Love at first sight Photo Essay: Ljubljana, Slovenia

In September 2014 I went on a spectacular tall ship sailing with Starclippers. We were scheduled for six ports of call and I was least excited about Slovenia as I knew nothing about it and knew no one who had been there. I decided that I would do the day tour to the capital of Ljubljana without really knowing anything about it. It’s actually one of my favourite things about traveling solo … you can do as much or as little research as you wish. I had done very little (none actually) on Slovenia. I like doing zero research because then I have zero expectations. Now, it doesn’t always work out for the best, as sometimes research can be a good thing, but this time, it was perfect. After a couple of hours by coach from the seaside town of Porec, in land to Ljubljana, our group hopped out and started walking toward city centre. It was a crisp, sunny autumn day. The sun was shining, everyone was a little chilly but the fresh air made me feel alive. I can’t quite pin-point it, but every once in awhile I fall in love with a city and this one was love at first site. Immediately I noticed the beauty of the old buildings – a mix of various periods of famous architecture. I’m not a history buff so knowing the difference between Gothic, Romanesque and Baroque architectures is not my strong point, but whatever the mix is that presents itself in Ljubljana is undisputedly beautiful. Take a look for yourself from the Ljubljana Castle to the city’s dragon bridge, the detail, history and strength show through. The streets were old, steeped in history but wide and open interchanging with newer style architecture. A large section of the main core is pedestrian only and the streets were impeccably clean. I had 2 – 3 hours on a group tour to learn about this lovely city, along with taking in a local lunch of sausages, wine and potatoes. The quick overview didn’t even begin to scratch the surface. It did, however give me the yearning to go back, not just to Ljubljana, but to Slovenia in general. Check out some of my favourite pictures below.

If you are interested in a Slovenian adventure, drop me a message. I’d be happy to set you up with an interesting small group tour, a tall ship sailing that has a Slovenian stop or help you with your own custom itinerary! stucker@tpi.ca

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Rovinj, Croatia – Photo Essay

On our fifth day at sea on the beautiful Star Clippers Mediterranean sailing, we arrived in Rovinj, Croatia. Prior to booking this sailing trip, I had never heard of Rovinj and I had done no research on it, so I had no expectations.

I decided to explore the small community on my own rather than taking a tour. Despite the rain early in the day, I thoroughly enjoyed my solo walk through the narrow streets exploring and wondering what I would find around each corner or down the next alleyway. I wandered aimlessly, without a map for a couple of hours throughout the community, stopping at several galleries and boutique stores along the way to the Church. I headed up the hill toward the church and then down the hill on the other side to the harbour.

The rain came and went, but only softly, no downpours, so it simply added to the charm of the town. Walking on the well trodden stones that are rubbed smooth was a challenge in the rain; even in sneakers, it was slippery. Flip flops were nearly impossible for those wearing them.

One of my favourite memories of Rovinj was a saxophone busker near the main square. I could hear the beautiful sound of the saxophone from several streets away and followed my ears until I found a single man playing near a cafe. He happened to be playing ‘Happy’, which of course, made me happy! I stood in the small crowd and listened to him for a few minutes, then I decided to take a short video and of course throw a few dollars in his case. Who knew that the acoustics in this small little town would be delightful for street musicians. And who knew I’d hear the beautiful haunting sounds of a saxophone during my short little visit to Rovinj.

While I wandered, I stopped at the tourist market and bought a nice necklace, one of the few things I purchased on my travels. The market was full of jewelry, scarves, souvenirs … your regular ‘tourist’ market. I looked at a lot of jewelry and found only one necklace that really stood out, so I returned to the stall and haggled to get it for 140 Kuna (about $25 CAD which was probably still too much!) I also wandered through the local outdoor food market which was full of fresh fruits and vegetables, spices and fish.

In the main square and surrounding the harbour were endless cafes and restaurants waiting to invite you in. Some were fancy, some just little mom and pop shops. A little something for everyone.

Take a look at a few of my favourite photos of the community. Isn’t it a pretty little seaside town?
(Click on any of the photos to bring up the full image)

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2014 Photo Tour Possibilities

The results are in from lots of people who are interested in joining me for photo tours in 2014 & 2015. Thanks to everyone who responded to my quick survey.

As I am only 19 days away from Peru Through the Lens 2013 photo tour, you can imagine I’m very excited! I hope you will follow along with my adventures as I will be blogging regularly while on the photo tour! Sign up for blogs to come direct to your email on the right hand side of the screen where it says ‘Get my blog posts direct to your email’.

I am also in a place where I am starting to make plans for my 2014 adventure.

