Can you believe we have already been gone 3/4 of a year?! At this rate it doesn’t look like we’ll be making it back to the US in 2016… oops. Sorry, mom and dad!
In the last month we have traveled to fifteen cities/regions in four countries: Kraków and Warsaw in Poland; Derry, Bushmills, Ballintoy, Cushendun, and Belfast in Northern Ireland; County Donegal, Galway, the Cliffs of Moher, the Dingle Peninsula, and Dublin in Ireland; Inverness, Isle of Skye, Fort William, Glencoe, Loch Lomond, and Edinburgh in Scotland; and last but not least Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest! We spent a week in Ireland with Vesper’s parents, and now we’re traveling with Laura’s parents for a while.
Month 8 Observations
Europe is pretty expensive. The UK is SO expensive. Unsurprisingly we are a bit over budget for this region.
We gain weight when the food is cheap and delicious and there’s an actual craft beer scene. Thanks, Poland!
We also gain weight when we travel with people. Probably something to do with eating regularly.
Our friends and family have been far more likely to visit in Europe than South America.
Driving on the wrong side of the road is scary as the driver and as the passenger!
Ireland and Scotland are the first places we have been where English is the first language.
We have finally acknowledged our coffee addiction and purchased a small French press to carry around.
It’s hard keeping up with the blog when we have visitors. Posts take a lot of time to put together, and we don’t want to be on our computers when friends and family are here.
Favorite Hike: The Lost Valley at the Three Sisters in Glencoe, Scotland
We spent about two weeks total in Croatia, visiting numerous cities with friends along the way. After leaving Slovenia, our first destination was the island of Krk, followed by Plitvice Lakes National Park and the capital city of Zagreb.
We were told to visit the islands so our first stop in Croatia was Krk. Per usual, we found a super cute Airbnb in Šilo which conveniently had access to a small secluded beach. Most beaches in Croatia are rocky instead of sandy, and this place was no exception. Unless you have thick calluses or several beers, you will want to wear water shoes. Despite the rocks, our little beach was a beautiful place to relax for a few days!
Apart from our lovely beach we also visited Krk Town and Soline Bay. Krk Town is one of the oldest cities in the Adriatic. We spent a few hours wandering the Old Town and having one of the best - and accidentally far too expensive - seafood meals of the trip! We finished our island visit in Soline Bay where we covered ourselves in the detoxifying mud. It may or may not have had health benefits, but we had fun rubbing ourselves down in questionable black goo.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
After Krk we drove east, almost to the border of Croatia and Bosnia. We had heard rave reviews about this beautiful waterfall park from numerous people and couldn’t wait to visit. We had read that summer could be crazy with visitors, but we did not expect the insane lines and parking chaos when we arrived. Instead of fighting the crowds, we grabbed lunch and came back later. With somewhat less congestion, we found free parking along the road about 10 minutes walking from the main entrance. On our walk back to buy tickets we decided to use a trail in the woods 10 feet from the road. It was not long before trail signs indicated that somehow we had entered the park and were almost to one of the attractions. This happy accident saved us a few hours in line and over $100 in tickets!
The park itself is beautiful but very overcrowded. Most of the park trails are skinny boardwalks that aren’t meant to accommodate the thousands of August visitors. We would definitely recommend visiting the lakes, but plan your timing! Either avoid high season or visit the park after 3 or 4 pm. This will help you avoid the tour bus crowds, escape the heat, and give you a more intimate experience with the park.
We didn’t really know what to expect from the capital. We had heard good things about all our other destinations but nothing much about this city. We actually came through Zagreb twice: once after Plitvice Lakes and once after Zadar before catching a train to Budapest. It was definitely the least touristy town we visited in Croatia. Most tourists - who seemed to be mostly Austrian, German, or French - stick to the coastal towns. As a result, Zagreb’s prices were noticeably cheaper than the coast and we took advantage of this at several craft beer bars while we explored Old Town.
We met up with our friends Mark and Lehar in Vienna to travel through Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia. We spent a few days seeing the sights in Vienna, then rented a car to drive through the Lake District, visit small towns, and work our way south.
