Our pandemic dog rescue story… part four

Advertisements

I have mentioned before that I think Austria is an extremely beautiful country. We haven’t spent enough time there, which is a shame, because it’s a small country that has huge things to offer. I love the scenery there. There are enormous mountains, babbling brooks, Dirndl clad ladies and men in Lederhosen, and lots of great food. I like Austrian food more than German food. Yes, there is a difference.

It seems like Austrian food has a little dash of Italian to it… and it also seems like there’s more variety to it. It’s not just Schnitzel, sausages, Spatzle, potatoes and cabbage. And yes, I know I’m inviting criticism from my few German readers for writing this. But I also know that some of them are reading because they want to know what things look like from an American point of view. Well, I am American, and this is my point of view, even if it’s not entirely accurate. You know what they say about perspectives. I know Germany has a variety of different specialties throughout the land, but for some reason, Austrian food just seems slightly different to me. Not that we had much of a chance to eat it during this whirlwind trip.

I was expecting Bill to stop for lunch. He never did. I don’t know how he hasn’t learned in almost eighteen years of marriage that it’s good to take a break. On the other hand, there weren’t that many appealing stops on the way down to the Slovenian border. We did stop at one place so I could pee. It was pouring down rain, though. I also remember having to pay a toll of 12,50 euros before we could go through Katschburg Pass. Bill was freaking out because the toll was done by machine and it wouldn’t accept his Bar (cash). I told him he should just take his time. People would have to wait. It’s not like they don’t make us wait when they have business to attend to.

Anyway, as we approached the border, we ended up on a narrow mountain road behind some guy who didn’t seem to know which was was up. There were many wrong turn signals, a few weaves and bobs in the road, and slow speeds. The drive over the mountain was very beautiful. The leaves are turning, so the colors were dramatic against the stormy skies. There’s a bunker museum on the mountain road. We saw a lot of signs and had we not had Arran and it hadn’t been raining, it would have made for an interesting stop for Bill. It was built during the Cold War to make sure no one from former Yugoslavia would cross into Austria and raise a ruckus. Again… I would love to visit Kransjka Gora again, so maybe someday we’ll get a chance to visit.

Here are some photos from our drive down from Salzburg.

We rented an “apartment” for our night in Slovenia. I didn’t realize it was really more of a hotel apartment. We told the proprietor that we’d be there at 2:00pm, since they told us they needed an hour to get to Kranjska Gora. We actually arrived earlier than 2:00, but for some reason, it didn’t occur to me to message them through Booking.com. We just waited for a car. Well… first, Bill went to a tiny grocery store near the apartment and picked up a few essentials. Kranjska Gora is very close to both the Italian and Austrian borders. It must have been interesting to live there when Slovenia was still part of a closed society.

After we picked up a few items, we went back to the suite hotel and met the young lady who showed us our digs for the night. For about 86 euros, we got a little place with a bed, a sitting room, basic kitchen facilities, and a bathroom with a tiny shower. It was very clean and had what we needed, but it wasn’t quite as nice as our place in Salzburg. The floors were tile, which makes for easy cleaning, but chilly quarters. Still, it was just fine for a night and the price was right. Checking out was equally a breeze. All we had to do was dump the trash and leave the keys on the kitchen table. That was perfect for our purposes. The place we stayed was called G&F apartments on Booking.com, but it was in the Hotel Klass building, which is very close to the town center. I prepaid for the room and we had to pay four euros for the tourist tax. There wasn’t a pet fee and Arran was definitely not the only dog there.

Our original plan was to get Noizy at about 8:00pm, as that was when Meg was supposed to arrive with him and two other dogs who got new homes. Another American couple, based at Ramstein, I believe, were coming down to pick up a dog for themselves and transport another to a German family in Bavaria (I think). That other couple turned out to be a godsend. More on that in the next part.

Our pandemic dog rescue story… part two

Advertisements

A couple of weeks ago, Bill and I were deciding the best way to go about picking up Noizy. Our older dog, Arran, is sweet, but he gets very jealous. Every day, there were new reports of the worsening COVID-19 situation. Also, the woman who interviewed Bill and me before we were approved to adopt Jonny had warned us that it would be best if Arran could enter the house before the new dog. Otherwise, it would be like a wife coming home to “another woman”, so to speak. That lady had also been very careful to tell us about the proper way to secure rescue dogs when they first come home. We’d heard the same advice seven years ago, when we adopted Arran. Using a collar and harness and connecting them together is the best practice… or carrying them inside the house while they’re in a box.

We have a great Tierpension who has taken excellent care of Arran and Zane, but they have limited pick up hours. If we put Arran in the pension, there was a risk the new dog would be home before he would. Also, I didn’t fancy the idea of being stuck at the border somewhere. Been there done that in post Soviet Armenia. Bringing Arran was also a little concerning, since I knew he might fight with the new dog and we have a 2020 Volvo. So, at first, I was thinking maybe I’d stay home with Arran and Bill would run down to Slovenia and get Noizy by himself. But then I reconsidered it and decided all three of us would journey to Slovenia.

With that decided, we set about planning the trip. I quickly determined that Salzburg would be a good halfway point between home and Slovenia. In fact, Salzburg was a midway stop we made in 2016, when we went to Lake Bled for vacation. We stopped on the way back to Germany that time. On the way down, we stopped in Gosau, near Hallstatt, a must see Austrian town that is really only necessary to see one time. However, the inn where we stayed in Gosau was probably one of my favorites ever!

I quickly found a really nice, pet friendly, bed and breakfast on the outskirts of Salzburg. The place I found, Die Haslachmühle, is a renovated mill house that dates from 1688. I booked us in their largest room, mainly because I didn’t want Arran to cause a fuss. It was 152 euros, but it had a huge balcony and a gorgeous masonry heater in the middle of the room. The B&B is not kid friendly. In fact, I don’t think they’re allowed. But parking is free.

One night in Salzburg booked, I found us an apartment in Kranjska Gora, which was where we planned to pick up Noizy. This border town is just a few miles from Italy and Austria, and boasts rugged mountain views. It’s obviously a ski area for Slovenia. Meg has been there a few times and highly recommended it. Having now been there, I can understand why. We’ll definitely have to go back!

Then, thinking we’d have an extra night, I booked us an apartment in Chiemsee, which is an area in Germany near Lake Chiemsee, a large freshwater lake near the Austrian border. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself.

