Siblings See Slovenia

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


A beautiful sunny day in Ljubliana! 

Another great day for our second "finding our roots" field trip to the Gottshee region of Slovenia.

Hit the road first thing to find a laundromat for Mike to do his delicates, so we opted to forage for breakfast in a little grocery shop (bought a bit of bread, cheese, fruit & sliced meat) and coffee to go from those fancy dispensers I like. 

Then we headed south-east near Novo Mesto to find the birthplaces of Oma & Opa. After driving the pristine and speedy A2, I (the trusty navigator) got us onto the "scenic" route through small villages. This made Dianne quite carsick in the backseat driving the winding roads. The landscape is quite beautiful: rolling hills, lush farmland, big skies and dense forests. 

        (Unmarked church? In Soteska--close to Novo Mesto. Gorgeous)


In no time at all, we found our first destination: Kocevske Poljane. This is the place our Oma talked about--but it was called Pollandl: a German settlement until 1941 when it was "resettled" by the German occupation forces. Quite a history lesson and lots of information on the net too. 

           (Panoramic of Poljane area)

Unfortunately, though we saw twin girls and a man mowing his lawn (uncanny parallels to our Klagenfurt visit), there were no English speakers to help us with the history. But we did see...

Some bees!
A lovely church:

Some houses old and new:

A hip and happening Main Street:

Driving on to Opa's birth town we found a small graveyard with some Samida graves (looks like it was Opa's cousin, August's family). The grave seemed to be kept up, so I'm a little disappointed we couldn't find someone nearby who may have known the family. The few people we did see in Poljane spoke only Slovenian. 

Arriving in Opa's hometown--Obcice--we were greeted by a bull crossing the street. Mike refused to get out and pose next to him--what a spoil sport (Mike, not the bull). 

I think we got pretty close to someone who could explain some of the history to us when we came upon "Kulturverein Deutshsprachiger Jugend": a place where Gottscheers could know their heritage. Alas, no one was there. But we nosed around taking pictures.

Found some strange looking garden fellows: 

Off we went, our tummies grumbling, to Novo Mesto to find grub. Enjoyed the sunshiny, warm weather. Walked around the town and headed along the river for a  lunch. 

Novo Mesto:

     (Graffiti under the bridge. Where's my spray paint when I need it to write: "ME TOO!")

The day ended back in Ljubliana with our final quest: finding the nectar of the Slovenian blueberry that we'd come to love...Borovnicek. If I love you enough, you may taste this divine drink at my house. I have a sneaking suspicion that it will not last (the drink, not my love for my friends).

  (Mike, testing the brand we bought--couldn't find a paper bag)

Just a few more Ljublianna pics (we just love it here!!):

    (Umbrella lights all along Trubarjeva cesta & do you see the shoes on the line?)

     (3-D replica of Ljubliana old town)

Hanging out on the river...

Till bedtime...
      (Mike rates this pizza the best of all in Slovenia: Dvor Pizzaria) 

Heading to Venice at the crack of dawn tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Packed up and headed out of Piran after a lovely breakfast in the backyard garden at our B&B, that housed two gorgeous, 35 year old kiwi trees with their twisted trunks climbing a fabulous pergola. But not before heading to the salt store in the square to stock up on the precious crystals and salt-laden dark chocolate. 

           (Now that's a pile of salt!)

Halfway back to Ljubliana we stopped for a double dose of Slovenian treasures: the Postojna caves & Predjama castle. First stop, the caves...

We boarded an underground train and travelled 10 minutes into the belly of the caves--it was a windy, chilly, drippy ride. The Raiders of the Lost Ark theme was piped into the tunnels as we zoomed to our destination (no it wasn't, but I hummed it a bit). It totally reminded me of the ride at Disneyland! 

We then disembarked and found our English-speaking guide who led us on a one kilometre walk through these fantastic formations. These are the cool things we learned:

A Slovenian guy happened upon the caves in 1818 and, as soon as 1819, the caves were open to tourists. Electric lighting was temporarily arranged in 1883 (even before Ljubliana had it). There are 3 layers of limestone caves (with 5 entry points) carved out by the river, Pivka, that still flows. It's filled with stalagmites and stalactites: a geologists dream! We were in the top two layers (the deepest we got was 150 metres below the hill. The limestone felt cool and smooth and damp (I touched them before we were told not too), and it was white, sometimes red and darker due to iron and manganese. Quite the science lesson. We came to these large "halls" where the ceilings were 30 metres high. The grandest hall was 3000 sq metres and the guide was telling us that vocal concerts were held there (not instrumental because of the 99% humidity--that harms them) and there is a 6 second echo. 

