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Slovenia

the best end possible

I got to Zagreb at about 6am, broke and freakishly hungry. Wandered around the station trying to find something to buy with less than 1 kuna LOL. Eventually I gave up and bought 2 disgusting choco banana things for breakfast. Had 20 cents left over. But the bananas were so bad that I only ate one, and even that I had to force down so I could get some sugar into me at least. Blegh. It hadn't been a good night, so I sat on the station bench, hugged my bag, and tried to sleep. I had about an hour or two before my bus out to Ljubljana.

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Ljubljana

The day dawned bright and fair. Okay, I mean it was hot as usual. I walked from the bus station all the way to my hostel, which I had trouble finding because it was inside some apartment thing. But my bunk was nice enough. I went out to catch the tour, S hadn't wanted to since they'd already walked around. Sadly it's been a while so I don't remember a whole lot about the history of Slovenia.

Ljubljana is a gorgeous city though, having an amazing mix of the old and new. Everything felt rather upbeat and cool, maybe because it's a uni town. Compared to Split, which is filled with the old and middle aged, and so has a charm of its own. But yeah, Ljub has both cobbled and bitumen roads, and has old buildings next to modern glass-and-steel kinds. Dragons, long, sleek, arched, and spiny, daydream in the sun. Eclectic statues and modern artwork adorn the many bridges.

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One thing I really liked was this museum thing that we ended at. Unfortunately I can't remember the name, but it's a art nouveau building with 'colonial' columns and arches. (I'm sure about the art nouveau, but please don't quote me on the columns) The tour guide said that they usually have free movie screenings, and wanted to show us the inside of the building, but it was closed for renovation. He was honestly really disappointed that it was closed. Since I liked the exterior so much, I can only imagine how much I missed by not getting to see the interior!

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Walked back to the city center to have lunch. Was going to try a local place, but was distracted by the international food fair at the square! Wanted to eat everything. EVERYTHING. But I had the double limitation of money and stomach. Unfortunately. I bought a cheese dumpling (there were other flavours too) and a plate of creole food. There was lots of amazing food around though, like this stew, and a meaty orange goulash. There was Chinese food too, haha, but I ain't got time fo dat. (money, actually).

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Met S and A briefly to have a chat, but then decided not to spend the day together haha since we had a completely different itinerary for the day. So we just agreed on a time and place to meet the next day. They'd decided to go get the car that evening from the airport, and spend the night in the car to save on money. Then they'd pick me up the next morning near the bus station. With that, we split up.

Walked up to the castle. Nice walk, not even too tiring. Most of the castle is free to explore, with only a few paying sections like the art gallery. Again, it's lovely old architecture that's been updated in modern times. Wouldn't I love to live there! I spent quite a while in the museum, which was interesting, but I was soooo tired that I had a bit of a headache and I couldn't concentrate. So I left :/

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Bought a durum Doener at a nearby shop and ate in the hostel haha. I also got a strawberry yoghurt! yayyy. And that night I met two Singaporeans! They were in my bunk, a guy and a girl. Pretty cool, it was nice to hear singlish again hahahahaha. Slept early that day, was so tired.

Bovec: Rafting

The next morning I woke up pretty early to get picked up by S and A, but I think I got my bearings wrong or something because I was in the wrong place. And by the time we left we were like 15 min late. And then it took longer to reach there than expected! So we were late, and the rafting people were a bit fed up haha. But oh well we made it.

And enjoyed the ride on the way. It's so beautiful! Slovenia is so mountainous too. I was so mistaken, geography fail, cos I thought it was some corner of the alps, but of course it's the Balkans!

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Despite being very late and having a few calls and texts from the rafting people, and also them having to bounce us to the equipment shed and then to the raft point, we managed to get there before the rest of the group got annoyed enough to leave us.

The rafting itself was alright, it was boring in fact! And my first time rafting too. But but but but but, some big buts here, because the view was absolutely tremendously beautiful.

