Running along Riva Nazario Sauro to work off some of the indulgence the previous evening.
And enjoying a decent breakfast back at the hotel before getting ready for the journey to Ljubljana.
Outside Trieste Centrale railway station.
And about to catch the 9.01am train across the border to Slovenia.
Just before 9am they announced that the train would be delayed because of a fire beside the tracks, and that they had to wait for clearance from the firefighters. 45 minutes later however we were leaving the station and on our way.
Passing through Sežana just after crossing the border and into my 123rd country visited.
And outside Ljubljana railway station (Železniška postaja Ljubljana).
It was just after twelve and I was starting to get a bit hungry. My Lonelyplanet guidebook recommended one of Ljubljana's fast food curiosities, Hot Horse, which sounded too intriguing to resist.
I opted for the classic horseburger. A decent size, very tasty and definitely filled me up!
I then walked through the city centre. Outside the National Gallery (Narodna Galerija) of Slovenia.
And inside my AirBnb on Slomškova ulica for the next two nights. The city didn't seem to have many hotels so I opted for the studio apartment for $74 a night.
In the afternoon I went for a walk in Tivoli City Park where they had an outdoor photography exhibition of Slovenia.
Looking towards the city centre.
The beautiful and historic Ljubljana Old Town.
Tromostovje (Triple Bridge) spanning across the Ljubljanica River.
In Prešeren Square is also the city christmas tree which will be lit tonight for the first time.
Ljubljana Castle looking down on the city from Castle Hill.
Ljubljana New Town with the train station in the background.
Traffic at the intersection of Bleiweisova and Celovška cesta.
I then went for a walk in the Old Town. One of the dragon statues on Dragon Bridge. Apparently there is a legend that the ancient Greek mythological hero and dragon slayer Jason was the founder of Ljubljana.
The bridge was built in the beginning of the 20th century when the city was part of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.
A pedestrian bridge across the Ljubljanica River in the heart of the Old Town.
A Christmas tree in the Town Square on the east side of the river.
And the lights now fully lit for the first time of the festive season in Prešeren Square.
After the substantial lunch I opted for some churros for dinner before getting an early night as I had an early pickup tomorrow for my hot air balloon flight in Bled.
Breakfast this morning at my AirBnb with a pastry and some yoghurt I had bought the day before.
At 6:30am I was picked up by Philip and Grega and then headed north-west for the 45 minute drive to Bled.
Once we reached Bled Grega released a helium filled balloon to assess the wind conditions. At ground level the air felt almost perfectly still. As the small balloon rose though it initially drifted west before moving towards the east due to the different air layers.
We then drove to the outskirts of the town to set up the balloon.
Since it was only the three of us I helped by holding the balloon open while air was blown in to inflate it.
And with a few bursts of hot air from the burners the balloon righted itself and was ready for take-off.
Lifting off with pilot Philip at the controls and Grega as ground support.
The snow-capped Karawanks mountain range on the border of Slovenia and Austria.
My two previous hot air balloon flights had been on large balloons with ~20 other passengers so it was a bit of a thrill to ride in a much smaller balloon with only myself and the pilot onboard.
Looking south-east down the valley.
The E61 motorway below which starts in Austria in the north and ends in Croatia in the south.
Pilot Philip at the controls. Both Grega and Philip were very experienced pilots and had spent many summers in Melbourne, Australia flying balloons during the Slovenian winter.
Looking down on the small alpine village of Vrba.
The roar of the burners as we rise above the valley floor.
Now above the light layer of fog below.
A freight train heading south.
Another small village.
A small plane circling below us.
And coming in for a touch-and-go at Lesce Airport.
Floating low over the village of Zapuže as we search for a suitable landing spot.
And making a perfectly soft landing in a farmers field.
I eagerly helped to repack the balloon and help load it back on the trailer.
And a glass of bubbly to celebrate!
After the successful flight we drove the short distance to Hotel Park on the shore of Lake Bled.
Enjoying a coffee and a piece of the famous Bled cream cake while Philip presented me with my flight certificate.
Before we headed back to Ljubljana I went out to check out the picturesque Lake Bled.
The 11th century Bled Castle with the Karawanks in the distance.
And at the western end of the lake was the famous Bled Island and its Church dedicated to the Assumption of Mary.
Grega said that it was possible to visit the island by foot during the winter when the lake freezes over.
And looking back towards the town of Bled for the classic 'postcard' shot.
We then drove back to Ljubljana where I thanked both Grega and Philip for an amazing experience!
Back at Ljubljana train station where I bought my ticket to Zagreb for tomorrow.
One of the gargoyle-like dragons again at Dragon Bridge in the Old Town.
At about 3pm I took a seat outside at Bar Lockal for a coffee.
And some prosciutto, cheese, olives and bread for a late lunch.
