Thursday, August 26, 2010

Lake Bled, Canyoning and Rafting

The following morning we got a bus to Bled, which is famous for its lake, cream cakes and activities. On our first day we went for a walk around the lake and came across a tree, which overhung the river and had wooden grips nailed in so your could climb up it and jump into the lake. When we arrived at it, there were a few guys jumping off and a local kid who was nuts and pulling back flips and other ludicrous dives. We got the video camera out and got someone to record us climb to the top and make the plunge into the lake. The water was pretty cold but you soon acclimatised and the sun was beating down so it was all good. After a few more jumps we dried off and continued our walk around the lake, where we met a guy called Will (a stereotipical Etonian) who was staying at our hostel who joined us for the walk.
Before coming to Slovenia, we had heard that this was the place to do activities so we went and booked ourselves on a day of Canyoning and Rafting. Canyoning was absolutely amazing, you got kitted out with a wet suit, harness and helmet and then entered the canyon having to navigate yourself down a river over rocks. The best part was when you got to a rock slide where you lay down on your back and slid down the rock and into the pool below it was ace. There were also sections that you could jump and areas which you needed to abseil down it was so much fun.

The guide that took us canyoning was really fun and even detoured on the way back to take us to a river which had a huge wooden dive board hanging over a 6 metre drop. The water was so clear and there were huge fish swimming around it looked beautiful. Obviously we had to go for it and jump off the diving board, it was just a bit of a shock when you hit the water as it was freezing!
We went to a pizzeria for lunch to fill ourselves up before rafting in the afternoon. It was a 30 minute car journey to the river which where we put on life jackets and a helmet. I opted out of a wetsuit as I couldn't be bothered to put it on which I soon learnt was a mistake as the water was about -12 and the coldest thing ever. My feet were tingling after just having dipped them in for about 5 seconds. The water levels were fairly low so the river wasn't that challenging but fun all the same.

We had only booked our first night in the hostel and luckily the woman said we could stay another night so at least we had somewhere to go after our day of action.We hadn't paid for the second night and in the morning the woman wasn't around so we ended up just leaving the key and saving ourselves the cost of a nights accommodation which was a welcome treat. We hadn't got around to trying the local speciality dish which was a cream cake. Even though it was 9am we decided it was something that had to be done so we ate this huge cream cake after a toastie - not the most conventional breakfast.
It was then a day of travel getting the bus first to Ljubliana, then to Koper and finally to Trieste. Trieste was the one place we hadn't pre-booked a place to stay and it was also the one place that didn't have any free WiFi hotspots. We wandered around a bit trying to find the tourist office, which we eventually found tucked away after asking a policeman. Unfortunately it was closed so we were back to square one, still being unable to find a WiFi hotspot. Luckily Woody went for a scout around while I sat with the bags and he managed to find somewhere even though it was a bit more expensive than we were used to, but at this point we were fed up of lugging our bags around so just went for it. In the morning it was then off to the Airport where we sat around for a few hours waiting to check in.

Once we got through to boarding we were given priority boarding passes to our surprise as we were totally oblivious that we had booked them. Anyway these got us onto the plane first where we were able to snag ourselves some seats with extra leg room. I was under the impression that these seats were like gold dust and there was always a race to get them, but everyone just seemed to get on the plane and sit in any old seat. The last two people to get on the plane got some of these seats which still left 3 unoccupied throughout the whole flight, I couldn't believe it.

So that's it, home now back to my own bed :-) I guess it's time to start thinking about going back to work :(

Monday, August 23, 2010

Slovenia Sightseeing

We got the bus to Ljubliana which took a couple of hours, for which I snoozed most of it so it was great when we got there. As soon as you get into Ljubliana you can see the castle situated on top of massive whacking great hill, so chose this as our first point of call. The castle had an awesome viewing tower, which gave panoramic views over Ljubliana so got a few snaps up there. We had also got a ticket which gave us entry to a virtual tour of the city and to a museum. We managed to pass ourselves off as students so saved ourselves 4 Euro, bonus.
The rest of the day was spent exploring the town and having a general wander around the sights. We wanted some good Slovenian food for dinner so went on the hunt after a quick nap in the evening. The place we ended up at served an amazing goulash dish and had a great atmosphere as there was an acoustic band doing there stuff right outside.
We were joined for dinner by some lovely french girls, who were struggling to find a place to sit as all the tables were taken and it would have been rude not to offer. It was one of the girls birthday so they had come out for a nice meal and music and I'm sure our company topped it off. After we had finished our food we went along to a bar on the river, which was pretty quiet but then it was a Sunday night. We then got talking to the waiter and his mate and ended up staying out for a few beers until hunger struck and grabbed a taxi with them to get a horse burger, which came highly recommended - sorry horse lovers.
I bedazzled the locals with some magic and they paid for our beers, taxi and burger - they wouldn't accept a cent! The horse burger was bloody huge, about the size of my face and it was jam packed with salad, ketchup and cheese which oozed out of the sides when trying to tackle it. That taste of horse was still in my mouth the morning after, lovely.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Croatian Cruising

