Woke up and had the van ready to go by 9, without really rushing, and with packing things up in their stuff sacks since this was our last morning, a time we’d never achieve in a tent. Then our breakfast, one of the kids’ favourite: yoghurt and granola (crunchy muesli for the Europeans):
Then, as we’d promised Sprocket, we got a bit of time in at the playground outside the medieval city walls:
Yes, as DutchBoy read there, and as Wikipedia confirms, this town of 2400 is actually a city, since it was granted city rights in 1382, and was first noted in 889. Yup, plenty old. And really quiet. We felt like we were the only people making any sound in the whole place, although we saw one mum with her kids several times, out doing her errands. Otherwise, the only people we saw were older.
We headed first for the church, where the kids just liked playing with the water sculpture:
I started taking pictures:
And eventually wandered off, leaving DutchBoy with the kids at the fountain, entranced by the tiny lanes and old buildings:
Here and there signs of that people live here now:
These towers, the round one above and this gate tower, are from the 1400s:
Inside the gate:
I wonder if this is the recessed portal where Jews were hidden during WWII (mentioned in the Wiki article).
The main street:
And a water trough:
And one of the restaurants:
Looking back to the gate:
The church (not so old, only 1800 or so, since it’s Protestent, built after they knocked down the cathedral during the Reformation):
I eventually found my family again, and we wandered around some more:
Just a reminder that even though it’s old, the people are still modern:
And the house that the Count of the area lived in in the 15th century:
And Sprockette finding more water to play in. This fountain was built by the local gummy bear factory to celebrate having been there a while, and I’ve just found out that the bern in the town name also means bear:
The tower at the other end of town:
And another run through the playground:
Before leaving town, one last look down from the parking lot we’d spent the night in:
Then on the road with a sleeping Sprockette.
When she woke up we stopped for lunch in the nearest town, Wallau, and after finding the bakeries closed for lunch (from 1-2:30), bought bread at the supermarket and got directions to a playground, where we turned into criminals:
The sign says the playground is also closed between 1 and 3 to let the neighbours rest. Ah, Germany and its rules. We ignored that and let the kids play, though we did shush them a lot.
Sprockette was her normal daredevil self:
And Sprocket also enjoyed climbing and playing:
And they both enjoyed the swings:
Of course, soon after this picture, Sprockette fell off the swing and did a perfect face plant in the sand. I went to comfort her and found that she was crying because she wanted back on the swing – she pointed to it and stopped crying as soon as I put her back, wiping the sand off her face as I did so.
We then headed back into town because I’d seen a sign for strawberry sales, which turned out to only be on Thursday-Saturday. We also stocked up on some good German bread. This town turned out to be really old as well, as we found when we parked by this well, which had been in use from 1342 to 1803:
A random shot of the city hall and some older houses:
And then we headed straight home – the kids slept for a while and then, prompted by Sprocket saying he needed to pee just as we were about to get back on the Autobahn, we had our last fast food dinner for a while in a Burger King – at least in Germany they have decent veggie burgers. At the Burger King I was surprised that the neighbouring family, also with a couple of small kids, started talking to us in English, surprised because good English in Germany is fairly rare. Of course, it turned out they were also Dutch, also heading home from vacation, theirs in Slovakia.
Then the last painful two hours home. At the Dutch border, the kids eschewed sleep in favour of crankiness and I finally broke out the emergency DVDs and played them on my laptop for the last hour, feeding the Wiggles through the stereo (a cassette player! Luckily I still have my tape player adapter thingie that you can use with MP3 players), directly to the back. And then home, in bath, and in bed, the trip a success. The van turned out to be a good choice for our travel style, and we all had fun. And we did find the sun.
No Comments »
We woke up in rainy Lienz at another almost abandoned parking lot by a athletic facility only open by appointment, another find from our guidebook (though, having lent the non-Germany volume of the guidebook to our new friends since we only needed it one more night, I was going by my notes – I’d noted down only the GPS coordinates, which turned out to be wrong and led us down a dirt road to nowhere in the rain – I’ll use addresses from now on, since that also happened to us on the way to Postojna, though that road might have gotten us there, if with a broken van. Luckily I’d also written down the name of the facility and a helpful gas station attendant helped us find it, so it worked out).
