Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Ten things I learned in Austria, Slovenia, Italy, and Croatia...


Travel bridges the gap between civilizations...

If you're a regular reader of my travel blog, you may have noticed that whenever I take a trip, I like to reflect on new things I learned during my travels.  Our most recent vacation involved travel through five different European countries, two of which were new to us.  We had a great time and I think I learned some new things.  So here goes... ten new things I learned!

10.  Croatia is still not on the euro.  But that doesn't mean you have to stop at a "cambio" and trade money when you cross the border.  Apparently, euros are widely accepted in Croatia, even at toll booths.  

9.  Slovenians eat a lot of meats that may seem exotic to Americans.  Ever wanted to try bear?  You can do that in Slovenia.  More than once, I saw bear dishes on restaurant menus, as well as horsemeat.  They are also big on rabbit and venison, though I know that's more widely available than bear is.  I ate a lot of fish when we were in Slovenia, especially trout.  

8.  Hallstatt is often crawling with Chinese tourists.  Actually, every time we go to Austria, I am surprised by how many Asian tourists are there.  Hallstatt is especially popular with Chinese folks because they have created a replica of the town in China.  They really seem to get into the spirit of things, too.  If you visit, be prepared to see a lot of Chinese people in dirndls and lederhosen.

7.  Because Hallstatt is teeming with tourists, it's a good idea to look to other towns for lodging. That is, if you're the type of person who doesn't like to be in the thick of touristy places, which I am.  I can only take so much exposure to crowds before I start to get decidedly cranky.  Gosau was a great alternative to Hallstatt for that reason.  However, Hallstatt is great because it's so touristy.  If you're there on a Sunday, you can go to the grocery store if you need to.

6.  If you decide to walk to Vintgar Gorge (or anywhere else), you should know your route... and bring water and sunscreen!  I have read several articles that claim that it only takes an hour to walk to Vintgar Gorge. Unfortunately, Bill and I ended up taking the detour intended for cars and we walked a lot longer than an hour to see the gorge.  Fortunately, I was able to hang and we found a store on the way.  Next time we get the bright idea to walk, I'm making sure we have some fluids.  It would not have been fun to get heat exhaustion.

5.  It's hot in Slovenia right now.  It's been so chilly here in Germany that it didn't occur to me that Slovenia and Croatia might be warmer.  I should have brought more short sleeved shirts.  

4.  Lake Bled is absolutely lovely, but next time, I think we'll look for a less populated lake.  More than one Slovenian mentioned Lake Bohinj, which is near Bled.  We didn't get a chance to visit there, but my guess is that it's not quite as crowded as Bled is.  

3.  Lake Bled is crawling with American tourists.  There are Asian tourists in Bled, but not nearly as many as there are Americans.  I was kind of surprised by how many English speakers there were there.  We ate dinner in one restaurant and literally every table around us had Americans sitting at it.  I almost felt like I was eating dinner in Williamsburg, Virginia.

2.  Bled is a great place to base yourself in Slovenia.   I originally planned to stay in Ljubljana for a night or two, but realized that Slovenia is a small country.  I correctly surmised that parking in the city could be a challenge, so decided to book four nights in Bled and do day trips.  It was very nice to come back to the lake at night and start off gazing at it in the mornings.  But now that I've seen Lake Bled, I will go elsewhere if I get the chance to visit Slovenia again.

1.  I really need to explore southeastern Europe more.  Yes, a trip to France or Italy is always fun, but eastern Europe is definitely worth seeing.  I hope we'll get the chance to see more of Croatia, Slovenia, and the other countries in the Balkan region.  That means I hope Bill will be a contractor based in Germany for a long time.  

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