A Travellerspoint blog


Our friends Megan and Ian wanted to make one last trip to Slovenia before they move back to the States. They came up with the (semi) crazy plan of driving there for a long weekend and we, of course, signed up immediately. We started late after work and flew through the German countryside and we made it to Austria in the middle of the night. The hotel we booked sent us a picture of where to find our key and it was right where they said. This system cracks me up. Can you see the little envelope just below the chalk board?


This little town in Austria, called Hallstatt, is on every "must see small towns in Europe" list out there. So I have been wanting to visit for quite a while. You can see why by the pictures. Turns out that it was only an hour round trip out of the way of our route. The town has a really unique history as it had access by only one road until the early 1900s. There was a lot of information about the renovation of the road but Ian, our group historian, is not writing this blog so you are stuck with my basic knowledge of it. Anyway, I will let the quaintness of the town speak for itself.


My lunch looking at its previous home


The picture postcard shots; fall was really a great time to visit this locale


I think this is an advertisement for gummie bears


Part of the drive popped into Italy and passed through some old mining towns that seem more reminiscent of Poland than the Italy I am used to. The mountains of this area are absolutely fantastic and are an extension of where the Dolomites run into the Julian Alps. Crossing the border into Slovenia, we ran into an old border crossing and military outpost. There are a lot of these in this area from World War I. Ultimately, we arrived at our final destination of Bovec, Slovenia. This town was picked off the map for its proximity to the mountains, and it could not have been a better choice.


Our first restaurant that evening was quite the experience. The Slovenian and Italian forestry services were doing a joint exercise and all of the service members were eating at our restaurant. In the middle of dinner they broke out into song. I kid you not. They had phenomenal singing voices and were doing different harmonies together. Then they came over to chat with us and buy us rounds of schnapps. One of the guys (likely in his early 70s) was a professional rock climbing guide who had climbed many impressive mountains including Half Dome. Another was an Italian forestry man who had lived in the States and Canada and was a professional helicopter pilot. They regaled us with stories and basically made the evening. It was a little weird to just whip out the camera and take a picture so we only have a picture of the food. The food is a combination of Italian, Austrian, and Slovenian. There were so many things on the menu and it was delicious down home kind of cooking.


We rented a little apartment with the most death defying staircase. It had feet specific stairs that required the utmost concentration, not an easy task when you wake up in the middle of the night and have to go down to the bathroom. Our view was fantastic.


The next day we went for a hike. We really enjoyed seeing all of the leaves changing colors.

Clearly a leisurely hike in the woods is not complete without shots of schnapps. I have never seen this as a "thing" until moving to Europe. Apparently, this is the norm around here. Here is a series depicting how delicious this tasted.




Our trail was a little difficult to follow and kept dead ending into different people's cabins and sheep.



Photos from the hike

Along the way, we ran into an ICECREAM truck! Are you kidding me? We flagged him down and were so happy to have ice cream. How often does this happen on a hike?


I will call this color, "glacier blue."

The leaves were spectacular the whole weekend. We must have timed this trip right, because the colors were at their peak, and all day long the scenery changed as the sun moved through the sky.


We hiked the next day in Kobarid. This hike had beautiful views including waterfalls and fly fishermen, historical sites, and spinach pies known locally as burek. YUM!

We also found a wine shop/fancy restaurant/fancy hotel that let us do a wine tasting. The wine tasting itself had a lot of flair with the sommelier swirling wine in the glasses to clean them before we tasted, a roaring fire in a very swanky fire place right in front of our table and locals coming in to sell their freshly picked mushrooms and wild produce to the chef for the evening meal. She paid them in cash and wine! It was quite the experience and we all made our purchases of the unique wine of the region.

It was such a fun weekend, albeit a long drive, and we bid farewell to the area with one last amazing view as we drove through the Italian side of the Julian alps. This is likely our last trip with our friends before they move back to the States and we will miss our adventurous outdoorsy couple duo immensely. All the best in Denver! We will be there to visit soon!


Posted by trackers 10:15 Archived in Slovenia Comments (0)

de hoge veluwe national park

I was reading a buzzfeed about the Netherlands and it had some suggestions of places that looked really interesting. The Netherlands are basically right out our backdoor but sometimes we forget to take weekend trips there. I have had this national park on my radar for quite some time and a lack of something to do for our three day weekend made for perfect timing. All of the leaves are starting to change color here and a nice drive up to a national park sounded like a great idea.

