Slovenia, part three: Piran

Slovenia has a tiny coastline – just 46km sandwiched between Italy and Croatia. Part of the Istrian Peninsula, the area was under Italian rule until just after WWII, and both Slovenian and Italian are spoken in all the towns along the coast. We drove from Ljubljana into Koper and I was surprised at how incredibly fit everyone in town seemed to be. Then I started to notice all the Ironman t-shirts. Kyle googled it and discovered we had arrived the day before an event. We had lunch at Gostilna Pri Tinetu, surrounded by Ironman triathletes. That’ll put you off dessert.


We rented the bottom floor of a house in Piran, with a sweeping view of the Adriatic, and 89 uneven steps down to the footpath that leads into the old town along the water.

I could have stayed for weeks, watching the sailboats from the garden, swimming and reading on the rocks, and walking along the water into town for dinner and to watch the sun set.

One evening we had dinner at Fritolin – memorable for the boys gamely eating fried picarels (tiny fish that look like anchovies, fried and eaten whole), then feeding them to the cat on the square.


The water was clear and warm enough for swimming, even if the weather wasn’t entirely cooperative. Our second day in Piran was spent primarily inside, as the wind was ferocious. The view was still lovely, and we used the time to catch up on schoolwork for the boys and travel planning for us.

We also watched in admiration and horror as a few lunatic kitesurfers headed out into the water. They were flying (literally, at certain moments).

Piran was our last stop in Slovenia. Next up, Italy!

Slovenia, part two: Two lakes and a gorge

We took a day trip from Ljubljana to visit Vintgar Gorge, Lake Bled, and Lake Bohinj. The gorge was a last minute add-on (literally while we were on the road to Lake Bled) and I’m so glad we didn’t miss it.

We arrived a little after 9am, and parked just near the entrance. Apparently, in the summer months the gorge gets quite crowded, with long lines to enter, but on a September morning we just walked up, paid the entrance fee, and started along the 1.6 km path.

It was more of a stroll than a hike.

There’s one section of the gorge where people have created a small stone stack garden. My guess is these get removed regularly by park staff.

Max and Henry added to the already impressive collection.

After the gorge, we drove over to Lake Bled. The plan was to have lunch right away, because more than one member of our little party was exhibiting signs of hanger. We inadvertently picked a place that had an amazing view (and a spot in history) but served only coffee and dessert. To stave off disaster, we went ahead and ordered the regional specialty, kremna rezina (cream cake), and two espressos at Café Belvedere. The cake was delicious, the espressos were necessary.


We walked along the lake into town and ate an actual, and very satisfying, lunch at Pizzeria Rustica before continuing the rest of the way around the lake. It’s a 6km path, so just a little bigger than Green Lake in Seattle, or Lake Merritt in Oakland. The weather was beautiful, and there were people rowing, supping, swimming, and sunbathing all around. Henry was very disappointed not to have his swim trunks along.

We didn’t take the Pletna boats over to the island where you can visit the church, since we had another lake on the itinerary and it was already getting late in the afternoon. Next time!

Getting to Lake Bohinj was unexpectedly challenging, as the road that the Google maps lady wanted us to take was closed for repairs. No matter how many times I tried to reroute, she kept insisting on that road, so we had to wing it for a bit. The alternate route we ended up taking was a bit of an adventure in our not-tiny Peugeot 308, as we drove through a few villages where the roads were clearly built when something other than cars was the main form of transportation. Some of the streets were barely wide enough for the car, and had blind corners at unusual angles. We only had to back up once, luckily.

The lake itself is gorgeous. It’s in a glacial valley in the Julian Alps, part of the Triglav National Park. There are hiking and biking trails all around, while cars can only reach some parts of the lake.


Since we didn’t arrive until late in the day, we only had time to stop for about an hour, enough for Kyle and Henry to take a swim. Initially, Henry was still upset about not having his swim trunks, and wasn’t going to go in, but the water just looked too inviting and he finally said, “OK I’LL DO IT.” Then he stripped to his underwear and had a blast. Max was not really feeling it, as he had fallen on some steps in the gorge and was sore and achy, so he walked to a nearby market and got a Fanta.

