A Travellerspoint blog

Excursion to Ljubljana

Our stay in Bled was longer than expected due to a delay in delivery of a new Sat Nav to replace the TomTom which had broke at the beginning of our journey. We decided to visit the capital for two days and boy oh boy were we pleased we did.

We stayed at Ljubljana Hotel and Resort which had an instantly great feel about it and super friendly staff which always makes a difference. Very soon after we arrived we were delighted to see a Mariachi group perform right in the middle of our site. It made for a lovely welcome :-)

Mariachi!

Mariachi!

Loving the performance!

Loving the performance!

First thing the next morning we set out to explore the city by bike. It was a flat, easy cycle in, through quite an industrial but attractive area before approaching the city itself. I love making a city approach by bike. The vantage point allows one to be immersed in sites and sounds and the turn of each pedal makes infinitely better progress than a step. The freedom to divert off a path and to explore little alleys and alcoves makes an ordinary tourist feel like an intrepid explorer. This is exactly how we discovered the beauty, charm and history of this INCREDIBLE city which quite literally stole our hearts.

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After aimless exploration on our bikes we stopped for lunch, seating outside on a cobbled street to enjoy a traditional meal of kranjska klobasa (Slovenian sausage), a delicious stew served in a a traditional copper dish, and some Slovenian dumplings with bacon.

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After lunch we spent a few hours meandering about by foot and found ourselves in the huge and colourful fruit market that gleamed with polished and perfectly ripe fruit. We gorged on a selection and were delighted to find a fountain where we could fill our bottles as well as wash our sticky chins and hands!

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We were really surprised to see a raw milk vending machine for local residents. I have never seen anything like this before but what a brilliant idea!

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Old Ljubljana city is car free but has a fantastic system of "Kavalirs" which are environmentally friendly electric vehicles that are completely free of charge! We lucked out with a driver who was delighted to give us a tour of all of the sites, with a historical commentary along the way. It was a brilliant way to discover the city and afterwards we felt both educated and rested. Our driver was so passionate about his city and proud of the "Gallant Helper" service he was helping to provide that it was almost impossible to tip him but thankfully we succeeded!

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After our restful tour we decided that rather than catch the tourist train up to Ljubljana castle that we should face the summit on bike. The ride started off gently enough, leading us through a quieter part of the city that we wouldn't have otherwise seen which always feels like a privilege.

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Pretty soon though we realized how steep our ascent would be and almost turned around. It would have been a tough ride without a child on the back, indeed people who were walking were stopping out of breath, but with Felix on my back and Mylo on J's, holy moly it was an effort! There were several times where my front wheel lifted of the ground, I needed to put all of my weight on the handlebars to avoid toppling back but hallelujah we did it! I honestly think this was one of the most rewarding physical challenges I have ever done, it felt AMAZING to reach the top and look down from where we had climbed.

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Our first mission on arrival was to down a stein which was perhaps the most satisfying beer I have ever had! Our early evening arrival rewarded us with a fantastic quiet atmosphere with a few people setting up for a night time outdoor cinema, the odd other tourist, and a fabulous group of Spanish buskers/performers who we watched while enjoying dinner. We enjoyed another brilliant meal, this time at "Gostilna na gradu", the wonderful castle restaurant that had been recommended to us by various people as one of the most highly regarded restaurants, but that we had been told would be fully booked so we were overjoyed to be able to eat here.

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With our bellies and hearts full we enjoyed a rapid descent, in the dark, back to the city centre. We had planned to cycle straight back to the camper but soon noticed that a whole new world had come alive when Ljubljana turned dark. The same square that we had started in several hours earlier was now filled with 20 somethings singing around a fire, with Capoeira and instruments and an utterly wonderful vibe that was near impossible to escape. To top it off there were several hammocks suspended from a temporary wooden structure which we all took turns lazing in while listening to the music.

