Monday, 30 December 2013

Happy New Year 2014!

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Wednesday, 25 December 2013

A trip to Istanbul

In the beginning of December M. and I have visited Istanbul, Turkey for the second time. Since our first visit only lasted an afternoon we were very excited to see some more of this huge city.
If you are interested in my first-time experience a few years ago, you are welcome to check out this post published as a part of our Egyptian adventure: A day in Istanbul.



This time we were lucky to get our hands on some very affordable return flight tickets from Ljubljana to Istanbul. As was the case last year on a trip to Lisbon, Portugal, we went as a group of 7 travel friends.


Unfortunately being a pretty large group usually has some disadvantages. For instance choosing a date that was OK for all of us proved to be quite a challenge. Also going for a period longer than 5 days was out of the question.
Everything worked out just fine in the end and we were all happy we went.



At first I was a bit sceptical about visiting the Turkish capital in December but everything turned out just perfect:

  • no tourist crowds at all,
  • it was not too cold (temperatures never fell under 8 degrees Celsius) and
  • we were also lucky enough to make it through without some serious rain or snow.
Also the air was really clear for most of the time, allowing me to snap a few really nice photos.


Since this was another of our budget trips, we stayed in a centrally located hostel. Bahaus Hostel proved to be clean, pretty affordable and there was breakfast included in the price. But then again, it is nothing to write home about.



During our stay we have visited a few tourist attractions and also tried to sample some local past time activities. We were lucky enough to make contact with a local who showed us some really genuine places we would have never found by ourselves. Thanks again Burcu for making our stay even more enjoyable!


I will try to point out at least a few of these places. Hopefully this will help many travellers to this beautiful destination enjoy it even more.


Stay tuned for my next posts.


Clicking on any one of above photos will reveal them all in a much more flattering resolution.

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Monday, 18 November 2013

Bled and Slovenia promo video

Another great video presentation of Slovenia has been released a while ago. Since I like it a lot I decided to share it with you.


This video mainly focuses on lake Bled and popular activities in the nearby area. Some other beautiful Slovenian destinations are also included in the presentation.




If you like this one, you should probably also check out a few similar videos about Slovenia I posted a while ago.

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Thursday, 14 November 2013

Discover Cyprus

If you're looking for an island paradise that's home to beautiful bays and beaches, world-famous legends and soul-stirring scenery, look no further than Cyprus.


Cast out into the Mediterranean Sea, overlooked by Turkey and the Middle East, Cyprus is a melting pot of cultures that boasts many centuries of heritage. The earliest known human activity is believed to date back to the 10th millennium BC, when ancient archaeological remains have been linked with the Neolithic village of Khirokitia.


In the centuries that followed, Cyprus became home to a myriad of influential nations, including the Mycenean Greeks, the Egyptians, the Persians, the Roman Empire, the Byzantines and the Venetians, among others. All these different civilisations left their mark on this fascinating island, which provides yet another reason to visit.



Cyprus holidays have so much to offer. If you're after a non-stop clubbing holiday with more late night shenanigans than you can shake a glow-stick at, Ayia Napa is the place to be. Here, it's like one big summer party when big-name DJs come to spin the latest tunes and keep the party going well into the small hours.


If that is not quite your scene, you will find plenty of Cyprus holidays geared towards families. For instance, head to the lovely resort of Coral Bay near Paphos for a laid-back retreat with plenty of amenities on your doorstep. In nearby Paphos you'll find a superb town that is UNESCO World Heritage Site-listed and full of ancient archaeological wonders. Or head to Larnaca for a fabulous beach break with a cracking line-up of hotels.



If anything above takes your fancy, look at some of the package holidays on offer to see which suits your wish-list. For instance, there are tons of Cyprus holidays available through The Co-operative Travel, here - http://www.co-operativetravel.co.uk/holidays/cyprus/ - offering a superb choice of accommodation and travel arrangements to suit many different tastes and budgets.


So whatever you fancy, whether it is a laid-back family escape or a non-stop clubbing holiday with friends, why not discover Cyprus? It could just be your holiday of a lifetime.

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Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Istrian liquid gold tasting

No harvest is complete without sampling some fruits of labour. It is no different with olive harvest. As it is evident from the previous post, we recently participated in an olive harvest in Istria, Croatia.



After all the work for the day was done olives were taken to the press. Since picked olives soon start to oxidise it is essential to squeeze the oil out of them as soon as possible.


Luckily for us, this meant we had a chance to try out some of the freshly produced oil. Any extra virgin olive oil tastes good in its own way but this was extra delicious. The colour, the smell and the taste of it were very strong and fresh.



I just could not resist and had to make myself a little gourmand snack. It consisted of home grown cherry tomatoes, small pieces of goat cheese and a healthy dose of olive oil. A piece of bread and a glass of good white wine fit in perfectly.


