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Slovenia, Ljubljana - a lazy saturday in May

Our spring break in Slovenia, a country that surprised us, with a little step into Croatia as well

In May 2016 we felt like having a little spring break. The choice was made for Slovenia, because it was not too far away and we hadn't been there yet (at least not in the last decades). It was sort of an impromptu decision as we didn't spend too much time to read about it. Instead, once we were there we were pleasantly surprised...


Schedule-wise everything seemed to fit well: direct flights from Amsterdam with Air Adria (code sharing partner of KLM) at convenient times, a nice deal for a rental car (we had a comfortable Skoda Octavia), hotel prices were still decent and the weather forecast didn't look bad, except for our arrival day.


We first spent a few days in Ljubljana. After we arrived we took a shuttle bus from the airport that dropped us conveniently close to our hotel, which was located at a little square, Rožna ulica, just outside of the pedestrian streets in the center. It was raining, more like the type of drizzle that goes trough everything. After checking in, we found a little restaurant (Julija) with a fireplace, nice wine, simple hearty food and cool people. The weather outside was uninviting, so we spent quite some time there with after dinner drinks and digestives.

The next day was Saturday, and we discovered that there would be market day along the river. At least it got dry, so we spent most of the day there. It was a food discovery experience really, because many small producers of very local products offered their produce. Some of the special products included pickled black garlic, that we had not seen for a long time, and all sort of vegetable and fruit based preserves (jams, chutneys etc.). Also locally produced wine and spirits.


Apart from the open air Saturday market, there is also an indoor permanent market hall, which was an experience by itself. We were surprised by how important honest local food seems to be for the Slovenians, and that when they buy a chicken, they buy the whole thing instead of processed meat or breast fillets. Including the feet. These were so big that the chicken reminded us of megapodes, a jungle bird of the Solomon islands. But these were really natural Slovenian chicken with oversized feet.


In the afternoon the sun came through, so after exploring the old heart of the city, the area around the Triple Bridge (Tromostovje), we decided to take the funicular up to the hill with the castle Ljubljana Grad. It is a popular place for the local people and tourists to enjoy a drink and take in the view over the city, which is actually really nice. We had a lazy afternoon, then had dinner along the river before heading back to the hotel.


One thing that really made us enjoy Ljubljana is the unpretentious but very picturesque old town, and the relaxed atmosphere with people calmly enjoying the good side of life, taking their time, having their drinks and strolling around. There is a "local town" feel to it, even though it is obvious that there are plenty of tourists as well. We will be back some day (and we will make sure it includes another Saturday).

Posted by westwind57 00:56 Archived in Slovenia Tagged road_trip market slovenia ljubljana caste triple_bridge spring_break Comments (1)

Germany - Tschüss, Helgoland

Last day in a mini archipelago

Unfortunately it was already our last day on Helgoland. After breakfast we took another walk before we had to check out at 11.00. Of course we could leave our backpack in the hotel, because the "Fair Lady" back to Bremerhaven would only leave at 2:30 in the afternoon, so we had still time to walk around in the lower city, have a coffee/tea (with a funny "tea timer" to brew your perfect tea) and later some lunch before leaving.


The weather was still a bit cool but the sun was fantastic, so we had lunch at a terrace. Talking with some people we found out that after the war, the island was not given back to Germany in first instance. The English who had captured it, have tried to completely erase the island by bombing it a few years after the war. This is why you see remains of bomb craters on the high part of the island, we did not realize that.


The trip with the ferry was nice again, but when we approached the mainland, the wind got stronger and the clouds came in. Perfect timing indeed, because we just got into the car for our way back home, when the first raindrops started to come down. We were so lucky... again.

Posted by westwind57 21:33 Archived in Germany Tagged birds sea fish germany dune ferry wind gannets seals helgoland red_rock car_free Comments (0)

Germany - Düne island near Helgoland

The dune is an island, or is the island a dune?

The next morning we woke up quite early, and we still had to wait a little before breakfast would be served. The weather looked promising and the sun just came up. Yesterday we had seen tiny motor ferries shuttling people from Helgoland to the island opposite, called Düne (Dune). That was the plan for today. But first I still took a little walk around the island to take some pictures. And from the cliffs I saw the first seals swimming in the sea.


After breakfast we walked the zigzag path down to the harbor, and went on board one of these small boats. It takes only five minutes to arrive at Düne, which is nothing more than a dune in the sea with some holiday homes, a beach all around (part of which is a beach consisting completely out of pebbles and seashells), two colonies of seals, a few beach restaurants and to our surprise an air strip. The airstrip is mostly used by private planes but it seems that there are also regular flights with small planes from some places in Northern Germany.


At one point on the beach, there is actually a "crossing" with the flight path of the planes. There is a warning sign to watch and wait if there are any planes coming, before crossing :)


We walked all around the island, took in the view of the seal colony, had a late and long lunch at one of the restaurants, and took one of the boats back to the main island.

