Tag Archives: Slovenia

Sometimes… a picture says 1,000 words


The first time I saw Shamu… I was 4o years old. The first time my 3.5yr old saw Shamu… he was 2. Every week since then, he asks us when we can go back to SeaWorld San Antonio again and again… and again. We’ve been back probably 4-5 times over the past 18mos. The only other question that trumps Shamu in frequency asked is “Daddy… Can we go to the beach?”. “Soon Cameron… Soon”. That’s my cliche answer. My wife often gives me that look that silently… but oh, so blatantly says “you’ve gotta do better than that!”. Hey, I was able to fool him a few times by telling him Lake Travis and Lake Austin Spa Resort were the ocean; but, he’s watched Finding Nemo and one too many episodes of Hawaii 5-0 to know that his father is a liar.

Happy July 4th - 100+yr old USA Flag - Woodstock, VT

Living in Texas, we have the luxury of not being a land-locked state, so we actually have a coastline. The challenge with Texas is that everything is BIGGER in Texas. Sounds like a cheesy t-shirt some 38DD Texas gal or a 6ft 9 350lb offensive lineman everybody calls “Tiny” would sport during Spring Break on Panama City Beach, Florida; but, I’m not kidding. Texas is BIG! Story time… I had a friend from Greensboro, North Carolina who drove 9hrs across 4 states to go to school at Notre Dame (South Bend, Indiana). He was shocked when I told him I used to drive 11.5hrs from Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas to Amarillo in the Texas panhandle. In the same state! Yeah, I only went home once or twice per year, because it was too bloody far! Speed limit was 55mph back then. Now I’m having flashbacks of my driving experience on Germany’s Autobahn. 180km/h. That’s no punk. We could learn a thing or two from the Germans about highway efficiency. But, that’s a whole other topic. Lucky for me, my parents moved to Austin, Texas back in 1991 during my Junior year in college – thus the blog name – Austin GlobeTrekker.

Mustang Island, TX - July 4th Weekend 2011

So… now that the anticipation has been built, the question came from Cameron once again… “Daddy, can we go the beach?”. The answer he had been waiting for… “YES! Cameron… we CAN go to the beach!”. It’s kind of like my frequent visits to Starbuck’s. It’s not that I favor the flavor of a Starbuck’s coffee; but, more out of routine and convenience that I’ve become a regular. My drink? Tall raspberry-hazelnut mocha – no whip. It’s gotten to the point that I don’t even say anything. They just make it. I just pay for it. One day, I walked in and said “grande black coffee of the day please”. They laughed at me “ha ha ha! yeah right. We’ll have your drink ready in a minute”. But back to Cameron. When it finally registered in his fuzzy little head that I said “YES! Cameron… we CAN go to the beach“, it was as if the angels came down from the heavens, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra started playing Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Ha-lay-eee-loooooo-yah!!! For the rest of the week, he kept callin’ me Moses. A bit much if you ask me; but, I entertained the idea and responded each time politely with a “YES my son?”… in a deep Moses type biblical voice. You know… so he wouldn’t feel awkward. The staff, long grey beard and gold robe may have been a bit overboard on my end; but, I felt it was my responsibility to fit the part.

"The Bird Man" - Mustang Island, Texas

July 4th Weekend arrived, and the family loaded up in the car for our 4.5hr Texas road trip to Corpus Christi on the South Central Coastline of Texas. As we hit Gonzales, Refugio and Cuero, I kept reminding myself that I recently drove 4hrs from Lake Bled, Slovenia through Austria and Bavaria up to Munich, Germany. Similar… but different. VERY different. All eyes were closed when we reached Corpus; but, the excitement began when we pulled into our hotel at Holiday Inn Express – Corpus Christi. Really nice place for a family stay in Corpus. Clean. Friendly. Close proximity to restaurants, USS Lexington aircraft carrier, the Texas State Aquarium, and not too far from North Padre Island – Port Aransas – Rockport, Texas and the surrounding coastline. We made our way around Corpus for the 1st day; however, it was the 2nd day at Mustang Island State Park, Texas that told the story of the entire July 4th Weekend.

