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J + 16 : la pluie nous rattrape

Thursday, September 29th, 2005

Apres une premiere quinzaine presque sans nuage, la pluie nous a rejoint en Slovenie. Nous profitons donc de ce jour pour surfer sur le web et pour souffler un peu en esperant une accalmie pour demain.
Notre sejour au lac Bohinj a vraiment ete un bon moment. Au lendemain du dernier post, nous sommes alles a la rencontre des sommets Slovenes, une randonnee de 9 heures, 1400 m de denivelee positive (de quoi nous mettre en jambe pour les monts himalayens, l’altitude en moins). Outre le bonheur de marcher a l’air pur, nous avons rencontre des paysages magnifiques : cascade de plusieurs dizaines de metres dont l’eau sort comme par miracle de la roche, lacs de montagnes translucides, vegetations luxuriantes… Malgre la fatigue, ce fut vraiment une tres bonne journee.
Le lendemain, nous avons termine la visite de Bled (entamee quelques jours plus tot) par son chateau. Un arret a l’auberge de jeunesse voisine nous a permis de reprendre quelques forces avant le court voyage vers Ljubljana, capitale de ce petit pays.
Apres de grandes hesitations du a quelques incertitudes meteo, nous nous sommes installes dans la camping voisin de la ville. Des l’installation de la tente, il a commence a pleuvoir 🙁 . Une accalmie nous a permis d’avoir une premiere vue de la ville qui malgre sa petite taille semble regorger de lieux interessants, ses nombreux cafes font de cette ville une halte vraiment tres chaleureuse. La pluie redoublant d’intensite et la fatigue aidant, nous nous sommes resolus a rentrer au camping relativement tot… Il est tombe des cordes durant une bonne partie de la nuit. Le resultat fut une nuit relativement agite et une tente trempee au petit matin (interieur et exterieur). C’est dans ce genre de moment que l’on regrette de ne pas avoir choisi une tente a double toile !
Malgre l’accalmie matinale, nous avons choisi de quitter les lieux le matin afin de pouvoir secher tout ce qui avait ete mouille. Ce mercredi matin a egalement ete le moment des au revoirs avec Kristin et Joseph qui auront partage avec nous tous les premiers instants de notre voyage. Apres une etape a Venise (ou j’espere qu’ils ont du meilleur temps que nous), ils repartiront pour Prague – mais qui sait ou nous les reverrons la prochaine fois. La recherche d’un hotel ou d’une auberge a Ljubljana s’est par la suite avere etre un vrai calvere. Entre les auberges fermees ou completes, les enormes difficultes de circulation, et les prix tres eleves nous n’avons pas reussi a trouver un lieu ou s’installer. Nous avons donc choisi de laisser la route decider de notre sort. Nous sommes parti vers le sud quittant Ljubljana sans reelle assurance de la revoir.
Malgre de nombreuses tentatives, ce n’est que vers le milieu d’apres midi que nous avons trouve notre point d’etape. Il s’agit de Postojna. Entre temps nous avions pris le temps de visiter un etonnant chateau (Predjamski grad) bati dans une cavite rocheuse tres frequente dans cette region ou les caves souterraines font legions.
Le confort de la petite chambre que nous avons trouve a Postjona nous a permi de passer une bonne nuit, qu’il est bon d’avoir un lit et une matelas de plus de 1 cm d’epaisseur !
Aujour’hui nous avions prevu de prendre le train pour Ljubljana et visiter cette ville mais il pleut des cordes. Nous changeons donc notre itineraire et allons visiter des caves aujourd’hui. Nous esperons avoir un meilleur temps demain pour enfin pouvoir visiter cette ville qui semble nous resister.

Country Roads Take Me to Slovenia

Sunday, September 25th, 2005

We last wrote from Karlovy Vary, a small Czech town on the German border. From there, we drove to Plzen on a nice country road that took us through rolling green hills and fields of hops. When we arrived in Plzen, we were surprised to find a much larger city than we expected and my prediction that we would find easily Hlavni Nadrazi (the main train station) where we would pick up Kristin and Joseph was sadly wrong. After multiple wrong turns and a test of my Czech language skills, we found it, 30 minutes late. We went to the Pilsner Urquell Brewery (otherwise know as Czech Beer World) where we took a scintillating tour that showed us just how proud Czechs are of their beer (and we agree, they should be.) We toured the underground cellars and tasted fresh, unpasteurized Pilsner Urquell, hoppy and delicious.

From Plzen, we headed to Cesky Krumlov, another famous Czech town that we had visited before. It has the second largest castle in the Czech Republic, which impressively sits on a rock high above the Vltva River. Perhaps our most precious find there was the campground 20 minutes north of the city on a small lake. We rented a bungalow for 4. It was in rather ragged shape, with chipped paint, torn tile and infested with drunken mosquitoes stunned by the cold of the approaching autumn, but otherwise it was perfect. We had a working kitchen and bathroom and a balcony with a view of the lake, all for less than 600CZK (thats about 20 euros.)

In Cesky Krumlov, we were also introduced to Frantisek Skala, a contemporary Czech artist (I should say we were introduced to his art, not really to him.) Fab and I would probably never choose to visit an exhibit like this on our own, but Joseph (an art buyer from Santa Fe, now English teaching Praguer) and Kristin (my American writer/editor vagabonding Praguer friend) were insistent and we weren’t disappointed. My favorite part of the exhibit were the intricately carved heads (with detailed facial expressions)- the catch, they were carved from kelp collected from the shore in Northern California. Fabien’s favorite…the elaborately decorated travel journals. A sort of new inspiration for both of us in the art of journalling. Bravo Frantisek Skala.