If we were smarter, we would have planned a day for each of the lakes, because both are worth a full day, and are quite different. The drive home was a bit easier as we knew what to expect, and we got back to Ljubljana in time for a late dinner and a good sleep.

Slovenia, part one: Ljubljana

Slovenia isn’t a country I had ever thought about visiting before this trip. We didn’t even really have it on the agenda, but as we read more about this part of Europe, Ljubljana kept coming up as a favorite for people. We needed to head west again at some point, anyway. Not having much planned or any particular expectations, we drove into Slovenia on Sunday afternoon from Tihany, Hungary, stopping near the border for lunch at McDonalds – continuing our tradition of eating very non-local foods as our first meal everywhere.

Our Ljubljana Airbnb apartment was in the Podutik neighborhood – in the northwest part of the city.  Hilly and full of evergreens, it reminded me of driving into Bellevue from Seattle. As a wonderful bonus, the family we rented from have two boys close in age to Max and Henry, and they spent some fun afternoons and evenings on the trampoline in the back yard and playing something called “PUBG” together on their various devices. Language barriers have nothing on video games and bouncing maniacally.


We spent almost a week exploring the city. A day-by-day would probably be tedious, so just some highlights:

Our tour of Ljubljanski Grad (the castle) and the view from the castle tower. We were told that from the top you can see one-third of the whole country.

The fox that appeared during our castle tour.


Ice cream from Cacao – twice. Total flavors tasted: mandarin, raspberry, mango, lemon, wild strawberry, Santo Domingo chocolate, amarena, pistachio. All of them were delicious.

The Museum of Illusions.

Walking in the old town’s pedestrian- (and bicycle-) only streets.

The Metelkova art district. Henry dubbed it, “Creepy, but good.”

Watching Henry chase bubbles in the square on Tuesday afternoon.

Riding bikes on Friday along the river path. Having lunch (AND dinner!) at Odprta Kuhna (open kitchen). We tried Egyptian shawarma (twice), roti, spring rolls and pork buns, a Serbian meat sandwich, and fried chicken.

One day I took an hour-long walk through Tivoli Park – and happened upon a ski jump training center. While I was walking, the boys were horsing around and Henry busted his chin open on some exercise equipment. By the time I met back up with them, the bleeding had stopped and Kyle was almost over his irritation that I’d managed to avoid the whole thing. Not a highlight of the trip, but it will be a memento, as it looks like it will scar.

Both boys also had haircuts, though neither allowed more than a trim…


We took a day trip to the Vintgar Gorge, Lake Bled, and Lake Bohinj, too, which deserves its own post. So, more to come on Slovenia, my new favorite place. I wonder if Melania wishes she’d never left.

Mortal Kombat, Harry Houdini, and WIND

Hi it’s Henry. A couple of weeks ago we were in Budapest, Hungary. While we were there we went to the pinball museum (which is more an arcade then a museum). All the games and pinball machines were set to free play so we did not have to pay. And I beat Max at Mortal Kombat 2… 47 times. My dad, my brother, and I played an awesome X-Men game together and blew up Magneto’s spaceship. After, we went to a Turkish restaurant and got kebabs. Then we went to an ice cream place and after we went home and watched SpongeBob until bedtime.

The next day we went to the Houdini House and there was a magic show and a lot of cool stuff about Harry Houdini (Ehrich Weiss).

Then we took the tram to the climbing gym and went bouldering. Then we went home and watched TV.

The next day we went to Tihany, and stayed in a house with a trampoline. There was a dog named Mano and a rabbit that bit me and a cat.

Then we went to Ljubljana and stay in an airb&b with a trampoline and we met some‍ kids who spoke some English that lived below us. The next day we went to Ljubljana castle and went on a time machine tour. We heard a story about a knight named Erazem Lueger who was a political prisoner who escaped through the toilet, too bad it never works in prison movies 😦 . He ran away to his castle (Predjama Castle):


…and was besieged by his former captors but people brought him food and supplies through the tunnels in the mountain and then one day the enemy bribed a guard to put a candle in the window when the knight was in the bathroom. Then they shot the toilet with a cannon and he died.

