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… 😀

Italy – Traveling back in time around Naples

Hello again! This is another pretty late post, but oh well, better late than never I guess. So I had a short vacation at home and before joining my new ship I decided to go on a small adventure to my neighboring country for few days, Italy. I’ve seen some of the more northern parts already, but the area around Naples was always high up on my bucket list. Since I had a friend there, even better! You can find photos on the bottom of the post.

Caserta Palace

One of the spots I visited was Caserta Palace, a bit north of Naples. It’s a magnificent palace, beautiful, full of amazing artworks, covered with so much marble that you can’t believe it. Seriously, I can’t imagine how much all that marble cost at one point. I’m always somehow shocked and disappointed how aristocrats often didn’t (still don’t) care how much money is spent on ridiculous things. But yes, I admit, the end result is impressive. In the rooms, you get the glimpse of a life of kings and queens, since you can see their bedrooms, study rooms, throne room with an actual throne and even the toilet. And it’s not just the rooms and regular objects that are interesting. In this palace, you need to pay attention to small details. The chandeliers, the paintings, the statues and all the tiny things that we sometimes don’t even notice – they’re all amazing artworks.

The thing is, the palace is so massive that it’s not fully renovated. Part of it is open to public (and it’s still massive), a big part is still under renovation. Hopefully one day everything will be restored to its former glory and we’ll be able to see every secret corner of this gorgeous building. I wasn’t allowed to take photos of the inside (and honestly, I just wanted to enjoy the place without taking photos), so I don’t have much there… Since we arrived a bit late we didn’t have a chance to visit the gardens too, but I’d say if you ever pass the area, this is a spot worth visiting.

Naples

Let me say few things about Naples as well. Honestly, I expected much more of this city. We heard on the news this city has trouble with garbage, but I’m an optimistic person and I always think things can’t be that bad. Trust me in this case – it’s bad. I get there are nasty areas around the world, but I always considered Europe to be quite clean since my country is super clean… Well, that’s not the case in this part of Italy. I’ve seen people actually stopping the car on the SOS stop on a highway to put out on the side of the street a plastic bag full of trash. What the hell is wrong with people and this place?! So yes, for my standards, this place was quite dirty. Also, I thought it would be more interesting for a tourist, more to see, more to do… Well honestly, I was disappointed.

Walking around Naples is a bit tricky. Some parts of the city are really boring, gray, ugly and you get the feeling somebody will come around the corner to rob you. I felt a bit uncomfortable even if I wasn’t walking around alone. If you stick to the touristy streets and roads it feels better, but it’s easy to get off the beaten path. The main streets are actually really interesting, full of cute shops, souvenirs, and small restaurants. There is one main touristy route through the city that takes to all main locations, like the main square Plazza del Plebiscito with the Royal Palace and a church, then through the old town and all the way to the old city gate. Even though these are the main tourist areas I was quite surprised they were still very dirty. Trash was lying around the streets and there was a sad view of a lot of beggars and immigrants trying to illegally sell some souvenirs. I don’t mind the beggars and immigrants, don’t get me wrong, I just think it’s sad to see that and it makes you think what we all can do to help the world. I won’t get into politics here, let’s leave that maybe for some other post…

Castello del Ovo

I went to see the Ovo Castle, which is at the edge of the city, guarding the bay. It’s a nice castle, it’s quite well preserved and renovated and I love how it looks like a really strong medieval fortress that you wouldn’t want to mess around with. I always like to imagine going back in time, how it looked like in all its glory… I liked it. But I must say, I was a bit disappointed once I reached the inside of the castle. The exterior is nice, the walls, the walk up, the canons… But that’s about it. There is not much more to see there. Maybe I’ve seen too many castles and fortresses and I’m not that easy to impress anymore, but I really expected to see a bit more than just some cannons and blank walls.

National Archeological Museum

The place that impressed me was National Archeological Museum in Naples. Since I’m a huge history and art buff this was definitely one of the most exciting things for me. The building is home to so many statues and objects from different parts of the world, even some Egyptian art, mummies and scripts. Really cool. But the main thing that I came to see was ancient Roman art and objects from the city of Pompeii. There are so many massive statues from the Roman times that you can’t count them. Some of them used to decorate private homes, others were part of public buildings, but all of them are absolutely beautiful. The size of some of them is gigantic – I didn’t expect that!

