Celebrating 100 Blog Posts!

As we reach the beginning of February the novelty of the new year starts to wear off, but here at It’s a Schmahl World, we are celebrating a blogging milestone! Today we are posting our 100th post! When we started this blog to write about our travels, we didn’t expect to be where we are today. In this post, we’ll look back at how our lives have changed from being two young professionals working full time to a Peace Corps volunteer and an engineering graduate student.

 

 

Back to where it all began, our first post It’s a Schmahl World after all… published in February of 2016. Both Kim and I were working full time saving up all our paid time off to travel. We went on trips with our family to Washington DC for the 4th of July and a quick trip to Colombia for our first time in South America! Kim was able to go to Europe with her college roommates, 5 years after graduation! Highlights of their two week trip were hiking through Plitvice Park in Croatia, visiting the baths and ruin bars in Budapest, exploring palaces and the opera house in Vienna, and wandering the narrow streets and canals of Venice.

 

 

Occasionally I was lucky enough to travel for work, one time all the way across the globe to Japan for two weeks. For my first time in Asia, I got the chance to attend a festival the small city of Utsunomiya, wander the temples of Nikko and explore parts of Tokyo for a day. I even reached waaayyyy out of my comfort zone to experience a Japanese onsen (or a naked bath house).

 

 

September of 2016 came with an exciting road trip around Iceland’s Ring Road for Nelson and I. We snorkeled between the tectonic plates, hiked on a glacier, saw some amazing waterfalls and last but not least we got engaged! While planning is still in the works over a year later, Nelson and I are finally going to tie the knot in July of 2018.

 

 

Kim was the next to have a major life change when she decided to join the American Peace Corps to teach high school math in Liberia. Before she left we went on one last family vacation to Florida. We made the most of our limited time together exploring Key West, Disney World and the Ringling Museum.

 

 

In June of 2017, Kim packed her bags and began the long journey to Liberia. After a bit of training in Washington DC, they received 3 months of training in the of Kakata, just an hour outside of Monrovia, Liberia’s capital. Currently she has been teaching at her site for the last 5 months and learning the ins and outs of her community. See all of her updates about living in Liberia here!

 

 

To wrap up our life changes through 100 posts we’ll look at a recent big change in my life. I left my full time job and my first order of business was to go on an amazing week long 10 year friendaversary trip to Tuscany, Italy with two friends from Girl Scouts. I traveled solo for the first time to Copenhagen, Denmark and now after my sabbatical I have started going to school full time to get my masters degree in Mechanical Engineering!

 

 

When we began this blog, we never would have guessed where we’d be now, after 100 posts… who knows where we will be after the next 100 posts, but we are excited to continue the journey!

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Hiking at Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

One of my favorite days of our whole trip was the one we spent hiking at Plitvice National Park! On our last full day in Croatia, we rented a car to drive from Split, a city on the coast, back to Zagreb the capital city, stopping on our way at Plitvice. Total drive time was about 5 and a half hours, 3 hours from Split to Plitvice and then another 2 and half hours to Zagreb.

We left our hotel right after breakfast so we’d arrive at the park around noon and have the whole afternoon to hike! Plitvice is divided into the Upper Lakes and the Lower Lakes; we parked at Entrance 2 to the park at the base of the Upper Lakes. Then we took the bus up to the top of the Upper Lakes and began our hike down – you can hike it the other way around, but we opted for a downhill hike!

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The lakes (there are 16 total!) are naturally formed in the mountains with waterfalls from one lake into the next. The trail wound us across the first lake, then through the woods beside it until we came to the top of a waterfall. Then it continued on down to the next lake. It was so neat because we’d be at the top of a waterfall, right next to it, and then the trail would wrap around and down until we walked across the next lake and could turn around to see that same waterfall from below!

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The trail continued the same way – across one lake to the trail alongside it and down to the next lake, continuing pass right next to the waterfalls! The park was incredible – the water was a beautiful turquoise color and so clear! And there were waterfalls everywhere you turned, even little ones in the woods along the lakes.