Our couple of days in Zagreb turned out pretty nicely. We did the walking tours suggested on the tourist maps and also wandered about aimlessly exploring the city. When we went back to our hostel we met up with an Australian guy called Adam and went out to get something to eat from a beer hall that served pints for a bargain price of 9 kuna (about a quid). I seemed to end up with the biggest meal and couldn't finish it but it was cheap enough so it didn't feel as much of a waste.
After a few beers we headed back to the hostel to find that someone was in Adams bed - were in a 3 bed dorm. We strolled in making a bit of noise and some girl rolled over and said "hello". We made a quick exit and informed the reception of the problem which was swiftly sorted out - at the embarrassment of the receptionist.

After a nice long kip we got up and had a lazy stroll around the town before finding a nice spot in the middle of a park to lye down and chill out. We went out and got ourselves a pizza for dinner and then made our way to the train station to get our sleeper over to Split. We'd put our bags in lockers at the station so grabbed those and went to the platform.

We handed the tickets over to the conductor who replied "guys we have a problem" errrr what do you mean???? we responded, which is when he then informed us that our reservation was for yesterday!! Whatt!!?? we couldn't believe it! the stupid woman that booked our tickets did it for the wrong day - I admit we didn't check the date but you just expect it to be right. We were not happy.

Anyway we couldn't have our sleeper and ended up on the couchettes. Luckily we got one each with no-one opposite so could treat it somewhat like a bed although it was the most uncomfortable thing on earth. We also had some guy in our cabin area that looked like he had cut some of his fingers off, which were bandaged up but you could see the blood seeping through the dressings, far from pleasant.

After an awful nights sleep we got off the train and had a short walk to our hostel, again which had stated 24hr reception but didn't turn up until 8am. We got there about 7 and went and grabbed a drink and stuff before we could drop off our bags. We decided that we were going to sort out the ferry to Rijecka so went to do that and then went in search of the nearest beach.
We decided just to go for the deck on the ferry which meant not having a room. This resulted in us finding a space on the floor of one of the decks and spreading out our stuff to set up a place to kip for the night. The place we got was OK, although there were super bright lights on all night so I ended up throwing a towel over my face to block out the light. I had a pretty terrible nights sleep, tossing and turning all night.
When we got into Rijecka we headed straight to the bus station as the place looked a bit of a dive and got ourselves tickets for the next bus to Pula, which was only an hour away so we grabbed a drink in a local cafe and wasted away the time.

As I was still ultra tired I snoozed most of the journey to catch up on some sleep. We had booked a hostel but on our arrival found out we had booked two days in advance of when we arrived so there were no rooms. I worked out that the problem stemmed from the fact that my date on my netbook was incorrect so had screwed us over. The woman at the hostel phoned another one nearby so we had a short walk to get there, hoping they had some space.

On our arrival we were greeted by a guy who was helping out and didn't know if there was space so we were left wondering where we would be sleeping. Even when the manager turned up, she seemed to have no idea what was going on and whether there would be spare beds so we decided to go and check out some sea caves and come back later to see what the situation was.

It ended up being a bit of a walk to the caves and we passed some unsightly images in the form of naked people sunbathing, but when we got to the we loved it. There were huge caves and
people were jumping off the top of the cave into the sea....I had to have a go.

The cave jump was immense, I felt like I was free falling for ages until I hit the water and had the best rush ever knowing I have done it successfully. I gave it a few more goes, trying to get a good mid air action shot but they came out a bit blurry. It was then back to the hostel to see if we had a bed for the night. Again the hostel manager was very vague and eventually said we could stay although we were still pretty dubious. We hoped our beds would be made up when we got back and went to find the train station to find out times for trains to Ljubliana.
The station took a little while to find as we first found the old station which was derelict and the new station even looked like part of a ghost town with only one guy tucked away inside selling tickets. We got our tickets which were proper old school little pieces of card which he wrote the train time and destination on.

Once we had sorted that we then went out for dinner and a few beers, where we ended up meeting some Croatian guys who had come to Pula for a football match. I had fun showing them some magic tricks and then we headed off to a club. Half way there they met up with some of their mates which looked like skinhead hooligans so we made our excuses and left- it was about 1am anyway.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Journey of Biblically Hot Proportions

For our last night in Thessaloniki we went out to find a local restaurant recommended by the hostel we were staying in to try some local dishes. This ended up being a mega meat feast which filled the entire 4 seater table with plates of meats in various forms including chips, salad and bread. We were a bit like Michael Jackson in his Martin Bashir documentary pointing at different items and saying "one of them, two of them etc", because the meats were per piece and super cheap nit could have fed a family of 8 easy! We both made a good effort but I'm sad to report back that we were defeated by our meal monstrosity and waddled back to our hostel totally full.