Did you know it takes 100 years to form a 1 cm stalactite? We saw "spaghetti" stalactites that looked like short, limestone icicles dripping from the ceiling. Quite fragile, they would simply snap off with a tap of your finger but they don't fall down randomly due to consistent conditions in the caves. Apparently, the "tites" are hollow and the "mites" are not and they create pillars, floor to ceiling, when they join together. The guides are limited to how long they can be in the caves because of the radon levels. 

There are a number of small living creatures that inhabit the caves too--the "human fish" (actually an amphibian) is an interesting one that is a pale fleshy colour (looks like a salamander-ish), can live up to 100 years and can survive without the tasty little shrimp or bugs it likes to eat for up to a year. They can live outside the water too. They had an aquarium that housed several at the end of our tour.   

Near the end of our tour they switched the lights off suddenly and it became pitch black! It was quite an experience being in this enchanted environment. Boarded the train and exited as quckly as we entered. Spewed out of the caves, we enjoyed a quick lunch in the sunshine. Yes, the sun finally came out! 

And now for the legend of Erazem of Predjama: 

The castle became known as the seat of Knight Erazem Luegger, owner of the castle in the 15th century and a renowned robber baron. from the 14th century St. George's Cathedral.  was the son of the Imperial Governor of Trieste, Nikolaj Lueger. According to legend, Erazem came into conflict with the Habsburg establishment, when he killed the commander of the Imperial army Marshall Pappencheim, who had offended the honour of Erazem's deceased friend, Andrej Baumkircher. Fleeing from the revenge of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III , Erazem settled in the family fortress of Predjama. He allied himself with the Hungarian king and began to attack Habsburg estates and towns.

A headstrong and rebellious knight, Erazem rebelled against the Austrian emperor Fredrick III and eventually killed his kinsman. Thus enraged, the Austrian leader commissioned the governor of Trieste, Andrej Ravbar, to capture and kill Erazem. This is when the impregnability of Predjama Castle was tested.

For a year and a day, Erazem was besieged in his fortress. But to the dismay of his adversaries, he continued to survive and taunt the attacking soldiers by pelting them with cherries. They could not understand how he was obtaining supplies. As far as they knew, there was only one way in and out of both the valley and castle; but the Erazem knew better. Unbeknownst to the soldiers, Erazem knew of a secret tunnel leading from the castle, which allowed him to travel to the nearby village of Vipava and collect supplies, including hoards of fresh cherries when in season.

But it seemed that the soldiers were to have the last laugh. With the strategic placement of a small signal flag, a servant of Erazem was bribed to reveal when his master was in attendance at that place where the elusive knight and even the noblest of men needed to go after consuming lots of cherries and wine: the outhouse. Unfortunately for Erazem, the toilet, situated on the top floor and at the very edge of the castle, was the one place that was not impregnable. 

When the moment came, the flag was placed there by the treacherous servant. A single cannonball was launched, and Erazem was literally caught with his trousers down.

          (The Prince--this is not a toilet he's sitting on. I think I've worn tights and shoes just like those!)

Leaving the castle Dianne spotted a lizard  sunning itself on the warm rock wall--reminds me of our worn bearded dragon. 

We ended the day in Ljubliana: at a new abode called Pri Mraku. Still a stressful drive toward the centre if this city with the one ways and no ways (oops, drive a few blocks reserved for buses and taxis) but made it to the hotel and found "rock star" parking right outside. We're quite pleased to have a wee bit more elbow room in this triple room. Mike hand washed his delicates (they hang strewn about the room) while Dianne and I revisited the beautiful river--these views continue to amaze us. We were caught in a sudden thunderstorm minutes after she replaced the umbrella she left behind by accident in Piran. We took shelter for a bit remembering the downpour of our first day in Ljubliana just over a week ago--seemed almost fitting, this flooding. 

Undeterred by the downpour, we managed to arrive at the bus station to buy tickets for the Venice leg of our journey. The rain subsided. 

              (More beautiful doors)

We headed back to collect Michael, no doubt suffering pruny & wrinkled hands from his laundering, and found a lovely French cafe to satisfy our grumbling tummies. 

Tomorrow we're off to Kocevske where our Oma and Opa grew up. Stay tuned for that adventure...