I guess you will believe me when I tell you it was all gone and the plate cleaned with a little piece of bread before I could snap a photo of it. Simple and delicious!


Clicking on any one of above photos will reveal them both in a more flattering resolution.

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Friday, 8 November 2013

Olive harvest in full swing

We spent last weekend in Istria, Croatia - near the charming little hill town of Grožnjan. We have visited Istria many times before but this time the main reason for visiting was to get an insight into secrets of the Istrian liquid gold. That is a local synonym for olive oil which symbolizes healthy lifestyle and longevity.



At the time of my visit, olive harvest was in full swing. Those of you unfamiliar with the olive business might not know this, but November is usually the time for olive harvest throughout the northern Mediterranean.



I am a huge fan of olive oil - the Extra-virgin olive oil that is. For olive oil to obtain that title it can contain no more than 0.8 percent of free acidity and is judged to have a superior taste. Some fruitiness in its taste is common and it can have no sensory defects.
Since it contains unsaturated fatty and oleic acids, it is rich in antioxidants and polyphenoles that were proved by modern medicine to have significant impact on the overall well-being.



The taste of the final product also varies depending on the olive varieties used. Varieties grown in Istria are: Buža, Istarska Bjelica, Leccino, Pendolino and also some others.



Despite my affection to the delicious product this has been my first time to participate in an olive harvest. I guess apart from some mechanical equipment involved, the picking procedure has not changed a lot since the ancient times.



First we laid nets and large cloth sheets around each individual olive tree. Than olives were shaken off from branches to the ground using small rakes, various mechanical tools and last but not least our hands. Afterwards it was quite easy to gather them into large boxes to be loaded onto a tractor trailer.



Back at the farm olives are sorted with a use of a special machine. In this way olives are separated from leaves and little branches and put into bags. They take them to the press as soon as possible and get olive oil ready for immediate use. There are a few modern presses nearby and they make sure everything is kept under the highest standards.



For olive oil to be of top quality (and to earn that extra-virgin title) it is essential not to be heated over 27 degrees Celsius at any time during the pressing procedure.



After a day of picking olives we were lucky enough to also sample some fresh olive oil. It had a very strong, fresh smell and was a bright green colour. It might be pretty obvious but I just have to put it in writing - It was delicious!


If you ever find yourself in that region do not let those famous local truffles take all of your attention. Take some time to also taste some of the local liquid gold. It is a safe bet to wander to a random farm in the Istrian countryside and find some top quality olive oil. If you do not strike gold, they will definitely kindly point you in the right direction.

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Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Loving cosy, warm and tender places

Cats love warm and tender places. A heap of freshly cut sheep wool is definitely one such place. This photo was taken during Legenda fest - an annual ethnohistorical event in Vrsno, Slovenia.



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Monday, 28 October 2013

Things to Do in Paris with Your Family

Paris is well known as a city of romance, where many couples choose to visit for long walks along the Seine, candlelit meals and musing the wonders of the many works of art in the numerous galleries. But did you know that there are also a lot of things to do in Paris even when you have children in tow?


As a capital city it is only to be expected that Paris will be busy and bustling, filled with people and interlaced with traffic. You will therefore need to keep a tight hold of your children’s hands if they are small - don’t try that if you have teenagers, they won’t like it. But thankfully there are many open spaces in the city if you know where to look and a few decent attractions that are specifically aimed at children of all ages. So find some suitable accommodation (the further away from the centre, the cheaper the hotels, and the Metro system will get you to where you need to be quickly enough) and book some coach tickets to head off to Paris for a family holiday!


Why coach tickets, you ask? Well because it is probably the cheapest way of travelling from London to Paris; there are rest stops and if you travel with iDBUS, you will have lots of leg room and elbow room, free on board Wi-Fi and plug sockets (don’t forget your plug adaptor!) – making the journey comfortable and even fun.



So, here are a few ideas of things to do in Paris that are suitable for the whole family:

  1. The Batobus: this is a waterbus that runs along the Seine all the way along the city, allowing you to hop on and off at the various attractions or just to sit and take in the view. It is a great way to get from A to B in a way that does not involve busy roads or maps and most children are happy to be on board.
  2. Jardins: there are several major ‘jardins’ in Paris. Jardin de Tuileries is very close to the Louvre; the Jardin de Luxembourg is in central Paris, Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter and is a great place to run around and sail toy boats.
  3. Disneyland Paris: a bus or train ride away from Charles de Gaulle airport (to which your iDBUS could take you) this is the ultimate in children’s entertainment. Staying in a themed Disney hotel is fun but expensive, so to save on cost stay on the northern outskirts of Paris and take the train or bus to the park.
  4. The Musée Rodin includes a large outdoor area displaying some of the most famous sculptures created by the eponymous artist, enabling you to combine fresh air and culture with a bit of space for a quick game of tig.
  5. The catacombs beneath Paris are spooky, eerie and full of skulls: if that sounds like something your child would love then make sure you don’t miss this offbeat attraction. You should keep in mind that this attraction might not be suitable for everyone.