The following day we didn't do much as it was baking outside and we were due to get the 5pm train to Belgrade. We had a good wash and chilled out in the hostel until it was time to head off. We met up with a girl at the hostel who was also getting the same train so all set off together to get the bus. The gut at the hostel had said that all the buses on the main road go to the bus station, as did the bus we jumped on the previous day so we just lugged our stuff onto the next bus that pulled in. It soon became apparent once we turned off into the wrong direction that this was not the case, which was confirmed by a local on the bus. - we felt a bit silly but now we were running out of time to get our train. Fortunately I spotted a taxi heading our way so waved my hands about to hail him over and we were back on track in no time.
To say the train was roasting hot would be an understatement, I've been in colder saunas! I felt like I was totally burning up and someone had a flame thrower held to my face. It was a god send when at the next station we spotted a tap on the platform and rushed out to soak ourselves and get our temperature down a bit. In fact we mostly stayed outside while other locals were boarding and kept splashing ourselves with water to keep cool.
The heat only lasted a couple of hours and for the rest of the journey we made a refreshing air tunnel through our cabin. At one point we stopped at a station and Woody went to get some air, so sat on the trains steps dangling his feet. I'm gutted I missed this but the train started moving again without any warning with Woody sat precariously dangling his feet over the side of the train - I can imagine he totally crapped himself haha.

When we got to Belgrade we dropped off our bags at a luggage place and went to get a beer just to get something refreshing after that journey, we didn't care that it was actually 9am in the morning we deserved it. We were also in desperate need of a wash as I'm sure we smelt as disgusting as we looked so got a map and wandered over to the nearest park which luckily had some taps so we could have a wash with the local hobo's and make ourselves feel half decent.

Armed with a map of Belgrade we set out to see the sights and made ourselves a little walking tour heading towards the fortress, which was lovely and had amazing views across the capital and river.
We had missed the Everton match due to being on the train (not like it mattered in the end) but Woody is an Arsenal supporter so we went to try and find somewhere showing the game. The best place we managed to find was a bookies across the road from the station, but it wasn't too bad and they had a bar which cost 50p a pint - we'll have some of that!

For dinner we again over ordered and had bruschetta, salad and pizza which I was unable finish and took away in a doggy bag. Although I didn't want it myself I thought I would treat some of the local homeless people in and around the park we had washed in earlier and had no problem locating enough to give away my 5 slices.
It was then another night spent on a train to Zagreb in Croatia, which meant making the most of the baby wipes we bought to have a good clean as we were without the luxury of a shower for a second night. The train got into Zagreb and the stupid hour of 4am so we strapped on our bags and went to find our hostel. We were going to walk there but asked a policeman for directions and told us it would take an hour which then didn't seem so appealing. He pointed us in the direction of the tram and as not wanting to be caught out again asked how we paid for it - to which he responded nahh just get on, it's early so won't matter. After which we rather reluctantly got on the tram hoping that we weren't going to be stopped and demanded to pay some ludicrous fine. I'm glad to report back we didn't and successfully found the hostel.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The world's most beach -less seafront

After getting some free pancakes for brekkie at the hostel, we left our bags and went for another walk across Sofia. We ended up taking it in turns at each junction to decide whether we would turn left, right, or go straight ahead until we came across a nice looking bar where we stopped off for a drink. The majority of the morning was consumed by looking for a travel adapter and towel for Woody, which we did have a little trouble finding but managed it in the end.

It was nearing lunch time so we headed to a vegetarian restaurant I had eaten at before to get some healthy but tasty food. As our train was not until 10:30pm we had a lot of time to kill so continued our exploration of Sofia.

A new beer was spotted so we took a seat and wrapped our lips around that. I think that makes the new beer total up to 7 so far so we’re doing pretty well.

We grabbed some supplies for our train journey and used up the last of our Bulgarian currency. It was then a short tram ride to the station, so we got our tickets and parked ourselves down on an available seat. One stop away and some ticket officers jumped on the tram to check tickets, which was fine as we had time stamped ours so they were valid. Unfortunately for us the driver had not informed us that we had to buy an extra ticket for our bags – not that they took up any more room space. So anyway we were about a stop away from the train station but had the ticket inspectors hassling us demanding we pay a 10lev fine each (equivalent to about £4) but I had spent the last bit of shrapnel I had on some snacks to take on the train.

I tried to explain I had no mor3e cash hoping they would just let us off for not knowing, but I ended up being frog marched to an ATM machine to get the cash. If I hadn’t had any bags it would have been so easy to outrun them but unfortunately I didn’t and also had a train to catch.

