Traveling to Zagreb and Mirogoj Cemetery

(This is the 14th post of our Croatia-Budapest trip, June-July 2014)
Thursday, June 26

Travel to Zagreb_1We meet Anna Clare and Earl at breakfast, and after eating our way through the hotel’s offerings, they tell us they’ve decided to head to see the caves, back where we came from.   So after some discussion, we agreed to meet up in Zagreb at the upper Cathedral at 6:30 pm. for dinner.  This discussion is where I first began to get a hint of the fact that we would be operating on different itineraries and possibly different meeting-up schedules, one significant difference between those who live in the country (or near to it) and those who are tourists on a trip, counting every minute, trying to cram in as much sightseeing as possible.
Travel to Zagreb_2

Travel to Zagreb_2aSo after breakfast, they headed west and we headed east, towards Zagreb.

Travel to Zagreb_3One of the benefits of having a car is the ability to take some detours and see different sights, so about halfway to Zagreb, we took a left off the freeway and drove for a while through the countryside.
Travel to Zagreb_4
Travel to Zagreb_5I noticed these tiny roadside chapels everywhere, and stopped to peek in a few.
Travel to Zagreb_5a
Either she is overcome by the spirit, or she is exhausted from all the housework she’s done all day.

Travel to Zagreb_6church

Travel to Zagreb_6bThis small church caught our eye, with its graveyard in front, every plot freshly planted with flowers right on top of the plot.  We know we are headed to Mirogoj–the grand cemetery in Zagreb–so this is a preamble of sorts.

Travel to Zagreb_6c

Travel to Zagreb_6a

Travel to Zagreb_6d

SLovenia country church_2We both noticed the off-center window, which looks much older than the rest of the church.

Travel to Zagreb_6eWhat looks like black granite corner blocks are really just black paint.

Travel to Zagreb_6f

Travel to Zagreb_7a

Travel to Zagreb_yellow houseAcross the lane from the church was this pristine yellow house–every town has one, and somehow they all have planted flower boxes.

Travel to Zagreb_8Back on the road, we see this sign as we leave this small town:

SLovenia_no DramaI love their signs.

Mirojog_entryAfter some consternation, as well as some sturm und drang in the car, struggling to make sense of the maps and our printed out Google directions while watching our freeway exits go flying by, we arrive at our hotel, check in and are thrilled by it.  It’s probably the nicest hotel so far, and I look forward to relaxing in it, tonight, but first it’s off to Mirogoj Cemetery, one of Europe’s finest old cemeteries, or so the guidebooks say.

Mirojog_arch1Before we left I had looked it up on Google Maps, activating the photos feature so I could determine if it was something that Dave and I might like to see.  I don’t know if I’m channeling the Adams Family or something, but I’ve always liked the history and ambiance of these old places.  Dave and I have visited other cemeteries, using it as a green respite from the urban spaces on vacations.

Mirogoj_main entry from backThis is looking towards the backside of that front dome, at a large area for gathering the mourners and/or visitors.  While we were there, a funeral gathered, the bells clanging for ages it seemed, and we saw from a distance the casket proceeding to its resting place, followed by a handful of mourners in black.  The bells tolled for a long time.

The cemetery was originally a plot of land from a Croatian poet, who leveled the land, redirected some of the mountain’s streams, yet in the process was left cash-strapped.  So the city of Zagreb purchased from his estate after his death, keeping the name Mirogoj, after one of the founders of this section of his land.

The cemetery was divided according to religion (Catholic, Jewish and Protestant) and three different classes, was officially opened in 1876, when Miroslav Singer, a fencing instructor and gym teacher was the first buried here.

Mirogoj_TubmanThis highly polished slab of black marble is the tomb of the former president of Croatia, Franjo Tudman.

Mirogoj_Tubman memorialsSmall memorials left for him to one side: one plaque with the country’s map, and the other with their ever-present shield, although done in black and white and not the usual red/white checkerboard.

Mirogoj_10To the side of the feet of this beautiful sculpture you can see some lettering in the Glagolitic alphabet (more on this in the next post).

Mirogoj_9The town fathers planted chestnut, lime, maple and spruce trees, among others.

Mirogoj_8I want one of these in my backyard right now. . . but without the graves.  Just a little table and a couple of chairs and a good wifi connection, please.

Mirogoj_8_WWIWe arrived at the World War I Monument, or should I say, a monument to those Croatians who died in World War I.

Mirogoj_7A highly decorative tombstone.  The flowers and angry faces in the medallions in front are all inlaid mosaic.

