It has been almost two months since I finished the EPW, and it's been so awesome to follow all the Peacewalkers adventures through the Facebook group! It is crazy to think that all of the 2017 Peacewalkers are done -- A HUGE CONGRATS! Now that I've done a bit of traveling and have been able to slow down, I think it's a great time to give some reflection on my walk and advice to future Peacewalkers :)
I think expectations would be a great place to start. Having never walked the Camino in Spain before (or done any long walk!), I went into the EPW unsure what to expect and determined to walk the whole way. For me, experiencing new countries, meeting people, and finishing the walk were my goals, and this helped me be excited and pleasantly surprised by random events and great conversations that would happen along the way. A majority of the other Peacewalkers had previously walked the Camino, and as I understand the EPW is a very different experience. You walk in a group of 10 or less people for most of the trip (the groups could shift depending on the optional days), meaning if you didn't click with the people, it would best to switch days, but also meaning you got to form deeper relationships with your group. The accommodations are set for every day in a mix of villages, towns, and cities, meaning that you have to complete the allotted distance for that day (with taxi help if wanted!), but there is no rush to find a bed, and many of the hosts are absolute treasures. Since the EPW goes through Eastern Europe, you can see the difference in affluence in places, meaning that sometimes towns will be very sleepy, no shops will be open, and there will be a lot of open fields, but it also means that you have the opportunity to really interact with locals, see their authentic lives, and experience these countries in such a unique way.
This being said, I think expectation and perspective matters a lot on the EPW. I came in with no expectations from previous experiences, and got extremely lucky with my group, who became an eclectic family--especially as I had come onto the walk by myself. And especially since the EPW has really only been going for 4 years (which is incredible how much it's grown!), there are still a lot of variables and unplanned things (getting lost in a wheat field), but that made other random things all the more special (dancing with a group of Slovenians at the Vinarium tower, while eating bread and drinking wine!). As I mentioned above, the distances are set, so if you want to send baggage forward or take a taxi to cut some of the distance, it's important to keep in mind that these costs are often expensive, especially if you are the only person doing it (normally there is a fixed cost that will be shared by everyone using the service and the more people that use it, the cheaper it is for everyone). Furthermore, since the accommodations are set, their prices are also set, and many include dinner and breakfast along with the bed itself, which makes it more expensive. Since both the arrows and the guidebook are done voluntarily (thank you to the amazing Cressy who has walked the EPW every year and painted beautiful arrows this year), they are not perfect, but every year will just continue getting better (and we made it every day just fine!). I know there are a lot of great improvements to come and I'm excited to see how the walk will continue to take shape in the future!
For me personally, I thought it was a really awesome, worthwhile, and challenging experience. I loved going through different countries and seeing how scenery changed (flatter farmland in Hungary to rolling hills in Croatia), and honestly, I thought it was so awesome to just clear my mind and let my feet just walk--the physical challenge (apart from my blister) was very fulfilling to me, as I felt accomplished every night going to bed. Yes, there were many times where the walk was silent for a stretch, but there was beauty in it, as everyone went at their own pace, and I loved that time to just listen to music, podcasts, or simply be in nature. I also so appreciated the conversations I had with everyone I walked with or had met in passing, from cultural differences to life experiences to cracking jokes to politics to righting the whole dang world. It gave me the space to hear and learn from different perspectives, form new opinions, reflect on the past, orient myself for the future, and also, just be completely in the present, trekking through Hungary, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, and Italy.
If you are thinking about doing the EPW, I would say you should 100% go for it. It's not for everyone, but I think Peacewalkers are a certain type of people--interesting, humble, open-minded, good natured, and unbelievably determined. Be open to the differences in foods or housing and get to know the accommodation hosts because many of them are honestly incredible. Every EPW experience is different, and I believe it's up to initiative and perspective to shape it--maybe you too will end up drinking homemade Hungarian wine with locals & swimming in the night, learn the polka from a group of Slovenians, meet the true forest keeper Lotti (who has vowed to protect all PWs!), listen to two free, impromptu concerts, take part in a burger&beer fest, be shown a guy's personal church in his house (which was full of drinks), meet incredible people, and walk over 500 kilometers across Europe.
