Lake Bled and Vintgar Gorge

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After several days of rain and grey skies, there was finally a sunny day in the forecast.  It was time for the crowning jewel of Slovenia:  Lake Bled.

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For some crazy reason, we left Ljubljana without having coffee, so we had to stop for a caffeine break before exploring the lake.  It didn’t look very big from a distance, but one we got closer, we realized what a walk it really was.

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It was big, beautiful, and impossibly blue for a lake.  The adorable island with the church in the middle was just the icing on the cake.

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After a nice, long stroll and picnic around Lake Bled, we decided to head to nearby Vintgar Gorge.  Unfortunately, we missed the last afternoon shuttle to the entrance, so we had to walk there; however, once we got a good look at the scenery en route, we didn’t feel so bad about it.

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After what felt like forever, we finally reached the entrance to the gorge.  It was much cooler there, which was nice after such a long walk.  The gorge itself was breathtaking, with mint green water rushing beneath the wooden path.

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I would love to share more photos from Vintgar; however, I stupidly forgot to check if all of the photos uploaded before I left for the States and the SD card with these photos is still in Turkey, so this will have to suffice for now.

For such a tiny country, Slovenia is teeming with natural wonders to explore.  In fact, my husband and I loved it so much that we are already planning a return trip…ideally in autumn so we can see everything surrounded by colorful trees.  There are also some sights that we didn’t have time for this trip, such as Lake Bohinj, that we’d love to go back and see.

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Thanks for being beautiful, Slovenia.  Until next time.

Škofja Loka

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We had to make some adjustments to our schedule in Slovenia due to some inclement weather.  We had originally planned on visiting Lake Bled on our second day there, but because of the forecast, we decided to delay it for sunnier days.  Instead, we decided to take a day trip that was a little closer.

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Škofja Loka is a cute little medieval village about 30 minutes away from Ljubljana. Luckily, our hotel was a short walk away from the bus station, so we didn’t have to spend too much time in the rain.  We hopped on the bus, and to our surprise, it had stopped raining when we arrived.

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The charming medieval houses were only made more stunning by the view of the mountains that surrounded them.  We didn’t go in with any kind of plan; we simply took off to wander all of the winding alleys.

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Though Škofja Loka wasn’t a part of our original itinerary, we were really glad we stopped.  It was a great place to wander, escape from the rain, and stop for a coffee while enjoying the view.

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Ljubljana: My New Favorite City

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Full disclosure:  I knew practically nothing about Slovenia before I flew there last week. All I knew is that Ljubljana (pronounced loo-blee-ana) was one of the cheapest destinations on Skyscanner for the dates we were looking to travel for our end-of-the-year/anniversary trip.  That was good enough for us.  I never would have expected this tiny city in a tiny country that still seems fairly undiscovered for this part of Europe to leave such a mark on my heart.

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There is something so genuine about Ljubljana.  Unlike much of Europe, it hasn’t sold its entire soul to the tourism industry.  It has nothing to prove, and because of that, Ljubljana is a city that is unapologetically itself.  Despite the fact that it doesn’t have the imposing skyline or massive crowds of cities like Prague, Ljubljana is an incredible, enchanting city.  It truly felt like something of a magical secret.

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Ljubljana seems to be in a stage of renaissance, with an incredible contemporary art and music scene.  You can’t walk five steps without running into some kind of street performer, though not the usual fare.  In our short time there, we ran into break dancers, magicians, bongo drummers, and opera singers, in addition to more traditional bands. Amazing street art lines just about every corner of the city, but especially in the little artsy neighborhood of Metelkova.

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We ended up basing ourselves out of Ljubljana the whole time we were in Slovenia simply because we loved it so much.  It gave us time to figure out all of the best places to eat,  hang out, and take walks at sunset.

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I wish I could find the right way to describe how laid back and charming Ljubljana is. The whole time I was there, I felt so at home…so much so that I probably could have moved in right then and there.  I’m really surprised it hasn’t become overrun with tourists!