Even half a year later I'm breath taken with the memory of it. That bright blue sky with warm bright sunshine, that icy fresh sharp blue green of the water, the white complementary sand and gravel. Breathtaken with the way at certain points the water would get almost pastel with chalkiness. The way the water numbs your limbs after a minute in it, and the way you feel absolutely alive once you're back in the raft with your life blood coursing through your veins. The warm pull of your muscles on the paddles, and droplets and laughter and sun on your friends' faces.

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Bovec: Trekking

After rafting, we took a few obligatory photos in our full wetsuits. On the short trip back to the shop, the trekking guides told us about this short trek up to a waterfall that we could try. You could either go a slightly easier way that didn't go to the top, but in which the waterfall looks nice, or a slightly harder way which led you to the pool near the top, but from which you couldn't see the rest of the waterfall at all. It was on the way, so they pointed it out as we passed by. It was a toss up between that and Bled for us. For me it was okay because I could still go to Bled the next day, but it was unlikely that they would be staying any longer in Slovenia.

Eventually we just decided to do it. We drove over, parked, and found the little marked trail. And then we started on what was supposed to be a half-hour walk. LIES. Or they were just a million time fitter than we were. The trail was really twisty and not very well marked; we lost it a few times and rejoined it but only by scrambling up some scary unstable turf. The terrain was mostly dirt trails winding up the steep hill, and the rest of the time it was on bare rock, literally on the hillside. S, who is really afraid of heights, had a really tough time. We were all also super tired, like exhausted because it was really steep. We wanted to give up so many times, but luckily the terrain kind of hid the top from our view, so it always felt like just a bit more.

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S wouldn't cross a really scary part that hung over a sheer drop. So we left her at a little grassy open area to catch her breath. We went on, passing some people along the way who swore it was only another 15min. We hung on to that so hard, cos we'd already been hiking for an hour. When we finally got there, we were a bit disappointed. It was a pool indeed, but the bottom didn't look safe to step into. There were also spiderwebs all around which was gross. And when we tried to go in, it was absolutely freezing. At least 10 or 15 degrees C colder than the river water. He climbed in but got out 20s later because he froze up. Not very safe. I stuck my legs in long enough for a photo, and by then I could feel the pain of the cold.

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We climbed back down, which was scarier, naturally, and he went to comfort her because she was still feeling shaky. Got back on level ground, clambered around the river bed of the beautifully blue water. Photos, had some bananas and refilled our bottles from the river.

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We thought we had enough time to return the car to the airport at 5pm, so we stopped along the way at a random restaurant. As it turns out, it was tripadvisor-certified haha. We ordered, but before the drinks could come, we realised we didn't have enough time so we ran out and drove like mad to the airport. Got there on time, starving, and had a lame sandwich from the airport place.

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Took the bus back to Ljubljana, had an Indian dinner (because they're vegetarian) which was really good. Then I said goodbye to this good friend and roommate of mine, and took my leave. Will I ever see her again?

Bled

I woke up the next day very sad. My last full day in Europe! But at least I would end it doing something cooler than most people would do. I caught a bus to Bled, and on the way made friends with a Slovenian girl. That was really cool. I was almost hoping to spend the day with her, but she was going to spend the day with her friends so okay la, I'll have my last day alone )':

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I took a walk around the beautiful lake, rationing my time since I had the whole day. And anything worth doing here besides the lake was too far away.

Went up to the castle, explored as much of it as I could without actually going inside and paying. So I went around it on small trails. Took some nice photos.

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Then I stripped off my tank top, and stuffed it into the huge army ziplock I'd brought from SG specifically for this purpose. I checked that everything was waterproofed, and then I slung my stringbag across both shoulders, and began my swim to the island. The first 10min were excruciating. I was exhausted because I was trying to keep the bag 'secure' on my back. Later I realised I could just hook one shoulder-string in one arm and then swim that way, with the bag bobbing in the water behind me.

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Got up on the deck, gasping. Lay on that hot wood for a while to dry off. Put on a long-sleeved shirt, and wanted to go up the bell tower. Heard you could ring the bell for luck. But found out I had to pay and was like ahhhh whatever. Bought more hazelnut ice cream and enjoyed that summer sunshine. I felt like I was in paradise. A slightly lonely paradise, but a paradise nonetheless.