The very next day, while Bill was on a business trip in Stuttgart, I went to the mailbox and there was a letter from Rheinland-Pfalz. It was a summons to be a witness in court. Naturally, as we are in Germany, the documents were all in German. I had to slowly translate everything… and basically, the document read that Bill was to be a witness for the pet rescue, which was suing the pet taxi driver whose negligence caused Jonny’s death.

The court date was for October 5th– today– which meant that we would not be able to stay a third night on our trip. Bill tried to get the case postponed. He called the court and got the magistrate, who didn’t speak English at all (he didn’t know she was the magistrate at the time). Bill also emailed the rescue, who said they would arrange for an interpreter and let Bill know if that couldn’t be done. He never heard from the court or the rescue, so he figured he was bound to show up. In the paperwork, it mentioned fines of up to 1000 euros for not showing up and/or a special “escort” from the police. Bill was more than happy to testify, since he’s been haunted by that accident since March.

I cancelled the third night and we awaited Friday, October 2, when we’d make our way down to Slovenia to meet Noizy. I dreaded the long drive. Neither Bill nor I enjoy long road trips anymore. It’s probably a good seven or eight hours’ drive to Kranjska Gora from Wiesbaden. But Bill was determined to fulfill his civic duty.

With that settled, I started looking for stuff to buy for our new pooch. We wanted to make sure he was properly outfitted for the drive. But then it occurred to me that I couldn’t judge his size very well from the photos and videos Meg sent us. Many of them were taken when he was still a puppy. I have adorable videos of him as a tiny baby, some of him as an adolescent, and not too many of him fully grown. Having wrongly guessed sizes on dogs before, I decided it would be better to wait until he got home to us. Meg promised he’d have a collar and harness, at the very least.

Friday morning, we set off on our journey to Salzburg.

Five of my most memorable travels…

Advertisements

Bill and I have been really lucky.  We’ve both gotten to see some pretty amazing places, both together and apart.  Before I married Bill, I was an Air Force brat.  Then I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Armenia.  My parents didn’t take me on a lot of trips when I was a kid.  I think they relished having time alone, since I was their youngest.  However, because of their travels, my experience living in England and seeing Tunisia, and my sister’s globe trotting experiences and Peace Corps experiences, I was inspired to also be a Volunteer.

While I can’t say I was the most dedicated Peace Corps Volunteer, I can say that the experience changed my life for the better in many ways.  One way it changed me was by waking the travel bug within me.  I’ve gotten to see some pretty extraordinary places, though Bill’s experiences in AFRICOM are starting to eclipse mine.  So I thought today, I’d write a short piece about some of my favorite and most memorable travels so far.

5. Turkey and Bulgaria- 

About twenty years ago, Peace Corps friend and I took a bus trip from Yerevan, Armenia to Istanbul, Turkey.  In those days, life in the former Soviet Union was still pretty primitive.  It was also cheap.  My friend had loaned me the money for the trip… $500 in cash.  And it was PLENTY of money, especially once we got to Turkey and I had access to an ATM.

Northeastern Turkey is an extraordinarily beautiful place.  I probably felt that way especially since we went through the border crossing from hell between Georgia and Turkey.  Suddenly, traffic lights worked and there were minarets everywhere instead of churches.  As we passed through Turkey on our primitive Armenian bus (on which we were the only Americans), I gazed at the gorgeous landscape.  It was like being in a fairyland.

We visited Bulgaria on that trip and spent some time in Sofia.  Then we went to Sozopol, which in 1996, was a very cheap resort on the Black Sea.  I understand it’s gotten a lot more popular since our visit twenty years ago.  I’d love to go back, though…  Sozopol is beautiful.  We spent three weeks on our Turkey and Bulgaria trip and I’m hoping to return someday.

Here’s the proof…

 
4.  Pinasca, Italy-

Bill and I visited beautiful Bella Baita in 2008, when we lived in Germany the first time.  Bella Baita is an adorable little B&B six kilometers up an Alpine mountain.  It was a very special trip.  We found it when we were looking for accommodations near Turin.  Bella Baita is actually about 30 km from Turin, but it turned out to be a great place to unwind.  Run by an American and Italian couplewho are chefs, Bella Baita offers some very unique experiences, as well as a very authentic taste of a real Italian lifestyle.  Best of all, Bella Baita is very economical and the town of Pinerolo, which is not far at all, offers wonderful restaurants, charm, and a great farmer’s market.  If you arrange a cooking lesson, Marla and Fabrizio will take you to the market to pick up your ingredients.

The view of the French Alps from Bella Baita…

3.  Sanda, Scotland-

Sanda is a privately owned island off of Argyll and Bute in Scotland.  Bill and I have visited there twice.  What makes this place memorable, besides the fact that it’s pretty much uninhabited, is that both times we’ve visited, there have been some seals there to put on a show…

A natural formation…

And one of many seals!

 

Sanda is unspoiled and ruggedly beautiful.  Both times we’ve visited, we’ve gone via a Hebridean Cruise.  Hebridean Cruises are special in and of themselves, though they are not cheap.  We were onboard in March 2016 and I’m already pining for my next voyage.

2.  Slovenia and Croatia-
 

Bill and I just got back from our first visit to Slovenia.  We’ve seen a lot of Europe, but I think Slovenia is now one of our favorite places.  It’s right next to Austria and Italy, yet isn’t really like either of those places.  There are good wines, exotic foods, friendly people, and affordable prices… not to mention some stunning scenery.  Slovenia is also very close to Croatia.  We haven’t had the chance to explore Croatia for more than a couple of hours, but it’s definitely now on the list.  I have a feeling we’ll love it as much or more than Slovenia.

Beautiful Vintgar Gorge.  Next time we go to Slovenia, we’re hitting Lake Bohinj!

 
1.  Armenia-
 

I have to mention Armenia.  I lived there for twenty-seven months in the 90s and haven’t yet been back.  Nevertheless, my memories of Armenia have been a big part of my life for twenty years.  I made some good friends, Armenian and American, and saw some awesome places that were not sullied by tourism.  Of course, things have changed a lot since the 90s, though I still remember people from there and they remember me.

Something tells me that if I visit Armenia, it will be an unforgettable trip.  And if you are a Christian, it’s an especially fascinating be.  Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion.  If you like good wine, good barbecue, fresh lavash, and excellent brandy, Armenia is your place.  And the people really are some of the warmest, most hospitable people you’ll ever meet.

Lake Sevan– courtesy of photo-armenia.com.

 

I really would love to take Bill to Armenia and show him some of my favorite places…  Hopefully, I still remember some of the language!

