Getting to Slovenia from Italy

The easy easy way to travel from Slovenia from Italy via
For months, I looked for easy ways to get from Trieste to Ljubljana. I searched message boards, read heaps of blog posts until I just got sick of it and decided I’d wait until I got on the ground there to figure out the easiest way to get from Italy to Slovenia. All of the information I was reading was sending me in dizzying circles and frustrations.

According to the great Google and search results, it is pretty much not easy to get to Slovenia from Italy. There are no direct trains, and while the Slovenian Tourist Board does state that one can get to Slovenia via plane, train, bus and automobile, there are no details or links directing ould-be bookers onward.

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Day tripping from Madrid

Madrid is nearly dead smack in the middle of Spain, so naturally, day trips from the capital are easy both in terms of closeness and bus/train schedules.

There are two main options for traveling in Spain — the bus and the train. Recently, a high-speed train was added, and while it gets you places far faster than traditional transport, it is a bit pricey.

The bus was the best option for me — not only was it pretty inexpensive, but it also gave me the opportunity to see the countryside of Spain (the high-speed train is underground, so gazing out the window affords you nothing).

The week between VaughanTown programs, I spent most of my time in Madrid, hanging out in the city with Anthony and Emma. But, two of the days I traded the bustling city and packed Metro for the more peaceful towns of Toledo and Segovia.

I didn’t really plan either trip. I went to the bus station early Tuesday morning (the wrong bus station first, of course), and purchased my ticket (in Spanish, at a kiosk … I was really proud).

The bus from Madrid to Toledo is fairly quick — maybe 90 minutes — and the drive is magnificent.

I sat on the bus — the first seat since that’s where you see everything — and was thrilled when I saw the town crawling up the hillside and the powerful Catedral.

Toldeo, located in the Castilla-La Mancha region, is packed with history. Walking down the winding streets, you can stumble upon ancient synagogues, Roman walls and more.

I got off the bus and looked up, up, up to the buildings rising above my head. I decided to wing it — no map — I could see exactly where I wanted to go way up top the hill, I just needed to get there.

I walked around Toledo for hours, exploring the old narrow streets, wandering into stores, standing at the top of the hill, jaw agape, staring out into the brilliant green plains.

Admitedly, it would have helped if I had a tour guide, but I like to think I saved the tour guide for when it was really necessary — Segovia.

I hadn’t noticed the mountains surrounding Madrid before my adventure to Segovia. I had seen them, but they never seemed quite so picturesque as they did they day I sat on the La Sepulveda bus as it powered down the highway to Segovia.

Out my window, I could see perfectly the snow-capped mountains looming over the city. Then, we were next to the mountains. And then, we were in them.

The sun had disappeared as soon as we hit the mountains. Clouds rolled off the jagged tops and plummeted down the slopes, chilling me inside the warm confines of the bus.

I watched as the outdoor temperature gauge in the bus dropped from 14 to five to four to three and thanked my lucky stars I had placed my fleece next to the heater the night before and had the idea to grab my jacket … just in case.

When I got off the bus a little more than an hour later, I was happy to be at least greeted warmly by JC, a student taught by Jess and Deanna at a previous VaughanTown.

They had e-mailed introductions to us earlier in the week and JC had so kindly volunteered to show me around his home town in Castilla y Lyon.

Segovia is a remarkable city known for three main attractions — El Acueducto, the remains of a Roman aqueduct that cuts right into the heart of town; Alcazar, a gothic castle perched atop a hill that draws comparisons to Cinderella’ castle; and the grandest cathedral in the region, Catedral.

Having JC as my private tour guide and new friend was amazing. He had  taken care of everything — reservations made for lunch, a complimentary entrance to Alcazar, a hike down to the bottom of the town to look up at the castle and even coffee in the afternoon.

Suffice to say, I slept nearly the entire two-hour bus ride home.

The next time I would be on a bus was Sunday en route to Monfrague … enough time for me to get back into Madrid life and then sadly exit it once more.

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What I learned in Croatia (The List)

1. If you want Zagreb’s Upper Town to yourself for wandering, it is deserted at 2 a.m. There is nothing more magical than having the city in your hands to breathe in. Even if nothing is open, to walk on the old streets, to see the gothic buildings, it is an amazing experience. Bonus points if you have someone with you to share the moment. And even more bonus points if the person is a cutie. A Hollywood ending. Almost.

2. For a trip back in time and an eerily beautiful moment of peace, wander around Zagreb’s Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s grounds. It is quiet — a great place to do some writing, thinking, or relaxing.  The unconventional tourist.

3. Plitvice Lakes National Park is quite possibly one of the most beautiful places on Earth. The bluegreen water, the waterfalls that lightly mist you as you walk by, the winding wooden paths — every turn is something new and more beautiful than the next. It’s about two hours from Zadar and Zagreb and a great day trip. Should you want to stay longer, there are a few hotels in the park. The prettiest day trip ever.