Next we went to Piran and it was WINDY so we stayed home the rest of the day.

The next day we went to the beach and the castle wall which was fun. There was a movie on that was called Magic in the Moonlight about a magician who was trying to unmask a fake medium (based on Harry Houdini). The next day we left to go to Sirmione, Italy which is where we are now. Yesterday we went swimming.

Playing Games in Central Europe

Hello again everybody from Budapest, Hungary 🇭🇺 district 12. We arrived Tuesday and were given a three-hour tour by our host where (Henry fell asleep) he explained that he had in fact washed “by hand” or just replaced everything in the house (he showed us this by licking the toilet… brush). We also were shown a picture of “his” yacht which was “boring” (and was actually from Lisbon not Hungary). OK well let’s get back on track, I posted my last blog post in the Czech Republic, Prague to be exact. Our apartment in Prague was very good because it was right next to a big playground that was really fun and that we could walk to and play at for a while. The swings were really fun because I could go really high on them and jump off. There was also a super huge grocery store near our apartment to that I got a bunch of candy at on our last day that lasted for weeks (I think I still have some in the car 🤔).


There was also a big metronome statue that was on a hill that a lot of skateboarders were skating at. The hill was next to a big river with a lot of boats on it. I really liked our place in Prague and would want to go there again.


Our next stop was Bratislava in Slovakia where we went to a fun geocaching mega event. At the event there were nine different geocache puzzles around the park that you had to solve and get a code, put it in a website, and it would register that you found it and show it on your account. Some of them were really confusing and hard to figure out, especially the ones that didn’t have English descriptions. One of them was really challenging because it was based on a Slovak riddle. We had to tune a radio to find a station that was replaying an old news broadcast in Slovak – and then listen for a number that was the answer to solve the geocache. We found eight of the geocaches in the end (the ninth one could only be found after 7 o’clock and we weren’t staying that long). It was really exciting that we almost found all of them though.

The next day before left to go to Veroce, Hungary we went to the tri border where Hungary, Austria, and Slovakia’s borders touch.


In Veroce we had rented a little house on a big hill in the forest with a trampoline!!! (and NO WiFi!) It was funny because at first the house looked tiny because on the top of the house there was a smaller room with turf around it that was at ground level. And as I said there was a trampoline which I was on at all times that we were at the house and was able to teach myself how to do three backflips in a row!!!

The view there was also amazing, sitting on the bench swing on the turf was so relaxing! (except when Henry was sitting on me!) One day, we went to a beach for a while but didn’t swim. After the beach we got some really good ice cream and went to a park with a funny spinny thing that we played at for a while.


When we left Veroce we went to the apartment in Buda, Budapest where the toilet brush licking occurred. While we were shown around we were given soda and beer (for the parents) too bad mine spilled all over my pants (no, no I did NOT wet myself). On the first day we went to the castle district and got a tour of the castle grounds but we did not get to go into the castle itself which was too bad. The tour was interesting but after the first hour and a half I got a bit tired of it. At 4 o’clock we went a magical place called “THE FLIPPER MUSEUM”/the pinball/old arcade game museum!!! This place was FULL of old video games, my personal favorite being a six or seven person X-Men game that we played together. We got really far and almost won but we got blown up by the quintuple boss fight at the end. Henry’s favorite and my second favorite was “MORTAL KOMBAT” 1 and 2. If you have not heard of them they are old arcade video games where you face an opponent on a 2D screen and kick, punch, dive on, and shoot lasers the krup out of them. We were there for three hours and had so much fun.

When we left we went and got ice cream and walked across the bridge between Pest and Buda. The next day we went to the House of Houdini and saw a cool magic show and saw an exhibition about Houdini’s life. It was pretty cool learning what he did and how he did it. it was a coincidence because I did a biography project about him in second grade. We are leaving Budapest today to go to Tihany, Hungary so see you in the next post. Max out!

Ahoj, Prague!

