Happy May Day! Europe’s form of Labor Day is held May 1st which gave me a long weekend. In Hungary (and elsewhere in Europe ?) the Saturday before was a workday so that we could have Monday off as well. I didn’t love going to work on Saturday, but I do love long weekends.
Friday I went to Budapest to meet a friend from my rugby team to take the train to Zagreb, Croatia. Really valuable piece of information is that it’s almost never possible to buy international tickets at the machines. Pretty much always I have to go to the ticket office and find the international desk for journeys outside of Hungary. This time was no exception. However, I never needed to find the ticket office at Keleti before and while it seems obvious now, it took both Jordan and I a while to find this which turned into a race against the clock to get the tickets. When I finally found the counter, the woman in front of me was taking a seriously long time to get her tickets straightened out. I finally politely said in Hungarian “sorry, 5 minutes, train is leaving” to see if that could speed things up a bit. It didn’t really, but it did mean that the woman behind the counter hurried for me once the lady finished her purchase.
Once we got on the train, we sat in the wrong seat. So we went the whole way to the back of the train where the only two seats we could find were with this woman, her daughter, and their dog. They really didn’t want to move their dog so we could sit and even faked not speaking English until I did my best in Hungarian to talk to them. When the ticket checker came around, we found out we were again in the wrong seats and moved one last time where at least we got the compartment to ourselves for most of the ride (side note – I always feel like I’m in Harry Potter when I get to sit in a compartment, just without the cool food cart). Croatia isn’t in the Schengen Zone (the part of Europe that it’s possible to travel freely without a passport check) so the border patrol came through. They actually did it the best way I’ve seen with both countries patrol coming around at the same time instead of stopping once in Hungary to get stamped and once over the border to get the entry stamp. However, this was the first time I used my ten year passport since I got the new one. The border agent didn’t really like that I didn’t have any stamps and asked to see my residence card which I never replaced. Luckily since I explained to her that they had been stolen, she was happy to let me go on. After getting my Croatian entry stamp, I realized that I never signed the new passport. What a a relief they didn’t notice. It did take an extra hour than the ride was supposed to which is a bummer but I never count on trains being on time anymore.
We did have a beautiful view of yellow fields of flowers around Balaton. I believe they are called rapeseed and I’m absolutely in love with the fields of them. Sometimes we couldn’t see past the yellow. I’m officially on the hunt to see some off the train.
When we got there, we realized that not many places were open for food anymore since it was 20:00. So we ended up at a doner place which we wouldn’t have gone to otherwise and it was great. Something I always giggle about is Hungarians/Europeans calling my lettuce “rocket lettuce”
The next morning, fellow travel blogger and teacher joined us. We started the day with some breakfast and then my favorite thing, a free walking tour. It started off in the main square where there was a market going on.
From there, we went to a church that is now a walkway. It’s still in use, many people were lighting candles as we went through.
See the little spiky ball on top of the building? This was from back when people were extremely concerned about the existence of witches. They thought witches flew around at night and low enough that they would get caught on the spikes since it was dark and they wouldn’t be able to see where they were going. over 150 women were burned at the stake at the hight popularity. Accusing someone of being a witch became a popular payback when there was an argument. I guess that’s one way to ensure the disagreement is over. There were a lot of official laws about witches. One specified how low they could fly over the city.
This is the church of St. Katherine. People like getting married here because it’s the only baroque style church in the city. The inside is an uniquely beautiful pink.
This square houses government buildings and an old church. The tiles are absolutely gorgeous. In the coat of arms on the left, There’s an animal in the red stripe. this is a Kuna which is like a mink. The currency of Croatia is called kunas after this animal because they used to be exchanged for goods. The blue part represents the coast of the country. The three animals that look like lions are actually bears. Apparently the artist never saw any real lions which explains the confusion. They symbolize loyalty, strength, and the kingdom. The red and white squares are a representation of the country. They call this pattern the checkerboard, not surprising, huh? This came about in the tenth century during the only time Croatia was it’s own kingdom. The king was taken prisoner in Italy and challenged to a chess match for his and the country’s freedom. He was three chess games in a row and won his country back. He returned to Croatia with the pattern and Croatians love the pattern to this day. Seeing it in five by five squares is the most common display. The star and moon in the other coat of arms represent the female god and male god respectively.
While we were in the square, our guide also told us a bit of history. On October 7th, 1991, 40 military planes flew over and dropped a bomb. Citizens were warned to hide which resulted in only one casualty. Why the bombing? Croatia was deciding on its independence from Yugoslavia. The President left the meeting room he was in just a few minutes before schedule and before a bomb dropped on that side of the building which is how he escaped the attack. They still don’t know which part of the Yugoslavian army attacked them. Tito was in charge of Yugoslavia at this time and there were massacres and genecides going on. Croatia did gain its independence and the war ended in 1995. The damage to Croatia from the fighting coast over $400 billion. All of this was new to me (besides the fact that Yugoslavia used to exist). I would’ve loved to take the tour that was offered just about this history, but unfortunately I just didn’t have enough time.
