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

And now, we’ve come to the end of my latest series… which I will admit was not long on food and activities, but had plenty of gorgeous scenery and solitude. When I am finished writing this post, I’ll do my usual “ten things I learned post”, but that will probably be done tomorrow, so as not to overwhelm anyone with all the action my travel blog is suddenly getting. 😉

Because we were coming from “high risk” areas– Croatia and Slovenia– we had to upload our vaccination information to officials in Germany. This would absolve us from having to quarantine. But, when we got to the border, they just waved us through, anyway. Maybe because it was Sunday.

Our drive home was mostly uneventful. Salzburg is about six hours or so from where we live, I think… Ray had made it easy to check out. All we had to do, besides take out the trash and make sure we used the toilet brush, was put the 12 euro city tourist tax (three euros per person per night) in the lockbox, along with the key. We got an early start, and, at first, the weather was beautiful.

The nice weather began to change the further north we went. It got cold and decidedly cloudy, then it was raining. At one point, we tried to stop for lunch, but there was no parking in the parking lot. The spots were all taken up by tractor trailers. We eventually ended up at the very same rest stop where we stopped on the way down to Croatia. On that visit, I wore a surgical face mask, as did a lot of other people. Surgical masks are the rule for all of Germany… except hard assed Bavaria, where people are supposed to wear FFP2s, the tighter fitting “coffee filter” masks. I did have a fresh one in my purse, but I really hate wearing them.

Anyway, we walked into the McDonald’s, which was empty. Evidently, the COVID-19 rules changed again, because the cashier pointed to me and said I needed the heavier mask. That pissed me off, so Bill and I left. I ranted about it on my other blog. We went to Burger King and ate lunch in the car. I spent much of the rest of the drive annoyed, since the heavier masks are obviously not curbing the now soaring infection rate in Germany. People need to be vaccinated. But if they’re going to enforce mask mandates, I wish they’d be consistent about it. And I wish they’d show common sense, particularly toward people who have actually done the responsible thing and gotten the vaccine.

I mean, look at this…

This is in Koln, where Carnival is in full swing.

It’s ridiculous. I can’t sit in an empty McDonald’s without being forced to wear a heavy mask, but these fools can party and drink unmasked in huge crowds in Mainz and Cologne! I fear we may be heading for another lockdown soon, which makes me even more glad that we took our trip. As it stands now, James Taylor has postponed his European tour. We have second row tickets to his Frankfurt show, but who knows when it will happen. We still have tickets to see Keb’ Mo’ for a show that was supposed to happen on November 16 (our anniversary) 2020. At this point, it’s been postponed three times, thanks to COVID-19. Maybe we’ll get to see him in May of 2022. This COVID shit really needs to be sorted.

The only other notable thing that happened on the way home was that we passed a van that had a sticker on it that read “Porn casting car”.

And then, we noticed that the driver had drapes with little gold tassels on them in the front seat. Maybe it really is a porn casting car.

After we got home, we unpacked and started doing the laundry. Later, we went to get Arran and Noyzi, who I guess could hear and smell us as we approached. They were so excited! Noyzi was even ecstatic to see Bill. He practically dragged me to the car and was delighted to jump in the back all by himself.

When we got home, we discovered that Arran had a couple of swollen flesh wounds on his ears. And the next day, Noyzi had kennel cough. By Tuesday, Arran was coughing too, although they are both okay now. Fortunately, it was a mild case. It was the first time I have ever dealt with kennel cough, which is usually a mild illness that clears up on its own. Our dogs are usually vaccinated against it, but we stopped giving Arran most vaccines because he’s had mast cell tumors. Noyzi is due for his vaccines next month.

Here are a few final pictures of a few things we brought back with us… I wish I had found a few things to put in the house. Oh well. Maybe on the next trip. Bill has to go to Poland on Monday, and he’ll be gone on our 19th wedding anniversary, which is on Tuesday. I’m sure he’ll get some Bison Grass vodka. Just what we need! 😉 We also got jams, honeys, liqueurs, and gin.

Well… that about does it for the series. Stay tuned tomorrow, for my super fun “ten things I learned” post. I actually did learn some new things on this trip. It was one of our better ones, and we’ve been on some great trips. I hope we can do it again, soon.

