Sunday, November 22, 2015

Pauline's Attic

I knew getting ourselves to Austria wasn’t going to be an easy feat in any sense of the word. But in order to make the journey on time, some things had to be rearranged. We found ourselves getting on a bus from Plitvice a day early and heading to Zagreb where we’d sleep a bit before the giant trek to far away Austrian lands.  We crossed the border from Croatia to Austria, stopping at customs where the customs dude inspected my passport a little too long.

“Nevada? Las Vegas?” he inquired with a smirk on his face.

“Yes, I was born there.”

He produced a brief nod that I wasn’t sure was approval, amusement, or both. And that was all. I decided in that moment my passport must’ve made him recall a crazy weekend in Vegas or something.

We were in Austria! Nevermind that we still had a long way to go. Not only that, but every train and bus transfer needed to line up perfectly for us to make the next one. We literally had a one minute transfer between train and bus halfway through.  

We sat on the last train bewildered by how all four transfers had been seemingly seamless.

“Thank you Austria, for making today possible.” I said.

KJ agreed.

“I feel energized by Austria!” I declared with a minor movement resembling a cross between a fist pump and a popeye arm swing.

Just then I spotted something out the train window that halted my popeye-pump hybrid right in it's tracks. A stream/river thing. A fisherman. Fly fishing.

“THEY HAVE FLY FISHING HERE! I HAVE TO CHECK OFF ‘TRY FLY FISHING’ IN AUSTRIA!” I all but yelled with robust excitement. I didn’t know how but I knew I needed to start checking shit off my list, and this was where I would start. By fly fishing in Austria. Genius.

Our trek including no less than another two buses, 3 trains, and an unexpected 1.5 kilometer walk with our bags to our accommodations in the town across the lake from Hallstatt… Obertraun.  At least we’d finally be out of the scorching heat. At least it would be cool there.


We exited the train in the Hallstatt area to unseasonably warm weather. Warm as in 92 degrees. This wasn’t right. It was supposed to be high 60’s! The typical profuse sweating while trekking our to place of stay occurred. 

We finally arrived at our guesthouse; greeted by an older woman with full on hair curlers in.

She showed us up, up, up stairs to our room. Each floor was noticeably warmer than the last. We arrived. In the attic.

“I don’t suppose there’s air conditioning?” 

Pauline looked disappointed in me. 

“Or a fan?”

“No.” she shook her curlers. “Keep the curtains closed. It will be cool later.”

BUT I WAS HOT NOW.

“What time do you want breakfast.”  Pauline asked. But it was 4:00.

“Umm” KJ and I looked at each other. We didn’t even know what we’d do for dinner yet. But at least there was going to be breakfast, so with that we silently agreed to 8:30.

“8:30.”

And with that Pauline and her curlers were gone.

We were exhausted. And sweltering. Being in the attic wasn’t helping. I wanted to see the lake. Badly. I had many ants in my pants about seeing Hallstatt in person too.

So we went. We started the long walk back the way we had just come, but this time free of our backpacks and Lil Bea. We walked past the train station to the Lake just as the sun was starting to drop behind the towering mountains.

We jumped on a boat inquiring about halfway across about our return trip to Obertraun, after partaking in a sausage and beer fest of our own making.






“The bus runs late.” The young boat driver assured us.  He was a strapping young boy of at least 12 so it seemed like legit information.

Great, we were good to go. Sausages here we come.

A ten minute boat jaunt across the lake and we were in fairy tale land. Even in the early evening shadow cast by the surrounding Austrian Alps, Hallstatt managed to twinkle. Forgive my cliché, but it was, actually, enchanting.




We wound ourselves around the streets until our stomachs would allow no more wandering. We needed food and beer. Lots of beer was required after our long journey.  Also, I had to pee.



We stopped at a cute corner spot (despite the warning about the "vicious" cat) and agreed to start inside and snag an outside table as soon as one freed up.  