Ten things I learned in Austria, Slovenia, Italy, and Croatia…

Advertisements

Travel bridges the gap between civilizations…

 

If you’re a regular reader of my travel blog, you may have noticed that whenever I take a trip, I like to reflect on new things I learned during my travels.  Our most recent vacation involved travel through five different European countries, two of which were new to us.  We had a great time and I think I learned some new things.  So here goes… ten new things I learned!

10.  Croatia is still not on the euro.  But that doesn’t mean you have to stop at a “cambio” and trade money when you cross the border.  Apparently, euros are widely accepted in Croatia, even at toll booths.

9.  Slovenians eat a lot of meats that may seem exotic to Americans.  Ever wanted to try bear?  You can do that in Slovenia.  More than once, I saw bear dishes on restaurant menus, as well as horsemeat.  They are also big on rabbit and venison, though I know that’s more widely available than bear is.  I ate a lot of fish when we were in Slovenia, especially trout.

8.  Hallstatt is often crawling with Chinese tourists.  Actually, every time we go to Austria, I am surprised by how many Asian tourists are there.  Hallstatt is especially popular with Chinese folks because they have created a replica of the town in China.  They really seem to get into the spirit of things, too.  If you visit, be prepared to see a lot of Chinese people in dirndls and lederhosen.

7.  Because Hallstatt is teeming with tourists, it’s a good idea to look to other towns for lodging. That is, if you’re the type of person who doesn’t like to be in the thick of touristy places, which I am.  I can only take so much exposure to crowds before I start to get decidedly cranky.  Gosau was a great alternative to Hallstatt for that reason.  However, Hallstatt is great because it’s so touristy.  If you’re there on a Sunday, you can go to the grocery store if you need to.

 

6.  If you decide to walk to Vintgar Gorge (or anywhere else), you should know your route… and bring water and sunscreen!  I have read several articles that claim that it only takes an hour to walk to Vintgar Gorge. Unfortunately, Bill and I ended up taking the detour intended for cars and we walked a lot longer than an hour to see the gorge.  Fortunately, I was able to hang and we found a store on the way.  Next time we get the bright idea to walk, I’m making sure we have some fluids.  It would not have been fun to get heat exhaustion.

5.  It’s hot in Slovenia right now.  It’s been so chilly here in Germany that it didn’t occur to me that Slovenia and Croatia might be warmer.  I should have brought more short sleeved shirts.

4.  Lake Bled is absolutely lovely, but next time, I think we’ll look for a less populated lake.  More than one Slovenian mentioned Lake Bohinj, which is near Bled.  We didn’t get a chance to visit there, but my guess is that it’s not quite as crowded as Bled is.

3.  Lake Bled is crawling with American tourists.  There are Asian tourists in Bled, but not nearly as many as there are Americans.  I was kind of surprised by how many English speakers there were there.  We ate dinner in one restaurant and literally every table around us had Americans sitting at it.  I almost felt like I was eating dinner in Williamsburg, Virginia.

2.  Bled is a great place to base yourself in Slovenia.   I originally planned to stay in Ljubljana for a night or two, but realized that Slovenia is a small country.  I correctly surmised that parking in the city could be a challenge, so decided to book four nights in Bled and do day trips.  It was very nice to come back to the lake at night and start off gazing at it in the mornings.  But now that I’ve seen Lake Bled, I will go elsewhere if I get the chance to visit Slovenia again.

1.  I really need to explore southeastern Europe more.  Yes, a trip to France or Italy is always fun, but eastern Europe is definitely worth seeing.  I hope we’ll get the chance to see more of Croatia, Slovenia, and the other countries in the Balkan region.  That means I hope Bill will be a contractor based in Germany for a long time.

Ljubljana on Saturday… Hare Krishnas, male bonding, wine, craft beers, and boat rides…

Advertisements

Bill and I decided to go to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, on Saturday.  We correctly surmised that there would be many day trippers coming to Lake Bled on Saturday and it would probably be a madhouse.  As we left Bled Saturday morning and observed the long string of cars coming into the town, we could see our hunch was right.  Making matters more complicated was the road construction going on.  Bled has a two lane road going through it that is currently being worked on, probably in time for what promises to be a busy summer season.

Ljubljana is only about an hour from Bled, so we got there at about noon.  Bill found expensive parking in a garage at a galleria.  There was a Spar grocery store there, which we made plans to visit on the way out.  We’re always looking for interesting wines and beers.  After we parked, we made our way into the main drag in the old town.  It was very festive this past Saturday.  There was a market going on where people could buy all manner of fresh produce, gifts, arts, and crafts.  Lots of musicians were busking on busy corners and most of them were skilled.  The air smelled of cheeses, meats, and fruits.

One of the first things we happened upon was a bunch of Hare Krishnas dancing to a young woman’s surprisingly lovely vocals.  Bill and I stood and watched; it was happening right where the boat tours start and some woman asked me if we wanted to take one.  I declined at that time, since we’d only just arrived.  Really, what I wanted was lunch.  As we rounded the corner, we were delighted by the sight of bubbles everywhere.  Some guy was blowing them by the dozen and kids were chasing them in the sunshine.  It made for quite the whimsical scene.

Raw footage of the Hare Krishnas and the boat tour we took in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

One thing I always do when I check out new cities is look down alleyways and in alcoves.  I try to get out of the tourist drags, especially when I’m looking for a meal.  I find that a lot of the better restaurants aren’t necessarily in the thick of the action.  Not only do the out of the way restaurants tend to have better food and service, they also tend to have more reasonable prices.

We rounded a corner, where I heard the majestic sounds of a flute, a violin, and a harp.  Three young ladies were playing beautifully as we passed and I noticed a tiny wine shop that I made a mental note to visit later.  We got to a corner of a cafe that promised food, beverages, and speedy sewing jobs (it seemed to be paying homage to Singer sewing machines).  Then I spotted an open door, wine bottles, and corks.  I headed across the street, well away from the tourist action, and spotted where we’d be having a leisurely lunch.

I see that according to TripAdvisor, Spajza is ranked ninth out of 407 restaurants in the city.  Having chanced upon it Saturday, I can agree that the food at Spajza is indeed excellent.  So is the service.  When we arrived, we were among the first there for lunch.  We were ushered to a two top in the restaurant’s charming terrace area.  I could see several large tables set up and knew that the peace and quiet wouldn’t last.  Clearly, there were going to be a couple of big groups joining us.

