Escape of the Week: Radovljica, Slovenia

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Dayna at Wanderlusting. Do you have an Escape of the Week you’d like to contribute? Let me know! Dtravelsround [at] gmail [dot] com. Your Escape could be the next Escape!

I expected to enjoy Slovenia.  A year ago, I looked up photos and videos of Lake Bled, the Julian Alps, and Ljubljana, excited for the ‘someday’ when I would get there.  What I did NOT expect, however, was to fall completely head over heels in love with Slovenia.  In terms of rugged beauty, medieval old towns, and that nagging sense that visitors feel — that they are walking inside of a postcard — it rivals any and all of Europe’s better known destinations.

My guidebook told me to go see nearby (and virtually unheard of) Radovljica for the bee museum, which didn’t really sound that appealing to me, but my cousin insisted I pay the town a visit.  I am so glad I did. It may not have the tourist draw that Bled and Bohinj do, but it is absolutely perfect for an afternoon of unguided strolling, people watching and getting off the beaten path a bit.

The journey to Radovljica from Bled is as valuable as visiting the town itself, especially in the autumn.  Traditional Slovenian houses, fields and forests of every color and the surrounding Alps make it a visual treat.


After peeking around a few corners, I was greeted by a restored and wonderful Old Town dating back to medieval times, locally dubbed Linhartov Trg.  Being a coffee lover, I was impressed by the sheer amount of cafes in their small town square.  On Sundays, as in most of Slovenia, this is the place where locals take a stroll to see their neighbors and
friends.


The streets are immaculately kept, as are the buildings themselves.  Every corner, it seems, is more inviting than the last.  Hanging flower baskets and small orchards are common once you venture a few blocks away from Linhartov Trg.


As with most small Slovene towns, the focal point and highlight is its beautiful, Gothic church.  The Parish Church of Saint Peter sits patiently on a hilltop overlooking the dense forest, and dates back to the 14th century.


While visitors aren’t allowed inside, they are welcome to explore the grounds, the neighboring parish and take a peek through the church doors at the incredible architecture and ceiling murals.


The best gifts Radovljica has to offer are the many incredible vistas of Mount Triglav and the surrounding Alps, the Sava River and the glimpse at everyday life that is best enjoyed away from the crowds.


Getting There: Slovenia’s biggest tourist attraction in its own right is Lake Bled which is only 5 kilometers away from Radovljica.  Buses leave from Bled’s main bus station every half hour, and return just as frequently.

Have you visited Slovenia? What city stood out the most for you?

About the Author: Dayna was raised in Washington State and studied International Studies and Global Development at the University of Idaho, where her interests led her to further explore Islam and the West and African Development.  At the tender age of five, she held up an inflatable globe from National Geographic and declared that she would conquer the world and collect whales.  She is also a seasoned singer/songwriter, hula hoop dancer, poi spinner, coffee enthusiast and avid lover of travel and useless trivia. Follow her on Twitter; Like Wanderlusting on Facebook.

Destinations Guest Posts

Escape of the Week: Sintra, Portugal

A quick train ride from Lisbon lies the hilltop town of Sintra. It’s a quaint little town that conjures up memories of times when fairytales were quite possibly real, with its maze-like cobblestone streets, castles and palaces.

Once the summer home of Portugal’s kings, today Sintra offers a place for history buffs to roam the streets and explore all of the town’s nooks and crannies. There are the homes and streets that show evidence of a long life …

 

For the traveler seeking a place to rest their feet, there are cafes to enjoy the fresh air and scenery.

In the center of town, there are plenty of options for culture. The most popular option (and largest) is the sprawling Palacio Nacional de Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a medieval royal palace that is a focal point of Sintra.

There are also views of the Atlantic Ocean. On a clear day, it is very possible to imagine seeing all the way across to the other side of the world. (My favorite view is actually at a Chinese restaurant near by the train station.)

At the top of the town, there are the eighth century ruins of Castelo dos Mouros and Palacio de Rena. You can reach them either on foot (it’s a good 3 km hike up to the Castelo and another bit to the Palacio) or via bus (buy a day pass) to the top of the forested peak.

