Day Seventeen. Beach and Sun and Sky, Oh my!

A little bit of a break on the blogging today, folks. Today was all about that summer time feeling, relaxing by the sea and enjoying the sun warming your shoulders. But since we don’t want to leave you completely empty handed, we have at least a few pictures from the seaside.

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The beaches here are stone, which cry for flip flops when you want to walk around, but when you have a towel to lay down then everything is alright. We may have also borrowed a blanket or two from our airbnb apartment to lay down to make things a little softer. We made sure to sunscreen when we got there, but Jan could have used a little bit more, as we learnt by the time we got back to the apartment today.

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All in all though, we’re working on our tans and just enjoying simple things today. Have fun in the sun, kiddies!

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Au revoir!

Day Thirteen. Vatican and Mexican

Putting our Rome transit passes to good use, we tested out the bus system on our way to the Vatican today. Express bus number 30 got us to Piazza Navona, which is only a half hour walk from the Vatican. But that half hour walk includes time to take pictures in some of Rome’s most scenic locations, as well as a leisurely pace.

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We also passed over the Bridge of Angles, and past Castel Sant’Angelo, while St. Peters dome got larger and larger with every step. The clouds teased us all day, and the promise of thunderstorms helped keep the temperature down. Which was good considering we had to be appropriately dressed for the church, and we would have absolutely died from the heat otherwise.

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The line up and security check took us roughly 45 minutes to get through, and once right by the dome, we decided to climb up to get the view from the top before going up. The sign at the ticket office stated that it was 551 stairs to the top, and we decided to put that to test. We counted every single step to the top. At the view down into the cathedral, we were at 240 steps. At that point, you get a closer look at some of the stunning mosaics that make up the churches elaborate decoration.

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Once at the top, we could testify to the truth of the original promise posted at the bottom of the climb. It really is 551 stairs to the top – and 7 of them are downhill. The views from the top are breathtaking, and Rome is spread out beneath you like a map. The only negative is the crowds at the top, but there isn’t too much that can be done to skip the summer crowds besides travel in the winter.

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Back down at ground level, we visited the Vatican Post office to buy some postcards for some family members. We were also able to get a closer look at the Swiss guard that stands by the doors of the Vatican. In 1500 the Pope at that time asked the Swiss army for some mercenaries to protect the Vatican state, and since that time, the Swiss guard has been the personal guard for the Pope and the Vatican.

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After our Vatican adventures, we were walking over to a spot that we had been told of by the lovely Brittany Busenius, and we noticed something along the banks of the River Tiber. Lining the roads of the river, there was a festival type of tent line-up, with some markets, some arcades, and some restaurants and food joints. Feeling a little hungry we stopped at a Mexican eatery and reflected on how funny it was that two Canadians and a German were eating Mexican food in Italy. Multiculturalism at it’s absolute finest. Looking it up a little later today, we found out we had stumbled upon Lungo il Tevere – Rome’s own summer festival celebrating different cultures and cuisines.

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After a little food to nourish us, we continued to a spot that we had been told of by Brit. There is a keyhole in Rome, designed by Piranesi in 1765. The area and gardens belong to the Knights of Malta. This spot has become quite the tourist destination, but still feels like a hidden spot. There is a large, regal, green double door in a small Piazza. Look through the keyhole, and you will see the St. Peter’s Dome perfectly outlined in it. A steady flow of people passes by to have a look, but at no point was it too full or crowded there. At a public park near to that location, we also paused to take some pictures of the Basilica and to enjoy the sunset.

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Our Airbnb host, Daniele, was fantastic in many ways, But what made him absolutely the greatest is that he volunteered to take us on a little night tour of Rome. He took us to one street in Rome where St. Peter’s Basilica is so huge it seems to be right in front of you. A breathtaking view, and hiding right in the middle of a residential area in Rome. We also went to a smaller church which hosts plenty of plays and musical shows, and due to an open plan you can hear everything when you sit outside on a nice summer day.  We also paid a visit to the Colosseum to see it lit up and glowing by the night lights.

