Saying goodbye to Slovenia

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The squad

Last night, at the end of our final meal together as a group, it is tradition that each member of the group gives a toast that sums up the student’s thoughts. Each student that went on the trip had a different reason to go, but most of the toasts revolved around the friends that we had made along the way through Slovenia and Italy these last few days.

I had a toast all planned out for the dinner, but when it came down to the moment I ventured off script and just said the first things that came to mind.

For me, this trip was the perfect way to say goodbye to my close friends from KU and to get my feet wet for the big trip starting in September. If I hadn’t of gone on this trip, I would never have known the social norms here, such as paying for water and bathrooms. The cultural differences were truly shocking, and while I am certain they are much less severe in western Europe, coming back to the states was a relief in some ways.

As I sit in the airport waiting for the delayed flight back to Kansas City to appear, and I think back on my experience abroad, I am incredibly happy to have had great people in my life. This trip would have been nothing if not for the people that made it so great; I even loved our tour guide!

I hope I will never forget the places we have seen, or the friendships and mistakes we have made while being here. We lived to our fullest extent here, and looking back on the trip there are very few things that happened that I regret.

-Rex Templin

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The last day in Slovenia

Yesterday was a good day to end the trip on. First we went to Elan, a ski manufacturer. There was a fun moment where we were sitting with a long line of skis leaned up against the all and I stretched during the presentation by their sales manager; one of the skis fell to the ground and I thought the rest were going to follow! That was super fun and not at all embarrassing.

After Elan, we visited a tourist honeymoon hotel in the forest by lake Bled. This was pretty cool- there were cabins built into the trees that were built for two, with communal hot tubs next to a very clear creek. There we had a really nice lunch that was one of my favorites, with beef and vegetable puree. Sounds weird, but the puree tasted like sweet potatoes and was very good.

When we were done with lunch we went over to the top of Lake Bled, took some photos, and looked around the castle. Up on a massive outcrop of rock, the castle looked over the lake and the city to the south. It made for a very cool visual, especially with the Island in the water behind us.

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Here’s a pic of me sitting on the ledge looking over the water!

After the castle visit, we ventured down to the island by boat. These boats were a traditional Slovenian boat, and involved some serious rowing skill.

The church was beautiful, and had a rich history. It had been around since the 14th century, and tradition dictated that the groom had to carry his wife up the steps in order to get married.

All in all, it was a fun day. I’ll save my next blog post for a reflection on the trip as a whole.

-Rex Templin

First time traveler’s mistakes

In my family, I am notorious for being absent minded while I am traveling. This is not only irresponsible, but it can be extremely inconvenient. Mom, Dad, this is the story of how I went to the Embassy to get a new passport.

Just kidding! I have almost everything I came with, except changing hotels have created a few casualties for me as I have checked out from one and into the other. It’s not exactly important what I left behind, (a backpack and unfortunately, my book I bought for Slovenia) but as I was thinking about the nature of leaving things behind while abroad I realized that there are fundamental differences between leaving something behind here and leaving something behind back home.

Once, I left my computer in a hotel room in Wichita. Somehow, one of the most important instruments for my academic success was left behind in a city three hours away. Luckily we were able to get it back, but because it was so close it was definitely not a big deal and was by no means lost.

On a trip like this, though, it would be impossible to double back and get something I left behind. Being on a strict schedule and not having any way to transport myself combined to force me to leave those things behind. My parents had already said this to me before I left the country.

As far as how to avoid losing things and how to keep my things together, I think the main problem was how I was forced to pack for such a strange timeframe. 10 days of clean clothes, all of them being business casual and having to take up space, combines for a very heavy suitcase and a situation where I repeatedly had to pull out old clothes and repack almost every night. Maybe this would have been helped by bringing a larger suitcase, but I am very glad that my suitcase was as tightly packed as it was so I didn’t have to lug a giant brick around with me everywhere I went. This won’t be a problem when I go into Europe on weekend trips from Italy next semester, but it is good to know for future trips.

All in all, this study abroad experience was a very good way to make some mistakes and learn some lessons before I’m on my own without any friends or family next semester.

-Rex Templin

Bats that glide and Pizza that kills

Compared to yesterday that was straight from a book and/or dream, today was not the best. I think most of my tiredness came from the jam-packed day that we had on Sunday, but today I had trouble staying awake when we weren’t visiting organizations.

Even though I was very tired, we still did some cool things! We went and saw the Slovenian company Pipistrel, an international manufacturer of gliders and electric hybrid prop planes. These planes had almost no emissions with even less drag, and could fly almost 1900 miles without any outside motion. I am absolutely certain that I will buy one someday.

After taking another nap on the bus ride back from Pipistrel, we went to lunch at an Argentinian restaurant that was very cool, but I miss American food. The food here is delicious, but strangely enough I find myself missing the really simple things that I took satisfaction in back home. Like burgers.

After lunch, we went to Accelerated Business City, a start-up centric company whose main mission is to help start-ups get investors by holding preparedness seminars and networking.

For dinner, we had pizza the size of my torso. Between Marty, Koree, Meredith and I, we bought two 50 centimeter pizzas for 14.50 euros. I am not kidding when I say that Koree ate four slices of that pizza. I still don’t know where she put it all!