And, shamefully, we headed back to another McDs for breakfast. This was because, only because, I’d seen the night before that in Austria they actually have breakfast, unlike the McDs here in the Netherlands, and the one thing I really like at McDs is the hashbrowns, and I wanted some. As it turns out in Austria they call them rostis, and they are basically the same – yay for yummy fried goodness. Threw in some Egg McMuffins (just egg and cheese) just for fun and since it’s another thing we can’t get. Not that I ever eat them at McDs home, but I used to make my own (with veggie sausage things), but since English muffins are also not findable in the Netherlands haven’t had them in a while.
Then headed over to the Lidl for bread, pastries and juice – and again in Austria the baked goods are better at the Lidl than in our bakery. Sigh.
Another taste of America was to be found in the outskirts of Austrian cities, which in their strip mall planning looked like most American cities. It’s interesting because while in other countries, not the Netherlands so much, there are big box stores (and we’re talking huge) on the edges of cities, but they are situated differently than in the US and have a different feel. But in Austria we could have been back in anytown USA. I’m sure the centre was much different in Lienz though, as I just found out from Wikipedia that it is a medieval city, first mentioned in a deed in 1030, and that it received city rights in 1242.
Anyway, having apparently missed out on medieval goodness in favour of grease, we headed out on the road in the driving rain, through tunnels and mountains to the flatter German plain. By the time we got to Regensburg for a late lunch, the rain had ironically stopped (regen being rain in German). We found green space near the centre on the GPS and headed there, finding that most of it wasn’t actually accessible but a bit was, had lunch in a bandstand and let the kids run about:
Sprockette headed off at one point with her juice cup and the three tickets from Postojna in hand, looking quite satisfied with herself and making sure she had all four things every time she dropped one of them:
Then we headed into the centre for a very quick look as the kids were getting cranky (and, as I’ve just realized from the wiki article, I can now add another thing to my UNESCO list).
Sprocket actually likes going in churches, and was taken by this statue:
And I liked this business name:
More street scenes:
And another street:
And then Sprocket thought I should take a picture of him and his feather:
And one more street shot:
Before heading off on the road, heading to another free parking space in Mainbernheim, outside of Wurzburg, which was supposed to be very charming, we stopped on the way for our obligatory German supermarket stop, stocking up on veggie baby food jars (for over 12 months – still useful in emergencies and Liam likes them too), and a few German beers, including one that’s been brewed since 1119 and a relative newcomer, only brewed since 1412. And, something very close to English muffins, called toast bread, luckily vacuum packed.
Saw this interesting cloud formation on the way, rain just in a very definite area:
As it turned out, the baby food was a very good idea, as we had something to feed the kids. The idea was to get the kids to sleep and then go get food – the book said restaurants close by, and there were two of them, but I’d gotten scared by the menus on the first scouting mission (didn’t look like much we could eat and I didn’t know if they’d do take out), and by the time DutchBoy got back down, they were closed. We thought about eating other things, but fell asleep before we could act on it. Our last night sleeping in the van – we looked forward to exploring the charming town in the morning, after our first taste of its charms:
No Comments »
OK, that’s stretching the alliteration thing a bit (which I have to admit started quite by accident in Strasbourg), but spelunking in the longest cave in the world is the main reason people, millions upon millions of them (34 million since 1817 as a matter of fact), come to Postojna.
Oh, and there’s a castle, but we didn’t go there. I would like to get there when they have their medieval days, with jousting and all, but for this trip it wasn’t a priority. And the kids would probably enjoy it more when they’re older.
Of course, can you really call it spelunking when you’re loaded on a train and then led quickly through on crowded tours, separated by language group, not a headlamp in sight? Probably not.
DutchBoy chose not to come, saying he’d been to enough caves and balking at the cost (€22 per adult and €1 for each kid since they’re under five) choosing to read an exciting document about spatial planning instead. But the rest of us headed in.
