Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia #EuroTrip2k14

Ciao a Tutti!

I have been slacking on blogging…A LOT. I’m sorry! I’ve been busy traveling, getting to know my new city and also I’m lazy. Finalmente (finally)! I’m getting around to it.

Allora, cominciamo all’inizio (well, let’s start at the beginning).

Literally the next day after my program in Florence ended, I had to move out of my apartment and transfer all my things to Bologna, to my new apartment. For those of you who’veย traveled, you know how somehow, things just accumulate. I came to Italy with a huge-ass suitcase that weighed approx. 48.5 lbs (I know, because we had to work really hard to get it under 50 lbs) a backpack, and a purse. A couple weeks later, my wonderful parents shipped me a smaller 10 lb suitcase to use for traveling. Comunque (however), I bought things when I got here and it was painfully evident that maybe that wasn’t the best idea, when I had to take my huge-ass suitcase on the train to Bologna. Luckily, there have always been guys on the train willing to help me, because I probably look pathetic trying to move that huge-ass suitcase by myself. Luckily, I live super close to the train station in Bologna and I have an ascensore (elevator) in my building. Grazie, Dio!! (thank god)

The day after we (we = my friends Rebecca and Carlo, from my program in Florence) arrived at my place in Bologna,ย we had to moveย yet again. This time, with less stuff, just backpacks, and a 10 lb. duffel. We left early in the morning for Venice to take a bus to Ljubljana, in Slovenia. We bought really inexpensive Eurail passes for Slovenia, Hungary and Croatia (6 days of train travel, within a 2 month window), but the trip from Italy to Slovenia wasn’t covered by the pass, because Italy wasn’t one of the countries in the deal. So, we had to get creative with our budget traveling. Rebecca researched ways to get to Ljubljana and found that there’s a bus that leaves from Venice to Ljubljana for 22 euro, which was cheaper than the 38 euro train option that would take 14 hours. Quindi (therefore), we decided to take the sketchy bus. The bus ride at the beginning wasn’t bad, the bus driver was playing good music and everything seemed good. Until…somewhere in the Italian countryside our bus broke down. Mannaggia (damn)! We were broken down for at least an hour and a half with no idea what was really going on, because the guy didn’t really say anything except for “I don’t know” and “we have to wait” and then proceeded to smoke 20 million cigarettes.

Eventually, we were saved! Another bus did come to get us and we made it to Ljubljana a short 4 hours later. We made it to our hostel in Ljubljana, Celica Art Hostel, which used to be a prison and is now one of the best youth hostels/art galleries in the world. It’s a super cool place, very clean and in an area where there are always things to do.

We were only staying in the hostel for one night, because there wasn’t availability and also it’s more expensive than an air b&b, so we had plans to transfer to our b&b the next day. Our air b&b host, Tadej (pronounced like Today) came to the hostel to meet us and talk to us about possibly going on a hike the following day.

A few things about Tadej…he’s probably about 30, tall and lean, looks like he probably scales mountains on the regular. This should have been the indicator that when he said a day hike with some breaks, that he meant literally ALL DAY, like from 8 am to 7:30 pm. He prefaced the hike as challenging, I’ll give him that, but this hike was like challenging X 100. It was incredibly beautiful, but I’m not going to lie, there were points when I was pretty sure that I wasn’t going to make it and was hoping that someone got injured so they could airlift me out with them. These are the kind of thoughts that you have when you spend all day on a mountain. That was the day I realized that I’m not an extreme sports person. Sure, I love a good hike and I honestly really love being active, but I’m not built to spend hours upon end doing physical activity. Anyway…the place we hiked, Triglav National Park was gorgeous and was worth it to see, so here are some pics, so y’all don’t have to climb all day in Slovenia. You’re welcome.

The next day, we just explored the city of Ljubljana, which is so cute and full of interesting history. Slovenia was never one of those countries that I ever really thought about visiting, but I’m glad that I did, because it’s really beautiful in a different way than Italy. Slovenia is kind of like Northern Italy and Austria combined. There are mountains that are so picturesque that you can’t believe you’re actually there. Also, there are a whole lot of open fields, where there’s pretty much nothing but villages. It’s really interesting to see the difference, the farther east you go.

