Three Cities, One Illness: Ljubljana, Graz and Vienna

Sorry for the chunky, kinda sparse factual blog post. I’m in the midst of travellers diarrhea and not feeling my best at the moment, but want to get this down before I forget stuff, and it gets too overwhelming to catch up!

We take the train north from Pula heading back towards Ljubljana. We will be getting in fairly late at night, but our apartment says it is close to the train station and Ljubljana is pretty safe, so I’m not worried. We transfer trains in Divaca, just north of the Croatian/Slovanian border. I’m really bagged at this point, and make the mistake of trying train station vending machine coffee. The kids crack up as I sip the sour tasting black 2cm of “coffee” at the bottom of the cup. It is disgusting, but does the job and I feel like I can keep going. The train feels long, and we are all exhausted as we stumble from it in Ljubljana.

I follow google maps on my phone (have I mentioned how awesome it has been to have a portable wifi device) to a very sketchy, run down, dilapidated apartment building. The house beside it is on the ground in pieces, some sort of rave is happening a block away with people stumbling inebriated from it. I turn on the flashlight on the phone and try to read his instructions to the key lock box. Soon I locate it and we enter the most magical place we have stayed this trip. Poetry lines the ceiling and walls, the beds are old doors with mattresses on them. An industrial freezer door leads the way into the bathroom, which has a brick floor and windows overhead. It is creative, and magical and despite it being 11pm, the kids ask to draw. I let them draw as we settle in and I text back and forth with the host. He asks if they can leave some art for him to display and the kids are happy to comply. In the morning we meet his daughter who helps us transfer our bags into his other apartment, due to availability issues. The other apartment is nice, but not nearly as creative and cool… though it does have a hammock, which the kids fight over.

The day is spend just wandering around the town. We take the funicular up to the castle on the top of the hill, which has been modernized and sanitized, so is totally boring. Z can’t get enough of the dragons everywhere. There is even a dragon bridge! We don’t really do much but wander. One disturbing thing happens while we are walking though, and It sends chills down my spine. Some muslims are walking through the crosswalk and a car stops and the men inside open their windows and give a nazi salute and yell “sig heil” repeatedly. I was terrified that they would get out of the car and attack the people walking. It is disturbing… and I wonder how much this sentiment is carried in the countries we are travelling in.

Z wakes in the morning quite ill, and it is a moving day. We pack our bags and stay put as long as we can. I ask if they would like to take an earlier train, but the kids would rather wait and take the direct train, than have to transfer trains part way. We hang out in various places playing cards. It is pouring again, so we hide out inside two different cafes and a Mcdonald’s. Z is so sick and can barely stay awake. After a bit I give her some advil and gravol and she perks up a bit. The train ride is a blur. The kids listen to books on tape, and I watch the gorgeous scenery go by.

In Graz, I couldn’t find an airbnb close to old town and the train station, so we have booked a budget hotel… it totally bites and the first night I spend laying awake listening to the pounding of the nightclub downstairs until 4 am! The kids sleep through though, and Z wakes feeling a bit better.

We wander Graz and notice how shiny and golden on opulent everything is. Welcome to Austria! We find some tunnels under the mountain in town that used to be air raid shelters. They have been turned into various attractions. We wander through a few tunnels and find ourselves at an elevator that has what looks like ducting beside it. The ducting turns out to be a slide, which T begs to ride, but I say no because it’s a puking risk, and I’m just not going there! We take the elevator up and wander the castle grounds and gardens. Z is feeling rough, so we make it short. In the tunnels we had seen a fairytale train, which I thought was probably a waste of money, but agreed to pay for as Z was feeling so yucky and we needed something different. It was so worth it!!! They had done up all these tunnels with fairytale themes with music and stories (in German) black lights, animations etc. Even I thought it was cool and enjoyed it! After that we just returned to the hotel to let Z rest.

The next morning we are off to Vienna. The train arrives and we get to ride in our first real first class. The first class in Slovenian and Croatian trains is like riding second class with a number 1 on your train car. Our seats feel luxurious and we are able to order coffee and food to our seats. We don’t mind when the train gets delayed due to construction on the track! The scenery is stunning, especially through the Semmering line, which is slated to be replaced by a tunnel, so we are glad to have taken it.

We arrive in Vienna with me feeling very anxious as we haven’t received check in instructions from our hosts and messages to them are going unanswered. I phone from the station and the guys says he can’t talk because he is working and sends me his partners number. I call her and she doesn’t seem to understand me. I decide to just walk to the apartment and sort it out there. About 5 mins before we arrive the guy texts to ask if it’s all ok, and I respond that it isn’t because i’m almost at the apartment and I can’t get in. He quickly texts me the info and it’s all good. We are staying in an ancient building and have a huge two room apartment. It was worth the stress around check in.

The next day we check out the Haus der Music which we really enjoyed exploring two years ago. Not much has changed in it, but the kids both seemed to enjoy exploring it again. We also checked out Mozart’s house, which they whipped through and didn’t really appreciate. I thought it was cool though. We head back to the apartment to chill as we have a concert to see in the evening and want to be rested.

We have tickets for a concert at St Charles Church this evening and I’m am so excited to be seeing Vivaldi performed in the church he is buried at. T is stoked, Z doesn’t want to go as she finds concerts and loud things challenging. We enter the most amazing church and are treated to a phenomenal concert. T is buzzing with energy afterwards and cannot stop talking about how much it fired up her brain. Z just wants to go to bed. I’m so happy to have experienced something so amazing and Vivaldi has been playing in my brain ever since.

The next morning we head to Schonbrunn Palace. The kids have no interest in seeing inside, but we heard that there are shrubbery mazes here and want to explore them. We have a blast wandering the grounds and playing in the three mazes. They were tougher than I thought they would be! After a couple hours T starts looking really unwell and says she needs to puke. We start walking in the direction of the Ubahn and she repeatedly needs to sit. We find a washroom and she gets sick. We try to decide if we should walk the 4.5 km back to our apartment or can she handle the train. She says, that after puking, the train will be ok. We hop on and one stop in, it is clearly not ok. We get off at the next stop and walk the rest of the way back.

That evening it hits me too. I lay in bed raging with fever and the worst muscle and joint pain I’ve ever had. T and I take turns crawling to the washroom and changing our underwear all night long. I’m not happy that we have to move out by 10am and that our train to Krakow is not until 10pm. I have no idea how we are going to manage the day, as clearly our plans of sightseeing are not going to happen. We manage to get our bags to the train station and dump them in a luggage locker. I look at the map and find a public park nearby, where we go lay on the grass and play cards and read books for the next 8 hours. As soon as we can hit up the lounge at the station (90 mins before our train), we do and it feels like luxury after the park.

 

The night train is not as great as we hoped, due to many washroom trips and the coupling and un-coupling of the train all night long. They seemed to move our train car between engines every time we crossed a border. None of us slept and we get into Krakow at 6 am bleary eyed and exhausted.

 

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