As planned, I woke up at 3:30am. I took a quick shower and packed my things up. Luckily there were no problems with transportation, as the taxi I reserved was waiting for me outside. We arrived at Ljubljana airport around 4:30am and I didn’t have […]
Month: September 2013
At 10:30am, it was time for me to head towards Triglav Adventures for paragliding. One good thing about paragliding as opposed to skydiving is that the flight lasts 20-30 minutes. On the downside though, you can’t hire someone else to jump to take pictures or video of you.
When I first talked to them on Wednesday, I asked if I could bring a camera with me and they said ‘as long as it wasn’t one of those big ones’ – funny, because that is exactly how I would describe my Canon 5d Mark II. He told me I could bring a smaller one as long as it had a strap. Problem is my iPhone doesn’t, and there’s nothing to attach a strap to.
I decided to get resourceful. In the parking lot 20 minutes before we’re supposed to meet, I take the strap off my DSLR and then loosely place it over my phone. Then, with the words of the Boy Scout motto ‘Be Prepared’ echoing in my head, I take some gaffers tape and duct tape I brought with me. I secure the straps with the gaffers tape first to protect the screen, then put duct tape on top for added security. I have to remember where the iPhone’s on-screen controls are to take a picture and unlock the screen. After moving things around a bit, I finally get it secure while having access to the front and back cameras and touchscreen.
In the town near the bottom, we stop at a park and switch cars. Here 4 other guys join us: 3 tandem instructors and one guy going by himself. They secure the gliders on top of the van’s rack, then jump in the back, as me and the girls grab seats inside.
We then drive up to the top on very rough roads that tested the van’s suspension. Finally we drive and see an opening and its where we are going to take off from.
We quickly passing the take-off zone and fly towards the left. It’s incredible feeling. No motors or other sound except the wind hitting the glider. One thing I wasn’t expecting is that when you’re flying you’re in a seated position. For some reason I thought it would be more like skydiving, but it wasn’t.
Soon, we start gaining altitude. Although the two girls went right before I did, they didn’t have the best wind, so they had to fly down a different way. Instead, my instructor caught the thermals and flew us higher – easily a few hundred feet higher than where we started. I imagine that in the right wind, someone could do this as long as they wanted.
After about five minutes climbing, we start gliding down towards the right of where we took off. It’s cold and I’m glad they let me borrow the jumpsuit.
Twenty minutes after we took off, we head towards the landing zone. Landing was easy and quick.
Safe back on solid ground, I’m so happy I had good weather to do this on my last day of my trip. It cost €95 and was absolutely worth it.
I woke up early this morning to hike to an overlook for sunrise shots. I didn’t wake up quite early enough, but I still leave my room around 7:00am. But I’m quickly disappointed when I see that the hostel’s van has blocked my rental car […]
Note: This will likely be my last blog post until I get back to Greenville. It takes too long to upload pictures and I’ve got to wake up at 4:15am on Sunday so I’ll need to catch up on sleep. I’ll update this blog with posts of my last couple days when I get back.
I woke up with the intention on doing some like hiking and taking pictures of waterfalls. The parking permit on my car expired at 7:15am, so it forced me to get an early start. After grabbing my things, I drove down to see the lake before heading out of town.
Instead, I found partly blue skies, no rain, and good visibility. What luck! I made a quick decision to change my plans and do the self driving tour of the Julian Alps instead.
I start by heading north on the A2 expressway and grab breakfast on the way while filling up the gas tank from yesterday. It cost me somewhere around €40 including the food.
Soon I get off the expressway and head towards Triglav National Park, the only national park in Slovenia. I drive through a nice valley and excitedly stop to take some pictures of a blue sky. I realize I have a big smile on my face at this point.
|A rack for drying hay.|
Due to Slovenia’s climate, they developed a unique way of hanging hay to dry. These hayracks are an important part of Slovenian culture and there are even plans to build a hay rack museum.
Around 10 minutes later, I enter the national park and quickly meet some new friends.
They looked just as surprised to see me and I did to see them. One came up pretty close to the car to investigate, then walked down the middle of the road. After they continued on, so did I.
I then begin driving the Vršič Pass – a high mountain pass characterized by 50 hairpin turns which are numbered with signs also showing the elevation.
At turn #8 sits a small Russian Chapel. Taken from a signpost: “During World War I, this area was an important cross road for military passages. When Italy declared war to Austria in May 1915, the connection with the front line on the river Soča was of strategic importance, especially during the years 1915-1916. Austrain military commanders engaged more than 10,000 Russian war prisoners to build the road.
In 1916, while this road was built, an avalanche killed 400 Russian POW and 10 guards. This chapel serves as a place of remembrance for those prisoners who built the road that so many enjoy today.”
I continued up the winding turns stopping occasionally to take pictures.
