Exploring the beautiful Soča Valley

A few months ago I somehow came across a short blog post about a hiking trail along the Soča river in Slovenia. It’s my home country, so I was surprised I never heard about the Soča Trail (Soška pot), which is actually part of a longer trailed called Alpe-Adria trail, that starts in The Alps in Austria and finishes at the Adriatic Sea. So I made a bit of a research and realized the Soča Trail is about 20km long (actually it’s more about 30km long) and goes along the river all the time, from the spring of the river to Bovec.

My mind was set on this trail the moment I heard about it and I decided this summer I’ll walk this path. So, to finish this summer the way I wanted, two of my friends and me decided to do it, to hike this path. Saturday, early morning, we started to drive towards Bovec, where we left our car. We took a bus from Bovec to the starting point. Around 10:20 am we were at the spring of Soča river and started to walk the trail – a bit later than we thought we will, but oh well, at least we started.

Obviously, at that time we were all still all full of energy, optimistic, positive and determined we will finish the trail. It’s a shame, but none of us were familiar with this area, we drove through it or been to parts of it before, but never really took time to explore this beautiful part of our country. The path mostly goes through the forest, sometimes through more open fields, but it’s easy to walk and absolutely lovely. There are few short hikes uphill now and then, but nothing dramatic, everybody can do it. Along the way, all the sweat is rewarded with stunning views of the mountains, Julian Alps, and views on the clear emerald water of the river. I’ve seen a lot of places around the world, but I must say, this was one of the best views ever.

We were making short stops about every hour, none of us is particularly fit, so we needed a break now and then. Around 3:30 pm we decided to stop for a bit longer, especially because Maja’s shoes were not as comfortable as she expected, so her feet hurt like hell. Nina had some troubles with her shoes too. I guess I was the lucky one, with comfortable shoes and still loads of energy left. So we just sat down on some rocks by the river, ate some snacks and enjoyed the view. The two of them decided this was the end of the trail for them and they would catch a bus back to the town. However, I was still full of energy and excited about the whole trail, so I decided to continue the path on my own.

Honestly, I loved this part of the trail the most. I love my friends and it was so much fun to walk, talk and laugh together – I’m a very extroverted person – but as soon as I started walking on my own a whole new experience opened up for me. Peace, quiet, nature, it was all so relaxing, gave me time to clear my mind and just be. It’s probably a bit weird, but instead of getting tired I just got even more energized. From time to time I was even running few hundred meters, and I usually never run! Definitely a whole new experience for me. I kept going for about four more hours, but then the sun was going down a bit too fast for me and I had to give up. My soul was saying to keep going, but common sense said it’s probably a good idea to stop where I am and call my friends to come pick me up. I believe I still had about 7km to walk to reach Bovec. I still walked about 23km, so I’m proud of myself, it was an absolutely amazing experience. But now I’m determined that I’ll walk this path again and next time, I’ll be prepared and start earlier. 🙂

Surprisingly, after a whole day of walking, I was all bubbly and full of energy even in the evening and I didn’t feel like going to sleep yet. In the morning I was up at 7 am and couldn’t wait for more adventures. 😀 I’m definitely one of those people that get all powered up by adventures… 😀

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My travels on Harmony of the Seas 2016/2017

Seems like I’m really going from one adventure to another, that’s why last few years I couldn’t keep up with blogging as much as I’d want to. I remember the day when I was on my first ship and we docked in Copenhagen. We saw a massive ship in the distance, it was Oasis of the Seas, the biggest cruise ship in the world at the time. I said I’d love to work on a ship that size one day and my friends looked at me like I’m completely crazy: “Why the hell would you want that!? It must be too many people and too much work to do!”

Well… less than two years later, November 2016, I joined what is at the moment the biggest cruise ship in the world (which is just a tiny bit bigger than Oasis of the Seas), Royal Caribbean Harmony of the Seas. I can’t describe how excited I was when I heard the news that I’m joining this massive ship. Another dream came true… =D I joined the ship in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. When I was reaching the terminal I could see the massive thing that looked like a building. I was so excited.

Again I joined as a photographer. Well, Staff Photographer to be more specific and in a bit more than a month I finally got my promotion to Senior Photographer. By the end of the contract I signed up for a Private Studio Photographer position, so I started my training, which kind of gave me a position of a studio assistant.