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Until next time, Ljubljana!

Görüşürüz

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It’s official…my second school year in Turkey has ended and summer is here! This time around, it’s bittersweet. We have quite a few friends leaving us, so we all decided to stick around for one last weekend together.

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We drove to a nearby sahil (seaside area) for an all-day picnic. The weather was gorgeous and because it was the last day of Ramadan, we pretty much had the place to ourselves all afternoon. We had an epic picnic, which was basically a smorgasbord of Turkish, American, and Mexican food, complete with a dessert table.

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We discovered this gem while grabbing provisions…

The whole day was spent chatting, stuffing our faces, playing frisbee, and climbing playground equipment like children. When we had finally had our fill of the great outdoors, we headed back to the incredibly empty campus for a rooftop terrace party, which included mojitos and obnoxiously loud music. It was the perfect way to end our last night at the school…and probably our last night together for a long time.

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It’s never easy to say goodbye, but at least we made it an epic goodbye. Now to enjoy some well-deserved summertime freedom!

Flying Solo in Sarıgerme

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To say that the end of this school year has been stressful would be an understatement.  The mountains of grading seemed to stretch much higher than any term before, all of my end-of-year duties seemed to be piled on at the same time, so many of our friends are leaving this year, and on top of all of that, we had the end-of-the-year play to prepare.  Basically, this all resulted in almost 3 weeks straight of working with no days off and I could definitely feel it.

Because of all that, I was overjoyed when I got the email that the school decided to give us a couple of extra days off while students were on field trips…until I saw that my husband was on duty.  I wanted to scream.  I needed to get out of the tiny campus bubble after almost a month of having my nose at the grindstone.

That’s when he calmly pointed out that just because he was on duty didn’t mean I had to stay.

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That’s when the light bulb flickered on.  We’ve been together for nearly 10 years now and because of that, it can be really easy to forget that we don’t have to do everything together.  Especially since we have moved to Turkey, we have been each other’s main support systems and rely on each other much more than we did in the States.  Now that I am much more comfortable here in Turkey, I relished in the idea of going somewhere on my own for some much-needed self-reflection and relaxation.

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I decided to go to Sarıgerme, a cute little coastal village near Fethiye.  I knew I wanted to go to a beach for some swimming and seaside reading, but I wanted to avoid large crowds and party scenes.  For me, this was all about relaxation.  I did my research and found that this nice little beach was only 20 minutes from Dalaman airport and much less frequented than Fethiye, Antalya, or Bodrum.  I arrived Sunday evening, so I didn’t do much, but I did manage to take in some sunset views while listening to my latest podcast series.

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I stayed at Lady Rose Pension and it was by far the best hotel I’ve ever stayed at in Turkey.  The couple who own the place are so incredibly friendly, welcoming, and helpful.  They helped me make the most of my few days there and I had a really nice chat with them over coffee.  Also, the breakfast there was top notch and the beach was only a 10-minute walk away.  I highly recommend it if you plan to visit the area.

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While there are a ton of interesting and affordable tours in the area, I wasn’t really up for a lot of running around after such a hectic few weeks, so I just decided to visit a few places on my own at my own pace.  I took a couple of minibuses over to the nearby Iztuzu Beach, which is famous for its sea turtles.

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Iztuzu is a beautiful beach, surrounded by mountains and pink flowers.  I was amazed by how big the beach is…it took nearly an hour to walk end to end!  The sea also connects to a river delta, so I explored that area a bit as well.

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After a lot of walking around and swimming, I stopped by the sea turtle hospital before heading home.  One of the volunteers gave me a tour of all of the tanks and explained how they rescue and protect the sea turtles in the area, who are endangered.

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I headed back to Sarıgerme once it started getting dark for some dinner and a glass of wine and then curled up with a book in my hotel.