The busy Ljubljana Central Market in Vodnik Square.
The market stretched all the way from Dragon Bridge to the Triple Bridge.
The flags of the EU, Slovenia and Ljubljana flying outside the City Municipality building in Town Square.
After resting at my AirBnb for a while I headed out again after dusk to enjoy the Christmas lights.
The beautifully lit Izpostava Center with a river boat passing below on the Ljubljanica River.
And some tasty Ćevapi for dinner after a very enjoyable and memorable day 4.
After an early morning run I packed up, left the key to my AirBnb in the letterbox and then headed out for the short walk back to the train station.
Back at Ljubljana train station with plenty of time for the 8:25am train to Zagreb.
For breakfast I went to the station McDonalds for a McMuffin, Nutella cupcake and an espresso.
The train pulling into Platform 10, and ready to catch my third and final train ride for the trip.
The single class train was quite clean and comfortable.
Passing through the Slovenian countryside.
And arriving into the centre of Zagreb just before 11am.
Glavni kolodvor (Main Station).
Just in front of the railway station was Ledeni (icey in Slavic) Park with plenty of skaters in the ice skating rink.
The Palace Hotel, open since 1907, it was apparently first hotel in Zagreb and where I would stay for my one night in the city.
It was too early to check-in so I dropped off my bag and went out to explore some more of the city.
Looking down on Ban Jelačić Square (bottom-left) and Zagreb Cathedral (top-right).
Ban Jelačić Square is the central square of Zagreb.
The narrow streets and alleys and old buildings in Zagreb Upper Town. First settled in the 11th century, it is the oldest part of the city.
Šalata Sports & Recreational Centre.
With plenty of skaters circling the rink.
The Zagreb Cathedral in Kaptol, a part of Zagreb Upper Town.
With a spire height of 108 metres it is the tallest building in Zagreb.
Inside there was standing room only for Sunday mass.
The many stalls at the city's Dolac Market, situated just behind Ban Jelačić Square.
Open since 1926, Dolac is the main farmer's market in Zagreb.
2 kilos for 10 kuna / €1.35.
It was getting close to lunch so I wandered down Gajeva ulica for something to eat.
I settled for a tasty kobasica along with a cup of hot mulled wine.
And some fritule with nutella to satisfy my sweet tooth.
The city's Zrinjevac Park in Zagreb Lower Town.
People out and about on their weekend, browsing the park's christmas market stalls.
Colourful depictions of the city and it's landmarks.
At about 2:30pm I checked-in at the Park Hotel. My room for the night for €75 including breakfast.
After a bit of a rest I went to check out the 'Image Of War' Photography Museum on Ulica Andrije Hebranga.
The museum covered the period of war in Croatia from 1991 to 1995.
Featuring both Croatian and International photographers, it was quite a sober insight into a painful period for the country.
A quote from American photographer Christopher Morris, relating the horror behind one of his photographs in the exhibit.
It was very moving to hear the grim moments just before this photo was taken.
In the evening I headed out to get one last dose of Croatian Christmas spirit. At Park Josipa Jurja Strossmayera.
The beautifully lit trees in Zrinjevac Park.
More Christmas lights and people in Ban Jelačić Square.
The elaborately decorated Manduševac Fountain.
Gladan pas (hungry dog).
For dinner I decided on the super tasty Pig Burger, filled with smoked buncek (pork butt), sauerkraut, horseradish mayo and fried onions.
And the divine berry and nutella waffle for dessert. Only one lady was making them and I was about the fifth person in queue to order one but it was well worth the wait!
Enjoying breakfast at the hotel restaurant after a wet and windy morning run through Zagreb.
After balking at the expensive fixed price quoted by the hotel for a taxi to the airport I instead opted for an Uber for about half the price instead. The 'Uber' looked the same as the other taxis and was complete with a taxi sign on the roof so I was a bit confused with the price discrepancy.
My 11am flight back to Moscow showing ontime.
Check-in in the new and modern passenger terminal that opened in 2017.
With my boarding pass airside.
I had a few Croatian kunas left so had an espresso and a brownie at an airport café.
Today would be my first flight on the Sukhoi Superjet 100, a small Russian-built regional jet. The 2-3 seating in economy was quite roomy and the flight was not too full so there was plenty of space.
Sandwich and drinks served on the ~3 hour flight to Moscow.
The snow covered winter landscape below as we descend down to Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport.
Another Sukhoi Superjet 100 as we parked up at the domestic terminal. As we were an international flight we unfortunately had a ~30 minute bus ride to the international terminal on the other side of the airport.
At Бургер Кинг again where I couldn't resist having the Spicy Nightmare Whopper! I also bought a chocolate sundae just in case but the green burger was relatively mild.
And about to board the Boeing 737 for the flight back to Dubai after another great winter trip to Europe!