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Jestgar

Six Weeks In Europe

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Hi all,

Have lots of stories and pics and I don't know the best way to do this so I thought I'd just tell a few stories and give a link to the pics and see how it goes from there.

I flew into Milano and only stayed there for a few hours. I took the train to the Cinque Terre which is 5 small towns built onto hills and connected by a hiking trail and a train.

I hiked the entire trail which actually I was pretty impressed with since a few months ago I'd have to spend hours on the couch resting up if I drove somewhere to run an errand.

The towns were beautiful, each one unique, and I had fun talking to different people while on the trail.

Included in the photo set is a woman and her husband who were hiking with a group about the same age as themselves. As I stood gasping on the side of the trail, trying to catch my breath for the next uphill segment, this woman bopped by me wearing a skirt and sensible, Sunday-go-to-meeting shoes.

Fortunately her group stopped for pictures and I was able to get ahead of them so I could ask her for a photo on the next uphill.

Some people are just amazing. Look at the Cinque Terre set:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/9654876@N04/

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Yeah PICTURES!!!!

The scenery is spectacular. When you get a change, tell us some stories. Some of us are arm chair travelers. <_<

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Oh Jestgar, the pictures are beautiful! What a time you must have had. Thanks so much for sharing it with us--I'd love to hear more :D

We had the Prayer of St. Francis sang at our wedding instead of some of the more traditional music. :)

Anyway, I'm glad you're back safe and sound.

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I took a train to Assisi and showed up with only a vague idea of where the hostel was. I asked the cab guys outside the station where it was, but once they realized I wanted to walk they weren't very helpful. I walked along a main road and stopped in a soap store to ask. They didn't know either, but they helped me call to get directions. Turns out there's pretty much just two roads to the old town so the instructions were: turn left at the theater (the only place you could turn either direction) and walk up the hill until you see the sign.

The town of Assisi is one of the old walled cities (which of course means UP) with the Basilica of St Francis at one end and multiple churches and basilicas throughout. Since it was Ascension Sunday (I don't actually know what this is) I went to mass at St Francis. It was an amazing parade of monks down the center aisle to the quire. Some you could tell they weren't Italian by their faces, but mostly I was just looking at the different decorations on their robes to try to figure out who went with whom.

After mass I walked into the center of town and met Father Franco and the temple of Minerva/Santa Maria. He told me all about his week in Seattle and surrounds and driving to Canada. I guess I never thought about monks and nuns taking vacations, but there were lots of nuns on vacation in the city.

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After Assisi I took a ferry from Ancona, Italy to Split, Croatia. I didn't stay in Split at all but got on a bus to go to Dubrovnik.

It's a beautiful walled city on the coast and a popular vacation spot. It's perfect for just lounging around on church steps watching people. I also spent a little time on one of the concrete pads at the coast enjoying the water.

The city was shelled by the Serbs during the war (when Yugoslavia broke up) and sustained some damage to the buildings. Although the walls and roofs have been repaired, there is a memorial room where they have pictures of buildings burning and all the people that died defending their city. Its very strange to see pictures of a war that are in color.

Wars are supposed to be long, long ago.

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Bosnia had a rough time in the war. The city of Mostar was shelled to destroy the old bridge "most" that was a symbol of the city. (Opinion of the Bosnians). The guy I stayed with told me that for 4 years after the war he and his mom had no water or electricity and he had to take a bucket down to the river to get water, bring it back, build a fire and boil the water so they had something to drink.

During the evening I was there I sat on the balcony reading a book. When I stood up I happened to turn around and look over the wall. The house next to theirs was completely gone. All that was left was a bit of someone's linoleum floor that still showed through the dirt.

The next morning I took a train to Sarajevo and spent two days there. There's still physical damage from the war, but much more psychological damage. And a lot of anger.

I wandered the city with a guy I met on the train and ended up meeting the crazy guy who's bicycling around the world. He does magic tricks to try to get enough money for food and hopefully a bed under a roof. When he doesn't have enough he just sleeps in a park or a field.

So I didn't bathe in Mostar or Sarajevo, or on the night train that I took from Sarajevo to Zagreb, Croatia. And it was about 90 degrees. This becomes important in the next story...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/9654876@N04/s...3828604/detail/

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So I took a night train to Zagreb.

For those of you that have never done a night train - it isn't like the Humphrey Bogart movies.

Even if you pay extra for a "bed" (really just a fold down seat) in a cabin that you share with up to 5 other people, you're still on a train. If you leave the window closed, it's way too hot, and if you open it, it's way too cold. And eventually it becomes way too cold anyway 'cause you're whizzing around in a wind machine in the middle of the night.

And you don't have a cute little restroom with a sink and mirror, instead, at the end of each train car is a sink and toilet that you share with everyone else in that car (which can be a hundred or more if you ride second class in the poorer countries). This little toilet room is anything but clean, and you're being rocked and jolted by the train so actually peeing is a trick in itself.

The process:

Gather your skirt and stuff it in your mouth to hold it up. If there's toilet paper - BONUS!! - if not, get yours out of your travel pouch and put a corner of that in your mouth as well.

Pull down your drawers and carefully place both hands on opposing walls to balance yourself above the toilet seat (ewww, don't sit on it!). Aim carefully and proceed with the task at hand. When you've finished, you'll need one hand to employ the toilet paper, so you'll probably need to complete your balance triangle by placing your head against the opposing wall (it's okay, you don't have to aim anymore). When you've finished all tasks and reconstructed your outfit, turn around and pull the handle on the toilet. Watch as the evidence of your adventure goes straight onto the tracks...