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Our Kavalir driver had told us about a local theatre that was worth looking at so we tried our luck discovering it at night and to our delight the gate was open! The biggest thrill was that it was completely and utterly empty so I could not resist the opportunity to "take to the stage" on bike with Felix on my back!

Eventually we embarked on the cycle home, with both boys falling asleep in their seats and with Jeremy and I with stupid, satisfied grins on our faces. Quite possibly one of the best days of my life. Thank you Ljubljana <3

Posted by bywaterbyland 03:31 Archived in Slovenia Comments (1)

To Lake Bled, Slovenia!

I feel sLOVEnia


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Upon leaving Garmisch we felt truly thankful that the weather had persuaded to visit this amazing place. With brighter forecasts for Slovenia we said goodbye to Germany and started the 5 hour journey to Lake Bled. Due to prohibitive camping costs we deliberately avoided stopping in Austria but lapped up the GORGEOUS scenery that we were surrounded by as we passed through countries. Dramatic mountains, castles and lush greenery saturated the landscape and made for a truly enjoyable journey.

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For our route, the border into Slovenia was via the Karawanken tunnel which, at almost 8km long, was a daunting, exciting passing from Germany.

Another Wank

Another Wank

Lake Bled was not far from the border and both of us were in enormous anticipation of the place that looked too good to be true from the photographs we had seen. Despite a drizzly presentation, we were not disappointed. After a brief approach via the town we drove alongside the lake in a clockwise direction heading toward "Camping Bled" and were overflowing with excitement at seeing with our own eyes the castle and island that are the signature images for this place.

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We were right to have waited to come as soon after arriving we learned that it had been raining for a week. A such, the ground was sodden and muddy but despite this the campsite was heaving and we struggled to find a possie. Eventually we positioned ourselves under some trees toward the back of the campsite with the intent of moving on as soon as some other campers cleared out. Regardless of the conditions we were SO delighted to be here and were in awe at our first taste of Slovenia. We celebrated by having dinner at the camp restaurant, first with a huge beer which was welcome after our long drive. We had a brilliant waiter who took good care of us as we sat googly eyed staring out at the lake from our table.

The following morning we were keen to see the lake and after relocating our van got on our bikes and did the loop around the lake which was a lot shorter than we anticipated, less than an hour in total. The views from the varying perspectives are sublime and anyone visiting really must try to view the beauty from the full circumference.

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We stopped for a delicious lunch and sampled "Bled cream cake" which is similar to a custard square but infinitely yummier and awfully, wonderfully dangerous. Thank goodness for the bicycle ride home!

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The restaurant where we ate was in the most gorgeous setting overlooking the lake and up at the castle and we were treated with live saxophone was we were finishing. H.E.A.V.E.N

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Discovering the island was a priority and a highlight of our visit was a boat trip to the island which was so so much fun, Jeremy was in his element rowing us all over and me and the boys were in our element picnicking and eating ice cream once we got there :-)

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Captain Mylo!

Our destination

Our destination

Our vessel

Our vessel

Rearing to go!

Rearing to go!

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You sure you don't want to row?

IMG_1152.jpgRelaxing for some!

Relaxing for some!

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View from the island

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Parking our vessel

Our picnic spot

Our picnic spot

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When we got back we went for a swim and were rewarded with the most amazing rainbow RIGHT over the castle

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Our new camping possie was pretty darn good and from this base we explored and absorbed this magical place.

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Little muffins

Our lawn :-)

Our lawn :-)

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Another memorable day was spent taking the Bled train around the island before climbing up to Bled Castle. The usual route of stairs was inaccessible via buggy so we took a more arduous route via road which was a slog but well worth the effort. The castle is literally perched on a cliff top, offering the most sensational views over Bled take, island and town. The elevation was such that looking down was actually rather terrifying but glimpsing over the side was irresistible.

Bled train adventure!

Bled train adventure!

