It turns out that I’m something of a tombstone tourist. I find the blend of history, art, and landscape architecture at cemeteries irresistible. My imagination runs wild as I read the inscriptions on the graves and think about the lives the people buried there once led. It’s a reminder that nothing in life is forever, and underscored the importance of living in the moment. Different cultures treat the burial of their dead in different ways and I find it fascinating to compare the differences in graveyard and grave marker design.
You already know that I loved the city of Zagreb, Croatia. What I didn’t mention, though, was the beautiful cemetery we visited there. The journey was a little arduous (our map was kind of lousy, we kept running into dead-end streets, we were on our way back from climbing Mount Medvednica, it was hot, and we had run out of water), but after walking down a street full of gravestone carvers, we found what we were looking for…
As much a park as it is a cemetery, Mirogoj is the Zagreb’s main cemetery. It was built in the late 19th century by Hermann Bolle, the same architect and town planner responsible for restoring St. Mark’s Church, reconstructing Zagreb’s cathedral after the great earthquake of 1880, and building the Museum of Arts and Crafts.
The cemetery accommodates people of all religions, so Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim, and Jewish symbols can be seen on many of the gravestones.
I wasn’t expecting much from Zagreb. From my experience, capital cities are usually busy, dirty, and smell like pee. And as far as I knew, the places to see in Croatia are coastal areas, not inland cities. Had it not been on the way between our apartment in Loosdorf, and our HelpX destination in Bulgaria, we wouldn’t have gone out of our way to visit Zagreb.
It took me less than a hour to realize I was wrong to underestimate this city (though it still has the classic eau de urine scent in more than a few places). We picked up a great booklet called “Zagreb Step by Step,” published by the Zagreb Tourist Board, at our hostel. Broken down into the Upper and Lower Towns, then divided up into 19 smaller areas, this booklet served as our guide for a self guided walking tour of the city. It even included several attractions outside of the City Centre that were worth seeing.
As we wandered the streets (and nearby mountain), the vibrant atmosphere and beautiful city sights impressed us. Here’s a few of our favourite shots.
I don’t know much about my family history, but I do know that I come from primarily German stock (on my dad’s side) and British stock (on my mother’s side). Today, it was that German heritage that I was most interested in.
A few years ago, thanks to my younger sister, I became aware of a small town in Germany, complete with its own castle that goes by the same name we do – LENZEN.
My sister made what I suppose could be termed a pilgrimage to the town of Lenzen and returned home to tell us all about it. Ever since, I’ve been mildly obsessed with visiting for myself. It even made it onto our Bucket List – which I now see is in dire need of updating (look for this soon).
It wasn’t exactly on the way to or from the Deichbrand Rock Festival but it was close enough that I was going to have a really hard time leaving Germany without having seen it. Our whole trip from Salzburg to Deichbrand and back required us to drive an epic 21 hours at a minimum, so the addition of 3 hours to swing through Lenzen seemed like a comparative drop in the bucket.
Over the years, my mind had separated from reality a bit where my town was concerned. I had often imagined that the residents of the town would be overjoyed by the glorious return of the Lenzen family, namely me and Ashley.
Naturally I expected nothing short of a week of feasting, the finest room in the castle, and several new born babies named after us that year.
Surprisingly, for nobody but myself, the welcoming we received was somewhat milder than I had imagined. Nobody really reacted in any special way at all. Some were perhaps mildly amused, others perhaps not.
So no feasts, not even a free beer. But it didn’t matter much. There was something magical about that town that kept me wearing this huge smile the whole time I was there.
We had a bit of fun walking around town, and photographing ourselves at the conspicuous landmarks, like this information sign.
The castle was still impressive. There was a plaque on the outside wall which detailed the impressive history of Lenzen Castle. After having it translated from German to English, it became apparent that Lenzen had not really been a place of any historical significance, though once, some papers were signed there. Exciting stuff, huh?
We were still given a chance to feel a bit like kings. The castle has been turned into a restaurant, and they didn’t mind serving us as though we were royalty (so long as we paid…)
I love our town (and the fact that some papers were signed there). I can also see how we came to a place like Saskatchewan. Lenzen, like the province of Saskatchewan, is fairly flat and very rural.
We’ve been nominated by the great folks over at LivingIf to participate in a photography competition for travel bloggers. The competition called Capture the Colour is put on by the Travel Supermarket and showcases travel photos showing off the colours – blue, green, yellow, white, and red. In true Traveled Earth fashion, we’ve left it until the last minute… the deadline is tomorrow…yikes!
Camino de Santiago, Spain
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the beautiful scenery you encounter while walking the 800 km Camino de Santiago across northern Spain. This window, located in a tiny village we walked through, stopped us in our tracks. The crumbling blue paint and brightly painted flowerpots popped against the beautiful brickwork and iron railing of this house.
There’s something in the air in Paris. Maybe it was the fact that Paris was the first city we’ve visited that we’ve always wanted to see, or maybe it’s just the city itself, but the atmosphere is downright magical. While visiting the free Musee Carnavaet, we wandered into the courtyard and snapped this fairytale-worthy picture. The lighting left it looking like something between a photo and a painting… a perfect image to represent how Paris made us feel.
Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua
It may be a little (okay, a lot) cliche to choose a sunset as our yellow shot, but we couldn’t resist. This shot literally captures liquid sunshine and reminds us of the hot, peaceful evenings spent on the beaches of Central America.