Thank you EPW -- you have made me into a "life walker," and I have a feeling I'll be seeing you again :)
*apologies for the late post, I've been having trouble connecting to wifi!*
And We. Have. Made. It. TRIESTE! It is crazy to think we have just successfully completed the European Peace Walk!!! 500 km, 6 different countries, many different people met, and one hell of a time.
Jana prepared a lovely breakfast this morning at 6:30 AM, and after playing with her tiny cat for awhile, we hit the road for the last 18 km of the trip!! The beginning was a really nice walk that brought us out of the village and into a winding forest. Jakob sang to us as we walked (I have promised to learn the lyrics of all these songs), and when we finally came out of the forest, we came to a clearing, where we crossed into Italy!! I'm znot sure what I expected because I realized there would be no borders, but we crossed a small bridge and suddenly we were in a new country -- the beauty of walking. It soon turned into a massive uphill climb, which gave a beautiful view of the mountainous view on the other side, as well as Trieste and the sea in the distance! We soon started on the bike path home :)
Along the way, we stopped by the coffee recommendation on the guide, which was a cute hotel downhill off the bike path. After refreshing ourselves, we walked the 8 km more on the bike path & through the city, weaving downhill on streets until finally...the beautiful plaza and fountain that seemed so familiar in pictures 😍 Honestly, it's still hard for me to think that we will not be continuing to walk for the next few days, but we had our photo glory by it, and then soon afterwards, we treated ourselves (or rather our "grandparents and father" treated us) to an amazing lunch, celebrating with champagne!!! We did it AHH!!
The rest of the evening has gone by so quickly, but we met up with Tina & Barb for drinks at 5 PM after showering in our respective hotels (where I met another Peacewalker from Singapore who had arrived a few days earlier!), and then once again with everyone for dinner as a final hurrah. Trieste itself is an absolutely beautiful and bustling city, and not to mention the Adriatic Sea is right there--we had gone through everything from cornfields to dirt roads to mountains to the sea. It was so bittersweet saying goodbye to everyone, but I have faith that our travels will allow us to cross paths again.
I plan on doing a reflection post later on (since I have not yet been able to slow down--traveling now in Italy!), but I do want to express my sincere gratitude towards everyone on the Peacewalk, since it was such a challenging yet rewarding experience. It was such a good first walk (since I had not done any before!), and I do hope to come back, whether it's a few years later with family or when I'm much much older. I do know that I will become a "Walker" since it's such a great way to see the country, really meet people, and just clear your mind to focus on walking and finishing each day.
"Once life becomes easy, then you know you're dead" -Jakob
I am thankful, and life is good :)
As I am writing, I also cannot believe it: this was the second to last day of the Peacewalk! Only 18 km between us & the beautiful fountain in Trieste! How did these 3 weeks fly by so quickly?
Today was a tougher day, but it was certainly one of my favorites! It was almost 33 km, yet time seemed to fly in the beginning--we got breakfast at the house and started off early around 6:15 AM. As we walked out of the village, it was interesting to see so many people out and about and later, since it quickly turned into forest, I walked the first 8 km easily chatting with Brigid, before we had our first rest. We continued through a village (where some guy said a poem to Brigid) and into more forest with the Reka river flowing alongside, before going quite uphill and zig-zagging for the "River & Climb."
We then powered on into the absolutely beautiful Škocjanske Caves, passing a little art gallery and into the trail overlooking the valley. Although I ended up taking a different path than everyone else (and not the right one), I still wound up at the restaurant area (and went back to see the viewpoint), where we stopped for lunch around 11:30 AM, already having done more than half of the day!
