Making so Many Plans

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My crazy planning wall! Summer 2019

SO, I will be really honest here, by the time you are reading this I will be back in Los Angeles for the final leg of my crazy husband-less summer…. and the other truth is, I’m currently writing it in the middle of it all!

Basically, in 5 or 6 months (from the end of May to the beginning of October) I will be in North Carolina, 5 cities in Spain, 2 cities in Portugal, a few places around home in Germany, 4 cities in Poland, back to Czech Republic, a train trip visiting a few places in Austria and Hungary, visiting Los Angeles for a month, and then back to Germany for Octoberfest with the In-laws.

Yes. And right now I am just between Portugal and hitting the road to Poland.


But this is more than just a brag post, I promise!

The point is when you have crazy summers like this, there is an even crazier amount of prep that is required of you to make it work!

For the 3 or 4 months before May, I was already deep in planning but for the amount of research and prep I usually do for a two or three week trip, this didn’t feel like enough, especially when the people I will be traveling with are halfway across the world and many time zones away.

I think that my husband got sick of all the tiny slips of paper that were taped across the wall of our living room, color-coded by county, group trip, and cities with all of their attractions listed with priorities. Then, of course, all of the potential time tables between driving, planes, trains, and buses. This is so much work!

You’ll get more of the breakdown of all these adventures as you read on through the weeks (I’m hoping you stick with me) but let me break down what I did and what I had wished I had done more of. If I had my way, I would have nothing but time to plan travel (and yes, I know that is a job!) but the reality for that isn’t like that – I’m learning how to balance this married life thing, I promise!

When I plan a small trip with more time, I research the whole area – the countries and regions and break them down into the cities. As an American, I will always have the mindset that I need to see as much as I can when anywhere else in the world because, for the most part, we don’t get out of our country much and when we do it cost us so much! this, unfortunately, means that we cram and cram and cram and miss out on taking our time – Now I am trying to find a balance there.

Once I have my countries narrowed down into cool cities, I go to google maps and break down each and every city based on what people recommend in person, in books, and in blogs and websites. Once you have sites researched and save on google maps, you can chart how many days a city needs and how easily and most efficiently you can move from one site to another. You go in with a game plan!

This is not what I managed in the last trip (Spain and Portugal) and I will tell you that it showed!

I am not saying that I didn’t enjoy myself or that we didn’t do what we wanted but I feel like I could have tackled things so much better than I did by simply doing that second step of city breakdowns and mapping.

So the nest 3 days before my family gets here for the next three weeks I have very specific plans: breaking down Poland (which is my half of the trip to plan) city by city.


Planning can feel like a full-time job to get that mix between taking your time to understand the area and relax, and getting things done!

If that alone doesn’t motivate you, just remember, doing this full breakdown also lets you do much better on getting a handle on your budget and spending before you even get out the door!

Good luck and happy planning!

This is Leave on the World, helping me soar.

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Making so Many Plans

Alternate Choices for Slovenian Itinerary

Anytime you go on a trip, or at least when I do, one of my first thoughts are about what I could have done differently. And if you read my last post, you know what I would have loved to change more than anything is the last two days in Lake Bled.

So what instead?

Lake Bohinj isn’t too far from Lake Bled, situated in Triglav National Park. This is another great area full of trails, a lake, gorges and none of the tourist trappings all over Bled.

If staying by this lake, you can do all the normal lake activities as well as visit mountain top views, the Slap Savica waterfalls, as well as tons of other little towns scattered around this national park area.


The other choice I looked at was harder because we had to drive back in time for Ryan to get to work on Tuesday – Piran.

Piran is the coastal town in Slovenia and if you image search, you can see why I still want to explore this coastal area! The town and buildings are cute and it’s a totally different region of Slovenia than we have gotten to explore – from what I read, it’s very Venitian between the waterways and closeness to Italy.

I mean, plus, Beach!


The hardest part of Slovenia is that it really feels like a country where you need a car. If you do fly, you’ll want to rent a car which at least could get you closer to Piran (without having to drive all the way back)!

I know this is small, but without having gone there, That’s about all I can say!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Alternate Choices for Slovenian Itinerary

Our Last Days in Lake Bled

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Lake Bled, Slovenia. April 2019.

Lake Bled…. It was so much fun. We should have done anything else.

Wait.

Pause.

What?

Yes, you read me right. We had a great day and a half in this oversized tourist trap but it also cost us more than our tour day.