Cat looks super tough.
The waiter showed me to the bathroom, explaining that the men were on the left and the women on the right.

“Because women are always right.”

“Ha” I laughed. Now let me pee, kind sir.

Our first sips of cold, crisp beer was fantastic and super refreshing.

A nearby table became occupied by a group of four Asians who, seemingly, were in a rush of some sort. They approached the counter for the third time when the waiter quickly scolded them.

“You need to slow down! Take your time!” he was exasperated by them. I was thoroughly amused.

The waiter was quite sassy. I liked it. More entertainment for us.

“We need to stay on his good side.” I told KJ as we moved to our promised table outside.

There was a lot of hustle and bustle on the streets, packed with people dressed in lederhosen, about to attend some concert we saw being set up when we arrived on the boat.

“Who is singing?” we asked the sassy waiter.

“A stupid guy, he is not good, and everyone goes.” He explains loudly, while walking over to a table with a group of girls decked out in lederhosen, clearly going to the concert.

Maybe sassy waiter knew what time the buses ran until. 

"What time is the last bus?"

"About an hour ago"

"Oh. Really?"

"There's no late buses here. Not here, at the end of the world!"

"Right."

So we weren't on a schedule to be on a bus anymore and even though we weren't quite sure how we'd get back to the attic, it didn't much matter while we wandered the streets of Hallstatt as dusk fell and the "bad singer" began to play. Even in the dark, Hallstatt held it's fairy tale status.



We were wiped. It was time to make our way back to Pauline's somehow. Luckily we found some very unbusy taxi drivers and one was willing to deliver us back to Pauline's. 

We returned to the attic filled with dread at the sauna that surely awaited to engulf us. But it had cooled off considerably. Well damnit. Pauline was right.


I finally drifted off to sleep wondering what Pauline would be serving us for breakfast the next morning...and, of course, what her curls would look like once unleashed.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

What Plitvice Lakes National Park Is Really Like

We needed provisions. Twas going to be a long bus ride to Plitvice Lakes National Park and Lord knows I need snacks on long bus rides.

We also hadn't had breakfast so I was in pursuit of a yogurt to fulfill my daily yogurt regimen that I was employing in attempt to keep my stomach in check. A yogurt I found, but a spoon would be trickier. I asked around whilst KJ paid for her items, and what was produced was the best possible outcome. The tiniest spoon that ever was! How I was supposed to consume my yogurt using this minuscule utensil I did not know, but I also did not care. The novelty of the mini spoon was too good to pass up. I ran back into the minimart to show off my treasure. KJ and the checkout lady's reaction was all I could've hoped for; seeing as they burst out in immediate laughter. It got the check out lady really good and she continued laughing for what seemed like days.


a balanced bus breakfast
We were on a bus. Again. But my excitement about seeing numerous turquoise cascading waterfalls like I'd seen in photograph after photograph in my research and obsession over the National Park made me power through.

We arrived five hours later on the side of a dusty road. Our accommodation was a guesthouse, if we could locate it. We finally did and I grunted in relief; putting my bags down. The place would do for the two nights we had planned to be there. Our plan was to get up early and arrive when the park opened to avoid crowds. We'd hike around the glorious park most of the day. 

In all my waterfall excitement, I forgot to sleep. What resulted the following day was a scene where I mindlessly tried to wear flip flops on the hike and KJ asked what the hell I was doing. (I ended up in sneakers, worry not.)

This is my first hand account of what I learned to be true of Plitvice Lakes National Park...

1. Arrive early. Seriously.
The park opens at 7, and you should be there at 6:59. The day trippers arrive later in the morning and if you want to experience it with the least amount of other people possible, you must. Get. There. Early.

2. There are almost no restaurants. (Or no actual town really)
There is however a market. We walked to the market and purchased meat and bread to make a lovely sandwich dinner, and lunch for the hike the next day.


classy
3. The "train" to the upper lakes is actually a bus type thingy.
No big deal but it's definitely not a train. Just sayin.

