Monday, 9 May 2011

♫ Down the dark, dark stairs there was a dark, dark cellar and in the dark, dark cellar some skeletons lived... ♪

The skeleton outside Pr'skelet, inviting us in...

This weekend, I went to a country I'd never visited before - Slovenia - and went to its capital city Ljubljana! It was all pretty unorganised (coz I was the one kinda doing the organising) but I had a great time even though there were some hiccups along the way.

I hadn't booked a hostel or anything and was planning to just turn up at the main Alibi hostel, which was near the big river, but 5 mins before I was about to leave the house, I thought I better check whether they had rooms and found out: NO THEY DID NOT! Luckily there are around 1000 hostels in Ljubljana (well, there's certainly a lot of hostels!) so I decided there had to be a bed in one of them!

On the way there, I arranged to meet Melissa at Schwarzach and after a bit of panicking as she'd missed her bus, we realised the train she was on was the train we needed and carried on towards Villach and Ljubljana. When we had to move carriage because only half of the train was going to Ljubljana, I noticed Ali was sat right behind us asleep! :O What a shock! She said she was meeting a uni friend but they were going to Ljubljana too so we all joined together. Her uni friend Abbey joined a stop or two later.

Ali suggested we stay at the Hostel Celica , a converted former prison, which is where her and Abbey were staying. They had only one room left when we got there but it was a CELL!!! Me and Melissa were so amazed/freaked out by the fact it looked like a real cell, with bars on the windows and old furniture and books. It was amazing!

Clearly distressed about being in the cell...:

After revelling in the amazing cell, we went out to a traditional Slovenia restaurant, the Gostilna Sestica, not too far from our hostel.

It was really nice and they had live traditional dancers and singers so we all felt like we were part of something cultural! I had goulash and baked polenta but the meat in the goulash was a bit too chewy for my liking although I kinda liked polenta! Feeling stuffed and a little tired after a long day travelling, we went back to the hostel where they had a cocktail party and 20% off cocktails. AWESOME! I had one called a juicy fruit which was both juicy and fruity!

The next day, me and Mel decided we'd go to Bled which had been recommended in the guide book as a really picturesque lake-town where you could hire boats and visit the island.

We bought a train ticket from the station, only to find the train had been cancelled and we needed to get a bus instead. When we asked the lady at the desk which bus we needed, she said we'd have to ask the people at the bus station. So we trekked across to the bus station (perhaps 'trekked' is a little strong as the bus station was about 5 strides away) and asked the lady in there where to get the bus from. She said bay 7 so we waited patiently there for the 11.27 bus.... At 25 past, the bus arrived and we started to get on but the driver waved us away and indicated to come back in 10 mins. So we watied. And waited... and at 11.55 he started letting people on! When we eventually got to him, he told us our train tickets weren't valid on the bus! :O What was going on?! Two people had told us this was the bus to Bled and no-one had said train tickets weren't allowed on this bus! As the driver couldn't speak much English (and our Slovenian was a little rusty/non-existent) a passenger translated that we had to go buy a bus ticket and we could maybe get a refund on the train ticket. So we rushed to get a bus ticket and finally, were accepted on the bus and left LJ (I have now given up writing 'Ljubljana'! :P) for Bled!

Bled is probably the prettiest place I've ever been to. I guess the sunshine and the good weather made it extra nice, but I think it would even look amazing in rain! By the time we got there, we were pretty hungry and had a walk round the lakeside, trying to find a cheap-ish restaurant or cafe to eat in. We chose an average/high priced one (coz we were starving by this point and there seemed to be no cheaper ones further on) where I had a Rafaello cake. Was quite tasty but a lot moister than I imagined and not as chocolate-y!

We decided we'd get the train back to LJ as we'd already bought the ticket and didn't fancy paying another 7 euros on a bus ticket back. However there were only two trains back to LJ at suitable times so straight after eating, we had to get the bus to the train station or risk missing the last train! We arrived at Lesce Bled train station a bit early so wandered around and had a coke in the cafe. I noticed a train arriving and we thought it must be our train so we got up, left money for the drinks and started walking over to the other track. As we paused to think whether this was our train, it pulled away! :O It had only stayed in the station for about a minute at the most! OUTRAGED! We stood looking bemused and amazed at what had just happened! So the choice now was get a bus in 30 mins or wait 2 hours for the next train. We got the bus.

