Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Soteska Vintgar

Five beautiful miles outside of Bled is Vintgar Gorge.  The ravine was discovered in 1891 and by 1893 the nearly impassible area was made more accessible to visitors.  In 2011 there is no better Sunday stroll than the one leading to, through and returning from Vintgar.

Friday, September 23, 2011

night water rafting

Once a year, when the moon is full and at its highest in the sky, rafts are carried down the river bank for a ride of a lifetime.

I happened to be one of those people, helping to hold the raft above my head while making it down a rocky slope to the waters edge.  As I stop to think about it, it's become a tradition of sorts to do something over my birthday holiday that I wouldn't normally do.  It started during the "Mommy and Me" trip by hangliding over the Swiss Alps.  Then it continued with glacier walking in Norway.  That was followed up by jumping off a 30 foot cliff in Africa, which felt more like I was plunging to my death. So it was only fitting for the stars to have aligned in such a degree that I would arrive in Bled on the exact day of the annual midnight rafting trip.

There is an entirely new perspective to rafting down the rapids when the world around you is in various shades of gray.  I was in awe that the scenery could remain stunning, even devoid of color.  With 8 rafts in the river, our pace was a lot slower than it would have been otherwise.  But to liven up the lulls, we had water fights with neighboring rafts, walked along the circumference of the raft while holding onto the ores as not to fall, made massive amounts of noise while passing campsites, and some people took involuntary dips in the water. To top off the event, as we neared the end of our rafting tour, we were treated to a beautiful fireworks display.

And now, the trip is just another item to check off the list of things I never knew I wanted to do but did anyway.  An awesome item at that.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

the land where fairytales are made

Thirty miles north of the capital city of Ljublijana, Lake Bled attracts people from all around the globe.  It was a picture of that idilic location I saw two years ago which tugged at my heart and gave me the desire to visit its country.

Half way around the lake's four mile circumference, I sat at the shore and absorbed the views. A long haired man slowly paddled his kayak behind a pair of swimmers, gliding across the crystal clear waters to the island set in the middle of the lake. It is a small island, lush with grenery, and home to a 14th century gothic chapel.  It is that chapel which draws people to the alpine village of Bled. The bell from the old church chimed - dong, dong - slowly, but determinedly by a tourist with a wish.  That's what the little island's church bell does, they say, grants wishes.

Every Saturday wedding parties will fill the pletna boats, Slovenia's version of a gondola and the traditional way to reach the island, so the groom can carry his new bride up the 99 stairs to the chapel for a wish of their own to be fulfilled.

High up on the cliffs, keeping watch over the entire lake, sits Bled castle. Being first made mention of in the year 1011 AD, it is the oldest castle in all of Slovenia.  A small walk through the woods brings you to to a wooden staircase leading up to the castle doors.  At night, each step is illuminated, adding to the enchanted feel of the surroundings.

It is no wonder why Lake Bled is called the Disneyland of Slovenia.

Monday, September 12, 2011


In the end, I chose to be alone.  And this is why:

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Destination birthdays

Every year is the same.  "Why don't you stay here for once?," questions a colleague of mine who enjoys badgering me about not sticking around town for my birthday.  He can't fathom going on a vacation instead of having a party filled with family and friends. He's never tried it though.  If he had, he'd understand why Paris, Norway and Kenya far exceed any Dutch birthday party gathering.

So once I cleared his spit fire questioning this time around, "You're not going away on holiday for your birthday this year, are you?  Don't you want to share your day with your favorite colleagues?  What about cake?  Don't you like presents?", he decided to shoot out one more: "So then, where are you spending your birthday this year... instead of here with us?"

And that's all it took for me to be struck dumb.  I had no answer, even though my birthday trip was less than a month away.

It wasn't for my lack of decision making.  I knew where I wanted to go... it was finding a travel partner which proved difficult.

I asked 30 people... plus or minus 15.  But we'll stick to 30, because that's a nice round number, and will garner more sympathy. Of those 30 people, 27 could either not take the time off, were already going to another destination at that time, or didn't want to go where I wanted.  Wait... scratch the last reason, because 30 out of 30 people didn't want to go where I wanted to go, or had already gone there before.

The three finalists included one friend who wanted to go on a Baltic cruise, and two friends who wanted to keep things cheap and requested a trip to Ibiza. Neither destination tugged at my heart.  I knew where I wanted to spend my 31st birthday... I knew it for two years.  I wanted to go to Slovenia.

The Baltic cruise issue was resolved rather quickly... it was full, so we weren't going.  However, left with the thought of spending my birthday alone, or subjecting myself to an island I didn't care to visit in order to spend the vacation with friends, I was distraught.

The decision consumed my life for a few days.  I asked the opinion of everyone I came in contact with. I was stressed.  My heart screamed Slovenia, but it also screamed friends.  I was agonizing over it.  Truly agonizing.

And then... I stopped.  Because, during a moment of distress, one thought popped into my head. It said, "if deciding between Ibiza and Slovenia is your biggest trial right now, you've got it pretty good."

Touché little voice in my head.  Touché.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Long dark days of Amsterdam

 photo credit

My first winter here was the coldest in 12 years.
My second winter here was the longest in 30 years.
My third winter here produced the most snow in who knows how many years.
This past July was the rainiest on record.
Yesterday, September 3rd was the 7th day of summer... meteorologically.
Rumor has it, this upcoming winter will be the worst yet.  Oh joy.
And I... I am not a cold weather person.

Someone, please remind me why I live here.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

sailing along on Moonlight Bay

I could have stayed in Bonifacio for days more than just a few hours.  But the sea beckoned and we couldn't leave it waiting. (Plus, I had a flight to catch the following evening).

Once the skies darkened, our bellies were full, and one extra person came aboard, the 5 and a half (the dog) of us set sail. The stars were out in abundance and we all sat on deck, with our faces to the wind.

"I see a little silhouetto of a man, Saramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango!" we sang.  "Send a bolt of lightning, very, very frightening me."  Simon, our most recent boarder, even singing the instrumentals.  Queen would have been so proud.

Later he sang us songs from his native French tongue.

Tim taught us the basic navigation skills needed for the night skies, the flashing lights in the distance, and how to determine how far we were from each.

When the hours drew on, the air got cooler. I could no longer stand on deck without shivering, so I ventured below.  On the captain's desk sat the nautical chart.  I watched as Tim moved his tools around on the map, unsure of what he was doing.  He explained that the tool I lovingly called 'the ruler thingie' was technically referred to as a Portland Plotter. He gave instructions on how to read the map, use the tools, and provide the exact degree the boat should be pointing to the person at the helm. Then, he left me to my own devices.

Talk about confidence.  So in between playing an off-shoot rendition of scrabble with Sarah, another passenger, I safely led us to the marina.  And, just to toot my own horn, I even (correctly) informed everyone of the precise arrival time.  That is mad navigating skills right there.