Let’s start with a quick why I decided to do Lake Bled in the first place:

First, everyone who talks about Slovenia goes here. they talk about how beautiful the lake is and the hikes and the view from the castle… and they are right. There is so much natural beauty in Lake Bled but the reason that that is true is because eveywhere you go in Slovenia is surrounded by all kinds of natural beauty. It’s a country filled with national parks and forests and cave systems, after all!

Second, we were in Slovenia for our first anniversary and there is a very cute legend associated with the lake and the church at its center. basically, if a new bride and groom want some good luck in their marriage, they can take a boat across the lake to go to the church. The groom then has to pick up the bride and carry her up the many stairs and into the church where they, together, have to ring the bell (you can see us doing this last part in the picture below!).

Super cute, right?

But for the price of the boat and getting into the church on the island. I think that morning we spent around 50 Euro! I don’t remember exactly but our eyeballs basically fell out of our heads over it! Basically, there was a mixup with English and what Ryan thought the price was, was either for one way or just for one person. Either way, we had to drive to an ATM to get the cash and drive back before leaving – apparently this sticker shock and telling people the price at the end is a regular occurrence because the guys had no issues letting us both leave to get the money with only our word that we would pay.

And let’s be honest, the lake is almost entirely under construction so where pictures of it from afar are pretty, the pictures on the island are less attractive.


So what were the positives?

I really liked the castle but less for the castle and more for the little print shop at the castle. The print shop is accessible to the left when you enter the castle and is manned and run by people who are actually fully-apprenticed in printmaking and using the old printing press. The guy we were chatting with is one of the few who work here and he and his wife handmake all of the paper the prints are done on at school the traditional way!

Seriously, go visit and ask all of your questions about Slovenia (he is the person who gave us most of my new Slovenian knowledge like the language and cultural differences between all the valleys) and about printing. We probably chatted with him for over an hour before we knew we had to walk the hour back home and still eat dinner.

I can see enjoying the lake more if you find a cheaper place to rent a boat and do everything yourself. That would have been super romantic! But finding the information about the docks felt overwhelming and impossible.

We had also planned on going and hiking through Vintgar Gorge but it was closed until May (remember that we were there in April!). I think this would have improved my days in Lake Bled because this hike is beautiful.

Finally, the Bled Cake. It was yummy but to get the real thing you have to go and pay more for it at this posh cafe and it’s more like a pudding cake. it’s fun to look at and a bit tasty but honestly doesn’t make your day better.

But I will give some suggestions on the nontourist alternative in the nearby national park! Until then:

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar

Our Last Days in Lake Bled

The Sun in Skofja Loka

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Skofja Loka, Slovenia. April 2019.

Skofja Loka!

Not only is it a name I love to say, but a stop I would have loved to stop over longer at. At the point we drove into town, we had only a few hours – basically, a three or four hour lunch stop – because we were on our way from Ljublijana to Lake Bled.

If you look up this cute little Slovenian town, you should be able to understand fairly easily why even a quick stop was well worth our effort. It is full of a castle (now converted into a museum), a beautiful church on the other hilltop (we didn’t make it there, ut the pictures are awesome!), and there are tons of active things to do and viewpoints to hit.

Let’s start with what we managed to do:

We loved exploring the castle museum and the grounds. The museum has so many different kinds of exhibits from history and art to culture and modern icons. We spent so long here but none of our time was boring! But before that, you should definitely venture the castle grounds. There are a lot of old buildings and lookouts like an old mill house and a small amphitheater.

Outside the gate, you will see a hiking and workout trail. We only made it to the first stop not realizing that it was a smaller hike than we expected – by the time we relooked at the map, we had already hiked up and down the hardest part of the hike and didn’t have the heart or the time to do it again.

The first stop is on a highish peak and is an old ruin sight that Ryan and I absolutely loved. There are old walls and overgrown wells – it is just very cool! However, the hardest part is that the path is a little tricky. there are gates talking about private property and sheep lands but the path goes through them (well, more like along them) in a way that made me feel like we were trespassing. Once you get past this, the hike is fun and there are three old castle ruins along the trail.

The last two parts that are definitely worth seeing but that we didn’t have time to are the little church which you can photograph beautifully from the castle hill and the picturesque town with a lazy river running through it. There are cafes to eat at and, while I don’t think you need to stay overnight, if you want a fun hike as well as more exploring, give yourself a few extra hours.

Especially if you hit the odd day in April where the weather was this perfect!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

The Sun in Skofja Loka

When Timing Works: Burgerfest

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Burgerfest 2019. Ljublijana, Slovenia. April 2019.