There are 40 kilometers of bike path at this park and there are white bikes everywhere that you can ride for free. The first day we rode our own bikes but on the second day we hopped on the Dutchie style bike and felt like little kids again. It was super fun.


Also, Quinn ran his first official race since his broken leg. It was so good to watch him race again and he was very pleased with his time despite basically no training. I surprised him with the race just the day before we left. This worked out to my advantage because he didn't have a lot of time to think about it and instead just jumped in and had a wonderful time enjoying the scenery while getting his racing legs back.

This was his changing room in the woods._PIC1638.jpg


There was quite a bit of hubbub surrounding the race. There was a band with awesome wooden shoes and little stands to buy things. The white bikes are quite beloved here.


I'll let the pictures do the rest of the talking. You might notice that it looks more like some African Savannah than what you would expect in the Netherlands. It was a very unique place.


There is also a museum in the middle of the park that has the 2nd largest collection of Vincent Van Gogh's work. There was also an outdoor sculpture park. We only saw a small part of it because we ran out of time.


Posted by trackers 12:53 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

Mom and Bob come to visit

My parents are world class travelers now and took the train from the airport all the way to our town. It was fun to see them step off the train and look like professionals! I guess I should have made them figure out how to get from the train station all the way to our house! Just kidding guys.


I let them have a little nap and then we were off and running to my favorite weinfest of the year, WOLF! I love this fest. They have the best food, so many bands, and a ton of wine stands all in this tiny little village. Thanks friends for coming out to meet my folks!


Sundays are lazy around here with everything closed so we went for a boat ride on the Mosel river and hit up a few more weinfests.


I had to work for a few days, so back on the train they went to Amsterdam. They got to tour the Anne Frank house, ride a boat along the canals, check out the Rijks museum, stroll the red light district and enjoy some delicious food. They both said that 3 days in Amsterdam is not enough and I completely agree. While it is a compact city, there is so much to do there.

Prior to planning their trip I asked for input on what countries they would like to visit on this trip and they responded with a resounding, Italy! I guess I cannot say this is surprising since it is one of my favorite places to visit as well. Luckily flights around here are cheap because we traveled to Italy two times in September. So off to Italy we went.

We arrived in Bari late at night and just had a little stop over there to sleep. In the morning our first stop was a little coastal town called Polignano al Mare. It is an adorable town with many historic buildings and incredible coastal views. I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves.


Also, how would you like to do your shopping from a little truck like this that roams the street announcing its presence through a loud speaker. Seems like a good time to me!


Next stop, Alberobello. This town is known for its plethora of houses with conical roofs. There are a few different theories on why houses were built this way but the primary one seems to be tax evasion. They could take the roofs off of these structures quickly when the tax man came a callin' and pay less tax because they were not considered permanent buildings since they didn't have a roof. The town has a considerable number all packed tightly down little lanes but there were also a bunch in the country side that we got to see when the GPS decided to lead us down farm roads rather than staying on the main trail.


We drove for another couple of hours across Italy to our next stop, Matera! This one was a winner. It is an ancient city in the world and is historically very intact. It is the set for many movies including The Passion of Christ, and will also be the set for the upcoming new Ben Hur. It is really an outstanding place with a very interesting history. I will not go into it here, but if you are wanting more information I am sure that google will help you. We stayed in a family owned cave home. Most of the homes in this area are built into the sides of caves. It was so neat to stay in a place that had been in a family for many generations and their dedication to service was unlike anything I have ever seen. They provided us with an escort to the apartment (when we were lost). Helped drive our luggage to the apartment. Spent a few hours telling us all about Matera and showing us the Cistern water system used in the town in ancient times and also provided luggage transport again back to our car. You cannot drive into the center without a special permit so it is all very tricky but the lack of cars makes the location all the more magical. There were a lot of stairs in this town which meant beautiful view points. Of course, Italy never disappoints in the food department.


Creepy skull and cross bone church


We had another beautiful drive over to Salerno which served as our jumping off point to the Amalfi coast. Within hours of arrival we were treated to more amazing food.


This area was requested by my parents and I aim to please. So, we took a boat ride all along the coast. There were just 8 of us on the boat. Six passengers, the captain, and the guide. They welcomed us with a Prosecco toast, treated us to fresh fruit and mozzeralla/tomato sandwiches and lemon cakes, and provided swimming stops and commentary about the coast. There were also two stops. One in Positano and the other in the town of Amalfi. I like to stay positive about the places we visit but I have to say that the Amalfi coast is much better when seen from the water. It was so slammed with tourists and tchotchke shops I felt like I was in tourist purgatory. To say that these towns are overrun by tourists is an understatement. But from the water, the coastline is absolutely beautiful.