One more church rounded out the tour. I am starting to become obsessed with stained glass and tiles. They’re just so beautiful.
A few more random pictures to round out the free walking tour and the afternoon.
We had dinner at Plac which was excellent.
Final picture, actually video, of Croatia was of the cannon they shoot off every day. the guy that does this only works one hour a day and simply shoots the cannon at noon and he’s done. The only person who doesn’t like this is the woman who lives right behind it and has to clean up the cardboard that shoot out daily. Can you tell I was not fully prepared for this?
On to Slovenia which meant switching back to euros. I’m so tired of different currencies. Kuna is top, Forint is middle, euro is the bottom.
All of Slovenia is an absolute fairytale. To say I’m obsessed with this country is an understatement. I’m already plotting how I can move here. The city was so beautiful. The only regret I have is not making a free walking tour here, but then I would’ve had to give up going to Lake Bled. I really don’t have any facts about the city because of this. But really, when it looks this pretty, who needs facts? The pink church is pretty unusual for Europe as they are generally neutral or yellow.
This is the walk up and down to the castle, the chapel ceiling in the castle, and some views.
A few more pictures of the city. there were dragons everywhere. if you look close in the flower pictures, you can see the castle on the hill.
Lake Bled was an absolute dream. I found out later that someone in one of the travel groups I’m in on Facebook is going to be getting married in the castle across the lake in the first photo. Absolutely incredible. That’s worth any amount of money. It’s an option to get married in the church on the island in the lake as well, but he said that was a little out of their price range. I had a glass of wine at Cafe Belvedere which posts the best view of the lake. I’m not sure it’s the best view of the whole lake, but it was definitely the best view of the island. The glass of wine wasn’t outrageously priced like I thought it would be and it was a really nice place to sit for a while and just look. I think I could have looked at this lake for the rest of my life. There’s also an area next to the restaurant that people can take pictures from without actually going to the restaurant. I asked strangers to take my picture like always, and they did such a great job that day. God bless kind strangers.
The food was also fantastic. From left to right, pictures is steak and veggies at Restaurant Most, breakfast at a cafe near the train station, roasted octopus at Vizija Gostinstvo, and antipasto and ice coffee at Slovenska Hisa. Everything was so good.
Jordan and I finished our Ljubljana ( pronounced Lui-blee-ana) with a river cruise. We were freezing, but we had a whole boat to ourselves for ten euros and some form of luck for 45 minutes. I would highly recommend this, it was a great way to view the city.
I ended with a 10 hour trip on the train back to Hungary. It wasn’t the worst train ride I’ve ever had, but it was far from the best. Although it was wonderful to see more of Slovenia, even if it was from an overheated carriage. I didn’t think about taking pictures when it was the prettiest, but here is two close to the Hungarian border.
I’ve been playing Taboo with my older kids and they are loving it. I haven’t heard some of them talk so much all semester. Some of them that are enjoying are really surprising me. My younger kids are learning birthday party words and actions and they’re having fun pretending to pop balloons and open presents. I now have four private lessons a week and they’re going really well. I’m going to be sad to end these just as much as I am about leaving my job. I have been going running most nights and it’s been great seeing more of the town. I’m always finding something new and beautiful here. Last week, one of my coworkers planned a mission impossible themed scavenger hunt at the archeological park nearby and the students had to come find me and ask questions to fill in their worksheets. it was a great afternoon for them, and for me too. I often see my students around town and it’s always fun to see the shock on their faces when they realize teachers live outside of school. I remember being surprised about this too at their age. The younger ones usually run up and hug me and the older ones always say hi. My current struggle is getting back into daily devotions which I really haven’t done in a long time. I’m hoping writing it here will help me with accountability on it, knowing that other people know I need to work on it will help me until it becomes routine again.
The pond I found out is here a couple weeks ago. I got approximately 3,000 mosquito bites taking this picture. The mozzies are horrible here. Sometimes I try to walk by the Danube but quickly give up because I just get eaten alive.
Maybe you noticed I changed around the layout and added some stuff to my blog. Maybe you didn’t, in which case, surprise I did! I am also adding all pictures from each post to my picture page in case you’re just here for pictures and not interested in the words. I can relate. Pictures are cool, my incomplete version of countries histories, not always so cool. I also have an opinion page which is useful if you’re planning your own trip and want a quick way to see some recommendations of restaurants or tours and sometimes places to stay in a country.
learn Hungarian – csend ben ( chend ben) is something one of my 7th graders taught me and I use daily. It translates literally ( according to google) to in silence and I often say in class, ” gyerekek csend ben” (children quiet) but maybe more often “fiuk csend” or ” boys quiet” (fiuk- is fee uk)