Bled to London

[googleMap width=”400″ height=”300″ directions_to=”false”]London[/googleMap]

We got up early and headed out for out planned run around Lake Bled. It was really nice weather for a run; a very slight mist to the air, but nice weather. We headed through nice sylvan surroundings-each lap around the lake was four miles.

I didn’t have a good run. The food from yesterday [maybe the goulash?] was bothering my stomach. However, Sheri had a GREAT run. She ran for twelve miles (three laps around the lake)–which would be her longest run before the San Jose Rock-and-Roll Half Marathon in October. At the end, she went and did a cold soak in the lake at a set of the steps. The people looked on in amazement as Sheri took off her shoes and socks and then soaked her legs in the lake as a slight drizzle started.

She came back to the hotel (after getting lost for a little bit). We showered, took our bags out to the car, and checked out of the hotel.

We headed to Lake Bled to find one of the boats that go to the island in the center. Only man-powered boats are allowed on the lake; it’s actually an Olympic lake for rowing competitions. We were the first at the “pletna” boat (a wooden boat, with an awning and a standing rower), and we had to wait for the boat to “fill-up” before we headed to the island. Finally a large tour group showed up (mainly Germans), and we headed off. The “captain” was rather portly, but had no problems with the oars as he rowed the boat with about 16 people in it to the island. He had a running commentary in German going, but I was only to catch parts of his discussion. Even with all of the rowing that he did, he was still breathing hard as he paddled us to the island.

We arrived at the island. The island basically was a small tree covered hill with a path around it. At the top, was a church, Church of St. Mary, with an accessory building. We climbed up the path to the top of the hill. We entered the church and looked around. In the middle of the church was a rope hanging down. People took turns pulling the rope and ringing the bell (now we finally knew why the bell on the island was always randomly ringing throughout the day). In the floor, there was a plexiglass covering looking down on a skeleton of someone who had been buried beneath the church centuries ago.

We left the church and walked around the hill. We walked down a long set of stone stairs that went down the other side of the hill. From videos we had watched before heading to Europe, these were stairs that grooms would carry their brides up after a wedding on the island. I refused to carry Sheri up the stairs :)

Our thirty minutes on the island were up, and we headed back to the boat. We got in and the “captain” started rowing us back to shore. The rain started picking up as we headed back, luckily we were under the awning. The “captain” seemed to have problems with rowing us; Sheri and I were really worried that he was going to have a heart attack before we got back. Luckily, we finally made it back.

We rushed off into the rain and went to the market, Mercatur, to buy our lunch (sandwiches and chips) to enjoy at the castle. We picked up our car and headed up to Bled Castle which is perched high above the lake. We paid the entrance fee and found a place to enjoy our lunch. We had our last taste of their famous cake–wonderful as always. The rain had lessened; the view overlooking the lake was wonderful.

We took photos, and wondered around the castle grounds. We visited the wine cellar which had wines made by local monks. We decided that our luggage couldn’t handle another bottle of wine, and left the castle grounds.

We left Bled, and headed to the airport in Lubljana. It was an uneventful wait, and then we took the flight to back to London.

We took the train from Stanwick to Liverpool. Then we took the Undergound to our station at Marble Arch. We got to our hotel, Number Sixteen. It was the most upscale hotel that we had been in the entire trip. It was understated luxury. There were fluffy beds and LCD TVs on the walls. There was a fire blazing away in the fireplace of the drawing room with walls lined with books. We unpacked, showered, checked our e-mail (as always), and went out for dinner.

We walked around the town, but most things were closed. We were surprised with the number Indian and Middle Eastern restaurants which seemed to line the streets.

We were back in London, so we had to have Fish and Chips. We found a small pub, and enjoyed our last dinner in Europe. It was a satisfying dinner of flaky fish [how is all of the fist in London so good], fries, and more tasty beer.

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel for a good nights sleep, before our long flight tomorrow back to the US.


