Travel is Unpredictable: Adventure Day 10

I’d title this blogpost with my actual destination, but I feel like that would be false advertising as I actually spent pretty much no time in the place I ended up spending the night, and therefore don’t feel like I can give very good advice about it.

So,  I may have already mentioned in past posts that my experiences with Croatian and Slovenian buses varied. However, the one company I had a very bad time with was Flixbus, which was a pity because I found their website probably the easiest to use and they seemed to have quite a few options.

One of the reasons I made this statement was because a few days before this particular bus ride, I was informed it was cancelled. Rather than simply refunding me, the company asked me to call them (which is always fun when you’re roaming internationally) and get things squared away. I had no luck getting through to anyone and decided to just book another ticket and hope maybe I’d be refunded another time. Tickets at least aren’t too pricey.

So, as a result of this change, I had to take a later bus to get to Zagreb, my next destination. I’ll admit I’d given myself minimal time to begin with, mostly because the guidebooks I’d looked at hadn’t mentioned anything particularly exciting about the city. Other than being Croatia’s capitol, there wasn’t much that really excited me, especially after seeing some amazing historical sites like Zagreb and Split, and beautiful towns like Bled and Ljubljana. The main reason I chose to go, was that it would cut down on my travel time to my final destination of Budapest, where I was schedule to fly back to the states due to good deals I found on tickets. However, the bus change did effectively cut off the minimal time I had even more so.

Travel does involve some flexibility. So I decided to simply enjoy the fact that I could have a more leisurely morning up at Lake Bled. I enjoyed breakfast at my hotel, and then walked around the lake a little bit in the sunshine.

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After a little bit of meandering I headed back to the bus stop. I had to make my way back down to Ljubljana before I could head to Zagreb.

Again I enjoyed the ride through the mountains with beautiful views on that particular sunny day.

Arriving in Ljubljana I was supposed to only have less than an hour to wait for my bus. I used the bathrooms in the train station (actually free–which in Europe is a bit of a novelty), and grabbed something to drink from a vending machine so I would be set for the bus.

However, the bus ended up being more than thirty minutes late. I boarded, heading up to the second story (as it was a double decker which I thought was fun). I had to shoo a lady out of my pre-booked seat, and felt a little bad, but as I had paid more I wasn’t going to be nice about it.

After that we set out. I listened to an audiobook and enjoyed the views out my window. And then we hit the border.

Now, this was March 11th. Coronavirus had just begun to spread worldwide and was beginning to create some panic. My mother in fact had messaged me mentioning that the US was shutting down borders, worried that I might not be able to get home (as I’m writing this at my house in the US I’ll go ahead and assure you that I did manage to get home safely).

And of course, this meant that in Europe borders were getting tighter as well.

At the border we sat there for maybe thirty minutes on the bus. They kept shutting off the engine to save energy, making it very stuffy on the top level. We got out of Slovenia no problem, but at the Croatian border, we were held up for a while.

Finally we were allowed off the bus to get in line to hand over our passports.

I watched in horror as five people ahead of me were pulled aside and told to wait. I could barely breathe as I handed over my passport, wondering if I too was somehow going to be pulled back. I hadn’t been to Italy or other places facing pretty extreme cases, but I wasn’t sure what their criteria were for pulling people.

Instead, I was waved through and headed over to wait with the rest of the passengers. We watched on as two of those held back were sent over to us, and then the other three were left standing awkwardly by the immigration booth. Two girls who looked maybe my age or younger, and then a young nun wearing a facemask. The three of them stood waiting for maybe fifteen or twenty minutes. I felt awful for the three of them, probably unsure what was happening. I was at least glad to be off the stuffy bus for the wait, even if I was watching the time and wondering when I’d be getting safely to Zagreb.

Sure enough, a few minutes later the girls came back over to join us and began to gather their bags from the bus. I eavesdropped a bit and heard that they had been told they needed to go into quarantine and could not pass the border. I guess both of them were from Germany, where the numbers of infections were higher at the moment, and for that reason weren’t being allowed into Croatia.

