February 20, 2020 – City of Dragons (OOTD #613)

Sciences Po winter break: day 6

I technically made my way through probably four separate countries on February 20.

The first was Hungary, where I caught a night bus late in the evening. I slept for most of the journey, so I’m not actually sure how many hours of the wee morning that I was in Hungary, but I’ll wager it was a few. The second was Croatia, where we had to wait out a several hour layover (is that what it’s called when it’s a bus?). Funnily, I’m pretty sure the bus we took from Budapest to Zagreb was the exact same one I took the previous summer. I think we took the same route and went through the same checkpoints and everything.

We only spent a few hours in Zagreb as we waited for the next bus, but I honestly remember almost nothing of it. I spent most of it unsuccessfully trying to sleep in a hard plastic chair. Eventually, as some of the bus station shops began to open up, I bought one of the most disgusting sandwiches I’ve ever had in my life and barely finished half of it.

From there, it was a few hours on until our main destination, Ljubljana, Slovenia. Like Frankfurt, this was just a day trip — less than a 12 hour stay before we had yet another bus to catch.

After finding a place to store our luggage (something I got very good at — who knew luggage storage facilities would become my new best friend?) we headed towards downtown.

Ljubljana is a very small city, though it’s the largest in Slovenia. If you’ll remember, I’d actually been to Slovenia once before, for a brief stop in Brežice while my friend’s cousin picked up medication. Ljubljana reminded me in many ways of Brežice: a small but quaint town nestled in even more beautiful mountains.

Slovenia is known as the “city of dragons” but other than the famous Dragon Bridge, I’m not sure if there’s any history or mythology that goes along with that reputation. We didn’t do a tour or visit a museum at this location, which meant my actual knowledge of the sites I was seeing was scant.

After doing a brief overview of the Dragon Bridge and the iconic pink Franciscan Church of the Annunciation, we decided to take the hike up to Ljubljana Castle. Or at least, that’s what I wanted to do. After having spent the previous 12-ish hours sat in a bus, sat in a bus station, and then sat in another bus, I was eager to stretch my legs, and a hike — that is, a walk through somewhere other than a busy tourist street — sounded wonderful to me.

But it didn’t sound wonderful to some of my friends, so instead, we took the funicular lift, which pleasantly surprised me. I thought it’d be lame to just ride up to the top of the hill, but being in the funicular car actually allowed us some really beautiful views of the landscape and the city below.

At the castle, we met a lovely British man who agreed to take our photo and also gave us some recommendations for lunch options. I wouldn’t have been against trying something else authentic, especially having indulged in sushi and humus in Vienna and Budapest, but my friends weren’t feeling it. Instead, we went to a Mexican restaurant. Because you know, those Slovenians are so known for their authentic Mexican cuisine.

Our last stop before we got onto our bus to our final destination of the day was the Metelkova neighborhood. From what I gathered from my friend, Ebba, who was the one who suggested that we go, Metelkova is a lot like Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen in that it’s a small artist community within the city bounds that has its own autonomous status. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to look around much. There was a group of men playing soccer who didn’t seem interested in having tourists walking around taking pictures, which, you know, I get. I don’t think they would have given us any trouble if we’d kept walking, but my friends didn’t want to risk it, and besides, we had one final (!!!) bus to catch.

Our last country of day was Italy. We got to Venice after sunset, and by then, we were really so tired from walking around and taking buses all day that we weren’t interested in doing much sightseeing. We ended up getting much more of a tour than we bargained for that night, though, as our AirBnB ended up being on what seemed like the exact opposite side of town from where the bus stop was.

It was a Thursday night during Carnevale, but I was too exhausted to really pay close attention to the colorful costumes and loud music. I think there may have been a parade going on somewhere in the city while we were hunting for our AirBnB and trying not to get our bridges confused or fall into a canal, but I’m really not sure.

Once we finally made it to our apartment, we crashed for about an hour to decompress and relax before we dragged ourselves off the floor and crawled to a restaurant for dinner. After dinner, I think I could’ve had enough energy to venture out again and see if we could discern where all those costumed people were heading earlier, but we ultimately just went home and went to bed. We figured we’d have (yet another) big day ahead of us.