Then there is one area of the museum that is dedicated only to the objects from Pompeii, and that’s more or less what I really came to see. They have an original bed, mosaics, tables, pottery and so many tiny objects that got “frozen” in time because of the eruption of Vesuvius. What I thought was absolutely hilarious was “the dicks of Pompeii”. I’ve heard of them before, my awesome professor of Art History even mentioned them to us once, but I never found much information about this. So that was also the reason I wanted to see it “with my own eyes”. So let me explain just a bit of history here. Ancient Roman times were very open minded and a lot of things that are a taboo these days were quite acceptable back then. They had a lot of brothels and obviously, sex was a big business (well, in a way that is still the case in modern times). So around the cities, there were a lot of “dick” signs to use as direction sign to the nearby brothel. Some signs were just as drawings on the wall, others were big (and hard) statues built in the wall. Walls of brothels were decorated with frescoes that usually had sexual scenes. There were all kinds of sexual positions, orgies and even some weird things they did with animals. Yes, those ancient times were quite crazy! So this kind of stuff is all represented in this museum and when you look at it, you’re not sure if you should laugh or not since it wasn’t really meant to be funny, but it somehow is… I don’t know, it seemed like I was the only one really enjoying this part of the exhibition, I couldn’t stop smiling, while others looked a little disapproving. =D

Well, let’s leave this sex topic now because I don’t want to get you all too excited. =)

Pompeii

Now let’s finally come to the highlight and the thing I was waiting to see almost all my life – Pompeii. Since I was a kid I used to read about this city that literally died in few hours. When I saw the walls I was probably the happiest person that day, it was like a dream come true for me. If I could travel in time, that’s the era I’d go to. The city is so well preserved, so many walls still high up, you can tell where were the doors, where the windows, you can see some frescoes, statues, and mosaics… There are some amazing remains of insulas (Roman houses) where you can see the floorplan and how on the lower level there was some sort of a shop or a craft and upper levels were used as an apartment. It’s so interesting to see massive built-in amphoras (huge vases or bowls) that were used to serve street food. I loved that most of the buildings had some sort of signs explaining their function. Then the villas on the outskirts of Pompeii, near the city walls. You can visit their amazing gardens with flowers and fountains and with a little bit of imagination you can see yourself there in some toga sitting on a bench enjoying Roman wine… Absolutely amazing.

Visiting the old theater was one of the best things because in a way I was hoping actors would come on stage and play some amazing act. It’s beautiful. And if you’re on the top of the main theater you have a really good view of the city as well. Underneath you can also see a smaller theater and a large sports court that was beside competitions also used for training purposes. Apparently smaller rooms next to the training court were used as rooms for gladiators.

And that leads us to the amphitheater on the outside of the city walls. It’s pretty large and it’s quite well preserved. When you walk inside you can imagine the crowd screaming, shouting… You walk around wondering how much blood was spilled on the spot you’re standing. Brutal, I know, but it is part of the history… Then next to the arena there is another massive sports court where there is part of the exhibition of interesting findings from the city. There is a lot of food that is still preserved from the day of the eruption. It is somehow trapped in time and just got black because of the heat, but that’s why it’s still preserved. So you can actually see some ancient bread, fruits and other things that would otherwise be long gone. As sad as the story of this city is, in a way we can be thankful that the disaster allowed us to be part of it all two millenniums later.

I know a lot of visitors come to see Pompeii because of the dead bodies. I know, totally creepy, but it’s true, there were people in the city that turned “to stone” because of the ash and heat. Those bodies are preserved to this day and they were found in few different areas of the city. There are still some visible on their original spots, but they are actually replicas. Originals are now stored in a museum (which I sadly didn’t get a chance to visit), so they won’t get damaged. But even if you know it’s a replica it’s still quite an emotional encounter, to see them lying there, probably praying for their lives, hoping God’s will have mercy…

Herculaneum

Now, this leads me to another city with a similar story as Pompeii. A bit less known, but also very impressive, Herculaneum. This place was closer to the sea at that time and a bit more west from Mount Vesuvius, so it got more ashes and less lava and massive stones falling down. That’s the reason why it’s more preserved than Pompeii. There are so many buildings with more than just the ground floor, you can see second floor, rooms, decorations on the walls and floors. It’s absolutely amazing. Some buildings even have wooden parts preserved, like wooden ceilings, floors and even doors and window shutters. The bottom level of the city is really impressive since that was actually the water level of the sea in those days. Down there you can see what used to be boat houses and a pier, which was one of the routes people of Herculaneum decided to use as their option to escape the tragedy. So there they lie, their skeletons, still holding on to each other and trying to protect the kids. It’s so sad to see that. And there they are now, a tourist attraction…