It’s raining in Prague. Bummer for us, but a relief for everyone else, as it has been a hot, dry summer, threatening even the hops yield. This has been a running conversation we’ve had as we’ve traveled this last month in Europe. Everywhere we go, people are concerned about the changing climate and are keenly feeling the effects in their daily lives. Needless to say, they’re a bit dumbfounded by the current US president’s stance on climate change and the Paris Agreement. TBH, many people here seem a bit dumbfounded by the current US president, period.

We arrived Saturday to yet another AirBnB apartment, this time in Prague 9. It’s outside the city center, and right across from a playground and near a large (huge!) grocery store, so it’s perfect for us. For my Seattle friends, Kaufland – the grocery store – is like Fred Meyer, but everything is in Czech and there are way more yogurt and beer choices.

The kids have taken up renaming everything, I think partly in reaction to being surrounded by languages they can’t read. So Škoda cars have become “chicken cars” and Kaufland is “Pneumonia city”. They think they’re hilarious.

Our first night, we went to a park nearby that was hosting a multicultural festival. As we walked through the park, we happened upon a Strongman competition. The boys enjoyed watching the tire flipping, but we didn’t stay for the part where they pull a semi tractor.

The festival wasn’t very crowded, I’m guessing because of the rain. We listened to Shahab Tolouie play for a set – he combines Persian and Flamenco music, and plays a three-necked guitar. We ate Ethiopian and Congolese food from various vendors, drank guava Jumex from Mexico, and then wandered over to another stage where a jazz quintet was playing Duke Ellington. Not a very Czech evening, but fun.

On Sunday we took the tram into the old town and had lunch at Lokál Dlouhááá where I had svíčková and bread dumplings, a very Czech dish, and a Pilsner Urquell, a very Czech beer. Kyle ordered the goulash and Henry looked startled. “They serve Soviet prison camps here?” he asked – which led to an interesting conversation about Communism, the Iron Curtain, and difference between goulash and gulag.


After lunch we walked along the river and across the Charles Bridge, wandered a bit, happened upon some interesting art, had a coffee on Shooter’s Island, and checked out the Dancing House.

Yesterday we decided to drive into town instead of taking the tram. Parking was a pain. The tram seems to go everywhere here and is pretty easy to navigate, so I think we’ll skip driving to the center anymore.


Once we parked, our first order of business was to find trdelník, a tunnel cake cooked over a grill, covered with cinnamon sugar, and, in our case, filled with chocolate ice cream and fresh raspberries. It’s very popular with the tourists, and apparently looked down upon by the locals. Its inauthenticity as a true Czech tradition mattered not to Max and Henry, who devoured every last sugary bite.


We did some more wandering through town, and climbed up to the metronome in Letná Park.

It was late afternoon and the square around the metronome was filled with skateboarders. Max watched them for a while and you could tell he wished he had his board with him. We’re having some unforgettable experiences on this trip, but sometimes little reminders of our daily life back in California creep in and make us a little homesick.

Trisching, Bavaria

An update from Kyle…

Last week we visited the village of Trisching, where my Ploessl ancestors lived for many generations in the 1600 – 1800s. My parents and one of my sisters had visited Trisching about 20 years ago (so we had an idea of what to expect there), but this was our first time visiting and it was a great experience.

My great grandfather, Johann Plössl emigrated from Trisching to Iowa in 1886. He returned to Bavaria briefly in 1891 to pick up Anna, my great grandmother. She was from a nearby village, Etsdorf.

Johann, Anna and their children. Taken in New Vienna, Iowa in 1919, on the wedding day of my grandfather Alois (center back row).
The Plössl homestead in the early 1900s. The man on the far right is Johann’s younger brother.

Trisching is a small village of about 700 people. When we arrived, we went to the old Plössl home site. There is now a newer building there, owned by the descendants of my great grandfather’s younger brother.

The headstone of my great great grandfather Andreas is still in the yard. In Germany, graves are not permanent. When you go to the typical cemetery, the grave sites are all less than 40 years old. When the space is recycled, the gravestones are often given back to the family.

