Time For Timisoara

Author: Kali

Our train from Budapest to Sofia took us through Romania with time for a short stopover in Timisoara. We took the opportunity, and it has proved to be a great choice! I love it when we have enough flexibility to be able to make such decisions and have unplanned adventures. Come Check Out Timisoara!


 The train came to a screeching stop at the Timisoara North station. A scruffy station welcomed us to Romania. There was construction work blocking the entire main entrance to the platform. The floor inside the station building was nothing more than dirt and rubbish. Beggars and vagabonds hung around the station, and empty bottles and cigarette boxes lay around everywhere. It wasn’t at all a pleasant welcome!

Our host advised us to take the number eight tram that will deliver us right to the door of our apartment for the two nights we will stay in the city. The tram rolled through old cobble stone streets lined with old buildings, all looking as if they needed some maintenance. You could see that these streets were once very pretty.

As we got off the old tram, there was a man standing near the stop. He smiled as he saw us load our heavy backpacks onto our backs. The man greeted us and told us he was our host, Horio. We followed him across the road, then through a large wooden door into the outdoor living space of a large family home. It was lovely! There was a large flower and vegetable garden and a typical Romanian home stood proudly overlooking it. A fiery, but friendly Maltese Poodle greeted us with barks and leaps. No matter who entered, the little white poodle would bark ferociously. Our apartment was spacious and clean. I was so happy to see something worthy of being call a pillow on my bed. The last five places we’ve stayed, I think I have had exactly three feathers in my pillowcase, and no matter how I tried to puff it up or fold it, it was simply non-existent. This time, however, it was luxury.

I love Timisoara! Although some areas look a bit neglected, it is a beautiful city with colourful towering churches, lovely squares, green parks and walkways all along the Bega river. Tiny pubs and restaurants line the walkway, overlooking pedal boats drifting in the water. Every few blocks there is a park with a memorial or artwork amongst the trees and flower beds. What impressed me the most is that everyone seemed to enjoy the city. There were children running around, playing soccer on lawns or in the playgrounds. Others just sat, enjoying their surroundings. Horio later explained that it was summer vacation in Romania and that everyone was making the most of it.

During our stay, we also visited a museum that taught us about the Romanian Revolution of 1989 against communist rule. There were photographs, news articles and other items from the revolution displayed everywhere. We even watched a movie about it. The movie was narrated in Romanian and had fast subtitles in English. Timisoara was the city where the revolution started in Romania. I had never seen a film about a war, or even pictures really. This was an eye opener for me and gave me insight into how the people of the country suffered to be free. They were willing to give their lives in order to be free from the dictatorship. It was inspiring!

As we wandered around after having watched the movie we recognised many squares and buildings, now knowing the importance of them.

Another train carried us away from our beloved Timisoara. The overnight train will drop us at the Craiova station at 4:00am. There we will wait for another four hours and then, after two more train hops, we will be in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Until next time,



Back In Boarding School 

Author: Mariza

18 Augustus 2017

We left beautiful Budapest by train this morning. Hungarians call Lake Balaton their sea. It’s the local weekend and holiday destination and we happened to be there for Hungarian independence day weekend.

Ruzow booked our accommodation and was very proud that we came in right on budget. Especially being right on the lake. Well, well, well…

We got off the train and started our two kilometre journey in midday heat with backpacks and all. An hour later we learnt we were in the wrong village and that our accommodation is miles from the lake.

We caught a local bus to our village where our friendly hostess awaited us. Things only went downhill from there, I’m afraid.

Our accommodation is a boarding house for school children who go on sport camp in summer. Rooms with eight bunk beds each. And one bathroom for boys and one for girls, on the opposite side of the building from our room. We may use the kettle in the industrial kitchen area, but that’s all. The beds are homemade with cheap, thin foam mattresses. No air con and no fan. No towels either.

At the moment there are no school children. The last group left a few days ago. So they rent out the rooms to people who want cheap accommodation. Mmm… That means a lot of interesting characters!

