Friday, September 16, 2016

Lake Bled, Slovenia

We decided to take a trip to see some of Slovenia and Croatia. Our sons visited there in May and sent some fabulous pictures, so we thought we'd go to some of the same places they did.

Our first stop on this trip was the lovely Lake Bled in the mountains of Slovenia. 

After we got settled in our hotel in town, we needed lunch. We found this lovely restaurant right on the lake,

Where we had a couple salads for lunch.

After lunch we walked around the lake. It looked like a long way, but we'd read that it should take about an hour and a half, which sounded fine, so we started out.

There's an island near the far end of the lake that has a church on it. It's quite picturesque, so I took lots of pictures of it. There are also a number of possibilities to rent a boat or ride across the lake. On the left in this photo you can see the castle on top of a hill. The white church steeple is quite close to our hotel in town. 

About 3/4 of the way around the lake we saw a stairway that said "Cafe." We'd also read about this villa, which belonged to Tito. So we started up the steps. When the path split, it was not obvious which way to go. We split up. I explored the upward trail and Jim went down. He found a big building and signaled me to come that way, so I went back down. But then we found a sign saying the cafe was up, so we both went back up. It was quite a few steps by that time.

The view from the cafe was worth the climb. 

The cafe was very quiet. There were only 6 tables out on a little balcony, and only one was occupied. It was so quiet we weren't sure there was any service, but the other people had drinks. Pretty soon a waitress came by and we ordered tea and the famous Bled Cream cake. 

The cake was delicious.

This photo shows the narrow balcony. I took another picture the next day looking back at the cafe from the island. 

The next morning we walked up through the town towards the steps that go up to the castle. It was quite a climb. Slovenia borders Austria and reminded us of that country.

This is the courtyard of the castle. 

After the climb up to the castle in the morning, we opted for something more relaxing for the afternoon and took one of these boats across to the island. They are rowed by a rower in a manner similar to the gondoliers of Venice, but these boats carry up to 18 people at once.

This is the view of the cafe where we had cake the day before. 

And here is another view of the castle and the church in town. 

And here's one taken from the boat. 

The next morning we headed on to Ljubljana, the capitol of Slovenia. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Festival Weekend in Gronigen

Our son James has been living and working in Groningen for the past 3 1/2 years. He is moving to St. Louis, Missouri this month. We wanted to visit him in Groningen once more before he left. So we drove up there from our house in Normandy. It was a somewhat difficult drive with lots of traffic in Belgium and the Netherlands, but we finally got there.

With a population of over 200,000, Groningen is the largest city in the northern Netherlands. It's also an old Hanseatic League city, but predates that period with its first major settlement being traced to the 3rd century CE. 

The Saturday we were there was a holiday celebrating a victory over the bishop of Munster in the siege of Groningen in 1672 and also one of the warmest days of the year. As far as we could tell everyone in Groningen was out that day. We spotted two brass bands on the streets.

Here's the second one.

We happened on this dragon boat race that was just getting started. 

The bridge ahead is the finish line. 

Then we arrived in a park where an art and music festival had been going on for two weeks. 

There were cafes and restaurants set up in the park. This one had a lovely spot on the canal.

Then we walked back through the city, passing the main building of the university of Groningen. With a student body of 28,000, The university is the second oldest in the Netherlands, after the University of Leiden. 

Here's another street near the main university buildings.

Traveling by bicycle is the best way to get around any Dutch city.

This is a very large bar, with tables outside on the right here,

And the bar on the left. All the buildings on the left in the photo above are part of the bar.

We took two days to drive back to our house, arriving in time for lunch on Tuesday.