We are taking a small reprieve from life on a boat to share some of the spectacular inland sights that can be found in this region of Europe. The architecture and rich history found in this part of the world never ceases to amaze me. We arrived in Pula around 7 pm on June 12th. As we came in, they told us they had a special place for us….hmmmm….that could be good or bad. It quickly became evident that it is all about perspective. While we have a great view of the ancient colosseum from our boat, we are also in a very tight channel with large tour boats across from us and the street directly behind them (this translates to constant boat traffic in and out in front of us and a great deal of road noise). Since the city is also right across the street, we are also subjected to really loud music until the wee hours of the morning (and not good music!). It’s going to be a long month 🙁
The following day, our arch fabricators came out to re-measure Zoe for the framework they are building to hold the solar panels. We were then hit with the bad news that it may take them up to 2 weeks before they would be ready to install. We wanted so bad to be out of the marina and in the islands that we could taste it. So, we decided to make the best of a bad situation. We concocted a plan to head out of Croatia by car and explore some other countries while we waited (this also had the added benefit of giving us more time on our visa within Croatia since we would be “tapping out.”) That Sunday, we made sure Zoe was tightly secured in her slip and ready for the impending weather system that was coming in while we were away. We hit the road toward our first destination, the capital city of Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Three hours later, we arrived and headed off on foot to explore the old city. As has been the case in most cities we have visited, it consisted of ancient stone buildings, magnificent churches with their bell towers, and a castle sitting high up on the hill. This city also had a beautiful river that ran through it and bridges that took you from one area of town to the other. After wandering the cobblestone alleys drinking in all the sights, we settled on this wonderful little restaurant along the river. As we often do (when it’s offered) we opted for the chef’s tasting menu which did not disappoint! We decided it was time to find a place to stay for the night (yes, we wing it quite often….sometimes it works out great and sometimes it doesn’t). On our way back to the car, the impending storm I mentioned earlier reared it’s ugly head, and we were caught in a downpour of giant, pelting drops of rain. We ran for cover and waited for it to let up at least a little bit before racing the rest of the way to car. Dan found us a highly reviewed little apartment on the edge of town and off we went. We struggled to find the place since it was tucked up in a pedestrian zone and not visible from the main road. Luckily the owner signaled us from the road and guided us to the place. Remember how I mentioned that winging it was sometimes hit or miss? Well this was a miss. The place was nice, but the bed was hard as a rock and there was no air conditioning which meant it was sweltering hot. We tried to sleep with the windows open, but it was ridiculously loud all night long. Needless to say, neither of us slept well and were no longer happy campers.
We wanted to continue our journey to other countries since we had been to numerous cities in Slovenia on different vacations to Croatia. Our next stop was Budapest, Hungary about 5 hours away. Once again, we were winging it :). By the time we arrived in the city, it was rush hour and traffic was horrendous. It was also getting late, and we were both tired. Dan ended up finding us this awesome boatel on the Danube River. We quickly went to check in to this adorable mini river cruise boat (but it no longer “cruises”). We had a great little room with porthole views of the beautiful parliament building, downtown skyline, and the river rapidly rolling by us (the Danube has quite a current running). We decided we were too worn out to explore, so we headed to the market for some finger foods and opted for a mattress picnic in our room. Tomorrow would be a big day of exploration.
We got ourselves moving the next morning and headed out on foot to explore this magical place. This was going to be a walking tour, and a pretty long one at that. Our first stop took us high up a hill followed by an endless amount of steps. Here we arrived at a place called the Fisherman’s Bastion. This bastion features pointed towers and turrets that look like something right out of Disneyland. It was quite a sight to see. From there we headed down to the Chain Bridge and crossed over the Danube to take in the views of the Buda Castle which dominates the landscape on one side of the Danube. Once again, I will give a quick synopsis of the sights and let the pictures show you the beauty that is Budapest. Next stop: The Hungarian Parliament building. This neo-Gothic, neo-Romanesque, neo-Baroque structure is one of the main tourist attractions in Budapest, and it is quite a sight to see. It dominates the skyline of other side of the Danube, and is just as amazing lit up at night as it is to see during the day. From there, we wandered into a park area with a fun and interactive fountain in the square. Behind it stood a controversial memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. The monument depicts Hungary as the Archangel Gabriel being attacked by a German imperial eagle, and the critics say it absolves the Hungarian state and Hungarians of their active role in sending some 450,000 Jews to their deaths during the occupation. The photos, relics, and letters surrounding the monument invoke chills and are quite sombering. As we continued our walk through the city, we happened upon a bronze statue of Ronald Reagan….definitely wasn’t expecting that….so of course we had to pose with him 🙂
After 6 1/2 miles of walking in the heat, Dan and I were exhausted. We still had a fairly long way back to our hotel, so we decided to take a couple hour river cruise and see the sights from the comfort of a boat with some champagne in hand. Needless to say, that was quite a bit of fun, and we got some great pictures of things we might not have gotten the chance to see.
Our plan at this point was to spend one more night and then head to Slovakia for a night and on to Vienna for a night or two. Yep….best laid plans and all that. I swear, our entire adventure this season has been plans written in the sand! We got a call from the distributor of our solar panels, and he needed us to meet him the next day to pick them up. Seriously???? This meant an early departure from Budapest and an 8 hour drive all the way back to Croatia! Ugh!!! We were disappointed to have to cut our inland exploration short but excited to finally have one piece of our boat upgrades in hand. Unfortunately, when we finally met up with the guy, he had the wrong panels. Ironically, this was probably a good thing because I am pretty sure they were not going to fit into our car! Since he brought the wrong ones, he wanted to do right by us and actually delivered the right ones all the way to the boat. That was a huge help!
At this point, we have been in the marina for 3 weeks. It seems every day something is delayed. Contractors tell us they will be here and then they no show without a word. Guess some things are a problem no matter where in the world you go. On a positive note, as I finish up this tale, our solar arch finally got installed today and all our new batteries, switches, and parts are on board. Our electrician is scheduled to arrive tomorrow (fingers crossed) to install the solar panels, wiring, and batteries. Once that is done, we will once again be on our way and hoisting our sails!