We walked more than 5km to the lake and then had to pay entrance fees. By now it’s already late afternoon and we find it hard to pay for an entire day at a place we don’t really want to be at. (We prefer the quiet side, which is a long way from here.) But we are hot and in desperate need of a swim. So we pay and make our way to the lake with hundreds, if not thousands, of local holidaymakers. The water is not as clean and clear as we expected and there is black silty sand at the bottom. At least it’s nice and soft underfoot, even though it gets into everything.

Our friends told us to try langos at the lake, which is a traditional savoury donut (“vetkoek” for our South African friends and family) with garlic, sour cream and cheese. Not recommended for everyday nutritional dinner, but fabulous comfort food!

We walked about three kilometres to the next village and caught the local bus back to our boarding house. Nicely tired and with nothing to do in Köröshegy, we opted for an early night. Not a good idea!! Loud music, booze and a great deal of marijuana right outside our open windows made for a long sleepless night. We shall end our visit to Lake Balaton later this morning. Sometimes you cut your losses and move on swiftly. This shall be us in an hour or two. Back to beautiful Budapest.

– Mariza –

Buda(p)best, Hungary

Author: Jarik

The enthusiasm of two of our co-hikers, and now friends (Steven and Klaudia) of the gruelling Salkantay Trek in Peru, convinced us that we should include Hungary, and especially Budapest, their home city, in our itinerary.  Our travel plans for south eastern Europe were very flexible –  actually we did not have the faintest idea where we wanted to go. So, we decided to include an arc from Slovenia, through Hungary and Romania to reach Sofia, our final destination for this side of the world.

The third overnight train for our adventure delivered us to the centre of Budapest mid-morning, but too early to check in at our lodgings. The four kilometre walk from the station to where we could store our backpacks at an affiliated hostel turned out to be a great introduction to the city. Still abiding by MapsMe, that previously took us via non-existent paths in Croatia, we walked up the Buda Hill passing the Royal Palace, over the Chain Bridge, through List Square, along the State Opera House, St Stephen’s Cathedral and meandered through the Jewish District (now packed with street cafes and pubs). Unfortunately, the weight of our backpacks was such a distraction that we only realised that we had walked along all these landmarks when we recognised them during our guided walking tour later that afternoon!

We spent our first night in Budapest in a very basic apartment located above a “ruin bar”. These bars were the new occupants of dilapidated buildings in the historical Jewish District that were deserted after the Second World War. Dark doors set within derelict facades open up to waterholes with interesting décor that captivate the senses. Noisy places, especially at night. So we were glad to move to a spacious apartment located very centrally in the city the next day.

Budapest is a feast for the eyes and the tastebuds. Architectural masterpieces of large scale and grandeur line the banks of the Danube. Behind these, there are street upon street of ornate low-set buildings opening up to numerous beautiful squares filled with sculptures, fountains and restaurants. We opted for the “menu of the day” more than a few times. This gave you a selection of hearty and deliciously paprika laden traditional Hungarian dishes for about A$7 which went well with a dry Hungarian rosé.

We caught a tram to Margarit Island for our morning runs a couple of times. A five and a half kilometre synthetic running track takes you once around the island. It is clearly a favourite of the locals and a great inner-city facility.

A “must do” in Budapest, is an evening dinner boat cruise on the Danube when the stately buildings are dressed in their finest, glowingly lit to accentuate their features. This was an excursion we could not afford on our tight travel budget, so we opted to catch a public ferry instead. The first ferry we attempted to board was jam packed and did not allow us on. We did, however, managed to board the last ferry of the night, which turned out to be just perfect. As we zig-zagged across the river, daylight faded and the buildings came to life in golden hues. Spectacular!