4. The Big Slap means Big waterfall.
This made me laugh.

5. The upper lakes were beautiful.
Waterfalls spilled from multiple tufts as we meandered the boardwalks. It was still early, and once the original group of people who got off the first "train" of the day spread out, it was more enjoyable walking through the upper lakes.

















6. The boardwalks are tricky.
The words uneven, slippery, and crowded come to mind. Though they look stupidly awesome, they are a tad dangerous if you're not careful! You'll want to take in the scenery around you but watch your footing or you'll end up in a lake. Which is prohibited, by the way.







7. The route didn't take as long as predicted.
We were pretty surprised that after only 2 and a half hours we'd finished the upper and lower lakes. We were all like, "Wait, is this it? Is this the end?" We were under the impression it would take all day.

8. There's a lot of rules.
As well there should be with this big of an attraction. The sign was entertaining to try to figure out what each prohibited action was though...

Can we take a moment to appreciate the most bottom right one? My best guess was "Absolutely NO Jenga playing."

9. The natural version of Croatian DisneyWorld.
If it hasn't reached that status yet, it will soon. By the time we reached the lower lakes, shit was PACKED. The boardwalks were jammed with people and any hope of taking any photos without other people being in it was shattered. Mass tours with people using those flag on a stick things were led on the walkways. People had strollers. Enough said.


This doesn't even begin to exhibit the mass of people we ran into.

10. It's not really a hike.
I probably could've done it in the flip flops. It was more of a leisurely nature walk. I thought I'd experience more of a "one with nature" feeling. I'd discover things. Have time to snap a photograph if I wanted to linger, and set it up the way I wanted. Not have to wait in line to get on a boat with 50 other people to cross a lake to the lower lakes. Things like that.

It should also be noted that I almost fell in exactly 3 times.

First instance: my own klutziness.

Second instance: a couple of kids ran by me, almost knocking me in.

Third instance: (and most frightening) I was standing on a bench near the edge of a particularly high vantage point to get a photo of the Big Slap, when an older man with no semblance of personal space came way to close to me without my knowledge. Luckily KJ alerted me just as he almost knocked into me, which would've resulted in me plummeting down, far down into the Big Slap. Phew. 


The BIG SLAP (a BIT underwhelming)
So was it worth the hype?
The short answer is yes, I wanted to see it for myself. The long answer is...I don't know. I hated how touristy it was; but it was touristy for a reason, no? For me, the crowds, and the "turning it into an attraction" was all too much; making it feel unnatural. I half expected people to be walking around wearing Big Slap t-shirts, or foam hats in the shape of waterfalls. We did however enjoy some epic people watching. We kept tally of all the people we saw wearing denim shorts. There were no less than 15 denim shorts wearers, 1 pair of jeggings, and 1 denim skirt. It was VERY hot. Denim wouldn't be my first choice to nature walk in!



I was a tad disappointed. After all the talk of "The Big Slap" we were so far away from it! I wanted to see it up close and personal. I had stalked pictures of Plitvice for months before on Instagram and had built it up in my head. Don't get me wrong, it's gorgeous, and I took so many pictures trying to frame people out of them or waiting my turn because it is SO beautiful. But, BUT too much of a theme-park-esque feel.


these ducks were pretty cool. a blue "highlight" feather, if you will.
Pretty waterfalls? Yes. Satisfying? Not so much. For me, it left something to be desired.

I did get one of my all time favorite jumping pics here though...So, there's that.







Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Birthday Bash Rehash

I awoke to pounding. In my head. My mouth was dry as the Sahara and I wasn’t exactly sure where I was. 

“I need a waffle.” I whined to KJ.

I was pretty sure I was still drunk, and that a waffle would fix everything. It didn’t.

But rehashing the previous evening over waffles is always the perfect combination. Everyone knows that.

