Monday, September 26, 2011

Friendship Festival

Annually, a local city hosts a Friendship Festival for the Italians and Americans.  It coincides with September 11, and includes some sporting events, official functions, food and performances.

This year Maniago was the city that hosted.  They had, on display, some bikes from the 1940's.  These bikes ranged from the bread delivery, fish delivery, gas delivery, newspaper delivery, to the you-name-it delivery.  Really there were all kinds.

There was even a firefighter bike.

And then they had on display some current fire engines--what's a festival without a firetruck, right!
I'm not sure how these trucks actually navigate these Italian streets!
We enjoyed some typical Italian fare, pasta, bread, meat, cheese, and wine for dinner.  These are the hats the guys who served the food wore.  Awesome, no?

And then we wandered the city square,

watched some performances, and chatted with friends (it was a friendship festival after all), before finding a gelaterria for the perfect ending to our evening.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Lippizaner Stallions

On our drive back home, we stopped in Lipica, Slovenia, for a tour of the famous Lippizaner Stallion stud farm--dating to the 1500's.

The breed, created right here at the stud farm, has seven family names that all the horses can be traced to, and by which all are named.

Our tour included seeing some of the mares used for carriage rides.

They have a few ponies (not Lippizaner, obviously) for amusement/child rides, including this 7 month old pony that Lucy especially liked since he was just her size.

We also got to see the stallions used in their performances.

They live quite the kingly life in this stable built in the 1700's.

We spent a few minutes walking down the line of stalls and visiting with the horses.

It was really a peaceful and beautiful place to spend a few hours.

Riley's eager to come back here--I don't blame her.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lake Bled

On day two of our visit to Slovenia we ventured north to the small mountain resort town of Bled, famous for its lake - curiously called Lake Bled.

When we checked into our apartment, the owner mentioned that Lake Bled was hosting the 2011 World Rowing Championships.  We were a little concerned the small town would be overwhelmed with fans and teams, but in actuality the city was alive with excitement and energy to be hosting the event.

The area is just an amazing sight.  The beautiful glacier lake, the castle on the hill and last but not least the lake's small Island boasts an ancient church ripe for tourists' photographs.

We rode on a large gondola from the bank to the island.  The trip was fun because the races were literally right beside us.  The day we were there actually turned out to be the final day of competition and we experienced the medal rounds.

The kids enjoyed the powerful but silent teams as they quickly passed us by.

The island has a large single hill.  Legend has it that a Groom should carry his bride up the 99 steps on his wedding day to ensure a long and happy marriage.  The kids enjoyed counting the steps (but none of us came up with the same/correct number - maybe 99 in Slovenia is really just 90).

For a small fee you can pay to visit inside the church and pull the rope tied to the bell in the tower.  The kids all enjoyed giving it a try.

Even Lucy wanted a turn.

The island has hosted a church since the 1500's but the current structure dates only to the 1700s.

We also found this on the Island.  Sometimes you just need a reminder that Europe has some amazing sights.  Many of them leave you in complete awe - we chose not to capture the front side of this - that image is still burned in our memories though.

After riding the lake we found another toboggan run.  This one was much more steep.  We felt less secure, but that is because the sleds were so small so you really felt the speed as you went down the hill.

The top of the mountain provided amazing views of the lake.

Here's a closeup of the castle from our perch up on high.

We did not visit the castle, we'll just have to make a second trip. :)

Another must do in Lake Bled is the local dessert.  Kremna Rezina.

Many restaurants and cafes posted large signs  - saying they had the original creme cake.

It was amazing!

The kids also tried some other desserts.  Here's a shot of Lucy trying to enjoy a crepe filled with chocolate.  I say try because you might notice the crepe has just fallen off the fork and a millisecond later she was covered in chocolate mess.

Along the walks around the area we found this cool castle park and Cory showed off his flying skills.

Day two - we sure felt the sLOVEnia.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Another three day weekend means another excursion.  This time we drove to the neighboring country of Slovenia.  We started our weekend in the nation's capital of Ljubljana (loob-lee-ana).  After arriving at the 10 story apartment building that we would call home for the next few days, we headed into the city center armed with a map that the apt. owner gave us showing us some points of interest, and, most importantly, where to park.

His parking advice brought us to this lovely area, where we found this lovely church.  The first night the sun was beginning to set, and it lit the church beautifully, so I stopped to take some pictures.

That evening as we returned to the van it was dark, and the church was just as stunning.

So the next morning, after parking in the same location, we decided to have a looksie inside the church--it was just as beautiful inside, too.  It's a Serbian Orthodox church.

As luck would have it, this same church was the site of a wedding celebration that afternoon.  We don't have any pictures, but we got to spend some time watching the wedding guests enjoy some dancing and joviality in front of the church.

As we walked through the city we saw lots of neat architecture, most of it relatively new since an earthquake in the late 1800's damaged many structures.

The walk along the river was especially nice, if only a little least to the sensitive noses in the family.
And the same buildings at night.

Also, we traversed several bridges that crossed Ljubljana River.
Above is one of the famous Triple Bridge designed by one of Slovenia's own beloved, architect Joze Plecnik.

And there was the Butcher's bridge--the odd sculptures on this bridge, reminiscent of animal innards were, um, interesting.
Perhaps our favorite bridge was the Dragon Bridge.
It was neat in the daylight, too
We spent some of Ted's hard earned money at the market.
that's not our basket, but I really thought it would be fun to get one.

Buying some local honey

and some decorative honey hive panels that are recreations of 1800 folk art that farmers used to attract bees to the hives.  We also threw down a chunk of change for some t-shirts for the kids.

I admired the gorgeous flowers!!!

We worked on learning a few Slovenian words.  The first was, not surprisingly, hello--dober dan.  We also learned the word for falcon,

Sokol--and ate at this restaurant with that name.  Not bad.  Had some of Slovenia's traditional dessert--potica, a layered sort of cake with a variety of options for fillings.

At the restaurant we had this very European view, and a classic old city outdoor dining experience.
 (classic to include LONG--we didn't leave until after sunset!)
Also in Ljubljana we visited the...    wait for it    ...

We enjoyed lunch in the square of the castle at a museum cafe.

Inside the castle were many updated features to make it more accessible - like this red spiral staircase.

The castle had a tower viewpoint we all enjoyed.

The square below is the location of the famous Three Bridges and the pink building is the oldest Pharmacy in the city.  The square is named Preseren Square (after a famous local poet).

What's a castle tour without some cannons.

This is just the first evening and full day!  Wait until the second day's trip to Lake Bled!  Here's a sneak peak--a picture along the drive there.
Note the hay drying rack - these were a ubiquitous site among the farming fields we drove through.