In Sintra it isn’t uncommon to find someone with their head jutting from an open window, taking in the sights and sounds of the world outside.

This friendly man stopped me on the street below and asked me to take his photo …

And then, there is my favorite thing to do — wander around the maze of narrow cobbelstone streets, taking in the homes awash in bright colors … and the display of clothing drying on lines strewn between windows and buildings.

Getting there: From Lisbon, hop on the train (there’s one every 15 minutes) to Sintra at Rossio station. The ride is about 40 minutes and shouldn’t cost more than a couple of euros.

Sadly, I was sick when I visited Sintra, so there was no hiking up to the ruins. Have you had a chance to visit Sintra? What was your experience?

Traveling ’round? If you want to check out another city where fairytales echo in your mind, check out Edinburgh. Stay at a hotel in Edinburgh’s city centre and head out to explore the magic of this gorgeous Scottish city.

Destinations

Escape of the Week: Brela, Croatia

It’s no secret I love Croatia. It is what sparked my blog, it is what sparked my desire to quit my job and head out to explore more of the world. When I booked my long-term travel, I knew I wanted Croatia to be where I would end my trip. There is something magical about the country — the way the water is that perfect cerulean blue and the way the trees are neon green.

Yes, I love Croatia with all of my heart.

When my friend, Katie, suggested we visit Brela en route to Split, I agreed for one reason: there is no place in Croatia I don’t love. Surely, Brela would be no exception to this.

And, it wasn’t.

With amazing storms rolling in from Biokovo Mountain and hovering over the Adriatic Sea, how can you not love this little beach town? It’s enough to make someone book airline tickets immediately and head to this gorgeous destination.

Brela’s beaches are some of the best in Europe, earning one of its beaches, Dugi rat the distinction of being one of the most beautiful on the continent. Maybe you’ve seen this photo, of trees growing out of the white rock in the middle of the water?

With more than 7km. of pebble beaches, there are plenty of options to kick back and take in the colors, the fresh air and the relaxed atmosphere of this town.

There is only one hostel in Brela, Casa Vecchia. It’s awesome. Owned by an Aussie, it’s got a great beach feel with a huge outdoor patio, covered bar and stunning views of the seaside below. We got there the last night it was open, so for our second night, the owner moved us down to one of the apartments he rents out. On. The. Beach. Yeah, it was amazing.

Getting there: If you’re planning a trip to Croatia, there are a few stops most travelers are sure to hit — Dubrovnik and Split are two of them, in South Dalmatia. Brela is located about an hour south of Split, about three hours north of Dubrovnik, and about two hours from Mostar in Bosnia and Herecgovina.

If you’re taking the bus, be sure to let the driver know to stop at Brela. There isn’t a formal bus station, but a stop at the top of the town where you can hop on and off, paying when you board.

Have you been to Croatia? What’s your favorite beach?

Destinations

Escape of the Week: Nevada’s Valley of Fire

Las Vegas, a look at the Valley Of Fire

About an hour outside of Las Vegas is the Valley of Fire. Dedicated in 1935, it is Nevada’s oldest and largest state park.

And, it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

With a background of bright blue sky, the red sandstone formations are striking. They’ve been around since the days of the dinosaurs, a not-so-shabby 150 million years.

A perfect day trip, there is plenty do to in the park. For nature-lovers and hikers, there are trails that weave around some of the stunning formations, including the beehive rocks smoothed over time. Plus, there’s places to picnic and camp, too.

Want to go?

From Las Vegas, take I-15 North to Exit 75.

Don’t forget to bring your camera!

Destinations

Escape of the Week: Birds on a Wire

I celebrated my one-year anniversary of returning to Las Vegas on October 30.

Actually, the day came and went, and I didn’t even remember it’s been one year until today, but I digress.

The day I caught the flight to Las Vegas from Maryland, I went through a photographing frenzy. As I drove to drop off my car (it was being shipped across the country via truck), I snapped photos like it was my job. The way the rising sun hit the golds and reds of the trees. The wispy white clouds against the bright blue.

The birds on the wire, staying warm on the chilly late autumn morning.

