Tag Archives: climbing

The Slovenian Experience: Part I

The end is still ways off, but I want to record the highlights and recommendations of my short time living in Ljubljana so far. I moved here in February this year.

Ljubljana

I nominate Ljubljana as one of Europe’s hidden gem cities. It’s beautiful, particularly the centre. I love the gracefully aged faces of buildings, antiquated, but still alive; the street lighting at night, walking along the river Ljubljanica, and how willows weep over the river walls. Cafes add outdoor seating which hugs riverside footpaths and fill with life when the weather is good.

Ljubljana street at night Ljubljana street at night Locks on a bridge over the Ljubljanica

Capital Market

For Lidiya and myself, the most anticipated event of the week has been a visit to the capital market on Saturdays. It hosts a section dedicated to organic products, many of which are locally produced; a fish market, with a mix of wild and farmed fish; a massive fruit and veg market; souvenir stalls; as well merchants of nuts, dried fruit, grains, seeds, dairy and even organic meat, for those inclined.

Capital market, Ljubljana Capital market, Ljubljana Capital market, Ljubljana

Even on damp days the market is bustling. Buskers are dotted around the centre and add to the atmosphere as you peruse the wears on offer, while enjoying a veggie pie, made freshly in front of your eyes, from buckwheat flour in wood fire stove.

Busker in Ljubljana

Local and Organic = Happy and Healthy

There are several milk vending machines around the city, the first place I’ve seen or heard of. You insert coins, receive a bottle and fill it as desired with raw, unpasturised, unhomogenised milk. The milk is delivered daily from Slovenian and Italian producers. I don’t drink milk, but appreciate having it available it’s raw form. It’s illegal so sell in many parts of the States, I’m not sure what the law is in Ireland, but I’ve never come across it in stores. The health benefits of raw dairy products are discussed here.

Even in the local supermarket chain Mercator, they have their own, reasonably priced, organic range. It’s a joy to live somewhere where local, organic produce is valued.

Sustainability

Equally valued is the environment. From what I’ve seen and heard of their nature, it is immaculately preserved. A friend, and fishing-lover, told me that the rivers there are home to the best fishing in Europe. Fishing licenses are quite expensive in monetary terms, ranging from €20-€80 per day, but good value in environmental terms, if that is the cost for taking care of the waterways and it’s inhabitants.

Places to visit

This is a very short list, as I haven’t done much moving around yet.

  • Lake Bled, is as beautiful as it’s reputation would lead you to believe.
  • Lake Bohinj is near Bled and home to Slovenia’s first eco hotel, Eco Hotel Bohinj
    Bohinj Park Eco Hotel
  • Shmarna gora is a hill, about a 30 minute local bus journey from Ljubljana. The 25 minute climb to the top offers great views of the city.
    The view from Shmarna Gora
  • Metalkova, a very interest place; an autonomous social centre in Ljubljana. Similar to Copenhagen’s Christiania.
    Metalkova

Rock Climbing

Climbing gear is really well priced. I’ve picked up new equipment from Iglu, which have a few stores in Ljubljana. You get a 10% discount there is you are a member of Stena climbing club. Stena has a really nice, and challenging, boulder wall. The average climber there is really good. (I was mezmorised recently by an amazing climber doing a full dyno on a 45 degree overhang to a pinch, a hold I would struggle with on a vertical wall). I’m consistently the weakest person at the wall, which I mean in a matter-of-fact, rather than self-defeatist way. It has put a lot of positive pressure on me to improve.

The weather has just picked up, and soon we’ll make our first outdoor climbing trip.

Language Learning

I started learning the language too. Slovenian study courses, and even in person classes, are in short supply. I met Valentina, who studies in Ljubljana, through MyLanguageExchange.com, a fairly suspect looking website (the design looks a little late 90’s) for finding language exchange partners. She has been teaching me twice a week.