Throughout this entire trip, Ryan and I had managed to have fantastic timing: we got caught in rain here or there, but it was generally light when we needed to be outdoors; we seemed to miss most of the crowds and crazy lines; we always seemed to find an open table.

Still, this is nothing compared to getting home from the Castle and Cave tour and walking into Ljulijana’s square only to see tons of booths that seemed to pop up overnight selling all kinds of gourmet burgers (well, mostly! there were alternatives like tasty tacos mixed in as well!)

This beer and burger festival was amazing and crowded but everything we tried was very worth the wait. There were small shops as well as chains represented, and everything from all grades of beef and alternative meat options alongside vegan and vegetarian substitutes.

Like all other things festival, just because there weren’t rides and games to spend money on, buying a whole range of burgers, tacos, and fries alongside the matching beers and wines will add up! Best solution? Pull out a specified amount of cash and stick to that budget!

We didn’t really use it, however, there is a brochure you get for free and it gives you some starter pairings between the food booths and beer booths. On the other hand, they had a whole social media network set up for you to tell them all about your own favorite pairings.

Now, this is more than just burgers: basically, when life throws opportunities to explore something unexpected – even just the chance to eat burgers of all kinds in a new city – do it!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

When Timing Works: Burgerfest

The Tour Worth Taking

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When researching Slovenia, I kept seeing pictures of the Postojna Caves and Predjama Castle but couldn’t figure out how Ryan and I could best see these points – They are further South than we were planning to travel and if we are going to drive here we would want to go all the way to the cool coastal towns we definitely had no time for!

I am usually pretty anti-tours – I’ve seen too many that rush you through sights you want to see, leave you longer where you don’t, and they are generally not too budget friendly. However, this was our anniversary trip and the second Ryan saw this castle (he has a thing about castles), he was all in.

We booked Viator’s Half Day Tour to Postojna Caves and Predjama Castle which from pick up to drop off was about six and a half hours long, and it was probably equally split between the two visits and driving. I honestly don’t think that we could have gotten to these locations as quickly or efficiently without taking this tour. The driver knew all the best ways to cut through the countryside and not waste time in the commute.

First off, this isn’t a big bus tour and you aren’t guided by or staying with your driver during your visits. We were in a group of 6 once everyone was picked up in a small passenger van and then we were off. Throughout the drive, our driver gave us history and cultural lessons, pointing out interesting features of the countryside.  We wouldn’t have had nearly as much fun driving ourselves.

But that is the tiniest portion of why you should go on a tour, so let’s move on to the main attractions:

Postojna Caves:

You’ll notice a distinct lack of photos from inside the caves and that’s because it is really hard to get good pictures inside of a dark cave! No flash is allowed within the cave system for a really important reason: light and heat – yes, even from your tiny phone flash – mixed with the moisture in the cave causes moss and fungi to grow – you will notice this is all of the areas closest to the lights throughout the tour. You’ll also get to see a tank of an amazing amphibian which reside in the cave but they are so light sensitive, your flash will burn them – Take this very seriously!

When you arrive with Viator Tours, you’ll have time to go to the bathroom and get some coffee – I loved our tour guide because he let us run since we saw a whole lot of big bus tours loading off and it saved us a lot of time. He also showed us a few faster ways of getting into the caves – there is a mass line which like most of the European attractions is more like an unorganized mob so you can pretty much skip the line by walking around it.

Once your group is allowed in, you start the tour by jumping on a small train that zips you through the first part of the cave to the start of the walking tour. This is why you want to get in early. Your group may be large so you’ll want to stay as close to the guide as you can to really hear about the one of a kind features in the largest cave systems in Europe.

I was a little sad the train went so fast; there are beautiful rooms -like the chandelier room – that you zoom through but despite this, the tour is well worth it. But pay attention! It’s a maze and you go through it so quickly, you won’t notice when you’ve turned back to stand literally one floor below where you began! Oh and let the guide know if you get claustrophobic, there is a secondary path but you’ll miss a lot.

Predjama Castle:

Looking at the picture of this cave based castle is the reason that most of us end up taking a tour like this. I mean, a castle built into a cliffside? So cool! And seriously, it’s built on a cave system which is one of the reasons this Castle stays so cool as well as continues a story that you will have heard part of while in Ljubljana – of Slovenia’s own home-style Robin Hood (this is the same man who escaped the castle through the toilet!).