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Austria, churches

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

Our last full day of our trip was probably our most touristy-vacation-esque of our trip. We went to Salzburg and walked around, taking in the sights. Once again, I regret not buying any art, since we passed a few galleries which were closed by the time we departed in the late afternoon. Salzburg is a beautiful city, with lots going on, and a lot of photogenic scenery. We mainly walked around, but we also visited St. Peter’s Abbey and, after Bill lit a candle for his late father, who was a Catholic, we had a very expensive but delicious lunch at Peter, one of the restaurants in St. Peter Stiftskulinarium, which was founded in 803 AD. We didn’t know anything about the restaurant when we visited, but it turned out to be a very successful stop.

Below are some photos from our walk around the city before lunch…

Peter is right next to the Abbey. They were decorating it for Christmas and, I have to admit, I was drawn in by how beautiful the restaurant was looking with the Christmas lights, trees, and ornaments. It turned out they have good food, too… for a price. But we didn’t mind, as it was a really nice meal and the only “fancy” one we had on our trip. In fact, we didn’t spend much money on food at all, most days. I wish it showed on my body, but I guess I’d have to give up booze for that to happen…

Peter gets mixed reviews. Some people think it’s an overpriced tourist trap. Personally, I enjoyed it, except for the pop music on the sound system, which didn’t seem to go with the food. Also, we were surprised when we came into the restaurant and the hostess told us we didn’t have to wear masks if we were vaccinated. We weren’t upset about it… just surprised. The restaurant was pretty busy and was doing a brisk business. I had originally wanted to get steak there, but they sold it by the gram and it started at 350 grams, which was way too much food for me. Maybe if Bill and I could have split it. We were happy with what we had, though. The duck was delicious, and Bill always enjoys venison whenever he can get it, since I don’t usually eat it myself. Our bill was about 250 euros, but it was money well spent.

After lunch, we walked around the cemetery, taking notice of how beautiful and ornate the graves were. Some of them had actual well-tended gardens on them. I haven’t even mentioned Mozart, who is everywhere in Salzburg, since it’s where he was born.

And as we came out of the cemetery, we found the Wasserrad, a long running source of power…

It was at about this time that we decided to pick up a few souvenirs, mostly for Bill’s co-workers, who bring us stuff on their travels. I also got a new beer stein for my collection. I now have two from Germany, two from Austria, and one from Switzerland. I tried to talk Bill into getting a hat, like the ones we saw in The Sound of Music. He turned me down.

And finally, we decided to visit the Stieglbrau, a restaurant affiliated with the brewery. It also has a Biergarten/Winter solarium for those of us who just come to drink, as Bill and I did… I think it was worth visiting for the views alone! Last time we were in Salzburg, back in May 2012, the restaurant wasn’t open. I don’t remember why.

Bill ducked in to a little gourmet shop to get some Stiegl beer, some deer and antelope sausage, and a new beer mug for me. I was really feeling the urge to shop, since so many places in Croatia and Slovenia were closed.

The sun was sinking as we went back to the garage to get the car. Austrians are so civilized, they had a very clean WC there, which I needed to visit. Unfortunately, I almost walked into the men’s room… a couple of locals laughed about that! Then, on the very short drive back to Ray’s house, we were stopped at a light, and some mean spirited jackass on a bike and carrying a skateboard knocked on the window. When I looked up, he shot me the middle finger while wearing a most hateful expression on his face, which is illegal in Germany and, my German friend Susanne says, is also illegal in Austria. Needless to say, I quickly fired back, and hope he fell off his bike and neutered himself. I don’t know why he flipped us– or really, me– off. I had nothing to do with any traffic offenses, since I was sitting in the passenger seat, minding my own business. Asshole.

We decided to relax on our last night on vacation, though if I’m honest, I was really ready to go home. After awhile, it gets tiresome living out of a bag. I also really missed the dogs. So, although we had a good day in Salzburg and could have seen a lot more, I was ready to go back to normal living.

Stay tuned for the last post in this series, part fourteen.