Spajza has a number of dishes that might seem exotic to the average American.  They serve “young horse” there, which I would never eat for many reasons.  At a less American friendly Slovenian restaurant, I saw the “young horse” billed as “foal”, which is even creepier to me.  I didn’t see any bear on the menu as I did in other Slovenian restaurants, but there was also rabbit as well as a host of seafood dishes.  I wasn’t feeling too adventurous and the beef dishes mostly included mushrooms, which I don’t eat.  I ended up having a couple of starters and Bill had a shrimp salad.  Bill and I started with three scallops au gratin, which were served in the shell.  Then I had a shrimp and asparagus risotto.  We also enjoyed the awesome rolls and fish paste amuse that came with our meal, which we washed down with two bottles of local wine and sparkling water.

We might not have stayed as long as we did, but I got a kick out of one of the groups.  It was a large group of guys who were obviously bonding over good food, beer, wine, and cigars.  They were fun to watch.  I think the waiter was surprised when we ordered more wine… and maybe even more surprised that I didn’t fall out of the chair.

After we enjoyed lunch, we stopped at the tiny wine shop– seriously no larger than a closet– and bought a couple of bottles from a guy with excellent taste in music.  He was blaring Dire Straits and every time I hear certain Dire Straits songs, I’m reminded of a wonderful long weekend Bill and I enjoyed in Barcelona back in April 2009.

Further into the tourist district, I saw a sign that read “Beer”.  Not being able to resist such an advertisement, I followed the sign into a little craft beer shop.  The very friendly and enthusiastic lady who was running the store chatted with us about beer and nodded approvingly when I picked up a few Belgians I haven’t yet tried.  Next, we picked up some Slovenian honey at the farmer’s market.

We pressed on to the parking garage and entered the grocery store, where we found a few more bottles of wine and a bottle of chocolate liqueur.  Then, something funny happened.  A couple of weeks ago, an acquaintance I know from Stuttgart Vents introduced me to a hideous disco song called “Lady Bump”…

Penny McLean, who was a member of the Euro disco group Silver Convention, sings “Lady Bump”.  Turns out she’s from Klagenfurt, Austria, which we passed through on our way back to Germany.

 

I happen to be a serious music nerd and I especially enjoy crappy music from the 70s and 80s.  But I had never heard of “Lady Bump” until my venting friend introduced it to me.  Sure enough, while we were wine shopping at the grocery store, that song came on!  It was kind of surreal.  After we bought the wine, we dropped it off in the car and went back to the boat tour dock.  Bill needed some time to sober up and it was a really gorgeous late afternoon.

The lady who sold us the tour was trying to chat us up and coming off as a bit disingenuous, especially when her machine malfunctioned and she had to handwrite us tickets.  But we got on the boat and enjoyed a lovely little cruise, especially when we ran into a regatta!  A bunch of kids, no doubt learning how to sail, were having a race on our route.  You can see the footage in the first video I posted.  They were pretty awesome.

Ljubljana is a great town and I’m glad we visited.  I’m actually glad we stayed in Bled instead of the capital city, since I have a feeling parking can be a challenge there.  However, if you want to go shopping or eating, I think Ljubljana is a great bet.  I hope we can visit again, if only because I want to find more awesome restaurants and visit the castle.  We spotted it as we drove into the city, as well as the handy funicular that takes people up the hill.  Had we arrived a bit earlier, maybe we would have toured the castle, although we were both a bit tired of tour groups by Saturday and we knew the castle would probably be teeming with them.

Farmer’s market!

Hare Krishnas

Bubbles!

This is why I always check alleys…  really cool art here.

A church near where we had lunch. 

Food and sewing…

Graffiti.

Our spot for lunch!

Bill’s tiger shrimp salad with delicious wasabi dressing…

My risotto with shrimp and asparagus…

Scallops and mild cheese.

Awesome bread and amuse.

Our first bottle of wine…

The terrace before things got busy!

A good spot for beer!

Our boat cruise.

I snapped this shot of the mural on the building.  It must have taken forever to do that…

 

On the way back into Bled, we saw yet another stream of cars.  They were headed in the opposite direction.  Yep, day trippers!  I recommend for those wanting to visit Bled, go somewhere else on Saturday.  Take a trip to the city to avoid the crowds!  Saturday is fun in Ljubljana!

Cool show caves, the biggest in Europe…Postojna Cave Park…

Advertisements

I could write about what Bill and I did after our walk from Hell to Heaven, but I think I’ll save that story for when I review Hotel Vila Bled.  Instead, I think I’ll write about what we did on Friday.  You see, I happen to love caves.  When I was in high school, my advanced biology class took a trip to the Shenandoah Valley to go spelunking in wild caves.  Since my family is from the Shenandoah Valley, that was quite a treat for me.  We visited a new wet cave in Harrisonburg and an old dry cave near Lexington.  Neither caving expedition involved admission tickets, tour guides, or trains.  I had a great time in my lighted hard hat, even though I ended up with a minor injury.

Aside from that, I think the only other cave I visited was at the Natural Bridge Caverns in Virginia.  It was pretty cool, especially since we got to go for free 😉 (two of my uncles used to run Natural Bridge).  Let me just say, the Natural Bridge Caverns (in VA, not TX) couldn’t hold a candle to the incredible Postojna Cave.  I had seen some ads for the caves when I was researching our trip and on the way to and from Trieste, we saw plenty of billboards.  It looked a bit touristy, but hell, we had nothing better to do.  So on Friday, I suggested to Bill that we drive about 80 kilometers from Bled to Postojna to see the famous show caves.

We arrived at the impressive park after noon.  There was a lot of parking… so much that I was reminded of the four summers I spent working at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia.  You can tell the place gets huge crowds, probably especially in the summer.  They weren’t terribly busy the day we visited.  We saw lots of Asian groups and a few school groups, but otherwise it wasn’t bad at all.

We were there in time for the 1:00pm cave tour.  When you get to the park, someone explains how the park works.  There are four attractions and you can do any combination of the four or all four.  If you choose to do all four, it helps to have a car or access to a tour bus.  Attraction #4 is located 9 kilometers from the main cave park.  Bill was leaning toward only doing a couple of the attractions, but I reminded him that we had nothing else to do.  For the two of us, it cost about 79 euros.  That included parking and 10% off lunch.