An incredible pizza throwing contest going on in Amalfi. This was being taped by the local equivalent of the foodnetwork.


Big money!


Little money?


Bob wishing he was the captain?


Each night we enjoyed dinner in Salerno which turned out to be quite the nice little city. It has a beautiful walking promenade with shopping and oodles of quaint and trendy restaurants. Each meal was something to be remembered.


Cool way to present a bill.


The next day we went to a wine tasting at a tiny little organic vineyard that had breathtaking views. It was in a very small town up along the hillside. This vineyard not only has wine but they grow pomegranates, figs, anise, tomatoes, peppers.....the list goes on and on. We were treated to a lunch with all homemade food on the terrace overlooking the town. It was such a nice day. The sunshine in Italy has some kind of special healing power or something.


Our stylish Italian tour guide/translator. This guy has the best English in all of Italy and the most Italian flair!


Quinn and I walked back along the twisty road back to the hotel and saw some interesting things.


We had to make the drive back across the "ankle" of Italy to fly out of Bari. We made a little detour to Paestum. This is an old Greek ruin site with some extremely intact structures, including some of the tile work on the ground!!! It was even more impressive than the Parthenon.


I am always sad to leave the Italian sunshine.

We spent the last few days cooking together, visiting a castle (Berg Eltz), and a trip to Luxembourg.


Oops, forgot to take the camera to Luxembourg.

It never feels like a long enough visit but I was happy to have them for 2 weeks this time! Yay. Next vacation, maybe I can convince them into 3 weeks :) Love you both.

Posted by trackers 03:42 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

Rocks in their natural habitat

The Dolomites are a mountain range in Northeastern Italy north of Venice. This area has hiking with an opportunity to do "via ferrata" which translates to, "the iron way." During WWI, the Italians and Austrians battle lines were in this mountainous region and they used these paths to move troops and fight. They really had some courage to cling to the mountainsides and create these wooden ladders, metal anchors and other supports. They have been updated now to include metal lines that you connect to and more sturdy hooks but some of the original materials remain and you can quickly get an idea of how intense fighting in this region would have been.

We took advantage of Labor Day weekend and a Ryanair flight to cross the alps and land in Venice-Treviso airport. The morning we flew out was full of hustle and bustle because we somehow overslept and were woken up by our traveling partners, Megan and Ian five minutes before we were supposed to be headed to the airport. Here I am after a tornado fast morning routine on the way to the the airport.


Our flight was full of American vacationers headed to Venice and I am quite sure they were going to enjoy a weekend of gondolas and canals. We rented a car and drove north for two hours to the gateway city of Cortina where we rented the gear we needed and enjoyed a delicious lunch of beet and potato filled ravioli, pasta with truffle and beef, and gnocchi with pesto. Of course, you cannot have lunch in Italy without a full pitcher of wine, even if you are planning on hiking.


You can save yourself the effort of carrying full backpacking gear by staying in one of the many Refugios in the mountains. These are full service mountain "huts" (lodges) that have sleeping quarters, showers, food, drinks. This makes the load much lighter for a 2 night backpacking trip. All we had to carry was our clothing changes, some snacks and our Via Ferrata equipment. One could hike for a few weeks in the mountains and carry very minimal gear. Might have to save that for another trip.

Our first look at the mountain and checking out the map.


The first day's weather was overcast but the clouds left a kind of creepy, ominously challenging vibe. I would be lying if I said we weren't a little nervous. This is really our first venture out since Quinn's climbing accident last year. This is not as dangerous as sport climbing and provides more protection and is not as technical but I was still nervous. So much of climbing is a head game and keeping it straight is my biggest challenge.


Suited up and ready to do the first via ferrata


This one was not challenging but was a good little introduction to getting used to the gear and moving as a group. Megan kept commenting on how pretty the rocks were and how brilliant each color was. We were teasing her about saying rocks in their natural environment was always impressive. She took a lot of crap about this the whole trip. The title of the blog is one last chance to tease her! She is a good sport.