The evening of 20 August was even more spectacular. Hungarians were celebrating over a thousand years of nationhood and the capital city was the centre of the festivities. The streets were alive with people, the banks of the river a bustling hive of music and stalls. The evening culminated in a fireworks display rivalling a Sydney New Year extravaganza. Here we were, standing on the banks of the Danube amidst the crowds, Strauss’ famous Blue Danube waltz giving the cues for the exploding colour above us, majestic buildings bathed in light all around us. We are privileged.

– Jarik –



Beautiful Budapest

Author: Ruzow

Budapest is a lovely city bustling with activity on the banks of the Danube River. I loved all the old buildings that the city is mostly comprised of. Every building has its own unique architectural style, ranging from Gothic to Art Nuevo. Another great thing about the city, is that there are no highrises or skyscrapers. This is because there are laws in place that forbid any structure to be taller than the parliament building or the St. Stephen’s Basilica, which are both the same height. This preserves the original look and feel of the city.


The city is full of cafes, restaurants and ruin pubs (a ruin pub is a colourful and lively Hungarian pub that is located in the bottom floor or basement of an old abandoned apartment building). We also visited the beautiful parliament building, walked over the Chain Bridge, went to the City Park and saw all the other sights of the city. But my favourite, was definitely seeing all the different buildings and going for a run every morning on the lovely running track on Margarit Island.


Getting around Budapest is quite a painless exercise thanks to the amazing public transportation system featuring metros, trams and busses on every street corner.

We stayed in a few different parts of the city, which meant we got a great perspective of life there. It was interesting to sit at the apartment window and watch all the people outside going about their business. It gave me insight into the Budapest way of life.

Our second last night in Budapest, was definitely my highlight. The day before, we realised that we were coincidentally there for the National Day of Hungary. This day has been celebrated for over a millennium. It was a day full of music, huge crowds, celebrations and brilliant fireworks on the river in front of the parliament building and the Chain Bridge. I felt privileged to be part of an event so important to the Hungarians.

I enjoyed every moment in Budapest and wouldn’t mind coming again soon.

– Ruzow –



Museum with Mary

Author: Kali

In Skofia Loka, we stayed in the large family home of an elderly lady called Mary. She is 86 and had lived in Skofia Loka all her life.  She is still totally independent and every Saturday and Sunday she drives to the Stari Grad (Skofia Loka’s castle) and works in the museum as a guide. Of course, if anyone would know about the history and traditions of Skofia Loka, it would be dear Mary!

Mary speaks no English, however, using a lot of sign language she told us about her life and surroundings.  She immediately felt like a grandma to us. After she told us that she worked at the castle museum, Mum promised that we would come to visit there.

On our last Sunday morning in Slovenia, we drove to the Skofia Loka castle to look around and visit Mary. As we entered the museum, Mary cried out in joy for seeing us. She welcomed us excitedly, grabbed her handbag and led us towards what she called ‘The Old House’. She looked really pretty in a beautiful blouse and white trousers. A story book grandmother.

As we got closer to an old black wooden cottage, Mary started explaining that it was a historic family home of four hundred years ago. Eight children, their parents and grandparents lived in this two-room structure at the time. She showed us the loft where the bigger children slept on the hay each night, the fire place, the adults’ bedroom (with a crib for the baby), the sewing table, and a special game the children used to play, among a number of other fascinating things.

Mary pulled me towards her and gestured that I should sit down at the table opposite her. She started to explain a game to me that the children used to play. She handed me twelve white beans, she took the twelve brown beans and then she laid out a sheet of paper on the table that had a pattern of dots and lines printed on it. The game was loads of fun and the more experienced player won in the end. It was a precious experience. As we finished the game, she neatly folded up the sheet of paper and used another brown paper sheet to make a sort of cup, or cone and slid twenty-four beans into it. Next, she placed it in my hand with a big smile.

I am sure that we will play this game many more times, and each time we play, it will be a reminder of dear Mary and our time together.