I swam back, this time much more comfortably. But as I got off the deck, I cut myself on some wood splinter. I had no choice so I swam back with it bleeding and flapping open. Which is probably why it got a little infected lol. Oh well, I bear the scar of a good time. A reminder of my time on exchange haha.

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Looked for somewhere to have lunch. Decided on this expensive looking restaurant. Got myself some amazing fish with a great live band playing in the background. Chilled. Got wifi. Told the guy who told me about swimming on the lake that I'd just done it, and asked about the famous cake.

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Walked over to get cake and lemonade. Went to the dock and lay on the wood for a few hours, thinking, feeling sad, watching the sunset.

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Caught my bus back to Ljubljana, and would you know it, the same Slovenian girl is on the same bus! What a coincidence! Talked more until she got off at her hometown of Kranj. It was a good conversation, but I can't remember a thing because it's been more than half a year. Dropped off back at Ljub. Tried to eat at a nice place I saw while walking around a few days before, but it was closed. So I had another lame dinner of a pizza or something. Good pizza though.

That night I packed with a heavy heart. The dream was going to end. Real life was about to start again. I was going to have to face things I'd been trying to avoid for a while. No more travelling like mad. Sigh.

The Journey Home

That morning I took the bus to the airport, and then the flight to Frankfurt. I got to Frankfurt at about 1, and took direct bus to Darmstadt HBF. I'd arranged to meet E about an hour after that, so while waiting, I went to buy a jar of Ovomaltine for a good friend of mine. He complained that it was really expensive in SG, so I told him I'd buy him a cheap one from Germany haha.

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"We love dreamers"

At the appointed time, I went down to the bus stop to meet E. And there she was! I went with her to her place to collect my crazy heavy luggage. She was such a dear, she helped me to pull it along because I had my heavy backpack as well. And then we had an early dinner at an Italian place she recommended. It was good talking with her again, suddenly now I miss her! I wonder how she's doing.

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I got on the bus back to Frankfurt Airport feeling even sadder. Noooo why am I leavinggggg. At the airport I frantically repacked my luggage so that I could put the Ovomaltine in it. Haha this weird scene is something that so many exchangers have done! And my luggage is so packed that I stereotypically had to sit on it. I paid 100 eur for the extra weight too. Oh well. That done, I felt much easier. No need to lug that fear-inducing weight around.

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At the gate I just moped around. On the plane of course I had a new goal, which is to watch as many movies as possible haha. I think I managed almost 4.

I landed in SG on 5 Aug 4pm. I won't be forgetting that in a long time. While my family waited for me at the arrival gates, I went alcohol shopping at duty free haha. And then I was in their arms again, and it didn't feel so bad to be back.

Posted by seaskimmer 08:12 Archived in Slovenia Tagged waterfalls mountains friend church trek river island beautiful family castle hike rafting frankfurt slovenia bled nicepeople bovec Comments (0)

Adventure Time

We woke early on Sunday morning and set off on our grand journey. So 2 hour train to Zurich (spent half an hour there LOL just to say we'd been there) then 1.5h train to Locarno, 30min bus to Verzasca Dam (Diga Verzasca). All the way we kept fidgeting and worrying, because… we were going to the dam to bungee jump!!!!!!!!!!

Free Fall

We're all afraid of heights but this is something we all had to do. The 220m jump from the top of the dam was 'done' by 007 in Goldeneye. It's one of the highest bungee jumps in the world, probably 2nd or 3rd. How awesome is that?? 195CHF though, not cheap. But it was going to be SO MUCH FUN and I had to do it at least once in my life. Been on my list for a long long time.

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My strategy for coping was to not think about until I got there, and then when on the platform to also not think and Just Jump. Surprisingly, it worked. Not like I really tried hard not to think about the dizzying drop, it just happened so yay. I was accidentally the first to jump because somehow the staff just asked me to go over first haha. They stood me on the platform, counted from three, and I leaned forward and began to fall.

The moment my feet left solid ground and I was left staring into 220m of thin, non-solid air, I freaked out and seriously doubted my decision-making. I screamed as my innards rose and I hurtled towards my doom.