I finally made it up to the top of the pass around 12:30pm and I’m greeted by my next set of friends: sheep!
|My shoelaces must have tasted good|
After my second brush with roaming animals, I grabbed lunch at a mountain top restaurant: kraut and sausage. Definitely different from Croatia and Bosnian food.
|Not my picture, but this is where I ate|
I continued down the other side of the mountain and reach the valley below. The Soča river is an incredible shade of turquoise. Neither of these pictures were edited.
In getting to the end of the self-driving tour, I decide to go back the way I came instead of the longer route of driving through Ljubljana. I stopped at the visitors center to grab this picture before continuing on.
I stop again on the side of the road to capture the valley one last time before I head back to the switchbacks.
I get back to Lake Bled and decide to go to Bled Island while the weather is still good. I get in a pletna, a flat bottomed boat with a design that is passed down through generations. The trip costs €12, including a 30 minute wait on the island.
|The pletna I went in and the guy who rowed us there|
After the island, I stopped by Triglav Adventures, the company that I’m going hot air ballooning and paragliding with. I walked in and asked about both, and he tells me that while the weather should work for both activities, they need more than one person to sign up for the hot air balloon ride in order to fly. At a price point of €220 per person, I briefly thought about just paying for two tickets, but based on the weather lately, I’d be disappointed if the skies weren’t clear. Instead, I decide to look into paragliding. I pay him €95 for it and he says to come back tomorrow at 12:30pm, and if the weather is good, I can fly then. If I don’t end up going, I get my money back. I’m keeping a close eye on the weather though.
I then grabbed desert at a lakeside restaurant. Bled is famous for their creme cakes. It has a puff pastry top, a custard creme filling, and then is topped with powdered sugar. It’s no Bled muffin, but it was amazing.
Finally, I went to Bled Castle and witnessed a medieval show which was pretty entertaining. On my way back down to the parking lot, I overhead some older British women talking about having to walk in the rain, so I offered them a ride since I drove there. They were very appreciative. I think Americans have a pretty bad reputation so I try to change that when I travel.
Tomorrow (Friday) I hope to go paragliding! Hoping for good weather…
A little before noon, the crowds started coming in and I realized I’d seen as much as I wanted to of the park.
For the rest of the day, I did some laundry in my sink (using mint scented body wash) and editing pictures. I managed to find an upload of the Clemson/UGA game on YouTube so I watched it in it’s entirety. I did find a snack before dinner though.
I got dinner at the same place I ate the past two nights: Hotel Plitvice. This time I was less than impressed; I’m looking forward to eating somewhere else tomorrow night.
The fruit flies flying around also really damper your appetite. I killed one by smacking the table and the dining room got quiet for a few seconds after that.
After dinner I planned for my next stop: Slovenia. I have to catch a roadside bus at 6:45am tomorrow morning in order to arrive in Zagreb (Croatia’s capital) in time for a train to Slovenia. This is the part of my trip I was looking forward to the most, but the weather doesn’t look too great. I don’t mind overcast, but it’s predicted to rain for the next 4 days there. Good thing I’m spending 5 nights.
Hopefully I can still schedule paragliding, a hot air balloon rider, or skydiving; we’ll see.
I got to the ticket counter at 6:50am, and although they weren’t open until 7:00am, she let me go ahead and buy my ticket now. I walked past the unmanned entrance station into the park.
I started by hiking along the eastern edge of Lake Kozjak towards the Lower Lakes. No one else was in sight as I watched the sunrise above the hills. In addition to the waterfalls, this park is also known for it’s bears, so I kept my eyes out for them.
I crossed one of the many wooden boardwalks and hiked up to see the aptly named Big Waterfall – 250 feet tall. 45 minutes after leaving the ticket booth, I finally come across other people on the trail.
I then went back in the direction I came, coming across a German couple who both had tripods and were patient with which pictures they took. In talking to them, they said they couldn’t move on this boardwalk yesterday afternoon, so they woke up earlier this morning. Gave me an idea of what to look forward to.
Continuing up the east side of the Lower Lakes again, I captured some more scenes. The trout seemed to move in slow motion.
I then made my way to the Upper Falls, which has more impressive waterfalls. I hope to get more pictures like this tomorrow.
I grabbed a lunch at a park restaurant which wasn’t very good. Good thing it was cheap.
I went back to my room to rest a bit. In walking back, I realized how crowded it got.
After resting and waiting for the crowds to decrease, I went back out to find out where this picture was shot from:
I looked for hours and saw where they took it from, but it looked inaccessible. I asked a park worker, she said that it was taken from a rock face and I had to get a written permit through the park offices. :/ Oh well – it’s a great shot though.
I did manage to get up high and take a picture of the boardwalk I crossed in the morning.
For dinner, I ordered the same trout I’ve been watching swim around all day, with a side salad (not shown below). I’ve never had a European salad that has a substantial amount of lettuce, and this one was no exception.
I was expecting fish fillets, not a whole trout on my plate. Memories of returning from fishing in the bay and my dad filleting fish on top of newspaper on our front lawn with our labs (Dixie, then Casey) watching closely filled my mind. I dug in.