Sometimes... a picture says 1,000 words - Cameron at Mustang Island, TX - July 4th Weekend, 2011

Remember… I was 40 years old, the 1st time I saw Shamu. The 1st time my 3.5yr old saw Shamu… he was 2. At that point in time, I had never been so happy in my life for somebody other than myself. That was until July 3rd, 2011 when my boys – Cameron (3.5yrs) and Jordan (19mos) saw the ocean for the FIRST time in their lives. The entire experience can be summed up like one of those Mastercard commercials –

  • July 4th Weekend – Family Road Trip from Austin to Corpus Christi, Texas… 225 miles
  • 20gal tank full of premium unleaded gasoline… $75.00
  • Seeing the ocean through the eyes of your kids for the very first time… PRICELESS!

Sometimes… a picture says 1,000 words. For everything else… sure, there’s probably Mastercard.

TRAVEL | EXPLORE | DREAM | DISCOVER

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sLOVEnia: the little things we remember


I remember somebody once telling me… “Sometimes it’s good to be alone. As long as you never feel lonely.” I’ve been alone for the past few days. Home sick with bronchitis and a nasty sinus infection. Sorry for the ugly visual. But that leads me to my point. At no point do I ever feel lonely, and yeah… it has been good to be alone. No wife. No kids. No work. Very little stress (other than being ill). It has allowed me to contemplate on the importance of life. Love, family, friends, health (not so good right now), a place to call home, a job, and no matter what… you’ve GOT to have a hobby. Me? I have three hobbies. Dreaming of the next travel destination (if you haven’t guessed this by now), pretending to be a writer, and attempting to be an amateur photographer. A valiant effort on all three, because I’ve done what I’ve always set out to accomplish… I’ve joined the conversation. That’s how you start.

Lake Bled Slovenia 2011
Lake Bled Slovenia 2011

So, as I lay there alone, contemplating the world… actually just trying to figure out if I wanted a cinnamon raisin bagel, or a bowl of frosted flakes for breakfast (I went with the bagel), I thought about my recent travels through Germany, Austria, Slovenia and Italy for my 5yr wedding anniversary with my wife (Anna). I couldn’t help but laugh to myself about “the little things we remember”.

"Schnauzer vs Swan 2011"
“Schnauzer vs Swan 2011” – View of Castle Bled from Lake Bled Slovenia

Our first night in Slovenia, we took a walk around Lake Bled before dinner. The sun wasn’t even close to setting; but, it had this magical glare across the lake. The Pletna boats had docked for the evening, the wind was calm, the clouds mysteriously eerie, and the waterfront was an evening stroller’s paradise. I took my camera out to capture the lake and Bled Castle (Blejski Grad) perched upon a cliff’s edge in the background, and that’s when it happened – My favorite moment“Schnauzer vs. Swan”. A Slovenian man, walking his miniature German Schnauzer was dragged into my frame. No worries… I have an 18-250mm lens, I can just zoom past him. A swan calmly approached the bank, then ding! ding! the match was on! Yeah, I’ve gotta get a picture of this! What you see above this text is the before shot. I didn’t feel like shooting pictures of an undersized dog picking a fight with an over sized white bird. Plus, sometimes you have to come out from behind the camera lens and enjoy the reality of the time and space you are within. SO, that’s what I did.

View from Belvedere Pavillion of Church on Bled Island, Lake Bled, Slovenia with Mala Osojinica Forest Behind

In my previous blog, I wrote about the morning I woke up entirely too early, and watched the Sunrise on Lake Bled. I completely forgot that I had my old beat up Canon Elf digital camera lodged in my pocket, and actually captured 30secs or so of that incredible moment – alone down by the Pletna boat dock. Like I said, the great thing about TRAVEL… “the little things we remember”.

The thing about SLOVENIA… It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world that most people don’t even think about… or even know about. Each year, we try to find a travel destination that makes our friends and family say “Where?” or “Why?”. The kind of  backdrop that tells me, Jason… you’re not in Austin, Texas anymore. May 2011 – Slovenia was that destination.

Bled Island (Blejski otok), the only natural island in Slovenia.

We learned about this fascinating small country in Central Europe through National Geographic Traveler Magazine. Bordering Austria, Italy, Croatia, and Hungary, this small country is packed with unbelievable beauty, incredible people and culture, captivating history, and a surprisingly amazing cuisine.

