Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Kecskemet and our new couchsurfing friends

One week before we arrived in Hungary Aniko contacted us through couchsurfing offering us a bed for a few nights. We had no idea where it was or how to get there. Aniko guided us via emails and SMS . We arrived very late at night after a very long 10 hours on the train then 1.5 hours to their home. Aniko and her two sons Lexi and Ervin met us and walked us home. They live with her mother Clara who shared her homemade apricot brandy with us several times. That was strong especially with breakfast. We are so appreciative of Aniko meeting us. She had baked her trademark cheesecake so we had cake before bed.
The next morning Aniko and Lexi took us around their town. We are so happy that we were able to see it through their eyes and learn the history. The architecture was incredible. Very pretty city with lots of parks and flowers.
Aniko and Lexi speak such good English. Aniko is a lecturer and teaches students privately. She has led an interesting life that's for sure. Lexi is 21 and has already attained degrees in several languages. He was born autistic and together with his mother have managed to get him where he is. He is a very patient guy and we really loved getting to know him too. Aniko has a lot of plans for the future and I hope she will realise them.
Later that day we travelled by local train to Kerekdomb about an hour away, they have another home there. It is like a holiday home in the country except it is in a spa town. We walked over the road to the spa. The centre has been there quite some time. I am not sure what we expected but we had to buy some swimwear anyway. The town is built over hot springs. This has been harnessed to fill 2 large concrete pools of warm and also very hot water. No frills about it. You can swim in it or just sit on the steps chatting to your friends. It is for local people and local tourists. We felt privileged to be there. We swapped warm for hot and they also had huge spouts of water from hoses spraying hot water...that hot we couldn't bear it. It didn't smell like sulphur at all surprisingly. We stayed in there for 2 hours. Our skin was so soft after. We were so relaxed and fell straight to sleep quite early after a wonderful ratatouille cooked by Aniko and freshly harvested grapes from their garden on top of a custard flan. We also had grapes with breakfast next morning before we caught the train back home and then to Budapest. We left with our bags heavier ..a flask of the brandy, two jars of homemade apricot jam and mulberry jam and lots of good luck wishes,books and 2 four leaf clovers. They were generous with their time, their food and their historical knowledge. What a start to Hungary!
We have never eaten apricot jam that good ...even the jam we cook. The best thing about travelling in summer is we get to eat all the fresh stone fruit and grapes now and then when we go home. The nectarines in Hungary are the tastiest as good as home grown.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ljubljana ,Kranj and everything 'lovely'.

We as English speaking countries say everything is lovely according to Jaca who lived in England studying. Jaca is Bozo's son. He was very helpful with finding our way around Kranj the main town near their village. Great guy actually...reminded us of Raff our son in law.
Ljubljana has a castle high up on the hill. To get there you can take the funicular. It is the shortest in the world I is 66 meters long and takes you to the Upper town. Great view and great for exercising those legs of ours.
The city is so peaceful and not crowded with lots of tour groups. Maybe we were lucky being the end of summer. Situated on a river with views from the three bridges that are right next to each other at an angle. This is one of them . We really liked being there. It had a great feel as does all of Slovenia .
Begonias everywhere and all the same colour. My mum would love Europe , the gardener that she is.

What a fantastic exhibition! Thank you for suggesting it Bozo.We have never seen anything like it.
We have never seen so many corn fields in Slovenia and also in Hungary. One of the great things travelling by train or bus is the chance to see the agriculture of all the regions we pass by.
Kranj is the historical town near to where Breda and Bojo live. We spent a day from early in the morning people watching. Not many tourists ..everyday people going about the day. Mums with little ones meeting other mums at the coffee places . People going to work . Men sitting chatting over their espresso . Tomi's friend Almir said that it is usual to go into work then have a break for a coffee then go back up to awhile then more coffee. Now I know why Tomi likes his coffee. I think some of te older guys stayed there all day.
Poor Nick !! Breda invited me for a little hike up to the top of her hill. I declined but Nick decided to join her. It was nearly dark and very warm and extremely humid. Bozo and I decided to drive to the top to collect them...usually they return down by foot as well. Unless they are cycling. Before setting of we had an espresso from their village cafe to prepare us for our journey. The view from the top was wonderful, even though it was getting dark. We waited for them to arrive. Breda came first with nick struggling along. He was absolutely wiped. They came across a friend of Breda's on the hike and she told Nick ,Breda will try to kill you. She nearly did. Well done Nick xx
I was practicing for the next time we are visiting.
Thank you so much for the experience of travelling in Slovenia guys. Thankyou for all the food you shared with us and your favourite places Xxx Never will we forget .

