Monday, September 22, 2008

There is LOVE in SLOVEnia, and Croatia is for lovers, too.

So this weekend was our first weekend to really travel abroad, and we had a great time. There were a few of us girls that were desperate to get to a beach after the sudden turn to cold weather here in Salzburg. We originally wanted to go to Greece, but discovered that it would have been an 18 hour train ride ONE WAY to get to the northernmost metropolis of Greece, which isn't anywhere near a beach. So Croatia it was, and the closest coastal city was Rijeka. The reviews we read online said that while Rijeka is new to tourism, it is still a great place to go, especially if you want to spend time on the beach. The aerial shots on the websites looked incredible, the hostel we booked sounded close, we packed our bathing suits- we were so pumped!
We left Wednesday night for our first stop in Bled, Slovenia, because we couldn't get straight to Rijeka. Bled was cold and quiet and not quite what we expected, but we were still upbeat about the days ahead. Friday morning we left for Ljubjana, Slovenia and spent a few hours there in between trains, and I got some great photos of their open market. Friday afternoon, we took the train to Rijeka, and when we finally saw the coast, we were so excited! We made it to our hostel (eventually) and had dinner and made it an early bedtime since we were tired. Saturday, we got up early, donned our bathing suits, and headed for the beach. The receptionist at our hostel explained that the best beaches were a town/busride away in Opatija, so we hopped the suggested bus, got off when we thought we were close enough to the right beach and headed down to the cement shoreline. We walked for hours, realizing with each concrete step that the entire shoreline was CEMENT. There was no sand to be sat on anywhere. Those incredible arial shots we saw on the websites? They were distant enough that the sunlight made them LOOK like sand, but they were all rock and cement every step of the way.(I still got some great shots, though, as you can see.)
Lesson learned. Beware, beware the tourist trap, even in Europe. And above all, remember that no matter where you go, the most important thing is to enjoy the people you are with. Because even if your feet hurt from miles of hard cement, even if you don't know a lick of the local language, even if the beautiful 'old' castle you saw atop the hill turns out to be entirely rebuilt within the last century, you and your friends can still giggle at all the hot European waiters. You can still lay in your hoodies and jeans on the cement and wait for the sun to burst between clouds. You can still laugh at the old geezer wearing a speedo in 55 degree weather. You can still enjoy the hot cocoa that's more like a mug of chocolate pudding. And then you can make awesome plans to go to Rome and Venice for the following weekend.