Ok, so, the ship is absolutely amazing, but I think I’ll write another post about the ship… =) Before I joined I was a little worried how will I cope with so many people, such a big team, and so many guests. I mean, the ship holds around 6500 guests and about 2500 crew members. Only in photo team, it was I think 27 of us, so that worried me the most because these were the people I will really see every day and we all kind of had to get along. I was surprised, but this was the best team I ever had. People I met and worked with this contract were the best people (well, there is always one or two exceptions, but ok, nobody forces you to hang out with them…). =D We worked as a team, we went out together and we had fun and enjoyed the parties together.

Honestly, this contract I wasn’t actually that excited about the locations we visited. I mean… I was… But we were doing the same itinerary all the time, so you get used to it. And I kind of didn’t really want to spend much money for too much crazy stuff and too much sightseeing. I still saw a lot, had probably too much fun, tried new stuff, seen new places, but somehow this contract I lost a little bit of that passion for going out and taking a bunch of photos. I still tried to go out every time when we were in port, I skipped only a few days… This time when I went out I usually just tried to relax, enjoy, be in good company and forget about work and worries. Honestly, one of my favorite things was to go out in the Bahamas and just lie on a beach for an hour our two (usually I didn’t have more time).

 

Bahamas

So let me say something about the places I visited during this contract. High up on my wish list were definitely the Bahamas and I was lucky enough to visit Nassau. Sadly we didn’t have much time there, so I only went around the town usually and to the nearest beach. But I liked it there, I just wish I would have more time to actually explore the area. One thing I didn’t do and remains on my bucket list is the Atlantis resort water park with one of the most extreme waterslides in the world. I did visit the resort and the aquarium, just not the water park. But it’s ok, I fell in love with the resort itself. Seriously, I was dreaming about seeing this place for soooo long and when I actually got there I couldn’t stop smiling. Like a happy kid! Some girls want to go to Disneyworld, I just wanted to go to Atlantis. All this ocean theme is more my thing… =) Décor and the details there are absolutely stunning and I loved the aquarium and everything. I don’t really like cheesy and too much girly stuff, but I felt a bit like a little mermaid there. =D

St. Thomas

Another stop was St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. Because our ship was so massive we docked at a different port than most cruise ships, but there are plenty of shuttle buses and taxis available, so no problem. Few times I again went to the nearest beach, which was about 20min walk away. Few times I took a shuttle to the other port, where it was some good places to do shopping. Once I actually saw my previous ship, Fred Olsen Balmoral, docked there, but sadly I couldn’t reach any of my friends that were still on it. Oh well, it was cute to see my previous home. =) And once we took a cable car on top of a hill where we got a beautiful view down on the island, bays, ships, and the ocean. It was great! Oh, and once we went to Magens Bay, apparently one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Honestly, I thought it was really nice, but I’ve seen better. Well actually it’s quite busy, so that doesn’t make it as beautiful, but if you keep walking a bit further down the beach, away from all the bars, it gets much emptier and so much more enjoyable.

St. Maarten

Ok then let’s move on to St. Maarten, one of my favorite islands in the Caribbean. This island is just pure awesomeness. I like the town, it’s cute, it’s not too small, not too big, there is a great beach right there in town and it has some cool shops as well. But definitely, the best thing in the whole island is my favorite fun beach ever, Maho Beach, the one with the airport right by the beach. I’ve been there before, you can check my old video to see how it looks like and why it’s so awesome. This contract I’ve been there twice and the second time was right on my birthday. Honestly, I don’t think I could pick a better spot out of the whole itinerary to be there for my birthday. I loved it! First of all, the whole airport experience is so much fun, just to see the planes landing, to be just a few meters under them and on top of all to stand behind the planes when they take off. Those jet blasts are sometimes really crazy and they blow everything away – one of my friend’s phone got blown away for example… He was holding the selfie stick, but apparently, the phone got jealous or something, so it got blown away in a jet blast. Kind of funny, but also sad, since we couldn’t find a phone after that… But on my birthday the planes were not the only cool thing there. We loved the big waves! At first, they didn’t seem that crazy, but then we were in the water and suddenly quite a big wave was coming towards us – my friend and I thought we can beat the nature and stand strong… Ha, we couldn’t be more wrong. When I opened my eyes I was sitting on a beach. =D Throwing ourselves in the waves and being covered with sand was probably the best thing I ever did on my birthday. =D

