We are having a great time on our adventure. Yes, there has been some stress and learning and even some tears but so far, this adventure is what we had been hoping for. We wanted to experience more of the world and more of each other and we wanted to be able to plan a little and then be in the moment and see what the journey gave us. That has been very easy in Oberammergau but as we venture away from our pristine Bavarian village, I am a little nervous. Venice was exciting and beautiful and surreal but ironically, a bit familiar. After all, Scott and I grew up watching Bugs Bunny and there are of course countless other movies featuring the beautiful canals and infamous gondoliers.
The kids started their online school on August 1st, so at this point we are on week four give or take (Grant is a little behind). A friend that knows me well asked me before we left home if I would be upset if Scott wanted to help the kids with everything, he is the teacher after all. I didn’t think I would but now that we’re in the middle of it, I would feel guilty not helping, it has been a lot of work and a steep learning curve. There are many different angles to deal with like navigating the school’s website, depending on Wifi for everything and saving things correctly and after all of that, the curriculum is very challenging. Grant is great with the technology part and is an independent learner and he seems really smart. That sounds a little weird; I have always thought he was smart but, I have a lot more respect for his brain cells after the last four weeks. I have helped him a few times with history and I proofread his English papers (because that is the way Scott and I divided the “helping part”) but the majority of his need falls into math and Spanish which is Scott’s area. I really have to focus and read and reread to help him. I’m learning a lot though, I now actually understand the saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” and it’s fun to be in a area that was once part of the Roman Empire. I am helping Ashley with history and English and her classes have taken us down some unexpected paths. This is something that we had hoped for during our year of homeschooling, go see the stuff that the kids are learning about, make it more than just words on a page.
Today we did something that was definitely beyond our hopes. Ashley’s first History and World Cultures lesson was actually a geography lesson that used a place called Lake Bled to teach the five themes of geography. Lake Bled is a glacier formed lake in Slovenia. There is an island in the lake and on the island is a chapel with a colorful history. Perched on a cliff overlooking the lake is a castle that is over 1000 years old. It looked beautiful and we had never heard of Slovenia. Scott, ever the information gatherer, googled Lake Bled and learned that it was only a few hours from Venice so we decided to take the girl to her history lesson.
We drove from Italy through Austria and right into Slovenia (well right through an 8 km tunnel through the Karawanke Mountain Range). The current territory of Slovenia was once part of the Roman Empire and the Holy Roman Empire. During World War II, it was annexed by Germany, Italy and Hungary and afterward became a founding member of the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia (later renamed Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) until 1991. In 1991 Slovenia split from Yugoslavia and became an independent country. In 2004 it entered NATO and the European Union and in 2007 it became the first former Communist country to join the Eurozone.
We arrived in the afternoon and at our beautiful little hotel. I was amazed at our accommodations and the hostess, Dasha. She was young and beautiful and spoke perfect English as she had traveled a lot in the States. The only research we had done was Ashley’s history lesson and reserving our hotel again through bookig.com (this site is really working for me and no, I have yet to hear back from Airbnb). We had some important questions for Dasha like what was the currency, the language and how do we get to the chapel on the island? The currency is Euros and Slovenian is the language (she said don’t even bother trying) and there are three options to get to the island; renting a small row boat and rowing yourself across, paying 12 Euros a piece to be rowed across to the island or to Ashley’s utter delight, swim!
It was raining, it was late in the afternoon and we hadn’t eaten since breakfast but we were there to see the chapel (not eat) so we rented a small rowboat and Ashley and Scott swam while Grant and I acted as the chase crew. He rowed and I took pictures. The water was surprisingly warm and the adventure was like a fairy tale.
Here we were in a country we had learned about two weeks before in a 7th grade history lesson. It was cloudy and raining and absolutely beautiful. The lake was pristine, the Chapel on the tiny island (900 meters) across the lake our goal. We could see the castle on the mountain in the distance.
It was slow going but fun. We arrived at the island and tied up our rowboat. There was a café and we ordered coffee and hot chocolate and Slovenian cake to snack on. Ashley and Scott changed into their clothes and we went into the chapel. Although the chapel was tiny, it was ornate and there was a lot to absorb. It was strange and fun to be standing in a place I had never heard about two weeks before. The history and the natural beauty that surrounded the chapel made it all perfect. My favorite thing about the chapel though was the bell.
There were a few people looking around inside and taking pictures and waiting to ring the church bell. Anyone could pull the rope that rang the bell and I marveled at all of the people who pulled the rope while we in the church and as we swam away the bell continued to ring out random but continuous patterns. I loved that people wanted to ring the bell and that there were no rules about ringing the bell. I wondered about all of the people who have pulled that rope or other ropes before it and it seemed like such an inclusive thing. People from all over the world visiting this tiny chapel on an island ringing and ringing and ringing a bell without any bell ringing rules. It was the joyful noise of humanity.
I liked the bell so much that I did some more research on it and learned that it is a wishing bell from 1534. According to legend, a young widow who once lived the castle had the bell cast in memory of her late husband. The ship and crew transporting the bell to the island sank in a storm and all was lost. The bell is said to still ring from the depths of the lake. After the woman died, the Pope consecrated a new bell and sent it to the island.
We explored the clock tower that was refurbished not too long ago and then returned to our little row boat.
Grant and I would swim back to the mainland while Scott and Ashley rowed. I think Scott was surprised that I wanted to swim.
I think we were all surprised that Grant made it back to shore. There is a big difference between being able to swim and being able to swim across a lake. Grant must have swum at least 1200 meters with all of his course changes. He is taking a few swimming lessons when we get home.
We went back to our cute little hotel and our sweet hostess gave us the name of a Slovenian restaurant. It was delicious. I had turkey and shrimp with noodles and gravy. The next day we walked all of the way around the lake (about 6 km) taking pictures and admiring the castle from all different directions. Scott was marveling about the fact that Slovenia was communist Yugoslavia just twenty five years ago. I was marveling at the fact that obviously this was a beautiful and untouched area for much longer than twenty five years. It was a warm day and there were many people out walking. We weren’t ready to leave Bled, Slovenia after one night. There are many hiking trails to enjoy, swimming in the lake and taking in the natural beauty of the area and the kindness of the people. We were surprised that food and lodging is relatively inexpensive. It is definitely worth another trip.