The bus driver, did at least kindly drive them (with all of the rest of us) back over the border and dropped them at a gas station and then did a loop to go back through.

The whole process was disconcerting and scary. I breathed a sigh of relief once we were through, but it put us more than an hour late on our schedule.

We arrived in Zagreb late in the afternoon, getting into evening time. Of course, the tram was packed with commuters, but I shoved my way on with my suitcase and paid for a ticket with the driver regardless.

Thankfully, a few minutes later we were in the commercial center and I was able to disembark and go find my hostel.

I was staying right across from the cathedral, which was beautiful. I did snap one picture of it before heading inside. Interestingly enough there was an earthquake there not long after my visit and I read that the cathedral suffered some damage. Even though it was a brief glance, I am glad I saw it before the quake.


I stayed in Kaptol Hostel, though I went ahead and paid for a private room rather than doing a dorm. I’d opted to treat myself on the trip and pay a little more for privacy and a good night’s sleep.

Once checked in I put on some clean clothes and headed out to find a nice dinner. As it was my final night in Croatia, I wanted to use up all my kuna before heading over the border yet again.

So I headed out to find food. I’d asked at my hostel for a recommendation, but unfortunately they owned a restaurant down below and would only recommend that one to me. So I set off to find my own. Which is how I ended up at Restoran Lanterna na Dolcu.

I was the only one there, but they had good reviews, and the food sounded good. I took a seat down in their fun old cellar and had a glass of Croatian wine.


For a starter I had baked štrukli which was delicious. It’s a traditional Croatian dish with pastry dough, cream, cheese, and bacon. Super decadent and delicious!


For my next course I ended up with steak, yet again with mushrooms and vegetables. The waiter for some reason recommended I get a side of potatoes with it, which ended up being way too much food. But it did effectively use up my kuna. Unfortunately that left me with not enough for dessert, and besides I was pretty stuffed anyways.


I paid my bill and then wandered around a little bit. I found a grocery store and picked up some lunch for the next day since I’d be on a bus about midday.

Then it was back to my hostel for a good night’s sleep, figuring at least in the morning I could maybe go see some things after breakfast.

Unfortunately, just as I was going to bed, I happened to check my email and sure enough had an email from Flixbus saying my ride the next day had been cancelled.

Less than 24 hours before I was scheduled to leave, they went ahead and cancelled my ride with no explanation. Again, I’m going to advocate based on my experiences with this company not to use them. They seem to be very unreliable, and they definitely messed up my time in Zagreb due to their unpredictable changes.

I looked over my options for alternate buses, and of course I could either leave very early in the morning, or late evening and get in after midnight. I was very disappointed about the prospect of literally getting no time in Zagreb, but knew arriving so late would be a bad idea. So I reluctantly booked a new ticket for 8 in the morning and rescheduled my alarm.

So as you can see, I cannot speak to Zagreb as a city. Due to unforeseen circumstances I didn’t end up getting to do anything more than walk around a bit, eat some good food, and sleep. Maybe one day I’ll get to go back, but that’s just part of travel. You can’t plan for everything and sometimes just have to go with the flow.


Retreat to the Mountains & Lake Bled: Adventure Day 9

When doing “would you rather” questions you sometimes hear “would you rather visit the beach or the mountains?” I’ve always been torn on that question. Sure, the beach can be beautiful and amazing, but there’s something fun about escaping into the wilderness of the mountains (and to be honest as an Idaho girl I’m more used to it anyways). One of the beauties of my recent adventure was getting to see a variety of different landscapes in a short amount of time. And sure enough I made it to both the beach and the mountains.

After finishing my time in Ljubljana, I opted to head into the Julian Alps and stay a night at Lake Bled. With more time and a car I might have enjoyed getting to explore more in the area, but with limited time and relying on public transport, I opted to just hit the highlights.

If you’re like me and had never heard of Lake Bled before now, let me just mention it’s a beautiful lakeside town in the Julian Alps with one of the oldest castles in Slovenia and an island with a pilgrimage church surrounded by a crystalline lake. It sounded like the perfect place to visit while in Slovenia.