[googleMap width=”400″ height=”300″ directions_to=”false”]Bled[/googleMap]

We woke to – big surprise – more rain! It actually wasn’t pouring, and when we looked out the window, we saw a bunch of runners passing by – it looked like a race! We got dressed and went out to see what we could find. It looked like a 10k that finished up with a loop around the lake. We were slightly disappointed that we didn’t know about the race, because we may have signed up – although most of the runners had mud-splatter all over their back so they must have hit muddy puddles on the route.

We watched the runners come in to the finish line. It was a pretty small race, but what a gorgeous route! The lake is crystal clear, and there’s a small island with a church, and the castle is on a cliff overhanging the city. Absolutely beautiful. It was starting to rain again, so we went to the hotel for breakfast, then went looking for another room for the night since our place was full. We went to a travel agency so we didn’t have to run around, and they got us a place that was reasonable priced, in a good location. Not the nicest place, but good enough.

We checked out of the hotel and transferred everything to the new place, then headed to Radovljica, a small, very nice little village on the Sava River. It was raining when we got there, and looked completely deserted. There’s a pedestrian zone in the center of town, which has a memorial to Anton Tomazh Linhart and a drinking fountain built in the memory of the town’s benefactor Josipina Hocevarjeva. There are also many old houses from the 16th century.

We found a place to eat lunch and had goulash (Larry) and roasted pork (me). Lunch was pretty good, and it seemed like it was mostly locals there.

The bee museum is devoted to Slovenian apiculture (bee keeping). It has exibits showing the evolution bee keeping in Slovenia, a working hive (we couldn’t find the queen), and a collection of painted front boards from old hive boxes. The painted boards were the most interesting because they depict all sorts of religious, folk and historical scenes. We bought some honey and a couple of reproductions of the front boards – my favorite is the hunter’s funeral, where all of the animals are happily carrying the dead hunter, but the dog is very sad.

After we left the museum, we went back to our favorite coffee shop for cake and tea/hot chocolate. Delicious kremna rezina! It was a nice, relaxing way to spend the afternoon. We went back to the hotel for a nap, then I worked on re-packing everything for the flight back to London. We had seven bottles of wine to keep safe on the trip back! It’s good we bought the spare duffle, because we needed it.

We decided to have dinner at a local pub – but unfortunately, it was closed. So we ended up back at Pizza Rustica, where we split another salad and a pizza. The pizza wasn’t as good as the previous night, but still good.

Trogir to Bled

The night was full of heavy rain with lots of lightning and thunder. The storm had really hit us; we should have brought that umbrella on our trip afterall.

We got up and got our stuff ready, and the rain seemed to have stopped. We walked back to the old town. We had coffee, hot cocoa and a chocolate croissant for breakfast at the center square. While we had sat there, the rain picked back up, so we decided to move inside.

We toured the Church of St. Lawrence in the middle of the Old Town. We saw ornate, metal work and engravings and old handwritten manuscripts. Nearby, there was a shrine with photos of the townmembers who had died in the Serb/Croatian War.

We then went to the open air market which was just across the bridge over the canal to the mainland. It was a small group of about 40 stalls with mixture of everything: clothes, handicrafts, fruits/vegetables, butchers and baked goods. The rain started to pick up even more. We walked back to the Old Town and its maze of cobblestone streets.

We then rushed to the castle, and did a quick tour of castle. It’s open air and they show movies in the summertime on one of the walls. The rain continued, so we decided to rush back to the hotel to continue into Slovenia. We were soaked by this time, and changed into dry clothes before our drive to Bled.

We checked out, and the rain dontinued to pour. It also seemed like everyone was trying to leave the island; there was a long line of cars trying to go over the two lane bridge back to the mainland. I realized that we had kept the key to the room, luckily we saw the Sobe owner and her daughter and were able to pass them the key. After half an hour, we finally got off the island and made our way to the freeway.

We then did our marathon drive up to Bled in Slovenia. It was a toll road which wound from the coast up through the mounts of Croatia. We went all the way back to Karlovac, where we spent our first night in Croatia. We grabbed snacks at a gas station, but basically drove straight through.

We went through multiple tunnels and the traffic was really good except for a stretch where they were still constructing and had both directions of traffic going thru a single tunnel (as opposed to the normal one tunnel for each direction).

