Austria, Croatia, road trips, Slovenia

Ten things I learned on my Aus-cro-slo-aus trip…

I always like to cap off my travel series with a top ten list of things I learned while traveling. Even when I’ve been to places repeatedly, I usually do learn something new on every trip. That was especially true as we visited Croatia overnight for the first time. We had visited there once before, but only for a couple of hours as we took a “joyride” while visiting Trieste, Italy. So, I’ll dispense with the useless palaver, and commence with my list. Here goes.

10. The word “slap” means waterfall, both in Croatian and Slovenian.

As we know, “slap” means something entirely different in English. But when you see it on signs in Croatia and Slovenia, it means you might be in for a beautiful view of something special.

9. Croatia is very friendly to English speakers.

I couldn’t help but notice that Croatia really seems to have embraced visitors who speak English. A lot of Europeans know English, because it’s a very practical language to learn. If one speaks English, he or she can communicate with Americans, Brits, and Aussies, just to name a few. But I was still surprised that so many people in Croatia spoke English so fluently, and many of the signs were also in English.

8. The off season in Croatia and Slovenia means very few crowds, but also a lot of closed businesses.

The Lake Bohinj area was especially empty of tourists, although to be fair, we were there in early November, rather than late October. November 1 seems to be the cut off day for things to close up for the winter.

7. But even though places were closed, the fall colors were fantastic, and there were still some things to do.

We still managed to see and do some things, even if it was harder to find open shops and restaurants. And the trip was so worth it, if only to see the incredible fall colors along with so many lakes and waterfalls.

6. Salzburg is still hopping, even though it’s November.

Of course this isn’t a surprise, but the fact that Salzburg was still in full swing was great, especially after spending time in places where it was so quiet. We managed to do a little shopping and enjoy a very fine meal in a restaurant. I could definitely spend more time in Salzburg, and Austria as a whole.

5. Wels, Austria is known for its catfish.

I don’t really enjoy eating catfish, but this was something I didn’t know before we visited Wels. In fact, I didn’t even know Wels existed before we took our trip.

4. Sometimes it’s interesting to visit lesser known cities.

I’m truly glad we visited Wels. It’s probably not high on most people’s travel itineraries, but I found it a pleasant place to spend a couple of nights. I wouldn’t mind going back. I’m also glad we visited different places. I’m rather proud that I came up with a plan to visit Plitvice Lakes and Lake Bohinj. And I’m glad I listened to Slovenians in Lake Bled who recommended Lake Bohinj.

3. I need a genuine kit bag for all my stuff.

I typically carry a digital camera, a phone, and my iPad when I tour places. I could have used a better bag, especially when we were hiking. If anything, I could have used a place to put my layers as I stripped them off. I got hot at Plitvice Lakes and ended up having to carry my sweater and hoodie. I also need to bring snacks.

2. The word “jezera” means “lake” in Croatian. And the word “ključ” means “key” in Croatian.

I only learned the word for “key” because the lovely couple at the house we rented used it several times.

And finally, 1. Planning ahead is difficult, especially in the age of COVID-19, but it’s always a good idea to try…

I wish we could have visited the Krka National Park during our time in Croatia, even though it would have been physically challenging. But now we have a reason to go back. I hope we’ll have the opportunity. It’s good that we came back when we did, as COVID-19 has become even more concerning in the past week. I still don’t regret our trip. We had a really great time, in spite of my occasional crankiness and griping.

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Croatia, restaurant reviews

Chasing lakes and waterfalls in Aus-cro-slo-aus… part seven

As I mentioned in a previous post, Bill and I gave serious consideration to trying for a visit to the Krka National Park on Sunday. It was located within a two hour’s drive of where we were staying in Croatia, and we had nothing else planned. But when we went to try to buy online tickets for the park, they were all sold out. I suppose we could have shown up at the park and tried to buy a ticket on the spot, but that would have been a risky proposition, given how far away the park was from our accommodation. We were also considering this plan BEFORE we knew how tired and sore we were going to be on Sunday morning.

What we ended up doing was buying tickets to go back to the Plitvice Lakes on Sunday, only we planned to enter through entrance 2, which is on the other side of the park. To be honest, when we got back to the house late Saturday afternoon, I wasn’t really wanting to go back to the park on Sunday. Duje, the Croatian caretaker, had suggested it. But Saturday evening, I was just really tired, stiff, sore, and hungry. Bill cooked, which put me in a worse mood, not because he’s a terrible cook, but because I had a real craving for barbecue and would have preferred takeout. I love and appreciate Bill very much, but sometimes he’s makes productions out of things that don’t need to be overthought… or overwrought.

We woke up on Sunday to warmer temperatures and clearer skies. I knew I wouldn’t need to bundle up like I did on Saturday. And I also knew that I would not be walking all over the park. Instead, we walked to the boat area closest to the entrance and just sat down on a bench. We listened to the wind and the waterfalls, and watched people set off on the massive hike we did on Saturday from the other side of the park. I watched ducks beg for food, and people rented boats and paddled around. Maybe we should have rented a boat, too, although we were both really sore.

