Slovenia

We had a long weekend for Easter so we decided to check out Slovenia.  I can see why everybody raves about it.  It’s very clean, the people are friendly, and almost everybody speaks perfect English!

Ljubljana was our first stop — and this time  didn’t get lost or drive through a pedestrian zone!  Ljubljana is charismatic and picturesque.

The Franciscan Church was beautiful inside although we busted in on an Easter service.  Whoops! I would have enjoyed watching a little, but definitely not with the kids!

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Franciscan Church of the Annunciation

I’m always a sucker for accordion street performers. He looks delighted to be there! Haha!

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We stayed at the Union Hotel which was especially nice and with Preseren Square a few steps away, the location couldn’t have been better!

Benny and Clara loved the Dragons everywhere.

Next stop was the Ljubljana Castle.  We hiked to the top of the castle towering over the city. Why we were hiking when they provided a functioning funicular was beyond me.  I wasn’t prepared for it.   I was wearing flimsy ballet flats and carried Clara the entire time! It was pretty much straight up the mountain. Benny was a trooper.

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Reaching the top made for some fantastic shots of the city.

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We had fun wandering around the grounds and looking inside the castle.  The kids loved spying for bad guys.

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After the climb back down to town we were ready for an aperitivo!

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Next stop… Lake Bled! It was about a 45 minute drive from Ljubljana.

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When we arrived we took the boat ride out to the island. The kids love any boat ride and the views are breathtaking!

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We were greeted with this staircase upon our arrival to the island.

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After the trek up, we visited the Church of the Assumption (the only place to visit on the island).  The top brought gorgeous views of the mountains, a perfect place for an appetitive, and open grassy area perfect for rough housing!

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This looks a little daunting… but there is only one way down.

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And as always…there was a lot of crying and a lot of whining!

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So long Lake Bled. We’ll be back this summer!  There is so much more here than we had time for — including sampling the famous Bled cream cake.  I won’t rest until I’ve sampled it! We’re moving on to the ski town of Kranjska Gora.

Kranjska Gora was a charming little sleepy town in the Julian Alps.

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The kids and I loved these little Easter bunnies!

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The kids enjoyed digging in what was left of the snow.

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We stayed in a small, family-run motel called Hotel Kotnik.  I think only one man was in charge of the motel and the restaurant! He stayed busy!!  They had these little wooden benched carved outside of their door.

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And for some reason, the kids decided to put their shoes away (this is definitely a first)!

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We tried this awesome dessert.  I didn’t catch the name of it, but it was sort of like a warm cream puff served with ice cream.  One between the four of us did NOT cut it.

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We spent the next day skiing.  Benjamin had his first lesson.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t much snow at the resort, but the hill was perfect for Benny.

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He was so excited to learn, but things went downhill fast when Derek tried to be his instructor.  I was fairly certain it could sour him on skiing forever.  He seemed to do much better with the actually instructor.

This is what I did while everyone was skiing… I was possibly the only one enjoying myself.

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I think Derek managed to get a few good runs in despite the fact the snow was minimal and the hill wasn’t the most exciting.  As for Benjamin … only time will tell if he’ll ever recover from his traumatic first lesson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aquileia

The day after Christmas we took a quick jaunt to Aquileia. Also being an Italian holiday, we were lucky it was open (apparently Christmas is a three day event).

Founded in 181 BC, Aquileia was one of the largest and wealthiest cities in the Roman Empire.  It is also believed to be the last Roman city to remain unexcavated.

There was a nice nature walk from the Roman ruins leading up to the town center.

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Benny was so intrigued with this tree and believes candy lives behind the door. 

We visited the Basilica di Aquileia.  The basilica was originally built in 313 AD and rebuilt four different times.  Today it is Romanesque-Gothic style and has the most amazing 4th century mosaic floor.  They had elevated glass walkways around the perimeter.  I didn’t get any pictures inside, so I got these from basilicaaquileia.it.

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These mosaics had been covered up by tile and were uncovered around 1909.  I can’t imagine hiding this beautiful floor with boring tile!

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Under the bell tower is the crypt of excavations.  They had another elevated walkway to view the excavations and additional mosaics.  Benny loved the “secret pathways”.

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photo from basilicadiaquileia.it

After viewing the basilica, we had plenty of time to monkey around the gardens.

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The pyramids are urns corresponding to the life and burial of an old inhabitant of Aquileia. 

We had lunch.  Benny was THRILLED to be served water in a wine goblet.