Blouse: H&M

Jeans: Altar’d State

Coat: A vintage shop in Budapest  (thrifted)

July 14, 2019 – Castle on the Hill (OOTD #532)

Blog title courtesy of this Ed Sheeran song. 

With the exception of the fact that this castle in these photos was on more of a mountain than a castle, that is a rather fitting song to go with this blog. For full effect, have it playing in the background while you read this.

I’m kidding — don’t do that, that’s corny. Or maybe do, if you like sappy songs and sappy blogs about nostalgia.

Why reference an Ed Sheeran song that I only kind-of sort-of like? Because this is the second-to-last blog covering my two-month summer 2019 adventure in Europe that, thus far in the chronology of this blog, has spanned four countries and nine cities (soon to be five countries — but you’ll have to wait for tomorrow’s blog for that story), and I’m feeling nostalgic. It was a fun summer. I didn’t want it to end. Now I don’t want to finish writing about, because that means it’s done for good.

On my final day in Croatia, my friend, her cousin and I all hiked up the side of a mountain to where the ruins of Samobor Old Town castle were located. This was somewhere that my friend’s cousin had been trying to get us to go to for the entire week, but for one reason or another — exhaustion, illness, weather — we hadn’t yet made it.

I was actually afraid we might not get to go at all. I like to think of myself as pretty receptive and flexible when it comes to travel experiences, but I don’t know if everyone else is the same way. Someone had mentioned that there might be snakes in the area, and I think my friend was a little nervous to go. I kept mentioning that I was interested in going though, and eventually, she relented.

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hvala, sljedeći.

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And I’m sure glad I pushed for it. Maybe castle ruins aren’t a big deal if you’re from Europe and there are ancient castles everywhere you turn, but as an American from Kentucky who hadn’t seen a castle up until this summer, it’s still very cool.

Croatia is one of the filming locations of Game of Thones, and Samobor Old Town made it obvious why. Where else in the world can you find castle ruins that are just ruined enough to be whimsical but not so ruined to be unattractive? And in the picturesque mountains of a small countryside town?

On the last night in Croatia, we went to dinner with my friend’s family. I was happy to have been invited along, but I’ll admit I felt a little out of place. The whole week, I was afraid I was somehow overstepping my boundaries as a guest and the only non-family person there, even though there was no indication from my friend’s family that they felt that way. If anything, they were too friendly and accommodating — I know I’ll never be able to return the favor in full, so there’s nothing I can do but be grateful that they allowed me to stay with them in Samobor for a week.

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🌻 🌻 🌻

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That night, when I went to bed, I was full of conflicted feelings. In one sense, I was sad to be leaving Europe after I’d had so much fun and become thoroughly enchanted with their public transportation infrastructure; in another, I was glad to finally be heading home after two months away (which had almost immediately followed another two months away at school). In a third sense, I was nervous to have to fly out again the following day for a three flight, 42 hour travel sequence back to the US.

Yes, you read that right — three flights and 42 hours. Tune in next time for the rest of that story.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life in Europe this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Top: Vintage (thrift, Budapest Ecseri Bazaar)

Jacket: Thrift (ClothesMentor)

Jeans: American Eagle

July 13, 2019 – Eastern Kentucky or Croatia? (OOTD #531)

I think my favorite part of Croatia was just driving through the countryside.

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croatia or eastern kentucky?

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For some potentially explanatory context, I was hardly in a car at all for the entirety for my time in Europe. In Rome, I drove with some friends to a club once and once to the airport shuttle stop when I was about to leave. In Copenhagen and Budapest, I never even had the chance to get in a car if I’d wanted to. In comparison, back in the US, I’m in a car almost everyday, especially when I’m at home with my parents in Kentucky. It’s a little different when I’m on campus at Notre Dame, but for most parts of the US, you need a car to go anywhere, so you tend to spend a lot of time driving around places.

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over the castle on the hill

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So when I got to Croatia and I got to live with my friend’s cousin’s family, that was pretty much the first time I got to drive anywhere in over a month. And since they didn’t really live in the city (but rather, a small town called Samobor outside of Zagreb), we ended up driving a lot.

One day, we drove out about an hour outside of Samobor to a museum in the mountains where they’d found some Neanderthal remains. Being honest, the museum — or the restaurant we went to afterwards — wasn’t the most interesting part of the day. It was the drive through the Croatian countryside.