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On my last day there, all I wanted to do was lounge at the local beach and that’s exactly what I did.  I slept in, ate breakfast, walked to the beach, rented a sunbed and simply chilled out.

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There weren’t very many people on the beach, so it was easy to have a huge chunk of it to myself!  I loved alternating between walking along the water, swimming, and laying in my sunbed listening to my podcast.  I spent about five hours there and it was paradise. When it was getting close to time for me to get ready to head to the airport, I enjoyed one last 10 TL beer on the beach while drying off.

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It was so hard to leave! Having a little time to myself to relax, escape, and detox a little from the crazy year was exactly what I needed.  I definitely see a little more solo travel in my future.  Now I just need to figure out when I can go back!

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Reflections

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***I can’t believe I just finished my second year of teaching in Turkey.  Time flies like crazy here.

***I can’t believe how many of our friends are leaving this time around and I’m so sad about it.

***I got to teach some seriously amazing kids for two years in a row and I feel like the luckiest teacher in the world.

***I feel like I grew a lot as a teacher this year and I hope to do so even more next year.

***I helped start a lit mag at our school this year and I’m pretty stoked about it.

***I think I’m going to buy a dishwasher to celebrate.

***I can’t wait to FINALLY get to work on some creative projects now that my workload will be a little lighter for a few months.

***I’m looking forward to doing a little traveling through Turkey and Europe before heading back to the States.

***Speaking of which, we finally got our tickets!  It will feel good to go “home” and reset.

***Year 2 has been pretty good.  I hope Year 3 is even better.

26 and A Weekend on the Rhine

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So, I turned 26 last week.  I guess time just really flies as you get older because it feels like I just turned 22 last year.

Fun fact:  I am exactly 15 days older than my husband, which means I get to tout my extra wisdom for a couple of weeks every year.  It also means that we normally try to do something extra fun together to celebrate.

This year, we decided to spend the weekend in Switzerland and France because who doesn’t love croissants and chocolate!  I also scored a sweet birthday discount from Pegasus and I never turn down a cheap flight.

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It just so happened that last Friday was a holiday in Turkey, so we had an extra day to explore!  We landed in Basel, Switzerland Friday morning and hit the streets right away. Even though the forecast had shown three days of rain, we completely lucked out and had nothing but dry, sunny weather!  We had the best time walking through the city and admiring the architecture.

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Now that I’m 26, my sense of humor is vastly more sophisticated.

We also couldn’t help but notice all of the playful sculptures and parks all over the city. We may or may not have spent a lot of time on playground equipment.

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Of course, we couldn’t leave without sampling tons of Swiss chocolate, but I ate it all before the thought of taking a photo of it even crossed my mind.  Just take my word for it…or go check it out for yourself!

The next morning, we got up bright and early to catch the train to Colmar, France -an adorable little village that has been on my radar for a few years.  I also had the good fortune of experiencing my first “cougar” moment, when my husband was able to buy a youth ticket and I had to pay full price for the regular “adult” ticket.  I guess this makes up for taunting him with all of my brand new freedoms on both my 18th and 21st birthdays.

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Although it’s only 45 minutes away from the Swiss border, Colmar is distinctly French. My heart leapt at the sight of all the colorful buildings and pâtisseries and at the sound of French being spoken all around me.  Though I studied French through part of high school and all of university, I’ve rarely had the chance to use it since graduating and moving to Turkey.  It made me so happy to jump back into that world.

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Seriously though, how stunning is this place!?  Each twist and turn of an alley led to even more beautiful, colorful houses.  I was in heaven, eating my weight in croissants and sipping on Alsatian wine.  I loved each and every second of our time there and felt so sad when it was time to leave.  I have such great love for all things Francophone and it is still a dream of mine to live in France someday.

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Lovely little nod to Magritte

Even though we only had three days, it was a pretty damn incredible three days.  26 is feeling alright so far!

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Pretty please take me back?