Tuesday, June 5

Home Again, The Final Post

I spent a lot of time by myself in the last few weeks, and enjoyed the time to think. And I found something that I had been missing. I don't know what to call it but I will try to explain: I have been searching for something for many years, some complementary attitude, trait, or way of being, that I did not possess myself. I have tried to find this missing piece in other people, but it has never worked. I thought that I needed someone else to provide this missing piece for me. Now I have found it at last in myself. What is it? A quality of contentment, or maybe peace, calmness, completeness, or maybe it is just the recognition that I can be complete just as I am.

Yesterday, while in a yoga class in Seattle with my favorite teacher, my mind took this idea one step further. Because I am no longer searching for something I need, because I no longer need it, because I have it in myself, now I feel as though I have something to offer. Something real to give to my friends, family, colleagues, and people who pass through or remain in my world.

More I cannot articulate right now, but it is an encompassing feeling.

And on a less-serious note, I have the next trip in the planning stages: Russia 2008! I shall watch my friends row in the 2008 Olympic Games and then take the Trans-Siberian Railway to Moscow and St. Petersburg. The dogs will hold down the fort Stateside for this trip, which will only be 2 weeks, as I probably can't get any more time than that off from my first real job at the KCPAO!!

Go live an adventure!

The return through Austria, Ingolstadt, and Frankfurt

With less than a week to go before the van was due back in Dusseldorf, we departed Slovenia and made our way back North. I found some of the best campsites of the trip in these last days, and enjoyed solitude, jogging with my iPod, and playing with the dogs in the now-nearly-Summer weather.
Here is one such camping platz, taken from the lone bench on the big hill overlooking:Bussy in action:Where's Carrie?!
Once back in Germany, having skipped the Porsche factory in Stuttgart and the BMW factory in Munich, I would not miss my favorite-- the Audi factory in Ingolstadt. The weather had cooled, which was nice for the dogs who camped in the van outside the Audi Forum Museum while I dreamed of fast cars... I was so excited upon entering just the information and ticket room, and the guy who directed me was thrilled to have someone so eager about Audis! "You can even see the R8 over there!" he exclaimed. Aahh, car people, it was super fun.

The museum contains three levels in a big round building with glass all around. I started at the top and walked through the ages of Auto Union developments as I descended floors. The museum provided a great deal of history, not only about German auto manufacturing but also about what else was going on in the world concurrently in entertainment, world affairs, and the global economy. Facts included when the first license plates were created, where in America the first parking meter appeared (booo!), moon landings, assassinations, etc.

After clearing out the gift shop of posters and stickers, I made the mistake of sitting in the newest S6 Avant in the showroom--wow! (Not to worry, Axl still has many more miles in him...though he was pleased to hear about his fast and fancy new cousins in Germany).

And finally to Frankfurt to a less-fancy but still very nice InterCity Hotel. We stayed 4 nights, longer than initially planned, but it was nice to regroup, repack, clean our dirty selves, and sleep in a real bed. The dogs were not afraid of the airport this time around, nor was I so worried for them. Seasoned travelers they have become!


We left Bled, made a tour of Ljubljana, and drove through beautiful rolling, tree-filled mountains down to the coast to Piran and Portoroz. Slovenia's population is only 2 million people and it is clear from its lovely countryside.

The campground was right on the water. I enjoyed a great 6-mile run along the coast (practically to Croatia, Slovenia's coastline is not very long), and suffered through a rather awful dinner at a "Mexican" restaurant, since it was Cinco de Mayo and all. One could make a fortune opening authentic Mexican places in Europe. The waiters had no idea that it was even a holiday in Mexico! But the explanation in the menu of what fajitas are was quite entertaining!

Here is the view from the campground:
Looking back towards Portoroz:The weather was hot, and we basked in the sun reading Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde before taking a trip to Piran which I had heard a lot about. It is a small town right on the water, similar to Cinque Terra in Italy where the houses creep up the cliffside. Only residents are allowed to drive in so we parked and walked into the town. They offer scuba diving right in the Adriatic, a worthwhile return trip adventure! Joe, Carrie and I felt very special indeed to wander through this magical place with alleys, steep steps leading up to a castle, a church, and paths along the cliff edge.

Aside from a near-miss on a narrow street where a bus carrying tourists nearly encountered a stubborn and immovable Joe, causing me to shriek, which probably saved his life, and draw the attention of a nearby police officer, we had a very pleasant day.

Monday, June 4

Bled, Slovenia

Writing this from Seattle, almost a month later, it is hard to capture Bled. We drove in on the road from Italy, stopped at a gas station on the highway, bought a map, and I could see that Bled was not far. Only one exit was offered so there we went in the super blue van. Determined to see the lake that I had heard about for so many years, we puttered through a few stoplights. I feared that this lake, which was once so magical, so secret, would be turned into development disaster. The beginning of the town was small, and coming down the hill towards the lake I caught a few glimpses of it in between trees and a few hotels. Under a small stone underpass at lake edge, I could not believe how beautiful this place still was. An island in the middle, just big enough for the white steepled church, and a castle up on a steep cliff overlooking all.
It is rare that a place can carry so much feeling as Bled did for me, at first sight and now still, as I think of it. I felt so connected to my own self, my own world, my past and the pasts of those I love. There is a beautiful campground, full of trees and grass right at the end of the lake, where the finish line to the rowing course is located. I pulled into a nice secluded spot, not knowing how long I would stay and could not leave for almost a week. Something there held me.
The dogs loved it. We walked the circumference of Lake Bled, enjoying the variation in narrow tree-lined paths, and then the well-placed hotels and businesses confined to only one part, leaving the rest clear and free. No houses adulterated the hillsides stretching up, first to small nearby hills and eventually spreading into big mountains. Instead only trees, and peace.
I met a guy named Mitja and he convinced me to join him and his friend on a climb, not up Triglav which required boots and more serious gear than I had on this trip, but up Mt. Stol instead, 2236 meters, just about 7400 feet above sea level. Stol translates to "chair" and is pictured here, the big one in the background overlooking Lake Bled.
So up we went the next day, Joe made it as far as the first hut, roughly an hour's hike. Carrie and I bid him dober dan (good day), tied him to a handrail at the hut with a bowl of water and a man to look after him, and we carried on to the top with our new friends.
Four hours later, one still energized Dachshund-Chihuahua and one very tired girl were reunited with a whimpering but happy Joe. He could not have survived the length and steepness of Mt. Stol and he must have known that his fears of being abandoned on a mountainside in Slovenia were unfounded, after all we had been through!
After the hike, we all rested for a couple of days. Reading, enjoying the place. Then it rained, a lot. We spent the day in the van, reading, watching 24 on the computer (very technological we are!) and listening to the rain on the van's roof. By the time it hinted at stopping eventually, it seemed time to move on so I loaded up bussy and we parted with Bled, at least with our bodies but not our spirits. We visited the incredible Vintgar Gorge, but sadly left the camera in the car. Before heading south to the coast, I drove up towards Triglav, snapped this picture of the three-headed mountain immersed in fog, and promised to return here as well.