Always plan ahead for dry weather and wet weather alike and always have a few different options up your sleeve for in case there are long queues or unexpected problems. I am sure you will have a much more relaxed trip in the end, if you plan ahead. Well worth it, if you ask me!

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Friday, 25 October 2013

Ironing the Old Fashioned Way

One of many things presented within Legenda Fest in Vrsno, Slovenia (check out our last post for more information) was also a presentation of ironing. Ironing the good old fashioned way.



That is the way our great-grandparents did it. The presentation was set up in a style of a workshop. Visitors could try out their ironing skills with the old equipment. There were various models on display and ready for use.


Heavy irons were filled with ember in order to get properly hot. Those holes on the sides are there to ensure ventilation when swinging an iron through the air. This brings the heat a notch up when it is needed.



Since opportunities for trying out things like these are pretty rare nowadays, visitors seemed excited to try them out.


Even children had no problems fitting in the workshop. On the contrary - it seemed like they were having a great time.



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Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Legenda fest - an Ethnohistorical event in Vrsno

At the end of August we took part in an annual event in the village of Vrsno pri Kobaridu, Slovenia. Legenda fest took place only for the second time in a row, but with the enthusiasm the whole little village put into the event, there was much to admire.



As it is obvious from the post's title the festival focuses on ethnology and history of the region. Since the local area is still pretty much rural, most of the old crafts and traditions are still alive in one form or another. To make sure those are not forgotten and to revive a few others, the local tourist association has set up this great event.


As a birthplace of a famous Slovenian poet Simon Gregorčič, Vrsno has always been a place of culture. Locals have always had a special affection for patriotic, cultural, poetic and similar ideas.



This was also reflected through their devotion to this event and their focus on well-being of every visitor. We really felt welcome.



It seemed like everyone of the 125 villagers (source: SI-STAT) living there today participated in the event. There was a different workshop set up on every corner. Some focused on traditional local cuisine, others on old local crafts and there were even a few workshops suitable for children.



For a visitor coming from an urban area this was a great opportunity to get a taste of a countryside vibe of the times long gone. Everyone participating in the event was dressed up in typical authentic costumes and used authentic, mostly home made tools from the past.



A visitor could witness how cheese and other local dishes were prepared in the time before electricity was introduced to the area. There was an opportunity to taste most of those things on the spot. On the above photo is an example of such a simple dish - roasted potatoes with cottage cheese.
Everything could be washed down with a generous sample of local schnapps at a small improvised distillery set up near the central village square.



One particular yard in front of a random house was almost impossible to pass without making at least a short stop. Smell of freshly roasted coffee was inviting visitors to take a closer look. You guessed it - it was a demonstration of coffee preparation - the good old-fashioned way. Roasting, grinding and cooking were all done using actual equipment used in the time of our great-grandparents. It tasted at least as good as it smelled.



A special kind of an attraction was a demonstration of hay delivery to the village with the use of a steel cable. Since a large proportion of hay is dried higher on the mountain slopes, this was an ingenious idea for transporting large quantities of it directly to the village where it was stored and fed to cattle during long white winters.



There were also other interesting things on display - like for instance sheep shearing. Also the complete process of wool production was demonstrated.



The afternoon was over all too fast. The event was still in full swing when we unfortunately had to hit the road. Hopefully we shall return on another occasion and sample some more of the genuine local hospitality.


If you find yourself in the Posočje area at the end of August I can easily recommend a visit of this event. A genuine experience is guaranteed!


Clicking on any one of above photos will reveal them all in a much more flattering resolution.

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Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Kozjak waterfall

Kozjak waterfall is just one of Slovenia's many waterfalls. It is located in the western part of the country, near the town of Kobarid.



Clicking on the above photo will reveal it in a much more flattering resolution.

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Friday, 11 October 2013

A taste of Tolminc cheese

During our last visit to river Soča valley in Slovenia we also climbed to the top of mount Krn (you can read more about that in our previous post). We started our hike at Planina Kuhinja near villages Krn and Vrsno pri Kobaridu, where we had a chance to taste some of their excellent milk products (Tolminc cheese, fresh cottage cheese and whey).



Everything we tasted was delicious but Tolminc cheese was the definite winner in my opinion. This top quality cheese is made from raw cow’s milk according to local traditional methods. It is also registered as Protected Designation of Origin. It tastes sweet and spicy.


Production procedure of this cheese is strictly regulated and should result in a final product with a specific set of characteristics.