We drove on into Slovenia. We retraced our route back to Ljubljana. We then headed farther north to Lake Bled (about an hour north of Ljubljana). Sheri had called ahead and found a hotel with availability.

We drove into the Bled around 7PM after about 7 hours of driving. It’s a town known to be on the edge of the beautiful lake. However, the rain had followed us. We had some problems finding the hotel in the rain. It’s a small town, but it was dark and the signs were not good. We finally found our hotel, the Vila Preseren. It was a small hotel, built like a mansion on the edge of Lake Bled.

We were starving, so we decided to go back out (although it was still raining, and we really didn’t really want to get soaked again like this morning).

We headed to a pizza place suggested by Frommers which was close, Pizzeria Rustica. The pizza was GREAT, even better than last night. Bled is actually close to Italy, so having pizza really made sense. Sheri had her Margherita Pizza (tomato and cheese), I had the Turkey Pizza (turkey, peppers, mushrooms, cheese), and we shared a large salad (tomatoes, lettuce, ham, corn, cucumbers). It was really satisfying after our day of driving.

We then decided to grab dessert and take it back to the hotel. There is a cake dessert that Bled is known for, ‘kremna rezina’. We went to a nearby bakery/restaurant, Smon Slascicarna Pastry Shop, and picked up a piece to go. We walked back to our hotel room in the drizzle and enjoyed it. It was layered with a flakey crust, a layer of vanilla custard, a layer of fresh whipped creme, another layer of flakey crust, and then dusted with powdered sugar. It was WONDERFUL!

Dubrovnik and Trogir

We got up early so we could walk the wall around the old town without having to deal with rain and crowds. We decided not to run, since we didn’t have a route in mind, and old town Dubrovnik is pretty small and hilly. Lucky us – it was questionable weather but not rainy, and there was hardly anyone on the wall at 8. We did the wall clockwise, even though the suggested direction is counterclockwise (this was a Rick Steves suggestion). This way involved a bunch of stairs at the start (augh, more stairs!), but then it was pretty much downhill. The other people who started at the same time as us went in the other direction, so we pretty much had the wall to ourselves for most of the time.

The wall provides beautiful views of Dubrownik and the Adriatic. It was interesting to see all of the roof tiles that had been replaced due to the war in the early 90s. Also hard to understand how anyone could bomb such a beautiful city.

There are some towers along the wall. It’s amazing that it’s so old and is still sturdy – in fact, it once again protected the city against outside invaders during the last war. The people of Dubrovink actually held off the invaders for three months. They survived using water from the old aqueduct system, which flows out of fountains around the city.

The wall is around 2k around, and it took us about an hour and a half to go all the way around – we stopped a lot to take photos and just take in the views. Once we finished, we went and had breakfast at Cafe Dubrova, right at the end of our street. Good timing, because it started to rain.

After breakfast we walked around the city and shopped a bit. We bought local olive oil. It’s such a neat city, but there were a lot of tourists. It reminded me a lot of Korcula but with a lot more people. I didn’t especially like the crowds.

We had lunch at Cafe Festival (we each had pannini – tuna, chicken). It rained some more, and we stopped for gelato. So good, although I think it was better in Orebic.

We decided to head out earlier than planned because it was still raining. We had trouble finding our way out of the city. There’s one bridge in and out, and there was tons of traffic. We finally wound our way through narrow residential backroads, with tons of switchbacks. We just kept making our way uphill to the main road, but not before we made a wrong turn and ended up on a road that narrowed to the point that it was no longer passable. It took almost an hour to get out to the bridge.

We decided to our way to Zadar, which is also on the coast. It was getting late but we wanted to be in Bled, Slovenia the next night. Larry did some research on Zadar and other cities that sounded interesting along the way. He read about Trogir, which is just north of Split. Trogir is described as one of the best destinations along the Croatian coast. It sounded wonderful, but I didn’t think it was far north enough for us. It would mean more driving the next day.

As we passed through Split, we came to a Y in the road – go right to Zadar, left to Trogir. At the last minute, I steered the car to the left and we headed for Trogir. Talk about winging it!