Haiti

Let me mention Labadee in Haiti… Well, Labadee is basically a large area that’s privately owned by Royal Caribbean, so only RCCL and its sister companies ships can visit this port. The whole place is all about beach time, sunbathing, relaxing and having fun. There is a long zip-line you can try, kayaks, slides, jet skis and a bunch of other activities and tours you can do. Well for us photographers that meant not really having much time, since we had to shoot at the gangway, or on a beach… I would probably like Labadee as a guest, but I absolutely hated standing in the sun for hours – and I love the sun, but what’s too much is too much. Oh well… At least few times we managed to have some fun kayaking and visiting Belly Beach for some local lunch. =)

Jamaica

Then we had Jamaica… Yes, I know, I’m horrible, I actually didn’t go out in Jamaica at all. Every time I only went out to the nearest bar for some Wi-Fi, plus they had a swimming pool… Once my friend and I decided we’ll go and explore the world outside the terminal, and since we couldn’t get more people to go out with us, it was just two of us and so all the taxi rides would be too expensive. So basically we walked around few blocks and were offered weed, a ride or braids on every single step. I hated that, so we got a bit grumpy and decided to just go back to the port. I’m sure Jamaica is amazing when you go out to some beach or waterfalls or so, but seriously, I didn’t want to spend a fortune or I didn’t get enough people to split the fare. Actually, I don’t regret it that much, but oh well, what’s done is done.

Cozumel, Mexico

One of the everybody’s favorite ports is Cozumel, Mexico. This place is always fun because it’s cheap and it’s so many things you can do. Once we had a crew party on a beach, then another time I went to get a new tattoo (yes, I love it and it’s awesome and I would do it again!). =) It was also a great place to go shopping because out of all ports this one was the cheapest. Food, clothes, everything! Well, probably the best time I ever had in Cozumel was when some of us rented two Jeeps and we made a bit of a road trip around the island. It was freaking awesome, like in movies or music videos, so much fun! You know, girls in bikinis, boys driving, drinking beer, off-road driving through some bushes, ocean view… Well, one of the guys knew about some private beach, so we kind of snuck through the fence and enjoyed our own private place, had fun in the water, took funny photos… Well, then the owner of the place came and told us we need to leave, but who cares, since we were about to leave anyway! Haha! Seriously, so much fun! Then another time we rented scooters and drove around, again went to a beach, enjoyed few drinks (personally I fell in love with Kraken – Rum and coke, it makes me feel like a pirate), went in the water… I’m sure these will always be one of my favorite memories. =D

Well from Cozumel you can actually take a ferry and go to the mainland to a town named Playa del Carmen. I went there once because I needed some clothes and I was told this was the best place for shopping. Honestly, I wasn’t that impressed. I mean, there is a lot of shops, but I didn’t really find anything much different than at home and the prices seemed quite similar, even though everybody was saying it’s cheap. But it’s a really cute city, I liked walking through it and I loved the spirit of the town, the colors and the people. Worth visiting for vacation I’d say. Once I took a tour from there and I went to see the pyramids. Well, I wanted to see Chichen Itza, but I realized I wouldn’t have much time there, so I’ll leave that for some other time. Instead, I went to see Coba Pyramids and it was absolutely awesome because I wanted to climb an ancient pyramid since I was a kid. And I did it, I climbed up a Mayan pyramid! How cool is that?! I loved it! I can’t describe the feeling when I reached the top and realized I’m standing on such a magnificent and so old architecture! On days like that, I honestly can’t believe how blessed I am to be able to see and experience such amazing moments! Besides this awesome spot, my tour included another thing I always wanted to do – swimming in cenote cave. We visited a nearby place, where you take spiral stairs down in the ground. When we reached the bottom there was a wooden platform and stairs that take you in the water. Absolutely amazing and magical! Yes, it’s a cave, no natural light, just some artificial lights so you at least see where you are. But yeah, the whole cave is basically a lake. There is water all around and we were able to swim, jump in and I even took my snorkeling gear and decided to explore the world under the water. Well, it’s very dark, so you can’t see that much, but there is enough light to make everything a bit visible and creepy at the same time. Magnificent!

