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Saturday, August 16, 2014

One last Dubrovnik post

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We´re back home allready - the kid´s school starts next week, unfortunately - but before I go back to regular posting, I allow myself one or two more vacation-related posts - I figured I love reading my old vacations myself, and over the years, I figured this is the nicest photo diary I´ve got. So bear with me :)

The picture above, by the way, was really hard taking - I wanted, wanted wanted a picture of the old town from above, and there´s a costal serpentine road from which you´ve got this breathtaking view.
Unfortunately, it´s really tough stopping the car for a photo - there is no, and I mean no place where you could stop your car. It´s all bendy and crowded. So I was really thrilled when Tim found an opportunity for a couple of minutes in the evening hours :)

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I found a streetmusician with a lijerica who let me play! It´s really easy! Also, I found it quite interesting you didn´t push the strings down from above, as you´d do with a violin or a guitar, but push your fingers against the side of the string to change the tone. I´ve never seen that before.

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I checked two music stores and several souvenir stores to find a lijerica for myself, but without success.

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What I found fascinating to experience was how a country can get back on it´s feet.

The war on the Balkan was pretty much the first war I consciuosly took note of as a child - it also was the first war a german army participated in after WW2, and I remember the first refugee kids in our village. And many stayed - Eva´s got a good friend whose mom came over as such a refugee child, and I know plenty of kids in school who still speak Serbian or Croatian - which is pretty much the same language by the way.

Of course you do still see traces of the war, suddenly popping up in between the very European beach promenades.
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Former fancy restaurants, hotels, stores, that now look like hollow teeth and have trees growing in the rubble, and you wonder how they might have looked 30 years ago, before the war, and how it came they were abandoned. And then you walk around the corner, and there´s a shiny beach bar where you get an awesome chocolate frappĂ©.

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And I felt like this was a gigantic exclamationmark of hope - a country that had been shattered by war, now blossoming. And the boarder to Bosnia is casually passed by thousands everyday back and forth, and nobody seems to mind. I really liked that.

And one last thing I want to keep of Croatia - after the view of Dubrovnik, the sound of the lijerica, the feeling of hope is...
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...the taste of fresh figs. I mean, fresh from the tree, ultra sweet and crispy and delicious like you can buy nowhere and only get in Nikolina´s garden :)

Friday, August 8, 2014

Boats and Islands.

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The coastline here is pretty much sprinkled with small islands, so when it comes to the "What to do around Dubrovnik" tips you find in books and on the internet, it usually involves boats.

We booked a small boattrip around Lokrum. On Lokrum, there´s almost nothing, except for pine trees, lots of pine trees, and a small monastry.
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This is a text from 1151, from a bishop about the ownership of the island, and I loved to be in the same room as a piece of script that´s almost 1000 years old.

And there are caves, and people jumping off cliffs.
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I liked how the boat looked.
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And I liked how my girls looked:
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They also rent pedal boats with a slide on top over here, and we used it to bribe our kids into not fighting when cleaning the table, so we´d rent one if they behaved nicely.
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It gave me nightmares, though. The idea is - you pedal out really far, and then slide off into the water. My girls are superb swimmers, and I let them do whatever they want when it comes to water, because not only can they swim, but they are responsible judges of their own abilities. I can trust them to be save.

Which can not be said about my boys. They can swim... sort of.
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And they always believe they can swim to... yeah, that island is not really far away, is it?
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See those two small dots?

That´s Tim and Miro. Tim swam with him, but it still made me nervous.

Also, I was scared the whole time one would end up under the boat while I was watching the other, so I guess I spoiled their super cool slidey-boat trip for them. But I felt a lot better when I had them back on solid ground. And the girls enjoyed it, at least.


Late last night, I heard some music through my window. I silently tapped on Eva´s door, we quickly threw on our dresses and snuck out the door. The house we´re staying in is close to the local fire brigade, and the people from this village use the house for their Thursday night dancing gatherings. They did, actually, practice traditional folk dancing. Not with costumes, the touristy stuff, but for fun, the youngest dancers being around Eva´s age, the oldest with grey hair. And the music I had heard (and thought it came from a tape) came from a Lijerica, a traditional croation instrument with three strings. The guy who played it told me the strings were made from a tennis racket :) So I thought I´d give you an example of the Lijerica for today :)

Thursday, August 7, 2014


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This is why I like Dubrovnik.