A mere 3s and half the drop later, though, it was okay already! I think I'd reached terminal velocity, so no acceleration and it was just free fall and I could appreciate the fact that I was bungee jumping for real. I reached the end of the rope and had about 4 bounces before I heard the staff yelling at me to pull the rope thing (I'd forgotten, in my attempt to keep my head from bursting with blood -- major rush of blood to the head). And then I just waited for the other rope to be lowered, so I could clip in and be towed back up.

A was next. They let me stand on the platform to watch! My knees were still trembling with adrenaline the whole time A hesitated on the platform haha. A is really really afraid of heights, so props to her for jumping! S too!

We all agreed that not thinking was the best thing to do, and that the first part was fun and scary but otherwise a little anticlimatic. Oh well haha. I would like to do it again next time! Maybe somewhere a little bit more natural. Eg. Australia in the summer with a water dip? Instead of in front of a huge dam haha.

When it was over we hung around ecstatically, watching others jump and taking more photos. We finally left at 4 plus, and realised we'd missed the bus down by 15min. Some fellow jumpers that we'd talked to offered us a ride down to the town, and we accepted gratefully.

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Wild West Wind

Train to Bellinzona, visited 2 of the 3 medieval castles. The first (lowest) was nice, we didn't stay that long. We hiked up about 15min to the next, and we spent probably one or two hours there on the grassy hill in the sun. The wind there was crazy, strong enough to blow our bags off the table, and to supply a continuous stream of ammo (ie. Leaves, etc). It actually hurt (a little) when the leaves hit the back of my bare neck! Sat and talked for quite a while, took photos. Then I rolled down the hill, convinced them it was fun, and then rolled down again with them hahahahaha. While I was left unscathed, A's felt-ish coat collected a bunch of dead grass and leaves, and S got grass stains on her jacket elbows.

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Had a good (expensive) dinner in Bellinzona.

2 pastas,
1 pizza,
a pitcher of white wine (Critone),
1 small portion of caramel panna cotta,
a basket of free bread.

Yumz. 31 francs per person! Spent so much because we realised we had a lot francs left and we didn’t really want to bring so much back.

Felt really good about ourselves, decided it had been a brilliant day.

Mooching Around
And then we got to the train station and realised with a shock that the last train to Bern left at 936, or 15 min ago. Sian. So we tried to get to Lugano airport, hoping we could spend the night there. Train to Lugano, then a bus to another smaller train station, then train. But at the end terminal of that second train we asked the conductors and found out we'd missed the airport stop, but also that the airport wasn't 24h. So from that stop we were at (Porte Tresa) we went back exactly the same way.

By the time we got back to Lugano, the waiting room was locked! We were very sad, and ended up huddled close on a stone bench, trying to sleep on each other. Then a bunch of night shift construction workers came over and I think they might have told the station master about us, because he came over and said we could stay in the waiting room! I thought he'd gone home already. So, blessed us got to spend the night in a warm room with a bench each to ourselves.

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Got up at 5am for the first train to Zurich, then to Berne. Stopped by the Coop for chocolates (gifts) and lunch. Had a shower, lunch, used the wifi. Back out for the 1pm train to Luzern.

The Hills are Alive

From Luzern we took a ferry to Viznau, and a small train up the steep Mount Rigi. Seriously, Switzerland is absolutely beautiful. Lakes and mountains at every turn. Got off at elevation 1750m! It was so cold up there, there was still snow on the ground. We hopped around like spastic bunnies, taking selfies of the breathtaking scenery while keeping hands in pockets as much as possible, then rushed 5min later back onto the same train. Got off halfway at Kaltbad. While waiting for the cable car back down, we recorded G's birthday video (since none of us will be in SG lol oops).

Ran for the ferry, missed it by 5min. Relaxed instead at a café. Had toast, fries, bread, goulash, an Erdinger and some sausages. Got onto the ferry, spent the entire hour or so outside on the front deck, singing random songs and trying not to freeze.

Despite it being pretty late already and with threatening clouds, we went to Thun by train and walked to the lake. Famous Thuner See, it was really big. It was indeed nice, but at 9pm and with dark clouds there was only so much enjoyment to be derived. We climbed some pillars though, that was fun.