Mount Vesuvius

So to make the whole visit of this part of Italy complete, I had to visit the king of the disaster, the Mount Vesuvius, the volcano that killed thousands, destroyed cities and at the same time preserved all this for us to see so many years later. You can go quite high up the mountain with a car, then it’s up to you if you want to take a shuttle bus even higher up to the crater or you want to walk. We decided to walk, even though the path isn’t really meant for pedestrians at that part. But I wanted to enjoy the view, I wanted to take in as much as possible. So we walked… Once you get closer to the top you can see the different soil, smell the different air and eventually see the crater. In some areas, there is still smoke coming out, just enough of it to make you think that one day this thing will erupt again. It’s just sitting there, waiting, looking down at large and very populated area of Naples… I really hope it doesn’t create the same “Pompeii tragedy” again. But yes, when you think about it and that you’re standing on all this majestic power, you feel helpless. We came so far as human race, but on the other hand, when nature decides it’s time, we can’t really do much about it, except evacuate. The power of nature…

 

Visiting the Naples area truly was an interesting adventure for me, touristy and emotionally. This was probably emotionally the most fascinating place I ever visited, just because of the Pompeii, Herculaneum and the sad history written by the volcano. When I was leaving Naples with an airplane it was towards evening and for the goodbye, I got a magnificent view out of the plane window, down on a majestic volcano with sunset. That was the best ending of this trip, I couldn’t ask for a better view.

So if you ever go on a similar road trip, travel or adventure, try to take it all in. Try to think about history here, about the events that happened and try to imagine it all, put yourself in those times… It’s so much better. =)

Snowy Alps view

I don’t like winter. I like some things about it, but in general, I don’t like it. I don’t like cold. I admit, snow looks nice and can be full of fun, but that hardly helps with the fact I have to deal with cold. Yeah, I know, I have to dress warm and it is ok… When cold weather starts I always need few days of whining, seems like this is now. These days it got a bit colder and it is very windy, but the worst thing is, that we all know this is just a start of winter and we are lucky it is still so warm – usually it is colder in the end of November.
Despite all my whining and complaining I just can’t ignore the fact that in weather like this, I live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. At least for me, living in a valley and having a beautiful view on Alps – it is priceless. These days the weather was sunny and the sky was quite clear and visibility amazing. That is why I just had to take some photos of this gorgeous view I have from the area where I live.

Weird stuff and my ball (day 55)

Day 55 – Tuesday, 13.11.2012
I think I can officially say that it got quite cold in our apartment now. We have to wear some extra clothes or roll into the blanket. We’ll have to figure out some heating soon, because I’m guessing it won’t get any warmer now. Anyway, I woke up, I walked to my window and I wanted to open it just a little bit so I’d let some fresh air into the room. Then I see a weird scene. Our neighbor was drying some fabric dolls, you know, like puppets or something. It looked really freaky if that is the first thing you see in the morning. =) I added some photos so you’ll see how that looked like. It’s always something new when I look out of the window. =D
Ok so I spent my morning on the computer while my clothes were in washing machine. Then I put them out to dry because I want to use these sunny days when clothes actually dry until the evening. After that I was a good student and I did my homework for Portuguese language class. =)
In the afternoon I went to the shop to buy some groceries and Damir walked me to there, but then he went to Obidos with his bike. He says it’s really nice there, so I think I really need to get moving and just go there already! I’ll have to ask our apartment owner if she would lend me her bike. Well ok that’s not my point now. I really wanted to say that when we were walking on a sidewalk we heard some weird noise. It was like the machine for shaving head or something like that. But then I looked up and noticed a really large black cat meowing really loud. So it was not a machine but it was actually some weird cat! It was so funny! =D
When I returned Gaja and I watched some documentary about photography and after that Damir decided to cook some chestnuts. So we had another awesome dinner. =D I know this wasn’t the smartest idea, but when chestnuts in my belly found their place I decided to work out a bit. I thought I would do that later, but I was really cold just siting. So I took my gym ball that’s usually used as my chair and I did some workouts that I found on this website that my brother recommended www.ball-exercises.com. These exercises are really fun to do and they really pumped my blood because then I felt warm. So maybe we shouldn’t heat the apartment at all so I’ll have one more reason to work-out during the winter! =D Haha!