Until next time,




Soccer and Friends in Otočak

Author: Kali

While we were staying in Otočak, a small village near the Plitviče Lakes, we would race down to the local soccer field every afternoon. The four of us would only play for a little while, before some of the local children would start peeking at us from behind walls or suddenly be immensely interested in the dirt and potholes around the field. Slowly the children would gather. Then a serious discussion would start. You could hear a few English words in between fast Croatian. Words like, ‘Football… kick… play… Da! Da!… Hello.’ This was clearly heading towards fun.

After their meeting, they would come over and awkwardly ask if they could play with us, using the few English words that we had heard earlier. About ten boys, that were all around twelve years old, came to play every day.

Choosing teams was quite easy. We would point to players and try and gesture who would be in a team. It got much easier once we learnt the names of our newly found friends – Davide, Angelo or “Ankie”, Nicola, Luka and a few others. I was called “Kolly” and Eulain was simply “Yay”.

Eulain and I were the only girls that took part in the fast and aggressive game. Within five minutes all the players would be dripping with perspiration. As we played a hot, dry wind swept across the sports grounds.

After about thirty minutes of enthusiastic calling, gesturing, running, laughing and having heaps of fun, a crowd of local children would filter into the benches surrounding the small, concrete field. They would cheer in Croatian, and every now and again try to use English words like ‘Yes Baby!’. You could not help but to burst out in laughter at this!

Later, one of us would swap with one of them and the teams would be mixed. This is when the fun really began. Ankie and Ruzow, despite not really being able to communicate much, got on really well. At one stage, Ruzow passed a short ball to Ankie, the boy started yelling enthusiastically and waving his hands in front of him, ‘Run! Run! Run, Ruzow!’ Everyone cried out in laughter! It was hilarious!

It is always so special to interact with some of the local children of the places that we visit. It is amazing how different we grow up and how much we can learn from each other. As I am writing this, I wish that we were out there right now, playing soccer with the children of Otočak.

Until next time,




Škofja Loka

Author: Mariza
August 2017

Škofja Loka is a gorgeous old village in Slovenia. The old walled city is a charming place that contains old buildings, churches, squares and a castle. Not too touristy, which is nice.

Mary, our 86 year old hostess who doesn’t speak English, lives all by herself. As she serves us strong coffee, homemade biscuits and nuts from her own walnut tree on the deck, we somehow exchange details about our lives. As we watch the sun sinking lower and lower until it disappears behind the mountains, we are once again overwhelmed by how blessed we are. And our hearts have a new Mary shaped corner. So precious.


From Mary’s deck we can see three little churches on three separate hilltops. And beautiful green meadows sloping down towards the river that runs through the village. Slovenia is truly an unbelievably beautiful country.

We enjoy a lovely dinner on a terrace on the riverbank. It feels a bit unreal as we peer over the old city wall. This is such a different world! And here we are, the six of us, enjoying it together.

Since Ljubljana, the capital city of Slovenia, is only a short distance away, we take one day to go and explore it and do a walking tour of the city. Very nice. And very interesting. But we’re happy to be back under Mary’s roof by bedtime.

Our morning runs take us on windy little trails up the mountains, to castles and churches and gorgeous green meadows. Nicely tiring and super stunning. We even squeeze one in on our departure day.

Mary works at the museum at the castle every Saturday and Sunday from ten to two. Before we leave our beloved Škofja Loka we go and visit her there. Big hugs and happy chattering. She gives us a tour of an ancient house, perfectly restored to what it used to be hundreds of years ago. Fascinating!! We end up visiting there with her for a long time. She teaches the kids a traditional game, which they’ll be playing a lot on the rest of our travels.


The highlight of Škofja Loka was meeting and falling in love with Mary. What a fantastic way to end our Slovenian adventure.

– Mariza –

Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Author: Jarik

The last stop we planned for our second visit to Croatia was the Plitvice Lakes – one of the main tourist destinations in the country. Unfortunately it seemed that the day we choose to go, was also the day that every other tourist in the country visited the lakes. After waiting in line for over an hour, we had entry tickets in our hands. (We were at the “second” gate, that is apparently much more quiet that the main entrance!) Trying to avoid the crowds, we decided to do the longest walk (18km), weaving around all twelve lakes.

