Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Europe 2017 Trip Notes # 3

 Europe 2017 - Trip Notes # 3

 Zagreb, Croatia

Driving from Slovenia to Croatia was uneventful until we reached the border. It seems that "political issues" remain from the 1990's war. There is a real and very official border crossing, a toll and passport stamping leaving Slovenia and entering Croatia.

Finding our hotel was a bit difficult. Fortunately, with the help of our cell phone, the hotel receptionist "walked us through" the one way streets until we reached a private parking area. At that point, one of the staff members helped us with the luggage. The hotel was situated several blocks from the parking area.

Near Hotel

Our Zagreb hotel is what we would call "Upscale Rustic!" NO ELEVATOR!

The staff was very pleasant and helpful when needed. However, climbing two flights of stairs and going up and down several times a day was not expected - particularly with all of the sight seeing walking that we did during the 90+ degrees of weather.

 A "Sweets Festival" was going on. There were ice cream stands (and stores) throughout the town center and in the parks In fact, there were stands right next to each other touting that they had the best ice cream.

Ice Cream

  Ice Cream 

And More Ice Cream

We learned that the stands can generate about $1500/day during the summer time.

 Our hotel was situated in a pedestrian zone area, minutes from a central tram station and 5 - 15 minute walk to museums, parks, churches and other tourist areas.

In fact, there was a funicular that we could take (as well as walk) to the upper part of the town.

Looking Down At "Newer" Part Of Zagreb From "Older" Part Of Town

Oldest Part Of Old Town: Stone Gate (wall) Used To Protect Upper Town
Now, Area Used For Worship. Altar Is Located In Upper Right Of Picture
Pews On Left Side Of Picture. Services Going On When Picture Taken.
Yes, A road goes through Church

Pretty Church

Zagreb appeared to be a much larger town than anticipated. Tourist things to do were located farther apart and there seemed to be more of an "intensity" - there was definitely not the "lay back feeling" that we got in Ljubljana. In all directions there are bars, restaurants...

and other forms of eateries such as pizza places seemingly on every block. 

Corn stands are very popular.

Although food costs and museum entrance fees were about the same as Ljubljana - relatively inexpensive, the average Croatian income is about 50% less as compared to Slovenia. 

Guess who? 

 Mr. Tesla, himself - and friend! 

Zagreb has lots of entertainment - some a little strange...

Some quite good...

and some, not so good.

We did see some people begging and rummaging through the trash - looking for plastic and glass bottles. There was even more of a "police presence" in the town center / old town area.

Walking around town gave us a time to see beautiful buildings.
Concert Hall and Music School

We visited an art museum (beautiful building) containing hundreds of paintings from the 1500's to late 1900's. Only a handful of visitors were at the museum. Why? Once the locals saw the paintings, there was no need to return. Thus, only tourists (if they had time) would come to this museum.

Of the museums that we visited, two were unique:

·       The Museum of  Broken Relationships: This was made up of letters and items related to horrific and sad situations. People, from all over the world, send items to this museum - things dealing with missed opportunities, divorce, affairs, suicide, etc. (A little depressing!)

·       The Museum of Illusions:

This was a fun experience

Guess How This Works?

Most towns have a farmers market. Most uncommon were the (almost) pungent, fruit smells at each Zagreb tall. Everything was so fresh and ready to eat - not like at home where often the fruits are prematurely picked.


Sometimes, sitting and watching the world go by will provide for unexpected opportunities.

A cultural group dressed in traditional clothes happened to come buy and started singing in an alcove. 

Then, at noon, a cannon was shot followed by a military procession. Guards were stationed in front of a statue of one of the historical heroes. 

Too Hot For The Heavy Uniforms

Jerry gets in trouble!

While in a market, Jerry took a picture of the cigarette prices. Market checkout person was not happy. Anyway, cigarettes in Zargeb cost about $3.50/pack.  The US average is around $7/pack with the highest being $12.85 in New York.

The Plitvicka Lakes (National Park) was our next destination.  Beautiful, pristine lakes and waterfalls are everywhere. Birds were making beautiful music. This is a unique and special place.

At times, navigating through the park was a little difficult.

Path Made From Irregular Wooden Planks
Look Carefully At The Water: Fish

Two Of Several Species

Strange Reflections

  90 + Degrees: Cooling Off At Top Of Waterfall

Dragon Fly?

What? No Bathing Suits?

The park has many routes. We decided to start with the easiest approach: Take a tram to the top of the park and walk down to the bottom. Then, depending on how we felt, we might explore other areas. Well, about halfway down, we discovered that the path to the bottom was washed out. The only way back to our car was to CLIMB back up the mountain trail at   90 + degrees and high humidity. There must have been a gazillion steps to climb.