To be sold under the name of Tolminc cheese (Sir Tolminc ZOP), cheese wheels have to weigh between 3.5 and 5 kilos, have a diameter between 23 and 27 centimetres and should be 8 to 9 centimetres high. Inside should be lentil or pea size eyes - that is what those holes are called. Cheese has to be produced out of fresh milk, that was milked from a local breed of brown coloured cows. Cows need to be fed grass and hay from the local area. During production milk also has to be heated to exact temperatures.



Cheese made at Planina Kuhinja has been awarded various prizes for excellency for many years in a row. With such reputation and relatively small production, they do not have any problems selling everything they produce. In fact, their cheese is so popular, they are barely able to age it beyond the 2 months.



Since I had a chance to try their cheese of different ages I have to say I liked the 6 months old the best. It does tend to get spicier and harder with every month it ages, but that is just what I like.



It is worth noting that when grazing season is over, cheese supply also runs out pretty quickly. Every year they drive down cattle from mountain pastures in autumn when temperatures drop and those shepherd's huts stay deserted through winter months.



So if you are thinking about stopping by and have a taste of their products, you should do it during summer or autumn months.



Clicking on any one of above photos will reveal them all in a much more flattering resolution.

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Monday, 7 October 2013

Ascent of mount Krn

Since I have been posting quite a bit about my climbing adventures lately, I decided to also post a few nice photos from our ascent of mount Krn in Slovenia (2244 metres). The ascent this time included quite a steep hike up the mountain side, but there was no actual climbing involved.



We started our day quite early at Planina Kuhinja, where morning cow milking was already in full swing. This is the place where the best of local Tolminc cheese is made. I will post more about that in one of the following posts.


The climb takes around 3 hours and during that time one has to overcome roughly 1250 metres of elevation in order to get to the top.
We left our car with the first morning light. As the sun rose over the top of surrounding mountains, weather looked quite promising. I succeeded in snapping a few nice photos in the morning light.



At first we followed a narrow road that took us through pastures with grazing cattle. Soon enough we switched to a path and almost at the same time the mountain side became a bit steeper. Terrain obviously got too steep for cows since they were replaced by sheep.



There were countless mountain flowers blooming by the path. Some of them would definitely fit perfectly into a herbal infusion mix.



As we were nearing the top of Krn, clouds started gathering and the view from the top was almost non existent. When we stopped for a refreshment at the mountain hut just below the top it got even worse. Considering the weather, we did not linger around for too long and started to descend back towards our starting point.



Half way down the weather cleared again and we could admire a group of parachute gliders enjoying in obviously good wind conditions. They were gaining altitude with ease.



Despite the not so perfect weather at the top, we were all glad we did the climb. When we got to the bottom again, we made a (not so short) stop at the cheese-makers for a taste of their cheese products and a shot of home-made schnapps. They were also happy to give us a tour of the place and an extensive explanation of the cheese-making procedures. More about that in our next post...


Clicking on any one of above photos will reveal them all in a much more flattering resolution.

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Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Slovenian bees at work


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Monday, 30 September 2013

Europe's Best Budget Stag Do Destinations

What do you mean, you’re thinking about staying local for your best mate’s stag do? Why, when you can enjoy a city break in Europe without breaking the bank? Take a look at these four awesome, budget-friendly cities that would gladly welcome your stag party for some unforgettable shenanigans!


Amsterdam, Netherlands
It continues to be a popular choice for stag weekends and it’s understandable why. Book one of the budget Amsterdam hotels from Hotels4U and you will have plenty of cash left to spend on activities and night-time frivolity. If you want a wild weekend, this is the place to have it – just make sure you know where you’re staying because the maze of canals and streets can get confusing after one too many shandies.



Edinburgh, UK
OK, so you may not be crossing any seas, but a trip to Edinburgh for a stag weekend will be filled with fun for the duration of the trip. Copious amounts of bars await you and, if you want to do something a little more active during the day (other than nursing your hangovers), the Lothians are on your doorstep.


Riga, Latvia
It’s proving to be incredibly popular of late, due to its affordable pricing – not just to get there but to also drink and eat and enjoy as well. Make sure you respect the culture and the city you’re in; even if you are on a stag do, it doesn’t mean you have to act like a numpty.



Barcelona, Spain
It’s not just for the hopeless romantics, you know. While the city is rich in culture and beauty, if all you’re interested in is the bars, you won’t be disappointed. Dos cervezas, por favor?


Ljubljana, Slovenia
This is definitely not the most common destination but it just might be the nicest. Slovenia is definitely very affordable and since Ljubljana is an university city, pubs are always full of students doing what they do best - partying hard. Locals are also known for their good English, so communication should never be an issue, no matter how many of those €2 beers you drink.



If none of these really sounds like your thing, you can always go to a clubbing mecca like Ibiza or Malia. Those are also perfect for stags as well as groups of lads on a bender. Just remember to behave!

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