Walking in cool shade along the shores of the incredibly blue and clear water was refreshing for body and soul. Little streams flowing over moss covered boulders and through plant filled gullies form waterfall lacework as they tumble from one lake into the next.


We had the trail mostly to ourselves.  For the first few hour at least, until we reached timber walkways groaning under the weight of endless streams of feet. The slow moving mass of people treackled from waterfall to waterfall, oozing over the sights and taking photographs.

At the end of the day, we waited in line for another hour to board a ferry that took us to our point of entry to the National Park. It is a beautiful place, but I would recommend visiting it in the off season!

– Jarik –

Pula and Kalmanjak

Author: Eulain

One morning, while we were staying in Motovun, we decided to do a road trip to Pula. We packed a picnic lunch and our togs (swimmers). After about half an hour in the car, Ruzow yelled out “Dad turn left! We are at the parking lot.”

Ruzow guided us on a self-guided walking tour that he downloaded on the ipad. Our guide lead us straight to the colosseum. It is magnificent, although not as big as the one in Rome. We also saw a few historic stone arches, temples and other things.

After our tour, we walked back to the car and drove to a place that was highly recommended by our host in Motovun. We followed a narrow dirt road to the ocean. The blue sea was just what you would have wanted on a hot day like that.

For the next few hours we were in and out of the water. At lunch time we had a picnic on the rocks. It was now very hot and we started to search for shady spots to put all our things.

After a while, the sea started to get quite rough. But for me this was the most enjoyable time. I would jump into the water from the rocks, then wait for the big waves to pass and then try to get back out. It is in the moments like these that you build the best memories.


[Unfortunately we did not have a camera with us to capture the fantastic time at Kalmanjak]


Motovun – Ancient Village On A Hill

Author: Mariza

[Not only is Kali growing up and starting to look like Mariza, she has now also started to write like Mariza!  – Jarik] 

From Slovenian Istria to Croatian Istria was a rather eventful affair with the border crossing. We did, however, eventually get through and went truffle tasting in the heart of Croatia’s most renowned truffle region. We visited several little hilltop villages and a castle. The boys had a pretend sword fight after we fought our way through thorny bushes to sneak a peak over a half broken down wall surrounding the castle. Fun fairytale stuff.

At exactly 6pm we made our way up a steep hill and into the village of Motovun. Our lovely hostess, Zvjezdana, welcomed us with cold beer and chocolate milk. What a find!! Our apartment is part of an old building inside the walls of the ancient village. The view from every window, as well as from our large terrace, is outstanding.


The entire village is perched on top of a steep hill with sweeping views over the surrounding valleys. Vineyards and fields of corn and sunflowers and the largest natural truffle forest in the world stretch out over the horizon. The valleys are surrounded by hills, each with either a church or a little village on top of it.


The best part of staying in Motovun is that every morning run starts going down the hill. I know this would be terrible for some (having the uphill at the end) but by the time you have to run back up the hill again, you’ve found your second wind, the surroundings have you on a high and you’ve had sufficient semi-flat running for a while. And, you have no choice. Starting up that hill would make for an easy excuse to go back to bed. The first five to ten minutes are in any case always the worst.

We had some productive school time here, despite the many attractions in the area. We extended our stay to fit in a number of great day trips. So many beautiful places to explore. The highlight, on Zvjezdana’s recommendation, was a day picnicking and swimming in the rough ocean off a headland in a national park. No facilities, but incredible beauty. You have to walk and climb a fair deal to get to it. Great way to keep the masses away!

In Motovun we spent lots of time wandering through the uneven cobble stone streets and on the old stone walls. And we had the best burgers ever, watching the sunset over the valley. Priceless.

We were sad to say goodbye to Zvjezdana and marvellous Motovun. We will never forget this wonderful experience, or the ginormous slab of chocolate she gave the kids upon our departure.

– Mariza –



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