St. Wolfgang, Austria
A spur-of-the-moment roadtrip with friends we originally met in Honduras, to St. Wolfgang Lake started as a potential diving trip. Deciding that the prices were a little steep for a lake dive, we hung out on the diving shop’s dock for the rest of the afternoon, unable to leave the beauty around us. The air was clean, crisp and clear and the mountains reflected in the surface of the lake took our breath away. We couldn’t imagine a more picture-perfect scene… at least until this swan showed up and Mike captured his favourite photo of the trip.
Camino de Santiago, Spain
It’s not a surprise to either of us that two of our final photos came from the Camino de Santiago (I believe we had Camino candidates for all five colours on our short list of shots). I was mesmerized by the millions of blood red poppies we passed between St. Jean Pied de Port, France and Santiago de Compostela, Spain and (to Mike’s chagrin) couldn’t stop photographing them. I had just snapped a shot of some poppies along the roadside when Mike told me to turn around. That’s when I got this gem. To me, it captures the spirit of the Camino… the rising sun streaming out over the road, the beautiful scenery, the companionship of our fellow pilgrims in the distance, the peace and joy of the journey.
Now, it’s the part of the contest where we need to nominate five fellow travel bloggers. We realize that with a deadline of tomorrow, entering the contest would be an almost superhuman feat. If you’re willing to attempt it, good on ya… if not, I promise none of that “breaking the chain letter” misfortune will befall you. Really, it won’t.
Skott and Shawna of Get Up and Globe – Fellow Saskatchewanian travel bloggers, these guys have been all over the globe in the past year.
Carlo and Geneva of Travel Budget Couple – We met this couple in our hostel in San Pedro Sula, Honduras and bonded over Chinese food in the “murder capital of the world.” We’ve been following their blog ever since and their photos never cease to amaze us.
Talon and Tigger of 1 Dad, 1 Kid – Via a Twitter meetup, Talon became our first scuba diving instructor in Utila, Honduras. We became fast friends and have followed his travels ever since. His (and his son Tigger’s) photos are a highlight of his blog and we fully expect a strong entry from these guys.
Samuel at Nomadic Samuel – A Canadian who’s spent six years abroad, we’ve no doubt that Samuel has a wealth of unique travel photos to share.
Jack and Jill at Jack & Jill Travel the World – This was one of the first travel blogs we followed, and we’ve always admired their photos. They are first-class photographers and storytellers.
After Hamburg, we (Jutta, Pedro, Ashley, and I) headed on to the Deichbrand Rock Festival on the North Sea between Denmark, and the Netherlands. All that day and the day before, there had been a lot of rain. And it showed. As we approached the festival grounds, the traffic slowed to a halt. The mud parking lots were doing everything they could to swallow up each and every vehicle that tried to cross them.
By the time we
were stopped became stuck, it was dark out. The rain had more or less let up. We spent Thursday night discussing the prospects of a cancelled festival over a few wobbly pops, after learning that the main stage had partly collapsed. It sounded like the same thing had happened in years past, and then it had meant the end of the festival.
Come late Friday morning, we went out to survey the damage. Already, crews were hard at work putting the stage back together, and covering the ground with wood chips. The festival was delayed, by a few hours, but by 5:00pm the gates were open, and the show was on!
I’m sure I’ve mentioned this somewhere before, but for our new readers, our friends Jutta and Pedro are working the festival circuit in Germany this summer – running a piercing stand. They were completely awesome and invited us along with them to take advantage of their free entry passes. They even gave us a lift from Salzburg!
We really had a blast at the festival. We went out and watched just about every band, none of which we had heard of before. Each day the ground was a bit dryer than the last. By the thrid day, the ground was dry, and the sun shining. The only complaint, as we’ve said before was the lack of toilet facilities. At least these ones were free.
Note: Before we get started, why does the title say kind of like a local??? Easy… we’re vegetarians and I’m fairly confident in declaring that most of the locals in Austria are not. But I digress…
There’s nothing better than making new friends abroad and then visiting them in their home country. Except maybe visiting them at their parents’ house where their mom fills you full of all sorts of delicious local foods. And then teaches you how to make them.
That’s exactly what happened to us. As we’ve mentioned before, we met Jutta (from Austria) and Pedro (from Argentina) while we were diving in Utila, Honduras. We all did our divemaster’s together. We left Utila at the end of January and kept in touch through Facebook… we actually missed a reunion with Jutta in Antigua, Guatemala by about 12 hours in April.
So when we ended up booking an apartment in Austria, Jutta’s home country, there was no question about us getting together. We hopped on the train in Loosdorf and, 5 hours and 3 trains later (we were too cheap for the fast, direct train), we were in Salzburg, hugging Jutta and Pedro.
Jutta showed us in and around her home city, while we sampled some of the obvious local fare… Austrian beer, Radlers, and Mozartkugeln (chocolate balls named after Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart).
She took us to one of her favourite restaurants at the top of the mountain, and even managed to think of a delicious vegetarian friendly meal to order for us (not an easy task in the meat-rich cuisine of Austria). We followed up the meal with Austrian schnapps, which you “simply must have” after dinner out.
The meal was great, but it was just the start of our introduction to Austrian food. Jutta’s mom (a professional cook), made us a delicious lunch of knudeln with mushroom sauce the following day and proceeded to cook and then recook (with us helping and jotting down the recipes) some fantastic desserts. Even though she didn’t speak any English and we didn’t speak any German, the language of food got us past the communication barrier.
There’s no better way to experience a culture’s food than to have a local guide. Thanks Jutta! And thanks Jutta’s mom for the food and the cooking classes… we’ll send you a postcard next time we attempt the strudel!