Along the way, we passed through the Kastellas, where origins of Zin grape were found. We also passed the Split airport, which seemed surprisingly tiny. We pulled in to Trogir around 7pm and immediately found the hotel we wanted to stay at. Unfortunately, they were full, but they offered to help us find a sobe. We waited, and they arranged for the owner of the sobe to meet us at the hotel. The sobe was only about a quarter mile away. The woman who met us is the owner’s daughter – the owner doesn’t speak English. The daughter told us that they’ve had a lot of Americans staying with them lately.

The sobe was large – like a small apartment, with a dining area, refrigerator, and bathroom. The house seemed pretty new. The daughter was very friendly and invited us down for a glass of wine. We declined, but stopped in on our way out to dinner and met Patrick and Anne from St. Louis, who were also staying at the sobe.

The old town is quite charming. The area we stayed in is actually on an island, across a channel. The old town is on the mainland. The old town is also a walled, stone city, similar to Korcula and Dubrovnik, and is also pedestrian-only. We walked around and explored for a while, then had dinner at a pizza place (Pizzeria Jambas), which was quite good.

After dinner, we went back to the sobe and went to bed. It was kind of a long day.

Korcula to Dubrovnik

We got up early, packed, checked out of our Sobe and left our stuff in the car. We headed down to get the 7:20AM Ferry over to Korkula. After finding the ‘people’ ferry (after going to the ‘car’ ferry instead), we got on board. The ferry was full of kids who head to the island everyday for highschool. They must have elementary in the Orebic, but a central high school for several islands.

After about a 30 minute boat ride from Orebic Harbor, we arrived at Korcula. It was a walled, fort city on a small island. The island was lovely. It was supposedly the birthplace of Marco Polo (although there are questions about that, the island of course advertises the link). After we disembarked, there was a small open air market in a square selling fruits and vegetables. This vendor tried to force Sheri to try the grapes she was selling, but Sheri would have no part of it :).

We walked around the city. We climbed the Great Land Gate, which is an impresive staircase leading into Old Town. We strolled along the cobblestone streets. We visited a lovely church, St. Mark’s Cathedral with statues of Adam and Eve out front. We roamed through the walled town, and soaked in the early morning life of a little town.

We had coffee and cocoa and cherry struedal at a small coffee shop. We sat and read and people watched. It was nice and relaxing after traveling so much in the last few days. We strolled around the small community and visited its different shops.

We had lunch at Konoba Gajeto. Sheri had the pancakes (crepes) with cheese and scampi, and I had the AnglerFish in white wine sauce with handmade pasta (another recommendation from Frommers).

After lunch, we took the ferry back to Orebic and jumped in the car to head to Dubrovnik. We stopped in Ston to buy a bottle of Grk, which was their LAST bottle (a supposedly special white wine grape only found in the area) after they had had almost a case the day before.

After about an hour, we drove into Dubrovnik, a harbor port (where a lot of cruise ships go). After some circuitous travel through the city, we finally found a spot and parked. We walked down a LOT of stairs to get into the Old Town of the city. We found the tourist office, and asked the guy behind the counter if he could find us a room. He said he thought a room in a GREAT Sobe might be available. He called the owner who came down and met us. It was the owner of Villa Ragusa, actually we found out later it is one of the Sobes that had been suggested in the Rick Steve’s Travel Guide. He walked us through the cobblestone streets and up the stairs through the narrow sidestreets to the place. The stone building was over 600 years old; however, the owner had spent a lot of timing renovating it after the war. It was definitely a high-class Sobe with an attached bathroom, TV (with multiple English speaking channels), and air conditioning.

He told us where to park (for free for the night); we did the long walk back to the car just before the parking receipt expired. We moved the car farther from the city (but in a free parking spot), walked back to the Sobe with our bags, dropped them off, and decided to tour the town. The city walls surrounding the city were closing (everyone supposedly needs to leave the wall by 6:30PM), so we would have to hold off until tomorrow morning to walk the famous walls of the city. We decided to tour the city itself, look for souvenirs, and a place to eat dinner. The cobblestone marble pathways were somewhat shiny, not reflective of the age of city (founded in the 7th century). As the sun set, the sky was full of swallows looking for a place to roost in the rooftop churches of the city. After looking at the menus of several restaurants, we ended up at Arka. Sheri had baked lasagne in meat sauce while I had Fried Calamari (which was tender and lightly breaded). Both were very good.