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Breathtaking

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We spent a few hours exploring the castle with most time spent in the original printing press and (of course) the wine cellar. Both oozed with history and led by the most charming gentlemen who were so generous with their time and patient with our questions.

Original printing press

Original printing press

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Original wine cellar

Before our descent we treated ourselves to some traditional drinks and desserts and by chance of everything else being sold out, we tried "Gibanica", a cake made with poppy seeds, walnuts, apples, raisins, and ricotta and which is utter HEAVEN, quite possibly the best cake I have ever taste (with Bled cream cake a close second!)

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Gibanica

All fueled up we enjoyed the walk back down to the lake through a little community of houses which gave us a glimpse of locals lives.

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One of the best things about Bled is that other than the Castle and the island, there isn't really that much to see! The infinite beauty that surrounds the lake is sufficient to saturate any need for "doing" so we spent most of our days absorbing and relaxing and spending time together as a family.

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Beer o'clock!

Happy days :-)

Happy days :-)

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Another view of the island

Breakie :-)

Breakie :-)

IMG_1324.jpgThe cheekiest of cheeks

The cheekiest of cheeks

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We were here for around 10 day sin total and every morning I would swim from one jetty to another which made for the most brilliant excercise and way to start my days. Often I would be the only person about, the first to break the glassy water which made it all the more precious and these memories will forever leave a piece of me in Bled and a piece of Bled in me.

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Posted by bywaterbyland 01:38 Archived in Slovenia Comments (1)

Garmisch Partenkirchen

and descending "Am Wank"

I seem to have lost a day since our departure from Neuschwanstein but perhaps that is the magic of the castle ....

The weather forecast was still utterly rhubarb and as we really didn't want to start into Slovenia in the pouring rain we decided to further extend our time in Germany. Garmisch Partenkirchen had been ear-marked by Claudia and Mike so we drove on through stunning scenery and despite forecast for heavy rain, Garmisch was sunny upon arrival.

Stunning scenery

Stunning scenery


He's got the whole world in his hands

He's got the whole world in his hands

The info center gave us maps and directions to "Alpencamp Am Wank" right outside the "Wankhaus" which of course was the source of endless jokes and sniggers for the duration of our stay with inevitable facebook updates sharing our hilarious location. We have always been SO mature my husband and I :-)

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We were delighted to learn that our Wank hosts sold cheap bottles of wine with which we stocked up. We spent the next day exploring Garmisch which is a GORGEOUS town in the heart of "Zugspitzland", an area containing Germany's highest mountain "Zugspitze", attracting mountain enthusiasts year round. As snowboarders, this is the sort of area we would flock to in the winter time so it was brilliant to be able to see a winter hub in the summer months and be reminded of all of the mountain activities that are possible without the snow.

A picture that I've borrowed that shows our possie perfectly

A picture that I've borrowed that shows our possie perfectly

Our spot for 2 nights

Our spot for 2 nights

The town itself was utterly charming, with the cobbled streets that we were becoming accustomed to, as well as flowing rivers, snow capped peaks, Bavarian beer, food and traditional buildings, and a gentle hum of people going about their day opposed to the rush of our recent London surroundings.

I'm still not sure if it had been planted there on purpose, for a travel mascot photo opportunity, or if it had been left their accidentally but we found a little yellow rubber ducky happily bobbing up and down in a little water feature which was SUCH an excitement for Mylo.

House of the rubber duckey

House of the rubber duckey

What are you doing here?!

What are you doing here?!

We played with it for a wee while and despite initial reluctance Mylo left him when we moved on after I explained that the someone may come back for it and indeed they did as when we passed the same spot a few hours later it was gone, ready for it's next adventure no doubt!

It was a bit of a lazy day meandering the streets and enjoying local fare and it felt wonderful to soak up the atmosphere in these incredible surroundings

Stunning town

Stunning town

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Ski fields in summertime

.

