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A Little Ljubljana

You might have noticed by now that we don’t do loads of research about a place before we arrive.  Sometimes we don’t even know how to pronounce its name. (Lyoob-lyee-AH-na, for the record.) Sometimes this ends up biting us, and sometimes it just means our lives are full of good surprises.

We spent one day in Ljubljana in between graffiti hunting in Zagreb and renovating a house in the Julian Alps, and we instantly knew that we wanted to come back before we left Slovenia.  Firstly, there was a Georgian restaurant in town (remember that Georgian food from Tbilisi?), but it was closed the day we were there.

Secondly, wow!

dragon

Dragon Bridge

Dragon tail

Ljubljana is a small city filled with a mix of Baroque and Viennese architecture, interesting sculptures and tons of cafes, all cut down the center by a small river and joined by all sorts of bridges.  Add to that the fact that it’s highly walkable and bikeable, and you have all the great components of a laid back European city in one easy-to-embrace package.

main square

bridge fish sculptures

Triple Bridge

Hidden place to watch the river

boat on the river

Shoes hanging from power lines

River walk

Colorful building

Pony loves you

horse fountain

downtown Ljubljana

One day, we saw a young guy with marker on his face and assumed he passed out at a party with people he thought were his friends. Then we saw another person with even more scribbles. Then we saw others carrying around markers. Later, we found out that it was a freshman hazing tradition for the first day of school.

kids by the river

kids marking each other

a popular target

Our favorite day was when we rented bikes and pedaled through Tivoli park and across the bridges and even through the tunnel that goes under the castle hill. The city is full of bike lanes and bike traffic signals and the motorists are aware of and considerate to cyclists, so the usual fear of getting run over just wasn’t there. It seemed like everyone biked, even middle-aged ladies with perfect hair, nice jewelry and designer clothes. The type that would probably be driving a new Escalade if they were in the States.

(Watch a little video of us biking in Ljubljana!) 

stoplight

our bikes

We had seen many places by this point, and the quality of life in Ljubljana made us think that it was one of the few places we could actually imagine living in. Also, not gonna lie. There might have been some ice cream.

ice cream from Cacao

15
Nov 2012
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Slovenia

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Last Stop in Slovenia: Maribor

Maribor, Slovenia – 2012 European Capital of Culture! Multiple daily events year round! Art shows, street performers, public art installations, music, concerts, all mostly free.  Sounds great!

So we took the train to Maribor. Our arrival was ill-timed because we arrived on the weekend, and in a lot of places in Slovenia, everything shuts down on Saturday and Sunday.  Everything.  Unless you’re looking for booze or cigarettes, you’re out of luck.  We made more than a few Maribore jokes.

copper steeple

circular window

Church bells

kissing

Ancora Pizzeria

dog relief carving

Beware of the artist!

Human Fish Brewery

wallpaper

But Maribor was definitely picturesque, especially the view from the church tower. If you ever happen to be there, it’s worth the climb and the small donation.

sunset

red roofs

street and river

roof tile

plague column

red bridge

And we got to see a 400 year old grape vine, just before its heavy clusters were harvested for the season.  It’s the oldest known grape vine in the world.

the vine

ready for harvest

river sunset

We saw some art, then attempted a concert, but there wasn’t a lot of seating and it seemed to be more or a local open mic night.  On Sunday, not even the grocery stores were open and so we had lunch at the “Mexican” restaurant in the mall.  And then the mall closed at 2 p.m. and we decided we were taking the first train out of town in the morning.

mall Mexican food

As we walked to the train station early Monday morning, it was amazing how the town that had seemed totally deserted for the previous two days came to life. It made us wonder if we would have felt differently about Maribor had we arrived on a weekday. But the tickets were bought, and we were ready to move on to our next destination.

bus station

 

15
Nov 2012
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Slovenia

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How to Meet Men in Slovenia

None of us were in the market for a male companion, but we all agreed that it would be a good strategy.
Step 1: Get your car stuck in a way that blocks a single lane road.
Step 2: Wait a minute or two.

How to meet men in Slovenia

02
Nov 2012
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Lake Bled (Trains, Hitchhiking, and Rowboats)

While we were staying with Marie in Kobarid, we also spent some time with her friend Rudi. Rudi is an engineer who drives a car train through the mountain tunnels. We had never heard of a car train before, so in case that’s also unfamiliar to you, it’s basically the same concept as a ferry. Except instead of a boat taking your car across the water, the train is taking your car through the mountains, which saves you almost an hour of driving and lots of petrol burnt on steep switchbacks.

A map on the wall of the Most na Soči train station

Rudi - profile

Rudi invited us to ride with him from Most na Soči to Bohinjska Bistrica in the engine of his train. Marie drove us down from Kobarid to meet the train, and after the requisite coffee at the station cafe, we climbed aboard.

engine - front

Most na Soči train station

engineer Tony

Rudi told us that the engine was American made.  The sections of track that didn’t go through the 100 year old tunnels wound along rippling rivers and valleys and small towns.

tiny town

looking forward

Tony and Rudi

controls

dead man's switch

controls

unloading cars

arriving in Bohinj

Time passed all too quickly and soon we were at the end of the line at Bohinjska Bistrica.  We parted ways with Rudi and walked through the edge of town until we came to a pizzeria where we ordered a soup and a spicy venison sausage pizza for lunch.

pizzeria for lunch

After lunch, we walked back to the north of town on the road to Bled and stuck our thumbs out. We were told that it was very easy and safe to hitchhike in Slovenia, and we positioned ourselves in an area with a nice place for a driver to pull off the road, across from a petrol station. Nearly forty minutes passed with hardly any drivers giving us a second look and we were beginning to doubt the advice we had been given. But soon, an elderly Slovenian couple in a white sedan pulled over. As we climbed into the slipcovered back seat with thankful smiles and several hvala lepa!s, the woman turned and indicated that we should buckle up. “Policija!” After they asked where we were from, the rest of the ride was spent in contented silence, and when we arrived in Bled, there was another round of smiles and hvala lepas and adijos.

