Honestly, we could wait for breakfast, because the book store did not open until 9am anyway. I was not leaving town until I had that new Gaarner book in my hot and sweaty hands. Of course once I made it into the store, I had to browse the entire English section to make sure no other treasures were left un-salvaged from the throws of being piled in stacks without receiving appropriate attention and a potentially new home. Ron found a book too for our friend Laszlo, who is part Slovene on his mother’s side, so this is a gift from his mother country. On the way out, I noticed stuffed animals all over a few shelves. Some were owls, which were weighted to act as bookends. There were also dogs, cats, but the piece de resistance was this little bull, which was absolutely adorable. When I picked him up, he had the heft of a heifer, but as I set him back into his spot, the saleswoman, a twenty-something, beauty said, “That yuk is a doorstop. That is why it is so heavy.” With a quizzical look, I ask “Yuk?” Again she states with a smile, “A yuk!” Now the light goes on in my head, a yak; she is mispronouncing a for uh. Should I play English teacher? No, there is a bus to catch, so I leave the yuk-yak behind, but know I am going to regret this all day. I was not deprived of stuffed animals when I was a child; at times it is downright embarrassing, but I love them still. They make me smile; they make my heart lighter when I am feeling blue. There are over fifty teddy bears imprisoned in New Jersey in a storage unit just waiting for rescue operations to proceed.
The bus is sitting there waiting patiently for us to board. Had we missed it, there would have been another in an hour, but why wait? The trip is about 1 ½ hours and cost 6.30 each way per person. For the air conditioning alone, it was worth the cost. We were in and out of heavy traffic, causing us to be delayed extending the trip to 2 ½ hours. Some of the scenery along the way was a delightful distraction, but little cat naps took precedent. Those church bells from hell rang every 15 minutes for unreasonable lengths of time that were not in sync with any timepiece that I could tell.
Once in Bled, we stopped at a restaurant across from the bus station. I am not sure what there is to the city, because we barely ventured from where we were left off. Restaurant prices, at least across the street from the station are much higher than in L-city. However, the bowl of garlic soup that I chose was a delectable bargain for 3.90 Euros. Ron had fries, but one thing I have been neglectful in reporting is the wasp problem. It seems all over the country, they have been invaded by a highly unusual number of wasps this summer. Everyone has been complaining about them as well as their aggressive nature. Our guide Palona shared that she was sitting in her yard with her dog. She was stung twice and the dog once, all without provoking the yellow creatures into battle. Others have shared similar stories. No matter what you are eating, the wasps appear from nowhere and hover over the meal. The ladies who have flower kiosks almost need to wear beekeeper outfits, they are so overloaded with flying beezz.
So the reason we were in Bled was to see the castle. I saw the castle from the ground, it seemed pointless to traverse the football length path and then climb up the 399 steps, to reach the ticket office of the castle. Taxi!! At the base is St. Martin’s Church, which had the largest chandelier that I have ever seen in a church. There are pictures in the photo blog. My first impression was that this church was decorated by a gay man. The murals were different, but I could not decide in what way. What did attract my notice were the organ pipes. The organ was gorgeous. If I were religious, I would have prayed to find an escalator or elevator outside to get to the castle. No such luck.
There was a footpath past private homes leading to the castle, so I thought it would have been impossible for a taxi to get up there regardless, so I started the walk. With the first 100 steps, I proclaimed “I am not doing this. I am NOT climbing all the way up this &*$% mountain to see another #$(* castle. By step 101, we had reached the first stairs, a series of 9, with a wide platform, before you make a sharp right turn to access the next set of stairs where there are maybe fifteen before the next platform and so on and so forth. As you can guess, but step 101, I was so out of breath, I could no longer protest anything, but this is when my stubborn Italian nature kicks in dueling with my lazy self. One side is saying “Relax at the restaurant and wait for Ron to come down. Look at his photos and you can say been there, done that.” The stubborn side is saying “Just do this one set of steps. Don’t be a quitter. Your mother always called you a quitter, do you want to make her right after all?”