Mirogoj_6

Mirogoj_5We saw these candles everywhere, even near the cathedral in the center of Zagreb.

Mirogoj_4I told Dave I wanted one of these.

Mirogoj_3Underneath the slab, it appears, is a small chamber.  And the coffins rest on the rails, out of the dirt.

Mirogoj_18 polishing stoneHousekeeping.  Polishing the slab.

Mirogoj_2Mirogoj_19aThis was our favorite little building.  There are no names on it, so it couldn’t be a tomb, and given the crosses and the shape, it is almost certainly a place of worship.

Mirogoj_19c

Mirogoj_19b

Mirogoj_12From 1879 to 1917, two arcades were built on either side of the main section (which houses a church), designed by Herman Bolle, a German architect. Another plan was drawn up for the central dome, portal and chapel (the currently existing) but that wasn’t built until 1929. Many famous Croatians are buried here, including Kresimir Cosic, a reknowned basketball player, one of three foreigners inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Mirogoj_17

Mirogoj_11Dave was struck by the beauty of the domes, found about every 20 or so feet in the arcade.  Here are a sampling:

Mirogoj_11e

Mirogoj_11a

Mirogoj_11b

Mirogoj_11c

Mirogoj_11d

Mirogoj_13aAnother beautiful statue.

Mirogoj_14A fresh display of red and white carnations.

Mirogoj_15_auto candleNotice the radio transmitter?  Through a series of clues, we were thinking that it would turn on the “candles” at this boy’s feet, as each of them appeared to be electronic.  If this is the case, we in America are woefully behind in our appropriate graveside accouterments.

Mirogoj_16

Mirogoj_20

Mirogoj_22

Mirogoj_23Mirogoj_23aDetail of above.

Mirogoj_letteringMore interesting writing.

Zagreb_Dave and carOkay, enough dead people.  Now it’s the moment to Turn in the Car, a big deal for tourists in an unfamiliar city.  No worries, we have the address, so with Dave giving directions, I drive there.  No worries, I’ll stay in the car, double-parked, while Dave goes in to confirm.  No worries, that place has moved, but a nice English-speaking man looks up the new place on his phone (turns out they moved 9 months ago, just two weeks after we booked the car and printed out our confirmation and where to turn it in).  We drive there, and after a series of typical-tourist-wrong-turns, we finally arrive.  And boy, are we huffing as we go in because we are late (thinking of another day’s rental) and it is too far to walk back to the hotel (thinking of taxi fees).  No worries!  The place is run by teenage boys who won’t charge us an extra day and would love nothing more than to drive us back to our hotel, no charge.

It’s now nearing the meet-up time for Anna Clare and Earl, so we walk up towards the cathedral.

Zagreb_decorative1As in Ljubljana, we found lots of Art Deco-ish applied decoration to the buildings.

Zagreb_decorative3

Zagreb_decorative2As well as classical decorative flourishes.

Zagreb_equestrian stateThis promiment equestrian statue of  Josip Jelacic, a prominent 19th-century governor, was overwhelmed and obscured by World Cup apparatus (you aren’t surprised, are you?)

Zagreb_world cup chartThe rankings.

Zagreb_Croatia TshirtsThe merchandise booth (I already have my T-shirt).

Zageb_AmericanWorldCupThe Jumbo-tron, complete with American, because right then America was playing.  Yay! America.  And Coca-Cola.  And cowboy hats.

Zagreb_decorative4We move on up towards more traditional sights, like beautifully painted classical buildings.

Zagreb_decorative eggAnd eggs.  The traditional art here is interesting, but not in this gallery, which although it contained lots of paintings on glass, did not captivate us like the museum (seen the next day).  Plus it smelled dank and basement-like, so we were in and out of there quickly.

Zagreb_decorative5

Zagreb_Singer ShopI wonder if this is related to the first man buried in Mirogoj, or to the sewing machine people?  I vote the latter.

Zagreb_native outfitTheir traditional dress.

Zagreb_Tito StatueAnd we couldn’t go far without seeing a statue of Tito, here larger than life on his pedestal.

Zagreb_cathedral1We make it to the cathedral, and one spire is under renovation (but they’ve thoughtfully provided a drape).

Zagreb_cathedral4It is beautiful decorated on the front.  We sit on the bench off to the left, waiting for Earl and Anna Clare, but able to view humanity.  We were going to go in an tour the cathedral, but the bells tolled for mass, so we decided not to go.

Zagreb_cathedral5Christ and his apostles watched over the faithful as they streamed in.

Zagreb_cathedral2A beautiful arch over the front door.