Our favorite food in Vienna was käsekrainer. They’re basically the most delicious cheesy-filled sausages you’ll ever eat. Make sure you try one five when you visit! When we weren’t eating käsekrainers, we were strolling through town and visiting beer gardens. It was a great way to catch up with friends.
After Vienna, we headed west to Austria’s Lake District outside of Salzburg. We visited the towns of Gmunden, Bad Ischl, and Hallstatt. We were originally planning to spend a few nights in one of these towns, but prices were outrageous so we went farther south into the Alps and found the cutest Airbnb! Our hosts were a Croatian couple who made us an awesome dinner of local meats, cheeses, fruits, veggies from their garden, and - of course - schnapps! They didn’t speak any English, but we got by with our very poor German and a lot of help from Google Translate. It was a great way to get to know more about the area, plus they gave us lots of tips for Croatia!
Along the way to Croatia we were able to spend a day in Slovenia. Lake Bled was a cute but crowded little tourist town, so we walked away from the city along the lake to enjoy a cool swim off the beaten path. Next we visited the scenic Lake Bohinj located in the Triglav National Park, home to the beautiful Julian Alps that make up Slovenia’s border with Italy. We were hoping to visit the capital city of Ljubljana, but the President of Russia was in town that day causing massive road closures and protesting that Putin a stop to our visit. Instead, we headed south to the island of Krk in Croatia to kickoff two weeks of fun in the sun.
Vesper’s new pet peeve is the European tendency to put the light switch outside the bathroom door. It hilariously irks him to no end.
Laura is now a pro at figuring out any washing machine make or model in any given language.
Our basic survival questions have transitioned from “Can we drink the water?” or “Can we flush toilet paper?” to “How do I use this Italian espresso maker?” or “Do we need to withdraw cash or can we get by entirely on credit?”
Renting a car is a great way to see the otherwise inaccessible country side, but it usually only makes sense with a group of people. In Europe make sure you plan ahead - last minute rentals are not cheap.
Croatian beaches are beautiful but mostly rocky. Pro tip: get some good water sandals if you’re going to visit - or just develop thick calluses like we did.
Favorite City: Budapest, Hungary
Prettiest City: Dubrovnik, Croatia
Best Freebie Moment: “Accidentally” wandering into Plitvice Lakes National Park
Funniest Rental Car Moment: A Croatian border control officer asking several times why our group of four had rented a smart car. “But seriously, you rented that? On purpose?”
Stockholm was our last stop in Scandinavia. We lucked out and all three days were beautiful and sunny. We made a tiny boo boo and accidentally booked an Airbnb without wifi. I know what you’re thinking: How did we survive?! But we did it, and it ended up being a good way to get us out of the apartment… even if it was just to walk around in search of free wifi networks.
I’m kidding; we didn’t only sit outside 7-Eleven bumming their wifi. We also visited several museums including the Royal Armoury, Medieval Museum, and the Vasa Museum. The Royal Armoury and Medieval Museum were nice little free museums we popped into to get some brief history on the area. The Vasa Museum, however, was in a league of its own. The museum is a converted dry dock built around the Vasa, a preserved 17th century warship. The boat is HUGE. This was essentially a prototype and was the most ambitious design of the day. Unfortunately the ship builders did not have mathematical formulas to aid in design and relied on proportions, intuition, and guessing. They ended up spending two years building a ship that was too tall and narrow to sail. Sensing issues, the naval admiral performed a stability test and despite obviously failing, he decided not to tell the king and move forward. As a result the Vasa only made it 1300 meters into its maiden voyage before it caught wind, blew over far enough to take on water through the cannon ports, and sank. It was lost for over 300 years before it was rediscovered in the 1950s.
When we weren’t visiting museums, we spent a lot of time walking around the various islands that make up the city. Stockholm is an archipelago (group of islands), and has many beautiful canals and bridges connecting the city. We spent most of our time wandering around Gamla Stan, the Old City island, and walking through gardens on Djurgården, the island that is home to many museums including the Vasa Museum.
It was a good way to wrap up our two weeks in Scandinavia. Here’s hoping prices in mainland Europe will be cheaper!