Saturday, September 15, 2012

Sept 15 2012 - You've never heard of Ljubljana, but you should visit!

Lunch in lovely Ljubljana

This morning we checked out of the hotel in Zagreb and walked to the car rental place. We usually take public transit around Europe, but considering the size of our group, it seemed easier to drive. They tried to drop in some unexpected fees, luckily I had emailed with their customer support beforehand to triple confirm the fees, so I had that printout handy. They gave us a VW Passat, which is almost completely identical to my car, so that makes one less thing to worry about. We left Zagreb far too soon - but we'll be back at the end of the trip.

Milk-making machine!!

The drive to Ljubljana was smooth and scenic. We passed green mountains, cute hamlets, old castles, and even the overpasses were lush and adorable.  There was a bit of a backup as we went through a toll stop, Croatia exit border, Slovenia entrance border, and Slovenia toll sticker purchase all within a mile from each other. No way to make these slightly more efficient?

Extremely controversial statue in its day - not
for the wine bottle - but for the topless lady

In Ljubljana, we had lunch with friends of Leonid and Maria. Olga was listening to multiple Russian conversations simultaneously and mindless translating both. She turned to me and said, completely out of context, "There is a big homeless population. In the mountains you have to use chains to drive." We're pretty sure those were two different conversations :)

Bar at the top of the world (well, top
of the observatory on top of the castle on top
of the mountain reached by funicular)

The Slovenian language is similar enough to Russian to be understood, but not without it sounding completely silly. To a Russian, Slovenian language sounds like it is spoken by a child, on top of which there are numerous words that have their meanings swapped: table and chair. pride and diarrhea.

View from Ljubljana Castle

The friends took us to an art gallery opening of a friend of theirs. He made a speech in Ukrainian and consecutively translated into Croatian. Between the two, she was able to get the gist, but the punchlines of the jokes were completely lost. As we walk down the street and hear people talking, your ears naturally perk up when you hear a language that sounds like one you know. In this case, everything Olga overhears just sounds like gibberish and babble.

The artist live-painting at his gallery opening
I read that Slovenia has one microbrew called Human Fish and they make 3 types of beer: IPA, Pale Ale, and Oatmeal Stout. Google pointed out two bars in Ljubljana that serve Human Fish - and we were off and running. The Premier Bar didn't have the stout on tap, so next we headed to Patrick's Irish Bar. Would you believe they don't have the stout either?? The Pale Ale is pretty good though. It's more sweet than bitter, with the faint essence of clover honey or dried apricots.

I didn't have much expectation of Slovenia prior to coming here. If anything, I thought it would be similar to Slovakia. Other than their common Slavic root, that couldn't be more wrong. Slovakia is dirt poor, the capital Bratislava is worthy of a 1 hour train layover visit. Slovenia is charming, seems to have a great lifestyle balance, a thriving arts scene, and 1 craft beer!

The historical section of Ljublana has barricades forbidding any cars from entering. Our hotel is right at the border, so we left our car there, checked in, and spent the day roaming about a pedestrian and bicyclist paradise. It's a model for all cities to emulate!!

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