It’s a tiny country and one that we were particularly excited to visit because we were going to catch up with friends we made en route. Our first stop was in Piran, a tiny village on the coast, perched on a small peninsula overlooking Croatia on one side and Italy on the other.
We had met Folke, Astrid and Zorko in Iran, together with their guide Mojtaba. We bumped into each other on top of one of the Zoroastrian towers of silence in Yazd and starting chatting. As it was getting dark we all had to move on quickly and the invitation was made – if you are driving up the Adriatic coast you must visit us in Piran. And so we did.
Following their emailed directions we found the ancient brown door with the bell of the catholic Parish house at the bottom of a very narrow and steep cobbled street which ran alongside the medieval city walls. The bell didn’t work, but we found a neighbor to call their phone number. Soon Folke came outside and we parked Lara in the garage, which had doubtlessly been designed for coach and horses. This was only the second time on the trip that Lara was parked in a garage (not counting the nights she was in the Land Rover garage of course).
We walked to the seaside where Astrid was having a coffee and a nap in the sun together with Chocho, their dog. After a hot chocolate so thick you needed a spoon to eat it, we went for a walk and that’s when we really appreciated why Astrid and Folke spend so much time here . Their apartment is on the top floor of the parish house and Zorko, the priest, lives on the first floor. The beautiful gardens, cultural centre and the church of course are all built right next to the Adriatic Sea. On a clear day you can see Trieste and even the Alps – the location couldn’t be more stunning.
Zorko is Piran’s priest and responsible for all 10 churches. As he has also studied art in Rome he is very keen to conserve them, restore the churches to their former glory, document every step of the way and catalogue all treasures found. He has already done an amazing job, but doesn’t get any money or assistance from the church or the town to do all this work. Instead a big chunk of his time goes to fundraising, organising the details and trying to ensure tourists can actually see some of the beautiful churches and treasures.
He showed us some of the work he has already completed and told us about the library he is currently trying to catalogue with the help of students. For hundreds of years nobody has even looked at these books and already 3 incunabula (books printed – not handwritten – before 1500) have been discovered! God only knows what other treasures they will find.
Later we met Charles, a friend visiting from the US, and also Zorko joined us for a fantastic homemade fish dinner. Folke, Charles and Astrid all showing off their excellent cooking skills. We were in heaven.
The next day we explored more of Piran, including some of the other churches Zorko is looking after. We enjoyed more cuppas in the sun and had entertaining conversations, including some useful advice about the upcoming ‘Lost and Found Adventures’ book (?!), before driving down to the next village for another fishy lunch followed by the best ice cream on the coast whilst watching the sun go down.
After we said our goodbyes, we drove off for a short walk on the salt works of Piran before heading out towards the Škocjan Caves to search for a campsite.
It was a cold night again for camping, but we found a perfect little spot in a grassy field next to a communications tower. Who says you can’t free camp in Europe? We had a slow start the next morning, spending some extra time thawing some things out, so we were lucky to arrive at the caves just before the start of the first tour. Vika, our guide, took us and a couple from Ljubljana through the impressive sinkhole to the deep underground canyon, cut out by the Reka river. She was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic and although we were scheduled to spend just an hour in the cave, we finally emerged almost 2 hours later.
Lunch in the capital Ljubljana was the local fare. Glühwein with sausage for Jon and with Kaiser Smoren, a sort of pancakes and raisins served with apple sauce, for Jude. Glühwein was sold from little stalls every 200m or so, which was very warming and popular with the lunchtime office crowd. But after just a few hours we had to move on. We were meeting our friends in Škofja Loka, not far from Ljubljana.
We met Lojze and Milos in Kazakhstan at the Big Lake near Almaty. From there they drove back to Slovenia, covering 6000 km in just 9 days. We took the scenic route, requiring an additional 3 months… We met them at the end of their trip and now we were catching up with them at the end of ours.
Using the coordinates Lojze had emailed we found their house without any problems and met Petra, his wife, and Vasja, their youngest son before going to a local traditional restaurant in the hills to catch up with Milos and Majda. It was a great place with fantastic food, friendly owners and nice wine. Everybody shared two enormous plates of meat and sausages and Jon tried it all. Jude had her own plate with some delicious cheese stuffed delicacies called zlikrof.
After dinner, accompanied by lots of Slovenian wine (which is very good) we continued on to a local pub for some Slovenian beers (also very good). By this time, we were a little tipsy to say the least, so were very grateful that it was only staggering distance back to our very own apartment right in the old part of Škofja Loka. There was even parking for Lara!
We were up early the next morning to go shopping at the local farmers’ market before driving to Lubnik, the nearest mountain, for a hike to the summit. Škofja Loka and the valley it sits in were covered in low hanging clouds, but shortly after we started the walk we emerged into glorious sunshine. We enjoyed some local treats from the summit café with hordes of locals, enjoying great views of the surrounding hills and the snow covered ‘Julian Alps’ peeking out from the blanket of clouds. We stretched our time at the top for as long as possible, but eventually had to go back down. They dropped us off at ‘home’ so we could have a shower before they picked us up again for dinner at their place. The hospitality just got better and better!
In the time we had relaxed, showered and worked on the blog a bit, Petra, Lojze and Vasja had prepared a sensational dinner complete with menu and little pressies for their friends Vojka, Francek, Ida and Veljko and us. Every course had at least one bottle of wine, many Slovenian so we could learn a little about the different and excellent varieties. The dinner included some interesting and yummy vegetables like chicory and black radish. At the end of the night we felt like we were part of a big family.
The next morning there was again no rest for the wicked as we had to get up in time to go to Skipark Vogel near Bled, together with Lojze, Petra and Vasja. Of course they all ski a lot better than us, Petra literally flying past occasionally, but in such a small ski resort you can easily do your own thing and find each other again.
The skies were bright blue, the sun was warm, the snow and temperature perfect and it wasn’t busy. On top of that you get service with a smile when you order your hot chocolate or glühwein, the pizzas were tasty (and affordable) and they even allowed us to change our half day pass for a full day one without charging us anything extra.
We were the very last ones on the slopes, and completed our final run with the ski patrol, closing the resort for the day. A little tired, we enjoyed glühwein whilst watching the sun set over Mount Triglav, the country’s highest point, before heading back down with the cable-car.
We stopped in Bled on the way back as we wanted to try their famous cakes. We bought some take-away’s and drove back to Lojze, Petra and Vasja where they were demolished with gusto whilst sipping a nice cuppa made by Vasja. But it wasn’t long before we drove home, back to our apartment in the old town to catch up on some zzz’s. Simply said, another perfect day in Slovenia.
The next day it was time to hit the road again, but not before catching up with everybody, and meeting yet more of Lojze and Petra’s friends and family, for a cuppa. We talked for 2 hours, and we tried hard to talk as much as Lojze, but we couldn’t. Not even Jude comes close.
We will miss our Slovenian (and Austrian, Dutch and American) friends, but are confident we will meet all of them again. Some day, somewhere. Until then we have the happy memories of adventures shared with fellow crazy people. Life IS great!
Oh, love Kaiser Schmarrn (Bavarian spelling) and actually got one cooked last week when I friend Petra was here!
it was yummy, is it normally eaten as a dessert or a main course? maybe next time we can make some too, although I think it will probably be nicer when it is cold outside…!
Oh JnJ – these are the places we WOULD have seen if we weren’t delayed leaving Oz. VERY jealous!!
you’ll get there, you’ll get there! hope Rob is completely better soon!