I needed assistance in piecing the night before together. There may have been some bits missing due to the immense amount of adult beverages consumed. 

After much waffling and rehashing, we came to these 17 conclusions:

1. Besides a headache, I also awoke to a message from P.
2. He was very glad to have met me. And thought I was cute to boot.
3. The giant sparkly drink was in fact the best idea. Ever. Birthday in a carafe.
4. We had many free shots courtesy of our jolly waiter. Including Jager bombs that made KJ and L grimace in hatred.
5. P & L turned out to be a lively addition to the party.
6. The whole night was totally random. Which is my favorite.
7. We played "guessing of the ages" and they became my new besties when they guessed I was turning 24.
8. We didn't want the night to end, on account we were out til 3am.
9. P had dealt with a very similar relationship situation to me that we proceeded to chat and bond over for the good part of an hour.
10. P and L had never seen Risky Business and this came up because there was a girl at the bar dressed as Tom Cruise from the movie but it wasn't even a costume party, so it didn't make much sense.
11. The timing could potentially be juuust right for us to hitch a ride in P & L's camper van from Plitvice to Austria. Seeing as we had no clue how we would traverse that country change, it was worth asking.
12. P wanted to meet up again. "Anyplace, anywhere, anytime."
13. I was 99% sure that would never happen, but the 1% chance was mutually thrilling and terrifying.
14. I did not go skinny dipping (unfortunately) despite my list practically screaming to have something finally checked off.
15. Me and the Jager had invited them to Oktoberfest, but they couldn't come since it was P's birthday and he'd be celebrating elsewhere.
16. We had an a fun night of epic proportions.
17. My boat driving arm was spectacularly sore.

Back to the situation with P for a hot second. He was a gentleman and hadn't made a move; which I had been relieved about initially. Because I tend to run away in those situations. I really do need to get over that. Maybe it was time to stop running. 

But after all was said and done, I'd be lying if I said I didn't wonder about if he had. Besides that it would've been awkward seeing as there were two other people in our party. Maybe if the skinny dipping had happened? There was no way to know now. But we had connected over our pasts, my surprising surprise party, and Jager bombs. We'd always have the Jager bombs.

I'd write him back later, I was far too hungover to put normal human sentences together. 

We gathered our bags, Lil Bea dragging behind as if she had a sympathy hangover. I was confident the absolute last thing I wanted to do was ride the ferry. But we had to get to Split so we could catch the bus to Plitvice Lakes National Park early the following morning to see all the pretty waterfalls. Alas, it was the only way.


I could’ve cared less about exploring Split on account that I figured it was just another city. The hangover from hell might’ve had something to do with it as well. But we needed food. Specifically fried calamari. It was what the hangover wanted, and what the hangover would have to get. 

So we set out to the old town part of Split and were wonderfully surprised by the charm, the winding streets, and cute little alley ways with tiny restaurants wafting delicious smells in every nook and cranny.










My stomach growled audibly, grouchily demanding calamari. I attempted to rely on my nose to lead me towards some golden fried goodness in the form of rings of squid. It did not betray me. Finally got my fried fix and we were ready to call it a night. We had a big ass bus ride ahead of us early the next morning... but it would end in many, many waterfalls at Plitvice Lakes National Park. And that was alright with me.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Surprising Surprise Party


It was official. I was old. But I'd have to dwell on that later. Somewhere in Hvar was a boat waiting to be captained. By me. 

We set out to find our boat and I was so excited I could barely contain it. I was equally as nervous, so it was a tad conflicting. 


The sea was looking a bit on the rough side...extra chop. But I was getting ahead of myself. Would they even let me drive a boat? It was my birthday after all...

We located a stand and inquired about renting a boat, using a buttery sweet voice; whilst trying to pull off the confident captain look (whatever that means). 

The stand guy looked at us, then at the choppy ass sea, then at us again. 

"Let me talk to my boss."

It wasn't looking good.

He returned to us a few minutes later.