Afterwards, most of the group decided to take a taxi to our destination, but Eva, Jakob, and I continued on the home stretch! By this time, the sun had really decided to come out, so I was sweating quite profusely (regretting not getting the hat), and we stopped for some drinks at a restaurant that was quite fancy, which was a funny contrast with us and our sweaty selves/huge packs. We had some Radler (grapefruit beer) & Coca-Cola and just chatted, before continuing on our way. Luckily, a lot of the next stretch was under trees, so we got some refuge from the sun (this was actually the hottest day it has been in June in Slovenia!!), and Eva and I talked about everything, including our idea to create the perfect pack (coming soon to a store near you ;)). We walked in a path sort of above the motorway, which was quite cool, and found a random bench perfectly for us, which we named the "Peacewalkers Bench." When we reached the pub a kilometer away from accommodation, we celebrated with more Radler, and finished the second to last day, walking in strong!
Dinner was absolutely AMAZING (cooked by Jana's boyfriend), with such a yummy salad, eggplant, a cheese thing I cannot remember what it is called, and ice cream! It was so cool to learn that Jana, who has grown up in this area, now rents out the only pub in town, owns two hostels, and is trying to start a restaurant outside (that currently only serves Peacewalkers!). It was our last supper as our little group, but we planned to meet tomorrow in Trieste, along with Tina & Barb (PWers who were originally in our group but ended up a day ahead). Italian food, here we come!
The theme of the day (and truly the entire walk) was þetta reddast (pronounced thetta radest), an Icelandic term meaning things will work out in the end. Whenever an obstacle would get in the way, þetta reddast! Getting blisters? þetta reddast! Life will work itself out, and it indeed has :)
This experience has been definitely challenging both physically and mentally, but that is what I signed up for, and I am so thankful for the people in my group, people who showed us hospitality, and just the beautiful countries that we passed through, full of their own history and culture. Once I'm able to digest everything, I will write a reflection post, but until then, WE ARE ALMOST IN TRIESTE!!!!
It truly is so crazy thinking about the days passing by because they are both incredibly long & short, but wow, now there are 2 days! Today's walk was fairly easy & brisk & honestly a lot of fun! Fly and I walked the entire way together, taking our time whenever needed and "making the world right," as Brigid put it.
We started off the morning walking out of Postojna and mostly on flat ground, passing through a neat little village; in high spirits as we reached the next coffee shop, meeting up with the rest of the group as we enjoyed the morning rest already having done a third of the walk! Wahoo! The day seemed to have been broken up in 4 segments, where we took 3 rest stops, meeting up with the rest of the group during those times. The sun was beginning to get quite hot, so when we stopped the second time, there was a little napping done on this grassy & shady spot, exactly what we needed (although always can nap for forever)! On the third stretch, the sun really started beating down, and I could feel myself getting sticky & sweaty & sunscreeny (not the best combo) but Fly & I kept each other in engaging conversation where we just kept on unpacking the various folds of life and beliefs.
The last part was through a road, which luckily was not busy so we were not that bothered. We went through a true emotional rollercoaster in the span of a few minutes, as we discovered a hat that was left behind a stop sign, decided to take it along with us, found out that there were a lot of spiders on it, quickly decided to leave it, saw a spider decoration that seemed mocking & got scared by a dog barking. Honestly all of it was quite comical, and the last uphill to our accommodation, we powered on through with some good throwback music, finally arriving to the beautiful accommodation around 2:35 PM (another early entry! whoop whoop!)
As soon as we came in, our hosts offered us homemade blueberry schnapps, and we showered, chilled, and napped until a delicious dinner of vegetable soup, fresh salad, mushroom gnocchi, and amazing dessert prepared by Borut's mother in law. In fact, our accommodation is Borut's family house, and he is the 5th generation in it, which is amazing! After dinner, we got a tour of the church from Franco, one of the locals in the village, and he showed us the building dating back to the 1600s. Afterwards, he invited us over to see his house, and he showed us around his vineyards, his woodshop (where he makes pillars, doors, chairs, etc.), his workplace (where he makes 60 L of homemade fruit alcohol during the wintertime!!), and finally his personal church.
