Country Hoppin’ (Part 2)

For Part 1, see here!

Slovakia
After three action-packed days in Poland we zipped up our suitcases (again) and readied ourselves for an uneventful day on the bus – destination Bratislava! The day itself, however, turned into an unmitigated disaster… While leaving our hotel in Krakow, Siobhan busted a wheel on her bag. It’s only when you’re forced to carry a 20kg+ suitcase the old fashioned way, you begin to appreciate how far we’ve come with modern luggage…

Baggage woes aside, that wasn’t the end of our troubles… I also managed to catch the mother of all viruses whilst in transit. After a night of cold sweats, headaches and vomiting in our hostel, we decided to cut short our stay in Bratislava and head to Budapest a day early so I could be sick in a hotel instead.

L1003478Saturday night in Bratislava.

Hungary
That left us with six days in one of Europe’s great cities – too bad I spent a good chunk of it under the weather! Thankfully, our hotel was right in the middle of the city and there were plenty of shops and restaurants close by, as well as a great market with traditional Hungarian food.

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Hungarian Parliament Building – magnificent!

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L: Walking about town. R: At St. Stephen’s Basilica (named after St. Stephen I – the first King of Hungary).

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St. Stephen’s right hand inside the Basilica.

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L: Nagycsarnok – The Great Market Hall. R: Food displays.

Naturally, we were happy to see Mum and Dad again and hear all about their cruise down the Danube. They treated both us – and some of their new Tasmanian friends from on-board – to a memorable dinner at one of Budapest’s nicest restaurants. It was one of the best meals we’ve had during our time away.

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L: Dad brushing up on his Hungarian with one of the locals. R: Your bloggers.

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L: Cheeky! R: More Pengos!!!

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Twilight on the Danube River.

Coming back to Hungary was already special, but this trip took on extra significance when we visited Győr – Dad’s town of birth. Győr is around 90 minutes from Budapest, near the Austrian-Hungarian border, and today it’s one of Hungary’s most cosmopolitan cities. This was Dad’s first visit in nearly 50 years and even though we were only there for a few hours, it was still nice to spend some time in the place he was born in.

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The first thing you see in Győr after leaving the train station – beautiful.

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L: Lighting candles for family who are no longer with us. R: Győr Basilica

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L: A beautiful day in Győr. R: St Laszlo (FYI Laszlo is my middle name).

Croatia
Much like this whole trip, our time in Budapest went way too quickly and before we knew it, we were saying goodbye to Mum and Dad, who were on their way back home. Our next destination was Zagreb, although we overnighted only because there were no direct trains to Slovenia.

Whether it was due to the long train ride or just plain old weariness, we found Zagreb hard-going at times. Cash is still king in Croatia (we couldn’t even book a bus ticket on credit card) and we struggled to find any ATMs nearby. Summer had also well and truly arrived – it sure was hot! First world problems, as they say…

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L: Ban Jelačić Square. R: Zagreb Cathedral.

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Contemplating whether we should visit another cathedral (we skipped this one).

Slovenia
Despite the difficulties of the day before, we were excited to be heading to Slovenia – a country Siobhan had been eying off for months. All we had to do was catch our early bus (tick) and clear immigration. Which we did… after a two-hour wait at the border!

Thankfully the rest of the journey proceeded without incident and by that afternoon we were strolling around Lake Bled – a spot so pretty you have to stop occasionally and remind yourself it’s actually real. Lake Bled has adorned many a postcard – one look at its crystal clear waters and picture-perfect Bled Island and you’ll see why it’s one of Slovenia’s biggest tourist destinations.

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The view across to Bled Island (we wanted to row a boat over but they were all booked).

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L: Clear water on a clear day. R: We loved Bled!

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We took a leisurely bike ride around the lake.

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L: Not a bad way to spend the afternoon!. R: Obligatory Border Collie photo.

Less than an hour from Bled, the road winds through several quaint little villages before skirting Lake Bohinj. Believe it or not, it’s even prettier than Lake Bled. Although it was summer, the water was much too cold for swimming. Still the view more than made up for that… It’s hard to describe just how beautiful the Slovenian countryside is. We’re already planning a driving holiday the next time we visit Europe.

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Lake Bohinj.

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L: Too cold for swimming. R: Good thing we opted not to dive in… 

We’ll also have to come back to Ljubljana . This is a city so compact that it demands to be explored on foot, while the Old Town is one of the liveliest we’ve visited (it has a big student community). Due to the high cost of accommodation we could only manage one night there, but we still felt the buzz so many visitors talk about.

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L: Ljubljana Old Town (Ljubljana Castle in the background). R: Lots of shoes…

Italy
Another day, another country, but this one’s a biggie… Long pasta lunches and some of the world’s best coffee beckoned, but upon our arrival in Bologna, there was hardly a soul to be found. It turns out that most Italians take their holidays during August so Bolognans had deserted their city en masse. For two days it was like walking around a ghost town and to make things worse, there wasn’t a decent priced trattoria open in sight! I wish we had something to show you from Bologna but there just wasn’t anything happening around town whatsoever.

And for the last month we’ve been sitting pretty high up in the mountains… More on our sleepy little Tuscan village next time!

IMG_2641Home for now 🙂

Stephen.

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One thought on “Country Hoppin’ (Part 2)

  1. So much to see, so much to do, and time too short. You sure travelled through some wonderful countries in this blog. Continue to enjoy Italy.

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