Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Plitvička Jezera National Park

My couple days in Plitvice Lakes National park was a wonderful break from the cities.  The park is much smaller than most American national parks, but it was filled with some amazing lakes and waterfalls.  There were a ton of people there.  The trails didn't have a wilderness feel, but that didn't bother me so much since I was still hobbling around on crutches.

I've been carrying around this rolled up air pad that takes up half my pack for my entire trip and I haven't used it until now.  I didn't have a real tent or a sleeping bag, but I managed with my bivy sack.  It got cool at night so I put on my sweater and fleece jacket and it was fine.  The most adventurous part of the camping was on the first night I felt something near my head and after a few seconds I sat up and looked around and saw a small mammal that looked like a fox or wolf about ten feet away.  I pointed my light at it for a bit and we stared at each other and after it figured out I wasn't going to throw it any food it went to bother the adjacent campers.  On the second night I woke to find one of my shoes had been moved away from me about ten feet.  I then decided to move my cell phone and glasses inside the sack.  Ah, the joys of sleeping in the open. 

Campground I stayed in near the lakes

Pretty good mix of campers and tents


Plitvice Lakes National Park

Most lakes were this awesome blue color


Waterfalls were everywhere


Many, many people walked by this guy without seeing him

Lots of boardwalks around the park




Park was pretty crowded

It looks more romantic than it was - she was state of complaint



This was what I camped in - just a sack with a pad in it.  Imagine seeing some guy crutch his way over hills with two back packs on and then throwing this down to sleep in.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Zagreb

I had no idea what to expect when I got to Croatia.  It is classified as a second world country, but I wasn't sure exactly what that meant.  I was therefore quite surprised when the bus drove into Zagreb, the capital, and I felt like I was in an American city more than any other time on my European trip.  My bus got there at 9pm and I felt extremely safe walking to my hostel.  I was impressed with the wide roads and green spaces I saw on the way.

The next morning I talked with a girl that worked at the hostel.  She was a journalism major who was opposed to Croatia joining the EU even though she knew it was inevitable.  She was really into political conspiracy documentaries and recommended a few to me.  She also told me about how there was a lot of corruption when the government was transitioning things from public to private.

I managed to walk around the city some over the next couple of days and enjoyed what I saw.  It was very calm for a capital city, but I think a lot of people were out on vacation.  Zagreb is definitely a nice city and so far I would say Croatia is definitely a worthwhile tourist destination.

This is the only air transportation available in the second world.  Kidding, kidding.

The driver announced we were stopping for awhile at the Slovenian Croatian border and 90% of the bus got out and lit up cigarettes.

Typical Balkan food called burek - rolled pastry with either meat, cheese or spinach

Park in Zagreb



Croatia's first King (not the horse)


I guarantee everyone of these people is trying to figure out how they can build up their Croatia's capital so that they can help bailout Greece, Italy and Spain as soon as their country joins the EU

Typical Zagreb center street


Hmmm

Oh $@# I'm gonna miss it

Zagreb Botanical Gardens

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Naples, Pompeii and Scooter Gone Wrong

Naples is not like northern Italy.  When I got there I felt like I was in not just another country, but in another continent.  It had a very third world feel to it.  When I walked out of the train station I thought I mistakenly got off at the city dump.  Turns out the city doubles as the landfill.  If you think I'm joking or being rude then you probably haven't been to Naples.  When I was describing Naples to a German girl (they find me, I swear) I later met in northern Italy, a guy who worked at the hostel came in and said he was from Naples and said it was like being in Africa.  I'm glad I went there though - good cultural experience.

I took two day trips while I was there.  One to Pompeii which is a Roman town that is extremely well preserved because it was covered in ash after Mount Vesuvius exploded about 2000 years ago.  It's probably the best place in the world to go to get a sense of what living in Roman times was like.  There was a spa, a brothel, a bakery, a fast food joint, mansions, a sports arena, a theater, pedestrian only roads, chariot grooves.

Then there was Sorrento where I ended up in the hospital.  Don't worry I'm okay.  Here's what happened.  I met this guy at my hostel in Naples who had been biking through Austria and Italy for two months.  After hanging out with him and this girl from Holland for a day I find out he's planning to bike along the Amalfi coast the next day.  I decided to join him.  The next day we take the train over to Sorrento.  He already has a bike so we walk around the city for about an hour looking for a bike for me.  We found like twenty places that rent scooters but not one that rented bicycles.  We finally found a bike repair shop but they didn't have anything my size.  We got some lunch and thought it over.  He was cool with renting a scooter but I wasn't sure.  Too many unknowns.  Finally I came up with the idea that I would ride his bike and he could rent a scooter.  Bingo.  I practiced riding his road bike a little bit and it was very different than a mountain bike, but I got the hang of it pretty quick.  So anyway, we set off.  Less than five minutes later I'm lying on the side of the road with scrapes on all knees and elbows and a right foot that feels like it might be broken.  I didn't want an ambulance because of cost concerns, but I couldn't really walk, so one was called and brought me to the Sorrento hospital.  After a while, they gave me a couple x-rays.  Turns out my foot was only sprained.  They cleaned up my scrapes a bit more though not all the way.  Before I even got back to the hostel one of my bandages was falling off.  I guess you get what you pay for though: total hospital and ambulance cost: $0.  My "released" state from the hospital was without crutches and I couldn't put any weight on my right foot, so I hopped on one foot and had my bike day trip gone to hell friend help me get some crutches from a place across the street.  Well, at least I had a good excuse to slow down and take it easy.  Not too easy though: less than 24 hours later I was in a new city hobbling along with my crutches wearing both of my backpacks at midnight trying to find my hostel while thinking of ways to give my karma a boost when I almost got run over in a cross walk.  I've had better times.

Inside Naples Train Station - no idea what the story is

Street in Naples

I'm trying to figure out what is being advertised here - it could be the iPad, BUT it could also be green underwear OR lavender sofas.  Maybe all three.

Church next to my hostel

Naples

Naples pizza - very good

Pompeii

Mount Vesuvius Ash Victim

This city is like 2000 years old.  Incredible how advanced they were considering how long ago it was.

Pompeii courtyard.

Pompeii house

Pompeii brothel frescoes - not kidding

Pompeii Forum with Mount Vesuvius in background

Sorrento

Bicycle turned scooter trip along the Amalfi coast gone very wrong