We were led into this basement (that he had made the ceiling for, and upon opening the door, we saw a wine cellar/drinks all arranged in bottles on the shelves. He offered us drinks, and while he took it down like a pro, it was definitely much stronger than I think any of us had anticipated!
"For my friends and I...after two drinks we pray!"
It was extremely interesting hearing about Slovenia/that particular village from Franco. He told us that they are completely self-sufficient; there is no need to import or export anything because people grow different fruits, the community guts and cleans chickens together, and they really share everything. From what I understood, there was no unemployment because everyone was either studying or working and oftentimes, kids come back to the village to live, even after spending time in big cities. You can tell how proud the community is of their area and their country as a whole.
It is definitely important not to forget Eastern Europe.
Tomorrow is our second to last day, which is honestly surreal. It's a tougher day so we will start out earlier, but ready to take the day--bring it on!
Whew, today was truly a whirlwind (by the very, very end of the day, my phone had logged around 27 miles)! We had agreed upon a 5 AM set-off, but we ended up leaving more around 6 AM, hoping to beat the heat that was coming. This day's route has been changed for 2017, so for the first part, we followed the directions given on the EPWalkers FB group and followed the arrows that were wonderfully painted leading us up and winding through forests and such.
Life's a climb, and this morning sure was one too! But an uphill also means beautiful views, which is exactly what we were graced with starting off early in the morning. We continued making our way through tough hills and took many breaks, munching through our breakfast pack that was prepared by Bistra the night before.
The first 20 km were definitely tough, and the promise of coffee & drinks in Laze pushed us to the rest stop we needed--we arrived around noon time with sore feet & in need of a refresher! Most of the group decided to take a taxi from there to our final destination, Postojna, but Ava and I were ready to walk the final stretch, which was mainly on road. #takenoprisoners
And even though the walk was a tough one, it was made so enjoyable with each other's company :) We took a stop at a supermarket (getting stocked up on snacks), talked to some builders who refilled our water bottles (the house would take 3 years to build to then be sold by the owner who lived right next door), and continued to apply and re-apply sunscreen. We were very determined to make it to Postojna because we had heard about incredible caves there--in fact Jakob had actually visited these caves 40 years ago, and it was amazing that he was back again to see them!
Postojna is quite a big city, which was certainly surprising after coming from Bistra, an area with only 5 houses. We walked for a while until we got into our hostel around 4:15 PM, and upon finding out that the last tour for the caves was 5 PM & we would have to walk over there, we dropped our packs, changed our shirts, and went on our ways to the caves (without the packs #blessed)!! Luckily, when we reached the caves, there were still spots left on the tour, so we treated ourselves to some ice cream, while we waited for the beginning of the tour.
The tour took us through around 5.7 km of the cave--we rode on a train for the first 2 km, walked around for the next 1.7 km, and rode the train back for the last 2 km. Both Ava and I were quite tired at this point, but the caves were ~amazing~, so I'll leave some highlights from this time:
•The rocks are limestone, and the color comes from different minerals (red is iron & black is manganese)
•There are baby dragon animals they have there that have such a slow metabolism that they can go 10 years without needing food. They also don't use their eyes, so after the first 4 years, the skin grows over them
•You can get quite creative with what the rocks looked like: piranhas, blob fish, angry monsters, and my personal favorite, cauliflower
•When the guy first discovered the cave, it was completely pitch black (our tour guide, Greg, showed us what it was like and damn, I would not have wanted to be him)
•The caves were exactly 9.4 degrees Celsius! I rented a coat from them, but I suggest if you go, bring some warm wear with you!!
•There is a part of the cave called the Spaghetti Chamber. Bravo!
It was truly an incredible sight, and I could see why people come from all over the world to see the caves! We walked back to our hostel, joking the entire way (semi in delusion from tiredness), getting back around 7 PM, upon which Fly & I ran back out to the Spur to pick up food for dinner that night and breakfast & lunch for the day after! I made myself some tomatoes & eggs & veggies, and we got sandwich materials for the following day. Since we were staying in a hostel, we met Baske, a geologist & professor, as we were eating in the kitchen, and he shared with us that he was headed to Trieste (so perhaps we shall see him!).