Our Reward? Some Ice Cold Beer!

Our hotel was located just outside the park overlooking the beautiful countryside.  We were eating dinner in an open air restaurant when all of a sudden,  a huge storm - thunder and lightening storm hit. It only lasted about 15 minutes. However, everything happened so fast that everyone had to quickly grabbed their food, drinks and run inside the restaurant. The winds was so strong that water and beer bottles (glass) were knocked over and breaking as they hit the ground.

Overall, a great few days!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Europe 2017 (June) Trip Notes # 2

Europe 2017 (June) Trip Notes # 2


County and mountain Village architecture was a surprise in that the homes have the same steep roofs as they do in Switzerland, Germany or Austria. They must get a lot of snow in the winter. 

Also interesting was the use of the rust color tiles that would typically be used in the Mediterranean.

The countryside is quite special. Besides miles of green pastures and plenty of crops growing throughout the area, the beautiful villages and picturesque farms seem to be a juxtaposition with the nearby forests...

and lakes.

This is a town made up of oddities:

The Slovenian language sounds like Russian with a Scandinavian lilt.

Of the 2 million people living in the entire country, 600,000 live in Ljubljana. It may be the wealthiest country (per capita) of the Balkan countries, highest educated and the most unemployed or under-employed. Many PhD's looking for jobs.

"Tipping" (as we know it at home) is not expected. Sometimes, leaving a "few coins" on the table after a meal is more than satisfactory.

There's lots of graffiti but the town is very clean - no trash laying around. At home graffiti tends to represent gangs and dangerous areas. Here, graffiti is considered "art" or a political expression - tends to be found in safe areas.

Outside of town, cars speed (somewhat like Germany).

Food tends to be heavy - lots of meat. Breads are excellent. We tried salami made from bear, deer and pork.

Notice The Raw Bacon Wrapped Around The Chicken Pate. Fat rules!

Our hotel (Cuba as in "cube") was perfectly positioned and reasonably inexpensive.

The room came with a great breakfast. 

Our room had four strange or unexpected features: 

Everything in the mini-bar is free

The shower is in the middle of the bedroom with glass walls on three sides.

So Much For Modesty!

And, we had a strange shaped toilet!

Does anyone have a rectangle shaped fanny?

Room Phone

Overall, food costs are relatively inexpensive. Meals could be 1/2 to 1/4 of what we would pay at home.

We were able to participate in an excellent city and castle walking tour. The guide made the experience particularly special by pointing out things that were unique and not so obvious.

Un-pasteurized Milk Dispensed Here - Good For 4 Days

Art sculpture at bottom left of photo dispenses drinking water. Apparently, the local water is so clean that it does not need to be purified. (We were not so adventurous at the beginning of the trip!)

The town has lots of odd-looking art - particularly where you would not ordinarily look. The water drain in the middle of the walkway is - ART!

Most retail stores are small and specialized. However, there is one department store tat is a hold over to the past.

Fancy store - not so fancy homes.

By looking closely, we saw that most of the "newer" buildings have not been kept up.

We learned that the local  philharmonic orchestra traces its roots back to 1701. Beethoven, Chopin, Mozart, Mahler, etc, composed and played here.

One Of The Universities

There was a special treat: The guide took us to a pub where we could taste local sausage accompanied with a horse radish and mustard dip.

After a stop at a candy shop to taste a local specialty --- salted chocolate (Yum!), we headed to a mountaintop overlooking the town to tour a castle.

Many Parts Of The Castle Left Intact 

Great Views

 Many Exhibits In Castle Rooms - Some Historical, Some Contemporary

Festivals were going on throughout the town. Lots of entertainment - day...

 and night. 

Each Street Has Something Going On

We watched a rehearsal for an outdoor (a la Greek Theater) "Big Band" concert. The music style was sort of like the Lawrence Welk era.

Orchestra And Entertainers Wore Tuxes And Gowns The Next Night

TV Cameramen Also Need To Rehearse

Our second full day took us to nearby Lake Bled - a beautiful, serene forest area with a castle on a hill and...

a church situated on an island in the middle of the lake.

Lake Bled It is known as a spa resort with many seasonal sports activities. The water is relatively warm (people swim in it) and crystal clear.

Even with GPS, it took a local person to guide us to the castle

Looking Out At The Lake From One Of The Castle Rooms.
 Archery Lesson 

                                            Ladies In waiting?

We went for a walk along the Lake Bled shore and picnicked on a bench. Now, when was the last time we did that...?