For the past two days we’ve been prepping our van for the upcoming trip south, during which we will put my second month of parental leave to good use. After a long winter in which we had disconnected several of our van’s features including the water reservoirs and water pump, we had to do some basic connecting and cleaning work, charge the spare batteries, pack our stuff, buckle up the kids, and close our apartment door behind us on the way out.
We only have very vague plans for the next few weeks. Vague in the sense that we know the direction will be Croatia-ish, maybe further south towards Albania, maybe further inland towards Serbia and Bosnia. We’ll see where we like it on the way. We usually do very little prep work on locating destinations. We just go, and take the journey as it comes. The surprise is what I love about traveling. I don’t really care where we sleep all that much. The inside of our van looks the same anywhere, so whenever we get tired we usually look up the closest camper lot or suitable parking or camping. If the place is pretty, we might stay around a bit, if not, we leave the next day.
And so with everything finished this morning we took off today just before lunchtime. On our way to wherever. No idea where our next stop would be. Everybody in? Go!
Four minutes from home, we bumped into a mobile kebab place in the tiny town of Pulling, which we always cross on our way to the highway. We just had to take our first stop here to grab some falafel wraps for lunch. This place is only there on Fridays, so it must have been a sign. The falafels did not disappoint. The second stop was another four minutes later, because a long trip also needs cappuccino. With falafel and cappuccino boxes checked, we drove off in the direction of Salzburg. Whilst driving there, we had to take the difficult decision to drive through Austria and Slovenia only, or to also include Italy, a country I love. We decided against it, as we wanted to see roads untraveled by us. And so we followed direction Ljubljana, to enter Slovenia only a measley the four hours after departure.
I’ve only been to Slovenia twice before, passing through on my way to Croatia and back for a Biology study trip in 2007. I had only seen highways and one truck stop restaurant. It didn’t make it to my list of impressive places to explore at the time. Over the years that followed, Slovenia has grown quite a good reputation in terms of being a tourist and outdoor enthusiast Valhalla. Many people around me went there, and it seemed to get more popular by the year. So much so, that it would probably be too busy for my taste just before the pandemic. It’s a country full of Instagram shots, but as it often goes with pretty places, you have to share them with the crowds. We didn’t mind crossing Slovenia in the hope to see more than just a truck stop and some highways.
The kids were getting grumpy only about 20 kilometers after crossing the Slovenian border, and so Heike checked the options for campers. Not too many places to go here at first glance. The first campsite was closed, so we continued to the second option: Bled’s camper lot.
If you don’t know Bled, you have probably lived under a rock for years, or you must hate traveling. Chances are high that you will recognize it though, or that you even know people that got married here. Bled is a town in a Slovenian mountain valley with a very idyllic and pretty lake that is famous for its tiny island with a cute little church on it. I’m not into the whole church thing much, but I get why people would want to get married here. It’s gorgeous here. Unfortunately (but not really), we are already married for a couple of years, so instead we will just park and spend the night here. We took a short walk to the lake this afternoon, which – it being off season – we had almost entirely to ourselves.
I guess there are worse places to end up for a night. Obviously there’s nothing romantic about having a lakeside brunch with your wife, if there’s also a toddler and a baby there with you, but we can try and pretend tomorrow. After that, we’ll continue our quest south, in search of even better destinations.