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Trying to beat the fog rolling in. 

Andreis: Christmas Trees and Carvings

We visited a tiny village in the Dolomites known for it’s Christmas tree displays called Andreis.  Unknowingly, we took a  backroad to get there and with Derek not feeling well, the twists and turns were very unkind. The one lane Alpine roads are no joke.  It took us over an hour to get there and it turned out to be about 10 minutes behind Maniago!

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A playground is always a highlight!

The streets were filled with wooden carvings.

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I loved these wooden candles in planters all over the village!

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More trees…

I thought this display was adorable!

We stopped for lunch at the only small restaurant in the village.  They had the most delicious ham and cheese strudel which I believe both Derek and I have been dreaming about ever since.  We must return soon!

Beautiful village with stunning views!

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Please don’t fall through!!!

I love the look of these trees for some reason.

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Presepi in Poffabro

Poffabro is a village of  about 180 people.  Every single window had a unique handcrafted nativity scene. I believe the theme was crib between the cribs. I’m not quite sure what that means, but I wish I had known that before we went and I would’ve looked at them closer.

Our town Maniago was offering a free shuttle bus to village (about 10 minutes away) so we hopped on to check it out.

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Benny loved the bus!

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The kids loved looking at the “little villages” as Benny would say.  Some were quite large and intricate and others were tiny.

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I thought this was interesting.  I wondered why they were all buried…

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Vin Brule is always a good idea!

And of course, every town in Italy has a beautiful church.

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Bolzano Christmas Market

We went to Bolzano for Thanksgiving.  It didn’t feel like Thanksgiving, but we were happy to get out of temporary housing for a few days and lucky for me…the Christmas market opened!!!

We set our with our fancy new GPS which took us straight up and over the San Pellegrino pass (there is a much easier route).  It was beautiful, but all I could focus on were plumetting temperatures, the rapidly setting sun, and roads beginning to ice over.  I thought it was never going to end.  I somehow thought tightly gripping the door handle and pushing my feet into the floor would stop the car from sliding off the cliff.

The drive turned out to be only half the battle.  Finding the hotel park was next.  The GPS took us straight into the Christmas market in the Piazza Walther! Derek had to reverse a very narrow road crawling with pedestrians.  The best part…? Nobody looked at him like he was crazy!

Benny loved the hotel. They had cookies and fruit waiting for us and he especially loved climbing the ladder to peek out the window.

Bolzano is a charming city in the Dolomites and is said to have the largest and most traditional market in all of Italy. This region was a part of Austria until World War I, and according to Rick Steves, many locals would still prefer to be Austrian and speak German as their first language.  The city also has a German name (Bozen) and all of the signs are printed in German and Italian.

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I loved the decorations around town!

We strolled around the streets a while.  Carrying Clara gets quite painful.

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We visited Bolzano’s archaeology museum to see Ötzi the Iceman. He was discovered (frozen in a glacier) by a German couple while hiking and is over 5,000 years old.  It would’ve been interesting, but Clara was having an epic meltdown so we didn’t spend a whole lot of time there.

After lunch we were all feeling better and took a cable car to Oberbozen – a tiny village high in the Dolomites.

We strolled around the village for a while enjoying the views, some coffee, and garden decorations.

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I actually made it in  a picture!  The kids were doing silly faces.

The kids were exhausted after the cable car and needed to rest.  Derek was nice and watched them at the hotel while I enjoyed the Christmas market!

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Chestnuts roasting on an open fire

The next day we set out to find one of the castles in the area.  There are many, but only one was open for the season.  We did a long hike up a promenade that paralleled the river. It was quite lovely, but hard to enjoy while carrying Clara.  We made some wrong turns and finally found the castle!  20151128-DSC00228

When we got up to the doors everything was locked.  It turns out we had found the wrong castle! The kids were quite disappointed.  They were so excited to go in a real castle.

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After some lunch and a rest, we enjoyed the Christmas market.  Everything was so festive with bands, carolers, and lots of gluwein!!!

We enjoyed a carriage ride.  Benny only made it half way.

The kids loved the carousel and train!

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They had a big snow hill and we thought the kids would like to sled, but it was big ice pile and everyone was falling.  Derek was knocking kids down, Benny was whining, and Clara was crying out: “I fa down”!  The snow hill was a bad idea.

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It was a great trip! I hope we can make it back in the summer to see more castles and maybe do some hiking around the Dolomites.

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What a difference quiet time can make!
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Yum! Bavarian doughnuts

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