It was a warm afternoon, and we wished we had brought our swimming suits. Since we kept our transportation costs at an all-time low for the day, we decided to splurge on renting a boat. Tony rowed us out to the island. We climbed the 99 steps to the church at the top and rang the bell.

our boat

rowing to the island

99 steps to the top

tower

Bled Castle - from a distance

Church of the Assumption - ringing the bell

the island

church and mountain

rowing back

model of island

island - late afternoon

We took another train back to Most na Soči as the sun disappeared behind the mountains.

(Watch a short video of our train ride and rowboating)

02
Nov 2012
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Hiking in the Soča Valley

The Soča Valley in Slovenia has mountains and dark green forests, waterfalls and perfectly blue water and massive marble trout, wooden suspension bridges and World War I trenches, meadows full of horses and wildflowers, and pretty little church steeples would ring in town every 15 minutes.

Kobarid hiking map

Kobarid - from Memorial

hiking trail

dark woods

The Soča Valley.  You can see the WWI memorial on the hill in the foreground.

steep stairs

looking back up the stairs

Soča River - vertical

blue water

us

bridge

bridge

testing the water

river bend

marble trout

bee boxes

shed in a clover field

shady spot

colorful forest floor

wooden ledge

rock formation

Slap Kosjak

Slap Kosjak pool

rocky stream

Alicia

Tony

little waterfall

Tolmin gorges

Tolmin Gorges

long bridge

sunlight in the gorge

Mossy tree

view of Tolmin

berries

colt

horses

pony!

The Soča Valley.  Kobarid is the village on the upper left.

The Soča Valley.  Tolmin is the main villageon the left.

WWI trenches - open field

trenches - wire tunnel

flower in the trenches

more trenches

trenches - valley view

flower and spider

02
Nov 2012
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Working for Our Dinner in Slovenia

While we were on the gorgeous (and hot and crowded and expensive) Croatian coast, we decided that we wanted our time in Slovenia to be something different.  We thought we wanted to be in a more rural setting, preferably in the mountains, and turned to HelpX.  Help X connects travelers with people like farmers, homesteaders and B&B owners who are willing to offer free room and board in exchange for half a day’s work.

Tony came across Marie’s profile while we were in Split.  Marie owns a guesthouse in Kobarid, in the Soča Valley in northwestern Slovenia near the Italian border.  The area was the site of one of the major WWI front lines, and is the setting of Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms.  Nearly 100 years later, it’s hard to imagine a more peaceful place.

Kobarid in the valley

Napoleon bridge

Kobarid main square

Kobarid main street

Kobarid main street

 

Hemingway B&B room

Hemingway B&B terrace

spider

Hemingway B&B back garden

Marie is also renovating a stone house in the outskirts of Livek, a village up a neighboring mountain.  Renovating is not quite the correct word.  The house itself was not salvageable, and only three walls of the former attached barn are being incorporated into the new structure.  Marie is doing a lot of the work herself, but also enlists a few friends, colorful contractors, and HelpXers along the way.

Marie

Marie and Andrej

Livek - front

Livek - front scaffolding

Livek - back door

Livek - top floor before apno-ing

The neighbors up at Livek had a flock of goats, which were a nice diversion. (Watch a little video of them.)

Goats

goat portrait

This particular goat reminded us of our dog, Ivan.  It was a girl, but we still decided to refer to her as Ivan.

Ivan the goat

Ivan was extra friendly.  Here she is, licking the camera.

Goat licking the camera

And the views from Livek were unbeatable.

Livek - master bedroom view

Livek neighbors

wildflowers and Mt. Krn

Mt. Krn at sunset

Mt. Krn saw its first snow of the season while we were there. Its peak is distinctively jagged due to wartime dynamiting.

Mt. Krn - first snow

Marie was more than fair about the amount of work expected in exchange for our cozy accommodation.  Some of it could be a little frustrating due to the unavailability of a wide range of tools or materials, but nothing that couldn’t be overcome by a little determination and extra sweat.

rubble removal

make way for conduit

Livek - 2nd floor

Livek - south wall

speckled Tony

Part of the deal was that Alicia would cook the evening meal for the three of us.  She enjoyed walking to the Mercato every day, picking out our food and cooking real full meals for the first time in months.

spaghetti and meatballs

ham and cabbage soup

We had pork chops with stewed apples and cabbage, chicken risotto, ham and cabbage soup, spaghetti and meatballs… lots of filling dishes that were perfect after a cold day up at Livek.  Or a day spent hiking all over the valley instead.  Marie treated us like friends and was good to make sure we saw everything the Soča Valley had to offer.

02
Nov 2012
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Slovenia

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