I rose and had breakfast at my hotel in Ljubljana before walking to the bus station. It was another 30 minute walk, but again the weather was good, and I figured I’d use the money I would otherwise spend on a cab on something fun elsewhere.

At the station I found my bus heading up to the lake. The bus was relatively empty, the ride only about an hour. I enjoyed the views driving before arriving in the town.

My hotel graciously let me check in on arrival around eleven AM. I had opted to stay at another bed and breakfast in the Old Parish House, located right next to the church of St. Martin. I’d splurged for a lakeside view from my room just for fun.

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After dropping my things, I decided I’d like to make sure I got out to the island first thing. I walked around the lake, enjoying some views and then headed down to an electric boat that could take me out to the island. You can rent little rowboats, usually more in summer, but this seemed efficient, warmer, and simpler (especially by myself).

The man running the boat dropped me and one other person, telling us he’d be back in an hour. I headed up the steps to the bell tower and church. I headed into the church of the Assumption of Mary first where I was able to ring the bell of wishes. It was pretty amazing, getting to tug on the big rope three times and then hear the bell ring out above me. Sadly as a solo traveler I couldn’t get a picture or video of me doing it very easily, but still a fun memory, and you can see the rope in the pictures at least.

After that I climbed the tower. The view wasn’t great because there was mesh on the windows, but, I still enjoyed getting to see the inside of the clock tower.


After that I headed to the cafe on the island. My ticket for the visit had included a freem slice of Potica, a traditional Slovenian dessert, with coffee. It was a little too dry for my taste, and not nearly sweet enough (I have a huge sweet tooth), but still fun to try.

With a little more time to kill before the boat came back, I wandered the gift shop, went to admire the views at the edge of the island, and then took some more pictures.


After that, the boat took me back to shore, and I headed up to the castle. It’s definitely a bit of a climb, but the views from there were amazing and I actually really enjoyed the castle itself too. It had an audioguide you could use on your phone, so I listened as I walked around.

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One area I really enjoyed in the castle, besides the fantastic views, was the museum. They had some fun artifacts from the area and good overview of the history.

After I finished exploring the castle, I headed back down the hill to the lakeside. I knew what I wanted to do next was walk all the way around the lake. It was a little over three miles, though I ended up having to take a quick detour when I hit construction midway around. The views were spectacular though, and well worth the walk.

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By the time I was back at my hotel, the sun was going down. I opted to head out to find food. Unfortunately, one of the first places I decided to go to was completely shut down. No indication if it was just seasonal or the restaurant had gone out of business, but either way it threw me for a loop.

I scrambled to find something else. The nearest restaurant to that one was both expensive and fancy looking. As I wasn’t dressed for it, and wasn’t sure I wanted to spend so much, I realized I’d have to search elsewhere.

One of the recommendations I’d had in my guidebook was Ostarija Peglez’n. I looked in, but not only saw pretty much no one in the restaurant, but also didn’t see a menu posted, and was therefore hesitant to just walk in.

I kept looking, but honestly wasn’t seeing much. Feeling very hungry and a little cold, I decided to just go with Ostarija Peglez’n and take a chance.

Unfortunately my waiter not only didn’t give me much time to look over the menu, but also had very unhelpful advice when I asked for recommendations, basically saying everything was good (which wasn’t the point– I just wanted to narrow down my choices). I knew I didn’t want steak, as I’d had that several days in a row, and I’m unfortunately not much of a seafood person, which were a lot of the other options.

I ordered a vegetable soup to start and then salmon for my second course, figuring it would be a healthy option and keep me away from red meat.

The soup was at least pretty good, the salmon kind of dry and not very interesting. I guess the place doesn’t do much in the way of creative cooking, just kind of traditional hearty food. Thankfully the dessert was homemade strudel with vanilla ice cream which was delicious!

After a fantastic day, I was ready to head to bed. I definitely felt like I’d made the most of my day at Lake Bled. Though I certainly wouldn’t have said no to staying another day, I was ready to explore more destinations.