"Ok, it's okay. You drive the boat, but I give you lesson first."

Thought #1:
WHEW! They were actually going to let me do it! 

Thought #2: 
SHIT! They're actually going to let me do it!

"My mom said to say three Hail Mary's before we leave the dock" KJ shared. 

So we did.

And we were off. Sort of. First came the quick lesson, literally. He showed me what was what, and had me drive us in a circle around an anchored boat that I was sure I'd damage. Somehow I didn't. I blinked and the guy was hopping off the boat...and we were on our own. Well crap. 

We rocked aggressively back and forth. The wind blew and the whitecaps were persistent.

"Let's do this thing then." I said as I grabbed the motor. 


I turned the gas delicately so as to not vault us across the sea. Turns out I needn't worry about taking off at a breakneck velocity, seeing as the fastest our vessel would go was a crawling speed at best. I prayed we needn’t hit the gas to get out of the way of any large boats later on. 

About 892643982734 minutes later, we puttered into a calmer cove. 



"This looks good." We agreed. 

We just needed to anchor up and then we could relax! We could swim in the sea! Bask in the sun! Eat snacks whilst perched upon the bow!

The "I can't believe they let us drive a boat" selfie.
So, with lovely promises of the glories of boating ahead, we dropped the anchor. But it wouldn't catch. I maneuvered the boat around a bit, pretending I knew what I was doing. 

It finally caught. We were anchored. Boy, were we.

But we didn't know that yet. So we relaxed, we swam in the sea, we snacked on the bow. 


I jumped off the boat into the glorious looking water, only after realizing the boat sides were a bit higher up than I had anticipated. 


Getting back in was, I’m sure, an extremely entertaining sight to watch. And as there were loads of boats bobbing in the bay, I had a multitude of viewers. I hauled myself half-way up; slithering and flopping into the boat much like a wet seal.

Sometime later we reckoned it might be time to check out another spot, seeing as we had the whole day to play captain.

So we pulled the anchor up. Sorry, attempted to pull the anchor up. But that shit was stuck. Gorilla glue stuck. KJ and I pulled with all our might. Shockingly, despite our large muscles, it didn’t budge. Nor did it move 287346823 attempts later.

Just then our boat’s twin trolled slowly by with two guys aboard who looked like they might speak English.

I took my chances, “HEY. Do you guys know what you’re doing?” I yell inquired through the wind, which was probably highly unnecessary seeing as they were mere feet from us.

“No!” erupted from the twin boat in a Scottish accent.

“Oh, we’re stuck!”

“Pull the anchor up.” Scot #1 so cleverly suggested.

Scot #2 shrugged his shoulders in response.

“We tried. It’s stuck on something.” We said. (obviously).

They pulled up rather close and dropped their anchor. Well at least now we had company.

We chatted with the Scots for a few when I realized they were drifting just a tad and by a tad I mean around our boat, seemingly several times given that our anchor ropes were now twisted around each other like a pretzel.

“Well now we’ve done it.”

It was amusing watching them try to untangle our lines, all while slightly alarming seeing as none of us had a clue as to what to do to free ourselves.

Then, quite possibly just to avoid being boating friends with us any longer, Scot #1 de-shirted and dove into the sparkling turquoise blue water.

“Do you think he’ll free ours while he’s down there?” I inquired to Scot #2.

He shrugged per usual. Classic Scot #2.

Scot #1 resurfaced, claiming he freed an anchor. But which one? No one knew, so we pulled on our rope. 

It was OURS AND WE WERE FREEEEEE.

“You freed us! Thank you!” And with our newly found freedom we sputtered away waving to our Scottish heros.

The rest of my captaining career was riddled with anchoring fails, beautiful scenery, and wind, lots of wind. Captaining was as thrilling as it was exhausting.


KJ and I agreed to call it a day and I put in for an early retirement. At least from the Adriatic Sea. Plus, we had a celebration to get ready for.