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And this.

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And this (And yes, that´s Mehmet jumping off that cliff like a young god there :) )

Unlike other metropoles we´ve visited, Dubrovnik has one big advantage: The stunningly clear, adriatic sea, in direct reach. Whether we visited Amsterdam or Paris or Prague or London, it was always this dance around keeping the kids happy and entertained, not stretching their patience for too long, and then quickly leaving the city center for a park or the campsite or some place the kids would like. Well.

This is pretty much the city center of Dubrovnik´s gorgeous old town.

There´s a little bay, right along the city walls, that looks like open arms hugging the sea, and we spent the last days with intervals of swimming - walking through the town-swimming - repeat. Worked perfectly. I´ve never seen water so clear, so swimable, in such proximity to a big city, I still can hardly believe it, and I´ve got no idea how they keep it so clean, but there you are. You can see swarms of hundreds of little fish swimming around you, sometimes feel them, too. And Miro and Ronja found crabs, and mussles - it´s so cool!

Of course, Dubrovnik is not only swimming.
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There´s the new town, where regular people go to buy cheap shoes for kids who lost theirs at the beach but that otherwise looks like just any other town, and there´s the old town, a fully restored medieval fairy tale city.

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In fact, it is King´s Landing. And as much as I´d like to state that´s a pure coincidence we only discovered here, I´ve got to admit that, yes, that was part of the reason we came here. We wanted to see King´s Landing.

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You can walk around the city walls and see all the orange roofs - a walk around the city walks is considered something like a must for tourists here  -it´s like going to La tour Eiffel when you´re in Paris. Though you best do it on a clouded day, because the sun is bright here and there´s no shade at all, but many stairs :)

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There´s the Onophrian fountain...

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...where you can not only refill your water bottle, but that also offers yet another place to splash around with water -  it´s Mehmet and Miro´s favourite place in the city, also because of the money some tourists throw in for luck - and I know that the twins, despite me telling them not to, plucked the sum of 3 kuna (around 40 cents) out of the water, giggling and then investing it secretly in sweets from the pirate candy store right next to the fountain.

Speaking of pirates...
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...the guys who place parrots on random tourist´s shoulders are in Dubrovnik, as well.

And the world´s best frozen yogurt is sold in Dubrovnik, and on the market, you get lavendar oil for almost nothing. And when Tim and the kids went for their... I guess fourth round of swimming, I got a whole hour off just for myself, during which I found two bookstores (so we can read some Zoran Feric now), and a war memorial museum, and two churches, and some really cute designer stores.

I´m one happy woman :)

More tomorrow, I´m going to soak in the sunshine now, so I´m closing this post with some fun music:

Courtesy of Eva :)

Monday, August 4, 2014


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Last night, we slept in a bed for the first time in a week, which is awesome.

We´re staying in a small village named Mlini, 8 km south of Dubrovnik, and it´s lovely here. What makes it so lovely is, beside the hot, dry weather and the stunning view and bla bla bla, the awesomeness of our hosts.

We´re the first they are renting their newly remodeled flat to, and they really go out of their way to make it nice for us. They´ve got a huge garden, and Nikolina, our host, regularly comes up to our flat and brings us tomatoes and Zuchini and potatoes and onions from their garden. They also happen to have chickens, so we get free eggs, as well.

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And they´ve got sheep, and Miro loves the small mountain of freshly shorn wool that´s casually lying around in the garden. He picked some, and uses it as a bed for his toy Donald Duck, who now camps in the drawer of his bedsite table.

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Nikolina even makes her own soap and her own olive oil, she´s so cool!

We´re also enjoying sitting around a table for our meals - not that eating from the ground is a bad thing, but I kind of like this civilisation-thing even more after not having it for a week.