The next morning we were going to push on but we wanted to check the forecast. As we were without WIFI we called my parents in England for an update and were gutted to learn that practically the WHOLE of Europe, most certainly that area within a 500 mile radius, was forecast for heavy rain. As we looked out the window and saw the sun shining and the huge mountain behind us and the Wankhaus Gondola ahead, it seemed glaringly obvious that we needed to get to the top of that mountain! We spent a BRILLIANT, unexpected and impromtu day on the moutain, ascending via gondola and descending via foot. The trip up was spectacular with views across Garmisch Partenkirchen, Grainau, and the Eibsee lake far in the distance. We also looked down on the Olympic ski jump on Mount Gudiberg, orignally built in 1923 for the 1936 Olympics then replaced in 2007. It is HUGE and utterly terrifying with a 100m long start tower. There is no money that could be paid for me to go down that thing!

The Olympic ski jump

The Olympic ski jump

View from the Gondola

View from the Gondola

The town below

The town below

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The top seemed like a LONG way up and we were in awe of those who were ascending on foot. It felt like we were on top of the world at 1780m with the most spectacular views.

Victorious!

Victorious!


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As well as a feast for their eyes the boys were rewarded with the most fabulous playground right at the peak

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Before tackling the descent we fuelled up with some traditional fare and an obligatory pint and then started the journey home.

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A sun lounger at the top of Am Wank for which there is a replica, as I recall, in Brighton

When nature calls!

When nature calls!

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It was a brilliant tramp, we got down with greater ease than I expected although due to a twisted ankle and a tired toddler Jeremy was a hero in carrying both boys for a chunk of the trek.

We were VERY happy to see Madiella again when we emerged at the base of Wank mountain. We all crashed out on the beanbags with a bevvie in hand feeling rather pleased with our feat for the day.

SO happy to see our van!

SO happy to see our van!

Earned!

Earned!

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We were so taken with the area that we decided to spend a night at "Camping Erlebnis Zugspitze", just 15 minutes on the other side of Garmisch close to Grainau, to give us a different perspective of the landscape. We pulled up and were utterly in awe at the views, sitting right at the base of Zugspitze towering above the clouds - literally breathtaking.

The hills are alive ....

The hills are alive ....

Not a bad spot for dinner!

Not a bad spot for dinner!

Our neighbors were a young family with 4 girls, all happy squeezed into a small campervan, who were taken with the boys, cooing to Felix and playing with Mylo.

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One aspect of this journey that has proved to be a real challenge is the constant moving away from anything that is constant, other than the 4 of us, which for Mylo is very tough. Every time he makes a new friend we have to say goodbye which is heartbreaking but he handles it (or seems to) extremely well.

Another challenging aspect of travelling in a camper as a family of 4 is indeed washing. Before embarking on this adventure I had envisioned doign the washing piece by piece by hand as it got dirty and stringing the items haphazardly of trees, and makeshift washing lines as we moved but I learned very early on that handwashing is not an option if anything else is to be achieved so we would use washing machines at campsites along the way, in places where we were able to top for a few days so that we could get on top of the pile. Our linen presented an extra challenge in drying but Grainau provided us with sufficient conditions so we were in business

Washing while on the road

Washing while on the road

Posted by bywaterbyland 20:35 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

There are Castles and then there are Castles ...........

Neuschwanstein


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The weather continued to be as dreary and dribbly as it had been for weeks but the misty haze made the approach to Neuschwastein was rather magical. The anticipation of seeing such a talked about structure is enough in itself but add to it a cloak of clouds, and the excitement was palpable.

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After parking up we went to the kiosk along with what felt like thousands of fellow tourists and it occurred to us that perhaps we should have booked. Naively we had assumed that the weather would have been a deterrent but, like us, soggy surroundings was not enough to put of the many who had traveled great distances to see this site. We were told that while we could not go into the castle we could still climb up and enjoy the view from the courtyard although the thickness of the clouds suggested we may not see anything at all. Still, there was no way we were going to turn away so we opted to climb the path via foot rather than horse and carriage and heaved and hoed up the steep incline taking turns (perhaps with a slight favour to me) pushing the buggy.

