Friday, July 26, 2013

Plitvice National Park

If Walt Disney and Mother Nature had a baby, this is what it would look like.  Aquamarine coloured water, rocks and plants that don't look real, waterfalls everywhere, water flowing around plants that look like Beatles haircuts, trees falling in the crystal clear water and looking fake, fish everywhere, no swimming allowed so the colours and clear water are the main stars of the show.  Loved it!  Amazing times hiking around the park, from early morning to late, trying to avoid the masses of tourists who come here.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Hitchhiking in Croatia

Hitchhiking with Polish basketball fans!

Good morning everyone!

So after hearing from several other travelers and some local people, that hitching is pretty safe and easy here, I decided to give it a shot.  I'd spent a couple days at the Plitvice National Park (full of amazing waterfalls, aquamarine coloured water and good hiking), of which I will write about soon.  I needed to travel down south to Split, where a lot of ferries for the islands leave from.  The hitching option seemed the best way to get there, and could even work out to be more efficient time-wise, as the Croatian buses have been a bit slow, a bit expensive and a bit competitive (meaning that there are multiple bus companies going the same way, and if you get on the wrong bus with the wrong ticket, you have to pay for a new ticket, even though you already bought one for a different bus).

I stood in the shade outside the National Park, wearing my LA Dodgers shirt and putting my thumb to good use.  I figured I could get a ride with someone who was leaving the park as well and going down south.  After over a half hour, boom, I was in luck.  A super nice Croatian named Luka pulled over and I got it.  He would take me as far as Zadar (the big city in between the National Park and Split), which worked out great for me.  Luka is awesome, as he speaks great English has loads of travel stories from his years spent in Canada and kept the conversation going the whole time.  Turns out he owns a VIP car service over here, picking up famous people at the airports and taking them to the islands.  He mostly does musicians (Roger Waters next month, and Robbie Williams as well), and we stopped off at the Zadar Airport to pick up two Dutch DJs who were playing a festival on the island of Pag.  Last week, he had 8 vans for Snoop Dogg.  Pretty cool to be part of the pickup of the DJs, and be known as an "associate of the company".  He left me at a crossroads to get back on the highway to Split.

I waited under and underpass (that's what they're for right?), and barely 20 minutes later, a Polish van screeched to a start, and my second ride commenced.  Another jackpot, with great people.  This time, it was 5 girls and 2 guys from Poland, who were off to Split for the European University Championships of Basketball.  So I had a ride with basketball fans; I was in paradise.  Fun times talking, laughing and traveling to my end destination.  Good people, and then when we stopped for a toilet break, I realized tall people.  Huge!  Crazy how when you sit in a car with people they seem like normal girls, and then, they stand up, and they're taller than you. 

And that is how I got to Split, around 300km from the National Park, in less time than a bus would take, with way more fun.  Life is good!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Rab Island

I've been living in paradise the last few days.  The island of Rab, one of the many beautiful islands in Croatia has been a grand stay.  Very laid back and relaxed here, with perfect water temperatures and sunny days.  It's been a grand time, relaxing, swimming, reading and exploring the old town (built back in the day by some people called Romans).  Nice change of pace after bouncing around from the cities in Western Europe. 

The best way to find accommodation in Croatia is to simply walk around and ask at houses that have a blue Apartmani or Sobe sign (meaning they have  a room for rent).  So I hoofed it from the old town with the classical architecture and churches, down the coast of the island towards where my Slovenian family was staying (I surfed their couch in Ljubljana).  After a while I started asking at different residences and after being turned down a couple times, I found paradise.  I'm staying in a quiet, amazing house owned by a Croatian couple in their 80s.  He's a former doctor/professor/traveler who now writes poems and songs and books for fun.  She is a former nurse who loves to talk.  Been great hanging out with them and learning about the culture, as well as relaxing in their garden area, complete with outdoor kitchen, plenty of seats and the beach just steps away.  Perfect spot!  Already have extended my stay here.

Life is good!  Enjoy some pictures of beautiful Rab:

Smiling as always

The four towers as seen from the ferry on the way in

Best view in town

One way to make your name stand out

Walking down the small alleys in the old town

I hope I have a statue like this upon my demise (light years away)

Rab!  Love it!

Friday, July 19, 2013

View from my beach in Rab

So I wake up, walk down 10 stairs and boom, this is what I'm presented with.  Awesome view of Rab Town to swim around and have in the background.  I've got an awesome suite in a house owned by two 80 year olds, one of whom is a writer and I'm working my way through one of his books.  Life is good!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Island of Krk, Croatia

Colourful shop in the old town

Me and my new wife.  She's a great help in carrying my backpack

Another view of Krk

Market time!

Monday, July 15, 2013


How about Slovenia? This country keeps proving that it is a playground of nature, full of rivers (with water you can drink), mountains (rivaling Yosemite at times), valleys (always with a river nearby) and small towns. It's been an amazing time here, as I've made some new, wonderful friends who have gone above and beyond what I expected. Pretty much got taken all over the country in the week I've been here. Living the local life and enjoying it.

Ljubljana was, as written before, clean, vibrant and amazing. Lots going on, with great vibes along the river. Tina and I rode bikes all over town, zipping from the suburbs into the city center and all over. The huge city park on a hill overlooking the city had a sweet outdoor Olympian photo gallery, as they are very proud of their athletes here. Very athletic people here, and they know all their Olympians and are proud that their downhill skier, Tina Maze, is better than the American Lindsey Vonn.