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And with a proper kitchen, one can even make cool things like scraping out watermelons to drink from them - that´s so not possible on a wet campsite :)

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Another nice thing is - the next neighbours own a garage. For the type of car we came with. So tomorrow, we´ll try to see whether they can fix our problem or, even better, declare it as no problem at all. Walking here is a bit tough, since small Croatian villages apparently don´t have sidewalks, but lots of fast, suddenly appearing cars on very narrow roads, and with my twins, that does make me nervous. Also, the hills are worse than the one we live on. So a car would come in handy, but we´ll see - so far, we´re enjoying the comfort of a bed and a kitchen and a bathroom, that feels heavenly :)

Sunday, August 3, 2014

From rain to sunshine.

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Eventually, it really stopped raining in Bled, and when I woke up around six the next morning, it was bright and sunny and I went, all by myself, swimming in that awesome lake, while everyone else was asleep, and that was a moment of pure, warm happiness. I swam on my back and looked at the clouds and the mountains and the castle and felt utter bliss.

Later, I cooked a nutritious breakfast...
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...and took the rest of my family to the lake. Despite the rain, lake Bled is gorgeous, and Eva said she never wants to leave, or at least come back soon,  and both girls spent some time writing romantic fairy tales playing in Bled while we... rode on.

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This is Croatia, or the first we saw of Croatia from the car. It´s rocky, and gigantic - there´s miles and miles and miles of space filled with nothing but rocks and trees, and for little german me, that´s pretty impressive - where I live, every little scrap of space is used for something. I rarely get to see a vastness like this.

It also makes you wonder what would happen if your car broke down in the middle of this immense nothingness - something that didn´t feel too far off today, since this stupid little light in our car began blinking - you know, the one that, when you look it up in the manual, says something along the lines of  "Immediatly stop and take your car to a trusted partner or bad things will happen".

The thing is, it´s not even our car, but one we rented. And we didn´t rent it from an official company, one with an emergency number or something similar, but from a nice guy over the internet. Also, it´s not like there are many garages at hand, and since the car still drove, so did we - at least until we reached a noteable city, which was Sibenik.

Sibenik is a shopping paradise with huge malls and even bigger hotels and beach and summer. Also, with a garage and a guy that told us to keep driving - it was Saturday afternoon and I guess he just wanted to go to the beach. So did we.

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We found a campsite and pitched up our tents - they were still wet from Slovenia, as were a lot of our clothes, but everything seemed to dry within minutes in the hot Croatian sun. We ate bread and olives and this awesome Croatian cheese that tastes like the ser my polish hostmother used to make, and we went swimming in the sunset.

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And later, when the kids were adorably sleeping in their tent cabins...
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Tim and I went for a walk along the beach, and actually saw two falling stars over the dark night sea.
Very, very beautiful :)

I´m still nervous about the car, but I do have a song for the day - after finding out that every Croatian radio station we could find only played synthetic 80´s pop mixed with Croatian folk, I brought out the CD case Tim´s father gave us, and it actually contained a Beatles greatest hits.

Unlike the rest of my folks, I had a lot of fun belting along to this old gem:

Friday, August 1, 2014

Slovenia is wet

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How´s that for swimming in paradise?

The little town Bled in Slovenia, just South off the Alps, is stunningly beautiful. I cannot say how often today I exclaimed how blue the water is. And clear. But blue. As if they´d put color in it, but of course they wouldn´t do that.

And the flowers:
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Never in my life have I seen flowers with petals in two different colors. Never ever ever. I´d really like to take a hike with someone who knows the botanic around here.

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Walking around the lake, with it´s castle looming majestically on a rock, and the little church on the island in the middle, chiming at all hours, it really feels like walking through postcard country. Picture perfect. And they offer... basically everything. Today I´ve seen posters advertising spa minigolf thai massage paragliding balloon flights waterskiing dragon boat ralleys surf classes scuba diving classes cave excursion guided climbing tours wine tasting classical concerts pilates classes mini trams row boats swimming under waterfalls yoga pony riding segway tours bike rentals wooden outdoor whirlpools and pretty much everything else when it comes to the touristic entertainement sector.And cake. There´s a picture of cake at every corner, always the same, creamy-buttery cake, and they even have a cake drive-through. I´m thoroughly impressed.