On the way in, I realized I’d forgotten my camera in the bus so DutchBoy went down to get it for me, rushing to make sure I’d get it in time to make the next train. This turned out to be a wasted trip as I got about one good(ish) picture of these guys waiting to board:
And then, on the train, the battery died, the spare one still in the bus.
The train was really the best part – it felt like an amusement park ride as we whizzed within inches of stalactites and stalagmites and other cave features, almost, but not quite, needing to duck our heads. Then we walked in a loop for about an hour, through lots of cool cave thingies, and up and down hills clad with an impressive no slip finish, then back on the train for another exciting ride (after giving us time to visit the gift shop before the train arrived, an opportunity we did not avail ourselves of).
My camera dead, I took a few pictures with my iPhone, some of which actually turned out quite interesting after a bit of tweaking.
This despite the fact that the guide said not to take any pictures, especially with flash (which I didn’t use), a restriction which was quite universally ignored and quite unenforced, even the frequent flashes and quite professional looking equipment. The Slovenians seem to not be quite into enforcing rules, as we’ve noticed in other places. So, I didn’t feel too bad about my few pictures, especially when I came out and saw the advertisement for special photography tours of the caves.
Then back in the train for another roller coaster ride:
Then, we emerged back into the light. The kids actually quite liked it, both the train and the walk. Sprockette made noises of enjoyment and looked about with great interest, and Sprocket was quite good and had no problem with the walk, and was also very interested in the various holes and waterways. Sprocket made snake noises most of the way through, while his friend tried to shush him the whole time so they were both making the same noise.
We then made our way to the campground, probably the nicest of the three we’d been to in Slovenia, and set the two vehicles up next to each other. After a shared dinner, we put the kids to sleep and stayed up late (almost to midnight!) drinking Slovenian wine and having a lovely chat.
In the morning, the boys played with another bilingual three-year-old boy (Dutch/Italian), running around hitting each other with big branch fans, until disagreements arouse and the Australian dad redirected them into making a “shelta”, as Sprocket still says with an Australian accent, with those branches as a base. For a while the boys were guided into finding branches and leaves for Ben to shape into his shelter:
And Sprockette tried her best to ride Sprocket’s bike:
Before long Sprocket and the Dutch/Italian boy, bored with shelter making, started riding their bikes down the quite steep hill as fast they could go, making my heart stop a few times, especially before we got his helmet on. But no crashes (this time).
And then, after Ivo took the kids for a swim as I packed up and showered, we had lunch, Sprocket decorating his face with chocolate/hazelnut spread:
Before we left I got some last pics of the kids and dad in the shelter:
And we said goodbye and headed off in our separate directions, we back home and them to Italy. It was a lot of fun hanging out together and we wish them the best in the rest of their travels.
Of course, we couldn’t just take the absolutely most direct home, electing to see a bit more of Slovenia on the way out. Here we’re still on the highway:
Then we headed off the highway for a bit of a sightseeing tour on a secondary route:
Through a lot of roads that cry out for a motorcycle – apparently they have a few accidents in the area (the sign is a good indicator for fun roads):
We did see a bunch of motorcyclists, including two pulled over in a speed trap, one in each direction. We also saw an accident, a flipped car, but we think the people were OK.
More lovely roads:
Before a last few shots on our way out of Slovenia on the highway:
Then through Austria, where after a dinner at the hated McDs (wifi for the previous posts and a playground being the main attractors), we drove into the rainy night, and discovered that our headlights really suck before our free camping of the night in Lienz.
This isn’t the end of the trip though, I’ve got a few more posts coming from our last two days on the road.
No Comments »
I forgot to say we did find the sun in Slovenia, at the campsite in Bled:
This was Sprocket’s favourite facility, it had kid sized toilets as well, and he used it often and requested it by name – the joys of a toilet trained toddler. The inside also had suns:
(I forgot to take pictures, so went surfing online, you don’t want to know for how long, until I found those pics here).