A long, long day, but honestly, lots of fun & lots had happened. We have the luxury of sleeping in until 6 AM tomorrow (what!! Can you believe it?!) since it is a shorter day, which all together is a blessing. Always thankful for new friends & old, and it's hard to believe there's only 3 days left WHAT!
PS Sorry for not taking you through the time table, I thought I would revert back to this style of writing!
After talking to my mom today, I realized I had made a mistake in my last blog post: after today, we have only 4 days left! That's wild!! 4 more days!! AHHH!! She also told me that I should spice up my writing style, so let's try something new!
5:00 AM - Phone alarm goes off, and I instinctively snooze it. Around 30 minutes later, I roll out of the top bunk (narrowly missing the low ceiling), and mosey on over to brush my teeth and put in my contacts
5:45 AM - I FaceTime my roommate (who is currently roadtripping the US!) whose car just broke down and who hasn't had signal in a few days; so incredibly happy to see her!
6:10 AM - I shove everything into my bag, withdraw some cash (since I ran out yesterday), and quickly head out to the bakery around the corner, where everyone is already nibbling on some pastry and get two pizza-like breads to go.
6:45 AM ish - we start on the route! We walk along the side of a busy road for a while and then turn onto a dirt/gravel path. I breathe in deeply, so impressed by how clean the air is in the Ljubljana!
8:00 AM- Continue winding along this road (which also happens to coincide with the Slovenian Camino!) - Now walking & talking with Theresa; the group splits into 2.
9:15 AM - We make a wrong turn into a cornfield eek!
9:23 AM - All is good! Continue on the path & arrows (and across a wooden plank!!)
9:50 AM - A supermarket and coffee shop!! The faster group is already waiting there for us. I anxiously search for a hat since I left mine in the previous accom (to no avail :( )
10:15 AM - We continue once more through roads that leads us into a village.
11:30 - We see a blessed sign that says "EPWalkers welcome!" We have a drink & rest at the family owned restaurant/bar/house! The father, mother, and son heartily welcome us and gives us maps and info about the area of Slovenia we are in.
12 PM - Reapply sunscreen and continue on path that opens into a large field. Donal and I talk about his life and parachuting at age 50!
12:40 PM - The sun is starting to blaze and we take refuge under a tree (with snacks hehe)
1:07 PM -As we continue on path, Fly realizes that we haven't seen a red arrow in awhile (not a good sign)
1:15 PM - We semi-wander around looking at guidebook trying to figure out where the path winded left and then right. Eva drops her pack and runs behind to see if we missed an arrow.
1:17 PM - "WAHOO!" Eva is slow motion running back to us telling us she has found the arrow and the correct direction we are towards. We walk across a field, over a metal bridge, and in between an electric fence (with cows on the other side) and nettles #rough
1:36 PM - Make it out alive & Fly, Eva, and I power on the last 4.5 km, listening to music and singing.
2:23 PM - WE HAVE ARRIVED IN BISTRA! God bless the EPW! (This has been the earliest I have ever arrived in an accommodation!!)
Bistra is 5 houses and a technical museum, which is the largest museum in Slovenia! Inside the museum includes cars that were presents to ex-Yugoslavian ex-dictator Tito and the works of Nikola Tesla. We stay at the Hotel Bistra, which has been recently renovated to include hotel rooms (2 years ago), and it is absolutely lovely. The rooms, the host, the dinner (and dessert that was semifreddo & prepared in their kitchen) were all absolutely amazing!! It was very hospitable and we definitely felt extremely welcomed there.
We have heard that the next days are going to be some of the hottest, so we are going to be getting up quite early tomorrow (trying to leave at 5 AM) AH! So must sleep, but first, here is a slew of pictures :)
Today was one of the optional days on the EPW, where you can take a day trip to Lake Bled from Ljubljana. My advice: 100% do it. The lake is absolutely breathtaking, is a nice 6 km walk around, and is...just wow. We took the 9 AM bus over to Bled (busses run on the hour starting from 6 AM), had some coffee (or in my case, ice cream), and started our slow stroll around the lake!