Just sitting at the park, sipping Croatian beer, talking to each other, and enjoying the natural beauty was enough. I realized that Duje was right. It is worth it to spend two days at the park. Maybe it would have been better to do two shorter walks over both days instead of the super long one on Saturday. But, again, I didn’t have a concept of what the park was like until we went there. If we ever go back, I might plan differently. I want to go to the Krka National Park first, though. Check out this scenery…

This video was made by drone. I’m sure the park forbids drones, just as they are forbidden at Plitvice.

I’m sorry we missed our opportunity to visit this park on the Krka River. But now we have a great reason to visit again. We still got some beautiful photos on our second day, too. Have a look.

It was almost lunchtime, so I decided to have a Croatian beer… As you can see by the first photo, Bill was amused.

We only stayed at the park for an hour or so, then went to get lunch at a local roadside restaurant I kept noticing. I took a few parting shots before we made our way to Vila Velabita for hearty, authentic Croatian food.

We probably should have gone to Vila Velabita on Saturday, as they had the kind of food I was craving after our long hike. I am glad we stopped on Sunday, so I could try smoked chicken. Bill had sausages made with beef and pork. We finished with an espresso for him, and locally made brandy for me.

Monday morning, we awoke to a glorious sunrise. I’d had a look at the forecast for Slovenia and figured it might be the last we’d see of the sun for the week, so I took some pictures. We loaded up the car, cleaned up the house, and Bill went over to Duje’s house to hand off the keys. While he was giving the keys to the caretaker, Bill mentioned the Jung book he found, which was inscribed by Duje. He told Duje that he was also a student of Jung’s. Duje smiled and said, “You’ll come back next year.”

Maybe we will… I wouldn’t be opposed to it. Croatia is officially wonderful. Below are a few parting shots of Croatia.

Stay tuned for part eight.

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Chasing lakes and waterfalls in Aus-cro-slo-aus… part six

Saturday, October 30, was the big day. It was also really cold and foggy that morning. Bill had purchased our tickets for the Plitvice Lakes National Park for 10:00am. We were allowed to enter the park only from 10:00 am until 11:00am. I think this system is to prevent huge crowds of people showing up at the same time. It’s probably better for the natural environment and everyone’s enjoyment if the crowds are staggered. Of course, COVID-19 also makes the crowd staggering important, as it prevents too many people mingling and creating a superspreader event.

The park’s Web site recommended dressing in layers. I was cold enough that I took that advice. I wore heavy wool socks, a hoodie jacket, and my big Irish wool coatigan (basically, a long cardigan that zips and stretches enough to cover my beer gut). After breakfast, we made our way to the park. I was a bit afraid that it would be foggy there, as it was at the house. But as we entered town, the fog lifted, and we had glorious sunshine. It was going to be a great day for a walk through the sixteen named lakes, several unnamed lakes, and waterfalls that make up Plitvice Lakes.

I took so many pictures over the six hours we were at the park. Bill and I ended up walking almost the entire park. We did Route C, which is the third longest. If we had done Route K, we would have been there until nightfall and I would have probably needed an intravenous line. As it was, I was exhausted by the end of our day, but I will never forget the incredible beauty of the lakes and falls, even if the crowds got a little bit annoying. Brace yourself for lots of photos!

After about a half hour of walking, I knew that I was going to get too hot before long. I had been cold at the beginning of the day… but walking makes body heat. Plus, the sun was out in full force. We were very lucky, weather wise. I also got some videos of the waterfalls, which I will eventually turn into a YouTube video. Maybe I’ll get to it today. Maybe not.

Edited to add… here’s the video!

Phew… this was a trial to make on many levels!

As we were walking, jaws dropping at each new sight and the huge panorama of so many brilliant colors, I couldn’t help but realize that summer and late spring are probably madness at this park! But I’ll bet it’s so beautiful, too, since everything’s blooming and green. I’m sure this park is beautiful no matter what time of year it is. I think they do close part of it in the winter, though, which is smart, since there are a lot of slippery areas and the paths don’t usually have guardrails. I wonder how many people have fallen into the lakes, even though swimming there has been forbidden since 2006.

It was at about this time that we found ourselves at one of the several rest stations. This was where toilets, souvenirs, and food were, as well as the boats to the other side of the park. I was ready for a rest, so we went into the restaurant, where sandwiches and french fries were available, as well as a dizzying and surprising array of drinks, many of which contained alcohol. We stuck with good old Croatian beer. It’s important to know that cash is not accepted at the park, so bring your credit card if you visit. Also, don’t buy anything at the souvenir shop if you’re just getting started, because you’ll have to cart it with you… I didn’t learn this the hard way, thank God.

I was already getting tired after the boat ride, which was one way and committed us to walk the rest of the park. Luckily, the sheer beauty of the park and the prospect of being stuck there if I collapsed kept me going. And they were some beautiful sights, even though I don’t walk as fast as I used to. Below is the last batch of photos from Saturday’s walk, which took about six hours and was over seven miles… Not bad for a fatass housewife, huh?