A road trip. hmmm… Not my preferred method of travel if I am completely honest. Maybe it’s my bad memories of getting car sick back when I was a kid, or, the fact that you can’t sit back and read and relax like you can while training or plane-ing. But, it was time to put my big girl pants on and act like a true Dutchwoman – the Dutch love their road trips and often travel by car all over Europe, usually with their bikes and/or caravans in tow. In fact, the August Saturday we had planned to leave for our 2 week Adriatic Holiday – we found out shortly before leaving that it was coined “Black Saturday” due to all of the Dutch people who were planning to hit the road for their summer holidays. Nonetheless, we were ready to go – a car trip was really the best way for us to travel for a long holiday – we wanted to see a variety of cities and sights, plus, now that Coen was over 2, we are paying for 3 plane tickets now – yikes.
Our trip was a solid 2 weeks long, visiting 7 different cities, 5 countries and countless rest areas along they way. The great part about our trip was once the long drive south was out of the way (about 8-10 hrs), all of our destinations were only a couple hours from one another, so we could easily hop in the car during Coen’s nap and reach our destination in time for the afternoon. The itinerary (planned almost entirely by Karl who did a fantastic job) is now being copied by different friends who want to experience Europe “off the beaten path.”
Below are some pictures and favorite moments of the trip, but the best way to see the action is through the summer blockbuster: Tales from the Adriatic, starring Karl, Court & Coen:
Stop 1: Nuremberg with Friends – our first stop found us in Germany where our great friends, Michelle and Jesse, have been living since moving from Amsterdam almost three years ago. After a long day of driving, it was perfect to be in the comfort of good friends. We walked the streets of Nuremberg, took some time in the park, ate traditional schnitzel and chilled.
Stop 2: Lake Bled, Slovenia – Wow, all we can say is this place is magical. The town itself is small and most of the action is down by the lake. It’s about 4 miles around the lake, and everyone can enjoy walking, biking or eating around it, or, you can also take a boat trip to an island in the middle, complete with a beautiful church and ice cream stand. About 2km outside of town, you can hike, bike or take a tour van up to the Gorge – a scenic hiking area with a waterfall and streaming river. Crazy as it sounds, we decided to be the adventurous ones and rented bikes to go up. Although it was uphill, it wasn’t too bad – even with my pregnant belly! The trip was rounded out by a trip to Bled Castle, overlooking the lake – so wonderful!
Stop 3: Ljubljana, Slovenia – This place is a hipster’s paradise. As it’s a university town, there is plenty to do, a young vibe and great restaurants that have popped up in recent years. We only had a day but enjoyed strolling along the river, checking out the local pubs and playing in the fountains.
Stop In between – Europe’s largest cave !!
Once in a blue moon, you realize there are sometimes benefits to kids not sleeping in. One of which is that we got to the Potojana caves bright and early before the disney-land sized crowds poured in later in the day. It was actually a rainy day so it was a perfect day to spend underground. Unfortunately I wasn’t very smart and didn’t pack anything other than the summer clothes we are wearing – well, turns out it’s next to freezing in the caves. But, they’ve got overpriced fleeces for sale that solved our worries. The tour of the caves included a long train ride in and an hour long walk among the stalactites and stalagmites. Coen was a trooper and we when we emerged back to earth, we realized just how crazy busy this place is, and quickly escaped the crowds back to our car for the trip to Trieste.
Stop 4: Trieste, Italy – the wonderful thing about Italy – it NEVER gets old and every city has it’s own charm and character. Our favorite things in Trieste – sipping coffees in the historic cafes (Trieste is known for coffee drinking and production) and spending the morning at a local “beach” (all rocks) where we could play by the water and Coen made friends with the local Italian day-care kids who were there on a field trip. We also took the cable car up to the top of the city, where you could overlook the water and Coen got to practice his exercises with the locals. Finally, we couldn’t leave without visiting the local castle (who doesn’t love a good castle)?
Stop 5: Rovinj, Croatia – Um, just when we thought this trip couldn’t get any better, we landed in Rovinj. This place is AMAZING. We really felt like we were on holiday here, we would wake up early and take turns getting pastries with Coen, go swimming at the different watering holes, eat like locals (truffles!) and enjoy night walks along the harbor, often with a concert somewhere nearby.
Stop 6: Zagreb, Croatia- We wanted to check off another “big”city while on our trip, and felt we couldn’t miss the capital of Croatia while we were so close to it.. it was however, the longest drive of our trip as it is about 3 hours in-land from the coast. We spent just over a day exploring, and although it was a cool town, historically it doesn’t compete with the other capitals we have visited. Perhaps as it was coming to the end of our trip, it’s difficult to remember all that we did there. Here are a couple of pics to prove we stopped in the city:
Stop 7: Salzburg, Austria – the HILLS are ALIVE….. So, the main reason we stopped in Salzburg was due to my forever love of the Sound of Music. I had dreams of a day long tour with the Von-Trapp family. Alas, it turns out you need 8+ hrs for the tour and I didn’t think a 2 year old would fair to well on a bus all day. So, I settled for the gorgeous views (we stayed outside of the city in a cabin-like hotel in the hills), a visit to 1 or 2 sites, and, probably driving Karl crazy listening to the Sound of Music soundtrack over and over.
And finally, back home! It was a memorable and unique trip that will stay in our hearts for years to come. We are extremely thankful to all of the European rest stops that include child playgrounds, they are what made this trip possible!