We got to the station in plenty of time anyway and found ourselves a bench to sit on in the delightful train station where you had flies landing on you every few seconds and no air-con so it was uncomfortable as hell. The train was then delayed and we were sat there wishing away the time – sometimes I would much rather be sitting on my sofa at home than in a situation like this when travelling.

The train eventually got in and we embarked on our ride to Thessaloniki. It was an overnighter so we got ourselves a sleeper train so we could at least get a bit of shut eye, which was a bonus but the toilets were less than desirable and there were mosquitos in their the size of my fist. The train got in about 5:30 and we used the directions I had written down from our hostel’s website to navigate us on the bus, which ended up being straight forward and we found our accommodation easy peasy.

The downside to this was that no-one would answer the door, which meant having to sit on a bench outside overlooking homeless people sprawled out on benches while playing a few games of gin rummy. Well so much for the advertised 24 hour check-in, after countless door bell rings Woody gave the phone number on the door a ring and was told that reception didn't open until 8am - go figure?? We then dropped off our bags and went for a wander around the town and visited some of the ruins and other monuments, at this point feeling absolutely disgusting and in desperate need for a shower.

Eventually we got to freshen up and after deciding there wasn't actually that much to do in Thessaloniki (not even a beach in sight) took a trip to the train station to sort out a ticket to Belgrade. Turning up at 2pm we were delivered the amazing news that the international ticket counter didn't open until 4pm so we ended up spending the afternoon chilling, or rather boiling in the cafe in the station. At 4ish we went over to find a huge long queue which was going down slowly but the most annoying thing was some guy we dubbed "the flanker" as he was trying to weed his way in half way down the queue - these foreign types, you never get an English national doing that we're pretty fair when it comes to queueing.

This is when it gets even worse as a woman asks where were going and send us off into another queue. When we get to the front (after 40mins) the woman at the counter tells us we're in the wrong queue and we need to join the other one, what a sham. So in the end a nice 4 hours spent in Thessaloniki train station, superb. We have managed to book our Belgrade tickets though and are off tomorrow on another over nighter.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Bulgarian airways was a delightful surprise as we had plenty of leg room and were even provided with a sandwich, cake and a drink. Getting to the hostel was pretty straight forward as we just hopped on a bus for 1lev (40p) which took us into the city centre and a short walk away from our destination. It came in useful that Woody had learnt a few Cyrillic characters so we could translate a few of the street names. Once we had dropped off our bags we armed ourselves with a map and set out for a wander around with our main aim being to try and find a micro brewery.
Due to the weather this took longer than expected as we made a few stop off's on the way to try other local brews (we have tried 4 so far) so it's going pretty well. One of the things I love about Europe is the different graffiti you come across and I couldn't resist a snap of the one above.

6 or so beers later we went back to the hostel to freshen up and find somewhere to go and eat and preferably where the England game was being shown. Well we managed to find an amazing local place to eat where we literally had half a pig on a plate with potatoes. Apparently it had been cooked for 5 hours and the meat literally fell off the bone and melted in your mouth. Even though there was so much after we finished we both agreed we could have eaten the same again as it was so nice.

There was no football in sight but we had a couple of hours before kick off to find somewhere. This did result in those 2 hours painstakingly wandering around streets to try and find an Irish bar as there were no TV's in sight. We eventually found one but it was a red herring as it looked as though there was a TV on through the window but it turned out to be some digital Carling advert! After nearly giving up we found a Bulgarian guy who was actually useful and guided us to JJ Murphy's bar where we were just in time for kick off!

I did wake up at some ridiculous time in the morning realising that I had forgotten to take my contacts out - My eyes looked like cherry tomatoes but I did manage to get the buggers out.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

1,000k And We're Done.

Last day in Cyprus and then it's an early wake up to get the plane to Bulgaria. Well we've done at least 1,000k in the car travelling around and managed to get a good feel for the place. We went to Nicosia today which spans across into the Northern Territory occupied by the Turks so it was necessary to flash the passport so we could hop across the border. Once we were over the border it was like being transported back 30 years (This is an estimation as I am only 27) but the place was full of war torn buildings that looked like they were on their last legs. After a brief visit to the mosque and a patter around the super comfy carpet we went and got a bite to eat. I went for a tuna salad as after the lovely ham and salad the night before I was on a health kick, but obviously I got a pint of Efes with it as I had't tried it yet on this trip.

It was necessary to top up the tan so we went for a bit of a sun bathe down the beach and a soak in the sea to cool down. After a shower and a freshen up we were treated to a lovely meal by the the Woods whose hospitality has been 5*. The plan now is to get to Sofia and sort out a train down to Thessaloniki the following day to soak up some more sun.