Train Ride to Split

These are views from my 6 hour journey from Zagreb in the north to Split in the south along the Dalmatian coast. There was a service change in the middle where we had to take a bus for about 3 of the train stops. The landscape changed as the train (or bus) wove through the forest, then snaking around, under, and over the mountains into the valleys (and back to mountains).

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Harry Potter Nerding

One of my last hurrahs in the USA was visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando with my best friend and fellow Potter nerd! I can’t say I loved Orlando, itself however I will give it the benefit of the doubt as I was only exposed to the commercialist theme park section of town. It was also Halloweekend and the roads seemed to have a lot of drunk drivers being erratic.

I travel-hacked my way into this trip via flying on miles and using hotel credits, and am so glad I was able to make it.

Although a complete tourist trap, I willingly throw my cash at it. Normally, I find theme parks to be tacky in their overt commercialism, but the attention to detail and beautiful set design made it worth it. There was attention to detail everywhere, and we got to be super silly. We went during low season yet it was still crowded by late afternoon. I cannot even imagine what it is like during peak months.

Overall it was a fun filled weekend of best friend time, night cheese, and gleeful nerding out. Click thumbnails for larger.

We also had some fun in Jurassic Park land. Rawr!

Day Trip to Slovenia – Postojna Cave

After wandering around Ljubljana, it was time for the main attraction – the Postojna Cave! From the photos I had seen, it looked otherworldly and I cannot resist seeing surreal natural wonders. The area they have open for tourism is only a tiny bit of the cave. I got to learn that the cave has been a tourist attraction since the 19th century, when Archduke Franz Ferdinand paid a visit and decided to make it one.

Entrance to the cave!

They have you take a train down the cave, to the main walking portion! It was like a theme park ride, except real.

Once you get off the train, you walk through a guided pathway for about an hour. At the end is the gift shop and then a train ride back to the surface. The photos fail to truly capture the grand scale of this place. You really just have to experience it if you find yourself in central Europe. However, I still wanted to get photos and catch some of the details. One thing I appreciated was that they really make an effort on conservationism of the cave – you are only allowed to go on one of the scheduled daily tours so that they can keep the lights out in the cave the rest of the time and protect the wildlife inside.

I spent the entire time in pure awe and wonder, and definitely recommend it.

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(Foggy) Day Trip to Slovenia – Ljubljana

While researching my Croatia trip, I noticed its proximity to Ljubljana on the map. It’s a city I’ve been wanting to day-trip to, as I read somewhere that it’s an up-and-coming location for creatives. It also just looked cute. Somewhere down the Google rabbit hole, I came across some information about Postojna Cave and became obsessed. The photos looked amazing and who doesn’t love an otherworldly natural wonder? I ended up booking a day tour as it was low season and there wasn’t a simple way for me to go on my own from Zagreb. I don’t mind taking a an organized day tour provided it’s a good company that allows flexibility and keeps the groups small. Sometimes it is also just easier! Or you’re cold and tired and want to just go all-out tourist. The best part was that this is low season, and there was only one other person on this tour with me.

It took only 30 minutes to get to the Croatia-Slovenia border. We needed our passports because Croatia is not in the Schengen Zone, but Slovenia is. There was fog all morning. These photos are from after we entered Slovenia (click for larger)!

Dragon Bridge, and Butcher’s Bridge! I was a little overexcited about the dragons, maybe from all the Game of Thrones nerding out as of late.

St Nicholas Church had Pope heads sticking out of the door facades, including a more recent addition blessed by Pop John Paul II.

The tour had us ride up a funicular to Ljubljana Castle, which was less of a castle and more of a former prison and now a venue. I only have foggy photos of the view.

Fun fact: my tour guide stopped us at this vending machine. You can get fresh milk practically from the cow from these. I was highly disappointed there wasn’t actually a cow behind the machine.

These are the rest of the image selections from the hour and a half or so of free time I had to eat and wander around the teeny tiny town. There was both an Italian market and a flea market happening that day.

The tour guide made a point to highlight this sculpture of sperm, she said it gets moved every few weeks for this year’s Creation of Life theme on the public art. Naturally, I took a photo for my own memory of that particular moment.

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Zagreb – Croatia’s Capital

I’ve now been in Europe a little over a week! My first few days were a little exhausting and delirious, but definitely manageable. Normally it only takes me a couple of days to adjust, as I will typically take a red-eye and then not sleep all day. The stress of moving out, reducing my possessions into 2.5 suitcases, and lugging them overseas has definitely factored into the adjustment period.  I was so out of it, that on my way to my flight for Croatia, I took the airport shuttle the wrong direction. I am generally pretty en pointe with public transport in cities.

Oh, and I sustained a minor wrist sprain while grabbing my (slightly overstuffed and overweight) carryon luggage from the bin. I’ve been operating semi one-handed as I move about Croatia and making sure I place minimal strain or pressure on my left wrist. Did I mention I am left-handed? Things have been interesting.

That said, I took it easy during my 5 days in Zagreb. I booked a private room (with ensuite bathroom) in a trendy hostel and slept in most days. It’s such a compact city and easy to figure out, I walked everywhere. Here are the photos!

Upper Town

Since my hostel was right by Upper Town (old town), I wandered around there first. As always, click thumbnails for larger versions.

Art Park & Gric Tunnel

Right below Upper Town is the Art Park and the Grič Tunnel. apparently a lot goes on during the summer, but I was still glad to be present for low season and avoiding crowds.

I also noticed that they are getting ready for Advent in December! I can’t wait to be back for that.

Mirogoj Cemetary

What Père Lachaise is to Paris, Mirogoj is to Zagreb. Zagreb is so small, that even though it was outside the city center, all it took was a 15 minute tram ride at about 65 cents for the ride.

Everything Else

These are from general wandering around.

 

Goodbye, NYC

Today is the big day! I am leaving NYC on a one-way flight and heading abroad. I can definitely say I got to experience quite a bit and am very glad I got to call this place my home.  The past 12 years and 8 months have been anything but dull.

I had many adventures in the city that never sleeps (click for larger).

It was my first adopted home. I got to enjoy all kinds of people watching, especially during a few Halloweens.

I took advantage of museums, parks, and sites.

Attended quite a few gigs.

Last year I said goodbye to David Bowie at the informal memorial that sprung up beneath his home in Soho, and commiserated with fellow citizens the Subway Therapy wall in Union Square.

Not once did I tire of this view.

That’s all for now. I will miss all the wonderful people I have met as well as the amazing food options. However, new adventures await in the next 4 months (or hopefully, longer).

Joshua Tree – Cholla Garden

This deserves its own little gallery, because the cholla garden at the Joshua Tree was SO COOL. It seems so random that hundreds of them would grow in concentration within this one area. We had some fun here.

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In which we were asked to pose as a cactus, and then a sexy cactus:

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