For desert, I ordered Fruit Flambe: bananas and peaches flame-heated in an orange-lemon juice with sugar, butter, rum, Maraschino, and with a side of ice cream. I took a video of my waitress making it, but it will have to be uploaded when I have a faster internet connection.
After the waitress prepared my desert, the Asian couple sitting next to me asked what I ordered and I showed them. Five minutes later, the same waitress took their order and they ordered the same desert. I have a feeling she made a lot of those that night.
As I was finishing my meal, a mid-20s Canadian couple sat on the other side of me. I couldn’t help but overhearing. For the first time on my trip, I realized that one of the benefits of traveling internationally is being able to tune other travelers out. If I can’t understand what’s being said, their conversations just becomes background noise – can’t really do that with English.
Now its off to sleep and hopefully beating the crowds again tomorrow morning.
This morning I woke up feeling better, but still not back to normal. I got out of bed around 8:00am after lying down yesterday around 4:00pm. If nothing else, I feel more rested. I was planning on going to a Crossfit gym this morning, but that wasn’t […]
If I could have gone home this morning, without having to pay for a ridiculously expensive plane ticket, I probably would have.
I stopped counting how many times I threw up last night after 10 and probably spent more time in the bathroom than in a bed last night. I must have ate something that really messed with my stomach, but no idea what.
I got out of bed in the morning and went to a pharmacy. The people working there didn’t speak English so I acted out having a sore throat (from all the throwing up). Had I been in any better mood, I would have had fun with the situation. Instead, I just wanted to feel better.
Instead, I had a bus to catch at 11:10am – back to Split on the Croatian coast. Luckily, I booked a private room there so at least I had that to look forward to. At around 10:30am, me and another guy from my hostel walked the 10 minutes to the bus station and bought tickets. The 3.5 hour bus ride cost 17 Marks, or $11.45.
The bus ride was a mix of sleeping and getting comfortable. I mistakenly got a window seat which was in the full sun. I quickly got a headache and started feeling warm. The only thing I could think about was my girlfriend Julie trying to convince me to bring Advil with me. I start feeling sick and my throat started watering so I put in some earplugs to drown out the noise. They probably saved me from throwing up on the bus.
Things got interesting at 12:40pm at the Croatian border crossing. The border agent came on board and checked our passports. About 5 minutes later, I wake up and we’re still at the border.
Another agent comes on board and walks to the back of the bus where I’m sitting. He says, “You 5, come with me.” He points at me, the English guy I walked to the bus station with, and 3 Australian guys. We followed him to a small one story building. He takes one of the Australians inside with his bags, and shuts the door.
Another few minutes later, he points at me and calls me in. There’s two policemen and they ask if I have anything to declare, weapons, or drugs. I tell him I have a small pocketknife, and use my right thumb and index finger to show it’s about 1.5 inches long. I briefly remember looking up the rules on knives on the countries I’m visiting, but didn’t remember them.
He turns to his partner to translate and after a moment, they tell me to take my stuff back on the bus. I was good.
I find out later that for the other 4 guys, they empty their bags and have them repack them. I guess they thought I was honest because I told them I had a pocketknife, and no one who has something suspicious would volunteer any information.
15 minutes since initially stopping, we’re on our way again.
We arrive in Split at 2:30pm. This time I’m happy I saved how to get to my hostel, but I really don’t feel like walking any more than I have to. I grab a taxi and he drops me off 100 meters away from the entrance. I check in at reception, and they take me to my room. It looks perfect – a big double bed with a private bathroom. I took a quick shower. Taking my shirt off, I realized it was inside out all day. Just been one of those days. I quickly lied in bed and slept.
|Looking towards the old bridge|
|and away from it|
It’s a 9 story building that used to be a bank. During the war, mercenaries would camp out at the top and shoot anything that moved. I walked up past some Bosnians sitting on the bottom steps. A woman was giving me a hard time, but I knew this place was open to travelers, so I kept walking when she tried to talk to me.
|Roof of sniper tower|
Here’s a video I took at the top: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSz4Pb7X_7E
On my way home, I passed by the same Bosnians at the bottom of the stairs, drinking. They asked me where I was from, then if I could give them any money. I said ‘No, sorry’ and walked away. They weren’t too happy about that, but I’m sure they’re used to people saying no.
I overhead a Bosnian tour guide saying, “I could talk for an hour and not tell you 1/10th of what that bridge meant to us”.
On July 23, 2004, they finished reconstruction on the bridge using the same material and techniques almost half a century before. As the sun began to set, I set up my tripod next to the river to capture it. Some of my favorite pictures I’ve taken so far on this trip.
I walked back to my hostel and took a quick shower. I lied in bed a bit, but then decided I was wasting the good light at sunset so I walked back to the edge of the Old Town. On my kayak tour I heard […]
Despite trying to talk myself out of it, I woke myself up at 5:15 am to take pictures while the sun was rising, after going to sleep around midnight.
|The Stradun before sunset|
|On the other side of the wall…|
|…and this is the view you get|
|Island of Lokrum in the background|