Zagreb_cathedral7

Zagreb_ill touristaAll of a sudden the front doors opened, a man stumbled out, threw up, then collapsed on the ground.  A few worshippers were following him, catching him as he fell.

Zagreb_ill touristA crowd gathered, including a nun (she came a minute after the photo was taken).  One of the women was a doctor, I heard her say.  They helped  him off to the side, to a bench behind us, so he wouldn’t be trampled as the churchgoers left the service.

Zagreb_ambulanceThe ambulance came about 6:45 p.m. and about the same time, we saw Earl walking briskly toward us, Anna Clare a minute or two behind us.  We were happy to see them, and listened as they told about their adventure of being stopped on the Slovenian freeways because they didn’t have their pass.  We were surprised they didn’t know about it, since they lived here, but I have to remember I was one of those dorky over-prepared tourists (I read two guidebooks cover-to-cover) and had read about it in one of them.  I suggested to Earl that he might want to get a guidebook and read about this country where he lived (while on a church mission), but he was insistent that all the signs should be in English.  The fine he was asked to pay was somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 euros (about $200); because of his anger, they told him just to buy the pass and he wouldn’t have to pay the fine (whew!).  I don’t blame him for being upset, but I still think it’s my responsibility as a guest in a country to do my best to figure out how they do business here.  There will still be plenty of areas where we get it wrong (like dropping off the rental car late).

MenuZagreb_chopped saladAfter that exciting story, it was time for dinner, and we used Rick Steve’s book to find Nokturn, and were glad we ate here.  Dave and I shared the above salad, while Anna Clare and Earl shared the one below.

MenuZagreb_chopped salad2

MenuZagreb_noodlesI ordered this pasta, which was really great (I don’t even remember what we had for lunch–I think it was whatever leftovers we found in the car) and I was hungry.  I shared it with whoever wanted a bite, but they were more interested in their large pizza:

MenuZagreb_pizzaWe relaxed and celebrated the fact that we were able to meet up successfully.

Zagreb_cathedral2 with EarlWe wandered back to the cathedral, and lights were beginning to glow.  That’s Earl, walking back to report to us that an organ was playing (he’s carrying the leftover pizza in his hand).

Zagreb_cathedralI went over to the doors and listened: Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue, a piece of music I’d heard many times in my own home, E. Power Biggs on the organ, and my Dad would always turn up the stereo so the final cadences thundered through our speakers. PassacagliaBachI don’t know whether it was fatigue or tourist stress or the linking up of a fond memory or a brief bout of homesickness or whatever, but I could feel the tears stinging my eyes.  We bid our farewells and headed back to our lovely hotel.

Zagreb_hotel

Next post: Two Sets of Tourists Tour Zagreb

We’re Learning How to Say Ljubljana

(This is the 11th post of our Croatia-Budapest trip, June-July 2014)
Tuesday, June 24

 For those of you who are keeping track, it’s Tuesday and this is Slovenia. . . Ljubljana, to be exact, and we have learned how to say it (mostly). But before we do anything else, it’s breakfast.

Ljubljana_Hotel Slamic Breakfast1

Juices, hot milk, cereals (both of the Looks-Like-Horse-Oats and the Other variety), fruits (prunes, for the tourists, of course).

Ljubljana_Hotel Slamic Breakfast2

The hot cocoa/coffee station.  I had hot cocoa every day, a lovely treat.

Ljubljana_Hotel Slamic Breakfast3

Rolls, meats, cheeses, yogurts station.  Americans don’t have many cold cuts for breakfast, but it’s pretty common over here.

Ljubljana_Hotel Slamic Breakfast4

Soft cheese and butter.  I liked the random way the soft cheese ended up, after several travelers had taken what they wanted.

Ljubljana_Hotel Slamic Breakfast5

And my favorite station of this hotel: a place where you could hard, or soft-boil your egg.  I used my timer on my iPhone to keep track, and had one every morning. Before we left for the day, we stopped and talked to the young man at the desk about doing our laundry.  At first we were just going to load it all up and bring it down to the desk, as he assured us that was the best way.  But we wanted to do our own, and asked him for a laundromat.  He had no idea.  Dave went upstairs and got his computer, and we did a search and on some traveller’s blog they had listed where the laundromat was.  The front desk guy was surprised.  We were happy.  But first we decided to take advantage of the clear skies (when we had woken up it was raining, but had cleared away) and head into town.

Ljubljana_graffiti by hotelOn the wall across from our hotel’s main entrance.