After a few lessons, we had both mentioned how surprising it was that there is hardly anything available online to learn Slovenian. So we decided to do something about it and will shortly be releasing the online self-study course, Learn Slovenian Online. Our aim is to create, not only the first online Slovene language program, but to craft it into the best resource for learning Slovenian on the web. To hit that target we will regularly gather learner feedback to update and improve the course.

If you are interested in learning the language and would like an early invitation to try out the course, in turn for sending some feedback, let us know: info@learnslovenianonline.com.

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Chance, Coincidence, Connection

I’m on a bus, passing Californian vineyards and what I think are orange groves. I planned to write about my time in Denmark several times, but the motivation never came. The five months in Esbjerg was great, and in short, I took advantage of the quiet town and Lidiya’s busy study schedule, put my head down and worked and thought and planned.

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls, the biggest waterfall in North America

I just spent the last four days in Yosemite National Park, which were quite surreal, partly because it’s so iconic—I’ve seen so many postcard-picturesque images of the park, and really everywhere you look is breath taking, that it felt like I needed a little conscious effort to make those images my own—and partly because of an insanely contrasting series of events that happened in parallel with my exploring this week, all related to work which I probably won’t go into.

Team Tito

Team Tito (minus Eoin)

Last week I was in San Francisco with the Tito guys, to work together as a team in the same location for the first time, and to host a meet up of friends and customers of Tito.io, an app we are building to be the best for buying and selling tickets.

San Francisco has been in my mind for some time. When I think SF, I think ‘alternative’; ‘the norm to be a little weird’; the words ‘yoga, vegan, organic’; ‘tech industry’; ‘startup capital of the world’, ‘liberal, progressive, open minded’. I had/have this romantic image of the place, that it’s perfect for me and that I would feel really good there. And, apart from a new type of crazy (homeless and crack addicts I’ve been told) that socialise around the Bart (metro, like the Dart) station on Mission 16th, my week’s experience matched my high expectations.

Bi-rite organic storeThe awesome Bi-rite supermarket; so much local, organic, delicious, super-tasty stuff.

Traffic pole

Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge just after sun rise

I won’t ramble off the doings of my trip. I documented it fairly well on Instagram—you can follow me here if you like—or on Facebook. My last couple of posts were also heavily ‘doing’ filled, which is fine. I think the saying that “life’s a journey, not a destination” is effective in breaking a blind devotion to getting somewhere, but that it’s bias towards the importance of the journey makes the destination seem important when considered to the extreme, to the point of thinking that plans, goals or achievements are meaningless. A journey, by definition, doesn’t have to have a destination, but it can include one. So life can be a journey with a destination, or a journey with multiple destinations which decide and re-decide on, more or less, at will. That was a long preface to just say that I’ve been heavily goal/doing, or destination focused for some time (and still am), but feel more like writing some thoughts now, and that both are one and the same, not conflicting.

Buying a belt

At the end of my week in San Francisco, I returned to the Airbnb place I was staying at to pack and head to watch the Super Bowl with a friend from university, who I hadn’t seen in years. I needed to buy a belt, but didn’t leave time to go shopping before going to Brent’s. A house a few doors down was having a yard sale and I asked, by chance, if the guy running it had a belt to sell. He unexpectedly sold me the one he was wearing, which fit and was in good knick, for $7.

We started talking and he told me about his plans to move to Taiwan, to try life in a different country and that he was a couchsurfer. I’m now staying with Denis for a night, on my return for Yosemite, before flying home. There’s something about a shared love of travelling that increases the chances of random encounters turning into something cool staying with locals is more interesting that a hostel or hotel.

Talking to strangers

I’m moving at the moment, from Denmark, via London and San Francisco, to Slovenia. Not the most direct route and also means I’m carrying about 75% of the things I own with me. The downside is carrying 32kg on my back, the upside is always having my climbing and camping gear with me, which I probably wouldn’t have taken on the SF trip if I had the choice.