We spent the night in a Refugio with an amazing patio view of the mountains and ate a delicious meal with an Italian man who kept us entertained through most of the evening. He lives in Sardinia and we are going to try and visit him this winter. He is a physicist who lived for some time in Wyoming. How do we keep running into these kind of people?!


King of the mountain and his jester


The next day we hiked up to our next refugio and spent a little time watching the clouds and enjoying a warm beverage. The weather wasn't really cooperating so we decided just to go out for a little hike around. It started to snow.


At night, it really started to snow. It was such a fun atmosphere to be in a mountain hut in the dining room with fellow hikers enjoying a tall glass of beer and watching the giant snowflakes come down outside the window. It makes me want to live in a log cabin! We woke up to this.


We hiked out in this! Quinn spotted a Chamois!


Then we came to our first real challenge. There were about 5 of these ladders in a column down the mountain side. Putting yourself over the edge and maneuvering onto this thing with wet boots and shaky legs is quite the feat. I was just blabbering on and on about how nervous I was, Quinn and Ian were both pensive and quiet, and Megan was harnessing her self talk by saying, "sssh" and "bird by bird." We all made it down. It was very interesting to see how people handle stressful situations differently. Once I was on the first rung I felt fine about going down but a little part of me was always worrying about Quinn below me. I was really happy once he was finished.


We hiked for another 4 or 5 hours that day and had incredible views. We went in some tunnels built during the war and a bunker with an old cannon inside. It was an interesting look back in time. It made climbing that ladder seem like child's play in comparison with how hardcore those soldiers must have been.


More scenery and silly photo shoots


A marmot! He was squeaking at a Golden Retriever on the trail. He was loud!


Relaxing after a hard hike.


My favorite viewpoint in the trip


Ian walking the via ferrata


The trip was too short and I would have loved to hike another 2 or 3 days. I find the mountains to be so relaxing. We went back to Cortina and had yet another hearty Italian mountain type meal with creatively filled pasta (blueberries and venison) and more delicious wine and then we were back in Germany in a blink.

Posted by trackers 05:19 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Are you excited? I'm excited!

Another entry so soon? I had to write about my friend Jeremy coming to visit. We've been friends since the 5th grade, and it was really exciting to have him and his wife Bryn come for a visit. The minute we got them back to our place, we rushed them out the door to take part in the festivities of our hometown carnival, the Saubrennerkirmes (Pig Fest). We forced them to eat pork sandwiches, bratwurst, fries, Weiss beer, and other unmemorable things.


They spent 3 days touring the local area while Kristen and I went to work, and Jeremy had a chance to drive the infamous autobahn. We spent an afternoon in Trier together to make sure they tasted some more German beer, fries, and the all important pretzel.


As with all visitors, we wanted to show them something outside of the local area, and have a new experience we could share together. These lucky visitors took a trip to Austria to do some hiking in the Alps. Our home base was the town of Ehrwald, which turned out to be a good choice. Here is a picture from our apartment balcony.


I mentioned we did some hiking, and Jeremy and Bryn were good sports. I never know how people will respond to a marathon day of hiking, but they proved to be quite tough.


Our goal destination was the alpine lake Seebensee.


Only after reaching the summit did I allow a reward of a cold beer. Bryn was quite excited, but I think Jeremy was wondering why it took so long for me to let everyone stop.


This was our first picture with cows. I don't think we left the house without cows being part of our daily activity.large__PIC0616.jpg

We were having way too much fun taking pictures of us 'stuck' to this log pile.

All day it looked like we were going to get stormed on, but the sun kept making appearances, and the weather held off until we got home.

Day 2 I gave everyone a break and took them to the city of Innsbruck instead. Kristen and I spent a New Years here in 2012, and it was fantastic, but it might be even better in the summer.

Here was a free outdoor reading area with books and free coffee.

The day didn't end with the trip to Innsbruck. A local town in the mountains was having a fall festival, so we decided to make a stop. I think this is one of those typical festivals where all the locals come out to drink beer, listen to music and do a little dancing. We were definitely outsiders here, but the Austrians are very friendly and made us feel very welcome indeed. This is certainly what I think of when I think Austria. The area surrounding the town was beautiful and we took some time for a photo shoot. If only we had our Lederhosen and dirndls.


I really feel like this photo deserves to be in a calendar somewhere.

I mentioned that we saw a lot of cows. I decided to throw in a bovine montage to close out this blog. But starting with this really creepy goat.


Posted by trackers 09:10 Archived in Austria Comments (0)

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