Birthday plan:
Part 1- join an organized bar crawl
Part 2- ditch the bar crawl if everyone looked 18 years old at the meetup spot.
Part 3- if said ditching occurs, go to a bar where we spotted gigantic drinks with huge sparklers coming out of them the previous night.

With a solid plan in place we primped.

It was the moment of truth. We arrived at the bar crawl meetup spot, looking around creepily so as to not make ourselves known. Just. Act. Casual.

When the large group of rambunctious 18-20 year olds arrived we took our cue to walk away, casually of course. We were never going to be part of the bar crawl, nooo, we were just loitering for fun.

“Now I feel really old.” I sulked.

“Let’s go get one of those giant sparkly drinks.” KJ answered.

“You always know just what to say.” I perked up.

With that we made our way over to the big sparkly drink bar and found a packed outdoor patio with no free tables.

“There’s two seats at the end of that table over there,” the waiter overheard us say. He promptly took it upon himself to get us those seats.

“I will ask them for you” he explained.

“No, no really, it’s ok, we can--“ KJ and I chorused.

But he was already over there, asking away. He returned a millisecond later with great news. The table with the two guys would have us as tablemates, no problem.

First things first, I had to pee like a racehorse.

“I’ll order drinks.” KJ said.

I met her at the now communal table, where our tablemates, P & L, awaited us.

“Thank you for letting us share your table!”

“No problem.” They said.

But what they didn’t know is what they had gotten themselves into. Because just seconds later a ginormous carafe of drink with fireworks spurting out of it and our chivalrous waiter belting the lyrics to 'Happy Birthday' arrived at our shared table.

I looked at KJ in surprise.
P & L looked at me in surprise.
KJ looked at all of us, laughing.

When the singing was done, the sparkler raged on and the waiter came in for the perfunctory double cheek kiss, and it was at that exact moment that KJ snapped the only picture of the production. 

Although it does in fact appear that the waiter and I shared a magical kiss, resulting in fireworks, it is in fact not true. Sorry to disappoint.



As the sparkles fizzled and the rest of the bar patrons went about their regularly scheduled programming, I turned my attention back to KJ who couldn’t contain her laughter.

“I ordered it when you were in the bathroom!” KJ revealed.

“It’s your birthday?” P & L asked simultaneously with smirks decorating their faces.

“Glad you could make it to my birthday party.” 


The drink was delicious. The company was fun, chatty, and best of all, didn’t smoke; a rarity around these parts.

“Bet you didn’t know you’d be attending a surprise birthday party tonight.” I stated as the waiter brought out complimentary bday shots.

“It was definitely a surprise” P agreed.

I was sure they were sick of our birthday shenanigans and would peace out after a drink or two, but two drinks turned into more and then a group of bar crawl peeps strolled in. They looked familiar. It was the crawling youngins we abandoned just a few hours earlier! Which had clearly turned out to be the right choice.

“That could’ve been us!” we discussed.

We learned about P & L, and their three week holiday via camper van. They’d be heading back to Switzerland later that week.

We had in depth conversations:

“What do you guys eat in the camper van?”

“For breakfast I like to eat Smacks.”

“The cereal with the frog on it?”

“Yeah it’s very good.”

Every once in a while they’d switch to German. KJ felt left out so she inserted “Neine” every so often. That made them laugh.

The waiter brought out more shots and we were in fact, kind of drunk. But it was my birthday, so it was okay, I rationalized. What wouldn’t be okay was the massive hangover I was bound to have the next day when we needed to travel to Split via Ferry. But I’d think about that later.

As we wrapped up the night and said farewells to the birthday party guests, I felt relieved that my birthday was over.

“That was a fun surprise party.” I concluded.

“Yeah you should’ve checked off 'go skinny dipping somewhere foreign,' It would’ve been the perfect opportunity!”


“Well shit KJ, I should have. When you’re right, you’re right.”

Birthday beer ponderings


 
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