Puerto Rico

And then the last port we visited, but when I was on board sadly only twice and I was able to get out only once – Puerto Rico! Oh my, I know why everybody loves this place – it’s awesome! The city is absolutely fantastic, full of colors, charm, history and besides it has some really cool fortresses! I went to see San Felipe del Morro, which stands at the edge of a bay, guarding the city. It’s definitely worth a visit! This is another place I’d love to return one day and explore it more on my own because sadly, my time there was very limited.

 

Honestly, this contract I was quite tired, especially last few months. I can’t complain about the schedule or the team or the ship, all of it was amazing, but I think what made me so exhausted was a number of people we were dealing with every single day. I always loved going out and exploring ports, but this time I needed to rest more than previous contracts. Well, I admit, there were some cool parties that I simply didn’t want to miss, so of course, I had to go to the party and then in the morning, we had to work… Oh, the suffering… But hey, it was fun, so it was worth it and we have funny stories to tell now. =D Well, actually if all you do is work and sleep you go crazy, so every now and then you really need to go and enjoy the party, have fun, try not to drink too much… Actually, as crew members we were not allowed to drink too much – we’re supposed to be “able to drive a car”. Well… we all know how that goes and sometimes you have that one drink too much, maybe two… But yeah, you can get fired for being over the limit, so better be careful.

Anyway, yes, this contract was super fun, I loved it, but I just wish I wouldn’t be that tired… But as I said, still worth it, since I met so many amazing people, plus I can say I worked on world’s largest cruise ship. =D Yaaay!

When I was leaving the ship I was happy, but as usually, sad as well. It was my second home, my second family and it was awesome… =D

Now I hope you’ll enjoy the photos… =)

My 2016 Ship Life

Long time has pass since I last wrote. I guess that should tell you I was a bit too busy enjoying life. =) So what happened this year? My new adventure started in February. I decided to return to ship life and start a new adventure with a different company. I got hired as a cruise ship photographer by American company named Image Group. So yes, I spent few months on the waves again and that’s more or less the reason I didn’t write anything on this blog. When you’re on board it’s just hard to find any free time to write, and when I do have time I spend it to rest, relax and have fun. =)

In February I flew to Miami where I joined the rest of us “new hires” and we all attended a few day training program. We were a fun international group and I could say we got along very well, considering we only met each other. For most of us this was our first time in USA, so we were all excited about small things. We were all impressed by cars in Miami, the avenues, the width of the roads and of course we were unable to resist some typical things we see online and on TV – Walmart… =D I know, for Americans probably silly thing to be excited about – for us, this was fun experience, because we hear so much about it. So yes, we all had to go to Walmart. =D Beside this unusual tourist experience we also went downtown to Miami Beach. Sadly we didn’t have much time to really enjoy it, but we had few hours and that was ok with us. Few drinks, some food, see the famous beach, stare at amazing cars that passed by and we even saw CSI van parked in front of some house! Now that was a proper TV scene. We kept saying: “OMG, look, it’s like in the movies!” =D

Last day of the training they told us what are our assignments and which ship will we be joining. I was one of the first ones to be told I was going to Australia. I was shocked and happy at the same time. I expected some Caribbean or Europe, instead I got the land down under! I checked the itinerary and I was immediately excited. I was joining in Brisbane in Australia, then we had circular navigation around Australian continent together with Tasmania. Then followed some New Zealand and crossing the Pacific Ocean with stops on French Polynesian islands and Hawaii. After that we had two weeks of dry dock in Portland, Oregon and after that 4 months of cruising in Alaska and in the end of my contract another crossing of Pacific back towards Australia. I was really surprised in a positive way, because I don’t think I ever imagined I’d actually visit this kind of places ever in my life.