Park employees assign you a time to visit the cave.  You have to go at that time.  If you miss your time, I imagine you have to get another ticket. We were in time for the 1:00pm tour, so that’s the one we took.  We had just enough time for a quick pizza in the food court at the Cave Park.  I was actually kind of impressed by the food.  You can get a sandwich, a schnitzel, fish, or a sandwich without spending a whole lot of money.  They also have sweets, which we did try after we toured the three exhibits at the park.

We got to the cave at about ten minutes before 1:00pm.  We were separated into different groups.  When we bought our tickets, we were asked where we were from and a code was put on our ticket directing which group we should be in.  I saw groups for German, Italian, Slovenian, and English speakers.  I think the English group might have been the largest of all of them.

Once you’re separated into the appropriate language group, you get on a train.  It goes about 2 km into the cave,  I saw people taking flash photography, which is prohibited because the lights cause photosynthesis which harms the ecosystem within the cave.   Despite being asked not to several times, there were a few stubborn folks in my group who kept using their flash.  You’re also asked to stay with the group so you don’t end up in the Slovenian group.

We had a guide named Anna who spoke into a microphone in excellent English as she explained the cave.  Since there was a large group, she was only able to address the group at stations where there were microphones.  I actually didn’t mind that too much, since it gave us the chance to walk through the cave at our own pace and check things out.  There were a few people who got on my nerves.  You know how it is when you’re in a big group and people have to be in front of you as they engage in public displays of affection?  That’s how it was on Friday.  There was a couple in front of me who didn’t seem to want me to pass them, yet kept grabbing each other, taking selfies, impeding everyone behind them and otherwise being obnoxious.  I just kept reminding myself that I was once young and horny…

After we checked out the very impressive cave, we got back on the train and headed back to the entrance.  The front of the cave is black because back during World War II, there was an explosion there.  The cave burned for a week as munitions stored there were destroyed by Slovenian Partisans.  If you get the chance to see the Postojna Cave, you’ll get the chance to see the blackened area, which is pretty extensive.

We visited the Proteus Cave, which was not very extensive and took less than twenty minutes.  In there, you can see some typical cave creatures.  Then we went to the Expo Center, which was very educational.  The other exhibits all had English translations and covered the history of the museum as well as natural history.

When it came time to leave, Bill had some trouble with the parking machine.  He paid for parking with our ticket, but the ticket wasn’t recognizing that he paid.  Some Bulgarian guy was very impatient and drove up to Bill’s side, yelling at him that he needed to pay.  But Bill had already paid and the Bulgarian guy didn’t know what he was yelling about.  He was also an asshole who had to wait just as long as he would have otherwise waited had he just kept his trap shut.  Sorry… people like that guy piss me off.

I was in a fine mood when we got to the fourth exhibit, a castle in a cave in in Predjama…  Indeed, the castle is called Predjama Castle and it’s probably the most interesting castle I’ve seen yet.  I’ve seen Neuschwanstein and Linderhof, as well as Hohenzollern and other castles around Europe.  Predjama Castle strikes me as the coolest.  We took a self guided tour with a handheld phone.  The tour is very well done and I actually enjoyed listening to the explanations about each room.

Bill and I were pretty tired after our day in Postojna.  I would recommend anyone tempted to visit the Cave Park wear comfortable shoes.  I would not recommend the Cave Park for people who have mobility issues.  The cave tour is pretty strenuous, even though you take a train into the depths of the cave.  Predjama Castle is definitely not a good tour for those who can’t climb up and down stairs.  For those who can climb, though, the castle is well worth seeing.

There is free WiFi at the Cave Park and some decent shopping, as well as good food.  I finally tried Slovenia’s famous cream cake there, even though it was served at breakfast at our hotel.

Big map as you enter the park.

And painted geckos (er, proteus) to show you the way…  The guide will tell you about the proteus, but to be honest, I found it hard to hear her over the noise and echoes in the cave.  Apparently, one or more of the proteus (cave salamanders) is expecting and may or may not make new salamanders in June.   

Pizza for lunch.  This one had asparagus and tomatoes.

Note the groups.  

The train.

Mr. Bill settles in.

Russian Bridge.  This was built by Russians.

Slovenian cream cake at the top and a very yummy chocolate cream cake at the bottom.  The cream cake could be addictive.

Castle in a cave…

Predjama Castle…  I was a bit over it by the time we got here, but I must admit I enjoyed our tour.

The view of the countryside from the castle.

At the very top of the cave…

Some of the furniture in the castle.

These next shots are photos in the cave I took with my camera as opposed to my phone.

There is a gift shop and WC at the end of the tour before you get on the train.

Better look at the signs for the language groups.

 

Having once worked at a true tourist trap, I’d say Postojna Cave Park isn’t really a tourist trap.  For what you pay, you get a good deal of entertainment.  It’s also a very educational place to visit.  I recommend seeing the castle.  It’s very cool and the drive there is pretty.  In fact, I think I might have even liked the castle more than the cave.

All in all, I recommend Postojna Cave Park if you’re in the area… or even if you just visit Slovenia.  It’s a really neat place to spend a few hours.  In the summer, I would bet the caves are very refreshing, though probably very crowded!

The walk from Hell to reach Heaven… Vintgar Gorge

Advertisements

The entrance to the Vintgar Gorge…

Thursday morning, Bill and I were looking for things to do and decided we wanted to visit Vintgar Gorge.  Although I am pretty sure I had read about or seen pictures of this marvelous natural attraction near Bled, I can’t say that I had made any solid plans to get there.  I happened to read up about it online the morning of our visit, loved the photos I saw, and suddenly decided I wanted to go.  I read in one TripAdvisor review that it was possible to walk there.  I mentioned that to Bill and he was all for walking, even though the review mentioned that parts of the walk weren’t easy because there were no sidewalks.  The comment about the lack of sidewalks should have given me a clue.

Anyway, like two idiots, we set off on our hike, thinking it would be a fairly short walk.  We neglected to carry water or sunscreen, though I did carry my purse and had put on some sunscreen before we started walking.  At first, the walk wasn’t too bad, though Bled is a pretty heavily trafficked town.  We dodged cyclists, trucks, and cars, but we were feeling fresh and energetic and I was buoyed by the idea of seeing some gorgeous scenery.

At one point, we came to a terribly tight area with really awful vehicular traffic and no sidewalks to speak of.  No matter if you were on your feet or on wheels, it was fairly dangerous negotiating the area.  I was beginning to think the walk was a bad idea, but then we made a right turn into a more residential area.  The horizon beckoned with looming snow capped mountains and expansive fields full of wildflowers.  We passed a stallion pacing about in a small pen and I explained to Bill how horses are gelded (I spent most of my childhood showing horses).  Then we started talking about more contentious subjects as we headed more and more into the country.  A few thoughts about when the walk was going to end started to creep into my consciousness as we kept marching.