There were definitely a lot of tourists around, cycling, walking, running, sunbathing, or swimming in the crystal clear water. It's amazing because you can see all the way down to the bottom! There is an island in the middle with the Bled Castle, and it's very cool seeing it in all angles as you walk around the lake. There were ducks and swans swimming around, and I just leisurely strolled around, listening to who else, but Ed Sheeran and breathing in the fresh air.
For the most part, I was strolling by myself, but I soon ran into Jakob and Eva, as they were getting their picture painted by an artist who was sitting on the side of the lake! As we walked farther, we came across a couple of people rope swinging from a tree and stopped to watch. As Eva and I talked, we realized that we had both bungee jumped off the same cooling towers in Soweto, South Africa, and as we watched the rope swingers, we finally decided to do it because why the hell not! We were definitely not dressed for it at all (I was wearing a dress), but if you say you're gonna do something, you sure as hell better do it, and you betcha we both jumped into the lake (with a little help from a nice guy from Oregon)!! The water was cool & refreshing and walking in the sun soon dried our clothes.
We ended up coming full circle to where we first stopped in the morning, and now, we were having our lunch! Lake Bled is famous for a dessert called Kremsnita, which is a cream cake with powdered sugar on the top, and that for sure made my day :) After enjoying a nice meal, we took a taxi to Vintgar Gorge.
Vintgar Gorge: another breathtaking place. It is a gorge just a few kilometers away from the lake, and it has beautiful rocks, a rushing stream, a waterfall (that is the tallest in Slovenia!), and the most beautiful colors I've seen in water. We walked to the waterfall called Šum Falls and back, which took approximately 2 hours, and I just have never been more happy and grateful for what beauty the Earth holds. It's crazy to think that this gorge was "discovered" in the 1890s, and my oh my, I'm sure glad it was!
We then caught the 6 PM bus home, and arrived back in Ljubljana ready to eat! We had dinner on one of the oldest streets, and I had a veggie burger & fries, and mmm, that is exactly what was needed!! The last group of Peacewalkers had also arrived in Ljubljana, and so we met up with them and chatted for a bit before heading back to the hostel for the night.
Wow. What a truly wholesome day. Tomorrow, we will leave at 6 AM because it is supposed to get super hot in the middle of the day, so we are trying to beat the heat! We now are on the home stretch to the end towards Trieste, and if you can believe it, have 6 days of walking left. I have truly not understood how time has been passing on this walk, but I do know two weeks have flown by. To a hopefully good walking day tomorrow, cheers, and thank you Ljubljana and Lake Bled for an amazing stay!!
We are in Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia!! WOOHOO!! Today was a very short day for walking, as it was going to the train station 3 km away from where we were staying to take a train into Ljubljana! And so, here we are :)
We walked around Brežice for a little bit (unfortunately the castle was closed) before catching the 11:12 AM train to Ljubljana. The train ride was an hour and a half, and Fly and I talked for half the way there and dozed for the second half, gearing ourselves up to explore the city. When we arrived, we all made our way to the Sax Hostel (a jazz bar/hostel), where our group had decided to stay for the night as recommended by Donal, since PWers find their own accomodation for the night(s) in Ljubljana. We weaved in and out of markets on the streets and straight down the canal before dropping our bags off, changing, and out to explore the city! We first grabbed some yummy lunch, admiring the architecture that paired very different buildings next to one another--one older, one newer, one wide and short, one skinny and tall--giving the city a unique vibe.
We walked around the city a little longer, where we came upon a Beer & Burger fest that was happening, with myriad vendors selling different types of beers and different burgers! At first, I had thought Ljubljana seemed less like a city and more like a larger suburb, but after seeing this festival, I felt the energy of the city come alive. Before the burgers though...