Castles, Culture, and Cuisine in Ljubljana: Adventure Day 8

My second day in Ljubljana was just as amazing as the first. I woke up and went to get some breakfast. My host of the B & B provided an amazing spread, even though I was apparently the only guest. She made me some eggs, provided several types of bread and toast with homemade jam. Yogurt, coffee, and fresh vegetables. Happily full I took off to start my day.

Anyone who is familiar with my blog knows I love me a free walking tour. It’s one of my favorite ways to get oriented in a new city. I have to be getting close to about two dozen taken in my lifetime by this point.

So I joined up with the Ljubljana Free Tour in the main square of the old town. I was very happy to find a dozen other tourists there as well. Though I had enjoyed my more “private” tours earlier in the week, it was nice to have a group and feel less singled out.

We spent two hours wandering around the old town, learning more about the city, its culture, and its history.

After we finished up, I grabbed another grocery store picnic lunch and sat by the river to eat. I was so glad the weather was so perfect. My b & b host kept remarking on it, so I definitely realized it wasn’t probably the norm for Slovenia in March.

Once I was done eating, I decided to head for the castle, perched up on a hill in the middle of the old town. Though you can walk up to it, I chose to take the funicular to better enjoy the view and save a little time.

Up at the castle I had opted to get an audioguide and walked around with that. Much of the castle itself is free, which is pretty cool, but doesn’t have a lot of information posted, so it was good to have the guide. I also was able to enter the history museum, museum of puppetry, go up in the viewing tower, and see a video presentation about the history of the castle. All in all it was a pretty enjoyable experience.

Best of all, in my opinion, was the views. Thanks to the good weather, you could see the Alps from the castle and it was spectacular.


Once done at the castle, I headed back down the hill. I did a little postcard shopping and then headed back to my hotel to rest for a bit before dinner.

I had asked my tour guide for a recommendation of where to eat after the tour. She’d listed a few places, but I’d ended up walking past one of them during the day and had seen the menu. I was pleased by the options so I decided to head there.

The restaurant was called Gostlina Pri Kolovratu. The place was pretty quiet when I arrived, but of course, I realized that was probably because it was a Monday and I’d arrived pretty early.

For a drink I had a grapefruit radler made by Union, a local Ljubljana brewer and one of the biggest in the country. I started off with a cheese plate. Once again probably a little too much for just one person, but definitely delicious. Probably one of my biggest regrets of traveling alone is not being able to enjoy sharing foods. Still, the plate was very fun. Three types of cow cheese and a goat cheese on a small potato as well as some fruit and vegetables paired with it.

Then for a main course I ended up with a kranjska klobasa, a traditional Slovenian sausage similar to a kielbasa (for any who know their sausages). It came served with Matevž which is basically pureed beans and potatoes, as well as some vegetables and mustard. It was actually really delicious, and fun to try something pretty traditional rather than just looking for a creative use of local ingredients (because I’d had a LOT of steak lately).

For dessert, I ended up going with a cream cake, which was decadent and amazing. It’s apparently a local dish from Bled, which was where I was heading next, but it sounded too good to pass up. Basically it’s a thin layer of pastry with a custard cream and then a layer of whipped cream topped with another layer of pastry and some powdered sugar. I may have to figure out how to make some myself, because it really was heavenly.

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I enjoyed the walk back to my hotel. My experience in Ljubljana really was incredible, and I would recommend it to anyone already down in that area visiting Italy, Austria, or Croatia. It’s definitely a great city with lots of beautiful history, delicious food, and fun things to see and do.

Stay tuned for more Slovenian adventures as I take off for the Julian Alps.

Falling in Love with Ljubljana: Adventure Day 7

As I said in my last blog post, because I was traveling in the off season (early March) I opted to head north to Slovenia rather than remaining in Croatia for the rest of my vacation. It ended up being a pretty good choice overall.

I woke up very early to catch a bus to Ljubljana. Unfortunately the only two bus choices I could find were either very early in the morning, or very late at night, so I opted to go for the early morning option. Thankfully the manager of the hotel I was staying at was very gracious and served me breakfast before I left. And then after that I took off for the bus station, just a short walk from my hotel.

