Switzerland, Slovenia, Macedonia
We have been spending long leisurely visits to some of the most picturesque places, catching the end of the winter in Europe, here are a few highlights of our time...
LIPZ Venice, Italy to LSZH Zurich, Switzerland
Under an hour of flight at 220FLT we head to Zurich to complete a medical check and visit a few friends we have made on our travels.
Skipping over the Alps on a clear blue sky day, directly over the Dolomites that tower over a small valley, dwarfing a village, the formation very similar to the Torres Del Paine in Chile.
The snow still thick in all the valleys at 220FLT we feel little bit of Mountain waves as we are passed onto Zurich control but really very smooth and pleasant flying over such a picturesque and memorable landscape.
The Approach takes us along the Rhine River through Germany giving us a clear view of the surrounding area my first thoughts are how organised the small townships look among the fields, most housing all consistently the same in vast green spaces, not heavily populated at all.
There is a fine fog still clearing over all the smallest hills of Liechtenstein and on the entry to Zurich, usually one of the busiest airports in Europe, the airway ATC is quiet and we are vectored in as no 1 and advised that we can vacate the runway at our leisure as there are no flights following or waiting. Imagine that in Zurich!
As we travel and move from one accommodation to another we sometimes keep a small reserve of perishable food which ordinarily would require refrigeration. The temperatures in Switzerland are 5c days and 0 at night so when we check into the Metropol in the centre of Lucerne it is so strange to me that we can leave our cheese and cold cut meat in the boot of the nice BMW we hired? Crazy thinking as this is something we Aussies would never think of doing, here a pie is left on the balcony all day and night as a normal practice and a second refrigerator. There are no pests to worry about.
We visit Interlaken and Grindelwald, all the ski lifts and slopes are open and the businesses are trying to recover from the Covid shutdowns, there is mostly only local patrons. Switzerland kept very sensible Covid rules some cantons (Municipalities) very relaxed and some very strict, one of only a few countries that opened its ski slopes, there were many Italians stealing their way over to St Moritz to ski and then go back, everyone loves their ski season and the Swiss are very active outdoor adventurers.
We met up with friends that we initially met in Brazil Iguazu Falls - Christine and Stephan, teaching us the traditional meal called Raclette of melting cheese in small pans at the table and adding condiments and potato, so delicious!
LSZH to LJLJ
Zurich Switzerland to Ljubljana Slovenia
Handler: Hosted by Martin from Stoffel Aviation flight school.
We made the departure board in Zurich!
Amir and Martin
A bit of a bumpy liftoff out of Zurich in a very organised movement through their highly efficient ground and tower controls, no traffic and straight to RWY 28 for immediate departure with a climb rate of 4000 feet per min, it was extremely fast to initial 5000feet procedural departure, then we were given direct to Lublijana at requested FL240, taking us over and along the snowy Alps. A very short 45 min trip.
It is nice to be above the clouds sitting in the comfort of the Vision Jet bubble, warm sunshine pouring in through the big windows and looking down over the mountain tops. After spending time in minus to 5C it is a beautiful view over the snowy villages that are scattered all throughout those mountains.
Staying constantly in hotels there are a few things that you start to get used to: getting dressed to go to breakfast before 9am, I much prefer to stay in my PJs.
Calling reception for anything you need, so exhausting 😉 and then there is the detective work at the morning breakfast to try to spot the couple that were making those strange sounds that could be heard down the hotel hallway last night. In times of Covid there are very few hotel guests and the couple selection is limited so it is easy to find them, and most amusing breakfast entertainment. Many people ask us how we can spend 24/7 together for the past 18months that we have been in constant travel, well this is one of the ways to pass the time...
Slovenian lakes are still mirrors reflecting gorgeous mountains that we cant stop taking photos of. The river waters and rocks are the most fascinating colours ranging from deep rusty yellows to azure blue and greens that are indescribable.