The Croatian countryside reminds me in a way of Eastern Kentucky. Lots of rolling hills and mountains with houses dotted along the road. It’s quiet and picturesque, though if you ask me, Croatia beats out Eastern Kentucky in the picturesque category. The people of the Croatian countryside are quite different from the people of the Kentuckian countryside, who very often seem to fit their stereotype of being “hillbillies.” It can be a bit hard to categorize Kentucky as picturesque when, among the rolling hills and green mountains, there are people who look like Colonel Sanders was their father.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life in Europe this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Top: Thrift

Jacket: H&M

Trousers: The LOFT


July 10, 2019 – What Rhymes with Zagreb? (OOTD #529)

All I could potentially think of was “Maghreb” but I don’t know how I’d be able to utilize that for a blog title.

My trip to Croatia did not turn out quite as planned: for one, my school friend whom I was visiting with got sick the day before I arrived, meaning we were unable to visit any of the other cities we’d been planning to go to. Instead, we spent the week in Somobor with a day trip to Zagreb and to Brezîce, Slovenia.


At first, I was disappointed: everyone goes to Croatia to see the beaches, which was a part of our original plan that ended up getting scrapped. Instead, I mostly saw a small town outside of the capital. However, as the week went on, I realized I didn’t mind spending the majority of my time in one place — it helped me to get to know the people I was staying with better. I did feel a little badly about potentially overstaying their hospitality’s welcome, though. I’ve never met more kind and generous people than this Croatian family; I wish there was some way I could repay them.

And I did get in little day trip to Zagreb itself. My friend needed to go to the hospital, and so her cousin, her cousin’s sister, and I tagged along for the drive into the city. My friend and her cousin went to the hospital and left her cousin’s sister, Nina, and I to hang out for a few hours in the city.

Zagreb I think wins the cutest European city award for me. It’s tiny compared to larger cities like Rome or London, but it is its size that makes it special: it feels like something out of a storybook. With its color palette that relies heavily on pastel pinks, blues, and yellows and its location nestled into the lush Croatian countryside, it could easily pass as a water color background in a Disney fairy tale.

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it’s all croatian to me

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Would I ever move here? Maybe not — it’s a little too quiet, kind of like Copenhagen was. But unlike Copenhagen, which seemed almost eerily happy, Zagreb had a more somber, melancholy air that I appreciated. It felt more authentic, less tourist-driven. Maybe it’s the recent memories of the Yugoslav Wars that haven’t quite healed, but I got the sense that behind the picturesque imagery, Zagreb had more of a story to tell.

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once upon a time

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Unfortunately, though, I was only there for part of a day, and so I did not get to uncover it. Maybe I’ll get to go back one day and try, though.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life in Europe this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Coat: Vintage (thrifted, Ecseri Bazaar in Budapest)

Top: H&M

Skirt: Pull&Bear

July 8, 2019 – Bok! (OOTD #528)

Unfortunately, I was not gifted the ability to learn languages quickly.

I have a friend who picks them up so quickly, and really loves doing it, but I can barely stumble through a conversation in French despite having studied it on-and-off for seven years (wow, that’s embarrassing to have to admit). I feel guilty about that — I have this great privilege of having English as basically my first language, and so there’s less of a need for me to learn other languages, unlike other people in other parts of the world, for whom learning English is essentially a requirement if they want to get ahead at all.

I tried to learn some Italian before I went to Rome — and to be fair, I did learn a little — but I didn’t learn much more than to say grazie and ciao and scusi. In Budapest, I learned szia, which is hello, and that’s about all. In Copenhagen, I literally didn’t learn anything.

In Croatia, however, compared to the other places I visited, I had more of an opportunity to learn the language because I actually stayed with a Croatian family. I still probably didn’t take as great of an advantage of that opportunity as I should have, but you can’t say I didn’t take advantage of it at all.

Off the top of my head, I can tell you a few phrases that I remember in Croatian — bok, which is “hello;” hvala, which is “thanks;”

If only I could put that level of effort into my French, then maybe I’d be somewhere with it by now.

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m o o d

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That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life in Europe this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Top: Zara

Jeans: American Eagle