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We’d also like to introduce you to Kentaro, or Teddy Bear. Daniele’s dog and our cuddle buddy of the last few days, he’s a rescue from a shelter, and he has to be the friendliest dog imaginable.

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Buonanotte!

Day Nine. Dubrovnik, all gears ahead.

The day got off to a rocky start, to be honest. Our bus was leaving the Split bus station at 6:15 in the morning – luckily we had arranged for our airbnb host to drive us there, which should have only been a 15 minute car ride. Nastassia awoke at 5:30 to the sound of the buzzer, and shortly thereafter Deanna and Jan woke up to the sound of Nastassia shouting ‘WE OVERSLEPT!!’. We packed last night, so luckily getting all our stuff together took no more than 5 minutes; getting dressed, brushing our teeth, and packing everything into the car took only another 10 minutes after that. We arrived to the bus station at 5:55, and made our bus with time to spare. However, we definitely learnt our lesson and will set more alarms for the rest of all our transfers.

Dubrovnik 101Our expected arrival in Dubrovnik was 10:30 am, and since we were only running on 4 or 5 hours of sleep we all took the chance to catch a catnap. We woke up in Bosnia-Herzegovina around 9 – roughly about 40 km from Dubrovnik. As nothing planned ever goes as smoothly as you’d like it to, we hit a traffic jam on a two lane highway. We went from a quick ride to a slow crawl and then to not moving at all. And officially, all three of us can say we’ve been in, and peed in, Bosnia and Herzegovina. We pulled into Dubrovnik a full two hours late, but luckily we had no transfers or anything of the sort to make.

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We made it to our airbnb apartment, and after appreciating the gorgeous view from our balcony, we made a stop at the local grocery store to grab some food to cook up for lunch. Lunch itself was pretty simple, but we decided to try a boxed croatian iced coffee drink and some lemon chocolate. Both were quite alright and let us end our lunch on a sweet tooth before packing up all our swim gear for the afternoon.

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When the three of us went searching for a beach, we knew that there was one somewhere close to our flat. We never imagined, however, exactly how close it was. A short 6 or 7 minute walk took us directly to one of the most popular beaches in Dubrovnik. Copacabana Beach, Dubrovnik, dubbed after the Brazilian original, was a great surprise. With a huge water playground, as well as a DJ every day from 5-10 pm, we were sold on it instantly. Nastassia and Jan were drawn to the water playground like moths to a flame, and were gone almost instantly. The water was clear and warm, absolutely perfect conditions and blue sunny skies on top of the package. Deanna didn’t feel up to the playground, but managed to get some great snapshots of the location while suntanning on the beach.

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Even Glubschi, our travel mascot, got in some rays. With a gorgeous view and a warm sea, who could resist taking advantage of the lovely beach time. We had planned to be at a beach for only a couple hours, but ended up staying for closer to 3 or 4.

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When we were all finally sitting on the shore all together, we cracked open a few beers we’d brought with us, and opened up a quick snack. Chips are always fun to try in new countries because of all the different flavors that can be found offered that aren’t available back home. We enjoyed the rays and some good conversation among good company before wrapping up to go home.

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We had planned earlier to go into the city in the evening to grab a fancier bite there, but by the time we got back to our apartment from swimming, all of us were just way too tired to even think of getting ready and packed up enough to go into the city. We made a second visit the the grocery store close by and cooked some bruschetta, pasta, and chicken as a welcome to Dubrovnik meal. Today was a long day, when you include the abrupt wakeup, the prolonged bus ride, and the swimming in the sea that we did. And therefore we bid you good night and sleep tight.

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Day Seven. Beaches, Sun, Tanning

Wanting some serious beach time today, the three of us had a quick breakfast, made some wraps from leftover burgers the night before, packed some towels and some beers and hit the road. We walked through the old town to get an overview of all that it had to offer before going to Marjan Park to enjoy the sunshine. The hills in split, combined with narrow streets and the seaside architecture made for an interesting walk there.