Ljubljana – Capital City of Slovenia

Mountains, lakes, wine country, farmland, rivers, coastline, forests, and caves. Slovenia has it all. There’s a reason the word LOVE is in the middle of sLOVEnia! Truly a place to be discovered.

view of Church of St. John the Baptist
Lake Bohinj (Bohinjsko jezero) and view of Church of St. John the Baptist – Triglav Lakes Valley

I’ve also uploaded all the photos from our Europe – May 2011 – 5yr Anniversary trip to Germany (Bavaria), Austria, Slovenia, and Venice, Italy on my Flicker page. If you have more time on your hands than you know what to do with, or your stuck in a waiting room at a Dr.’s office or the DMV, then check it out: Europe 2011 – Austin Globetrekker

Cloudy Day in the city of Piran, Slovenia – Karst & Coast Region on the Adriatic Sea

I’m sure I’ll have more MUREMindless Useless Random Entertainment about my travels for you soon. Stay Tuned! Until then… TRAVEL| EXPLORE | DREAM | DISCOVER

“The Path” – Villa Bled on Lake Bled, Slovenia

TRAVEL: That everlasting first impression


Since I love to travel, and I love photography… I’m always looking for that everlasting first impression. I recently spent 10 days in Europe (clearly not enough time) celebrating my 5yr wedding anniversary with my wonderful wife (Anna). Rented a car in Munich and traveled around a small quadrant of Germany (Bavaria), Austria, Slovenia, and Italy. A friend asked me… “so, what was your favorite part?”. When it comes to travel, you might as well have asked me which one of my kids is my favorite. The truthful answer (even though it sounds like BS) is that I loved every region for different reasons; however, their commonality was the way each culture simply loved and lived life!

Sunrise on Lake Bled, Slovenia

Of course, if I had to pick just ONE outstanding memory… waking up at 5:40am and witnessing Sunrise on Lake Bled, Slovenia. Definitely an everlasting first impression. Sure, I’ve seen pictures on the internet and in magazines across the world; but, that morning, it wasn’t just a picture… it was an experience! The sound of ducks and swans on the water’s edge, the light breeze and fragrance of mountain air, the amazing view of Bled Castle perched above the lake, and the absence of people. There very well could have been somebody else out there with me; but, at that time… the lake felt like it was all mine. Not sure what it is with me and lakes. Lake Tekapo and Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand – Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri – Lake Louise, Alberta Canada – Lake Austin, here in Austin, Texas – and now Lake Bled, Slovenia.  What can I say… I like lakes.

View of Bled Castle from Lake Bled, Slovenia

See… now I’ve opened up a can of worms, because hiking in the Bavarian Alps to see Schloss Neuschwanstein  (aka Castle) was a lot more dramatic than I could have ever anticipated. There’s a reason Walt Disney used this as an inspiration for his castle. Once again… that everlasting first impression. I remember saying over and over to my wife “how did they get all this stuff up here?”. No more than 15mins later, she would ask me “how did they get all this stuff up here?”. The inevitable madness of mankind. That’s how. Where there’s a will… there’s a way. But still, a marvel in its own right.

Schloss Neuschwanstein, Bavarian Alps, Germany

Yet still, there was more for me to be astonished by. VENICE, Italy. What the Venetians put together with their intricate canal system is nothing short of spectacular. The Grand Canal is truly miraculous; however, Basilica di San Marco (aka St. Mark’s) has got to be one of the most remarkable first impressions. Maybe we got lucky by having perfect 72F weather with clear blue skies; but, something tells me this place is magical every single day of the year. Regardless of the weather. Overall, Venice is a city of 90,000 locals, and will receive almost 25 Million visitors by the end of 2011. That’s impressive!

Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's) - Venice, Italy

Now, don’t get me wrong… Germany and Austria had their highlights on our vacation too; however, there are some experiences that pictures and words struggle to comprehend. Like driving 180km/h on the A8 (Autobahn) from Munich to Salzburg… and getting passed like you’re standing still by names like BMW, Mercedes, Audi. Maserati and Porsche. Truly the ultimate driving experience. And definitely a lasting first impression. That’s all for now. Stay tuned for an upcoming “social culinary” recap of Germany, Austria, Slovenia and Italy. Probably titled something like “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry!”. I think you get the idea. Travel well my friends! CHEERS!

