Archive for the ‘Slovenia’ Category

Racking Up Countries In Eastern Europe… if you can get across the borders.

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

Country count... Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Austria

As you may know I have this competition with my family on who can visit the most countries.  I’ve clearly passed all of them up a while ago but it’s still an obsession and there is no easier place to rack up a significant number of countries than eastern europe.  We racked up 9 countries in less than a week.  Two of the most entertaining border crossings had to be Bosnia and Herzegovina and Romania.

Entering Bosnia and Herzegovina

The crossing in Bosnia and Herzegovina wasn’t that difficult but it was very silly that the sole reason of our visit was to rack up the country.  We were traveling from Bled, Slovenia to Novi Sad, Serbia.  It’s only about a 6 hour drive but we took about 10 or so with a stop for lunch in Zagreb, Croatia and a brief snack stop and stroll at some restaurant/farm just across the border.

The main difficulty is to find an efficient route that didn’t take us to far off track.  Google maps shows the roads in Bosnia and Herzegovina but can’t give you any driving directions.  The GPS in our car had only major highways of which there were only 3 in the entire country.  So, we had to guess that a border crossing would be near a big city so we headed for Slavonski Brod.  The border crossing here was quick and smooth.  The GPS lady was freaking out telling me to do a u turn because I wasn’t on a road.  Once I figured how to shut her up we headed in an easternly direction to find a different way out of Bosnia and Herzegovina and back into Croatia in order to continue on to Serbia.

We eventually made it into Serbia for a quick visit to Novi Sad (more on that later).  Then came a rather comical series of events trying to get into Romania.  Once again, our car’s GPS was no help and google thought it could route me into Romania but it turns out google was wrong.  Very, very wrong!!

Attempting to Enter Romania

The plan was to enter Romania near Kikinda then head north through the country and eventually into Budapest, Hungary.  According to google it would only be about an hour out of the way vs heading straight to Budapest.  It was perfect.  A scenic route through a new country.  The problem was trying to find an open border crossing.

Here is our first attempt to cross the border into Romania from Serbia.

1st attempt to get into Romania

We were very surprised.  Google maps said we could get across the border here but this didn’t look promising.  I couldn’t read the sign but I was pretty sure we weren’t allowed to cross the border here.  I had google maps downloaded to my ipad so I reviewed the map and saw another border crossing just north of our location.

2nd attempt to cross the border into Romania.  At least we can see the sign that says “Republic or Serbia”.  So close yet so far.  Denied again.

2nd attempt to get into Romania

There was one more border crossing just north of our location.  This one had to work.

3rd attempt to get into Romania.  No signs just a dirt road.  We went up the road a bit but the weeds started getting longer and the dirt road more impassable.  There was no way this was an open border crossing.  Could we have gotten into Romina this way?  Maybe.  Would we have been arrested as illegal immigrants.  Maybe.  Anyway, we were denied again.

3rd attempt to get in Romania

By now I was getting kinda pissed.  I’m a seasoned traveller and I wasn’t going to be denied entry into a country.  I was on a mission.  Miki sensed my frustration (probably because of my many expletives directed toward google maps) so she got out a map.  Not one of the many electronic maps I had but a paper one.  You know, the old school kind that you have to fold out.  As she’s looking over the map she asks me what I think these little white flags on the maps were.  I look at the map key and it said “border crossings”.

Yep.  We had a map in our car the whole time that labelled all the border crossings for the whole of Europe.  Not surprisingly, our attempted border crossings didn’t have a little white flag.  However, there was one about 30km south of our first attempt to cross into Romania.  The problem now is we were very far away from that border crossing and we didn’t have time to double back.  I temporarily admitted defeat and we headed to Budapest, Hungary.

As we were driving across the Serbia/Hungary border I said I’m not giving up.  Even if we just cross the border into Romania and turn around we are going to do it.  We looked at the paper map and saw the Hungary/Romania border crossing wasn’t that far out of the way.  Off we went.

Hungary/Romania border crossing

Eureka!!!  We finally crossed the border into Romania.  It was pretty quick process and we went into the closest town and find a nice little restaurant for dinner.  At least we did something in Romania rather than just turning around as soon as we entered.  After feeling very satisfied with our accomplishment and a nice dinner we continued our journey to Budapest, Hungary.