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The park has many mini-hiking paths, as well as a great jogging trail, with the beach surrounding it almost from every side. We did an easy hike/walk for an hour or two just to explore the park and to find our bearings, and then set up camp at our favourite little beach that we’d seen along the way. As it was lunchtime already, we set up our feast on the table and dug in. The wraps tasted even more delicious when paired with the gorgeous view of the sea and the sun and the Croatian coastline.

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Swimming in the Adriatic sea, we took advantage of Jan’s waterproof camera again and spent the afternoon in complete bliss, just swimming, diving, and enjoying the perfect weather.

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Walking back to town around 5, we stopped by Split’s biggest market to pick up some in-season grapes, peaches, and pears. We also picked up some walnuts and enjoyed them later back at our flat. Walking through the market, you can really feel a different culture than you’re used to, one where bargaining or selling is a way of life, and the fresh fruits were really picked within the last 24 hours and are really and truly fresh.

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This night we decided to go on one of Split’s pub crawls. Starting by the bell tower behind Diocletian’s palace, it took us to 4 different pubs and clubs around Split. We met a ton of other travelers, enjoyed some free pizza, danced at a seaside club, and played some flip cup with a bunch of fun people. Back at our flat at the end of the night, we felt a little bad that our panda mascot had missed out on all the fun the whole day, and we arranged him in a way so that he could have his own pub night while we went to bed.

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Živjeli!

Day Three. Rub a dub dub

 Deanna and Nastassia somehow got lost going to the supermarket, and the day was already starting to be a hot one, while Jan took care of the map for the day. We somehow left the apartment a full hour later than we planned, but all was good in good company.

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Deciding to go over a bridge that we hadn’t crossed yet, Nastassia kept an eye out for cops while Jan and Deanna tested their spidey-skills and climbed on up. We took a little hike up to the Liberty Statue, which is the only statue left in the city dating from the communist occupation. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the city covered the statue in a white sheet for 3 days, and the exact same statue was then unveiled as a new one. Pretty views, fresh air, good breeze, the climb was a fairly easy one –  apart from sweating like mad because of the extreme heat.

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We took a quick 20 minute breather at the top of the climb to enjoy the views, take some pictures and get in some quick sketching before returning from the open skies and fresh air back down to the city to enjoy a quick cool lunch at our flat.

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Coming down the other side of a hill there’s a small cascading water fall that’s a pleasant surprise, and provides a refreshing mist in the hot July heat. Definitely worth locating and checking out if you ever find yourself wandering through Budapest.

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After our lunch, we decided to check out the Széchenyi Thermal Baths that everyone praises. To be honest, we thought a 40 degree pool might be too hot on such a sunny day, and yet the baths are amazingly refreshing and really help to cool you down. We had a lot of fun with Jan’s waterproof camera, and spent quite a bit of time in the water. Lather up the sunscreen, kiddies!

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The baths close around 7, and by the time we made it back to our apartment, it was getting a little later. Deciding to call it an early night because of light sunburns and a full day in the sun, we cooked ourselves some rice and cutlets. Rest, relaxation and a little bit of lotion to cure the sunburns is on the agenda for tonight. Jó étvágyat!

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Day One. Hungry in Hungary

BUDAPEST! All made it safe and sound. More or less. With varying degrees of difficulty.
Deanna flew in from Canad-EH yesterday morning, Jan had a nice and breezy flight from Beerland(Germany) today, and Nastassia had a lovely time learning the Polish train system for over 24 hours. Who said that 191 km shouldn’t take 6 hours! So Deanna and Jan got a little bonding time in and some lunch while Nastassia watched the landscape sail by…or, you know, the Polish railroad workers.

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But all on location at around 5 and ready to take both Buda and Pest by storm! 30 degrees and sunny, sweating from every pore, after dropping things off at our flat we went in search for food. And as is typical in these situations, walked around aimlessly for half an hour before eating basically at the starting point. GYROS. Yum.

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Budapest is crazy pretty, and the first impression is definitely a winner. But for tonight, a movie, time adjustment and a beer is in order.

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VISZLÁT!