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Due to the long, steep, wet climb we felt victorious when we reached the top, looking down at the huge height we had climbed and the fearsome drop below.

View from the top to the very (very) bottom

View from the top to the very (very) bottom

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I do not often take no for an answer and indeed, this was no exception. I was determined that we would tour the inside of this castle and chatted to (not up) the security guard who suggested speaking to the ticket lady inside in case there had been any cancellations. She was not the warmest of folk and I was returned a cold stare which suggested that my little wish was preposterous. As it so happened however there was a lovely gentlemen standing just past the ticket desk who overheard me and said that he has spare tickets!! He spoke Spanish and explained in broken English that he no longer needed them all and that we were welcome to them, at almost half price per ticket! My immediate reaction was utter excitement then, after many negative expedriences with London touts, suspicion, but he looked so lovely and I couldn't imagine how or why anyone would be touting outside Neuschwanstein castle hoping to make a buck so we snapped them up with enthusiasic thank you's and almost embraces and, would you believe, we got in!! As these were Spanish tickets we had expected a Spanish tour guide which would have been interesting as neither Jeremy or I (or Mylo for that matter) speak a word of Spanish but we were utterly delighted as the "guide" was in fact an audio device which meant we could choose our language :-) TRUMP CARD! Talk about chuffed, SO VERY HAPPY to be so fortunate :-)

Waiting to go inside

Waiting to go inside

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The tour was interesting but as with most other tours, for us at least, the magic lies in imploring ones imagination to create a world that once was. The dreary weather all but added to the atmosphere which we soaked up and saturated in until the walk back down the mountain.

Cheeky monkeys

Cheeky monkeys

We (I) couldn't resist picking up some traditional cake from a restaurant on the walk back down which we gobbled in the van while the boys slept of the adventures of the day.

Place for cake

Place for cake

We left feeling satisfied in heart (and stomach) and spirit for having experienced such an awesome sight, pinching ourselves to remind that it was in fact real.

View from our carpark possie

View from our carpark possie

Shrouded magnificence

Shrouded magnificence

When in Germany, eat cake.

When in Germany, eat cake.

Posted by bywaterbyland 04:48 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Fussin about Fussen

Cause it is is worth fussing about!


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Still on the "Claudia and Mike trail" we drove to Fussen and found the "Wohnmobilplatz F├╝ssen" which was an easy 15 minute walk into town and we found ourselves in yet another Bavarian gem. We were getting wonderfully familiar with the charm of traditional German towns and felt warmed and welcome by the familiarity of streets, buildings, smells and the steady hum of Deutch even though we had never been to this particular place before.

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After looking in a few shops for wedding rings (which we now needed in less than a month!!) we set about in exploration mode and sought out the things that made this German town different. We spotted some gigantic cookie balls which looked both disgusting and utterly irresistible and although we both had to consider fitting into our wedding gear in less than 4 weeks we could not resist trying a traditional treat. They were called "Dunkle Ballens" which made them sound even more awesome but despite the incredible baked cookie smell coming from the shop they were actually rather revolting, FAR too much of not such a good thing but the experience was worth the disappointment!

Dunken Ballen (aint so goodin)

Dunken Ballen (aint so goodin)

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We decided to treat ourselves to a traditional meal and found a great looking restaurant that was in a great position to look over the streets and buildings around.

Restaurant where we ate has the white canopy

Restaurant where we ate has the white canopy

We LOVED "spaetzle gerichte" when we tried it in Gundlefingen so ordered some for the boys as well as some food (and steins) for us.

Spaetzle Gerichte

Spaetzle Gerichte

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To work of the delicacies we continued to explore this gorgeous place.

Close to our dinner spot

Close to our dinner spot

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Posted by bywaterbyland 02:49 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

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