After about an hour, I was seriously beginning to worry about our decision to walk to the gorge, but then I saw a sign that said it was only 1.5km away.  Feeling a second wind, I bore down into the walk uphill, even as I began to realize that I was sweaty and tired and not in fabulous shape.  It’s true we had no water and I didn’t see any stores where we could buy some fluids, but the spirit was somewhat willing even if the flesh was weak.

The signs were telling us to go down a country road that I hoped would take us to the gorge.  A group of cyclists passed us, then stopped.  We passed them and headed up yet another hill.  After about a half an hour, I saw another sign advertising the gorge… 1.5 km.  Some very salty four letter words escaped my lips.  How could we still be 1.5km away from the gorge after all that walking, mostly uphill?

As we were fuming over the sign that let us know that we’d apparently made no progress, the cyclists passed us again.  It turned out they were Irish.  One of the women said in a hilarious lilt, “You picked the right way to go!” as she panted and struggled to get the bike up the hill we were climbing.

I was about to get really upset when Bill noticed a store.  We went in there practically radiating heat as we searched for cold water.  All we found was cold beer… and the water was stored on a cabinet at room temperature.  Bill said, “There’s no cold water.  Only beer.”  He looked at me quizzically.  At that point, I was seriously getting pissed off, which depending on your viewpoint, is either hilarious or scary.

“Just get the fucking water.” I snarled, already way over the long walk in the heat.

Bill laughed, bought the water, and we went outside for a short rest.  I started telling him that the walk was a really stupid idea, especially since we neglected to bring any water.  He then asked me if I wanted to head back to Bled.

I stared at him in disbelief.  Then I thought about it for a moment, then said “No, let’s see if we can get there.  But I am NOT walking back.”

Bill wondered aloud how we’d get back to Bled and I said, “You will call a taxi.  You brought your phone, right?”

Bill laughed again and said he’d brought it and, unlike me, hadn’t used up all his roaming minutes.  We rounded a corner and I was starting to feel a little bit down when I suddenly heard the sound of rushing water!  Then, Bill noticed a sign for a town that we probably would have walked right through had we not accidentally taken the detour intended for cars.  I could see the river in the distance and, voila, there we were… at Vintgar Gorge!

We walked down the twisty hill to the gorge and the first thing Bill saw was a sign for a taxi service.  Clearly, we weren’t the first to decide we weren’t up to walking back to Bled after walking to the gorge.  Next to the sign for the taxi service, there was a very large gasthaus serving fresh trout all day.

We walked through the free parking lot and paid four euros each admission to the gorge.  Public toilets were a welcome sight, as well as picnic tables and refreshments.  We decided to walk the gorge before enjoying beer and ice cream.  I knew if I sat down, my muscles would stiffen up and it would take some doing to stand up again.

At the end of the 1.6 km walk, there is another ticket booth that offers refreshments, toilets, and a lovely view of a waterfall.  We sat there for an hour, ate ice cream, drank beer, and enjoyed the serene sights and sounds of rushing mountain water.

At the end of the Vintgar Gorge walk, there is also a trail that leads to another town where we could have caught a bus, but Bill said it looked too rugged for the likes of us.  In my exhausted state, I was inclined to agree.  We walked back the way we came, had some delicious fresh trout at the gasthaus, and then got the waiter to call us a cab back to Bled.  By day’s end, we’d walked well over ten miles.  Not bad for an almost 44 year old fatass housewife.

Here are some of the photos I took on our gorgeous walk to and along Vintgar Gorge.

This was a pretty stretch of road, despite all the trucks…

This is where I heard the water…

I got even more photos than I’m sharing in this post.  Vintgar Gorge really is very beautiful.  It was somewhat busy the day we walked it, which meant we shared the walk with a lot of people.  I would imagine on weekends and holidays, it’s a madhouse at the gorge.  I was so tempted to jump into the cold water.  I wished I’d worn a bathing suit, though I didn’t see anyone really wading on the walk itself.  Further down the river at the bottom of a waterfall, I saw what looked like local people setting up a camp and wearing Speedos.  Along the walk itself, it’s probably too dangerous because of the rapids, waterfalls, and deep pools.

Bill determines how we’re getting back to Bled as I sip a much appreciated beer.  The people sitting in front of us had a couple of dogs with them, one of which was a well behaved beagle.  She made me miss Zane and Arran. 

The mist from the waterfalls was so nice!  This walk can be wet and slippery, so wear good shoes with traction.

Lunch… I had brown trout and Bill had brook trout with garlic sauce.  Both were caught in the gorge and each cost about 13 euros.  They were very large fish.  For those who don’t like fish, there are a number of other choices available, everything from turkey to schnitzel.    

 

We also ran into another group of Irish cyclists who made us laugh as they described their adventures getting to the gorge.  I remembered that this trip was originally intended to be a trip to Ireland and smiled.  It must be a sign that our next big trip will be to Bill’s ancestral homeland.

If you get to Vintgar Gorge and want to have lunch, the restaurant is well worth a stop.  They have a wide variety of dishes and a very cool biergarten area.  The guy who waited on us was very friendly and hardworking and we definitely appreciated that he called us a cab.  WiFi is available there, but you have to pay for it.  Despite my Internet addiction, I didn’t bother.

 

I’m not sorry we walked to the gorge, though I probably wouldn’t choose to do it again.  If you’re reasonably fit and want to walk to Vintgar Gorge from Lake Bled, it’s certainly doable.  Just be sure to bring water and make sure you know your route.  Also, be prepared to dodge a lot of traffic.  I would not recommend walking to the gorge if you have young kids.  If we ever make it to this little slice of Slovenian Heaven again, it’ll be with wheels.  Our taxi ride back to Bled was 10 euros and worth every penny.

Lake Bled!

Advertisements

I have been wanting to visit Lake Bled for years.  I first noticed it when we lived in Germany the first time.  I read up on it and looked wistfully at photos… and then we had to leave Germany a year earlier than expected!  It’s probably Lake Bled’s “fault” that we’re on the vacation we’re on and not in Ireland or France.

Baby swans in Bled!