My bag at Camp 4, Yosemite

My pack, just arrived at Camp 4, Yosemite

I extended the week long ‘work’ trip by another week with the plan of exploring SF and the Bay Area. It wasn’t until one of my team mates mentioned Yosemite that I realised it was within reach and decided to spend my time there, unsure of bus times, weather conditions or where exactly I would sleep—I knew there were working lodges and campsites, but spent 20 mins trying to distill information from the Yosemite website to decide the best place for me to stay before giving up and deferring the decision to someone at the park who already had that info in their head. My bus driver turned out to be a veteran climber from South Africa who told me about the different routes as we drove through the park and suggested I stay at Camp 4, which I learned is synonymous with climbers. So the journey was smooth and by late afternoon I had pitched my tent in the middle of the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. Despite it snowing towards the end of the week, weather conditions also turned out to be good and climbing is possible year round, so I set a mission to try and track down some climbers.

My tent

My little tent in the shadows bottom left

I spotted someone with a carabiner, and they told me how to get to some close by routes. There I met some climbers who weren’t really up for a third wheel, so I returned to the camp resigning myself to hiking for the rest of the day. At the camp parking lot I met Jacob, who was out climbing with his girlfriend and daughter, so I assumed there would be little chance of joining. But, Jacob offered a quick belay (to secure the rope while I did a climb) and I was ecstatic. We got on great, had a very enjoyable days climbing and chilled out back at the Mountain Lodge in the evening.

Climbing at Yosemite

Seconding Bone Heads in Yosemite

We parted company and the guys invited Lidiya and myself to come visit next time we are in the area, which I’m very excited about. I got one of those ‘I’m not sure when, but I know it will happen’ feelings. I returned the invitation, for where ever Lidiya and myself happen to be in the world. You can’t beat ending a day smiling and thinking that meetings like that are special and involve more than coincidence.

Connecting the dots

I watched the films Before Sunrise and Before Sunset back to back on the bus journey from Yosemite. If you haven’t seen the movies, they are two of my favourites which I’ve re-watched repeatedly and can’t recommend enough. There’s a line in the second one, Before Sunset, where Celine says that we tend to take connections with people for granted when we’re younger and then realise that they are rare as we get older. The optimist in me says that I will continue, relatively frequently, to connect with great people throughout my life, but the sentiment is a valuable reminder to appreciate and be grateful for them.

Those films, I watched around the same time as a few of friends. We related to, or just found fascinating, so much of the dialogue and discussed them a lot. Recently, I had the opportunity to visit, a couple of those friends, one who I practically grew up with. I’ve written before how, usually, I’m never home sick, and that I don’t really miss friends and family so much—with the exception of Lidiya, who I’m excited about seeing in the evening even if she’s only been out for the day. This time, pre-friend visit I was almost giddy excited, almost in disbelief, I realised I was more excited to see the guys and catch up, than explore SF. That was pretty interesting and cool. I thought about what the change was and the closest answer I’ve arrived at is a change in perspective. That, if I only catch up with these friends once or twice a year for a handful of days, then over the course of our lifetimes, that’s really not a lot of time.

So that makes this sense of gratitude twofold; to have met and shared and experienced so much with awesome people, and to have and appreciate the opportunities to spend time together.

Outro

So arguably that stuff is ‘doing’, not just thinking, but I’ve separated it from other doing stuff e.g. food experiences, visiting startup offices, running, climbing routes, hiking, camping in the cold, being afraid of bears, morning/daily ritual or other exercise and diet/nutrition stuff…. Stuff I think cool or significant, and could talk about, but more in a ‘describing the thing’, as opposed to ‘describing the emotion or experience’ from that thing. Or maybe there’s no difference at all and doing always involves emotion and experience, just at different depths. Or, another maybe, the events I decided to separate and write about made me think.

Six Months and a Wedding

It’s 10pm. My body is tired; exhausted and satisfied. Today we BBQ’d with Lidiya’s classmates, played ultimate frisbee and cycled to the coast to swim and watch the sun go down. In the middle of the living room table, Jack Johnson is playing through my iPhone & X-mini sound system. Lidiya sits across the table from me, studying economics, we live in Esbjerg, Denmark and I’m smiling. I feel the need to take stock of the all the experiences, particularly over the last four or five months, that have brought me to this moment.