We spent a little time catching up on our blogging at an internet cafe, and then went back through the town. We went to the “Troubadour” where there is live jazz every night, but it was too crowded and no place to sit. Thus, we went around the corner to the Hemingway Bar, which had two rows of wicker chairs which faced the passing crowd. Sheri had wine, and I had a Havana Libre with Cuban Rum–the rum was SOOOOOOO good.

We sat and people-watched and drank our drinks as the music played on. After relaxing, we finally picked up our backpack and headed back to our room.

Pelješac Peninsula

From Markaska, we made our way south, towards the Pelješac Peninsula – home of Croatian wines – namely, Plavac Mali, cousin of Zinfandel. We left the soba very early in the morning. Just past the exit for Sarajevo… I saw a cop on the side of the road. A bunch of cars had just taken the exit, so I had accelerated a bit… apparently too much. They got me on radar. Dammit! They don’t pull people over by coming up behind them, lights flashing. They just stand on the side of the road, one cop with a radar gun on the other side of the road, and one with a little wand with a red reflector on it. He waved it out to me.

The speed limit was 70kph (43 mph), their radar said I was going 84kph (52mph). On an expressway. Hmph. It was a 50-dollar fine, paid in cash right there, after I showed my passport. I even got a souveneir receipt. Who knows how legit it was, they just came up with the fine amount right there.
We went on our way again and finally got to the Pelješac Peninsula. Mali Ston and Ston are the first two teeny towns on the Peninsula and are really interesting, at least for a quick peek and stroll around.

In Ston, we found a wine shop (Wine Shop Tir) that gave us a map and pointers on which wineries to go to. We had lunch there in Ston at a little cafe – spaghetti Milanese for me, black risotto for Larry. It was good – there’s a huge Italian influence in the area, and it seems to get stronger the further South you go.

The first winery we came to was Milos. It didn’t look like a winery, it looked like someone’s house. But there was a sign outside, and when we poked our head in to what looked like a tasting room and said hello, someone from the house heard us and came down. The winemaker makes a Plavac Mali as well as some dessert wines, but he only had the Plavac to taste. It wasn’t that great, so we thanked him and were on our way. We decided to skip some of the other wineries and go straight to Grgic and the Dingač region.

We found Grgic with relative ease – it’s the Croation branch of the popular Grgich Hills winery in Napa – Mike Grgic is Croatian and was involved in the seach for Zinfandel’s heritage. We only tried the Plavac. It was excellent, and we bought a bottle.

We continued along the peninsula to the Dingač, where we found the second winery we were looking for. No signs, and it’s located in a small village. It looked like a relatively large operation, and they have a regular tasting room. We tried several reds and ended up buying one. We liked them all.

We finally arrived in Orebic in early afternoon, and drove around a bit. We finally decided to go to a travel agency to find a sobe. They were quite helpful, and found us a place on a small street, fairly close to the water. The owners were nice – older people who didn’t speak much English, and the place had kind of a funny smell. But we had our own bathroom across the hall again. It wasn’t super fancy but it would do.

Orebic is a nice town. It’s right on the water, and there are narrow stone streets that run perpendicular to the shore. We immediately changed into our swim suits and walked up to the main road in search of beach towels. We hung out at the beach for a while. Well, really, we hung out on the rocks next to the water. I wouldn’t call it a beach – very rocky. There are concrete piers that people hang out on, and later in the afternoon we finally found a free one. We put our legs in the water – it felt nice, but we didn’t go in.

After we hung out on the beach for a while, we went to Beach Bar Amphora for drinks. It’s right on the water and there was a nice sunset.

We checked into ferry times for Korcula for the next day – our timing was a bit off, because we could have taken the car ferry to Korcula and then another car ferry to Dubrovnik from there. But the car ferry to Dubrovnik doesn’t run every day.

