I’m afraid that due to us moving on quite quickly at this point, and also due to any free time I had being taken up with sorting out problems with my flat, I have gotten behind with this blog, plus forgotten and not documented a lot of Italy, Slovenia and Hungary. What I do remember I am just going to put in this post, so it might be longer than usual…
There was an immediate change upon crossing the border into Italy, with the amount of traffic, and its pace. There were many more mopeds, it was less relaxed on the roads, and everyone was making more progress. There are also stacks of designated parking places for motorcycles everywhere, as mopeds and scooters especially, are the norm.
We headed firstly to Genoa, where we stayed a couple of nights and took some time to explore the city. Most of the city centre consisted of old buildings, and there were obviously some chain stores here, but they were nestled into the old buildings in a respectful way. The marina area was great with lots of places to sit, and it was a lovely day, so we did! We also decided to book flights home for Roger’s Dad’s surprise 80th birthday party, which I can now talk about, as I’m so far behind on this blog that we have just returned from it last weekend!
After Genoa, we moved on to Verona, where we had booked a lovely little self-contained basement flat for a couple of nights. The host, Serena, was quite taken with our trip, as her family had done a lot of travelling too. We loved the city; it was absolutely full of character, and I don’t recall seeing a new building anywhere. We visited Juliet’s balcony, and we went inside some extremely elaborate churches. I had my absolute favourite food in the world; Macarons, filled with ice cream, in one of the little cafe’s there, which tasted amazing! On the evening before our departure, Serena asked if her eldest daughter could interview us for 15 minutes or so, for the school newsletter. We said of course, so she invited us for ‘aperitivo’ at her house, a couple of doors down, where she lives with her three children and her parents (three generations in one house is quite typical in Italy, and was lovely to see). Of course, the wine then came out, and we were all talking so much and getting on so well that the 15 minutes completely got forgotten about by all of us, and 2 hours later Serena decided that we should all go out to dinner to this fabulous place down the road! The next day we were due to move on to Venice, but we were having real problems finding suitable accommodation. Serena explained that it was probably due to the next day being carnival day, so it would be fully booked/expensive to stay. She also said that we could get to Venice by train from Verona in 1 hour or so, and we could stay on with her for extra days if we wanted. Being as the basement flat wasn’t available for the extra time, she offered us her own bedroom and said she’d go and share a bedroom with one of her three kids. I still struggle to find the words to explain how I felt about this; ‘amazing’ and ‘kind’ just don’t seem to be enough! We stayed on for three extra nights with them, they fed us beautiful Italian food, and we went Venice by train on a lovely sunny day. Because there had been the Carnival only a few days previously, there were still people dressed up in fancy costumes, plus lots were wearing traditional masks, so it was a great time to go, but quite busy. The best thing by far was that everyone was on foot, so we didn’t have to worry about traffic, bicycles etc, which was really pleasant.
After Venice, we then left Serena and her lovely family, to go to Trieste, where we camped for the night, before crossing the border into Slovenia. The first stop were the Skocjan caves, where we managed to get a guided tour, but unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take pictures. They were definitely worth a visit though! After the tour, we’d managed to get our stuff locked inside the visitors centre, as all the staff had gone home, but luckily some chaps who had been doing a documentary on how the caves were discovered and excavated over 100 years ago, helped us get it all out, plus they gave us a DVD of one of their previous documentaries! Next stop was to see Predjama Castle, which is situated inside a cave/cliff face, and then it was on to Ljubljana for a couple of days. Ljubljana was clean, open, and relaxed, with not much traffic. The buildings were quite similar in style to the ones in the Baltic countries, or indeed in Austria; large and a lot newer than what we’d seen in Italy, but not modern, and certainly not with glass or concrete everywhere. It was all really tasteful.
After Ljubljana, we travelled to Lake Bled, which was beautiful, and well worth a visit. We spent most of the time just walking around the lake taking pictures, which made us both very happy! We realised that we couldn’t have made it this far much earlier in the year, as there was still snow at the sides of the road on all of the areas higher in altitude.
Once in Hungary, we travelled to Lake Balaton, where we met a lovely couple, whose flat we’d booked to stay in, in Keszthely. Although Keszthely was a nice town, and the flat we stayed in was lovely, Lake Balaton itself wasn’t a patch on Lake Bled, which was a shame! We also found out on the second day in Hungary, that we should have bought a vignette the day previously when we crossed the border, as even though the road we entered Hungary on was just a bog-standard single carriageway, it still required a vignette. We bought one quick-sharp as soon as we realised, but we may have a fine coming our way for the first day 😦
Moving on from here took us to Budapest, which made me very happy, as after a few days of sightseeing, we would be flying home for three days! Budapest was a lovely city (and IMO, any city that has a statue of Peter Falk as Columbo is a lovely city), but it was very big and spread out, and did need the few days to explore. After Columbo, my top pick was the ‘For Sale’ Pub, where notices and messages are pinned to every surface, there’s hay and monkey-nut shells all over the floor (monkey-nuts are on the table to help yourself), the food portions are massive and tasty, and they do a great dark beer!
Being at home was lovely, and it was nice to see my parents, our friend Jerry, and my cats, even if my time with them was ruined by my tenants deciding not to pay their rent any more. However, I was glad to be at home then, to be able to sort it out. The real purpose of the visit was to see Rex, Roger’s Dad, as it was his 80th birthday on the Sunday. Rex did not know anything about us coming home, so when we walked in to their house on Saturday, he promptly dropped the tool he was using, as he was so surprised (but very pleased) to see us! Then the Sunday was his actual party, but that was a surprise also, and credit goes to Roger’s Mum, Sister, Brother, and Sister-in-Law for keeping it so quiet and for organising it all so well. This is also the only party I have ever been to, where every single person invited has shown up, which goes to show how well liked and respected Rex is! It was a lovely party!