Update on my travel life:
While planning my trip, I realized train travel through Eastern Europe (at least on the route that I had planned) is damn near impossible. Just to get from Bratislava to Budapest, you either have to take a 3-hour bus (bear in mind, I hate taking buses long distances. I get car sick 😩), or: take a train all the way back to Vienna, then from Vienna to Budapest, totaling in about 10hrs traveling. Needless to say, I needed another plan.
And thats where my parents came in. We rented a car in Vienna, and drove from Vienna to Bratislava, Bratislava to Budapest, Budapest to Zagreb, Zagreb to Ljubjana, and Ljubjana to Trieste. Along the way we got to stop in a ton of cool places like Plitvice Lakes, Postojna Caves, and Miramare Castle near Trieste.
I think my favorite part of this experience, though, was attempting to navigate the way between all these places. My mother was driving, and she insisted on paying attention to the road – completely ignoring the GPS. So what was my job? Acting as her own personal verbal GPS guide. At one point, between Plitvice Lakes and Ljubjana, on a tiny ‘two lane road’ that was only big enough for one car, I was basically a broken record – “Up next: hairpin turn; watch out there is a truck! Hairpin turn again! FUCK, another truck!!” And this continued for a good 20km. Needless to say, I am a bit mentally scared from driving on the back roads between Croatia and Slovenia. But at the exact same time, the memory will (eventually) become one of my regularly told hilarious travel stories.
Now we are in Trieste, on the beautiful coast of Italy. Trieste is basically the Italian version of Crete, Greece (a place I have always wanted to visit butstill haven’t gotten a chance to see). Advice for any of my friends interested in visiting: totally worth it. Absolutely beautiful. But come when you can actually go swimming (it is currently 8C/48F outside).
Cool fact about Trieste: it was owned by the Hapsburg’s Austro-Hungarian empire until the empire’s collapse after WWII, when it became part of Italy through the redistribution of the AH territories at the end of the war. Because its only been less than 100years since Italy gained control of the region, all the signs are in both Italian and Slovenian, and you can find the traditional food of both regions all over the city. And the famous castle – Miramare Castle – was built by Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico and brother of the last AH emperor Franz Joseph, but never used by Maximilian because he was killed in Mexico before its completion. So members of the royal family visited it (probably because it is on a gorgeous point overlooking the Sea), until Italy gained control of it and renovated the castle for the Duke of Aosta to live in with his family. Other fun fact: the Duke personally appealed to Mussolini not to join WWII, and ended up dying as a result of complications with TB and Malaria (both of which he contracted because of the war).
Cool right? Well, maybe not, but for a history/international relations nerd it is awesome! 😬