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Austria, restaurant reviews, road trips, Slovenia

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

Friday morning, it was time to pack up and leave Slovenia. We were bound for Salzburg, Austria, a town we’ve now stayed in three times, but have only ever visited twice. We usually stop there for an overnight when we go to Slovenia. This time, I decided to book two nights so we could enjoy Salzburg’s marvelous downtown area. By Friday, I was ready to move on, even though there were a lot of things we didn’t have the chance to do in Lake Bohinj.

For instance, we didn’t ride the cable car that goes up Vogel mountain, where there is a ski resort. I expect the ski resort will be doing a lot of business soon. And there were some walks we could have taken, and restaurants we could have tried. I’m actually surprised Lake Bohinj isn’t more of a year round destination, but I’m sure the locals appreciate the break from the tourists. I grew up near Williamsburg, Virginia, so I know what it’s like to deal with tourists in the summer.

The morning of our departure, I got a message from the host at our next accommodations, an apartment that doubles as a music studio. I found this property on Booking.com and was intrigued by it. The guy who owns it is a musician and music producer. Since I’m also a musician of sorts, I thought it would be a fun place to stay. In any case, he needed copies of our passports and COVID-19 vaccine certificates. Bill took photos of the documents and emailed them. Then, we went to our last breakfast at Villa Stare.

The proprietor met us. He’d already set a table for us with a fabulous spread. It turned out we were the only guests, and his breakfast attendant was not there because she had to go see the dentist. He cooked us scrambled eggs, and we enjoyed fruit, breads, coffee, and cold cuts. I was impressed by how beautiful the table looked.

We told our Slovenian host what a good time we had and how beautiful his country is. I hope we can visit Lake Bohinj. It’s such a pretty area… and I really enjoyed being there when it was so quiet, even though we missed out on some of the more touristy activities because they were either closed, or the weather didn’t cooperate. I would definitely go back if the opportunity arises again. Below are some photos from our journey from Slovenia to Austria.

Our drive to Austria was uneventful. There were no blood sugar meltdowns. The most exciting thing was crossing the border and Bill remarking that he could barely understand the Austrian border official’s accent. We got to Salzburg about an hour before check in began, so we found the property where we were staying for two nights. The host, Ray, was there. He was easily recognized. The cleaning lady was finishing up cleaning the house, but Ray said the house would be ready in a few minutes. We said it was no problem, since we were going downtown for lunch.

Ray turned out to be a very attentive and helpful host. I liked how he set up checking in and out at his rental. There’s a lockbox on the gate, and he sends the code and other instructions before guests arrive. That way, guests can just let themselves in without having to wait for him to show up. It’s also probably a little bit safer, in the COVID-19 era. Ray’s place is very close to downtown Salzburg, maybe about ten minutes away. We found a parking garage that had typically tiny parking spaces. Kudos to Bill for managing to park our Volvo without a scratch. It wasn’t easy, even with parking assist.

We quickly found an Italian trattoria called La Campana da Enzo. It was kind of a hole in the wall place– tiny, with no frills furnishings, and art for sale on the walls. I kind of wish I’d bought a painting there. I have been wanting to buy some art for our house. But, we just had a rather no frills lunch. Tortellini with a tomato cream sauce for me, and spaghetti with artichokes for Bill, paired with red wine and sparkling water, were our orders of the day. I guess the restaurant had trouble with locals using their toilets in the hall of the building, because to access them, you have to get a key.

The staff at this restaurant were very kind and friendly, even though we arrived just before they take their afternoon pause. There was one other guy in there, and he was telling the trilingual waiter in German about places he’d lived in Germany and France. And he also said the restaurant should offer pizza. But the waiter said that the restaurant was too small for pizza. I found myself nodding, since I’m sure a proper pizza over would make the place unbearably hot. I suddenly realized that’s probably why our old friend Gino in Nagold doesn’t do pizza. His place used to be a bakery, and it’s tiny.

The staff had their lunches while we finished up our pasta dishes. Then, the well spoken and friendly waiter kicked us out, since the restaurant closes during the afternoon. We didn’t mind, since it was now time to check out our new digs. I think the bill was about 30 euros. Cheap!