The trail across the lakes was made of wooden walkways, sitting right on top of the water – there were even a few places were the water was higher than the trail so narrow boards were laid on top for us to walk across.

When we got to the base of the Upper Lakes, we hopped on the ferry that took us across one of the bigger lakes to the section of the park where the lower lakes begin.

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After taking a quick break to eat a snack and refill our water bottles, we kept going on our hike. Because it was early in the season (we were there at the beginning of April), not all of the trails along the lower lakes were open so we hiked along the higher trails. Even though we weren’t right on the water, these were awesome too because we were able to see the lakes and waterfalls from above!

We continued hiking before getting to the finale, the big falls!

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Then we hiked the short way back to the Entrance 1, where we caught the bus back to Entrance 2 where we had parked. Hungry from our hike, we grabbed a late lunch quickly before getting on the road again.

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After our hike, we have a few tips to keep in mind for any future visits:

  • Make sure to eat beforehand! Our hike took about 4 hours total, and once we got started there wasn’t anywhere to stop and grab something until after we took the ferry across to the lower lakes. Luckily we had packed some granola bars to snack on and plenty of water!
  • Bathrooms! After a 3-hour drive, we were all ready to use the bathroom when we arrived, so we went to the first ones we saw right at the parking lot…and found they were stalls with just holes in the ground that you have to squat over! But we realized later, if we had just waited, about a 10 minute walk away, near the bus stop, there were bathrooms with regular toilets.
  • Keep your camera on a wrist strap – the trail goes right on the lake and in most places there’s not a railing, so it wouldn’t be hard to accidentally drop your phone or camera as you’re trying to snap photos!

Our day at Plitvice Lakes National Park was amazing – it is definitely up there on my list of most incredible places I’ve ever been! If you’re visiting Croatia, I would highly recommend a day trip to this beautiful park!

The Charming Town of Trogir, Croatia

When we left Zagreb to head out to the coast of Croatia, we opted to stay in the charming little town of Trogir. We had taken the last flight out of Zagreb earlier that evening so we arrived into the Split airport around 11pm. It was just a 15-minute drive from the airport to Trogir and by the time we got there and checked in to our hotel, it was nearly midnight. We took a quick walk around the quiet streets surrounding our hotel, excited to have arrived, but didn’t really get a good glimpse of the town until the next day!

Before I even talk about rest of the town of Trogir, first I have to mention how much we loved our hotel, Hotel Pasike! It was absolutely charming, located on the old town island of Trogir, and all of the employees were so welcoming and went out of their way to accommodate us. The next morning we got up excited for the day, beginning with the delicious complementary breakfast – it was quite a spread: breads and jams and cheeses, omelets and eggs to order, and of course, some of the famous Croatian coffee!


After breakfast we set out to explore the little island. While the inner part of the island is a maze of narrow cobblestone walkways, the island is so small that you really can’t get lost. We easily found the main square, which is lined by the town hall, duke’s palace and cathedral.  

After wandering through the inner part of the town, we came out at the other end of the island by the Kamerlengo Fortress, built in the 15th century by the Venetians when they had control of the island. Then we walked back to the other end of the island along the water’s edge that was lined with yachts and a view of the mainland and another island just across the water.

The entire walk didn’t take us longer than an hour or so – I wasn’t kidding when I said it’s a tiny island! So having seen most of the island, we then headed to the bus station, just over a bridge to the mainland to take a bus into Split for the day. Read about our time in Split here!

When we got back from Split in the evening, it was already dusk and the town was quieting down for the night. We had bought some snacks and a couple bottles of wine before leaving Split, so we spent a relaxing evening just catching up on the rooftop terrace of our hotel. You can add the view from the rooftop to the list of reasons we loved our hotel!

Our time on the coast was so short that we realized that had we stayed in Split we probably never would have made it over to this picturesque town. Though we had read about day trips from Split, with only one day we wouldn’t have had time so we were so happy that we had chosen to stay in Trogir! What really made our experience was the people that we met, between the employees at our hotel and the friendly locals we met on the street – that, along with the beauty of the town itself, is what really gives Trogir its charm!