Ljubljana_church2The side of the slightly damp, but pink church.  I saw a sign in the hotel’s front office which promoted free walking tours, so we hustled down here, but there didn’t seem to be any group coalescing anywhere. We we pulled out our guidebook and followed Rick Steves’ walking tour.  Another time we checked in at the Tourist Office for another walking tour, but it was majorly pricey and we’d missed it by 45 minutes.

Ljubljana_church doorhandlesAfter realizing we didn’t have a tour, we did go in, but it was nearly time for mass, so quietly let ourselves out.  The interior was unremarkable, but I loved the doorknobs.

Ljubljana_city modelIn Preseren Square they have a car-sized model of the city; we saw this model-thing again in other cities.

Ljubljana_Julija bas reliefThe terra cotta bas relief just above the green doorway in the yellow building is of Julija, the unrequited love of the poet Preseren’s life, or so the tour guides say.

Ljubljana_Galleria1We were interested in the Centromerkur building, or Galleria Emporium as it’s called now, a beautiful building with a graceful glass fan over the front entrance.

Ljubljana_Galleria8 fan roof over doorway

Ljubljana_Galleria7 doorway

Ljubljana_Galleria6 top statue

Ljubljana_Galleria2

Inside a graceful stacked column and the grand staircase gives an idea of what it used to be like.

Ljubljana_Galleria5

Ljubljana_Galleria4

Ljubljana_Galleria3

I thought the plastic purses were interesting, but they were all out of our price range, so we headed back outside to enjoy the sun.

Ljubljana_Hauptmann House2

Ljubljana_Hauptmann House1

The Hauptmann House was the only building on the square to survive that 1895 earthquake.  A few years later, the owners repainted it in the Art Nouveau style using bright colors, as his family sold dyes.

Ljubljana_Cooperative Bank2

The Cooperative Bank, just up the street from the Galleria and the Hauptmann House is beautifully painted and decorated.

Ljubljana_Cooperative Bank1

ljubljana_horse fountain3We liked this fountain of chubby horses.  They look like a bunch of toddler-aged horses, playing in the water.

Ljubljana_horse fountain1

Ljubljana_Butchers Bridge1We crossed over the Triple Bridge to the Castle-side of town, and turned left and headed toward the Riverside Market.  This is looking down the river to the Butcher’s Bridge (and beyond that is the Dragon Bridge).

Ljubljana_Butchers Bridge2Fascinating sculptures on the Butcher’s Bridge, all nearly ruined by those hideous Locks of Love (when will these ever stop?) attachments.

Ljubljana_hideous Locks of LoveThe weight of the bridge can’t handle too many, the city cuts off a bunch every week, which are unfortunately replaced by more.

Ljubljana_Butchers Bridge3

Ljubljana_Butchers Bridge4We thought this looked like a bubble-gum-blowing sheep.  Apparently the sculptures were meant to be temporary, but people liked them so much, they stayed.

Ljubljana_market square7 stallsThe market has a decent display of vegetables, plants, and wonderful baskets, which quite frankly, I wanted to bring home with me.  Apparently Saturday is the bustling day here, as the market tables only covered half the square.

Ljubljana_market square6 baskets

Ljubljana_market square5 dairy vending machineThis was a vending machine, which sold fresh unpasteurized milk, among other things.

Ljubljana_market square4 scalesAnd next to it was a small scale, where market-goers could check the weight of anything they’d purchased, so they could verify what the merchant had charged them.

Ljubljana_market square3 berries

Ljubljana_market square2 broomsClever broom stand.

Ljubljana_market square1I loved the woman’s orange hair.

Ljubljana_colonade eatery button platesBut we were hungry now after walking around downtown and thought we’d try to find some burek, a filled pastry.  Well, actually, I thought we should have bought some on our way in, and when we went to look and just see what our options were, most of them were gone.  So we snapped up a couple from what was left, got a salad from another vendor, and a “Ljubljana Cake” from another stall.  We made our way to an area with tables and chairs and started eating.

Ljubljana_Lunch Burek and salad

Ljubljana_Colonade streetside It looked like a public space, but apparently not.  The owner of the bar/coffee shop came and chased us out of HIS tables and chairs.  We figured out that you could only eat where you’d purchased your food, so we settled into the tables in front of where we’d purchased our salads (and were not chased out).  The cake was a “meh” but we liked our cheese-filled bureks.  I wondered what the meat-filled ones were like.

Ljubljana_St Nicholas Spires

The two twin yellow towers bordering the market square were those belonging to the Cathedral of St. Nicholas.