But the sun took a vacation as we got to Ljubljana and a thunderstorm rolled in. We appreciated our van, as, having already spent the few minutes moving luggage to the front, we rolled around with the kids in the back of the van as we watched a couple setting up their tent in the storm. We feed the kids leftovers and I skipped dinner entirely, still full from our late lunch. Though we did all eat the dessert we’d picked up in Bled – I didn’t get a pic of it either, but the Slovenian Tourism site was happy to help:
That is, I’m sure they would have been if I’d asked instead of just copying it from their site – Slovenians are really nice and hospitable like that, they really, really are. And many of them are multilingual to various degrees. Anyway, back to the cake: this pdf gives a history of the cake and an idea of the recipe. It was very good indeed, but fell short of orgasmic. Maybe if we’d gotten the original from the hotel…
In the morning, Sprockette went with DutchBoy to get breakfast at the tiny campground store. Slovenian bread doesn’t approach French or German, at least what’s available at these campgrounds.
And Sprocket poked his head out of the van to see them when they got back:
Eventually, we got it together to head into Ljubljana on the bus. On the bus, we met another family with a son about Sprocket’s age and a 9-month old daughter – they were Australian/British and travelling around Europe for 10 months or so in a camper they’d bought in Amsterdam, interspersed with trips to see family in the UK and some other stuff. The boys really hit it off, so we made plans to meet up at the funicular after lunch as they’d brought a picnic and we were seeking a restaurant seeing as it was my birthday. Our first sight of the city:
We asked at the tourist office for a vegetarian restaurant and were directed to Ajdovo Zrno (there’s a vowel shortage in Slovenia). Turned out to be a salad bar type place, but looked good and the guys were friendly, so we got a big salad and shared it:
The salad was great, and the banana chips were a hit – I almost couldn’t get any before Sprockette ate them all. I also had the daily special, a stuffed pepper that was a bit dry, to be honest – vegetarian food at its tasteless worst. And a lemonade, which I was excited about since it’s not something available here, but which turned out to be unsweetened and didn’t get sweet enough even with the supplied suger, but which was refreshing nonetheless because it had turned into a pretty hot day. And there was a nice courtyard to let the kids loose in:
After lunch we wandered around a bit, getting some yummy baked things with apple and sweet cheese fillings to supplement lunch on the way. No pics, we ate them too fast, but they were delicious. A random pic of the city:
And the dragon from the dragon bridge. We could have bought stuffed dragons at the tourist office too:
And then to the funicular. We were a bit early and at the foot of the funicular was a cute little kids bookshop. I regret not buying the multilingual animal sounds book – they also had a few other good books in English. Our new friends showed up and we had a drink at the top in the castle while the boys ran around the courtyard in the sun. And one of the coolest things was that the kids book store had set up a library under the trees, with chairs and benches and books free for people, not just kids, to enjoy. The boys loved it:
Then we wandered around the castle, trying to use up our combo tickets from the funicular, which included the museum of Ljubljana’s, and Slovenia’s, history – this was pretty cool, with lots of interesting displays including replicas of artifacts with Touch! signs on them, and video games at kid level, different ones for different periods of history: a facial recognition one that put a Roman helmet, wreath or caveman hair on you, another one that had you catching flies and other bugs and something about a sleeping king (aha, thanks Wikipedia!) and, my favourite, Tito in his limo catching Hungarian flags and avoiding other flags.
We also saw the chapel:
And we waited a long time for the promised “virtual reality” show, that turned out to be very, very lame. Keep in mind that I’ve got an MA in planning, and I really like history, so when I say this early 3D version of a historical story of Ljubljana’s history was boring, even with 3D glasses, this means that it would probably bore the pants off of just about everyone. The kids actually lasted until almost the end (though Kaya did break one of the pairs of glasses), but then we beat a hasty retreat. I made a quick run (OK, started quick, but there are a lot of stairs) to the top for a couple panoramic shots of the city:
And of the castle:
Also took a couple of regular shots, just for good measure:
Then we all decided to go for dinner. On the way we found a lock bridge, with couple’s names on locks. The kids enjoyed playing with the locks – wonder if the couple’s felt anything as their heartfelt declarations were moved around on strings:
And Sprockette made a friend, and then said goodbye:
We also saw vending machines for fresh dairy and other products:
And one that bottled the milk as you ordered – this must be why we mostly found UHT milk in supermarkets:
This adds to the book vending machines in Barcelona’s subways we found in 2005 and Belgium’s fresh bread vending machines that we found in 2009.