So after a very eventful day trip to Bled, we met up with Ali and Abbey again at a pizza place on the riverbank, where 130 pizzas were listed in the menu!

I had a ham and mushroom 'classic' sized pizza but didn't realise quite how big it would be! The menu had said 40cm which I thought was pretty big but thought pizza are usually smaller than claimed in the menu! How wrong I was! It was HIIIIUUUUGE! It was probably one of the nicest pizzas I've ever eaten, but there was no way I could finish it and had to give up 2/3 of the way through it!

Me and Mel then went to the castle, which Ali and Abbey recommended and had visited earlier in the day. The views from the top of the tower were amazing

and we had a look round the Slovenian museum there, which was a strange contrast as the displays were all computer-oriented and interactive but housed in the old stone castle building. Really interesting stuff though! I learnt modern day Slovenia was only created in 1990! :)

We headed back down in the cable car/lift thing and met up with Ali and Abbey again who had stumbled across a free concert! An orchestra were playing Vivaldi songs (not that I had any idea what the songs were! So uncultured! lol) by the triple bridge at the 'Preseren' square. The main violinist guy was really good and it was nice to feel sophisticated listening to classical music.

Best part of the trip: THE SKELETON BAR!!!! This bar is AMAZING! There's skeletons all over the place along with creepy paintings of old people whose eyes 'move'.

e.g. an old Mona Lisa

WICKED! And it played pretty good music and had 2-4-1 cocktails (they called it 'buy one get two' which doesn't have much of a ring to it...). So after having two cocktails in here we were again pretty shattered after a long day in the hot sun and called it a night.

Me and Mel had to change rooms when we got back, as we'd only managed to stay in the cell for one night. They put us in a 7 bed room. Here I virtually had to sleep in a double bed with a random man. :S WELL DODGY! The bed I got was right in the corner, under the low roof and a large beam and I had to climb over another person's bed. There was no way of getting out without disturbing the person next to me. Luckily, he came in the room shortly after us, spoke English and got up the same time as we did so there were thankfully no problems. Although I did bang my leg a few time in the night on the low beam running across the bed because I was so far to one side!

The next day, we got up early, packed our things, stripped the beds, checked out and headed for the train station and this time, managed to get the replacement bus for the dodgy train. All in all, it was an adventurous weekend, full of lots of travel and creepy things but amazing all the same! Definitely go back soon! :D

Thursday, 5 May 2011

♫ Pleasure At The Fairground On The Way! ♪

This weekend, I went to Vienna to celebrate Melissa's birthday. I only went for one night, but it was AMAZING!

The day started out brightly in Saalfelden

but got greyer and greyer as I went to Vienna. I arrived at Westbahnhof 4 hours 45 minutes later and went to check in at the Wombats Base Hostel. Stupidly, I had forgotten to find out where it was in Vienna :S but luckily the info desk at the train station had a map and it wasn't actually far away.

After checking in, I decided I better find out where the birthday girl Melissa, and the others, Mallory, Ruth and Mat, were! I'd never met Ruth or Mat before and hadn't spoken to Mal but they all made me feel welcome and it was really nice hanging out with them! It took me a while to find them though... They told me to meet them at Karlsplatz and the station is LITERALLY a maze! There were around 8 different exits, all interlinked underground so I could not find where Mel and the gang were. I came up at the Opera house at one point:

But they weren't there and in the end, I decided to meet them on the platform (which at least I managed to do)!
As everyone was hungry, we went to the oldest restaurant in Vienna (something they'd learnt on a carriage trip earlier) called Gösser Bierklinik.

It was a really nice place and I had the biggest schnitzel ever! So big, the side of potato salad had to to on a separate plate!


After food, we had a slight walk around before heading to Prater, a park with a large funfair. I went on 3 rides - the log flume, big wheel (pictured at top) and the 'chairoplane'.

The view from the big wheel:

After meeting up with a few of Ruth's friends we decided to return to the hostel and get ready for the night out.
Everyone at the fair

Playing drinking games at the hostel bar:

We went to the Titanic club which was pretty good (by European club standards) coz it had two rooms - one playing extremely clubby remixes of recent songs and one playing more R&B/rap songs - so we went between them a few times, but still in comparison to a Brit club it wasn't THAT good! But had a really good night and we all went home the next day, playing the fun 'Who Am I?' game on the train which created a lot of giggles! GREAT WEEKEND!