From Cesky Krumlov, we drove south along the Vltva through some charming Czech villages, before crossing the border to Austria. Austria welcomed us with smoothly paved roads, rolling green hills and exorbitant prices. A lack of planning and resources quickly led to frustration when we attempted to find a campground. Our maps indicated campgrounds everywhere, but when we attempted to find one, we ended up in the parking lot of a hypermarket. We even considered the hotel at a truck stop (90 euros for a double, about 5 times our alloted budget.) Sure we would have to sleep in the car, we luckily came to Lake Mondsee, about 30km north of Salzburg. We found a lovely spot next to the lake, enjoyed the best showers of our camping life and awoke to find ourselves surrounded by mountains.

Then to Salzburg, birthplace of Mozart, a lovely town surrounded by hills. We spent much of the day sampling the local treats, chocolates, donuts, giant pretzels and wurst. After we had stuffed ourselves on goodies, we climbed up to the castle on the hill to enjoy a nice walk and at the impressive views. We even heard a little local music, a few waltzes at some semblance of a beer festival and of course the incessant church bells.
Sampling the Local Fare ...and the headwear

We spent one more evening camping in Austria before driving through the Alps of Southern Austria and arriving in Slovenia.

Saturday, we finally arrived in Bled, Slovenia, back to the original plan of our trip (who needs a plan though?) Bled is magical. It is a small village on a big, crystal clear sparkling blue lake. In the middle of the lake, there is an 18th century church. On one side of the lake, there is a small castle high on a rock. We decided to rent a row boat for the afternoon, and I (the expert) rowed us to the small island. Fab and I climbed up to see the church, while Kristin and Joseph took to boat for a spin. I rang the bell in the church and made a wish. A few minutes later, we heard cars honking, indicating a wedding. When we went back to meet Kristin and Joseph, we saw the big rowboats coming with bride and groom, the wedding guests and the accordion player. Fabien rowed us out to get a close up view while Kristin and Joseph watched them from the steps of the church. The lucky groom carried his new bride up the steps of the church. Out of breath and exhausted they arrived to the top of the steps where they toasted the couple by slicing the tops of the champagne bottles with a sword. Wow!
Church in Bled Rower Extraordinaire Happy Couple

We paddled happily back to the shore, feeling blessed to have witnessed this event. We then drove on to Lake Bohinj(about 30 km west of Bled) to camp next to a lake surrounded by mountains. From our campsite we stared out onto a lake with a perfect reflection of the mountains and sky above. Lake Bohinj was our home for a couple of days. We relaxed, wrote in our journals and took an easy walk on Sunday. On Monday, Fabien, Kristin and I decided to stretch out our legs and made a full day trek to see the nearby waterfalls and several lakes high in the mountains. We climbed about 1400 meters this day (thats more than 4000 feet.) We are in training for the Himalyas.
Contemplation Taking a break

Now we are writing from Postojna a small town (famous for having the largest caves in Europe.) It is pouring rain, and we are using the time to catch up. Kristin and Joseph left us yesterday in Ljubljana to go to Venice to see the Bienalle. We are trying to dry our camping gear and finally sprang last night for a real hotel room. (the first of the trip!!)
Last Day in Ljubljana
Our impressions of Slovenia so far: the people are extremely friendly and they have amazing language skills. Almost everyone we have met speaks English- and many of them speak German and Italian as well. There food is heavily influenced by Italian food. There is far too much traffic and lack of parking in Ljubljana. Things are more expensive than we expected, but we are having a wonderful time.

Quelques statistiques a J+12

Sunday, September 25th, 2005
5 : nombre de pays traverses (en comptant la France et l'Allemagne) 4 : nombre de nuits sous la tente -2 : temperature minimum sous la tente (lors de notre premiere nuit) 500 : en euros, l'estimation de nos depenses 20 : estimation du ... [Continue reading this entry]

J+12 : au bout de la route la Slovenie

Sunday, September 25th, 2005
Finalement notre 1ere nuit de camping fut relativement difficile : tres froide avec de la glace tout autour de notre tente. Nos duvets ont eu beaucoup de mal a nous rechauffer. La douche chaude du matin fut un reel bonheur. ... [Continue reading this entry]

J+7 : marriage, derniers jours a Prague et changement d itineraire

Tuesday, September 20th, 2005
Deja une semaine que nous sommes partis et il me semble que cela fait bien plus longtemps etant donne la densite de nos journees. J en reviens tout d abord au mariage qui fut vraiment l objet d une tres ... [Continue reading this entry]

Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic

Tuesday, September 20th, 2005
Greetings from Karlovy Vary, Czech spa town and home of the infamous Czech, herbal liquor, Becherovka. Hmmm, a lot has happened since I wrote last Thursday. Where to begin...two of our ... [Continue reading this entry]

J + 4 : Prague pour amuse gueule…

Friday, September 16th, 2005
Le premier post en francais. Desole pour les puristes mais je vais avoir beaucoup de mal a ecrire avec les accents et autres caracteres specifiques a notre belle langue. Deja 4 jours que nous sommes partis et il faut dire ... [Continue reading this entry]


Thursday, September 15th, 2005
Greetings from Prague! Fabien and I arrived yesterday morning after a not-so-painful 14-hour bus trip from Paris. How does it feel to be back? Like we're at home all over again. And ... [Continue reading this entry]

D-Day Déjà

Tuesday, September 13th, 2005
Fabien has done a fantastic job of updating everyone on the events of the last few weeks...I, on the other hand, have been neglecting my blogging duties. So here it is, we have finally arrived at D-Day. Fabien and I ... [Continue reading this entry]

5 days before D-DAY – Almost ready !

Thursday, September 8th, 2005
I have really good news : Jenny is back in France ! This is the start of her trip : she finished her job, her bank account is full of money and her backpack is ready. Unfortunatelly this is not ... [Continue reading this entry]