It just so happened that at 5 PM, there was a Haydn concert in the cathedral that was free, and so naturally, we headed over that way (and coincidentally, it was right next to the Beer & Burger festival). The concert was a small orchestra and a choir, featuring a piano soloist and an opera singer (both of whom were fantastic!). I unfortunately was quite sleepy, so I don't think I was able to *fully* enjoy it, but I definitely appreciated it nevertheless, and I am always about the music. Afterwards, we got some burgers (spent quite a while figuring out which one to choose) and savored every last bite. The food coma definitely hit from that so we walked on back to the hostel not long afterwards.
Afterwards, I got to have a nice, long video call with my favorite guy, which was great feeling grounded for the days to come :) I realized that since the past few days we had walked so much, I was restless & had so much energy in the night, so I ended up taking an evening walk around the canal with Donal! We had a nice stroll around and came back to the hostel, ready to head to bed. Tomorrow we will be going to Lake Bled, a beauiful lake that we have heard nothing but good things about :) This will be our last rest day before powering on to Trieste--only 6 more walking days if you can believe it!! For now though, sleep with the knowledge of no pack on tomorrow is so blissful :') Until tomorrow!
Today was, for all intense purposes, the perfect day. Yes, it was a tough walk, and yes, our group of 4 today ended up on the road for 12 hours, but we had so much fun, and it was definitely a day to remember!
We had breakfast at 6 AM, but by the time we were leaving Zagorska Sela, it was 7 AM. Since we were crossing into Slovenia today, the rest of the group decided to take a taxi to the border checkpoint, but Fly, Ava, Jakob and I wanted to walk the full 33 km! The first 7 km quite straightforward, so we made it to the border, got a stamp in the passport (woohoo!), and said goodbye to the wonderful country of Croatia into Slovenia! We quickly came upon a supermarket and stocked up on fruit & snacks for the road ahead--and as we found out later, we would definitely need it. We walked through a cute, smaller village and although I missed a turn, the EPW guidebook saved me, and I retraced my steps to find the arrow I had missed. Up into forest and a massive hill we went--and WOWEEEE was it tough! I was also carrying my pack today after not carrying it for a couple of days, and that definitely makes a difference when you are facing a mountainous uphill. But soon we came to the "top" and continued winding through hills, seeing beautiful views all the while, and finally, stopping just before noon at a picnic table in the Slovenian vineyards, taking a nice rest with our many snacks to keep us going :')
We hit a little mishap in the middle when I, walking behind everyone else, suddenly lost sight of them, and so thinking they were way ahead of me, quickly sped ahead to try and catch them. Little did I know, they had missed an arrow and thus were behind me, and waiting for me to make sure I didn't miss it, a klassic confused case BUT all is well that ends well: Just as I decided to continue walking to the pub and hoping they were there, I heard Fly's voice across the valley and 3 small figures waving at me. Never have I been so happy!! We resumed walking as a group and right before we made it to the supermarket, we passed a man that stopped us to offer us apricots and encouraged us to take a few, which was so so nice! When we finally made it to the supermarket, we took a break outside, mentally prepping for the long kilometers that lay ahead. It felt like 5 PM, even though it was only 2 PM, but we geared ourselves up for the next 14 km ahead.
Jakob and I quickly passed the time on the asphalt road talking a lot about business and values, and one thing I really love and enjoy about walking is that it allows you to bridge the generational gap and learn from those who come from different walks of life. And even better, Mother Nature was taking pity on us and the storm cloud ahead had passed. By this time, it was 4 PM, and we still had 7 km, so what else to do, but go forward towards....the coffee shop ;)
We all had a wonderful time just sitting and chatting during our break, and the group dynamic definitely lends itself to many laughs :) The home stretch was through some cornfields, forest, and roads into Brežice. Right before entering Brežice, westopped on the side of the road, and to our amazement, the woman living in the house came out and offered us drinks! We didn't speak each others language, but she brought our water, wine, apple juice, and cups for us! It was certainly such a kind gesture, and it is interesting to see just how willing people are to go out of their way to help you (and as told by the priest in Krapina, they really want to give and it is rude if you don't accept). So we drank some drinks (wine &apple juice actually mix together quite well), and powered the last few km to the youth hostel we were staying at for the night (this place is honestly really awesome and I met people from all over who were doing an Erasmus program just in the kitchen! Hostels are great!)!