A Day in Split, Croatia

From Zagreb, we headed out to the beautiful coast of Croatia! We flew into the Split airport, but opted to stay in the charming town of Trogir rather than in the city of Split. We only had one full day on the coast so we took the bus into Split and spent most of the day there!

The bus dropped us off right along one side of Diocletian’s Palace, which makes up a good part of Split’s old town at the center of the city. While it is called a palace, it’s actually more like a fortress with pedestrian streets and buildings within its walls. It was built in the 4th century AD for Diocletian, a Roman emperor who wanted to retire to Split.

Having had such a good experience on our walking tour of Zagreb, our first order of business was finding a walking tour of the palace. We did an hour and a half tour with the blue umbrella tour group, and our tour guide was very enthusiastic and passionate about the city and its history. As we walked around the palace, we learned about all the different influences making up what we see today – from the Romans who first built it to the Christians who were there centuries later, both made their mark on the palace.

The walking tour ended near the center of the palace in front of the Cathedral of St. Domnius. We went inside to get a look at the smallest cathedral in Europe and then started climbing the bell tower. Now I’m not usually afraid of heights, but this climb had me shaking by the time I made it to the top! It began with large stone steps that were so steep at some points, I was using my hands and feet; then about a third of the way up, they turned into metal stairs with only a little railing between you and the open windows of the tower! Plus there’s only one way up so we had to share to steps with people on their way back down – I was glad it wasn’t the busy season! But after all that, the climb was worth it – the view of the city was incredible!

After the just-as-scary climb back down the bell tower, we walked along the water for about 20 minutes to the marina, where turning around, we had a great view of the old town across the water! We got dinner at a restaurant right next to the marina and then wandered up to a park just behind the marina.

Then we walked back into town to find the bus station and headed back to Trogir for the night! More on Trogir coming soon!

7 Fun Facts about Zagreb, Croatia

In my first post about Zagreb, I described how we used the short time we had (just 24 hours!) to explore the city. Along the way we learned some interesting facts about the city that I didn’t manage to fit in that post so thought this city deserved another one! Here are 7 things I found interesting about Zagreb…

1. You’d never realize it walking through the upper town today, but Zagreb was once two towns, Kaptol and Gradec. Back then the two were at odds with each other so there was a strip of dangerous “no man’s land” between them, but it is now filled in with buildings and streets that connect them so seamlessly, you’d never know they were once separate!

2. The Zagreb Cathedral is the tallest building in Croatia. At first I was bummed to see that they were doing restoration work on one of the spires (obviously thinking that wouldn’t look as nice in my pictures!), but on our walking tour, our guide told us that there has been reconstruction going on for more than 20 years due to the quality of the limestone it was originally built with. After that I began to notice that even in a lot of postcards, you could see the scaffolding on the spires!Zagreb Cathedral

3. Another fun fact about the cathedral: there are 3 large chandeliers on the ceiling that were initially hanging in a casino in Las Vegas! The story according to our walking tour guide is that when they were first brought to Zagreb, the church wasn’t sure if they really thought they were right for the cathedral (both aesthetically and morally) but hung them up to see how they’d look and then just never took them back down.

4. The upper town has over 200 lampposts, none of which are electric – they are all individually lit every evening and extinguished every morning! For years and years, one man who’s now in his 70s has walked around to light and snuff them himself every day and he now has an apprentice to help and learn from him.

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5. Along what was once the south wall of Gradec there is a tower called Lotrscak tower. For over 100 years the cannon at the top has been fired every day at noon – our walking tour was timed so that we’d pass by just at that time!

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6. I had read that Zagreb was a city of street art, but I did not expect any in the middle of the upper town… Amongst buildings that are hundreds of year old right next to the church of St. Catherine, there’s a building with a huge mural of a whale!

