Slovenia: A Watery Pastoral- 21/48

If ever a country embodied the word “quaint,” it’s Slovenia. With a population just north of 2 million, the country feels like a plastic model in a museum of old mountain life. While certainly a mountain nation, Slovenia’s waters are what defines it: dark, mountain rivers, underground water, and glacial lakes. Oh, and also a lot of castles.

Slovenia 21/48

Ljubljana

Ljubljana castle

 

Ljubljana river in Ljubljana

Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana, is a picturesque city on a river crowned with a castle. In the springtime, the water from the mountains runs brown, but that doesn’t detract from the city’s prettiness. It’s most prominent water-based feature is the Tromostovje, or Triple Bridge. This is exactly what it sounds like, three bridges, but really close together so it’s actually one bridge. It’s a small city.

Škocjan Caves

Skocjan caves

This massive cave system was carved by the underground and repetitiously named Reka River (Reka is the Slovene word for river). Visitors can see two (also creatively named) chambers- the Quiet and the Murmuring. The first is, well, silent and resembles a concert hall, but filled with peanut-butter-colored dripstones. Murmuring is a bit of a misnomer because the second chamber is where the Reka rushes and roils as it tries to shove its raging self through a tiny passage exit. For this reason, the giant chamber is prone to flooding,

Skocjan exit
Unfortunately, pictures aren’t allowed inside the cave, unless you’re Nat Geo, of course.

sometimes nearly to the top. There is a 40-meter bridge where you can admire the awesome waters from above. Being the last group through, as we walked the ways along the walls, they began turning the lights off behind us. Looking back was pure darkness, with only the rushing water in your ears.

 

Lake Bled

Lake Bled rowboat

Arguably the highlight of Slovenia, Lake Bled is a magical mountain lake overlooked by a cliff-side castle. The jewel of the lake is its church-topped island. This island is accessible only by boat, so you either have to hire someone to take you, or rent a boat. You can hike around the whole lake and admire its quiet mountain majesty. And also laugh at all the people who only after renting the boat realize that they don’t know how to row.

One of the more under-the-radar countries in Europe, Slovenia has many wet adventures to offer.

Birthday in Budapest- Hungary 17/48

Actually two cities astraddle the famous Danube, Budapest is a perfect place for a cheap weekend celebration.

I went in November so it was quite blustery, but the sky was still the deep, bright blue of autumn (when it wasn’t raining). The city is split into two sides, Buda being the “prettier” side, and Pest being more practical, but also more fun.

Budapest is home to Hungary’s largest church: St. Stephen’s Basilica. There you can see the Holy Dexter, the mummified right hand of the first Hungarian king and the cathedral’s namesake.

The Great Market Hall is great for buying hot or sweet red pepper. Or at the least just admire it drying. Also gawk at beautiful handicrafts and maybe get lucky enough to see a master in action.

A walk along the river offers views of much of the city including the parliament building, the Liberty Statue and Citadella, and Buda Castle. You can take in the views from the top of the hill where the statue and Citadel rest, or from one of the many bridges. Or both if you’re feeling up to it.

 

And since it was November, I got a little early taste of one of my favorite European traditions: the Christmas Market.

Also, I know everyone loves the baths in Budapest, but I just cannot stand being wet. Especially in public.

 

 

Poland 1/48

After a long journey from Asia via the Trans-Siberian Railroad, I arrived in my first strictly European country and new home for the next four years: Poland! When my plane touched down on the first of September, it was blistering hot. And so ended summer because ever since, it’s been full-on autumn over here.

St. Mary's Basilica
Unlike most churches which use bells to mark the hours, St. Mary’s has trumpeters.

Continue reading Poland 1/48