As we passed the Brežice Castle, that was right next to wear we were staying, we heard a rehearsal going on and found out the concert was tonight at 8 PM featuring an orchestra comprised of students & teachers in Brežice, and it was free! We got into our hostel around 7 PM, so we quickly showered, changed, and headed over to the castle. And wow. Just, wow. The orchestra was INCREDIBLE and the singers were just so beautiful--all the songs were Slovenian (besides Amazing Grace), and I have them all written down to listen to later! It really was a treat for the ears, and it was really serendipitous that it ended up tonight. We have just been really dang lucky!
The concert was an hour long, and so around 9 PM, we walked down the Main Street looking for a restaurant. We found a nice sit down restaurant and had one of the absolute best meals 😍 I had risotto (as recommended by the waitress) and ~amazing~ ice cream--I honestly have never been so full and happy and ready to just sleep from a long, exhausting, but very fulfilling day :) Ready to pass out now--tomorrow we will be heading towards Ljubljana WHOOP whoop and it will be quite a short day (because it is just walking to the train station), which is perfect because I am already quite sore. Super excited for the days to come and see what Slovenia has in store!
The EPW is a marathon--as you continue walking and training, the days get easier. OR if you get lost on the trail, you may be doing a literal marathon, much like us today walking 25 miles (40 km)!
This morning, I woke up at 5:39 AM for our 5:30 AM breakfast, stumbling out of bed because it's definitely the earliest I've been up for quite a long time. Marlis made an amazing omelette & we had a hearty breakfast to get us started on the right foot for the 30 km journey ahead. We said goodbye to the most amazing family (it really was like a home), and Jakob, Eva, Fly, and I set off! Jakob and Eva are from Iceland (the first on the EPW!) and joined our group, since they were not doing the trip to Zagreb (and watching them say bye to the rest of their group was very touching ❤️). As we left Krapina, we ended up walking way past the first turn, but soon we were on our way, walking up and down many hills--and seeing many beautiful sights. At one point, a guy stopped his car on the top of one of the hills and offered to drive us to our next destination (probably knowing the hills that were to follow)!
The weather forecast had predicted rain around noon, but we were lucky Mother Nature held out for a little bit. Instead, our eyes decided to play a trick and we had misread directions and missed the area going back up a path, so we ended up walking past the village we were supposed to be in into another village, looking for the Holy Mary Pub! After stopping at a store and getting snacks & peace iced tea to get us energized again, we had to retrace our steps, adding around 6 km to the original path. But we got back on the trail, found the Holy Mary Pub, and got our rain gear on as it started to lightly sprinkle. From there, the path was quite clear, but there were still many hills to go, and so, I like to believe Mother Nature took pity on us and only drizzled for a short while before clearing the sky and keeping the air cool! We finally got into Zagorska Sela around 6 PM, making it almost 12 hours on the trail. What a true challenging day!
The accommodation we are staying at tonight is a family house, that has been through 5 generations, and was thought to have originally been built in the 18th century! Our hosts were so sweet and dinner/dessert was AMAZING (the pears were their own tree's winter pears!). Donal taught me some Irish dancing--and I plan on learning more soon--and we hung around in the common area, before realizing that we would need to go to bed considering it was another long day and we planned on getting started at 6 am tomorrow! This is our last night in Croatia, as we will be crossing the border into Slovenia tomorrow and staying in Brezice. I can't believe our time here is already over--but don't worry, I will surely come back to Croatia again :)
P.S. We learned from Marlis that the youngest person to do the Peacewalk in the past years was 22 years old, meaning that I am currently the second youngest to do it! We are also by far the youngest group to walk the EPW now--we have a 22 year old, two 20 year olds, and a 13 year old with us!! Breaking barriers one by one! WOOHOO!!!!