Couch surfing in Slovenia

15 months ago we hosted Breda and Bozo from Slovenia. We knew little about their country until we met them. After spending a few days with them and experiencing our wine regions we knew we would catch up with them somewhere again. We had such a warm welcome from them at the train station in Ljubljana . It was as if we had not been apart. They had just arrived back from over a 100 km bike ride. We all chatted and chatted. They live in a village 35 km from the city. Very peaceful surroundings.
Next morning we all took off early for some of the sights of Slovenia. First stop Postojna caves..we were not expecting anything too much as we had been in many caves before. This blew us away.
First thing is you get on a small train at the entrance.It is already busy and it is only 9.00 am. Then after travelling for what seemed ages we arrived. We found out after it was 2 km. On this ride my mouth was open all the time because of what I was seeing. Can you imagine a cave that big with all the stalactites and stalagmites etc but times that by 2 km long?
Then we walked for a kilometre to see some of the most magnificent structures in a cave I have ever seen. They grow 1mm every ten years. There was something different to see every step. No special lighting and all that kind of stuff you usually see associated with cave tours.
Next back on the train for another 2km to the entrance again.
I would love to go back and see it all again...hope to take some of the grandchildren next time.
All I can say is wow, wow, wow.

Off to the alps next. Bozo loves driving thank goodness. They took us to all theit favorite spots for coffee, cold drinks and my favourite for the day ..lunch.
The water in their river systems is so green/ blue. The most incredible color. Then when you see the limestone rocks that surround the mountains you can understand why the color is like that.

They are a sporting and outdoor nation. I think they really appreciate their summers after 6 months of bitterly cold winters.
Lunch..fantastic food actually serious food, great beer and gratis plum schnapps . That sent me over the edge. Little tipsy by then. Onward and upwards. Literally.
We climbed to the top of the mountain..for those of you who have read the book Heidi as a child that is what it was like up on top. We stopped for more traditional food that Breda also prepared for us the next night... hers was better. They kept meeting up with friends from Kranj where they live... I love the life they lead and they love Australia . By the way I forgot to say we climbed the mountains by car.
I am not sure how many kms Bozo drove that day but we were high up in the mountains indeed. They showed us where their next cycling competition was taking place. I cannot believe that they do this for fun. The roads are so steep that they number the curves so they know how many to the top. Going down is madness. They love it as I am sure we would if we had just a little more experience.
Next and last stop, Lake Bled.
This is one of the most well known tourist destinations and I now know why. So serene watching the white swans , children playing, cyclists and walkers all enjoying the last of the sun for the day. At last the reward for the end of the day. They had been telling us about this sweet named Kremsnita, that is a specialty of the region. It was a long time coming..poor Bozo had driven so long .He deserved his wine. We had an entertaining time people watching. It was an action packed day and at the end of it Breda still prepared a traditional dinner.
Thank you so much to the both of you for a day we will not forget . Xxxx
This was one amazing need to ask Nick its name.


Saturday, August 25, 2012


Time to move on. It was an emotional farewell. We researched a train to Mostar as we heard the scenery was spectacular. It didn't let us down. The time flew and after travelling through 70 something tunnels ..well lost count. Some of the tunnels were very long. The train was full of young backpackers from all over the world. ..and us the old backpackers. Rachel and Tomi paid for a night at the 300 year old museum house for us. It was built by the Ottomans. Wow what a treat!

Of course a lot of us remember the pictures that flashed on our television screens of Mostar and the symbolism of their bridge between east and west being damaged badly during their war. I also remember seeing the rebuilding and the opening of the bridge and the symbolism of the start to their recovery .

The town itself exists now as a huge tourist Mecca amend is crowded beyond belief with large groups of European tourists. Once they all went home all was quiet again. We do love people watching and on a very hot and humid day saw many people very flustered. We were glad to not have to hurry through all the sites. Beautiful town,very historic and our accommodation was divine. Thankyou Rachel and Tomi for your gift xxx

The bare chested Bosnian men ready to jump off the Mostar Bridge

Friday, August 17, 2012

Tomi's Stamping Ground

What a emotional roller coaster we have had over the last 12 or so days .