The last few buses I took during my trip were all through the company Flixbus. Unfortunately my experience them was largely negative, which I’ll elaborate in future posts, but my first ride was actually fine. We crossed over the Slovenian border, which I had completely forgotten would involve a passport check. Even though Croatia and Slovenia are both part of the EU, Slovenia is part of the Schengen Zone and Croatia is not, which means it’s more of an official border crossing than most of the ones in the EU. I felt a little nervous because apparently everyone else on the bus was either Croatian or Slovenian, meaning I was held back for my passport to be stamped while everyone else was able to walk across the border (yes with buses they have you get out, line up and show your passport, and when okay-ed walk over the border where the bus meets you on the other side).

Thankfully, only a moment later my passport was returned and I was able to join my fellow passengers.

I arrived in Ljubljana probably around 10 AM. My hotel had said I couldn’t check in that early, understandably, but was welcome to come leave my luggage. I knew I could try to figure out the bus system in town to get there, but the weather was actually really nice, and since I didn’t have any Euros yet (Croatia uses their own currency called Kuna), I opted to walk.

It was about a thirty minute walk, maybe a mile and a half (2.3 km). I enjoyed getting to see some of the city as I strolled, pulling my suitcase along behind me.

I arrived at my accommodations, a bed and breakfast called Isabella Rooms. I met the owner Manja who was very sweet and actually did allow me to check in early. I dropped my things in my room, a small single bed with a shared bathroom, not my fanciest accommodations but a good bargain and close to the city center.

The first thing I did was just head down to the old town. The weather was just incredible. Sunny, but not hot. There was a flea market going on along the river because it was Sunday, and I had fun browsing. After that, I grabbed some lunch at a grocery store (some cheese, crackers, fruit, and a drink) and settled on a bench along the river to enjoy the sun and people watch. It was lovely.

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I did quite a bit of wandering, just enjoying the sights. I found a fun free exhibit on the Roman archaeological finds from the area. I explored most of the old town, and then headed over to Tivoli Park, a large open space which was filled with people enjoying the lovely weather. There was an open-air exhibit on architecture in Ljubljana as well.


I also peeked into the Serbian Orthodox church near the park, which had beautiful interior decorations. It was very different from a lot of the Catholic cathedrals I’d seen.


Once done in that area, I was reluctant to leave the sunshine, but as almost all museums in Ljubljana are closed on Mondays, I knew if I wanted to see any I had to do it while they were still open on Sunday. So I headed off to the Slovenian Ethnographic Museum. A bit of an odd choice perhaps, but I’d seen good reviews and it sounded very different.

The museum was a mixed bag. Some of the exhibits were really interesting, but there were some parts that really didn’t have any English available. Still, I enjoyed getting to learn more about Slovenia’s culture, which is definitely unique. They also had temporary exhibits on gingerbread making, candle making, shoes, and Croatian toys. It provided a fun afternoon.

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I walked back to my bed and breakfast and had a break to rest my feet for a bit. I did some research on restaurants as well, figuring since it was a Sunday night I might want to make sure I had some options in case places were crowded.

Sure enough, when I arrived at my choice Julija (Julia), a cute little place in the old town just off the river, it was already getting crowded. One of my favorite parts of traveling alone is that it means I’m usually able to get a table even without reservations when things are busy. Thankfully, this ended up being the case.

The place was really cute and the food was delicious. I had a plate of zucchini and eggplant cooked in marinara sauce and covered in mozzarella to start. Then I had some steak with black truffles, mashed potatoes, and asparagus. And of course a glass of Slovenian red wine. Unfortunately I was too full to enjoy dessert, and the place was still very busy, so I opted to give my table to someone else rather than trying anything else.

It was an absolutely amazing day. As I walked back to my room for the night, I couldn’t help but smile. What a perfect introduction to Slovenia. Most think Ljubljana means “to love/like” and I definitely fell in love with the city. I went to bed so excited to get to wake up and have more adventures there the next day.