We showered and spent an hour at a bar that happened to have Internet access. We had dinner at Cafe Coco, which was quite good. It’s an Italian restaurant, so we both had pizzas. There is a huge Italian influence in Croatia, so along the coast it’s either seafood or Italian.

Karlovac, Plivitce, and Markarska

We got up and decided to do our track workout for the week. After a warmup, we finally found the river, and a great path along the river (thanks again to Sheri’s good research). The weather was great, and it was a refreshing work-out.

We got back to the Hotel Carlstadt just before breakfast ended (again). It was good to be starving after the tempo running. We had the normal meat (ham/turkey), rolls, tea and juice. Then we went back to the room, got ready, and headed to Plivitce National Park.

On the way to the park, we stopped at Splunj. We wanted to stop, just because the name was so amusing. Rick Steves mentioned it as a picturesque town to visit if you had a car. It was similar to Chesky Krumlov; an old town, but with small falls and a river flowing through it. It was really charming, and worth the stop (we wish we could stay for the afternoon).

Hours later, we finally arrived after weaving through the hills of Croatia. We grabbed lunch at the main restaurant in the park. We split the peasant platter: a good mixture steak, hamburger, chicken, pork sausage, potatoes. We then readied ourself for the hike.

We headed for the trails in Plivitce National Park. There were beautiful waterfalls that rival Yosemite’s beauty, mainly from a number standpoint. They were everywhere. The blue water of the lakes was amazing to see. There were a lot of tourists there visiting the best park in Croatia.

We did a long hike through the lakes/waterfalls/hills–a little tiresome after our run in the morning. In the upper part of the park, we took an electric boat across a crystal clear lake. It quietly pulsed through the water. We finally got to one of the shuttle stops, and took a shuttle bus back to the shuttle stop closest to the park entrance. We walked back to our car and headed farther south through Croatia.

We headed for Split. The road became a toll road, and I was doing 140Km+ speeds. We got to Split in a few hours. We had decided to go further down the peninsula (since we were behind in what we wanted to see). Decided to go to Markaska, a town about an hour south of Split.

After another hour of driving through tiny towns on the Adriatic, with homes attached to the cliffs, we finally made it to Markarska. We had decided on a hotel, but when we got there it was overbooked (and full of tourists that had just got off of tourist buses). We then decided to try a Sobe, a “room for rent”. We slipped past the sleazy looking guys asking if we needed a room, and walked back to a Sobe that we had seen a women and man sitting outside of. We walked back, and found out that they had a room for the night.

It was first experience with “renting-a-room”; Sobes are common in this part of Croatia. The owner showed us the room, and it was perfect. We had our own bathroom and a nice balcony. All for $35 a night!

We parked our car, brought in our bags and headed out for dinner. We ended up deciding to share another “Platter Meal”. This time at Jez (which Frommer’s and the Sobe owner had both suggested). It was a mix of several kinds of fishes: 2 Prawns, 2 whole Sea Bass, 2 Grilled Squid, and bunch of mussels. It was WAY more than we could eat, but it was FRESH FISH, a good change from the many meats meals of the last week.

We headed back to the Sobe and hit the sack for the night.

Budapest to Croatia

We decided to go to the market again for our last morning in Budapest. That meant getting up at the crack of dawn so we could be there around when it opened at 6am. I wasn’t happy to get up so early, but I liked seeing the market without a bunch of tourists around. We walked around a bit, and went to the grocery in the basement to buy a bunch of paprika to take home with us (better prices than on the main floor).

We had breakfast at the hotel again, then got on the metro to go to the train station. We had noticed train personnel checking people’s passes at entry and exit points previously. They’re serious about catching cheaters. The tickets need to be self-validated at the entry. Turns out we were validating the wrong end, so we got held up a bit getting that sorted out. After we changed trains, we were leaving to go up to the train station, and we had our tickets checked again – whoops, we should have had another ticket for the transfer, but they didn’t seem too worried about it and let us pass. Coincidentally, we left a book with our extra tickets at the hotel, so we had the tickets, we just didn’t think we’d need them.

