Date: Sunday, November 28, 1999 4:20 PMDoug McLean World Tour 1999-2000Back Home Next
Subject: Oct 30-Nov 1, 1999: Bled and Salzburg
Current Location/Date: November 28, 1999 at home in Jarrell, Texas.
Itinerary: Leaving for South America sometime this week.
October 30, 1999
Arrived in Zagreb, Croatia about 0530 off the overnight bus from Sarajevo. I had heard nice things about Zagreb, but time prevented me from spending much time here. My Eurail pass expires on Nov. 7, 1999 and between now and then I need to get to Dresden, Berlin, and end up in Frankfurt...all this meant that today, I was headed to the small town of Bled, Slovenia which was farther North towards Germany.
I had about an hour and a half to kill in Zagreb between my bus and my train to Bled...so I hiked around...why waste time??? Anyway, Zagreb did seem to be a nice town...parks, monuments, old buildings...yes, it was a city in Europe! I did have the pleasure of watching the sunrise in Zagreb...and
this morning I was rewarded with a beautiful aura of colors that heralded the coming of a new day. I took a couple of pictures and boarded my train.
The train went through the capitol of Slovenia, Ljubljana (reputed to be a nice city as well...alas...no time) and I arrived in the Leesce-Bled trainstation. I caught a bus to Bled and checked into the Bled Youth
Hostel. Bled, Slovenia is almost a fairy-tale little town. It is in the middle of the mountains...with a castle on a hill, a large mountain lake, an island with a beautiful church, and gondolas that take people on the
lake...no motorboats...ahhhhh. The scenery was amazing...and again, the hills were "on fire" with fall colors...it was spectacular.
The hostel was spectacularly empty...it was only 2 girls (one from Colorado and one from Finland) and myself. I talked with them and we ended up going to Vintgar Gorge which is a few kilometers outside Bled. The Gorge consists of a walking path that goes along and has bridges that cross and recross a
mountain stream that flows through the gorge...it was again (sounds boring at this point...but it wasn't), spectacular with the fall colors in the trees...very beautiful and very "back to nature". I really enjoyed the
We returned to the town, had some coffee/hot chocolate and pastries. Now, I need to state...the pastries in Europe are incredible...I have no idea what I had that day, but I don't think I had a bad pastry the entire time I was in Europe...these folks know how to do sweets! The girls had already been up to the castle...so I went up alone. It is situated on a hill/mountain immediately above the town and lake. It has a spectacular view and is quite picturesque. I met a group young folks from Campus Crusade for Christ out of the US. They were living and spending a year in Croatia "spreading the word". They were great folks and we enjoyed watching the sunset over the mountains.
I returned to the hostel and I met John, from England, who was working and living in Split, Croatia. He had started going to Croatia to do humanitarian work, and was finally getting paid a meager stipend for his good works.
John and I went to dinner (where I had an incredible steak...mmmmmm) and we discussed Croatia. He put a different face on their dilemas...he said that often they are stuck in the old way of thinking and are very loathe to change (or think that they can not change things)...often thinking that since that is the way things have been that they will remain that way. Now that they are able to change things, they have a population that has been trained to lack initiative. Also, during the war, the Croatians threw out
the Serbians living there...and the refugee Croats from Serbian held areas fled into Croatia...the refugees moved into the houses of the exiled Serbians...now that the war is somewhat over, the Serbians are returning and wanting their homes back. So do you allow the Croats to keep the Serb homes? Do you throw the Croats out of the homes and tell them to go back to their homes in Serbian areas? If the Croats return to their homes and find Serbians living in them...what then??? Quite a dilema...war is hell.
We then returned to the hostel and met two girls, Txaro and Edurne, from Pamplona, Spain! Now, ya'll must understand...one of the greatest times of my life was Running with the Bulls in Pamplona...I love the Spanish, and was estatic to actually meet folks from Pamplona. Needless to say, I practiced
my poor Spanish on them...much to their delight/amusement. There was also another girl, Naomi, who was from Australia (I think...might have been New Zealand...hmmmm??) who was great. We all went out to go dancing and rage in Bled, Slovenia!!!! ...well...ummmm...as you may have guessed...it is
pretty hard to RAGE in Bled, Slovenia. We ended up at a wonderful bar that had a simple sign outside, clearly stating the obvious...it read "Pub". We went in and enjoyed the ambiance for a couple of hours...talking and enjoying. I had a great night with this group...something about all of us
seemed to click and the conversation was great. Returned to the hostel...and crashed.
October 31, 1999 - Halloween!
OK...now I am no rocket scientist...but I woke up and thought that I should not spend Halloween in any town called "Bled".
So, said goodbye to the entire crew...took some great morning pictures of Bled...and hit the train...I had thought about going to Prague for Halloween night...but would have arrived there around midnight...not fun. Instead, I settled on going to Salzburg, Austria. I had heard about the YoHo Hostel there, and figured that they would have some kind of Halloween Party!
