Sunday, August 30, 2015

Last Week in Ljubljana

I had a week in Ljubljana before leaving for Croatia so I took advantage of the time to see everything that was still on my list and do laundry. 

I took a day trip to Lake Bohinj, commonly referred to as the "other lake." It is much less developed than Lake Bled and there was a great hiking trail.  I managed to hike three quarters of the way around the lake and then I took a boat back to where I started.

There are two major caves in Slovenia and I chose to visit Skojan which is a UNESCO world heritage sight. It is a little difficult to get to so it is less crowded than the other cave. I had never been to a cave before so I can't compare it to anything  but it was beautiful - huge caverns, a wooden bridge over the largest cavern, stalagmites and stalactites, and lots of stairs.

I was lucky to be in town for the Ljubljana Under the Stars festival -  Indonesian shadow puppets, flamenco dancing, an East- West fusion band, "astronomic" poetry, and a really good Dixieland jazz band.  The weekend finished with Medieval Days, an art fair, a flea market, and one more soccer game.

Things I Learned:

● "Library Under the Trees" is a fantastic thing. During the summer, crates of books and lawn chairs are brought to various locations around Ljubljana and everyone is invited to grab a book and sit and read for as long as they want.

● On the first day of school, the letter "f",  zig zag lines, and other designs are drawn (with markers) on the faces and arms of students entering middle school for the first time. This is a tradition much loved by the older students. 

                             Lake Bohinj


Picture taking is forbidden in the caves so this is one from the outside

Ljubljana Under the Stars


Metelkova area of Ljubljana 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Lake Bled and Bovec

Lake Bled is the most popular tourist destination in Slovenia and rather than do a day trip from Ljubljana,  I decided to stay three nights at a small village half way between the lake and Radlovjica.  The weather was bad on the first day so I took the bus to Radlovjica which is famous for its square (old medieval homes) and the Beekeeping Museum*. The museum exhibits were really interesting and there was a collection of wooden beehives and beehive panels.**  I also got to see a rehearsal for a concert that was being held as part of Radlovjica's ancient classical music festival.

The next day I went to Lake Bled which is absolutely gorgeous. I walked around the lake and then hiked up to a viewpoint with two people who were as confused as I was about the trail.  I finished with a piece of Bled's famous cream cake purchased. I'll be returning to Lake Bled with my sister so I'll visit Lake Bled's other tourist attractions when she gets here. 

After Bled I travelled to the town of Bovec in the Julian Alps. We went through the Vrsic Pass which was built by Russian prisoners of war during World War I.  There are 50 hairpin turns and it was really beautiful (but impossible to photograph). My first day I went on a great hike along (and over) the Soca River and the next day I walked a couple of trails outside of town and visited an outdoor World War I museum. I was supposed to visit another town in the area but once again I ran into problems with the bus schedule. Bovec is a fun town -- one night the museum put on a play and the next night there was traditional folk dancing and singing in the town square. A beautiful place; I would have been happy sitting and staring at the mountains for two days.

Things I Learned:
● The vegetarian burrito served at the widly popular Mexican restaurant in Lesce, Slovenia consists of tomato sauce, cucumbers and onions stuffed into a tortilla - no beans, rice, or cheese.

 ● Cleveland, Ohio has the largest population of people of Slovenian ancestry in the United States.

● I will always pack too much stuff and have the wrong suitcase.

● It is hard to type on a German keyboard. 

-------------------------

* Radlovjica also has a gingerbread museum but I didn't spend too much time there.

** I've become obsessed with beehive panels and I'll be bringing home a reproduction or two.

Beehive panel

Wooden beehive

Lake Bled

Bled Castle

Famous Bled Cream Cake

Along the Soca River

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Maribor - Ptuj

I spent three days each in Maribor and Ptuj following one of the itineraries suggested by Lonely Planet.  I had planned on visiting Maribor because of the Synagogue and Ptuj is the oldest city in Slovenia and close to Ormoz -- allegedly is the "jumping off point" for wine country hikes.

I loved Maribor - two great museums and  a wonderful city park.  I stayed at a terrific hostel owned by a couple from Brazil. He is the captain of the Maribor soccer team and I think she is a former model. They say they are Sephardic Jews (as does the rest of the staff). When they found out I was Jewish they invited me to a game and I got to sit in the VIP section with the players' families.   Maribor won 1-0 and my host scored the only goal.  Lots of nice people to hang out with but it was too hot to do much hiking.

Ptuj is very small but it does have a decent museum at the castle and I found a good art exhibit at the monestary. I regretted missing the hiking in Maribor so I decided to take the train to Ormoz and hike the wine trail. I had a hiking map, information from the Ptuj tourist office,  and I knew there was a tourist information center in Ormoz.  I had also heard it was a holiday (explained to me as "Mary goes to heaven day")*.  I did not anticipate that almost the entire town, including the information center, would be closed down. I found the sign post for the hike I wanted but as far as I could figure out, the hiking trail was just the shoulder of one of the main roads. I never saw a winery or a vineyard. After a couple of hours I returned to town and spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out at the  local pool.

---------------------

Things I Learned

●   It is pronounced Pi-TOO-ee.

●   Always double check to make sure that you get off at the right train station, not the one   three miles away from where you are going.   

●  Try not to travel on the weekend in Slovenia             

                        At the soccer game


Art exhibit at the monestary 

Ptuj 
Wine Trail

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Ljubljana

Ljubljana is a beautiful city and I really enjoyed my week here.  I bought a tourist card and managed to squeeze in six museums, a trip to the castle (funicular one way and tourist train back), and a boat ride before the card expired. 

Best exhibit (at the Modern Art Museum)


Things I Learned

● Its pronounced

      loo-blee-ah-nuh

● Romans used to hold funerals for lighting bolts. They would fence off the area where a lightening bolt struck and hold a burial ceremony to ward off evil spirits.

● A recently renovated hostel in a 19th century building sounds wonderful but someone smarter than me would have figured out that meant no air conditioning.

● That same smart person would have remembered that in many parts of the world the second floor is really the third floor.

● Just because a place has air conditioning doesn't mean they turn it on.       

                       View from the castle

Triple Bridge 
 
Ljubljana Open Kitchen - every Friday about 20 restaurants set up booths in the market.

Masks from the Barbarism as Torture exhibit at Ljubljana Castle

Bosnia and Montenegro

No rain in Sarajevo this trip so I really got to enjoy the city. The first morning we met up with a street art photographer. We saw some am...