We were also stopped by a “postman from the Austrian-Hungarian Empire” who wanted to tell us about things happening in the city. The boys, somewhat surprisingly, turned down the chance to sit on his bike. Poor guy, trying his hardest to do his job, but he told us about things to do at night, not quite getting that with four kids under four between us, nightlife might be not our top priority. He did give us a kid’s guide to the city, which could have been cool if we’d gone back.
Once we found a place, during the wait for dinner, the kids could play here while thumping loud music came from the basketball competition going on in the middle of the city:
Dinner was OK, nothing like our meal in Radovljica though. On the way out the boys stopped to be giants at another replica of the city, like that in Bled.
Luckily they hadn’t seen the kids’ play area right behind them with all the basketball themed activities, since it was time to head to bed. That we did, after a nice walk back from the bus stop after ours.
That is, the kids got to bed, and we, me somewhat nervously, put the babyphone on, and after testing that we were in range, tried to go have a drink since, upon seeing my passport when we checked the day before, the receptionist gave us some drink vouchers. These turned out to be for a super sweet strawberry wine, and we only drank one each instead of two, and then went to bed as well. I know, we’re real party animals.
In the morning, we met up with our friends again, had coffee with them at their camper, and decided to all head to Postojna to see the caves. It sounded like a nice campground as well. We headed back to the van to pack up.
And that was it for Ljubljana – we had a really nice time, but really didn’t do much there, though there probably were other cool things to see. Travelling with kids is often like that – we had remarked on the night we got in that without the kids we probably would have hopped right on the bus the evening we arrived to have dinner in the city, but instead we just hung out at the campground since the kids need to sleep. And in Ljubljana, we needed to pace ourselves to what the kids need (including breastfeeding the 9-month-old), and make sure they eat and sleep at close enough to the right times to make sure there are no explosions. And somethings, like museums, you no longer get to study in detail. But it is really fun to let the kids see so much and learn from it all, and show them all the cool things that exist in the world and that will only increase as they get older. And that was what Postojna was really about.
No Comments »
In one of the many tourist brochures we got in Bled, we saw a description of a nearby town that had a cool medieval centre. Suckers for such things, we thought we’d make a quick stop there on our way to Ljubljana. Of course, it didn’t turn out that way.
It did have a cute medieval centre, at least one street of it – this is pretty much it:
So I did as I normally do, and asked in the tourist info what there is to see there – on finding out there was a bee museum, our plans were made. We headed in. There were some cool features the kids enjoyed, like trying on a beekeepers hat:
And climbing stairs in the viewing area set up to watch the documentary on bees:
And Sprockette really liked playing with this smoker, and kept trying to take it with her:
She loved pushing on it:
And there was a demonstration beehive and the kids liked watching the bees at their work:
And they had these cool old wooden beehives:
They amazed Sprockette:
But she was cool about it:
Then we ate a really nice late lunch at this restaurant, one of the two in the tourist area. I should have taken a picture of the food, but the kids, and hunger, distracted me. We had mushroom soup in a bread bowl, some kind of buckwheat blini/ravioli filled with sweet cheese with a mushroom sauce, grilled vegetables and a local sauce/tapanade thing and cheese filled dumplings, all accompanied by really nice bread. Most of the other patrons were Slovenian from what we could tell, though the woman I talked to (who also had a kid who wouldn’t stay seated), was visiting from the coast. And there were stairs for Sprockette to climb on:
And this view to look at:
It was a truly satisfying afternoon, and we headed into Ljubljana later than we’d thought, but fully sated. The kids fell asleep on the way, and then we had a nice time playing with them in the van as a thunderstorm rolled by. And I didn’t even need dinner, though we did have the vanilla/cream pastry thing Bled is known for (and that we’d picked up at the gas station on the way out of town), for dessert.
No Comments »