So… First I was laughing because I packed one sarong with Hawaii text, some snickers with brand name Australian and another pair with brand name Polynesian. It was almost like I was packing and buying stuff that later led me to these locations. I thought it was really funny. But since my religion is “Law of attraction”, maybe that was it… =)

I started my journey in Slovenia, flew to Miami for those few days, then all across the US with airport stop in Los Angeles and continued my journey to Brisbane, Australia. Let me just say that I’ve been dreaming about LA since I was 16 and I always wanted to live there, even though I haven’t been there yet. But for me just changing flights at LAX was like a dream come true. The view of the city from the sky, the streets, lights and the airport itself… My eyes got a bit wet, and trust me, I don’t cry easily. When you dream about something so passionately and you can touch just a little bit of those dreams in real world, it’s absolutely indescribable experience. I went for some food at the airport and for the first time in my life I opened a fortune cookie – it said “Your future is bright”. I still carry this paper with me in my wallet and it gives me extra dose of optimism every time I look at it. =)

All I can say – my journey started absolutely amazing, even though I didn’t have Valentine’s day this year… Ok, this is another interesting story. =) My flight from LA was around 10PM local time on 13th February and because of the international date line in between I landed in Australia on 15th February, so I basically skipped the whole 14th February. Haha! My brother said to me: “Forever alone.” =D Haha!
So, let’s try to summon up these 8 months. In Australia I had a chance to cuddle a koala bear, pet a kangaroo, see some massive bats, some crocodiles, Tasmanian devils, dingo, seen the lightening hit the ground, touched the Sydney Opera house, snorkelled at The Great Barrier Reef and I visited some cool museums. Once I was on the forward outside deck in the middle of the night and I’ve seen dolphins jumping out next to the ship – absolutely amazing!

In New Zealand I’ve seen amazing Milford Sounds fjords, done some nice hiking and visited WETA workshop museum – the place where they make movie props. WETA is most famous for props in movies Lord of the Rings and Hobbit, but also Narnia, District 9 and many more. I took some photos at the shop and in front of the building, but we were not allowed to take photos inside. Let me just tell you I touched the mithril, seen original armors and weapons and I even held an original gun from the movie District 9. For movie buffs and LOTR fans this is close to paradise. =D
From there we actually did go to proper paradise. We had stops in Bora-Bora, Tahiti and Morea – three French Polynesian islands with proper tropical climate, palm trees, white sandy beaches and turquoise sea. I visited those small wooden houses that are built above the water, I’ve seen some amazing jungles and I was snorkeling with reef sharks and sting rays. It was absolutely amazing!

Another paradise stop were Hawaii. We visited Maui, Oahu, The Big Island and Kauai. I’ve been to the famous Waikiki Beach, I’ve seen volcanos and even a real lava flow coming into the ocean, I was swimming with turtles (we randomly encountered them while snorkeling), I’ve eaten at the famous Duke’s restaurant, seen dolphins, seen some waterfalls and I even learned how to surf! I guess I couldn’t pick a better place to learn this sport than the islands where it all started. =) Although I was told later on in the day that they spotted a great white shark just at the area where I was surfing… I guess luck really is on my side. =) Nevertheless, from now on Hawaiian Islands are my favorite place in the world and I think plumeria is now my favorite flower. =)

Following all these paradise islands there was dry dock in Portland, Oregon waiting for our ship. We disembarked all the guests and basically crew had the whole ship for ourselves. Well, obviously we had quite a lot of limitations, because a lot of areas were closed for maintenance. But we did eat at the main self-service dining room called Windjammer and we didn’t have to wear our uniforms (that was the most awesome part for most of us). Now and then certain sections of the ship would be without electricity or water, but hey, that was part of the fun of the dry dock. Photo team was one of the lucky ones that didn’t have much work to do during dry dock. That meant we had a looooot of free time. And that meant – have fun, enjoy, relax, discover, explore… One day we rented a car and went to see the famous Multnomah Falls. I actually had this place as desktop background on my computer for years and for a long time I thought it was some sort of fantasy style illustration and learned years later that this place actually exists. I had no idea that’s so close to Portland, so imagine my excitement when I realized we can drive to that place! This was like a dream come true for me and I think all my friends were really glad I suggested we go there. It was spectacular! =D