The Everest thing…


“Two asthmatics are on a mountain…” It almost sounds like the beginning of a bad joke you’d hear in an English pub, or down at Ginny’s Little Longhorn – one of my favorite dive bars right here in Austin, Texas. But, that’s how TRAVEL starts out… Right? Storytelling. Reading a blog (like this… hopefully), spotting an exotic location in a magazine, seeing some beautiful backdrop in a movie, talking to somebody about their vacation, watching a TV show that inspires you to seek life’s adventures – The Amazing Race, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, Dhani Tackles the Globe, or my personal travel inspiration – Globe Trekker w/Ian Wright and Megan McCormick  (Pilot Company). No matter what the medium… Find your Everest thing…

Oxbow Bend
Oxbow Bend - Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming USA

I’m an enthusiastic fool when it comes to TRAVEL. Add a sucker who is willing to be a partner in crime and help me push beyond my physical limitations as an asthmatic, and you’ve got my fellow asthmatic buddy Nickerson. We were working together for a large technical corporation named after the owner. No… there’s no Mr. Google, Mrs. Apple, or Sir Facebook, so you’ll figure it out (if you don’t already know). He moved from Chicago to Texas, then realized that wasn’t a drastic enough culture shock for him, so he and his wife moved to Singapore. He even found time to start up his own TRAVEL company – Beyond Travel. After what seems like 5 or more years, they’re are moving back to Texas in June 2011. As a proud Texan (more specifically… Austinite), I understand; however, I’m incredibly annoyed with myself for never making the trek East to visit them and explore Asia (one of the continents I MUST see!).

Sunset - Gulfo de Papagayo - Guanacaste, Costa Rica

The Everest thing… So, how did the conversation start? I don’t remember. Wait… sure I do. I was running my mouth on Facebook, because my wife was away on business in Costa Rica. LOVE that place! Spent a week there for our honeymoon up in Guanacaste, Costa Rica – Gulfo de Papagayo (May 2006). That has absolutely nothing to do with this story. Anyway, I was looking after my sons (Cameron and Jordan). A little adventure I like to call… KIDWATCH 2011. Somewhere between Day 3 and Day 9, I finally lost all rationale and sanity and blurted out that the 17mo old was conspiring with the 3.5yr old, and swore the cat was in on it. It led me to this now famous statement…. “I think I might move to Nepal and train with the Sherpas. Everest 2020 baby! Who’s in?”

The rest of the exchange went something like this…

  • Mark NickersonCount me in! Trying to find time to get out to Kathmandu this spring

    February 25 at 9:43am ·
  • Jason CookeCrazy or not… I’m really serious about Everest. If I get this bronchiothermoplasty surgery for my lungs this year (or next) then I want to set a goal to reach Everest Base Camp @ 17,000ft before I turn 50 in 2020. Nickerson… let’s do it! Going to test myself in Bavarian / Austrian Alps (Austria/Germany) and Julian Alps (Slovenia) this May.

    February 25 at 9:56am ·
  • Mark NickersonI also have a goal of getting to base camp! Yea we WILL do this! Two asthmatic old wheezing fools risking an embolism just to go sit halfway up a mountain. Sounds about right!

    February 25 at 10:00am ·

Nickerson has it all planned out for 2020 (or sooner so it seems). In his words, the biggest expense is the flights – getting to/from Beijing. From there, taking the train down through Xi’an and on to Lhasa in Tibet. The nice thing about the train is that you start off at sea level and at its highest point reach about 16,600 feet above sea level. The journey takes about 3 days. Should help with altitude adjustments necessary for the trip. From Lhasa, we would then want to fly to Kathmandu, then hire a truck to drive us BACK to Lhasa; but, with stops along the way at monasteries, and of course, Everest Base Camp (17,000ft).  Factoring in time for sightseeing in China, Tibet and Nepal, plus, the fact you have to apply for special overland permits in Kathmandu (which takes a couple of days) and the transit time itself, the estimate is a solid two weeks round trip from Beijing to Beijing. Then he finished up his statements by saying “much jealous of your trip to Slovenia. I’ve been wanting to get there for donkeys ages. See you guys soon!”. Really? Really? See… Nickerson inspires me! You never know who you will meet that could change your life… for the better.

The Lone Star Flag
TEXAS! The Lone Star Flag - OX Ranch

In reality, that’s what this blog is all about. TRAVEL| EXPLORE | DREAM | DISCOVER. Sharing stories, meeting crazy cool and interesting people, building relationships, and in the process… hopefully learning a thing (or two) about the world we live in and the amazing cultures that make up this smorgasbord /ˈsmôrgəsˌbôrd/ we call Planet Earth. It’s a fascinating place! We’ve sent people to the moon… Doesn’t it only seem fair we discover a bit more of what’s in front, behind, next to, and all around us?

Join the Conversation! What’s your “Everest thing…”?