In the evening, we walked to the east side of the island where an island museum is. It was closed at that time, but there was a small lighthouse and some typical island houses that were nicely illuminated.


We had a very nice seafood dinner in one of the restaurants in the lower town, before taking the elevator back up to our hotel.

Posted by westwind57 20:41 Archived in Germany Tagged birds sea fish germany dune ferry wind gannets seals helgoland red_rock car_free Comments (0)

Germany - Helgoland, the red rock in the North Sea

About one island that turned out to be two: Red rock, white clouds, blue sky, sea breeze, hiking, birds and nice seafood

On the "Fair Lady" from Bremerhaven to Helgoland we had a very pleasant ride to the island that had fascinated me for such a long time. The sky got blue, but there was pretty much wind. We had a nice seat inside along a large window, so we could make ourselves comfortable, but it was great to get on the open deck for a while and take in the salty fresh air.

After about two hours, the island came into sight. When we got closer I realized that it actually were two islands: one consisting out of red rock (that is Helgoland as I imagined it), and one was more line a bunch of sandy dunes (appropriately named "Düne" which means Dune).

The ferry cannot moor to the jetty. Debarkation is with small tenders.


When we walked from the jetty to the village we noticed that there were many day trippers on the island, but it did not feel like overcrowded. We belonged to the not so many that had baggage with them to stay overnight.

The island is divided in two parts. One is more or less at sea level, and when you walk through the shopping street, you can see that it ends where the high part of the island starts: a high red cliff like a wall at the end of the street. There is a steep walking path to go up there (our hotel "Auf der Hummerklippen" was on the higher part), but there is also a very convenient public elevator that takes you to the upper town for a small fee.


We already already had lunch on board (a very large bowl of pretty good goulash with bread), so after checking in at the hotel, we started our walk around the high part of the island. There are well maintained paths that basically follow the edge of the cliff. In principle you can walk around the entire island (the high part) in about an hour and a half, but realistically it will take you much longer.

The reason is the scenery on the north end, and the cliffs with thousands of gannets. I had seen these impressing sea birds in Iceland from some distance, but here seems to be the southern most place where you can approach the North-Atlantic species of this birds very closely. Everybody takes loads of pictures there, and so did we.


The island houses also a number of black sheep and cows that walk around in the open. We spent the whole afternoon taking in the colors and the nature and the fresh air, and went back to the hotel for a drink and some rest.

In the evening we had a long dinner with view from the cliff in a small Italian(?) restaurant up there, before we went back for a well deserved sleep.

Posted by westwind57 20:24 Archived in Germany Tagged birds sea fish germany ferry wind gannets seals helgoland red_rock car_free Comments (0)

Germany - From Bremerhaven to Helgoland

Starting our long weekend

Ever since I was a kid, I loved to look at the maps in the atlas, and fantasize what places would look like. Actually, I still do that, but Google Streetview is a bit of a spoiler nowadays. But for so many years, one island in the North Sea always fascinated me because it seems a bit out of place. Along the coasts of western Denmark, Northern Germany and the north of my own country, the Netherlands, there is a whole row of islands close to the mainland, which are basically dunes and sand banks sticking their heads out of the shallow sea. And then there is this one dot, much further out of the coast, all by itself: Helgoland. And what also distinguishes it from the others, it seems to be sort of a single red rock, like somebody has accidentally dumped it there.


We had a long weekend to spend, and for some reason I suggested that we would go there. We booked a hotel and looked up the ways to get there, and it turned out that it would be best to drive to Bremerhaven in Northern Germany first, leave the car there, and then take the ferry in the next morning.

We arrived in Bremerhaven in the evening. Bremerhaven is one of the major seaports of Germany, together with Hamburg, Wilhemshaven, and Kiel. It has an important container terminal, and it seems that it also connects some major shipyards to the North Sea. The next morning we found out that it has a quite modern leisure area along the sea, close to where the ferry departs. There is a modern museum which gives much information about the environment, climate and sea life (Klimahaus Bremerhaven 8° Ost, at the "Old Port" (Alte Hafen), the old U-Boat "Wilhelm Bauer from World War II that can be visited, and a shipping museum. It seems that there is also a special museum dedicated to German emigrants.

Unfortunately visiting all these will be for a next trip because we had to get to the ferry, which left in the morning. Next to the ferry, there is a convenient indoor parking garage (underneath the Klimahaus), where you can leave the car when taking the ferry, because Helgoland is a car-free island.


Although it was cloudy and a bit foggy when we arrived at the port, it clouds started to break once we boarded the "Fair Lady" for the trip that took about 3 hours. On the ferry you can sit outside or inside, and food and drinks are available at outlets on the upper and lower deck.


Posted by westwind57 19:51 Archived in Germany Tagged birds fish germany ferry gannets seals helgoland red_rock car_free Comments (2)

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