We got to the train station with plenty of time to spare for our 8:25am train. No convenient night train available to Ljubljana. No matter, we had a big first-class compartment to ourselves so we could spread our stuff out, nap, and plan a bit for the rest of the trip. We knew we had one floater night in the trip, but we used it in Prague, and knowing we were going to be driving the length of Croatia twice, we needed to have a plan.

Around noon, we realized there was no food on the train. There was a snack cart that went by in the morning, but it was no longer anywhere to be found. We had to go through passport check twice, because we passed through Croatia on our way to Slovenia.

Another snack cart finally came through at 3:30pm and we got the attendant to change some US dollars to Euros for us – we had no Croatian money, no Slovenian money. Just Hungarian Forints. We got a semi-soggy sandwich and chips, at least enough to hold us over.

We saw some beautiful scenery on the way to Ljubljana, especially through Slovenia. Train travel is really the way to go. Once we arrived in Ljubljana, we wandered around a bit trying to find the Hertz office – made more difficult because we had no map, and there was a bunch of road construction going on. We finally found it, a couple of blocks from the train station, and we were soon on our way south, into Croatia.

Our first planned destination was Plitvice National Park. We didn’t think we could make it there before dark (our train arrived a half hour late), so we decided to go south until it got dark, then find a place to stay. Getting out of Ljubljana and on to the highway was simple. The toll roads are big and wide and we were able to use our credit card to pay the tolls.

We eventually ended up off of the expressway, and on a two-lane road that wound its way through villages in Slovenia and Croatia. Again, the Slovenian scenery is just really gorgeous. Everything is extremely green. We enjoyed seeing the villages. No problems getting through border control (our third border crossing of the day).

Once it started getting dark, we found ourselves in Karlovac. We found a hotel right away (with an available room and a parking spot for us), so we were happy. Not the best place, but a place to fall asleep. We got settled and went looking for a hotel on the river that supposedly has excellent food, but it was dark and we didn’t know where we were going, so we just popped into a place that looked busy (Restoran Pod Starimi Kovovi at Radiceva 8 i 10).

The restaurant was odd. Lots of locals gathered around big tables, and the room we were in was brightly lit. There was a conference room next door and there were a bunch of people sitting around a table watching someone give a presentation. We finally figured it out once we looked at Larry’s menu – it was a High School of Commerce and Catering.

We ordered, and the food was good (and cheap). Larry’s salmon steak, potatoes, chard and tomato soup were better than my sole with a creamy shrimp sauce, but the tomato salad was really good. Larry had a Karlovacko beer, make locally.

We walked around a bit and tried to scout out a place to run the next morning. The town has an interesting star-shaped greenbelt at the center, with a path, so we figured that would be a good place. Our Frommer’s book also said the path by the river is popular – if only we could find the river.

Budapest, Day Two

We got up early since this was our “long” run of the week. We headed for Margit Island which Sheri had heard a lot of good things about. We headed along the river to get to the island. It wasn’t that convenient, but we finally made it to the correct bridge.

The weather was great, and Sheri had picked a GREAT place to run. There was a padded asphalt around the island (which was about a 5K loop). I ended up doing my scheduled workout, and then ran an extra loop with Sheri. She was doing better (a little tired, but better). I ended up running more than 13 miles… I am definitely ready for the San Jose Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon.

We headed back to the hotel. It seemed a LOT longer walking back. We wished we had known the trolleys better (since I was ESPECIALLY tired). We got back just as breakfast was ending. We gobbled a roll and a hard boiled egg, and headed back to the room.

We then headed to the Castle. It was an ornate building overlooking the river. We had talked to the front desk and they had given us the correct trolley to get to the castle (we wish we had known earlier). We crossed the ornate Chain Bridge leading to the castle, with it’s great lions gaurding each corner of the bridge. We then took the “furnicular” up to the castle. It was only a few hundred feet, but it saved us a long walk up several pathways, and we had already run several hours in the morning.