The last time I wrote here was the end of February, on a flight back from South Africa. Since then, a lot has happened. I spent March working hard, as I tend to do when Lidiya is away. She was in Bulgaria at that time, and at the end of March she joined me in Ireland. In South Africa we talked about the coming year, and how we’d spend it, the main question was whether to commit to living together and finding a way to do that no matter what, or to have a commuter relationship, where I travelled to see her every month or so. We decided that we could maintain our relationship with the commuting option, but that maintaining anything is a little like stagnating, and to be together in the long run we must be growing continually as a couple. So I’m very happy to say we decided to live together from then on and avoid lengthy breaks. It was a great decision. 🙂 At the end of March, we decided we would get married.

In April we started dancing bachata. We applied for our marriage notice 16th of that month and set August 21st as the big day. At the end of April, I travelled to London, spent some great time with an amazing friend, Greg, and took part in a weekend-long stock trading workshop.

Looking back through my diary, for most of this year, entries revolve around physical training, healthy eating, goal revision and working on the direction of my business. I also recorded things I did day to day and asked reflective questions, like ‘what 20% of what I do is causing 80% of the negativity in my life’ and ‘what 20% of what I do is causing 80% of the happiness in my life’; inspired by Tim Ferris’ application of the Pareto principle in The Four Hour Work Week.

In May and June, Lidiya and I danced some more, adding in some salsa lessons. Business continued to grow and I got to work on some very cool projects with Hypertiny.

In July, I made a big decision to invest in the Rich Dad Coaching program, after being very influenced by the book, Rich Dad Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki. Although at the worst of times I find I can push myself to do what I have to do, I noticed a lack of sharpness in my motivation that seemed to come from uncertainty in where I should put my focus; I was building my business, designing for Hypertiny, learning to trade stocks and was now overwhelmed with information about real estate investment and potential business opportunities, as well as perhaps investing in other educational courses or audio programs. The uncertainty was all around the work and financial side of my life, every thing else was and is pretty awesome. And it’s not like work was going bad, I just felt I couldn’t keep sub-dividing my time and energy and get the results I wanted. The coaching program is a year long, with help from mentors who’ve achieved what I want to achieve and in short I’m getting what I want from it.

August brought the greatest month of my life to date; I married Lidiya. 🙂 And our wedding couldn’t have gone more perfectly. We held our own ceremony in Bulgaria, at the beautiful Trinity Rocks Farm (Cliff thanks so much again. 🙂 ) and hired a team building crew, Club Edelweiss, to organise activities for our guests. They arranged several different games that took place on the river; archery; building a human pyramid; zip lining across (and into) the river; and dressing up and choreographing a crazy dance. Everyone said they had an amazing time, and for many it was the first time they’d tried anything like it.

In the evening, we arranged for local gypsies to collect us from the campsite by horse and cart. Six carts arrived and took all of our guests to the foot of Trinity Rocks, the crag.

We then made our guests climb for about 20 minutes in the evening heat to a large cavern in the side of the cliff face, which was decked out beautifully, with much help from our friends and family, ready for our ceremony.

We had entrusted the best part of our ceremony to a great friend of ours Tisho, and with the help of Cliff, Didi and Tanya, they surprised us with the most beautiful and personal wedding we could have imagined (actually it was beyond our imagination I feel). Tisho wrote vows for us both, promising each never to miss our early morning meditation sessions and to bring the right climbing gear when we’re about to undertake a long multi-pitch route to mention only a few things. Then we were presented with a platter and instructed to feed each other peach, for fertility, grapes, for the many kids we’ll have, and plums, for the bitter and sweet moments throughout our relationship.

Then we washed them down with flutes of orange juice. We were given rings to exchange – our friends knew we were exchanging something else – that were baby blue and pink. We exchanged our own gifts then, necklaces we had both made, neither of us knew anything about the other.

