Friday, May 25, 2007

I posted some more pictures

of Slovenia and our more recent stops

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Budapest and now India!

We spent a week together with Tara's family in Kesthely on the western shore of Lake Balaton in Hungary. While there we spent a day taking a dip in a thermal lake (Europe's biggest maybe? who knows) at a nearby town called Hevis. We also took a day trip to Vienna, which was a good time (we all had sausages too, if you were wondering) Outside of that we just relaxed there for the week and enjoyed our trip interlude. We've passed the 3 month mark of our trip now. Seems like a ton has happened already and we've still got so much more planned...

After Balaton, we drove with Tara's brother, Ryan, to Budapest. We stopped just outside the centre at the Statue Park. Once communism fell in Hungary, all of the great statues people loved to look at for a reminder of who their heroes are, were taken down and eventually moved to this park. It was interesting to see these big statues of once powerful people. good job for making a park out of it though, instead of just destroying them like some of the other post-commie countries. After the park we drove into the city and parked our car in Pest, near the Jewish Quarter, and walked around for a few hours. We walked around some more of the city over the next couple of days and there are many great buildings in Budapest. However not all of them are well kept, like in Vienna. So you've got a lot of grand, beautiful buildings, and a bunch with broken windows and whatever. and of course, Hungary's claim to fame, the thermal baths. we spent our final afternoon in the city swimming in both hot and cold pools in a very nice bath house, I think it was Baroque architecture... but i don't know anything about architecture, so not sure if you can trust me.

Our host in Budapest also took us to a wine festival in a small town called Etyak which was good fun too. We ate some new foods and had wines too. Deep fried goose wings. some pizza like thing called Langos, cooked in a mud oven. and a sweet doughy pastry cooked over hot coals, that was both huge and delicious!

Right now we are in Mumbai, India! Big change. We spent 14 hours or something in Amsterdam on Tuesday before flying here early Wednesday morning. We arrived last night and spent today just walking around. It is hot! although to be honest i expected hotter. Like near death heat and I'm just not feeling it. But we're sweating up a storm either way. It's a big city, something like 16 million people, so its crowded with cars and people. On our walk today we saw an incredibly poor slum and then 15 minutes later were inside one of the most expensive hotels in the city. Pretty big gap in wealth I guess. After sitting in a large field (under some trees) watching a bunch of people play pick-up cricket, we had some lunch and spent the last few hours of the day on Chowpatty Beach. not swimming because the water is gross, just chilling (in the shade).
We kind of expected it to be like Egypt with people hassling us everywhere, but so far it hasn't been like that.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

just a short update...ok maybe not so short.

Slovenia was excellent! we loved it there right away. it has a very quiet charm to it, which is our kind of charm. Ljubljana, the capital, was a very nice city. The architecture was grand of course, like many European capitals, and there was also a river through it, which always makes for a nice place to have a drink. The city also had a small area called Metalkova, which was an old army base that squatters took over in the 70s and have since lived there under more liberal rules than the rest of the country. There were a couple of bars there as well as a hostel which was converted from an old prison. some of the rooms were the cells. we didn't stay there, but it was pretty cool to see the rooms with bars still on the doors and windows.

After Ljubjana, we drove our rental car (a really old Renault 5 with 175,000 kms on it) into the Julian Alps. Driving on those mountain roads was a lot of fun, and provided us with some nice views. First we stopped at Lake Bled, which is right at the foot of the mountains, has a very nice old town that overlooks the water, and Slovenia's one and only island in the middle of the lake (it had a monastery of course). After Bled we went further into the mountains to Bohinj Lake, which was much quieter and less touristy. We parked our car here and started to walk. We trekked for 2 days, 4 hours on the first and about 8 on the second day. On the first day we walked up from 650 meters above sea level to about 1500m. we slept in a mountain lodge that is only reachable by foot and had some incredible views of the surrounding mountains peaks and down below of Bohinj Lake. The next day we got up early and walked 4 hours, up another 100 m to a place called Sedmera Jazera (7 lakes). it was fun walking through the snow, which still covered the trails in many places. the views were incredible! its too hard to describe. ill put up some pictures and you can see for yourselves. After having lunch there, we started going down. It got pretty steep at times, we had to hang on to cables that were in the rocks. Looking down it seemed that pretty clear that if we fell down we would roll/slide for a while and likely die, so that made it a little more thrilling. On the way down, we stopped at Crno Jazero (black lake), and then continued on down to where our car was. It was a great feeling when we got to flat ground again. Made us really excited for trekking in Nepal... although Tara said I need to move my ass a little faster.