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7. And the last one is more of a tip than a fun fact… Right by the Jelacic square in the center of town, there’s a scale model of the Zagreb – it was very helpful as we were getting our bearings of the city!

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And that’s it for Zagreb! After Zagreb, we headed to the coast of Croatia to the city of Split, details coming soon!

24 Hours in Zagreb, Croatia

To kick off our two-week trip to Europe, the girls and I started out in Croatia, beginning with just about 24 hours in the capital city of Zagreb! We arrived in the afternoon after an 8-hour flight from Cincinnati to Paris, a 4 hour layover and another 2 hour flight to Zagreb. Exhausted from the long day spent traveling and losing 6 hours with the time change, we checked into our hostel, Swanky Mint.

After dropping our bags off in our room (and making a stop at the hostel bar to take our free welcome shot of rakija, a kind of homemade brandy made with herbs), we didn’t want to waste any of our short time in the city so we got dinner around the corner and then headed to the upper town to walk around a bit. We saw St. Mark’s Church with its famous tiled roof and the lesser-known St. Catherine’s Church, with a great view of Kaptol, the lower part of the old town.


Then we visited the Museum of Broken Relationships. Yes that’s right, a museum full of mementos from relationships after they ended, from things you’d expect like photo albums and ticket stubs to things like a wedding dress, a toaster and even an ax! It was really interesting reading all of the stories along with the pieces on display,  but it was definitely a downer hearing so many stories of failed relationships so we were all ready for a drink after! We stopped at the oldest tavern in Zagreb, Pod Starim Krovovima, which was right around the corner from St. Mark’s Square, before heading back to Swanky Mint for the night.

The next morning, after getting ready and eating breakfast at the hostel, we joined a free walking tour – which I highly recommend! (You’ll notice this is a trend of our trip!) On our 2-hour walk, our guide took us back up to St. Mark’s Square where we learned more of the history of the area we had explored the previous evening, and around the rest of the upper town including visiting the cathedral and walking through the Dolac market.

Dolac Market with the Cathedral behind it

Then we got lunch of strukli at a restaurant called LaStruk recommended by our walking tour guide. Strukli is a dish made of dough and cheese that is a traditional food from Croatia; it can be salty or sweet and some also have additional ingredients, such as truffles or honey and walnuts. As our guide put it, a local’s preference will depend on “whether his granny made salty or sweet.” It was absolutely delicious and we spent half the lunch discussing the feasibility of opening up a strukli restaurant once we got home!

After lunch we took a walk through the horseshoe of green spaces around Zagreb, all within walking distance of both the upper town area and our hostel – in fact the whole city is very walkable! The horseshoe walk took us through a few beautiful parks as well as past the Art Pavilion and the Croatian National Theater.

Towards the end of the afternoon, we found a café where we could sit in the street and people watch – from what we heard, a very typical Croatian thing to do – until it was time for us to head to the airport to catch our flight to Split!

There was too much to fit in just one post, so next up is more interesting facts about Zagreb!

Sneak Peek of Kim’s Eurotrip: Croatia & Vienna

I can’t believe I’m already halfway through my two weeks in Europe! We’ve already finished our time in Croatia and Vienna and are on our way to Budapest! I’ve been posting to our Instagram (@schmahlworld) and I’ll be sharing more details in future blog posts when I get home but thought I’d share some sneak peek pictures on the blog:

First, Croatia!

St. Marc’s Church in the old town in Zagreb, Croatia
Statue in Jelacic Square in the city center of Zagreb
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Wandering around the charming island of Trogir, Croatia
Morning view from the rooftop of our hotel in Trogir, Croatia
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View from the bell tower in Split, Croatia
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Hiking at Plitvice National Park, Croatia
Plitvice National Park, Croatia

And then on to Vienna!

St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna
Woman feeding the pigeons outside of the Vienna State Opera
Tour of the Vienna State Opera
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Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria

And that’s it for now, more to come on our time in Croatia and Vienna, but for now, I’m on to the next legs of my trip!