Ljubljana_St Nicholas doors

The doors were created for Pope John Paul II’s visit to Slovenia in 1996, and contain elements of the city’s history, as well as notable events from Slovenia’s history.  This is the main door (and the side door is below).

Ljubljana_St Nicholas doors2

Ljubljana_St Nicholas interiorThe interior was beautiful–Italian Baroque, so the guide book says, and we enjoyed seeing it.

Ljubljana_St Nicholas large organ loft

Ljubljana_St Nicholas organ loftA smaller organ loft?

Ljubljana_St Nicholas embroidery2

Ljubljana_St Nicholas embroidery

In the chapel for St. Joseph was this beautifully embroidered cloth on the altar.  We’d not seen chapels dedicated to Christ’s father, so thought it interesting.

Ljubljana_St Nicholas detail2

Ljubljana_St Nicholas detail

Ljubljana_St Nicholas ceiling2

Ljubljana_St Nicholas outside niche

A pieta on the outside of the church, in a small niche.  We walked along the Castle-side of the church, and headed toward the Dragon Bridge.

Ljubljana_Dragon Bridge7

I think you can figure out why it is named this.  The dragon has been the symbol of Ljubljana for centuries, and this bridge was one of those earthquake projects mentioned before.

Ljubljana_Dragon Bridge6

Ljubljana_Dragon Bridge4

Ljubljana_Dragon Bridge3a

Ljubljana_Dragon Bridge3

Ljubljana_Dragon Bridge2

Ljubljana_Dragon Bridge1We cross the Ljublanica River and head back towards our hotel.

Ljubljana_Urban ArtMore interesting urban art.

Ljubljana_Triple BridgeLooking ahead towards the Triple Bridge.

Ljubljana_Colonade3

The riverside colannade, and the area where we tried to have lunch the first time (but were unsuccessful).

Ljubljana_Colonade

Ljubljana_streets1Looking back toward the center, going a different way home this afternoon.

Ljubljana_Art Deco Building2

We meandered, checking out the buildings.

Ljubljana_Art Deco Building2a

Ljubljana_Art Deco Building3

At one point, the city’s reconstruction committee declared that all the corner buildings should have a domed spire.  We saw this on many buildings downtown.

Ljubljana_Art Deco Building4

Dome, but no spire.

Ljubljana_Art Deco Building6

Ljubljana_Art Deco Building5

Ljubljana_Art Deco Building5aWe were making plans for this day because we were supposed to meet Dave’s sister and brother-in-law the next morning and tour the sights together.  So we thought it was important to get the laundry done today so it wouldn’t interfere with our touristing.  Of course, hindsight is 20-20 and with what we know now, we should have gone up to the castle on this sunny day and enjoyed the sights, saving the laundry for the time when it was raining (and for when expected meetings didn’t materialize).  But this is travel, isn’t it?  Trying to judge the best use of limited time.  So we grabbed our suitcases, got into the car, and armed with TWO maps, and screenshots of the city, headed off.

Ljubljana_Laundromat sign

It was in a strip shopping mall, just across from the most humungous shopping mall I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot.  It’s open Pon-pet and it’s one of those days, so we’re in good shape.  I also liked the named for Saturday (Sob) and Sunday (Ned).

Ljubljana_Laundromat1

Washers, with the blue circles on the wall.

Ljubljana_Laundromat4

Dryers, with the orange-red circles on the wall.

Ljubljana_Laundromat3

And we think this means “broken,” or “don’t use,” or “forget this machine.”  Soap is always tricky, but we figured out that soap was automatically added to the wash.  If we got it wrong, we had very well-rinsed clothes.

Ljubljana_Laundromat2Dave babysits the wash while I check out the shops. Nothing much, but I did pick up some clown candy, Ki-Ki, for our granddaughter, for she has that as her nickname.  Although one washer stops and we have to restart it, we finish with the laundry and happy that we’ll have clean clothes again.

Ljubljana_BTCityWe head across the street to BTC, or BTCity, mainly because these are our daughter’s initials and we want to try and bring her back something.  BTCity is a series of free-standing malls (I think there were seven), with other giant box-type stores around the perimeter.  The website tells me that there are:

  • more than 450 stores
  • more than 8,500 parking spaces
  • Market BTC
  • Atlantis Water Park
  • Sports Centre Millenium
  • Casino Rio
  • Multiplex Colosseum and XpanD
  • type of pubs, cafes, pub, restaurants, pizzerias, pastry shops

Truthfully, I wished I’d visited the Market, but we drove around, unable to figure out this place.  I think most of the parking spaces were filled, or so it felt from the amount of cars everywhere.  We were looking for something with the BTC logo on it, and finally stopped in at the mall office, but couldn’t find much more than a shopping bag.  They did give me a Frequent Shopper Card with the logo on it, but I was supposed to sign up for an account, which I wasn’t going to do.  So the nice young woman behind the counter filled in some phony name and handed me the card.

