Kayaking on Lake Bohinj

Ideal setting.

Ideal setting in Lake Bohinj.

Slovenia is an outdoor-lover’s Mecca. Rafting, canyoning, paragliding, hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, caving, horseback riding…you name it, Slovenia probably has it. With this in mind, I had a long, long list of all of the activities we had to do while we were there.

Unfortunately, the usual suspects time and money gave me a big slap in the face and reminded me that I had to be careful about how we would fill our limited schedule. For time, we only had less than four days in Slovenia, and as for money, let’s just say we weren’t above stooping over for any Euro cents we found lying around.

Although there were some really great multi-sport tours offered by the various tour companies in Lake Bled, we didn’t feel we could dedicate a whole day to an organized trip when we wanted to do so much independent exploring. After seeing some amazing pictures of kayaking on the Soča River, I was sold on a kayaking excursion, but was turned off by the €50 price tag and eventually found it wasn’t running anymore for lack of interest, which was absolutely wild in my opinion. (Apparently it’s also not really something you can organize yourself in a day without a car.)

Since our kayaking expedition seemed to be a no-go, Chris, our new friend Rodney and I chose to go visit the nearby Lake Bohinj. I had read before that Bohinj was even more stunning than Bled, but was skeptical after seeing Slovenia’s most famous lake with my own eyes. However, after taking the 40-minute public bus ride out to the much less-developed Bohinj, I can honestly say this was even more my kind of place.

The mountains are bigger. The lake is even bluer. The town – if you can even call it that – is smaller. It’s really a cluster of restaurants, hotels and outdoor stores at the tip of the lake. The area is just so natural, rugged and undisturbed. Best of all, it is surrounded by hiking trails (which you’ll hear about in the next post) and, fortunately for us, also has lakeside boat and kayak rental facilities.

Bohinj's unassuming park not far from its unassuming town.

Bohinj’s unassuming park not far from its unassuming town.

So, instead of emptying our wallets for three hours of guided kayaking, Chris, Rodney and I rented kayaks for €10 a piece. The woman at the lakeside rental shop was friendly, helpful and delightfully relaxed while setting us up with our boats. One name and hostel address on a piece of paper and we were off with three great kayaks and a couple of waterproof bags, not-so-gracefully making our way across the lake. (Apparently none of us were as skilled as we had remembered and informed the kayak rental attendant that we were. Oops.)

I was wary about pulling my camera out on the water, but some risks are worth the reward.

I was wary about pulling my camera out on the water, but some risks are worth the reward.

My noble companions.

My noble companions.

Rodney demonstrating his skills.

Rodney demonstrating his skills.

I don't know why I bothered with the waterproof bag when I took shots like this anyways.

I don’t know why I bothered with the waterproof bag when I took shots like this anyways.

The water's warm... as long as you don't go in deeper than two feet.

The water’s warm… as long as you don’t go in deeper than two feet.

Private beach.

Private beach.

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Categories: environment, fitness, nature, photography, tourism, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Paradise Revisited

Last November I paid an unexpected visit to Slovak Paradise, or Slovenský Raj, if you will, with a pretty cool collection of people from The Ginger Monkey Hostel. The hike, which took us past one of the most spectacular lookout points in Slovakia, alongside and occasionally right over the edge of the Hornad River and up a waterfall-filled gorge, is definitely a contender for the top spot on my Slovak highlight list.

However, ever since I took that hike, I’d been a little bummed out that Chris, who I’ve been traveling with the majority of my time in Slovakia, hadn’t been there. As a fellow hiking enthusiast and one of the biggest waterfall lovers I know, I felt he completely missed out on one of the best experiences an outdoor lover can have in Slovakia. And so, when we were passing by Spišská Nová Ves, just a stone’s throw from the park, I was ecstatic to be able to give the loop another go with Chris and our friend Jack.

A cliff near Tomášovský výhľad in November.

A cliff near Tomášovský Výhľad in November.

Chris and Jack looking out near

Chris and Jack looking out from the same spot in May.

Slightly senior portrait-esque, but the setting redeems it.

Slightly senior portrait-esque, but the setting redeems it.

Close to the edge at  Tomášovský výhľad.

Close to the edge at Tomášovský Výhľad.

And from the same cliff in November.

And from the same cliff in November.

My maiden journey through Slovensky Raj had been guided by someone familiar with the park, so I was basically on autopilot, gaping at scenery the whole time. Since I would be the veteran this time, I took it upon myself to find the route we took before, worried that any other path might not live up to the hype I’d been creating.

Information about the trail wasn’t hard to find. Although we barely saw another soul during our mid-November hike, it is allegedly the most popular trail in the park and is packed beyond belief in the high season of July and August. (We were lucky enough to bypass the only other large group early on this time around.)

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Categories: environment, fitness, hiking, nature, science, TEFL | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

RO Raw: An Adventure in Raw Dining

Adorable Veggie friends brighten up the room

Adorable Veggie friends brighten up the room

The last time I ordered a salad in Slovakia, the roasted mushrooms and tomatoes I had expected arrived on a bed of cheese cubes rather than lettuce.

