From Vienna we were on a bit of a mission to make it to the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana for Friday afternoon since our friends there had taken the day off to show us around. This meant another boring 4 hours on the toll / vignette highway to the south and then west. Arriving we were greeted by our friends Goran & Šanin (Sha-neen) who we had met in Cumbuco Brazil in 2014. They told us to come just for the “human fish” found here, but Slovenia is such a great place to visit you don’t need a tourist gimmick Gogy!
“The olm or proteus is an aquatic salamander in the family Proteidae, the only exclusively cave-dwelling chordate species found in Europe. In contrast to most amphibians, it is entirely aquatic; it eats, sleeps, and breeds underwater. Living in caves found in the Dinaric Alps, it is endemic to the waters that flow underground through the extensive limestone of the karst of Central and Southeastern Europe, specifically southern Slovenia.”
They had a full itinerary of activities planned for us. This started with a tour of the very lovely centre of the city of Ljubljana. It is mostly pedestrian zone and is full of cafes and restaurants.
We strolled the city, had a few beers (with free hot dogs…love this place) and then some ice cream from a local Slovenian shop called Cacoa.
We ended the eating spree with a visit to “open kitchen” which is a street food party held here every Friday night. We had amazing ribs, local Dragon beer, and wine served in real classes. It was packed. They even have a gin and tonic stall. The town is full of people having a good time.
We finished the evening with a stroll along the lake after sunset and some caipirinhas.
Todays agenda was a sleep in and then a drive north to Lake Bohinj and a hike to the water fall.
There was a spot to jump in the river and cool off on the way.
We back tracked to Bled, which is said to be one of the most picturesque spots in Europe. There is the Bled castle, and the church on the island. Here also at the largest hotel there serve the traditional Bled cream cake Kremmna Rezina or “Kremsnita” of which Dan had 2 slices (delicious).
From Bled we headed back to the city and to the famous Hood Burger for the best burgers we have ever had and served from a metal shipping container in the SPAR parking lot!
Sunday we had another sleep in followed by coffee at the base of Mount St. Mary (which we were to lazy to hike up the 600 meters), then we visited the cemetery, and finally the Metelkova district ( a former squatters village turned into street art and night club venue). We had a great Chinese lunch and then took a tour of the Ljubljana castle to appreciate the view. From here we headed to the Iconic Dragon bridge and then the Sky terrace for some Radlers and a view of the castle.
So sad to leave the amazing hospitality of our friends, but the adventure continues. Slovenia is a very nice country that we never hear anything about in the west. That is probably because life is good here.
Today we want to stop by the Akrapović factory that is just 35 km away in Ivanca Gorica. They were very nice to meet with us and gave us some cool Akrapovic gear! They are unable to give tours of the factory due to corporate security issues.
We then continued east and north to our destination of Nagykanizsa Hungary.
This Slovenian rider stopped us at a round about and said “ do you speak English? Then he asked us to show him how to get to Ljubljana?!”
It was quite funny when we arrived on this very small country road to a border check. It was a sort of which country is this moment. We should be crossing into Croatia. For a second it was confusing since the sign said Hrvatska ( Slovenian for Croatia), which your English brain translates as Hungary!
This is a Schengen crossing with an out of the zone stamp from Slovenia and then one into Croatia, which is not in the Schengen despite being in the EU.
We continued across Croatia to finally enter Hungary, where there is another Schengen check since Hungary is both in the EU and the Schengen. We had to wing it a bit after the Croatian border since we had taken our paper map home and deleted the Croatia maps from the GPS since we needed the space. For Hungary they also have a vignette system, but it is not only for the highways, but some other major roads. It is easy here as it is an E vignette that you get online and is 5 E a week for bikes. It is also more sophisticated here as they have video surveillance for the tolls.
We had a short trip from the border to the fair sized town of Nagykanizsa, which sounds like it is in Japan. We walked to the near by square for a traditional Hungarian meal of fried potato dumplings.
This morning it is pouring as forecast, but it was to stop at 11 and so we waited it out, but though it was less rainy it was till raining at 1030. That said we got 50 km east and to lake Balaton (largest lake in central Europe) and the sun came out and we stripped off the rain gear.
We stayed on the north side of the huge lake and then hit the highway for the last 100 km to Budapest. We had booked into a cheap hotel that was 600 meters from the M2 subway line. This gave us quick access to the city. We had originally planned two nights, but this meant leaving when the forecast was terrible after the second night and then the next day was supposed to be very nice. So we booked for 3 nights in the slightly sketch hotel. After arriving we headed to what is now our new favorite European capital. The city is very clean, very easy to get around, stunning, and very alive. We did a walking tour of the city centre and along the Danube.
Day 2 we did a walk across the chain bridge and a tour of the Castle hill.
“The Széchenyi Chain Bridge is a suspension bridge that spans the River Danube between Buda and Pest, the western and eastern sides of Budapest, the capital of Hungary. Designed by the English engineer William Tierney Clark, it was the first permanent bridge across the Danube in Hungary, and was opened in 1849.”
Tonight we have been invited to the home of fellow rider Dirk and we took the train about 30 km away for a nice evening in his home with a very nice homemade lasagna.
We made a stop to see the castle that was Mozart’s summer house.
As forecast we woke to torrential rain thunder and lightening. This eased off after 2pm and we headed into the city to meet our pilot friend Jason from Victoria who had just flown in from Toronto. We had just missed him in several spots in Italy and as well in Athens this summer.
We made a stop at the largest synagogue in Europe on our way to the bar!!!.
Jason has a 48 hour lay over here and so staying the extra day worked all round. He had got the scoop from the flight attendants on the hip and happening spots in the city and our favorite was the Szimpla kert Ruin Pub.
Since Jason was sleep deprived we said goodbye just after 830 and headed back down to the Danube to get some blue hour and night shots of this stunning city.
This is a memorial to those shot on the banks of the Danube by Arrow cross militiamen
“The Shoes on the Danube Bank is a memorial to honor the Jews who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in Budapest during World War II. They were ordered to take off their shoes, and were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away. It represents their shoes left behind on the bank.”