Tonight was a great night. Another good day in the books for Slovenia.

-Rex Templin

Free day in Piran- Or Croatia?

Earlier in the week when we heard that we would have a free day on Sunday, we kicked around various ideas that were a little more extravagant than the ones before. “Let’s go golfing dude!” or, “Let’s boat around the Adriatic.” I’m not really sure that any of us actually expected to have those ideas come to fruition, but after a significant amount of international phone call fees and as much determination, we found ourselves getting on to a taxi headed to Croatia to golf at the Adriatic Golf Course yesterday morning.

The golf course was beautiful, almost surreal. Never in my life did I think I would hear the words, “the vineyards on this vineyard are a really nice touch!” Considering golf is one of my worst skills, I did about as expected by shooting probably 30 over par. Here’s a picture of me on top of hole 3.

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After golf we went back to Piran to eat lunch and walk around the city for awhile. We picked up our boat at around 4 or so, and then went off to swim in the Adriatic and boat. It was beautiful. The weather was nice, the sea was extremely cold but refreshing, and looking out onto the coasts to see Italy, Croatia, and Slovenia lined out on the ocean in front of us.

As we came back into the bay, the sun began to set and it may have been one of the most beautiful sunsets I have seen in my life.

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To cap the day off we ate dinner at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Piran that served calamari as their main dish. It was pretty good too. There was very few things about that day that weren’t perfect. I’m happy, shocked, and all around appreciative to have been able to come here and do these amazing things.

Here’s the calamari!!

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-Rex Templin

Souvenirs from Slovenia

I am incredibly happy to be traveling abroad. I told our professor the other day, as we arrived in Piran and took in the view, that I am very thankful for the blessings I have been given that brought me here. Keeping in mind that this is an experience of a lifetime, the question of what to do in order to preserve this experience is a very important one!

A few days ago as we were walking through Ljubljana during some down time, my friend Koree and I ran across a street vendor that sold books. I have loved reading as long as I have been able to, and so I really wanted to get one, and I eventually settled on a thin but colorful book all in Slovene. As Koree and I walked along the Ljubianca river, we hatched this brilliant idea to commemorate this trip and future travel experiences.

For this trip and when I go to Italy, I’ll buy a book in that country’s language. At the end of this trip I should have only a few, but by the end of the year after everywhere I plan to go I should be able to fill at least a shelf of books that are as colorful as the countries I visit.

Books are special. In many ways the reader of a book looks into the author’s mind to learn, to escape, to understand them. By getting a book at each country I go to, I’m not only getting a keepsake but also a piece of that country’s culture, their history and their language. There’s absolutely no chance I could translate the book I bought the other day and read it anytime soon, but because I bought it I’m giving myself the opportunity to someday dive into Slovenian culture if I want to take it.

I think i’ll write the date and the city I bought the book in, and they’ll be a great way to preserve the memory of being there. In thinking about it, the colors and aesthetic of the book I bought in Ljubljana reminds me of the day, bright and distinctly Slovenian. Each trip I take is an experience of its own, and a book is a much more personal and unique way to preserve that journey than photos or social media.

This experience has been amazing. Slovenia is a beautiful country, and I am extremely excited to get to Venice tomorrow. Looking forward into the future, though, I am most excited to get a full shelf of memories and cultures as I travel through Europe this next year.

Beauty in Venice

Our experience in Venice today may have been the most surreal and uncomfortable experience I have had to date; I have never enjoyed a city more.

As soon as we arrived on the artificial island, rain and cold quite literally pelted the class and I in the face. I found myself holding my umbrella in front of me to block the elements as I walked through the city. Maybe I’m insane, but the irony of the weather attacking us when it had been so beautiful this entire trip was not lost on me and I thought it was pretty funny for some reason. Even if the weather was poor, who cares? I was in Venice.

Because it was my first time in Venice I wasn’t sure what to look at. Once we got off the harbor and into the streets of the city, we went straight to St. Mark’s square, which may have been the most amazing thing I have ever seen.

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Here I’m standing in front of St. Mark’s Basilica, the church that is essentially the main centerpiece of the square. Unfortunately I was never able to see inside, but Koree, William, Meredith and I explored almost every other church in the city.

We went from St. Mark’s square all the way down to the south side of the city, and several times we were more than lost. Eventually we found our way to the Realto Bridge, which was very beautiful and looked toward the Adriatic. In a lot of ways, the jam-packed, tourist melting pot of nationalities in Venice reminded me a lot of New York’s time’s square. There was almost not room to avoid anyone, and I found myself bumping into people left and right to try and even move forward. Luckily, I never got pick pocketed or my wallet stolen.

Even thought the extreme tourist traffic was uncomfortable, for me it very much added to the charm of the city. I love people watching, and the eclectic mix of cultures there catered pretty well to sitting back and watching people navigate through the city.

It was also extremely, extremely expensive. Granted I did get three gifts and a lunch, but nowhere else would those purchases put me back as much money as they did. Whatever. To extrapolate on a common saying: When in Venice…

-Rex Templin