leaving port until 10pm we went straight to our cabin and to sleep when we were let on at 9pm. It was an 8-9 hour trip and we were supposed to be in Dubrovnik at 7 in the morning. So when we woke up at 6 (after one of the best sleeps on tour so far) we thought it would be nice to go and have breakfast as we pulled into port. But alas we were already stopped. So I asked the receptionist if we had made good time and were there already “no we are still in Bari” she replied with a sly smile. She’s got to be kidding right? Ah no…. we had just slept through the announcement that departure was going to be delayed due to bad weather.

So that was a disappointment, but we were assured that we would be underway just after breakfast (which we were told would be free due to the delay). But of course there’s no such thing as a free breakfast and just after we finished the boat took off and our stomachs started to rebel. It was the roughest boat ride we’d ever been on (and I’ve been on some pretty rocky inter-islander trips) and the first two hours saw the contents of our insides duly return to the surface.

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It did eventually calm down after we were out of Italian waters, which was just in time as Rach was ready to throw herself overboard. We ended being little sun gluttons laying out on the deck for the rest of the trip.

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Posted by jamienrach 06:43 Archived in Italy Tagged boating Comments (0)

Napels is a dump and Pompei is a ruin

Napels and Pompeii (3rd, 4th and 5th December)


View Nov - Dec trip 07 on jamienrach's travel map.

We had no real expectations heading into Naples for the 2 nights we were there and only really started to look when we booked our room from Rome using laterooms.com (which had a perfect record of good hotels for really cheap). And what we read on the internet and in our lonely planet was quite good, once were ‘industrial city’ now glitzy seaside metropolis close to island beach resorts like Capri and in the area where Vesuvius blew her top and covered Pompeii and the surrounding area. So we thought we were in for a bit of an unexpected treat.

Well maybe not………

We arrived by train in the afternoon and the city met us like the dirty industrial behemoth that she turned out to be. There was rubbish everywhere, the place looked like a dump. And as we found out on our return to the UK Naples rubbish collection is controlled by the Mafia and the have been putting a halt on collection to make money of other areas shipping there rubbish in, damn mob.

And even combined with the fact that our room was a s#!thole and manned by the dodgiest Italians so far, we were not going to let it ruin our stay. So we decided to take a nice walk along the waterfront to see if we could get a ferry over to one of the islands. This was made a little harder by the relentless wind and insane drivers, I mean we thought the drivers in Rome were crazy but these guys take the pizza pie. We eventually gave up on going to an island and got some food and wine, locked ourselves in our room and watched bad Italian dubbed Walker Texas Ranger episodes.

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Our only picture we took of Naples (the only clean place we could find)

There was no way we were going to spend the next day in the city so we hopped on a train and headed out to Pompeii to see the ruins. The actual ruins were a small walk from the train station but of course we got on the wrong train and had a 5k walk, ah well it meant we didn’t have to ride with the huge groups of Asian and American tourists.

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The Ruins itself is a really cool place and big, we walked for 6 hours solid and still didn’t see all the ruins. Anyway we armed ourselves with an audio guide and headed out.
Most of the ancient city is still really well intact and you can really imagine the way people used to live from the building and other remains in the site.

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The bodies in some of the houses are a bit freaky, most of them look like they just fell asleep but there are some stuck in frightened poses which I guess conveys the destruction that a volcanic eruption can cause (watch out ruapehu).

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acient sewer system, blocks so you can walk across the street which would have been covered in poo

Most of the views around Pompeii are pretty spectacular, melding the uncovered ruins of an ancient civilization against the mountain that preserved them for us to see and in doing so wiped out and entire region from the map.

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Anywho, buy the time we got back to Naples we had been on our feet for 8 hours and were in dire need of some relaxation. And what better way to do it than by doing what we had done every night since being in Italy, by going to a local restaurant and getting filled up on local dishes and drunk on local wine.

And now just as you expect me to criticize Naples some more it started to redeem itself (if only in a small way). The food and vino was the best we’d had in Italy and not to mention the cheapest, 2 euro for a ½ liter of wine is nuts (ah well I’m not really one to complain).

Posted by jamienrach 06:47 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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