Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Studies indicate that people like to plan their vacations as much as they like to take them. I'm not so sure that's true for everyone, but I am one of those people that likes to plan. In fact, I'm probably guilty of overplanning, and I have a great time doing it. Years ago we traveled to Europe with no reservations, a Eurail pass, and one guidebook; we bounced from city to city. However, this vintage traveler now seems to need a plan that includes reservations and leisurely stops for a week or longer.
Six months ago I secured free flights using our United Mileage Plus points. We fly into Ljubljana, Slovenia, and depart from Zürich, Switzerland. The apartments and hotels were reserved through, except for one. I like to use because the reservations are cancelable, and I'm familiar with their website which also means that I am less likely to make a mistake. Ron likes the flexibility of hopping on and off trains as he pleases, so we purchased ($424) the five-day Switzerland/Austria Eurail pass when they were offering an extra day for free.
Now everyone is asking, why Slovenia? I've had it on my radar ever sense I heard Patricia Schultz say that it was one of her favorite places. That's saying a lot when you are the author of the bestselling book 1,000 Places to Go Before You Die. It has alps, mountain lakes, caves, castles, painted bee houses, and the old capital city of Ljubljana—sounds enticing to me. Our base is Ljubljana for the first week followed by three nights in Piran on the Adriatic Sea. Our guidebook will be Rick Steve's 2014 Croatia & Slovenia.
From here, we are planning to take a ferry across the Adriatic Sea to Venice, then transfer to a train, and head to the Dolomites in Northern Italy. We have a reservation for one week at an apartment with a mountain view in Castelrotto, Italy. We are anticipating leisurely walks through the alpine meadows with views of the jagged gray spires of the Dolomites. Many years ago we passed through this area, and have always wanted to return. There are many small villages to explore, and I'm anxious to find out about traditional hay baths in nearby Fieallo Scillar. Fortunately, we will also be there during the annual Oswald-on-Wolkenstein Riding Tournament, a three-day celebration and parade.
When we leave this area, we're heading north to Interlaken for two nights before traveling by train to Gunten, Switzerland. Gunten is a small village on Lake Thun with two restaurants, one bakery and a fancy hotel. We have a ground floor apartment on a hillside overlooking the lake—rented through Airbnb. It looks lovely, but it may be a bit isolated for us. There is a free bus to the town of Thun (pop. 43,763), six miles away. In addition to the nearby mountain hikes, I'm looking forward to gentle walks along the lake with the Bernese Alps in the distance. I was pleased to discover that the Way of St. James, a pilgrimage route to the grave of St. James in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, actually transverses Switzerland where it is called Via Jacobi. It happens to pass right by our apartment in Gunten. Perhaps, I will finally get my chance to be a pilgrim for a day.
Our final three nights will be in Constance (Konstanz), Germany, located on the scenic Lake Constance (Bodensee), the third largest lake in central Europe. It also borders Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. In 2012 we stayed at in Wasserburg, which is at the opposite end of the lake and a much smaller town. (See April 27, 2012 post.) The university city of Constance (Konstanz), with a population of 80,000, is the largest city on the lake. It has colorful painted frescoes adorning the buildings that date back to the tenth century. Just a short ferry boat ride away are the spectacular gardens of Mainau Island that I will try not to miss this time. Another benefit of staying here is the direct train service to the Zürich Airport for our return to the US.
I expect we will be tired and ready to come home as usual. However, all of this anticipation makes me wonder if I could ever be ready to head back.

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