Retrospective, part 1 of ?

It’s wonderful to be properly home. I’ve enjoyed these last few weeks of traveling and visiting and sleeping on various couches, but I am happy to be back. It’s actually great to be getting back into the swing of things, even if it means drowning in The End of the Semester sea. For some really incomprehensible reason, my semester doesn’t end until sometime in February. If anybody figures out why, I’d love to hear the answer.

On top of the end of my finals and papers, yes, I will be taking the Foreign Service Officer test. I registered for the one date available to me in Zagreb, Croatia at the beginning of February, so wish me luck. Unfortunately I joined the Yahoo FSOT prep group, which sounded helpful at the time, but it’s only managed to stress me out. I now receive an odd combination of intimidatingly obsessive emails about study methods and tools, and sappy idealistic notes wishing everybody the best while simultaneously mentioning how desperately they want to work as a diplomat, and so on. Some of the people in this Yahoo group also seem to be suffering under the delusion that their whole career will be brokering peace settlements in between cocktail parties. Hmm.

I will do my best, and assume that I won’t pass the FSOT. It’s quite normal to take it more than once, so I figure I may as well get my first go out of the way.

In between my studying, studying, and studying, I will be good and start writing up the promised reviews of my vacation. Since I’m a bit lazy I will actually skip over most of Slovenia with Abby for the moment, and hurry onwards to Vienna, Austria. Lake Bled was the highlight of our time in Slovenia, though, so I can’t run past that.

Lake Bled is very lovely. Surrounded by snow-caped mountains, containing a little island with a chapel on it, and famous for a special cream cake, what’s not to love? Abby wanted us to rent a rowboat to get to the island. Little did she know that in order to row a row boat, you actually need to know how to…row. Thankfully one of us had some skill, (cough, cough. me,) so we were able to make it to and from the island before nightfall.

One at the island, the work isn’t over. You have to climb this staircase to get to the chapel at the top, which is a popular place for weddings. Traditionally, the groom carries his bride up the staircase, and if he makes it all the way without dropping her it’s good luck. Rick Steves says four out of five couples who attempt the assent make it to the top. (Normally it’s the bride who stereotypically stresses out over exercise prior to her wedding, but in this case I think I’d fret more if I were the guy. It’s quite a staircase.)

Also in the chapel is a special bell, which if you ring is supposed to make your wishes come true. Yep, Abby and I both took our turns before heading back to the mainland. Guess what I wished for? Not telling!

Naturally we couldn’t return to Ljubljana without first sampling the (in my case a very well deserved) special Bled cake, kremsnita, theoretically invented here. I have my doubts about this, having seen variations in Hungary and Austria, but never mind. Wherever it was invented, it is delicious: a layer of thick vanilla custard, topped with whipped creamy stuff, sandwiched in between pastry dough. Can’t go wrong.