Here rests with God honorable Andreas Plößl, retired farmer from Trisching. Died on November 6, 1898 in the 66th year of his life. His wife Theresia Plößl died November 26, 1908 in her 72nd year of life.

There is a little playground/park at the edge of the home site now. While Max and Henry were playing there, we met Josef picking apples with his grandson. He spoke English well and had just been to California on vacation last year. So, we talked for a while and he invited us to his house for coffee. He’s only been in Trisching for a few years, but he seems to know everyone in town. He took us around knocking on doors of people that might know the old Plössls and connected us to the relatives that now own the Plössl property. Through some persistence, Josef got the phone number of Maria, who shares the same great great grandparents with me. We got to meet Maria and her mother and brother and see some of the old family photographs. They had many family photos that were sent back to Germany from my great grandparent in the US.

We happened to be in town for the Kirwa festival, a traditional celebration in Bavaria held once a year in each village to mark the original consecration of the local church. It’s similar to Oktoberfest, but for one night and on a smaller scale. The young folks are responsible for organizing it and many dress up in some version of the traditional Bavarian gear. Most of the music the band played was German or traditional Bavarian music, but here they slipped in some Elvis…

Komm hol kumpel mich kämpfen!

Hello everybody it’s me Max back with another blog post in Neunburg vorm Wald, Germany 🇩🇪 on our amazing blog transcontinental drift 2.0. I hope you liked my last blog post and if you haven’t seen it yet go check it out. It was really fun seeing my second cousin Lucca and his parents Rachel and Tammo in Neuwiller, France. While we were there we went to a big pool with two diving boards, one of which was very tall. We jumped off the diving boards, swam in the pool and went down a very fast, metal water slide for a while. But then it started raining so we had to leave, which was too bad because it would’ve been really fun in the rain. The metal water slide was so exciting because we were able to spin ourselves around while going down it and jump off the end into the water. After dinner that night Lucca, Henry, and I played video games together until we had to go to bed. One of the days we were there we went to a park called Schützenmatt Park. At the park there were people playing a game called Viking Chess or Kubb, where you throw sticks at upright blocks to try to knock them all over.

Also on one of the days some of our Brazilian relatives came to visit from Brazil. They stayed in a hotel for two days and then they left. On our last day we went to the Vitra Design Museum that has a really tall curly slide that was very fun and fast. We went down the slide a few times and then went to the museum/store which had a lot of cool furniture and other things. There was one big couch with walls that had so many pillows that Henry just had to dive into a pile of them. The furniture was very fancy and cool and included some very famous chairs by famous designers. We got to sit on some of the furniture and it was very comfortable especially the couches. We also went to a good Turkish restaurant for lunch and the food was very good.

After we ate lunch at the good Turkish restaurant, we drove to a zip lining place that we had been to the last time we saw Lucca. It was very fun when we got there and we started out with the hardest route and by the time we finished our last route they were already closing up and all of the ladders to get to the routes were rolled up. When we left the next day we drove to Mengen where our next place was booked. In Mengen, I went to a supermarket with my dad and got some food and we also bought some Nesquik chocolate milk that was the same kind that we had at Lucca’s house. On our second day in Mengen we went to a castle/Royal Palace called Sigmaringen Castle, where we saw a lot of fancy palace stuff and canons. In the armory we saw a lot of crazy weapons like swords, war hammers, and some… provocative attire. Too bad we weren’t allowed to take pictures.


From Mengen, we drove to Neunburg vorm Wald, Germany were we are now. Our first day here we went to Trisching, the town where my dad’s great-grandparents used to live and went on a big mystery hunt with a man named Joseph to find the house where they used to live. We found where it used to be, but it was long gone.


This morning we went on a hike up the hill next to our house to find a look out spot with a bench and a little log roof thing.

On the way there we came upon a “sniper tower” (not really) which was really cool and looked pretty old. We just got back from a beer festival in Trisching that was really loud and cold. Tomorrow we will leave to go to Prague in the Czech Republic and we don’t really know what we’re going to do there but we’ll see. And that’s aw fur today folks so see yur nex time👋.