Sure, it’s not one of the photos that will ever win an award for composition, but on this year-plus of being in Vegas, seeing this photo makes my heart warm. While I live here, this is not my home. Actually, I don’t know where home is. But, I do know where my family is. And this photo reminds me of Maryland, and my family. Right now, that’s all I need.

30 Life Crisis Destinations

Escape of the Week: Fall on Fire

If there is one thing I miss when living in the desert — even if October is simply divine weather-wise — it is fall.

Growing up on the east coast in Maryland, a favorite pastime was raking all of the leaves that fell from the trees each autumn. My dad would rake them up into piles, and then my brother and I would jump into them with reckless abandon.

I loved the smell of the leaves … fresh and earthy.

But, more than that, I loved the colors. Against the gray October skies, the leaves would burst with color. Bright and fiery oranges and reds. They glowed.

After moving from Las Vegas to Georgia in 2010, I was once again greeted with the beauty of this season. My friend and I decided, on a crisp and cloudy fall morning, to get in the car and drive north through the state, to admire the sublime beauty that is autumn.

For hours, we drove along country roads, stopping whenever the mood struck us, to take photos of the stunning colors as far as the eye could see.

Where have you experienced the colors of fall?

 

Americas Destinations

Sunday Night Market madness

The Sunday Night Market, in theory, sounds awesome. Cheap shopping. Cheap eats. Stall after stall of items you don’t need, but suddenly have to have. My kinda market.

I should have known better.

Crowds and D never mix.

And yet, there I was, being the cheerleader for Katie, Isabelle and I heading out into the darkness to go and experience the Sunday Night Market.

We headed out into the city, rain hovering above us and waiting to pour from the clouds at any moment.

As soon as we hit the market, I was kicking myself.

I knew I had to experience it. Everyone said the Sunday market was a “must” when in Chiang Mai, and far better than the more touristic generic night market. Cheaper prices. Better stuff.

But, this. Ohhhhhhh. It physically pained me to step foot into the market.

At first, I tried to close my eyes and breathe deep.

Sadly, my shoulders crept up to my ears within minutes and a grimace replaced the smile I had so wanted to stay put on my face. My jaw clenched. My hands formed tight fists.

We walked through the food part and I snatched up some sushi — five pieces for five baht. Not a bad deal at all.

One of the many stalls serving yummy (and cheap) street food

I tried to keep my cool, but once we were back on the main drag of the market, I couldn’t take it.

All around me there was something going on. Lady Boys dressed elegantly posing for photos and shouting in Thai. Children and performers sitting in the middle of the street with jars for donations. People stopping mid-street for no apparent reason. Umbrellas threatening to poke out eyes. Elbows in sides.

 

The does no justice to illustrate the throngs of people at the Sunday Night Market. It is a sea.

It made me feel sick.

I grabbed Katie’s arm as Isabelle stopped at a stall to look at clothes.

“I can’t do this,” I said through clenched teeth. “This crowd is way too much for me. We should split up.”

“Just try,” Katie urged. “We don’t have to do this long.”

The truth was, I wanted to do it. The stalls had a mix of great stuff. I just didn’t want to do it with anyone else. I needed the freedom to bop and weave through people. To decide to turn a different way without making sure there were people aware of my change of direction.

Paintings take up half of the street

Then, there's stalls with trinkets (hard to focus when there is a stream of people)

And bracelet stalls

And painters doing their thing ...

And, my favorite, the handmade leather journals

For about 30 minutes, we tried to navigate the intense elbow-to-elbow crowds. Then, I was done.

“Let’s go get dinner and wait out the rain,” I suggested as the water began to beat down on us, prompting the vendors to throw sheets of plastic on their goods, and the crowd to pop up even more umbrellas, threatening to poke out eyes.

We grabbed dinner at a cute little restaurant with a garden patio and a band. For an hour, I watched the crowd in front of the restaurant, meandering around.

The crowd had thinned somewhat, thanks to the downpour, so we hit some side streets of the market and wandered for a bit more. Finally, sleep was creeping up on me. So was an early morning pick-up to the Elephant Nature Park.

I went to bed that night incredibly grateful to have experienced the Sunday market. And with plans to check it out again upon my return the following week. Round Two could be better, right?

I had a week to prepare myself.

A week living with elephants.

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