We set off from Trieste relatively early and got caught in a traffic jam right before a tunnel.  I got a kick out of the traffic cop, who was an older, heavyset gentleman wearing knee length boots and sporting roguish long, gray hair.  Although I couldn’t picture him giving chase to anyone, he looked like a badass.  The jam only lasted a few minutes, but several truckers had left their vehicles to investigate.  They had to scramble back into their trucks to avoid being run over.  I noticed a lot of them had upturned shirt collars on their polo shirts, the way stylish preppy guys used to wear them in the 80s.

Just over the Slovenian border, we stopped for gas.  I took off my seatbelt while I waited for Bill to gas up the car.  When he got back in the car, he decided to be cute and put the seatbelt back on me.  I was about to let him do it (it’s easier that way), but then I noticed a car full of Muslims parked next to ours and one lady was staring at us with a horrified expression on her face.  I pushed Bill away and grabbed the seatbelt as the woman’s shocked glower became more obvious.  Then we both started laughing our heads off.  She probably thought we were completely insane… or maybe just a little kinky.

We arrived at Lake Bled too early to check in to our hotel.  Nevertheless, we completed all the formalities as a large group of Chinese tourists were leaving the hotel.  The receptionist invited us to take a walk around Lake Bled, since it takes about two hours if you don’t stop.  The weather was perfect and it was close to lunchtime anyway.  Off we went.  We stopped at a hotel cafe for lunch, sitting outside on a very nice terrace overlooking the majestic lake.  A group of pushy ladies took the table next to ours.  At first I was a little annoyed by them– hangry again, and they were taking pictures and encroaching on our personal space.  But then they were joined by a man who was obviously a local and happened to be gorgeous.   It was kind of fun to watch them and listen to them as they ate the local dessert speciality, Bled Cream Cake.  I haven’t tried that yet, but noticed they offered it at breakfast.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll take the plunge.

After the ladies and their hottie guide got up, a man and two ladies sat down.  The man and one of the ladies immediately lit up.  I didn’t notice their smoking at first, but then it was time to eat and I was immediately downwind of the lady’s cigarette.  Smoking is still okay here and I get that, but I think it’s very rude to smoke in a way that the smoke hits someone in the face while they’re eating.  Bill and I moved to another table, then a new party took our old table.  They had an infant who was downwind of the noxious fumes.  I couldn’t help but fantasize about revenge, especially since I noticed no one was smoking upwind of the smokers as they enjoyed their lunches.

Local beer… not bad, but not mind blowing.

 

Super rare cheeseburgers that tasted like they were made of sausage, coupled with another party’s nasty cigarette smoke.

Anyway, after we ate, we felt much better and enjoyed a very pleasant stroll around Lake Bled.  Here are some photos…

Baby swans!

After a brief rest in our huge hotel room, we ventured out again for dinner.  We ended up at what turned out to be a very popular local restaurant.

We wait for our first bottle of wine…

And I enjoy a delightful sea bass dish with potatoes and vegetables.

Bill had John Dory fish, which I thought was even better than my sea bass (branzino).

Our first bottle of wine… a white that we killed over fish and fresh, flavorful, colorful vegetables.

 

This particular restaurant seemed very popular with Americans.  We saw a number of them enjoying dinner there and I was left with the impression that Lake Bled has become very popular with American tourists.  I’ve heard more American English spoken here than Slovenian, which is a bit of a disappointment for me.  But the funny thing is, we have been mistaken for Germans several times.  I think it’s because Bill and I don’t make a lot of noise.  We don’t talk loudly and we don’t wear clothes that automatically identify where we’re from.  We both could pass for German too, though we’re both short.

We ordered a lovely red wine in lieu of dessert…

And one of the waiters brought out this plate of cheese and olives, saying it goes great with the wine. We were not charged for this and I even tried the cheese!  It basically tasted like mild Parmesan.  It was very good, though I don’t usually eat cold cheeses (it’s a texture thing).  A tiny bit made my tastebuds explode.

The bill… 83 euros!  

And the name of the restaurant…  I see we aren’t the only ones who enjoyed it!

 

All in all, our first day in Bled was a success!

Trieste and joyriding in Croatia!

Advertisements

Tuesday morning, we got up and had a light breakfast.  Then Bill drove us to Trieste, which turned out to be another white knuckle experience.  First there was the prospect of getting out of the hotel’s crazy parking lot and negotiating the super narrow streets and blind corners.  Then, we had to deal with Italian drivers, who seem to have no qualms about forcing their way into traffic, speeding around corners, and basically scaring the shit out of people who aren’t Italian.

A little fuel before a scary drive into Trieste.

Traffic going in to Trieste was pretty heavy and Bill and I both wondered aloud why we do this to ourselves…  driving in Italy when we could drive in perfectly sane Germany, France or Austria.  The answer to that question is that Italy is just awesome.  The food is wonderful.  The people are interesting and fun to watch, as well as very warm and hospitable.  The terrain is beautiful.  Once we managed to find metered parking near the waterfront, we were able to walk around and enjoy the city.

The pier overlooking the Bay of Trieste.

The big main square in Trieste.  You can get free WiFi here.  😉

Near the marina.

Some youngsters were learning about an old amphitheater.  Some looked interested in what the guide was saying and some didn’t.

This was embedded in a wall.  I love finding little shrines and artistic impressions.  Graffiti fascinates me, even if I sometimes wish the artists would be choosier about what buildings they deface.

To be honest, I didn’t find Trieste to be long on things to do.  We mostly just people watched and enjoyed the free WiFi in the center.  At one point, we walked past a sex shop.  I chuckled at the sight of bright red men’s underwear on a mannequin.  They were trimmed in lace and had stringy suspenders attached to them.  The suspenders seemed more decorative than functional.

When it came time for lunch, we walked around toward the Grand Canal and found a cute little restaurant with checkered tablecloths.  I was having one of my famous hangry/sugar crashes and was about over it when we sat down.

Bill ponders over lunch.  Our waiter raised an eyebrow when we ordered a whole liter of wine.  Yes, we’re lushes.  I’m more of a lush than Bill is.

Bill ordered a liter of house white wine and pasta with truffles and ham.  I had a scallop starter and fried fish, which turned out to be calamari, sardines, and squid.  Fortunately, I love fish very much and the cook did a good job!

My scallops… Yum!  They were breaded and served still attached to the shell.

Bill’s pasta with truffles and ham.  I complained when he ate a lot of garlic a couple of days prior.  Truffles are even more aromatic to me and not in a good way.  But he loves them and really enjoyed this dish.

I had lots of fried jewels from the sea.  No, I didn’t finish this.  It was a lot of protein!

