I finally finished my first LLM class and had a week off before my next class would start up again. So, Big R took a week of leave so that we could go exploring. We'd been planning a trip to the former Yugoslavia for awhile, but it kept trying not to happen. I was so excited we were able to make this trip come together because it was such an amazing part of the world to see.
We did the adventure by car, so I tried to plan our visits to break up the drive for the kiddos. Our first stop was Lake Bled in Slovenia. Then it was off to Plitvice Lakes in Croatia, and back up north again for a final evening in Ljubljana. The theme of our trip was to enjoy the outdoors by visiting national parks. I had my fingers crossed the weather would cooperate for us, and we definitely had luck on our side this time.
The 6 hour drive from home to Lake Bled was relatively uneventful and painless. Well, as uneventful and painless as a long car ride can be with a 4 year old and a baby. There was a warm front passing through our part of Europe, so the drive was incredible.
Lake Bled is a beautiful place. We weren't sure what exactly to expect other than a church on an island in the middle of a serene lake. It was off-season, so things were quiet, and it took a bit for us to figure out exactly where to park the car, so we could enjoy the view. Before we knew it we were on a small boat heading across the lake to an island.
|Beautiful church waiting for us on the island|
|Baby C is learning to love these boat rides|
|Another incredible view of the island on Lake Bled|
|The wind was whipping at the top of the observation tower|
|The rare family photo taken by new friends we met on the boat ride to the island|
|just so pretty...|
|little r taking it all in...|
We had an authentic Slovenian dinner at our hotel, explored the town a bit including purchasing some local wines, and then got the boys into bed while we stayed up and enjoyed a fabulous Cabernet Sauvignon together.
|Radovljica was all decked out for Christmas in October for the Italian commercial|
|Crazy road and rickety bridge we had to cross to get to Radovljica - I had to hold my breath to cross it!|
|rushing water was the only sound as we hiked through the gorge|
|My boys and I in the middle of Vintgar Gorge|
|a wooden bridge crossing over the crystal blue waters|
|one of the water falls at an old dam structure|
|looking down a waterfall|
|large falls at the end of the hike in Vintgar Gorge|
|best hiking buddy ever!|
|seriously?! the beauty was neverending|
|i actually took this shot - so proud :)|
|classic little r look|
|Peek-a-boo, little man!|
We stayed at a hotel super close to the park. Nothing spectacular about our hotel except that our host was terrific. The town we stayed in was kind of bizarre. It climbed up a hill and at the top the buildings seemed as if they were old barracks to house workers during the communist regime that had been turned into apartment buildings. Not exactly quintessential by any means... But that didn't matter because the location was ideal for hiking into the park first thing in the morning.
Our morning started early, and after finishing breakfast we found parking and started our hike. There is an upper and lower portion of the park with a network of trails, "train" buses, and boats to help you navigate through the beautiful falls. The neatest part of how it was setup were the wooden boardwalks that were built to allow visitors to hike literally on top of the waterways and wetlands. It was an incredible and ingenious way to allow people to witness the beauty of the park without destroying it.
Our timing was a little behind peak foliage, so it wasn't quite as colorful as we had hoped, but the weather cooperated and the temperature that day was pretty much perfect. Ironically, the prettiest time to see the park is also the hottest. The sun wasn't shining much for us that day, but when it did, it heated things up quick. With the kids, that would have been pretty tough, so I was happy with our overcast skies and 70 degree weather.
|Our first peak of the falls in the upper portion of the park|
|sights like this one were prevalent all throughout Plitvice Falls|
|Fall sees less water flow, but it's still a stunning sight!|
|Dramatic side view of a waterfall|
|This was my favorite waterfall in the park|
|Isn't this unreal?!|
|Me and little r on the wooden boardwalk|
|more of nature's splendor|
|kisses from daddy while we wait for the boat|
|beauty of the lower falls|
|The views were almost more stunning from above|
|The turquoise waters - just gorgeous|
|Many towns along the route to Plitvice had buildings like this one|
|The bullet holes almost seemed like a badge of honor|
So, Ljubljana is a really neat city. I didn't expect to fall in love with it so much. If I had, I definitely would have planned for a longer stay there. Everything you read about the city, or if you talk to others about it, says that there is nothing there. It's just a city in Europe with pretty buildings - blah, blah. This could not be further from the truth, and it's a bummer the city thinks it has this reputation (although, I wonder if this is the city's way of protecting itself from the demise of too much tourism). It's a university town that is alive with friendly people. The buildings are colorful and the architecture is fabulous. We enjoyed one of our best meals in Europe at Julija Restaurant in downtown Ljubljana, and we stayed at a "hostel" just around the corner from the square for a mere 50 EUR a night. There is so much more there - we barely scratched the surface. I'm still puzzled why it has the reputation it does. Beautiful architecture, fabulous hotels and restaurants, a vibrant aire with friendly people, a zoo, five large museums, network of caves, and home to the Lipizzaner Stallions. What is it missing, the Eifel Tower or perhaps the Colosseum? I'm clueless, and I'm already trying to figure out how to fit a trip back in our crazy schedule.
|Scene in the town square at night on the way to dinner|
|Triple bridges across the river in Ljubljana at night|
|a happy stroll back to our hotel after a fabulous dinner|
|The morning greeted us with a thick fog|
|but the colors at the market were vibrant and inviting!|
|peeking into the fog from within the walls of the Castle|
|Another shot of the market|
|A building made colorful from fall foliage|
|watching the fog lift|
|a mid-morning cafe scene in Ljubljana|
|and the fog is finally gone...|
|artistic photo of a fountain in the square|
|the city is lined with alleyways such as this one|
|Town hall building with the cathedral in the distance|
|blue skies providing a perfect backdrop to typical city buildings in Ljubljana|
This last trip was one of a different flare. We went by car to discover former Yugoslavia, and in doing so we fell in love with Slovenia and were in awe of the nature in northern Croatia. I personally love the wine from this region, and we managed to come back with a healthy sampling from both countries. It was a great adventure from start to finish...