Bled town and lake is famous for a church that has been built on the island in the middle of the lake. Staying in Lubljana (which was our only choice as all other accommodation in the surrounding towns were closed) the drive to each side of the Country in any direction is possible for day trips. The mountains at this time of year are just in the final stages of the ski season, with all the slopes open it was consistently busy. Rogla ski slope gave us our first look at “powder” snow skiers on easy slopes that can be accessed directly by parking the car, putting on your gear and walk right onto the slope. There is a new attraction that is sweeping through the world it is the building of a “Pot med platform” in the Pohorje mountains at the top of mountain Rogla a circular walkway winding up 1 517 metres high. The view from the base of the Pine forest to the tree tops is interesting and as you easily walk up the temperature drops till you are in minus ice conditions with a wind chill slicing right through you. These platforms are being built in special locations through Europe and I would love to see one in the great tree forests of South West Australia around the Gloucester tree.
Gorje Vintgar is a another day trip taking a short walk along the beautiful colour water and up a mountain hike to a waterfall that seems to flow out of the rock walls of the gorge.
We are like goldfish in a small round bowl, this amazing earth being the fish bowl and everywhere we turn/fly/drive we have huge goldfish eyes turning to each other in wonder each time, in every place of great beauty- this Earth just keeps showing how truly beautiful it is irrespective of altitude - from FL310 (our limit) to ground level.
Where nature is a wonder, it is people on this Earth that make travelling interesting and we enjoy to mix, engage and chat with as many as we can to learn their customs, traditions and most importantly in this region of Eastern Europe their pride and sport - how good their Raki is! Our favourite new hideout is a Serbian restaurant with the best homemade Cevapi, or Cevapcici , during covid times the restaurants are closed and bordered up, except there is something very strange about the “empty” looking restaurants- there are cars parked everywhere and people loitering around, a quick deeper look and asking to see the owners and having a friendly chat we are guided into the back entrance for delivery of goods and the inside of the restaurant out of the view of the street is a buzz of patrons, music and food coming hot and fast to everyone! The situation reminds us of the stories we were told of how people survived in war times and under strict communism where business and movements were sent underground in a hidden black market, it is not quite the same of course in those times the penalty to be caught was death in these times the penalty is a $5000 EURO fine and a shutdown.
We go to this restaurant every day to help support them but also because the food and the Raki (home distilled) is the best we have ever had - goldfish again ...
Our last day in Slovenia we travel again up the mountains to the highest peak, all drivable, up a very good road that is flanked on each side by compacted snow towering above the car height. We have never seen so much snow and when we get to the top there are a few adventurists putting on their snow walking shoes or skies and doing treks to the top and skiing down, the sport requires great fitness, a little out of our league.
Can't stop taking photos of those mountains!
LJLJ to LWSK Skopje NTH Macedonia
The Vision Jet has attracted a little bit of attention in Ljubljana parking next to the locals and we were contacted by our parking neighbours who came to chat about flying and get a good look for their first time seeing the VJ.
In the air is a clear view across the entire mountain range and plateau of Bosnia then directly over the canyons and lakes of Montenegro the most beautiful terrain of rugged snowy peaks and deep gorges.
Approach to RWY has us flying past the RWY and on a descent of 2000feet/min to 4100 ft, at which it is very hard to slow down causing a bumpy ride over the hilly terrain to a very long final to land.
As much as we enjoyed Slovenia we really couldn’t find a lot of places to absolutely love here in Macedonia that is suffering under economic stress. It is most disappointing to see this once very great nation of people now in such low socioeconomic world standing, the City square displays statues from the greatest figures of the world including Mother Teresa the worst of this is the statue of Alexander the Great is not allowed by Greek to be recognised, instead it is called warrior on a horse.
There is an understanding of why, although the reason we will not add to this blog.
Macedonia was basically open with just a night curfew (until 9pm) the coffee shops and bars were full of life and the biggest fruit salad Shisha we have ever seen!