Saturday, March 30, 2013

Veni Vidi Vinska

While we were in the Grad Bled (Castle Bled) I found a place to put Kristi to work.  The wine cellar.  A friendly Monk greeted us and invited us inside.

Random cool dragon made of iron on the castle grounds

The cellar was the bottom left door of the courtyard.

A tradition of the castle (at least the pretend monk said it was a tradition for modern tourist times) is to work to make your own wine.  I knew Kristi would be up for the challenge.  I gathered all the crew and told Kristi to start "slovening" away.

First she had to fill the bottle from these large casks.  A funny pumping noise sounded when she opened the valve.  The monk said it was just the ghosts of the castle and to pay no attention to the sound...because the casks were "full of wine."  Kristi had some trouble stopping the flow in time and made a small mess.  The monk was prepared for her mistake and had some glasses at the ready.  Can't let any of it go to waste.

Next up was the cork.  Kristi had to select the best cork of the bunch (they were all the same the monk told us later, but he said she was gullible so we all played along).  Then she used an ancient wooden machine to secure the cork.

In the old tradition, she put a wax seal on top over the cork.  The monk had a nice bubbling pot of wax for the task.  Next she tied a label around the neck of the bottle.

Then the monk assisted with securing the label with a wax stamp marking the finished product.  

The monk required her to sign an important certificate documenting her work.

The monk said the paper was for the memories...the wine was for drinking.

Sadly the wine was not included in the entry fee for the tour of the castle.  But I was happy to pay for the fun!  Kristi enjoyed the wine she "unfortunately" spilled when filling the bottle.

I came,  I saw, I made wine!

Friday, March 29, 2013

It's "SNOW" fun in Slovenia

Did we make it to Lake Bled?  Remember the vehicles covered in snow?

Well, when we woke up and it was still snowing we debated it for a while over breakfast (a lovely European breakfast of meats, cheeses, breads and cooked to order eggs from the lady at the apartment).  Eventually, Ted and Jon decided they would go on a recon mission to check the roads and conditions.  While they were away, the kids enjoyed playing around the building.

When Jon and Ted returned with a good report, we loaded up and headed out to Bled--about 30-45 minutes away.  Although we thought the snow would let up (when will we stop trusting the online weather reports?), it continued to be a light flurry for most of the day.  We arrived in Bled and trekked by foot up the hill (we did not trust the vehicle to make it up the hill) to the castle-- Bledski Grad.

Throwing snowballs the entire way up (and down again on our way back).

Views of the castle:

Do you see the faces in the windows?

Here they are up close

And two others

Views from the castle:

the island in the middle of the lake with the church

Views in the castle museum:
Castle Loo

Weaponry is always good.

Snowballs in the castle courtyard:

Snowmen in the castle courtyard:

After touring the castle, we drove to the other side of the lake and found some lunch, played in the snow some more, visited a church and then then enjoyed some of the famous kremna rezina (truly, the whole reason we went to Lake Bled).

Some more pictures.  The castle from the other side of Lake Bled:

More snowballs and snowmen:

Attack the Dad!!!!

While everyone else was throwing snowballs, Mary was busy making this guy


St Martin's Church:

Friends waiting for cake:

I cannot believe how much the kids played in the snow in spite of the fact that they didn't have snowboots, snow gloves, snow anything...  And even so, they didn't really complain.  Yeah, there was a tear or two over snowballs going down the jackets or hitting them in the face, but even still they were quickly back in the middle of snowball throwing.  Mary Beth, however, generally stayed out of the fray of the snowball fights.  Instead, she walked along the paths, making snowmen--Japanese style thanks to the Jensen's--and then leaving them next to bushes and trees:

YAY!  We made it to Lake Bled and back and had a great time in the process!  

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The trip in which we probably should have turned around

We had a two night jaunt planned to Slovenia.  Our group of 12 would stay in the small town of Skofja Loka and, from there, see Ljubljana and Lake Bled.  It seemed like a fine idea, and though the weather forecast was not great (the prediction was light snow), we agreed it was likely surmountable.  How bad could 5 mm of snow be, and even if it is snowing, snow is at least better than rain, no?

So, we loaded up with a couple of extra pairs of socks and made sure to pack gloves and scarves.  We began our two-ship drive to Slovenia.  And let me just say right now that the first 30 minutes proved to be quite a foreshadow of the "two hour" drive.  We're boogying along on the autostrada and I keep asking Katharine, "Is that snow, or rain, or sleet coming at us?"  And for a while we couldn't really ever decipher what it was, we just knew it was really windy, and really wet.  But, it will pass quickly, because Slovenia just had 5 mm of snow predicted, right?


We got to the vicinity of Trieste, where we had planned to stop for lunch, but rain/sleet/snow and a road closure foiled that plan, so we stopped at Ikea (I'm not even kidding) for lunch.

We decided to take the alternative route, or maybe that was decided for us, really, and get back on our merry way...and it just got worser and worser.

We were on a mountain pass with strong wind gusts and snow (which is blowing sideways), and it was downright scary--because there was clearly going to be more than 5 mm of snow.

Eventually we pulled off in a parking area and Jon (who is now a knight in shining armor) emerged from the other vehicle and lets me know that he'll be driving my car.

To be fair, when we looked out the side windows, the scene was idyllic.

However, from the front windshield it looked more like this.

And our "2 hour drive" was more like 4 or 5...ugh.

The destination was worth it, though.  Look how pretty it was in Skofja Loka...

But check out all the snow on the cars the next morning (when it was STILL snowing!)  

5 mm of snow isn't much right?  Will we make it to Lake Bled, or will the snow keep us at the apartment

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Venice with Friends

It is no small thing to travel around Europe with our family of six.  Now try doubling that.  We're like our own little tour group--we just need to start holding up an umbrella to make us look official.

Our fearless leader--no umbrella, but managed to lead the way and we didn't lose any kids!!

But, it sure is a lot of fun traveling with friends, because then you can play games like Ninja in random town squares, while the parents enjoy a vin brule.  Win-Win...

This is a foot-stomping game of some sort--sounds painful to me.  Evidence of the vin brule on the right side of the  picture
And between Campanile,
Glad the bells were not tolling--it would have been LOUD!


Gelato's necessary, even if we have to wear our hoodies to keep us warm while we eat it!

In Venice, but we shop at Disney for our souvenirs--geesh!

and gondolas
Love these buddies!
we have fantastic memories

You should see the eyes of the ticket sales people when we say "otto bambini"