Then, I got to kiss the bride.

Photos were take against the backdrop of the cliff face on the opposite side of the valley, and against the cavern we were in, the walls of which were speckled with tea lights our friends had arranged; they turned into stars as it grew dark while we descended the mountain. Before we went though, Cliff, a very dear friend, gave shared some of the kindest words anyone has spoken about me, or us, in my life. He’s an incredible person and a special friend.

We feasted on dishes based on mung beans, potatoes, buckwheat, freshly grilled mackerel, and a host of different salads. Lidiya’s parents brought so much of their own home-grown organic produce and helped us so much that week. Petya, my new sister-in-law 🙂 made the coolest napkin holders.

Our friend Vicho, at incredibly short notice, baked our wedding cake, carrot cake, which was outstanding. Fireworks surprised everyone, but one; we formed temporary new constellations by filling the sky with chinese lanterns; my brother and sister DJ’d and we talked and danced the night away.

The day was most special because of the people who were there. My mom, brother, sister and three friends travelled all the way from Ireland. So many good friends from Bulgaria came. Another friend made the journey from Belgium especially for us… To have so many friends and family in the same place was truly unique and I’m so happy we appreciated while it was happening, that there will not be many moments in our life time when we have the opportunity to be surrounded by so many people we care about so much. We decided to try though, by celebrating our anniversaries with friends and organising something cool and different each, or at least most, years.

Also, without the help of our friends in particularly Cliff, Didi, Tanya and Tisho, who were running about, more than a week before we arrived, preparing things especially for us, and without the help of Club Edelweiss, and the local gypsies, and every person, all our friends and family, who came to celebrate with us… we couldn’t have had the most perfect wedding anyone could ever imagine. 🙂 Thank you all so so much.

And the celebration continued till just over a week later. The day after the ceremony, Cliff  took the remaining guests rappelling down the waterfall in Hotnitsa, even my mom went down… I’m so proud and impressed. We did some rock climbing the day after that, with my brother and Lidiya’s family, and Lidiya and I travelled the Black Sea before returning to Ireland.

My brother Liam starts his descent down the waterfall

Greg… priceless 🙂

I think that small pinkish spec in the black area is the start of my mom making her way down the rope

On to the Black Sea…

I love climbing high things and sticking my hands in the air.

Enjoying the rocks and beach at Rusalka

Deep water soloing in Tulenovo

We were legally married in Killarney registry office, August 21st 2012, and celebrated a fantastic day there with my best friend, and best man, Steven, and my sister, Marisa.

On Friday, August 24th, we arranged a dinner in the Happy Pear, Greystones, for friends and family who couldn’t make the Bulgarian trip. Family travelled all the way up from Galway, which meant so much to me. A very special friend, Elena, journeyed all the way from Berlin to be with us. The Happy Pear usually finish up for the evening at 6pm, but re-opened to cater especially for us. I can’t speak highly enough of the restaurant, they’re unique in Dublin (or Wicklow perhaps) you can see why they’re so amazing on their website, but in short; locally grown, vegan, vegetarian, organic and super tasty food made with lots of love by awesome people. Janet in particular co-ordinated the evening and somehow read our minds, predicting every step of the way, just how we wanted things to run. I can’t thank or recommend them enough. After dinner, we toasted with wheat grass shots and my best friend Steven gave possibly the most moving speech I’ve ever heard. 🙂

Update: Added photo September 16th

Cutting the cake at the Happy Pear

Cutting the cake at the Happy Pear

And that marked the end of our extended wedding celebration. I intended for this post to cover our move to Denmark, but that definitely deserves it’s own space, as does this one.

On the day of our wedding, Saturday, August 11th, Lidiya never looked so beautiful, but somehow she has managed to go on becoming more beautiful everyday since, it’s amazing. I remind myself daily that I’m the most fortunate person in the world for getting to share my life with her.