Also noteworthy about friendly Ljubljana is the fact that the toilets are free (unlike most of Europe where you have to pay), there are free drinking fountains outside (rare in Europe) and free wifi all over the city (nothing like hanging in a park with free wifi). Quite a contrast to most of Europe, making it nice for the travelers. And the people are pretty damn friendly too. Awesome to be staying with Tina and her parents, learning about life in communism and eating great, home cooked meals outside.

I traveled to the west to Nova Gorica, to meet up with some girls I met at the music festival. Ended up staying 3 days in the area with all of their friends, staying with new friend Matic and his mom. Everyday it was off to hike, swim in rivers, drink from the springs and rivers, play beach volleyball, jump off old bridges and relax. Jumping off bridges is pretty standard in this part of the continent, with little platforms built on old bridges. We jumped off a 12m (36 feet) bridge into the fresh water below, to get the heart pumping.

The Soca river is huge, and often has a bright emerald green color to it. We hiked to it's source up in the mountains for some of the best water I've ever had. The Boka waterfalls were the largest in Slovenia and pumped out tons of freezing, delicious water. The small towns are built around the rivers, and are full of friendly, funny people who speak great English. Nothing finer than the owner of a cafe joking around, and then giving me a bag of apricots to take with me.

All in all, it's been amazing. I'm now off to Croatia for some beach time. Adriatic Sea, here I come! Looking forward to relaxing, and meeting up with Tina and her family on an island. The Slovenians take most of their holidays down on the Croatian beaches, so I'll be able to keep up with my learning of the language. Petca!

On top of the art deco skyscraper checking out the view in Ljubljana

Meditating and elevating above Lake Bled

Amazing church by Lake Bohin

Stretching out on Lake Bohin

Coffee stop on our way to the rivers, with Monica, Shayla and Matic

Monica looking to snag some fish for dinner

Nature's paradise

Drinking right from the river

Source of the Soca River, with no camera filter.  Amazing color and taste

Amazing nature in Slovenia!

Monica showing us to the good swimming spot under the waterfall

The view just for us (get it?, Just - us)

Where I spent 1 hour waiting for a bus.  Amazing!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Ljubljana day one

After a great time in Vienna, including an awesome 3 day music festival, I traveled down to Slovenia yesterday to keep the adventures going and see a new country.  It's been a busy few days around Europe, having a blast and being outside.  Summer is finally in full force and life is good!

I traveled to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia with a fun ride share where the driver didn't speak English ( I had arranged the ride with someone else on the phone) and with several other passengers as well.  I was met at the bus station by Tina, my couch surfing host who promptly took me to a cafe to try their local soda, Cockta.  Pretty good stuff.  Nice to try the local drink and food in each country.    We dropped my bag off at her house, which she lives in with her parents.  The little brother is out on a scout trip, so I have his bunkbed.  I had a great meal waiting for me, fun people to talk to and great weather to eat outside in.

We rode bikes in to the city center to explore.  Ljubljana is a very vibrant city with people everywhere shopping, walking around and eating at sidewalk faces.  Great vibes.   Up top is a very clean castle overlooking the city. You can dine at a nice restaurant up top there, see a cool exhibit in a gallery or walk under the walls and see the original foundations.  Very cool castle.  Top notch.

 Later we checked out more of the town and ended up at a funky spot that was playing awesome Balkan music.  I learned some dances, met some locals and had a great time.  And that was my first day in Slovenia.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Fun times in Czech

So there's more to the Czech Republic than just Prague.  Pretty sweet to be traveling with good friends who know the area and took me to some cool small towns.  The film festival in Karlovy Vary was awesome.  Great vibes the whole time, packed full of people and was the complete opposite of the Cannes Film Festival with all its' restricted areas, tuxedos and no tickets.  This festival was laid back, with tickets available on and off, and had Czech film stars walking around with the people.  John Travolta stayed to himself at the big fancy hotel though, although he made quite an appearance Friday at Opening Night which we missed.  He was all over the newspapers though.

Karlovy Vary is known for it's spas.  The doctors there prescribe treatment for each individual, of which the most important thing to do is drink from the natural springs under the city.  There are a variety of temperatures, and each spring has a different name.  Of course I had to try them all, each tasting too full of nutrients (mainly iron) and being quite warm.  After a while, I was more about the hotter temperatures, and felt the strength of youth returning. 

We had a day trip out to the small town of Loket, to feed the goats on the hillside, check out the awesome castle and eat some more local Czech food.  Very cool town which you can walk all over in under an hour.  A nice spot, a little off the beaten path.  The river flows through this town as in most, and it's a popular Czech thing to go floating on the rivers in canoes and rafts for several days at a time.  The popular greeting to yell at the rafters is "Ahoj" and they properly return it. The kids definitely return it and kept on yelling and waving for 5 minutes (not the fastest of rivers, hence the paddles).

After the weekend, it was back to Prague to do my usual walk all over town thing for hours.  Good to see the city again, after spending time there in the past.  Cool to remember our family Christmas there a few years back.  Later on, a beer in a hillside park to watch the sunset over the city on the last night with my friends and others.  Fun times in the Czech Republic!