Published: April 25th 2008April 24th 2008
April 20, 2008---
Tonight at midnight my Eurail pass expires. It's weird to think about it and it feels like a big moment in my European experience. This weekend marks the beginning of the end. I'm ready. It's been great to see so much of the world God created for us, but now the creations I'd like to see most are the faces of family and friends back home.
This past weekend was really nice though; I added my final two countries, Croatia and Slovenia, to my European semester abroad list. The grand total sits at 11 countries. Pretty awesome!
After a 13 hour night train (tiring!) we arrived in the seaside city of Rijeka, Croatia. Rain and large ferry boats greeted us. We didn't exactly know what lay ahead for our day-long adventure but just decided to see what the city had to offer. A ten minutes walk from the train station took us to the city's center, where we stopped by the tourist information office. There we got a map on sight and tips on a few good sights and places to eat, then we were off. Because of the lack of
sleep the night before, we decided a nice hot breakfast was in order to start the day off right. I would also give the weather time to improve, we hoped. Just around the corner was a inviting bistro that we were immediately drawn to. There we had good food and good conversation. I ordered two delicious strawberry jam filled crepes with sugar on top and an expresso to wake me up. It was perfect. Jackie was funny, though, she ordered a bowl of spaghetti for her "breakfast" feast.
From there we visited the city's pretty, but small, cathedral where we took one more opportunity for relaxing before climbing to the city's higher ground. Our destination was an old castle. We wound our way up through the quaint exotic homes, adorned with colorful flowers. At the top, sat on the castle's turret walls and just gazed out for a long time over the homes, sea, boats, river, downtown buildings (many in Croatia's seemingly popular colors of yellow and white), and neighboring seaside cities. It was then decided that we were fans of Croatia.
The rest of the day turned our just as nice, even though it did
start to rain a bit on our way back down the hill. A few shops were our refuge before the sun made its permanent debut. Under the warmth of the sun we browsed the markets full of produce and flowers. After picking up some fresh fruit (I got juicy strawberries) we sat in one of the city's parks to soak up the good weather and do a little people watching. Two of my travel companions even stretched out for naps across the park's benches. Riva, Grother and I flipped through a guidebook looking for a restaurant with good Croatian food for dinner.
After a while, we got up and moved our day of relaxation to the harbor-side where we sat at the port next to a small ferry boat. The air was fresh, the water was glassy with only little ripples, little fish and a seagull said hello, and we were happy.
For dinner that night, we chose one labeled to have "Croatian specialties". I got a roasted veggie with cheese dish and hot French bread. Two people in the group ordered Croatian pasta whose noodles looked like inch worm---slimy but delicious.
doesn't use the Euro we just took a chunk of change out as a group we we had arrived. There ended up being quite a bit left over so before boarding our evening train to Slovenia, we went to a local grocery store to blow the rest on junk food and breakfast supplies.
At around 11:30pm we walked out onto the streets of Ljubljana (LOO-BLEE-ANA), Slovenia and wandered seemingly aimlessly to our hostel. The guy in our group who booked the hostel didn't have the clearest of directions, plus it was nearly three miles away which none of us quite expected. We got there, though, and miraculously the door (which was to be locked long before) was open. Relieved and exhausted, we crashed in the comfortable bunks for some much needed zzz's.
In the morning while a few slept and a few were in the showers, I went out for a run. It was bright sunny day and I couldn't resist. Besides that it is one of the best ways to get a feel for a city. I found a huge manicured park filled with tulips and families. I didn't see a single tulip
while in Holland yet it seems to be Ljubljana's favorite flower. In the park there was some kind of UNICEF event going on, including horse, scouts, scattered sports, and people strolling the trails. It makes me excited to get back to my own hometown's Spring/Summer events.
When I got back to the hostel three were still sleeping and two were reading in the living/kitchen area. I took the opportunity to take a much needed hot shower. Pretty soon all were up, showered, and relaxing with some breakfast. Deciding from the beginning to make it a relaxing day, we didn't leave til well past noon.
During the day, we browsed the street markets after visiting a beautifully frescoed chapel, displaying some of my favorite Biblical scenes. The most popular things at the market were, for food--the cheeses, blueberry wine, and honey---and for crafts were the glass vases/candleholders, jewelry, pottery and wooden carved trinkets. Then hiked to a castle, walked along the river (past the "Dragon Bridge") and so on. No big agenda. It was a nice change from all the previous 3 month's weekend travels.
That night we went to an amazing pizza restaurant below
our hostel. The smell alone was enough to make our mouths water. When we opened the menu and looked at the items I decided that I could go there for dinner for the next 10 days and be very satisfied. The other's agreed. The pizza selection alone took up two pages. I split a large with Jackie--on my half I got "4 Seasons" that had ham, cheese, mushrooms and artichokes (I decided to be adventurous with that last item but ended picking most of them off!) The crust was amazing as well. A perfect end to our slow-paced weekend. A preview for my last 3 and a half weeks in Europe.
There are more photos below