It almost feels as if they are trying to offer every, every, everything to keep people here, while most people we´ve met on the campsite are, like us, just transit tourists staying here for one or two nights, before they go on further south. Which is a shame - this place does offer an incredible natural beauty, and we´re considering spending more time here on our way back.

The downside:
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The rain. Man, did it rain last night. While my sleeping mat is made from sturdy plastic, old army material from a fleamarket in the 90´s, and it stays nicely dry, Tim´s nice, expensive, soft sleeping mat is soaken. We actually have puddles in our tent, and around our tent, and everything is muddy.

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Hiring some rounds at the washing machine and the dry cleaner brought some relief, as did some warm spaghetti in a nice little restaurant.
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And it´s sweet, cuddling in the tent, reading Animal farm and drinking hot chocolate.

I´m sure if it had rained less, little Bled, Slovenia, would have felt like heaven. But as it is, I´m looking forward to go south, cross the border to Croatia and escape the rain :)

Oh, and btw - the reason I´m not posting any music of the day with my vacation posts is the wobbly internet connection. I´ve got to be quick, and use all bandwidth to upload my pictures. Opening youtube seems to crash everything :) So just imagine a nice Ed Sheeran song here, okay? 

See you from Croatia!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Crossing the Alps

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Yesterday we left Munich, to cross the alps and go southwards. Our goal was Bled in Slovenia, and the way from Munich to Bled was originally the shortest etappe of our journey. So we packed our tents and hit the road again. We crossed the border to Austria, listening to our trusted audiobook "Holes" by Louis Sachar again, while driving through the rain and looking at the scenery in the rain...

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...when a sign popped up, saying "Eisriesen Werfen".

That means, roughly trnslated, something called "Throwing Ice Giants".
Sounds cool, right?
So we decided to take a little break, I mean, it can´t take longer than an hour to check out what that meant, right?

Turns out, Werfen is a small town in Austria, and "Eisriesen" is the name of the worlds largest ice cave. To reach it, you have to hike until you reach a height of 1600 metres in the alps.

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Which we then did, assisted by a super cool cable cart, but still.

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The air tastes different up there.

And it´s so, so stunning, seeing those gigantic mountains. I saw them and thought about the utter determination humans before me must have had crossing those. Carving paths and tunnels in them and through them, marking passages, hammering out stairs to climb.

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It´s an utter miracle for me that the land north of the alps and the land south of the alps has a connection at all. I mean, I see the reason behind building a boat and crossing an ocean. That feels... natural. But the idea that people ever looked at those mountains and thought... Yeah, I´m going to climb that? Wow. Just wow.

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The caves itselves were not less impressive. Unfortunately, it wasn´t allowed to take any pictures, so here´s one from their official website...

...which you can find here.

The tour took 80 minutes, during which one had to climb 1400 frozen stairs, carrying small lamps with open fire. It was dark and icy cold and Miro and I always felt like slipping, and we were hungry and tired and freezing, and it was beyond amazing and an incredible adventure that made us bond and feel alive. Our trip went only about 1 kilometre into the mountain, but the whole system of caves is more than 42 kilometres long.

When you go in and out, there´s an incredibly strong wind, due to the exchange of cold and warm air, and that alone is awesome. 

Of course, this whole endeavour didn´t just take an hour. We spent more than 6 hours in Werfen, Austria, 6 amazing hours, but it really delayed our arrival in Slovenia. We reached our campsite at almost midnight, where we pitched up our tents in complete darkness (with the help of the headlights of the car), on really muddy ground. Mehmet and Miro where asleep allready, but we had to tired, fighting little girls - and then it rained all through the night. We got lucky it didn´t rain when we arrived.

I´ll show you more of Slovenia tomorrow - it is nice here, picture-postcard-nice, though wet and muddy, but for now, I´m going to check whether I find a way to dry our wet sleeping bags and whether there´s a place where I can buy new shoes for Miro, who´s soles are no longer attached to the rest of his shoes. We do love adventures :)