Ljubljana_Elna sewing storeI did see a sewing shop, but knew I wasn’t going to carry a sewing machine home on the airplane, so we kept going.  We hoped to have dinner earlier this night than the previous nights of 9 p.m., so decided to head back to town, dropping out laundry (and car) off at the hotel and heading back toward the pedestrian center.

Ljubljana_fabricsWe pass another shop, but I didn’t go in either, given my experience of buying foreign fabric: paying double the cost for American-made goods.  I now wish I’d gone in there, as we never had another chance.  This, too, is travel.

Ljubljana_Justice grillwork

We walk along the main drag, checking first one restaurant then another, but by seven p.m. we were seated at Julija’s, at an outdoor table.

Ljubljana_Julija restaurant street

Ljubljana_45Julija Restaurant2

Ljubljana_Julija restaurant ESEWe share a salad, then I have the goulash over polenta (below).

Ljubljana_47Julija Restaurant goulash

Ljubljana_46Julija Restaurant fishDave has the stack of vegetables with fish.  Our table was next to a table with a young woman and a middle-aged man.  I never could totally figure out their conversation, but she was from Slovenia (as she talked about where she was on Independence Day, which was the next day, Wednesday, and when we found out that nearly the whole place shut down) and he had a British accent.  It seems that he knew her parents somehow.  At one point they were discussing the new Google self-driving cars, and he noted that it was a remarkable invention.  She agreed but said that it would only work in America, because “Americans are basically lazy.”

Ljubljana_julija dessert(for dessert, some strudel and some ice cream, drizzled with honey)

Ouch. As Dave and I walked after dinner, I asked him if our export of our youth culture had so permeated what others thought of us that they couldn’t get past the stereotypes.  But is it a stereotype?  I don’t think I’m particularly lazy, nor my husband, nor my family.  But why has this image percolated into her brain?  I liked it better when I couldn’t understand the people next to me, I think.

When we returned from dinner a jazz band was going full steam downstairs, the sound echoing up into our hallway with our room’s window directly over the place where it was playing.  We walked up the stairs with a tall young man, and I said “No sleep tonight.”
He said “Oh, it’s Ljubljana.  This won’t last long.”
I asked him why not and he replied that “Slovenians like to go to work in the morning, so they don’t stay up late.  Not like my country,” he said.  “I’m Serbian, and we go twenty-four hours a day, never stop.”

And so this is travel, too.  Learning not only about yourself, but about others’ as well.  (As long as they speak English.)  Back in the room, we can hear the jazz and with our windows shut, it’s not too big of a problem.  We settle into our nightly routine of checking emails, touching base with our lives back across the world.  I realize I am more than happy to be in one hotel for three straight nights, the string of one-night stays we’ve just done having worn me out.  We relax, the music fades, and these tired tourists fall to sleep.

Next post: A rainy visit to the Castle and where are they?

Arriving in Ljubljana

(This is the tenth post of our Croatia-Budapest Trip, June-July 2014.)
Monday June 23

Ljubljana_1

We found our way to our hotel (check the front Croatia page for hotel info) and since it was nearing dinner time, we dropped our luggage and walked toward the main part of the pedestrian downtown, walking over this poem (?) of brass script, embedded in the pavement.

Ljubljana_2 Carrying our Rick Steves guidebook, we know that this statue caused quite a stir when it was unveiled, because of the nearly nude woman at the top.  Preseren was Slovenia’s greatest poet, and the reclining figure was thought to be his muse, yet for the first few years they covered her up with a tarp each night.  Now it appears that most folks don’t pay her (or him) much notice.

Ljubljana_2a

Ljubljana (loo-blee-ana) has quite a few buildings decorated in the Viennese Art Nouveau style, and judging from our pile of photographs when we got home, we seemed to take a picture of most of them.  When Ljubljana was hit by an earthquake in 1895, the citizens took advantage of the rebuilding funds from the Austro-Hungarian Empire to remake the city, and we loved seeing all the decorative works.  I only wish we’d had a bit more sun, as a lot of the photographs are rather flat-looking in the gray (and often rainy) skies.

Ljubljana_3 Church

This church is kitty-corner from the statue, and anchors the square.  It was closed, so we kept walking along, looking for a place to eat.