A LOT of people have expressed interest in a photo tour to Asia or Eastern Europe. Although not at all finalized, I am looking for a little bit more feedback from anyone who has a serious interest in joining me on one of my photo tours. I’d like to know how you feel about the following destinations and if you would be interested in visiting either of these destinations with me in 2014.

CROATIA

A country that is gaining popularity quickly, but is not yet main stream. Beautiful architecture, a Unesco World Heritage site (Old city of Dubrovnik) and stunning vistas, right on the Adriatic Sea. Lots of nature, possibility for visiting various islands and a home stay. Best to visit between May and October. I would likely look at May/June or September/October. If I decide on this option, it would likely be a 7-10 day photo tour, with the option, on an individual basis, to stay in Croatia or visit more of Europe on your own, or on another type of tour for additional time. Tour price is likely to be in the $2000 – $3000 range, depending on length of tour. Plus flights which will be in the $1600 – $2100 range, or you can fly on Avion / aeroplan etc to off set that cost. (and you have a year to save the money & build the points!)

I might also consider adding The Bay of Kotor in Montenegro and Sarajevo / Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovnia. Or, I may simply arrange this as an add on tour that you can opt-in to for after the end of the photo tour.

VIETNAM

Well known for it’s beauty and history. Many a photographer has dreamed of visiting Vietnam to take photos of the rice fields, the friendly people, the food, the Mekong Delta and the floating markets. Not to mention OH SO BEAUTIFUL Halong Bay. And the vibrant Ho Chi Minh City. I would be looking at a 10 – 14 day tour here because it is further to go and so much area to cover. Price is likely to be close to the $3000 mark because several internal flights would be needed to ensure we could see everything (but hopefully not above $3000) + international flights which range from $1800 – $2300. Of course, we would certainly make a strong effort to get them as cheap as possible, or you can off set flights with Avion or Aeroplan points.

I might also consider adding Angkor Wat, Cambodia for 3 or 4 days as an optional add on at the end of the photo tour.

With either option, I will be looking into a home stay experience as well as some kind of volunteer photo project. I feel that these are two strong features that make my photo tours exceptional and unique instead of average and they are two parts that are close to my heart.

If you could kindly leave a comment below express your thoughts on if you would be interested in either of these locations for 2014, I would greatly appreciate it. Or, you can send an email to info@sharitucker.com.

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OTHER DESTINATIONS
For those who are curious, quite a few people expressed interest in other areas for photo tours. Below is an overview of what you can expect (or not expect) from my photo tours in the next few years.

AFRICA
People expressed interest in various areas of Africa, or African Safaris. At this time, I do not intend to do any photo tours for African Safaris. There are MANY companies who offer this and I don’t feel I need to reinvent the wheel. If you have your heart set on this, please contact me and I would be happy to help you find the right tour for you with a reputable company. Or, if you don’t want to travel alone, get 4 or 5 friends together and I can put together a custom group itinerary for you with local African companies and guides who will take you to the absolute best spots for wildlife viewing. Just because I am not planning to break into this market doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go! I would love to help you get there!

GALAPAGOS ISLANDS
Also high on the interest list is the fabulous Galapagos Islands, which I visited in February 2012. I DO plan to do a photo tour to the Galapagos, however, it will not be in 2014. I am looking at 2015 or 2016 for this destination, but likely won’t decide until sometime in 2014. I can tell you now, that the Galapagos tour will be more in the $4500 – 5000 range + flights which range in the $1500+ range. It will be well worth it for any animal lovers, bird lovers and budding nature photographers. It is an amazing destination!

AUSTRALIA & ANTARCTICA
Australia and Antarctica each came up several times. I’m not likely to organize a photo tour to either of these locations, but would be happy to help you get there or find another photo tour to join. Both of these would be fairly expensive. Australia isn’t really a place you visit for only 7 – 14 days and both are pricey to get to. The bulk of people who responded to my survey are looking for tours in the $2000 – $5000 price range. Antarctica trips start more in the $8000 – $10 000 range. If you are interested, I can certainly help you get there and will be completely jealous of all the amazing photo opportunities that you have!

IRELAND
Ireland was also highly requested. It is not on my immediate list, but I may consider this as an option at a later time.

In my ‘other’ life (not as a photographer, but as an Adventure Travel Specialist), I can help you find the perfect trip anywhere in the world … solo, in a group, a family … for photography or not. Or, if you are part of a photo club that would like to organize a photo tour for your members, I’d be happy to help you with any of this. If you have specific travel requests you can contact me at stucker@atcadventure.com.

I look forward to everyone’s feedback on the possibilities of Croatia or Vietnam for 2014! Both of which are destinations on my list of travels for the near future.