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Back to Berne, we showered and I packed. Couldn't really sleep that night, but did manage to wake up at 4.45am. Extremely scared of missing my flight, in the end I was early for the 5.42 bus, early for the 6.04 train, early for my 9.00 flight! Yay! Used up more of my CHF on hamburger sweets and ricola haha. (Used the ricola to stay awake in my 12.30pm class later that day)

Der Schweiz

I think I spoke more German there than in Germany itself lol. They speak a bit less English than the Germans, so at least I can say I was helpful in keeping us from being completely helpless.

Switzerland is amazing, I love having the mountains always in a ring around me! I felt like I was on top of the world. I think next time I want to go back in summer, then grab a car and hike all around. Also go canyoning, white water rafting, etc. And since I'm assuming greater wealth, bungee jump again too :)

A note: getting stuck without a place to sleep is so bad. But it was much better because it was with old friends! Can't imagine having to do that with people I'd just met.

Posted by seaskimmer 03:08 Archived in Switzerland Tagged snow train beautiful switzerland hitchhike Comments (1)

Starstruck in Der Schweiz

Woke up at the unearthly hour of 4 am to catch my 650am flight to Geneva. After not being able to fall asleep the night before, I was running on 3h sleep (for me, a disaster) so I slept the entire 1.5h flight. Met S, decided to take the 0906 train because we weren't sure when A would get here.

On the train, very very excited like I've got that meme face on, let me see if I can find it...

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Yes haha so I feel like I'm in a blond land of milk and honey. I mean, Germany is great, or at least the little I've seen of it, but at first glance der Schweiz already blows my mind! Look at the mountains, the sky, the lake/river; I feel like I'm in paradise! I could yodel around the mountains and drink goat's milk everyday and live in a hayloft right about now. Also, I know that this is a very strange response, but I feel like dashing through the countryside like The Flash, screaming and with my arms up in the air. (then again it's properly spring and it's also a really nice day right now. Rain is forecast for tmr)

Ireland was a wonder to me. But Ireland was a taunting teasing beauty, and gave me restless curiosity. On the other hand, Switzerland is, as I said, refreshing joyful beauty!

This is also probably my most expensive trip here, because the flight prices rose so much in one week, I almost cried seriously, so don't ask me how much the ticket was okay? Practically speaking it also wasn't very worth it cos I'm only here for 3.5 days which is ridiculous for the amount of money I'm paying. And there's so much if Switzerland I want to see, so much I'm missing. I mean, S spent a total of like 3 months here. My 3 days is nothing. But, but, two things make it totally worth it!

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The first: I met S at Geneva airport, then rushed off first to Grindelwald, while S waited for A. Train and bus from 9am to 12.30pm, I rushed over to the Sportzentrum. I was so so so so excited!!!!!!!!!!!! Please see meme faces as above. Went down, wanted to faint because of all the pro climbers walking around in such close proximity. Took photos with some, watched the comp (the guys were just finishing qualifiers). A and S got there and I made them take photos for me with more climbers. Seriously I think I was almost a little creepy. Creepy Asian photo-taking stalker girl. Oh well. They really made my day, taking photos with me! Got pretty much everyone I wanted, except Jakob Schubert who has been focusing on lead I think.

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Jan Hojer and Juliane Wurm, probably two of my most favourite climbers. Maybe cos they're German lol.

I left about halfway through the women's qualifiers because I'd accomplished my goal (meeting them plus watching a bit) and we went to enjoy Grindelwald. Walked up a hill for some really beautiful views. Then made our way to our couchsurfer host's place in Bern. Really nice guy, had a good talk over homemade Flammenkuchen!

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Shall leave you with this poem. Although Switzerland isn't filled with daffodils, the sentiments mirror my own, especially the last stanza. Enjoy!

The Daffodils
William Wordsworth, 1770 - 1850

I wandered lonely as a cloud
   That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
   A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
   And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
   Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
   Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A Poet could not but be gay,
   In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
   In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
   Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Posted by seaskimmer 02:30 Archived in Switzerland Tagged train beautiful climb switzerland Comments (0)

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