Even as a self-proclaimed dairy queen and carb-lover, spending a significant length of time on a Eastern European diet of heavy meat, potato and cheese dishes can really leave you craving something green. So, after hearing about RO Raw, a raw vegan restaurant in Krakow from a delightfully non-preachy enthusiast, I was intrigued. A  longing for fresh veggies combined with a curiosity of how anything but a glorified salad could be made with just raw, vegan-friendly food kept the place in the back of my mind until I finally made it to Poland over Easter break.

I must admit, I initially approached the idea with caution. I was really hungry and in the back of my mind wondered if I might need another meal later in the evening to sustain me. But as soon as we walked into the bright, whimsical restaurant in Wolnica Square and took our seats next to a stuffed carrot and broccoli stalk, I had a good feeling about the whole experiment. Once I saw the ingredient combinations on the very conveniently English-friendly menu, I knew we’d picked a winner.  After starting with shakes, one Green Insanity (apple, banana and spinach) and one Brazilian Delight (Brazilian nuts, pineapple nuts, cranberries, banana) we struggled to choose from a menu where everything sounded fresh and fantastic.

Our Green Insanity and Brazilian Delights Shakes match the decor.

Our Green Insanity and Brazilian Delights Shakes match the decor.

The first step was to eliminate the additional normal, but not raw, vegan section. If we were going to try it, we were going to go all of the way.  After that, it became more difficult, mostly because of the high number of unfamiliar items. Vegan sandwiches made on raw bread. How does that work? Raw soups? They can also be served at 41 °C, thank God. Pumpkin Tagliatelle or Carrot Spaghetti? The possibilities, which I thought would be so limited, were endless.

Luckily our waitress was one of the most patient, kind and genuine I have encountered in Eastern Europe, or quite possibly ever.  She answered our probably stupid questions about just about every item on the menu, the restaurant and the vegan scene in Krakow as a whole. Finally, she helped us decide on the Discover Raw which included samples of Raw Pumpkin Cream Soup, A Passion for Fresh Salad, Raw “Pierogis”, the Raw Sandwich, and Zucchini A La Lasagne to seal the deal. Continue reading

Categories: fitness, food, photography, tourism, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Views From the Wonderous Wolkersdorf Wanderpuzzle

I’ve liked Wolkersdorf from the start. From the moment Chris and I stepped off the train, people have been extremely friendly and have gone out of their way to be kind and polite. (A free ride from the train station is especially appreciated after nearly 24 hours of travel with 50-plus pounds of luggage.)  The quaint town is impeccably clean with the perfect combination of preservation of the historic and introduction of the modern.  The scenery, both in the village and on the countryside is stunning, and you can’t help but notice that none of the bicycles contributing to the high cycling-to-driving ratio in this town are ever locked up.

As though I wasn’t already contemplating ways to make a semi-permanent move here, we came across Wolkersdorf Wanderpuzzle, a network of biking and walking trails throughout the Wolkersdorf village and countryside. The trails led us through charming neighborhoods and up hillside vineyards to a view of Wolkersdorf’s pride and joy: their windmills.  Although I’m not normally a fan of the rotating steal monsters, in this setting I see them for the majestic, powerful, looming giants others claim them to be. It may be partially because clean energy they provide fits in so organically with this pedestrian heavy, environmentally conscious and seemingly pollution-free town.  While I know this first location is setting the bar high for things to come, it is always nice to start out on a good foot.

View of Wolkersdorf and its windmills.

Victoriously biking up the giant hill

Chris becoming one with the willow tree.

Apparently what Austrians keep in their garages?

Practically an Austrian Hobbit Hole 🙂

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Categories: fitness, tourism, travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

5 Fun Races That Will Set You Off Running

It happens every year.  The consistent four, five and six-mile runs I work up to during the summer dwindle to short bursts on the treadmill.  By February and March even those are replaced with a half-hour here and there on the elliptical.

Now, as the weather warms and the days grow longer, my depleted endurance forces me to half walk, half jog outdoor routes I ran with ease in August.  Usually this is when my new spring motivation kicks in to work back up to my potential, but with graduation just a few weeks away, senioritis-induced laziness has crept beyond academics and into my exercise regime.

Every day seems to have a new excuse to skip my run, and to make matters worse, most include beverages that (on top of too many liquid calories) make it even harder to get going the next day.

Luckily for me, and anyone else looking to lace up their running shoes again, some races add enough fun into running to motivate me to start up again. Here are five of the coolest, yet short and manageable runs that will be traveling the country this summer.

1. The Color Run – This fun loving, untimed 5k run is a fitness-friendly version of a Dayglow concert. Runners and walkerare instructed to begin with white shirts, which serve as blank canvases for the different shades of “magical color dust” blasted during each kilometer. Upon reaching the finish line, after being doused in five different colors, runners race through a celebratory multi-colored bombardment, followed by an after party with food, bands, and of course, more color.  Runners can stop at stations to blow off the excess powder before heading home for those who don’t want to remain a walking work of art. Registration fees for this race, which will stop in 28 cities in 2012, begin at $40 for individual entrants and $35 per person for teams of four.

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Categories: fitness, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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