After the mountains, we went to a cave, one of 7000 in Slovenia. It was pretty cool to see, because the walls, floor and ceilings of it still "grow". it grows by water slowly dripping through the rocks and just hardening over time... like 1cm per 100 years. So there were many of these finger shaped things everywhere. There was a river that ran through the floor of the cave as well. The only downside was that we had to tour the cave as part of a huge group with a guide, which we don't really care for, mostly because you have to deal with stupid people who don't be quiet, or are drunk like a few Polish guys.

Right now we are in Khestely, which is on the western shore of Lake Balaton in Hungary. Tara`s family came to visit us and we are spending the week with them around here before we head to Budapest on Friday.

Friday, May 4, 2007

The last 10 days in Croatia

OK, so we're really behind on these posts. We're leaving Croatia for Slovenia tomorrow and are only now updating you... we've been busy, you know, seeing stuff...

We first arrived in Dubrovnik, which is a coastal city in the far south of Croatia. It's famous for its old town, which sits on the water and all of the rooftops are covered with red-stone tiles. We were hoping that it wouldn't be a let down, just because of all the other old towns that we have visited by this point, but it was not. We spent about 4 or 5 hours walking around the old town, and had our daily ice cream of course. There was a nice church to check out there, and while we were sitting inside an old woman approached us to beg for change. As she was walking away from us, she farted. It was a beautiful moment.

We rented a car there and drove up the coast, first to have some seafood for lunch in a town called Mali Ston (the area is known for its oysters and mussels, we had both). From there we drove out onto the Peljesac Peninsula and found a place to camp almost at the end of it, at an abandoned church. Sorry if that offends anyone, but it really was a great place to camp. Churches always get the best viewpoints, and there wasn't much flat ground around there, so God left us no choice. Besides it was probably one of the best sunsets I've ever seen. It was so pink/orange and we could see it sink into the sea in between the peninsula and an island right across from us. It was beautiful. After that we continued driving up the coast to an area called the Makarska Riviera, for some more beach time. We stayed in the main town called Makarska, and our balcony had a nice view of the beach and the sunset. We spent one day lying around the beach in Makarska and the next day in the town north of there called Brela. Most of the beaches here are pebble and not sand, which didn't sound great at first, but it has its benefits. Like there's no sand to stick to everything. I can't think of another one, but that's a big one for me. The water here is also really clear, we're constantly stopping to looking into the sea in amazement of it.

Once beach time was over, we drove to Split, but only spent a few hours there. There wasn't much to see, just Diocletian's palace. We drove out of town and camped in a quiet bay on the water. it was of course, a really cool place to be camping.

Our next day was spent at Krka National Park, which despite its name wasn't as much like a national park as we had hoped. The main thing to see there are these really beautiful waterfalls, which are formed by plants growing on top of other plants that have grown out of the limestone base. This set of falls comes down in 17 steps. However, we didn't realize but the day we were there was labour day in Croatia, so the park was rammed! Besides the fact that you could drive your car or scooter almost all the way up to the falls, there were people everywhere. It ruined it for us. We left the park in the late afternoon and drove further north to Pag Island (there was a bridge).

You aren't going to like the sound of this, but we felt we needed another day of some lying around in the sun. The island has a pretty limited amount of vegetation and is mostly rocky. For this reason, a kind of sheep's cheese is very famous from here. The only food for the sheep is salty weeds, which gives the cheese a pretty distinct flavour. We bought a little piece from a house off the main road. It was pretty good.. I don't know though. I like cheese, but I'm no Dutchman.

After Pag we drove over the coastal mountains to the east. We actually camped out that night at a site in the mountains, so it was a little colder. The next day we went to Plitvice National Park. It's basically a lakes park, but because it's in the mountains, there are many waterfalls. Furthermore because the same thing happens as does in Krka, the entire park is covered with waterfalls of all shapes and sizes. You walk around on these wood bridges while the water rushes down underneath and all around you into small lakes and ponds. The water is also really clear and blue, with an abundance of fish, since its illegal to fish. I know I've said this a few times before, but this probably was the most beautiful place I've ever been. We were taking pictures almost the whole time, because everything just gave you that feeling where you had to have a picture.

Last night we arrived in the capital, Zagreb, which is nice. The architecture is very similar to the other major cities of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, so its nothing new, and we will get a much better version of it while we're in Budapest. It's also raining a lot right now, which is kind of annoying (and making us think of going to the beach again!)