Ljubljana_4 Street SurveySurvey-takers in bright green caps and green socks/shorts.

Ljubljana_5Julija Restaurant1

We made our way to Julija, or Julia Restaurant, a popular place.  Across the street is restaurant named Romeo (as in Romeo and Juliet), but we didn’t go there.  I liked their wall of cracked tiles and beautiful blue plates.

Ljubljana_6julija restaurantSalad!  It looks like a typical delicious salad, except for. . .

Ljubljana_7pumpkin seed oil. . . the pumpkin seed oil they brought to dress it, and for us to use in dunking our bread.  A regional specialty, we really enjoyed it.  It’s kind of a deep greenish-red color, if that’s possible and while the pumpkin flavor briefly checks in, it’s not ever-present.  And you can get it on Amazon!

Ljubljana_8julija restaurantDave ordered Štruklji, a kind of dumpling filled with cottage cheese, and topped with bacon and a sprig of thyme.

Ljubljana_9julija restaurantBut I had the winner of the night: pasta, asparagus and mushrooms.

Ljubljana_10 fountain We knew it was supposed to start pouring at some time this evening (having checked and rechecked our weather apps at the hotel), so we walked around that evening, enjoying the sights.  this fountain is at the edge of a large, rectangular plaza in the University District.  One of the realities of a new place though, is that you don’t have your bearings and we simply thought “nice fountain,” without recognizing how it fit into the landscape or the orientation of the map.  We simply knew that we were walking along the river, which was in the pedestrian section of town and that we’d eventually find our way home.

Ljubljana_11 bridge Ljubljana has several bridges that span the Ljublanica River; this is the Cobbler’s Bridge, and is distinguished by its pillars.

Ljubljana_12bridgeThis view is toward Preseren Square, and the Triple Bridge, which is yes, three bridges all together.  One day we saw a young female tourist doing an interpretive dance to the accordian player and his singing group, complete with belly dancing moves, backward bending-over-moves and basic I’m-having-a-great-time moves.  It’s where a lot of people gather.

Ljubljana_13 three bridges

Ljubljana_14 church and pavementI was interestested to see the lights of the zodiac on the ground, embedded in the pavement in front of the church.  A crackle of lightning marked the witching hour and the first drops of rain started falling just as we made it back to our hotel.

Weather Forecast Ljubljana

Next up: Ljubljana’s Marketplace, and the Tourists Do Their Laundry and Find a Giant Shopping Mall

Lake Bled

(This is the ninth post of our Croatia-Budapest Trip, June-July 2014.)
Monday, June 23

We woke up in Buzet and saw this. . . Ljubljana Weather Report. . . so thought we ought to again advance our plans by a day and head to Lake Bled that day, instead of exploring the southern part of Slovenia, like we’d wanted to.

Slovenia_1 road

Slovenia_2 lawnmowerAfter passing through passport control, we stopped at the very first gas station we saw to buy our Slovenian Freeway Pass, having been warned by several to do so. (scene is out the backside of the gas station.)  In fact our innkeeper in Plitvice said that there would be two fines if we didn’t have it and got caught: one from the Slovenian authorities, of roughly 150 euros (like $225) and then the rental car company would charge us because of the hassle of finding us and get their money from someone in the States.  I had also read about it in two guide books, so there was no question about whether or not we would have a pass on our window.  Dave came out from the teensy place, affixed the sticker (15 euro, about 22 bucks) and we kept driving.

Slovenia_3 roadside shrineI loved the freestanding small buildings that were roadside shrines to Mary, to Jesus, and various saints.

Mast Road SignAbout two exits after we got on the freeway with our spiffy new freeway pass, we left to go “wandering” our way through the countryside, on the way to Predjama Castle, andfound we were driving on the Mast Road, a farm-to-market road through the countryside with some historical significance.  We know this because half the sign was in English!

Mast Road Map SloveniaWe found the town “13” on the above map, V. Brda, with its interesting, but closed church.

Slovenia_4a town of Brda

Slovenia_4b town of Brda

Slovenia_5 town of Brda2

Slovenia_Landol

And in Landol, this little chapel is dedicated to someone named “St. Jost,” but again, was closed.

Slovenia_chapel and toll house

But next door was this building, which apparently served as a toll house on the road.

Slovenia_6Back on the road, we followed the signs to Predjama Castle, noting all the fallen trees from the ice storm as we drove.

Slovenia_6aRight around this corner was a small accident, a fender-bender, but the people involved had put out the glowing orange triangles signs on the road and they all had donned orange highway safety-type vests.  That would explain the package I saw in the trunk of our rental car, of which the car agency said nothing.  For the record, I had asked them about the Slovenian freeway sticker too, and again, the two twenty-somethings that ran the place kind of shrugged their shoulders: “eh?”