I arrived in Salzburg...found the YoHo Hostel...and confirmed my suspicions...they would be having a huge Halloween Party! (NOTE: The YoHo generally always has a party going, and does not need major holidays...but it was another good excuse to party). The YoHo is a great setup...by the time I got my room assignment, I had met tons of people in the bar and was set to party with a big group. I threw my stuff in my room and went out to see the city while there was some daylight left.
Salzburg is absolutely beautiful. Now, I am nearing the end of my trip and have seen lots of cities...but Salzburg deserves a special note. The city has stunning gardens, bridges, and a castle overlooking it all. Sunset was nice...but it was time to party...so I headed back to the YoHo!
Back at the YoHo, I met up with the same group of folks (not hard to do...they had not moved from the table where I had met them drinking at several hours earlier). Whether you know it or not, the Rugby World Cup was going on in Wales while I have been in Europe. This night was the match-up between the New Zealand All Blacks (Perrenial Rugby Powerhouses) against the French team (of croissant eaters). The winner of this game would face Australia in the World Cup Final. Anyway...in a rare quirk of fate, there was only one Kiwi in the hostel (that is a first...usually hostels are rotten with kiwis) was a girl named Fiona, who I happened to sit next to during the game. Anyway, a big group ended up watching the game. Now, a note for all of you who have never watched a Rugby game involving the New Zealand All Blacks...the most amazing part of the game is not the game...but the pre-game HAKA! As tradition, the All Blacks perform the HAKA before every game while facing the opposing team. The HAKA is a Maori (the native people of the island of New Zealand) Challenge. It is incredible and probably my favorite tradition of any sport in any country...it is awesome! These huge rugby guys start chanting in Maori and their eyes bug out, tounges wag in defiance, and their entire beings are focused on the tribal dance that is a war challenge given to strike fear in their opposition...there is nothing like it in any other sport that I have
...but the long and short of the game is this...the darned Croissant Eaters beat the All Blacks in what can only be described as a HUGE upset. The entire rugby world consists of the three powerhouses (Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa)...France is not supposed to factor into the equation. Anyway, Fiona was crushed...even the Aussies in the group were at a loss (not many people...correction...NOONE was rooting for the Croissant Eaters) after the game. But the fact remained...the French won. (NOTE:
Later the Aussies would beat the French in the World Cup Final the next week to keep the trophy in the Southern Hemisphere.) With the game behind us, we focused on the party at hand...Halloween!
Since everyone there was a backpacker who neither had a costume in the backpack nor had enough money to just go out and buy a way cool outfit, they were improvising...faces were being painted. They basically grabbed me and decided that I would be Zorro! They drew a black mask on my face, a "Z" on
my forehead, and a scar on my cheek...and after dressing in all black, I was a poor imitation of Zorro...but hey, when you are backpacking...you take what you can get...I was happy to have a sort-of costume. The music started and we all started dancing. Now, I don't drink...but, I could have sworn I was hallucinating when I looked over and saw my ex-girlfriend from California, Katrina, behind the bar at the hostel. Katrina was also backpacking through Europe and we happened to coincidentally be at the same place at the same time in the YoHo in Salzburg. It was good to see her again...we talked for a while. I was happy to hear that she was having a blast in Europe as well, and had returned to the YoHo to visit friends she had made there on a previous visit (I understand that at the time of this writing, she has somewhat defected from the USA (didn't return on her scheduled airplane ticket) and is living and working in Austria at the
YoHo...so if any of you visit the YoHo between now and mid-January, say "Hi" to Katrina for me!...Good for you Katrina!). I danced until I could take it no longer (hard to balance on tables and chairs for too long) and finally went to bed.
November 1, 1999
Woke at the YoHo in Salzburg...and wanted to see the countryside. I met Fiona/New Zealand at breakfast...she was planning a hike up an 1800 meter mountain...I asked if she wanted company, and we were off!
We walked around Salzburg for a while (killing time before catching our bus to the trailhead)...saw the statue to Mozart...and left town. We hit the trailhead hard and then started going up. It was truly a strenuous 3 hour hike (one-way)...almost all was up in a hurry. We enjoyed the views and the
fall colors (yes, still...this stuff is really impressive). Not much to say, really...hard to talk when you are hiking straight up and panting like a dog. The only topic of conversation was how the heck the Kiwis could have lost to the French...and that today was probably a national day of mourning in New Zealand due to the loss.
We enjoyed a great sense of accomplishment when we reached the top (and again when we hiked out and reached the bottom). It was a beautiful day, and the views over Salzburg and the countryside were great. We returned to the hostel...had dinner. I was pretty tired, so I called it an early night...I had to go to Dresden, Germany tomorrow and wanted to be rested.