Beside exploring the waterfalls we’ve also done some hiking in the park above Portland, we visited the river side, we’ve all done some shopping, visited famous Saturday market, we even went to a strip club (Hey, they say try everything once in your life… Well, except drugs and other illegal stuff – don’t do that.). I even got a lap dance from some sexy male stripper. Never thought I’ll ever experience that, haha! =D Besides all that I even visited a “Filmed by Bike” festival, because my friend’s girlfriend was there representing their video. They even won some award there, so I’m definitely glad I went. And it was absolutely amazing feeling to meet up with another Slovenian. =D And since she knows my brother I even managed to give her some small souvenirs to take them back home and give them to my family when she comes back. =D

So… When the ship was back in the water we sailed towards Vancouver, Canada, got our new round of guests and started our Alaskan season. Four months of Alaska… For many people real fun and amazing experiences, for me it was kind of torture… Yes, I agree Alaskan wilderness and nature looks beautiful, but the climate is just not what I crave for and I’m used to seeing mountains every day, because I live under the Alps. I guess few cruises would be nice, but few months were too much for me. First few weeks we also had nice warm sunny weather and later on we had a lot of rainy and cloudy cruises. But I did see some whales, I’ve seen how the glacier ice is caving and falling into the water, I’ve seen some nice lakes, mountains and forests. Our last cruises we were even lucky enough to see northern lights. But even with all that beauty of nature, my head was set on tropical places and palm trees. =)
Luckily I was on board for another crossing, so I got Hawaii and French Polynesia one more time before flying back home. I must say that when I was on board we were quite lucky with the Ocean Gods and we didn’t have any really bad weather. We had a big storm a day before my departure home, but it didn’t feel that bad. It did look rather spectacular, because we were in the middle of Pacific, black night all around us, strong wind and then the whole sky would turn white when the lightening started. Amazing and a bit scary feeling, but I’m happy I’ve seen something as impressive as this.

I was flying home from Wellington in New Zealand, to Melbourne, to Dubai, to Frankfurt and in the end to Ljubljana. I had 28 hours in the air, 38 travel hours all together. This was for sure the longest journey I had so far. =)
When I look back I can only say these eight months were absolutely spectacular and I’m so glad I’ve done it all. On board I met some amazing people, got great friends, had the best parties, explored so much, seen places I never thought I’ll ever see, had experiences I never believed I can possible have and I came home believing anything is possible even more than before. It’s hard to explain to people how “ship life” works and how it changes a person. For sure it’s not for everybody. I mean, I’ve seen people quitting after few weeks, crying after few hours, being home sick and just had enough of being around people. But to me, this is the best adventure of my life so far. I truly feel blessed and often still can’t believe all this is happening to me, because it feels like a movie. But it is true, it’s my reality. =D
Thank you all that shared time with me in these few months, all of you that I consider my ship friends and everybody that was crazy enough to do some of these adventures with me. =D I’m also attaching a video of my adventures… =)

Video: Radiance of the Seas 2016

So now I’m already on the way towards new adventure… I’ll let you know about this one when I return. =) For now I just wish you all great start of New Year and keep dreaming – dreams do come true! =D

Autumn on Rašica

Fallen leaves, fallen leaves, fallen leaves on the ground… Every single year when the leaves fall down from the trees I can’t get the “Fallen leaves” song by Billy Talent out of my head. Well this was few days ago, when the weather was still quite nice here in Slovenia and most of the trees still had the leaves on. It was really nice and warm autumn day, so we decided to have a little hike.
We went on top of the Rašica, hill a bit north from Ljubljana. There is a tall iron tower on top, so I went up and took some photos from up there. Sadly it was quite foggy below, so the view wasn’t as nice as it could be. I guess I’ll have to return to the Rašica tower some other day when the visibility will be better.

Sunset at Novigrad, Croatia

Finally I took some time for the seaside this season, though only for the weekend. I’ll divide these photos in three different blog posts, because they are all different themes and different days. On Friday evening we arrived to Novigrad, so we went for a walk along the coast right before the sunset. The sky was full of dark clouds and the sun rays were trying to peek from behind them, so it was very dramatic. I took some photos and yes, they are a bit edited, though to be honest, the sky really was like that – dark, cloudy, dramatic, interesting colours… Amazing.
And right when I said how cool it would be if that fishing boat in the distance would come closer, I noticed that it really was going our way and the seagulls were following it.
It was one amazing evening and here are my photos.