Slovenia_7 Predjama Castle1We parked and walked about ten paces and here it was–just like all the guidebooks said: an old castle tucked into a mountain.  The guidebooks also said the inside was “forgettable” so we didn’t pay to go in.  The outside is pretty striking, though.

Slovenia_8 Predjama Castle

Slovenia_8a Predjama Castle

Slovenia_9 Predjama CastleA faded crest painted onto the side of the castle.  I love the graphic punch of the black-and-white shutters.

Slovenia_10 harvesting logsWe heard lots of chain saws going, and saw this at the bottom of the little lane.

Slovenia_10a harvesting logs

Slovenia_11 roadside shrineWe turned left at Jesus and headed toward the motorway/freeway.
We’ve got to get our money’s worth out of this pricey car sticker and were ready to get to Lake Bled, hoping to arrive before any storm.

Slovenia_12 Lake BledWe parked, found (a cheap) lunch, and then Dave decided he wanted to walk AROUND Lake Bled.  So we did.

Slovenia_13 Lake Bled

Slovenia_15 Lake Bled

They do have some houses on the shore of Lake Bled.  Here’s one, with a beautifully painted upper story.

Slovenia_16a Lake Bled

And another, with sort of a hunting lodge flavor.

Slovenia_16b Lake Bled

Slovenia_16c Lake Bled

The hunting lodge house comes complete with a (cute) stuffed animal.

Slovenia_17 Lake Bled

In the middle of Lake Bled is this small island.  It seemed like we stopped to take a picture of this about every five feet.  Soon it got to be a joke, trying to frame it with bits of trees and leaves, making a vignette.  This is one of about 25 that we shot.

Slovenia_18 Lake BledDAE

Slovenia_sculling craft

At the far end of the lake the pavement widened and we found the rowing club (with lots of sculling shells laying out on the lawn).  There was also a place to go swimming, but you had to pay to get in.  We kept walking.

Slovenia_19 Lake BledAfter this boardwalk, we saw a few more casual beaches, and then found a small quiet place to strip off our shoes and put our feet in the water.

Slovenia_25 wading spotThe lake is a clear beautiful aqua blue, and I’m told on many days the surface is as smooth as glass.  A storm was coming in, so we had had a lot of breezes and a ruffled surface.  We visited, relaxed and soon pulled our feet out of the water and put our shoes back on.

Slovenia_14 Lake BledIt must have been a good spot for wading (there were two other teens right near us) for we saw this sign just after we got back on the trail.

Slovenia_20 Lake Bled IslandThe island from the front.  There’s a tale that if you can ring the bell three times, gold coins will fall out of your hair.  No, that’s not quite right.  If you can ring the bell, all your children will be rich.  Hmmm.  Maybe if you ring the bell you’ll have True Love?  Good Fortune?  That you are a gullible tourist? (Pick one.)  So it would be quiet on the lake for a while, then a boat of tourists would arrive and we then hear the clanging of the church bell.  You have to pay for the pleasure of getting your good fortune, so someone is doing okay, judging from the amount of bell-tolling we heard.

Slovenia_Tito Villa BledWe’d heard that Tito, the leader of Yugoslavia (when there was a Yugoslavia) had a summer house on the lake which had been turned into a hotel and conference center.  Our guidebook gave us the particulars and we walked up the grand set of stairs from the path to Villa Bled.

Slovenia_23a_Lake Bled Tito muralWe found our way to this conference room (in panoramic view, here) with a mural from the Communist era, where all the workers looked happy (and like they worked out a lot at the local gym), and the peasants were singing songs along with the soldiers, who were also — in some places — holding hands with each other.  Solidarity, indeed.

Slovenia_22 lake Bled Tito

Slovenia_23 Lake Bled Tito2Okay, there was an occasional Bashing Their Heads In With Rifles scene, but don’t let that deter you from the specter of a victorious Yugoslavia.

Slovenia_Tito Mural

Slovenia_view from Tito's patio

View from Tito’s patio.

Slovenia_21 Lake BledView across the lake.

Slovenia_26 lake Bled Cream CakeYou can’t go to Lake Bled without have a piece of their cream cake.  Tired after three hours of walking (we were taking the scenic pace), we plopped down on the patio of a hotel, and ordered one piece and two forks.

“Everyone does that,” said the waiter.  “And then they order another piece.”

We did too.

Next up: Arriving in Ljubljana