Then your tour stops here, your guide will give you a time limit – about an hour to complete the castle tour which is done through audioguide. I had two cameras and Ryan’s need to listen to every part of the guide and we made it through with time to spare, so don’t be worried that you’ll be rushed through. 

The castle is small but there are some perilous feeling staircases – the ones that as built into the cave system, for example – however, they aren’t necessary to complete the tour. The views are worth the climbs but take your time! The floor is always going to be slightly damp – you are in a cave! – but as long as you hold the guide rails and watch where you step, you should be fine.

So the caves! Not going to give it all away, but the caves are part of the Slovenian cave systems. As I said in earlier posts, Slovenia is all mountains and valleys, but in those mountains are huge treks of cave systems and this castle makes use of one small part. If you are driving yourself here, depending on the time of year, you can pay and explore this system further but not on the normal tour. These outlets allowed the trapped fugitive (whom I alluded to earlier) to confound his captors by replenishing his food stores from the other side of the mountain while they considered starving him out – because yes, the caves pass from the castle straight to the other side!

The ground in both locations is uneven so wear good shoes but otherwise, these are easy places, and the tour makes them better.

On the drive back, we got more information about the country as Ryan decided to nap and then we were back to the hotel! If you want, your guide should be able to drop you off close to the town center rather than your hotel if you have everything else you need to finish your day in the beautiful Ljubljana.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

 

The Tour Worth Taking

Ljublijana: A City of Art and River Walking

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Art and Love Locks. Ljublijana, Slovenia. April 2019.

Let’s be honest, any chance and anywhere that I can walk a river and fall in love with a city’s art and I am in. Ljubljana gave us just that.

Ryan and I spent so much time walking back and forth along the river that cuts through most of Slovenia. Our first night was warm despite the rain earlier in the day and even in April, the sunset later than we’d grown accustomed to which meant a great night for walking through the center of town looking at all the restaurants and people and shops.

And walking around the river is really like walking through the center of the city. There is so much culture, architecture, and life build up and across the river that I can’t emphasize enough the need to start here and explore outward.

But in terms of relaxing and eating by the river, first and foremost, it is beautiful. The whole area is lit up atmospherically and pretty much all of the restaurants and bars have heat lamps and blankets just in case of a chill.

The only real drawback is that because this is the center of a city with plenty of tourists, the prices can build up quickly. For a date night, we weren’t too worried and we loved the regional food our waiter suggested, so for us, it was worth it, but definitely cost more than we’d normally like to spend on travel eating.

The biggest thing in all of this, as always, is choose wisely! They were open later than most of the restaurants we’ve come across in our travels which means you shouldn’t rush – take a look around and compare. It’s not like you can’t go back after you walk away.

On the other side of things, you can always walk the river and spend very little! Walking is absolutely free and there are plenty of places to grab a quick, portable, and cheap bite to eat – or a few as you go if you watch each transaction closely. Or, you know, bring your own sandwich!

But besides just food, the art scene around the river is amazing! They range from historic to modern and are everywhere!

To start, the architecture of the is a huge part of what I love about the city and you are at the center of it all! There is so much stonework mixed in with the Rococo style which you see all across Europe.

Alongside the architecture, the bridges spanning across the river are amazing historical art pieces. Three of these main bridges are Cobbler’s Bridge, Dragon Bridge, and Triple Bridge. Cobbler’s bridge is fairly basic but with its picturesque and uneven pillars, is just too cute to miss. Dragon Bridge, on the other hand, is all about representing the city – whose symbol is a, you guessed it, a Dragon.

Finally, Triple Bridge. This is the coolest and most unique bridge in the city. The bridge starts out at a single point and then splits off in three directions across the river. It is beautiful and one of the sites you will see over and over on the ‘what to see in Ljubljana’ lists.

Of course, you can also count the love lock bridge which we will talk about later!

Then you come to the actual ART part of the city.

Like all major cities, Ljubljana has tons of traditional monuments and sculptures, but when walking the river, you come across more modern sculptures (some pictured below). Many of the sculptures are congregated across what has become Ljubljana’s Love Lock bridge (and yes, those who want to participate can buy locks in local stores) including some fish heads which now sport their own love locks.

But honestly, the best way to find art is simply to wander the river and the areas nearby. The bishop’s door seen below is actually a door of the church you pass on the way up from the river to the castle.

There is so much more to see in this city in general but in terms of art, you can explore the Metelkova district, aka the art district, of the city. Alas, we didn’t make it that far.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Ljublijana: A City of Art and River Walking