World Travel with a Twist of Zen - Fields of Indulgence  
 
Dreams have always intrigued me and leave me wondering if they have a deeper meaning. Does the brain weave nets of subconscious thoughts that can only be unraveled in the middle of the night? I remember my dreams often, more often than most people I know. And in nearly all the dreams I remember I am running. Running from something, from anything. Sometimes, I am running from aliens or from Roman soldiers, through woods or between canyon walls. Usually, the colors are so vivid and the dreams so engrossing, that I awake panting and looking around - only to find my bedroom and Jeff sleeping peacefully at my side.

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Beautiful three bridges in Ljubljana
But something changed in Slovenia! For the first time in my life, a different kind of dream was revealed to me. In this plot, I was a detective and was determined to catch a serial killer. Finally, the tables were turned and instead of running away from a killer, I was running after one to stop another murder from happening. This feeling of empowerment in the dream caused a rush of relief to wash over me as I awoke that morning. I felt like the dream was a prophesying a time when I would have the opportunity to turn the tables on my fear. Or was the dream simply an affirmation of the many fears I have already shed during this travel time?

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The central plaza with the castle in the background
Slovenia, much of which is nestled in the Julian Alps, brought some of the most beautiful mountain scenery we have encountered thus far. We started in the capital city of Ljubljana, a lovely town towered over by its beautifully restored castle. Ljubljana is one of the smallest capitals in Europe and doesn’t have any major ‘attractions,’ which makes it great for strolling the streets while scoping out gelaterias and sweet shops. The charm of the city is largely attributed to Jože Plečnik, who largely rebuilt the city’s waterfront and key civic buildings after an earthquake in 1895 left the city an open palette. His playful and seducing architectural buildings and bridges give the city a feel of enchantment that is augmented by the stunning views we enjoyed from the castle. For pictures from Ljubljiana, click here - http://flic.kr/s/aHsjBT2hNS.

After some time in the city, we were ready for nature and moved on to Lake Bled, our base for exploring the Julian Alps. Lake Bled may be one of the cutest little towns in Europe! The homes looked so idyllic they could have come straight from a movie and they all surround this gorgeous glacial lake that was formed when the Bohinj Glacier melted after the last Ice Age. Even more romantically beautiful, the receding glacial waters left a tiny little island in the middle of the lake. It now holds the Church of the Assumption, a 17th century baroque church, though excavations have found remains of a Slavic cemetery and a pre-Romanesque chapel. The island was considered a place of great importance to the local Slavic tribes who lived here before Christianity. They so fiercely defended this little island that the Romans could never overtake the area, despite it being right next door to modern day Italy! With the Julian Alps as the backdrop to this picturesque lake and its little island, the view from the Mala Osojnica viewpoint (which we climbed at a breakneck pace to beat the sunset) was breathtaking!
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Mala Osojnica Viewpoint
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The Goldhorn at the entrance to Triglav
Our second day was a small tour full of adventures all throughout the park, which takes up about a third of the country. The jagged ridges of the mountains are dramatic against the blue sky, and always look like they are covered in snow due to the crumbling rock atop. The symbol of the locals is the Goldhorn, a type of buck, who is highly respected in this area. It lives at the highest peaks of these mountains and the end of its horns really shine as if they were gold. Ancient myth says that at one point Triglav park was a paradise of greenery and soft hills where humans and magical creatures lived in harmony. Ruling over it all was an immortal white Goldhorn. During this time, three mountain ferries known for their fortune telling abilities had a vision after a local boy was born in the mountains. The fairies saw that the boy would one day kill the Goldhorn for his gold and ruin the paradise they all enjoyed. Two of the fairies refused to speak of the vision, but the third fairy voiced this prophecy and was cursed by her two sisters for doing so. She was turned to stone by the curse and it is said that you can still see her petrified face edged in the mountain stone.

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The Petrified Fairy, Julian Alps
In the end, the prophesized boy grew up and fell in love with a beautiful Slovenian girl who had also caught the eye of wealthy Venetian merchant. The merchant showered her with expensive gifts that the pour hunter boy could never match. So he decided that only by killing the Goldhorn and collecting his golden horns could he compete with the merchant and win over her love. After an epic three day chase, they met on a ridge where both man and beast stood facing each other. The boy shot at the Goldhorn and his aim was true. The arrow pierced the beasts neck and blood started to gush onto the ground. But to the boys surprise, where the blood hit the ground, beautiful white alpine roses immediately sprung up and blossomed. The Goldhorn ate the flowers and his wound immediately sealed up and healed. In a rage now, the Goldhorn charged the boy, who tried another arrow but missed as he was blinded by the reflection of the oncoming horns. He took the charge straight on and tumbled down the hills to his death. The prophecy was broken. But so was the Goldhorn’s faith in humanity. The immortal beast was made with rage and disappointment as he ran across the planes, thrashing them into the jutting mountain peaks we see today. Nobody has seen the Goldhorn ever since, but locals say the tale cautions us to respect both the power of nature and also its fragility to human greed.

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Rafting the soca
The next part of our tour took us on a rafting adventure down the Soca River, or Emerald River, as the locals call it. The river is bright turquoise green and its crystal clear water is full of the rare species of trout, called marble, who can grow to be over a meter long! It is mesmerizing to look into the water and chilling when you jump in! Though the river was relatively low due to the drought this summer, the guides still made the trip lots of fun by setting up water slides with the rafts and offering us some optional challenges. Here is where my own dream (or prophecy?) comes into play. One of the stops of the trip was a huge, 8 meter (due to the low level of the river) high rock, edged into a deep pool of emerald water. The guide warned us that the jump looks much higher once you’re up there and that there is no easy turning once you go up. I hesitated for a moment as no other girls even attempted to climb the rock. But then I thought of my dream and scaled the stone. First up, Jeff jumped into the water with little hesitation, though he admitted that it was quite scary for him too! As the 2nd to go, when I reached the ledge of the rock, I found myself frozen in fear, especially since one of my biggest fears is of heights!

We have climbed many waterfalls, mountain tops, and tall buildings through these travels, and with each journey I can feel a little bit of my fear melting away. But I have to say, jumping 8 meters into a foreboding flowing river is a whole another different story! After much coercing by the guide and encouragement from the crowd, I finally gathered the courage and jumped. Unfortunately, there was a photographer documenting our whole river trip (pics here) and he caught a really good picture of me on the way down. I didn’t know that my face could contort to this position! In this land of prophecies I was happy that my own came true. As in my dreams, I had overcome my fears and become the hero of my story instead of the victim.
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The epic jump!
We finished our time in Bled by renting a row boat and visiting the little island. Rain forced us to act quickly and Jeff to row like a madman to get back to the mainland. We took this opportunity to relax and enjoy an afternoon in our little apartment as we prepare to cross into Italy with a stop in Venice en route to Rome to meet my family! For pics from Triglav and Bled, click here - http://flic.kr/s/aHsjBSZJ1s.




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