4. Don’t get lost. Or take the wrong bus. And, if you do, hope for the bus driver I had in Zadar. Quite possibly one of the kindest souls I have ever met. Remember — if you’re not sure what bus to take, or if the gate number is the seat number of vice-versa, ask. Croatian’s are remarkably wonderful and helpful. English isn’t a common in Croatia, but the closer you are to the tourist areas, the better chance you have. If someone doesn’t speak English, they will help direct you the best they can. I’ve always relied on the kindness of strangers.

5. Take the time to stop in Zadar. If you are time crunched while traveling Croatia, it is a great starting point to kick of Adriatic coastal adventures.  There are a lot of ferries from the city, as well as tours of the surrounding islands. While visiting the old city, be sure to head to the water and swing by the Sea Organ. It’s haunting melodies still play in my mind. Plus, the grilled corn is delicious. A Hollywood ending. Almost.

6. Spend at least two days in Split. Climb to the top of the cathedral in the old city for captivating views of the entire city and Adriatic. Every nook and cranny in the main square has something wonderful. Next to the Lacoste shop is a great little food stop with delicious breakfasts cooked fresh while you wait. The egg sandwich is mouth-watering. This could be heaven.

7. While in Split, make sure you hit the beach. The one with the sand. It’s outside the old city and perfect for swimming, sunning and people watching. Plus,  if you have the right company, it will change your life. Instantaneous enlightenment on the Adriatic.

8. If you want to bare it all in Croatia, you can. There are plenty of nudie beaches up and down the coast to run around sans your skivvies. Just  mind where you jump. Birthday suits and Split.

9. An hour ferry trip from Split is Hvar, an upscale island covered in lavender. Hvar’s beaches are rocky and pebble-y. It’s not too bad, but if you want smooth sand, venture to a surrounding island. Renting a little motor boat won’t cost too much, and you can negotiate. Rocky, rocky, pebble-y, pebble-y.

10. A bathroom can lead to another bathroom. And, it is possible to shimmy from one bathing suit into another without revealing anything. Well, almost. Booze, boobs and a beach bar.

11. The sea is not free of dangers. Those little black spiky things in the water? They are not your friends. In fact, Sea Urchin are the devil. No, seriously. There’s WHAT in the water?

12. Never say “goodbye” to the travelers you meet. You never know, you may just cross paths with them again. It’s not “goodbye,” it’s “see you soon.”

13. The bus ride from Split to Dubrovnik is a MUST. Yes, you hug the cliffs, but you also see some of the most stunning sights on the Adriatic. The city of stairs.

14. Dubrovnik is a city of stairs. Be prepared. The city of stairs.

15. Opening yourself to new people, new places and new opportunities can change your entire world. A BRIEF intermission: My 30-Life-Crisis … Solved?

Do you have questions about Croatia? Tips you want to share? Be sure to leave a comment.

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I’ve always relied on the kindness of strangers


The thing about traveling is you learn to roll with the punches.

Flight delayed? No problem. I’ll just go to the bar, grab a nice glass of red wine.

Flight canceled? Well, ok. I will get on the phone and re-book on another flight if the airline doesn’t do so for me. I’ve even slept in an airport (pre 9/11) to catch a flight the next morning.

Basically, I have learned you just do what you need to do to make it from Point A to Point B.

However, sometimes, there is only so much you can do. In reality, it is up to others most times to get you to your final destination.
Never has this rang more true than during my stay in Zadar.

After wandering through the old city, I stopped back into the internet cafe to check my e-mail one last time and then planned on catching a cab. I asked the girl at the cafe where I could catch a ride back to my Sobe and she told me I could do so on the other side of the foot bridge from the old city. I walked across the bridge, grabbing some amazing grilled corn from a street vendor on the way (I was starving and had not eaten since the feast Amy and I had earlier at Plitvice).  When I got across the bridge, there were no cabs. There was little activity going on at all. So, I stopped in to a restaurant and asked how I could get home.

“You will need to take the bus,” the server explained. “It is just up there. But, you have to hurry. It’s the last one tonight.”

With a new sense of urgency, I tossed the grilled corn that served as my dinner and booked it “just up there” (funny, no one ever really tells you exactly where, it’s always “just down there,” “or go a little and it will be there,” etc.). I got to the bus stop and looked at the map against the tagged plexiglass wall. It was a myriad of roads with large numbers overlayed, separating the city into numeric sections. I pulled out my map for reference, trying to make sense of it.

I figured out I needed to get on Bus 1. But, where to get off the bus to walk back to the Sobe? I had no clue.

Luckily, a girl was at the stop with me and she spoke a little bit of broken English. I showed her on my map where I was going.

“Don’t worry,” she said. “I will take you there.”

So, we boarded the bus, and when it was time to get off, she got off with me, asking me to pull out the map again.

She looked at the map. Looked around at where we were. Looked at the map. Looked at me.

“Sorry,” she said. “I don’t know where you are going.”

I was about to get snappy with her. It was past midnight. I was exhausted. I was sad. I was, now, apparently, LOST. But, I stopped myself. She didn’t need to help me in the first place. The fact that she even tried was enough for me.

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