As we were finishing up, I paid a visit to the restaurant’s unisex bathroom, which consisted of a squat hole.  I hadn’t seen one of those in awhile!  After Bill checked out a James Joyce statue on a nearby bridge, we decided to walk around a little more… basically back to the main square where we took a seat at a big cafe with great desserts.  They had normal tables there, but they also had comfortable chairs and couches with cocktail tables that faced the square.  We were able to sit there and watch the world go by.  Bill had a coffee and I had Irish coffee…

A squat toilet!

The cafe.  I probably ought to zoom in to see what it was called.  I felt much better when we left there.

The Grand Canal.

James Joyce is honored on the bridge!

And with a James Joyce bar across the way…  I might have been tempted to pay a visit, but decided not to.

If you’re really patient and have no watch or cellphone, you can tell the time with this…

Bill picks out drinks while I people and dog watch.

I had an Irish coffee.  I guess he wanted me relaxed for our next activity.

 

Our meter was due to run out at 3:45pm, so we decided to move on from Trieste.  I came up with the brilliant idea of heading into Slovenia, which we did.  But then, as we got closer to the Croatian border, I talked Bill into driving into our next virgin territory.  Good thing we had our passports because Slovenian border guards were checking at the Croatian border.

We made it through… and soon learned that Croatia is not on the Euro.

An example of apartments in Pula, which is where we ended up stopping after a lovely drive on a very well-maintained and mostly empty toll road.  We got some Croatian currency at a gas station, but we needn’t have bothered.  You can pay the tolls in euros and they are quite cheap!

An ancient arena in Pula.

 

Had we set off earlier, we probably would have spent some quality time in Pula.  It was getting late, though, and we were tired.  So we stopped at a supermarket, used the WC (for free!) and bought several bottles of Croatian wine.  I don’t know if we’ll like what we bought since I don’t speak Croatian.  I’m eager to try, though, when we get home.  And our sneak peek was very satisfying.  We will have to go back soon and see more of beautiful Croatia.

Great highway with cheap tolls and beautiful scenery.

We stopped in Slovenia for dinner.  The restaurant had a Slovenian name, but our waiter made sure to tell us it was called The Three Hunters.  He mistook us for German… the first of several Slovenians who have.

I had delicious roasted pork with vegetables and local wine…

Bill had rabbit gnocchi.  Had we wanted to, we could have also had dishes made with bear.  Bear meat is apparently a delicacy in Slovenia.

I had beer for dessert.

This was when the waiter reminded me of the name of the restaurant.  I think he was hoping I’d review it.  The food was very good and he was a good server, though the ladies room reeked of old urine.  Too bad for that, since it was otherwise a fabulous meal and very reasonably priced.

 

Our May getaway, 2016…

Advertisements

A few months ago, Bill and I went to The Auld Rogue  in Vaihingen for a Sunday lunch and came home with tentative plans to go to Ireland.  The folks at The Auld Rogue were offering a group trip to Ireland for the long Memorial Day weekend.  Bill made reservations for our dogs at Dog On Holiday in anticipation of a quick May sojourn to his motherland.

Then the trip to Ireland became a trip to France.  After researching the logistics of going to Ireland from Stuttgart, along with my lack of enthusiasm for trying Ryan Air, I pushed Ireland out of my head.  I thought maybe we’d hit southern France and pick up some wine.  But it occurred to me that we’ve been to France a few times.  Then I noticed someone on our local Facebook group had posted an article about Hallstatt, Austria.  Bill and I love Austria and we’ve already visited four times during our current Germany tenure of less than two years.  As I read about Hallstatt, I realized that we hadn’t been to Slovenia.  And we also hadn’t visited Trieste, in northeastern Italy.  My plans to go to France soon evaporated as I mapped out a road trip taking us from Austria, to Italy, and then Slovenia, with another stop in Austria on the way back to Stuttgart.

Once I started planning, we realized the dogs needed a longer holiday at Dog On Holiday.  Fortunately, there was room for them in the days leading up to Memorial Day weekend.  We left Germany for Austria on May 21st.  As I write this, we’ve been gone two nights.

We decided to take my Mini Cooper convertible on our trip, mainly because it needs the miles, but also because we figured it would be more fun to drive it with the top down.  As we’ve arrived in Italy this afternoon, I now think it was best to drive it because it’s smaller than our RAV 4 and fits more easily through narrow passages.  I was initially afraid I might want to buy something and not be able to because of my car’s small size, but then I remembered the wonders of shipping.

Early Saturday morning, Bill dropped our dogs off with Max at Dog On Holiday and we set off on our journey.  I remembered being warned about the terrible traffic we might face on the way south.  We did hit a few Staus, but none were really terrible until we saw the line of cars trying to get from Austria back into Germany.  That may be something to plan for when we start the drive home.

Stau near Esslingen…

Closer to Austria…

 

It seemed to take forever to get out of Germany.  At one point, we stopped at a horribly crowded rest stop that was teeming with buses, bikers, truckers, and disgruntled motorists. I waited in the car while Bill went to buy an Austrian vignette.  While he was gone, some kid started whizzing on the fence right in front of me.  I guess either he or his parents didn’t want to pay 70 cents for the restroom.

But we finally got to Austria and made our way to our first stop in Gosau, Austria.  I decided on Gosau because I had read that Hallstatt was very crowded and teeming with tourists, especially Asians.  It’s not that I have anything against Asians.  In fact, we often run into them when we travel, especially in Austria.  It’s just that when I was hunting for lodging, I found a listing for a very charming looking hotel in Gosau and one reviewer mentioned all the Asians in Hallstatt.  She made it sound like Hallstatt was very touristy, even if it is pretty.  So though it was pricey, I booked two nights at the Landhaus Koller.  That turned out to be one of my better ideas.  Not only is the Landhaus Koller utterly beautiful and charming, it’s also out of the throngs of tourists in Hallstatt.

And yes, the reviewer on Trip Advisor was absolutely right.  There are many Chinese people in Hallstatt.  In turns out there’s a special reason why Chinese people love to visit Hallstatt.  I learned the reason yesterday during our visit.  In a suburb of Beijing, the Chinese have built a replica of Hallstatt.  I’m not sure how many people in China actually live in their version of Hallstatt, but the replica has made Chinese people want to visit the real thing.  And visit they do… many, many of them.

We managed to have a great time in Gosau and we’re now in a hotel in Italy.  We’ll spend two nights here and head to Slovenia for a few days.  I feel like writing now, but the Internet connection is too slow.