We then went into the Budapest Wine Festival which was being held at the castle. It was their 15th anniversary of the event. When Sheri had found out it was happening when we were going to be in Budapest, it became a MUST see. We paid to get in, got a glass, and some tickets and started tasting. Sheri had bought a book the previous day which was immensely helpful. We narrowed down the wineries we would go to. We found that we loved Tokaij Wines (which we had had before at Limerick Lane in Sonoma Valley, the only producer of the wine in the US). We talked a long time to the Winemakers/Owners (who mainly spoke English). We ended up buying several bottles (hoping to be able to drag them with us through Europe and back to the US). It was a great afternoon, with the amazing surroundings of the castle.

We finally headed back to the hotel exhausted. We collapsed. I woke up (Sheri was still asleep) and headed out to pick up the Amex Card (that I had left at Soul Restaurant the night before), and to do some internet work (Sunnyvale City Charter questions). I finally headed back to the hotel and went to bed.

Budapest, Day One

After leaving Budapest, we settled in for a night on the train. The trains stop quite a bit and last time I woke up every time we stopped. Not this time – we both slept really, really well. We had to wake up twice for border control, since we passed through Slovakia. Our passports are filling up with those choo-choo train stamps.

We arrived in Budapest at 9:30 in the morning, and easily found the metro station. We bought tickets for the day so we didn´t have to deal with it anymore. Actually, we meant to buy two Budapest Cards, which give discounts at museums, etc., but it turns out it´s fine that we didn´t.

We took the metro to the stop near the hotel (Kalvin-Haz), and found it very easily. Great location – right near the big Market Hall! It´s also the largest hotel so far – several floors, an elevator and a big room with a bathtub and hairdryer. We booked ahead of time, while we were in Krakow, so we didn’t have to worry about finding a place to stay.

We showered and went straight off to the Market Hall. It´s one of the cleanest markets we´ve seen anywhere. There´s a basement with a supermarket and most of the fish and pickled vegetable vendors. Street level is meats and chicken and baked goods (and spices, lots of paprika). Upstairs is linens and other consumer goods along with the food. I had a langos, which is a disk of fried dough, topped with cheese and something creamy. Yum. Larry had a cherry strudel.

We made our way to the Jewish Quarter, in search of more healing chicken soup for lunch. Larry had a place picked out (Kádár Étkezde, at VII. Klauzál tér 9) and we found it packed with locals. We had matzo ball soup, and málna szörp, a delicious raspbery soda. Larry had stewed beans with thick, salty ham on top (called solet). After lunch we strolled around a bit, checked out the Jewish Cemetery, then jumped on the metro again to go to the baths.

We decided to go to Széchnyi Baths, which is more popular with locals. It’s a big, yellow domed buiding in the middle of one of the parks. All types of people were there – big, small, old, young, tourists and locals. We had studied the process beforehand so we wouldn’t be totally confused. We bought our tickets – for three hours, the standard time to buy. We rented a changing cabin and changed into our swimsuits – the attendant locked the cabin (actually more like a closet) for us so we could leave our things there.

The facility is a big buiding with an inner courtyard. Outside, in the courtyard, we found three pools – one larger pool just for swimming, and two smaller pools that are warmer. One was warmer than the other. The temperatures are posted. There are also fountains and jets, and everyone just sits around in the pool. People were playing chess and backgammon.

We hung out in the hotter pool for a while, then went to the cooler one. Then we went inside, where we found a series of pools at different temperatures. Most of the inside of the building surrounding the courtyard is pools. We moved from pool to pool, sampling the temperatures. It was very relaxing. Afterwards, we laid out on the concrete and relaxed for a while, and let our swimsuits dry out.

After the baths we were really sleepy. Once we got back to the hotel, I settled in for my daily three-hour nap. Larry slept less, but he still napped.

After the nap, we went out in search of food. We ended up at Soul Cafe, on Ráday Utca – kind of a restaurant row. Fewer tourists than the big pedestrian mall. I had a salad with arugula and parmesan and tomatoes (yum) and Larry had chicken paprika with noodles, which was also very good.

After dinner, it was bedtime. A long, full day. It’s so easy to get to sleep here.