TRAVEL: Is it the similarities… or the differences?


So… What exactly is it about TRAVEL that makes the corners of your mouth curl north into an inescapable smile? Is it the similarities we share with the places we go? Or, the differences from the people we meet that set us apart? Why not BOTH? For me… It’s the similarities AND the differences that make me HAPPY. That’s what drives me toTRAVEL| EXPLORE | DREAM | DISCOVER

Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

Groucho Marx said “I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, TODAY , and I’m going to be happy in it.” That’s my approach to TRAVEL. Whether it’s getting soaked while hiking out on the Isle of Skye in The Highlands of Scotland… Peacefully strolling along the canals amongst narrow row houses in Amsterdam… Playing “Where’s Waldo?” in Mercat de la Boqueria on Las Ramblas in Barcelona, Spain with 2 idiot drunk friends… People watching with my wife at a bar in Whistler Village, British Columbia, Canada… Or, 2:47am chillin’ with a hazelnut mocha (no whip) at Strange Brew 24 Hour Coffee Shop in South Austin, Texas. Whatever it is… TRAVEL is fuel for the heart, soul and mind. It makes me HAPPY.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

I’m not a writer. I’m not a photographer. But… I am a traveler, dreamer and explorer. So, here I am with a novice appetite for photography and an uncontrollable hunger for TRAVEL. A state of mind I like to call TRAVEL.i.CIOUS. And still… I’ve barely scratched the surface of this vast world.

Sunset in Christchurch, New Zealand

It was November, 6th 2005 and my “girlfriend” and I were in Queenstown, New Zealand on the South Island. We found ourselves stumbling out of a frozen ice palace of absolut wonder called “Minus 5”. Yes, the pun is intended. It WAS -5 C inside, the bar was made of ice, the glasses were made of ice, and the beverage of choice was absolut vodka. They gave us HUGE thick Eskimo looking coats to wear, since nobody could have possibly prepared for the elements in that joint. No… This was not at all similar to any bar I’d ever been to back in Texas. As my “girlfriend” and I proceeded to toss back the blackcurrant vodka, we surveyed the bar with our magnificent people watching skills, only to realize that we were not the only ones in pure amazement at our surroundings. “Pretty cool, huh?” said a tall man with a German sounding accent. I responded, “Never experienced anything like this in my life. Fantastic!”.

Friends from Germany and Austria in NZ
Minus 5 Ice Bar, Queenstown, NZ

We continued to discuss the ice bar, then struck up a conversation about Queenstown, and swapped stories of our time on the South Island of New Zealand. The surprising comfort was that we were two globe trekkers talking about TRAVEL. There was no mention of “what do you do for a living?”. Only the age old travel question… “Where are you from?”. My response… “We’re from Austin, Texas”. His response… “I’m from Germany, my wife is from Austria; but, we are living in Switzerland”. They laughed about the fact that people from Texas, first and foremost, ALWAYS say they are from Texas instead of from America. Then they proceeded to tell us that Austin, Texas was on their list of “places to see”. Unbelievable! A proud and exciting moment in travel. Lance Armstrong, SXSW Music Festival, the Texas Hill Country. Impressive. They knew about my home town – AUSTIN.

Sunrise - Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown, NZ

From what I recall, there was a time limit on how long you could stay inside the ice bar, so we proceeded to make our way back to the hotel when a loud ruckus came from across the waterfront. It was already after 3am, and I had already blown nervous plans that evening to propose to my “girlfriend” and ask her to be my “wife”. That didn’t happen. Somehow… Some way… We ended up in another bar watching Tana Umaga and the New Zealand All Blacks Rugby Team playing Wales in the 2005 Internationals in Europe on TV at 5am with a German, an Austrian, and a bunch of passionate Kiwis. WHAT? 

Church of the Good Shepherd
View inside Church of the Good Shepherd - Lake Tekapo, NZ

That evening, I learned more than I ever thought I would about Germany and Austria. Inspiring info for an Austin GlobeTrekker. The All-Blacks went on to beat Wales 41-3. Three days later… on November 9th, 2005, I had the PERFECT opportunity at Lake Tekapo, NZ to ask my girlfriend to be my wife. She said… YES! On May 15th, 2011 we will celebrate our 5yr Wedding Anniversary. WHERE in the world are we traveling? Almost 2 weeks in Europe – Germany, Austria, and Slovenia.

So ask yourself the question… TRAVEL: Is it the similarities… or the differences?