We left Germany after visiting Munich overnight and it was not a great feeling to be in a city after the relaxing time we had in Bavaria and Frankfurt. We left Munich for Sarajevo with a little nervousness. I am sure they were feeling the same.

This was the view from their balcony just outside our bedroom window.

Tomi's mother made these traditional biscuits for us at home then also took them with her to share with all the family...she says the sugary topped ones made in little flan dishes are his favourite


Tomi's mother and father did not speak English and we spoke even less Bosnian. From the moment we arrived at their home we had nothing to worry about they live in the suburb /village Ilijas. They were so welcoming and had a family friend Anna who is an interpreter spend the afternoon into the evening helping us to chat, tell jokes and let them know all the news from Tomi's new family. Google translate helped with the rest of the time and a mutual love of their son Tomi , Rachel and their grandson young Marko.

The event that started the First World War . We stood on that very spot.
We had a lot of laughs and sometimes we just shrugged our shoulders when we didn't understand. We were fed so much food ..all traditional and all so tasty. I love how they live..minimalistic . We saw where Tomi was born, where he went to school and where he played sport.

We shopped locally and put ourselves in Tomi's shoes many times about past events that have affected their lives and their family.

Borek ... Many different ways . Tomi loves to make this in Australia. Now we know why. It is pastry filled with cheese or spinach and cheese or meat ..anything you want. The pastry is like a filo pastry, hand made and rolled.
It is eaten traditionally along with a glass of yogurt milk.a
So nice
The symbolism . The European governments did not step in to stop the Serbian war or to stop the ethnic cleansing. They sent cans of this food to feed the soldiers and citizens. Almir said it tasted so bad even the dogs wouldn't eat it. After the war this sculpture was presented to the people

Almir, Tomi's best friend from school came to pick us from the village where they live and drove us into Sarajevo . It was an amazing day. We learnt so much about Tomi and their life during the war and what they all had to do to survive. It has made them the people they are. We now understand a lot about our new son in law and how his mind works...some of it is inherited and some is what was forced on him and the Yugoslavian people. Almir painted a vivid picture of the day the war started and changed their lives from being peaceful to something else. It was a very emotional day but inspirational as well. To see the huge and the small cemeteries and buildings shot to pieces is very confronting as they were when we watched the war scenes on our televisions 20 years ago. Bosnia is rebuilding..slower than a lot would like but it certainly puts into perspective when people complain about our services and facilities and or government in our country.

We walked all day with Almir . Ate and drank.
We listened, talked, asked many questions and finished the day in his families favorite place
Poignant reminders everywhere in Bosnia of the price they paid for the war.
We thought we were going on a hike in the mountains the next day so dressed accordingly. Marko drove us to the mountain region of Vares ,we pulled into a cafe and there were many of Tomi's family. Aunt's and uncles and cousin Lara who was our interpreter for the day. Even Tomi's uncle Mariana from Brisbane was there. He was Tomi's sponsor to come to Australia after the war. It was a lot of fun.

Fresh trout ..copious amounts of salad. Simple and delicious.
The road went through a natural cave. It was the coldest I have felt. The cold air as you neared the entrance was amazing. It was a warm day but was still too cold to stay in there too long.
Tomi's grandparents are buried here..what a view. Marko said that is where he is ending up too. Very happy about that I think.
Yum cherry brandy at Tomi's aunt and uncles home. Lovely respite from the heat.
It was such a wonderful day. We kept pinching ourselves. Lara was incredible and patient, answering our questions about their life and again we learnt so much. Tomi has his new family now and still it must be so hard to leave for him. Xxx
Nick and I really appreciate the help from Almir, Lara and Anna and of course Google translate assistance as well to overcome our language difficulties. ..and appreciate meeting Tomi's family who are now our extended family.

I hope to meet up with them again and look forward to seeing many on FB / Skype . Feeling very sad now thinking about leaving each of his family and especially his parents Marko and Dragica xxx Bye Ilijas , Sarajevo and Germany xxx Dovidenja ( see you later).