By the time, I reached the ticket office, when I turned around; there to the left was a parking lot. A taxi could very well have made it up here. *^%$&%$! Oh, but that is not the end of the climb. To actually get to the castle, there are more steps, more inclines of cobbled paths. When you are seeking out a respirator, there is not much interest in history. The rooms were uh, rooms. There were fake people in some doing what presumably people of different eras would be doing, but what was the most magnificent was the view of the lake. Even more breathtaking was this little island on the lake where someone had built a church. It made for a photo opportunity for sure. Having spent so much time getting up this damn hill, we spent a goodly amount of time roaming around looking at the view. However, in the back of my mind, I had thoughts of the yuk-yak in the bookstore and knowing he needed me to adopt him. Just in case we didn’t make it back before they closed, I found an adorable owl hand puppet in the castle gift shop, so I bought him as a consolation prize just in case.
Now, one would think that the walk down would be so much easier than going up, but reality begs to differ. Traipsing on a steep declining cobble stoned path takes some agility and concentration not to slip and go tumbling down, doing a Jack and Jill goes down the hill impression. Calf muscles strain to maintain. Hmmm, calf reminds me of the yak. I really want that yak. We make it down without incident and return to the bus station with a thirty minute wait. A taxi driver offers to take us if he can get 7 total to fill his van, the cost only 7 Euros and a forty-five minute trip since there are no stops along the way. There are only 4 of us interested, no other takers.
As soon as we returned, we double checked our train tickets for tomorrow’s return home. The cheap fare is good on the Citadella train. We leave L-city at 8:50 am and arrive home by 6 pm. Track 7, all set. We headed for the outdoor market to get food for the train ride, but we are too late, all but one stand is already vacated and this one is 85% packed up. They still had fresh figs, which we don’t see in Budapest, so we bought some of those and some grapes. We also tried the milk machine and bought 2 dl of raw milk for 20 euro cents. It was cold and delicious.
Dropping the food off at the hotel, the bookstore was still open and the yuk was waiting patiently for me to come back to grab him from that shelf of despair. The young woman who was here this morning was no longer around. I had told the current clerks of my needing to return. They shared that the morning woman had been to Tibet and when she returned, found the yak for the store. Really, he could pass for Ferdinand the bull, but I guess if you were in Tibet, he would be a yak. Each time they said yuk, we would say yak. They would say, yes, yuk. They could not hear the differences. He is meant to be a doorstop, but is too cute to sit on the floor. He will have to find a place of honor.
There is something about vacationing brings out decadence. We would never think of ordering cocktails at home, but where we ate last night had a 2 for 1 offer on cocktails, so we headed over there for drinks. I ordered a Manhattan and Ron ordered a classic martini. We each received 2 of our orders immediately. My Manhattan was in a cocktail glass used for non-iced drinks, but was filled with crushed ice. Ron’s martini had a sugar coated rim, like you would salt a margarita. Ron’s drink tasted closer to what it was supposed to be than mine did, but really they were disappointing. We are still not sure we have had real cosmopolitans yet.
Ron had asked the saleswomen at the bookstore for a dinner recommendation off the beaten path. We followed up and went there for dinner. As we were walking, there was an American behind us speaking to his walking mate. He was telling the other person that he is a contractor with the US Defense Department for the 4th largest defense contractor they have. As he is continuing to brag, I am thinking if that were my job, I certain would not be sharing the information without caution on the streets. What he was saying about his organization was not about to bring in world peace and only continues to make the US look like a world hungry dictator want to be. At this restaurant, they don’t have menus; the offerings change daily and the wait staff provides the menu. Hence, you don’t know what you are paying until the bill, unless you do ask. We both had beef, Ron’s was with blueberries, mine was with a cream sauce. The beef was chewy, but the portions amble. Had the beef been tender, the portions would have been minimal. We sat outside due to the heat and it was indeed off of the beaten track. When the bill came, we were a bit overwhelmed. It came to close to 50 Euros, double last night’s dinner.
On the way back, we stopped to listen to music on the bridges, walked past where HAIR was being performed, so we could hear the music in ENGLISH, but the voices were not great. One last dessert and coffee and we were ready to go back to pack. And no church bells tonight.