After 3 days in Slovenia, we made the trek to Budapest, which literally felt like the longest day of my life. Our train from Ljubljana left around 7 or 8 am and then we got to Maribor, which is still in Slovenia, where we had to wait for about 3 hours, for our connecting train, which was actually a bus, because Slovenia had a really rough winter that destroyed a good portion of the train tracks, so most of the trains were out of commission. From Maribor we took a bus to some random train station at the border of Hungary, that I have no idea the name of. We took that train for about 45 minutes, until we were transferred to our final train, again somewhere in the Hungarian countryside, I think…that took us to Budapest. It was literally a full day of travel. It was frustrating being in a place where we couldn’t really communicate, because until that point, we never had problems. In Italy, we can communicate, in Slovenia almost everyone speaks English or Italian, but in Hungary I had absolutely no idea what anyone was saying in their language, Magyar, which is probably the most complicated language on the face of the planet. There are so many accents and words with only consonants. It’s crazy. Once we got to Budapest, it was easier, because they’re used to tourists, so we were able to get along fine.

Budapest is amazing. It’s seriously so cool, I can’t get over it. It’s the best mix of old and historic landmarks and fun nightlife. Plus, we were there during the Sziget music festival, so there were young people from all over, mainly British, Irish, Australians and Italians. Highlights of Budapest were the thermal baths and the open air bars. We took the metro, which is super easy and inexpensive and went to the Szechenyi Baths one day. It was so nice to just soak in the outdoor pools, which are all warm and then also, the indoor baths, which I swear have some sort of healing power. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the people watching…it’s unbeatable, there are so many interesting people and when we were there, it was full of Italians! I had a great conversation with two ladies from Milan, in Italian, which was really fun. Also, BOYS, BOYS, BOYS…era una festa per gli occhi (rough translation: it was a feast for the eyes) ๐Ÿ˜‰

We also met some fun people, naturally Italians at Szimpla Kert, a famous open air bar in Budapest. It’s a multi-level bar that’s just full of people from all over, but we found the Italians, talked with them a bit and then later Rebecca made friends with some Brits. The Brits were cool, because they bought us beers and there was no pressure, because they were kinda old and definitely not as direct as the Italians in Florence, so we figured it was all a-ok. They were funny, but the most memorable part of the night is when one of the guys I was talking to me asked what I am, like ethnically. People are confused by me, it’s kind of funny. I told him to guess. He said, Mediterranean, because I seemed dark and fun. Which, I think is a compliment, but it’s just ambiguous enough to possibly offensive, but I guess that makes it more memorable. So, there ya have it folks, I’m dark and fun. Me being dark and fun has been my ongoing joke with Rebecca, Carlo and I, and it has indeed provided us many laughs, so, thanks British guy!

After a wonderful couple of days in Budapest, we made the long trek to Split, Croatia. At this point, we were already used to long train rides, so an overnight train didn’t intimidate us. Luckily, we met some really nice Irish girls on our train ride to Zadar, which again was one of those train to bus to train situations. We were all fine though, because we had our new friends and literally every other person on our train/bus was a backpacker, so it was a fun and young crowd, even though it smelled, because backpackers don’t shower very frequently. Anyway, we passed the time by talking, coloring in my coloring book (which is very therapeutic), and drinking and eating. After Zadar, we took a night train to Split, which was not terrible, but not fun. But, we got there, eventually! The person who rented the b&b met us and walked us to our very cute studio apartment right in the middle of old town Split. It was so cute and there was a great balcony, where you could see the port. We spent some time resting and then went to the beach in Split, which isn’t the nicest, but it’s still a great place to go. The beach is called Bacvice and attached to the beach are a series of beach bars that stay open till the wee hours of the morning for dancing and drinking. We went out a couple nights, danced the night away and stayed up till 6 am, when the bakery on our street opened, so we could get fresh pastries before we crashed. It was so worth it, staying up, those pastries were delicious. Plus, you meet a lot of interesting characters when you are roaming around the streets at 5 or 6 am in the morning. There are those who are just starting their day, working hard before it gets hot and then you have us, and a bunch of other young and irresponsible people who are stumbling home. It was a fun experience, but much like the whole mountaineering, I am not a party animal. I can’t go out multiple days in a row, until 6 am. It takes a toll on your body. Luckily, we just spent our days on the beach, so it didn’t matter if we were in tip-top shape.

Croatia was beautiful, I definitely want to go back. Here’s some of the pics:

After Croatia, we took an overnight ferry to Italy and stayed at a nice b&b with a great host in the Marche region. The property was gorgeous and it was seriously so nice to be in a country where we could communicate with the locals and our phones worked finally. Oh yeah, that’s something they don’t tell you when you buy your phone plan, you can’t really use your phone in Eastern European countries only a select few in Western Europe. Otherwise, you have to pay a ton and we were not down for that, so we survived on minimal wi-fi and each others’ company.

My mini Euro Trip was an amazing experience. I’m so glad I had such fun people to travel with, but traveling is tiring. I’m excited to stay in the same place for a while. More adventures are sure to come, but until then…Ciao!!

Buon Fine Settimana,

Shelby

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