Injured In Bled

Friday, November 25th, 2011

Chiropractor near Bled, Slovenia

I wish I could have the blog title “Bled in Bled” but I didn’t bleed… I just slipped a disc in my lower back.  You would think that the chances of me getting injured running with the bulls in Pamplona or climbing mountainsin the Dolomites was much greater than getting injured in Bled.  The ironic thing is that the injury had nothing to do with the whitewater rafting we did the day before.  I injured my back getting out of bed in the morning.  I have no idea what happened but as I was getting out of bed my legs didn’t work and I hit the ground.  The pain in my back was incredible.  I thought I just pulled a muscle or something so I rested for a bit and tried to stretch my back out and while it helped a bit I knew we had a problem.

Luckily I had travel insurance (a must when travelling abroad).  I called them and they found a chiropractor less than 30km away from our hotel.  The real amazing thing is that the chiropractor was from Detroit and was the only western trained Chiropractor in the whole country.  Probably the only one within several thousand kilometers of us.  We had to alter our plans a bit so I could get treatment and stay in bed to recover but in 5 days he had me back on my feet and walking without a problem.  I got very lucky!!

It just goes to show you.  Live it up.  Go bungy jumping.  Go sky diving.  Go rock climbing.  Go white water rafting.  Go scuba diving. Go out and live life because you never know when you could be bedridden with a stupid injury from just getting up in the morning.

Travel Tip: If you ever have back problems anywhere near Slovenia give Chiropractor Donald Hopkins a call at 05/9940-636.

Bled, Slovenia – The Adventure Capital of Europe and the Best Day Trip Ever!!

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Lake Bled and the Church of the Assumption on Bled Island

Earlier in our European adventure, I blogged about one of the worst day tours we ever took and now we had one of the best day tours ever.  It was the Emerald River Adventure tour run by 3glav adventuresin Bled, Slovenia.  This tour had it all.  History, beautiful scenery, hiking at the highest mountain pass in Slovenia, white water rafting on the Soca river, swimming at a secluded waterfall, visiting another waterfall (no swimming at this one but still very impressive), jumping from a ridiculously high bridge into emerald green water, a unique car train ride through a series of long tunnels, and all of this in one day long tour that costs less than 100 euros.

View of the Julian Alps in Bled, Slovenia

Packing all this stuff into one day wouldn’t work well if it wasn’t run by a good group of guys.  You can tell they really care about their country and about showing tourists what it has to offer.  Unlike many tour operators around the world, I didn’t feel like these guys were just in it for the money.  They didn’t just want to get you in and out while emptying the most they can out of your wallet.  This level of service has made them stand out.  Just look at tripadvisor.  They are rated the #1 thing to do in Bled and the reviews they have are as glowing as mine.  Well done guys!!!

Jumping from a bridge into emerald green water.  This guy had a very bad entry into the water... but first... ouch.  I don't think he will be sitting down again for a while.

Jumping from a bridge into emerald green water. This guy had a very bad entry into the water... but first... ouch. I don't think he will be sitting down again for a while.

Slovenia doesn’t usually show up on the travelers radar as being an adventure capital.  Switzerland usually holds that title but if you want the best service, the best bang for your buck, the best food, the best culture, look no further than Bled, Slovenia.

Girl fishing in Lake Bohinj

It’s also much, much cheaper than Switzerland.  Just take a look at the price difference for a 3 hour cayoning tour.  I know price isn’t everything but it makes a difference for travelers on the budget.  Why pay twice as much in Switzerland for what is the same if not a better experience in Slovenia.

3 hour canyoning tour with 3glav in Slovenia – 55 euros

3 hour canyoning tour (they advertise it as a half day tour but its closer to a 2 hour tour with only 3 waterfalls to abseil down) with “Trekking Team” in Switzerland – 100 euros

Start of the Soca river. One of the many beautiful waterfalls in Slovenia.

Bled, Slovenia has a lot more to offer the adrenaline junkie.  You can go hiking, mountain biking, sky diving, paragliding, rock climbing, and much more.  You can also get very good 3-4 star accommodation for less than 75 euros per night (even in August).

In our 3 month, 23 country european adventure, Slovenia stood out as one of our favorites if not the top place in Europe we’d like to revisit.

Gearing up for whitewater rafting down the Soca River

Here is a short video of our whitewater rafting trip down the Soca River.  It’s more of us jumping off of rocks, and floating down the river than actually rafting but still a great time just don’t expect class 5 Zambezi river like rapids.