Back on your hard bench, you can curl or lean or somehow get yourself positioned to be able to fall asleep. Just about the time you're actually asleep you get to a border and someone in a uniform slams open the door (yes, you can slam a door open), flips on the light, and asks for your passport. You dig it out and hand it over to be stamped or perused or taken away or whatever is appropriate for this border. You get your passport back and start to drift off again. Again, the door slams open and the passport control guard from the bordering country comes in. Now of course you realize there's no point in trying to sleep so you sort of lean against the wall in a semi stupor until the NEXT uniformed person comes in and asks you something completely unintelligible to which you just answer "no" because it's probably the customs person. FINALLY you lay back down and start to doze when the train conductor from the new country comes in and asks for your ticket.

Usually at this point I'm done sleeping, which turns out to be a good thing, because the hundred or so people you're sharing the car with are soon going to be getting up to use the toilet for something other than peeing into - and not everyone has good aim...

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You really have a way with words! You should write about travel for a living. :D

I felt like I was right there with you in the bathroon :lol:

:lol: Yep, me too!!!

Looking forward to the next installment! :)

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Me thinks I will refrain from taking a night trip on that train--ok???????????

Now I know where you have been!!!!

Beautiful pics, just beautiful.

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So I took a night train to Zagreb.

And I never intended to stay in Zagreb, I headed for the buses to Plitvice National Park.

After a 'restful' night on the train, I felt like walking, so I hoisted my 50 lbs of stuff onto my back and hiked the 2K to the bus station.

<interjection. The bus station in Zagreb has the COOLEST toilets! When you flush, the seat spins around under a cleaning solution and gets squeegeed so it's completely clean for the next person!>

I caught the bus to the park (2 hours or so) and got off to look for the hotel. There aren't any hostels so I was forced to splurge for a private room. I headed for the room thinking no farther than a shower and...

the cleaning person was still cleaning it.

So not wanting to waste time, I headed out to the park to go hiking (leaving my bags in the room).

The park is a series of terraced lakes sort of separated by a really long lake into the upper lakes and the lower lakes. I went to the lower lakes first because they are the farthest from the hotels. I didn't do the more involved trails, since most of them are in the hills and away from the lakes so it was a pretty easy stroll. After doing the lower lakes you can take these electric boats the length of the long lake to get to the upper part of the park. The boats are basically barges with benches and an awning for the roof. Totally open.

I get onto a boat and sit near the edge, close to the water. The boat starts to fill up and someone sits next to me, then stands up and goes somewhere else. Someone else sits next to me, then stands up and goes somewhere else. Right about now I'm remembering that it's been a loooong time since I've actually bathed (or changed clothes), and it's really hot, and I've been hauling around a heavy backpack.....

Eventually someone sat and stayed, and it was pretty clear that he hadn't bathed in even longer, so I guess it was fair.

Anyway, the lakes are beautiful, as is all of Croatia that I saw.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/9654876@N04/

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Jestgar,

The pics are beautiful. Before I was diagnosed, I also flew into Milan and took a train to Cinque Terra before going throughout Italy and Switzerland. It's such a long hike between all of the towns--I could do it at 22, but I'm not sure that I'd have the stamina for that anymore. I'm impressed! Where did you eat when you were there? I imagine you just had fish, which is what I did, but I know that I also filled up on bread. yikes!

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I did eat a lot of fish in the coastal places, and in Italy the gluten free stuff in the stores is clearly labeled. I brought my own pasta to one place where I stayed for 3 days and on the rare occasions that I ate in restaurants I ordered safe looking things and really only had a couple of incidents. Mostly I ate cheese and meat and tomatoes from stores and markets, supplemented with dried fruit in a few places (it was a little too early for most fruit).

I sort of went with the assumption that poorer countries, any filler isn't cheap, so there wasn't much chance of it being hidden in restaurant food. And lots of potato chips have labels in multiple languages, including English. :) I am bummed that I couldn't try a lot of the weird flavored snacks, like ketchup flavored cheetos...

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The next morning I took a bus back to Zagreb. You kind of stand on the edge of the street and wave down a bus and hope he isn't too full to pick up more passengers. We all chatted while standing around waiting and eventually a bus did show up.

Back in Zagreb I discovered it would be 4 hours until a train to Ljubljana so I wandered into Zagreb to look around. Since I'm not really a city person I wasn't really interested, but while hanging out in the park I did meet a guy that I had met while waiting for the ferry out of Ancona. He was killing time until he could catch a train back to Germany, so we only talked for a few minutes, but it's funny how small the world is.

Ljubljana is a very pretty city designed by an architect. The hostel was clean and well run and they had gluten free food on their lunch menu and gluten free breakfast in the morning. There are all kinds of buildings to look at and open air markets and even some cool churches.

From Ljubljana I took a day trip to Lake Bled, a nearby resort type place. My intention was to just sit around and relax, but I don't do that very well so I climbed up to the castle and walked around the lake. Then I took a bus one town over, then walked to the next town, then hike through a pretty gorge. At then end of the gorge, instead of turning around and going back the way I came, I hiked the path up and over the hill, then discovered there were no more buses from that side, so I ended up walking back to Bled to catch the bus back to Ljubljana.

I think when you've had a great day it just shows on your face because when I went back to my room there was a new person who just looked at me and said "Had a good day?"

http://www.flickr.com/photos/9654876@N04/

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