Monday, April 13, 2009

Slovenia is fabulous

Correction 1:

Merisi has pointed out that Niki Lauda’s partner donated a kidney to him. I was aware of this and was not suggesting that Niki and his lovely wife were not the ideal couple. The point I was making is that I am not sure that 60 is the ideal time for a man – even with the prodigious talent of Herr Lauda (whom I have revered for many years) to start a new family.

Hence the clumsy kitten reference (i.e. kittens instead of babies) I apologise to the Lauda family and anyone else who may have been distressed by the Blog entry.

It is a little known fact that I was once quite close to Herr Lauda. In the Jet Café in Sydney we once sat back to back in two separate booths and had I wanted to I could have reached out and touched him. Fortunately Cate pinned my arms to my sides making this impossible.

Correction 2:

Merisi (again) has quite rightly pointed of that of course Slovenia was communist because it was part of Yugoslavia. I was aware of this but was making the point that it was not a place the communists had invaded with armies and tanks so they may not have had the opportunity to engage in the City Beautification projects as they have done in cities such as Budapest and Bratislava.

In fact it is clear that there were never any Russian architects in Ljubljana. The communists may have been control here for a remarkably long time but they failed to do what they did in most other places where they were in power and turn the country into a vast rubbish heap.

Perhaps the Slovenians pleaded ‘Please – do what you want with us but don’t send us your architects.’ Well – architect – I am not sure there was ever more than one -and his template was a house brick.

Sure there are some scruffy bits but in general Ljubljana is gorgeous – and so is Slovenia.

It is modern and prosperous. The city looks good, the roads are outstanding.

The architecture is usually either very old and in good shape – or modern and adventurous – and often exciting.

Of course we were in the wrong hotel – but there is a limit to what can be done on the Internet and I got Cate to sign off on this one before we came. And for one of our meals we chose the worst possible restaurant in Ljubljana – but this is not unusual for us – we have the uncanny knack of wandering the streets for hours looking for restaurants and then going in to the worst or most expensive in town – knowing when we are doing it that we are making a terrible mistake but being drawn inexorably into the place like moths to a candle.

The Hotel Lev is supposed to be 5 Star but is closer to 3.7. We had a suite which was fine except that the previous occupant apparently barbecued goats in there and we couldn’t get rid of the smell – even leaving the windows open all the time.

We overlooked the main road and an ‘Erotic Parlour’ called ‘Venera’ but weren’t tempted.

For those of you who have the Lonely Planet guide to Eastern Europe please tear out chapter on Slovenia and throw it away. It is not worth a pinch of Pelican Poo. We have done what we could by pasting Skulls and Crossbones on the exteriors of the restaurants recommended in the Lonely Planet Guide. (At least those that still existed).

Ljubljana is remarkably small and you can see what you need to in a day. It is just a delight to walk around the city and along the river - and they serve very good coffee.

It is a University Town and there are lots of lovely young men and women having fun and living life to the full (and smoking) and I hated them all – just for being young and fearless!

As a special treat (maybe just for us) they crucified somebody on Saturday next to the river. It didn’t draw much of a crowd even though the girls singing about Hayzus were quite cute but it is a very old story and most people have heard it many times before. I mean it’s not like 24 where you just know something really weird is going to happen at the end of each episode.

People expect more these days and the Pope is simply going to have to tweak the ending.

And – what’s more – the waiters were all friendly and actually seemed to like tourists - or even (shriek!) people.

Some asked us where we were from and expressed interest in us (swoon). We are going to recommend Ljubljana as a training place for Wiener waiters – but will just get a good beating for our troubles and end up (again) in the stocks in Stephansplatz.

And what’s more – this could well be the least expensive country in Europe! What do you think about two Coffees, an orange juice and two mineral waters for €6.00?

Frolicking Frogs! The average Viennese Café would not fart in your general direction for €6.00! I was so impressed I kept the receipt.

And –what’s more – they don’t allow smoking in restaurants or bars! It’s bliss!

And – what’s more – there are zillions of dogs but NO Dog Poo on the pavements.

We spent Saturday mooching in Ljubljana and on Sunday went to Bled which is a truly astonishingly beautiful place – the likes of which we have never seen before – but unfortunately has only one public parking spot which on this day was being occupied by the Mayor’s daughter. To park you have to drive to Italy and walk back.

The only places we have sent like this previously were in Provence in tiny little towns on hills where you park miles away. A word of advice – do not visit Bled in August or September.

In fact – time for a word of advice for Australians who wish to travel to Europe. Do not do this during the European Spring and Summer. It is HELL. No I mean it – Paris and any other European Capitals in this period – and in August and September in particular – are absolutely GHASTLY.

I can tell you are not listening because I know how Australians think. Ah Paris (or Vienna or Whatever) in Summer – absolute Bliss. No it’s not. listen to someone how has done it many times – it’s awful. Why do you think the French leave town?

Imagine being trapped in a stalled elevator with Billy Ray Cyrus and Celine Dion and John Howard singing ‘Achy Breaky Heart’. It is WORSE THAN THIS!

It is hot, expensive, you pay more to get here, you pay more when you are here, you have to fight for every chair in every restaurant and café. You line up for hours to see anything worth seeing.

It is So Bleeding HOT.

The waiters HATE you (they always do but they hate you more during peak season). The prices that are charged for EVERYTHING make you SCREAM with fear when you think about the AUD/EURO exchange rate – and if the hotel you booked into does have air conditioning (which is not likely) it excretes air at the same temperature and velocity as a gnat farting and sounds like fully loaded 747B doing a wheels up landing on a galvanised iron roof.

You lie away and sweat all night just longing for daylight and the buffet breakfast which you just know is going to be execrable (and will include hard boiled eggs and cheese – and indescribably bad coffee) but you would do anything to get out of the oven which is masquerading as your bedroom because the Turkey Timer you brought with you popped with the ‘I’m Done’ sign at 3:00 AM.

Then you can lurch forth into the steaming heat to be pushed, jostled, robbed, insulted and possible beaten – not necessarily in that order – and to try to get a photograph that has fewer than 1,000 other tourists in it – and realise that this is not possible.

Anyway - back to our weekend - Austria – wake up! Slovenia is coming to get you. This place is sensational and is obviously the ‘next big thing’ in Europe. We love it!

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